By the Numbers 2-2-5-11-3-2-2-2-2-1-3-5-4-4-4-8-27>12-2-6-13-1

Can you boil it all down to numbers?  A simple list to tell your fable.  Like a number on a military dog-tag that could identify your entire life.  In a way, maybe, but each item on the list involves multiple stories. And they will have to be told someday, if the fable is to survive . . .

2 Loving Parents

2 Siblings

5 College Scholarships

11 Years of College

3 College Degrees

2 Marriages

2 Ex-Wives

2 Successful Professional Careers

2 Stays in Jail

1 Beautiful Daughter

3 Colleges Taught In

5 Hospitals Worked In

4 State Government Positions

4 Wonderful Dogs

4 Tattoos

8 Foreign Countries

27 States

> 12 Jobs

2 Jobs Terminated

6 Near-Death Experiences

13 Soul Contracts

1 Twin Flame

 

And, I’ve probably left some things out . . .

 

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Hello Politics . . .

Well, eventually this topic was going to come up.  It’s hard to avoid, especially with today’s newsfeed continually ticking off the latest Congressional blunders.

The diverse topics that fit into this category can be so emotionally charged that I waited a little while before adding any commentary.  But I think some of the current political issues are worthy of discussion.  I’d just like to keep it civil.  Right now, I don’t see much civility on any side of these issues.

So, let’s start off with a note about the U.S. Constitution.  This amazing, and actually short, document ensures a lot of protections for the citizens.  What some don’t understand is that these protections only apply to the federal or state governments, not to the private sector.  The Constitution is like a contact between the government, and its actors, and the people.   The government cannot unreasonably infringe upon the rights guaranteed in the document.

This is why so many other federal laws exist.  Laws such as the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act, the Age Discrimination in Employment Act, the Americans with Disabilities Act, the Pregnancy Discrimination Act, the Consolidated Omnibus Reconciliation Act, the Immigration Reform and Control Act, the Equal Pay Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, the Fair Housing Act, the Employee Retirement Income Security Act, the Family Medical Leave Act, the Fair Labor Standards Act, and the Genetic Information Nondiscrimination Act.  These anti-discrimination laws extend to both the public and private sectors.

None of these laws would have been enacted, but for, the private sector having exploited people.  And now some of these laws are turned on their heads and have led to other forms of exploitation.  We can have a little fun talking about that later.

So just this week, the House voted to essentially gut the main provisions of the Americans with Disabilities Act.  I don’t recall that being on any politician’s campaign platform during the election year.  I don’t recall the public demanding such action.  So why are politicians stripping away protections for the citizens to benefit big business?  And why aren’t people paying attention?  Read on to my first post in the politics section of my blog: “The Politics of Division.”

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The Politics of Division

I don’t think anyone would deny that the country is very divided on a number of political issues.  The odd thing is this, I can talk to my liberal friends and my conservative friends, and this “gap” in general viewpoints is really pretty small on most matters.  So, what’s the deal?

For the past several election cycles, both major parties have hit hard on dividing people, usually on ideological social policy issues.   Using the vast power of all forms of media, they have convinced the public that these are huge issues, that the people should be divided over them, and that the point of view held on the issues defines what party you should vote for.  They have even convinced most voters that this handful of issues are more important than going to war or ballooning the deficit to give select portions of the populous, the 1%ers, a huge tax break.

Why?  By polarizing the country on such issues, and by screaming about them, they beat the drums to get their voters, their “believers,” out to the poles to vote for them.  They drive the heard.  And then once elected, if you have noticed, neither party tries to eliminate these issues or solve them politically.  Why?  Because they need them for the next election cycle.

Abortion, gay or transgender rights, and immigration are three primary examples.  Of course, guns are in the mix too.  Looking at abortion for an illustration, under the second Bush administration, there was a four to five-year block (2003-2007) where the Republicans had control of all three branches of government.  Both houses of Congress, the White House, and the U.S. Supreme Court.  Yet, they didn’t outlaw abortion, or even try to, although they claim that as one of their party’s major platforms.  They had the power to do that, but they would not have been able to use this issue in the next election cycle if they made it go away.  The Democrats, equally, play the same game.  Amazing how there is no “solution” for immigration, or was there ever really a problem to begin with?

They manipulate these issues, and the people, to get votes on issues they do not intend to fix.  Once in power, they follow their own agenda, which is usually doing things to help out their biggest campaign contributors and, of course, themselves.

The problem for the politicians that I don’t believe they saw coming, is they were too successful.  They have truly divided the country in ways that now threaten the existence of democracy.

