Here it is. Oops.

November 12, 2016
HISTORY REPEATS ITSELF

Donald Trump is President-elect of the United States of America. A mistake of recent history has repeated itself because people did not learn from it. The ignorant and undiscerning voters who committed this act deserve what they will get. They have earned it. Unfortunately there are another 65 million Americans who do not deserve it, have not earned it – and will suffer the consequences as well.

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December 15, 2015

It is boggling to my sensibilities, which I will admit have been superseded and apparently abandoned by the sensibilities of the generations which have followed my own, that Donald Trump has become the infantile poster-child, figurehead, and potential prime mover for a group of American citizens suffering from the contemporary form of anti-establishment angst. Is this the best they can do? Aww, come on…

Is all America wants in a President a slick and wily knee-jerk surrogate mouthpiece for bitching and bigotry? Really? I mean, we have to ask ourselves the question sooner or later.

Or maybe it’s already too late. Americans may have made themselves easy marks for a self-punking. Have they become so completely desensitized to blatant character flaws by their disgust with the dysfunctional political status quo that they are willing to select a blatantly flawed character to lead the most powerful country in the world?

Seriously, folks… The bizarre fascination of a fatal train wreck that we really don’t want to see and can’t take our eyes off of is great media entertainment, but it’s time to get serious about Trump’s Traveling Reality Road Show. Can’t we all just get along on eleven seasons of the Kardashians? Probably not, considering the number of “reality” shows there are in the world.

Reality? Really? Donald Trump? If that’s the way it is in America these days we need to redefine the word.

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September, 2015

DONALD TRUMP IS A NARCISSISTIC, DELUSIONAL, BIGOTED 8TH GRADE GIRL BULLY.

1. “He’s absolutely operating as an intelligent, manipulative bully who truly does not care about the consequences of his actions. He delights in his own ability to manipulate and to show that nobody can stop him.”
http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2015/09/16/bullying-experts-trump-is-an-eighth-grade-girl.html

2. Roger Stone, one of the master practitioners of the Dark Side of the Political Force, resigned as Donald Trump’s strategist after 30 years of loyal service. Stone told friends Trump is “losing his grip on reality” and that “he has these yes-men around him,” according to Politico. “And now he’s living in a parallel world.”
http://www.nationalreview.com/article/422298/Trump-the-teenage-bully

3. “All of this is so ugly and requires every American of good conscience to speak up and speak out. Do not allow bigotry, soft or hard, to happen uninterrupted in your presence. Silence is compliance. We can, and must, do better.”
“That he has soared to his highest lead yet in the polls is a frightening reflection of the true American soul.”
http://www.nydailynews.com/news/politics/king-trump-sounding-hitler-america-act-article-1.2458493

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March 15, 2016

MISCELLANEOUS THOUGHTS ABOUT OUR CURRENT POLITICAL CLIMATE

If there was some way I could reach these angry, hateful people who are fearful and unreasonable in their thoughts and rhetoric and actions, the one thing I’d say to help them would be this: they need to understand that it’s a world-improving measure to take a close look at themselves and honestly acknowledge how they have personally helped to create the external issues and upsets they’re looking at.

Mahatma Gandhi observed that in human behaviors and particularly with regard to political movements, “the end is inherent in the means.” This means that if you’re supporting a movement with a hateful, arrogant, angry, fearful, exclusionary world view, and you win power, what you’re going to get is a hateful, arrogant, angry, fearful, exclusionary world. In other words, you will never leave the world you have always lived in and never had the sense or courage to rise above or move beyond.

Albert Einstein observed that no problem can be solved by the same kind of thinking that created it. That observation was about a null result of an experiment which couldn’t prove there was an “aether” medium which existed and enabled light waves to travel through empty space. This quote has been altered by popular massage into the truism “no problem can be solved at the same level of consciousness that created it.” It shouldn’t be attributed to Einstein, of course, but the principle it communicates is very true.

Lower-level consciousness can not solve the problems it creates with means that are hateful, arrogant, angry, fearful, and exclusionary. It just can’t be done with those things. It takes a higher level of consciousness to do that. And that starts when those things simply cease. It is not necessary to convert our hate to love, for example, to rise to a higher level of consciousness which might help us actually solve a problem. It is a good enough start if we can simply move from hating to not hating.

When you silence the opposition, any discussion is over and you can claim your perspective prevailed. Many times, all you have to do is close your mind and cover your ears. Near as I can tell, the only difference between a Conservative American and a Liberal American these days is that a typical liberal will allow you to have your say and listen – and a typical conservative won’t. Unfortunately, in order to come together and reason it takes two willing participants.

Here are just three conditions in the past which created an environment vulnerable to being misused by evil people: disagreements over policies and a growing political polarization between the parties on the left and the right prevented the formation of a workable coalition; there was a movement which dramatically increased its public support by advertising itself as a movement against the ineffectiveness of the “system”; and propagandists justified exclusionary, angry, and hateful actions and rhetoric by portraying them as morally defensible and necessary.

All these things are present now in America and have created an opportunity for a regime of unconscious evil to have even more power in American politics than it has now. Just as it was in 1930’s Germany.

A hate group is an organized group or movement that advocates and practices hatred, hostility, or violence towards members of a race, ethnicity, religion, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation or any other designated sector of society.

Here is the seven stage model of hate crime developed for the FBI:

The hater finds other users with similar views to form a group
The group develops symbols and rituals to identify itself
The group shares its views to bond itself
The target is taunted
The target is attacked
The target is attacked with weapons
The target is destroyed

The Trump campaign and its supporters are up to stage five. How much farther will it go?

