Sunday, September 2, 2018

CBS Sunday Morning, Again

This morning as I enjoyed my Sunday ritual I could not help but wonder how many times I have written something for this blog as a result of watching CBS Sunday Morning.  So, I opened the blog and used the search operation to find out.

I won’t say I was surprised by the result—six identifiable articles--but it was interesting to see the results.  The subjects triggered by the program are varied as you might expect, but as with the blog itself, they usually covered something in the human-interest field.  Occasionally, some tragedy drew my need to respond.  Listed below are the articles I have written for the blog along with a current comment and URL for the original article.

Failure To Ask

October 3, 2010

Desperation and despair leading to suicide, especially among teens and young adults, led to writing this article.  Unfortunately, the same emotional elements active in 2010 are still largely unresolved.  The story of Rutgers University freshman, Tyler Clementi, triggered a swift and widespread reaction in many media outlets.  It is tragic that today we are facing a similar breakdown in civility leading to divisiveness and outright hateful bigotry.  This, for me, is laid largely at the feet of the person currently occupying the oval office.

Just A Regular Sunday

June 2, 2013

I wrote this shortly after moving from my apartment in Beaverton to a manufactured home community in Dallas, Oregon an historic small town farming community.  Since living here I have realized how it is changing.  It will always be a rural community, but housing projects in development are abundant.  Being just fifteen miles from Salem it is a “bedroom” community within easy reach of employment opportunities, many government related, since Salem is the State Capitol.  A somewhat sad note has to do with the fact that the hometown high school mascot is “The Dragons,” an unfortunate reference to the early days of the Ku Klux Klan in the area.  Yes, Oregon has a history of racism that at one time prevented black folks from moving into the state.

Today Is A Good Day To Be Alive

June 28, 2015

A morning walk following my CBS viewing brought me to a new “friend” and a recaptured sense of being alive.  Maybe you will catch the spirit of life as well.

It Won’t Be the Same Anymore

September 25, 2016

This article was a reflection upon 22 years of Charles Osgood hosting the morning program.  I could remember most of the celebrated stories since I had watched this program since its inception many years ago.  Jane Pauley became the new host and the quality of programming has continued to be a delight.

It Wouldn’t Be Sunday Morning Without CBS

July 9, 2017

Here I recount one of my daily walks, usually along the Rickreal Creek path.  This path wanders through the city of Dallas following the creek.  There are brief areas where the path development is not yet constructed.  My walk is along a more recently finished stretch.  At the end of the article are a number of photos.  Enjoy!

Living For the Day

July 29, 2018

A worthwhile word of advice for us all.  Live today!  Live it with joy and a positive, hopeful vision of what can be.  Since writing this I have noticed the gentleman I referred to every day continuing his walk through the community—sometimes twice during the day.  He is wracking up multiple miles.  I wonder if his credit card is giving him advantage miles!

Sunday, July 29, 2018

Living For the Day

I live in a manufactured home community for those aged 55+.  I have been impressed, especially in the last year, how many residents take regular walks.  Apparently, those who have been advocating for daily exercise of some type—anything that gets you moving off the couch—have had an effect.  It is sinking in and folks are taking better care of themselves.

As I was observing my ritual of watching CBS Sunday Morning on TV I caught out of the corner of my eye a diminutive senior going by with his wheeled walker.  I thought to myself, “good for you!” and went back to watching my program.  A few minutes later he came by again.  A few more minutes later there he was on his third round.  I felt like going out and congratulating him.  Finally, I watched as he passed for the fourth and apparently the final time of the day.

I finished my program and got ready for my own morning walk, this time an hour long and about three miles.  Some days are easier than others now.  Lower leg muscles and hip joints sometimes protest the effort.  Still, arriving back home I always feel better and during gardening days, I usually head right out to work there for a while.

