1112 Rogers Road
Graham, NC 27253
Anything Fit to Read
Copyright 2018 by the RPG Partnership
All rights reserved
1112 Rogers Road
Graham, NC 27253
1) Thanks, I think, for Rita Berman and Peggy Ellis for persuading me to do this.
2) Thanks for all the contributors who jumped in with such enthusiasm.
3) Thanks to Betsy Breedlove for the beautiful photograph of Pilot Mountain.
4) Thanks to Tim Whealton for the beautiful Cedar Island scene on the cover.
Table of Contents
Introducing the RPG Digest
It is the brainchild resulting from considerable lamentations over the demise of the Righter Reviews and Writer Review. It will be a monthly collection of whatever I receive and the goal is to have 40 +/- pages. It will not be a bound book. It will be available by email as a .pdf document and on Alston Books (http://alstonbooks.xyz/) for electronic readers. We won’t solicit, and probably won’t include, anything too serious and definitely something that is not interesting.
Anyway, welcome to the 21st century. Let’s be entertained, learn something and laugh a little while doing it.
Readers are a diverse group. Some people read just enough to get by in life, to do their job. Others read for pleasure, to be amused or learn more about the human condition. Based on my many years of being a reader and nearly forty years of being a writer, I know how difficult it is to attract readers and get them to continue reading to the end of the story.
Much depends on whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction. Fiction is based on “What If”. The form of fiction is Conflict-Crisis-then Resolution. The writer has an idea and explores the possibilities. “Fiction is licensed lie-telling,” wrote William Amos in his book, The Originals, published in 1985. He listed hundred hundreds of real-life examples, people who were used as characters in novels.
Non-fiction, however, has to stick to the facts. Here the writing is based on “What Happened.” Events are described, problems discussed and possible solutions. It is easier to stay on track with non-fiction because all you have to do is remember the 5 W’s of journalism, the foundation of newspaper and magazine articles. They are: Who, What, When, Where, and Why. The form of many business articles is Problem-Solution-Result.
Many writers can identify with Winston Churchill’s comment that, “writing a book is an adventure. To begin with it is a toy, an amusement, then it becomes a mistress, and then a master and then a tyrant.”
A writer is always experimenting, and always has to struggle with the invisible opponent that is his or her subconscious. Lillian Ross wrote a long profile of Ernest Hemingway for The New Yorker magazine. They had corresponded for eleven years until his death. Hemingway wrote to Ross that he “wanted to be the Champion of the World, the best writer, but I have that son of a bitch Tolstoi blocking me and when I get by him I run into Shakespeare.”
It is a writer’s curiosity that begins a story, but then usually the story is made up out of what he or she knows. Hemingway’s stories are lean and terse, the emotional impact is understated – much like a piece of non-fiction.
William Faulkner said, “He listened to the voices in his head and when he puts down what the voices say, its right.”
Eudora Welty wrote many essays and commentaries on other writers. She liked Faulkner’s writing and said, “No man ever put more of his heart and soul into the written word than did William Faulkner.” Welty’s opinion of Jane Austen was that she was a writer of comedy, that she saw the absurd in human behavior.
Muriel Spark was one of the great novelists of the 20th century. She used a diverse array of characters and had an astringent way of looking at the post-war world. She was a Catholic and her fictional world was a highly moral one, examining matters of right and wrong, consequences of human behavior and God. Her best-known novel is The Prime of Miss Brodie. This was made into a superb movies with Maggie Smith cast as Miss Brodie.
Another writer I enjoyed reading was Katherine Mansfield who was best known for her short stories. Mansfield attributed Chekhov to stimulating her imagination. In her stories the emphasis is not on plot and character, which are the traditional concerns of fiction, but rather on the presentation of an event, a summary of human life in a single significant scene.
In 2004 I participated in the week-long Writer’s Summer School in England. As most writers work alone this is a fine opportunity to learn the tricks of the trade, share writing secrets, promote our books, and just talk.
I met Silwyn Williams from Wales, who had written some 200 short stories. He said he builds the plot in his mind and then goes to paper. He suggested that, “fiction is real life with the dull bits taken out.”