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April 8, 2006 (10 years ago)
“ARTIFICIAL MILEPOSTS”

It’s been years since 9/11 dropped a curtain of fear over America and the resultant blank check written to the Bush administration to combat terrorism was cashed in Iraq.

It’s been years since the carrier speech: Saddam toppled, his pedestal bare. Victory. The triumphant end of the plan. Too bad it wasn’t the end of the war. Too bad there wasn’t more of a plan.

Now, 2,000 troop deaths later, we’re encouraged to not look at “artificial mileposts.” Don’t look. If you do, the sheer morbid fascination of train wrecks and bloody crashes will take you down. Hard.

Scooter Libby’s indictment- another milepost- is unraveling the roots of the war. The arrogant, self-righteous perfidy of this administration’s “artificial intelligence” is being exposed to air and light. So when the trials come, don’t look. It’s going to get uncomfortable if you do.

Blind moral rectitude, greed, unenlightened self interest, spin, hubris, arrogance and betrayal will all be facts of record at the final judgment of the Bush administration and its supporters. And the self-inflicted hits just keep coming. Before it’s over the right reds and left blues will collectively take their rightful and collateral lumps in an era of American politics which may simply become known as The Bruise.

The current prevailing American electorate is not a victim and will not be dismissed from prosecution as co-commitors of the Bush administration. They were told, they were warned, the information was readily available. And “don’t look” prevailed.

So don’t look. Stay the course. Spin dizzily on. It’s best to stay the course. Let “oops” be the ongoing defense.

Things I have no doubts about:
1. George Bush has taken lots of vacation time because being President is hard work. He’s been working hard, doing the hard work. He will preside only after he has been scripted, groomed and rehearsed by others and can deal with American sentiments like a weasel deals with a baby chick. And that’s hard work.
2. The President of the United States of America is not, as many believe, a committee. It’s just a group of these guys, see, who have been in politics so long even God has lined up with them. The correct term is “commitor,” i.e. “one who commits or perpetrates.” The “committee” is the one perpetrated against. The victim.
3. Ignorance is still no excuse under the law. More’s the pity. Shucks. Dog-gone it.
4. We were told to stay the course, establish democracy, support our troops, our faith, our God, church. It will be difficult to define the “course” stayed upon. It has changed so often. Was it confronting terrorists? Eliminating WMD’s? Jugging an evil guy? Democratizing a corrupt middle-eastern theocracy yearning to breathe free (except for a small oil surcharge to repay the favor) air?
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So here we are, back where we were, again. Donald Trump is President of the United States of America. A mistake of recent history has repeated itself because people did not learn from it. The ignorant and undiscerning voters who committed this act deserve what they will get. They have earned it. Unfortunately there are another 65 million Americans who do not deserve it, have not earned it – and will suffer the consequences as well.

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Getting Light and Letting Go: An update

May 14, 2016

What an adventure this is! Or possibly a cautionary tale. Sometimes it feels like it’s headed in that direction. Then I remember what my old mentor would have said: “You know that feeling you get when you think your life is turning into a cautionary tale? You know what that is? That’s just a feeling, that’s all that is!” And then he’d laugh.

The feeling passes as feelings do; our consciousness of the mysterious, cooperative flow that is present in everything returns, and we carry on.

We have now sold our home and have a truck capable of, as one person said, “hauling a house down the road.” Which is exactly what we’re planning to do with it, albeit a small one. And the piano, which Lenore was concerned about, has found a home. Right here. The home buyer said they would like to have it.

I found the truck in Bend, Oregon. It’s about a 2 ½ hour drive from home to get there but it was worth it. I hope. It’s a used Chevy diesel truck with a Duramax engine and Allison transmission and various aftermarket upgrades, some for performance and power, some just to make it look good. I am a baby duckling in the diesel world. I educated myself the best I could and found the truck after searching all over Oregon and Washington. To the best of my knowledge it’s a good truck for our purposes, but I am taking it in to Brush Prairie WA next Monday to have some diesel pros I know there tell me just exactly what it is I’ve got – or gotten myself into. There’s that feeling again

Lenore went down to Bend with me to pick it up and drove our car back in spite of the fact she’s been having some hip flexor pain due to what now sounds like a torn psoas muscle or related tendons. An MRI has been scheduled after a round of physical therapy which actually made the condition worse due to faulty instructions from a therapist about what exercises to do and how to do them. Lenore, being who she is, did the exercises conscientiously until she realized that the hip was getting worse, not better. Currently she uses a cane to get around. Undeterred, she insists on doing everything she can every day. The trip to Bend was a stretch for her, and I was worried about that. She made it without aggravating the injury and we were both relieved when we got home. She is one go-ahead woman. Just one of the literally countless things I love her for.

We had a good trip home and the truck ran great. I showed it to my neighbor Shawn the next day. He’s a motorcycle racer and has a top-of-the-line Honda racing bike in his garage he won at a competition recently. He’s an X-Games kind of guy, a “rad dude,” extreme snowboarder, etc. I didn’t realize he knew about diesels. He looked it over real good, pointing out everything he saw, and then informed me I had a “pimped ride, dude!” He told me I was going to have to get a tat now, suggested a Chevy logo on my upper arm. I think I will forego that… I’ll see what the pros in Brush Prairie say before passing any final judgments on the truck.

