Sunday, October 25, 2020

Choices, Choices

Starting a sentence with 'If only ...' makes me cringe these days. Trusting my instincts is the best way to avoid that. 

For every big choice we make there are a multitude of small, seemingly insignificant, ones. In the past I have tended to agonize over those big ones for a long time, but once my mind was made up, I didn't look back (well, not too much, anyway). 

Small decisions are easily, almost haphazardly, made but they are often the most important in retrospect. 

Driving a car provides such small important decisions. Drive quickly and you might get to your destination faster or you might be in an accident. Of course, if you drive slowly, you might just as likely cause or be part of an accident. Either way, an accident is the least likely consequence, yet the difference between being here or there affects what happens to you and others around you from that time onward. 

Thinking about those sort of small decisions seems pointless - the consequences seem beyond our control. Yet, we do make those choices and our mood often plays a huge part in them. Anger might cause us to be aggressive in our choices. If we are distracted with other concerns we might drive slowly and carelessly. No matter what, we must pay attention to the road. Before driving it is wise to calm yourself - if you can. In fact, I think having a calm mind, as much as possible, is a key to success in general. 

I believe that following your instincts when choosing a course of action tends to work out well more often than not. There are casually instinctive choices and insistent choices - feelings that I ought to do something in particular right now. When I am calm, not distracted by other things, there is an internal guidance system available, and it works through those feelings. 

Ok, I know that sounds weird, believing in guidance in such small things, but when you think about it, if those small choices are really important, then trusting yourself, believing in some guided part inside, is a very good idea. 

In Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, Harry wins a vial of Felix Felicis a.k.a. Liquid Luck, a potion that gives the drinker good luck in all their endeavours. In the story, Harry pretends to put some in Ron's pumpkin juice just before heading out to play Quidditch. Ron plays a perfect game, but we find out that there was no potion in the juice. It was Ron's confidence that all his choices would be good ones that made him better. 

Making choices, confident that you have done the best you can, might be the very best way to live. Even if/when things don't go as well as you hope, you are less likely to second-guess yourself. When things don't go my way, I can rationalize the way things went by thinking 'I did my best'. That way, I never have cause to start a sentence with 'If only ... '. 

Sunday, August 30, 2020

It Works for Me

It has always been my credo for blogging - say what has worked for me, but never suggest it is good for everyone. 

Naturally, because it has worked for me, an idea seems like something to pass along. Yet I believe the best part of learning something is in the process where learning happens. 

It's all about 
the journey

Recently, I've been trying to find how to do something to reduce the size of my over-large front and, hopefully, lose some weight at the same time. 
For years others have made suggestions - vegan, low calorie, low carbs, high protein, and the list goes on. 
Clearly, I wasn't ready to listen. I wasn't ready to deal with the problem myself. In point of fact, having someone else tell me what to do hasn't often created long-lasting changes for me. 

After a lot of commiseration with a good friend in the same situation, we discussed a particular book that she had read and its cookbook, which I had purchased and put on a shelf. We promised each other that we would stop whining about the issue and do something about it.

To illustrate the change in approach, here is the recipe I shared almost five months ago in the post Food, Glorious Food!
Old Fashioned Baked Beans

If you compared this recipe to the one given in April, you would notice two changes - the number of servings is given and a nutritional facts sheet is included, courtesy of VeryWellFit

In the past two weeks I have done a lot of research. A spreadsheet has been created to keep track of what I eat and its nutritional value. Not surprisingly, much of what I am learning relates to what those advice-givers of the past were trying to persuade me to accept. But this time I am absorbing the ideas at my pace as I need them. 

What I like is that in the process of making a spreadsheet and keeping track, I have become more aware of my own behaviours (eating wise and otherwise) and can make better decisions on the fly because of it. 

I know this is helping me, but I am certain that if I was to share that spreadsheet, it would do little good for anyone who hasn't followed the same path as I. This is something that I needed and that means it is good for me

It is fun making new recipes, and looking again at old recipes, while at the same time adding nutritional information to them. I have fun designing spreadsheets and adding features as I learn new things. 

