Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Channeling Anger in a Positive Way

(This post is a follow-up to yesterday’s post.)

I learned years ago that emotions follow actions. If I feel a little blue I take a walk, read a humorous short story, listen to some good music or think about something good, beautiful or noble. These actions change my emotional state.

How can I deal with anger related to destruction of the environment, human caused species extinction, lack of integrity in government and corporate greed void of ethics? I do some things. I get active. In spite of the hopelessness of succeeding, I try. What kinds of things?

First, I try to have as little negative impact on the environment as possible. For example, Julie and I have been camping and backpacking for years but we’ve never built a fire. I would enjoy watching the flames of a small camp fire but wilderness should remain natural and untouched. I don’t want to leave a blackened fire ring and signs of our passage. After wind and rain, our footsteps should disappear and the area should appear pristine and untouched for the next hikers.

Second, I try to limit consumption. When we shopped for a manufactured house to place on our land, we asked to see single-wide models with two bedrooms. Salesmen tried their best to sell us a larger house than we needed or wanted. In the end, we found the right house – about 750 square feet. We’ve lived in it for the last year and have been well pleased. A small house translates into fewer trees cut, less waste taken to a landfill and less oil consumed in its construction.

Third, I seek knowledge, example and encouragement from others. This coming Saturday I’m taking a class on grey water at the local community college. I could read and research on my own and get the same knowledge but I would miss the sense of community and the opportunity to meet others who are working to preserve nature.

Fourth, I’m compiling a list and plan on implementing many positive actions that foster a healthy environment. I’ve read enough about the problems and the causes. I don’t want to hear more lamenting. I want to do as many realistic, positive things as possible. There are many, many simple things that can be done. Examples include taking a canvas bag to the grocery store rather than accepting plastic bags, buying from local farmers rather than buying food that has been transported hundreds or thousands of miles, composting, recycling, conserving water and picking up litter along roads. We’ve all done these things but I’m working to compile a list of a few hundred items. More about this later.

I think you get the idea. Rather than focus on the negative, I’m trying to work for the positive. The irony is “I think it’s hopeless”. More land will be developed, more species will become extinct, global warming will continue to accelerate due to human activity. Corporations will continue to exploit. The government will continue to respond to dollars rather than the public good.

These actions help mitigate my anger but don't eliminate it. It's not in my nature to accept hopelessness or to admit that any problem short of death has no solution.

Interestingly, what’s best for the environment is what maximizes my happiness and contentment. I don’t feel like I’m denying myself or doing anything extreme. I don’t live a life of hardship. I live simple and comfortable. For me, that’s the key – living in harmony with the natural world.

I think effort is more important than success. When I come to the end of my life, I’ll not ask myself “Did I make a difference?” Rather, I’ll ask “Did I honestly, sincerely try? Did I try to leave a healthy earth for others? Did I have reverence for non-human life? Did I see value in the inanimate world – a value than can’t be measured in dollars?”

Monday, February 27, 2006

Anger without a Channel

About three years ago, on a Friday afternoon, I was walking across a parking lot at a local grocery store when a young man walked toward me talking on a cell phone. It irritated me. Perhaps anger is a better description of what I felt. It was an irrational and purely emotional reaction. I always – always -- try to react rationally. I want to understand myself and my world. The young man was a stranger; he wasn’t talking loud; he was walking and not driving; he was clean and dressed neatly; his conversation and language weren’t offensive; he wasn’t doing anything that anyone could find offensive.

Why did I have the negative emotional reaction? Because, for me, the cell phone represents all that is wrong in the world. It was a Friday afternoon and I was on my way north to Utah, the Arizona strip, the Grand Canyon or somewhere remote that I don’t remember. I remember the experience because of the young man’s innocence and my inappropriate emotional reaction. I need – need – wilderness, nature and self-reliance. It’s not a choice but a need. After being around traffic, noise and population, I need to retreat to the natural world. The cell phone is the antithesis of what I value.

Is this rational? I think I can argue that it is. I’m an animal and a product of evolution. Genetically I’m constructed to need food, water, nature, a degree of danger and self-reliance.

I was raised to be man. My father modeled unemotional self-reliance. He was compassionate but unemotional and independent. He volunteered during WWII out of a sense of responsibility. He taught me that “a hero is just a man who does what has to be done.”

So, here I am, a man who been raised to be self-reliant, to be responsible, to deny fear, to be prepared to stare Satan eye-to-eye without blinking. I find myself living in a shrinking world that is being paved, regulated, restricted, polluted and threatened by corporations and governments.

Species are going extinct. The planet is warming. The federal government is weakening laws intended to protect the environment. There are plans to include items in the next budget to sell off national forest and other federal lands to finance a war that I find aggressive, dishonest, immoral, illegal and evil. The problem is that I’m powerless to fight back.

