Tag Archives: Writing

Woody Guthrie

A friend posted a link to a Woody Guthrie song on Facebook the other day.  He is a big music fan and appreciates a lot of the older musicians.  It was the anniversary of Guthrie’s birthday, July 14th.

I knew the song well, but I went to the link on You Tube to listen again and that’s when I noticed them.  The comments.

I look at a lot posts now days, not for the actual content, but for the comments.  It is sort of like taking the pulse of the public.  True, it is not a representative sample of the general public and one shouldn’t put too much emphasis or importance on these minority of remarks.  But it can be amusing at times.  Or enlightening.

Everything, and I mean everything, seems to be politically charged right now.  I saw a post about the FBI crime statistics and immediately people were trying to link crime with political party affiliation.  Heck, they should just look at the politicians themselves for that.  Plenty of criminals there.

But the average murder, I imagine, has more to do with passion, the heat of the moment, or a robbery or other crime, or something else much more mundane.  When I worked for the top court in my state, I had to review all of the state’s death penalty cases.  I can guarantee you not a single murder case I looked at had anything to do with politics.

But people see what they want to see.

I imagine the politicians are patting themselves on their backs.  They have successfully, maybe too successfully, divided the country into polar opposites and many people just can’t wait to add their commentary and witticisms to any thread on social media.  And I’ll give some credit, some of their remarks are actually smart and funny 😊

Insults have become popular, though, so there is a whole bunch of eye-poking and head-slapping going on out there.  I’ve generally quit trying to add rational thoughts to the mix as the responses are, well, just kind of out there in the ozone layer, what’s left of it.

Once, apparently not liking my ideas, a person fired back that they had my IP address and were going to come to my home, rape my mother and kill my whole family.  Another time, I was called a “Communist putz” because I had said something regarding the greed and materialism I see in the current culture.  The level of civil discourse sometimes deteriorates in cyber world.

I like the blogging world much better.  People are generally more positive here, more thoughtful in their presentations, and willing to have a real discussion.

At any rate, this song was no different from any other post.  It was politicized quickly.  It was a folk song about America, after all.  And forms of government became a point of contention.  Not surprising considering Woody Guthrie often had the words “This Machine Kills Fascists” written on his guitar.

It seems to me that the lines have been blurred between our form of government and our economic and maybe even our religious systems.  Democracy is not the same as capitalism.  Socialism is not the same as Communism.  People worshiping money or monetary systems are certainly not religious in any respect.

I did like one of the comments though because I thought it showed a level of balance so here it is:

“Considering human history and the teachings of the major world religions, it seems that your statement about greed being a natural human trait is largely true. It’s also been recognized as an evil impulse for thousands of years by virtually every strain of human thought. One way to view capitalism is the institutionalization of greed. It has benefits and drawbacks, and most world democracies have settled on a capitalist system with some governmental regulation as “the best of all possible worlds.” Those who advocate for unfettered socialism seem to be ignorant of or OK with losing all of capitalism’s early benefits: constant innovation; rewarding hard work, talent, intelligence, and risk; and a strong individual work ethic. Those who advocate for unfettered capitalism seem to be ignorant of or OK with the oligarchy that quickly overtakes it as the rich use their power to stifle innovation, fix markets, and disconnect the link between talent, hard work, and upward mobility. They seem to also be OK with the violent revolt of the disenfranchised that must surely follow.”     — Patrick Lollis

Any thoughts?

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The Woody Guthrie song link:  This Land is Your Land

Feature Photo: I found this photo on the Internet in the public domain.  It was linked back to an NPR site with an interview about Woody Guthrie.

BTW: I added the Politics section to my blog because sometimes I’ll have to write something that wanders into this pasture.  But you may have noticed that I don’t post too often in this section.  I am still working on the art of presenting controversial topics neutrally.  I like to keep discussions alive and love to hear what others have to say.  Being extreme in one’s presentation may be provocative, but the discussion will usually deteriorate and die quite quickly that way.  I’d rather have an open mind and listen to well articulated ideas 🙂

 

Writing to Survive

A while back I wrote a piece about how movement, physical movement, was necessary for our creative minds.  In fact, this was a trait we learned and passed on by the forces of evolution.  To eat, we moved.  As we moved, we learned to think.  We had to be creative problem solvers on the move, and we survived.

That article was called, “Move Your Body, Move Your Mind.”  And there, I explored the first “rule” in the book, “Brain Rules,” by John Medina.  This guy, Medina, is a smart guy. He is a developmental molecular biologist.

This technique works for me, by-the-way.  I get some of my best story ideas when I’m out hiking on the trail and I allow my mind to drift.  Evolutionary vestiges repurposed.  I hunt for words as my food is all neatly packaged at the grocery store now.

Well, the second “brain rule” is our ability to engage in IMAGINATION!  More specifically, our ability to substitute objects in our minds so that one object can represent another, or maybe a whole bunch of different objects.  This has been called “Dual Representation Theory.”  More basically, SYMBOLISM.

It seems our fossil history shows that our ancestors evolved a lot physically since humankind’s estimated beginnings somewhere around 7 to 10 million years ago, but there wasn’t a lot of mental evolution going on until about 40,000 years ago.  And then.  Bam!  We went from stone axes to painting, sculpture, fine art and jewelry.  Soon, there would be mathematics and science.  And, of course, more advanced communication.  What caused this big change?

Apparently, it was the weather.

The changes weren’t fast, but they forced adaptation.  Brought us out of the trees and into the savannah when food sources shifted.  To become more streamlined and save energy we became bipedal.

In order to master survival in all of the biomes on the planet, our brains enlarged.  This brings in another concept – Variability Selection Theory.  Two powerful aspects of the brain developed.  A database and the ability to improvise using that growing database.

And since survival not only meant staying warm and eating, it meant not being eaten too, community concepts evolved.  There was safety and better hunting in numbers.  And this meant learning to negotiate.

This raises the “Theory of Mind” or the ability to make inferences.  To peer inside another person’s mental life and make predictions, to understand their motivations.  All necessary skills to develop allies, cooperative behavior, and group species survival.

This ability to draw upon our databases and make inferences reminds me of the “predictive processing framework,” described in my piece,“My Intuition Tells Me . . ..”

With basic survival skills being mastered, humans could focus on more advanced pursuits.  Those beyond only the four F’s – fighting, feeding, fleeing and fucking.  And thus, in addition to art, music, mathematics, and science, us modern-day bloggers have electronic storytelling.

I think most of us still like the fucking, we just have more time for more things beyond the big four now. 😊

Storytelling is an ancient art, and we wordsmiths spend a lot of time in the world of symbolic thinking.  We don’t use this creative process for basic survival like our ancestors did.  Or do we ???  Maybe writing and creating worlds is survival for some of us.  And I suppose some us actually do feed ourselves by writing, a lean diet that is . . .

But basically, every word we use is a symbol, either a subject or an action or a feeling.  Every word has to represent something tangible in the physical world or summon an image or feeling into the mind.

In fact, symbols can convey meanings or reveal details of reality beyond just a physical image.  Symbols can carry strong emotions.  They can summon memories of sounds and smells and touches.  Of happiness and laughter.

And as writers, we employ that Theory of Mind in multiple ways.  We try to look into our reader’s heads, make predictions, understand what drives them.  Figure out how to lead them through the story.

There are times when we want our words to evoke a particular image and have that image be universal for all readers.  But there are other times when we deliberately want those words to convey multiple meanings, to give the reader a choice.  Or to show contradictions between choices.  Maybe they’ll choose a meaning that even we never saw as a possibility.

If we are writing fiction, we have to develop the mental lives of the characters we create.  We add predictability and motivations for their actions, even providing historic context.  Their fictional life traumas that have helped develop their passions, their fears, their hatreds, their loves, their essence.  So the reader understands the next move on the chess board.

So, this survival skill of making inferences has evolved into us examining the minds of non-existent entities and developing believable characters based upon what we anticipate would be their universal actions.  Wouldn’t we do the same thing in the same situation?  And we do this for entertainment, not for negotiating the next mammoth hunt.

Whether it’s fiction or non-fiction, the art of writing is stacking symbols in some sequence to complete a portrait.  And we want to draw the reader in so they feel like they are a part of the story.  A bystander.  A witness.  Or maybe even an active participant.

Symbols may relate to objects, but they don’t equate to objects.  They reveal essence.  Symbols are inclusive and expansive and evolve over time acquiring even more meaning from multiple sources.

Meanings may differ depending on peoples’ cultures.  The Owl, for example, to the Pawnee symbolized protection, while to the Ojibwa it symbolized evil and death.  To the ancient Greeks, the Owl represented wisdom.

Great Horned Owl - 6 - 25th Nov + Crop
According to Joseph Campbell: “Symbols are only the vehicles of communication; they must not be mistaken for the final term, the tenor, of their reference.”  This implies that no two people would experience the object of the symbol in the same way.  Maybe so, especially with cultural variations, but it seems the essence of the experience can be shared more universally with a symbol than with bare words.

With context, it seems to me that symbols are the supersonic highway of communication.  The brain is able to process a symbol as an all-encompassing experience in a nanosecond.  Faster than the blink of an eye, a complex story unfolds in images and associated feelings.

Symbolic thinking is said to be a uniquely human skill, and it allows us the ability to understand each other and coordinate within groups.  And with that, I’ll leave you with a few symbols to make of them what you will. 😊

What do these images inspire in your minds?

***

Note:  If you want to read more, there are some quotes on symbolism below.

Photos:  An angel inside an old Spanish mission.  The great Horned Owl.  A sculpture in an art gallery court yard.  Street sculptures in an eclectic small town.  A vulture crosses it’s folded wings to make a heart.

