Tag Archives: Commentary

Write What You Know

This is an old expression and it has a lot of merit.  The words flow much easier and you can fill in the details of your own personal experiences.  That’s one of the reasons I give fiction writers a lot of credit – they not only create characters, they create new worlds.

For me, I’ve pretty much been writing non-fiction.  I might have to give fiction a try sometime 🙂

You may have noticed that I’ve hit on certain themes.  Travel, nature, a touch of wisdom earned, and a few life and death stories.  At times, I think I might be over-killing that theme.  And at times I think, why not, that’s what it’s all about – living and appreciating it.

So, you’ll have to tell me if I’m overdoing it, or straying into the land of the mundane.

Sometimes we have such intimate knowledge of an event that it seems trite.  Or if we try to communicate how great we thought a moment was, we forget to put in all the details.  It’s like we assume everyone will know what we’re talking about.

I’m posting a short piece today about one of my many experiences in the hospital when I was a kid.  I’m not sure if those stories hold real interest for people or just how big of a dose of that I should dispense.  But it does fit the season.  It’s Thanksgiving time, and I have a lot to be thankful for.  Living and breathing and my daughter are at the top of the list, as well as having a bit of excitement along this winding road.

I appreciate your feedback.  It helps to keep me on track.  So feel free to critique away.

I hope you have a wonderful time with your families the next few days.  Hold tight.  Nothing is permanent.

***

Photo:  One thing that we all know well is change.  Transition.  And the butterfly amply serves as a symbol of this transformation.  Changes can be big and small.  I’ve come out of cocoons at least three times in this lifetime.  Completely shedding all of the past and reinventing myself.  Not always planned either.  I’m sure if you think back, you can recall the many revisions to the chapters of your own book of life.

Transformation or Illness: How Would We Know?

I picked up a fun book tracing a historical perspective on the advancement of medicine, and it naturally included a section about the Hippocratic Oath (400 B.C.).  Hippocrates was the ancient Greek physician credited as being the father of Western Medicine.  He is famous for dismissing beliefs, more ancient than he was, that advocated the supernatural origin of disease.

The oath, which has frequently been summed up as “first do no harm” is actually quite lengthy.  It has been modified multiple times over the centuries and, as it turns out, was not, most probably, written by Hippocrates.

Another irony is that, while Hippocrates disavowed supernatural origins of disease, the original oath translated from Greek, begins by invoking supernatural beings: “I swear by Apollo the Healer, by Asclepius [God of Medicine], by Hygieia [Goddess of health and cleanliness], by Panacea [Goddess of remedies], and by all the gods and goddesses, making them my witnesses, that I will carry out, according to my ability and judgment, this oath and this indenture.”

The Hippocratic Corpus is a collection of texts associated with Hippocrates’ teachings, only part of which was authored by Hippocrates.  And perhaps in another irony, the Paneth Codex, another medical text that was completed long after Hippocrates had passed, contains some of his writings while using depictions of demons as metaphors for disease.

It seems that it was hard for even the most objective early practitioners of medicine to fully eliminate the supernatural from the corners of their medicine cabinets.  And maybe for good reason.  For the supernatural, once identified and defined, can become quite natural.

So just what is the supernatural and what is natural or normal when it comes to defining illness?

My background and careers are largely based upon science and logical reasoning.  Yet, I’m still willing to keep an open mind and recognize that science and human genius can’t always explain things.  As most people would attest, we’ve seen or experienced things that simply don’t fit neatly into the boxes and shelves of the “normal.”

To say it differently, I believe in the metaphysical realm.  I also believe in mind-body connections and what’s happening in the mind can find ways of manifesting itself in the body.

While I was working at a major research hospital, the doctors and nurses frequently described and linked personality types with specific diseases.  And not always in the most positive terms.  A more neutral example might be that “Type A” personalities were more likely to have heart attacks than “Type B” personalities.

Which brings me to today’s pondering.

Is every so called “unnatural” or “abnormal” condition truly an “illness?”  What’s the interplay between mental and physical illness?”  And what if instead of an illness that required treatment, people were really, in some instances, going through an evolution that should be allowed to progress?

And I guess before I dive in too deeply here, I should clarify that I’m not a mental health professional, nor am I a medical doctor.  If you’re needing a medical opinion, consult your primary care physician, and if you wish to learn more about mental health from a real professional, check out the site of my blogging friend Dr. Perry.

That disclaimer aside, most illnesses would fall outside the definition of normal and some seem relatively simple to diagnose and identify their causes.  Some are genetically related and some follow the pathogen-induced pathway.  Sounds simple, you’re born with the genetic makeup that can be expressed as a physical ailment or you encounter a virus or bacterium and you contract a disease.

But many people have “bad genes” or have close encounters with pathogens and they don’t become ill.  Why?  They are usually said to have healthier immune systems.  What makes a healthy immune system?  Besides good nutrition and exercise there are plenty of correlations to good mental health, positive thinking, and being happy to having a healthy immune system and healthy body.

The idea of illness originating in the mind, or from a body being out of balance might coincide more with some Eastern medical practices, while germ theory most follows Western medicine.  Although I will give Western medicine credit for having researched some things like meditation and meridians and finding scientific bases to support traditional Eastern or more holistic approaches to treatment.  And many Western pharmaceutical treatments come directly from old-fashioned herbal remedies from the Shamans of old.

So if one is encountering an illness, or deviation from normal physical or mental health, something not occurring naturally, then, despite Hippocrates’ claims, could there be a “supernatural” cause, and just what would that mean?

The definition of “supernatural” doesn’t only include references to spiritual entities, but it more basically means transcending the laws of nature or being attributable to an invisible agent.  So, before the advent of the microscope, a simple bacterium or a virus would not have been visible in the observable universe and an illness caused by such would have been a supernatural occurrence.  Consequently, depending on the limits of scientific measurement at any point in time, many causes of diseases could, by simple definition, be supernaturally caused.

And when referring to the supernatural, does it have to be an external source?  What about the person’s own spirit?  Can’t a damaged soul be expressed as a physical ailment?

Or maybe an enlightened soul is causing a physical evolution?

My daughter sent me an interesting article the other day called,  “Shamans Believe Mental Illness Is Something Else Entirely.”  The article focused on a West African Shaman of the Dagara people who proposes that some mental ailments, like depression and schizophrenia may actually be a step towards transformation – even meaning the birth of a healer.

