Wednesday, March 31, 2010


Is mankind better off in believing in a divine being who intervenes on its behalf ?

I read a blog, [Church of the Churchless] (listed in my blog roll), where regularly questions about god's existence are brought up. It has been interesting to see different people's take on that depending on their religious persuasion. I think about spiritual questions anyway but it always adds to my thinking.

My question above is not as simple as it at first sounds. It is not about whether there is a god. Leave that question for another day. This one is about what people might believe about the level of that god's involvement on earth. [Most Believe God Gets Involved].

We don't decide god's existence by the way. He/she/it exists or does not. What we decide is what we do about it. If we see god's hand in everything that happens, how will that impact our lives? Is that kind of belief empowering or disabling?

If someone believes in a god but one who doesn't intervene, then that belief probably changes very little of what they do in their lives. Suppose though they expect god to take their part in disputes, their nation's part, they expect their concept of god to intervene in disasters or even cause them. Some who think like that don't count on doctors for medical care but on prayer. How about those who blow themselves up for a heavenly reward? For many people, believing in an intervening god determines what behavior is okay and what happens if they aren't obedient as in an everlasting hell. Is belief in an intervening god really a benign thing?

What about the argument that in a foxhole everybody believes god will intervene to help them? Do they or do they just hope they can be delivered either in this life or to a better one? I do understand that when we humans have a terminal illness or a disabling one we want to believe it has meaning and even more so that there is a power that can protect us through it, but does that mean there is one?

Might people live different lives if they had to figure out what made for quality living and didn't depend on an age old book to deliver the rules? Might they actually even treat others (outside their religion) better?

Most beliefs in god's intervention are based on hope and something more-- someone else's divine experience. The result of that belief and that other person's experience is often a strict set of rules for living-- and can take you into a sauna that cooks you alive because someone else told you you'd get closer to 'god.' When the founders aren't still around (or even if they are), you have to trust that they actually did hear god speaking from a burning bush with traveling orders. Is your life better off for believing in that... or not?

In the third Shrek movie, there is a scene where Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty along with Fiona and her mother are facing a dire situation (yes, it's a kids' movie but as usual with some wisdom in it). What must they do? One of the women says, Ladies assume the position. Fiona is horrified to see that their position is waiting for a prince to rescue them. Is that what belief in an intervening god can be or is it a backup plan along with some other action which means believing but not believing too much?

There would be no argument over gay marriage without belief in an intervening god. Humans have no reason to object to any form of responsible sexual behavior in others where it leads to stable homes as places for families-- except believing a god not only forbids but punishes it. (Which isn't even really Biblical given that stories like Sodom and Gomorrah are about decadent, abusive behavior, not committed, loving.)

So, even though discussions of religions and politics are supposedly the no-no of polite conversation, once in awhile I want to bring up such questions-- whether they get discussions going or not. The one at the top of the blog will remain a little longer than an average post. I'd like to give it some time to see if a real discussion can be generated.

If you don't want to express your opinion under your usual name here, feel free to post anonymously. I understand it's touchy ground but it does impact our society for what we believe. If you don't agree, just remember the witch trials. What we believe about god's activities regarding mankind can impact other than ourselves.

(Photo looking down on Seal Rock February 20, 2010)

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

underlying philosophies

The philosopher most impacting the film, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, is Friedrich Nietzsche, a German philosopher (1844-1900) who challenged his contemporary culture with his own ideas of morality, religion and will power; in particular the popular (and still today) idea that god is required to bring about certain modes of behavior.

This film explores Nietzsche's ideas especially one of eternal return. In his book, Kundera writes: "If every second of our lives recurs an infinite number of times, we are nailed to eternity as Jesus Christ was nailed to the cross. It is a terrifying prospect. In the world of eternal return the weight of unbearable responsibility lies heavy on every mood we make. Nietzsche called this concept of eternal return the heaviest of burdens. If eternal return is the heaviest of burdens, then our lives stand out against it in all their possible lightness.

"The heaviest of burdens crushes us, we sink beneath it, it pins us to the ground. But in the love poetry of every age, the woman longs to be weighed down by the man’s body. The heaviest of burdens is therefore simultaneously an image of life’s most intense fulfillment. The heavier the burden, the closer our lives come to the earth, the more real and truthful they become.

"Conversely, the absolute absence of a burden causes man to be lighter than air, to soar into the heights, take leave of the earth and his earthly being, and become only half real, his movements as free as they are insignificant.

"What then shall we choose? Weight or lightness?"

The Unbearable Lightness of Being as a film is not so weighty as it can not be enjoyed without looking at the philosophy underpinning it; but if you want to go deeper, than you can look at the various lifestyles as they are portrayed to see where choices lead. It is not suggesting punishment as a natural outcome of going against some godly set of rules, but rather of natural consequences.

Basically, as I saw it, the underlying theme is do the best we can do is lead a life that gives joy on the basic levels, which often comes through simple things and purposes; but despite what we do, fate may step in, not a directed fate but pure randomness where it all changes in an instant. This philosophy encourages us to both look at the result of reason but also not judge, when we see things turn out badly, that someone must have displeased god or done something wrong.

Sometimes despite natural consequences, fate steps in and in ways that relate to absolutely nothing. This is life. Trying to find meaning in everything can not only drive us crazy but in the end get nowhere. Humans want there to be a magical system to give us control. It is our nature and whether we expect that to come through science or a god, we struggle for it.

Some say Nietzsche was the underlying philosopher underpinning Nazism but you can find a philosophy of any sort and distort its meaning for evil purposes.

Nietzsche suggests discipline is a key to a quality life. Interestingly, even though Tomas is undisciplined sexually, where it comes to his work and sense of personal responsibility in many things, he very much is disciplined. He was an excellent surgeon who took great joy in his work; but when he was forced to change that because of the occupation of the Soviets, he took equal joy in being an ordinary doctor; when that was taken away, he found it in window washing. He did that with whatever work he did.