When chatting with Silwyn he told me he went to school with Anthony Hopkins. I was impressed. Then he said he also went to school with Richard Jenkins (who later changed his name to Richard Burton and became an actor). When the beautiful Elizabeth Taylor became engaged to Burton and visited his family in Wales she took off her rings and did the dishes in the sink. That impressed Silwyn.
My future monthly columns will remember the birthday of various authors and relate their life and works. Look for F Scott Fitzgerald in the September RPG Digest.
The local paper in a nearby town has a columnist whose name is Dawn Vaughan. There used to be a joke about if a country singer named Kitty Wells married Conway Twitty, she would be called Kitty Twitty. Wonder if Dawn has a husband named Sean?
Suggested self-help titles: Teach Yourself to Like Collards in Thirty Days. Or, Train O’possums to Play Soccer.”
Albanian dogs don’t bark, “Woof, woof.” They bark “ham, ham.” Hungarian pigs don’t go, “oink, oink,” either. They go, “rof, rof, rof.”
Women’s Rights: A British college has warned coeds about whistling at campus construction workers. A spokesman for the contractors said none of the men had complained.
Dancing under the Moon
In the dark before dawn
I pad down the cool cement
of our driveway to
pluck the daily news
from its resting place
at the base of the mailbox.
On those days
when the full moon
is slipping down
behind my neighbor's roof
to rest in the heat
of the day,
I salute his silvery countenance
and, since no one else
is watching, I
dance in his
covered in the shimmery
his last full smile.
Author’s note: First published by Origami Poems in mini chapbook of same name, also by Joan Leotta
A Fishing Story
“Ya, shure, I tink I haff a lighter,” he replied.
Then reaching into his tackle box, he pulled out a Bic lighter 10 inches long.
“Yiminy Cricket!” exclaimed Sven, taking the huge Bic lighter in his hands. “Vhere did yew git dat monster?”
“Vell", replied Olaf, "I got it from me Genie.”
“You haff a genie in yor tackle box?” Sven asked.
“Ya, shure. It's right here in my tackle box,” says Olaf.
“Could I see him?”
So Olaf opens his tackle box and sure enough, out pops the genie.
Addressing the genie, Sven says, “Hey dere! I'm a
good friend of your
“Yes, I will,” says the genie.
So Sven asks the genie for a million bucks. The genie disappears back into the tackle box leaving Sven sitting there, waiting for his million bucks. Shortly, the sky darkens and is filled with the sound of a million ducks flying overhead. Over the roar of the million ducks Sven yells at Olaf.
“Yumpin' Yimmny I asked for a million bucks, not a million ducks!”
“Oh Ya, I forgot to tell yew that da genie is hard of hearing. Do yew really tink I asked for a 10 inch Bic?”
Every day we see news accounts of extreme dishonesty. People in high places defrauding others, outright theft, robbery and lying, even when the truth would help them. You expect this sort of stuff in the ghetto but in a way they are more honest. You kind of understand it with people who have never had a chance for success, have no saleable skills, bad dispositions, and with nothing to lose, robbing and stealing.
I was lucky to grow up in a family where honesty was the rule and this includes my extended family of uncles, aunts and 38 cousins. We moved in circles of like-minded people. When I was in the Army, honesty prevailed. In my 42-year career in the telephone industry, I dealt with very few dishonest people, and they didn’t last long. During most of my life, people I know have been the kind where a “word of mouth” commitment was as good as a signed contract.
After stating what I wrote above, I have been thinking about one group who have been a shining star of honesty. They are, hold your breath, shooting competitors. I have never seen, or heard of, a score being changed. As a group, rifle marksmen and women are the most competitive people I know. At rifle matches, thousands of dollars worth of equipment sit undisturbed on the firing line while their owners might be a thousand yards away in the pits pulling targets.
This trait extends to vendors who sell equipment and supplies to competitive shooters. Several (many) years ago, I decided to upgrade my spotting scope for one of the new Kowa’s. A vendor, who was also a high-power competitor, that I met at the national matches, had the best price. He lived in Oregon. I called him to order the scope.
When I offered to give him my credit card information, he said, “I’ll put your bill in the box. Mail me a check.”
“What if I don’t pay?” I said jokingly.
“I am a long range shooter,” he replied.
Another vendor, who was also a competitive shooter lived in Connecticut and he just mailed my orders with a bill.
One time in the late 1990s, I called to complain that the sorry assed sling he sold me in 1969 has worn out.
