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The Life Debt Concept

27 Jul

Many years ago, I first had the life debt concept explained to me, and it has altered the way I perceive the world ever since.  It’s not a difficult concept and while it is undoubtedly a philosophical concept, it lacks the usual high brow association that most people give the entire realm of philosophy.  It’s actually pretty down to earth.

From the moment we are born, we owe a life debt.  It starts with the debt that we owe our mothers for giving birth to us.  It’s a big debt too, for she endured physical discomfort and pain to give us life.  In some cases, she may have endured emotional pain that we will never know about as well, even if she isn’t the woman we’ll call our mothers through childhood, we owe our birth mothers that initial debt.

We continue accruing debt as we’re nurtured through infancy and early childhood, when we are incapable of paying back any of that life debt.  Then we enter our childhood, the part that we can remember through adulthood, and begin expanding our network of life debts.

Every single relationship, whether positive or negative, involves an exchange of life debt.  Friends and enemies alike exchange a portion of our initial base life debt, along with teachers, mentors, siblings, extended family, even medical personnel who help us be as healthy as possible.  Each relationship we establish with another person means that we take on, often unknowingly, a piece of their life debt, as they take on a piece of ours.  This invisible exchange is the foundation of those relationships, and the larger the exchange, the stronger the relationship is.

In our youth, our elders invest heavily in our bank of life account.  It’s the natural order of things, to invest in the future generation.  They take on more than a fair share of the debt we’ve already accrued in order to give us a good start in life and our life debt account.  In due course, when we mature and become elders ourselves, we’ll repeat the same process with the next generation.

The goal is to live a long life, paying off our life debt as we go through our lives.  At the same time, not everyone pays off their debt at the same rate.  Just like any other debt, some people may be inclined to not do more than pay a minimal payment, while others work harder to pay down that life debt at a faster rate.

Is there a tangible difference?

It’s not like we get a life debt balance sent to us in a statement each year.  It doesn’t work that way.  We can’t call the bank of life and demand customer service give us a running total either.  It doesn’t matter what your religious beliefs are, what you may or may not call a supreme being, or even what day you have designated as a day of rest.  It doesn’t matter if you are saved, a heathen or die a religious martyr. You don’t avoid the life debt concept by being an atheist.

There won’t be any big splash across a magazine cover telling us who the richest people in the world are in terms of their life debt balance either.  Nobody else knows how you are doing with your balance, nobody else can see you make payments, and not even the Joneses know whether you are keeping up with them or have surpassed them.

The only one who can know how you are doing with your life debts is you.

That’s the real clincher.  You don’t make the payments to impress anyone or to improve your credit score.  If you don’t make the payments, there won’t be a collector calling on the phone to remind you.  There is no option of insurance to cover the debt either.

There is no bankruptcy option.

Oh, sure, there are people who tell you that you’ll pay a spiritual debt when you die, but none of us know for sure what happens when we die anyhow.  We have to believe in something after death, without proof.  That’s a tough one–this vague threat.  It’s like hearing “just wait until your father gets home” when he isn’t going to be home for a long, long time.  We can forget and ignore the threat.

At the same time, there are times when the debt is reneged upon.  We call that suicide.  The person has opted out, failed to pay their life debts, and that’s that.  There can be varying amounts of unpaid debt, of course, as suicide can occur at any stage of life.  For some, there is likely to be little, if any, debt remaining, as the suicide occurs near the end of their life due to illness or infirmity.

There are other kinds of reneging though too.  One can isolate themselves from others to the point that there is no possibility of making a payment.  It can be a physical as well as emotional isolation, or it can simply be one or the other.  It can be by simply refusing to pay forward too, and becoming selfish and self-centered.

Everyone has their own concept regarding death and afterlife, if any.  The same goes with being judged after our lives are over.  I’m not going to tell you how your life debt will or won’t affect you after your life ends.  That’s going to be a huge surprise for me, just like it will be for you.  We can believe whatever we choose to be true, but just like in life, that belief does not make it so.  It’s still going to be a surprise.

I’m holding onto the hope that it’s going to be a wonderful surprise though.

America’s Religions

16 Sep

I think of myself as a typical American.  I’m nothing exceptional at all.  I’m a bit older than some, and  younger than others.

So moving away from the age debate, let’s get onto another hot topic.

Religion.

We’ve seen religion made a huge issue lately.  It’s likely been one before in American history, but I’m not a historical expert.  I’m also not a religious expert.  Or a political one.  Since I’m an average American, I really don’t see myself as an “expert” in anything.

But I do have opinions and I can be annoyed anyhow.

I have a very eclectic collection of friends and acquaintances.  They have very diverse backgrounds and cultures, even though the majority are Americans by nationality.  For the sake of this post, I’m only talking about the American ones, since I’m also referring to American society and culture.

With such a diverse collection of people, I see and hear a lot of comments about religion.  Most of the time, it doesn’t bother me one way or another.  It certainly does not influence me in terms of my religious beliefs or practices.  I’m quite comfortable with mine, and while they will continue to evolve, they are not going to go through any radical conversion to some new religion at this point in my life.  I think that usually happens when we are younger and still formulating our world view and the concept of our own mortality.

So when does it bother me?

