Pretty Swell

Wow, it’s been a little while since I’ve been here, so here is a little bit of an update on what’s been running through my mind as I look out the window over my desk…

The short version is I am in the process of reading all the books pertaining to the history of Victorian Britain and the post-war South in the United States while reading about fallacies in historical writing and argument, writing papers about Native-American history and the Lost Colony in North Carolina, and skimming through footnotes and endnotes and bibliographies in the search for material that will help me find the questions I want to ask for my thesis.

I guess that’s not really a short version. The shortest version is that I began my studies as a graduate student in history last month, and I probably should not be here, writing this, because there is something else I need to be doing. However, as I was reading this morning I began to think about how I haven’t just let go and done any writing just to be writing, and in order to keep developing my writing skills, I need to find the time to do so. So, here I am.

My last post is about my thoughts and feelings concerning Harper Lee’s recently published manuscript, Go Set a Watchman. I won’t go into that more here, other than to say that the core of that book has shown me something that I very much want to investigate, and I won’t go into more of that here because my preliminary thoughts and questions are not fully hashed out, yet, but they will in time. They have to. This is what I want to study and write about, and I will get evaluated and graded on it and have to defend it, so I have to figure it out, and when I know, you’ll know…if I remember to share it with you good people in my little internet universe.

Other things that are going on?

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The hat.

The seasons and the leaves are starting to change. The air is a little more crisp in the morning and the sunrise has more of a golden hue about it. I bought a hat which my wife tried oh so diligently to talk me out of buying, but if there is a hat that is me, this is the hat. See, the hair on the top of my head is migrating to places where it should not migrate, and I needed some protection for the oh so sensitive skin. Presidential campaign politics are getting into full swing a full 14 months before the election next year, and I am trying my damnedest not to get involved. My lavender bush is really putting out some beautiful and sweet smelling flower buds. We bought some rocking chairs for our front porch which are proving to be the best items purchased since we moved into our house last October. Seinfeld is on Hulu and provides much needed levity and brain rest when I need to take a break from books and journal articles and primary sources. I am finding out just how high the stack of library books on my desk can get, and looking some of them up on Amazon and writing down prices because some of them are books that will be purchased in the future, probably near-future. I am trying desperately not to increase my coffee intake; on some days I succeed valiantly and on other days I fail miserably. I am still trying to figure out the optimal work/not work balance and figuring out that the balance moves constantly with no notice whatsoever. This is important because the first all-nighter I have to pull will probably kill me. I am looking forward to finding some time this Fall to get the camera out and take some pictures. The camera is starting to feel neglected in its bag. I am learning a lot which is really kind of the point. It is not easy or fun but I do enjoy it and so does my brain. Few things are more satisfying than when your brain gets pleasure from absorbing the things it wants to absorb and finds questions it wants to ask and finds the answers to them. I guess you could say this is my drug of choice.

I think that about sums it up as far as what’s been happening since July. Another short version is that life is pretty good; you could even say swell.

I better go. Victorian Britain is waiting for me.

Getting Over It…

Blah. That’s really all I can say. Have you ever been to the point when a head cold that has completely leveled you has finally started to subside but you still feel like you’ve been hit by a small automobile? That is where I am.

A couple of weeks ago, the sniffles hit me. Last week (pre-Valentine’s Day), it was a full-on head cold that put me completely out of commission. I’ll leave out the gross details such as an ungodly and unending production of mucus, other than to say that I went through every box of tissues in the house and still need more. My senses of taste and smell were nonexistent. I cleaned out a box of generic Advil Cold & Sinus and drained through a bottle of NyQuil singlehandedly. I’ve nearly exhausted the generic vaporub, religiously applying it to nearly any skin surface that will accept it and marinating in the mentholly cloud that enveloped me.

Now, taste has returned, somewhat, and smell has partially made its way back. Food is enjoyable, almost. Just the other day, my better half asked me, as I was applying the sweet smelling vaporub, “when are you going to get better?” I informed her that I AM getting better.  At least now I can SMELL the goodness. I have made it consecutive nights without having to get up to either take more NyQuil or reapply vaporub. Life, it seems, is returning to normal. However…

Unless you have been living under a rock, or in California or Florida or somewhere tropical, you know that it has been as cold as a well-digger’s ass for the past few days. I mean. Cold. I rarely complain about the cold. I actually prefer cooler and colder weather to the sweltering heat of the dog days of Summer. This cold on the other hand, has been, let’s say, ridiculous, and it just so happens that this Arctic cold, this Siberian cold, this whateverthehell cold has coincided with my head cold.