The reason I posted is to promote the message at the top. Whatever you do, I hope you do it because you think it is the right thing to do. I hope it is a well-informed choice that you make, but above all, make it your choice and not something some expert, self-appointed or otherwise, has told you to do.

That is what has worked for me. 

Saturday, August 15, 2020

How Will I Forgive Myself?

A time of increased isolation is the very worst and the very best of times for someone who, as I do, examines her life constantly. Worst, because I have enough unoccupied time for memories of certain events and the remorse they bring to haunt me. Best, because it has forced me to meet those feelings head on. 

Remorse is a bad thing to carry around. Yes, I mean remorse, not its sometime companion, guilt. Both have to do with what has happened in the past and how one has acted but, in the case of remorse, there is no belief that you are an evil person because of those actions or inactions. 

I feel remorse because I wish there had been different outcomes during events in my past - events where what I said was not as well thought out as it could have been. Yes, in some cases those outcomes might have been different had other participants' actions been different, but this is about me. It isn't about blame. Everyone did what we believed to be right - at the time. In some cases, I even feel remorse for not getting angry at the way things were unfolding and giving the problem a chance to be cleared up. I have to accept the sort of person I was in the past. 

K gets a bit upset with me when she catches me second-guessing myself, reminding me "you cannot go back". Not only is going back impossible, in the case of the actions that haunt me sometimes, I cannot even act in the present to heal the rifts that were caused. Many of those involved are now dead - a curse of getting older I suppose. I have to get on with living in the here-and-now and to do that I must forgive myself. 

Self-forgiveness is different from making excuses. It is about accepting what was done. It requires a change of heart that reflects awareness of my failings. 

By forgiving myself and others, when those memories return, I can let them wash over me with acceptance and a feeling that lessons have been learned. I am not that person now and, hopefully, the way I act in the present might lead to fewer feelings of remorse in the future. 

Wednesday, August 5, 2020


Why are some songs so catchy and others so forgettable? More to the point, why do some songs come, unbidden, to play over and over in our heads? I’ve heard these called various things ... ear-worms, sticky music, … my favourite, coined by a musical friend is hum-clinger. 

Where do ear-worms come from? The term stuck-song syndrome would seem to indicate that there is a pathology involved and certainly when you have one it can drive you quite crazy. My suspicion is that dreams and ear-worms come from the same place in the mind. It might be the same place where ideas are generated and, like dreams, these pieces of music that pop into our head could indicate something about our concerns or desires of the moment. 

The best way I’ve found to rid myself of an ear-worm is to find a temporary replacement that I know will go away - The Stars and Stripes Forever is a favourite of mine.

Great composers, like John Phillip Sousa, composer of The Star and Stripes among many other memorable marches, were masters of the use of repetition and development of a musical phrase. Beethoven was ‘the’ master of repetition and development. His Fifth Symphony is, perhaps, the very best example, and a frequent ear-worm for me. Those four notes in the pattern da-da-da-dahhhhh appear over and over throughout the piece. 

Songwriters who are successful are aware of the phenomenon of a song becoming popular because of repetition of both rhythm and melody. Some refer to it as the hook. As well, in a song, words can be repeated and emphasized using rhythm, making the song unforgettable ... like this one sung and played by an unforgettable artist. 

Saturday, August 1, 2020

A Teachable Moment Lost

I want to be as generous as possible here. One could easily get cynical about a place where they use washing machines as a measure of volume. 

A sinkhole roughly the size of six to seven washing machines has closed the northbound lanes of State Line Road near 100th Street in Kansas City, Missouri

A sinkhole roughly the size of six to seven washing machines has closed the northbound lanes of State Line Road near 100th Street in Kansas City, Missouri

In fairness, it would be worth mentioning that if you want people to be able to relate to the news in the 15 seconds you give them on television, a familiar way of describing makes good sense. We shouldn't  blame 41 Action News - it isn’t their job to educate. Their only job is to get the viewer's attention long enough so you will still be watching as they cut to a commercial break and pay the bills. 

Being me,  I cannot help but think that if they used square metres or even square yards, it might stimulate some younger viewers to care what that meant. It might give them some knowledge of the way things work. Heaven forbid, it might make them want to know more about how to measure things.