I could take the attitude “What the hell! I’ll not live to see the effects of global warming. I’ll have enough wilderness lands during my lifetime. I did my time in the military and my son did ten years so we’re immune to the immediate effects of the war.” If I had been an orphan or my father hadn’t been who he was, I may not be who I am and could take this attitude but, such is not the case.

Accidentally, I found Death Clock (http://deathclock.com -- a front end to a health site). I entered my details and learned I will die on September 27, 2020 – just 14 years from now. I changed my mode of reacting to life from “normal” to “optimistic” and learned I’ll live an additional 16 years. If I’m optimistic, I’ll live until year 2036!

I’m optimistic about everything in life with the exception of government, corporations and their effects on the environment and the future. By comparison to government and corporations, I welcome terrorism. I can fight back against terrorists with optimism and hope. I have a chance of winning. Terrorist attacks are decisive, black and white events. On the other hand, corporate and government attacks are slow and colored gray. I think we become captives before we know the attack has begun. I have few options and they are weak, sterile options.

It would be interesting to live in a democracy. In a true democracy, I could speak my opinion, appeal to reason, attempt to convince others and vote on legislation. In reality, I live in a “representative” democracy. I have the opportunity to vote for a group who elect the president but I don’t elect him or her. I have the opportunity to vote for senators and representatives who make the laws but I don’t have the opportunity to vote on many laws. The problem, as I see it, is that these elected officials don’t represent me or the majority of Americans. Over sixty percent of the population can express opinions and desires but the elected officials respond to corporate dollars.

Do you think my reaction is inappropriate? If I see someone abusing a child I feel anger that leads to an aggressive reaction. Reason leads me to temper the aggressive tendency and to channel the anger appropriately. I see the earth being slowly destroyed and the hopes of future generations being stolen. I see animals, plants and the natural world being destroyed and I react with anger. I would be ashamed if I reacted with apathy.

Do you disagree? That’s OK. Do you want to point out that I’m wrong? Don’t try. Honestly, I’m not capable of change. There are very few things I know for certain and this is one of them.

What can I do with my anger? How can I channel it appropriately? I have some ideas that I’ll save for the next post.

(I had a wonderful weekend. Saturday morning was filled with an amazing array of birds at our feeder and watering tub. In the afternoon we hiked in the Cedar Bench Wilderness and stayed the night at a small resort that we visit occasionally. On Sunday morning we met an amazing couple from California. He is 81 and worked on several original computing projects in the 1950s including the MICR account numbers on the bottom of checks. To borrow and modify a phrase from a friend: “Life is sweet in spite of the damned government and corporations!”

I’m not interested in getting a debate started so I’m turning off comments for this series of posts.)

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Standing Back

“Why are you always the last one out of the building?”

I asked this question of my father. He worked at a small machine shop that manufactured unusual specialty items that were never mass produced. About sixty employees worked at the shop. He walked to work and, after I began driving, I would occasionally pick him up after work.

Generally, as I entered the building, I would see a line of people waiting at the time clock and the employees would begin punching time cards and rushing – some actually running -- across the parking lot as soon as the buzzer sounded.

He was always last and when I posed the question he said that when the five minute buzzer sounded at 4:25 pm he continued working until 4:30. Why?

“By working five extra minutes:
  • I don’t get jostled at the sinks washing grease, oil and dirt from my hands.
  • I don’t have to wait in line at the time clock.
  • I don’t risk getting run over in the parking lot.
  • I insure my employer gets a full day’s work
  • I experience less stress.”
I was seventeen or eighteen when this happened and the experience colored my life

When going somewhere (work, appointments, etc) I try to leave a few minutes early and take a book. If I get held up or arrive early then I have something to read. At airports I stand back and wait until others get their luggage at baggage claim. I use the time to watch families and old friends greet one another.

When driving I try to go with the flow. I’ve done the math and, on a twenty mile trip, the difference between doing the speed limit of 55 and speeding at 65 is three and one-third minutes. Three minutes hardly makes it worth speeding, risking a ticket, and taking risks passing on two-lane roads. I find it much more enjoyable to leave a few minutes early.

I’ve learned to stand back and enjoy life. That was a good gift from my father.