And then there is that title. Exactly what is the unbearable lightness of being? One possibility is that lightness is unbearable to those who wish to oppress which can be political, religious, or even individuals in our life who are threatened by our lightness as they seek to put their burdens onto us to gain control. Lightness is then a challenge to darkness?

Sunday, March 28, 2010


The Unbearable Lightness of Being (book and film) is predominantly about philosophy of life, relationships, politics, and art with how each impact our lives. In the film, one of the primary characters, Sabina, is an artist who uses her own body, mirrors, paints, air brushing, whatever media she finds, including a hat, to inspire her artistic direction. Her life is her art.

Because this story is also about totalitarianism, it looked at various ways totalitarian regimes impact those who live under them including the arts using kitsch. Frankly I had never thought of kitsch as having a political purpose.

I think most artists do think about whether what they are doing is kitsch-- in other words is it trying to be too cute, to manipulate emotions, to provide an answer instead of thinking. (I recognize that one person's kitsch may be another's concept of great art.) I know why I don't like things I label kitsch, those I see as maudlin or too cute when I am decorating my home, but I had never thought of it the way author Milan Kundra saw it as actually serving purposes in getting or maintaining power-- politically or religiously.

Kundera wrote that kitsch functions by excluding from view everything that humans find difficult with which to come to terms, offering instead a sanitized view of the world, in which "all answers are given in advance and preclude any questions".

Because totalitarianism doesn't respect differences nor does it allow it, kitsch serves its purpose with papering over complexities with something that appeals to the emotions while it not challenging the mind. And so we have the flag pin that impacted the last election. Meaningful? How?

In a healthy culture, diverse interest groups compete and negotiate with one another to produce a generally acceptable direction; by contrast with totalitarian thinking, "everything that infringes on kitsch," including individualism, doubt, and irony, "must be banished for life." Therefore, Kundera wrote, "Whenever a single political movement corners power we find ourselves in the realm of totalitarian kitsch."

"Kitsch causes two tears to flow in quick succession. The first tear says: How nice to see children running on the grass! The second tear says: How nice to be moved, together with all mankind, by children running on the grass! It is the second tear that makes kitsch kitsch." Milan Kundera

What could be defined as kitsch is a question that gains more interest when you consider that kitsch (in entertainment too) is really about control. Do we go through whole eras where kitsch dominates the art world? Should we be concerned when art (including writing) that challenges is pushed aside for art that feels good and denies think about it. I have said I like 'feel good' but when is it healthy and when is it harmful and actually serving aims beyond our own?

When thinking of examples of the 'think about it' kind, the kind that challenges and makes people angry demanding they think, Andres Serrano's photograph of a cheap plastic crucifix in a jar of his own urine comes to mind.

Offensive? Definitely. Shocking? You bet. But what was it saying? Was it about what religion has done to Christ? Was it putting down Christ? Was it a statement about the Church itself? Or was it about kitsch, meaningless objects that people venerate? What exactly was it saying? Most people got so angry they didn't care. They just wanted it gone. I would say it was not kitsch based on Kundera's definition anyway.

A painter who comes to mind when considering art that is not kitsch would be the Australian artist, [Norman Lindsey]. The film Sirens is roughly based on his work, was set in his home in Australia, and (along with artistic nudity) presents the argument of whether art is intended to challenge or to comfort. Not to say that art cannot be comforting but what about that which isn't? Should it be banned? Totalitarian regimes (of all sorts) would do exactly that.

Finding examples of what is kitsch is harder for me. Is this? Is that? Well if it makes us content with the status quo, if it doesn't inspire us to find our own goals but catches us up in the goals of our government, if it sedates us, numbs us to thinking for ourselves, well maybe that's it. I can see how it can be especially used in entertainment. Some think the powers that be are political parties. What if they are not? What if they are corporate?

The digital painting at the top is mine based on a photograph that was also mine of an eagle along the Yellowstone River in Montana. Does it qualify as kitsch given the symbolism in it? I personally don't think so as it stands, but what if I added a flag to it and used it in a campaign for some political goal?

Friday, March 26, 2010

The Unbearable Lightness of Being

When I began watching The Unbearable Lightness of Being, I thought I was going to hate it. It was slow moving for me and seemed to have too much overt sexuality. Who wants to watch all of that? But fortunately I kept with it because I thought it would have more to it. By the time the final credits rolled, I felt it was one of the best movies I have seen with a great deal to think about regarding the philosophy of life.

The title itself has been a challenge ever since I saw the film. It seems a contradiction in terms. Unbearable-- Lightness in the same phrase? Its very challenge keeps me thinking and two blogs from now I venture my own opinion on one possible meaning

The story is set in 1968 Prague right before the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia. The reviews I had read said it was about a menage a trois but that is not so. The film, unlike the book, is about three people and their way of dealing with life. First we have Tomas, (Daniel Day Lewis) who is what would politely be called a bounder in that he knows how to get women into bed with him-- not that he cares if they use a bed.

Tomas reminds me of a story we used to talk about with our first bull. He was the main herd bull, experienced in running a herd. We would watch the young bull act all excited at a heifer or cow in heat, while the old bull ambled along. We could almost hear his conversation to the young bull, son, slow down and get them all. He always did.

Now Tomas wasn't old. He was young but he already had the wisdom to get whatever he wanted in a woman. Smooth, sophisticated, no pressure, just that steady, you know you want it. Sex for Tomas is not about emotional connection.

Then there is the beautiful artist, Sabina (Lena Olin), who is his lover and really his soul mate if soul mates are two of a kind. Sabina is free spirited, doesn't desire to possess Tomas, nor does she wish to be tied to anyone herself. I think sex means more to her than to Tomas but it's more about freedom than emotions.

