Category: Ponderings


A couple writing friends and I have assigned ourselves writing exercises based on the The Sun Magazine‘s Readers Write topics. There is one due each month covering a wide array, but the submissions must be ones where you are the only authority–in other words, your personal experience. If you would like to participate, go to The Sun Magazine’s site here and view the topic due the first of the next month. That is our deadline, too. We share our results with each other for fun, not critique, unless you ask for some and the others have time. You may choose to let me publish it on this blog, but better yet, post it on yours! Or not at all. You don’t even need to share, it’s very relaxed. Just write. It’s amazing what comes out.

So, the Feb. 1, 2015 topic was ‘Breasts’. I wrote a thought piece and my writing buddy, Suzanne, reminded me that The Sun‘s Reader Write editors lean toward personal memoir based on factual experience. I would enjoy a discussion highlighting the worthiness of inner dialog as an experience that shapes us like actual events. However, we adopted this flagship so we want to adhere to it’s style. As it happened I decided to turn it into a poem to see if it worked better that way. I realize I’m breaking away from what I perceive as the rules, but meh, who cares. As I said, it’s a relaxed writing exercise, and I wrote something!

 

Breasts -or- If It Happened

Would I do it? Let them take one if it happened?
I’d look a bit odd. A binary O and I. Or O and —.
I could get that tattoo I’ve always contemplated,
never able to think up the right design to last a lifetime.
Would I live long enough for it to blur like an old sailor’s tattoo?
I want to have a lifetime. Is that the price?
Doctor, I’ll trade you a breast for a few decades.
That would be the medically sanctioned bargaining stage then.

What if it’s both? I could go swimming in just a Speedo.
I could be an ambidextrous archer.
I could be happy I’m not lop-sided, but
I think I’d miss admiring at least one in the mirror.
It’s viewing would be forever altered, too.
Maybe I should reread The Beauty Myth,
get over the vanity before it’s seems a like putting on a brave face.
If I get It. I’m a childless peri-menopausal woman so aren’t I more at risk?
Why haven’t my girlfriends and I discussed this?
It’s a lonely exercise, asking yourself hard questions.

I see I’m running at the mental mouth. I’m just testing the waters
for the loud and proud Anjolina Jolie in me. Wanting to know
I could butt heads with any traitorous cells, and not give in to their smirking doggedness.
Be proactive! Push the frightened child onto the stage.
And the next one. Be my own stage manager.

But what if it’s not so cut and dried, if you’ll excuse the pun.
A long war of skirmishes with traitors requires positive thinking.
Would my pragmatic skepticism get in the way of that?
There must be some truth in mind tricks because look at the placebo effect.
So, if I think like a warrior then perhaps—no, I will be one.

It’s an exhausting topic.
Maybe that’s why we don’t talk amongst ourselves before it becomes an issue.
Forget learning archery, I need mental juggling practice.
A Felix the Cat bag of tricks would come in handy,
to have on hand while cycling through the ups and downs and tangents.
Then I could relax and live in the now. I hear that’s a good trick.
If it happens.

Inga Duncan Thornell's after a double mastectomy. The photo was first published in Margot Mifflin's book Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo. It recently went viral which has surprised Inga who says, "if it helps more women to feel better about their bodies, then I will try to keep my blushes to myself." Tattoo by Tina Bafaro, in Seattle.

Inga Duncan Thornell’s tattoo after a double mastectomy. The photo was first published in Margot Mifflin’s book Bodies of Subversion: A Secret History of Women and Tattoo. It went viral which has surprised Inga who says, “if it helps more women to feel better about their bodies, then I will try to keep my blushes to myself.” Tattoo by Tina Bafaro, in Seattle.

Note: To all women who have had “it happen” my thoughts and prayers are with you. You are warriors who have been called up. For more awesome tattoos from survivors click here. My favorite is #16.

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Outside the Monkey Box

I’m glad I have experienced some mind-altering substances in my early lifetime. I don’t know why people would want to deny themselves this eye-opening pleasure. Or deny others. Who made the deniers our social arbiters? Dang, they are the ones who would most benefit I reckon. I learned so much about seeing the bigger picture, seeing the little components of the picture, being open to growth and change, both sides of a story, questioning the status quo, pursuit of truths, patience. Maybe it was my era and I had some of those tendencies anyway, but I feel like they were given deeper dimention. I also became less uptight.

You might be a teetotaler and say ‘Well I DO appreciate the small things, so there! Nya!’ Well and good. But to those who would seek to deny others I blow raspberries *pfffft*, and get back to my meditative awareness of just how existence can be so improbably fantastic.

I don’t really alter my mind through chemistry any more, but I occasionally consume plants that chemically slow my nervous monkey nature down and it helps me appreciate the small things in life, and RELAX.

“It is but a leaf that turns to a flower in your mind” ~ from the inside of a packet of matches from Strawberry Fields headshop, Dallas, Texas, circa 1979.
 

I appreciate these perception-altering reminders because I think we forget to marvel. We may give thanks in our prayers, but isn’t it usually the big stuff like health, family, and situations? It’s the little intrinsic cogs that need acknowledgement, too. It’s better to relish the yummy taste of breakfast or the pleasure of stroking your pet, than take things for granted; better to get bogged down in simple joys of existence than the drudging or worrisome minutia that can occupy our attention. We need wake up calls! That hardy weed flower  in bloom in the parking lot with it’s intricately designed petals should be way more interesting than the fact that jerk has parked in my favorite parking spot again.