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

For Your Consideration

"Of the 100 largest economies in the world today, fifty-one are corporations, while only forty-nine are countries (based on a comparison of corporate sales and countries' gross domestic product). The 200 largest companies' combined sales are bigger than the combined economies of every nation in the world, excluding the top ten nations. The 1999 sales of each of the top five corporations exceeded the GDP of 182 nations."
The Hydrogen Economy - Jeremy Rifkin - pg 88

"In the United States, five companies, Exxon/Mobil, Chevron-Texaco, BP Amoco-ARCO, Phillips-Tosco, an dMarathon, control 41 percent of domestic oil exploration and production, 47 percent of domestic refining an d61 percent of the domestic retail market. After tax profits for the five companies rose from $16 billion in 1999 to $40 billion in 2000, a 146 percent increase in twelve months. After-tax profits for the same companies in the first quarter of 2001 rose again, from $8.7 billion to $12 billion, a 38 percent rise in just three months. The oil industry's soaring profits stand in stark contrast to the 43 percent decline in income of the 1,400 other largest U.S. corporations in the first quarter of 2001."
The Hydrogen Economy - Jeremy Rifkin - pp 77-78

"Over the next few years, the topping-out of Russian oil production, as well as of oil from the North Sea, the Alaskan north slope, the areas off the shores of West Africa, and other regions, will leave the Middle East in the enviable position of supplier of last resort before the end of the decade. Even making allowances for inflated reserve figures, it is generally agreed that two-thirds of the present conventional-oil reserves in the world lie in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia alone possesses 26 percent of the total global reserves of oil.

Moreover, while other giant fields, especially those in the U.S. and Russia, have peaked and are now on the decline, the Middle East fields are still ascending the bell curve. The reserve-to-production ratio (R/P) tells the story. The R/P is the number of years that reserves of oil will last at current production rates. In the United States, where more than 60 percent of the recoverable oil has already been produced, the R/P is 10/1. In Norway, the R/P is also 10/1, and in Canada it is 8/1. By contrast, in Iran the R/P is 53/1, in Saudi Arabia 55/1, in the United Arab Emirates 75/1, in Kuwait 116/1, and in Iraq 526/1."

The Hydrogen Economy - Jeremy Rifkin - pp. 33-34

"Benefits from Iraqi oil fields are hardly worth the long-term, multi-year military cost. Instead, Bush must have went into Iraq to defend his Empire. Indeed, this is the case: two months after the United States invaded Iraq, the Oil for Food Program was terminated, the Iraqi Euro accounts were switched back to dollars, and oil was sold once again only for U.S. dollars. No longer could the world buy oil from Iraq with Euro. Global dollar supremacy was once again restored. Bush descended victoriously from a fighter jet and declared the mission accomplished-he had successfully defended the U.S. dollar, and thus the American Empire."

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

99% Attitude

I think life is more attitude than anything else.

A blog I check occasionally has been deleted. The author said that complaining just led to more complaining and decided it was time to quit. Sad. The blog had some good things to offer as well as some complaining.

Just as an athlete trains to compete in some event so we can train our minds. I don't mean learn new knowledge but train our minds to react and respond more quickly in a certain way.

I can train my mind and develop emotional attitudes. If I think negative thoughts then it becomes easier after a period of time. Ranting and bitching lead to more ranting and bitching.

The good news is I can do the opposite. I can focus on the positive and after a while I find it easier to be positive and happy.

One of my basic tenets is that life is a choice. I can choose to be happy or I can choose to be unhappy. The choice doesn't mean that I'll instantly become content but that I must work for contentment and happiness. Perhaps a better way to state it is that "I can choose actions that lead to happiness or unhappiness."

Personally, I find blogs and people who are always positive, bubbly and sugary a little trying and frustrating. Life isn't all roses. Sometimes a little realistic complaining is a good thing. I read and think about some negative things such as corporate evil, peak oil, global warming, the war and political corruption. However, I try to limit my reading and thinking to constructive ways and for a limited amount of time. Ultimately, I find it best to lay these subjects aside and choose to return to the good things in life.

I think life is 99% attitude and a choice. Life is a balancing game wherein I balance the good and the bad and make sure the scales always tip toward the good. It seems to work for me.

Monday, February 20, 2006

Healthy Living

Lately, I look in the mirror and I wonder “who in hell is that old man staring back at me? I don’t know him. I’ve never seen him before.” By the end of this calendar year I’ll celebrate my sixtieth birthday and begin my seventh decade. I don’t feel that old.

I subscribe to emails related to health issues published by Real Age. The emails summarize research findings and provide links to the research. Today’s tip encourages eating a whole (as in whole cereal) breakfast: “Reduce your risk of metabolic disease with a heartier bowl of cereal in the morning.” I’m told that if I follow this and other dietary advice my real age will be younger than 59.

I find it interesting that the hierarchy seems to be diet, exercise and relationships. If I eat healthy I may (may – as in don’t blame us) live longer – perhaps 2 years. Exercise is more important than diet and may extend my life by 4 years. The most important issue is relationships. Supportive, nurturing relationships may extend my life by sixteen years. That’s right – sixteen as in one six. Relationships lead diet and exercise by a huge margin.

