my belief that we are good after all is confirmed in this delightful little story…..happy tuesday kids! be well, frankie
Monthly Archives: April 2013
It was a beautiful coup d’etat, the likes of which the United States had not seen since its Declaration of Independence from the Brits. It was necessary however, since the shock value alone would send the populace into a dumb silence. It was also necessary because it gave the nation no choice in the matter, sort of like Cortez burning his ships so that his men were motivated to succeed in the New World, we were now very motivated to ‘get on board’ and implement alternate modes of transportation and improve on those already in existence.
A year of planning and secret keeping of the highest order had culminated in the decree. Thankfully, and for once, a liberal president and congress agreed to address climate change and agreed to do so in a drastic way. There was no reason why shock doctrine policy could not be used for good, the reasoning went. They smartly and also realized that alternatives needed to be presented to consumers and they needed to be viable and appealing because otherwise mass revolt might ensue. Here’s how the whole thing went down…..
The nation’s leaders knew that the only way to make the whole thing work was to ensure their citizens that their jobs would not be affected, their paychecks left unharmed. Since we could keep existing cars indefinitely then parts for those cars were still needed….indefinitely. Auto plants would keep and expand their parts divisions while simultaneously revamping their production lines to electric or ethanol only vehicle. Automakers were also given first rights to the mass public railroad expansion that was about to occur, and their workers were offered the choice to work on this or stay with autos, allowing them some sense of control over their destinies and also giving them a sense of ownership over the new, improved, United States. Genius.
Current domestic coal and oil production were kept operating, but used only for extant purposes. As one might guess, gas prices did rise, but our government capped the prices so that petrol companies couldn’t rip off those who decided to keep the auto as their main mode of transportation. People were given their choice to keep a car or two or convert completely to public means of traveling. If you didn’t own a vehicle though, you were given a HUGE tax break each year on your income taxes, because the leaders knew that nothing speaks louder to its citizens than ‘tax credit’. The rental car business took off and an entire new niche was created whereby car owners could ‘rent’ their cars to friends or families in a sort of co-op style system. Since it worked well and kept the minions happy, the powers that be concluded that they’d forgo any kind of regulations with the new system – hey! If it ain’t broke…..
Most everyone was on board with whole gig. The western states were especially enthused about the idea because they’d been begging for public rail upgrades for decades (it was the only point of envy the west coast possessed with regards to the east coast, otherwise the west was heaven on earth, thank you very much, and – we didn’t invite hurricanes). The southern states rebelled, in unison, as is their wont. The rest of the republic ignored them (as is their wont) and upgraded their railroad asses anyways. Overall, most citizens were quite relieved that decisive action was being implemented. For too long we’ve heard the tales of global warming and for too long we – as a nation – have not been leading the world in a more responsible way of life. Finally we were practicing what we preached and there was a boom of national pride not seen since Neil Armstrong spoke from the moon.
This new sense of pride was reinforced by a barrage of slick and steamy propaganda: trains were the new way to meet girls, sharing your car was sexy, cabbing or walking to your dinner destination was now romantic as hell. Adverts everywhere touted our world dominance and leadership in the transportation arena because we love to be No.1!
AND SO IT WAS THAT A SIMPLE DECREE LED A NATION TO PROSPERITY AND PRIDE IN ITSELF ONCE MORE.
Oh, and it also saved our earth. Best. Decree. Ever.
It’s Earth day (and later in the week Arbor day) so I’ll take a moment to acknowledge one of my favorite of Earth’s inventions: Trees. As corny as it seems, I have a deep love for trees. They provide our homes, give us warmth, and allow us a reprieve from the sun. But these wonderful inventions of Nature are much more than a utilitarian plant to me; they are my brothers and sisters.
My first experience with trees was climbing them as a child. Right away I learned that they offer solace. As a kid (the sixth in a family of seven) I remember scaling an aged elm tree at the side of our house and sitting high in its branches, the perfect escape from a noisy and busy house. I reveled in the solitude and quiet. I adored the altered perception of being up off of the ground. It was a form of separation; taking me out of human interaction and transporting me to a world of birds and butterflies, cats and imaginary sloths, where I was always reminded that an entire macrocosm exists beyond the four walls of my home and it bears consideration. Having the heightened perspective of sitting in tree branches also gave me the ability to understand, early on, the smallness of my existence. I would watch cars traverse the freeway at the bottom of the hill our home occupied, thinking how small they were from the angle of my perch. Later on, when studying the vastness of the Universe, this important lesson gave me a strong foundation in the process of comprehending my insignificance within it. I also considered that I was invisible to those cars, I didn’t exist to them, which gave me the opportunity to come to terms with the idea that the world does not revolve around me (dammit!). I loved that elm tree; it housed me from the big scary world and taught me some crucial lessons about it as well.
