Tag Archives: life choices

The Missing

 

As atheists, we can’t count on an invisible god to get us through our trials.  We don’t turn to a ‘comforter’ when life challenges us.  We don’t appeal to a heavenly deity for miracles that defy nature.    Instead, we turn inward to ourselves.

I’ve been on both sides of the fence:  I spent my time in churches and on my knees,  clinging to some hope that something out there somewhere would somehow ease my pain and see me through whatever heartache I was dealing with.  Now I no longer turn towards a supposed omnipotent energy, I turn inward to myself for comfort, to family and friends for support.

The difference is notable and worth consideration.

Turning outward toward a god keeps us from finding our own strength.  Turning outward toward an entity whose evidence of existence is scant denies us the ability to learn to deal with things on our own.  It robs us of a confidence we find no other way. It stunts our growth as human beings.

It is painful to sound the depths of one’s own soul, it is not easy to learn to comfort one’s self with the challenges of life.   It is real however.   It is rewarding in a way that nothing else is.  It allows us to find a toughness within ourselves we can’t obtain if we turn to someone/something else.   It adds another facet to the diamond of our spirit.   I wouldn’t want it any different.

Here’s to strength, confidence, and growth.   They are ours for the taking…if we’re willing to turn inward and find them.

Yours,

Frankie

 

 

 

 

 

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Angry

The wise Teacher says

“Take good care of your anger.”

I want to bury it, forget it exists.

It is a valid emotion however,

Justified more often than we admit.

 

“Take good care of your anger.”

Give it your attention.

It signals a wrong somewhere,

a hurt not healed,

a slight handed over,

a fear buried deep within.

 

“Take good care of your anger.”

Unfold the meaning that lies

behind the  child’s temper.

Free yourself and your soul

Open the door to hope and love.

 

“Take good care of your anger.”


 

Author’s Note:   The ‘Teacher’ to whom this poem refers is Thich Nhat Hanh, the Vietnamese Buddhist whose works are immensely insightful and truthful.   As I’ve been dealing with some of my own anger issues, his phrase “Take good care of your anger.” has been a meditative point for me.  It struck me that the admonition isn’t just “Take care of your anger,” or “Mind your anger,” but “Take GOOD CARE of your anger.”  When I began to “take good care”,  I’ve found that it’s not really anger that I am experiencing, there is a deeper truth that is uncomfortable.  Anger is only a symptom of that truth and once I uncovered the real issue, I could deal with it and move forward in freedom and assurance. Let us be mindful, and take GOOD CARE of our anger…..Yours, Frankie.


Twenty-First Century Treatise: Applying the Laws of Nature to Human Civilization: Installment No. 2, Personal Balance

In the First Installment of the work “Twenty-First Century Treatise” we examined the idea that our current way of living has allowed us to become distant from Nature and we’ve forgotten some of Nature’s Laws in the process.   We discussed the notion that no matter how complex our civilizations and societies become, we are still bound to the Laws of Nature in the same way the stars, the weather, and our fellow four-legged animals are bound to them and even our social constructs must conform to those Laws.   Two of the most important Laws to which we are subject are those of Dichotomies and Balance.  Nature is ubiquitous with various forms of light and dark, positive and negative, male and female.  Nature is also constantly striving for balance among the multitudes of those opposites.  Our personal lives are no different, we struggle for balance in this area as well, just check out the self-help section of any local bookstore.

Personal Balance

Beginning with our physical being, our selves demand balance.   Consider that our bodies work diligently to keep our temperature at a toasty 98.6 degrees.  If we do not keep a balanced sleep to wake ratio our brains do not function right, we are irritable and prone to make poor decisions, even to the point of putting ourselves or others in life threatening situations. Our bodies work best on a balanced diet and any weightlifter knows the importance of getting in their ‘leg days’ in order to keep a physical symmetry.

While our bodies automatically balance themselves, because we have a conscience, we also seek balance between our body and mind, our work and home, and within our relationships.  In this day and age however, it takes almost no effort to become imbalanced in our personal lives.