Did you know that happy marriages have just as many problems as bad marriages? One of the differences between a happy and a bad marriage is the number of good experiences. Compared to unhappy couples, happily married couples have more positive experiences that offset the bad experiences. I guess the same principle applies to health. I can’t escape stress. I live in the US where a healthy diet is almost impossible unless a person eats every meal at home and never dines with friends. I work at a sedentary job so getting enough exercise is always a challenge. In spite of these bad lifestyle experiences, I can more than offset them by good relationships.

Surprisingly, it appears that friends may do more for health than family members! Also, not all friends need be human. Single people with pets live longer.

My number one relationship is with myself. Self respect and self esteem are most important. My second most important relationship is with Julie. She’s my wife so that makes her family but, more importantly, she’s my best friend.

Julie and I are planning a trip to Death Valley next weekend. Yesterday, we began planning a three-day backpacking trip to the Grand Canyon. These aren’t vacations. They’re work. We’re working to maintain our health through exercise and healthy relationships with one another and with nature.

I have twenty-some years of formal education but the really important lessons I’ve had to learn from experience -- trial and error, good fortune and varied experiences. I’ve learned some things about healthy living that appear to be useful. I was pleased to learn that, beginning at any age, we can significantly improve our health and enjoyment of life. I may not live to be 100 but that doesn’t matter. I’ll keep learning and enjoy my remaining years.

I make it a rule never to give advice, but, if I was going to break that rule, I would advise you to get off your butt and invite a friend to take a walk in a quiet park. Feed the ducks and watch the kids playing. I'll bet you would feel better. But, as I said, I don't give advice. I was just thinking out loud.

Thursday, February 16, 2006

An Unexpected Lesson

By second grade I had learned the benefits of work. If I wanted something, I could have it if I worked for it. My first business venture was walking the roads looking for bottles worth two cents each. That doesn’t’ sound very profitable in today’s world but in the early 1950s a coke cost eight cents, an ice cream cone was five cents and a Saturday matinee was ten cents. Five empty pop bottles would buy two hours of cartoons, short clips, previews and a feature western movie.

I remember the good ol’ days with fondness. I would wander a huge area without fear because it was a kind, gentle world where strangers, kidnappings and evil were unknown. I would walk to town when less than ten years old and feel as safe as I did at home.

In 1956 we moved to western New York state and my world collapsed but not my need for money. I discovered grape vineyards, strawberry and tomato fields and work permits issued by the schools. I found myself working with itinerant Puerto Ricans who would sing and whistle in the fields just as I had seen and heard in the movies. I couldn’t speak Spanish and many of them couldn’t speak English so I have memories of wondering what they were saying and being amazed that they could function and survive in a foreign culture.

I think I was twelve or thirteen when one Saturday my father went with me on my first job to pick grapes. As we filled large wooden crates, he watched others to make sure the crates were full, questioned another worker about the job and talked with me about working.

My surprise came at the end of the day. He told me that he was tired and hadn’t felt like working but he wanted to make sure I was doing a good job. He game me the money he earned that day! I don’t remember how much we made. I don’t remember what I did with the money. I clearly remember being surprised and learning an important lesson – not about working but about being a father.

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

California Dreaming

I’m in Pleasanton, California for six days for training related to work. Everything is clean, new and – in keeping with the name of the town – pleasant. I walked five miles tonight trying to find a small quiet restaurant to get a light meal and read a book. It’s Valentines Day and everything was full and people were waiting to be seated. Finally, I settled on a bookstore with a café. As I walked and searched for a quiet place, I thought about the twists and turns of my life.

I lived the first ten years of my life among the coal mines on the Virginia and West Virginia border. We heated with coal and had running water. My grandmother cooked with wood and did not have in-door plumbing. Each month we got a “light” bill rather than an electric bill because electricity was needed for lights and, perhaps, a radio. I remember my first encounters with a television, an escalator, a four-lane street and an electric doorbell. The concept of owning a house was unthinkable because, at an early age, I learned that “rich” people own houses and we weren’t rich. My father bought his first house when he was 52 and I was a senior in high school. He made the last house payment when he 72 – less than two weeks before he died.

Why do I feel uneasy being here in Pleasanton among so much affluence? The cost of this one week of training for me – fee, plane, hotel and meals -- is more than my father made in any year during his life.

I think I was blessed to be raised with nature and my needs being met rather than being raised with my wants met. I’m content and happy without affluence and things. That’s good. On the other hand, I think I’m handicapped in some ways because I find it difficult to support “progress”. Building, consuming, bigger and better leave me thinking “No, that doesn’t contribute to happiness. It detracts from contentment.” That makes me the odd person in conversations. I know others don’t want to hear continual objections about progress so, most of the time, I remain silent and listen. I don’t try to convince them of the correctness of my opinions because I’m not sure my opinions are correct. Perhaps affluence and things do bring true happiness to many or most people.

