Sunday, December 30, 2012

Happy New Year

To all of my family, friends and readers comes this salutation.
May everything good grace your life,
And may health, wealth and well-being fill your days!


Sunday, December 16, 2012

Streams of Unending Tears

I cannot stop the tears from flowing.  The slightest thought of the horrors of this week cause a new flood.  I am exhausted.  Yet I WANT to know everything about this horrendous assault on six and seven-year-old babies and the shooter, his family, the environment and everything that possibly played a part in what happened.  It is not a macabre or prurient interest.  I just want to know how in the world anyone could possibly feel the need to take out his frustrations on such babies.  I cannot understand it.  I am sickened, sad and lost.

Unfortunately, I cannot help but see these recent events as the tip of an iceberg of the problems we face today in our society.  There is a deep sense of frustration, fear and helplessness that many people are experiencing.  Those less able to find productive ways to deal with such issues may take actions against anonymous souls who just happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

How can first graders be in the “wrong” place at the “wrong” time when they are simply in their classrooms beginning another day of learning about the world in which they live.  Sadly, whatever the “lesson” Friday, December 14, 2012, it was their last.  For the parents, they will never be able to understand what happened.

The nation feels this loss.  We are all heartbroken.  In our shared grief we hope to find support from and for each other. We each will find a way to grieve and extend support.  I am praying because I know that helps me.  I trust my prayers, united with others, will find their way to the whole Newtown community, but especially to the parents and all who have lost loved ones.  Peace be with you!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Shades of Ecotopia!

In this morning’s Oregonian David Sarasohn in his online editorial in “The Stump” [i] made reference to the secession requests that have blossomed following the re-election of Obama.  He reminds Oregonians of the book by Ernest Callenbach, Ecotopia. In it the author posed the proposition of the western states of Oregon, Washington and California seceding from the union in order to form a “more perfect union,” or at least one more suited to their priorities.

It is almost laughable that since the election every state in the union has sent petitions to the White House requesting the right to secede!  Of course, it is clear that these petitions, for the most part, are simply symbolic of the frustration so many of us feel about the political craziness that has immobilized our governing process.  In the case of Texas, however, where over 100,000 signatures have been added to the petition, there probably is a much darker sentiment behind their effort.  While governor Perry has distanced himself from the current petition effort, we should remember that he also threatened such action when the health care legislation was causing such a stir around the country.  As I have stated in other articles, maybe we should honor the Texas request for freedom from the “dictatorial control” of the federal government and let them go ahead with developing a national status from which they can attempt to develop “international” relationships (without the backing of the power, economy, and security of federal government from which they have received a greater return on their contribution in money sent to Washington than any other state.[ii])

There may be many things we do not like about the federal government and the seeming inability of our representatives to find ways of working together for the good of all is all too apparent.  Political intransigence is now so deeply imbedded in the political process that the overall well being of our citizens is hardly visible.  The adage, power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely, seems fully implemented.[iii]  Having said that, is secession the answer?  Personally, I am not in favor of that action, but I am most certainly as frustrated as the majority of us when it comes to accomplishing what needs to be done.  Sometimes the threat of an action is as effective as actually taking the action.  Let’s hope we, as a nation, can get our act together sufficiently to overcome our differences and regain the democratic excellence that we have struggled to develop over the last two centuries.

For those of you interested in the Ecotopia project you can start by reading the articles I wrote about it on this blog awhile back. [iv], [v]

Thursday, November 8, 2012


One of the memories I have from my childhood were remarks by my parents about the death of someone special, usually a movie star from their early days, but also of older celebrities.  The impression I had was one of recognizing that people of a certain age begin to leave us.  This seemingly unimportant memory fragment has stayed with me through the years.

Now I am at an age when many of the celebrities that I knew from my childhood or early adult years are beginning to leave us.  I find myself always remembering the reaction of my parents as they noted their period celebrities move on. 

Today I learned that a dear friend is in hospice care.  Her loving family surrounds her, consisting of her daughters, grandchildren and great grandchildren.  There is a wonderful spirit of love and caring that is evident beyond what many families today share.  Many of our families today are so separated, geographically as well as emotionally, that there may not be that comforting feeling of sharing important moments.

As time moves inevitably closer to my own mortality, I cannot help but reflect upon my life experiences and the family and friends who have walked alongside me on my path.  Personally, I have never felt that mortality represented loss.  Certainly, the nature of our relationships change, but there is, for me, always the closeness in my heart of those who are important to me.

So today I send my special love and blessings to my friend who is preparing for her own departure from this earthly experience.  She is resting in the love and support of her family and gracefully accepting her continuation along the road of life that never ends.

God bless you, friend!

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Sun Also Rises

I am reposting this article originally published 7/12/2009.  Someone had Googled the phrase which brought up my article on the list of responses.  When I reviewed it I felt it applied to the way I feel now.  With all the political turmoil friends, families and others are discussing--sometimes with civility and sometimes not--the various sides of the issues.  This often results in frustration, anger, disappointment and even disillusionmnet.  Maybe this article will help each of us remember that all things change and we can be a positive part of that change, or not.