DeGrazia - Courtyard Statue     Bisbee - 25     Bisbee - 1BCrop
Bisbee - 27 + Crop     Turkey Vulture - Folded Wings 2+Crop Heart

A sort of Rorschach test 🙂

Quotes: 

“Symbolism is no mere idle fancy or corrupt egerneration: it is inherent in the very texture of human life.”
― Alfred Whitehead

“Things do not have meaning. We assign meaning to everything.”
― Anthony Robbins

“Symbols can be so beautiful, sometimes.”
― Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions

“If you have to ask what it symbolizes, it didn’t.”
― Roger Ebert

“In many college English courses the words “myth” and “symbol” are given a tremendous charge of significance.  You just ain’t no good unless you can see a symbol hiding, like a scared gerbil, under every page.  And in many creative writing course the little beasts multiply, the place swarms with them.  What does this Mean? What does that Symbolize?  What is the Underlying Mythos?  Kids come lurching out of such courses with a brain full of gerbils.  And they sit down and write a lot of empty pomposity, under the impression that that’s how Melville did it.”
― Ursula K. Le Guin, The Language of the Night: Essays on Fantasy and Science Fiction

“A religion is a system of symbols which acts to establish powerful, pervasive, and long-lasting moods in men [and women] by formulating conceptions of a general order of existence and clothing those conceptions with such an aura of factuality that the moods and motivations seem uniquely realistic.”
― Clifford Geertz

“The same principles that make a spiral galaxy also create the structure of a seashell and unfurling of a fern.  This is why ancient spiritual people used natural symbols to convey universal concepts.”
― Belsebuub, Return to Source: How Enlightenment is the Process of Creation in the Universe in Reverse

“[A] symbol, like everything else, shows a double aspect.  We must distinguish, therefore between the ‘sense’ and the ‘meaning’ of the symbol.  It seems to me perfectly clear that all the great and little symbolical systems of the past functioned simultaneously on three levels: the corporeal of waking consciousness, the spiritual of dream, and the ineffable of the absolutely unknowable.  The term ‘meaning’ can refer only to the first two but these, today, are in the charge of science – which is the province as we have said, not of symbols but of signs.  The ineffable, the absolutely unknowable, can be only sensed.  It is the province of art which is not ‘expression’ merely, or even primarily, but a quest for, and formulation of, experience evoking, energy-waking images: yielding what Sir Herbert Read has aptly termed a ‘sensuous apprehension of being’.”
― Joseph Campbell, The Symbol Without Meaning

Contagious Evil

The Moon shines no light of its own.  It merely reflects the light from another source, our sun.  It makes no conscious choice on what it reveals to us . . .

***

For the moment I sit and seem to be without words.  So, I’m trying an exercise where I just write something, anything, just to see what shakes loose.  It’s strange, that the internal dialog in our minds never wants to shut up, but my writer’s voice goes away every once in a while.

At the same time I’m having trouble writing in this blogging format, I’ve been restraining myself from lashing back on other social media platforms.  Reining in those words. Humm, injustice inspires me to want to speak up against it.  But that doesn’t always bring out the best in my writing.  Better to stay calm and deliberate and write positively.

But deliberating about which words to use, or writing about how to write, is not the same as telling a story.  Or delivering a message.  Deliberating can turn into avoidance.  I watched many a doctor do this back when I worked in the hospital.  I called it WWDD – Watch, Wait, Debate, Do Nothing.  Ultimately, the patient dies.

Excuses right.  Always have a rationalization.  Don’t want to get too close to that edge.  The sun got in my eyes.  I tripped over a rock.  I was adjusting my medications.  Humm, most probably the later . . .

But I do have to say, the tone of the conversations permeating cyberspace in recent weeks, at least in my neck of the words, has been a bit disheartening.  It sort of left me speechless and maybe even a touch morose.  I never thought I see a time when so much anger and hatred would spread.

A sort of virus had taken over, and evil one.  It seems like people have stopped really communicating and are just sort of screaming at one another.  Whomever yells the loudest wins.  Wins what?  I’m not sure.

And one of my goals in blogging this time around has been to try to find ways to bring people into the conversation.  To keep the discussion going.  To have people actually consider other viewpoints.  But one wrong word choice can shut the whole thing down or explode it.

So how does one write positively when addressing evil?

I was reminded about some workplace research I had recently read about.  Contagious Evil.  Of course, the authors didn’t call it that.  They used terms like “corruption,” “spill-over effect,” “misconduct,” and “bad apple.”

The Harvard Business Review’s study determined that Contagious Evil (we’re going with my terminology) has a social multiplier of 1.59, meaning each time an incident of misconduct occurs, another event of misconduct will be triggered 59% of the time by peer effects.  The study focused on financial advisors, who it turns out are 37% more likely to commit misconduct if they collide with a co-worker with a history of misconduct.  And the effect can be stronger if the two doing the colliding are in the same ethnic group.

Interesting, if a colleague in your workplace lies, cheats or steals, and you are aware of this, you have a greater than 50% chance of joining in the violation or embarking upon your own dance of misconduct.  It’s as though the original evil one handed you a get-away-with-evil-free card.  A license to do bad, because, well, someone else got away with it.  Your chance to settle some imaginary score?  Get back at all those little injustices being perpetuated against you?  Perhaps.

This “spill-over” phenomenon has been witnessed in other contexts, like how one mass shooting or a suicide seems to trigger others.  A whole bunch of theories have been propounded to try to explain this contagious communal thinking.

Like the moon, an individual may not engage in any conscious determination of their actions, but merely reflect the thoughts, actions and beliefs of others.

One theory is simply called the “Contagion Theory,” where collective behavior is like a crowd induced hypnosis – irrational and emotional.  Another is “Convergence Theory.”  The crowd behavior reflects the beliefs of the individuals before they joined the crowd, so what pulled that crowd of like-thinking automatons together?  Maybe it was the media platform.

On the other spectrum, we have “Emergent Norm Theory.”  People, who are uncertain in how to act collectively, actually discuss how their behavior should be governed and allow order and rationality to guide them.  I haven’t seen much of that lately.

There is also the “Werther Effect,” so labeled from Goethe’s novel, “The Sorrows of Young Werther.”  Unrequited love ends with suicide and this was the inspiration for copycats.  The license theory – if it’s ok for someone else, they have granted me their approval and it’s ok for me too.

I don’t know if any of these equations can be applied to evil writing.  Collective thought and behavior put into words where the crowd only gathers figuratively.  Words of evil that for some reason seem to latch on to some imaginations.  Captivate and propagate more collagenous bile.  Will one person’s hateful rhetoric escalate, license and embolden?  Rising in a crescendo of a million voices, either echoing or repelling?  And can all of this hostility spill into the streets?  That seems to be what I’m seeing right now.

But then I think, just what is evil?  Evil is defined as profound immorality and wickedness and it takes on Biblical proportions when it has the qualities of a supernatural force.  But then we have the terms “immorality” and “wickedness” and who gets to define those terms?  We may all have different definitions, especially on morality.

We tend to look at things in the world with an eye of relativism not absolutism.  My crime was so minor when compared to murder, so I’m not a criminal.  Right?

And then there is the “Tonal” of times.  Morality changes over time.  Whatever the majority of the bee hive is thinking at this particular moment or era of time.  And that “Hive Think” can take over, be contagious.  Whether it is right or wrong.

We seem to be living in a time of rising intolerance, division, and social disintegration.  When I find myself speechless in the face of extreme ignorance though, I become concerned.  Are the differences so great now, the division so complete, that people think corrupting our democracy is worth the tradeoff of the loss of liberty?  The “my way or the highway mentality” feeding into authoritarianism.  Or instead of social consensus, is this merely reflecting a collective fear of deciding, of having to be responsible for one’s choices, so let’s have someone else decide, it will be their fault if it fails . . .

What do you think?  Is evil contagious?  Can the power of words be used to enhance the social multiplier, escalate collisions with “bad apples?”  Or provide a stamp of approval for behavior that is particularly wicked?

I don’t know if there is an off switch for what’s going on right now, but I do hope people will become more civil, will recognize truth, will compromise.  And hope they will start shining their own light, thinking and reasoning for themselves instead of being hypnotized with polarizing buzz words.  Be the reflection of themselves instead of becoming the reflection of other minds . . .

***

** So there, I managed to meander through my mind for a bit and put something reasonably coherent into kBs.  And hopefully I’ve done so having not offended anyone.

*** The “quoted text” is all my own.  I just wanted to set those lines off for rhythm 🙂

Photo: The moon doesn’t shine its own light. It reflects.

 

Dreaming of You

There is a place

where I have gone

when I am dreaming.

And it has been very rare.

Where I know I am dreaming

and there is no difference

between me the dreamer

and me the dreamed.

Who is to say which is more real.

And I can choose where I wake up

in my bed

where this body is sleeping

or in the dreamscape

where I am experiencing

On that plane of existence.

And tonight

if I have that choice,

I choose to be where ever you may be

because I know

you will be in that dream

Where ever it may be . . .

***

Photo: A landscape takes on more color and becomes a dream, but the image is just as real.  It was all a matter of perception and expanding our senses.

Once It’s Out There . . .

If you haven’t Googled yourself or your blog’s title in a while, you might just want to.  It’s fun.  I mean, I think all of us who are writing want exposure and want to develop a following, but you might be surprised to see what’s out there.

There has always been that ominous warning that once something is put out there on the Net, it’s out there forever.  Like it or not.  But that seems like a warning more appropriate for those crazy pictures people are inclined to put on their not-so-private Facebook pages.  Beware future employers 🙂

All things and words can fade with time.  Right?

You might want to rethink that before you put your next rant out there for the world to see.

When I was writing for newspapers and magazines in the 90’s, and then later blogging in the early 2000s, it seemed like my articles were perpetually floating around.  Now, those have virtually disappeared.  With a few interesting exceptions.

You see, other folks out there might snap up your writing up and use it for a purpose you never imagined.  Or, in one instance, I even received an “award,” or recognition,  I never knew about until years later.

In 1997, I authored a couple of editorials on vaccines.  Mind you, I’m not against vaccines.  All mine are up to date.  But I do believe people should retain their choice on whether they wish to have foreign chemical substances injected into their bodies.  Especially when toxic chemicals are added as preservatives.  And especially when those substances may be contaminated with other substances that you might not want in your body.  And especially since diseases can still be transmitted by those who are vaccinated.

I don’t believe in government coerced Kool-Aid.

At any rate, my articles might seem controversial.  I didn’t really think so since there was plenty of research to back up the data, and I believed the articles to be balanced in their presentation.  Nonetheless, they caused a bit of a stir when they were published.  And guess what, after all these years, they’re still floating about on the Internet.

I had published these articles with the Albion Monitor, and they had a great website.  Full attribution credit goes to them.  Here is their obituary:

R.I.P. Albion Monitor, born August 19, 1995 and passed away at May 5, 2009, at the age of slightly over 5,000 days, having published 13,000 articles, giver take. The corpse will remain on view indefinitely at http://www.albionmonitor.com and is survived by a handful of good on-line news operations, scads of blogs, and ten million tweets.

But, and this is a big BUT, after my articles were published on the Monitor some other webpages used my stories for their own purposes.  Purposes I would have never agreed to.