If soulmates are opposites, than he meets his soul mate when he goes to do a surgery in another town and meets Tereza (Juliette Binocht. Tereza is an unexplored woman, follows Tomas into the big city when she realizes he offers her something she has never had. She is repressed but filled with passion and strength of purpose. She just needs to find that purpose.

If one thinks the film is mostly about Tomas, they would be wrong. I left it thinking more and more that women need to be empowered because the two women at its center were very empowered in different ways. That was their beauty. They didn't present one way to be but two different ones of equal strength.

These three people come together with mutual caring and respect, even if not understanding, while Czechoslovakia hovers on the brink and then is crushed by the Soviet Union. It's not even really a war as the Czechs had no ability to wage war with anything but the Molotov cocktails thrown by an angry and frightened populace. That doesn't get you far against tanks.

Despite the increasing pressure from the Soviets, the citizens had not been expecting an invasion. The world would not allow it, they thought. As we have seen time and again, unless the world's oil is at stake, the world doesn't care much about such invasions. Oh they'll talk a bit but they won't go to war over it. The United States was already into the Vietnam War and hardly had time to worry about what happened to people in Eastern Europe especially not after their own long Cold War with the Soviets.

Basically the film is about the conflict between personal desire, private and public morality and social control under an oppressive, totalitarian regime. It shows what the world was like for them before the invasion and what it became under it. Although it's very strongly influenced by its time in history and its place, it is about broader human concepts of integrating into our lives our intentions, chance's role in events, and individual responsibility.

It is based on the book by Milan Kundera which is very philosophical about the nature of human existence and relationships. If you want a film which demands you think, then you would find The Unbearable Lightness of Being to be up your alley.

On the other hand, if nudity and sexual encounters between people make you uncomfortable, then it's one to skip. I felt the sex was not gratuitous nor without purpose but it was there and pretty avant garde for today's American culture which is more comfortable with violence or even the kind of sex people find in a Hooters.

To illustrate how meaningful this film was to me, the next two blogs will go with more depth into the philosophical concepts at the heart of this film about physical, emotional and metaphysical aspects of human existence.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Late Night Movies

When I was growing up, movies were a big influence on my imagination. Back then, instead of late night talk, there were late night movies on at least one and sometimes several of the network channels. With school, it was not possible to see all the movies during the week but come the week-end, I stayed up, often with my father as he was a night owl due to working graveyard during the week.

Through those late nights, I was introduced (distantly) to Fred Astaire, Clark Gable, Rita Hayworth, Ava Gardner, Humphrey Bogart and a slew of other stars and types of films. There were good guys, bad guys, and generally you never had to wonder who each was. Even if Alan Ladd looked suspicious for awhile, eventually he would redeem himself. There was some security in that.

Today, the three main networks offer very few old movies, but there are cable stations dedicated to them. Many I have already seen at least once and sometimes more. I watch very little daytime television, but when the evening comes, because I am not into network programming, movies are an important part of the night-- although these days that night ends a little before 10. Thanks to DVDs, I can make it so.

Since I got started with Netflix, with their one at a time deal, I have a movie from them about every three days although I mix my choices liberally with documentaries as Netflix is a treasure chest of documentaries, the kind you'd never find elsewhere. Well you would if you were regularly keeping track of what was on History Channel, Discovery, Science, PBS, etc., but I am not; so these are generally new to me.

To be honest, my favorite movies are not heavy ones. I like to be entertained, and I do enough heavy lifting with what I think without using movies for more fodder. Generally I like my movies to be uplifting and make me feel good by the time it says The End. This month though I have tried a few different ones.

One was Zombieland. Now that's a film I'd normally never watch as it's horror... but kind of horror, like that which isn't real and is full of humor and action. If I hadn't received a recommendation from my daughter, and if it hadn't starred Woody Harrelson, I'd still likely have never seen it. I admit. I liked it. It's not a movie to improve your mind, not one to make you think deep thoughts. It's pure escapist fare of the type where no way would you want to go there.

Would I recommend it? Not unless you can handle make believe gore. If you can or if you, like me, look away at certain times, even when you know it's make-up, it's surprisingly a fun movie. It's not like a film I will be buying. I think it'd bother me sitting in my shelves.

Actually this whole blog is intended as an introduction more than a post of its own. It's about a movie from the 1980s that I had not seen then and put off seeing through the years until again someone recommended it and I got to thinking it's the kind of film I should see. Last week-end I did and the next three blogs will be about it. It was heavy with a lot of thinking to be stirred up even by its title. So coming next-- a three-part movie review.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Wolf Attack! Are you kidding???

I find wolves fascinating, love to see them in Yellowstone, watch them from a safe distance, hear them, read about them. In art, they are a beautiful addition to any painting, but...

Humans have a tendency to forget that we are animals and actually more prey species than predator unless we have a weapon in our hands. For years we have been told wolves won't attack humans, but I have always thought-- why not? We don't have as thick of hide as some animals and what exactly would stop a wolf from thinking we look like walking steak?

After reading about [a young teacher killed by wolves], I went looking for more information on exactly what happened and came across another article which I had not heard about when it happened likely because the man was not killed.

Although I live close to predators, unless I am on vacation I am unlikely to come across a wolf pack; but on the other hand, I can come across other predators, some big enough to kill humans if they were so inclined. I believe it's important for anybody who is out in the woods to be informed on what to do if a predator turns aggressive. Thinking about it ahead of time is a lot wiser than waiting until it happens. There is a lot of information online about how to handle yourself if a wild animal becomes threatening (people have been killed by deer-- and don't laugh, it's true).

Where I live in Tucson, we have javelina, bobcats and coyotes that I have seen close to the house. None of these would approach our farmhouse in Oregon. Other than the javelina, which are not in my part of Oregon, why do you think that is?