I borrowed this title from Ernest Hemingway, who wrote of the undercurrents of suppressed emotions and buried values of the weary and aimless expatriates after World War I. The characters serve as metaphors for society’s lost optimism and innocence after the war. Hemingway borrowed the title from Ecclesiastes 1:5, which I’ll get to in a moment.
As with many of the articles I write , this one came to mind as I began a meditation. I was feeling quietly upbeat and excited about a noticeable change of direction in my life. I was experiencing my own new sunrise. I thought about a series of challenges that I had been working to resolve. I realized, almost without knowing it, that I had broken through. It was nothing singularly dramatic. Rather, it was the accumulation of small things, much the same as the feather that finally tipped the scales in my favor. Old friends visited. New opportunities came about. A new sense of direction emerged.
In my meditation the framework was first a brilliant, golden-red sunset over the deep blue ocean waters (a personal favorite and often photographed vista). Even as I saw the sunset, I knew the sun was, at the same time, rising triumphantly for those beyond my horizon. Of course, that led to knowing that the sun would also be rising for me within a matter of hours. That is the point where I realized it already had, and that was why I felt jubilant and free.
Those familiar with the book of Ecclesiastes will probably remember the verses that contained the term, “. . . the sun also rises.” Let me share the context with you.
The words of the speaker, the son of David, king in Jerusalem.
Emptiness, emptiness, says the Speaker, emptiness, all is empty. What does man gain from all his labour and his toil here under the sun? Generations come and generations go, while the earth endures for ever.
The sun rises and the sun goes down; back it returns to its place and rises there again. . . . All streams run into the sea, yet the sea never overflows; back to the place from which the streams ran they return to run again.
–Eccl. 5:1-7, NEB

Life is full of cycles as indicated in the text above. Sometimes we forget that the sun will rise again. The life-sustaining rivers running to the sea and returning as rain to the mountains go on endlessly. Even though we feel ourselves in the darkest of the night, it is at that very moment the dawn begins to break. If we can just remember this and maintain our faith in the outworking of good in our lives, the sunrise will shed new light that reveals ways to meet whatever challenge is before us. Even if it takes more than one sunrise, we can count on it rising over and over again.
My life is really not different from anyone else’s life. If I have any advantage at all, it may also be my greatest disadvantage. Strangely, the more you know, the more you are responsible for. If you know the principles of electricity, but fail to properly apply them, you are in danger of harm. If you know that a treating others with respect is the right thing to do, but then disparage them behind their back, it is likely to eventually come back to haunt you. If you know there are sharks in the water but you go swimming anyway, you have no one to blame but yourself for any harm done. Of course, ignorance is no excuse either, but somehow our problems are compounded when we clearly act in a way that is out of harmony with principles of living.
We may feel depressed at times. We may feel we are wandering aimlessly in a world of discontent and negativity. Conditions all around you may seem hopeless. In times like these it is important to draw upon your deepest convictions and faith in the restorative cycles of life. The fresh rains will nourish the rivers that in turn nourish the land as they return to the sea to begin the cycle yet again. This same rejuvenating, healing power is within you. You have a source of wisdom to draw upon that unfailingly will guide you through the darkest hours of your life. The sun of new hope will rise again to enlighten your path. I find this to be true for me. I believe it is true for you.
Comes The Dawn

After a while you learn
The subtle difference between
Holding a hand and chaining a soul
And you learn that love doesn't mean leaning
And company doesn't always mean security.

And you begin to learn
That kisses aren't contracts
And presents aren't promises
And you begin to accept your defeats
With your head up and your eyes ahead
With the grace of a woman
Not the grief of a child

And you learn
To build all your roads on today
Because tomorrow's ground is
Too uncertain for plans
And futures have a way
Of falling down in mid flight

After a while you learn
That even sunshine burns if you get too much
So you plant your own garden
And decorate your own soul
Instead of waiting
For someone to bring you flowers

And you learn
That you really can endure
That you are really strong
And you really do have worth
And you learn and you learn
With every good bye you learn.

Veronica A. Shoffstall

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

The Books Just Won’t Go Away!

Every time I muster the energy to start going through my 1500 book plus library thinking about which ones I can start getting rid of I seem to run into a book I just am not ready to let go of.  Usually it is one I had forgotten was on the shelf.  Today, that happened to me.  I reached toward the top shelf where a number of paperback “character development” books were located and the first one I pulled off was, The Book of Qualities, by J Ruth Gendler (Perennial Library).

As I opened the book to peruse the contents I was struck by the fact that it was given to me in 1988 by a good friend and associate at Unity Church of Bellevue, Shirley Starr.  It was shortly after my stepfather had died in an automobile accident and it was Shirley’s way of providing comfort, insight and peace.

It is amazing to me how these serendipitous moments occur in my life.   There is ALWAYS something that shows up at just the right moment!  Sometimes I do not know it is the RIGHT moment until after it happens.  But this was definitely one of those special moments.

I immediately contacted the Unity Church and asked them to please forward my request to contact her.  I wanted to let her know that her gift renewed itself for me today and I am so grateful. 

Now I am wondering all over again if I should just give up on trying to let go of my books!  I have boxes that I started sorting books into months ago.  The last time I looked in those boxes there were clumps of dust in them.  This will give you some idea of how urgent this process is.