"Oooh girl! He parked in your spot again!"

“Oooh girl! He parked in your spot again!” “Why I oughta…look at how that flower exhibits the Golden Ratio and Fibonacci numbers!

I don’t need mind altering to reflect and be curious, but after I dabble with a bit of altering I realize that my senses have become dulled over time, dealing with the day-to-day, and I’ve forgotten to marvel. Chilling out is fraught with danger though. You can be quashed with autistic acuteness in a carnage of wonder. And the questions! The whys and hows that we stopped thinking to ask. Why stop if you can’t explain something? There’s a font of fantastic there.

I don’t know how the physicists and scientists who deal with space, time, physics, etc., deal with awesome. Those paths of inquiry are intense in scale and grandeur. Yet science geeks (and I say that affectionately) seem to casually reflect on some function of the universe and build theories. They do look at the small cogs and then build big Lego theories. Perhaps they shield themselves from being overwhelmed by the fact that many initial theories are really little better than assumptions and so the rest of it may just be enthralling but benign busywork.

I can’t get past simple stuff closer to home.

flashlight

 

 

38245_594404Recently I was thinking about how the sun’s light hits me in the daytime. Some smarty-pants probably knows this, but exactly why can’t I see the sun’s rays on their way to earth during the day? Like stained-glass rays from heaven or a cartoon ray shooting from a flashlight. How can the daytime fill with light and I not see those rays coming down? I know, I know, you can see rays from behind clouds, or rays when there’s dust in the air, or rays in water…but those are when light hits something in it’s way. Don’t kill my buzz, man. Just tell me how come I can’t see it pouring down on me?

See? A lit Moon, a lit Earth, but NO CARTOON RAYS. Someone tell me how it got there before my head explodes. (Or humor me until I come down.)

A lit Moon, a lit Earth, but NO CARTOON RAYS. Someone tell me how it got there before my head explodes. (Or humor me until I come down.)

It’s the same at night when I’m standing in the shadow of the earth. Why can’t I look out at the night sky beyond the earths shadow and see light beams en route to the moon? It’s light, right? Shouldn’t it glow? How is something invisible from the side able to affect things in front of it? Is it enclosed in a tube except at one end? Is it alive? Does it have a lifespan? I think not because scientists claim they can see light from events from the Big Bang 15 BILLION years ago. Maybe it’s just that old. But will it die if space stops expanding? No wonder we started worshipping the sun. Although it’s really LIGHT that’s so awesome, since apparently suns have a lifespan. But I digress. (Such a fancy word for wandering off the point.)

Da Big Bang. At least it knows how to knock out some rays!! That's what I'm talking' about.

Da Big Bang. At least it knows how to knock out some rays!! Oh, those are debris trails. Bummer.

As a physicist, my head would have exploded from the mind farts caused by awesomeness years ago. As a gardener I am extremely grateful to get reminded of how wonderful everything really is around us. I don’t need mind-altering to see and feel that. But long ago maybe those little mind-altering fungi and plants got primates thinking. Enabled us to think outside the monkey box and on our way to becoming primitive peoples. Protein helped our brains grow, but there was disproportionate growth in the pre-frontal cortex where problem solving and ideas pop up. Might the lowly mushroom have spurred that growth? It might also explain the great leap forward humanoids took when we suddenly (by evolutionary standards) began the Upper Paleolithic Revolution and started funerary rites, clothing, agriculture, complex tools, language and skilled hunting.  Or do you still think it was aliens imparting universal wisdoms? Ha!

Your Aunt (to the 10th power) Urrg knew all about the little mushroom that could help you mind explore nature.

Your Aunt (to the 10th power) Urrgggah knew all about the little mushroom that could help you mind explore nature, and her descendants left these creative signposts for us.

We seem to have a long, long history of ingesting mind-altering substances for various ends, and many have had an awareness of how sacred and life-affirming they can be.The lessons I learned from them are still applicable today. I stop every once in a while. Let go of the stupid. Marvel at the very odds of life. Smell that rose. Plant that seed and watch it grow. Amen.

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Fear and the Buddha

buddha-1024x707

The whole secret of existence is to have no fear. Never fear what will become of you, depend on no one. Only the moment you reject help are you freed.  ~  The Buddha

My friend George, a truth-seeking ex-Catholic, posted this quote on Facebook. I was raised Catholic too, and have rejected organized religions in favor of basic spirituality along the Golden Rule. I don’t know if there is a god, but I feel something afoot and would be the first to admit that I can have no concept of all the workings of the universe any more than I can conceive what is beyond it. This is my response.

At first I like this quote idealistically because freeing ourselves from fear is mightily appealing but practically speaking I find it pretty impossible. I’m going to look at this more closely.

“The whole secret of existence is to have no fear.” 

Was this translated incorrectly into English? Because physiologically it’s just not true. The very reality of existence dictates that we are part of our body and will be subjected to its glandular responses such as adrenalin in the face of danger.  As Aldous Huxley said, “What we think and feel and are is to a great extent determined by the state of our ductless glands and viscera.”  To not have fear is to ignore the hard-wiring of this survival technique. Hardly helpful to existence and impossible to avoid as long as we have bodies. Fear soaks us and we must learn to deal with it.

