Monday, December 31, 2012

The Moral Cliff is Looming

There is a guy that I know that knows a guy who has a brother who has a friend who knows someone that might be able to help me with a financial issue I have.  We all go through hard times and in those trying times we need to be able to count on our friends and family or at least on those “special” acquaintances that are so important in our daily associations. 

All I need is some extra money to pay some bills, buy a few essentials, a new car would be nice, but that’s not going to happen.  From time to time everyone needs a little extra help to smooth over the hard times, get a little cushion between paychecks so the kids don’t have to eat watered down chicken soup or macaroni and cheese three times a day.  Most of us have been there and most of us have someone we can turn to in times of great stress.  For those who do not, life can be very stressful and very difficult indeed; I am empathetic to their plight, having had to deal with the reality of financial stress more than once and not having anyone to turn to.

The idea of charity has been heavy on my mind, especially over the Christmas season when the entire season prompts us to look outward, be kind, be giving but how can one be giving when one has nothing to give?  The quick answer:  We all have something to give.  Even the most destitute of our brothers and sisters have something to offer, they may not understand or know how but it’s there, perhaps well hidden and obscured by layers of self-doubt, financial clouds, depression or mental illness but it’s there.  The value of a human being is the ultimate value of all things or at least it should be.  Too often we discount the feelings of others, slash the price of suffering, or simple discard the plight of another hurting soul just because we don’t want to feel uncomfortable.

My current financial dilemma pales in comparison to the anguish and sorrow of so many, leaving me with a slight disgusting taste that has affected my ability to enjoy New Year’s Day.  How can I enjoy the rose bowl parade or the twenty five football games when I feel marginally guilty about having so much and they have so little?  How can I revel in the finger foods, or look forward to the midnight snacks as the New Year tolls anew, when there are they who have no joy, no companionship, no hope?

I’m not one to make resolutions, I try throughout the year to gauge my life, changing those annoying habits, altering the perceptions that cause me to be less than I could be or should be.  This year however I feel the need to resolve to be a better human being, less selfish toward those in need.  Who am I to judge, who am I that I cannot spare a dime for a brother or sister in need?  I resolve to look beyond myself, look past my wants and be more resolute in my resolve to restore the wretched and wayfaring.

The fiscal cliff means nothing to those without.  My desire for high interest loans from a Guido I do not know, so I can enjoy a few finger foods forged with felicitous fingers should cause me pause, and it does.  What’s really important in life is not the despicable leaders who fail to lead and hostage our future for their own personal gain, it’s important but not so that we should forget those in real jeopardy.  Our neighbor, the widow with her lawn overgrown, the family in distress, the homeless guy pushing his shopping cart, the teenager wandering the streets, the list is very long and very sorrow filled.  We have the resources, we have the time, we have the money.  What we don’t have is the resolve.  

Again I resolve to open my eyes at the worried looks of my neighbors, seeing the pain in ones walk or the anguish deep within a falsetto smile.  I resolve to be more caring, more patient and to act in such a manner that others will know of my resolve to help.  The answer is not in government, not in social programs but in the generosity of soul to soul, heart to heart, being able to look respectfully into the eyes of those in need and realize we are all in need, sharing that understanding and resolving to grow together, build each other until all are well and happy.

Happy (guilty conscience) New Year.

Saturday, December 29, 2012

Bloggers Paradise

It’s not often you have a chance to thank those responsible for the limited success of a marginal blog but I would like to give my two cents (it’s really all I can afford) to those who have sacrifices so much to spend the few minutes it takes to read the few paragraphs I’ve posted.  

Thank you!

Now that that’s over I can get back to writing about inconsequential matters, insignificant ramblings from an opinionated has-been (except I never really was), expressing views and preaching about perfidious events in a shallow attempt at the veracity of what I think should be….whew, now my brain hurts, I can only imagine how yours is feeling, sorry but I love words, love the interaction of placing negligible meaning to obscure and an often forgotten lexicon.

I am grateful for the medium of blogging and the openness of its forum, allowing anyone who can type and hopefully think the ability to speak their mind, and so many do that perhaps should not, but with the right to do so comes the erroneous and mistaken notion that all can write.  Like those who think they can sing, crooning like tortured cats for millions to witness the inevitable misery and embarrassment of all who witness but never by those who engage.  We must all sift through the chaff, looking intently for those golden words of wisdom that like nuggets of gold must be gleaned from the mud filled vats of cacophonous pontification. 