We had two offers on the house. The day we listed it we had a visit from a couple who wanted it but needed us to carry a first mortgage on it and then vacate about 3 weeks after closing, which would have put a terrific burden on us – “getting light” takes more time than we thought it would. After some discussion we’d zeroed in on the terms they needed and we were considering it when a cash buyer appeared. The new offer was more than our asking price, and the buyer was fine with a 2 month grace period, after closing the deal, before we would need to vacate. It was nice to experience that consciousness of the flow of the universe working with us when that happened.

And we definitely need to hold on to that perspective and go where the flow takes us. Currently we’re looking for a fifth wheel to be our home on the road, and that too has been an adventure.

I’ve always had good luck buying vehicles from owners rather than dealers and my experience with both convinced me that owners are the only way to go. I can see the good in almost any person who has gravitated to the profession of selling wheeled vehicles. By the same token I rarely see any good in the practices of their trade, or the effects it has on their character.

Yet, in the process of buying the truck and then the fifth wheel, I included dealers in my search. Suffice it to say that what I have encountered on the dealer side has left me disappointed to say the very least. I’m going with owners now after yet another schooling in such matters.

I’ve been searching all over the country for a particular brand of fifth wheel and a particular floor plan. When one popped up in my search at a dealer only about six hours away from us, it felt like the force was with us. That was just a feeling. It was actually the flow, gently directing us back to owners and away from the rocky shores and whirlpools of dealerships.

It was the same thing with my early truck search. I found one at an “honest, low-key, quality-only, fixed-price, high-integrity” dealer, took it to the guys out at Brush Prairie for a pre-purchase inspection because I was leery of it (at the time I didn’t have as much information on board as I do now but I had enough for a flag or two to pop up), and by the time all the grunting and groaning and wincing and eventual indignation and muttered swearing of Angus, the guy who checked it out in depth for me, was over it was pronounced a pig in pink paint that nobody would be able to make even a sow’s ear from, let alone a silk purse. So it goes.

Yet it turned out to be a good thing. The education I got from Angus about diesels as I followed him around during the inspection was priceless, and I had enough faith in what I’d learned to trust my judgment in selecting the truck I’ve bought. I may be wrong (there’s that feeling again) but confidence is high. Monday will tell the tale.

We’re still a ways from our goal, which is to be located in some beautiful natural setting featuring a lake, glacier, beach, forest, etc. and posting blog entries on a site called “Travels with Murphy.” (He’s our yellow Lab puppy, now nearly 6 months old and finally showing some signs of IQ gain.) But we’re getting there.

I’ll keep you posted.

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Getting Light and Letting Go: A New Adventure

April 16, 2016

This morning, instead of the usual geese flying over our valley there was a hawk sailing free on the air currents above us. I took it for a good augur of the moment, and our future.

It’s been an interesting season around here. Last New Year we began reducing some of the accumulation of things we’ve acquired since 1986 – the last time we reduced all our worldly belongings into what would fit into 3 suitcases. That year we flew to Florida with our 2 year old daughter, lived and worked there for 6 months, and then had a leisurely, wonderful car trip back to Vancouver, WA. Where we started accumulating again. That was 30 years ago.

By 2009 we’d managed to collect so much stuff that when we moved here to our mountain home we divested ourselves of a volume of things that would have filled about half of an 18-wheeler. But we didn’t get rid of enough. It’s amazing and a bit shaming what the American lifestyle produces in the way of material goods. Granted, we had our own remodeling company and quite a bit of accumulated inventory and tools as well as saved projects “I’ll do one of these days…” But beyond that we finally became aware of just how much we’d actually managed to accumulate in our home alone.

We are not profligate people. We shop at thrift stores often, I’ve made several pieces of the furniture we have myself, Lenore sews and knits and mends our clothing. We have simple tastes and a small appetite for things. And yet, even so, we still have all this stuff! Books, desks, file cabinets and years of obsolete files; clothing we no longer wear or wear rarely; stored, unused bedding and curtains and drapes and sewing fabric; board games and children’s toys and stuffed animals rarely used except when the grandchildren visit; more furniture than we need, a vault of mementos and photos we never visit – the list goes on and on.

So here we are. 2016. A new dawn, a new day, and more than ever a time when the present is present in consciousness, and the past is fading fast. All the things that have stuck to us are losing their adhesive and falling off. We are here, now, and it’s time for a new adventure. We’re selling out everything one more time, just like back in ’86, and going on the road in an RV.

Next week the realtor comes, and in the meantime I am building temporary plywood tables for the garage sale. Recycling and dump runs have happened and more will follow. We’re bagging the useless and worthless, tagging the sellable, and hoping the old 1905 Cable Nelson piano finds a good home. Formerly a player piano, it has a sound box and sound board that produces a large, rich, wonderful tone. It has a nice action, too. We hope we can get it to a musician who can appreciate what a great instrument it is.

I’ll keep you posted.

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The Magic Of Winter Solstice: 7 Ways to Celebrate the Returning Light

This gallery contains 12 photos.

Originally posted on The Muse in the Mirror:
With Christmas fast approaching, it can be all too easy to get swept away in the festive frenzy of need and expectation, and to lose sight of the true reason for the season. Whilst…

Gallery | 5 Comments

Christmas Catch-up, 2015

On Lucifer, Hymns, Churches, Myths, Words, etc.

The Christmas season is here, and with it some of the oldest “pagan” myths dressed up in the elaborations of two millennia of Christianity. The story of the birth of Christ is welcome here. It’s an occasion for reflection upon the meaning of the season, as some folks like to say.