The first article was about contaminated polio vaccine.  It turns out I tied in 12th place for Project Censored 1999 Top 25 Censored Stories with this one.  You can find references to that here: 

https://books.google.com/books?id=dmvaVl_8yBwC&pg=PA60&lpg=PA60&dq=harold+stearley&source=bl&ots=RlpZicOuC9&sig=eulp91fdoRO_cdY9me9HvkLJKzI&hl=en&sa=X&ved=0ahUKEwibmZyt_LDbAhUS-6wKHbpUCPU4FBDoAQgoMAA#v=onepage&q=harold%20stearley&f=false

Or here:

http://projectcensored.org/12-millions-of-americans-received-contaminated-polio-vaccine-between-1955-and-1963/

And here are a few websites where you can still find my article now:

http://www.albionmonitor.com/free2/poliovaccine.html

http://fathersmanifesto.net/poliostearley.htm

http://www.rense.com/health/salk.htm

http://www.ioa.com/~dragonfly/vaccine2.html

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!topic/soc.culture.zimbabwe/cb7cz3g0_ik

http://rubysemporium.org/health/body/polio-40yrs.html

The second article was about safety issues with the DPT vaccine.  And here are a few websites where you can still find either my article or references to it:

http://www.albionmonitor.com/free2/dpt.html

http://crazzfiles.com/vaccine-damaged-child-medically-kidnapped-when-parents-refuse-toxic-chemicals-and-choose-organic-foods/     Note:  They mistakenly called me a doctor in this one.

https://groups.google.com/forum/#!msg/autism-and-mercury-vaccines/XwZeXWt6KaY/1om-HRlhbcoJ

https://vactruth.com/2010/05/09/vaccines-cause-epilepsy/

http://whale.to/v/certain6.html

http://truemedmd.com/vaccinations-cause-autism/

https://vactruth.com/2010/07/23/fact-vaccines-have-never-eradicated-anything-ever/

The point being, once my articles were out there, I had no editorial control.  No one asked me for permission to use them or associate them with whatever their cause might be.  And it would not be an easy thing to get those sites to take down my articles.  Oh well.

I guess the message is write good content you’ll always be happy with no matter where it might show up 🙂

If any of you have had similar experiences, please feel free to share.

***

Photo: An image I took of a unique location becomes its negative, or you might say an altered view with repeated printings – just like our stories can become over time 🙂

Note: All web links are subject to link rot.

By-the-way, I’ve been playing “Whack-a-Mole today with WordPress on spacing issues with this piece.  Each time I correct a spacing error, another is created, or a corrected line reverts back to an uncorrected state.  Or it takes two line spaces to create one.  Anybody else have these problems with WordPress?

***

And here are the articles and their references if anyone wants to read further.
The Forty Year Legacy of Tainted Polio Vaccine

In the late 1940’s and early 1950’s the polio virus was taking a savage toll on the American public. Thousands of children and adults were crippled or killed. In 1955, Jonas Salk performed a medical miracle when he discovered how to mass produce polio vaccine by growing it on the kidneys of rhesus monkeys. While there is no question that thousands were saved from the ravages of polio by the Salk vaccine, by 1960 a problem had surfaced — a problem which would come back to haunt the nation some forty years later.

The complication researchers had isolated in 1960 was a viral contaminate.

It seems that when the live polio virus grown on monkey tissues was extracted for vaccine production another virus was extracted as well, SV-40. When this monkey virus was injected into research animals it produced brain cancer. It appears our government didn’t wish to create a public panic or discredit the public health service, because instead of recalling the tainted vaccines, it quietly ordered the manufacturers to find a monkey free of SV-40 and continue production. As of 1963, the rhesus monkey had been replaced with the African green monkey for production of a safer polio vaccine, but between the years of 1955 and 1963 as many as 98 million Americans had received doses of live polio virus vaccines tainted with SV-40.

Jumping to the early 1990’s, Michele Carbone, Assistant Professor of Pathology at Loyola University in Chicago, isolated fragments of the SV-40 virus in human bone cancers and in a particularly nasty form of lung cancer called mesotheliomas. The viral contaminate from the 50s was back to haunt us, and appeared in 33% of the osteosarcoma bone cancers studied, in 40% of other bone cancers, and in 60% of the mesotheliomas lung cancers. Dr. Carbone believed this study could explain why 50% of the current mesotheliomas being treated were no longer occurring in association with their traditional cause of asbestos exposure.

Already sounding like a bad science fiction story, the worse news was yet to follow. An Italian team of researchers from the Institute of Histology and General Embryology of the University of Ferrara lead by Dr. Fernanda Martini discovered SV-40’s presence in various other tumors.

To be specific they found the monkey virus in 83% of choriod plexus papillomas, in 73% of ependymomas, in 47% of astrocytomas, in 50% of glioblastomas, and in 14% of meningiomas.

While the virus’s appearance in all of these types of brain tumors is mortifying, even more so is the fact that it materialized in 23% of blood samples and 45% of sperm fluids taken from normal individuals — normal meaning free of disease at the time of testing. The researchers determined the virus could be transmitted sexually and through blood transfusions.

As if to drive this point home, SV-40 has appeared in 61% of all new cancer patients — patients too young to have received the contaminated vaccine being administered forty years ago who are now believed to have been infected by human to human transmission. Being a blood born organism, it is also suspected that SV-40 is transmissible from mother to child during pregnancy.

The more this matter is researched the more startling the evidence. Senior epidemiologist at the National Institutes of Health, Dr. Howard Strickler, has plotted a geographic pattern to the cancers associated with SV-40 helping to confirm its link to the tainted vaccine. People who lived in Massachusetts and Illinois who received identified lot numbers of the contaminated vaccine administered in the 1950s are now demonstrating ten times the rate of the osteosarcoma bone tumors as those who received vaccine free of the SV-40 contaminate in other parts of the country.

The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) mandates that every American infant and child receive polio vaccinations. While public health officials continue to emphasize how current supplies of the vaccine are safe, Peter Reeve, FDA Virologist, has acknowledged that the administration abandoned independent testing of vaccine purity some fifteen years ago. The job of ensuring safety and purity rests squarely on the shoulders of those manufacturing the vaccines with no federal oversight. Wyeth-Lederle controls the supply of all the oral polio vaccine in this country, and last year’s sales totaled some $230 million dollars. Surely there would be no conflict of interest in allowing this corporation to be the sole agent of quality oversight of their own pocketbook?

The government may not have paid attention to the quality of these vaccines, but they had formulated a plan for their distribution. Federal vaccination policy advocated the use of live-virus oral polio vaccine (OPV) based on the belief the live virus shed in the body fluids of infants immunized with OPV could immunize others through contact exposure. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) insisted this was a safe practice, and emphasized that no one previously vaccinated could contract the disease in this manner.

The public was never informed of this strategy, however, and no consent was ever obtained from the unknowing participants in this vaccination scheme. One hundred and twenty people, many previously vaccinated, contracted polio as a result of this practice. To add insult to injury in 1994 the World Health Organization proclaimed polio was eliminated from the Western Hemisphere. Insult because for the past seventeen years the only cases of polio occurring in the United States have been caused by the vaccine itself, and injury because this victory will be paid for in blood from the cancers produced by the monkey virus spread with the vaccine.

One might ask just how such a thing could happen considering the injectable form of the vaccine (IPV) does not use a live virus and doesn’t transmit the disease it is designed to shield us from? Well, Wyeth-Lederle’s leading competitor Connaught produces IVP which could explain why Wyeth lobbied so hard against the CDC recommending increased use of IVP. In 1996 the CDC revised its recommendation from four doses of OPV to two doses of IVP followed by two doses of OPV, however, physicians have been instructed to give all four doses as OPV if they desire. The cost of IVP vaccine is $5.40 per dose, whereas OPV costs $2.32 per dose. With the difference in cost favoring the use of OPV, and the current climate of regulating health care costs, clearer guidelines must come from the government if they truly expect to increase the use of the safer IVP vaccine.

Well the story of contaminated polio vaccine is not over yet.

Microbiologist Howard Urnovitz, Ph.D. provided significant evidence at the Eighth Annual Houston Conference on AIDS that human immunodeficiency virus type 1 (HIV-1) is a monkey hybrid virus which was produced when 320,000 Africans were injected with polio virus contaminated with live simian immunodeficiency virus (SIV) in the late 1950’s. Apparently, viral fragments combine easily with other viruses to produce these hybrids called “chimeras.”

This theory was confirmed by another research team headed by Dr. B. F. Elswood at the University of California in San Francisco. Interestingly enough, when researchers Cecil H. Fox and John Martin applied to the National Institutes of Health for grants to confirm the presence of SIV and simian cyto-megalovirus (SCMV) contaminates in polio vaccines their requests were denied. Dr. Urnovitz may have an explanation as he stated in the Boston Globe, “that almost 100 million Americans were exposed (to SV-40) through a government sponsored program, but for over 30 years, there has been virtually no government effort to see if anyone’s been harmed by the exposure.” He added, “The government will not fund science that makes it look culpable.”

Could it be our government, once again, is attempting to avoid a public panic while ignoring the great potential for harm these viruses could inflict. Time will tell. Harvard Medical School professor, Dr. Ronald Desroier points out that taking all known scientific evidence into account that the medical experts’ knowledge is limited to “perhaps 2% of existing monkey viruses.” Who knows what lethal virus may be discovered in our blood streams forty years from now as a result of good intentions….

References:

Berleur, M. P., & Cordier, S. (1995). The Role of Chemical, Physical, or Viral Exposures and Health Factors in Neurocarcinogenesis: Implications for Epidemiologic Studies of Brain Tumors.  Cancer Causes and Control, 6(3), 240-256.

Bookchin, D., & Schumaker, J. (1997). Tainted Polio Vaccine Still Carries Its Threat 40 Years Later. The Boston Globe, January 26.

Carbone, M., et al. (1996). SV-40 Like Sequences in Human Bone Tumors. Oncogene, 13(3), 527-535.

Elswood, B. F., & Stricker, R. B. (1995). Polio Vaccines and the Origin of AIDS. Medical Hypotheses, 42(6), 347-354.

Fisher, B. L. (1997). Workshop on Simian Virus 40: A Possible Human Polyomavirus. National Vaccine Information Center, January 27, On-line at http://www.909shot.com/polio197.htm>http://www.909shot.com/polio197.htm.