There is an interesting issue hidden within the idea of mind/body balance that’s important to understand, and its the reason we become imbalanced so easily.  This particular kind of balance wasn’t really a big deal until our societies became so complex that we work mostly indoors.  Remember, until just  two or three hundred years ago, we were living much more intimately with Nature, our work schedules followed the cycles of Nature as we worked mostly in the summer and during the long daylight hours.   We also engaged in a much more physical lifestyle:  we had to labor over the soil to provide our food and we walked or rode to our destinations. (Interestingly, and I would submit in natural reaction to our less physically demanding work, we’ve created an entire industry of exercise equipment and gyms in an effort to give our bodies the workout they miss with our new sedentary way of life.)  Our brains and minds developed in concert with our bodies over millions of years of intimate, consistent interaction with Nature.  The mind and body balanced without effort.  Now however, our constructed way of life allows us to completely defy Nature’s cycles of night and day, summer and winter.  We keep to a rigid 8 to 5 schedule, every day, regardless of the season and the light.  We ignore our internal rhythm, wired by millions of years, and pull the ‘hoot owl’ or graveyard shifts (we aren’t  meant to be a nocturnal animal).   Scientists are finding out that workers who pull the ‘third shift’ have significantly more health problems including messed up metabolisms and increased risks of some cancers and heart problems.  Our disconnection with Nature and discordant lifestyle inherently leads to mind/body imbalance; I surmise that many of our health problems are manifestations of the stress related environment in which we currently find ourselves.

It’s an honest observation to make that just a couple hundred years isn’t long enough on Nature’s timeline for our physical bodies to adapt to our lightening speed civilizations.  Should we wonder why many of us in industrialized societies are prone to psychological, emotional, intellectual, and physical imbalance?  I believe it’s a fair assertion to claim that some (most?) of the psychological issues we deal with today – depression, A.D.H.D., bi-polar disorders, and addiction – are really symptoms of our struggle to cope with this new life without sufficient time for physical adaptation.  Children manifest this idea fully – in just a few short years we have wrangled them into cookie cutter classrooms without allowing, or at least acknowledging, that doing so completely violates the way our brains have developed:  that is to be free to be curious and ask questions, to learn by doing and experiencing rather than repetition and performance.  I am of the opinion that most children we deem problematic aren’t really so, they are merely struggling to adapt to an environment that runs contradictory to their Natural wiring and their brains have not yet figured it out.  They are out of balance with the world they are born into and that imbalance demonstrates itself in behavioral problems.

I do understand that some of the psychological illnesses we suffer from are the result of chemical imbalances in our brains.  Science has been brilliant at illuminating how the brain/mind works.  There is strong evidence however that many of our psychological problems are not naturally inherent or physiological issues, rather they are the result of living in our advanced civilizations.  For instance, high stress levels interfere with the serotonin levels in our brains and can cause depression.

It is important to acknowledge at some point that this shiny new way of living we have evokes some real, negative consequences.  It gives us room to be nicer to each other for one; we are all, at some level, struggling as physical, natural beings that live in artificial, unnatural environments.  Awareness also allows us the opportunity to find ways that might help us to cope and adapt, such as making an effort be outside and re-connect with Nature, even for a moment.

While we try to maintain a body/mind balance in life, there are times when a life event happens, or we choose to engage in a project and our mental/emotional state becomes out of balance as a result.  It’s okay.

When such circumstances arise, it important to understand that we are at the mercy of whatever challenge faces us.  Losing a loved one forces us to focus on the psychological component of our being as we wrestle with grief and its inherent wild ride.  – we can’t expect to engage our mental resources when we are trying to cope with the emotional swings of grief.   If I am in the throes of my last three semesters of a nursing program, chances are that I’m not going to have the wherewithal to delve deep into spiritual matters.  If I am a mother and have three children under the age of five, I’m probably not going to be doing a lot of reading (except of the Dr. Seuss variety).  We are not built to multi-task on this level. This is a vital concept.  Too often we berate ourselves or feel inept because we can’t do everything, all at once, but our beings only have the capacity to cope with only on one thing at a time.  We shouldn’t beat ourselves up over our inability to do something we aren’t equipped to do.

On the other hand, sometimes we can focus too much on one component of our minds to the detriment of the others.  One can spend too much time delving into spiritual matters to the detriment of intellectual or psychological growth, for example. Conversely, we can’t ignore our spirituality either.  It is imperative to take time to nurture the soul with introspection and evaluating one’s place and role in the scheme of things.

