Tag Archives: life choices

The Laws of Dichotomy and Balance

Installment 1 of 21st Century Treatise.


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 model, as in the ‘scales of justice’, similar to a teeter totter. A scale balance is an either/or situation: the energy on one side significantly outweighs the energy of other side, and we get a lopsided situation; or the energy is of equal weight on either side and balances perfectly. There’s no middle ground with the scale model of balance.

There is also a bell curve model of 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 of the spectrum, we can therefore perceive balance of this kind as belonging in the ‘middle.’ (Interestingly, our language is teeming with references to this ‘middle’ balance kind of model. We use the term ‘middle ground’ to indicate compromise, balancing opposite opinions if you will, 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 or self-indulgence.)

Examples of both models of balance abound in Nature.

On a scale model 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 possess the dichotomy of positively and negatively charged protons and electrons. This dichotomy allows them to bond together to form molecules as their charges attract to each other to achieve balance. The wind that tousles our hair is the direct result of a low pressure system and a high pressure system meeting and striving to achieve atmospheric balance.

An example of a bell curve model of 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 we begin to see problems within the working model. In Japan, for instance, the growing elderly population is affecting the development of robotics. Since there are fewer caretakers than elderly, life size robots are being used as a substitute. In the US, the retiring Baby Boomer generation is leaving an imbalance in job fields such as engineering and electrical specialists since there aren’t enough younger people trained in these areas. It is also straining our Social Security and public retirement systems, which means funds to keep roads maintained or hire more staff for forest upkeep or open another sheriff’s position are compromised. Our current resources, both monetary and labor, are scarce due to an imbalance in retired citizens.

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, in fact it is ingrained within our very cellular structure. The membranes of our cells are careful ‘gatekeepers,’ allowing only a certain amount of fluid in or out to maintain homeostasis – balance. If Nature’s Law of Balance matters at microscopic levels, then it’s not much of a leap to understand that even the things we create: our institutions, our social frameworks, our cultural elements, and even our personal lives – are subject to the same Natural Law. 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 to a balanced system. That’s Her thing.

It’s not always a smooth process to achieve balance. High/Low pressure systems can produce some nasty, damaging storms. Social balance is difficult to attain if one group refuses to give up control or privilege, as seen during the Civil Rights movement in the US. National economic imbalance places undue, extreme hardship on a country’s citizens who eventually push back against the policies that created the imbalance, the storming of the Bastille, for example. Here’s the glitch about achieving balance: the process is often violent. As severe weather storms can sometimes incur human casualties, often the restoration of social/political/economic balance comes at the cost of human life as well.

Balance is one of the most obvious Laws of Nature for us to observe, but we often miss the principle that our social constructs are as subject to this dynamic as any other. Take a moment today after reading a news article to reflect on the influence of this important Law. Does the article relate to some nuanced issue of balance? Consider the many situations the Law of Balance affects our lives. Don’t we strive to balance our work / home lives each day? Finally, understand that we can make good decisions based on the actions of this Law, both personally and nationally.

Thank you for reading. Next in this series: The Law of Balance applied to Economics.

Peace,

Frankie


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

 

 

 

 

 


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.


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.

 


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!


Planking and Editing: Discipline Through Exercise

Who knew that planking and editing have their similarities?

I didn’t, at least not until I added the former to my exercise regime.   After four babies wreaked havoc on my lower lumbar system, I’m always on the lookout for anything to keep my back muscles strong.  Enter planking, that horrible exercise invented by the devil himself (after he thought up wall sits).  If anyone has been able to do a plank for a full two minutes their very first time, they have my undying respect (as it is, three weeks in, I am up to a minute thirty).  Planking is work, it’s grueling, but it’s definitely effective.   Within just a few days I noticed a sense of overall physical strength and – bonus! – the arms I inherited from my grandma have never looked better.

If planking was invented by the devil, then I’m pretty sure editing was invented by his archangel.  Editing is work, it’s grueling, but it’s definitely effective. The discipline involved is not unlike the focus it takes to keep upright on arms and toes for one hundred twenty seconds. It takes focus.  It takes a will of mind that can only be activated by one’s own choosing.  Think of those beautiful passages, full of poetic prose, close to your writer’s heart because, damn, who have you ever read that compares the sunrise to the opening of a sunflower with color descriptions that would make Robert Frost cry?  During the editing process, its those precious paragraphs that must be excised.  Taken out.  Highlight, ctrl x. They don’t belong no matter how many minutes you spent finding the terms for differing shades of yellow and orange.  This is the kind of discipline editing requires (similar to planking) where focus is paramount for a successful outcome, but it’s absolutely worth the effort.   That lean, streamlined, strong manuscript you submit to your publisher is the reward – not to mention the overall strength you’ll acquire as a writer (bonus!).

Editing is one of those things that we don’t necessarily dream about when first committing to a writing career.  We envision our name on the best seller list or at the bottom of a book cover.  We are excited to get that story out of our heads, give it life, and make it breath for our readers. But few of us realize the discipline involved with the editing process until the first work is done and we begin to cut, paste, and delete. It’s tempting to be generous to ourselves and our cherished prose, but we must enforce strict self-control in order to achieve the strongest possible outcome.

Have a great week kids, write something, and here’s to discipline – on and off the page.

Yours, Frankie