I don’t like to have other people’s religious views crammed down my throat, especially when accompanied by the “I’ll kill you and that will change your mind” ideology.  I’m also not someone who feels a need to convert anyone else, nor do I wave my religious views around like a banner on a summer’s day.  My opinion is that the whole issue boils down to “all roads lead to Rome.”  I can agreeably accept any religious views that don’t include hurting other humans as part of their practice or ritual.

Notice that hurting other humans bit.

Now we have all encountered those who are “witnessing” from various fundamentalist Christian groups.  I understand that this is part of their responsibilities according to the religious doctrines they follow.  Most will accept the “thanks, that’s nice, but I already have mine” very courteously, especially when their answer is given in a courteous manner.  There are a few sects that practice rather aggressive methods of proselytizing to strangers at their homes.  I’m less enthusiastic about that practice.

I have never had a non-Christian religious practitioner come knocking at my door or hand me a tract.  Have you?

I really do not like the Christian groups that picket funerals–I don’t care what religion they are or practice, it is not an appropriate time to picket anything.  They seem to enjoy causing emotional distress to the grieving because of the publicity it draws.  It’s one case of negative publicity that seems to benefit someone.

But we’ll let them go for now.

I’ve read religious conservative statements that advocate returning prayer to school as a method of teaching morality to youth.  I have a  news flash for them.  A single 5 minute prayer at school each day is not going to make anyone more moral nor is it going to make them religious.  Morality and religion happen at home and in life.  Besides, who decides what prayer will be said?  What if the chosen prayer is not one from YOUR religion?

And then, there are the “other” religions.  We all hear about the Big Three: Judaism, Islam, and Christianity.  We hear plenty about the various sects of those three too.  There are the Hindus, Buddhists, Taoists, Pagans, etc. too.  Even those get more attention with a label attached than the most rabid and often nastiest toned ones I have encountered lately.

Those happen to be Atheists and the even larger, “Church of” Science.  The two have often been allies lately, as they seem to have a single goal in mind.

The removal of religion from America entirely.

They do have some good points.  Religions tend to divide, not unify, a population with diverse cultures and a broad spectrum of religions.  Practitioners do get caught up in the little “My God is better than your God” little turf wars.  Historically, they have often escalated into actual armed conflicts.  It seems to be one of the core causes of the continual conflicts in the Middle East too.  More people are killed in its name than die from any other cause.  It is quite obvious that religion has some problems.

But these rabid proselytizing anti-religion groups aren’t exactly being endearing either.  They seem to have twisted the “my God is better than your God” bit into a whole new cry: “Your God is dead and I know it, so I’m better than all of you!”

I watch all the flaming going on, and it seems that the only thing that would make them happy is to do away with all public examples of religion.  Churches and cathedrals, mosques and synagogues…they’d all be plain cinderblock buildings with a sign over the door with letters less than 3″ tall, as though you were visiting a VD clinic.  Priests wouldn’t wear the collars that make everyone stand up straight and stop swearing, and nuns wouldn’t be allowed to wear any part of a habit in public either.

Christmas would become “Generic Winter Holiday.”  Easter would be “Spring Break.” Thanksgiving? Just “Harvest Festival”.  Memorial Day? It too has some religious overtones, along with military ones, so obviously that would be re-designated “Beginning of Summer Holiday.”  Labor Day, with no religion attached, might retain its current name.  Halloween would be subject to suspicion, but without recent religion attached to it by the majority of citizens, its consumerist ideology might let it stand.

There would be re-writing of history too, to sanitize it of religious overtones.  Nevermind that many historical events did have strong religious overtones, as the entire war was focused on the idea of “My God is better than your God.”

All of that for political correctness?

To me, anti-religion is just as rabid as religions are when they are at their worst.

It was wrong to kidnap Native American children and send them to boarding schools where they were robbed of their culture, language, and religion and given the “gift of Christianity”.  It’s just as wrong to do that to anyone else, even in the name of anti-religion as the new religion.  It was wrong for the federal government to deny tribes the right to have ceremonies and practice their religions for most of the 20th century.  It’s just as wrong to do that to the rest of American society.

I grew up in a multi-cultural family.  We didn’t practice the same religion as our classmates and neighbors did.  I enjoyed learning about Judaism and their holidays.  I was curious about all of the Christian denominations and their religious practices too.   I’m not Catholic, yet I too was terrified by nuns in their spooky long black habits and that head dress they wore.  I still stand straight and clean up my conversation when conversing with  or even nearby a preacher, priest, or nun.  I’m also respectful of shamans and medicine men/women.  I enjoy learning about rituals and beliefs.  I like hearing the stories too.

But just because I read the Koran or the Book of Mormon or even participate in a ritual does not mean that I have become a convert of that religion.  Just because I am respectful of someone else’s belief system does not mean that I advocate it as a lifestyle.

Respect and courtesy are important traits of a civilized society.  This respect and courtesy means that many people, from many cultures and many religions, can live and work together harmoniously.  That’s what we need.  We don’t need another doctrine to separate groups of people from one another, to divide them and put them in conflict with each other.

I may think it is extremely foolish for a couple to spend a vast amount of money that could be put to better use in purchasing a home and getting established in life (at least in MY opinion, right?) on their wedding and reception.  That does NOT give me the right to go to their wedding and reception, standing around and being nasty or waving a sign pointing out their foolishness.  It does not give the government the right to forbid them from doing so either.

Heck, I might even think that marriage is a ridiculously antiquated monogamous ceremony that is in opposition to our biological and natural sexual and social needs and object to a couple’s marriage on those grounds alone.  Does that give me the right to cause a scene at the wedding? To forbid it?