Fear-mongering with false information is a primary tactic used to divide.  Beating the drum of White, European, Christian Nationalism is perhaps the scariest tactic I’ve seen of late.  Things are getting really ugly.  The flaming I see on the Internet is shocking.  We’ve had violence in the streets.  We have threats on the free press.

The government is militarizing the police, not just because criminals are using more advanced weapons, but because they are preparing for civil unrest.  If this purposely generated division spills into too much street violence, beware of Martial Law.

In the background of this purposely orchestrated hatred, the wealthy just received a huge tax cut at the cost of ballooning the deficit by 1.4 trillion dollars – even though 78% of the public opposed it.  Congress also just gutted the Americans With Disabilities Act.  Again, to benefit business interests over people.  It’s rolling back environmental regulations, allowing short-term corporate profits to take precedence over poisoning the planet and the people.  Wow!  You see, the dial hasn’t moved either way on abortion, immigration or guns – the issues people think they are voting on.  Once in office, the politicians ignore the public’s wishes completely and give themselves and corporate America huge payouts.

I could list out more issues in detail and offer data now, but I’ll save that for some individualized posts.  I realize people can have strong views on many issues, but I’d ask people to really stop and analyze situations and contexts, not just issues in isolation.  Examine how those in power might be manipulating.  I never expect complete agreement on such controversies, but I do appreciate civility and intelligent thought and discussion.  I like to have my thinking challenged.  It is even good for all of us to be proven wrong on occasion – just to get our minds to open.

Enlightenment comes in many forms.  Hating or vilifying others because they believe differently is not one of them.  We must learn to think, analyze, converse and compromise.  We can’t let sound bites, buzzwords and incendiary catch phrases divide and conquer.  The nation is stronger united.

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Waking Up With Gratitude

I’ve been traveling around a lot in the past year, and covered some 1600 miles in just the past few days.  Mostly fun, but I squeezed in some consulting work this week among the miles.  Basically, I’m retired now, and once you “retire” things change in ways that are sort of magical.   Actually, it is petty similar to my early twenties when I took a couple of years off to bum around the country and live on the road.  When I think about it, both situations were sort of “forced” upon me but those are stories for another day.  I’m glad they were.

There are really only two times of day – daytime and night time.  The concept of days of the week vanish, then the definition of months are gone, and if you’re changing location, you even lose track of the seasons.  Sun up, sun down, moon up, moon down.  Fresh air, hike, write, smile.  Repeat, or not. Do something else.

Add to the mix, unpredictable weather patterns, and you’re down to minute to minute, which is a good thing.  You are getting back to the here and now.

So, when I went to sleep last night, I had no idea what I’d wake up to.  It is February, after all, so I shouldn’t be surprised but, hey, I was.  SNOW !  I think it was near 50 degrees yesterday, hell, I don’t remember.  And not too many days ago, I was hiking in the desert.

Regardless, I am grateful for this beauty.  You see, I get to fire up the wood stove, and now I have fire and ice in the same frame.  It’s almost like having two different portraits hanging on the wall – side by side.  Hot and cold.  But I see and feel the warmth in both.  Eternally grateful for the beauty.  Now that’s a good way to wake up . . .

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Enjoying the Journey . . .

I’ve been enjoying reading many of the blogs and it’s amazing to me what people will share about their lives and their dreams and aspirations.   All good stuff.  And I believe their hearts are in the right place.

Occasionally, I get the feeling that because of how our culture feeds delusions of what a societal definition of happiness should look like that people can be led astray.  It becomes easy to look at the material rungs on the ladder and not see the “ladder” for it is, a pathway, and not even have an idea of where the climb takes you.  Or that you might want to open your eyes along the way.

There is just some lofty world up there and we need to get there and get there as fast as we can.  And few speak of the descent.  Once you reach the top of whatever mountain you aimed for, you will ultimately need to come down the other side.  The climb is over, but the journey doesn’t stop.  It never stops.  Each stage is an adventure unto itself.

So yesterday I noticed a very good-hearted person talking about their career dreams and the goal seemed to be to find the “ultimate” job, where their creativity would flow and they would be honestly rewarded for their hard work, and they would find true contentment.  Here is what I suggested:

What you really may find, is that the journey truly begins once the jobs are all finished.  You will always be preparing.  You will always be in a state of “not yet.”  Every step, every position, every experience is leading you to the next.  There is no waste, especially if you recognize contentment and have gratitude.  And you’ll always find that you were where you were supposed to be, even though you didn’t see it at the time.  The journey doesn’t end, and it certainly doesn’t end in the material world or with one job, no matter how special that may seem.  You’ll want to take the internal journey – that is where the magic is  🙂

I hope everyone is enjoying their journey.

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Toaster Died . . .