Logically, you'd expect the Tucson house, being closer to other homes, would have less predators at the door. The reason that isn't so is guns. I know. I know. It's upsetting to a leftie to imagine a gun is needed for anything, but here we shoot at any predator that gets too close. Down there we are in the city and for good reasons we can't use a gun (of course, if a predator shows up in the house, all bets are off).

When a person is hiking with the approach of a predator, there are certain things the human can do to dissuade an actual attack. Sometimes though it's too late and the attack is on before you realize it.

My opinion is if you are attacked, with no clubs handy, and it's a real attack, go for the animal's eyes. No wild animal wants its eyes gouged out. I am describing an attack much closer than any of us wants to experience; but if it happens (human predator also) go for the eyes. It's the one chance when we are the weaker of the animals.

With a wolf pack, such as killed the Alaskan teacher, she didn't have a chance. More than one animal, darting in and quickly back, there wasn't much she could do. Wolves are very fast and they know how to disable their prey. That kind of attack is very rare, but incredibly sad. It's not good for the wolves either for what seems like an easy meal will end up being the end of their pack.

In researching this, I came across the following article on avoiding or diverting human predator attacks and thought most of it can also apply to the wild animal type. It pays to be prepared and make sure your loved ones, especially children, are also prepared whether in the wilderness or closer to home.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Family connections and a bit more

In January I wrote about the loss of my cousin and how it had impacted me to not put off things especially where it involves loved ones. Friday my cousin, her brother, came out to the farm to give me old family photographs that she had saved and which he now wanted me to have. You can see the stacks on the table to my left in the above photo.

He and I caught up on many years of family news. It made me so happy to hear him talk about the kind of woman his sister had been. There were so many caring things about her that I didn't know but now feel a glow at knowing those stories. What a good woman she was and to so many people. What a special day Friday was for me.

But to say Friday was special is to not begin to say what it meant to me. It was good to reconnect with my cousin, five years my junior, after so many years, and it had been a lot of years. Looking at the old photos and family information, as we went through them telling each other the stories we remembered, was wonderful.

We both had come late to an interest in our family's genealogy. I began researching it a few years ago long after so many of the old ones had gone on, and it was more difficult to find the information. I wish I had asked more questions when they were still around, but there it is.

Opening up these envelopes was the first time I had seen a photo of my grandparents' wedding day. You know how it is-- boys get the tools and guns; girls get the photos and household goods. I have the riding crop, a .38 (that supposedly my grandfather carried when he was running away from a posse with no clue why that might've been), some of the tools; but Friday was the first time I had seen a photo of my father's mother when she was 16 years old. That's how old she was when she became engaged to my grandfather. The photo below is their engagement picture.

In August 1903, they were married in Hills City, South Dakota. From everything I know, they had a happy marriage for nearly 50 years. My mother talked about the funeral for my granddad (I was very young and not there), and how my grandmother threw herself across the casket crying out his name (in my experience, she wasn't the demonstrative type). She really loved that man and you can't ask for much more than that from a long marriage, can you?

Today was like a gift that will go on giving as I have now a box full of photos and information on relatives, most of whom I have only heard their names. Friday was a very good day for me.

And then...

As soon as I wrote this blog about my magnificent day, of course, the fates stepped in. I heard horns honking outside, people yelling-- cows are out on the road. There has to be a leveling force in the Universe, doesn't there? A sense of humor maybe?

I walked down the road, grumbling all the way, watched the bull and cows' chagrined expressions, and eventually convinced them to go down the bank and back across the creek to their home where they stayed until Farm Boss returned from town to fix the fences. Fences at this time of the year are iffy at best with cattle ready to test them for that green grass on the other side. I can relate...

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Teddy Roosevelt is a bad guy?

Going along with the last post comes the above question. Does the right wing really want to go there?

How far right does the right want to go? Do they really believe all government programs are bad? If they succeed in making a villain out of Theodore Roosevelt and Dwight Eisenhower, then I'd say we know the answer. This country will end up with one viable party and it won't be that one.
Behind the ostensible government sits enthroned an invisible government owing no allegiance and acknowledging no responsibility to the people. --- Theodore Roosevelt.
Maybe it does make sense that they'd try to demean him.

I liked one of the definitions from Roosevelt's time that we have zealots, reactionaries, and progressives. They obviously can come in either party. Are there enough progressives (progressive meaning those who can learn from the past and make changes for the future) in the Republican party to turn this thing around and make themselves into a real conservative voice that addresses problems with real solutions?

I sure don't see a Teddy Roosevelt out there in the Republican party as things stand. If he is there, he'd be condemned by the big mouths. Isn't it time that real conservatives spoke up and separated themselves from the zealots and reactionaries in their party? There is nothing wrong with the word conservative-- or wasn't until they redefined it.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Local Control over Education?

How involved should the federal government be in local education standards? The Bush administration began a No Child Left Behind policy that turned testing into the main objective of educators. Obama is seeking to adjust that with his own twist Obama on Education. Although most educators hate the no child left behind emphasis on tests (provided by some corporation somewhere), they aren't as yet impressed with his tweaks.

Should the federal government impact curriculum choices in the states? Can it afford to be uninvolved? Was segregation something that would have ended without federal involvement? How far should the feds go in forcing certain things like say teaching in English? Or politically correct ideas which might change with each season?

Most likely by now any reader here has heard about the Texas board of education changing the criteria for what must be taught in the social studies curriculum in Texas schools and thereby impacting what will be taught in schools throughout the nation.