Wake up, America.  We don’t need more rabid and inflammatory religious or anti-religious sects.  We need the concept of courtesy to lead us towards harmonious respect and co-existence.

Oh, and for the fundamentalists that I have undoubtedly offended…if you are a Christian, see A.  If you are an Atheist, see B.

A) What would Jesus do?  Jesus did not advocate violence of any kind, nor was he ever cruel or rude to others.  His original doctrine was one of kindness and teaching, of giving and not taking.  He had no church, no fancy car, and financial success didn’t happen either.  He never built a church building and never took up the sword either.  He sure never cut someone’s hair,  jailed anyone or took away their personal property because they didn’t agree with him on religion.

B)  If religions are all based on the concept of an imaginary friend, then why are you so adamant about the whole thing?  Do you spend that much time and effort in the eradication of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?  Do you even THINK about the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles?  How about Rainbow Brite?  Strawberry Shortcake? The Gingerbread Man?  Star Wars? Star Trek?  Heck, all of Hollywood is based on imaginary friends, so I guess it’s also the equivalent of Vatican City!

What can you say?

10 Oct

Today is my brother’s birthday.  Unfortunately, it’s also the anniversary of my father’s death, which really probably puts a damper on my brother’s celebrations.  It also happens to be a milestone birthday this year for him.

He’s reached the big Five Oh, as they say.  I remember when thirty was practically retirement age, at least in my opinion.  Forty was really ancient, and fifty, well…you were just occupying space until you died.  After all, what could you do when you were half a century old?

Little did I know then, right?

You can do a lot after fifty.  Most of the nation’s population is now at that age, and we’re doing a lot of stuff.  We hike, bike, backpack, tour, write, read, make movies, do business, create, innovate, and a lot of other things.  I’m now suspicious of those without a few gray hairs, because after all, what can someone without a bit of experience under their belt possibly have to offer me?

What can you say?

It seems I suffer from prejudices.  Pretty arrogant of me to not want to admit it too, actually.  It takes a two year old, or rather an almost-two-year old, to remind me of the things that youth has to teach us.

Like in the purely sensual pleasure of taking a mini cupcake frosted with luridly colored “buttercream” (it actually contains no butter and way too many chemicals to possibly pronounce) and licking it with a rapidly flicking tongue as though you were a lizard is pure delight.  You don’t notice the greasy texture of the frosting, but your tongue will positively spasm with delight at the sweetness.  It takes a good fifteen minutes to enjoy that tiny bit of frosting that way, compared to the two bite “adult” way of eating a mini cupcake.  Then, you still have the cake to enjoy too.

You don’t have to worry about what to say then either.  She isn’t into verbalization much, it’s all about sound, facial expression, and tactile expression.  Jabber a bit, laugh a lot, smile more, and give hugs and kisses with total spontaneity, and hey…life is good.

What can you say about that?

Grief.  There are no words to ease that pain.  I know that, I’ve been there.  I’ve mourned a lot of people, from childhood friends to my son, to my father and all of my grandparents and great grandparents.  Aunts and uncles, cousins, co-workers, acquaintances…I’ve lost them too.  It hurts, and it’s different each time.  With the intensity of the grief, people are under the misconception that it gets better over time.

Hogwash, total hogwash.

About all I can say about it is that you get used to it.  It’s like a scar, it’s always there, you never forget it is there, and it never goes away.  You just get used to looking in the mirror and seeing it.  When my son died, it felt as though I had this massive hole through the very center of my being, and part of me was shocked that the sun still shone, the birds still sang, and I still breathed.  How could that be, when my world had ceased to be?

Now, it’s been over ten years.  Longer than I got to have him, I have grieved for him.  I still feel tears well up sometimes when I think about it, and we still talk about him, as well as talk about “That Day.”  I still will cry, and I still remember him, every day, not just on the anniversary of his death or his birthday.  I still miss him.  We still laugh about some of the things he did, as well as some of his idiosyncrasies, and that’s good too.

I grieve for my father too.  Not in the same way, for we know from childhood that our parents are probably going to die before we do and that we’ll have to grieve for them then.  Part of my grief with my father is over our rocky relationship, which we had managed to repair in the last years of his life.  I grieve for the fact that there were so many missed opportunities, so much more that the relationship could have been, if only things had been different.

Grief comes with guilt too.  You second guess yourself, you wonder what you could have done different over time, if you could have changed some of the worst parts of the relationship in some positive manner if you had been that perfect person we all strive to be.  That’s normal too.

But it’s also normal to be normal and not that perfect person.  I think the perfect person, the one that I hold as a mental image of who I’d like to be, would scare me half to death.  Who could be that calm, that rational, that loving and considerate, and not have angel wings and a halo?  Most of us don’t interact daily with angels, and if I suddenly became one…well, I’m not sure anyone would see me or even admit that they had seen me.

Come on, what would you say if you saw an “angel” walking down the street or shopping in the local store?  What could you say that didn’t have your family wanting to lock you up?