The Dagara believe that some of what we in the West call mental illness is really what happens when people encounter, and don’t how to deal with, psychic phenomena and the spiritual world.  In their tradition, these individuals are seen as a bridge between physical and spiritual worlds.

This Shaman is said to have taken an 18-year-old suffering from hallucinations and depression back to his village.  After 8 months of healing rituals this person was acting quite “normal” and returned to U.S. society to earn a degree in Psychology at Harvard.

While this may be an isolated example, it’s an amazing concept to contemplate.  And I’m not saying that such non-traditional approaches would be a panacea for mental health treatments.  I’m just saying there is still more unknown than there is known.

Given our acculturation, if we were undergoing a positive physical, mental, or spiritual transition we might very well be totally confused as to what was happening and think we were ill.  Our doctors might be unable to come up with a definitive diagnosis and resort to traditional treatments or try to repress the evolution.  You might be labeled as being mentally ill, which could, in turn, send you down medical corridors forever obscuring the inner butterfly emerging from the cocoon.

As more advances are made, and as more ways to measure the currently unmeasurable become available, finer distinctions may emerge as to what constitutes good or “normal” health.  For the supernatural may be commonplace and just another source for healthy growth and development.

***

Photo: The book I picked up is titled: “The Medical Book” and it was written by Clifford A. Pickover.  This picture is a portion of a photo used in the book and comes from the Paneth Codex, completed in Bologna in 1326 A.D.   The book begins in the time frame of 10,000 B.C. moving through medical advances until 2008.  Medicine, indeed, has come a long way from bloodletting starting in 1500 B.C., and I believe it still has a long way to go.

I can personally attest to the advances made in the treatment of asthma since the 1960s when many doctors believed that asthma was a mental illness.  I had many a scary trip to the emergency room as a child, and when in full respiratory distress was even administered Thorazine, an antipsychotic medication, and knocked unconscious.  Oh, the many things we’ve been fortunate enough to survive:-)

Hypocrite: I feel compelled to mention that the word “hypocrite” does not originate from “Hippocrates,” even though it sort of sounds like it does.  Hypocrite comes from the Greek word hypokrites, meaning “an actor,” and translating more literally to “an interpreter from underneath” because actors at the time traditionally wore masks.  Figuratively, it meant someone who wears a mask to pretend to be someone they are not.  In early religious texts, its appears as “ypocrite” referring to those acting like they are morally good to deceive others.  Today, of course, we accept the meaning that it’s a person acting contrary to their stated beliefs.  In a loose sense, that could apply to Hippocrates – denouncing supernatural causes of disease while swearing to supernatural beings to practice good medicine 🙂

Update December 1, 2018: I stumbled upon another article today about this same subject and the Dagara. “A Mental Disease by Any Other Name.”

 
Link Rot Warning: No one can guarantee how long a link on the Net will last.  The US Supreme Court got into trouble over this.  One of the judges quoted from an Internet site, but after a couple of months the site was no longer there for reference.  I also once went to check out a link promoted on our local TV weather channel only to discover it had been hijacked by a porn site – Yikes!

Trust Me, I’ll Feel Guilty

As I’m waking up most mornings, I usually enjoy a cup of coffee in front of the computer while scrolling through various social media sites, picking up the news, and marveling over the commentary.  A while back LinkedIn started what it calls its “Daily Rundown” where it features select tidbits of business-related news and solicits comments.  The skew is usually pro-business and pro-employer, although you will also see pieces that are neutral or pro-employee.

The other day they featured an article about some research published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology titled “Who is Trustworthy? Predicting Trustworthy Intentions and Behavior.”  The study used several economic games to measure the personality traits that predict if you can trust someone.  And what they discovered was that “guilt-proneness” was a powerful indicator of trustworthiness.

They distinguished “guilt-proneness” from “guilt” by defining it as the tendency to feel guilty about wrongdoing, thereby avoiding that wrongdoing, versus the negative emotion experienced when someone actually commits some transgression.  The gist of the article discussing the research was that if you wanted trustworthy employees, look for people with a high level of guilt-proneness.

The comments that followed ranged from equating guilt to perfectionism, extreme self-awareness, or having a conscience to guilt being a toxic form of shame that destroys self-esteem.  Some spoke of religion using guilt to control people.

One gentleman said, “I don’t do guilt – such a loser’s emotion,” although later he said he was being “tongue in cheek.”  One woman said, “Then employers should hire more young, white men.  For 50 years feminism has portrayed them as being Guilty of Everything.”  Oh dear, no backpedaling from her.

Yes, the commentary can get a bit dicey to say the least.  And it’s important to note how most of us seized on the word “guilt” as opposed to “guilt-proneness,” and seemed to miss the distinction the researchers were trying to make.  I looked at the verb form of the word myself.

Semantics can muddy the waters of any communication.

I’m not sure how an employer would go about measuring guilt-proneness.  In fact, it seems you would have to entice people to do something wrong and then measure their reaction – avoidance or commission.  Which is what the researchers did.  How would you do that objectively in a job interview or in the workplace after hiring someone?

I do know an employer locally that requires applicants to take a personality test.  I think that’s a bit extreme, and having worked for that employer in the past I imagine the purpose of the test is to screen out any non-conformists.  They don’t want to hire anyone who might question authority or their profit motivations.  I think they will end up screening out the most creative and adaptive applicants and end up with a hive of drones, but hey, that’s just my view 🙂  They may measure “trustworthiness” as a completely different concept – “blind loyalty.”

It is an interesting article and context is important.  Like I mentioned, I looked at the verb as in “guilting.”

When I was a practicing RN, I did a literature review of nursing management journals.  Forty articles out of four hundred – 10% – were dedicated to describing methods for employers to take advantage of, or abuse, their staff.  One in particular was titled, “Manipulation, Making the Best of It.”  The article focused totally on using guilt as a means to take advantage of the staff.  Guilt is a powerful motivator for caregivers and management was encouraged to guilt their staff into working additional 12-hour shifts, accepting ridiculous patient loads, floating to units where they did not have expertise, not taking breaks, and even into not getting paid for their work.