*  *  *

Returning to the bookshelf the next book I took down was, Today I Will Nourish My Inner Martyr, by Ann Thornbill & Sara Wells, (Prima Publishing).  I don’t know what to tell you.  Of course, this is a totally different type of book that provides a different kind of comfort.  It is the comfort that comes of feeling like a Martyr.  Just quickly looking at it I thought of a number of different reasons for keeping this book too.  (See how difficult I can make getting rid of books?)
Here is just one quick example:

My self-doubts are actually perceptive insights, not the baseless worries that my therapist tries to trick me into believing.

Then there is this one:

Today, Instead of taking a nap I will lie in bed and make a mental list of all my shortcomings.

Okay, neither of these quotes reflects my true thoughts, but that is the point, I think, about why they exist.  I cannot read these and not be reminded about the power of our thoughts.  I think you will see me quoting more of these from time to time.  Now I think I’ll take a nap!

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Tiny Beautiful Things

I know that some of you don’t really care about what I have read or why or how it affected me.  But some of you do.  It is to you that I write to let you know I just finished, Tiny Beautiful Things, by Cheryl (Dear Sugar) Strayed.  My previous article on this blog was primarily about the author’s book, Wild: From Lost To Found On the Pacific Crest Trail.  Dear Sugar was an advice column written by the author, who had remained anonymous until recently.  I read about her book, Wild, in our local paper and it was in that review that she “outed” herself as the person who had been writing the advice on love and life column for The 

Now why in the world would I, a retired person living alone, care at all about advice on love and life?  Actually, when I started reading the book, it was not because it consisted of many of the advice letters she had received and answered.  It was because of how impressed I was with her writing in general.  Since I consider myself a writer as well, I am interested in how other authors develop their ideas.  I knew from reading Wild that I would probably like her latest work.

In a way I was not surprised by the fact that her “advice” on love and life hit a resonant chord for me in so many ways.  I have had my share of love and life experiences and feel I learned something about myself in each of them.  However, I discovered new ways of looking at love and life, especially as I thought of the people I have loved and do love.  I never really felt I deserved to be loved.  Expectations about what could be or should be the way love works were never quite that way for me because of that lack of deserving.  I spent much of my time with a therapist trying to better understand the ways in which I really did deserve to be loved and to how love others.  I wish I could say I have finished that part of my learning experience.  I have not.

I still am unable to articulate what love is all about.  I know though that in the pages of this book I constantly gained insights that I strongly felt were representative of my needs and ways in which I could have done better in relationships and hopefully can apply from here on out to my friends and loved ones.  There is always something to learn.  Life is never finished and we should not delude ourselves into thinking that we have arrived at some exact point of conclusion (on any subject).

One very personal event in my life was touched upon in this book.  Some years ago I shared with my son something that I had felt about our relationship.  I told him that I felt he was my teacher.  How I stated that at the time is probably not how I actually felt it, but it was the clearest way I could say it at the time. Here in this book I gained a further insight to what I tried to convey to my son then.  Dear Sugar, in her response to “Living Dead Dad” said:

More will be revealed.  Your son hasn’t yet taught you everything he has to teach you.  He taught you how to love like you’ve never loved before.  He taught you how to suffer like you’ve never suffered before.  Perhaps the next thing he has to teach you is acceptance.  And the thing after that, forgiveness.

Love is such a powerful thing.  It will teach you whether you like it or not and whether you are ready or not.  What it will teach you is personal in every case.  Whether we will accept the potential lesson and move with it is up to each of us.  I will tell you this, you do not have to have all the answers about love and life in order to love and live!  Just do it for god’s sake!  Do it as best you can.  Love everyone and every experience that comes your way.  You will never regret having loved.  If you feel regret for having loved someone who did not love you back as you hoped, maybe there is another way to love that person without your expectation of the way it should be.  I don’t know how it will be for you, but I know each of us must keep loving and finding new ways to express love.  Otherwise, we are not truly living.

Cheryl Strayed pulled absolutely no punches in her advice.  She hit so hard it must have felt like literally being hit in the stomach for some of those who wrote to her.  It certainly knotted my stomach more than once. But, and this is a big but, she never attempted to belittle the writers no matter how apparently stupid, unforgiving or judgmental their attitude may have been.  And she always caressed softly with her words the tender spots they exposed so that each person could be receptive enough to fully consider the possibilities within their particular challenge.

I wish I could be as clear and caring and direct with love in my writing as Sugar is.  Maybe it is because I am a retired person living alone that this writer has come into my life.  I certainly feel uplifted and blessed by having her work in my library and in my consciousness.  Maybe you would like her too.

A Postscript Regarding Our Opportunity To Love Once Again

After writing this piece we all experienced the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado where 70 persons were shot and 12 died while attending the midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises.  There is no way to deal with this horrible experience except to reach deep within our souls and find the strength of love that reaches out to enfold the families, friends and rescuers who need all the support we can give.  It is not a time to rant, rave or judge the aspects of this event.  Ultimately, there will be much discussion about many things that right now do not deserve our attention.  What is needed now is LOVE.  Love in your own way.  Surround Aurora with the light of your loving care and concern.  The members of this community will need our support for months to come, some even longer.  Love those who gave their lives to protect others whom they loved.  Love those who remain knowing the cost of that love.  LOVE!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Running With Wild Women!

