Sunday, April 28, 2013

The road Less Traveled....



Over the last few days I’ve driven over some of the most desolate areas on the planet.  There are areas of this earth that have less human activity but the word desolate even though it means uninhabited it also means forsaken or forgotten, barren or even wild; the Mojave Desert fits those descriptions to a T, (a phrase by the way that has some ambiguity to its origins but generally means a perfect fit or an exact spot). 

With over 2500 square miles, the Mojave is considered the 22nd desert in size but with its proximity to major population areas the desolation is astounding; even on the interstate you pass thousands of acres of unused land, at 640 acres in a square mile the entire desert encompasses over a million acres, teeming with life, mostly unseen and unnoticed. 

No buildings, no roads, and only an occasional trail made by some lonely animal forever searching for that morsel of food, crisscrossing the cactus filled landscape hoping for something edible or perhaps a drip or drop of moisture, this land is unforgiving.  But for the thousands of drivers that traverse this desert the heat and isolation is often never noticed as they drive 80 mph in the comfort of their cars, or in my case nearly 90 in my little Honda civic, my air conditioner blasting its coolness, the cd’s blaring some obscure artist and my mind is numbed to the passing of time, hour after hour of road deadening senses as I stare in front with an occasional view to my rear, never paying any attention to the swarming masses of miniscule life struggling minute by minute to survive.

On this trip however I did take some time.  I pulled off on a road I’d passed a thousand times, wondering at its name but never stopping to discover or consider what was beyond the sign.  Zzyzx Rd, the made-up name was given to the area in 1944 by Curtis Howe Springer, who originally established a mineral springs and spa after filing for mining rights of the surrounding 12,000 acres. 
I have literally passed this road my entire life, driving back and forth to Utah from California and never took the time to simply stop and look.  Our world is filled with beauty unseen and wonders never noticed simply because we are in too much of a hurry to get to where were going.  We often forget that “it’s not the destination but the journey that matters most”.

As I pulled my car off the road taking a right turn onto Zzyzx I drove for about two minutes and found a small patch to stop the car with the intention of closing my eyes for a few minutes but as I looked around I saw no one, no buildings, no civilization except for the road and for miles in almost every direction I could see nothing but nature, harsh, extreme but beautiful and imposing and I lost all desire to close my eyes, instead looking and wondering about the bugs, the lizards, the snakes, coyotes and the more than 1500 species and 2000 plants that call this desert home.  Getting out of my car I walked a few paces and sat on an overheated rock and just waited. 
 
Not much at first, still too close to the road I supposed but then a small black bug with a red head darted from one shadowed covering to another and disappeared.  There were clumps of solitary brown grass green and healthy a few weeks before were now stiff and lifeless but good enough for a lizard to stop to check it out.  I was only there for 45 min or so but I could imagine the other life waiting for me to leave, weary of my presence prior to exiting their shadowing conclave in search for their dinner or to be eaten by another.  The solitude was astounding, the quite overwhelming and except for the massive trucks coming up the grade, no sounds but the wispy winds as the few blooming flowers blossomed in all their glory swaying back and forth, dancing to the cadence off the wind. 

Regardless of where you live the microcosm of life surrounds us all, affects us all and brings us all the opportunity to witness the beauty of creation in all its wondrous forms.  The weeds that struggle between the cracks of a sidewalk or the flower that sprouts next to cement median on a busy freeway, life is everywhere, escaping from the confines of human attempts to control.  

Man is part of that life but for so many we are oblivious to our connections to all around us and ignore our responsibilities to act as a steward over all that is.  We instead, thoughtlessly, ravage the world for its resources, extract is essence and abuse the gifts of plenty given abundantly to all.  The world has plenty for everyone but for the greed and corruption we could feed the world, cloth each and every person and have plenty left over that the riches of the world could be freely distributed creating a wealth so great that no one would want for anything.

We are a hallowed people with a rich spiritual connection to all other creations but for the most part have become blinded to the blessing that surround us all.  Open our eyes, open our minds to the possibilities that if a flower can bloom in the middle of a freeway we can bloom amidst the plenty of our lives.

Next time you’re on the road or just walking, stop and look around and be amazed at the wonders that surround us and perhaps you’ll start to realize the importance of that little black bug with the red head and how it gives our lives meaning.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Needed rest...that will be the day

After nearly 80 articles on a variety of topics I thought it time to take a short break, not too long just a week or twcall reggy ato perhaps to let things gel and settle, give my mind a vacation,  many will readily admit that my mind is always on vacation so what's the real reason for the gap in postings?