Increasingly, I am aware that I really am living for the day!   Even with a pretty regular routine without a lot of variation, every day is special.  I have found that as I believe that and look for simple things that make each day a little different, a little more precious, a wonderful feeling of satisfaction sweeps over me.  I have mentioned in articles before that I give thanks every day for how fortunate I am.  Some of you, who read my occasional rants on Facebook, might question how I can say I am grateful for my life.  I can only answer that by suggesting you give it a try. Enjoy a sunrise or sunset.  Imagine cloud shapes as you did as a child.  Enjoy your immediate surroundings with appreciation for what made them possible. 

Live for the day.

Sunday, June 24, 2018

Silver Falls State Park

I first went to Silver Falls State Park shortly after I moved to Dallas, Oregon in 2013.  It is one of the amazing places to visit in my home state.  On this most recent trip, I left around 8 AM and arrived there just over an hour later.  The huge main parking lot was already beginning to fill, but I found the #3 spot right at the trailhead that began the journey with a choice of directions.  I chose the upper south falls trail.

It was a partly cloudy sky and the trail was damp from the many surface water runoffs.  Those of you who have been to the park know that the trail to the south falls winds rather quickly down until you reach the first good viewing point of the falls pouring down from 173 feet to the pool below.  The trail continues until you are able to pass behind the falls at just above the midpoint of the cascading water.

I decided to head down the 185 steps on to the lower south falls, about a mile further.  The lower falls is a 93-foot drop.  On the way down the steps I came across a young man sitting with his daughter, who I would judge to be about 3 or 4. I asked her if she was having fun, and she gave me a big grin and a happy “yes.”  Farther along the steps there was a young couple carrying a baby stroller, the father walking backward at the downward side while mom handled the top.  I had to say, “You’re on a courageous hike!”  I am sure I could never have managed to do that when my kids were that young.

Once you reach what seemed like the bottom of the world, I realized I now had to go back up and the trail was daunting to me.  I would guess it varied between a 30 to 45 degree incline.  While there were a few benches on the way, there were nowhere enough for me!  At one point I saw a bench ahead with three folks around it.  I saw no hint they might make room for me and I didn’t ask, so on I went.  At another bench I asked if there was room for one more, and space was cheerfully made for me. I had many standing rests.  I found a cut log and plopped myself down on it.  A couple of ladies, probably in their 40s+ came by and we exchanged greetings.  Then one looked over and asked, “Are you okay?”  I must have looked as worn out as I felt!  I said, “I’m fine.  Thanks.”

That return trail was just over a mile and when I finally did reach the plateau I felt I must be in heaven due to the height and the reward of a relatively flat surface from there back to the main facilities and parking lot.

I probably will not make this hike again, but it was totally rewarding to know that I could do it.  The hardest part, physically, was the hip joints and muscles.  Please, come walk with me by way of this slideshow.

Silver Falls Photos

Silver Falls

Sunday, May 20, 2018

From the Public Page of My Private Journal

The thought simply slipped from within the shadows of my mind . . .

I think it is time to leave.

Death.  We try as hard as we can to not think about it as though not thinking about it keeps it from knocking at our door.

Of course, the specter from those shadows comes to the door of each of us at some point like it or not.

Perhaps it is natural that at my age of 83 I should find myself considering the shape of things to come.  Change comes at the blinking of an eye—whether it is ten minutes from now or ten years.  I am ready.

There are things left undone.  How few of us truly wrap up loose ends in our lives before we change, before we move on to whatever awaits us at the turning of the page.  I have pledged to do as my mother had done, return as many things as she could to the people had blessed her with them as gifts.  At her passing she was truly free of the burdens of things.  My pledge is so far unfulfilled, but I pledge to keep at it.

I long ago developed my philosophy of afterlife reality.  I am satisfied that the beliefs I have come to are completely workable for me.  Those beliefs are shaped mainly by eastern religious philosophy.  For many years I have felt that so-called Christians had so diluted and polluted the teachings of Jesus as to make what is left bare threads of what his life truly represented.  Enough said about that.