One winter, after an extremely heavy snowfall, my ex was guilted by her employer into trying to go to work.  We lived out in the country and the roads were impassable.   She barely made it out of the driveway when she tried and had to put both of our cars in the ditch to finally absolve her of that boss-instilled guilt.

So while the article focused on how the propensity to feel guilt can be a reflection of the trustworthiness of employees, the question I would ask is if we can trust employers, or anyone else for that matter, not to use guilt as a weapon.  Maybe that’s a better measure of trustworthiness 🙂

***

Photo: I wasn’t sure what pic to choose for this one, but decided this innocent, young buck was a good one.  I was at a distance and made a slight noise to attract its attention.  He warily observed me, not knowing whether he could trust me not to do him harm.  Our eyes met for a spell, after which, he leisurely resumed his grazing.  I guess I somehow communicated that I meant him no malice.

Sirdom

Me: “Hi, how’s it going”

Hiker: “Just great.  Beautiful day.”

Me: “It sure is, absolutely gorgeous.”

Hiker: “Well you have a good day Sir.”

Me: “Thanks, you too.”

A brief interlude as I was passing a fellow hiker on the trail.

“Sir”?

It seems I’ve been hearing this word a lot more lately.  “Excuse me Sir.”  “Hello, how are you doing Sir.”

I kind of want to look behind me to see who is standing there.

And it’s not that it’s bad.  It’s very respectful.  I’m just not used to hearing it, and why now?

This all seemed to start a couple of years ago, right after I turned 60.  Even saying that sounds weird to me, because I sure don’t feel old, or older.  In fact, I don’t think 60 is considered old anymore.  But suddenly people are calling me Sir.

When I think of the word “Sir,” I think of my father.  The Lieutenant Colonel in the Air Force.  I think of esteemed people having earned that title by some trial by fire.  More akin to the titles of professor or doctor or judge.

I find it a bit ironic because it seems like when I was younger, I as always sounding like Rodney Dangerfield – “I don’t get no respect.”  I was working hard to try to earn it.  Still didn’t always get it.  My work was sometimes plagiarized too, so I didn’t get the credit for it.

But now, apparently, just by virtue of having aged, people are very respectful.

I guess I’ve reached “Sirdom.”

It was almost magical.  Happening overnight.  I’m not sure what exactly changed.  I’m retired now so no one is looking up to me for being a professional.  Perhaps it’s the gray in my beard?  That same beard that earns me the extra security checks at the airport 🙂

Of course, somehow, I also ended up on the senior mailing lists so I get offers all the time for some type of age-related service.  Long-term care insurance.  Reverse mortgages.  My favorite was the funeral insurance.  Their tag line being, “This will be the last insurance policy you’ll ever buy.”  Nice.

I think it’s great that we respect our elders.  They have so much offer in the form of wisdom.  And in some ways, it is amazing to see so many circles of the sun.  I just don’t feel like I’m an elder at the council fire.  And I’m not sure I have any wisdom to offer. Yet.

Whether you’re a “Sir,” or a “Mam,” or any variation thereof, I salute the divinity that is within you, and respectfully wish you a wonderful day.

***

Photo:  That’s Sir Me, somewhere in Wyoming.  Jesse, the border collie, belonged to the person whose home I was visiting.  I miss my old buddy, Taz, and I’ll probably get another dog someday myself.  Maybe I’ll name him “Sir.” 🙂

Brain Fog

Brain Fog

I had but seconds to make a decision.  Hold the present course, slow down, and hope.  Maybe pray.  Uncertainty.  Or ditch it and destroy the car and face certain injury.  I held tight to the wheel and figured if this guy was going to take me out, well . . .

*****

I was on my way to an early morning college course.  Zoology.  Great professor at this small community college.  That place seemed to attract them.  Ph.D.’s who were tired of playing the game of publish or perish.  Who just wanted to teach.  And teach smaller numbers of students so they actually had access to them.  Real office hours.  Real time to sit down and answer questions.  Discuss life.  Academic dreams.

One professor, noted for addressing controversial issues head-on and not putting up with bureaucratic BS put it this way, “I taught at the Mecca, the University of —-, until they found out I was there.”  His classes were always full.  Semesters backlogged with lists of eager students.  History taught from a world-view, not the ethnocentric versions taught where institutional and community pressures dictated thought.

I was just trying to get there on this sleepy November morning.  Making the eighteen-mile drive down the back roads.

A country setting had been picked for the construction of this junior college.  A prominent family had donated the land, and their adjoining thoroughbred ranch wrapped around three sides of the campus.  A bucolic scene.  Majestic horses dotting the pastures.  A turn-of-the-century mansion.  Separate quarters, once for slaves, now served as bunkhouses for the farmhands.

Later, a nearby river would be dammed and water recreation would be added to the list of two-year degrees you could earn here.  Seemed odd being so close to the city, but this is the Midwest and cities, even big cities, only spread so far.  Only consumed so much earth before the industrialization bordered open fields.

All I was doing was trying to get there.  No hurry.  No worries.

Those back-country roads traversed rolling hills.  Peak and valley.  Peak and valley.  Traveling west took you to a minor spur of the “big city.”  A transportation hub.  Trucking companies and railroad junctions.  A centralized shipping center to support the major businesses downtown.

Going east, the direction I was driving, was sort of no-man’s land.  Corn fields, soybeans, sorghum, a Christmas Tree farm, road-side vegetable stands.  All skirting the southeastern quadrant, with capillaries of roads leading into the pumping heart of the megalopolis.

It was a common pathway for a lot of us.  Hit the country campus in the morning, left turn into the city for work in the afternoon.  Loop back south for the drive home.

The temperatures had been steadily dropping and precipitation was coming down in its various frozen forms.  Frost blanketing the low-lying fields one morning.  Freezing rain the next – clear coating the barb-wired fences and trees, but still melting on the roads under the pressure of passing cars and trucks.  For now.  Snow was just a week or two away.

But a slight warmup the day before supersaturated the air, and the nightly cool-down had stretched out through the early hours.  The day’s high temperature occurred around 2:00 a.m. and it had slowly been dropping since.  The result – fog.

Thick, dense fog.

It filled those valleys between the hills.  Steady, cloying, impenetrable.  If you were standing on one of those hilltops, you might get the notion that you could simply walk across to the next.  Solid terra firma.  Not.

