The Gift of Sight

The Gift of Sight

2019.07-09

 

It has been a troubling summer. A much anticipated summer festival in Gilroy, California, the Garlic Festival is a time of fun, frivolity, and food. It is held annually the last weekend in July and celebrates a much-maligned vegetable – the garlic. A very close relative of the onion, garlic is native to Central Asia and northeastern Iran, and has long been a common seasoning worldwide, with a history of several thousand years of human consumption and use. It was known to ancient Egyptians, and has been used both as a food flavoring and as a traditional medicine. This year was the fortieth anniversary of the three-day event and it ended in tragedy with three dead and thirteen injured in a mass shooting.

 

Much too soon after, the town of El Paso, Texas had a mass shooting. To date, twenty-two have died with over thirty injured. The deliberately planned execution of innocent people whose only crime was to be shopping the weekend before school was to begin in the area seemed incomprehensible. About the time most Americans were trying to make sense out of the senseless killings, another mass shooting occurred in Dayton, Ohio. This time there were two dozen injured and nine victims killed, including the shooter’s own sister.

 

It should be noted that the statistics of such shootings do not always tell the true story in that there are always unreported victims, generally called survivors. Those who escaped the carnage of such acts must live with the memories of them and somehow try to rebuild their lives, even if they suffered no physical wounds. Two students who survived the Parkland Florida school mass shooting have since committed suicide.

 

The aftermath of such incidents always brings up the question “Why?” Perhaps more importantly, there is the follow-up analysis of what could have been done differently to avoid such events. How in the future can we acquire the gift of sight to keep these tragedies from being repeated?

 

If you have an email account, you probably are aware of your spam folder. A Bayesian filter is used to decide which of your emails are rubbish and which are something you might want to read. Companies and advertisers invest quite heavily in copywriters who can bypass these filters and get there promotional material before your eyes. Based upon what you have deleted in the past and what you have opened and read, it is used to evaluate the header and content of email messages and determine whether or not it constitutes spam.

I wish we had such filters on our public speaking. When I was much younger, there was a popular saying: “Is it true? Is it kind? Is it necessary?” These three sentences were what one was to consider before speaking. If the answer to any of the three questions was no, then it was advised not to say whatever was about to be said. It is really good advice.

 

Decision theory states that one should use the same basic criteria with every action taken – risk, reward, consequences, certainty. We need to start applying that criteria to our public speaking, in addition to the above three sentences. Public speaking today has become the repetition of trending phrases so as to sound “current”. Little thought is given to the actual meaning, content, or possible consequences.

 

Quantifiable behavior tells us that we can expect specific outcomes when a particular behavior is encouraged. When those in the public eye resort to trendy catch phrases that inflame and incite fear rather than quote accurate and somewhat boring statistics, then it is expected people will use whatever measures at end to protect themselves.

 

Until we monitor what we say and apply decision theory to it, we cannot expect differing outcomes. We will continue to have rampart fear and the resulting shootings and deaths. Words have meaning and when we speak, we need to speak from a place of honesty and fact. We need to apply a Bayesian filter to ourselves before we open our mouths. We need to speak with forethought and decision, with the intention to accurately inform and not incite. Otherwise, the future will be very easy to predict because it will look like the past month with needless deaths and pain.

We Are the Village

A Fractured Village

El Paso & Dayton

2019.08.04

 

Words have meaning.  They exist for no other purpose but to convey meaning.  When someone, whether in an effort to be humorous or in being sincere, uses hate rhetoric, they become responsible for everything that follows as a result of their words.  An old African folksong asks “Who is watching the children?  It takes a whole village to raise a child.”

 

Several years ago Jacob Devaney penned:  “No matter how old we are, we are children of ‘the village’, the community that raised us and supported us helped to shape the way we see the world.”  Many of us had nurturing families in which we lived but many others did not.  Regardless of the family unit or lack thereof, the community around us was our village.  Pam Leo explains that “How we treat the child, the child will grow up to treat the world.”

 

This is not a new concept.  What we know of ancient civilizations is based upon the archaeological finds of their communities.  The shards of pottery tell us how and what they ate.  Pieces of ancient tools help understand how they lived and in what types of abodes.  The community is as much a vital part of our living as the air we breathe.

 

“It takes a village to raise a child” is an Igbo and Yoruba proverb that exists in many different African languages. It reflects the emphasis African cultures place on family and community and may have its origins in a biblical worldview.  This proverb is so widely used in Africa that there are equivalent statements in most African languages, including “One knee does not bring up a child” in Sukuma and “One hand does not nurse a child” in Swahili.  The widespread use of this proverb by cultures around the world shows its timelessness and relevancy.  The saying is used in America to evoke feelings of community on the small scale as well as on the national and even global scale.