That doesn’t mean we should quit striving for the impossible goal of becoming that perfect person we’re striving towards though.  I may not be an angel, but sometimes, you don’t have to be perfect, don’t have to have a halo, and you don’t need angel wings to make a difference to someone else.  Angels come in many forms, you know.   Sometimes, they are a middle aged woman bringing groceries to a single mother who is struggling to feed her children.  It might be coats for someone who can’t afford to buy coats that actually fit their kids.  It might be stopping to help someone change a tire on a summer Sunday morning, getting dirty and making yourself late for church in the process.  It might be helping a neighbor move in or out.  It might be giving some bread to a man standing on a corner begging, or to a young homeless couple that is probably addicted to drugs.  It might be helping an old woman get her groceries from her car to her door.  It might be hiring a guy who has been looking for a job so long that he has nearly given up daring to hope that his application will ever get any attention.

All it takes is to care actually.  To do more than merely go through the motions.  Sometimes it means not only doing the letter of our “job” in the course of the day, but actually putting real effort into it, going an extra inch or two to help someone.  Other times, it cuts into our “play” time, or means giving up something that we’d rather be doing in order to make someone else’s journey a little bit easier.  Other times, it may be as simple as reaching into the groceries that you just bought, and taking out the bread you don’t really need…and handing it to someone outside the store that does need it.  Another day, it might mean that you simply do your best to solve your own problems.

Sometimes, it is also a case of minding your own business instead.  That is especially the case with gossip.  Too often, gossip is mostly fiction, but presented in a manner that makes it sound perfectly plausible.  It may seem innocent, but the problem is…it can seriously damage someone’s life and cause them a great deal of problems, all for something they never did or said.  It can lead to real financial hardship on occasion as well.  I know in my own case, I was once upon a time merely amused about gossip about me, never realizing the damage it was doing and would continue to do even years later.  (Gossip had my life far more interesting than reality ever was!)  Ultimately, it almost cost me my job, and had repercussions that pursued me for over a decade, and the truth is…none of it was even based on truth.  I was judged guilty, plus never had the “fun” of committing the acts!

What can you say?  Your mother was right.  If you can’t say something nice, don’t say anything at all.  If you don’t know that it is true, don’t repeat it.  In addition, sometimes, things aren’t exactly what they appear to be.  Be kind.  Be considerate.  Try walking in the other person’s shoes.

If all else fails, along with words, there is always the option of opting for non-verbal communication too.  And no, I don’t mean giving someone “the finger”, but rather a smile.  Don’t wait for Washington to bring us change, be the change yourself and be the change.

It takes something, someone, some act to be the catalyst for change.  It can be you.

GMOs, food allergies, gluten intolerance, health and people

30 Mar

I have been thinking a lot lately.  Some may claim this is a dangerous activity.  Maybe it is, but it certainly allows dots to be connected in new and innovative ways.  Maybe some of the topics of my mind have been on the mark, and maybe they haven’t been.  It’s certainly ideas to give further consideration.

First, let’s turn back the hands of the clock to another era, one that was quite some time ago, when the group of people we know today as the Amish were a new “cult.”

Many of these people emigrated to the United States, where they took up new lives and established communities and farms.  Initially, they didn’t appear much different than their neighbors.  Almost everyone in a rural community was a farmer, so their farms were the norm of the era.

Their clothing wasn’t much different either.  Everyone dressed fairly similar to the way the Amish dressed.  The men’s beards weren’t notably different either, nor was the hair styles worn by the women.  Everyone used horses and buggies.  No one had telephones or electricity.  Everyone ate fairly similar foods.  Children usually only went to school through the eighth grade, if they went to school at all, in a one room schoolhouse which they walked to.  Probably the sole difference was in the services themselves, for the Quakers also usually held their services in members’ homes.

The differences between the Amish only began to appear as industrialization began.  With each step forward in terms of technology, the Amish evaluated it in terms of their belief system and decided whether or not to accept it as being a reasonable addition to their lives.  They slowed the process of change in their society, which made their differences begin to become more noticeable.  Now, nearly a hundred years after electricity became commonly available, the differences are easily seen between the Amish society and mainstream society.

That’s not to say that the Amish haven’t paid a high price for their choice to remain separate from mainstream America.  It’s meant that their gene pool is much more condensed, as marriages to outsiders have become increasingly rare.  That’s allowed certain genetic diseases to appear with a higher than normal frequency.  That has also allowed medical science a chance to approach these almost unknown diseases with more confidence about treatment, better testing, and long term prognosis.  While it’s difficult for those that have inherited this surprise genetic package, it’s also meant that society as a whole has also benefited from their long term choices to remain apart.

If we continue to look back to the era in which the Amish originated, we also will find that medical science didn’t have much to offer anyone.  It was pretty ignorant of a number of things, ranging from sanitation to genetics.  While it doesn’t have all of the answers and often doesn’t like some of the modern questions about our health, we also couldn’t accurately diagnose some things, such as diabetes, cancer, food allergies, etc.

Even so, it seems that the average person was far healthier and more robust than the average person today.  Gluten intolerance, something that seems to be hitting our population in epidemic proportions, along with obesity and diabetes, were all unheard of conditions.  Food allergies in general were fairly rare, and were most likely to occur if someone ate an “exotic” food that was different from the foods they normally consumed.  These same statements are largely true if we even look back to just fifty or a hundred years ago.

So what do I think this means?

Maybe the problem is not so much that people are changing, but it is because of the diet we have today.  It’s filled with processed foods, fast foods, artificially flavored/colored/sweetened products, and foods from around the world.  We can eat fresh strawberries at Christmas, and fresh oranges in July.  Our bread, nothing like anything that would have been on the average dinner table a hundred years ago, is soft, sweet, and whiter than our bed sheets.