It’s also a season of reflection upon events of the past year, which some people will encapsulate in form letters. These will arrive folded inside of Christmas cards, and range from charming, witty, and wise epistles to offensive, humorless, clueless celebrations of ego.

I confess that I have sent a couple of these end-of-the year form letters myself. They were expedient in certain busy, overwhelming seasons in the past when a hand-written note inside of each card was not feasible. I was able to avoid the self-trumpeting aspect of the thing thanks to one I received long ago from some intensely upwardly-mobile acquaintances touting their attainment of membership in a very exclusive Horse Club.

I vaguely recall the over-all grating snobbishness of the entire letter, but only that particular part about the horse club remains clearly in memory. I remember thinking that I would like to find a nice, stout horse club and work them over with it until they drank some water from the fountain of Christmas. That sentiment faded with time, however, and we are friends now.

I will reserve personal reflections of events of the past year for a later post because now, on the run-up to the end of 2015, I find that part of the season involves a bit of catch-up with things my friend Louis has recently posted on his blog, Ralston Creek Review. I enjoy Louis’ reflections there a lot and highly recommend the site. It is a trove of scholarship and humanity, and Louis embodies both.

If you are a discerning reader you may now be becoming aware that what is coming up is a brain dump of sorts, a stream-of-consciousness purge of odd bits roiling around in my head which have found their way to various incomplete, unpolished pages in my personal archives.

All I can say about that is this: I am old, and getting older every day, and I have seen and thought about so much (whether it is relevant to anything or apropos of nothing) that I have no room left in my head for unfinished thoughts which won’t vacate their space until I put them somewhere else. This is that place. I am looking forward to reclaiming the space they have taken up in my head.

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Lucifer, the Fallen Angel

NOTE: This is a follow-up to my comment on Louis’ song of the week “Prince of Darkness.” I said I might follow through on my comment about Lucifer. Here’s a link to the comment, but you will probably need to read the entire blog post for continuity’s sake: http://ralstoncreekreview.com/song-of-the-week-prince-of-darkness/#comment-16037

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If you get all puffed up with yourself and get too big for your britches, you’re going to start showing your butt. When that happens you’re going to be an object of ridicule, the opposite of the object of worship you thought you were. This is called the Fall, and it’s not a good thing. So the best thing is to wear the pants the good Lord gave you, and leave off of that notion that you’re bigger than anyone else.”  (Anon)

(Or my Grandmother. I forget which.)

In the past I’ve referred to the allegorical myth of Lucifer in regard to how hubris and pride are the sources of the fall from the grace of spiritual union into separation. My friend Louis over at  Ralston Creek Review mentioned in one of his posts that Lucifer was once considered to be a “bringer of Light” rather than the Prince of Darkness. I was interested in how history accounted for that development. I found out, and now I’m tired of etymological excavation, and here it is:

Lucifer, the fallen angel now also known as Satan, was not in the original Hebraic texts of Isaiah 14:12. Lucifer first began to take shape when the Hebraic phrase “helel ben shahar” in the original Hebraic text of Isaiah was translated as “lucifer” in St. Jerome’s translation of Hebraic texts into the Latin Vulgate scriptures.

In the time of the prophet Isaiah the linguistic connection between the ancient Babylonian god Shahar (bringer of morning light) and the Judeo-Christian Lucifer (morning star, bringer of light, sun of the dawn ) did not exist. The metaphor of a fallen morning star that the original Hebraic text of Isaiah 14:12 applied to an evil and fallen king of Babylon received the Latin word “lucifer” in place of “morning star” in the Vulgate translation, which then morphed into the proper name Lucifer in the later Christian tradition, giving rise to the anthropomorphic angelic figure who fell from grace into evil.

So, basically, the figure of Lucifer appeared in the early Latin Vulgate translation of the old Hebraic scriptures by St. Jerome. It happened as the result of an over-reaching translation of the early texts which combined literal linguistic translation with interpretive “flourishes” into the Christian text. One of the results became the link between Isaiah 14:12 and Luke 10:18 (“I saw Satan fall like lightning from heaven”), interpreting the passage in Isaiah as an allegory of “Lucifer’s” fall from heaven. Thus “Lucifer” became linked with “Satan.” Before that, Satan and Lucifer were unrelated terms.

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RE: “Hymn”

NOTE: This is a follow-up to Louis’ song of the week “Hymn,” which addressed word origins, religions, churches, and the varying forms of belief systems which all have roots in human spirituality. Here’s a the link to that blog post (and Amy’s comment referenced herein): http://ralstoncreekreview.com/song-of-the-week-hymn/  Amy, by the way is Amy Putkonen, who authors the blog “Tao Te Ching Daily,” another treasure trove of wisdom and humanity which I also highly recommend. I run a poor third to both Louis and Amy, and often piggyback my own thoughts on theirs.

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Churches and religion and words are always an interesting topic, Louis.

As far as the etymology of the word “religion” goes, it seems that while starting out with Cicero as “relegere,” meaning literally “to read or think again,” it later morphed in popular usage to having a meaning indicating an organized, social form of spirituality. It started out denoting “respect for what is sacred; reverence for the gods; conscientiousness, sense of right …” and quickly became welded to and inseparable from concepts denoting “moral obligation; fear of the gods; divine service, religious observance; a religion, a faith, a mode of worship, cult; sanctity, holiness…” This fusion led modern writers to reinterpret the origin of the word as not being “relegere” but instead “religare,” meaning “to bind fast.”