 

Some believe the proverb may have its origins in the Bible, since it reflects a worldview regarding unity and self-sacrifice expressed in several passages of the Bible, such as Ecclesiastes 4:9,12 and Isaiah 49:15-16.  This worldview is commonly seen in African cultures today. In many African communities it is common for a child to be raised by its extended family, in many cases spending extended periods of time living with grandparents, aunts and uncles. Even the wider community sometimes gets involved, as children are seen as a blessing from God upon the entire community.  We could debate for hours which came first – the Biblical scriptures or the African communities.  One thing is certain – We need community.

 

Robin Grille is an Australian psychologist and writer who has authored “Parenting for a Peaceful World”.  He encourages parents and the community to consider how our daily lives are influencing our children.  A fractured society cannot be an effective community.  We must work together and be supportive in order for the future generations to understand how to form, grow, and continue the concept of community.

 

Health and fitness coach Jen Waak believes there are six vital reasons for us to grow community.  First there is the concept of Collective wisdom. No one person ever has all of the answers, consulting with experts is always going to give you better information.  Secondly, life pushes our limits. When working alone, it’s oftentimes too easy to give up when things get hard. By surrounding yourself with others working toward a similar goal or objective, you’ll get motivation, support, and friendly competition to push yourself just a bit further than you would have done on your own.

 

Support and belief are the third reason for developing community. Some days those big goals just seem impossible. On those days when you most want to give up, you need to lean on your community the most. They believe in you—probably more than you belief in yourself.  Next, there is the need for new ideas.   When you are working within a community of like-minded people, the wisdom of crowds is considerably greater than any one person working alone. Our divergent world views and lenses mean that we all approach the exact same problem slightly differently.

 

Fifth, communities offer borrowed motivation. Even on those days when your belief in yourself isn’t waning, doing what needs to get done can often seem overwhelming. Look around your community and be inspired!  Lastly, we need community because there is the need for accountability.  If you’re an uber-responsible person, you may not want to admit to people you care about who are pulling for you that something didn’t get done. There’s nothing like having to be accountable to others to up your game.  Allowing others to help is hard, but it ultimately raises everyone’s game.

 

Khalil Gibran spoke of this concept of community and children, the need for the village to be a sustainable community in this poem.

“Your children are not your children.

They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.

They come through you but not from you.

And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,

For they have their own thoughts.

You may house their bodies but not their souls,

For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.

You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.

For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.

The archer sees the make upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.

Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness.

For even as He loves the arrow that flies, so He also loves the bow that is stable.”

 

It takes a community to grow a world.  Idowu Koyenikan once remarked that “There is immense power when a group of people with similar interests gets together to work toward the same goals.”  We need to not only value the freedom of speech but recognize its power.  Politicians today seem to have forgotten that they open their mouth and become instant teachers.  We all teach – through our actions, our deeds, but most importantly, by what we say.

 

Who pulled the trigger in El Paso and Dayton?  The greatest threat to the average American is not someone from another country but the person listening to the hate language being shouted across the airways and social media.  Words have meaning.  They exist for no other purpose but to convey meaning.  When someone, whether in an effort to be humorous or in being sincere, uses hate rhetoric, they become responsible for everything that follows as a result of their words.

 

Our words are the bows from which others as living arrows are sent forth.  May we send arrows of kindness and generosity, not hate.  Let the killing end.  Let the right to stay alive supersede the right to own an assault weapon.  Someday I hope we value life more than the sound of our own voice.  The death of one diminishes us all.  Today our community is fractured by hate, needless and senseless, hate.  We may be the problem but we can also be the answer.  “There is immense power when a group of people with similar interests gets together to work toward the same goals.”  We are the village.

 

 

May Day – A time to Bloom

Bloom Where and When You can

05.01.2019

Easter 2019

 

Today is May Day, a day historically set aside to celebrate spring and flowers as well as being a day to recognize Labor Unions and the common worker.  It is also less than twenty-four hours after yet another school shooting, this time at the University of North Carolina, United States.

 

The following is an excerpt from an article in the Fort Worth (Texas, USA) newspaper “Star Telegram”, written by Deanna Boyd.  Names have been omitted due to the age of the individual at the center of this article.

On Oct. 4, 2012, [X] called 911, telling a dispatcher, “Uh, I just killed my mom and my sister….”I felt like they were just suffocating me, in a way,” he told the dispatcher, according to a recording of the 911 call. “Obviously, you know, I’m pretty, I guess, evil.”

Responding Parker County deputies found [a woman] and her daughter dead of multiple gunshot wounds inside the house on [XX] Lane in [subdivision and town].  The young man was arrested at the scene.  In a written statement, he told investigators that he had devised a plan to kill several family members after watching [a] remake of the movie “Halloween,” in which a boy murders relatives.

“While watching it I was amazed at how at ease the boy was during the murders and how little remorse he had afterward,” [X] wrote in his statement. “I was thinking to myself, it would be the same for me when I kill someone.”