In the meantime, we suffer from digestive issues, allergies, lack of energy, diabetes, and obesity, all while on our special low calorie diet.  We get progressively sicker rather than regaining our health.

Look at the diet of a hundred years ago in comparison.  There was a lot more food on the dinner table, but it was a lot simpler too.  Meals were usually produced from locally available foods in season.  They featured a lot of complex carbohydrates, animal fats, and home cured meats.

All that cholesterol, and yet if a person managed to survive through childhood, they were likely to live as long or longer than the average person does today.  My own family tree features many people, even in the 1700s, that lived well past their 80s.  Census records often list them as “farm laborer” or “house servant” even after age 60.  (I don’t descend from anyone famous, for the record.  Everyone was pretty much an ‘average joe’ even though many of my ancestors emigrated to America prior to the Revolutionary War.)  Most families would have regarded things such as pure salt, sugar, and white flour as “luxury” items.  Corn, beans, potatoes, and other garden produce would have been on the table in many forms most meals, along with things such as butter, eggs, milk, and cured meats.

Doctors would have also been a rarity, which may have helped ensure long lifespans, since many of the medicines and treatments commonly used were of dubious nature.  Most injuries, diseases and illnesses would have been treated at home, using either patent medicines (which had to be bought with money) or herbs that were raised in the garden for that purpose.  Childbirth would have occurred at home, with the assistance of a family member or a local midwife.  Dentistry, when it was necessary, was also a do-it-yourself project or one that may have even been conducted by the local barber!  Actual dentists, as we know them today, weren’t common until the late 1800s or later, depending on the area.

Unless you lived by a port on a river or the ocean, truly exotic foods such as pineapples and bananas, would have been unheard of.  Exotic spices, such as cinnamon, vanilla, allspice, nutmeg and black pepper, would have been expensive items bought from a local merchant or a peddler.  Even white flour would have been out-of-the-ordinary, although many families would use unbleached or a semi-white flour for baking.

There was no such thing as vegetable oil, unless it was olive oil, which had to be imported to the USA until fairly recently.  There was no high fructose corn syrup, artificial sweeteners, GMOs, etc. either.  Even soy products such as tofu or TVP didn’t exist.  Few farmers even raised soybeans yet, as it wasn’t a crop with much of a market or use at home either.

This isn’t to say they had boring meals without any sweets.  There was candy, pies, cakes, cookies, muffins, etc. and they were commonly made at home.  The difference was that they were sweetened with molasses, honey, maple syrup or sugar, cane syrup or a coarse, tan cane sugar that was more commonly available in the local store.  (Probably more similar to what we call turbinado sugar today.)  Foods were seasoned with herbs from the garden too.

Foods were also preserved by drying, curing, pickling or preserving with sugar.  Home canning, in glass jars, became commonplace in the early 1900s, with home freezing moving in during the 1950s.  Even in the 1960s, many small towns still had a butcher shop with a walk in freezer where a family’s meat (from cattle or pigs they paid to have butchered) were stored in the “locker”.  Wrapped in white butcher paper, with a stamped label, this storage was part of the price paid for the meat’s butchering and packaging.

The meat, eggs, and dairy products consumed were typically fed local grasses and grains.  All chickens were “free range” in a way that few chickens know today, coming to the coop to roost from protection from predators.  Hogs and cattle were typically pasture raised as well, and hogs were often allowed to roam the woods of the area for the entire year, fending for themselves, and being rounded up and killed in the fall when it was easier to hang, butcher, and cure the meat in the cooler temperatures.

For city folk, life was a little bit different.  While some city families had a milk cow, many bought their milk from the “milk man” who delivered daily.  This dairy was still nearby, as transportation was not fast enough to encourage distant dairies.  Vegetables and fruits sold in the local markets were also likely to be produced in the  area.  Butcher shops supplied families with fresh and cured meats, which typically had also been raised nearby.  Most families had a “kitchen garden” where much, if not all, of their produce and herbs were raised.

Nobody ate fresh foods out of season unless they had someone with a very green thumb and could afford a fancy (and expensive) greenhouse to raise it in.  This was true of everyone, regardless of their economic and social status.

We can’t say the same things today.  Today, we have no clue where our food originated from usually.

That may not be a good thing, but I’m also not the only one who is questioning that concept.  First, there is what is called “Slow Food.”  There is also another concept called permaculture.  (Permaculture Institute is here, and my audio interview with its founder is here.)  There are also countless organizations promoting heirloom food crops, organic farming, and back-to-nature living.

What I am questioning now is whether or not these choices are choices made because of dietary desires, lifestyle goals, or a belief system.

Maybe we need  The New Church of Wholistic Living (as far as I know, this does not actually exist), encompassing community, society, diet, lifestyle, ideology, and belief system into a comprehensive system that essentially turns their members into something not unlike the “Amish of the New Millenia.”  It’s not that people who are practicing this type of life are separating themselves entirely from technology, but that they are questioning society’s current lack of values regarding many things, with the most visible point being the food we consume.  Other commonly questioned items in this arena are things such as excessive use of motor vehicles, television, and modern mainstream medicine.

What do you think about all of this?  Have I lost my mind?  Am I becoming excessively suspicious of the offerings from the giant corporations and big box stores?

Doing good, karmic bank balances, gossip, libel, and reality checks

22 Dec

Good deeds.  This is the time of year when we’re all expected to have done something good.  For all too many people, it’s a once-a-year thing.  Are you one of them?