The distance between these hilltops varied, and I had just crested one, the distance to the next being the shortest in the chain, spanned by this two-lane, undivided highway.  And like eyes penetrating the night and the milky-haze before me, there they were.  Headlights.

But not two — four.

It seems that someone westbound, in their haste, decided to pass the vehicle in front of them and made their break to the opposite lane, my lane, at the top of the hill opposite the one I had just surmounted.  All I could see in the fog were four headlights, two cars nearly side-by-side, racing straight towards me.

I already had one impatient driver tailgating me, unsatisfied with driving the speed limit even in these dangerous conditions, so hitting the brakes was not an option.  There were no shoulders on these roads.  No budget for that, and the surrounding farmers felt they’d already had enough land consumed by imminent domain to lay down these ribbons of gray.

There was no way the person speeding towards me had enough road to clear the distance between the car he was attempting to pass and my car coming from the opposite direction.  And now, my seventeen-year-old, not fully developed brain, had to make a decision or two.

Of course, I immediately slowed, but not so fast as to be rear-ended by the person traveling too close behind me.  And the driver being passed was alert enough to also slow down to try to widen the gap between us.  The idiot trying to pass floored it, engine whining, so now his or her headlights were propelled even faster toward my front bumper.

What to do?

A hard stop equaled a collision from behind, and I still might not avoid the head-on crash.  Swerving left meant a skid in front of two vehicles clogging both lanes, with a third barreling in from behind.  Swerving right, in any degree, meant plunging into a deep ditch.  Certain to destroy my already beat-up Olds, and send me to the hospital or ziploc me in a body bag.  And why?  Because some fool in a hurry didn’t care about anyone else’s safety that’s why.

No, I wasn’t going to ditch it for this guy.  Take the hit so he or she had no consequences.  And even if I ditched it, the other three cars might still merge into a mangled heap.  I kept slowing down, even though the person behind didn’t seem to notice the burning eyes of the car before me bearing down upon us.  The gap ever closing.  The impending explosion of steel against steel.  The shattering of windshields.   I could hear it all in my mind.  Could visualize it.

I waited for it.  Oddly calmly.

It’s a funny thing about time.  How it seems to stretch out in moments like these.  It was like an entire discussion played out in my head figuring out what to do.  A corporate board meeting.  As if I sat down with all of the department heads.  They all gave me their feedback.  Pointed to the graphs and charts.  Drew it out with colored markers on the white board.

I hoped my decision wouldn’t jeopardize anyone else as I laid on the horn.  Everyone involved was surely awake now, as my mind drifted back over this short lifetime of mine.  What had it been worth?

But this heavy situation suddenly became ethereal.  Time slowed to a standstill.  Outside forces seemed to intervene.  As if protective bubbles inflated around all four cars.  The fool somehow threaded the eye of the needle left open by myself and the other oncoming car.  Barely.

A split second.  A flash in time.  Brains in a fog – literally and figuratively.  Preoccupied by frenzied thoughts of work deadlines.  “Got to get there!”  “Got to get the job done!”  A moment where lives could have ended.  Needlessly.  But they didn’t.

Did I make the right decision?  Was there time to do anything else?  I assume we all went our separate directions.  As if nothing had happened.

Ironically, in Zoology, we were studying life cycles.  Eat, sleep, mate and defend.  Predictable unless outside forces act.  Of course, there is more to life than that.  Much more.  Philosophical aspirations.  Collective consciousness.  Spiritual evolution.

Maybe the power of four minds came together to alter the inevitable.  Bending time and physical objects.  A collective manifestation of a new pathway exceeding the laws of physics.

Who can say?

*****

Strange how the mind works.  I remembered this little flash from the past today because I’ve been experiencing “brain fog.”  Transforming figurative fog into physical fog 🙂  That’s why my mind couldn’t get it together to compose a post for the past few days.  It’s a symptom of a syndrome I’m fighting.  Multiple Chemical Sensitivity.  I will undoubtedly write a piece on it someday.  Imagine it this way.  You find yourself exposed to insecticide and you’re dizzy, with a crushing headache, brain clouded, nauseated and with abdominal pain, you lose the ability to reason and your short-term memory vanishes, fatigue bears down on you.  But you come back to normal once the neurotoxin wears off – your body disarms it through its normal processes, chemical, mechanical, liver, kidneys, etc.  Now imagine that your normal detoxification process is overwhelmed and your body can’t detoxify from the poisons anymore.  And the environment you live in is full of an increasing amount of poisons . . .

Photo: No, I didn’t have a picture of headlights approaching on a foggy morning, but I did have this one of a car approaching at dawn driving through the mountains.  Don’t worry, I was safe.  There was no one else on the road and I actually stopped the car to take this pic.  Although, I have at times been guilty of the one-handed, over-the-shoulder, while driving, cell-phone pics 🙂

“Ws” – If you happen to notice any missing Ws in my posts, please feel free to let me know.  I recently picked up a new keyboard and it seems that I am just not striking it hard enough in the left-hand corner.  Missing letters in my writings include Ws, As, Rs, and Es, but Ws seem to be the worst.  I try to catch them when editing, but sometimes I miss a few – thanks 🙂

 

 

Wavelengths

Have you ever noticed how you might be thinking about something, maybe even putting pen to paper to memorialize those thoughts, and then suddenly someone else says something that is exactly what was in your mind?  As if they had reached inside your head and grabbed it.

Or maybe, you had just read something that really intrigued you and suddenly material on that same topic starts popping up everywhere?  A friend recommends a book – same subject.  You see an advertisement for a TV documentary – same subject.  A billboard along the highway – same subject.  A blog post from a friend mirrors that same subject.

Affirmations from the world around us.  We’re on the same wavelength.

And none of this is related to some mainstream news cycle.  Maybe it’s about showing gratitude.  Or demonstrating generosity.  Or learning to smile at the beauty that surrounds us.

This seems to happen all the time, if we’re paying attention, and it happened again just the other day when my blogging friend Searching for Grady posted to her blog.  It’s a piece she calls, “Migratory Spirits” about the twelve virtues.

And it just so happens, I’m reading a book about the twelve virtues called, “The Lakota Way: Stories and Lessons for Living.”  The author, Joseph M. Marshall III, dedicates a chapter to each virtue.  Providing the Sioux word and pronunciation, and then telling some traditional stories to illustrate the concepts.