If you are an extreme right winger, you are probably thrilled-- about time. If you are a scholar, you are horrified-- the end of serious education. If you got your news from Fox, [Fox on Texas textbook social studies standards American history] you got one version of what this means. New York Times a different one [Texas Conservatives Win Vote on Textbook Standards]

If you think Thomas Jefferson talked entirely too much about separation of church and state, you might not mind that he's not going to be in the curriculum but a French theologian, John Calvin will be. Or would you? Should children be taught that Joseph McCarthy was a hero? Some think so. [The Rehabilitation of Joseph McCarthy in Texas Textbooks].

I suppose one might take this in stride with it's just Texas, except there is an impact evidently on all textbooks by what Texas chooses. Publishers evidently cater to the big states and they won't be printing various versions for other states. [T is for Texas Textbooks].

Since the people deciding on the curriculum for Texas are not historians, not sociologists, not economists, not even theologians, who are they? Partisan right wingers who mostly have a political agenda they want taught. Is this the beginning of the end of public schools when these decisions are not made by educators but by those who think Newt Gingrich's Contract with America was more important than the author of the Constitution? Is it any better when the left wing pushes through changes like that we don't need to teach about Edison or the Wright Brothers but should teach about Amos cookies, whatever they are.

Paul Krugman wrote about this issue in January. Texas Textbooks where he quoted Paul Samuelson.
“I don’t care who writes a nation’s laws — or crafts its advanced treatises — if I can write its economics textbooks.”
I understand the conservative concern that states should have power over education except shouldn't educators be the ones making these decisions? Shouldn't national textbooks by put together by experts in their fields? I don't think liberals should have any more say over the information in textbooks than conservatives. It should be historians who decide what was historical and so forth. The agenda should not reflect partisan politics nor what is political correct this week. I am naive to even hope that would be how it ends up.

To me the idea that textbooks are not put together by experts and maybe haven't been for some time, is very disturbing. I have grandchildren at stake in this battle. I don't mind them being presented with different sides of a debate, but how do you leave Thomas Jefferson out of a book about the history of this country? How does a French theologian, however famous, make the grade? Has our country gone nuts?

All I can say to parents and grandparents-- check what your children are being taught and make sure to put your own knowledge into the mix! It might be the only place they hear it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Empowering ourselves

For the last few blogs I have been writing about sources of energy for our lives.To me, one of the biggest of these sources is knowing ourselves. What is the meaning of those famous lines, to thine own self be true? If you don't know who you are, how can you be true to yourself? I am sure there are those who go through life fooling themselves but what is the gain, and how empowered really are they?

One reason for not facing who we are is a vision of who we should be which could have come through the media, books, our parents, teachers, society in general. Inside might be someone else, but we don't know that inner us. We protect the image of what we think we should be, but if it's not a reality for who we are, what good is that going to do us? How much energy will that provide for our lives?

The things we hide from ourselves the most are in what some call the shadow side. If we have a side that is selfish, does it help to deny that? Supposing we want things the world doesn't approve of, what do we do about that? Deny the wants at what price? Might we also look at whether what the world is saying is correct? Definitely wants may be distorted into damaging things but it's knowing what they truly are that has the best chance of changing that to something more positive.

In my rapidly approaching 68th year (I am in the 67th), I have never known a time where so much is out there to not only tell us what we should be but what the world expects us to be, what the world itself is. Maybe out there isn't where we should be figuring it out about ourselves.

If we know ourselves, we can work on the areas we might not like so much. If we know ourselves, we can form realistic sets of goals for getting what we want. If we know ourselves, we can bring people into our lives who are what we want more of. Kidding ourselves about the whole thing is one sure way to get nowhere.

If we don't know ourselves, if we are afraid to know us, if we have decided it's too late to know us, what will that do for our quality of life?

Knowing ourselves doesn't mean we must share that knowledge with the world or tell everybody out there every bit of who we are. Some writers, like Anais Nin, have done and do this through memoirs, but I don't see it as any requirement to living an open life. The open part is that we are open to us. The world is not entitled to every bit of who we are, but suppose we are hiding it from ourselves as well as others? How realistic can we be about any part of life if we don't want to know even ourselves?

I don't think this requires hours of introspection, of sitting gazing at our navels. It's more about when we do something, when we make a choice, that we realize why we did it. It's being open when our inner self (call it mind if it makes you more comfortable) talks to us. It's when we hear of an event, that we let it resonate briefly to know if it is important to us or not. It's giving meaning to our days and choices. It is being aware.

Some quotes I like on the subject follow:
There came a time when the risk to remain tight in the bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom. ~Anaïs Nin

The value of identity of course is that so often with it comes purpose. ~Richard Grant

Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them. And the point is, to live everything. Live the questions now. Perhaps you will find them gradually, without noticing it, and live along some distant day into the answer. ~Rainer Maria Rilke, Letters to a Young Poet

All men should strive to learn before they die what they are running from, and to, and why. ~James Thurber

I went to the woods because I wished to live deliberately, to front only the essential facts of life, and see if I could not learn what it had to teach, and not, when I came to die, discover that I had not lived. ~Henry David Thoreau

If in the last few years you haven't discarded a major opinion or acquired a new one, check your pulse. You may be dead. ~Gelett Burgess
Here's the thing, if you don't know who you are, how can you know what you want, what is worth fighting for?

Because I believe simple exercises like the one from the last blog can be useful tools for figuring out who we are, I removed my answers and put the basic questions below. Just copy and paste it into word or wherever and write the first answers that come to mind without being a critic of what they should be. It's not important to share this with others but just doing it for yourself is where the value lies, in my opinion.

I am:
I think:
I know:
I want:
I have:
I dislike:
I miss:
I fear:
I feel:
I hear:
I smell:
I crave:
I usually:
I search:
I wonder:
I regret:
I love:
I care:
I am always:
I worry:
I remember:
I have:
I dance:
I sing:
I don't:
I argue:
I write:
I lose:
I listen:
I don't understand:
I can usually be found:
I am scared:
I need:
I forget:
I am happy:

Friday, March 12, 2010

It's all about me!