Krieg, P., Amtmann E, Jonas, D., Fischer, H., Zang, K., & Sauer G. (1981). Episomal Simian Virus 40 Genomes in Human Brain Tumors.  Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America, 78(10), 6446-6450.

Lednicky, J. A., Garcea, R. L., Bergsagel, D. J., & Butel, J. S. (1995). Natural Simian Virus 40 Strains are Present in Human choroid Plexus and Ependymoma tumors.  Virology, 212(2), 710-717.

Martini, F., et al. (1995). Human Brain Tumors and Simian Virus 40.  Journal of the National Cancer Institute, 87(17), 1331.

Martini, F., et al. (1996). SV-40 Early Region and Large T Antigen in Human Brain Tumors, Peripheral Blood Cells, and Sperm Fluids From Healthy Individuals. Cancer Research, 56(20), 4820-4825.

Pass, H. I., Kennedy, R. C., & Carbone, M. (1996). Evidence for and Implications of SV-40 Like Sequences in Human Mesotheliomas.  Important Advances in Oncology, 89-108.

Rock, A. (1996). The Lethal Dangers of the Billion Dollar Vaccine Business. Money, December, pages 148-163.

Tognon, M., et al. (1996). Large T Antigen Coding Sequences of Two DNA Tumor Viruses, BK and SV-40, and Nonrandom Chromosome Changes in Two Glioblastoma Cell Lines. Cancer Genetics and Cytogenics, 90(1), 17-23.

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The Tainted History of the DPT Vaccine

In his article, “Study: Media Unintentionally Distorts Child Vaccine Risks,” David Williamson reports on some of the controversy surrounding the safety of the Diphtheria, Pertussis, and Tetanus vaccination (DPT). The debate over the safety of this vaccine cocktail has raged for decades, not just in our country but around the globe.

There’s no question that DPT vaccinations save lives; they have lowered the annual pertussis deaths from about 1000 annually to less than ten. Unfortunately, as reported by the National Vaccine Information Center (NVIC), the form of the vaccine used and sanctioned by the Centers for Disease Control also kills as many as 900 children per year, and leaves one of every 62,000 children immunized with permanent brain damage. Are those acceptable risks?

To add insult to injury, a purified vaccine is available that’s virtually reaction-free, and has been produced and used in other countries for over 15 years, using technology the U.S. abandoned in the 1970’s. The catch: it costs $9 more per injection.

While most parents would happily cough up the additional nine bucks to ensure their children’s safety, drug companies have lobbied to delay the use of the purified vaccine (acellular) for as long as possible — it might cut into their inflated 50 percent profit margins per vaccination.

Before digressing too far into the politics and economics of the public health system in this country, a brief world tour of DPT’s tainted history is in order.

By 1972, six major US pharmaceutical companies had developed a purified (acellular) form of the pertussis vaccine which was virtually reaction-free. Unfortunately, the purification process yielded less of the active component necessary to confer immunity increasing the cost of production from cents to dollars per dosage. Acellular vaccine production was abandoned. In 1977, British researcher Dr. Gordon T. Stewart, of the Department of Community Medicine at the University of Glasgow, documented adverse reactions to DPT vaccine and evaluated the benefit to risk ratio for children in the United Kingdom. His research demonstrated that 1 of every 54,000 children receiving the vaccine suffered encephalopathy (brain disfunction) with rare instances of mental retardation ensuing. Other symptoms included fits of screaming, unresponsiveness, shock, vomiting, localized paralysis, and convulsions.

Of the 160 adverse cases he examined, 40 percent demonstrated hyperkinesis (increased muscle movements accompanying brain dysfunction), infantile spasms, flaccid paralysis, and partial or complete amentia (severe mental retardation).

He determined that adverse events were severely underreported or overlooked, that no protection from the disease was demonstrable in infants, and that claims by official bodies that risks of whooping-cough exceeded those of vaccination were very questionable. He estimated the risk of transient brain damage and mental defect to occur in 1 out of every 10,000 vaccinated, and risk for permanent brain damage to occur in 1 out of every 20,000 to 60,000 vaccinated.

Sweden banned the pertussis vaccine from its vaccination program in 1979, related to concerns of safety and its questionable effectiveness. This country decided it would rather endure the disease as opposed to the vaccine. (Mr. Williamson correctly points out that the United Kingdom experienced outbreaks of pertussis during this time period, however, 100,000 cases with only 36 deaths was viewed by many as minor compared to the potential loss from mass immunizations of millions of citizens with a defective vaccine — do the math yourself — a potential for 900 deaths annually in this country alone from the vaccine.)

In 1980, German researchers, Tonz and Bajc, compared incidences of seizures caused by the pertussis vaccine in Germany with those in America. German children suffered seizures at the rate of 1 per every 4800 infants immunized while American children demonstrated a rate of 1 seizure for every 600 infants immunized.

Concerns for safety prompted Japan to replace the traditional whole-cell pertussis vaccine with the purified, acellular vaccine. By 1983, studies indicated that the efficacy of Japanese acellular vaccines was equal that of the whole-cell vaccines, and complication rates had been cut by 83 percent.

In 1984 Austrian researcher, Dr. Gerhard Wiedermann, at the Institute for Environmental Medicine at the University of Vienna, evaluated the risks versus benefits of continuing the pertussis vaccination program and concluded pertussis vaccinations should be discontinued. His research team recommended that only DT vaccinations be given, and pointed out while no deaths from the vaccine had been confirmed in their country that, “pertussis offers many ailments, sufferings, and possibilities of damage.”

That same year, Dr. Alan Hinman of the Division of Immunization at the Center for Prevention Services, along with Dr. Jeffrey Koplan of the Centers for Disease Control, produced a simulated model of 1 million children to examine the risks versus benefits of pertussis vaccine in the United States. These researchers concluded the over-all benefits outweighed the risks — but they also documented the extent of damage this vaccine can cause. One minor reaction was predicted to occur with every 2.5 doses, one case of convulsions with every 1,750 doses, one child would collapse (shock) with every 1,750 doses, one case of encephalitis would occur with every 110,000 doses with a case of permanent brain damage with every 310,000 doses. Magnify these risks five times as each child receives 5 doses to complete the immunization schedule.

In 1992, Doctors Paul Fine and Robert Chen of the Communicable Disease Epidemiological Unit in London performed a re-analysis of studies on DPT which revealed previously under-reported complications. Their analysis of the British National Childhood Encephalopathy Study lead to a four-fold increase in the estimated risk of encephalopathy associated with DPT vaccinations. The investigators added that “(research) biases that underestimate risk have received less attention (than those over-estimating risks),” and “the fact that such biases do exist makes it difficult to demonstrate convincingly that a vaccine is not responsible for rare, severe, adverse reactions.”

Dr. Kathleen Stratton and her colleagues at the Institute of Medicine reported in 1994 the Diphtheria and Tetanus (DT) portions of the DPT cocktail had been causally related to anaphylactic reactions (severe allergic reactions), Guillain-Barre Syndrome (numbness of the extremities with severe forms producing various degrees of paralysis), and brachial neuritis (inflammation of the brachial nerve). It remains inconclusive as to whether or not these portions of the vaccine cause residual seizure disorders, demyelinating diseases of the central nervous system (infections of nerve cell linings causing muscle weakness and visual disturbances), mononeuropathy (single nerve inflammation), and arthritis. As of last year, the Institute reported that no controlled clinical trials had been conducted to rule out a causal link between DPT and encephalopathy, demyelinating diseases, Guillain-Barre syndrome, and anaphylaxis!

When the major vaccine manufacturers lobbied Congress in 1986 to pass the National Childhood Vaccine Injury Act (NCVIA) to absolve them of all liability related to adverse reactions caused by their products, they obviously had plenty to worry about. With this Act, the National Vaccine Injury Fund was established by levying a user tax against citizens for immunizing their children. Since its creation the fund has compensated 579 vaccine induced deaths adjudicated through the Federal Court of Claims to the tune of $700 million dollars. Forty percent (227) of these vaccine induced deaths were originally misdiagnosed as Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS). Mind you, the American taxpayer now compensates the victims of these defective products, while the major manufacturer and supplier of DPT in the U.S., Wyeth-Lederle, watched its profits soar 300 percent since the passage of this Act. Wyeth-Lederle earned $350 million in sales of DPT last year.

Mr. Williamson’s figures on the malpractice damage suits are somewhat misleading as well. There is a great difference between filing a malpractice case and having damages awarded to the victims of medical malpractice. All told, the dollar amount associated with litigation for negligent practice totals up to only one percent, or $10 billion dollars, of the total annual healthcare tab. (This is for all malpractice litigation, and vaccine litigation is but a small portion of this amount.)

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) confirms these figures which include all malpractice settlements, all malpractice insurance premiums, all legal fees, and all court costs. Furthermore, the Harvard Medical Practice Study revealed that of the one percent of patients estimated to be injured as a result of negligence only one-eighth ever discovered they were victimized and filed suit, and only one-sixteenth of those filing suits ever recovered any monetary damages. The damage awards themselves have been on a steady decline over the past ten years, and out of court settlements plummeted from an average of $2 million in 1993 to $1 million in 1994. Jury awards have decreased even further to an average of $500,000 per case.

It is probably correct that some 250 lawsuits were being brought against the manufacturers of vaccines by 1986 prior to the legislative relief granted to these companies. Problem is, there most probably should have been more — many more.

Most people don’t realize when they have been victimized by negligent practice or by defective products. Very few file suit, and when the cause of many of these deaths and disabilities are misdiagnosed it becomes very easy for this industry to write off its adverse reactions by saying they just happen to be a coincidence of normal childhood neurological disorders.

As pointed out earlier, 40 percent of the victims compensated after passage of the NCVIA had been misdiagnosed originally. This figure is consistent with many studies by pathologists documenting rates of misdiagnosis at 35 to 40 percent as to the cause of death in all range of ailments. An increase in autopsies appears to be indicated if one is to discount or subscribe to the coincidence theory.

While some argue the damage caused by these vaccines is rare, and over just how many have suffered these negative side-effects, it is clear that many adverse reactions go unreported, over-looked, or misdiagnosed.

(In one 20 month period alone, the National Vaccine Information Center documented 54,000 adverse vaccine reactions which included 700 deaths. Dr. David Kessler, now retiring commissioner of the FDA added that only 1 of every 10 adverse events associated with vaccines are reported.)