You got me.  My real reason is I hate typing on my iPad and that's all I brought  with me on a short trip to the beautiful state of Utah.  This is not a pleasure trip by any means and will intact be somewhat arduous, monotonous and physical as I revert back to my construction days to do some needed repairs for some friends.

Typing on an IPad is so infuriating and so frustratingly slow that I have decided to wait until I get home to resume my blogging about whatever I can dream up to blog about and in the mean time you will all simply have to suffer through those inevitable withdrawals that will assuredly come as a drunk without a drink....that's not a happy sight.

Let me however leave yu with one or two words of wisdom....wise and dumb two words that can easily be confused....

See you all in a few days, or within a week at the most, in the interim, reread each and every blog I've posted, share those with every one you know and most important ....no, nothing is more important than that.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Be Still My Soul



Be still my soul, be still and know that I am God.  Be still, be quite, just be for a moment and let life resolve itself around you.  Sit and do nothing, let your spirit speak above the din and commotion that is our life, let our spirits sour through that silence within our minds.

Turn of the iPods, turn off the TV’s tune out from the harshness of continuous cacophonous noise and allow you to be heard.  We have a lot to say to ourselves, all we have to do is listen.  With all the clamor and clatter around us our own thoughts are lost, our minds our drowning in the ever present sound and unceasing decibels.  Be still my soul, sit still, meditate over the conflagrations of our world and the dangers that surround us.   

As a child and even today I try to sit and listen, tune out the freeway noise, the screaming kids, the lawnmowers and sirens blaring, listening to the undersounds, the natural resonances that make up our world.  The birds, the crickets, (expect those that escaped from our bearded chameleon and have set up shop behind the curio cabinet) the rustling of leaves from the gentle breeze, a faraway cry of a hunting falcon, these are the sounds that relax, that turn us inward and allow us to hear what really needs to be heard.

As technology expands so does our use of those devises and with an increased use of media comes a decrease in civility, sociability, a general loss of connectedness that is causing some serious psychological issues.   These advances are essential to our future but they must be metered and monitored, used in moderation.  

While visiting Sea World I noticed groups of individuals sitting close to each other but each in a solitary bubble of texting, searching or talking, ignoring the real persons within touching distance, ignoring the facial expressions of communication and focusing intently on the task of connecting to another faceless person as if they were afraid to simply turn and see the smiles or frowns, the joys and sorrows of those in need, including themselves. 

The recent bombings in Boston bring to mind the need to reflect and redirect our efforts toward connecting with those around us.   A moment of silence is appropriate, but let’s extend that silence to include the needs of all those who are in despair, all those who are wanting and in need.  Can you imagine a world if everyone simply stopped, turned around and looked at their neighbor, looked and really felt the needs of each other, if only for a moment, if the world could stop and reset its humanity what would the results look like?

When was the last time you stopped?  When was the last time you simply sat down and let the natural sounds of life enter our soul?  Be still my soul, be quite, be alive in the understanding of the secrets of life only revealed though our meditative solitude.  

Be still and listen to the needs of others without your voice or noise, let your mind work out the complexities of this complicated world and be comforted in knowing that your soul is listening and learning through that reverence.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Why so much hate?


How do we reconcile the needs of the many with the needs of the few, especially when those few are bent on our destruction?  This is more than a philosophical discussion and more than a simple exercise in rhetoric it comes down to a fundamental process of who we are and what we believe.

There seems to be a growing number within the world that would see us and honestly would prefer us, the U.S. and other industrialized nations, and all its inhabitants DEAD.  They, thousands would gladly flip that preverbal switch extinguishing all that we are and all that we ever were just to rid themselves of a scourge that to them is like a plague upon the land.

The question that arises first is how a nation can feel so much animosity toward another and with such disdain as to want to annihilate the very existence of the other nation?  This may be a definition of pure unadulterated hate and hate unchecked is a form of insanity.  Hate is an intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury.

This definition plays throughout the millennium and in the instance of those who would do us harm has a real beginning and a reason perhaps for the long standing feud and blood lust.  Many of you will recall the story in the Bible of Esau and Jacob, the older Esau was the first born and under Patriarchal rules would be given the birthright and leadership over the family and its holding.

The question of whether one can sell his birthright before getting it does have some merit but in this event Esau (meaning hairy one, he was born hairy) did sell his birthright to Jacob (meaning leg puller, he was born holding onto the heel of Esau) for the price of a bowl of beef stew or red porridge.

Let’s be real for just a minute, if you were starving after a long few days in the wilderness hunting and with no success you stumbled upon your brothers tent who just so happened to be cooking some very tasty “red Porridge”, would you sell your birthright just to keep from dying?   Well according to the story that’s what happened, he sold his right to leadership so he could eat.  Right or wrong, legal or not the trade had been made.