Sheriff’s officials have said [X]  used a gun stolen from his grandfather, a retired Fort Worth officer, to commit the slayings.  [X]  told investigators that he had intended to later kill his grandparents and two other sisters.   But after the slayings of his mom and sister, [X]  — in a state he described as “very shocked and scared” — instead placed the gun on the kitchen counter and called 911.

“I know now though that I’m done with killing. It’s the most dreadful and terrifying thing I will ever experience. And what happened last night will haunt me forever.”

 

We think we know so much and especially as young adults and teenagers, we can be intensely certain that we think we know something.  Philosophy is about the “knowing” but how do we know?  Sadly, many cult leaders never give their followers the chance to reflect upon their actions.  These misguided young people searching for knowledge and truth are sacrificed for the greed and egos of others.  At a time when so many are resorting to violence as an answer, we need to stop asking when will then killing stop and start asking what are these young people thinking.  Philosophy is about the search for knowledge and it is a search conducted without a great deal of physical action, just mental.  For that reason, many disdain it and consider it, to borrow from Shakespeare, “much ado about nothing”.  Some say that about spiritual sects and religious denominations and faiths.  We study to prevent knowledge from passing us by, from slipping through the hours of our living.  The ancient philosophers saw the world moving on and asked why.  We need to question our daily actions in the same way.  Did what I do yesterday have value?  Did I connect with another, friend or stranger?  Was there a purpose for my being?

 

There is no one hard and fast rule that will be sufficient as an answer.  The religions of the world usually claim love to be the answer but how do we live a healthy love for all?  We will each have our own answers and paths of both learning and exploration.  The future is, after all, ours to construct and write.  Hopefully, we will connect with others and thrive.  Hopefully, others will look back upon their connections with us and be thankful for them.  Mostly, though I hope you never feel what this young man has felt.  “It’s the most dreadful and terrifying thing I will ever experience. And what happened last night will haunt me forever.”

 

A common meme that has been around for decades is the admonishment to “Bloom where you are planted.”   Mary Engelbreit, a children’s author and renowned illustrator and artist, is often credited with this saying but it predates her.  Some claim the phrase is Biblical and cite Jeremiah 29:1, 4-14 but it never actually says we should bloom where we are.  Others claim that was the intention of Paul in his writing to the church in Corinth, the text of which is found in 1 Corinthians 7:17.

 

The advice is good but is comes more from common sense than from spiritual or religious teachings.  What about the saying thrive to survive.  Often people ask if they are merely surviving or if it possible for them to thrive.  In writing for the website The Chopra Center, Tamara Lechner suggests that “There is a fundamental difference between thriving and surviving. Surviving means, “to continue to live or exist,” while thrive can be defined as “to grow or develop well, to prosper or to flourish.”

 

In many countries surviving is a difficult task.  Is it possible to break out of the mindset of survival mode to thrive?  Lechner offers this advice:  “Thriving happens when you have a life of purpose, vitality, connection, and celebration. This isn’t tied to a specific salary, job title, type of car, or relationship. Material possessions are not part of the recipe to thrive. Follow these four steps to stop surviving, and start thriving.”

 

Life is not about being haunted.  Life is for living and living for the best outcomes for all of mankind.  Enjoy today.  It is the first day of the month of May and, in many areas, the true first day of spring.   Live your faith.  Exist, believe ,rejoice.  Mostly, I hope you smile – at another but also at yourself.  When we seek to thrive and help others do the same, then we have a much brighter future, one in which everyone has a chance to bloom, grow, and flourish.

 

Call to Inspire

Call to Inspire

2019.01.18

Mindfulness – The Human Spirit

 

The measure of any person is by their forward movement, the forward motion of our intentions.  We are not always successful but we should never give up or give in.  Life is best lived moving forward.  It really is the only profitable direction we have to travel.  Going backwards really does not accomplish very much unless we learn from the past.  That just might be the most difficult lesson of all.

 

“It was on these streets where I witnessed the power of faith, and the quiet dignity of working people in the face of struggle and loss.  This is where I learned that change only happens when ordinary people get involved, get engaged, and come together to demand it.”  He came from what many would call a less privileged heritage and became the most influential man in his country.  This might have been a quote from Gandhi or Mandela but it is part of Barrack Obama’s farewell address as President of the United States of America.

 

In his speech outgoing-President Obama spoke of the American dream that began in 1776 when a group of colonists committed to a certain belief, not just one he shares but one that the entire nation was built upon and a belief that continues to motivate and inspire. 

 

“And it’s not just my belief.  It’s the beating heart of our American idea – our bold experiment in self-government.  It’s the conviction that we are all created equal, endowed by our Creator with certain unalienable rights, among them life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  It’s the insistence that these rights, while self-evident, have never been self-executing; that We, the People, through the instrument of our democracy, can form a more perfect union.”