I personally can’t image too many crimes worse than destroying the life of a child with a product which is known to have negative side effects when there is a safer product available but simply not being pursued because there is not enough profit motive in it for the manufacturer — this is public health, not toasters which are being sold!

In 1996, the CDC approved using the acellular (purified form) of the DPT vaccine for use in 15 month-old children in the U.S., and it is now being evaluated in controlled trials. It is interesting to note that up until 1995, five of the nine representatives of the Centers for Disease Control Immunization Advisory Panel had financial ties to the industry. The Chairman, Dr. James Cherry, acknowledged the risks of severe brain damage and death from the DPT vaccinations in 1979, but by 1990 he had done an about face and declared these known dangers as being “myths.” Between the years 1980 through 1992, Dr. Cherry had received over a million dollars in unrestricted DPT research grants from Lederle — DPT’s largest manufacturer.

Some twenty-four years after the development of the purified vaccine, with the U.S. pursuing it once again, all that remains are the questions of the discarded victims and the fears of parents who must chose whether or not to immunize their children.

References:

Aoyama, T., Murase, Y., Kato, T. & Iwata, T. (1985). Efficacy of an Acellular Pertussis Vaccine in Japan. Journal of Pediatrics, 107(2), 180- 183.

Fine, P. E. & Chen, R. T. (1992). Confounding in Studies of Adverse Reactions to Vaccines. American Journal of Epidemiology, 136(2), 121-135.

Hallander, G. L. , Olin. P., & Storsaeter, R. E. (1996). A Controlled Trial of a Two-component Acellular, a Five-Component Acellular, and a Whole-Cell pertussis Vaccine. New England Journal of Medicine, 334(6), 391-392.

Hinman, A. R. & Koplan, J. P. (1984). Pertussis and Pertussis Vaccine. Journal of the American Medical Association, 251(23), 3109- 3113.

Rock, A. (1996). The Lethal Dangers of the Billion Dollar Vaccine Business. Money, December, pps. 148-164.

Stewart, G. T. (1977). Vaccination Against Whooping-Cough: Efficacy Versus Risks. The Lancet, 8005, 234-237, January 29.

Stratton, K.. , Howe, C. J., & Johnston, R. B. (1994). Adverse Events Associated with Childhood Vaccines Other Than Pertussis and Rubella. Journal of the American Medical Association, 271(20), 1602-1605.

Tonz, O. & Bajc, S. (1980). Zerebrale Krampfanfalle Nach Pertussis-Impfung. Schweizerische Medizinische Wochenschrift, 110(51) 1965-71. (English translation included)

Wiedermann, G., Ambrosch, F., Kollaritsch, H. & Kundi, M. (1984). Risks and Benefits of Vaccinations. Infection Control, 5(9), 438-444.

My bio for the Albion Monitor:

Harold Stearley, R.N., B.S.N., A.S.B., CCRN, has held various clinical and supervisory positions over his two-decade career.  His articles on “managed care” and the crisis in nursing have appeared in many nursing journals, and he was the author of “Nursing on the Edge,” a multi-part series which appeared in the Monitor last year.

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The Lesson of the Blue Jay

Forward:  Interesting.  Today I discovered that a group of Blue Jays can be called a “Charm,” a “Party,” a “Band,” or a “Scold.”  I think any of those terms could apply in relation to my story but Scold or Charm seem most appropriate 🙂  This article is bit longer than my usual posts at about 2140 words, but I hope you enjoy the read.

Publication Credit: It’s with great pleasure I note that my article was published in The Urban Howl on June 11, 2018, under the title of: “The Lesson Of The Blue Jay — How To Live Your Spirit Walk.”  If you’d like some great, uplifting reads on spirituality, imagination, soulful purpose and magic you should check out the Howl.

***

I heard what I thought was a Red Shouldered Hawk.  I was in one’s territory, and it would frequently make an appearance when I hiked this trail.  I once saw it on the ground and thinking it was injured I approached.  Instead, it quickly mantled the prey it had just caught, trying to conceal the now lifeless mole from me.  It showed no fear and I knew better than to try to get closer.  I said my hellos and continued on the path. But this wasn’t the hawk I was hearing today.

These last days of October felt like November, those days when it seemed a shade had been pulled over the sun, now hibernating until March.  It was one of those autumns where the conditions just hadn’t been right.  The moisture, temperature, sun light and the wind simply weren’t cooperating. Instead of the full spectral range of reds, oranges, yellows and pinks, mixed with the remaining traces of green, the leaves had rapidly browned out, and the wind hastened their descent to the now dormant ground.  Like charcoal drawings on canvas, the bare tree trunks and their branches silhouetted the gray, cloud-covered sky.

Although it wasn’t raining you could taste the humidity that thickly hung in the air.  That heavy air filled my lungs as I listened to my footsteps.  It was unusually quiet for this time in the woods.  It seemed all of the wildlife was napping, and then I heard it again.

I scanned the trees and located it in the lower branches of a bare hickory.  It was a Blue Jay mimicking the Red Shouldered Hawk.  The naturalists of old are said to believe that the Jay took delight in this deception.

But then they came.  More and more Blue Jays, and they were landing on both sides of the trail.  I found myself surrounded by an entire flock, all squawking at me.  Scolding me.  I had never seen so many Jays in a group before, perhaps twenty or more of them.  No other animal was in the woods.  No human other than myself.  I knew it was time to pay attention to the message being sent.  The Source was not going to let me ignore it.  And this message came at a particular time when I needed it.  I was sort of at a half-way point and needed to make that decision to push forward.

Once you do, there is no going back. The world will not be the same.

Blue Jay in Flight

For those of us believing in a more natural order in the Universe, there is a lot of “bird medicine” surrounding us.  And the Blue Jay has a particular lesson to teach, regardless if you subscribe to bird medicine or not.  But before we get there, we have to make note of the rising awareness that religion or spirituality is shifting in its definition and form.  It might be said that belief systems are returning to more tribal values and, perhaps, those are more valid and powerful because for many these systems hold more respect for the Earth and all life upon it.

I recently read the results from a study from by the Pew Research Center concluding that the American public is becoming less “religious.” Of course, being religious in this country is usually measured in terms of being a Christian, and my personal experience has taught me that many professing to be religious are living far from religious lives.  But I don’t think true believers and practitioners were screened out from the professors of religiosity in this study.

Putting mythological error, I mean methodological error aside, Pew surveyed over 35,000 “adults” (a topic for another day) and determined that a growing minority say they do not belong to any “organized faith.”  The overall Pew conclusion, which was partially attributed to the Millennial generation, was that: “Altogether, the religiously unaffiliated, also called the “nones,” now account for 23% of the adult population, up from 16% in 2007.”

“Nones.” What a strange term to apply.  While I understand the concept Pew was trying to capture, I think the terminology is off.  “Nones” implies non-spirituality and I believe many of these people are probably quite spiritual and probably much more faithful to their beliefs than many professed Christians, Muslims or Jews.  I just think spirituality is actually returning to its roots.  And there are many roots upon which spirituality grows.

The New Yorker recently published a piece about Anthony Kronman’s latest book titled: “Confessions of a Born-Again Pagan.”  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not endorsing this guy’s book, I haven’t even read it, doubt that I need to, but he is supposed to be smart guy – a Yale Law School professor with a Ph.D. in philosophy.  If you want to check out the article, you can find it here.

What I think is important are the thoughts behind this work.  Basically, people are combining philosophy, metaphysics, theology, law, biology, and history, along with their own unique experiences to compose a set of beliefs that is “spiritual.”  After all, “spiritual,” at its most basic level, simply relates to the spirit or soul as opposed to material or physical things.

And some fundamental and universal themes apply, like it’s not a good idea to go around senselessly killing living creatures.  This means all creatures as they all possess spirit.  There is also a common belief against raping the planet. It too, and every speck of dust upon it, possesses spirit.  It is alive, struggling under human kind’s relentless desire to exploit and poison it, but the Earth, and every part of it, is a living spiritual being.  No need to have someone wearing a special colored robe to tell us that, or to propagate the falsehoods that one creature is superior to another, or that particles of awareness exclusively belong to humans.

Being “pagan” is not some foreign concept, and maybe “born-again” doesn’t capture its increasing emergence in modernity.  It’s been around a long time and anyone can tap into that which is, ad lib. Being a “pagan,” minus all of the connotations applied by those whom might feel threatened by anyone not subscribing to their own particularized religious theory, means simply: “a person holding religious beliefs other than those of the main world religions” – the “Big Three.”

So yes, there is becoming more of an ad hoc, hodgepodge, create your own, make it up as you go along, system of “unorganized” spiritual beliefs.  And one can draw upon the Big Three, or Far Eastern religions that were around for centuries before the Big Three, or more native customs passed on through storytelling or apprenticeships.  I’m all for it because I believe that intuitively people know what it means to have a personal relationship with Great Mystery (just one term for the “Source” of all spirituality and life) than any one dogmatic doctrine could capture.  The more one gets in touch with and in tune with nature, the more one will touch, hear, feel and see the Spirit Source.

For me personally, this means an eclectic mix of Buddhism, Native American, Meso-American and Aboriginal teachings, and my own naturalistic contact with the Universe.  There are affirmations coming from nature constantly if one only pays attention and learns to interpret the language.  And this brings us back to animal medicine and particularly bird medicine and more particularly the Blue Jay.

Native cultures will teach that each living entity possesses its own personal power and the power described is frequently in terms of symbolism.  It is also symbolic in the cycle of life that if one species consumes another for survival, it absorbs or acquires the inherent power from that other species.  Symbolism is paramount, as with all religions and religious artifacts.  The symbols will differ, and so will their meanings and interpretations, but symbols are powerful.

If you think the Cross is a powerful symbol, you should take a ten-mile hike in nature and try to see and interpret all of the messages being delivered to you.  Some can be affirmations that you are on the right path, others warnings, others general lessons, many about recognizing true gifts and having gratitude.

Of course, having an “unorganized” system of beliefs leads to the criticism of “who gets to decide what means what?”  I’d say it’s up to the doctrines a person subscribes to plus that individual’s intuition, with one caveat, one must be “authentic.”  It’s not for others to decide for anyone else what someone should believe, but once a person decides what path, or combination of paths, they wish to follow, they should follow it (or them) and not constantly attempt to change the “rules.”  Master the doctrines or personal beliefs.  Don’t engage in a half-hearted horoscoping, cherry-picking and manipulating symbols to fabricate a self-aggrandizing prophecy of spiritual attainment or self-actualization.  Not all spiritual messages will be glossed over, ultra-positive, or rose-colored intoxicants.  Pursuing spirituality is hard work.  This is exactly what the bird medicine of the Blue Jay teaches us.