So the word started out signifying a personal regard and individual consideration – and reconsideration, employing an open mind and the returns of later experiences – of the intrinsic, inalienable structure present in the universe and the spiritual aspects humanity  assigns to it. The idea being that human beings can form thoughts which reflect the true nature of the universe we have arisen from and live within.

Words are tools used to create facsimiles of things beheld; words are not the things they behold. Words apprehend those things. When we begin to use words as the building blocks of stories, myths, and songs to create a coherent, balanced  equation of equivalency – a story denoting an observed truth or effect or process, the most efficient viral form of information exchange from generation to generation – words serve us well. So long as the words themselves are coherent, balanced, and proven.

In this instance the word “religion” has an evolved meaning which equates being “bound fast” to institutionalized spiritual systems with human spirituality. It’s pretty obvious to me that there is a difference between spirituality and spiritual systems.

The difference can range from comical to antithetical depending on how much weight is given to the “system” and how coherent, balanced, and proven their interpreted version of any given story is. Does the story point to the object of its source? Or has it become twisted into a local parody and obscured the meaning of the story?

A lot of this is old ground for most people. Principles from the “divine ground,” the source of all religions, become socially tailored to fit a societal context. Those principles become expressed in interpretive translations. Over time social contexts change,  translations occur, interpretations change, interpreters change, and far down the line we find religions galore, all stemming from the same source, all with layer upon layer upon layer of historical, interpretive, personality-infused contexts in their words and stories.

Why, then, do people overwhelmingly choose to approach their spiritual nature in an institutional environment in spite of the confusions inherent in those organizations? It’s because of the satisfactions afforded by a system. A system can lead an adherent back to the immaculate source, so long as it points to that source and not itself.

Amy, in your reply I think you identify another one of the major benefits of organized religion. Community. It is a true benefit to connect with those who sincerely seek, and those who have found and embody, the principles of the spiritual life.

Yet belief-focused religion can also mislead adherents into some extraordinarily non-spiritual thoughts and actions based on protecting the community. They become Eric Hoffer’s “True Believers,” people subverted from the essence behind the form, conscripted and then compromised by it until the essence is lost and only the form is considered true. And there’s the rub.

The way I figure it, the only way to avoid being subverted, distracted, or even completely diverted from the personal spiritual path back to the godhead is to personally find the truth evident in each system without being co-opted by the systemic interpretations of those truths. I’d say the earliest definition of “religion” indicates a very good way to approach and apprehend the spiritual life – to use personal regard and individual consideration and reconsideration, employing an open mind and the returns of later experiences, whether it be in church or society or the universe at large.

Churches and religions, and an early atheism which evolved into a more open-minded agnosticism which led me into deeper explorations of faith and belief, have helped me on my own path immeasurably. Lenore and I have attended many churches of many faiths. Our own experience in each was preceded by our own personal explorations of faith and spirituality. Over time we developed a familiarity with the common spiritual principles which every faith shares, principles which are subsequently incorporated into the particular beliefs and expressions of many faiths.

In churches we found ourselves often having to sort out principles from beliefs in order to find the core of truth inside the layers of the personality of a church and the faith it embraced. It could be an exhausting process, listening carefully for principles sometimes hidden deep under layers and layers of history and dogma and cant, but usually the inspiring source could be found at the core of those expressions.

It was a very beneficial part of our path. One of the most satisfying things about it was meeting people who had arrived at an understanding of the principles underlying their faith through their particular religion’s  practices. And one of the more enlightening but not necessarily satisfying things we learned was that people can embrace religious beliefs and practices without ever apprehending the principles behind them, and can become blindly “bound fast” to literal, personality-driven, corrupted interpretations of those principles which actually produce beliefs and actions which are not reflective of those principles at all but “feel right” in the context of the church – even though they are not reflective of the greater context of the Tao, or the universe, or creation.

For myself I have to say that my time in various churches was well-spent. “Church” provided the initial contextual matrix in which I could form and place and express the spiritual discoveries I experienced on my path. As I grew I realized that the framework of that matrix was based on the oldest myths and stories and songs and visual arts of the human race, which were perpetuated in oral and artistic traditions long before the printed word became common. Stories conveyed through those basic mediums of expression are “word pictures” which easily convey information and make it memorable with visual and aural and emotional elements.

Those ancient common stories, those reflections of the nature of humanity, the universe, creation – indeed every thing which human consciousness encounters in its existence – were the first occurrence of what the human mind has been using to express itself ever since. We translate the pure, objective, inexpressible reality of facts before us into a form which can be expressed in our own context. And what serves us best is word pictures and stories containing metaphors, allegories, similes, analogies – simulacrums reflecting the universal source material of things which are absolute and yet subject to being compromised by our expressions simply because our expressions have limits and are “bound fast” to our local experiences and personal matrices of understanding.

Sidebar: “Simulacrums”

Jean Baudrillard in “The Precession of Simulacra,” defines a simulacrum as a representation which “substitutes signs of the real for the real.” Baudrillard contrasts this with the techno-contemporary development which extended human usage of simulacrums into “simulations,” observing that the current stage of the simulacrum has become characterized as a perspective which is derived from references with no referents, a hyperreality.

I personally don’t think this is a new development in the human process. Every thought we form is a symbol, derived from a beheld object, thought, event, etc. etc. I do agree that there is a process which becomes so derivative that it is only derivative of derivatives. This resultant “hyperreality” can be far removed from any original, natural source. Religion, for example, often becomes derivative of derivatives, and the reality of the simple observed source-fact is lost beneath layers of interpretation super-imposed over it.