While we wrestle with mind/body balance and emotional balance, we also must work to strike a moral balance within our personal lives.   The moral dichotomy engages the elements of good and bad within us.  No matter what our choice might be for a moral guide (religious text, doing right for right’s sake and keeping a clean conscious) most of us strive for the light to overcome the dark although it’s hard to believe in this modern age of ours when headlines are fraught with the horrible ways we manage to treat each other.  Yet – if we look around us, at our families, our neighbors, our cohorts and colleagues, its seems we find that most of us really do come out on the side of right more often than not.  In other words, we humans tend to strike a positive moral balance on the whole.   There’s one more clue to this idea that merits some attention:  In all our writings and movies and tales and plays, we always manage to make good overcome evil.  We don’t know how to write the story any other way.   This alone gives me great confidence in our ability to maintain a healthy moral balance.    Would that we could own this trait with more surety.

I am thankful to be living in our modern times.   Modern medicine alone is worth the price of admission – we’re able to print 3D thyroids for mice!  I for one am personally grateful for the invention of smart phones.   But within this melee of technology and high speed living, we throw our very beings into a kind of shock wherein we must adapt quickly to new change.  Nature doesn’t work on our timeline however, and we suffer from the inability to adjust to our changing way of life.   Awareness, as usual, is ninety percent of overcoming any challenge, or at least learning to cope with it.   In this case our examination of the effects of a swift changing society gives us some clues as to how we can achieve a better balance in our lives.  It seems that regular doses of the combination of exercise and outdoor time is a key component in keeping our personal lives balanced.   Exercise helps to replace the not-long-ago vigorous workouts our bodies received the past several thousand years (It also goes a long way towards reducing stress levels).  Being outdoors to breathe some fresh air, be aware for a moment of our surroundings to notice a bird or cat or fellow human goes a long ways to re-establish our connection with Nature and the primal element lurking just below the surface in us all.

And while life events force us into imbalanced emotional lives, we can now be aware to give ourselves some grace since we know we simply cannot multi-task on that level. We achieve a good moral balance by choosing what’s right and positive, and most of us do well at this most of the time.   We should have more confidence in ourselves and each other considering we consistently come out on the side of what’s good.

We are physical beings, first and foremost.   A product of years of fine- and not-so-fine tuning and a blip among the millions of creatures on the tree of life.    We are, and will always be, bound to Nature’s Law of Balance just like every other bit of matter that resides within this universe.   Since we have become a conscious, aware animal, we must also  wrestle with the dynamics of  psychological, emotional, and mind/body balance.

May we do so with awareness, and grace.

Yours,

Frankie


 

Look for Installment 3 of Treatise for the 21st Century on March 1, 2016 to examine how Nature’s Law of Balance affects social movements and politics.


Immortal

“You wish to live forever?

You want to be remembered?

You do not want your existence to be for naught?”

 

“That is right.  I do not know what happens when I die.

Immortality solves the problem.  I just don’t leave.”

 

“You misunderstand.  And greatly so.”

 

“What is there to understand.  I do not want to die.

It’s human nature.”

 

“It is never the physical body that lives on, no matter how advanced science becomes.

It  is always the body of work you leave behind:  your words and deeds, the contribution you make to society – whether positive or negative, the energy you choose to release into the world around you.”

 

A long moment of silence passed between them as the sage studied the stars and her student squirmed with thought.

 

“I get it.  I understand.  Immortality is more an idea than a tangible thing, not something seen so much as felt indirectly, perhaps for generations to come.  It’s something we can all achieve, if we are conscious of our work.”

“Precisely.  Now go, make your mark.”   The Immortal One got up from her sitting position, stretched her arms to the sky so the stars could reach down and pluck her back up to the heavens.

 

Her student laughed at the irony.   And then he admitted, contentedly at that, he was only human, but he would be immortal in his own way.

 


Twenty First Century Treatise: Applying the Laws of Nature to Human Civilization (First Installment)

Nature will not let us fret and fume. She does not like our benevolence or our learning much better than she likes our frauds and wars. When we come out of the caucus, or the bank, or the abolition-convention, or the temperance-meeting, or the transcendental club, into the fields and woods, she says to us, ‘so hot? my little Sir.’”

Ralph Waldo Emerson (1803–1882), “Spiritual Laws,” Essays, First Series (1841, repr. 1847).