In order to complete the negotiations Rebekah had to be a bit deceitful and alter the conditions so that when Isaac actually performed the ritual to the first born he would believe it would be to his favored son Esau.
  
Covered in goats skins to mimic the hairy arms of Esau, Jacob entered the tent and gave his father the prepared food he had requested from Esau and proceeded to place his hands on the head of Jacob and bestowed upon him all the rights and privileges generally promised to the first born.

A deal is a deal right.  Even if we make a bad deal at times most of us realize that were stuck with it and move on, learning from our mistakes and hoping never to repeat that level of stupidity again.  But in the case of these two nations the offspring of Esau has never forgotten and have interpreted the sale of the birthright as a theft and the level of hate over the millennia has grown to insane proportions with the millions of followers hell bent on sending Israel and all who support them straight to oblivion.  

It’s kinda like the Hatfield’s and McCoy’s, one side kills and the other side retaliates and the war begins, the hatred blossoms like a mushroom cloud infecting the entire region leaving no space for negotiations or  peace, just simple vengeance that turns the mind into an insanely lustful killing mechanism, no mercy, no love, no chance for peace. 

Just like it is with the followers of the Koran and the fridge elements they spur on the hatred, using others to plant bombs to kill and mutilate.   The word Islam means not peace but submission and that is the goal of all who truly believe in the Koran. 

The Koran states: Those that deny Our revelations We will burn in fire. No sooner will their skins be consumed than We shall give them other skins, so that they may truly taste the scourge. Surely Allah is mighty and wise. (4:56)
“Believers, take neither the Jews nor the Christians for your friends. (5:51)
“Allah is the enemy of the unbelievers. (2:98)
“Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. (9:123)
“Fighting is obligatory for you, much as you may dislike it. (2:216)
“The unbelievers are your inveterate foe. (4:101)
“Idolatry is more grievous than bloodshed. (2:192)
“Fight against them until idolatry is no more and Allah’s religion reigns supreme. (2:193)

I think the message is clear, they want us dead, why do we continue to negotiate?  We understand their motivations, we understand their tactics, we also understand their resolve. Why are we acting like fools letting our citizens be killed and maimed when an easy solution would be to simply allows those who agree with civility to remain and force the others back to their own lands of hate and discord. Let’s profile….

Monday, April 15, 2013

Being a substitute



As a retired, or maybe I should say semi-retired teacher since I still dabble in education as a substitute, a position that takes me in many different direction.  Most of my career was in special education so I still get a few specific calls to cover special education classes.  Recently I’ve been asked to teach math, I’m terrible at math, girls PE, that was weird and no, I did not have to go into the locker room, while today I spent the day with first graders. 

I’ve taught little kids before but almost always in a small group setting.  This class was perhaps one of my most aggravating and overwhelming classes of my life.  32 little bodies all moving in different direction, never stopping, always wiggling and squirming and just, well just being annoying.  Each kid expected me to know their name and their life story from the very moment I stepped into the class and getting emotional if I didn’t know their birthday, their dogs name and the astrological sign….

The teacher left lessons plans but the rules of the class were mind bogglingly complex with each table having duties and each kid having a turn at this or that and every kid in the room took it upon themselves to tell me what I was doing wrong and how their teacher Mrs.  Perfect (not her real name) did it this way or that way.  Ten minutes into the room and I was wishing I had a handful of Valium to calm my nerves.  

Don’t get me wrong, I like little kids…one maybe two or three at a time but not 32 and not all the same age group.  It reminds me of the time I spent teaching inmates in jail, all these hands and eyes looking for any opportunity to pick up something, take advantage of something or steal something and then blame it on the guy next to them, each little kid reaching for a crayon or spilling his water bottle, dropping a paper on the ground and then crying over the incident only to blame the kid in the next seat or even across the room, nothing made any sense.

Perhaps it’s my advancing age but I would prefer to teach a group of criminals to ever stepping foot into a first grade classroom again.  At least the criminals wouldn’t all want to run up and try to hug me, pushing each other aside to be the first to get their grimy, little sticky hands all over my sort of new Dockers. And the emotions, oh my gosh, I had to tell the class that I didn’t know all the rules of the classroom and I wasn’t their regular teacher and no I was not going to place stars on the behavior chart, only to have two kids break out in tears, so I randomly put different colored stars by each kids name, I’m sure the regular teacher will wonder what in the heck went on in that class and hopefully never ask for me again.