As I walked tonight, I watched the moon but it seemed muted compared to the city lights. I enjoyed the breeze but longed for the quiet of the country at home. Yesterday, I saw a hawk circling above a five-story building and thought how it seemed to be lost and out of its environment. This urban world feels alien and foreign but it’s home to more people than the countryside. Over fifty percent of the world lives in cities.

My life has taken twists and turns but I always find my way home. On Saturday I’ll be back to the rabbits, coyotes, antelope and birds. They may not be glad to see me, but I’ll certainly be happy to see them.

Perhaps the first few years of life are the most important. Perhaps those first ten years defined me for the rest of my life. Maybe it’s genetic and I need the quiet solitude of nature. Regardless, I am who I am and I don’t want to change. I’m content being me.

Monday, February 13, 2006

Religion or Poverty and Hopelessness

“It called upon the faithful to create a just and humane society, one that ministered to the weak and took care of the poor, and in which all people lived with love and respect for their fellow human beings. . . . The mission of every upholder of the faith was to redeem history by creating a society that mirrored one’s faith. . . . To live a spiritual life is to lead a just life in a compassionate society.”

These sentences caught my attention. I didn’t expect to find them in a book on hydrogen as a fuel. The author was describing a certain religion and it was a pleasant surprise to find this section in the book. The book I’m reading is The Hydrogen Economy by Jeremy Rifkin. I’m halfway through the book and he has discussed energy, history, society, economics, environment, global warming and religion but not hydrogen -- yet. I find the book fascinating and recommend it.

The religion referenced in the opening sentences is Islam. I’m beginning to think I’m irresponsible for not knowing more about Islam. What I do know is third and fourth hand knowledge. Personally, I’ve never had a Muslim as a friend, I’ve never talked to a Muslim about his faith nor have I read the Qur’an. I think that’s grossly irresponsible of me.

I need to know more about the history of the Middle East and current conditions. Like most Americans, I tend to focus on the perceived problems and fears that we confront but the Middle East has equally serious problems.

“Saudi Arabians like to say ‘My father rode a camel, I drive a car, my son rides a jet airplane – his son will ride a camel.’ While one-quarter of all the remaining oil reserves in the world lie in Saudi Arabia, there is an almost fatalistic sense among many Saudis that they are a country living on ‘borrowed time’.” What happens when the oil is gone? How will Saudis sustain their economy? Saudi Arabia “has had to spend more than it takes in, running a budget deficit every year for the past fifteen years”.

“According to the World Bank, the average income in what is known as the Islamic Belt…is less than $3,700 a year, half the world average of $7,350. Even worse, the countries of the Islamic Belt are not just poor but are continuing to lose ground to other developing nations. For example, in 1950, Egypt and South Korea enjoyed approximately the same standard of living. Today, South Korea’s is five times that of Egypt’s.”

I wonder what we are threatened by – religion or poverty and hopelessness?

Saturday, February 11, 2006

An Unromantic Story

I liked being a feral husband. I had returned to the wild and an eighth inch of dust on the furniture didn’t bother me. I loved waking up by myself with a sense of excitement and anticipation. I woke up to my day and could do anything I wanted whenever I wanted in any way I wanted. I didn’t have to discuss anything with anyone. I enjoyed travel and one spring day I planned my summer and purchased fifteen plane tickets. Life was wonderful. Sometimes a little lonely, but wonderful.

Then it happened. She came into my office one day and said “You walk every evening. Can I walk with you?” Being somewhat naïve, I said yes. Over the next few weeks I learned the truth of ‘hell hath no fury like a woman scorned.’ When her anger kicked in I had trouble keeping up. My legs ached, my lungs burned. I listened as she vented. I listened because I was too exhausted to walk at that pace and talk at the same time.

The days turned to weeks then to months then to years. As she expressed sadness at the loss of home and family I encouraged her to make one more effort not expecting her to actually do it. She phoned her ex and made an unsuccessful effort. When she told me about the phone call, I concealed my fear. Not long after that, she heard that he had remarried. I felt sorrow for her but also a sense of relief.

We continued to spend time together. We met for breakfast, had supper at one or the other’s apartment and began to watch “our shows”. I am no longer naïve. When a woman uses the phrase “our show” then it’s serious whether he knows it or not. Finally, it got to the point that each evening she would set the coffee timer for breakfast, turn off the TV, open the door and put me out.

We had discussed marriage but I always drug my feet. I liked my time alone. I enjoyed being in control of my life. Finally, I knew that I couldn’t imagine not being with her. I decided to ask, not discuss marriage but ask, her to marry. This was a big step and I wanted it to be on a memorable occasion. Sure, anyone can rent a limo, make reservations at a classy restaurant, etc, etc. I didn’t want it to be artificial but I wanted it to be special and memorable so I began watching for the right occasion.