 

The Foundation:

We humans have achieved some pretty amazing things since the agricultural revolution some twelve thousand years ago.  Once we learned to manipulate Nature in various ways to suit our needs, we catapulted our species to soaring heights and our clever inventions allow us to lead a very charmed life today compared to our ancestors.  We work in carefully controlled indoor climates, we live longer, and we are more aware than ever of our surroundings and how they function.  We understand the universe in ways incomprehensible to Copernicus and we understand our bodies in ways unfathomable to da Vinci. We don’t need to hunt any longer for our daily food and we don’t even need to have sex to reproduce and pass on our genetics.  We’ve been to the moon, we’ve put a tread mark on Mars, and some of us actually live in space.  We homo sapiens have come a long, long ways indeed.

While we bask in our achievements and enjoy their conveniences, there is cause for worry.  As we’ve progressed from cave-dwellers to space station tenants I have observed a great disconnect between Mother Nature and scores of her bi-pedal children because we are no longer as intimate with Nature’s workings as we once were.   It seems a logical by-product of our advanced civilization:  we live and work mainly indoors and get our food from cans and bottles and jars.  Our experiences with Nature are confined to camping trips, gardening, and domesticated canines and felines.  This limited interaction with, and independence from Nature means that we have lost touch of how Nature works.  We fail to remember – and recognize – that we are as subject Nature’s laws as the rest of the universe. In fact, even our social structures and the civilizations we build from them are governed by Nature’s Law’s, “So hot? my little Sir.”

Twenty-first Century Treatise applies the Laws concerning dichotomies, balance, diversity, connectivity, cooperation, and life to our social structures and civilizations in order to discover some very important lessons about ourselves and how our societies work. We learn how Nature’s laws affect our personal lives.  We learn that Nature’s laws apply to our social frameworks and we can make pragmatic decisions using those Laws to develop policies that sustain healthy societies. We learn that it is possible to make conscious, long term political decisions through the lens of Nature’s laws.   We learn that certain areas of our nations must be balanced in order to be healthy and growing; and that we can control those areas with effective legislation. We realize why it’s important to be diplomatic with our international neighbors.

It is my hope that this Treatise will provide some tools for positive decision making as we continue to grow and move forward together.    We are an amazing creature, but we cannot forget that we are, and will always be, subject to Nature’s Laws …. and so are the civilizations we build around us.

The Laws of Dichotomy and Balance:  (perhaps the most important of all the Laws which is why they’re given top billing)

Nature is always, tirelessly, constantly, and ceaselessly striving for balance.  This is because it is comprised of endless pairs of opposites:  matter/anti- matter, light/dark, positive/negative, on/off, high/low, male/female, animus/anima, ad infinitum.

There are two kinds of balance at work in Nature. We might immediately think of the scale kind of balance as in the ‘scales of justice’, similar to a teeter totter.  A scale balance is an either/or situation:   the energy on one side outweighs the other, or it is of equal weight and importance to balance perfectly.

There is also a bell curve balance, where two extremes or opposites exist but the majority of the energy falls in the middle, creating a ‘bell shape.’ This inherently makes for a flexible, more stable kind of balance.  The energy can shift slightly to one side or the other, but the system will remain viable and functioning. Since the dynamics of the bell curve balance place most of the energy in the middle, we can therefore perceive balance of this kind as belonging in the ‘middle.’ Our language is teeming with this particular terminology.  We use the term ‘middle ground’ to indicate compromise, coming to an agreement, and moving forward.  The term ‘middle class’ defines the bulk of a nation’s economic, social, and labor energy.  The wisdom of the Buddhist concept of ‘The Middle Way’ encourages moderation instead of the extremes of asceticism and self-indulgence.

Examples of both kinds of balance abound.

On a scale kind of balance, we know there had to be just the right amount of gravitational balance on our planet in order for Life to have developed; if it were slightly more or slightly less, Life could not have formed.  Atoms, the building blocks of all matter, are comprised of protons and electrons, positively and negatively charged.  This dichotomy allows them to bond together to form molecules as their charges join to balance each other out.  The wind that blows in our hair is the direct result of a low pressure system and a high pressure system meeting and striving to achieve atmospheric balance. (Incidentally, the wind is a perfect example of the benefit of Nature’s law of dichotomies:  often the struggle to achieve balance between two extremes results in the creation of…..energy.)

