Thursday, April 12, 2018

High Anxiety

Last couple of months I've been getting anxious - feeling that something's wrong, occasional dizziness, tension, and other sensations I can't come up with words to describe. It hasn't occurred often, but when it does it's debilitating for the relatively short period of time it's happening

Having had no prior experience with this, I'm not sure how to deal with it. When I'm in the middle of the situation, the intensity is scary, like I need to go to the hospital or something to get help. Then it's gone. Like now. Twenty minutes ago I was in the middle of one of these events and gave serious consideration to a trip to the ER.

That's a cruddy way to live. I have a new appreciation for folks who suffer from this ... malady? condition? I have no idea what to call it ... on a regular basis. I hope not to become a member of that group, but then I may not have a choice.

Things I'm gonna do to attempt to mitigate the situation:

Meditate every day, increase my exercise regimen and yoga, and whatever else I can figure out to calm my mind.

Side note: Carol - busy making dinner and watching PBS Evening News - put flour in the sifter then saw it was in the bowl upside down. Combine that with Elvis, my primary cat, asleep on my lap, and life is good.
Elvis is on the Right - Zorro on the Left

Stay safe people. And love your neighbor, even when it's hard sometimes.

Wednesday, March 7, 2018

Means and Opportunity

Two things that are necessary in order to commit a crime, be it shoplifting or mass murder.  Means and opportunity. Of course intent factors into the equation, as perhaps do other things, but the key items are means and opportunity.
Bailey Holt 15 Years old, killed January 23, 2018 in Benton KY school shooting

When it comes to killing school children and teachers, the opportunity seems to be all too easy to manage. What can we do about that? Turn our schools into fortresses guarded by armed and trained personnel? Possibly, but how does that help learning? Is there a better way? I don't know a good, rational answer in today's environment.

However, we can do something about the means part of the equation. We can make access to the type of weapon most often used in these crimes extremely difficult, maybe even impossible. Let's first agree on a few things: regardless of your right to own one, a semi-automatic assault weapon has no use as a hunting weapon; the adrenaline rush of blowing holes in concrete blocks or silhouette targets just doesn't last; and no person that is not in a military or police uniform, and on duty, has any business with one in his or her hands outside a firing range.

Ah, the SECOND AMENDMENT says we can. Sigh... and so it does, if you're part of A well regulated militia.

"But, I only use it at the shooting range." Awesome! How about this then?  Let's have all shooting ranges that are safely capable of dealing with that kind of fire power, include lockers in which the weapon can be securely stored until you are next ready to use them at the range. Since it's no good for hunting, if you're a true hunter, you don't need one for any other purpose.
The Second Amendment as Ratified:

A well regulated militia being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the People to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed.

Let's look at the part that precedes the comma, especially the phrase I highlighted earlier - A well regulated militia. The logical way to accomplish that regulatory requirement would be to assure that anyone owning a weapon had been properly trained in its use and safety, and was mentally capable of handling it without injury to oneself or others. Much like an automobile owner is required to have a license to drive the vehicle,registration and insurance that identifies the vehicle and provides protection in the event of an accident, so should any gun owner be required to have a license that indicates what weapons the person is qualified to handle, and registration and insurance on each weapon to cover any liability incurred in the use of the weapon. 

Among the absurdities promoted by the NRA, such as arming teachers, is the following from Dana Loesch:

The NRA's front person stated in an interview, obviously trying to divert the interviewer from the point of the weapon's capability to the mental health of the user, said, "The weapon didn't walk into the school by itself." No, but if it wasn't available to the perpetrator, it wouldn't have walked into the school at all.

We must, as a rational society, understand that the above amendment has two parts, and that the United States Constitution is more than just one amendment. 

Monday, January 1, 2018

Good Morning 2018

Goodbye 2017

The brutal cold of the last week
of a brutal year is still with us
though the year has gone
the way of all years.

The naked maples in our woods
still carry the powder
of the last snow on their
windward trunks.

We sit in our many-windowed
sunroom, cats and computers
in our laps.  A typical morning,
no different from so many others.

Each of us living our morning
routine, no resolutions announced
to begin this even-numbered year,
some differences apparent though,

this icy morning, a private resolve?
A secret promise to change something
in ourselves, unannounced because
we may, likely will, fail?

And so we begin the new year with
small unremarkable changes
in our unremarkable lives.