One weekend, June I think, we went camping in Caprock Canyon on a Friday night. I took an old, large tent since we would be in an organized campground and we would be camping close to the truck. The tent needed some maintenance like sealing the seams but it rarely rains.

On Saturday morning, about 6:30, it began to rain. It wasn’t a gentle rain but a torrent. No, the tent didn’t begin leaking. It was more like a stream. As we pulled the sleeping bags away from the river running across the floor of the tent and listened to the thunder and the rain beating on the tent, I knew, I just instinctively knew, this was the memorable moment that I had been waiting for. I pulled her close – because the stream of water had changed course – gazed into her eyes and said …. Well, I guess you know what I said.

Her reaction was swift. She jumped up, began packing things in the rain. I tried to assure her that the jewelry stores weren’t open yet and that I didn’t think there was a shortage on engagement rings. By noon, under cloudy skies, we were in Lubbock, Texas and the jewelers were smiling.

As they say, the rest is history.

Julie is more than my best friend. Truly, I can’t imagine life without her. There are millions of women in the world but there’s no one else with whom I want to spend the rest of my life and there’s no one else to whom I want to say “I love you”.

Friday, February 10, 2006


On Killing : The Psychological Cost of Learning to Kill in War and Society by Dave Grossman

I read this book a few years ago. The author is a former officer and the son of a career officer. He researched the effects of killing on those doing the killing. Three things stand out in my memory.

  • Two percent of the population can kill without remorse or grief. These people have no conscience.

  • Ninety-eight percent of the population suffer and finally reach a breaking point past which they cannot continue.

  • The military has found ways to extend a soldier’s breaking point but ultimately that point will be reached and the soldier will suffer psychologically, perhaps for the rest of his or her life.

War becomes acceptable and tolerable when it is dehumanized.

Air Force personnel do not see the enemy, civilians and children and aren’t affected by killing in the same way as the infantry soldier who sees the person as he dies and sees the broken, bloodied bodies. There is no way to dehumanize war for the infantry soldier.

It’s easy to dehumanize war for the general public. Label the enemy dead as “terrorists”. Portray them as subhuman. Don’t permit the media to show photos or film of the dead, the dying, and the torn bodies.

It’s easy to dehumanize war for the general public. Show photos and memorial services with clean coffins draped in a flag. Show politicians calling the fallen soldiers heroes. Show an old photo of the soldier smiling in a crisp uniform, but never, ever show the mangled body.

It’s impossible to dehumanize war for those in the midst of it – for the dead and injured and their families.

For me, when I see a young soldier I don’t see a hero. I see a victim who may be suffering silently, painfully. I try to imagine the horrors forever trapped in his or her mind.

Regardless of how I feel about a specific war, this war or any war, I feel anger toward the politicans who start them and I feel compassion for the innocent victims, soldiers and civilians, who pay the price – whether American or not.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

I Can't Escape

I found the following comment by “g” on another blog.

“I cried too. Because I'm one of the people everyone in the Church, well the only Church that I thought there was at least, is told to hate, and stay away from. I've been more hurt by people in the Church than anyone else. I've been made fun of, beat up, and abused, all from people in the Church, and all in the name of their God.

I had never been shown love from a person who says they believe in Christ, and up till I met you I thought that Jesus was a teacher of hate, and prejudice. And just reading some of the comments you get, and some of the people that you link too, I now know that there is a totally different Jesus that people follow. One that does not hate and hurt people.

Thanks for being a safe place, and for showing love. It's allowed me to start to learn to love and learn about who Jesus REALLY is, not who the Church made him.

I'm learning to love those who hate me.
I don't think they know any better.”

The power of example is amazing.

The power of caring is unlimited.

The power of courage is liberating.

I’m glad there are people – not me but others -- who focus not on tradition, theology and conformance but rather are courageous, caring examples for “g” and others.

Of my own volition, I haven’t been to church in years but there’s a truth encrusted in the damnable outward religion that I can’t escape.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Life with Nature

915 AM MST TUE FEB 7 2006



I live northeast of Flagstaff and my weather is more similar to that of Winslow than Flagstaff. We haven’t received one inch of precipitation at our house.

Two weeks ago I was getting a load of water and was watching hundreds of small blue birds checking frozen puddles. They were waiting for the ice to melt in puddles created from spilled water. Two robins were among the blue birds. There was a woman getting water who appeared to be in her seventies. I asked if she knew the name of the blue birds and she said she did not. She commented that this was the first time she had seen this species of bird and she had never seen robins in the area in January.

I’m noticing what I interpret to be signs of increasing stress among plants and animals. When we first moved to the land, Julie and I purchased a small tub to provide water for animals. At the time, our intention was to attract wildlife to be able to watch and photograph them. Now, my intention is to provide some water to alleviate stress during the drought.

