Archive for November, 2016

The darkness descends

2016/11/25

Black Friday.  Materialism is in control of the television, the radio, the newspaper, even the web.  ‘Save Now!’  ‘Lowest prices of the season!’  Sanity deserts the shopping malls, the strip malls, the streets.

Meanwhile, the days grow shorter, and colder.  Winter is upon us, and our instincts are screaming ‘conserve’, ‘hibernate’, ‘hunker down’.  Survival has always meant eating very little, staying indoors, dressing warmly, because what we have now will have to last until next Summer.

Many people find this season depressing, the desire to spend freely on loved ones conflicting with the reality of an empty pocketbook.  The expense of a gift overshadows the concept of giving a gift, as if the amount that we spend on someone reflects how much we care about them.  People will go into debt to insure that the gifts that they give are ‘acceptable’.

This is a time when we should be reflecting on the year past, and remembering our ancestors.  This is a time for working on handicrafts, making gifts for those we love.  When we spend hours on a gift, we work our love into it.  The energy we pour into that item will be received by the person we are thinking about, a gift which can not be bought.

The darkness is a time of love, of remembrance, a time for sitting by a fire, knitting, carving, painting, creating a unique gift for a unique person.  If you wouldn’t spend hours working on a gift for a person, perhaps they don’t deserve anything beyond a card.  The important thing is to remember others, not to try to impress them with how stupid you are.  Don’t spend money you don’t have trying to get someone to love you.

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When ‘I love you’ hurts

2016/11/23

during a period of conflict with my roommate, I kept repeating “I love you”.  Somehow this avoided, so far, a very threatening harassment.   Explaining that I was aware of the person’s self-rejection, frustration, and anger brought even more anger.  Finally, I admitted that this person is important to me, on a personal basis, because I value them, and what they can and have done.  Any time we are confronted with hate or anger, saying “I love you,” is the only response which is not invading their space.

This may incite more hate, more anger, because people will fear the implications of being vulnerable with others.   If we truly care about our fellow passengers on this Earth, then we should express that to each other often.  “You are important to me, because you are a fellow living being.  Your existence makes mine easier.”    By being here, you are able to respond, to take action, in the struggle of the Life Force.  We are the highest expression of that Life Force we have encountered so far, the most complex concentration of Mind and Body, matter and energy.  We can love others,  which is essential to the tribe surviving.

Our ‘tribe’ is humanity, because we are all the same on the inside.  Working together, we can overcome the challenges facing all of us.  All of our resources will be needed to make sure that the tribe survives.  Everybody is important.  Everybody has something to offer, an ability, an insight, experience, knowledge, energy, awareness, the list goes on and on.  We are all important.  I love you.

Hurting to help

2016/11/07

In order to nurture someone else, I have to become vulnerable, exposing myself to criticism, anger, and hurt.  Caring for someone else requires caring for myself, otherwise I hurt them by neglecting myself.  Believing in oneself in order to say “I can do better this time” is how we keep going, in spite of our anger at failing before.  Living with someone who is in mental anguish, or rage, or serious depression is taxing, as is living with those states of mind in your own head.

My depression has sprung from feeling unable to connect with others on a level I believe possible, even though the evidence is that people have been very attracted to me and I have been unaware of their caring.  My own barriers are what hold me in, my prison is of my own making.  My concern and love for others drives my obsession to help them, to do anything for them, yet I don’t feel the same way about myself.

Sometimes I think that I fear becoming greedy, or arrogant, if I take my own importance to be equal to others.  Other times, I am convinced that what I feel is the genetic urge to give my energy, my effort, to the group, the community.  At some level, I know that my existence is finite in this world, that I shall pass on.  But the community that I live in can continue, indefinitely, preserving the things that I have accomplished, the things that I have learned.

Something that I am a part of can continue after I am gone, something which is bigger than I am, something that gives my life meaning.  Existing only to take from others without contributing at all is beyond my imagination, and I fear that I will not be valued if I am not contributing.  Accepting my value to my community seems like taking something from it that I do not deserve.

Probably this stems from rejecting myself as a child, because I did not receive enough affirmation to convince me that I was important to the group, that I was valued.  My bodily needs were met, more or less, but my spirit was adrift, alone, without an anchor.  There were no adults that I felt a special relationship with, that I could confide in, or expect to give me their time.