Fredric Jameson provides a similar definition: the simulacrum’s “peculiar function lies in what Sartre would have called the derealization of the whole surrounding world of everyday reality.”

Churches and words are helpful. It’s nice to be able to express our spirituality in such a way that others understand it, and connect with us there on that divine ground. After all, we are at the heart of things a community, and the simulacrums which express that fact are nice to have around.

In my own experience, which is no more and no less unique than every other person’s experience, I personally found the highest worth in churches in the moment they conveyed me to – the moment when I realized they were not necessary.

We do not need to seek God. We are God.

We do not need to go to church. We are in church.

We do not need to wait for heaven. Heaven is here.

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There, that’s better. My mind has some room in it again.

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Our Excellent Florida Adenture, Part 2

My friend Louis wanted the rest of this story, so here it is. When last we left the tale Lenore and I had just arrived in Florida.

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Our bodies arrived a few hours past noon local time, but our minds were slower, plugging away in the skies behind us and lumbering to catch up, and even after they arrived there was a period of reconstitution and reassembly as everything got put back together.

Friday night we are watching TV late at night because our bodies have no idea of what constitutes bed time anymore. Even exhaustion isn’t enough of a clue. Lenore gets up from the couch around midnight, steps around an ottoman, and slams her foot into the foot of a heavy upholstered chair. The chair legs are black, the carpet dark brown, and the chair foot is invisible in the low TV light. The chair doesn’t move a micron, but Lenore’s left 4th toe is suddenly 60 degrees to the left of normal, folded over her small toe, and screaming. She isn’t – the toe is doing a fine job of that on its own. She is stunned – as am I. I’m frozen. Some deep-brain registry is telling me something serious has happened, and I’m waiting for more information, hyper-vigilant, completely focused on her. Then she moans, “I think I broke my toe…” I know she has, and I know it’s serious.

Usually when a person breaks a toe it hurts like hell, but after awhile it turns out it’s the sort of thing that you can buddy-tape to the next toe and limp around on the next day while casually bragging that you’re walking on a broken bone. Not this time.

It’s obviously serious. The rest of the night is miserable for her. We have some Tylenol with us, and she takes two. I buddy-tape the toe back in place for her when she’s able to bear it. I have to jury-rig it, we don’t have tape or band-aids with us but I peel a self-adhesive label off of something – no recollection of what – and then cut it into strips with her knitting scissors for tape. I put pieces of tissue paper between her toes and very carefully tape the toe back into place. It’s twisted a bit as well, but not a compound fracture and doesn’t look like it needs to be set. I think she reduced it herself when she was first looking at it and tried to move it back where it belonged. But it still wants to wander off in its own direction, and the taping helps with that.

There’s an office chair on wheels in the room and I wheel her into the bedroom, get her situated, and we agree we need more information about broken toes. So I head down to the hotel’s business center around 1am and Google and print all the info I can find for her. When I get back she’s obviously suffering, but hanging tough – and she is VERY tough when it comes to pain. But I can tell the pain is really bad for her.

In a half hour or so the pain eases a bit, and we agree she’s going to need something to help her walk, so I head back down to the business center, locate a nearby 24-hour pharmacy, and go get a set of crutches, a 4-point cane, and miscellaneous toe-taping supplies. When I get back she tries the crutches, but it’s a no-go. The cane is a possibility, but awkward for her, and while I was out she learned how to use the room chair as a scooter, putting her left knee on the seat and pushing herself along holding onto the chair arms. So she uses that, and around 3am or so we try to get some sleep.

We wake up about two hours later. We’re now operating on a phenomenal amount of sleep-lack and our circadian rhythms have given up, crashed, and rebooted. We’re in the mind-over-matter zone, directing our bodies with force of will and numb to physical  complaints. I call the hotel desk to ask if they have a wheel chair and they do, so I go get that, they give me directions to the Good Samaritan Hospital nearby, and we go there.

The x-ray shows a full break, jagged and deep in the toe. We get a post-op boot (it sucks for the purpose), a prescription for some heavy-duty pain killer (Lenore doesn’t do that stuff) and another heavy-duty anti-nausea med to counteract the side effects of the painkiller (which is why she doesn’t do that stuff). But the x-ray does inform us of the nature of the break, and that it doesn’t require further reduction (a relief), and we are reassured to learn that the lingering edema she has in that leg as a result of a lymphectomy when she went through cancer treatment 14 years earlier will not cause any problems during her healing process.

Our circadian rhythm center now tells us that, first of all, it has decided the time of day it is is the time of day it is; and secondly, but no less important, is the fact that it doesn’t give a crap what other parts of the brain may think about that decision. So we wheel ourselves out to Lenore’s sister’s place and spend the day there with Mom and the family.

That night we go to bed at a normal hour and both have so many dreams of such duration that when we wake up we both think we have slept through the night. As it turns out we have been asleep for about a half hour. Now THAT was weird. Some sort of hyper-drive processing event sorting through the piled-up returns of recent days, sifting it all out, filing and deleting and compressing the data as needed after plugging it in to try-on scenarios to see if it is applicable and useful to us and consonant with the world-view we have acquired to date.

When I wake up after that half hour I realize my external “third eye” has been intact but completely separate from the process, watching it happen objectively from a distance. Still trying to figure out whether that’s part of fore-brain/prefrontal lobe function, or the “soul”, or a combination of the two. I suspect the latter. It was reminiscent of a deep meditative state, but the engendered consciousness had a perspective component to it that was specific rather than holistic. It was just “being,” but watching something as well.