If I have regrets, and I do, they come from decisions made that were not so well thought out as I had believed.  Some of those decisions have caused harm to others.  Some, naturally, have benefited others as well as my own life.  I will stand judged not by some far off god, but by my own conscience, which I am certain may be harsher than a loving god would pronounce upon me.

Not a day goes by that I do not give thanks for the life I have been blessed to live.  I consider myself most fortunate to have survived in spite of everything I have done to distract me from a course that might have been.  I may leave little trace of my presence this time around.  I will know, and I do, what I have accomplished.  I feel satisfied that I have made a contribution to the world in which I live, though few may ever know what that has been.

Finally, I thank all of you who have walked, at least for a time, with me on the path.  You have given me more than you know, probably because I have failed to tell you so.  I tell you now with love and a grateful heart: Thank you!

Comes also from the shadows of my mind the thought . . .

Love never fails.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Growing Discontent About Religious Practice

The following article was originally posted on this blog 19 December 2014.   Given the social and economic uncertainty following the election of Donald Trump as President in 2016, this article takes on a new resonance.  Those who were mainly responsible for the election of Mr. Trump and those who have continued to follow and support his actions since consist mainly of far right, more fundamentalist religious leaning folks.  Because the larger majority of citizens do not fall into this category, serious divisions are continuing to develop in our social structure.  Ms. Newer’s clear reporting on the decline of religious participation in recent years foreshadowed what we see taking place today.  More people are apparently rejecting fundamentalist religion and opting for a more personal sense of spiritual practice.

Certainly, the debate over religious interpretation will always be with us.  However, it is incumbent upon each of us, now more than ever, to determine what values best represent us as individuals.  Strong personal beliefs are what lead people to act upon those beliefs.  We are witnessing a strong system of beliefs that in my opinion clearly does not represent mainstream Christianity nor what is essential spiritual practice in any major religion today.

I hope you will take the time to read this article and examine your own system of beliefs and what course of action they may lead you to follow.

Religion and the Rise of Atheism

Recently my friend, Lloyd Agte, forwarded an article to me asking if I wanted to weigh in on it.[1]  The article posed the question: “Will religion ever disappear?”  The author is Rachel Nuwer. It was a fairly long article so I printed it out in order to be able to mark areas I wanted to respond to specifically.  As I read the piece I thought of several of my friends who identify themselves as atheists.  I also realized my comments might end up too long for a simple email response.  So, here is my attempt to “weigh in” on the discussion.

First, here is my disclaimer.   I am a retired Unity minister whom one might expect to be biased to begin with.  That said I have over the years modified my belief systems in many respects.  I do believe in God, though my perspective is certainly different from traditionalists or fundamentalists.  I hope you will see what I mean as I proceed.

I used to argue that there are no “real” atheists.  They were simply folks who did not believe in God by that name or characteristics.  Surely they believed in the Cosmos, the “greater than I” aspect of self, or some other concept of life that most persons would include in the broad definition of God.  Generally speaking, most atheists do not believe in some form of life after death, no divine plan that is responsible for the unseen order of all that is.  For those persons, there is one shot at life and this is it.  Oblivion follows. 

While the article points out that atheism is growing, both in sheer numbers as well as a percentage of the world population, it is still a relatively small population.  Should such growth continue, one could postulate that religion, as we know it would eventually disappear.  Of course, the reverse could be true as well, given the proclivity of “believers” to hold on to their faith.

In the course of my education, I was introduced to a definition of religion in its simplest of form.  Religion is a system of beliefs.  Interpreted most broadly this could cover almost every conceivable set of beliefs one might subscribe to, including atheists.  Their “system of beliefs” would include such things as one life to live, nature as a system of adaptations supported by scientific principles.  Indeed, science would be the cause celebre for explaining the physical world and all of its forces.