An example of a bell curve balance can be seen in the age distribution of any animal group, there are a few youngsters and a few oldsters (technically termed outliers), but the majority of the group is middle age.  If the energy of the system shifts too far one way or the other, let’s say there becomes an abnormally high elderly population; then Nature will ensure that a correction is made; an illness, an unusually harsh winter, or an abundance of predators so that balance is achieved once again.  This very situation is occurring in Japan in human form at present, so much so that it is affecting new marketing and sales development. For example, the industry of robotics is gaining ground as life size robots are being used as caretakers for the elderly.   It will interesting to watch this situation over the next few years to see what elements become involved in dealing with the imbalance.   In another example (perhaps not exactly a true ‘bell curve’),  Nature ensures that there is just the right balance of light and dark, warmth and cold, on most of the earth so that we enjoy an efficient cycle of seasons for growing food and sustaining our population.  Light and warmth aren’t divvied out in equal parts consistently, we only have two days labeled ‘equinox’ on our calendar, but over the course of the year, there is enough to sustain us.

Nature is obsessed with balancing the millions of dichotomies inherent in its makeup.  We humans are as subject to this peculiarity as every other part of the Universe, whether we realize it or not, it is ingrained within our very cellular structure. Our physical bodies are constantly adjusting themselves so they stay a toasty 98.6 degrees.  Bookstores are loaded with self-help sections designed to help us with something we call ‘life balance.’  We try to eat a ‘balanced diet’.  Consequently, all the things we create – our institutions, our social frameworks, our cultural elements, and even our personal lives – are subject to Nature’s law of balance.   When an imbalance occurs, whether from a germ that causes a fever in an individual, or greed that has caused a nation’s economy to become imbalanced, Nature will ensure that it is resolved.

                    Applying Nature’s Law of Balance to Economics

The foundation of the science of economics operates on the simple struggle between the dichotomy of supply and demand and the market’s ability to find a balance with the two:  neither too many widgets, nor too few; neither too high a price or too low.

National economies aren’t so simplistic however.  We can observe from history and current events that the healthiest systems operate on a bell curve balance; with some living in poverty, some living in wealth (the outliers), but the majority of the population or the “middle class” lives… in… the….middle.  This kind of economic structure works well for a number of reasons.  First, the middle class provides the backbone of a nation’s workforce:  educators, health providers, first responders, law enforcement, laborers, construction workers, and small business owners. The consequence of this means that the middle class really defines a nation’s personality as it tends to dictate cultural trends, support political movements, and operate local communities. The emerging middle class in Brazil, for instance, is having a huge effect on the evangelical church there. Brazil has typically been Roman Catholic but with a bit of financial security, the middle class is supporting a protestant movement to the tune of billions of dollars and several mega churches, causing a noticeable cultural shift in the country.  A healthy middle class also supports consumerism which keeps an economy vibrant.

For many years the United States was the epitome of a nation whose middle class was idyllic; specifically during the 60’s and early 70’s.  There were some reasons for this. Taxes were high on both corporations and individuals which meant redistribution of monies, enabling us to do achieve some great things. We invested in education which became paramount since we were striving to prove our space dominance.  Correspondingly, we were advanced in medicine and other areas of science as well.  The Cold War spawned a large military along with its research and development. We became, and still are, the largest militarized nation in the world.  Wages kept up with production which meant that the economy was expanding because the bulk of the population was able to spend what they were making.  Debt ratios were manageable. The economy was balanced according to Nature’s law. It was healthy.

Similarly, following World War II, South American nations such as Chile, Argentina, and Uruguay began a project of nationalizing indigenous resources, investing in education, transportation, and industrialization. By providing these foundational needs, these countries developed a thriving middle class which meant a balanced, healthy economy.

In both cases a disruption in economic policies caused the middle classes to shrink and national economies to grind to a halt.  In the United States the Financialization Revolution, marked by years of gradual erosion of Wall Street regulations combined with increasing control over economic policies by financial markets and corporations is largely responsible for the imbalance the US and Europe is experiencing currently.  The result has been an obvious upward shift in wealth, increased debt ratios, stagnant wages for most workers, and very little economic growth.  The bulk of our workforce energy has shifted downward from the middle, leaving us with an economically imbalanced society which will require amelioration at some point, not unlike the time of the Great Depression.

In the South American countries, politicians began to subscribe to Milton Freidman’s economic philosophy which meant privatizing national resources and drastically cutting back on social service programs A few got rich, most became poor.  Eventually the middle class disappeared and the economy became stagnant- symptoms of imbalance and illness.  National leaders were required to re-instate social programs, nationalize instead of privatize and invest again in infrastructure. The result: a gradual, but slow recovery of the economy, better balance and economic stability.(see Naomi Klein’s Shock Doctrine).

