Archive for January, 2009

Just playing around


I am one of those people who are always playing with things, tweaking the volume, adjusting the color, whatever.  I know that I drive some people nuts, because they think that what I am messing with works just fine.  Probably, it does.  But it might work better, and I usually want to find out.  This kind of playing is the source of many discoveries and advances, and people have discovered things that required going beyond the normal, or ordinary, and looking for the pinnacle.

Another thing that I think is important about ‘playing around’ is that it helps to keep us young, by requiring us to think of things in new or different ways.  The longer our minds follow the same paths, the less willing we tend to be at trying new ones.  We can become blind to what is right next to our feet, because we have looked at the same spot so many times and never seen anything there.  Looking around with fresh eyes, seeking out the changes that are constantly happening around us, these are the qualities that we associate with youthful minds.

But, more than anything, age is a state of mind, in my opinion.  How we embrace life depends on whether we are looking for surprises, or trying to avoid them.  There are small surprises around us in everyday, which do not threaten our way of life, or our peace of mind, merely things that we have not expected.  Dealing with those surprises, learning to adapt to changing situations, these are skills which make it easier to cope with the big surprises.

It looks like all of us are going to be experiencing change on a scale far beyond anything in our lifetimes.  What we have come to believe is tried and true might become the latest addition to the garbage pile, as we are forced to find new ways of making our journey through life.  Playing around may be the only thing which helps us to find new solutions, new practices.


Time to celebrate


If you live in the northern latitudes, you are probably noticing that the days are getting a little longer now.  It is only a few minutes difference from the time of the Winter Solstice, but it is more apparent now, after a few weeks.  This is what the Yule Tide celebration is all about, the light returning, bringing hope to people who face months of cold and hunger.

We can barely imagine today what it must have been like for our ancestors, who did not have Gortex or Thinsulate, who did not have windows with glass in them, and who did not have central heating.  Winter was one of the greatest enemies that our fore bearers faced, with its cold, and lack of food.  Even today, Winter can kill, but for people huddled around a primitive fireplace, with only furs to keep warm, freezing to death was a distinct possibility.  And hunger was a constant companion, because food had to last until more could be found.

This winter, freezing to death is not a likely end for most people in the United States, but the economy is bound up in ice.  And the sad part is, everybody wants things to go back to the way that they used to be, in spite of the excesses and greed that brought about the problems that we face now.  We are so addicted to material, worldly wealth that we don’t know how to cope without it.

Credit was almost unherad of just 100 years ago.  If a company could not afford to buy new equipment, it had to make do with what it had.  If people needed to buy a home, they had to put up most of the money.  Cars were bought for cash, and the government did not spend more than it had.  We have forgotten those times, aided by people who grew fat off of lending money out.  Now, we all want those days of quick and easy credit to come back, to make our lives easier again.

Instead, we are going to have to learn to live without credit, without the benefits of borrowing money at the drop of a hat. We have borrowed so much that it is going to take us years to pay off our debt.  In the meantime, we are going to have to get by with what we have, unless we can manage to save up enough to buy what we need.

In a time when hardship becomes widespread, and just about everybody is having to do without something which they really need, we would do well to cultivate the kind of wealth which cannot be taken away from us.  Spiritual wealth is all around us, in the willingness of a friend to help us out, or the outpouring of support from a community for a family suffering homelessness.  This has nothing to do with religion, or faith, but is the simple belief in one another that enabled the human race to rise above hunting animals and gathering grubs for sustenance.

The Yule Tide was a time of spiritual renewal, when people gathered together to share what they had, so that all would survive the winter.  We must learn from our ancestors the lessons of spiritual credit, of believing in one another.