When our septic system was installed, the backhoe uprooted but didn’t harm a prickly pear cactus. I moved it to a safe position and left it lying on top of the ground for about two or three months. I planted the cactus near our house and it did well and bloomed last summer. Recently, I noticed something had been feeding on it but the damage was not serious. Last Saturday I saw the culprit – a small chipmunk. I didn’t do anything to protect the cactus because I figured the small animal needed food and moisture. A few days later I arrived home and the cactus was gone – including the roots.

Recently, I have been seeing more antelope near the house. Interestingly, antelope will drink if water is available but can get their water from food. For so large an animal, that’s amazing to me.

Times are hard and will get more difficult. This will probably be a summer of numerous large forest and wild fires.

On a brighter side, Julie ordered a new bird feeder recently. The feeder fits into a window by our kitchen table and extends into the room. On the weekends, it’s quite enjoyable to have breakfast while watching birds only two feet away on the other side of the one-way glass. Also, the small bird that is obsessed with her reflection is hilarious.

Life with nature is wonderful!

Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Spring Fever

It’s that time of year and I have the fever on schedule. It has been sunny and the temperature has been in the 50s during the day. I want to put on a backpack and start walking.

Julie and I hiked close to home over the last two weekends. Last Sunday we did a new section of the Arizona Trail. This alleviated the fever for a few hours but it keeps coming back.

In a couple years we're going to hike the entire Arizona Trial. Until then, I dream and plan and follow other hikers' adventures.

Each year I follow a few people who hike long distance trails. Last year I followed a young lady and a newly married couple on the Appalachian Trail (Georgia to Maine) and an older (not old but older, about 60) couple on the American Discovery Trail (Delaware to California).

I’m beginning to pick my hiking heroes for this year. I’ll find about three individuals or couples and each morning at breakfast I’ll check on their progress. I’ll cheer them on and be entertained and thrilled and rejuvenated by their experiences.

Here’s the link if you want to join me: Trail Journals.

Monday, February 06, 2006

Shhh! Keep Quiet!

It was a lesson that I learned in 1973. I had been out of the Army for a year and needed to get on with life. I needed a purpose and direction. I had taken the first job that came along until I got something better. Something better came along but “better” is subjective. It paid well, very well, had good benefits and a retirement plan. I guess these were OK but, it sucked the life out of me.

I found a small farm – 40 acres, duplex house, barn, pond, tractor, a few acres of grapes, nice location – something to add spice to life as I worked a regular job. As I began thinking about buying the place I mentioned what I was considering to a few people and they taught me something. “Keep quiet!” It seems people have a knack for seeing the down-side of things. If a down-side or negative doesn’t exist then they will create one. I heard plenty of reasons for not buying a farm.

Since then, I get an idea, I think about it and research it and don’t tell anyone until it’s a done deal.

As I read blogs and websites on sustainable living I see people haven’t changed. Someone posts an idea and there are always people who tell them why it’s a bad idea. I don’t understand why people find fault but don’t offer alternative solutions. I don’t understand why people feel the need to be negative rather than encouraging.

Are you trying something new? Good for you! It doesn’t matter if I think you’re making a mistake – go for it! Yes, I feel this way even if I’m 100% convinced that you’re making a mistake and what you’re trying won’t work. Do it!

I find it amusing – no, make that irritating – that people sit on their asses at a computer and find fault with those who out doing things and living life.

So, I say “go for it”. Make your mistakes and enjoy your successes. Life your life your way and when you’re old I hope you can say “Damn, that was fun!”

Excuse me. I have to get back to my life. I have a few ideas that I want to try. I’ll tell you about them later.

Organic Fun - Store Wars

I found this on Davo's blog. Perhaps it's made the rounds -- don't know. Whether you buy ogranic or not: Store Wars.

Thursday, February 02, 2006


"That phrase isn't in the constitution!" His reponse statement surprised me. I'd heard it before but I didn't expect it from him. I agreed with him. The phrase "separaton of church and state" isn't in the constitution but it is a descriptor that can be useful when discussing the relationship between religion and government.

I did a quick web search on "world religions" and found the following:

  • Christianity: 2.1 billion
  • Islam: 1.3 billion
  • Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist: 1.1 billion
  • Hinduism: 900 million
  • Chinese traditional religion: 394 million
  • Buddhism: 376 million
  • primal-indigenous: 300 million
  • African Traditional & Diasporic: 100 million
  • Sikhism: 23 million
  • Juche: 19 million
  • Spiritism: 15 million
  • Judaism: 14 million
  • Baha'i: 7 million
  • Jainism: 4.2 million
  • Shinto: 4 million
  • Cao Dai: 4 million
  • Zoroastrianism: 2.6 million
  • Tenrikyo: 2 million
  • Neo-Paganism: 1 million
  • Unitarian-Universalism: 800 thousand
  • Rastafarianism: 600 thousand
  • Scientology: 500 thousand

This list is neither complete nor detailed enough to give me a correct understanding of the fragmentation of religious beliefs. Now many native American belief systems exist? Navajo (Dine) and Hopi aren't listed separately. What about Christians? Beyond the major divisions (Catholic, Protestant, etc) there are subdivisions. Protestants can be further divided. Some Baptists don't consider themselves to be protestants but, regargless, Baptists can be further divided into smaller divisions such as Two Seed in the Spirit Predestinarian Baptists.