“I’ll put a replacement in the mail today,” he replied, laughing.
It arrived a few days later with a bill.
This is the kind of world I want. People do what they say they will do. Pay what they owe and don’t lie and cheat. They have a sense of humor about life and the people they know. I bet Heaven is a lot like that.
As an aside, someone sent me an email noting that all the mass killers and political assassins in the last 100 or so years, including these recent mass killers, were all Democrats. And none were competitive shooters or members of the NRA.
I grew up on a small farm near Asheville, North Carolina. Adventure was the farthest thing from my mind. As a child, I preferred reading a book in the shade of an apple tree. The Bobbsey Twins and the Five Little Peppers enthralled me, followed by Louisa Mae Alcott’s various children. In adolescence, I turned to Nancy Drew and The Hardy Boys. These people were my friends and were as close as the bookmobile, which came monthly. Mom allowed us to borrow as many books as we could carry. Weight was never an issue when I cradled precious books in my arms on the mile-long trek, mostly uphill, on a gravel road.
As I grew older, my one ambition was to attend Blanton’s Business College in Asheville and then live and work there. I attended Blanton’s followed by four years in California with my brother and sister-in-law. You’ve probably experienced the same age-old problem of being unable to get a job without a reference, or getting a reference without a job. After obtaining two references, I returned to Asheville. Living and working in town with an occasional weekend with friends in Nashville, for the Grand Ole Opry, satisfied me.
Then I met Jim Ellis, forester and active duty Navy reservist. Life changed dramatically. His professional organization met annually in a different region of the United States or Canada, and we vacationed in the area. The Navy sent us various places for two weeks’ active duty, so we traveled by car over most of the United States and Canada for 34 years. Travel for fun began in retirement.
As I record this for posterity, we’re four months from our 50th wedding anniversary. During this half century, we’ve traveled all 50 of the United States, 38 countries, and the seven continents. We’ve traveled by automobiles, vans, motor coaches, jumbo planes, mid-size planes, puddle jumpers, small cruise liners, riverboats, paddle wheelers, catamarans, and canoes.
I witnessed the magnificence of God’s creation in Scandinavian waterfalls, the splendor of Buckingham Palace, the sentinel castles along the Rhine, the ancient “heads” on Easter Island, the riches of European cathedrals, and the dirt floor, one-room huts of the poverty-stricken people in Peru’s Sacred Valley.
I rode a camel, cuddled a koala, and hugged a llama. I sat cheek by jowl with sea lions, fur seals, sea turtles, various sized penguins, and giant tortoises. I gazed upon an anaconda, but kept a respectful distance. I stood still while butterflies caressed my face and birds investigated my shoelaces. I watched the world’s smallest penguins march from the South Pacific surf onto Australia’s Phillips Island and within six inches of my feet. I survived Patagonian wind-swept rain. I ate squid and conch. I tasted bear, reindeer, kangaroo, and alpaca. I ate 700-year-old ice that I watched our guide chip high up on Iceland’s Katla glacier. It didn’t taste any different from what I have in my freezer.
I climbed Machu Pichu, scrambled over boulders in the Galapagos Islands, and slogged through rain forest mud. I climbed 40-meter towers and marveled at exotic birds above the Amazon Basin canopy. I walked swinging bridges behind small boys who exercised their right to run, and I held on for dear life while riding a zip line through Costa Rican skies. I stood with one foot in the Northern hemisphere and the other in the Southern hemisphere. I stood with one foot on the Eurasian tectonic plate, the other on the North American plate. I screamed throughout a jet boat ride through Hell’s Canyon on Oregon’s Snake River. Any intelligent person would have had better sense than to take another jet boat ride. No one ever accused me of being overly intelligent. I screamed through another jet boat ride, complete with several 360-degree turns on New Zealand’s Kawarau River.
As I stroll down memory lane by way of our scrapbooks, I reach the conclusion that perhaps I am an adventurous person after all.
On the other hand, a Toronto memory indicates I might not be as adventurous as I want to believe. While Jim sat through meetings, I explored the city.
I recommend Toronto for a visit, but I wouldn’t care to live there – too many people for this small town woman. Half of them want to cross a street while the other half, confined in an assortment of vehicles, dares them to try. Toronto is a nice city as cities go. It’s clean, well landscaped, and has a delightful mixture of old and new architecture.