Sunday, October 29, 2017

A Yogi and OM in the Same Day

I just experienced a kind of an India day.

We just returned from a going away party for one of the finest yoga teachers in the area, and I spent the morning chanting OM with some friends.  It was a very uplifting, relaxing, rejuvenating day.

This afternoon, as I said was a going away party, for Michael.  A few minutes after we arrived I remarked to Carol that the people in the room did not fit the statistical norm for the US.  The percentage of overweight people in the US in 2014 was an astonishing 70.7%.  The population in the room would yield about 4% that may fall in the overweight category and even that is a stretch.  Seems to me  there's something to a regular yoga practice.

A bit over two years ago I wrote about chanting OM on a rainy day and since it was that long ago I feel justified in including it here:

OM, chanted as three syllables [Ah-oh-mm] that flow into each other through a single breath, is a way to calm one's thoughts, to relax, to facilitate meditation.  It is a private time, a time when the sonorous repetitive drone brings with it a defocusing, a soothing, of the mind and of the body.

When the chant is performed in a group, for an hour or more, something else happens.

My good friend, Dahlia, counselor, mediator, musician, and beautiful soul, leads a chant four times a year around the equinox and solstice - the times of transition when people tend to recognize their connection to the universe, if only for those brief periods.  I have participated in most of them, and each time I come away with the a sense of peace, of altered consciousness, of awareness of ME.

The thing about a group chant is the melding of voices, of people sitting, eyes closed, voices open, in a common simple intonation. Om, in its polysylabic rendition, is an unintended incantation.  As the chant progresses it changes from a simple repetition to a sea of sound.  As Dahlia begins the chant, her pure gold voice pulling us in, we initially follow, picking up her rhythms, but she changes, doesn't maintain a metronomic cadence, and soon we are in our own rhythms, each different by a beat or two. The result is an almost continuous sound, sometimes with just a few voices somewhat tentative to be alone, sometimes in a cacophony of discordant sounds, sometimes even in a harmonious crescendo that lifts each voice into the harmony of OM.

An hour passes so quickly that I can't believe we're done. In the chant, I have found distance from my all-to-present mortality to some other feeling - peace I think.  The acceptance, the okayness, of this rung in the ladder of my existence.  

It is as much of a treasure today as it was then.  On October 16th. Dahlia lost her mother, Hazel, a smart gentle soul who had reached 100 in July of this year.   The chant on her return from West Virginia had a special feeling for me, having known Hazel briefly before she moved.

What I intended this musing to be was a contented sigh celebrating a relaxing, rainy day.  I hope I didn't deviate too far from it.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Terrible Cost of a Comma

And so we experience one more fusillade because of a comma.  How have we gotten here?  The founding fathers (you remember them, the guys that crafted a great but imperfect constitution for our fledgling country) were unable to anticipate: that we would have a standing army so that militias were unnecessary, that  weapons of today are not muzzle loaders but instead are capable of expelling many rounds of death in a very short time, and that an industry built on that capability would have found a way to place these weapons of death into the hands of sick individuals.

Welcome to our world.

I just read that modifying a semi-automatic weapon like an AR-15  to fully automatic is illegal (the implication is that it's not impossible) but there is a crank that one can legally purchase for $40.00 that will pull the trigger faster than a human.  Oh, by the way, I don't care if it was a Colt, Bushmaster, or whatever, the concept of being able to execute people faster than a human can pull the trigger holds, because all the device needs to do is pull said trigger.

Let me be clear about a couple of things in case any 2nd amendment folks are reading: I hunted as a young man, I owned weapons, I am a veteran of almost seven years active duty at which time I qualified expert at every annual test.  I know weapons.

Two truths come to mind immediately:

  • A weapon of the type mentioned above is not a hunter's tool, no hunter worth the name would use one.  As my father (a pre-WWII marine) often told me while he was teaching me to use and respect a weapon, "If you can't hit your target with one shot, you got no business shooting at it."  Other gems from this expert of experts (he shot  expert with the Marine rifle team at a 1,000 yard range without a scope. Try it sometime.)  "Treat every weapon you see or touch as if it was loaded." and "Never point a weapon at anything you don't intend to shoot."  
  • There is no courage in our elected officials to address the issue in any meaningful way.  Prayers, condolences, and other comments by them are self-serving meaningless gestures.  What must happen, and I have no idea how, is that the people of this country need a serious attitude adjustment.  There is no point other than intimidation in 'open carry' advocates carrying assault rifles or sidearms into a populated area.  There is no point other than money for companies to produce and sell them. There is no point, other than money and power, for a once-honorable organization that concentrated on gun safety. to lobby for the right to carry them.
The entire rationale surrounding this abomination is based on willfully ignoring a comma.  Words and their misinterpretation can clearly hurt one more than sticks and stones.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Cymbals and Symbols

I think this blog is going to be about some of the things occupying FB and the media currently, but hopefully not at full blown rant amplitude.  Let's give it a go.