 

The American dream is about giving people a chance and freedom or, as President Obama defined it,  “The freedom to chase our individual dreams through our sweat, toil, and imagination – and the imperative to strive together as well, to achieve a greater good.  For 240 years, our nation’s call to citizenship has given work and purpose to each new generation.  It’s what led patriots to choose republic over tyranny, pioneers to trek west, slaves to brave that makeshift railroad to freedom.  It’s what pulled immigrants and refugees across oceans and the Rio Grande, pushed women to reach for the ballot, powered workers to organize.  It’s why GIs gave their lives at Omaha Beach and Iwo Jima; Iraq and Afghanistan – and why men and women from Selma to Stonewall were prepared to give theirs as well.” 

 

His farewell address was not so much about saying goodbye but about inspiring everyone to continue the good fight for all people.  He noted that the path towards that is often bumpy and full of potholes.  “So that’s what we mean when we say America is exceptional.  Not that our nation has been flawless from the start, but that we have shown the capacity to change, and make life better for those who follow.  Yes, our progress has been uneven.  The work of democracy has always been hard, contentious and sometimes bloody.  For every two steps forward, it often feels we take one step back.  But the long sweep of America has been defined by forward motion, a constant widening of our founding creed to embrace all, and not just some.”

 

The measure of any person is by their forward movement, the forward motion of our intentions.  We are not always successful but we should never give up or give in.  Life is best lived moving forward.  It really is the only profitable direction we have to travel.  That first step of such a life is taken with purpose, with mindfulness.  We must continue the good fight not just for ourselves but for everyone.  Who inspires you?  Who inspires you?  Who do you want to inspire?  I’d love to hear from you because your living is a lesson for us all.

To Be a Mother of a Child

A Current Events Comment – A Child’s Mother

2018.12.13

Everyday Miracles

Advent 2018

 

A minority group is defined in the United States of America not by being out-numbered but by several characteristics that indicate inequality in their treatment.   The first such characteristic is actual unequal treatment.  This can be defended by statistical or empirical evidence.  For example, if a candidate from a minority group is not hired for a position in which a person of lower experience and education, then said minority applicant has been a victim of discrimination.  This might be discrimination based upon age, national origin, ethnicity, physical condition, gender, or professed or assumed sexual orientation.   Distinct physical or cultural traits can also be the source of inequitable treatment.  This might include the wearing of a headdress, eye shape, skin color, a beard, etc. 

 

Recent comments that payouts to former mistresses were simply “normal business transactions” demean and demote that humanity status of women.  When we devalue women, we devalue life itself.  Recently immigration has been an item of interest in the USA and currently continuance of the US Defense Dept.’s budget is at jeopardy pending the allotment of five million dollars to build a wall to prevent further immigration from the southern borders. 

 

Women make up just over half of the world’s population, but according to the Pew Research Center, they account for a slight minority of migrants worldwide. The situation is much more equal than it used to be: in 1984 women made up just 47.2 percent of global migrants, while in 2005 they were 49.6 percent. Among unauthorized migrants worldwide, the divide is more striking: in 2005, just 42 percent of unauthorized migrants were female, compared with 52 percent of legal migrants.  In the U.S., though, the trend tells the opposite story. In 1980, a clear majority of U.S. migrants were women (52.3 percent), but by 2005 that number had dropped to 50.2 percent.  U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) does not publish of the percentage of women among applicants for H-1B skilled worker visas but data indicates the gender imbalance among H-1B recipients skewed as much as 85 percent towards men.

 

Though women comprise 51 percent of America’s population, they have less than a fifth of the representation in Washington DC.  Those four-fifths of the representation in Washington must have forgotten how they got there, and I am not referring to those who voted them in office.  I am referring to their maternal parent.  The female body is not just for joking nor is it a commodity as the recent comment about pay-outs for improper sexual congress might suggest.  It is the only vessel through which humans are born.  In this age of test tube babies and IVF impregnation, the female body is still a vital incubation and host environment for the birth of each and every infant born on this planet.

 

In this time of Christmas, when many songs and prayers are offered to the Virgin Mary, I would suggest that respecting women would be a miracle.  Google “women jokes” or “rape jokes” and you will discover that many still think the female body to be an appropriate topic for inappropriate humor.  This is not how we respect someone or a gender.  Surely, to be respectful of the reason for the season, we need to be respectful of women.  This is one way we can show our gratitude and respect to Mary, the mother of Jesus.  The respecting of any minority group is commanded by events of the Old Testament and the teachings of Jesus in the New Testament.  Hopefully, this is a miracle we will strive to make reality every day.  Starting during this season would be a gift to the world and ourselves.

 

 

 

Needing Others

Needing Others

2018.11.12

Growing Community

 

“A proper community, we should remember also, is a commonwealth: a place, a resource, an economy. It answers the needs, practical as well as social and spiritual, of its members — among them the need to need one another.”  When Wendell Berry spoke these words, he said quite a great deal that most of our politicians have forgotten.  After all, their job is to grow a better community for their constituency, whether it is one hundred, one million, or more.