As an adult, I don’t climb as many trees, but I still rely on them for escape. There is one tree in particular that I seek out. It is an old, old oak tree, so old its branches hang down and brush my shoulders as I walk past them to the inner sanctuary of its trunk, which must be around four feet in diameter. I sit in the small crook where tree meets earth and ponder life with the wisdom and experience of an adult, yet with the same sense of separation and differed perceptions I possessed as a child– open to whatever lessons I might be able to extract from my time meditating there. Trees and I have a completely different relationship now though because I’ve learned more about them.
Nestled in the seam of tree and earth, I let my mind wander to the intimate nuances this tree and I share. We breathe for one another. That which I breathe out is exactly what the oak tree needs to breathe in, and vice versa – it’s a beautiful relationship. I take a moment to note that this living thing has veins, and liquid running through them, just as surely as I do. If I imagine hard enough, I can almost feel our ‘blood’ coursing together and I am reminded, as I was then, that I am as much a part of Nature as this tree that I lean against. My small, fragile spine conforms to the straightness and strength of the tree’s spine and I am not in the least bored with the thought I’ve had a million times before: that arms and legs and trunks exist which are different from mine yet eerily similar. No wonder Tolkien could envision Ents.
Spine to spine, I meditate and think. How many have sat at its trunk over the centuries of its life and found solace in its shadow? How many have sought shelter under its leafy arms from the rain or sun? What stories would it tell me of overcoming harsh winters and dry summers? What wisdom would it offer me about the perception of time and trials? What tales of affection would it tell of housing bird and squirrel families? What would it say about his human form that comes to share its space and time?
“Welcome friend,” I imagine it would say, “sit and keep me company, tell me of your secrets,” – just like a true brother or sister would.
I was recently reminded of an old argument I used to hear about the pitfalls of atheism, which asserts that atheists must have an inherently low self-esteem if they believe in evolution because who could have a high self-esteem and believe they are descendant from apes at the same time? (Presumably we have a higher self-esteem if we can conceive ourselves as being created as a result of a magical dirt act performed by a benevolent, omniscient creator). I remember that I agreed with the idea once upon a time, I did spend plenty of time within the four walls of church after all. Yet, having removed myself from religious influence and declaring myself an atheist (I did my own research and thinking) I can solidly testify that the reality is the opposite – atheists tend to have a better and more mature self-esteem than those who would defer to an invisible entity.
The premise of having low self- esteem as a result of being descendant from monkeys is really a demonstrative sign that a total lack of understanding evolution is evident. Once one takes the time to study the process of evolution (monkeys and humans share a common ancestor, we did not descend from them), we realize how incredible human life and consciousness really are and such a realization only serves to increase one’s self-esteem. The understanding that we humans have overcome thousands and millions of years of challenges, including surviving harsh environments and genetic setbacks, fills me with dreadful awe every time I think about it. The mind-blowing immenseness of space and time compared to the smallness of this compilation of stardust called Frankie stirs within me both deep humiliation and determination: humility in the sense that I was given a shot to perpetuate my genes and have an influence over the future of our species, and determination in the sense that I understand this is my only shot and by god, I’m gonna make it count. Both emotions only serve to bolster my self-esteem. YAY! My millions-of-years-of-tested genes will live on, AND I actually have the opportunity to make an impact in my world because I am one of a few animals who have attained consciousness. I’m all that and a bag of chips. Truth is….. we all are.
Understanding my invaluable – ness within the framework of evolution and the vastness of the universe is only a part of achieving a healthy self-esteem as an atheist. The second component of an atheist’s healthy self-esteem is derived from acknowledging that there is no god. By doing so, we recognize that we are responsible for ourselves. Once I decided that I was on my own I not only felt the greatest of freedoms, but I also discovered the greatest of burdens – that of accountability. See, I could no longer blame sin, the devil, or some demon for my inconsistencies since I had cast those fictional characters off of my radar along with angels and a god and a savior. The reality is that I am the one who has to deal with my fallacies; I am the one who must face them on my death bed, and at the end of each day. The result: I am wholly more conscience of my actions, words, and deeds; therefore I am much more careful with each of them. They mean more as well since I am motivated by an innate sense of ‘rightness’ instead of a set of rules put in place by a sketchy deity and dogmatized by religion. There is a massive amount of self-esteem gained from the recognition that I have the power and ability to express morality merely on the basis of my own consciousness, without an outside influence.