When you have to put on a hooded sweatshirt, a fleece jacket, a wool overcoat and a stocking cap under the hoodie hood just to take the dogs outside to potty, it’s a ridiculous kind of cold. When the poor pups scurry to potty, only to return limping onto the porch and inside because the cold stings their little puppy feet, you know it’s a ridiculous kind of cold. When Buffalonians, Minnesotans and Wisconsinites (Wisconsonians?) point out how cold it is, you know it’s a ridiculous kind of cold.

That kind of cold and the cold that presently lives within my head do not mix. At all. Now the weather is evening out a little. It is a balmy 30 degrees Fahrenheit outside, pretty much heatwave, but I feel just about worthless. Oh, and with the ridiculous cold and my head cold, one of the books that was put on my reading list is an 800 page narrative on the fall of Richard Nixon and the rise of Ronald Reagan and his presidential campaign of 1976. As I have stated before, I am a big fan of politics and political history, but this book, oh my god, this book. This book exhausted every ounce of patience I have when it comes to reading. If you read the news, be it the newspaper or an online source, imagine a news article that rambles on for 800 pages. Don’t get me wrong, the book is chock FULL of information and has extensive notes on source material, but it probably should have been two books, maybe even three. It took all of the reading time i could muster to finish it in just shy of two weeks, and took all of my attention away from other books I am wanting to read. So, take that plus the ridiculous cold plus the cold that stubbornly sticks to my head and you get my current condition.

I am on the mend and looking forward to finishing another book in the next couple of days and cracking into two or three more within the next week. The weather looks to be on the mend, as well, warming into the 30s with some rain tomorrow, then snow flurries/showers in the coming week. It will be a welcome return to normal weather, and I am hoping that the rain tomorrow will moisten things up a little bit. With this cold, any water anywhere in the air is solid, thus leaving everything dry. No amount of chapstick or carmex  or anything can provide relief to my arid lips, and the house feels like a desert, temperature controlled at 65 degrees.

That’s what’s on my mind as I look out the window at the neighbor’s snow covered house, the snow covered hills, and the snow covered yard, and I can smell the homemade tomato sauce on the stove! Here is to the possibility of slightly more positive posts in the near future!

We are…

“When we are honest, we admit how agreeable it can feel to be singled out for favored treatment.  The biggest barrier to equality for all is that inequality for some feels good.”

-Philip Gulley, The Awakened Soul, Part 12:  Democratic Character Structure

“As bad and frightening as mind-based forgetfulness can be, it is in no way as damaging as soul-based forgetfulness, when we forget what it means to be human, when we can no longer identify with the forgotten, the outcast, the poor, the hurting, the left out, and the left behind.”

-Philip Gulley, The Awakened Soul, Part 13:  When the Soul Forgets

This has been on my mind a lot over the last week.  I read the pieces in which they are contained toward the beginning of the week, and have had little time to think about them very much.

I lied in my last post when I said that I had not written anything in my notebook this week, because I did write these passages, and jotted down some thoughts concerning them.  I am going to begin there and see where this goes…

I admit that empathy is not my go to reaction all of the time.  Often, my knee jerk reaction is something more negative when it comes to someone screwing up, underachieving, making a bad decision, or otherwise living in a way with which I disagree.  This has a lot to do with my patience, which in some cases is nonexistent, especially when it comes to what translates in my mind as willful ignorance, stupidity, or laziness.  One thing that I am just as impatient about, and have a negative reaction toward, is when I hear or see another refusing to sympathize or empathize with another human being that has done no wrong toward anyone.  I guess in some ways that makes me a hypocrite.

Usually, once I slow down to think about these things, I see the error of my ways, but there are occasions when such will never happen.  One instance is willful intolerance, or willfully intolerant people; especially those that are intolerant of people who do no harm to others in any way.  Their intolerance is fueled by a lack of empathy because they refuse to understand something, or someone, that is wholly different from them or what they believe.  However, in order to have or show empathy, one need not agree with another.  They do not even really need to understand what it is they are refusing to tolerate. They simply need to understand what their actions are doing to those whom they are showing their intolerance.