Sinkholes happen everywhere in the world - being proud that you hate science and mathematics is not a universal characteristic ... yet. Happily. 

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

For your enjoyment ... somewhat related, but not closely ... 

Tuesday, July 21, 2020

Beauty in a Storm

Today I was browsing through YouTube and stumbled upon a sermon of all things (since my settings do not lean toward topics religious), and found myself listening to it: David Brooks' Sunday sermon at Washington National Cathedral, July 5, 2020.

Maybe I was drawn to it because I have just finished re-reading one book and am slowly re-reading another that have large sections devoted to descriptions of life in the time of Jesus' ministry. It was a violent time in that land. If you heard someone preaching to the common folk, it was more than likely vitriol tossed at the Roman occupiers. Into that, came Jesus with a message of love; so incongruous.

Perhaps I felt I had to keep listening to the sermon because it has seemed to me that a country I have admired all my life is imploding - so sad to watch. I cannot see a way out for them.

The sermon was given by a columnist, but very clearly, too, by one who loves Jesus and what Jesus stood for. Brooks also obviously loves his country. I cannot imagine him as ultra right wing in his faith or nationalism. Yet here is a steady faith in both, and, especially, in love as a way to get past this storm. 

I think I like him very much.

Some quotes from this sermon:

"When you see Jesus through the Jerusalem lens, the Beatitudes are even more astounding. In the midst of conflict, here was another way, another path, a higher serenity. They were an inversion of values. They were beauty in the storm."

"... in storms, it seems we have two systems of response. We have the normal bodily response, which is fight or flight, fear and anger. But another style of response emerges from our souls."

"On one level, these acts of beauty and pure gift and loving care are radically illogical. They are vulnerability in the face of danger. They are gentleness in the midst of bitterness. They are compassion in the midst of strife, but these are the acts that have the power to shock. These are the acts that have the power to open hearts. These are the acts that have a power to shock a revolution in our culture and in our consciousness."

"We don’t get to choose our condition. We do get to choose our response."

Thursday, May 7, 2020

Is That All There Is?

For a very long time I have been interested in the mind-brain connection and the answer to the question above. I was convinced that the mind had to be separate from the brain in some way. If not, how can we imagine (and I do imagine and am far from alone) that there is more than just this life? Yet, how do we explain that we are more than what we see? As George Lucas wrote for his character Yoda, "Luminous beings are we, not this crude matter." *

Every bit of research reinforces the view that, for our body, this is all there is. Brain studies show that when a part of our brain is damaged, by physical means, or more gradually by age or disease, our character changes as well. Those who have seen the effects of dementia on their loved ones know this all too well.

Yesterday my son pointed me to a podcast** of the NPR (National Public Radio in the USA) program Radiolab with the clever and meaningful title Unraveling Bolero. The story is about two artists, Maurice Ravel, composer of Bolero, a highly repetitive, popular piece of orchestral music from the later part of his life's work, and Anne Adams, who in her forties quit her career as a research scientist to embrace creativity in another direction - visual art. Without giving too much away, because the podcast is very well done (as are all of the Radiolab programs), both Ravel and Adams died from complications arising from progressive aphasia. Ravel's composing of Bolero and Adams' sudden embracing of the visual arts were early symptoms of deterioration in brain function.

I have been thinking a lot recently about a dream from very early childhood when I had no filter to tell me it was silly or impossible. This particular dream (I remember several) was of a time before my birth. "I" had agreed to leave a place where I knew everything in order to accept nothingness followed by life as a person in Canada in 1952. In the experience "I" agreed to do this because there was a potential to accomplish some important goal.

If we don't dismiss this dream as fantasy (and I don't) then it seems to contradict the belief that mind is something generated by our brain. Or does it? Is it possible that the Yoda quote above is close to the mark? Perhaps we (the body and brain we carry about) are host to a spirit that joins us as we are conceived, comes along for the ride, so to speak, and, finally, after this body dies, carries on in some way taking the essence of what was experienced.

It might be that the connection we often feel to the divine is an artifact of this hosting process that each of us participates in. In a very real way, we are connected to a higher power, and this is only a small glimpse into how large a connection it is, and what the nature of that higher power might be.

*Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (1980)


Thursday, April 16, 2020

An Exalted Folly

The following was published as part of the liner notes for Herbie Mann - the Evolution of Mann in 1972:


Music is a strange and useless thing.
It doesn't offer cover from the storm.
It doesn't (really) ease the sting of living; nor nourish us, nor keep us warm. 
And men expend their lives in search of sound, and by their swift illusions to 
confound the heart with fleeting and evasive joys. 
Yet I am full of quaking gratitude
that this exalted folly still exists,
that in an age of cold computer mood, a piper can still whistle in the mists.
The notes are pebbles falling into time.
How sweetly mad it is, 
and how sublime.

Friday, April 10, 2020


Just before all the isolation began, K and I were interviewed by a nutritionist as part of a check-up. She was quite impressed that we rarely have any prepared foods, tending instead to use fresh ingredients where possible, and cooking our own meals from scratch. She even asked for the treacle flapjack recipe! Perhaps that will be another post, but today, at the risk of having a blog of mine evolve into a food blog, I want to share a recipe we have for a favourite side dish that can be a stand-alone meal - Baked Beans. 

Growing up, we both enjoyed brown beans. They came from a can with Heinz written on it. If I'd known then what I know now ... ah well. I do know now and making my own pot of baked beans is so easy, and the meal so tasty - why spend so much money for something that is a really cheap and delicious meal? 

South of the border these are known as Boston Baked Beans. I suppose that comes from one of the major ingredients; molasses. Molasses is a derivative of sugar cane (imported through the port of Boston at one time) and a by-product from the production of rum. It is a sweetener, but could replaced by, oh say, maple syrup ... hmm ... At any rate, I am using an original recipe with some very small changes that I've found work to improve the flavour and texture. More experiments will follow, since there is great pleasure to be found in attempting the perfection of a recipe! 

The main ingredient is the humble bean - a pulse as the food folk like to say. In this case, we need white pea beans, sometimes called navy beans. Canada is a major grower of legumes of all sorts, and a pilgrimage to Hensall, Ontario might be in order ... it is the white bean capital of Canada

Making baked beans all begins by washing the dried beans in cold water; then, in a pot with lots of water, boiling the beans to soften them. After they have boiled for 30 minutes in the morning, I let them sit all day and overnight. In the original recipe I have, the beans are soaked for a day, then boiled just before mixing them with the other ingredients. I have found that boiling twice actually softens the beans better, and you must soften them before baking - they don't get any more tender in the oven. 

The beans alone are bitter, and otherwise tasteless, so some peppy ingredients are now added to give them the characteristic flavour of baked beans. Here is the recipe I've been using and massaging for a while now. 

So here is the pot, water drained off and set aside. The tasty ingredients have been added, and once mixed will be poured into the dutch oven, on top of the onion slices, ready for the reserved water and bacon to be added. 

I expect you could leave the bacon off, if that was your choice, but it does add to the comfort-food aspect that baked beans evokes. 

You can see the bowl of reserved liquid. As the beans bake all day the smell tells you that some of that liquid is escaping.

Don't let your beans get dried out as they cook. The sauce is a wonderful part of this meal.

If the reserved cooking liquid gets used up, plain water will do nicely.

For more on the history of baked beans, I recommend this article by The Old Foodie, where we learn that baked beans are part of that classic - the full English breakfast! I also love the idea that when the French came to North America, they adapted their cassoulet recipes to match the available ingredients. Mmm, ... cassoulet! I think there is a recipe here somewhere ...

What is better than cooking wonderful food? 

Eating wonderful food. 

Peameal Bacon (Canadian bacon for my friends from the south), and Baked Beans! 

Sunday, April 5, 2020

Adventures in Staying Healthy

It is becoming clear that many will remember this winter and spring as the time we woke up to the reality of global pandemics. I have seen several articles that give good reasons to believe that this will not be the last of these. It is clear the way we do things will change permanently because of the way we have had to adjust to stay healthy and to help others who are vulnerable do the same. 