Balance is everything according to Nature and man made national economies are as subject to this premise as the wind. When the middle class disappears from a nation’s system an imbalance occurs, economies stagnate and shut down,  requiring human intervention and effective policy making in order to once again conform to Nature’s Law.


 

Next Installment of Twenty-first Century Treatise to be published February 1, 2016 where we will consider how Nature’s Law of Balance affects our personal lives and societal movements.

 


Risk

“Down upon the canvas, working meal to meal,

Waiting for a chance to pick your orange field…

See the forest there in every seed,

                              Angels in the marble waiting to be freed, just need love. “

                                                                                                                Chris Martin

 

“Was it worth it?”  The hopefulness of a positive answer was apparent in the young girl’s eyes.   It caused the older woman to hesitate for a moment, she wanted to meet that hope with its equal response, but she knew truth was required – indeed expected – so she shifted slightly in her chair and offered an honest, if vague, answer:  “It was in most ways, yes. Pursuing my passion and reaching the goal I set for myself is an accomplishment I own with deep satisfaction. The cost was high, however.”

“But was the cost worth it?  It had to be hard.” The girl pushed, she needed details.  She was willing to take the jump, give up every thing to pursue her passion, but she had to know if the risk was worth the taking.

“Painful.  It was fucking painful.” That was the honest, crass truth of it but to blurt it out would terrify her inquirer and she knew this was a critical moment for the girl.  So the older woman took a minute to deal with emotions that were always just below the surface in order to give a more measured response. Like a nagging knee injury acquired during football days, the pain left its mark on her soul.

Pain from loneliness.  There is no other kind of loneliness, she thought, than having to believe in yourself implicitly and exclusively.   Only you can see the goal; there are no lights to help you find your way.  And you can’t waiver:  people are watching, they’re waiting to say “I knew you’d fail.” Or they’re secretly wanting to see you succeed because they want to take their own risk, they need to know it can be done.

There’s pain from sacrifice.  You can seem like an asshole sometimes for having on the blinders required to realize your goal.   Material wants and personal needs are given up freely, like trinkets, at the beginning of the journey – you know you’ll miss them, you won’t know the permanent effect of their absence until you’re so far down the path the only way out is to finish the course.

There’s pain from terror.   To sacrifice security for the sake of the thing brings upon a person a kind of fear that needs constant minding.  It can drown out the voices of the next story or darken the vision of the next painting.  It can physically paralyze you if you aren’t careful. So you must always be careful.

There’s pain from pretending.   You have to hold your head high and have belief in your goal on days when you forgot why it mattered in the first place. You have to invoke a confidence in your voice, even when terror sits inside your belly; you’ll feel like a fake and a fraud and a poser.  You can’t let them see it.

There’s pain in the discipline.  To shut out the naysayers, ignore your own doubts, and stay focused when you’re bleeding and exhausted requires discipline upon a mind that begs, just once, for a reprieve.  You can never let up and you somehow kill a part of yourself in the process.  It’s fucking painful.

The old woman gave a warm smile towards the young girl, she employed that steel-like discipline to keep her voice even, her tears in check.

“It’s true that the struggle to get here has been more painful than I could’ve have bargained, more difficult than I anticipated.  But I accomplished what I believed that I was born to do and followed my passion.   I won’t deny that the cost was exorbitant, yet I’m certain I would surely take the risk again.”

The young woman weighed the words, ignored the pain she detected in the voice despite the effort to hide it, and made the commitment at that moment to take the risk and pursue her passion. She turned to lighter chit chat, then gradually, quietly left the presence of the old woman with the affirmation she sought.   Once alone, the elder wrapped her arms around herself and allowed familiar, painful, tears to flow.

The tears took only a few moments to cool upon her aged cheeks; the sensation woke her from the dream. She stayed still, keeping her eyes closed in an effort to linger in its affect:  She was so full of life when she was younger!  She acted like a barely domesticated animal whose wild instinct lie just underneath the surface.  Those eyes were so piercing!  They weren’t as bright now, she thought.  The price she paid to meet the cost of pursuing her goals had dulled them slightly but she knew they now also possessed a knowing, quiet aptitude that few acquire.  “Yes,” she admitted as she rose from her nap, “I could never have forgiven my self if I hadn’t taken the risk to follow my passion.  Even if the cost was excruciating.”