The investment of time into our descendants is essential, especially for the elderly and the young.  The young need the complete attention of an elder, many times throughout the day, to develop a proper sense of self-esteem.  It may not be the same elder, but children need elders around who are willing to stop what they are doing and devote their time to the child.  This has been a central element of human society until the very recent past.

Donald Clinton vs Hillary Trump

2016/11/07

America is bitterly divided over two candidates who are very much alike.  Both are wealthy, partly as a result of shady deals, both have lied in public before, and both will tell us what they think we want to hear.  Yet some Americans are so disturbed by one of these candidates that they talk of armed insurrection.

Never before have I experienced an election where people are so reticent to proclaim their preference.  The lack of election signs for the two leading presidential candidates is striking, glaring evidence of the division this country is undergoing.  Many voters are afraid to display signs supporting their candidate, wary of threats of violence, verbal abuse, and intimidation.

People talk about the country being ruined, destroyed, undermined, betrayed, as they see cherished values changing or disappearing.  But the country will still be here no matter who wins.  It is our actions which will determine what happens.  If we riot in the streets, burning and pillaging, because our favorite lost, won’t we be the ones destroying the country?  Merely refusing to work together will sabotage us more effectively than any terrorist could hope for.

If you don’t like what the country is becoming, don’t try to destroy it.  Leave!  Go somewhere else, somewhere that people live the way that you want to live.  Or else work to make things better.  Ruining what we have because we don’t want it to change doesn’t seem very smart to me.  Burning down the house because you don’t like the curtains is a poor way of surviving.  We have to do better.

Not A Space Administration

2016/11/06

The United States does not have an agency whose sole purpose is to oversee the exploration of space.  The National Aeronautics and Space Administration is primarily an Earth-sciences agency, providing data on the planet from satellites.  Space exploration makes up only a fraction of its budget, contrary to what some critics have maintained.

The Earth exists in space, orbiting a small star we call the Sun, receiving most of its energy from that star, and protected from disaster by a thin film of atmosphere.  Objects come out of the sky, as we have seen, and we cannot see everything that is out there from where we are.  Currently, the U.S. is relying on our close friends, the Russians, to let us hitch rides to the nice space station that we helped them build.  There is no firm date on when this state of affairs is going to change, but something tells me that it will change.

We are relying on private industry to invest in a still very dangerous, expensive, and challenging enterprise, and to spend enough that we can maintain our access to space.  Launching satellites is a potentially profitable venture, and money has been made in sending up small payloads.  Beyond that, there is only uncertainty, as rockets large enough to put people in space are still not in production, and the reliability of rockets that have only flown a few times is largely a gamble.

The United States is investing less than a billion dollars a year on space exploration development; the design of new launch vehicles, the testing of new Thermal Protection Systems, the advancement of the flying-to-a-landing kind of return, and ways to improve the safety and reliability of putting people into space are all competing with  each other for the few dollars available.  And probes to other planets are coming out of that same budget, which reduces the funds that can be used on developing new launch systems.  Ones that don’t rely on the remaining shuttle engines, or Russian engines, ones that don’t take off straight up, instead using a launching rail to help get the aircraft carrying the spacecraft off the ground.

We need a space agency where the leaders listen to the engineers, instead of ignoring them, as they did during the Challenger disaster and the loss of the Columbia.  Both of those shameful incidents could have been prevented, and neither was a result of any failure of the shuttle vehicle design.  Manned space exploration is still too big of a project to expect private industry to be able to properly pursue.  Development of reusable, safe, economical space transportation to and from earth orbit is the biggest obstacle to the next industrial revolution.  We need an agency focused on space flight, on putting people where the frontier is.  We need something better than ‘Not A Space Agency’.

All mixed up

2016/11/04

For the next two months, I want to stay out of public places, especially ones where things are sold.  I was in a major home-improvement store the other day, and the aisles are crammed with extra displays, making moving around even more challenging.  November and December are the time of the year when Darkness reigns, and the Land of the Dead is close at hand.  Instead of gaiety and lights, this is the season of pulling back, letting go, spending time in the darkness.

Darkness is not evil, nor is it to be avoided.  Without darkness, we would not appreciate the light.  Western European cultures adapted to the long, dark winters, by conserving resources in the autumn, mindful of the months of darkness ahead.  Harvest festivals in late September and early October were the last celebrations that the populace engaged in until the Yule after the winter solstice.