Pat yourself on the back if you are, because you are among a too-large majority it seems.  Without photo ops and court assigned public service, many organizations wouldn’t have the volunteers they have.  But what does it really do for you or the world to save it all for an annual good deed or a photo op?

Then there’s the gossip, rumors and downright libel/slander on the flip side of the do-good issue.  Nasty remarks and gossip often are fueled by envy and jealousy, and can do a surprising amount of damage without the victim even being aware of it happening until it’s too late.  Then, there is the anger and desire for revenge on whoever perpetrated this terrible deed.  With social media, rumors, gossip, and other remarks can spread faster than wildfire.  No one is immune, from rich to poor, famous to unknown, but everyone can feel the sting.  Resisting the urge for revenge or retaliation is sometimes very hard, anyhow.  Falling into that routine can often be a trap that is stickier to extricate yourself from than a tar pit.  When sent with malice, words can be as damaging as bullets.  Sometimes, even casually uttered words can carry that kind of damage in their wake too.

All this positive versus negative action and inaction needs some imagery to make it a little bit more real, a little bit easier to comprehend and put into action.  Since I love imagery, that’s my obvious solution.

To me, it’s all about the Great Karma Bank and my karmic bank balance.  Positive actions create light or white deposits into my account, whereas negative actions create a dark or black debit from that account.  It’s very simple for me, the more white I can accumulate, the better.  Since it’s all happening in MY head, there is no real way to “cheat” either.  The one person that REALLY knows what’s really happened is yourself, so there’s no fooling the self, really.  We may lie and cheat our way through life, but we can’t fool the Great Karmic Bank.  At the same time, the Great Karmic Bank can’t cheat us and take away our deposits without warning.  And yes, you can be “overdrawn” and have a negative balance, if you don’t do what you know you should be doing.

Think about the last month and all of your actions and inactions, good and bad.  Where is YOUR karmic bank balance?

There are also no excuses allowed.  That includes problems such as your job, your relationships, your health, any of your problems, short or long term.  No matter how bad you feel or how much pain you are in, your karmic bank balance is no one’s responsibility other than your own.  No one can make a deposit for you, nor can anyone debit your account for you.  It’s all yours.

In a sense, it’s an unforgiving image.  In another, it’s a totally realistic view of how we need to go through life.  We all have moments when we’re less than the person we want to be, and we all have moments when we are exactly who we want to be.  Spending my days beating myself up for a grumpy remark to my husband for no reason isn’t going to help either of us, nor does a “I’m sorry” do anything to take away the sting of irritable words uttered carelessly.  My unforgiving karmic bank balance allows me to keep a reality check on the person I am versus the person I want to be.

Don’t think this is a holier-than-thou preaching session either.  I’ll assure you–I don’t have a vast amount of white in my account!  I’m far from perfect, and on a bad day, silence is often the best I can do.  I don’t always manage to do my best either.  But every once in a while, I have an opportunity open up to allow me to make that all important deposit into my karmic account.  It’s important to recognize those moments and take advantage of them too.

Those opportunities can be as varied as snowflakes, and sometimes they are just as short lived too.  It can be giving a smile to a child, answering a question, giving money to the homeless guy, donating my time to an environmental group, etc.  It’s more than money though–anybody can write a check, if they have money in their account, and while donating to various organizations and causes is a good thing, you don’t have to even have a heart to write a check.  Some people do it just to see their name listed among the donors, not because they want to help.  Karma, you see, knows the motives behind the actions.  Your bank balance may go up for that donation with desire for publicity, but…not as much as if you had given something of yourself without expecting publicity and appreciation.

Think about your karmic account.  Figure out ways to minimize your “debits” and maximize your “deposits.”  It doesn’t have to be big things–not everyone can go to Africa to care for AIDS stricken children, etc.  For most of us, our deposits aren’t going to be vast and impressive, but more like small and frequent.  That’s okay.  It’s our job, each and every day, to do the best we can with what we have.  My goal is to just have it well into the white on the day I draw my last breath.

 

Santa Claus

19 Dec

Santa Claus…he’s a beloved character.  Even so, many people think that letting him be a part of our Christmas celebration is something that is bad and teaches their children that their parents lie, and that they should not believe in things that they cannot see, like God.

I think it’s all in how Santa Claus is eventually explained and defined, really.  I believe in Santa Claus myself, and I also believe that Santa Claus is a very important part of our Christmas celebration, even if the very young children don’t understand what he is all about.

You see, Santa Claus embodies the perfect Spirit of Giving and Charity.  You wonder how?

Santa Claus gives, in total anonymity, without any expectations of appreciation or reciprocation.  He IS the way we should all give, not only at Christmas, but each and every day of our lives.  Granted, Santa spends all year preparing for his big giveaway, but the rest of us don’t have to do that.

The myth of Santa, with the stories of giving only to good little boys and girls, is a fairy tale.  We all love it, and as children we look forward to his arrival, with great anxiety about whether or not we’ve really been good, or if he knows about that terrible, awful thing we did.  Maybe he’ll forgive us and not hold it against us come Christmas Eve, but then again…what if he doesn’t?