Okay, okay, so it’s just a catchy title that I hope will interest you enough to read on a bit.  However, this is about what some would consider as wild women!

In recent years I have read several books that especially interested me.  Both were written by, for and/or about women.  The first book was Women Who Run With the Wolves, by Clarissa Pinkola Estes, PhD (Ballantine Books).  It is about the myths and stories of the wild woman archetype and was so interesting to me that I have probably at least 50 pages flagged and I made copious notes that practically amounted to another book.  In its over 500 pages I gained wonderful insights to the feminine nature and the quest for meaning and empowerment.  This was important to me because I have felt the strong feminine in myself through the years.  Sometimes it expresses as the tender, loving nature that is so nurturing in its expression.  Other times what I experience is the intuitive and mystical aspect that so symbolizes women to me.

The other book that I just finished is Wild: From Lost to Found On the Pacific Crest Trail, by Cheryl Strayed (Knopf).  This book is also about finding one’s self, particularly as a woman.  This local Portland author set out alone to hike the Pacific Crest Trail which she describes as, “A world that measures two feet wide by 2663 miles long,” stretching from the Mexican border on the south to Canada on the north.

Her almost unbelievable journey would test the endurance and resolve of the hardiest of trekkers.  While I could imagine making such a journey, reality quickly sets in with the realization that even in my most fit years I could never have made it.  But what is interesting to me is that I could vicariously identify with the author almost step by step.  Even though the story is largely about a woman finding her strength in a world of men, it is also about anyone’s journey into self.  It is about moments in life that include highs and lows.  It is about relationships.  It is about doing things that detract from who we really are but with the redeeming actions that put the lessons in their proper place within the life journey as a whole.  Finally, it is about empowerment whether you are a woman or man seeking the self.

With the turning of the pages each describing some particular challenge along the path, I would think of people I know who I felt could also identify with this journey, or who I think would at least enjoy the accomplishments recorded day by day.  Maybe these thoughts are representative of the old saying that if you find yourself wishing some other person in your life could know this, it is really you that needs the experience.  I can accept that, but still, there are people I know and love that I wish could share this journey, perhaps with the realization that we are on that journey together. 

So often, particularly in close relationships, things begin to be taken for granted.  In that period something is lost in those relationships because expectations begin to diverge almost unnoticed until you find yourself on a different path all together.  The author volitionally chose the most difficult path one could imagine.  On that path she found herself.  She discovered the roots and development of her relationships, particularly with her mother and siblings, but also with others in her life.

Her story telling about the trek is richly enhanced by her flashbacks along the way to events in her life.  Most of these flashbacks involve her mother who died before her 50th birthday and the difficulty of reconciling her loss with feelings of “unfinished business.”  She also tells us of her drug experiences, her sometimes reckless sexual adventures, her marriage and the divorce that framed another part of the reason for her trek.  While much of her journey is done very much alone, there are others she meets along the way.  As she describes these meetings, some challenging or threatening, you see how she is able to weave them into the unfolding understanding of her self. 

It was a deeply emotional experience for the author, and for me as her reader.  She mentioned at one point in the journey how she would not let herself cry.  It was also true that there was often not enough moisture in her body to provide tears.  When she finally reached the Bridge of the Gods that crossed the Columbia River at Cascade Locks and after she allowed herself the pleasure of an ice cream cone that left her with only 20 cents to her name, she cried.  They were tears of exhilaration, not those of exhaustion.  She had accomplished what she had set out to do.  She had begun not knowing for sure why, but ending it knowing who she was and totally empowered as one of those special wild women!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

A Wonderful Life!

I just returned from my morning walk through Greenway Park in brilliant sunshine and crystal clear blue skies.  Walking every day that I can gives my body a wonderful sense of renewal.  It is also a great time to let my mind be renewed as well.  It is one of those times, when I allow myself to experience it, that I open up to a wonderful barrage of thoughts and feelings that add yet another dimension to my day.

This morning I was aware of how grateful I am for my life.  Through the ups and downs I have been so fortunate to have more of the ups than the downs.  I have learned something from every friend I have met along the way.  Sometimes I feel them walking with me and we engage in conversations that are known only between us.  These are not memories of past conversations.  They are current, they are meaningful and sometimes they are simply for a good laugh over something we are sharing. 

I have also learned things from my family members.  These are, perhaps, the most meaningful memories, even though they occasionally are about the tough lessons we inevitably encounter as we build our relationships.  I had an uncle who used to tell my mother that if he had to live his life over again, he would do it exactly the same way!  My mother would counter that she certainly would not!  There I was exposed to two different ways of looking at my experiences and handling memories.  I used to feel strongly that my life events were exactly as they should be.  They were, after all, what brought me to this moment and if I was happy where I was, why would I want to do anything differently?

For whatever reasons and at some undefined point in my life I found that I wasn’t so sure that I needed to have all the experiences that I did.  There were times along the way that I definitely did not like where I was.  And yet, my thoughts, feelings and events had brought me there.  In reflection I needed to ask myself if I were simply being selective in my memories, accepting as real only those that I enjoyed.  Perhaps, but in looking at this apparent contradiction of mind I rest in the conviction that my life has been and is a wonderful adventure.  Whether I would do things differently given the opportunity, I would have to say I would.  But more importantly, I know that the effect of past events is good or bad only according to how I view and remember them. 