The short days of autumn were when many people turned to handicrafts to pass the time, making things that were intended for a certain person.  Thoughts would turn to that person while one was working on their gift, giving them energy, and crafting the love into the item.  Giving gifts to young children was unthinkable, because children had no understanding of what sacrifice went into a gift.

Autumn is the time of Death, when the Life Force abandons the land.  Symbols of light and eternal life are diminished by the lengthening nights, premature signs of celebration that will not come until after December 25th.  Our ancestors prayed that the Sun would return to the skies, to bring life to the land again.  They would not dare to celebrate the solstice so early, as that would be begging for some calamity to befall them.

Seeing icons of the Yule Tide celebration at this time of year emphasizes the materialistic nature of our society, cheapening the potent magic that those symbols hold and confusing our young over what to expect.  To see these symbols so far in advance dilutes their meaning, and mixes up the understanding of where we are on the Wheel of the Year.  We need to appreciate the dark, to embrace it and accept it as part of Life.  Never should Light be taken for granted.

Fighting the darkness

2016/11/02

Today, I purchased a couple of LED light bulbs.  When I got them home, I was amazed at how much the LED light bulb has evolved in just a few years.  In 2013, I relamped my entire house with LED’s, both to save energy and to help invest in this new, highly efficient form of illumination.  Many of the bulbs I purchased cost in the 20 dollar range, but then, most of them are still in use in my house, three years later.  There have been a few premature failures, but mostly with off-brand bulbs.  I still am using the first LED bulb I bought, way back about 2003.  It has been on nearly constantly since I got it.

The bulb I bought today was a 100 watt equivalent, which produces 1500 lumens, or light units, using 14 watts of energy to do it.  I used it to replace a bulb three years old which was still working, but was dimmer than I wanted.  It was a 60 watt equivalent, which produces 860 lumens, and which needs 13.5 watts to do it!  So the industry has nearly doubled the output while using virtually the same amount of energy!  And the bulb was less than $10.00.  Half the price of the 60 watt equivalent, and for a name brand bulb, at that!  In addition, the new 14 watt bulb was much lighter than the 13.5 watt bulb, and had much less heat sink surface.

This is the science of civilization, the learning how to beat back the darkness without using tremendous amounts of energy.  Old incandescent light bulbs produced more heat than light, and had very short lives, at that.  Replacing old lights with LED lamps can reduce lighting costs, both in energy and in bulb replacement.  They are worth several times their cost, in durability, as they are much more difficult to break, and in life span, which measures in the thousands of hours.  Air conditioning costs will be lower if you use LED bulbs instead of incandescent or florescent, as those generate much more heat.  And the spectrum of LED lamps is much closer to the white of the old bulbs than the Compact Florescent Lamps.  Plus, they have no warm up time, even in cold weather.

LED light bulbs and fixtures are worth getting excited about, because they represent a fundamental advance in making light, which promises to reduce energy requirements substantially.  Thank Science and Investment for making more light for less.

 

The most spiritual time of the year

2016/11/01

We are now entering what I consider to be the most spiritual time of the year.  The Life Force is withdrawing from the land, everywhere things are dying or entering hibernation.  The buzz and chatter of insects is gone, and few bird calls are heard.  Trees stand silent, barren of leaves.  The dead stalks of plants rattle in the wind.

Now is when my mind turns to those who have passed on, to my ancestors.  Most of the year, the Life Force is too strong for them to reach out to us, a wind blowing constantly.  But during this time, that gale has abated, allowing the thin strength of the dead to master the distance from their world to ours.

The symbols of Halloween evoke fear, yet they were meant to portray the Land of the Dead, to remind us that even after Death, there is a form of life.  This message was total heresy to the Christian Church, which maintains that the dead are unaware of the passage of time from their death until the Judgement Day.  The Church struggled to stamp out the pagan celebrations of this time, creating All Hallowed Saints Day to celebrate the existence of every person, whether they be a saint or not.

In the days of my youth, Halloween had nearly vanished, only celebrated by children seeking candy.  Since then, it has seen a resurgence, albeit a party-like one, with little or no spiritual overtones, but it is much more widespread than in the 1960’s.  As the fear of paganism has dwindled, people have become more willing to embrace Samhain, the ancient celebration of Death.

For without death, there can be no life.  If no one died, there would be no room for birth.  If nothing died, what would we eat?  Death is as essential to life as being born, but, like being born, it has been hidden away from us in hospitals, until it is mysterious and frightening.  Now is the time to remember the dead, to celebrate their accomplishments, to bring forth their stories.