It goes back to one of the above quotes from Philip Gulley.  Regardless of our present stations in life, we have all been in a position that puts us against the fray or singled out from the status quo.  We’ve all been there, and we remember how lonely it feels.  We all have experienced being told that something we are doing is wrong, yet we know in our heart, our soul, that what we are doing is right, and we want nothing more than to have our actions or points of view accepted.  We seek that connection with people, that connection that tells us that it is okay, that it will be okay, and life will go on.  We seek empathy.

Without that empathetic connection, remembering that in some way we have been there and can identify with the down-trodden, we lose a bit of our soul.  We lose a part of us that makes us distinctly human.

We are not perfect beings.  We never will be. Not the first one of us.  It is here that we are all equal.  We all make bad decisions, and sometimes those decisions bring harm to ourselves or to others.  With those decisions, there are always repercussions.  When the harm is done to ourselves, hopefully we learn from it in order to not make the same decision again.  When the harm is done to another, recompense must be brought to bear. With both cases, empathy is a necessary component to ensure neither happens again.

To simply say that one is undeserving of the same joys that others experience because they live a life that is different from the predominant world view is wrong, especially if that joy will bring happiness to them while not affecting another’s life in a negative way.

We have a challenge before us in that, as the first quote above illustrates, we all want to be given favored treatment for being right, or better yet, for being righteous. We are a prideful lot, even the most humble or penitent of us, and nothing fuels that pride more than the justification received when our actions or thoughts are given credence by those with whom we most strongly agree or identify.

We then forget that there are people that do not think the same way we do. People have different value systems; be they spiritual, material, or moral. As long as what is believed, or what one thinks, does not bring physical or mental harm to themselves or others, there is no need to degrade or tear those that do think or live differently down. Such only fuels an imaginary righteousness and puts people on different levels that do not exist but only in our own prideful minds.

We all have a right to live happily in the way that we choose, again, as long as that life does not bring physical or mental harm to ourselves or others. We all have a responsiblity to treat others in the manner with which we wish to be treated. These are rules that I was taught during my childhood.  I have no doubt that many were taught just the same way.

I work on this daily.  I take many deep breaths and do my best to understand positions that are counter to my own.  It is hard…I mean hard, and sometimes I fail. It is a challenge, and will continue to be.  It is a process; but one that will make me a better person in the long run, and will persist in making my life more pleasant and livable.

In essence, it is about bringing light to the lives of those we love, including ourselves, and those around us, rather than spreading darkness, and remembering that we all have a common core, a starting point that is inherently the same.  We are all people.  We are all human, and not one of us is perfect.

Now that is something with which I can empathize. Can you?

The Best Idea Ever….EVER

I have the writing bug this morning, but no clear topic on which to write, so please bear with me.  Sometimes it is just better for me to put some words down on paper or screen, as it were, than to let them just keep swirling around the abysmal black hole that is my mind. Good, earth shattering ideas or thoughts come up all the time, and are immediately lost without the opportunity for the greater humanity to even catch a glimpse.

Right now, it’s hot. I mean hot. I’m talking over 100 degrees hot because the weather cannot make up its mind on whether it wants to stay cool or get warm, so the ancient prehistoric HVAC system at work is having a more than difficult time adjusting to the schizophrenic temperature changes. I could go on and on about that, but you would bore quickly…let’s just leave it that I am hot and tired of my clothes sticking to me.

Now that you have that wonderful image branded into your imagination, word has it that the NBA has helped confirm that there are still racists living among us in the good ol US of A. Some say the douchecanoe was set up, but does that really matter? If you’re going to be a racist, own up to it. You apparently have principles. Stick by them and let others know what they are, otherwise you’re just a douchecanoe that sells out your principles and resides below those loud and proud racists that inhabit the lower levels of human decency, but at least they are principled.

There’s a nutjob out in Nevada that wants to take on the Federal government that has apparently garnered quite the following. To him and his followers I say bring it on. I think history shows what happens to those that pick a fight with the government of the United States. Put up or shut up. We’re tired of your grandstanding. Your moment in the spotlight is over. Your fifteen seconds are up. Shit or get off the pot. Think of it this way…we Americans are proud of the strength of our fighting forces, our men and women in uniform. We dare countries to get in our way or fuck with us. Do you think for one minute that the same fighting force that represents the physical might of the United States government, the same fighting force that eats sovereign nations for breakfast, will blink more than once when it comes time to bite instead of bark. Get over yourself. Pay your fines, shut your mouth and move on.