So we have:

Humility – Unsiiciyapi  (un-shee-ee-cee-yah-pee) to be humble, modest, unpretentious;

Perseverance – Wowacintanka (wo-wah-chin-tan-gah) to persist, strive in spite of difficulties;

Respect – Wawoohola (wah-wo-o-ho-lah) to be considerate, to hold in high esteem;

Honor – Wayuonihan (wah-you-v-knee-han) to have integrity, an honest and upright character;

Love – Cantognake (chan-doe-gnan-key) to place and hold in one’s heart;

Sacrifice – Icicupi (ee-chee-chu-pee) to give of oneself, an offering;

Truth – Wowicake (wo-wee-jah-keh) that which is real, the way the world is;

Compassion – Waunsilapi (wah-un-shee-lah-pee) to care, to sympathize;

Bravery – Woohitike (wo-oh-hee-tee-keh) having or showing courage;

Fortitude – Cantewasake (can-te-wah-sha-keh) strength of heart and mind;

Generosity – Canteyuke (chan-te-you-keh) to give, to share, to have heart;

and,

Wisdom – Woksape (wo-ksa-peh) to understand what is right and true, to use knowledge wisely.

Isn’t it amazing how these ideas seem to travel.  I don’t think it’s solely because of the Internet or modern communications either.  While we might look at these systems as being more dendrites in the collective nervous system, ideas seem to travel with or without exterior electronics.  We are all connected.  We may have just not realized how widespread collective thoughts manifest.

There are no coincidences.

I find it encouraging that at a time when there seems to be more division and hatred spreading like a cancer, that the twelve virtues have emerged.  Perhaps as the antibodies to defeat such infections.

May the thoughts and the actions from the virtues gain lightspeed 🙂

***

Photo: The sun rises over a rock formation in the Badlands.  A universal symbol.  The sun rising, a new day, new beginnings, a fresh start, we’ve embarked on a new journey.  These thoughts arise in everyone’s minds, synchronously, without the need to speak.  Perhaps a look into another’s eyes, the nod of a head.  Just knowing.

Who Will Remember?

Personal history.  We have it, or do we?  And for how long?  Or do we want it?  Or is it selectively cataloged in the recesses of our minds . . .

When I fired up the desktop today I was presented with a new crash.  Oddly, the computer would not recognize my profile password, and since no one else uses this computer there was no other profile to try opening.  No way to get inside the machine.

Fortunately, I was able to use my laptop to find a fix.  And with one computer sitting next to the other, I walked through the steps of changing some mysterious line in the registry.  Problem fixed.  Except, I also read that many people had problems with lost data and files after “fixing” the problem.

Mine appear to be intact so I am now backing up files, photos, etc. to an external hard drive.  Everything I can think of.  It looks like this will take all day.

So here I am on the laptop.  Thankful I have it.

What if all the data had been lost?  Bits and pieces are saved on flash drives, SD cards, and that external hard drive.  But for how long?  How long do these devices last before they decay?  And even if intact, if I wasn’t here to access them, who would be able to find my files?  Look at all those digital pics?  Piece together the puzzle that is me?  We store our lives digitally now.

Memories.

We go through life similarly.  We are one in billions, and while I do believe we are all connected, just who can access us?  And what do we want people to know?

Personal history.  It’s baggage we carry.  Some of it might be shiny objects, other bits, dark clouds.  But it is all us.  Who we are.

And how much do we share?  How much is forgotten?  And how much is spun into webs that never existed?  Always prettier than the original version.  Everything symmetrical.  Ordered.  Explained.

Did you ever notice how when you start a new job people want to know about you?  All your details.  Did you ever try and remain secretive?  It drives people crazy.  It’s like they want the goods on you.  Someway to think they have control.  Oh yeah, they know that new guy.  Know what makes her or him tick.  Know how to push their buttons.  Know their strengths and weaknesses.  Where they’ve come from and where they’re going.

Or can they possibly know anything?

Can you really “know” someone else?  Sure we share parts of ourselves.  But not all of our pasts.  All of our thoughts.  All of our feelings.  How could we?

And do we want to be remembered when we’re gone?  If so how?

She was a “good person.”  One line to sum up a lifetime.

I’d like the people I’ve loved to remember me.  But when they’re gone, there will be no record.  Just like the computer was wiped clean.  No data.  We were never here.

Or will we leave some lasting effect?  A ripple through time and space?  Perhaps a few words floating in cyberspace?

I guess we should experience all we can.  Share as much as we dare.  Hope we are loved. And love ferociously.  Because one day, all the data, all that personal history will be gone.  No profile password to magically access it . . .

***

Photo: An old ranch in the middle of a remote spot in the southwest.  The family long deceased.  Given to the state for perpetuity to preserve as a landmark.  A moment in history that loses significance with each passing day.  How long before it returns to dust?  There is no permanence.

 

Contrasts – 第5章 – Wild Spaces

Lodgepole pine forests, alpine meadows, sagebrush steppe, rolling grasslands, massive watersheds and wetlands, 2500 miles of rivers and streams, 600 lakes and ponds, majestic canyons and waterfalls, geyser basins scattered about a giant volcanic caldera, the Continental Divide, and home to a wide diversity of wildlife including endangered species.  Ready?

I’m finally getting to the contrast that inspired this series of blog posts.  Yellowstone.

Why?  The San Diego Zoo, at the start of the series, represented the epitome of a zoo’s potential.  Beautiful grounds.  Botanical paradise.  Humane habitats constructed to be as natural as they could be, considering they are still prisons for the wildlife residing there.

Asphalt pathways.  Directional signs.  Herds of people grazing on hot dogs, candy, and sodas.  The animals scarcely move, except to pace the perimeter of their enclosures.  The mammals lose the luster to their fur.  The color fades from the birds’ plumage.

Depressed.  Spirits broken.  Many lose the ability to reproduce.  Many die early deaths.

Contrast Yellowstone.  It is zoo-like in the number and diversity of wild species, but there are no cages.  People and animals can mingle with no bars, no fences, no nets, no plexiglass, no moats, no enclosure of any type between them.  Nature trails through the middle of it all if you want to hike.