It’s a big step of maturity to take, for sure, when one outgrows the confines of religion and takes personal responsibility for their deeds. It’s also a big bolster to one’s self-esteem when realizing that yes, we can behave well, totally on our own without the motivation of reward or punishment. We learn that we can trust ourselves, and there is no better foundation to a healthy self-esteem than to be able to trust one’s self.
I can easily take the ‘trust’ factor a step further. One of the issues many of us deal with along the road to understanding is the idea that Jesus story is really only one of a thousand myths told over and over throughout our history, clear back to our ancient ancestors (Joseph Campbell’s Heroes With a Thousand Faces is a great resource for this notion). It occurred to me while I was ruminating over this idea that we humans are a tenacious lot. In each of our hero stories, in all of our movies, in the many narratives we hear, good always overcomes evil. We simply do not know any other way to plot the story line. When I realized this, I gained a massive amount of self-esteem. We humans clamor for right and justice. We always choose good over evil. We know nothing different. We can therefore possess a deep sense of trust in our species.
There’s another perspective to the self-esteem issue that I’ll include here and it addresses the thought that somehow having a benevolent creator lends itself to a higher self-esteem. “I am special, I was created individually by almighty god himself,’ goes the presumption and by being singled out by an omnipotent being I am supposed to have a higher self-esteem. Instead, we get stuck in an egotistical mindset that everything revolves around us. We threw a fit (for centuries, mind you) when someone asserted the possibility that the sun does not revolve around us. We become demanding to the point that we insist others abide by our set of rules. We also abuse our earth-home because, well, after all, we were created to rule over it. Demanding, egotistical, and abusive….these are not the traits of a healthy self-esteem.
Then too, when one is always deferring to another, how can we know ourselves enough to establish a healthy self-esteem? If I am only focused on an outside force, I have no way to realize the good within myself which is inherent in all of us. I have no real opportunity to develop self-esteem if I am unable to make decisions on my own and learn to trust myself.
There is a need to come to terms with the misconception that one’s self-esteem can only be realized within the framework of a creator when the opposite appears to be true. From my individual experience and by way of testimonies of hundreds of others, living without a creator begets a healthier and more mature self-esteem than living with one does.
if you would like to help, here’s a great way to do so…
happy birthday to this guy today….and thanks for the inspiration
which i’ve been doing a lot of this past week since i am getting together a pair of articles to send in to the Atlantic magazine (their rules are fairly strict – anything sent to them can’t have been published elsewhere, even on a personal blog…sorry kids, you’ll hafta wait!).
meanwhile, work continues on my book cover (big THANKS to aaron) and once its done i can publish ‘Maslow’s Triangle: Short Tales of a Homeless Chick’…shooting for a mid-may release as an e-book. it’s an extremely gratifying feeling to be so close to publication. besides, getting the book off of my ‘to do’ list will allow me to put another one on it…
getting one idea out and working on another reminds me of an interesting observation i made a while back with regards to essays and short stories. i noticed that if i don’t ‘get them out’, that is if i don’t get them down on paper (er, in word document) then i suffer from a sort of ‘writer’s constipation.’ in other words, if i don’t sit down and purge my mind of whatever new thought or story comes up then i am ‘stuck’ until i get them out. it’s as if there is no room for fresh impressions to land in the landscape of my consciousness until i’ve made room by launching my latest endeavors into cyber-space. as i constantly remind one of my sons “creativity begets creativity.”
on another note, i’ve been receiving the best of comments on my musings in various forms of ‘you made me think.’ if i live to be a hundred, i don’t know that i’ll tire of hearing that phrase. when i made the decision to devote my life to writing, THE MAIN GOAL in mind was that i challenge us to think. to me its not important that readers end up on the same side of whatever issue i present, but that they are compelled to at least consider the issue in the first place. from my own experiences, the ability to ponder an idea – even if it was an antithesis of what i currently believed – always made me better in the end. it’s a sort of iron-sharpens-iron effect. whether or not i came out agreeing with a notion or theory didn’t really matter because in the end my mind was better off just for the mere exercise of challenging it in the first place. either i was improved by adjusting my thinking because the new idea was logical and sound compared to the old idea i harbored; OR i was improved because i weighed both new and old and found that what i did think was correct after all, and, well, what better reinforcement than to examine your thoughts and have them prove correct. either way, just THINKING about the issue made me a better person, which is why it’s vitally important to me that whatever i write presents a challenge to us. we are all better for it.
so thanks to each of you for the time you take to read and think. onward and upwards for us all.