And there it is…Damn, we are a petulant, whiney bunch of people. Note, I said we. We whine about everything…EVERYTHING. We whine about the government. We whine about food quality and food standards. We whine about the media. We whine about popular culture. We whine about how people with which we disagree suck. We whine about gas prices. We whine about food prices. We whine about rising prices. We whine about global warming. We whine about evolution. We whine about creationism. We whine about schools. We whine about common core. We whine about racists. We whine about religion. We whine about atheists. We whine about abortion. We whine about pro-life. We whine about pro-choice. We whine.

Some people get paid a lot to whine about this stuff to us, and we LISTEN TO IT. We choose to listen to whining. We don’t listen to, or read, coherent, well put together arguments. We listen to, or read, the whining…the fractious pissing and moaning that goes on and on and on and on ad nausem. And these people know it. They know that we are too lazy to think for ourselves or too busy to do the grunt work and research a topic about which we may or may not care. They know that we are intellectually weak because schools don’t teach to think anymore, just how to do things through rote memorization.

Why? Because that is the easy way, just like taking the media’s word for it. It’s easier to just listen to someone blather on endlessly about utter ridiculousness rather than put the time in ourselves to come to an informed and rational conclusion.

Read a book. Read a few books. Can’t find a book that supports your point of view. Bullshit. You are not looking hard enough, and you are not looking hard enough because you don’t care enough to look for it. Listen to lectures. Go to presentations. Research on your own.

We are all guilty of it for one reason or another. There are people out there working for the cause or principle you believe in. If you believe in it so much, help do something about it. Write. Speak. Converse. Donate. Rally. Dream. Act on it, and be constructive.

If some douchebag decides to start a pissing contest with you, cut them off. They, or their pissing and moaning are not worth it. Whining promotes only whining. Pissing and moaning only promote more pissing and moaning. Anything deconstructive. Disengage. It has taken me some time to learn that, and I am the better for it.

This is the third time I’ve noted this quote on this blog…

Be the change you want to see.

Make your voice heard and follow through with constructive action. It doesn’t have to be big. The smallest of actions can create huge reactions.

There is no better time than the present.

I know there are those out there that already work for what they believe, and they believe in a cause, or causes, greater than themselves, and I applaud them all. It is time for the rest of us to follow their examples.

I guess the problem is that we all want different things. Well, really, we all want the same things…just different ways of achieving the same goals. Perhaps in talking to one another and acting, we can find some common ground, something on which to build.

There are a lot of ways this can go. Which way do you want it to go?

It took some time, but my rambling finally made it somewhere. Where it goes beyond this, who knows?

 

Relax…

 

imageI came across this litte gem a few days ago on Facebook, and a thought came to my mind…

Who on earth wants to be an adult?

Maybe I was a weird kid, but the last thing on my mind was wanting to become an adult.  Work, bills, a mortgage, rent, car payments that seem to never end (like a mortgage), health insurance, and a plethora of other things adults have to handle were NOT my aspiration.  Oh, and kids and raising a family…definitely were not on my to do list when I was 15.  Truth is, I didn’t know what I wanted at all at that time.

When I turned 18 and graduation loomed on the horizon, I knew I wanted to go to college, and I thought I knew what I wanted to do.  As it happens, I was wrong, as are a lot of teenagers. I know a lot of folks that did know what they wanted to do, and have done it. I even know some that began doing what they wanted to do, saw that it wasn’t up to the snuff they thought, and then found other things to do.

The fact of the matter is that too many are in too damn big a hurry, and… AND, this little piece of wisdom illustrates, there are things that people are supposed to do as they come of age.

We are supposed to become adults.

We are supposed to raise a family.

We are supposed to have a career.

All of those came before living life without failing at it.

There is my thought in a nutshell. Life is not about the things we are supposed to do. There is more to living than that. Living is doing what you enjoy and figuring that out for yourself. I’m learning that slowly.

I am big on routine, so big on it that my most regimented routines are more like rituals. If one piece of the routine goes wrong, then chances are my whole day is screwed.

I like plans. I love it when a plan falls perfectly into place and runs itself flawlessly. If one part of the plan comes undone, then panic mode immediately sets in, impatience ensues, and the world as I know it comes to a grim and bitter end.

Some may think I’m being a bit melodramatic. Just ask my wife if that is an overstatement. I’m working on it though, It helps that my wife is the most spontaneous and erratic individual that has ever graced the earth.