Again, Thank you for reading and commenting and scolding and correcting, I am grateful.

I wish all a happy New Year, may all your dreams come true….

And if you have the time, take a moment to reflect on the year to come, it will be whatever you want it to be...

Friday, December 28, 2012

Time is relative ...until it's not...

The Greek language denotes two distinct principles of time, Chronos (not the Klingon home world) and Kairos. The former refers to numeric, or chronological, time. The latter, literally "the right or opportune moment", relates specifically to metaphysical or divine time. In theology, Kairos is qualitative, as opposed to quantitative.  Qualitative denotes events or things that can be seen but not measured, a color or a feeling, the level of beauty seen by one’s eyes (the beauty is in the eyes of the beholder), smells, tastes, while Quantatative events can be measured, enumerated and duplicated.

The measurement of time and how time is used can be both Chronos and Kairos with both having a substantive effect on how we view and manage time.  “A watched pot never boils” giving us an indication that time is subjective to mental stress and anticipation.  Einstein’s relativity suggests that time and space should be considered together and in relation to each other.  Watching a clock makes time move less rapidly, but we all know that Chronos time is not subject to interpretation, a minute is a minute but the mind can and often does modify our perception of time giving us the opinion of differences in time allocations, “time passes quickly when you’re having fun”; maybe it really does?

As time is counted in days and weeks, months and years many try to salvage time lost by creating promises to better themselves.  These goals, these resolutions attempt to alter our past perceptions and mistakes by altering our hopes for the future.  Losing weight is one of the most common New Year’s resolutions and the one most failed.  The time lost during the past year overeating, not exercising, indulging in unhealthful activities falls within the category of Kairos time, it’s all subjective but ooh so real to those who have wasted the given opportunities that time allowed.

Most look forward to the New Year as a new beginning, a time to start over, remove bad habits and improve our lives.  We set goals and with a fervor and passion step heavily onto the treadmills of life pushing hard against the ingrained weights and deviations of our own desires, trying with all our might to forestall the bad with the new found idea of good, knowing that time is our enemy, our nemesis. Most will fall, crawling on bended knee, asking forgiveness for even trying, inclined to admit our failures but realizing our mistake was in thinking we could control time and overcome what we had become.

Time however is not the problem; time is not our enemy.  Time is only a level of measurement, a method of gauging one moment from the next, of discerning one event from another.  Time is a gift.  In conjunction with our conscience time allows everyone the ability to restart, rebuild, redo or undo what was done, rethink what was thought, change, completely change who and what we are into what we think we want to be.  Time gives to us the perception that all is possible and that even though time was wasted in the past it is a forever potential, an eternal continuum of never ending possibilities.

Each New Year we look inward at what we’ve become and gauge our development against the societal measures that define acceptability and success and rethink our path, reload our expectation and revise our Kairos within the preset Chronos in order to achieve the impossible.

Knowing how to use time is perhaps the most difficult of all processes.  With a perceived abundance of time, an abundance that dwindles as our life’s time is reduced by age or circumstance, leading us to make drastic choices based on unrealistic demands on our own vision of what we wished would be.  Like a losing gambler at a high stakes game we double down, taking unnecessary risks to overcome the self-induced deficits imposed by a life time of regret.  Resolutions very rarely succeed when desperate efforts supersede time proven methods of change.  

The beauty of time is that it’s never too late to change.  We may not have enough time to complete the transformation from Ogre to Prince but we do have the time to start.  We always have the time to take the right step, change direction and move in the right direction.  Time allows us the opportunity to alter our destiny and our perception of any given period, but with that opportunity comes the responsibility to continue the process.