View_of_Viscera

“Never fear what will become of you…”

Encountering the unknown again triggers a bodily response putting us on alert for survival, making it unlikely that our minds will not fear what will become of us purely from a corporeal viewpoint. Morphine induces indifference and suffering may make us long for death, but on the average it’s scary. The advantage of myths and religions arises from our concept of death which carries the fear of losing who we are in our heads. Having somewhere to go is very comforting. For the atheist or agnostic it takes more work to assuage our ego’s fear of oblivion. Knowing you won’t be around to care doesn’t alleviate the fear of being snuffed out. Some may have sadness instead of fear, but only those driven to suicide really choose it. Our instincts to live are too strong.

“…depend on no one.”

I have a life-threatening illness that amazingly has dragged on for 20 years, but I suffer a type of ongoing stress that has made me very thin-skinned and susceptible to fear. When I am being attacked by fear it is like I’m out of control of the situation and any help is welcome. I think we fall back on whats worked in the past and revert to our earliest memories which involves a parent watching out for us. But the Buddha states that only in rejecting help can I be free. Why? It is in our nature to seek out help because of our long maturation period as babies and our family and clan structure aids survival as well. Rejecting help only frees me if I reject my humanity.

Here we find the elephant in the room because it’s obvious that helpless fear is one reason why people turn to parental-type gods or any gods that can help. Even cults and other tight knit groups can offer community help that is like our early clan groups. I’m not much of a group joiner so I prefer one-on-one interaction and small friendship circles. Saddling myself with the baggage of various religions is not my cup of tea either, but I can see why they are a parental comfort and an answer to the unknown, death and the trials of life. The real trick to fear is to discover a way to satisfy our instinct for outside help in dealing with fears that don’t present an immediate danger without buying into theocracy. But there are some merits so let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water.

Religions incorporate prayers to the omnipotent. I don’t object to prayer itself because strange things happen when people focus their minds to a particular intent. There’s even been scientific results of plants and hospital patients thriving compared to unprayed for controls. Call it mindful meditation or positive thoughts if that is more acceptable, because I think they are all the same as basic prayer.

So what do I focus my prayer on? I’ve found I can not calm myself when fear is acute enough for panic to begin to cascade. My ‘self’ isn’t reliable because my right, emotional side of the brain has got its work cut out wrestling the fight or flight of adrenalin, leaving the left, dispassionate side marginalized and looking for a life raft.

river

At the moment I just look to the power that seems to exist all around and in me as creative force, the one that somehow gets channeled or tapped into to make those plants and patients thrive, using the pipeline of my focusing to radiate out. I tap into that energy force as a helpmeet, bringing it in. Maybe it does come from inside me, I need no one else and the Buddha was translated correctly, but it helps me to think it is outside and around me, a resource ready to serve. I have looked to just myself and found it floundering, more than half distracted by the chemical reactions of my body. I need to look for help somewhere.

I recognize the irony that my mindful intent is remarkably similar to what religious people do in prayer, but I see vast differences. My method is stripped down to the barest essential force with no anthropomorphic trappings and ridiculous dogmas. I get the help I need without feeling squeamish about the incredulous claims of organized religion.

Earth-the-universe

The real whole secret of existence is not to do away with fear but to accept and practice control of fear. Another thing that is easier said than done but not impossible if you know what’s driving your glands, viscera, and our specie’s traits of relying on help and our capability to exude positive effect. When I fear death I can free myself by acknowledging my ultimate connectedness to everything. I’ll focus on bringing in any creative life force that’s out there even if it’s just the force of gravity or magnetism or the stimulus that drives components to make up an atom. I color it as love and reason that I am made up of the parts and forces of the universe so I am aways the child of these things. That makes me feel safe and in community with the whole. I exist in a state of love because I am one and the same. And after death my components will be scattered and reassembled into the whole eventually because nothing is wasted. All is transformed.

Perhaps that is what faith really is. A belief in one’s connection to the universe. We are not just trapped in our heads and bodies but can trust that we are part of the whole kit and caboodle.

So, Kimfuschious say,

“The whole secret of existence is to hold sight of your connectedness. You can calm fear by drawing in help from the collective forces of the universe, depend on them. Only the moment you reject help are you imprisoned in your mind.”

China’s Bitch

Those crazy Chinese.

Everything in my house is from there by now. Probably. Well, at least almost.

They are getting a little better with English as a Second Language though. The botched translations are starting to sound convincing.

A recently purchased clothing tag said “Constructed for strength with a smooth finish for plush comfort marining idea for mid to high aeroble winter.”

Now, that made me feel a little stupid because here was obviously some 50-cent words revealing my having a nickel and dime mind. “Marining” sounded vaguely culinary and “aeroble” could be something windy? Nevermind, I thought, because learning is fun! But upon looking up references to these words (how did I survive before the Internet?) I discovered that they are utter nonsense.

Chinese English

Chinese English

That’s when I searched for the tell-tale tag lurking inside like a hidden dragon – Made in China.

I just wonder what those crazy guys really wanted to say to their captive American audience. It’s like a Zen koan, frustrating the analytical side of my brain with gobbledygook while the other side awaits enlightenment.

Maybe it’s a plot to subliminally convert us to Zen! They now hold a great deal of our debt, they lure jobs from here, they make practically everything we use, we love the food and fireworks already, so why not expand on the spiritual inroads gained in the 1960’s and sprinkle Zen-inducing koans in our purchases? Rounds out the Chineseification of America nicely. I think that makes us China’s bitch now doesn’t it?

