Saturday, November 28, 2015

I’ve Found This Place At Last Redux

UPDATE: November 2015

After returning home from spending Thanksgiving with my grandson’s family, I was browsing my computer to catch up after being away.  I came across a reference to an article I wrote for my LifeCentering blog back in April 2013.  I had written it after moving into my manufactured home in Dallas, Oregon.  Reviewing it gave rise to the same feelings of satisfaction that I had after visiting Aubrey and his family.  I figured it was a good time to reprint the article with an update.  What follows on my blog is my effort to share my reflections on “being at home!”

April 2013

I was looking through some articles that I had started writing over times past because a semi-formed idea struck that seemed to want to be expressed.  Unfortunately, or fortunately depending on how one looks at it, the idea did not continue to develop so it was relegated to the general file with other ideas that experienced the same fate.

However, as I was looking through that file today and reading the lyrics of K.D. Lang’s  “Trail of Broken Hearts,” which was part of an unfinished article, I came across the words:

Broken trail so long
A long and tired past
An emptiness has gone
I've found this place at last
And here will remain
With only the aim
Of staying sure and fast
Leaving just a part
Down the trail of broken hearts.

Then it hit me.  I have found my place at last!  Some of you know that I recently bought a manufactured home after apartment living since selling my former mobile home in the Seattle area after retiring.  Though I enjoyed the apartment I never truly felt at home.  I had to put a number of things in storage, many of which I did not need, but some were things that I missed.  I had to get rid of all my major power tools, my garden tools and things that one needs if you are a homeowner.  If I needed or wanted to “fix” something, it usually called for a tool I couldn’t get to or no longer had; or maybe it was a particular nut, bolt or screw for some project that I thought I needed to take care of.

Now I have my shop mostly all set up again.  All the containers of nuts, bolts, washers, screws, etc. are nicely arranged on shelves ready for any project.  I already had to locate just the right bolts and nuts to replace ones missing from an adjustable bed frame kit I bought for my second bedroom.  (Darned Chinese can’t seem to get everything in the package that is supposed to be there! Don’t ask about the “instructions.”)  My mind is beginning to see a number of projects that I would like to take care of.  That doesn’t include all the things that NEED to be done in the yard—blah, blah, blah!

But, I have found this place at last, and here I will remain with only the aim of staying sure and fast . . . 

I was excited for the move and knew others could share the joy with me.  Most did, but of course, there were some who thought it was a stupid choice, saying, “For the life of me, I do not understand you or your choices now or in your past.” 

Sometimes one has to shake the dust from off his/her feet and travel on.  There is that place for each of us and it makes no difference whether anyone else sees it as we do or not.  In the right place there are new opportunities, new people and a new spirit, if one feels free to embrace them.  So I leave just a part down the trail of broken hearts, and move on.  I take all my great memories of the road leading me here along for the rest of the journey, and leave any broken heart memories where they belong—in the past!

And now 2015 . . .

I have, in fact, taken on a number of projects in my new home—yard and building maintenance, extensive garden box building and fair harvest of the veggies I enjoy.  I still feel I have found my place.  Certainly, with the steadily increasing rents in the Portland metro area that I would have been subject to if I had stayed in my apartment, I have more reasons to appreciate the move I made.  Living expenses decreased considerably.  Anyone who might still wonder why I made this move will just have to figure it out for him/herself.

[1]  Trail of Broken Hearts, K.d. lang/Ben Mink
[ Lyrics from: ]

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Anger Revisited

I have been a writer for a number of years.  I manage and write for two Web Logs, LifeCentering and Insight & Outsight/. I have self-published two books.  Every once in awhile I pick up one of my books, usually, Moments In the Journey Through Life, and open randomly to a page.  Almost always whatever I have written about on that page has some connection for what may be happening in my life at that point.  By reading I afford myself the opportunity to take a breath, relax and view some situation with new insights.

That happened for me today.  Though the article that I opened to--Dealing With Anger--did not particularly relate to my being angry over some issue.  What did come up for me is the thought that just maybe it would be of help to others who have not yet read that article, or for that matter, the book itself.  So I am reproducing the article here along with links to my book.  I am not sure the book  is still available in these outlets, though it is listed.  If you look for it and cannot find it, I will be glad to make a PDF copy available to you.  Simply let me know at:

Dealing With Anger article:

Moments as listed on Amazon:

Moments as listed on Author’s Den:

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Today Is A Good Day To Be Alive!

At 8:30 AM this morning, after my ritual watching of “CBS Sunday Morning,” I started out for my morning walk.  It was cloudy and somewhat cooler than yesterday.  Not too long into my walk I began to experience some tightness in my chest and the telltale sponginess in my arms.  I began to think I should make an appointment with my doctor just to be sure all is well with my heart and circulatory system.

I crossed the street and as I continued my walk I noticed an elderly gentleman had also crossed the street and was walking toward me.  As I got closer I saw him steadying himself by holding on to a signpost and his cane.  I said to him as I approached, “We have to get out and do our walking, don’t we?”  He responded and I stopped to briefly chat. 

He mentioned that he was trying to build up to walking one mile.  He said he wanted to be able to walk to church.  Noting limited public transportation he said then he could walk to the grocery store a mile away.  But how would get back home with a bag of groceries?  I said I believed there was a community program that picks up folks with no transportation and encouraged him to look into it. 

Then I asked, “How old are you?”  “Ninety,” he responded.  I said, “I am 80,” and shrugged my shoulders in disbelief.  We chatted a bit longer about our longevity, I bid him a good day and parted.  As I walked away I noticed all the tightness in my chest was gone, my arms felt fine as well.  I said out loud as I walked, “This is a good day to be alive!  I knew I had to write something about how I felt about this experience and prayed out loud again that I could accurately record these feelings.

So often when I have a strong emotional response to some event or experience, a stream of consciousness seems to flow eloquently through my mind.  Then, when I try to share it through writing I seldom seem to capture the intensity I first felt. 
There is something remarkable about realizing “This is a good day to be alive!  So often we take for granted that just as the sun sets it will also rise.  Another day will come and another set of events and experiences.  Life is NOT something to take for granted.  We all know the day will come that the sun will still rise, but we will have moved on in the life beyond life.  For me, today means just a little more than it did before my walk.  I cherish the event that brought a stranger to me so I could touch the depth of living again.

May you also cherish this day for Today Is A Good Day To Be Alive!

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Religion and the Rise of Atheism

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.