You will never be given the same time again, once time is used it’s gone but time continues to give each of us an unlimited array of possibilities.  Choose wisely the choices given by time and each and every choice will result in a daily chance for continuous change, change is good but “time is of the essence”.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

It's the most wonder...SELFISH...ful day of the year. is perhaps the most selfish of all holidays and in that selfishness it is perhaps the most unique.   With exception to Easter it is the only planet wide celebration with only a few countries abstaining officially.  China, (excepting Hong Kong and Macao), Japan, Saudi Arabia, Algeria, Thailand, Iran, Turkey and North Korea do not celebrate as a mandated holiday but thousands upon thousands within each country do turn their hearts and minds to the holiday. In Japan the holiday is very popular with perhaps millions engaged in the buying fever that is Christmas.
Christmas has morphed over the years from a very simple Christian holiday to a Marketing feeding frenzy of buying and giving, transforming the minds of billions each year to the prospects of anticipation behind a brightly colored package wrapped with ribbons and bows to hide the contents within.  The uniqueness of this holiday is in this very aspect of expectation.  The fundamental purpose may seem selfish on its face but in every gift expected one must be given.  

As a selfish holiday there is none better.  Sitting with friends and family the overwhelming experience is in what one gets as opposed to what one gives away.  The abject sorrow over an unwanted toy or an ugly tie can be devastating to the recipient while those who gave that horrid gift will undoubtedly experience the pain of a failed attempt to please for months if not years, depending on the severity of the blunder; selfishness all around unless the strict balance of gift giving and receiving can be attained and maintained for all parties involved.  The stress related to finding that balance is in part due to the promotional mechanistic machinery that we call advertising that propels us beyond the simple message of a long ago born infant helping frantic shoppers to forget the reason for the season.

It is this specific process that the true nature of this holiday is realized. Even though the expectation may be to receive it is virtually impossible to maintain a receiving scenario without a consistent and meaningful process of giving.  You must give to receive, a universal truth perhaps but a realistic process that must be followed in order for the receiving cycle to continue. 
The child learns that in order to get a better toy he needs to be a good giver.  A giver of deeds or of presents the results change the heart of the giver, enforcing the idea that a better gift is deserved.  For the giver the often obvious attempts toward ingratiation cannot be ignored resulting in a higher degree of gift giving as a motivational reward for past deeds.

What makes this holiday unique is not entirely in the selfish requests and overt attempts toward kindness but in the psychologically advanced scenario of forcing everyone to think beyond themselves.  Regardless of the selfishness of desire of the expected receiver the entire world is forced to focus their attentions on what to give, maximizing their chances of receiving a gift of equal or greater value.  Each gift given sets up the receiver with an obligation to give, turning the entire selfish attitude of Christmas into a selfless fun zone of smiles and gleeful claps of joy as gifts are unwrapped. Unlike the birthday where the recipient expects gifts just by virtue of being born on a specific day Christmas transcends the singular events of birthdays and get well gifts by forcing each recipient to also be a giver.

There may never be a perfect balance of gift and receipt, but in every attempt to give and every gift received that balance is recorded, tallied on that cosmic spread sheet in the sky, keeping score of the inner most feelings of those on both sides of this gift exchange.  The beauty of this holiday is unique in that the balance is always positive, always in the black, as those who receive must spend more time preparing, thinking and contemplating about what gift to give than they do about what will be opened. 

Marketing may try to sway the selfless minds away from giving, promoting the ideas of giving more, paying more, equating good gifts with high prices, but the process will forever be one slated toward the giver.  It is the Giver of all things that espoused the process and adopted the spirit that dwells in all of us, helping all of us to focus, if only for a few short weeks, our thoughts to the well-being of others over ourselves. 

Sunday, December 23, 2012

The Christmas Raisin: a true short story.

I don’t recall ever being told how the tradition got started but I do remember eating the special rice pudding every year of my young life and enjoying the sticky goodness of the overly white, sweet goodness, never getting enough to satisfy my craving. 
The year was 1962, I was six years old and I do remember having to practice the duck and cover while crawling under my desk at school.  Our teacher told us that we had to be prepared for a nuclear attack, I didn’t know what nuclear meant but it was fun to get out of my seat and squirm under my desk. 

 “The Nevada bombing a few days ago should remind all of us that we need to be prepared” the fear in my teacher’s voice told us more than her words as we scrambled to beat the clock and shield our small bodies.

A few days after that Christmas vacation started and we were free for two wondrous weeks, two weeks of exploring the orange groves that surrounded our home and down to the creek where we hunted for crawdads and kept a sharp eye for the elusive wild pig that sounded its warning but was only occasionally seen.  Two weeks of playing with my friends, Brent Moore, Charles Drysdale, Brad Zitsh on and my little brother Wayne, no school, no homework, no problems and only a few days before Christmas what a glorious time.  