And there is no urban jungle surrounding this pristine landscape.  No smog, no freeways, no towering buildings, no two million human residents.  Although archeological evidence shows people have inhabited this area as long as 11,000 years ago and 26 Native American Tribes have connections with the park.  And there are those four million tourists of modernity that can come and go in a year.

What behavior could we observe there?

I have to tell you it’s a bit strange.  For one, I understand the dilemma that park rangers face.  A lot of people just don’t get it.  These are wild animals.  Beautiful and magnificent.  In the wild.  And the people are in their territory and seem to be unconscious to the fact that they are in the wilderness, the real world.  It’s not a human-made park, and you just can’t walk up to a Grizzly Bear and expect not to be killed.

The animals, having become accustomed to large groups of people who are prohibited from killing them, are not fearful, do not take refuge, do not hide.  Of course, some, like the bear, never would have anyway.  This is their land.

They’re alive, vibrant, free.

They roam where they want.  Raise families.  And balance.  Yes balance.  If you’d like a good vision of that balance check out my post “Of Wolves and Hominids.”

The situation is bound to result in some collisions.  Bumbling people long removed from living in nature, believing food comes from grocery stores, now surrounded by nature. The source of all life.

You can get close, but not that close.

So, bring a camera where you don’t have to get too personal.  Your cell phone camera ain’t going to cut it, except for some landscape shots.   You’re not going to get a selfie with a Bull Elk or a Bison.  Because by the time you’re close enough with your phone to get that great profile shot, you’ll be on your way to the hospital or to your burial.

Next, slow the fuck down.  Please pardon my language.

This isn’t New York City, or any city for that matter.  You’re not driving to work.  There’s no trophy waiting for you when you reach your destination somewhere in the park.  You are surrounded by your destination.  You’re already there 🙂

If you try to hurry, you’re going to miss what’s around you.  And you’ll miss a lot.

If you try to hurry, you’ll find yourself stuck and angry, and you’re not going to enjoy the experience.

The park is huge – 2.2 million acres!  The speed limit is 45 mph at the fastest.  There is a lot of road construction as they try to upgrade to accommodate the crowds.  Tour buses drive 32 mph.  Bison, Bears, Elk and Pronghorns will cause traffic jams.

Chill.  Open your eyes.  Enjoy the beauty.

A great deal of what I witnessed it terms of human behavior was people trying to drive insanely fast just to get to the next pull out.  Then they would pop out of their cars – clown car images :-), snap a few pics, mostly selfies, although admittedly there was a great backdrop, and then pile back into their vehicles and speed to the next pull out and repeat.

Pull in.  Pull out.  Pedal to the floor.  Document.  Record.  But fail to actually see and experience.

Rather, one should breathe in, breathe out.  Stop and appreciate the beauty.  My god, it’s incredible.

Walk around a little and feel the earth beneath your feet.  Touch the tress and lichens.  Listen to the Ravens.  Smell the rivers and streams.  Taste a wild Thimbleberry.

A crowd of stopped vehicles could tip you off to a good wildlife spotting.  But remember the proximity rule.  I saw a crowd of fifty people surround a Grizzly Bear.  One step too close, or too much crowding could have provoked it.  And they can move fast.  I took a couple of shots from a safe distance and moved on.

The day after I left, a man was gored by a Bull Elk.  That’s not a good way to enjoy nature.

Plan enough days to see the many attractions.  I planned a week and I used every minute of it.  I had no idea just how many hydrothermal features there were to see – some 10,000 of them, including 500 geysers.  It would take months to see them all.

In addition to the familiar hot springs and geysers, there are mudpots (springs acidic enough to dissolve the surrounding rock), travertine terraces (hot springs boiling through limestone and depositing the calcite in layers), and fumaroles (steam vents).

Many of these features are rainbow colored by microorganisms called thermophiles.  Microscopic in size, trillions of them amass and produce the varying colors.  The temperature determines what organisms grow and those determine the pigments released.

One of the most spectacular features is the Grand Prismatic Hot Spring in the Midway Geyser Basin.  I did a separate post just on that one because of its intense beauty.

There are some great trails and day-hikes and you should check a couple of them out.  At least hike by the Falls at the Grand Canyon of the Yellowstone.  But also realize you can cover quite a distance just traversing the boardwalks weaving through the geyser basins.  I got in seven miles on one of those days.

And don’t stray off the boardwalk thinking you can sneak a little closer to that hot spring for a better shot.  There have been fatalities where that fragile crust of land gives way and swallows a person in 200 degree, plus or minus, earth, steam, and boiling acidic mud.

If you can, stay in a lodge in the park.  I was 30 miles outside the park and once getting to the entrance, there was another 25 to get to the center loop that links you all of the park’s quadrants.  I averaged driving 200 miles round trip each day I was there.  But it was worth it for all that I took in.

Get out early if you want to see Grizzlies and Elk.  That’s when they’re on the move, and with less people stirring, you have a better chance at getting that once-in-a-lifetime photo.

Accept the fact that you’re not always going to get a pic.  Yes, I saw wolves in the Lamar Valley – with the help of another visitor’s high-power spotting scope.  He was generous. Not everyone will be.

The wolves were way out of range for my 400 mm lens to capture more than a smudge of an imprint.  A few pixels in that high-resolution frame.  But I was thrilled to see them and that image will always remain in my mind.

Well, now I may be getting too touristy in my descriptions and tips, and be wheeling away from the theme of contrasts, but I think you get the idea.

This isn’t the city.  You can’t behave like it is.  This is the real world with a few paved roads running through it.  It’s spectacularly beautiful.  It can kill you if you don’t know what you’re doing.

Enjoy 🙂

***

Prior Chapters of Contrasts:

Contrasts – Kapitel 1

Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

Contrasts – κεφάλαιο 3 – Cabrillo National Monument

Contrasts – Chapitre 4 – Two Museums

As I’ve been going through my pics, I realized I have so many that I’ve decided to post a couple of different galleries.  Today, we’ll have a look at some of the wildlife.  Even an amateur like me can get some great shots at Yellowstone 🙂

 

The Many Flames of Life

I love fire.  Always have.

A Passionate Embrace.

Cozy snowy days by the woodstove.

Well, not quite a Haiku’s traditional 5-7-5, but fire is still poetic.  Fire is symbolic of so many things.  Transformation, purification, life force, power, strength, destruction, rebirth, transcendence, inspiration, enlightenment.