I wouldn’t mind being it’s bitch as long as we absorbed some of the tenets of Confucius. I’d love to see politicians and corporate entities embrace more trustworthiness, integrity and kindness. I’d like to see ideological ranters display more tolerance and respect. Everyone would benefit from more kindness, loyalty, self-discipline and modesty. (Not to say that China itself follows these tenets, but Confucius was their dude and did influence them hundreds of years ago, if they only pay lip service to him now.)

Confucius believed we could cultivate these attributes through the empathy of the Golden Rule: “Do not do unto others what you would not like done to yourself.” This is a common human sentiment found in many cultures throughout written history. Why is it taking us so long to fully implement? We are sooooo slow.

Communication, like the tag on my clothes, is finding it’s way to bridging cultures at a faster pace. Since the interaction of communication acts like a catalyst for development, then maybe we’ll get to a realistic implementation of the Golden Rule faster, too.

The old ways of exploitation, power-tripping and rampant greed will put up a pretty good fight though. I don’t envy our descendants until we reach a higher plane. We may screw it up and tip our species out of the equation all together. Yet for all that uncertainty, I’d like to be there witnessing it. I like another philosophy the Chinese embraced, the Buddhist idea of reincarnation.

I love this little planet and thinking that I can have a chance to come back and work on the things I failed at in this life, experience the joyous side of living here, and seeing how we go down the line of history holds enormous appeal. It satisfies my human curiosity and buzz to do things and create.

Recently I realized that reincarnation sounds better than the typical ideal of heaven where you float around blissed out all the time. Fine for a while, but for eternity? Boring! (The battered Catholic in me cringes at this temptation of fate from an angry/loving, white father god perched on a cloud. But since I have free will without immediate retribution, I feel cocky.)

So maybe being China’s bitch won’t be such a bad thing. We might learn a few things.

Mayan Cal color

Ah, the Mayan Calendar. So misunderstood. In actuality it is a galactic alignment between the earth, moon and sun, other planets and the galaxy. Because the Sun appears to rise out of the dark womb of the Milky way, it was symbolic to the Maya of a new birth.

izapa-1208pm-2012-screenshot-marked

We have yearly alignments, (learn more by clicking here) and they are about the sun passing the rift, but the sun is only in the exact same place every 25,772 years. No real astronomical voodoo here, just an extremely intuitive prediction from the clever Mayan astronomers, collating generations of data, or alternatively, extraterrestrial smarty-pants, your call. However, since a new cycle starts every 25,000 years or so, this time the sun brings the light of consciousness that will herald a potential era of peace and harmony on Earth. It’s all about moving out of our current, aggressive phase of human development and finding balance. They saw us creating a better life for the human race in unity with each other and our environment.

Those jungle thinkers thought that over about those 25 thousands of years there were 5,000 year phases; a female phase, a male phase, then another female and now we are in the male again and it is about to transition to the phase with the highest potential, the 5000 year and final part of the big cycle, the balance of the two sexes’ influences equally. This is where we can shine. But it’s NOT a done deal. By their calculations, our actions over the next 30 years will determine whether we achieve this balance or continue into aggressive decline.

So now is when we have the most potential to find our way to

Balance & Peace. 

I hope that’s what we will achieve. Many are working towards that goal. Many are not. They are hopefully the last gasps of various evils or just basic inertia. What can I do? It’s easy to feel helpless at the evils in the world, but I think individuals can make a difference by making personal choices day to day and voting. Get that inertia rolling until it builds and sweeps away the crap. But how?

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“…is considered less effort than what it takes to just wash a spoon when you’re done with it” (if you can’t read the tag line above.) Being conscious of the whole picture helps. How do our choices effect the world around us? Who was made miserable so I could buy a cheap shirt or how much energy and pollution was spent carting this water from Italy? Our dollars speak for us as much or more than our vote.

But mostly the Mayans saw us moving from an aggressive cycle to an harmonious one. So besides being kinder to the planet and it’s species, on a personal level perhaps ask, Can I work towards non-violent conflict resolution in my home, school, and city? Can I speak out against ridicule, disrespect and selfishness? What is more valuable? Having the most toys and just looking out for number one? You can’t take them with you and one is a lonely number. I’d rather have the satisfaction that I tried to make the world better, that my actions and words played a necessary role in advancing humanity. This is especially poignant for me because I have no kids. My influence on the world around me is my legacy.

I hope understanding the Mayan concept nurtures more peace and harmony for humans. The ideas have already been floating around for awhile. I salute, no, I clap for the people who embrace these ideals and hope to count myself as one if them even if I fail at times. I know that for instance just now I was conscious of choosing a militaristic slogan, stopped, and found a more positive word because I would rather turn our swords into plowshares. Think of all we could achieve if we didn’t spend so much time, energy and talent on warfare and exploitation. This awareness of language is about making a personal choice. It took a little thought but it was easy. These successes sustain me and evaporate the feeling of helplessness at the state of the world. It’s all you and I can do. We can be proud of that.

grinch-heartgrinch heart grewgrinch1

So don’t let the the Winter Solstice go by with an ‘I knew we weren’t going to be destroyed!’ laugh and forget about it. Keep the real Mayan message in your heart and mind that we can be transitioning over the next 30 years into balance and try to start with your self and the part of the world that you touch. That is your legacy.

Ω

Collection of 5 Banners : Space design

There’s a really good documentary about the absolute whole Mayan Calendar/Prophesy thing, from their meaning to our interpretation today including all the wacky stuff, by Peace Jam Productions.