Author’s Note:  On rare occasion, the right song comes along at the right moment in life and gets a girl over a challenging bump – uh, ginormous mountain.  I was working with the idea of this piece when I happened upon Coldplay’s ‘Up and Up’ from their latest album.  The words and music cut to the deepest part of this writer and are a soothing salve to the pain of sacrifice.  Go listen to the song kids, and while you do, promise yourself you’ll never back down from pursuing your passion.  Frankie


The Misinterpretation of Hate and Anger: Instead, Passion

I’m always impressed by the enlightening I can get from the comments section of news stories.  I mean, I never knew that as an atheist I am afraid,angry, and offended; observations made regularly and accompanying some story about us contending over a coach praying at a high school football game or the ten commandments being removed from a courtroom or a cross going up somewhere on public land.

The answer is that we atheists aren’t afraid and neither are we offended. But we are passionate.  We are fervent.  We are dedicated to having a nation free from religious manacles of any kind, whether they be christian, muslim, hindu, or pastafarian, and to that end we will tirelessly address any line-crossing behavior.   We stand on the assurance that our constitution mandates a separation of church and state and passionately invoke it for the sake of our democracy.  I would ask my brothers and sisters not to confuse such passion with offense or fear, and consider that the resistance you meet from us is only as strong as your desire to cross the constitutional boundaries.   We would quietly sit in our homes and binge on Parks and Recreation if given the choice.

Angry, yes, we are angry.   I will strongly contend that our anger is justified however, and even by christian standards, righteous anger is permissible.   It’s okay to be angry when you pass a law against one religion yet you push and shove your own religion onto the national stage.  It’s okay to be angry when you promote asinine propaganda that is meant to instill fear. It’s okay to be angry when you slow down our progress as a nation by insisting on antiquated, edited, fallible texts as a foundation from which to work. It’s okay to be angry when preachers ask for a six million dollar jet while the homeless children population is steadily increasing in our own nation.  It’s okay to be angry when pedophiles are allowed back into ‘the fold’ or when abuse is systematically covered up.   You are correct about our anger, but misinterpret the direction and source of it.   We aren’t angry at a god whose probability for existing decreases with each new scientific discovery.  We are angry at your invocation of that omnipotent being in the face of greed, lies, selfishness, and ignorance; and the overall negative affect that has on our society.

We atheists will be passionate about maintaining the clearly drawn lines between personal belief and public interactions.  But do not mistake that for fear or offense.  I’ll agree that we are angry, but do not mistake its origins; righteous anger is permissible when injustice is blatant.

Now you have my comments on the comments section, here’s to enlightenment for us all.   😉

In peace, as always,

Frankie

 


No Religion: What’s to Believe In?

As we continue to progress as a species, more of us human beings are stepping from the dark archaic belief systems of religion to the bright confidence of knowledge afforded us by science.   But the shift from religion to non begs some questions:  What do we do with ourselves?  Where do we put our energy?  What’s to believe in? What becomes our focus?

From my humble perspective, it kind of seems that a default focus would be nationalism; belief in one’s nation and attention to its politics and social/economic issues.  From my humble perspective, we could use a boost in national attention to politics and social/economic issues.   But there lies a danger of jingoism, unabashed love for one’s country without regard for other nations, fervent almost blind belief that ‘my country is the best’.  In a time when we face global challenges such as health epidemics and climate change, we can’t really allow ourselves the pleasure of arrogance.  We must be able to cooperate, to admit that maybe another nation is doing something right and we might consider adjusting our own perceptions.  We are bound together by this planet and its natural laws, we have to work with one another in order to keep our species viable.  While some of our new found energy can and should be focused on national issues, it is necessary to strike a balance with how much energy we invest in our country – there are bigger ideas to focus on as well.

I heartily contend that the biggest idea should be humanism – a focus on mankind and our path of past, present, and future, our connection with one another as dictated by nature’s laws.  If we think about it, we only, always, have each other; and though cultures vary we cannot deny our bloodline and the truth that we are all brothers and sisters.  I believe we owe a certain amount of attention to our race based on this sole premise, with the spirit that we are inherently obligated as human beings to look out for our siblings. As mentioned above, our modern age forces us to examine physical global issues and international cooperation is paramount to finding solutions to these issues.   A humanist focus allows us to set aside cultural prejudices and adopt cooperative attitudes based upon the assumption that we’re all in this together.