Toaster died today. It was a sudden and unexpected death, following one last bright spark before he slowly released his grip on a slice of half-toasted rye. Toaster has been a tireless public servant. For years bringing bread products to that perfect golden brown tasty perfection, only rarely scorching the edges of the occasional English muffin. Toaster was survived by the electric can opener, the coffee maker and the espresso machine. A short private ceremony will be held, prior to his burial in the trash can. Donations can be forwarded to Our Daily Bread Ministries. May Toaster rest in peace after a long and productive life making so many others happy . . .

Broken

I am broken.

Not in a bad way.

Not in a way that needs to be “fixed.”

Mangled, crushed, fragmented, contorted, pulverized, disintegrated,

But only to be reintegrated anew.

 

It has happened before.

So many times no memory can capture.

 

I do not wish to lose what is unique and pure,

The spark.

There are parts of light and wisdom I wish to regain,

Once held,

Having slipped away,

Under the continual weight of the illusion surrounding us.

Stripped away by those that try to consume us,

To break our hearts,

To kill our spirits.

 

No one is coming to rescue us.

No clichés with meaning can solve any problems.

No platitudes of value provide any answers.

No therapist can fix such fractures.

 

But there is within us a type of magick that can be reached,

If we can find it.

To break out, cut free, re-form, start again,

With clarity of vision,

Led by heart and soul.

 

And not waste a second but,

Instead,

Living every moment here and now. . .

The “News Hole”

A few years back, I was writing regular commentary for the local papers and they used to have no problem giving me between 1200 and 2000 words per article. I found out later, when a friend went to journalism school, that this was sort of a big deal. It turns out that they way the newspapers are laid out is that all of the ads go in first. I suppose that makes sense because, often, a paper is making more in terms of advertising dollars than in subscription sales. The space that is left over is called the “news hole.” All of the news, commentary, sports, etc., must be edited to fit the “news hole.” Space for the news is secondary to the space for the advertising.

So, getting 1200 words in the commentary section is huge. After a while, and with bigger publications, the word count allowed dropped to about 700 or 800. This really isn’t a lot of words for people who write. But apparently it is for people who read. And my journalist friend was taught two more important points. Tell the entire story in the headline, and tell the entire story in the first paragraph. It seems many people don’t make it any further into the article besides these two breathing points. Two breaths, and they’re out of there.

The last figures I saw measuring the ability to maintain focus showed that the modern human attention span was about 8 seconds. Or about 1 second less than that of a goldfish. This could explain why newspapers, over time, became less willing to allow more words in the commentaries – people weren’t really reading them. Of course, it could mean there was more ad space and that the news hole had shrunk. Either way, it begs the question, how much is too much? When will the reader quit?

So, I put those questions out there in this blogosphere as I add an article to the legal section of Earthwalking. It’s about 1836 words in length, and I hope a few people make it to the end.

Run Rabbit Run

There is Unlimited Time – But Not For Us

A dear friend and I were talking about realizations.  In particular, the realization that all of our dreams can’t constantly be put on hold for another day.  Looking back, so many years have passed in the blink of an eye, all the while we were schooling, working, maintaining a home, raising children, trying to stay married or at least in a relationship, and trying to stay ahead of the bill collector.  A million things occupying our time and our minds, except exploring who we really are or the world around us.

We have this strange belief that we will always have time, always be strong, always be full of adventure, and always be full of life.  So, we put off the adventures and chase everything else.  And suddenly, as we arrive in our 50s and 60s, (maybe earlier for some) we realize that we’re running out of time, and health.

Run rabbit run.

I had this vision a bit earlier, in my 30’s, the product of being an intensive care nurse.  I saw so many people who had waited all of their lives, until they retired, until they reached that magic, made-up age of 65, to explore their dreams.  And then the illness came and they were gone, frequently within a couple of years of retiring.  Or if they lived, they were incapacitated to the point that they could never pursue their dreams.

I also saw a whole host of others whose lifestyles determined their age – no correlation to the artificial chronology we invented.  One spin around the sun equals one year of age.  Yet I saw people in their 50’s whose bodies were actually closer to being in their 80s, and I saw the reverse as well.  Those with happier, healthier lives, who had taken some time to experience, will not only enjoy their journey more, but their journey is longer.

Of course, these are just observations on my part.  A 2017 Danish research study, that was published in the journal of Health Economics and reported by the New York Times, confirmed that early retirement decreased the probability that a man dies within 5 years of retiring by 2.6 percentage points. The study found that half of the mortality reduction associated with retirement is attributable to the reduction of cardiovascular and digestive system diseases.  Stress-related, inflammatory-based diseases.

