Saturday, December 24, 2016

Light Your Candle

All the rituals I know about that occur around the solstice involve light, chasing the darkness away for a time, celebrating being able to see again.

We are uncomfortable in the dark; our eyes, unlike the predators who hunt at night, were not built for it.  We are sun worshipers, reveling in the warmth of our star, in the visibility it affords us, so we celebrate light.  That the celebrations have been co-opted by religion is incidental to that fact.

Since my earliest memories I have loved this time of year.  People seem friendlier, more forgiving, happier somehow.  It has that special ambiance that comes with the light, the warmth, the comfort, the safety.

I've left you a couple of stories on my website - A gift of reading for the season.  May your world always be lit with love and peace.

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Employees Must Wash Hands!

Whenever one uses a public facility this admonition can be found, in one form or another, over the sinks.  It seems like a pretty straightforward statement, simple and adequate to the task it is assigned.  But perhaps employees need a bit more explanation since one could interpret the simple statement above in a couple of ways.  It doesn't establish when this event is to occur - does one scrub before or after using the facilities?  Attempts to clarify timing of the wash added a little more detail, e.g. Employees must wash hands before returning to work.  The problem here is it still doesn't establish the timing of the wash in relation to the event that brought said employee into the room.  Hence some additional detail - Employees must wash hands before returning to work: after using the facilities, or whenever they are soiled.  That seems to cover it.

However - Sometimes the attempt to be specific can lead to really bizarre instructional signs such as this one -

 One could ask if the employee is the one tasked with the operation or some person whose assignment is to wash the employee's hands.

Then there are the graphics that dictate the precise operation to be performed like these two -

Humanity has an innate ability to complicate even the simplest activities.  If you know how and when to wash your hands, none of this matters.  If you do not, none of this matters.

Here's a treat for those of us who revel in the silliness of signs.

Until next time.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Back After a Year; Musing about Love and Hate

I dropped off the edge of the flat world of blogging on November 15th last year.  I found that everything I was musing over had a political theme and I didn't want to blog in that climate.  On the upside of that decision, nothing I could have said would have changed the outcome on November 8th.  My half-dozen loyal readers couldn't swing the vote in any direction at all.  I wish they could.  So let's see where I go today:

Love and Hate are not feelings.  Let me explain.

A very wise person once said "Feelings aren't right or wrong, they just are.  You can't help having them.  What you can control is what you do with them."  If you have a question about whether whatever is going on in your psyche is a feeling test it by Putting the phrase 'I am' in front of the word e.g "I am sad."  If you try that with the two words above, the phrase makes no sense because to love or hate is a decision, conscious or not.

First let's look at hate.  Hate is a manifestation of two main feelings 'angry' and 'scared'. There is sometimes 'confused' or 'troubled' or others in the mix but the first two dominate and promote the decision to hate.  What that means is that if we are angry, scared, confused, troubled, or whatever, we do not have to turn that into hate.  Hate is what we decide to do about the feeling.

We can look at love in the same way. The decision to love is often a result of feeling happy, content, relaxed, and yes even sad.   Here are a few words I wrote some years back about love that may help.

Saying I Love You

A close friend and I spent much of a long car ride a while back talking about the phrase “I love you,” its uses and implications.  Since then I’ve been reflecting on people I say “I love you” to and what it means when I do. 
First, the recipients:  My wife, Carol, hears it every day, my children and grandchildren, often.  My siblings, with the exception of my youngest sister, I don’t think ever.  I said it to my mother when she was in a nursing home and unable to retain a memory for more than a few seconds.  I never said it to my father, though I did love him.  I have said it to a very few close friends.
Now what it means to me:  For Carol, my soul mate, it means everything, the full spectrum of honor, respect, nurture, touch, connection that two people who have grown from lovers into friends share as they do with no one else.  For my children, it is pride in their achievements and in the possible, just possible, hand I had in forming them into the awesome adults they have become.  It is memories of holding them in my arms, or them grasping my hand, or hugging me, needing me and therefore making me an important part of their lives.  For my grandchildren, the ‘Fab Five’, it is the joy in being called Pops, the hugs, the beard kisses, the visits without parents, the secrets we share without telling their folks.  It is the absolute treasure of watching them grow without having the responsibility of monitoring that growth.  With each of my people, it is knowing that their death would open an unfathomably deep hole in my heart.
I often use the nickname ‘Love’ when addressing wife, daughters, granddaughters and female friends.  It is a term of affection that I feel comfortable with in that context.  I sometimes sign emails and notes “Love,” but I’m less comfortable with that usage so I don’t just throw it around; though not nearly as potent as that three word mantra, it has a permanence, ala Omar Khayyam, which might imply more than I intend. 
“I love you” is a powerful phrase.   Of course there are the modified versions:  the verbal group hug “I love you guys.” the playful chide after a friend’s faux pas “That’s okay, I still love you,” or the variation “I love you anyway,” or the adverbially attenuated “I really/truly/actually love you.”  You get the idea. 
Then there is “I love you” as the key that unlocks the invisible chastity belt, as is so eloquently rendered in Meatloaf’s “Paradise by the Dashboard Light” while Phil Rizzuto calls a Yankee baseball game in the background.  When uttered by an aroused male seeking release to an aroused female seeking justification, the admission is transitory at best.
I recall watching hippies in the sixties put flowers in the barrels of weapons while saying “I love you, man.”  The gesture made good TV, but the words carried little meaning since they addressed the generic ‘man’ rather than Corporal Smith or Sergeant Jones. 
When we speak or write, “I love you,” the basic cake without the icing, we are committing ourselves to the other person.  We are assuring them that we can be trusted to be honest, to be available, and to share both happiness and pain.  We take on an enormous responsibility with that commitment.  That is the promise I make to my closest friends.
The ways we deliver the words carry different levels of intensity.  Probably the least intense, though most permanent and legally relevant, is the written word.  Penning (or keying) that sentence denotes the above assurance but at some emotional distance.  Mouthing the words in the course of some other activity may, or may not, depending on the situation (See Meatloaf, above), have any lasting significance.  If said, for example, looking up from a newspaper, making eye contact briefly if at all, one is more or less reinforcing previous iterations, building a kind of “I love you” staircase.  But, when facing your recipient, eyes locked, no distractions, you say, “I love you,” you have crossed a bridge.  You have presented yourself, warts and all, to this person and shown him or her, a part of you that few others will see.  You have made yourself vulnerable to great emotional pain and an equal or greater measure of happiness.   It’s a chance worth taking.
Talk to you soon.