“2012: The True Mayan Prophecy” includes interviews with Nobel Peace Laureate and Maya Indian Rigoberta Menchú Tum, Mayan Elders, leading scientists, and other Nobel Laureates including Desmond Tutu and the Dalai Lama, but is anything but dry. Highly recommended. Click here or go to http://peacejam.org/news/PeaceJam-Releases-Film—2012-The-True-Mayan-Prophecy-514.aspx to find out about it and how to see it. While you’re there be sure to check out Peace Jam itself, an organization of youth and Nobel Peace Laureates working together to change the world. Yes!

Grave of Saxon man and possessions circa 1000 A.C.E. in England. All images can be clicked on to see up close.

I want to be buried with everything I possess.

Okay, you might think that’s a bit extreme. Did I mean stuff like my car, too? Well, maybe, but it gets way weirder than that. Or does it? It might make perfect sense.

Think about how excited archeologists get when they open a tomb or find a burial spot where lots of the person’s possessions have been placed around them. It offers a unique perspective on life in those long ago times and what was important to people then.

Example of elite grave goods from Vama Necropolis, c. 4500-4000 B.C.E.

Then there’s the archeological digs that have no funerary goods to give us a window to previous times, so they end up sifting through the garbage heaps instead. Much can be learned from a dump. Even today landfills would give you a similar glimpse into what humans are really up to—what we consume and discard reads like a trend magazine, and a map of our trade connections, not to mention the foods we eat, and the type of health we have.

So what if I was to make my stuff into as perfect a time capsule as I can, and preserve it for some scientists to find a thousand or more years from now? What would I include?

Everything.

I’d start with all the books on my shelves, papers in my files, stories I’ve written, old diaries, photographs and other fragile papery things. I’d include the small folder of ephemera from trips like backpacking around Europe in the mid-1980s that has diaries, bus ticket stubs, currency exchange receipts and info pamphlets from castles and museums.

Vacuum pack anything!

To round it out, I’d ask my executor to gather an array of the current newspapers and magazines from the day I croak. A big dictionary and a set of encyclopedias would be nice, too. These would all be protected from the ravages of time by being sealed into vacuum-packed bags. (Note to self: get one of those plastic food-sealing machines that let people shrink-wrap food.)

An ancient Egyptian’s stuff.

I’d take all the clothes in my closets and drawers, shoes, bags, hats, scarves and gloves, costume jewelry, favorite bed sheets, and a selection of linens. Box up the toys from my childhood, artworks that I’ve made, the knick knacks and souvenirs, award trophies, puzzles, games, clocks, cell phones, and radios.

I realize that all the recording mediums we use except hard copies of written word become quickly obsolete five years after they’re made, let alone a few thousand years from now, but I’d include them as a novelty items. The machines that can play them will be part of this list anyway. Those who rely on the “Cloud” to store information will be disappointed; it will have blown away by then I’m afraid. So throw in computers, music players and music, movies and books on tape and CD collections, and perhaps instruction on how they would need 120-volt electrical power sources to run them!

A sickle for cutting down wheat stalks, a bowl, and a loaf of very old bread from Pompeii.

Would I stop there?

Ha ha, NO!

To give a rounded example of a life circa 20th-21st century, you’d have to include much more, like Pompeii gave us a frozen moment of real life in 79 A.D. I’m talking kitchen wares from shrimp picks to stock pots, glasses, crockery and flatware, napkins, dish soap and all the cleaning and bug killing chemicals found under the sink. To really go the distance, I would even include the (sealed) foods in my cupboards, fridge and freezer, contents of the trash and recycling bins. Hell, I’d even bag the compost separately. With a note saying what it was.

Sure wish I still had this baby. It died, so burying it would have been a cinch!

Contents of the bathroom? Of course. Gardening supplies? Yep. Furniture? Uh-huh. Tools and garaged items? Check. Which brings me to the car. I kinda think one of my younger family members might need a car, so I’d not deprive them, but if not, toss it in! The only other things that I wouldn’t include are my beloved art collection so others could enjoy the works of these artists, monies in the bank, (even though I’d probably include examples of coin and currency, in mint condition), and heirloom jewelry that goes to family, although a purist might, and previous human definitely did. Times have changed to include a sense of not wasting precious objects so photos and documentation will have to do in their stead. Once I read about a gutsy guy who wanted to be buried in his Corvette car. There was a big stink from his heirs trying to fight his wishes, but I think it got upheld in the end. Good for him.

Illustration of a boat burial from Gamla Uppsala, Sweden, circa 550–793 A.C.E.

Crazy enough for some, but I can see the far-thinking, big-picture people out there contemplating my idea as perhaps valid. An archeologist would have a field day finding this “horde”. They’d probably have a wing of some museum named after them.

Talk about a slice of life!

I know that my race, gender, economic strata, politics, country I live in, etc., etc. would heavily influence the nature of the goods and therefore not give an unbiased view of these times, but a lot could be discerned and extrapolated from many of my possessions. I mean, every one has cooking pots and uses soap, right? Well, I hope so, at least. I guess the homeless have a hard time. But as a general example, I think it would suffice. (See footnote)

So, being detail-oriented, I’ve worked out how this could happen.

I buy a cheap, arid lot in some forgotten corner of Arizona or somewhere. A place that mimics the dry, desiccating effects that preserved the Egyptian grave goods for so long. Dig a big pit and drop a cargo container in it, large enough to hold everything.