Christmas meant family, lots of family, parties and food, the food was everywhere.  We would start by visiting my cousins or they would come to us; going to grandmas and grandpas house, both sides and again the food, always the food.  Everyone had their favorites, my little brother loved the divinity and would take handfuls putting them in his pockets and stuffing his little face, every one smiled as they saw him try to sneak the sugary treat and not caring that he took too much or would get sick as he did almost every year.  

My favorite was the rice pudding.  I loved the texture, the lumpy look of ricey clumps, but mostly l liked the surprises hidden within and the contest of being the lucky one to find the magic treasures.  I had never won before but I knew this was my year. 

A Danish tradition and a Hansen family favorite we always made rice pudding for Christmas Eve dinner and within the pudding one penny, one almond and one raisin.  Each had an important meaning but I didn’t really understand except the idea of simply being the one to earn the acceptance of the rest of the family for finding the treasures within.

I have since learned that each hidden gem had its own clairvoyant meaning and promise of future events but at the time all I wanted was the lovely, sweet rice and the chance of being the victor.  If you were the lucky one to find the penny you were promised wealth for the coming year.  The almond meant luck and who ever found the coveted almond would be the recipient of a lucky year.  It was great to get the penny or the almond but everyone wanted the raisin for the raisin meant long life and with long life came happiness and joy.

I really don’t like raisins but I knew the raisin was the most desirable and most wanted of the three.  If you were lucky enough to get the raisin the entire family would encircle you with praise, hugs and kisses all around and for that short time you would be the center star and for me at six years old that was the center of everything.

On Christmas Eve the entire family came together at my grandparents’ home in Montebello California.  Their home was small but it had a large room off the kitchen where we could all sit and talk, eat and enjoy the festivities of that special day.  After a dinner of turkey and ham with all the fixings we would clean the room, move the chairs and tables and I would rush to the pink chair and sink deep into the feathery pillows and feel the secure comfort of grandpas’ favorite recliner, until he emerged from the kitchen drying his hands, he would give me a happy frown, reach down with his arms and pick me up placing me on his lap, not as comfortable as the pillows but much more satisfying.

The adults would be given their small bowls filled with the yule pudding and then the kids.  I looked at mine and I knew something was missing.  I couldn’t see into the white goodness, but I knew that there was no penny, no almond nor a small wrinkly raisin; I would not be winning tonight.  My eyes, that a second ago were filled with hope and wonder lost that sparkle of  anticipation, my mouth turned into a small frown, I could still enjoy the rice pudding I tried to tell myself but even that wonderful whiteness would not make up for the impending loss of not winning the penny, the almond nor the raisin.

As my grandma raised her bowl of rice pudding in the air and announced the rules of the contest, a speech repeated each year like the preamble of the constitution or a reverent prayer, my grandpa quickly pulled my bowl from my tiny hands and replaced my kiddy bowl with his adult bowl, giving to me his portion and his chance for winning.

“Start eating everyone” my grandma announced stoically.  

With spoon in hand and ready to dig in my heart stopped a beat as I noticed my grandpa not eating, waiting, watching me with his tired but loving eyes.  I looked at him, his smile bright and knowing, encouraging, he nodded his head and I took a tentative spoon full, tasting the enchanted creamy delight as it melted in my mouth, forgetting for that moment the penny the almond and the raisin.

His arms encircled my small body as he hugged me and held me tight, his own bowl of rice pudding gently set aside, watching me, encouraging me, loving me.  It was at this moment in my life that I understood love, I could feel it as I sat on his lap, his eyes wanting me to win, knowing perhaps that I would win and me not really caring if I won or not, all I wanted was for this moment, these feelings to stay forever.

Near the end of my bowl of yule pudding I did find the raisin and with the dried grape the adoration of everyone in the room.  It was a grand experience, the hugs, the kisses, the warm eyes of all, but most of all the realization that I loved my grandpa and he loved me, a feeling I would never lose, a relationship that would endure throughout his life and still endures in mine 40 years after his death as he sat by his typewriter writing a letter to me.  He died loving me, writing me and enjoying the benefits of giving me an insignificant gift of a little piece of dried fruit.  The raisin may have been mine on that event filled Christmas Eve but the promise of a long and fulfilling life was his and is mine as I remember that special gift from a very special man.