Sadly, it is clear that many thought it would be business as usual for far too long. In some cases, people used half-measures, and that didn't work out well either. For example, not far from us, in a relatively small and remote community, twenty-two (at last news report) residents and the spouse of a resident of a sixty-five bed nursing home have died from COVID-19. As well, at least twenty-four staff members there are also infected. Somehow this disease got into a facility that should have been a safe haven for the most vulnerable. If it can happen there, we all need to do as we are being instructed - stay home as much as possible.

On a lighter note, living in a time of a health crisis doesn't mean that other health concerns end, even mundane ones. Some computer likely deserves the credit for keeping track of such a thing, but it was a human who took the time to phone and tell me that I have an appointment for a mammogram next month. It seems likely that I will have a follow-up call  in the next few weeks telling me the appointment is postponed, but at least they are carrying on the business of taking care of our health in general. 

At the very best, some of us can see this as an adventure; we stayed home and entertained ourselves in new ways. Hopefully we didn't gain too much weight. 

At the worst ... the worst is unspeakable.

K and I have been keeping busy - not just entertained. Being really engaged in some activity is important for good mental health. Most days, while we aren't working on a nasty jig-saw puzzle, K is downstairs in her office working on family genealogy while I am upstairs with the girls (three miniature dachshunds) making sure they know everything is ok. Generally my time is filled with cross-stitching and cooking. I'm trying to give us a variety of meals to make up for a lack of variety otherwise. It is an interesting challenge to plan for a once-a-week grocery outing. While K is keeping the girls company, and cross-stitching, I head to the music room to practice. 

In the area of entertainment is the vast number of videos available online. I love to learn so history or science or music is keeping my mind busy as I do these other things. 

Of interest to those who like classical music would be the recent addition online of the Keeping Score videos by the San Fransisco Symphony and their director Michael Tilson Thomas. Below is a link to their YouTube channel. There you can see the full list of composers and pieces that have been featured. Each of the four I've listened to so far has a full performance at the end of the program, with interesting background insights at the beginning. They aren't short, but they are very well produced - fascinating for anyone with a love of music. 

Thursday, March 26, 2020

A New Game

I think most of us have nights where a disturbing dream keeps coming back over and over. You wake up, and when you drift off, there it is again, turning rest into restlessness.

In my dream, I am working on a sudoku puzzle. But it is clear that it is a waste of time - no matter what I try, I can't make headway toward a solution. So, like any smart game player, I chose to start a new game. Yet when I look at the new game it is the same one that I've been struggling with - that same unsolvable game that has been making me miserable.

What a relief to wake up! It is morning so I am not tempted to try to sleep any longer.

Ok how about this: No more billionaires. None.
After you reach $999 million, every
red cent goes to schools and health care.
You get a trophy that says, "I won capitalism"
and we name a dog park after you. 
Then I realize that, in this wide-awake world, there is a puzzle that I and many others have been trying to solve for years, and it isn't a sudoku. But there is a parallel to the dream. No matter what we do, it is always there, and we can't  hit reset or wake up. It is the puzzle of how to make sense of a world where so much seems like a big game. The game we have been put into that, up until recently it seemed, had no winners.

Interestingly, this game does have a restart button. A pandemic that is not just killing people; it is changing people's lives in other ways. Keeping us from loved ones, who are sometimes sick and dying. It is keeping some home and it is keeping some far away at a job that is essential. There are people who need medical attention for other reasons than the virus, but cannot get it until the medical community has the time and resources to do anything other than help those who are infected. The list of those in pain goes on and on. 

Seen from a different perspective, this pandemic is shuffling the cards. It is dealing, what could be, the first new hand we have had in a long time.

As U.S. president Abraham Lincoln said to his congress in a time of crisis in his nation:

"Fellow-citizens, we cannot escape history. We of this Congress and this administration, will be remembered in spite of ourselves. No personal significance, or insignificance, can spare one or another of us. The fiery trial through which we pass, will light us down, in honor or dishonor, to the latest generation."

And so, politicians are showing their true colours. Some are sinking to new depths. Their habitual swagger of overconfidence is leading them to say and do foolish things. Others are listening to advisors who are getting the best facts for them. Hopefully, voters won't forget the sort of leadership their heads of state and even local leaders showed, in this time when strong and positive leadership is essential.