[A Glowing Ember] had the following exercise which looked like fun. It didn't have a link to pass it onto anybody. If it looks interesting to you, please feel free whether you share your answers or not. You just copy paste it somewhere else, delete my answers that follow after the colon and do some thinking.


I am: an unconventional woman who looks conventional on the outside.
I think: about the meaning of all life even though I know I am unlikely to figure it out.
I know: a lot about farm life and the Bible. Do they go together? Yes, they do surprisingly.
I want: passion in my life of all sorts.
I have: security as much as anybody gets it in this world which means it can be taken away at any moment.
I dislike: hypocrisy and lies.
I miss: someone.
I fear: negative things happening to my family.
I feel: joy in simple things like the feel of dirt under my fingers, the delicacy of moss, a bird flitting out of a bush.
I hear: a cat breathing, the computer whirring, a bird outside and silence inside.
I smell: the odors of a house, some remaining from last night's spaghetti (reminding me to open windows even though it's not very warm out there).
I crave: a life lived fully and close to nature.
I usually: follow a routine.
I search: for beauty wherever I go.
I wonder: about people and their motivations.
I regret: some things even though I know regrets are useless.
I love: freely.
I care: for animals of all sorts.
I am always: thinking I should do more and sometimes even doing it.
I worry: when something happens that seems to trigger risk to livestock, pets or loved ones.
I remember: Tucson.
I have: a good life but it’s not all I want.
I dance: sometimes around the house.
I sing: when a song comes to my mind.
I don't: overly value possessions (well except for a few like....).
I argue: about things that matter to me but try to do it passionately and without nastiness.
I write: constantly.
I lose: with grace— or try to anyway.
I wish: for my dream day.
I listen: to others' opinions.
I don't understand: hatred.
I can usually be found: in the house or around the farm.
I am scared: when something loud and scary happens outside at night and someone must check on it.
I need: to have more discipline.
I forget: past events like what happened in my childhood.
I am happy: in spurts with cycles of up and down.


While I am delving into me, here is one which I got from [Annotated Margins] who gave it to Rainy Day Thoughts-- the Kreative Award. This test was a tougher one... It requests seven interesting things about me (the key word there being interesting). First of all, if I think something is interesting about me, I probably have already written about it-- or it's too private and not about to appear here, but I'll give it a shot.

1. I have been involved in several religions from Catholicism to Evangelical, have explored the metaphysical but do not participate in any organized religion but am still quite interested in spiritual experiences like reincarnation.

2. My mother was a professional musician, played bass, sang, and traveled with all-girl orchestras in the 30s before she married my father who was a carnival bum which meant he also traveled but on a route through the Pacific Northwest. Every summer he'd take off from whatever job he had. When he met my mother, he was a stagehand, stood her up on a date to go with that carnival, but when he came back at the end of that season, he didn't go again.

3. I have to make myself think about my childhood or pretty much anything that happened much in my past. The kids are always reminding me of something that happened when they were growing up and I wonder was I there

4. I have a thing about cowboys. Lucky I married one, wasn't it. His boots attracted me to him when we began to date. Cowboy boots still attract me to pretty much anybody (I have two pair of my own).

5. I also have a thing about mustaches on men (women not so much). I love them, but it wasn't always so. I talked my father into shaving his off when I was in high school and my mother never forgave me.

6. Is it interesting that although I don't like clutter, keep my home pretty organized, I don't see dust or smears on floors, furniture or windows (unless it's cat throw up, a dead bat, rodent or bird-- live ones attract my interest even quicker)?

7. I like to paint and sculpt nudes-- the male form in particular and that is definitely not okay in art galleries or with most people. Does interesting mean not okay or exactly what does it mean?

I am not going to pass this onto anybody because I just did that with another 'award' but if it looks interesting to you, give it a try... whatever interesting means... I find all the blogs in my blog roll to be creative in different ways or they'd not be there.


As long as I was delving into self-analysis, I thought a new digital self-portrait fit in well. I do one of these now and again since I got the idea from Natalie's blog--
[Blaugustine's Other Blog]. They provide a quick exercise in shading, shapes and trying to catch moods. This one should show humorous contemplation... I hope

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Health care issue again

IF the main concern for health care in the United States was the health of the people, this whole problem would be quite simple. Make it Medicare for all, single payer, monthly premiums, reasonable co-pays for routine care, and cover what the doctor/hospital says is needed.

IF health care for all was the main concern, there would be a standard set for fees, economically gradated for where people live, and a government watchdog agency to check on doctors or hospitals who prove to be out of line. Not that complicated (IRS manages to do it) and it would get care for all.

IF health care for all was the main concern, yes, there would have to be a system set up to decide what level of care would be covered (with the patient allowed to pay for what it wouldn't cover). The country would have to decide do we all pay for extending someone's life a few months? How do you deal with the patient who runs to the doctor for every hangnail? Who gets a transplant? Those kind of considerations happen today but they're decided by corporations, not by doctors or patients.

A simple solution to health care is not the main concern of our government and certainly not Republicans, who apparently don't want it to happen with any type of government intervention-- socialism, dontchaknow. They see socialism behind every bush including public libraries, national parks, food inspections, protections from monopolies, highway systems that aren't toll roads, and about everything except a very strong, large, getwhatevertheywant military that is basically mercenaries for the rest of the world who sometimes don't even want their own military nor do they want ours.

Yes, there would have to be those who receive cheaper medical care today than they would under real reform. They represent half those yelling about the possibility of meaningful reform. The other half are the easily manipulated by that one deadly word-- socialism (which most don't even know what it means-- look it up in a dictionary if you are one of those).

What freedom from fear of losing health insurance would also do is allow people to take the best job they could find for their talents. It would enable workers to take a risk of starting their own business. As things stand, many people stay with a job just for the insurance benefits. Is that economically or emotionally the best thing?