Science appears to be the common ground for us all and I’ll assert that the growth of humanism will include many elements of the discipline.   Two plus two will always equal four and no matter where we go in the world we can speak that language to anyone. I am not claiming that science has all the answers although I’m close to agreeing with many modern thinkers who believe it does.  It certainly answers our questions best and provides a universal language with which we can speak to one another, culture set aside.   Besides providing a common language science provides a foundation for finding common solutions to the challenges we face together.  The discipline is a perfect fit with the tenants of humanism.

I’ll even go out on a limb and demonstrate that we already have a vision for the melding of science and humanism and how they work together by invoking the genre of science fiction film and writings.  There are several examples where science fiction has remarkably portended the future as far as gadgets and inventions are concerned.   Even George Orwell was prescient enough to understand that an entirely new language would evolve under political pressures.   Using science fiction as a barometer for the way humanistic tendencies might emerge, one finds an astonishing body of work that illustrates how political and even personal decisions are made based upon available evidence and facts instead of mystical, archaic texts. Pay attention next time you tune into Star Trek, or Dr. Who, or The Fifth Element.

We’ve come a long ways since the days when science and religion walked the same path of curiosity together, searching for answers to the same questions.   At some point their paths split and one has gone on to answer those questions with solid evidence.   As we continue to progress as a species and more of us also leave the anachronistic beliefs behind, we are faced with the necessity of filling the void.   Humanism does so with a neat and comfortable fit.  Here’s to our future and the place that Humanism has within it.

Yours,

Frankie


Cycle Bound

Every thing is cycle bound.

The sun is burning, churning out atomic warmth powerful enough to induce life on a barren land far away. Omniscient enough to provide the light required to produce energy, food for every living being.  A star, born in the fire of our universal beginnings, its days are numbered in accordance with the delicate balance of its core. Then, blast!, a nova, a white dwarf corpse. Finite. But billions of years worth of life.

There is the rock I hold in my hand. Millions of years of layers I can feel with my fingertips, see with my eyes.  What tales they could tell!  Forged by the pressure of nature, it will be ripped apart by wind and rain; or lapped up by the ocean, dragged down to the depths where it’s forced under a tectonic plate, melted there like Sauron’s Ring and spewed out again someday to become a layered trifle once more. Finite.  But millenniums worth of life.

Every thing is cycle bound.

The tree that gives me shade has been for hundreds of years now.  Her branches reach out then follow gravity down, providing a canopy that gives more than one kind of soul shelter from the rain.   Her rings would belie her age and give away her years of famine, years of plenty.   She would fall one day, becoming one again with the earth that fed her, to feed another.  Finite.  But centuries worth of life.

A human life resounds as well, with decades as boundaries for its duration.  We pass on our genetics, but more.  We create, make things out of other things, pull characters and pictures out of thin air, we reason and analyze, progress, advance.  Until the body wears down and its soul departs for an unknown existence.  Finite. But decades worth of life.

Every thing is cycle bound.

Man’s best friend fills a place in our soul like no other and if we’re lucky we get a dozen or so years of unmitigated affection. A companionship that mystifies and deeply satisfies, a love story of the profound kind. A partnership imperative to both parties; total mutual dependence.  And then a limp, a slowing down, a greying muzzle. Finite.  But years worth of life.

Bees, like the bearing beam to a house, support the weight of a specific niche in the ecosystem. Our lives rely on their consistent ability to pollinate. Because of them we eat; fruit, nuts, and vegetables.  Queens may live three to four years, workers live for months; days compared to other cycles, yet crucial days they are. Finite.  But days worth of life.

Every thing is cycle bound.

Millenniums or centuries. Decades or days.  Every thing is cycle bound. Perpetual motion, beautiful in its own way.


In the Beginning…

in the beginning

Taken 09/04/2015 sunrise over Lassen Peak.

Oh to watch the Sun rise!

To welcome the new day with him.

Me with my coffee, he with his light,

Enjoy the silent morning together

in each other’s confidence.

Without words, yet with mutual understanding,

We together agree:

This!  This is where life meets its purpose!

At the beginning of each day,

At the start of the gate,

At the commencement of exercise.

“Anything of importance,”

He reminds me with solemn quiet,

“Is accomplished with the first ray of light

and the initial commitment of will.”

Oh to watch the Sun rise!