This morning, life is more than wonderful!  This morning I enjoyed walking with my friends and my thoughts.  I walked with my family and felt love for them and the wonderful way in which they are growing through life.  To have been, and be, a part of their lives is a blessing beyond description.  So no matter what other ways I might choose to examine my life, today life is wonderful in every respect!  I believe that knowing this is the best preparation for more days just like this one!

Saturday, June 30, 2012

Bicycle Rider Courtesy and Safety

Last year after one of my daily walks in Greenway Park I posted an article about my frustration with riders who failed to announce when passing a walker on the path.  Greenway is a heavily traveled park path, both for walkers and cyclists, so it is important to exercise care and courtesy as the path is shared.

Recently I read the suggested “rules” for riders posted by a local cycling organization in preparation for the celebration of the opening of the completed Fanno Creek Trail.  Among the suggestions was to announce when you are passing a walker:  “Passing on your left.”  I was glad to see that those suggestions are, in fact, supported by responsible riding organizations.

This morning, during my regular walk, I was twice passed by a rider who announced his presence.  I quickly acknowledged the rider with a “Thank you!”  Since I was quick to share my frustration last year, I am taking advantage of this opportunity to give my appreciation to all riders who exercise this common courtesy and safety procedure.  As I mentioned in my previous post, I am a senior and I find that my walk is not always as straight and true as it once was.  It is much easier to partially lose balance from time to time.  For a rider to announce he/she is passing can be the difference between safety and an accident.
So, a big “Thank you” to the riders this morning, and to all riders who share the path safely and with courtesy.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Community In the New (Old) Age: An Update on Ecotopia

A week ago I posted an article on LifeCentering and on my Facebook page discussing how those of us who lived through the birth pangs of the “New Age” might look back on those days from our “mature” perspective (note the emphasis on mature).  The idea for the article arose out of my reading of the last article found on the computer of author Ernest Callenbach following his recent death.  In 1975 he published his classic tome on building a new society. (Twenty publishing houses rejected it before a small print house accepted it.  It went on to be “working” paper for folks around the world who felt the need for societal change.)  Ecotopia was about the hypothetical secession of Washington, Oregon and parts of Northern California from the rest of the United States because the residents saw the decline in the quality of the air, water and indeed human life itself because of their failure to heed the warnings of the damage being done to Mother Earth.

I bought the book and have now finished reading it.  As I told my friend, Lloyd, I felt exhausted emotionally as I read the final pages.  Let me share something I said to Lloyd as well as to another friend.
I am struck by the way it (Ecotopia) speaks to some of my own thoughts about relationships and how what is offered in the book reflects things I wish I were able to embrace freely.  I am not speaking simply of the manner in which they handle open relationships, but rather the sincere and open way people relate without pretense, agendas or seeking gain of some type.  That, of course, leads to an entirely different way in which sexual situations are embraced as well.  What is important, to me, is that "relating" is developed first and everything else comes after.  It does not eliminate all of the personal pitfalls--some hurt, some jealousies, some disappointments--but because "relating" came first there is a different basis for resolving subsequent issues.  In Ecotopia it is possible to be an individual, and a better one, because community is understood as something beyond the arrangement of people.  It goes into the relationship with our Mother Earth.  For me this draws from the depths of my being something I wish I could more adequately express--the real oneness of all things.  I "know" this intellectually, and occasionally I get out of the way enough that I do experience a measure of that REALITY.  Maybe the next time around I can more fully experience this broader potential.
I will not go into all of the details of how community building took place or how education, industry, employment and entrepreneurship were achieved.  It is very well developed in the book for those who may be interested.  What I do want to talk about to the best of my ability is my emotional connection with certain beliefs, philosophies and practices that I encountered within the story.  In fact, I found those things to BE the real story of Ecotopia.

The whole process of change and examination of new ways of living and doing things is a challenge.  We tend to get comfortable with what we know and our present experience.  Often meeting someone new brings a concern as to whether they will like us, or we them.  There is a hesitancy to engage.  This is not always true, of course, but I am certain most can identify with those feelings.  Meeting new people in new environments in Ecotopia is just the opposite.  It is, after a number of years as an independent stable state, the most natural and comfortable of situations.  This is possible largely due to a greatly decreased sense of “yours” and “mine.”  This is not to say individual ownership does not occur.  In fact, rather than large industrial complexes the emphasis is on small groups of individuals doing what many would consider “brainstorming” ideas and eventually forming a business producing their “product.”  It is not the same as how brainstorming was or is typically done where the ideas are thrown out without judgment from other members of the group.  In Ecotopia ideas are challenged, adjusted and improved upon until a consensus is arrived at.  As to the personal sense of “yours” and “mine” the emphasis is not on things, but on people and harmonious living.

This process is only possible, in my opinion, because before anything is started or an idea even tossed out for consideration, much time and energy has gone into developing relationships, honoring each other and the individual gifts/contributions each person makes to the society as a whole.  There is no judgment of class or hierarchy of power as existed in the regular USA.  A great amount of attention is given to the “needs” of the individual for free time to simply be, (work week consists of 20 hours) to recognize oneness with the forests, the streams, the sky, and sunsets.  This may sound idealist.  It is!  But, as the story developed, a strong rationale for its viability was demonstrated.