Removing confederate Statues and flags Edition - While I understand that many, if not all, of the monuments were erected in a direct attempt to intimidate people of color, removing them will not change the attitudes that got them erected in the first place.  No matter how many statues are removed, how many flags are taken down, or words redacted, the fundamental problem still exists.

The USA - that's us - is still a racist country.  It hurts me to say that, but it is.  We are in the throes of a major setback in any attempts to mitigate that situation.  Enabling racism while chastising those who bring the inequity of racial bias to the front is throwing gasoline on a fire.  And it continues to happen with the current chief executive as the arsonist.

Stars and Stripes and Anthems Edition -  Let me first be clear, I am a veteran (10/13/1961 - 8/2/1968.) I took an oath to defend the US against all enemies foreign and domestic.  I saluted the flag almost every day of that enlistment, sometimes twice a day if I was present at both the raising and lowering of it, whether or not there was musical accompaniment.  I did that out of respect for the country, not its symbol.  That's all the flag is - a symbol.  It's the country and the populace that it symbolizes that's important.

To stand for an anthem, face a flag, and then disrespect residents of the country they represent is not patriotism.  You must, to be a patriot, preserve and protect the land you live in and the people who occupy it with you. You must, to be a patriot, be able to discuss differences, listen to opinions with which you disagree, without resorting to violence - verbal or physical.

Patriotism is hard when you see your country in an emotional crisis, but it's then when true patriots emerge, stand up and salute the country by their actions to promote discourse, equity, and peace.

Things are changing but so slowly as to be glacial.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg, in a BBC interview, said "A great man once said that the true symbol of the United States is not the bald eagle; it is the pendulum."

Think about how you can do your part to put the pendulum in motion toward caring about your country: the land and the people, not the music and flowing fabric of its symbols.

Thursday, July 27, 2017

Thinking About War

I ear-read (Carol's term for audiobook listening) The Iliad a couple weeks ago.   It occurred to me then that all war is about wealth, be it money, property, power or combinations thereof.  Back then though the kings were warriors.  They went to battle along with the troops, suffered wounds, killed, and were killed.  All for wealth and power.

If you've never read The Iliad, I recommend it.  Though it seems endless when you first get into it, it is a compelling narrative of the cruelty, stupidity, and overall cost of war.  It is also a chronicle of monumental egos, manipulative gods, and the general irrationality of men.

There are probably as many translations of The Iliad as there are recordings of Leonard Cohen's Hallelujah.  The one I listened to was by Caroline Alexander.

Here's the gist of the poem as my old brain has processed it - with apologies to Homer.

The Achaeans (Greeks) are almost a decade into a war with Troy,  nominally over the abduction of Helen, wife of Menelaus, King Agamemnon's brother.  During this time Agamemnon and the Achaeans take a side trip to sack Chryse.  King A. claims beautiful Chryseis, the daughter of Chryses, a priest of Apollo, as his prize, while Achilles claims equally stunning Briseis and promptly falls in love with her.

When Chryseis' dad tells Apollo about this, the big guy drops a plague on the Achaeans.  Agamemnon consults a prophet and finds out that it's the priest's doing, so he returns Chryseis to her dad.  Desiring a gorgeous prize fit for a king, Agamemnon then demands Briseis from Achilles, who relents but gets really pissy and returns to his tent refusing to fight anymore.

Without Achilles the Achaeans are getting the crap kicked out of them.  Turns out the head God, Zeus, decided to make the Trojan warrior Hector invincible ... until Achilles got over his hissy fit, at which time Hector was toast.  There's more but I don't want to spoil the ending.

It is evident in this story that, other than as warriors, the principles: have the intelligence of pocket lint, egos  as enormous as DT's, and no clear idea why the war is happening.

 "All war is a symptom of man's failure as a thinking animal."  claims John Steinbeck.  It was true then and it's true now, we just have bigger spears.