Interpreting symbolism can be a subjective endeavor, so drawing upon historical roots can be beneficial.  Personally, I like the work of Ted Andrews in his book “Animal Speak,” because he discusses historical and cultural interpretations of symbols and ties the common threads together to form a cohesive way of deciphering meanings; translating the language of nature.  His interpretations also seem to match my own personal experiences.  So, while some might say the Blue Jay signifies boldness, clarity, vision, truth, faithfulness, and solidarity, Mr. Andrews observes that this totem (an animal believed by a particular society to have spiritual significance) brings lessons regarding the “proper use of power.”  I would throw in the word “authenticity.”

Tracking the Latin and Greek origins of the word “Jay” and the symbolism of the bird’s markings and behaviors, Andrews notes the jay has the ability to “link the heavens and earth, to access each for greater power.”  While the Blue Jay can be fearless, the problem it presents it that it dabbles in both worlds, instead of becoming a master of either.  The Blue Jay is also a mimic.  So, when this animal totem brings its bird medicine message to you, it is time to decide if you are actually mastering ability in the psychic, metaphysical, and spiritual world, or if you’re dabbling.  Mimicking enough knowledge to give the impression of having mastered it.  As Mr. Andrews concludes:

“If the jay has flown into your life, it indicates that you are moving into a time where you can begin to develop the innate royalty that is within you, or simply be a pretender to the throne. It all depends on you. The jay has no qualms. It will teach you either.”

Blue Jay in Flight 2

Now this is taking a spiritual message and teaching it with authenticity.  It’s not all “feel-good” metaphysical-pseudo-religion, it is challenging you to take responsibility with the direction you take with your own spiritual path, regardless of what that may be – truly master it or mimic it, your choice.  It’s not a horoscopic prediction of finding your soul-mate or twin-flame.  It is saying that it’s time to get real.

Thus, the problem with the Pew study.  They didn’t measure authenticity.  If they had screened out the mimics, they might have found the majority to be less religious than believed, and the “nones” perhaps much more so.  That being said, I don’t wish to discredit any form of spiritual practice.  Regardless if you are a follower of one of the Big Three, or any of the Far Eastern Religions, or if you’re a Born-Again Pagan, if you can derive hope, kindness, and generosity from your practice; if you can demonstrate gratitude, tolerance, and compassion; if you can give unconditional love to every part and parcel of the spiritual creation, then you can become your authentic spirit.

At times, it may seem like we are always at a halfway point.  We’ve acquired knowledge, dabbled, and seem to be waiting for something to happen to us or for us.  I was at that point when the Blue Jays descended upon me.  Signaling it was time to decide.  And I did.

What we need to do is experience.  Practice what we believe to be the means to the spiritual path. It’s not about reciting, waiting, or even dreaming.  It’s about doing.  Doing will make you authentic.  Live your spirit walk.

If you want to talk, you can find me hiking through the many biomes, getting out of that comfort zone, exuding my unconditional love for all of life’s forms, taking a risk that this walking meditation will place my spirit in a place to confer with the Source.  There is no looking back . . .

***

Published in The Urban Howl on June 11, 2018.

Photos: I found these pictures on the Internet in the public domain.  It appears the feature photo was on flicker.com, although I could not replicate the search.  I was unable to track down a definitive source for the other two images.

Note: All weblinks are subject to link rot.

Morning Coffee

I can’t really explain time.

Right now, I know I’ve let days slip away without posting to my blog and it’s time to start writing.

Writing is sort of an addiction.  I love it.  And I am writing in my mind all the time.  But some days there are simply other things I need to do with my time, either to keep up with the mundane parts of life, or to find inspiration to bring stories to life.  Or maybe I should say, bring life to stories.  Creative time.

Of course, it’s not “my time” to begin with.  How could we possess something so ethereal?

Time has a way of standing still yet slipping by at the same time.  Especially when I’m with the people I love, or when I am taking time out in nature.  Time’s simply gone or was time there to begin with?  The true measure of time never really existed.  It is artificially set.  Having no more substance than turning hands on an arbitrarily numbered dial.

While time is an arbitrary concept, at least in the physical world, time is limited for us.  So, sharing that finite time with others is perhaps the greatest gift we can give.  Maybe we’ll have infinite time to share in the spiritual world.

For some reason we decided to define time by motion.  One day is equal to the time for the Earth to complete a full rotation on its axis.  To do that, the Earth is moving, rotating, at approximately 1,040 miles per hour.

In addition to its own rotational speed, the Earth is zipping around the sun at about 66,660 miles per hour.  A full rotation around our star takes what we’ve defined as a “year,” some 365 days in double rotational motion, more or less.

What’s more, the sun and our solar system are orbiting the Milky Way Galaxy at somewhere around 450,000 to 500,000 miles per hour.  This galaxy is huge.  It takes our sun about 225 to 250 million years of motion to complete that journey around the galaxy’s center – that’s called a “cosmic year.”

And if that’s not enough motion or time for you, our galaxy is moving in relation to other galaxies and is on a collision course with the Andromeda Galaxy.  These galaxies are moving toward each other at the rate of 252,000 miles per hour!

Are you dizzy yet?

And while time is an artificial concept based on motion, I can’t even tell you where I am at any given moment in time.  For I, and all of the atoms in my body, are in constant motion.

You see, under particle theory in quantum mechanics, anything, including us, have multiple probabilities of being in multiple places at the same time.  It is not until a measurement of some kind, often an observation of effect as opposed to seeing the actual subatomic particle, is taken that a “real” and yet temporary placement of anything or anyone can be defined.

My new goal is to be unmeasurable, so no one can place me anywhere at any given point in time.  I will remain in eternal motion.  How could I not be?

Actually, I’m really just having my morning coffee 😊

***

Photo:  My morning cup of coffee catches the first rays of the rising sun.

My Intuition Tells Me . . .

I bet you can complete this title.  And how many times has your intuition been correct? But just what is intuition?  Is it something instinctual?  Or simply a regular cognitive process? Is it rational to trust our “guts?”

I don’t know about you, but I continually try to tune into my intuition, and I believe it has saved my hide a few times.

I recently read a neuroscientist’s perspective on intuition.  To sum up her point of view, intuition is sort of a “predictive processing framework” whereby our brains are constantly taking in sensory information, comparing that information with accumulated knowledge and experience and then making a spontaneous decision based upon how these data “match” or align.  The process is said to be automatic and subconscious.

Intuition supposedly can be a sloppy process that can fail because it is based on outdated information.  However, analytical thinking, based upon more current information, can be too slow to allow a timely response and can also err when we over-think a problem or a situation.  These two types of “thinking” are theorized to work in concert giving us a good balance.  And there are times we use analytic thinking to make a post-hoc justification for a decision based on intuitive thinking.

That all sounds like a bit of over-thinking to me.

The neuroscientist says we can trust our intuition if we follow this thought algorithm:

“Thus, for every situation that involves a decision based on your assessment, consider whether your intuition has correctly assessed the situation.  Is it an evolutionary old or new situation?  Does it involve cognitive biases?  Do you have experience or expertise in this type of situation?  If it is evolutionary old, involves a cognitive bias, and you don’t have expertise in it, then rely on analytic thinking.  If not, feel free to trust your intuitive thinking.”

But none of this gives me a true understanding of how I just “know” I’ve hit my turn around point on the trail.  My gut tells me there is some danger out there if I continue and it’s time to go home.  As I leave, I hear a hunter’s shot ring out and a deer runs out of the underbrush and passes by me.  Or a large tree branch falls where I would have stepped next.

How about, when I walk into a business and I just get the vibe that something is about to go south there so I turn around and leave.  Then, I read in the paper the next day that there was a fight that broke out in that establishment and someone got shot.  Or the place was robbed just moments after I left.

Or I see a vehicle pass me on the road and just “know” something is amiss.  Then I later pass it as it sits a contorted mass, in a deadly embrace with a semitruck.

What about the times there is no danger?  But I “know” to follow a butterfly who leads me to a wonderous discovery.  An overlook into a canyon that was off-trail and thoroughly hidden. Inspiration and beauty, I would have walked right on by but not for my gut.

Or I meet a person and within seconds I’m sure they have a good heart.  As time passes, this assessment proves to be 100% accurate.  People seem to have that intuitive trust with me too, and often just open up to me and share very personal information before they know anything about me.  I can’t tell you how many times this has happened, and the person says to me, “I don’t have any idea why I’m telling you all of this.”

None of these situations appear to involve past or present sensory input that could lead to a predictive outcome.  It is merely a feeling or my “inner voice” that I have listened to.

As the Universe would have it, the same day I read the neuroscientist’s article I would be directed to another about the topic of what it means to be “clairsentient,” or to be someone who feels things very deeply.  Notice, this is not the same as being clairvoyant. Not the same as being able to “see clearly” or predict the future.

The author of this article lists out 25 traits that may accompany being clairsentient.  And I don’t want to oversimply a complex topic, but suffice it to say such a person is extremely tuned in.  Not only to their own feelings, but to the energy fields surrounding everyone and all things.  This hypersensitivity allows for acting on senses without necessarily having any discernable information.  Or it allows a different level of accessing and analyzing information to make predictive outcomes.  To act purely upon a subconscious process where we are fed information.  It is almost as though that information comes from an outside observer who has clairvoyance.

Or maybe that is precisely what this is.  Being hypersensitive may just mean being in tune with all of the spiritual energy surrounding us.  This allows for lightening fast decisions based not upon historical data accumulated in our brains, but on real-time or even future-time data coming from external sources.

Imagine that.

And since we are talking about the subconscious, let’s talk about consciousness for a moment and what that means.  To be conscious means we are presumably awake and aware of our existence, our sensations, our thoughts, and our surroundings.  The subconscious mind concerns “the part of the mind of which one is not fully aware but which influences one’s actions and feelings.”  While on the other hand, the unconscious mind is said to be “the part of the mind which is inaccessible to the conscious mind but which affects behavior and emotions.”  And being unconscious, well we all know what that means; lights out and nobody’s home.

But these are not the end descriptors of consciousness and subconscious processes because we also have “collectives.”  The collective conscious is “the set of shared beliefs, ideas and moral attitudes which operate as a unifying force within society.”  The “collective unconscious,” in Jungian psychology, is “part of the unconscious mind which is derived from ancestral memory and experience and is common to all humankind, as distinct from the individual’s unconscious.”