It comes and goes, more going than coming at this point, but my patience with life will grow. My patience with living life will overcome. I will survive.

The rituals and knowing what we are supposed to do may make life easier and more manageable, but it does not necessarily make it better. One never, ever knows what is coming around the corner.

So, I would boil down this little proverb into two words.

Relax. Live.

That is all we really have to do.

Looking out the Window at Work…

It’s a slow day, so I thought, “why not write?”

Truth is, I am bored at work. I mean…really bored.  So this will end up being a bunch of rubbish from start to finish. Sometimes I just like the feeling of typing something out. Always have. I can remember when I was a kid and our old Tandy computer with no games on it. I would find my way to the word processor and just start typing. Nothing of any real consequence (like this), but just typing. Maybe not even real words, just jibberish like this…

ajkekmenjdn dikenyeooie ,fnliha wusndimfb vi fjknf fhjs nsl,fnlufhyrnosnuemdnaha.

I don’t know why. It is just something I would do when I was bored…kind of like now.

There is somethng that has me thinking this morning, but I’m not quite sure I am ready to tackle it just yet. I did leave a bit of a cliffhanger with one of my previous posts asking what do I want to see concerning being the change one wants to see in the world.

As I sit here at work, that comes across my mind as a pretty complex question, and one that I probably shouldn’t try to answer, but sometimes it’s good to go with your gut. So here goes…

What do I want to see?

I want to see a world without apathy. I want to see a world where people care about something beyond themselves and their wants. I want people to consider others when they make decisions. I want more empathy in the world. I want to see more people care for one another. I want a world without labels. I want a world that is inhabited by human beings. Not Europeans. Not Americans. Not Asians or Mexicans or Latinos or Hispanics or Whites or Blacks or Chinese or Japanese or Italians or Greeks or Germans or Turks or Iraqis or Iranians or Christians or Jews or Muslims or Buddhists or Hindus or Sikhs or Eskimos or Canadians (don’t ask me why Canadians came up last. I don’t know). I want to see people live according to their fullest potential and see them happy doing so.  I want to see myself living according to my fullest potential and be happy doing so. I want to see a world without regret. I want to see others living without regret. I want to see others and myself learning from those regrets and no longer regretting them. I want the poor to no longer be poor. I want the sick to be healthy. I want to see it snow. I want to see the sun shine. I want to see it rain. I want to see the wind blow. I want to see the sun rise and set. I want to see the moon.  I want to see the ocean and the tides.  I want to see a world where possibilities are realities everyday. And right now, at this very moment, I want to see food because I am starting to get hungry.

What do you want to see?

More on Living and Being Alive

I’ve been doing a bit of thinking about this since posting it yesterday.  I always come back to one glaring question.  When the writer talks about “life” and “aliveness,” what, exactly, is he talking about?

To most evangelical Christians, or maybe I’m just inferring or assuming this, but to most evangelicals, the life being talked about is the life given where one is “born again” in Christ.  Essentially, having been saved through the Spirit and decided to live more according to the rules set forth within the Bible or the Church.

However, when I consider other things the writer has written, I know that to not be the case.

Everyone, saved or not, has the ability to live this life.  Everyone can receive it, and we can all bring it to others. What the writer is referring to is the idea of the awakened soul or the self-actualized person.  Each lives to their fullest potential, using the gifts we have to bring positive and constructive purpose and change to the world around them.

Imagine a world where everyone was awake within…feeling alive and, as the writer states, bringing “aliveness” to others.

I admit the idea seems less than realistic.  Not everyone could possibly tap into their full potential, right?

Well…

Why Not???

Personally, I believe it has to do with one word and one word alone…

FEAR

I admit it.  I fear a lot, and fear holds me back.  What is it that I fear most of all??

Failure.

FAILURE!

There is nothing that will bring me to a halt more quickly than believing that I will fail.  Nothing crushes my hopes quite like the realization that failure is possible.

For a long, long time I have called myself a realist, and I base that on knowing that failure and disappointment are real.  They exist, and they matter.

But for those living at their fullest potential, does that matter?

I struggle with this, I admit.  I am well set in my “realist” ways, and those ways are difficult to break.  I’m working on it, though, and I’m sure I can get there.

One thing is for sure.  The state of mind is much, much more pleasant and infinitely more free, and THAT is what matters!