The container would be an easy way for my executors to pack and transport all my worldly possessions, too, because I do not see living at this site! Oh no. I leave Sonoma County, California ‘feet first’ as they say. However, I would include a photo documentation of my home inside and out so you could see where all these possessions lived. There would also be a formidable inventory, maybe even little tags tied to the bits giving their names and uses. It would all be explained by a statement of purpose and my biographical information so they’d know who I thought I was, and what I thought I was doing.

Ship cargo containers come in 2 to 3 sizes. Some architects are using them to create modular homes. Maybe I’ll live and be buried all in one seamless flow! Heh heh.

While the bulldozer is there to dig the hole, I’d also have them do deep trenches in a pretty pattern around it, filled with some differently colored rocks that were not native to the area. Something that can be seen from the air or still detected thousands of years from now as not a natural occurrence. Think Nasca Lines. Then mound up the dirt from the hole over the container, level the top and pour concrete on top with designs made out of lava rock embedded in it. I’m still working out what it would be. You can suggest one if you’d like in the comments section.

Final thoughts: I’d will the property to a land trust in perpetuity.  As long as it’s far enough from water and people, no one is going to want to live there anyway I hope, and want to grab my site. Remoteness might work in my disfavor if grave robbers get busy, but who’d want vacuum-packed thousand-year-old spaghetti or floor cleaner? However, I am getting an insight into what the Pharaohs must have obsessed about. Perhaps I need to arrange to bring the cargo container in at night and hire the bulldozer from far away so the locals don’t start wild rumors of buried treasure. Or maybe that would lead to wild rumors. Ack!

It would be a shame to have the site vandalized since most of the valuables by modern standards won’t be included. Let them think I’m some nutty new-ager wanting to be buried in the desert with swirly mandalas over my grave site. Maybe it will become a lover’s trysting site complete with my friendly ghost.

Still think I’m crazy? No? Cool. Yes? Oh well. My ghost will be laughing when my time on Earth is resurrected and people do dissertations on my stuff. I’ll be known as ‘Kim the Forseer’ or something. Maybe ‘Kim the Bizarre’. Ya know, I kinda like either one. Say, has anyone ever looked under the Nasca Lines? I’m just sayin’… 😉

Footnote: Status in the Archaeological Context  by Elise McCaugherty
When studying an ancient society or one that is a part of our modern world, Archaeologists always seem to be interested in the status of the deceased.  Status is generally defined as a stratified social order that humans tend to be organized within. There are many kinds of status such as political, religious, economic, or status based on your age or gender that you are either ascribed (born in to) or achieved (gradually earned throughout your life time).  There are many other kinds of status that effect our everyday life without even realizing it.  For example, corporate status, status within your household or family, status based on your education or even status based on how famous you are.  Our society seems to be obsessed with it, and without knowing it, most of the tasks we accomplish in life are aimed at increasing our status.
When measuring the status of a deceased individual, archaeologists generally look at the quality, rarity, and abundance of grave goods, osteology (healthier bones can mean higher status), shaping of the cranium and feet, evidence of continual modification or up-keep of the grave, monuments, or the amount of space their grave site is allotted.  All of these things can give us an indication of the individuals status, but archaeologists can never be too sure.  Grave goods could have been placed there by somebody else, the grave could have been looted, or items that are known today as ordinary, or inexpensive could have meant something completely different to that particular culture or society thousands of years ago.  It is important to assess the entire social context when indicating status.

I love history. I just mis-typed “live” instead of “love” and corrected it, but in actuality, living in history was what I wanted to talk about, so Freudian slip.

All of history is pretty damn interesting, and human history is more so since it’s focused on little navel-gazing us. Yet we don’t tend to see our living selves in history, unless it is recent. We do live in interesting times right now, but we also come from interesting times. How can we see ourselves in all of that other history?

The Roman Era wasn’t just some stale high school paper topic, you actually are related to people who lived then, even if they weren’t directly involved with Romans. You are here today because say, that dude in Roman times that you’re descended from fought as a centurion in Gaul and was given a plot of land there when he retired and married a local girl who became your great-times 40-grandmother. If he hadn’t, history would have changed and you wouldn’t be here right now reading this. Wow, huh? It seems obvious, but still, to feel that connection can give me a charge, like when I stare into the flames of a fire and think about how it is a common action that hundreds of generations of my ancestors have participated in, going back to the first harnessing of fire by humans.

Farther back, you can be proud that your evolutionary ancestors survived five or so cataclysmic events that wiped out 50-90% of the world’s species each time, struggling on to evolve into the being you are today.

When I combine history with genealogy I get a sense of what my immediate peeps might have gone through. For instance, two of my ancestors came from a part of England that was a hotbed of early Puritanism, and their town had a charismatic minister who led a group of locals to the new world at about the same time my peeps came over. Might they have been one of his flock? I wouldn’t have speculated about that if I hadn’t come across a reference to the minister somewhere else and put the two facts together. At the very least, they must have known about him and they settled in the same area around Boston.

Considered the worst cyclone to hit an urban area up to the present day.

More recently than that, history has affected us directly. This is where it gets really riveting, as one realizes how the threads of history, circumstance, chance and choice weave a complexity that is incomprehensible to grasp in it’s entirety. Only the individual threads can be examined, albeit fleetingly and perhaps not fully either. As an example, I think that one of the reasons I am alive today is because the 1896 tornado that totally devastated St. Louis so traumatized my 5-yr-old grandfather and his immigrant parents that he was afraid of storms for the rest of his life.