In one part of the story the reporter, who came from the main USA ostensibly to write about how this utopian plan could not work, found himself in the hospital after taking part in a ritual “war” exercise.  This concept in itself was worth reading the book for because it dealt with possible hostility in a much different way than the building of armies.  The hospital was like a small country place with about 30 patients.  There were more nurses and doctors than patients and a nurse assigned to a patient was always with that patient or within immediate reach by pager.  A whole different kind of relationship develops due to this concentration on the healing of the patient using every modality that might be of benefit.  As he was preparing to leave the hospital the nurse asked if he was going to write about her in his diary.
“Yes,” is all I can reply, and I hug her, and feel like crying.  This country has certainly taught me to cry, and for some reason it feels good, as if it is not only my tear ducts that have been opened up . . .
As the reporter writes his final piece, “Ecotopia:  Challenge or Illusion?” he concludes that the risky social experiments undertaken have worked on a biological level.  Systems are working and can continue to do so indefinitely.
While extreme decentralization and emotional openness of the society seem alien to an American at first, they too have much to be said in their favor. . . Ecotopians are adept at turning practically any situation toward pleasure, amusement and often intimacy.
It was the mention of emotional openness that got my attention as I realized that was one of the keys to understanding the Ecotopian society.  We Americans, by and large, are a long way from being open emotionally.  We tend to be very guarded in our relationships, whether personal or business.  Yes, there are exceptions to this condition, but I feel they are far too few to make much of a difference in how our society functions.  I could go into our whole political dilemma, but that is not the purpose of this article.  What I come away with, primarily, is that we must come to the place where we are confident enough in who we are (not from the ego) that we do not feel negatively challenged by others, nor do we feel inferior or superior.

Because relationships were well grounded in personal self-worth, it was easy for Ecotopians to feel free in touching and embracing one another.  To Americans, we find touching often is an invasion of our personal space.   I would love to quote from the final page of the book because the author’s recounting of the impression made on this reporter from the “outside” was very moving for me and summed up the values of the Ecotopian society.  But, I will leave it to you to read and I hope many of you will.

This was not so much about withdrawing from the society that we know and creating a better one.  It is, for me, about knowing who we are and what facilitates our continuing understanding of what is really important in our present community.  I strongly believe that will lead to the necessary changes that would produce a better, more stable-state society.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

The “New Age” in Old Age!

My good friend, Lloyd Agte, has been trying to encourage me to write an article about how we “old geezers” who experienced the birth of the New Age are viewing those experiences today.  In our correspondence I have been sharing how what I am reading in Ernest Callenbach’s book, Ecotopia, corresponds to many of the principles that were the basis of the Whole Life Learning Center, (WLLC) the non-profit wholistic education and counseling center I founded in 1973 in Denver, Colorado.

Mr. Callenbach recently passed on, perhaps to Ecotopia in the great beyond!  Just before he passed he left on his computer a last article on an America in decline.  I posted a link to the article on my Facebook page at the time.[1]  It seemed like every news feed of any importance at all was also posting that article.  It definitely was getting the attention of so many of us who are profoundly frustrated with the direction the policies and functions (or lack thereof) of government are headed.  As I am reading the book I am re-identifying with the principles and functions those of us involved with WLLC shared.  Ecotopia was about the hypothetical secession of Washington, Oregon and Northern California from the rest of the United States and forming a “stable state” society.  The United States was becoming more and more polluted and more focused toward profits than concern for what was happening to Mother Earth.

Of course, any utopian society would probably not work.  Interestingly, that is precisely how the story unfolds in the book.  A reporter from the states visits Ecotopia presumably to write an expose’ of how it wasn’t working, only to discover day by day how it actually WAS working!  (Personal note:  I think each of us at one time or another has thought about what a utopian society would be like, and maybe even wished we could be part of developing such a society.) 

One of the activities many of us in the New Age Movement seriously considered at the time was the development of wholistic communities.  Some looked for land in the Colorado Mountains.  One group, from the Denver Free University, with which I was also involved, charted out an area just east of downtown Denver and began to plan buying up a number of contiguous blocks of homes, closing alleys between homes, taking down fences and making community gathering places with grass instead of asphalt.  With my realtor’s license I managed to handle the purchase of one piece of property for a young couple.

Here I include a comment from Lloyd on his perception of New Age and community.

“As to New Age and communal living. I see the New Age ‘children’ (which I define as those under 40 at the time and most in mid-twenties to mid-thirties--if my sense of the demographics of the times is accurate), and there was no real provision in their utopian dreams of caring for old people and especially there were no dreams of themselves ever becoming old.  In fact, one function of the New Age was to preserve youth forever (‘May you be forever young,’ Dylan sang). So the utopian communes had no built-in provision for aging or caring for the aged.  There was a lot of reaction in the hippie movement growing out of the late 'sixties to the selfish individualism that was becoming rampant following the U.S. global dominance following WWII.  Now, it seems, nearly all have capitulated to it and capitalist indulgence for self-pleasure seems to the many to be the pinnacle of achievement.”