 

When we forget to need one another, we do a series of things.  First, we proclaim ourselves God (insert Allah, G-d, Buddha, or whatever.  We are saying that we do not need anything or anyone else and, my friends, that is simply not true.  John Donne spoke the truth when he said “No man is an island.  No man stands alone.”  There are countless of thousands living “off grid” and yet, they needed something that someone else made, created, or devised in order to do so. 

 

Taylor Brorby wrote in 2012 “We all stumble… I am not naive to tell you it will work out, but it just might, and if you have a community to support you, it ensures that someone is there to catch you if you stumble.”  He also mentioned author Ray Bradbury’s two favorite words – zest and gusto.  “These words are not only fun to say, but encourage us to move, to experience, to acknowledge that life may be difficult — especially if you’re having a crisis — and they also encourage us to move through those emotions to experience life in a new way, to seize and embrace it.”  In explaining Bradbury’s words, Brorby encouraged us to find our community. 

 

In 2005 Dr. Art Lindsley, a Senior Fellow with the CS Lewis Institute wrote an essay based upon a passage from Hebrews:   “…let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another…. “.  Found in Hebrews chapter 10 verse 24-25, this summarizes one definition and the need for community. 

 

Lindsley continued:  “Although we can gain the power to love others by our times alone with the Lord, that love is never expressed or stimulated except by being with other people. The Greek word for stimulate (paroxysmos) is sometimes used in English: paroxysm. It means “provoke,” “irritate,” “exasperate,” or “stir-up.” It is a word that communicates intense emotion and is almost always used in a negative fashion. For instance, when the Apostle Paul sees the city of Athens “full of” (under) idols (Acts 17:16), his spirit is deeply moved or “provoked” within him. This seems to be a powerful negative reaction to the idolatry that he saw all around him (Acts 17:16). It is because Paul saw the idolatry that he was moved (provoked) as he was, and thus spoke as he did. But in our context, Hebrews 10:19-25, a positive meaning is demanded. The context of the community stimulates—provokes—love and good deeds by all kinds of means. Without community (the church), love and good deeds are not provoked or stimulated. Love is in fact impossible in isolation. Love demands another: God or our brothers and sisters.”

 

CS Lewis spoke about the need for community.  He called it “a vast need”.  The Greek word for assembling together is “episynagoge” and it means “in addition to”.  Community is in addition to ourselves and it is a vital need that we all have.  Mankind is a social animal and when we are isolated, either by choice or by discrimination, we are only half-way functioning. 

 

No one lives a perfect life.  We have stumble, fall flat on our faces, get lost, and fall apart.  I remember hearing a mountain climber discuss his ascent to the highest peak.  “I lost count of how many times I fell and started,” he remarked.  “What I will always remember is the support I had reaching the summit.”  His community kept him going, kept his dream alive, and gave him strength.

 

Community gives us strength.  It affords us the chance to fail and then learn from our failings.  When we insist on our community only being comprised of perfect people, then we have set ourselves up to be unsuccessful.  Diversity is the blood-force that keeps life going.  Our communities need diversity if they are to flourish and we need communities to succeed.  We need communities to give us a chance to live and thrive, prosper and grow.

Creating Fear

Creating Fear

2018.10.31

The Creative Soul – Pentecost 2018

 

 

“We have this need for some larger-than-life creature.”  It may seem a bit ironic that one of the leading authors of a book on a giant, human-like mythological creature that may be real is actually an expert on much smaller animals that are real.  Robert Michael Pyle studies moths and butterflies and writes about them but in 1995 he also penned a book about the supposed primate known, among other names, as Yeti, Bigfoot, or Sasquatch.

 

The giants in American Indian folklore are as varied as the different tribes themselves.  It is important to remember that although they are grouped together much like the term European, the designation of American Indian applies to many tribes, most of which are now extinct.  Many millions of Americans over the past two hundred years could and should claim American Indian ancestry.  The story of Bigfoot is the story of their ancestral mythical creature.

 

The Bigfoot phenomenon is proof that there is a real place for mythologies in the present day.  The past several years saw people viewing a popular television program, “Finding Bigfoot” which aired on the Animal Planet network as well as being replayed via internet formats.  A group of four traveled the world, speaking and exploring the myths about a large, here-to-fore undocumented bipedal primate thought to be a link between the great apes and Homo sapiens.   One member of this group was a female naturalist and botanist but the other three were educated men in other disciplines.  To date, the three men have yet to convince their female scientist companion of the existence of the myth known as Bigfoot although she has dedicated several years of her life to searching for something she claims not to believe exists.