I admit I was mystified about one thing. That’s the washrooms, as people call them there. However, before I get into that, I should make one thing clear.
Adventurous or not, in one way, I’m an old fogey. The evidence is in and it’s conclusive: I definitely meet all the criteria. For those of you who have not yet reached the plateau of old fogeyism, I’ll give you a clue.
Old fogeys and modern automation are incompatible. We’re talking oil and water here.
Still, I’m proud to say that I’ve managed to accept certain forms of automation. Take, for instance, the automatic door. I’ve grown so accustomed to them that I stand like an idiot in front of every door I approach. After several seconds of no movement on its part, I realize I must exert myself. Do I push or pull? It doesn’t matter – which ever I do first is the wrong one. Then, there’s the automatic coffee maker. That was good thinking on somebody’s part, since most of us need a good shot of caffeine before we can pry open our eyes each morning.
This brings us to restrooms/ladies’ rooms/bathrooms/washrooms/toilets/baños/Happy Houses. Happy Houses? Yes, because, in New Zealand, their rare availability puts a smile on your face.
During these years, I’ve grown accustomed to automatic hand dryers, despise them though I do, and use them if paper towels aren’t available. More and more of the aforementioned restrooms/etc. have water faucets that turn on automatically. No two work alike, and they are not so plentiful that I take them for granted. Still, I’ve learned, if the knobs don’t turn, I must stand patiently and wait until I flutter my hands in just the right way.
A washroom in Toronto presented me with a new experience. I managed to get the faucet to part with a small amount of its water, then I looked for a soap dispenser. No container. No knobs. No handles. No push instructions. No pull instructions. Glancing along the row of sinks, I saw a hollowed out space above each. Okay, there must be a reason for those little caves, but where are all the people when you have a question? I timidly stuck my hand into the cave and felt for a knob of some sort. (I call that adventurous!) Instead of finding one, I felt something ooze into my palm. The hand came out faster than it went in, now filled with semi-liquid in a yucky shade of blue. It smelled okay, so I decided it must be soap.
On that visit to a washroom, I dealt with automatic water, soap, and dryer. Entirely too much automation, but had I known what lay ahead in beautiful downtown Toronto, I would have used this, and only this, washroom during the remainder of my visit. If I could find it, that is. Finding any place the second time is an iffy proposition for me. No sense of direction? Geographically-challenged? You name it; that’s me.
My next experience in a Toronto washroom left me nearly speechless, a rarity in my life. Having completed my business in the stall, I was getting various layers of clothing back in place when, out of the blue as it were, the toilet flushed. On my word of honor as the Girl Scout I never was, I didn’t touch the blessed thing.
I had no clue of what movement I made to accomplish this amazing feat. Thereafter, when there were no buttons to push or handles to turn, I called upon my Irish DNA and danced a jig until the toilet did its thing.
I suppose encountering toilets that relieve human beings of the exertion of turning a handle is a common occurrence to some people. However, if it’s all the same to everybody, I would rather not risk the surprise of being sucked down a hole into the bowels of the earth.
What restroom/ladies’ room/bathroom/washroom/toilet/baños/Happy House function will some enterprising soul automate next?
ASK ME ANYTHING!
Dear Ms. Shaw,
I read your column last month. You know, the one you took over from the other writer? Elizabeth Silance Ballard? (How DO you pronounce her middle name?) You were not very nice in your comments about her. I usually enjoy your own column but I didn’t enjoy that one. In fact, you sounded a lot like your own self-professed heroine, Judge Judy Sheindlin! I am disappointed in you.
I know who you are! Elizabeth Silance Ballard, you know how to pronounce your own name! And don’t expect me to step in for you the next time you decide to go gallivanting! And don’t clutter up my mailbag again. I have plenty of legitimate letters to read and answer. On the other hand, I’d be interested to know just how much fan mail YOU get regarding YOUR column. The boss won’t reveal that info. I asked.
You haven’t mentioned Calvin lately. What’s up with you two? I ask because my own Significant Other and I have parted ways and I’m so lonely I can hardly stand it. He didn’t so much as leave a handkerchief or a pair of socks when he left. I have nothing left of him at all.