There are so many examples of responses that surprise. So much that is wonderful. Some things that just make you shake your head.

Is it possible this pandemic is the world hitting restart?

Friday, March 20, 2020

You Can Take the Educator out of the Classroom

Over the years when I was an active teacher, there were a lot of my students who would tell me they were thinking of becoming a teacher. When they asked for advice, what they got back was a variation on a theme that went like this: "If you feel being a teacher is something you must do, then don't let anyone talk you out of it. We need more good teachers."

I have often seen 'being a teacher' as a character type (I almost wrote 'character flaw'). Teaching isn't only a profession - it is a calling. So, even though I haven't been a part of a class for three years now, I still know that I am a teacher and, likely, always will be.

This is never so evident as when there is what we in the profession call "the teachable moment". This is the occasion when a situation arises, or a question is asked, which makes a particular bit of learning glaringly useful and easily learned if dealt with immediately. Even if it isn't on the curriculum, a good teacher will take advantage of that teachable moment, trying their best to teach their charges that especially relevant bit of knowledge. 

The crisis in the world right now is presenting a series of highly teachable moments. All the good teachers are just itching to be useful by helping everyone (including themselves) become better informed. 

Please make allowances for the people in your community who are, or were, teachers. When they see what is going on, and how desperately some are trying to make sense of it all, the teachers among us will want to make sure the message is one that helps and doesn't hurt. The teachers will want everyone to be strong and to think for themselves - to get information that is useful, not misleading. 

So, check your sources ... footnote those essays. In other words, let's all get through this better than we went in, please. 

Tuesday, March 17, 2020

Ripe For the Picking

When I was a younger and somewhat naive person, someone taught me a really important lesson, unintentionally. The person was grooming me; slowly and carefully building up my trust. When I figured out what was going on, I backed away very slowly, so that they would think I hadn't figured them out, but was simply too busy to carry on the relationship they had in mind. I was lucky to not be hurt seriously.

If you survive something like that, you might go on in life never being able to trust anyone again, I suppose. In my case, it has made me very aware of manipulation, no matter how slight. 

In the previous post here, I wrote about what I see as an appallingly short attention span by folks when they scan social media, and its connection to my withdrawal from platforms like Face-Book. One of the main reasons for that post, and this one, is a shiver up my spine - a shiver of fear that signals danger from manipulative people, organizations, or worse, foreign governments.  

Much too often I have seen some political or social commentary posted and have checked the 'facts' independently, only to find that the whole article was built upon fabrications. So-called authorities being quoted didn't say any such thing, for instance. 

In my previous post, we saw how a slick presentation, referring vaguely to 'a study' can make you confident that something that you suspect to be true has, in fact, been proven. 

This sort of 'error' is not always unintentional. What is worse, however, is that gullible, but well-meaning folks repost and comment on the lies. I might have done it myself! They fall into the trap of those who want us to feel part of a social movement for change ... they are participating in their own grooming. 

During this pandemic, more people will be relying on soundbites and catchy articles for guidance. How can anyone manage to make sure that there is truth in what we read or see on social media?

I can't shake that feeling that we are being groomed. 

~ Ripe for the picking ~

Who is in charge of the harvest?

I am not alone in wondering this, of course:

Sunday, March 15, 2020

A Land of Confusion

For some time I have been backing away from what has been called social media. I like blogging, but ...

Blogs are Way too much trouble
for some to read.

Reading the newspaper used to be a real pleasure; a daily encounter with clever people who knew how to turn a phrase. Sadly, that seems to be changing. 

It isn’t the paucity of good writing in blogs or newspapers that bothers me. It is that people just can't be bothered to read it seems! 

"It's BORING!!"

 It seems the attention span of the population has … oh, wait!! Are you still there????

Did you know that a study found that the average human attention span is now shorter than a goldfish’s? It says so here.

What could this mean for the future?? 

It might mean … the media that is the best at holding your attention might not be something that is meaningful, but something that is slick! And visual. 

All of this actually seems to make sense, but wait - there is a kicker.

There is no such study! 