The storm information was dug up when I was doing genealogical research about his era and the light dawned when I put it together with family lore. Apparently all his life when a storm came up, my grandfather would quietly go hide in a closet, a fact that shamed my father and perhaps turned him into being a bit of a dare devil to compensate. Before America joined World War II in 1941, my father decided to join the air force in Canada, which led him to fly fighter planes in England. There, a buddy dragged him to a dance where he met my mother. The rest is my history, but it is just one tiny twirling fractal that composes my recent history.

Raymond G. Fusch (spelled Fuchs at the time) in his Spitfire christened after Mom. This almost made the cover of Life magazine! Dad was with the 133rd Eagle Squadron.

I remember dad marveling about consequences: how surviving the war when most of his comrades died made him aware of how quickly our lives can change; how making a left turn instead of a right when driving a car could affect the rest of your life if you avoided or caused an accident, sending you to a completely different possible future. He was in awe of tiny moments.

Bill Rivas’ painting “Left Turn”

What’s also awesome is how these infinitesimally small occurrences that affect so much are in turn constantly dancing with other tiny moments in their own fractal spin.

It’s not enough to trace one fractal, when it’s more like 3- or 4-dimensional fractals we’re actually observing as they twirl and collide. If we could see them, we would seem to be swimming effortlessly in a psychedelic soup, while fate stirs the spoon in a chaotic ballet of movement. Then, just when I seem to have a handle on a thread of circumstance, more soup is added to the bowl, building on it to reach into the future.

Circumstance twirling away

What threads have I set in motion? Will one of my baby great-nieces read this one day and be spurred to ponder these age old questions of life, leading her to a college course in history or science that will change her life because in it she fell in love with a career or a classmate?

Life IS awesome that way. It makes me realize that perhaps I can make a difference in the world. My actions and choices do have exponential repercussions and if I live with mindfulness, we as a species will be able to effect positive change. Social justice and environmental sustainability really are within our grasp.

I share Dad’s awe. I feel something akin to love thinking about these marvelous movements having exponential effect down the time-line. It makes me glad to be alive, to think, and be curious about it all. There’s gratitude, too, a sense that I must treasure the gift of life that required nothing of me to receive. Thank you little butterfly in Africa. Perhaps your flutter eventually culminated in an impressive storm in North America over a century ago, influencing my ancestors and therefore I am here today.

The Egg, Part 2 (sort of)

Ha! I found the exact cartoon to illustrate the thought I had in the previous post “The Egg, Part 1.” It was about getting to the pearly gates and asking The One in Charge to answer the old question of which came first, the chicken or the egg? I guess there really is nothing new under the sun.

Funny. Well I was going to further delve into eggness for this Part 2, but I’m resisting the tyranny of demand to fulfill the prediction that there would be a Part 2. So I think I’ll save any loose bits of egg musings for next Easter. Besides, the royal wedding of WIlliam and Kate has me distracted. I taped it last night as it was on Greenwich Mean Time which was surely mean as it was from 1 am to 6 am in my time zone. Thank goodness for television recording. Mom is visiting and will lend her British insights to the proceedings as we eat cucumber sandwiches, sip Earl Grey tea, and marvel at the pomp and ceremony that the English do so well. Cheerio!

The Egg, Part 1

So, with Easter coming up, I’ve been thinking about eggs. Usually I get a kick out of places that advertise banner headlines of “Easter Egg Hunts for Tots!” The image of a giant, evil Easter egg hunting down a helpless, juicy tot is just too devilishly delicious.

Which starts me dreaming up new ways to prepare deviled eggs. Hmm, mix the yolks with wasabi, Greek yogurt and ground pine nuts? Or sour cream, chopped capers, lemon zest and caviar? Anything with curry gets me drooling, too.

And while we are in the realm of the egg, let us consider again the old question — Which came first? The chicken or the egg? I’ve debated whether to use this one at the pearly gates when I get there and am allowed to ask the One In Charge my one, freebie question. I think it’ll lighten the mood.  (Didn’t know you get one question did you?)
But I’m getting ahead of myself.

We can joke and debate the nature of this enigma, but my Catholic upbringing taught me that pretty much, the chicken came first. (The fact that I substituted a chicken for a human should not be seen as a commentary on the human race.) Adam and Eve were then left to figure out procreation on their own. That must have been interesting…….hmmm…..heh-heh………….oh, sorry, I was pondering that for a moment. Back to the egg. I like to keep an open mind about which came first, so let’s look closer at the glorious ovoid. Check this out:

“The long road to conception actually begins seven months before a woman is born, when microscopic eggs start to form in the buds that will become her ovaries. The eggs a woman is born with — usually about 2 million — are all she will ever have.” — Time Magazine Archive

So, women are born with a full complement of ovarian eggs. It’s not something that occurs as we mature. That means YOU were already poised to burst into life when your mother was born, just as she was in her mother, and her mother and so on, a connected thread since the beginning of life. Before that, the components of our eventual life were part of the carbon, hydrogen and trace minerals that make up the matter in space. It could be couched that we have been alive forever, that all life is already immortal. How is this different from describing the progression of life from two parents to a child? Because that reasoning sees us starting at conception or birth. Thinking of how the eggs were already in place seems to make the stronger argument that we actually come from eternity.

Salvador Dalí. Click on image to see close up.