 

Even the more popular terms are modern additions to the myth.   A photograph allegedly taken by Eric Shipton was published with Shipton describing the footprint as one from a Yeti, a mythological creature much like a giant snowman said to inhabit the mountains of Nepal.  Several years another set of footprints was photographed in California and published in a local newspaper.  This time the animal was described as “Bigfoot” and a legend dating back to the earliest settlers in North America had been reborn.  The interest in such photographs is proof of the opening quote of today’s post.

 

The Lummi tribe called their giant ape/man mythological character Ts’emekwes and the descriptions of the character’s preferred diet and activities varied within the tribal culture.   Children were warned of the stiyaha or kwi-kwiyai who were said to roam at night and steal children.  There were also stories of the skoocooms, a giant race which lived on Mount St. Helens and were cannibalistic.  The skoocooms were given supernatural powers and status.  A Canadian reporter also reported on such stories and he used a term from the Halkomalem and named the creature “sasq’ets” or Sasquatch.   Rather than to be feared, though, some tribes translated this name to mean “benign-faced one.”

 

Mythologies of such giant creatures can be found on six of the seven continents and if mankind had been able to survive on Antarctica for thousands of years, there would probably be some from there as well.  We do seem to need to believe in something larger than life, as our mythologies bear witness.  What if there was proof of these creatures?  What if they really did exist and perhaps still do?

 

The Paiute Indians, an American Indian tribe from the regions between the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains also had folklore of such a character.  Their legends tell of a tribe of red-haired giants called Sai’i.  After one such giant gave birth to a disfigured child who was shunned by the tribe, The Paiute believed the Great Spirit of All made their land and living conditions barren and desolate as punishment.  Enemies were then able to conquer the tribe and kill all but two – Paiute and his wife and their skin turned brown from living in such harsh conditions. 

 

In 1911 miners working Nevada’s Lovelock Cave discussed not the guano or bat droppings for which they were searching but bones they claimed were from giants.  Nearby reddish hair was found and many believed the remains were those of the Sai’i or Si-Te-Cah as they were also called.  However, some like Adrienne Mayor in her book “Legends of the First Americans” believe these bones and others found nearby are simply untrained eyes not realizing what they are seeing.   A tall man could have bones that would seem large and hair pigment is not stable and often changes color based upon the conditions in which it is found.  Even black hair can turn reddish or orange given the right mineral composition in the soil in which it is found.

 

What the mythologies of the world tell us is that mankind needs to believe in something. In ‘The Magic of Thinking Big”, David Schwartz writes:  “Believe it can be done. When you believe something can be done, really believe, your mind will find the ways to do it. Believing a solution paves the way to solution.”   

 

Maybe you believe in the yeti or Sasquatch and maybe you believe in the disproof of them.  We create giants in our own minds every day – those problems that seem insurmountable or the dreams that seem impossible.  The only Bigfoot that matters is that one foot that takes a big step towards progress, towards peace, a step taken with hope.  The dawn of a new day requires us to take a step forward.  If we believe in ourselves, that step will have purpose and accomplishment.  The longest journey really does begin with a single step.

 

In the past week, the United States has seen great tragedy.  The monster currently at foot is the monster of fear derived from a created hatred.  Words spoken without thorough thought as to how they could be perceived and the aftermath of these words having been heard and misinterpreted are in part responsible for creating such hatred.  We have created a bogeyman, a monster that exists not in fact but as a result of our own insecurities.  The ego might want quantity of followers but the world needs us to be sincere and in communion with each other.

 

The best thing to believe in is you.  Let yourself be your creature to believe in today.  Walk away from fear and into your bright future, a future in which you believe you can do anything.  The reality is you can do whatever you set your mind to doing.  Turn your fears into lessons and steps toward success.  Believe in yourself.  You are amazing!  The world is waiting for us to create a better tomorrow.

A Vision for Living

A Vision for Living

2018.09.13

The Creative Soul

 

Ask a group of people who amongst them is an artist and probably no one will raise their hand.  Yet, most of us were given visual art assignments as a part of our schooling.  Therefore, at some time, we all were artists.  There are very good reasons why the visual arts are included in the educational process.  Children who receive art lessons are better students, not only while in school, but for life.

 

First of all, creating art relieves stress and encourages creative thinking.  In other words, art encourages positive thinking.  Art also boosts self-esteem and provides a sense of accomplishment.  We tend to lost that as we become adults.  Think about the delight in a child’s face when they have completed a coloring page.  We will discuss more about the hindrances to creativity next week.

 

Making art, whether it be drawing, coloring, sketching, or free form, increases brain connectivity and plasticity.  Brain flexibility allows new thoughts to form, new avenues of thinking, and opens the door for inventiveness as well as greater creativity.  Even viewing art has its benefits.  It increases empathy, tolerance, and feelings of openness, acceptance, and love.  Goodness knows the world certainly needs more of those!