Then too, Santa doesn’t give equally to all children, even within the same neighborhood.  Sometimes, at big family gatherings, he doesn’t give equally to all of the children present either.  This too is explained.  Santa does not want the parents to feel bad about being poor, so he doesn’t give gifts greater than the things that the parents could give, nor does he give gifts that the family can’t afford to keep, such as ponies and kittens and dogs.

Sometimes, Santa gifts arrive differently.  In today’s world, there are millions and millions of children around the world, all of which deserve a gift.  Because of this, sometimes he has to use others to help him deliver the gifts.  They may arrive early, even though he prefers that they arrive on Christmas Eve or Christmas Day, and once in a while, they’ll arrive late when things don’t go exactly right.  If for some reason, the family is caught by circumstances or weather away from home, (it does happen sometimes!) then he may just leave the gifts at their home, with a few gifts or a stocking where they are at, or maybe everything is at their home.  He does this to make it a bit easier for families who are traveling, so that they don’t have to carry their gifts home when they return.  Santa also thinks its wonderful when a family gets to have a second Christmas when they return home.  Santa has also been known to use agents such as a local church or charity to deliver gifts to the family, and if they are very poor, he will often include food in their gifts.

Because Santa has so very much work to do all year, many times parents have to help him make sure that there are enough toys and treasures for all of the children of the world too.  That’s why it’s important to help with charities such as Toys for Tots, Salvation Army, and other charities that help Santa make sure that every boy and girl has a Christmas present.

As we get older, sometimes Santa stops bringing gifts each and every year.  That doesn’t mean we’re not still good though.  It just means that he knows we don’t mind if we don’t get a gift, and he can give his attention to someone else who needs it.  Santa has also been known to leave a stocking for someone, all stuffed full of treats and small treasures, and a note about which toy and who that toy was given to, rather than bringing them a present.  I think this is a lovely idea, and I’ve even heard of many people who have sent a letter to Santa asking him to do just that.  Sometimes, boys and girls who have many toys and don’t really need a new toy will also ask Santa to do that.

Santa sometimes asks us to do things for others at Christmas time too, just like he does.  Everyone can do something nice for someone, even children.  It can be something small, like helping an elderly neighbor rake up leaves or shovel snow, or it can be something bigger like helping at a soup kitchen or shelter.  Sometimes, he asks us to donate money too, or to buy a gift and donate it to one of his helpers.

Santa is just that.  When we’re young and don’t have the ability to understand, we worry about what Santa is going to bring us.  When we are older, we begin to understand what Santa Claus really represents.  As adults, we can enjoy Santa, and let him remind us about what giving is really all about.

I believe in Santa Claus!

Musing on humanity and God

11 Nov

Okay, it is late at night.  It’s the perfect time to contemplate many conditions of what we all call humanity.

Like the concepts of religion and spirituality.

For some reason, we associate deliberate misery, deprivation, and the like with an increased awareness, greater consciousness, and spirituality.  I find this curious.  It doesn’t have the same associations when it is caused by circumstances rather than a deliberate choice though.  Then, it’s merely tragedy.

So throughout time, there have been monasteries, convents, spiritual quests, and the like.  All of these were designed to create misery and deprivation, and therefore induce a greater spiritual experience.

What is that anyhow?  Why do we need misery to create spiritual experiences?  Why can’t we experience joy as we commune with our Creator?

Laughter.  Singing.  Joy.  Music.  Conversations.  Enjoyment.

I’m not talking extravagant and decadent lifestyles.  I’m talking modest lifestyles with reasonable comforts and real joy.

Why can I only commune with God when I’m in agony and discomfort?  Seriously…do any of us really enjoy conversations with people who are miserable all the time?  Why would God be different?  Don’t you think God would like to hear from us when we are NOT miserable?  Do we have a God who prefers us, as God’s Children, to be miserable?

I don’t think so.  I don’t believe God is a jealous, mean spirited, vindictive, and angry Creator.  If we are in fact all God’s Children, then God would want us to be happy, fulfilled, and reasonably comfortable.

Happiness isn’t a selfish experience either.  I feel great joy when I’m able to make someone else happier, more comfortable, and achieve greater fulfillment.  I actually enjoy doing things for other people, although like most people, I don’t enjoy being taken for granted or giving to those who are continual takers without ever contributing anything to the “Bank of Life” where we all have an account.

I suppose I’m a bit odd, but in a sense, the way I see the whole “Bank of Life” deal is like this.  When we are born, we come into this world with a mortgage already, held by the Bank of Life.  We start making payments on that mortgage immediately, as the child is often tasked with the job of teaching others many important lessons, ranging from love to patience, with an infinite list in between.  We continue making those payments to the Bank of Life throughout our lives.

We can default on our mortgage, if we so choose.  Refusing to live up to our potential is one way, and refusing to live at all is another, as some people choose to default by suicide.  Others choose to increase their debt by taking out additional “loans”.  What price do these defaulted or increased loans have?

Apparently, it can mean that we are reborn into this world with a larger mortgage, as the debts are carried over.  No one else can make the payments for us, and there is no real way to escape those debts.

Sometimes it’s hard to imagine such a thing as a life debt as we watch young children at play.  There are a lot of things that are hard to understand in life, like why some children are born to a life of struggle and starvation while others fight obesity, or why some children are born only to die at the hands of those who were charged with protecting them.

I can’t explain that.  I hate it though.  Maybe because I lost a child, I agonize more over such things.  I wish I could bring them all home, but the reality is…I can’t afford to do such a thing financially.  There are millions of children who need a meal, a hug, an encouraging word, and even parents to care about them.  Not all of them were born physically whole and hearty, and that too is hard to understand.