We fall back asleep again, and have, by comparison, a fairly normal night’s sleep punctuated by applications of new ice packs and Tylenol. We keep the hotel’s wheel chair for the duration of the visit, only relinquishing it after our transport to the airport has arrived and Lenore is settled into it. The rest is denouement. The airline wheel chair service was exemplary and we got home safely, without further adventure.

Lenore uses the cane now, is able to walk about 8” per step with her cane and stand for about ten minutes at a time. She helps start preparing meals, I am sous-chef and runner and deliver all food, knives, pots and pans to her while she sits on a high stool at the counter and plys her art. I finish up and serve. She’s getting a bit better every day.

There ya go. That’s the story to date.

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Our Excellent Florida Adventure

I don’t like Florida. I prefer our Cascade mountains here in Oregon, the crisp and clean mountain air, the rivers and streams and high forests, the volcanic slabs of cliffs and the ancient valleys. Florida in October is warm, dank and bright. The air is redolent with the funk of subtropical swamp decay and ocean air salted with beached seaweed and man-o-war jellyfish rotting on the waterline. It’s air you can weigh, and it weighs back.

We were going to Florida anyway. My wife grew up there, arriving from Rochester, New York with her family in 1957 as the result of a belief that the successful culmination of northern ambition produced a residence in Florida. She later escaped, but her parents rooted in the sand and have been there ever since. Her Dad passed away on the last day of 2014, and now her Mom, 97 years old, lives with my wife’s sister in North Palm Beach. We are going to see Mom. And so Florida.

I like Mom. As for Florida… well, maps of the shoreline of the USA in 2100 AD don’t bother me at all. It is sinking toward Atlantis, and when it does it will be an improvement. The air will only be a bit more humid, and will not smell as weird.

6:00 AM Thursday morning

We wake up and get ready to go. Our plane doesn’t leave Portland, Oregon until early afternoon, so we have plenty of time. We leave the house here in the mountains around 10 am and an hour’s drive delivers us to the parking lot near PDX where our car will be for the next five days. Five days is not much time to spend in Florida by the lights of many people, but after serious deliberation and thought – and without too much input from me, I might add – my wife has decided this is her Florida limit.

Five days. We will go, we will spend quality time with Mom, we will allocate a small portion of our time there for ourselves. We will walk on the beach, we will eat at the restaurant on Lantana Beach, we will watch a sunrise together and then have breakfast – café con leche and Caribbean-style home fried potatoes, among other delicious menu items – at the Puerto Rican café we discovered on our last trip. It will all be good.

In Portland, after a bit of a scramble – I leave my wallet in the car console and realize it just  as the airport shuttle is leaving the lot and have to “run” on my bad knees like a hip-shot duck to retrieve it – we arrive at the terminal, check in our bag and pick up our boarding passes. We are TSA pre-checked, so we get to go around the line of about 150 people slowly snaking their way to the x-ray, shoe removal, pocket-stripping station and are glad to have only about ten people in front of us. Then the foreshadowing shows up.

Lenore sets off the metal detector and has to be diverted to an x-ray machine and then a frisk. It’s not so bad, the frisk is not offensive and the alarm proves to be just a machine anomaly that agitates the hive guardians for a moment and requires investigation. Soon we’re through the security gate, have a pre-packed lunch we’ve brought along in a common eating area, and board our plane.

1:00 PM, Portland, Oregon  

“Meet the Griffiths, a nice couple who think they are embarking on an uneventful trip to Florida to spend time with family and each other. Little do they know that as they cross the threshold of the awaiting 738 jetliner and enter the cabin beyond, they pass through that invisible curtain which veils the undiscovered country beyond in… the Twilight Zone.”

Our flight to Dallas-Fort Worth will be 3 hours and 6 minutes long. At least it will be until a train of thunderheads pulled by the engine of earth’s ever-more-unpredictable atmosphere rolls over Dallas and shuts down the airport there. We circle for an hour and when news of the shutdown comes and fuel runs low, we are diverted to the tarmac of Austin, Texas. The pilot informs us to not worry about making our scheduled connections because they are “all out the window,” presumably twisting in shreds in the weather beyond our plastic port-holes.

In Austin we are stacked and racked, parked in a line with other planes diverted from Dallas. There are a lot of them. The folks who were going actually going to Austin cash in their lottery-winning tickets and eventually deplane, along with other passengers who have used their electronic networking devices to secure rental cars for trips to Houston and other nearby areas. It is 9:30 pm now, and a few also elect to leave the plane simply because they want to get the hell out of it. I am thinking about doing this myself when the pilot announces there are no lodging rooms left in Austin. This may be, as they say in Texas, bull – but I’m not inclined to investigate whether or not it is. Word is that DFW may reopen and we can still get there, which is what the airline and air crew and even the airplane seems to desperately want to do.

The shuttle for the deplaning passengers arrives about 10:30 pm, and with it complimentary snacks and bottled water extended by way of apology to the rest of us for the delay. We now have bottled water in paper-thin plastic bottles which erupt when we screw the nearly unremoveable top off and the death grip we have on the bottle blows a geyser into the overhead 8 inches above us. We also have peanut M&M’s and Cheetos. The flight attendant, obviously in disagreement with her employer’s idea of penitence and largesse, and disgusted and embarrassed by it, lets us know she is in sympathy with us and advises us that if we eat these things we will most likely blow up. We agree, and pass them along to others who are ready to do so and end it all right now. We defer in favor of extended misery, and we get it. But there is one bright light shining in the darkness of Austin.