I have flirted with the idea of community a few times since the heady days in Colorado, but the more I believe in the values that could be realized, the more I feel that perhaps my time for that has passed.  In my aging process, particularly in these latter years where I have lived alone, I have developed my own living rituals.  I realize how difficult it would now be to make the changes anyone would have to make were I to seek to live in a communal life style.  That is not to say that I do not believe there is a wonderful opportunity within that life style for growth and a satisfying sense of productivity and well-being.  I believe I could support such a community even if I could not live in it.

In 2007 when Barack Obama was running for President I strongly felt there was light at the end of the treacherous tunnel of the Bush/Cheney years, which led us into deep debt and depression, losses of life and limbs in useless wars, and a general malaise bereft of hope for many of us.  Unfortunately, in Obama’s successful election there immediately was the beginning of entrenchment of many who could not accept his win.  So continued the downward spiral economically and socially that were the results of the prior years of calculated neglect of prudent financial and social policy.  We now find our country in the midst of chaotic divisiveness where there are no winners, regardless of who gets elected.  The two party system is now in complete disarray and dysfunction.

You say I am simply exaggerating the problem?  That things will work out, because “they always do”?  Maybe.  I just do not see that view out my window on the country.  In defense of your possible questions, I admit to having moved away from the philosophy of life that I was brought up with, that I studied in seminary and afterward, and by which I always sought to live.  I still believe in what I once knew to be true for me, but clearly I am too frustrated to work on it for now.  And I am aware of what that means for me.

Another comment from Lloyd:

“ . . . a large part of the mission of the New Age, at least as I experienced it, was to get beyond all these manufactured, induced desires, beyond the false-self created by advertising and the market as god and to get to the true self and true inner desires coupled with an inner morality and a principled ethics.  It was a moral and spiritual compass in a time of empire over-reach and a massive human sacrifice for an expanding capitalist market. It's not so close to home now.  We can get our sanitized news about twenty people killed by an unmanned drone and not even blink.”

So what is the bottom line when it comes to “New Age” thinking and living as one ages?  Same as it ever was.  Principles and philosophies are only as good as their practice.  If I do not practice the values that have always been important to me, I will not enjoy the benefits that they offer.  Even when enthusiasm wanes and frustration sets in, the ideals are still as true as they ever were.  So, for me at this particular moment I may see in a “glass darkly.”  But, when the light dawns again, when faith is restored by my desire to believe, I will see clearly and once again enjoy the fruits of my practice.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Damn! It Has Happened Again

In the years I have been writing I probably have had one hundred first lines pop into my head.  Maybe two lines.  On rare occasions a whole concept emerges.

It happens like this.  I am sitting watching the news or a favorite TV show or reading a book.  Something triggers a thought and I know I have to write that down.  But first, I have to finish whatever it is I am doing.  Then it happens.  The first line is either gone or the story that was supposed to follow it doesn’t materialize as I hoped it would.

Well, here I am again with a first line.  No, I’m sorry.  That first line disappeared and I am stuck with the one you see at the head of this article. Damn!  It has happened again.  This time, however, I decided to go ahead and see if starting to write would reproduce the “creative” urge that first struck my consciousness just a short while ago.

What follows may turn out to be the ramblings of an aging person who cannot string even a few words together into a meaningful sentence, or if I am lucky, I may actually tell you what is on my mind.  Let’s see what happens next.

Every story has a beginning, a middle and an ending.  Without those three elements it is unlikely that what is written or told will make much sense.

Here is a beginning.

What I am generally feeling when the urge to write strikes is a connection or a lack of connection where I feel one should exist.  It may be about a person, an idea or an experience.  It surges up within me as strong emotions that are difficult describe, but clearly understood within my being.  I think one of the articles I have written in the past that most closely approximates those feelings was after I had watched the annual Kennedy Honors Program in 2006.  I wrote about the experience in my book, Moments.  After hearing the story of each of the honorees, I had almost indescribable feelings of love flood my whole being.  I felt a closeness, not only to the characterization of those being honored, but to my family members and friends whom I have loved through the years and the experiences we shared.  The connection was beyond my ability to put into words as clearly as I felt it.

For some, love is easy to understand.  It is something that is just there.  No explanations are needed and no qualifications are required.  Love is!  For others love may represent the toughest of times.  It may surround a loss of some kind.  It may seem unrequited, unfulfilled.  And for yet others there may be the tragedy of being so bound to another person that unbelievable abuse is tolerated until one somehow breaks free.  I know that not everyone will see these as examples of love, but for the person so involved at that particular time with their particular state of being, that may be all they know.

Here is the middle.

I have experienced many levels of love and loss.  I know I am not the only one who has. They have produced impressions on the slate of my soul that are like the certificates of accomplishment of a job well done or the scars of some abuse.  In all honesty I have to admit to recognizing the scars of some form of abuse, mostly those I have been responsible for inflicting, more than any supposed certificates of merit.  There are heavy emotions associated with those events.  I am sure the depth of the emotions has much to do with the fact that the experiences behind them are unresolved, unfinished.  What else could be the reason that they surface so emphatically that they sometimes bring tears to my eyes when they happen? 