The substitute, especially those that used to teach are completely taken advantage of, their years of experience relegated to glorified babysitting for about the same price as a good babysitter gets for one seventh of the problems and without the added benefits of an open fridge and unlimited TV access.  Even the word sub-stitute with the implication of something less than whole, below normal like subterranean or subjugate or subject, the word literally means temporary, standby or ancillary, which is what it is but still it’s demeaning. 

The pay scale for subs is abysmal.  Instead of paying less they should be paying a premium, at least for those who have credentials.  Substitutes have none of the benefits of a regular classroom teacher but are required to deal with all of the problems that surface when a teacher leaves.  Every behavior, every problem, every problematic situation seems to come alive as soon as the “substitute” enters the room and the good subs deal with them, keep them under control and handle those very difficulties without losing one life, with most limbs intact and almost every child accounted for at the end of the day.  I don’t think I lost any kids today?

The understanding that teachers are worth so much and are so important is completely blown out of proportion.  Substitutes work for 1/3 the money with 2/3 more problems and do so day in and day out.  I think we should applaud the efforts of these valiant but unsung heroes of the education community, me included of course and start to realize that those of us with current credentials should be paid more, especially when were forced into hazardous and dangerous situations, like teaching a group of first graders.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Blissful Ignorance



In the grand scheme of things what really matters and in that vein of thought what is the grand scheme, and does anybody really know?  There are so many thoughts and postulation about what is and what was that the very notion of trying to decide which of the many ideas and philosophies has merit drives us all toward the inevitable process of looking for that soft and comforting hole in the sand that stifles our perception from potential to impossible.   

There is a level of comfort with not knowing and the predictable attitude of never having to know, simply stuck, head down, impervious to winds of change, resistant to the opinions of others and even strongly unaffected by the designs of progress.  Some might say true happiness comes when all else has been forgotten and so is the head in the sand a chosen philosophy, a conscious decision and way of life, not an escape from all that is but a move toward nonexistence, a  method of ignorance that tells a story for all to see.  Lest we forget, the head may be buried but the posterior is waving high in the air for all to see, a sentinel of solidarity, staunchly immovable with the hordes of others who fly that flag.

"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing." (Edmund Burke)  This assumes you believe in Evil and that the designs of others against what you truly believe really matter.  For those with head down and bottoms up the evil is a forgotten memory that only surfaces when eyes can see.  With complete darkness surrounding those masses of buried brains the true light of goodness never crosses their shrinking minds.  Like the grains of sand that seep into their mouths and noses the gritty reality of what might have been will never be.

Are we at war?  There are battles raging all around but for most it seems they are content to stand aside and let others decide their eventual fate.  With only flailing hands and exposed, fleshy cheeks they have no say in the decisions of each day and will probably never know when the end is near or when that end has come nor of the struggles by others to protect their ignorant domains.

They unknowingly survive by the valiant efforts of others who stand beside their bloated, headless bodies fending off the sharpened swords of determination, slicing all in their path.  The easy prey go first, the slow and the undecided, their only hope is the good deciding to act, knowing the outcome if nothing is done.

No one really wants to be at war, except those who wish to take, their ideals spurned on by greed and lust and power, willing to sacrifice the souls of all for the savor filled morsels of winning, controlling and enslaving.  Freedom is their enemy, self-determination a poison and liberty, that arrow that pierces their cold unforgiving hearts; these are our weapons against the coming tyranny but we are failing in our responsibilities to wield those armaments and employ those God given tactics that will defend our lands, our families and our souls.  Too many of us are content to let the battle wage, our own heads deep in the mire of indecision and vacillation, too concerned about how others will judge, preferring the depths of darkness and unawareness to the stark reality of what must be done.

I often ask myself if I’m doing enough, what else can I do.  I vote, I pay my taxes, grudgingly I admit, I obey the rules of the road, most of the time and I treat others with respect and kindness, in essence I try to follow that golden rule of “do unto others before they do unto you….” No I have that wrong, but I must admit that’s how I feel at times when I have to compete against the growing level of corruption, rampant fraud and dishonesty, politicians that blatantly lie and steal those taxes that I begrudgingly pay, leaders that manipulate the markets and shred our constitution for temporary gains of power and prestige.

A war is coming, not the skirmishes of late or the scuffles between parties but a real war like the civil war will pit father against son, it will be a war of liberty and freedom with the enemy within our ranks, fighting to destroy those ideals that make us free.  Will it be with guns and knives and bombs or will it be with words and laws and ideas?  Does it really matter?  The end result if we do nothing will be the same.

What will you do to prepare, what will you do to fight and what can I do to help?