Health care for all is not the biggest political concern, nor is it keeping down cost. It's profits of the insurance corporations and the stock market. It's not actually about medical care at all.

The bottom-line is corporate profits, the stock market, and fear for the overall economy which is the dirty little secret of both Republicans and Democrats. Make health care simple and the insurance companies will be back to mostly selling life insurance, home owner policies and auto insurance. Can't have that, can we? What would that do to the stock market? How about donations to politicians? So let's at least be honest about it.

When we pay insurance companies to monitor who gets care, when we pay 30% on top of the actual cost of the care to them, what exactly does that do to our economy? How productive can a country be that has so much money going into money exchanges not into real products? Don't get me started on how many places that is happening today in our world.

I just watched the 2009 movie 2012 on DVD and what follows will be a spoiler. If you haven't already seen it but plan to, come back another time to read my take on it and how it relates.

In the film 2012, the big issue is supposedly predictions from the Mayan calendar (and many psychics and religions) of a rapidly approaching date for doomsday. The natural disasters give the movie its zing with one catastrophe following another while the hero and his family flee for safety, but what will safety represent?

The answer to that is what you don't find out at the beginning of this film. This is one of those rare films where you know what the main character (played by John Cusack) knows. You aren't god looking down on this from a heavenly perch but a person going through it and what will happen next? What is it all about? You find out as he does.

Piece by piece (Woody Harrelson does a terrific job as one of those radio guys who predicts doomsday and is actually thrilled when it arrives) and then disaster by disaster, Cusack's character finds out that the earth is about to be inundated with events that will wipe out all living beings-- at least that's the expectation. The earth's crust will change and our globe make a huge shift (polar shift which it is believed has happened before).

The premise is mankind won't be here to find out what comes next. No place is safe. Earthquakes, volcanoes, gigantic tsunamis, you name it, you got it; but the real issue isn't them. In this film, them you can't avoid; and the disaster is not brought on by any global warming or political event. It's not an issue if you have no choice to decide. That's when you just endure.

In this film, scientists and then political leaders find what is going to happen three years ahead of time. Some can be saved. There is time to build huge arks and keep them secret. Certain treasures and animals are gathered to be added at the last minute.

So then how do you decide which humans are to be given a ticket? Can you tell everyone? What would that do to the stock market? People would panic. Should selection be based on a gene pool for repopulating the world? Should it be a lottery?

Politics decrees how it should be. You guessed it-- money. If you had the right connections, you were told and could buy your way onto the ark-- a very few of you. Are you old? Who cares. Only one thing matters, did you have a lot of money?

The natural events that destroy the earth might not be possible as they are set up; but the way to save a select group of people is an analogy for today's health care debate. An ark looms large over us.

In the United States, available health care is our ark. If you have a good corporate level job. If you work for the government. If you are over 65. If you have a profitable business or are rich, you can get onto the ark. You can get the health care, at least for now, that might save or extend your life.

But if you are a single mom with two kids to raise, parents who are barely scraping by due to medical problems, and you find out you have leukemia, if you are among the working class, not poor enough to qualify for Medicaid, even if you have insurance, will you get a ticket onto that ark? With insurance, you still have to pay 10% of the cost of chemotherapy, radiation, tests, and any needed hospitalization. Insurance doesn't solve that woman's problems, does it? Do you have any idea what that means to that single mom working two jobs to scrape by as it is? If you don't and don't care, you are among those already on the ark.

There was a memorable scene at the end of 2012 where one of the main characters asks the question of what kind of world did those people on the ark want to build if they left to die those who had been unable to board the ark at the last moment (one of the four planned arks was accidentally destroyed before boarding).

But wait, what will it do to us if we share with them?

What will it do to us if we live at the cost of sending them to doom?

That's the question we face today.

Monday, March 08, 2010

gardens for energy growing

Where it comes to building positive energy, another thing that does it for me the garden. In the summer just to walk into it or sit looking into it is satisfying to a deep place inside me.

Even in winter when I look out and see the flowers gone, the plants mostly dormant, the weeds that have yet to be pulled, pots yet to fill, I see beyond all that to what it will be and it inspires me for what's coming.

This season, especially with all the garden catalogs coming in, with the new bulbs to plant, the seeds to start, is one of promise. One of my recent reads (the book wasn't really about gardening) had some powerful statements about what a garden is.
"Most folks tend to overlook the dark, stinking parts of gardening as a pastime, a hobby, but it's really more than that." He buttoned up his jacket and glanced at the sky. "A garden is where you can find the whole spectrum of life, birth, and death. It's where poisons meet nectars, where sustenance challenges rot. A garden, in short, is a theater for war." from The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
I hadn't thought of it that way and yet, it's true and maybe why gardening is so strong a place for building our own energy-- even if it's only an herb pot in a window. The book, The Little Giant of Aberdeen County, was a good read with a highly unusual heroine. It had another quote that relates to plants and us which I think is also worth keeping in my quote collection.
"She may have had a whole lovely garden spread out at her feet, but in her heart, she still thought of herself as a weed-- unlovely, uncultivated, unwelcome even in her own backyard. Everything in the world has two faces, however. Weeds sometimes blossom into artful flowers. Beauty walks hand in hand with ugliness, sickness with health, and life tiptoes around in the horned shadow of death. The trick is to recognize which is which and to recognize what you're dealing with at the time. At any given moment, you can tip the balance just a little, one way or the other, if you're paying attention, but that afternoon I wasn't. I was too preoccupied with the hard stones rolling around inside my own heart." from The Little Giant of Aberdeen County by Tiffany Baker
I'd add my own thoughts to what she said but how could I?