I can hear someone out there saying, “For heaven’s sake, man, get a life!  Get over it.”  I hear you.  I know some of the many ways in which one could bind together these unraveled ends of life events and “get over it.”  After all, I have spent most of my life dealing with, exploring, using and enjoying a philosophy of life that seemed to bring results that satisfied.  Then the story line was interrupted and I have not yet been able to reconstruct the point at which the fabric of my life began to unravel.  So the healing has not come forth.  Worse than that, there are times I really don’t care.

This is where the ending should occur.

This is where I should be telling you how I worked everything out and remembered what was so important in the first place.  At the beginning of this article I said,  “I decided to go ahead and see if starting to write would reproduce the ‘creative’ urge that first struck my consciousness just a short while ago.”  Well, I never quite got back to where I thought I wanted to go.  The emotional content seemed to evaporate like a wisp of smoke.   Sometimes life is like that.  You think you are heading toward point A and somewhere along the path you change directions and are heading for point B without knowing if that is really where you intended or wanted to go.  There is a point C in the offing.  If I choose to head there, will it be where I hoped to go? 

As you may note, I have not succeeded in explaining, at least to my satisfaction, the emergence of the “connecting/disconnecting” emotions.  Such events will continue to come, I am certain, and I will continue to experience and attempt to understand them.  When the opening sentence, or paragraph, presents itself I will offer it an opportunity to take fuller form.  In the meantime . . .

Sunday, May 6, 2012

So You Think the Privacy Policy Protects You Online?

I couldn’t figure out why the price of a product I was considering buying from an online vendor changed from $64.99 to $99.00 when I clicked on the “Buy” icon on the website.  What happened was the website, which was not Amazon, presented a review of the product I was interested in and showed a “special” price in the upper left corner of the page along with the “Buy” icon.  When I clicked on “Buy” I was ushered to and the listed price was $100.00 with a $1.00 discount.  I went back to the original site and tried to buy by selecting a different shopping icon on the page.  It still went to with the same inflated price.  This had nothing to do with the three options offered by Amazon:  “New, “Used,” or “Refurbished.”

In today’s Oregonian I found out why this was happening.  A reader had contacted “The Desk” with a complaint about the same issue.  The editor explained that it is now a common practice in online shopping to see a “sliding” price on a product from the time you first view it until you actually “check out.”  The price change is from the information that is gathered online about YOU due to other online activity you have participated in.  Every time you give information to an online site it is added to the body of information about you.  This demographic of YOUR VIEWING HABITS provided the basis for focused advertising and pricing.  

Have you noticed that after you searched for a product or bought one on line that suddenly on your Facebook page the advertisements also are geared to that product or other related products?  I have.  When I was searching for dentists I suddenly saw advertising on my Facebook page about dentists in my area.

There is no such thing as being anonymous on line.  I am very careful about privacy issues and public information, but the truth is that those “policies” are so lengthy and so complex that hardly anyone actually reads them.  Taking the time to review some I discovered that you are actually giving away your ownership of your own information when you choose to accept a privacy statement.

There is probably nothing we can do about this in this “information-centered” society now, but I felt it was worth making a statement about it, in case you were not aware.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Gift Of Time

By Shirley Leighton [1]

I have lately become aware of the value of situations in my life as being “gifts,” however wrapped, sometimes in thorns.  Yes, everything contains some meaning and/or purpose – nothing is lost or accidental in the overall scheme of things.

The question comes to mind:  What am I willing to pay for this gift?  Am I really able to evaluate it in the light of God’s plans for my life?  So often, blinders are in place, which prevent any actual insight into potential meaning or direction.  It’s easy to go blindly on without acknowledging any special purpose in the judgments and conflicts that continually arise.  I try to acknowledge the beauty on my bumpy road, but I’m always hoping for a smoother passage from one condition to another.

With the realization that each “opportunity” to grapple with unknowns is a gift, disguised in morphogenic form, what price am I requested to pay for it becomes an obvious query.  What gauge can be used?  No legitimate price sheet exists.  However, I have found that trusting Divine Providence that presented the situation in the first place can be relied upon to represent a wise selection of criteria, and I can trust that all of it is in my best interests.

So isn’t that the name of the game we as humans are perpetually engaged in?  Learning to bask in the silence of the universe’s constant reality – the nothingness of massive space – what higher purpose can the gift of time bring one?  To trust and value the balance between earth and heaven becomes paramount.

Within the framework of all our chores to be done, love ones to be remembered, thought to be organized around some obligation lies the backdrop of freedom to which we can choose to turn for renewal.  Time is there to serve us – coated in joy and resplendent in the liberty of our inimitable spirit.

Gratitude prevails.

[1]   Shirley Leighton is a friend whose acquaintance I made several years ago on a trip to Tucson, AZ.  She is a life-long student and teacher of metaphysics and world religions.  She has written numerous articles and books over the years detailing her discoveries as she searched for meaningful principles for living.  I had the pleasure of publishing some of her articles in Whole Life Development, a newsletter published some years ago.  I welcome Ms. Leighton to the pages of LifeCenteringSee also:

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

The New Year

As we begin a New Year

(An election year)

It will be important to maintain a sense of

Equilibrium and patience.

It will take each of us exercising our right as citizens

To vote using due diligence

To elect those whose primary interest

Consists of following the wishes of their