The BBC went looking for it, and in their article "Busting the Attention Span Myth", they exposed it as missing in action. 

In my next post, I will explore this topic a bit longer, without the interest-catching/holding graphics.

Maybe you came down to see what video I chose … hope you did, because it an oldie and a goodie! 

Thursday, March 5, 2020

Spiritual Thinking

Anyone who has read through the collection of early writings (ideas transcribed from the late 1980s mostly) that are on this site will know that I embrace spirituality. For me, there has to be more than what we see and experience, and that 'more' has to do with an inner self.

This inner part, a soul - if you like - can, if we permit it, help to guide us through life. The advantage of that inner guide is an absence of that part of human nature which constantly looks for gratification - the ego, if you will.

As an illustration of how that works for me in practice, there is musical performance. Someone who is full of desire to make others notice and praise them will get inordinately nervous when they are going to play or sing in front of others. I remember being that sort of person. I now find that it is more important for me to express an inner vision of that music when playing (I don't sing these days). Making a mistake is not a tragedy (oh dear, they must think I'm terrible), but, instead, part of a path to eventually expressing the phrase or piece in an internalized, ideal way. I don't get any more nervous when someone is listening than I do any other time I work on that music. My focus is the music.

At one time, I found it necessary to seem to embrace Christianity. My children were young and there was pressure from some in the family to 'raise them in a Christian home'. I agreed that we should attend a local church. We would all go to church until the children were of an age to be confirmed. At that point, I felt, it would be their choice whether to continue in that church or any other. As it turned out, neither of them now attend a church. Whether they self-identify as Christian now is their business. I do not.

Why am I not a Christian? Some have written whole books on this subject. Bertrand Russell is likely the most notable of these. I am no Russell, so I will keep this short. I believe that the roots of Christianity were as laudable as any other spiritual endeavour. What seems to me to be the problem with Christianity is that it is a religion.

A set of personal beliefs doesn't have to be a religion. In fact, a personal, deeply-felt set of beliefs is what I embrace. Religions, on the other hand, must be codified and followed, well, religiously. For a religion to remain in its pure state, a priesthood must exist. Followers must be protected from straying from the religion's pure set of ideals. There becomes a we and a they. We are not like they are, implying that we are better than they. This is all meant to feed the ego. "You are now baptized. You belong, with all the rights and responsibilities that membership gives you."

Now, I know, I have an axe to grind, just a bit, on the subject of religious belief. There are people whom I cared about (who am I fooling ... I still care about them) who felt it was impossible to be a friend of a 'person like me'. I seem to have broken at least two important rules of their religion: violating my body and marrying someone of the same gender. 

How do they know these things are wrong? They just know. The leadership of their religion says so. What do they feel personally about these things? I'm not sure they know the answer because they don't think for themselves. They are told what to think, so they can stay in their church and be acceptable to their faith. Rant over.

Seth Andrews is the author of Deconverted: A Journey from Religion to Reason. The video below would be of interest to those who wonder what it is like to be highly-devoted to a religion and, then, seemingly suddenly, abandon all of that. I do wish some of my friends and relatives could undergo such an intervention. It would be lovely to know what they feel and what they think about personal relationships, love, and, well, all the rest of what makes living meaningful.

I found this video to be well-spoken, humorous, and poignant. I do wish it was possible to send it to anyone who needs an intervention. 

Sunday, February 23, 2020

Trouble in River City

I have been trying to avoid the synthesis of these thoughts for way too long. Maybe, if I put it down as best I can, it will leave me alone. At the very least, by putting it down, I can say to myself that'll do pig; that'll do. 

My focus begins with the current political situation in most of the world, and in particular what we see - the tip of an iceberg (mostly hidden) - the 'man' who is leader. That man (you know who in the USA) is what I see as the culmination of a long, carefully planned scheme that parallels many successful schemes throughout history. Oh, I know - most see the parallel with Germany of the 1930s, but we don't have to get quite that dramatic. That is only one example.