The article also pointed out that religion’s appeal is that it offers security in an uncertain world.  So, the more secure and satisfying the world appears to be, the less need for the support offered by religion and the greater tendency to see scientific thought/principles as the reason for the way things are.  I was reminded at this point of early humankind who placed great emphasis on “gods” of nature; the movement of stars in the skies, the rotation of the seasons, and eventually the understanding of development through evolution.  Icons were developed representing these unseen forces that appeared to bring order and security (or the lack of it when necessary to correct the faulty behavior of humankind).

The author indicates that in countries “where the majority of citizens have European roots are all places where religion was important just a century ago, but that now report some of the lowest belief rates in the world . . . People are less scared about what might befall them.”  She goes on to say, “As climate change wreaks havoc on the world in coming years and natural resources potentially grow scarce, then suffering and hardship could fuel religiosity.” 

One of the principles the author shares has to do neuropsychology of the species.  This principle states that we have two basic forms of thought:  System 1 and System 2.  System 2 evolved relatively recently and enables us to plan and think logically.  System 1 is intuitive, instinctual and automatic.  What this suggests to me is that we are born with System 1 operating for all of us no matter the circumstances or location of our birth. “It makes us prone to looking for patterns to better understand our world, and to seek meaning for seemingly random events like natural disasters and the death of loved ones.”  There is more in the development of this concept in the article, which I will leave for you to read on your own.

It seems to me that we might conclude, at least for now, that religion developed in the pre-science period where explanations for the world came mostly from the natural, intuitive nature.  A system of beliefs developed and modified over time based on a faith in things unseen, but taken as true for lack of any other explanation.  As scientific knowledge grew a new set of explanations came about that for some seemed in opposition to religious beliefs.  This is the crux of the matter.  Is religion/atheism a simple case of either/or?

For me, the conflict exists due to the distortions of religious systems based on controlling the masses and bending their independent will to the “higher authority” represented by the church.  If you are going to believe the world (our earth and everything that ever existed on it) came about in all its glory in seven days, you are unlikely to ever accept any other explanation regardless of the demonstrated reality of modern scientific methods.  Most religions long ago resolved, at least in part, what appeared to be a contradiction between religion and science.  Again, for me, the problem of religion comes about through the absolutism of Fundamentalism, which today seems to be growing, especially among the religious right.  Is this the result of the uncertainty existent in our world today—economically, environmentally, and physically?  I would argue that it is.

Finally, I distinguish between religion and spirituality.  Religion, as a system of beliefs, may exist independently of one’s spirituality.  Religion requires persons to subscribe to a set of principles and codes, often at odds with the way the world works today. It excludes those who do not subscribe to the “rules.”  Spirituality, on the other hand, subscribes to few, if any, codes of conduct or religious practices.  Spirituality is a view that is inclusive rather than exclusive.  It is intuitive in nature.  Rather than seeking hard and fast rules, it operates as a blending force that sees all things as part of something greater.  The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.

In a world that appears often to be out of control, hurtling toward oblivion, persons may tend to defer to the concept of a “god” ultimately taking care of us when we realize we cannot take care of ourselves.  I would like to go on here about children and their natural tendency to believe they are taken care of.  This goes beyond the care of parents. I believe they intuitively know they have come from and are heading toward something greater than themselves, but which INCLUDES them.

The author’s conclusion is that “even if we lose sight of the Christian, Muslim and Hindu gods and all the rest, superstitions and spiritualism will almost certainly still prevail.  Humans need comfort in the face of pain and suffering, and many need to think that there’s something more after this life, that they’re loved by an invisible being.”  I do not subscribe to the “invisible being” concept.  I subscribe to the principle of All That Is as an interconnected, omnipresent essence in all and through all that embraces us and responds to us according to our beliefs and actions.

I hope you will take the time to read the article by Rachel Nuwer footnoted at the end of this article.

Rachel Nuwer is a freelance science journalist who contributes to venues including the New York Times, Smithsonian and Scientific American. She lives in Brooklyn with a large orange cat.
--Slate profile

Another Article you may like: 18 Apr 2017, BBC Future

How Western Civilization Could Collapse