I’ve seen children who needed parents, just as many others have.  I’ve seen children who are dying.  I cried over my own son’s body after he died, confused and unable to understand why he was gone or even where he had gone.  I’ve seen elderly people with no one to care about them.

I’ve met nice people, mean people, plain outright nasty people, kind people, and people who just didn’t seem to be at home.  From crazy to mentally handicapped and on over to the brilliant ones, everyone has a story.  Everyone has hopes and dreams and needs and fears.

Parents’ complaints about the younger generation didn’t sound much different in ancient Greece than they do today.  They probably were the same as we moved from hunter/gatherers to farmers to craftsmen to our modern society with a million specialties.  We’re all convinced they lack respect and are “going to hell in a handbasket.”

Then, one day, you realize…you are immensely proud of the person that infant you once cradled in your arms has become over the years.  You still have hopes and dreams for them, but they all boil down to the fact that every parent wants their children to be happy most of all.

Why would God be different, if God is as a parent would be?  Parents love unconditionally.  We may get angry, be disappointed…but few of us would turn our backs on our own child, no matter what terrible thing they have done.  We may be ashamed and horrified, but no matter what, we do still love them and hope that somehow, they will find redemption and happiness.

I think about the torturous things people have done in search of “Godliness” and I can’t help but shake my head.  How can self-mutilation, suicide bombings, self-imposed deprivations, and denial of your own humanity help you become closer to God, no matter what name you give to the Deity/concept?

To find our own humanity and spirituality, we need to devote time and effort to the endeavor, just as we devote time and effort to any skill which we regard as important to achieve mastery in .  Some people will achieve greater mastery than others, but everyone can achieve some level of mastery.  Just like achieving skill in “art” doesn’t mean that everyone does the same thing in crayon, but rather covers everything from photography to computer animation to sculpture to painting to pencils…and a lot of other things too.  The variations are nearly infinite, and so can be our search for who we are and what spirituality really means.

Does it really matter what name and imagery you use to represent the concept of God?

Does God even care whether you use a pair of crossed sticks, a candle, a crude fish drawing…or anything else as an image to remind you of what God is all about?

Does God even care which collection of sounds you use as a representation and designation?  Does it matter if you say God, Creator, the One, Allah, Jehovah, Yahweh, or Ibbididy-Dibbidy-Do?  As long as you know what it means, does it even matter at all?

I doubt it.

Just like aliens and UFOs.  Some people seem to think that if aliens exist, it threatens their God concept.  I have to shake my head at that, because I figure that if the Creator could manage things like the wildebeest, musk-ox, and platypus…surely aliens weren’t that hard.

Or science.  Others think that if science is true, along with things like the Theory of Evolution, then we can’t have a Creator.  Surely a Creator that managed the elephant could manage to create a group of laws to perpetuate the system, along with give us the ability to figure out that particular “code of life” to work with it.

Other people are very uncomfortable with the whole religion and spirituality thing.  I was once upon a time among them.  I wasn’t an atheist, but I also didn’t number myself among the Christians.  Today, I live in the Bible Belt among a predominately fundamentalist population.  I’ve not changed, I’m not likely to suddenly join a Pentecostal church.  I also don’t consider myself to be a Wiccan or any other particular religion.  I do, however, consider myself to be a deeply spiritual person, despite my aversion to wearing a label.  I find the term “God” to be an easy-to-understand word for a concept of a Creator, Source, One, etc. from which we all have sprung.  Soul is a good word to express the concept of our spiritual facet too.  These are non-confrontational ways to talk about concepts and ideas without anyone feeling threatened here.  Pagans can understand as well as Christians.   I guess my whole philosophy is based on tolerance for other belief systems.  There is a saying that “All roads lead to Rome” that is very applicable.  Spiritual awakening can take an infinite number of routes, but in the end, they all wind up the same place.  It doesn’t matter whether you choose to take the route of organized religion or blaze your own path, you’ll arrive there…sooner or later.

Once upon a time, long long ago, when I was young and naive and innocent…I hoped to someday become a wise woman.

Now, I’m slower and grayer, and still hoping to someday become a wise woman.  I do hope (and believe) that I have become wiser with the passage of time.

Today, I believe in many things.   Things like:

  • Kindness–even a small kindness can make a huge difference in someone’s life
  • Charity–I believe in giving to the community as a whole as well as to those who are struggling.
  • Education–Learning is a great gift.  We should learn something every day, and never pass up an opportunity to help someone else learn something new.
  • Simplicity–when we keep our lives simple, we leave room for other things.
  • Creativity–creativity creates solutions for problems, as well as adds beauty to our lives.
  • Appreciation–appreciate what you have, for it can all be gone in the blink of an eye.
  • Modesty–This just isn’t about physical modesty, but rather about much more.  A modest lifestyle, a modest attitude, and a modest way of living are all in our best interests.  We don’t need grand awards and lavish homes, nor do we need fat bank accounts to find happiness.
  • Joy–Joy should be shared, not hidden away.  Joy should be appreciated.
  • Love–It’s one of the things that makes us human.  It’s also one of the few things that grows even faster when we give it away regularly.

There we go.  Some middle-of-the-night musings…

I think we need a “Everlasting Joy Fellowship” rather than another cold, heartless center of deprivation, don’t you?

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