Other studies, also discussed in the same Times article, determined that it’s not just timing, but what people do once they are retired.   If you’re working you’re likely to be stressed, which can promote all kinds of diseases.  And work takes time away from healthy activities like exercise and promotes bad ones like excessive alcohol consumption.  However, whenever you retire, you must stay active.  “[P]oor health outcomes were more pronounced among retirees who were unmarried, reduced their physical activity, and had less social interaction.”

A long-term study (18 years), published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) titled: “Association of ‘Weekend Warrior’ and Other Leisure Time Physical Activity Patterns with Risks for All-Cause, Cardiovascular Disease, and Cancer Mortality,” determined that any form of exercise had health benefits.  But what I thought were the most revealing statistics from the study were the ones that were sort of side-lined.  There were 63,591 participants, with a mean age of 58.6 years, and it turns out that 8802 (13.8%) had died from all causes within 8.8 years.  So almost 14% of this large group of people did not make it past the age of 67.7 years.  This study was also reported in detail on MedScape.

Still want to wait until you’re 65 to retire?  You might only have a couple of years left to go, not much time to explore your dreams.

To sum up, if you want to live longer and happier, retire earlier.  Live your life, not an artificial identity.  Pursue your dreams, preferably with the people you love.

Run rabbit run.

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Postscript:  I know there are economic limitations to following some dreams, and eligibility to retire and qualify for such things as Social Security and Medicare can limit people’s choices as to when they’re able to retire.  But not all adventures have to be expensive, and not all have to wait.  After seeing so much shortly-after-retirement death, my wife, now ex, and I committed to taking some type of long vacation we could afford every year, while we were young and hopefully in peak health.  It was worth it.  And we both ended up retiring early.  We found a way or, I should say, a way found us.  My ex was forced out by a health condition and I was forced out by politics.  Those were actually good events for us – the Universe looking out for us.  We are both healthier, happier, and more active since we no longer are part of the daily grind.

Guard Your Tongue

Another jewel of wisdom.

I love being out in the desert.  It was an amazing day when I snapped this pic.  The desert is beautiful, but it can kill you – great irony, great power.

Words are amazingly powerful too.  We need to be true to our word.  Words can shine light on issues, they can heal, or they can injure . . . regardless of intent.

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On the Road . . .

It seems I’m on the road again.  Really, writers are always on the “road.”  Whether that’s literal or figurative.  Our brains are always traveling, imagining, creating.  The words live-stream in our heads and maybe, just maybe, they will make it on paper before we lose them.  Actually, “paper” is kind of figurative too, we aren’t using paper anymore, we’re in cyberspace.  It seems writing is a pretty “spacey” endeavor.

Imagine if we could hit a playback button, and stream all those ideas straight from our brains and right onto the screen without using a keyboard.  Scary right, but fun too  🙂

I do find being on the road quite literally frees my mind to describe the moment.  For example, the sunrise pictured above was one of six.  Yep, six in one morning.  I was driving through the mountains and each time I drove around a bend, and another mountain, it would rise again in all its glory.  Reds, golds, and oranges mixed with the grays of clouds, the blue of sky, the greens of pines, the golds and whites of aspens, the sculptures of chiseled granite.  How beautiful, and the story just kept unfolding again and again, slightly different and more magical each time.   And for most, it went totally unwitnessed.  My description can’t really capture it.  But I can still see it in my mind.

MoonLight Jan 30 '18Time to get back on that road and see what other treasures are out there waiting.  And, I’ll be waiting to read your adventures into that mental space where only writers go . . .

SuperPower

I saw him again on the trail today.  But “he” can take many forms – different ages, genders, races.  It doesn’t matter.  What maters is that this person radiates.  They literally fill the air with positive energy.  Once I’m within 50 feet or so, I just start feeling happy.  And he seems to be happy to see me too.

In this case, it’s an older gentleman.  Hell, I can’t say “older” anymore.  He’s my age.  And we exchange greetings as we pass.  We have both reached “sirdom.”  People started calling me “sir” out of the blue about a year ago.  It’s like they can magically tell you reached a certain age.

This gentleman and I smile, knowingly, at each other.  We’ve survived enough trials-by-fire, and we’re both just happy to see each other kicking.  There is laughter in our voices as we praise the day.

There is definitely something different about the people like this.  Something palpable.  Some are just special.  My niece was born this way.  She was just plain happy, and is happy all the time.  And just being around people like this makes you happy too.  It’s a superpower.  And I say that seriously given we’re in a world where news is all doom and gloom; people have become jaded and cynical.  I have those moments too.  We all do.

So, it’s truly nice to be out there in the sunshine, sharing a bit of turf and a little conversation with a beacon of positivity.  It’s a goal we should all strive for.  What a world it would be if everyone just opened their souls and shined . . . Hope to see you on the trail.

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Glacier - St Mary's Fall Trail

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