Now that’s a lot to wrap your brain around.  And maybe the collective unconscious could provide a source of data for our intuitive responses.  But how do we get that package of ancestral memory jammed in our heads?  Is that knowledge carried in our genetics?

Well, I have a different idea about the collective minds, or perhaps “energies” is a better word.  What if the collective unconscious was not ancestral memory?  What if the subconscious or unconscious minds of all were collectively linked, 24/7, in the present moment?  What if we could, through “intuition” or other means, tap into all that data and awareness?  What if being clairsentient meant exactly that, being tapped into this collective energy?  Wouldn’t that allow you to be extremely empathetic, to sense another’s innate qualities and characteristics, to perhaps perceive disruptions in the energy fields that tip you off to events unfolding?

I don’t know.

A number of years back I built a bridge.  It spanned a 22-foot, water-filled ravine that fed a lake on my property.  I arched it slightly and it had no supports underneath it to resist gravity or to support its own weight.  It was the biggest carpentry project I undertook, and I did it with virtually no experience or knowledge.  I drew the design out on a brown paper bag.  I was no engineer.

Each night before bed, I would formulate a question in my mind with regard to part of the project.  Usually a problem that needed to be solved.  And each morning I awoke with an answer in my conscious mind.  An answer that worked.  Now where did this information come from?

I had no inherent knowledge in my mind to process in my sleep with regard to bridge building.  Could it have come from some ancestral memory, really?  Or could I have tapped into a real-time collective of conscious, subconscious, or unconscious minds, or energy fields, that provided the answers.  I have no idea, but that bridge is still standing 22 years after I built it.

Bridge - 3 Winter
And it’s a nice metaphor too.  Bridging between conscious and subconscious and unconscious dimensions 😊

Of course, I don’t know that words can ever adequately describe such a process.  And you can call me crazy if you want to, but I do know that the times I didn’t listen to my inner voice were the times that I got into trouble.

So, I don’t know about you, but I’m trying to tune-in.  Tap into all that is out there.  And trust what my inner voice is telling me.

Pleasant trails, keep listening, and trust your gut.

***

Photos: I built this bridge in the summer of 1996 – winter and summer views.

Links: Here are links to the articles I read.  All links are subject to link rot.

Is it rational to trust your gut feelings? A neuroscientist explains

25 Signs You May Be Clairsentient — Someone Who Feels Things Very Deeply

Quotes: And here are a couple of nice quotes on Intuition:

“Intuition is seeing with the soul.”
― Dean Koontz

 
“The material world is simply an expression of the mind; that’s what so many fail to see. We’re so dependent on what is before us that we discount our intuition. Yet if one dismisses instinct, how can one understand or believe in a world that exists beyond one’s sight?”
― Megan Chance, The Spiritualist

 
“Intuition comes in several forms:
– a sudden flash of insight, visual or auditory
– a predictive dream
– a spinal shiver of recognition as something is occurring or told to you
– a sense of knowing something already
– a sense of deja vu
– a snapshot image of a future scene or event
– knowledge, perspective or understanding divined from tools which respond to the subconscious mind”
― Sylvia Clare, Trusting Your Intuition: Rediscover Your True Self to Achieve a Richer, More Rewarding Life

 
“Situations produce vibrations. Negative, potentially harmful situations emit slow vibrations. Positive, potentially life-enhancing situations emit quick vibrations. As these vibrations impact on your energy field they produce either resonance or dissonance in your lower and middle tantiens (psychic power stations) depending on your own vibratory rate at the time. When you psychic field force is strong and your vibratory rate is fast, therefore, you will draw only positive situations to you. When you mind is quiet enough and your attention is on the moment, you will literally hear the dissonance in your belly and chest like an alarm bell going off, urging you from deep within your body to move in such and such a direction. Always follow it. At times these urges may come to you in the form of internally spoken dialogue with your higher self, spirit guide, guardian angel, alien intelligence, however you see the owner of the “still, small voice within.” This form of dialogue can be entertaining and reassuring but is best not overindulged in as, in the extreme; it tends to lead to the loony bin. At times you may receive your messages from “Indian signs”, such as slogans on passing trucks or cloud formations in the sky. This is also best kept in moderation, to avoid seeing signs in everything and becoming terribly confused. Just let it happen when it happens and don’t try looking for it.”
― Stephen Russell, Barefoot Doctor’s Guide to the Tao: A Spiritual Handbook for the Urban Warrior

Freedom Begins With Speech

It was the end of March and the cherry trees were in full bloom around the Tidal Basin.  Across the water on the south bank sat the Jefferson Memorial.  A fitting memorial for one of our Founding Fathers and the principle author of our Declaration of Independence.

We were preparing to march . . .

While many can recite the most famous sentence in our Declaration, regarding self-evident truths, being created equal, and the unalienable rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, I wonder how many have read this document through.  For you see, it continues with a petition of grievances against the British government.  It is a protest.

And years later, to solidify the right to protest in this newly formed independent country, the First Amendment was added to our Constitution.

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

The group I was assembling with was a group of nurses, some 25,000 to 35,000 strong.  Here in D.C. to protest unsafe hospital staffing conditions and use of unlicensed personnel in place of registered nurses.  We were protesting to support every patient’s right to receive the finest health care treatment available.

Yes, protest is a fundamental right in this country.  It is one of those many rights that generations of our military have fought to protect.  It is not a right to be lightly discarded.  It is not a right to be denigrated if any individual group’s cause is not your own.  It is not an inconvenience to be suffered should a traditional public forum, such as the sidewalk or roadway, becomes crowded with picketers waving signs.  It is a right that should be respected and honored.

We gathered at the west front of the Capitol.  The planned march to follow presentations would proceed down Pennsylvania Avenue and end at the White House.

Capitol Protestors 8

Particularly troubling to me is an all too familiar refrain when petitioners draw light upon an issue, that if you don’t like something, that if you believe something could be changed for the better, that if you see a different way, that you should simply get out.  Leave the entrenched and established protocols alone.  Leave accepted bigotry and hatred be.  Leave injustice unaddressed.  Leave the very democracy that supports the right to protest.  “Love it or leave it.”

This attitude, of course, if accepted in the late 1700s would have kept this country a slave to the British Crown.  There would be no Declaration of Independence, just sheep meandering the pastures, herded by an occupying army.

Now, I’m not saying all causes are good causes.  But the right to petition, the right to peaceful assembly, the right to freely speak your mind are rights that should be held in reverence.  These rights form the pillars of democracy.

And march we did, united in our cause against corporate profiteering off the ill and suffering.

The March to the White House

We, unfortunately, seem to be living in a time of growing intolerance.  Where even our leaders act in bigoted fashion.  Where those who speak out, or adopt silent protest, are vilified.  If you have a different point of view you are told to leave.

But the “love it or leave it” mentality demonstrates a lack of a fundamental understanding of US Government – which was formed by dissenters from authoritarian rule and built upon the liberal principle of humanism.  The Constitution built in safeguards for states from federal government, safeguards for both the majority and the minority views.  And it allows for freedom of expression and the power to vote.  Saying people should leave if they do not conform to your viewpoint is communistic, not American.

And I can’t tell you how exhilarating it is to speak out for a cause you believe in, and to know you live in a country where this right will be protected.  I would strongly recommend that everyone in this country take a stand on something they believe in, to become active participants in our government.

Four generations of my family have served in the US military protecting our rights, and I am proud when people exercise those rights and protest.  That is what makes this country great.

***

Photos:  I took these during the Nurses’ March on Washington D.C. in 1995.

Post Script 1: In my late teens I also participated in a much smaller local protest regarding voting rights.  It seems the 18-year-olds we were drafting into our military were allowed to fight and die for this country in Vietnam, but they didn’t have the right to vote.  The voting age was 21 then.  Nation-wide protests were organized, and the country changed the law.  But even if the law had not changed, I would still have been proud to participate in this established system for redressing grievances.  Dissent and protest formed this country.  These are honorable traditions.

Post Script 2: The Constitution should be viewed as a contract between the government and its people.  The government cannot infringe upon the rights guaranteed in this document.  However, private employers, to the extent other laws do not apply, can infringe upon those rights.  Thus, we have the current controversy about the NFL requiring their players to stand for the national anthem and not engage in protest.  This action is legal because the NFL is a private club and not a government actor.  But I don’t believe this action should be condoned by any government official who is bound to follow the Constitution.  For a leader of this nation to express intolerance of the people exercising their fundamental rights as citizens, rights that our men and women in uniform have fought for and died to protect, borders on tyranny.  And as is expressed in our Declaration of Independence: “A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the ruler of a free people.”

Post Script 3: By the way, health care is still not recognized as a fundamental right in this country.  Sad.  In fact, the only law I am aware of that requires the administration of health care is the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA).  The law requires that a patient, upon presentation to an emergency room, be stabilized before they are transported to a different facility.  The law was designed to curtail the practice of “patient dumping.”  Ambulance services and hospitals were redirecting and dumping patients in state-run facilities once they found out they had no insurance.  This profit-based practice was endangering lives.

Your Castle, Your Bubble, and What You Can’t Do to Protect Them

This is not an article about gun control, it’s about controlling yourself with guns.  For as a Louisiana man just found out the hard way, you may think you have the right to fire a weapon at a someone, especially a criminal, but it all depends on the situation . . .

Disclaimer: The information in this article does not, in any way, constitute legal advice.  Everyone should consult their own states’ laws and/or an attorney of their choosing if they wish to obtain an expert legal opinion of the laws in their jurisdiction and how they apply to them.

When I was clerking for a State Supreme Court Justice, in addition to drafting legal memorandum and court opinions, I gave tours of the courthouse along with historical lectures.  Invariably, people on the tours would ask questions about the laws and how they worked, especially the most controversial ones.  Like how judges get elected or appointed, abortion, or guns laws.

As I learned quickly in law school, the law generally does not work the way it is commonly perceived or displayed on TV.  I’m sorry, but you can’t get a legal education by watching Judge Judy.

So, explaining the law is sometimes tricky.  A case in point.  On one of my tours, a man asked a question, or rather he made a statement, that I tried to assist him with.  Basically, he said that since the state was going to allow its citizens to carry concealed weapons that this would immunize anyone with a legal weapon from any form of liability.  And, of course, he was wrong.