Perhaps our vision of the afterlife is backward. When we die it is the end of our immortality. But this can’t be true either, since life and death is in the same continuum of recycling that got us here in the first place. The building blocks of our universe just get rearranged into something else. All life was once space dust, water, minerals, nuclear fusion, gravity and amino acids. It has interacted and transformed over time, and death has been no barrier. Millions of years of dead fish settled on the ocean floor, were compressed and chemically changed into petroleum and then gave back the energy stored in them. It’s the planet’s way of immortalizing fish. Same with plant life turning into coal. So life as we know it is transmogrification. (To change into a different shape or form, especially one that is fantastic or bizarre.) Our corporal body, which has been alive in some form or another forever, will revert back to building blocks, even if it’s just as smoke and ash from cremation.

Now, the soul is another matter and I’ll leave that up to you. I read recently that we just borrow life and then give it back, which leaves it wonderfully open-ended whether or not our spirit walked into the Library of Existence and checked out the book of __ (your name here) leaving it free to choose the next book when this one is due, or just take a little nap over on that comfy sofa for a bit.

Projected answer at the pearly gates? Neither the chicken nor the egg. The joke’s on us.

Time to start hunting for tots.

I think it’s funny how sometimes imagination is more real than reality. Dreams can be like that. So can paintings and books. When I visited the Roman Coliseum, I looked around hoping to imagine the ancient scene. Could I get a sense of what is was like so long ago, to transport my knowledge of history into the things I was experiencing at that moment? Here was the same wind, the same coolness of the stone seats, the echo of the structure, but what it would sound like with a tens of thousands of early Romans cheering and screaming? But even shutting my eyes and making the tourists go away failed to transport me into that time. Historical places I’ve been to never seem to be as vivid as reading a well-researched book, curled up on my bed but actually in the story. That’s when a good writer can make me be in that spot and feel the history. Travel is thrilling, and seeing iconic monuments you’ve heard about all your life is a strange but cool déjà vu, but I find it hard to superimpose the history onto the real thing when I get there.

Perhaps I need to stop trying so hard. Let books take me to the past and let the present make new history with me in it. After all, everyone long gone who saw the same area or building that I see now were occupying their slice of history, too. They had their present and the past to think about like I do. And it’s a long timeline. We tend to clump history into blocks, but reality is naturally much more drawn out. For Romans like Pausanius who wrote what’s considered the first tour guide, the wonders of the already ancient Greeks, Egyptians and Mediterranean world were beginning to be visited by tourists. 600 years before that the Greek Herodotus travelled extensively to research his Histories. There’s wonderful set of novels by Pauline Gedge which bring to life ancient Egypt. In one she writes about a noble who is an early archeologist of sorts, looking for ancient scrolls in tombs well over a thousand years old. And he lived in 1300 B.C.E.! Somehow I thought this occurred only in the past couple of hundred years or so. Silly me.

Egyptian Pyramids at Giza

The ancient was ancient to the ancient. Weird realization for me. Just like it’s weird to pull back from the forward edge of history and place myself on the long timeline. What will the history of my era seem like? I read somewhere that future generations will look back on our time as “the last of the ancient civilizations.” Wow. That lumps us in with the Assyrians and Babylonians, not some cutting-edge modern society that we think we are. Is this right? Do we just have the arrogance of newness assuming it’s better? In many ways it can be, but I sense the thin veneer of civility over the underlying chaos. I felt that when I lived in Los Angeles during the Rodney King Riots of 1992. That made me realize how little the police have control. How we just collectively agree to be civil but circumstance can bring out rage and  misbehavior. The news is still full of current genocides, religious and secular violence, greed, corruption and exploitation. I think warfare holds us back so tragically. It may be good for business but it’s not good for everyone else. A fantastic writer named Barbara Tuchman wrote “For belligerent purposes, the 14th century, like the 20th (italics mine) commanded a technology more sophisticated than the mental or moral capacity that guided its use.” [From “A Distant Mirror: The Calamitous 14th Century”] Our modern technology can be used for good or evil. Seems like she meant that we need to let our moral compass catch up with our powers of creativity and imagination.

But are we still ancient? I have hope for the advances in communication for pooling out knowledge and connecting people in other endeavors – just look at the democratic stabs at revolution going on in north Africa and the Middle East right now, made easier by instant news, cell phones and the social networks like facebook. Yet democracy is an old idea, written about 2,500 years ago in Greece. Based on that time line it’s going to take awhile longer to spread everywhere.

I have hope that combining the world’s knowledge of Science and Medicine will advance us but they are still pretty clueless in many ways. We have made great strides in a short time compared to before, but there’s so much we don’t know and a lot of what is invented is bungled and misunderstood, like DDT, the effect of greenhouse gasses, and all those medications that are discontinued after problems arise. The whole genetic engineering thing gives me the creeps, just the type of scenario Ms. Tuchman describes. I think we should tread way more carefully when we carry that big stick.

So maybe we are still an ancient civilization, more in the middle or late stages of channeling our brute nature to more positive endeavors until we can move on to the modern era. When true democracy, freedom of thought, eradication of poverty and cessation of warfare cover this earth, then people will be able to say they are truly advanced, peaceable heirs to all who have gone before. I hope they are proud of our achievements to better ourselves, see our struggle to create a better future and not focus on the negative like our seeming apathy towards global warming. I hope that glorious future is coming. I hope they will stand in front of our monuments and wonder what it was like to live in our time.

Dallas Cowboys Stadium in Arlington, TX, USA. Site of Superbowl XLV (heh heh, we're still looking to Rome aren't we?)