Our cellmate is a kind and sociable person – the only one we will encounter on the whole trip – as well as a frequent-flyer. She is favored by the airline and receives updates on her cell phone, which while not as current as our pilot’s updates do serve to remind her and us that the airline is aware that they have delivered us into limbo and are working hard to deliver us back out. I am hoping this is not the sort of hard work that George W. Bush, a Texan from thereabouts, was talking about when he said, “We are working hard to bring the solution to an end.”

Our new friend advises us to call our hotel to let them know we will be arriving late. This turns out to be good information because when we do – using her cell because we are traveling deviceless and are the networked equivalent of fuzzy ducklings – we learn that had we not called we would have been marked down as no-shows and our reservation cancelled completely. During this conversation I hear our pilot announce that plans are now in the works to unscobble the situation but that it will take time. My bones and muscles and connective tissues are telling me that they may not have that time, and so I start to seriously think about deplaning ourselves and taking our chances in Austin in hopes that somewhere there is a room we can acquire and collapse in.

Our seat mate dials up the airline for us and I try to get some information about lodging vouchers. The first representative I reach has a nearly unintelligible accent, but with some careful listening and intense focus I am able to determine that she is unable to absorb information from the outside world if it contradicts her database and training script. It soon becomes evident that she is unable to retain the information that a flight scheduled for DFW is in Austin. I repeat the simple fact three times, and finally ask for her supervisor. She seems very relieved that I have done so, even though I have been very nice and patient with her.

The supervisor has listening skills, can process real-time information, and apparently enjoys a certain amount of authority to make things happen. While we are talking about lodging vouchers in Austin the pilot announces that DFW will have a window between thunderheads from midnight until 2 am, and we will be leaving shortly. This is a huge stroke of luck, believe it or not. My conversation with the airline rep immediately switches over to making a new connection, and she is able to scrounge two seats on a flight to Charlotte out of DFW at 5:15 am, and a connecting flight which will put us into Florida around noon the next day. This does not sound too good until we do finally get to DFW and pick up our new boarding passes at the arrival gate. The couple in front of us are stunned speechless by the new connection handed to them, which does not leave Dallas for 14 hours. They stumble away defeated, seeking nothing in particular, dead passengers walking.

Tickets in hand now, we look for food, cots, ground space, a bathroom. It’s all a slow-motion grind. In the terminal we arrive at cots are everywhere, occupied. People have crashed on the floor and are pillowed with carry on bags, covered in jackets and sweaters, sleeping with their hands over their ears. In every gate as far as the ear can hear CNN is blaring fritzing chunks of noise from five big screens per gate at about 90 decibels.

Only one food place is open in Dallas at 2:30 am, and here where we are the line is about fifty people deep. We decide to go on to our departure gate. It’s in a different terminal, reached by a pitiless monorail roller coaster slamming viciously through unexplainable speed bumps. The food place apparently has a franchised outlet in each terminal, and here there is no line. We mumble our orders, but manage to have a couple of burritos assembled before our eyes, pay, and stumble into a corner booth. The corner is better for leaning against because it’s harder to fall sideways, and my wife gets situated there. I have the wall and keep sliding down it on my way to under the table until I think to put my feet on the chair opposite  me. I slide down a ways and then stop, upper torso piled into my gut. My chin is about 6 inches above my plate, and I feel like I am three years old again, eating in a high chair. When we are done everything goes into my carry-on pack, provisions for the dark unknown ahead.

We stumble onward. In a gate not far away we find an unoccupied cot and claim it. There are only three people here, two seniors out front dozing in chairs, and in the far country behind them a person wandering around who has the thousand-yard stare of a homeless person, which he is. Just like us. We smile painfully, sympathetically, but he moves past us deeper into his own fog. Behind an abandoned gate counter I find a pile of looted cardboard boxes and in the last, buried under the pile, there are two plastic-wrapped pillows. They are three quarters of an inch thick and made from the same material that goes into the manufacture of furnace filters and gauze bandages. I return, the triumphant hunter-gatherer, to the cot, and urge my wife to try it out. She does. She gets back up almost immediately, so I try it out. I discover that it would be more comfortable if it was simply a piece of plywood 18” wide and five and a half feet long with a perimeter of 2×2’s nailed to its top edges. We doze in fitful delirium  in the airport chairs for the remainder of our time there.

Finally it is time to go to our boarding gate, and on the way a Starbucks is opening up. I stand in line and score a tall Americano and a shoe-leather cinnamon twist. I drink the coffee and slam-dunk the pastry into a garbage can on our way to the gate.

It all goes fuzzy after that, although I do remember thinking that while we were entombed in Dallas, it could be worse. We could be our luggage, entombed in the bowels beneath us, separated from home and family and on the way to God knows where.

Charlotte, a layover, another plane ride, and a sympathetic, philosophical Haitian-born cab driver delivered us to our destination. We hadn’t slept for 30 hours. We crashed at the hotel and slept for a couple of hours that should have been about ten hours more, but our circadian rhythms were lagged stupid. I called the airline seeking our luggage, and learned it would arrive late that afternoon, so we connected with a car and went to get it. We all wagged our tails at the happy reunion, even the suitcase. It was heart warming.

Then came my dear wife’s shattered toe, the Good Samaritan Emergency Room in West Palm Beach, her three days spent in our hotel’s complimentary wheel chair, and her airport wheel chair rides all the way back to Oregon. Really. I’m not lying. I’m just tired of writing now. It’s a story that’s bigger than I am. We’re glad to be home.

I don’t like Florida.

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