But despite my explanation of what the law stated and what it didn’t state, he refused to accept the facts that even if you are justified with using a firearm, that does not give you a license to shoot innocent bystanders if you are negligent or even shoot at criminals if the tables have been turned and you have become the aggressor and not the defender.  There are good reasons for this, because if you own one of these tools you have to use it responsibly.

I will try to summarize these legal precepts based upon my state’s laws as they are written.

Self Defense

With a few exceptions, you are allowed to use physical force against another to the extent reasonably necessary to defend yourself or others from an aggressor if you reasonably believe the aggressor is using, or will imminently use, unlawful force against yourself or those others.  But you can’t use deadly force unless, you believe it is necessary to protect yourself or others from death, serious injury or a forcible felony.

Castle Doctrine

You can use deadly force if it is used against a person who unlawfully enters, or remains after unlawfully entering, or attempts to unlawfully enter a dwelling or residence that you lawfully occupy; provided that it is necessary for self defense as stated above.  “A [person’s] home is their castle.”

Extension of the Castle Doctrine

The Castle Doctrine was extended to vehicles you lawfully occupy.  And extended further to where you can use deadly force in the same circumstances above if you occupy private property where you’ve been given authority to occupy that property.

Stand Your Ground

There used to be a duty to retreat from a situation if you could without engaging in a confrontation, even to protect yourself.  But that duty was eliminated in the following circumstances.  There is no longer a duty to retreat from a dwelling or residence or vehicle or private property or any location where you have a lawful right to be.

Keep in mind, if you are standing your ground, to engage in self-defense using deadly force you must still face an imminent threat of death, serious injury, or be the victim of a forcible felony.

To sum it up, there is a bubble around you and you have the right to protect yourself within that lawfully-occupied bubble without running away, but only if you face an imminent threat.

So back to Louisiana and what you can’t do.  A home invader entered the residence with a gun, stole cell phones and fired the gun at the feet of one of the occupants.  The occupants gained the upper hand, took the gun, and one occupant pistol-whipped the intruder.  The invader broke away and ran to his vehicle.  Note, he is no longer the aggressor and no longer unlawfully inside the home.  One of the occupants then opened fire on the fleeing vehicle striking the would-be robber twice.

That’s where things went awry.  The occupant of the home was not under any imminent threat of physical force being used against him at the time he opened fire.  There was no one else that needed protecting.  The invader had fled and was no longer remaining in the residence after having unlawfully entered it.  There was no longer a forcible felony occurring.

The lawful occupant that wanted to play cowboy ended up being convicted of attempted manslaughter.  Understand, that doesn’t let the invader off the hook.  He will still be tried for his crimes.  But no one is given the license to become a criminal because of another person’s criminal acts.  None of these legal doctrines offer protection from criminal or civil liability unless your situation matches the specific instances where you are legally allowed to use force or deadly force.

If the occupant firing the weapon at the fleeing criminal had negligently hit an innocent bystander, then he would also be subject to a personal injury lawsuit by that bystander.  That would be a civil matter separate and distinct from the criminal matter for which he was tried and convicted.

Yes, we have a right to own firearms and, yes, we have a right to defend ourselves when we are within our lawful bubbles, but those rights are not unlimited and we are not allowed to play cop or vigilante.

I know a lot of people who own guns.  Sometimes that ownership becomes incorporated in their ego.  They imagine themselves to be bigger than they are, stronger, more in control, and powerful.  God-like in their ability to take a life.  And therein lies the problem, it’s not that they have more control over the circumstances surrounding them, they have a greater responsibility to control themselves.

***

Post Script:  I will be writing a piece on the 2nd Amendment before too long.  I had hoped to wait until the frenzy surrounding mass shootings and gun control had subsided, but it appears that, with the continual onslaught of gun violence, waiting for emotions to die down may not be possible.

Post Script # 2: After my post went up yesterday, a friend mentioned to be me she didn’t believe ego was always an issue with gun ownership.  And I agree.  Sometimes people find themselves in situations where they may be caught up in the moment or acting out of passion and not rationally thinking.  Other times a person may be confronted with a would-be perpetrator and that person has to hope they are making the best judgment call in the way they defend themselves because, while they have no desire to hurt another, they do not wish to become a victim either.  Who would?  The possible scenarios are limitless.  This all points to the need for good training and practice.  And the need to learn and understand the lawful uses of such weapons.

Photo: This photo was found on the Internet in the public domain.  A link to it traces back to the Virgin Island Free Press.

Link: Louisiana man convicted of attempted manslaughter for shooting at fleeing home invader.

Note: All links are subject to link rot.

Red Coral – To Feel is to Heal

I hike into the canyon and I am marveled by what surrounds me.  It’s Fall.  Greens, golds, reds, oranges, pinks, a rainbow of leaves held tightly by the trees while others, released from that grip, float softly through the air to blanket the ground.  Painting abstract portraits.  Pastel pathways.

There are majestic mountains, and underground streams.  Dry stream beds until the elevation is ripe for the water’s emergence.  It trickles, then flows, then forms small falls over rock out-croppings.  A Damselfly lands on a Horsetail Reed.  Metallic green, it’s wings shine in the sunlight.

This land I walk, used to be on the bottom of the ocean.  Fossil remnants confirm its history.  Bivalves and crinoids and coral.  Once a shell inhabited by an animal, or symbiotic pairings of algae and invertebrates forming exoskeleton metropoles.  All forms of calcium carbonate taking on infinite designs.  All now limestone.  And eventually dust, from which something new will rise.

The silence is broken by the cry of a Hawk.  Its flight interrupted by a Raven that dive bombs it.  A battle ensues in mid-air.  And the Hawk acrobatically rolls onto its back.  Inverted in flight it claws back at its interceptor.  I’ve never seen a Hawk fly upside down.  Never.  I’m amazed at its agility.  What a true gift this vision is.

I am surrounded by life.  I hear it, feel it, taste it, smell it, touch it.  I perceive it.  Enter it intuitively.  And yet I walk alone.  Connected, yet separated.

Night time comes and I’ve returned to shelter.  And I think, how much better the day would have been could I have shared the experience.  To have gazed through more than my own eyes.  To share laughter and surprise.  A warm smile, shining eyes looking back at me.

Being alone is not the same as feeling lonely.  Tonight, I feel alone.

How nice it would be to hold someone in my arms.  Just hold them and feel their touch.  Infinitely.  Hear their breath.  Their heartbeat drum.  Feel their warmth.  Their fire.  Their love.

We all want answers to the big questions.  They usually start with the word “why?”  Why am I walking alone?  But then “where?”  Where do I find the answer?

My inner voice silent.  I look outside into the darkness.  The Coyotes synchronize their howls.  The Crickets, high-pitched chirping.  An Owl joins the chorus.  Life surrounds me in my solitude.  Why?

We all have places or entities to where we direct these questions.  Consult the ancient texts?  Cast stones or charms?  Read cards?  Deep meditation?  Extrapolate from dreams.  We find affirmations from the world around us.  Intuition is valid.  These sources nourish it.

Tonight, I pull a book.  Sacred Path Cards by Jamie Sams.  I draw an accompanying card for a daily reading.  “Coral.”  Some people might call this mysticism, paganism, or even heretical.  But isn’t it strange how these ceremonies end up being spot-on.

Coral speaks to the absurdity of my question.  It tells me to cut the “I am the only one” refrain.  We are never alone.  As the Seneca would say (Ms. Sams’ tribe), we are continually surrounded by “All Our Relations.”  It’s time to reconnect with All.

To paraphrase Ms. Sams:

Coral symbolizes the blood of Mother Earth.  It acknowledges that all “two-legged” have the need to be nurtured from their own kind.  But it reminds us who our true “Mother” is.  Red blood runs through every creature.  Water, the oceans, symbolize the blood of Mother Earth.  And Red Coral, arising from those waters carry that representation.  The “Water Nursery of Creation” gave birth to all life and Red Coral, and its connection to the sea water of its own origin, symbolizes our birth and the connection to the “Mother Of All Things.”  Every life form, “All Our Relations,” is sustained by Mother Earth.  Using Coral can allow us to reconnect to our own blood and the waters of Mother Earth.

Once we reconnect, we can “develop a communication with our physical form that is not based upon addiction, compulsion, fear, gluttony, or selfishness.”  We can recognize that our physical body is our vehicle for connecting with our spirit and our needs.  We, therefore, must learn to respect and care for our bodies.  All nurturing is dependent on our ability to recognize our feelings and needs.  And if we don’t know what we need, how would we identify the needs of others to give comfort.  “To feel is to heal.”

It is time for self-nourishment.  For reunion with the Planetary Family.  To listen to All Our Relations and acknowledge we are never alone.

While I ponder the message, I think back to today’s hike.  I fumble through my backpack and produce a stone I found.  I wipe it with vegetable oil and it comes to life.  Patterns emerge.  Skeletal patterns, flower-like shapes, concentric circles.  It’s fossilized coral. Coincidence?  I quit believing in coincidences a long time ago.  Why did I pick up that particular stone for the later discovery?

While I was on top of the ridge, and while I was down in the bottom of the canyon, I was standing on the ancient ocean floor.  The sea, the blood of Mother Earth, once flowed here.  The many connections I made today with my “Relations,” why did I try to separate myself from them?  They all visited for a reason.

The Damselfly with the power of light.  The Hawk with its visionary power, the guardian. The Raven, the magic shapeshifter.  The Coyote, the balance of wisdom and folly.  The Cricket, the bearer of luck and success.  The Owl, it’s silent wisdom, the visionary of the night.  And even the ocean creatures frozen in time.

While it’s true, I seek connection with another “two-legged,” I have that connection as I share my story of the struggle.  Like the hawk and the raven, we internally battle.  Visions versus fleeting images.  Mirages and echoes.  Our self-deception.  The denial of our eternal connections.

Others can experience what I have, see it through my eyes, brush my hand with theirs, share the joy.  I wasn’t alone, and I can be nourished by nourishing others with my words.

We are never alone.

***

Photo: I found this photo on the Internet in the public domain.  The link accompanying it tracked back to a New York Post article titled: “Forcing Coral to Have Sex Could Save the Great Barrier Reef.”  As with all web-links, this link is subject to “link rot,” and I can only say it is valid at the time I posted this article.

Attribution to The Urban Howl:  On June 18, 2018, this article was published by The Urban Howl under the title of “The Unmistakable Message Of Red Coral: To Feel Is To Heal.” I am honored to be a part of this wonderful publication.