Katie’s Big Adventures
Katie com-puh-lete-ly ignored her mother’s call when she rounded the corner at the end of the street and took off to the nearest field. She knew she’d pay the price later, but the gate was open and she took her chance. As far as Katie was concerned, nothing compared to the feel of the wind in her face and hair as she ran at full speed and an open gate was an opportunity not to be ignored – she’d be back later.
The empty field at the end of the street (and around the corner) was one of Kate’s favorite places and always offered a variety of adventures to her. It was a busy place for a field: many other kids used it as a shortcut from school to home, as a miniature dirt bike track complete with kid-made bumps and jumps, and a couple of aged oak trees offered the perfect place for a tree fort, natch. There were always small tidbits of stuff that people would drop along the way and each was given a moment of consideration by Katie. Once, a single cookie left in a bag of what was many was found lying on the ground. Kate had no qualms about eating it. She was only six and her tastes were entirely undiscriminating.
Sometimes one or more of those kids would pass through the field and Katie would run and greet them as if they were old friends who hadn’t seen each other in forever. She just couldn’t help herself, she loved everybody. The trouble was that she was so dang cute that everyone stopped to indulge her. Her perfect button nose and inquisitive brown eyes worked their charm every time. Kids would stop and talk to her and bend down to pat her head and she marinated in their attention.
Often Abby-from-across-the-street would be in the field and she and Katie would play. Theirs was a shallow and tenuous friendship though and play was always a bit guarded. Abby was bigger than Katie for one thing, and Katie always resented Abby because she was free to roam the neighborhood and Katie wished fervently that she was as free. Usually Abby didn’t stick around too long anyways, she had better things to do than to hang out with little, small-fry Katie.
Normally the field was empty and Kate plodded along the well-worn paths which took her around the edges and in a circle back to the street crossing which would take her home. She stopped here and there, as stated before, to investigate whatever novelty was recently left behind. A squirrel or wayward cat made for a great game of chase (Kate possessed an inherent disdain for felines that her mother could never defeat) and there was always something lurking for her in the sweet pea patch.
The usual dogs would bark at her as she made her way through the high grass that was taller than her in places. She reveled in the momentary freedom she had compared to those who were stuck behind their fences. Consequently her walk amounted to a certain proud and healthy strut. Her mom always laughed at her when she walked like that. She called Katie ‘incorrigible,’ whatever that meant.
Now however, Katie’s mom was not laughing and she could hear the anger increase exponentially in her voice with each repeated call of “Kaaaaaayyyyytteeeeeeeeee!”
With great reluctance she turned toward home. She knew that if her mom got too angry she would start off after Katie and if that happened she would be in soooooo much trouble. One last look at an empty soda can and she took off across the road and around the corner at her highest speed, enjoying the wind in her face and hair, her feet kicking up wildly behind her.
Her mom caught sight of her and encouraged her home. Katie ran and greeted her mom with a smile whereupon she was scooped up and vigorously scolded while being smothered with kisses at the same time. “You silly little dog,” her mother said with great affection.
She put Katie down and they went inside. Katie got a drink out of the water bowl and then went to her bed where she circled three times before lying down. She closed her eyes and recalled each new smell and experience she just had. She then dreamt of an open gate and the wind in her face again……
part of my morning workout routine includes balancing on one foot. i notice that it’s nearly impossible to do if i’m not concentrating on a single item. focus is important to balance.
so it is with life balance, i thought.
and where is my focus?
i choose love as my focus.
you’ll notice i’ve taken a quote out of this work for this weeks widget space.
this is one of my all time favorite books ever for many reasons:
1. i like mr. ferris’ writing style, ’tis a lot of information he covers, yet he keeps it light and interesting.
2. it reminds me to be grateful for the time that i live in…the ability to look back on our history and development the way mr. ferris has AND be able to draw out some lessons for today is a cherished commodity.
3. the depth and breadth of the book makes an admirable synthesis of our quest to understand our earth-home and our place within the universe. mr. ferris deftly weaves together the marriage of physics and astronomy as they team up to find answers to our never-ending questions.
4. it’s one of those books that is best read a few times over….so much information and such a beautiful story of us humans as well. as a writer and a historian, mr. ferris’ attention to detail is also a treasure trove of information.
5. the work leaves me in awe, once again, at us amazing humans. our ability to observe and deduce, question and patiently wait for an answer, makes me proud to be one of us…
happy reading! and be well,