Truth and Knowledge.  Light and Heat.  The Intellect and the Emotions.

“Baptism by Fire” restores primordial purity.  An intermediary between the Source and all of us tiny Particles of Awareness.

Fire is a good visual representation of our emotions.  Anger, I believe, is the most destructive – a raging inferno.  Passion, the most inspirational, a slow intense burn.  Love, a steady light.  Life, the precious spark.

The blaze in the feature photo above represents that out-of-control burst of anger.  Hatred.  The stare of death.

While this image . . .

Fire +

the steady, passionate burn of the heart.  That electric heat, tingle of fire, with the brush of a lover’s hand.  A slow, deep delicious kiss.

And there’s another image I truly love, from my background of being a health care provider – The Keeper of the Flame.  I found this pin at a military surplus store.  I was told it was a German medic’s pin.  The hands delicately cradling that life force.

Keeper of the Flame

And here’s one, a story for another day, perhaps, of a long ago camping trip in the mountains of Colorado.  The howling winds channeling through the mountain pass.  Filling our eyes with smoke and ash as we reached for those life-giving flames.

Cold in Them Mountains

But anger.  Yes anger is the most destructive.  A fire that can consume us.  Destroy us physically and mentally.  We might think it’s directed outward, but the amount of negative energy that burns within can kill.  An insidious suicide.

I end with a link to a friend’s blog.   Lucid Being recently posted “Solving the Anger Issues! – Open Leader.” It’s a good read.

As for that spiritual burn in all of us – don’t let that fire go out.

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

BORING

A few days ago, I posted a piece about attention spans and when people will “bail” from reading additional text.  As a writer, it’s helpful to know what’s happening in the reader’s mind so we can craft ways to capture their attention.  And that Bailer’s Point actually ties in nicely with the fourth “Brain Rule” discussed by John Medina. *

People won’t pay attention to boring things.

It seems that when we encounter any stimulus our brains go through a number of discrete phases to process that information.

Intrinsic Alertness – our ability to detect something.

Phasic Alertness – our ability to focus on that something.

Executive Network – our ability to decide what to do about that something.

And despite what people may think, the brain’s attention spotlight can only focus on one thing at a time.  We process concepts sequentially.  Task shifting, or multi-tasking, delays accomplishment time by 50% and increases errors by 50%.  We’re just not wired well to do multiple things at the same time.  We are also much better at detecting patterns and then extrapolating the meaning of events than we are at registering and remembering the details of those events.

We saw before how readers can check out within seconds if their attention is not corralled, and listeners, it turns out, can only hold on for about 10 minutes before tuning out.

So what enhances or extends attention spans?  How can we reach into the readers’ or listeners’ brains and shake their frontal lobes around without screaming PAY ATTENTION?! !

We can add emotion!

It seems emotion coupled with information not only captures attention, but it significantly improves retention.  People remember personal stories bathing in feelings better than they will rote recitations of facts, no matter how intriguing we might think those facts are.

As writers, we need to try to engage all of our reader’s senses.  So they can taste it, hear it, smell it, feel it, breathe it in.

But it also turns out that we need to give people frequent breaks.  As a lecturer, that may mean switching topics or keeping the presentation short.  As a writer, it means we need to effectively use punctuation.  Let the reader come up for air once and a while.

That’s one reason I like to use sentence fragments.  Even though were not supposed to 🙂

And on that note, I’ll call it quits today.  Except if I can hold your attention a little longer, there are a few more fun pics at the bottom of this virtual page.

***

Feature Photo: An old hotel in an 1800’s mining town has a character all of its own, but by bending the light and showering it with color, we add emotion.  Fire!  It draws in the eye and holds the attention.   With blogging, I’ve found that a great pic can really draw in the reader.  Of course, what I think is great others might find boring.

Past Posts on Brain Rules by John Medina, a developmental molecular biologist.

Move Your Body, Move Your Mind

Writing to Survive

Wired

I hope you all have a day of excitement filled with brain candy.  Here are a few more pics I played with, turning the ordinary into a little something more.

Bisbee - 53 - Castle Rock + CF

 

Ramsey Canyon 25th - 7 - CF13-26

Horseback Riding - 1 +MC100+Enamel

Miller Canyon - 3 +Solarize 245

Sunset from the Little House + Enamel

 

Framers, Federalists, and the Reality of the Administrative State

The Framers of the Constitution wanted to avoid the problems of the governments they were all running away from in Europe, so while they wanted a centralized government for certain functions, like taxation, printing a common currency and conducting wars, they also wanted less power in that centralized government to prevent abuses and more power vested in the individual states who theoretically would better be able to determine their specific jurisdictional policies and priorities.

They also wanted to form a Union, and concessions were required to get all of the states on board.

Of course, terminology in law is often stood on its head and “Federalism” has become one of those terms.  Federalism, generically speaks to the relationships between the federal and state governments and the original “Federalists” wanted some form of centralized government as opposed to those who did not.  But the term does not mean more “Federalization” of government, it means less.

The philosophy of the Federalist Society today advocates for a very limited federal government, for a strict constructionist view of the Constitution, and for strong adherence to the separation of powers doctrine.  That doesn’t sound so bad.

Except, “strict construction” and “strong adherence” are just as susceptible to legislative and executive manipulation and to judicial activism as is applying the “spirit” of the Constitution.  And laws and social policy are shaped and changed just the same by “textualists” as they are by “living documentalists.”

It is all a fight over words, definitions, and semantics, and it’s all highly partisan and politicized regardless of any faction claiming otherwise.

And, the reason I bring this up is because how this all intertwines with what has become the modern “Administrative State,” and the massive amount of power being wielded by federal and state agencies that weren’t created in the Constitution.  This seems not to have been contemplated by the Founders and certainly seems opposed to what modern-day Federalists all talk about.  So how did this come to be?

And again, standing language on its head we have the “Non-Delegation” doctrine flowing from Article I and the Separation of Powers doctrine.  So we have three branches of government that are supposed to stay put in their respective arenas, provide checks and balances, and not run around giving their authority away to the other branches or interfering with the authority of the other branches.