 

Art develops the whole brain.  Research and studies have proven that art increases attention, strengthens focus, requires practice and develops eye-hand coordination.  Additionally, creating art means one is interacting with the world as well as the various mediums and tools being used.  As Pablo Picasso once said, “Art washes from the soul the dust of everyday life.”

 

Dr. Heather L. Stuckey and Dr. Jeremy Nobel, writing for the American Journal of Public Health, reviewed research in the area of art and healing in an effort to determine the creative therapies most often employed.  Four primary therapies emerged: music engagement, visual arts therapy, movement-based creative expression, and expressive writing.  In these forms of expression, arts modalities and creative processes were used during intentional interventions to foster health.

 

Drs. Stuckey and Nobel disclosed that art and health have been at the center of human interest from the beginning of recorded history.  “Despite that fact, and despite the invested effort and growth of knowledge and understanding in each arena, it is interesting that we often still find ourselves struggling with the “fundamentals” of art and health and their meaning in society. We make no attempt to clarify or resolve these fundamental issues.  Instead, our intent is to summarize current knowledge about the connection between art and health, identify the most compelling next steps for investigation, and generate further interest in researching the complexities of art and health. Legitimate research questions include whether certain art-based therapies are more or less effective than others, whether the impact of therapy can be tied to other important variables and preconditions, and whether health benefits are sustained or short term. These issues deserve vigorous continued attention.”

 

Art helps people express experiences that are too difficult to put into words, such as a diagnosis of cancer. Some people with cancer have explored the meanings of their past, present, and future during art therapy, thereby integrating cancer into their life story and giving it meaning.  Art can be a refuge from the intense emotions associated with illness.  There are no limits to the imagination in finding creative ways of expressing grief. 

 

In a quantitative trial of mindfulness art therapy targeted toward women with cancer, researchers found that those who engaged in art making demonstrated statistically significant decreases in symptoms of physical and emotional distress during treatment. In addition to the introduction of self-care through guided imagery, the art-making therapy involved the women drawing complete pictures of themselves and engaging in yoga and meditation. The relaxation and symptom reduction produced by creative expression opened pathways to emotional healing.

 

Pick up a pen, a crayon, or a paintbrush or a bit of clay and – poof – you have become a visual artist.  Artists pour out their emotions through the process of painting. This practice encourages artists to look at their own emotional state and take stock of emotions they may not even realize they have. Releasing emotions through artwork is a cathartic experience for many painters. In fact, even therapists suggest painting or drawing as a treatment path for patients who have suffered psychologically painful encounters. Letting out emotions by painting promotes healing through abstract emotional expression.

 

People that paint/draw/sculpt experience an increase in their emotional intelligence level. Allowing your emotions to come out in painting helps you understand your own emotional state and realize which factors contribute to your varying moods.  Experimenting with different visual art forms can help one understand what triggers feelings such as happiness, sadness, love, or anger. Often, the emotions you feel when creating this work project onto the people that view your paintings. Painters have the ability to bring others happiness, sharing their positive mindset with viewers. This skill makes the artist better company for themselves and those around them.  Art gives us all better living.

Mark Twain

Mark Twain

2018.08.06

Literature and Life

 

Few writers have failed on so many things and yet made all those failures successful as Mark Twain did.  He apprenticed as a typesetter and printer and then turned to mining.  He penned a story he heard in a California bar with the unlikely name of “The Celebrated Jumping Frogs of Calaveras County”.  It became a worldwide sensation, published in both English and French.  Mark Twain became known for his wit and his satire in prose and in public speaking gained him the friendship and support of American presidents, European royalty, fellow artists and writers, as well as industrialists.  He would earn a fortune and then just as easily lose it.

 

Mark Twain is perhaps best known for his “The Adventures of Tom Sawyer” so no one should be surprised that among his favorite books he listed “Le Morte d’ Arthur” by Sir Thomas Mallory.  Twain took the tales of King Arthur and spun them into the story of an American lad with a little of his second favorite book, “The Arabian Knights” thrown in for good measure.  Another successful and noted American author, William Faulkner< called Mark Twain “the father of American literature” while many others consider him the greatest humorist the United States has ever had.

 

Mark Twain was born Samuel Langhorne Clemens on November 30, 1835 and his life was not an easy one.  Three of his siblings died before reaching the age of twelve and when Twain was eleven years old, his father also died.  He himself dropped out of school at age twelve to work, later educating himself at the public libraries he would frequent.  His one goal in life was to become a steamboatman.  “Pilot was the grandest position of all. The pilot, even in those days of trivial wages, had a princely salary – from a hundred and fifty to two hundred and fifty dollars a month, and no board to pay.”  Twain considered the pilot’s job the most important of all as  the pilot had to “get up a warm personal acquaintanceship with every old snag and one-limbed cottonwood and every obscure wood pile that ornaments the banks of this river for twelve hundred miles; and more than that, must… actually know where these things are in the dark.”