I would rather be kind and draw your attention to a fictitious religious group; let's call it the Universal Gathering of the Followers of The Truth*. This church follows a pattern something like this:
1. Become the only source of truth (the voice of God) for your congregation.
2. From your infallible platform, tell the populace that there is a terrible crisis. (the devil is among us)
3. Convince them that the only salvation is through you. (perform rituals of purification)
4. Make sure they are convinced even before the crisis is revealed that if they don't do as they are told there will be terrible consequences to them personally. (hell fire)
5. Warn them that there will be others who will come with contrary messages sent to tempt them; those people are seducers to the dark side. (the devil and his minions)
6. Convince that same population that even though they cannot see any benefits right now to doing as you say, there will be a reward; a big reward, down the line. Call the reward heaven.

Those who created and control the talking heads in our "enlightened times" understood the schema well. They started setting the stage for success many decades ago. Look at the steps above and think about how pervasive media control is in this world. The message is now consistent. We have been told and sold the bill of goods that we need to be afraid. The crisis has been staged well. It wasn't easy to disenfranchise large portions of the world so that they would be willing to pick up automatic weapons and kill on command; they were all peaceful folk by-and-large (there are always those who are violent by nature, of course) but no more. After decades of manipulation, they are a real threat. Now we have a common enemy. And, not only that, there are enemies within, too. And we have to be careful to not fraternize with anyone who would suggest otherwise. And, finally, there appears a saviour who mocks those who would give comfort to the enemy. The saviour will fix everything, even if only a handful seem to be getting any benefit in the present. All will be well if we just have faith!

Maybe what we need is a bit of levity.

I know! A musical comedy - The Music Man

Well, ya got trouble, my friends, ...  trouble ... trouble ...

*I do hope there is no real group with this name.

Wednesday, February 5, 2020

Out of Place

K and I have observed that for every situation there is a song. This week marks the passing of my old blog. Its time had passed. I have changed. Its audience has changed, too. As the song below suggests, nothing's gone forever, only out of place.

It seems to me that when accepting change, it helps to belong to a Nordic people. We live, after all, in a place where there are seasons. Oh, I'm sure everywhere there are changes that repeat yearly, such as heavy rainfall and the like. In this part of Canada, at this time of year, anticipation builds as spring gets closer. It is a wonderful time that marks the beginning of new life after many months of hibernation for the plants, animals, and many humans, too.

In April, birds return from places where food is available year-round. Insects begin to buzz about looking for those first bits of nourishment where so recently there was only snow.

I grew up in a largish city (not compared with Cairo or Wuhan) - Toronto - where snow that accumulated soon became a black mess. Spring meant seeing the water part drain away so that shovels and brooms could remove the stuff that made it black. That was definitely a welcome part of spring.

Cycles seem natural. When something ends unexpectedly, however, there is a feeling that somehow a contract has been broken. In reality, even in a cyclical process, change gradually takes place. Eventually the conditions needed for some part of the cycle disappear. That part ends. So it is here. Some birds and insects we grew up noticing will not return because it is subtly warmer each year. The change in climate means the plant they eat doesn't grow as well or at all. They haven't died off. That plant now grows better somewhere else because it also warmed up. So if you want to see that bird or the insect they eat, visit there. Others replace those who have left. That is the way of things. 

As for me, I haven't really left. I'm right here. 

The Place Where Lost Things Go

Do you ever lie awake at night
Just between the dark and the morning light
Searching for the things you used to know
Looking for the place where the lost things go

Do you ever dream or reminisce
Wondering where to find what you truly miss
Maybe all those things that you love so
Are waiting in the place where the lost things go

Memories you've shared
Gone for good you feared
They're all around you still though they've disappeared
Nothing's really left or lost without a trace
Nothing's gone forever only out of place

So maybe now the dish and my best spoon
Are playing hide and seek just behind the moon
Waiting there until it's time to show
Spring is like that now
Far beneath the snow
Hiding in the place where the lost things go

Time to close your eyes so sleep can come around
For when you dream you'll find all that's lost is found
Maybe on the moon
Or maybe somewhere new
Maybe all you're missing lives inside of you

So when you need her touch and loving gaze
Gone but not forgotten is the perfect phrase
Smiling from a star that she makes glow
Trust she's always there
Watching as you grow
Find her in the place
Where the lost things go

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