For example, Congress can’t pass a law that would allow the executive branch to pass legislation – they can’t delegate that authority away.  But the Non-Delegation doctrine has been stood on its head and has become a means of defining the opposite.  It is used to define just what authority Congress can delegate away and who gets to control that authority.

And while Congress largely gives away authority to the executive branch, it will at times, muck around with the authority of the courts by tinkering with structure and jurisdiction, and by dangling the power of the purse over the heads of the judiciary when they get upset over an unconstitutional law being struck down.

Turns out, the Constitution, over time, probably to the chagrin of the Federalists, has been interpreted to allow Congress to create executive branch level agencies.  They create agencies with what we refer to as “Organic” or “Enabling” statutes and while the agencies’ powers are limited by these statutes, Congress gave agencies a little boost by allowing them to promulgate “rules.”  And, gee whiz, rules, if properly promulgated, have the same force and effect as statutes.  Lawmaking.

When you think about it, Congress expanded the executive branch big time.  They created much more of it than the Constitution originally did and much more of it than people probably like.  And, then they delegated away some of their legislative power to the executive branch (rule-making), but we call this quasi-legislative authority.  And what the Legislature (Big “L”) giveth, it can taketh away.  Although changes may be slow.

This is true at both the Federal and State level and we have Administrative Procedures Acts at both levels to give agencies some guidance and fill in the gaps in the agency-specific Organic statutes.  And these procedures allow agencies to intrude into the Judicial branch too!  They give agencies quasi-judicial powers to hear and decide contested cases, subject to judicial review of course.

And guess what, since the executive branch enforces the law and agencies are by nature regulatory bodies, we naturally have executive prosecutorial functions as well.  So agencies can make the law, prosecute under that law, and convict you (so to speak) under that law, all under one roof.

Agencies do a little more than licensing and maintaining files of annual reports.

Of course, the legislature generally did not delegate any authority to agencies to run around imprisoning people as punishment for any types of violations, so once the agency “convicts” you, the only penalties agencies can implement have to be found in the statutes themselves or you have to go to court for yet another judicial proceeding.  The Sixth Amendment is still alive, for the moment.

Federal and State legislatures can’t be experts in everything and there is so, so much to regulate that we have evolved into a “Administrative State” that has multiple layers of regulation that come from authority delegated out to the Executive Branch by Congress or by State Legislatures.  And the executive agencies’ regulations and decisions are given considerable deference by the Courts because the agencies are the “experts” in their respective fields.

So while many people focus on the acts of the legislature, which is a good thing to do, they should also pay close attention to what’s happening at the state and federal agencies, because there is much more law and social policy setting going on there that has a much more immediate impact on the populous.  You can look at current environmental policies for example.

There, I just kind of laid out the framework for how agencies evolved.  I’m not trying to address how different administrations have used the agencies to implement particular agendas or the merits of specific agendas.  At least not today 🙂

***

Photo:  My pocket Constitution.  These things are good little tools to have and it might be wise to read the Document once and a while.  The Constitution is actually pretty short.  And pretty amazingly well done.  The development of the Administrative State has shifted major powers to the executive branch, and that is partly why administrations do receive so much attention – because of the dramatic effect they can have on people’s day-to-day lives.

BTW: On a personal note.  Federal and state agencies have administrative law judges to preside over the quasi-judicial functions and trials at the agencies.  For part of my legal career I was a state Regulatory Law Judge.

About a year and a half ago, I applied to make the registry of qualified applicants for Federal Administrative Law Judges.  My understanding is they get 12,000 applicants when they open the registry, which is only opened about once every five years.  And they whittle that number down to 200 with an objective examination process.

They have been doing this since 1920 to ensure they get qualified applicants and to minimize the politicization of the process.

The competitive application process consisted of a series of examinations conducted by the Office of Personnel Management (OPM).  I made the list, scoring in that top 1.67% of the applicants 🙂 !! This didn’t guarantee me a position, but I could have been selected when there was a vacancy, subject to another interview process.

I recently received an email from the OPM informing me that our president, by executive order, terminated the competitive application process and eliminated the list of qualified applicants, thus doing what no other president has done since the registry’s creation and injecting politics into the selection process.  Selection by one, with no standard for qualifications.

Kind of sad, because the checks and balances set up by the Framers, and even those originally put in place by the independent branches, have been slowly getting whittled away, bit by bit . . .

 

 

Contrasts – κεφάλαιο 3 – Cabrillo National Monument

Juan Rodriguez Cabrillo set sail some 50 years after Columbus, leaving Mexico to discover a route to Asia and the Spice Islands.  On September 28, 1542 he sailed into what is now the harbor of San Diego.  He called the area San Miguel.

He would be dead some three months later, allegedly the result of infection from wounds sustained fighting with the Chumash Indians on Isla de la Posesion.  His mission unfulfilled.  He was considered to be the first European to set foot on the West Coast of the United States and this monument honors him.

Included in the monument is the Old Point Loma Lighthouse; World War II defense bunkers and gun batteries, and the Point Loma Tide Pools, which are host to an amazing ecosystem.  Point Loma is also passed by migrating gray whales every year, a round trip of 12,000 miles beginning in their Arctic feeding grounds for their return to the Baja California Sur Bays, their breeding coast.

While I was there, I hiked the Bayside Trail giving me a nice look over the Bay and many vessels navigating it.  I also headed down to the tidal pools, but the waters were too rough to really be able to see the marine wildlife.

The major contrast I saw between this area and the city life I’ve described in my prior two posts was that of calm.

The level of self and technological absorption really was significantly less.  Actual human interaction was up.  People were in awe of one thing.

The Ocean.

Yes, the ocean has that power over people.  It can slow their brains and sooth their souls.

Everyone just found a spot, had a seat, and it took it all in.  It really was quite amazing seeing the transition.

The Power of Mother Earth.

***

Title: I’m sure you noticed I’m using different languages for the word “Chapter.”  I was just having a bit of fun since I am coming across blogs of people speaking different languages.  I find the text to be beautiful even if I can’t read it.  I simply plug it in to Google Translator.  I wonder how the human mind internalizes a given language as we grow up.  Fascinating.

Prior Chapters: Contrasts – Kapitel 1 & Contrasts – Hoofstuk 2: Which Animals Do You Watch?

Galleries:  And now a few photos from the day. 

Cabrillo 9 + C1