 

Mark Twain did become a steamboat pilot although it took him two years to earn his pilot license.  His pen name came from the leadsman’s cry for a measured river depth of two fathoms (12 feet), which was safe water for a steamboat.  Twain worked as a pilot on the Mississippi River until the second year of the War Between the States and then joined his brother in the Nevada Territory.  In 1867, a local newspaper funded his trip to the Mediterranean aboard the Quaker City, including a tour of Europe and the Middle East.  It was on this trip that he met a young man and, upon seeing a picture of his sister, fell in love at first sight.  He later married the man’s sister.  The lived in New York state, Connecticut, and then Europe.  Mark Twain died in New York City after the death of two of his daughters and his beloved wife. 

 

Twain was born two weeks after Halley’s Comet’s closest approach in 1835.  In 1909 he remarked upon this:  “I came in with Halley’s Comet in 1835. It is coming again next year, and I expect to go out with it. It will be the greatest disappointment of my life if I don’t go out with Halley’s Comet. The Almighty has said, no doubt: ‘Now here are these two unaccountable freaks; they came in together, they must go out together’.”  Twain was a great friend of Nikolas Tesla and the only surviving film of Twain was taken by another scientist, Thomas Edison.  Twain also financed a girls’ science club in NYC. 

 

In recent years the works of Mark Twain have been subject to censorship for his brilliant use of the colloquialisms of the period.  I understand how several derogatory terms would be painful but I personally feel that serve to further educate us and exemplify the inequities that existed.  Such knowledge could, if utilized, prevent future discrimination and continued politics that encourage such. 

 

Upon hearing of Twain’s death, President William Howard Taft said: “Mark Twain gave pleasure – real intellectual enjoyment – to millions, and his works will continue to give such pleasure to millions yet to come … His humor was American, but he was nearly as much appreciated by Englishmen and people of other countries as by his own countrymen. He has made an enduring part of American literature.”  He wrote of the common man, used humor to unite the different social classes, and through it all, was as much a knight of the round table of the world as any that ever graced the world in literature and in life.

 

 

 

 

Happiness Found

Happiness Found

2018.07.19

Pentecost 2018

 

She went to nursing school, having grown up in western Pennsylvania.  The acceptable careers for women at the time were teacher and nurse and our woman of distinction for today went to nursing school.  She attended at the Pittsburgh Training School for Nurses at Pittsburgh Homeopathic Hospital, where she graduated in 1896.  In her words, the hospital was “all the tragedy of the world under one roof.”  She would go on to marry a doctor and have three sons.  Their affluent lifestyle did not last the Stock Market crash of 1903 so she began writing as a means of providing a supplemental income.

 

Our nurse turned writer penned 45 short stories during her 27th year and was quite popular with readers of the “Saturday Evening Post”.  In 1907 she had her first novel published which sold approximately 1.25 million copies and made Mary Roberts Rinehart a household name.  The family moved to Sewickley, Pennsylvania and later to Washington, DC when her husband was appointed to the Veteran’s Administration.  After his death, Rinehart moved to New York City and with her sons established the publishing house Farrar & Rinehart, serving as its director.

 

Mary Roberts Rinehart served as a war correspondent for The Saturday Evening Post at the Belgian front during World War I.   During her time in Belgium, she interviewed Albert I of Belgium, Winston Churchill and Mary of Teck, wife of King George V.  Twelve years after moving to Washington, DC, she survived a murder attempt by her chef of twenty-five years at the family vacation home in Maine.  She was rescued by her other servants and the following day the chef committed suicide. 

 

Mary Roberts Rinehart suffered from breast cancer and in 1947 underwent a radical mastectomy.  She went public with her story at a time when such things were seldom, if ever, discussed in public.  In an interview with “Ladies Home Journal”, Rinehart strongly encouraged all women to have breast examinations. 

 

Rinehart is credited with inventing the “Had-I-But-Known” mystery novel.  This type of mystery novel is one where the principal character (frequently female) does things in connection with a crime that have the effect of prolonging the action of the novel.  In her novel “The Door”, the villain and murderer is the butler and although the phrase never actually appeared in the novel, made famous the saying:  “The butler did it.”

 

Often called the American Agatha Christie, even though she was published fourteen years before Christie, Mary Roberts Rinehart wrote six travelogues, one essay, had over fifty film and television adaptations, and currently has over two hundred books listed on Goodreads.  Two of Roberts’ sons became book publishers while the third was a playwright and producer.  She was a woman both ahead of her time in many instances and a woman who lived within the confines of her gender for the times. 

 

Of all the many things this prolific writer penned, my favorite is this quote:  “To be kind to all, to like many and love a few, to be needed and wanted by those we love, is certainly the nearest we can come to happiness.”  Rinehart believed there was no mystery to finding happiness; it was quite simple:  Treat others as you wish to be treated.