Digital painting of my garden in a good summer where the lilies, roses, lavender, rosemary, red hot poker, and yucca were in their full glory

Saturday, March 06, 2010

The School of Essential Ingredients

For me, art is an essential part of my life. Painting with rich use of color, writing with the perfect set of words are the obvious arts; but there are others, ones that don't get considered quite so much as being arts but are.

One of them that I admire the most in others is cooking. I love to watch a gifted cook work and although I do cook, of course, I am not a great cook. I don't have the inner something that turns cooking into an art form. I definitely consider cooking and good food to be part of energy builders.

The School of Essential Ingredients by Erica Bauermeister uses words to describe cooking as not only an art form but a spiritual exercise. Bauermeister's descriptions of how one thing is put together with another to create an entirely new thing, to touch emotional and physical senses, would inspire anyone to try again with food.

In the book, through a cooking class and the various people who have come to take lessons from Lillian, who runs a restaurant, the reader is taken on a rich journey of not only food but personality. How does one food or ingredient impact another? This is true in all the arts. Definitely this is a book that a connoisseur of food will appreciate-- likewise one of beauty in life.

There is a lot of subtle and lovely wisdom in the book. There are no recipes but just the essence behind them, the reason they were created. Following are a couple of quotes that I particularly liked:
"We're all just ingredients, Tom. What matters is the grace with which you cook the meal."

"Life is beautiful. Some people just remind you of that more than others."

"As a sensualist, your ingredients are your first priority," Lillian remarked, holding up the bottle of thick, green olive oil. "Beautiful, luscious ingredients will color the atmosphere of a meal and whatever follows it, as will those which are mean and cheap."

Thursday, March 04, 2010


When it comes to building energy, deciding if we are introverts or extroverts is helpful. It helps understand why we like and do not like what we do. If we are one type but forced to operate in the other mode, we likely will find ourselves frustrated, feeling drained. It can happen as society or parenting sometimes pushes us against our nature. Understanding what that nature is helps us avoid that happening.

I am no psychologist; so what follows is my opinion based on personal experience which I thought would start with simple definitions. Unfortunately the simple definitions in the dictionary didn't seem correct to me. So I came up with my own. If you don't like them, you can head to the dictionary for theirs.

Introverts get their energy from themselves. Introverts are oriented inwardly. Extroverts get their energy from connections to other people. Extroverts are oriented outwardly. This is not to say that either cannot operate in another realm for awhile but I am talking about what is inherent.

It might sound like one is superior to another, but my opinion is it isn't. The main thing is knowing where you get your energy and operating enough in that venue to stay strong.

In the United States, the extrovert is most highly praised, ends up heading more companies, and is where most people think everyone should be. Extroverts are also most common.

I think more artists and writers tend to be introverts by nature of the enjoyment of working with ideas from which art originates. It takes time to generate your own ideas or your own art. Not to say all artists or crafts people are introverts but it helps in doing original work.

Extroverts enjoy social settings. Introverts feel drained by them.

Basically this doesn't mean extroverts have superior people skills or that introverts have inferior ones. That's something totally different. Even though it's often thought it relates to shyness, I don't think it does. Shyness comes out of insecurity, is mostly taught, and could inflict either introverts or extroverts. I use the word inflict because I think shyness is an indication of damage where one has been taught to fear others or feel insecure about self.

Shyness might hinder the extrovert the most as it would limit their ability to move within their natural realm; but it wouldn't be great for the introvert either as they might become more reclusive than is healthy based on fear not as a natural reaction to where they refuel their energy.

When I thought about people I know, I quickly realized we cannot judge whether someone else is an extrovert or introvert. They might be an introvert necessarily operating in a more public realm for a period of time or an extrovert who has a special purpose for a time. The searching for a mate could encourage a natural introvert to move more in groups (leading the partner after the relationship is established to wonder what happened.)

If someone isn't sure if they are by nature introvert or extrovert, there are some personality tests, some even online, that can help decide like this simple one-- [Personality Test Based on Jung].

The thing that I think important about knowing is when you understand where you draw your energy, you won't feel apologetic for it and you can best utilize it. When you understand it's more about where you get energy than it is how you interact with others, you can make sure to allow yourself time in the arenas that best serve you.

Also, it isn't about liking or disliking people as individuals. Introverts don't have to be people haters more often than extroverts who might milk crowds for their power all the time not respecting any of the individuals within the crowd.

I am by the way, an introvert which probably if you have been reading my blog for awhile, you already might have guessed. I feel I have good people skills, empathy with others, am not shy, enjoy time with friends, but I never purpose to spend a lot of time in large groups because I know that for me it's draining. For a short time, it's fine; but after it I will need to have that alone time again to recharge my batteries.

Photo above is from Finley Wildlife Refuge. These sandpipers soared across the pond in one big cloud, changing shapes and direction but always working as what seemed a joyful whole. Being an introvert for them would likely be out of the question. Their energy is their flock.

On the other hand, predatory birds like eagles tend to operate more by themselves or with their mate. Although we did see one that same day, it was immature and at a distance. This photo is from the Yellowstone River in Montana in 200
8. I wanta go back!!! Soon!!!

Tuesday, March 02, 2010

Alsea Falls

There is a theory that it's the ozone in the air both at the ocean and at waterfalls that makes them so calming to humans. I don't know what it is, but waterfalls definitely restore my energy. The photos weren't as great as they could have been as the falls are in a narrow canyon where the sun wasn't hitting the water when I was there. Next time I'll arrange the timing better.

The beauty of these falls was both in the movement of the water and the interesting shaped rocks alongside them. The rocks were covered with moss, adding to their color but the lack of sunshine made it difficult to show water movement while also the green of the rocks which is why I did a digital painting that showed better what I was seeing.

All photos are from [Alsea Falls] on the South Fork of the Alsea River. We parked alongside the gravel road and took a short trail to below the falls for these photos. During the summer they say swimming is possible. I'm ready to go back.