The question I'm asking myself is "how can these diverse and sometimes opposing groups co-exist harmoniously?"

The list above is intended to be all-inclusive. I fit in somewhere. Probably most people would put me in Christian or Secular/Nonreligious/Agnostic/Atheist. Where others classify me -- or where I classify myself -- doesn't matter to me. What matters is "how can we live together harmoniously with respect within one country and under one government?"

My religious beliefs or faith will affect my entire life. I can't avoid that. However, I can make a conscious effort to understand the limits of my faith. I try to avoid schizophrenia and approach life as a unified whole. By reading psychology, sociology, history, philosphy, the sciences, economics, etc, and opposing views within each, I try to find a common basis for all religions under one government.

For example, I may have a faith-based beleif about abortion -- for or against, doesn't matter in this example. Should I try to get legislation passed that makes my belief law? Perhaps, but the issue for me at the moment is how do I justify my actions? For myself, I try to find non-religious support for my position. Is my position supported by history, psychology, sociology, etc. If it is then I may choose to work for legislation using these justifications. My faith points the direction but my intellect and education lead the way.

What if I can't find support in history, physchology, etc? I stop and question my faith. I'm not perfect. I'll never have all the answers. Maybe this is one of those times that my faith is just plain wrong.

The phrase "separation of church and state" isn't in the constituion but I belive in it. That's one part of my faith that I don't question. I don't fear the "outside". Terrorism, other countries, other religious beliefs, other systems of government and science aren't sources of fear for me. I think we destroy ourselves from within. Without a viable form of separation of church and state, we may be headed for challenging times.

Wednesday, February 01, 2006

Passed the Peak

“…while Peak Oil may be a quite manageable problem at 2% depletion, 10%+ depletion means that world production will fall by half in less than 7 years. That would be absolutely catastrophic.” (http://www.jeffvail.net/2006/01/

The concept of peak oil makes no sense to me. Does it have anything to do with providing for a safe, comfortable, hopeful, sustainable future for my children and grandchildren? It appears not.

I don’t think the concept of peak oil has anything to do with sustainability or a future for our descendants. It appears to be an economic concept. If half the oil has been produced then we will have a diminishing supply, higher prices, and more profits for those controlling the oil. Is this statement cynical or realistic?

From one perspective, our situation reminds me of the old joke “Keep doing that and you’ll go blind! – Well, can I do it until I need glasses?” We seem to be waiting until we’re forced to acknowledge we have a problem and must adapt.

It’s as if we want to see how long we can play Russian roulette. We’ll pretend we don’t have a problem until half the original supply of producible oil has been consumed. It’s going to run out. Things are going to change. The question for me becomes “Do we want to wait and manage the change as a crisis or do we want to plan ahead? Perhaps, with global warming, we're already in the crisis.

We have a problem. Somebody should to something! Who is “we”? Who is “somebody?” I’m not “we” but I am “somebody”.

Given my age, values, knowledge and experience, I don’t have a problem. I’ll adapt and do fine during the remaining years of my life even if oil prices change dramatically. I could live a life of unabated consumption. I could but, I would be living in violation of my values and my life would be a lie.

I’m not part of “we who have a problem” but I am “somebody” who should do something. I can’t change the world situation quickly or dramatically but I can reduce my consumption of fossil fuels, products and services based on fossil fuels. It’s not much but change starts with me.

I can try to be an example with others. By example, I don’t mean an extreme conservation person who continually shouts a message of doom and calls for a life of scarcity and hardship. I want to be an example of enjoying life and being happy and content without massive consumption.

After years of working in churches and working for church-related universities, I became disillusioned and somewhat cynical. I longed for something to believe in so strongly that I would be willing to die for it. I’m not saying I’ve found it but I have found a sense of peace, purpose and mission.

I get a sense of satisfaction as I try to live with sustainability. I get excited as I read about others who have found small solutions. I enjoy reading and trying to understand the complex problem and possible solutions. I look forward to reducing my consumption and increasing my contentment because the two are related.

We may or may not have passed peak oil but I have passed the peak of my life. I have fewer years left than I’ve lived. When I die, I want to do so with the honest knowledge that I enjoyeded life and that I tried my best to leave a future for my descendants – and yours.

(I've added to my GridFree blog and invite your comments or questions.)