I could answer you better if I knew your age. I do wish you folks would give me more information to go on! If you’re roughly my age—okay, I’ll just go ahead and say that I’m –no, I’m not going to say that. Let’s just say that I was reading “Seventeen” magazine when Carol Linley was one of the models!
If you’ve never heard of Carol Linley, then I would say you’re probably young enough to just jump right out in the swim of things and meet other eligible men very easily.
If you DO remember Carol Linley, then I say that you are well rid of any man who just moves in with you and then moves out. On the other hand, we both know it’s a little more difficult when one is in our age group. Don’t give up. Just increase your sphere of interests. Go where men are.
For instance, my husband was a coin collector and I went with him to some of his coin club meetings. You would be surprised how many men are in those clubs! Quite a few single ones, too! Try it a time or two.
Another good place is water safety and boating classes or yacht clubs, if you have a friend with a boat . Men are fanatics about their boats and always love to show them off. Are you getting the idea? Now, listen to me, Girl. Don’t let the next one move in! A little distance does wonders for a relationship.
Wind: Friend or Foe?
Who can see the wind?
Neither you nor I
But when the leaves hang trembling
The wind is passing by.
Who can see the wind?
Neither you nor I
But when the trees bow down their heads,
The wind is passing by.
Christina Rossetti’s poem, which I memorized as a child, flashed into my memory as I listened to wind howling through trees behind my condo on this blustery first day of March. I couldn’t see it, but I could certainly see the destruction it created among the treetops causing limbs to break. Let’s start at the beginning. Just what is this thing we call wind?
Various dictionaries, both print and internet, give many definitions of this phenomenon. I choose to use the most straightforward from Merriam-Webster, tenth edition: a natural movement of air. However, do any of us really care what wind is? On the day in question, I didn’t. I just wanted it to stop. Instead of having the howling heebie-jeebies, I decided to pretend to be a rational adult human being – never an easy task – and write about wind’s effect on me through the years.
I grew up on a small farm near Weaverville, North Carolina, where a stand of white pines climbed the hillside behind our old farmhouse. My favorite activity was climbing the tallest pine I could find as far up as I could manage without the tree bending over. There, I would ride my wild steed as the playful wind whipped my hair across my face. Across the years, I can hear the echo of Mom’s voice demanding to know why my hair was not in its usual braids. That demand came just before she gave her opinion of the resin on my jeans and shirt. Amazingly, she never punished me for that added burden on her laundry skills. I can only assume that she, too, had experienced the childhood joy of a mischievous wind.
Adolescence gave me a different view of wind. It would caress me with its gentleness as I daydreamed on a broad branch of my favorite apple tree. Yet on raw mornings, after a night disrupted by wind whistling down the chimney, its sting chapped my face as I walked the mile to the school bus stop.
Family reunions have been important occasions for us on the third Sunday in August as far back as I can remember. In recent years, I haven’t attended as often as I would have liked, but in my teens and twenties, they were still a highlight of my life. I remember the weather as perfect with blue skies and sunshine, wind whispering through the pine trees giving us a natural air conditioning that no man-made apparatus can match.
On a day when I planned to supply daffodils to a church function, boisterous wind declared its superiority. Fickle. That’s the word to describe wind that day. It blew first this way, then that, and the daffodils bowed their lovely yellow heads in submission.
I believe I will never forget one morning in the mid-sixties. I had parked my car in its usual space a block from the office building where I worked in Asheville. Buildings protected me from the worst of the gusting wind until I neared the street corner. There, it picked up my ninety-two pounds and literally carried me forward, toward busy traffic. I managed to grab the light post where I clung for dear life as wind whirled debris around me. I had visions of being there all day, all night, and until whenever the wind decided to pass by. Fortunately, a man came along, leaned close to my ear, and asked where I was going.
Mom taught me in early childhood to beware of strangers of the male persuasion, especially when one put an arm around me. That admonition went by the wayside as I huddled against him and pointed across the street. He virtually carried me to the door and wrestled it open, so I could get inside. I did thank him, but didn’t have the presence of mind to ask his name.
A few years ago, we had what amounted to a blizzard considering we’re so far south. It wasn’t a gentle, pretty snow fluttering downward to a fun depth. No, it came at an angle on vigorous wind. Within a matter of minutes, the chain link fence next door was a solid wall of white, no metal showing. I could see this through a window in the wee hours of the morning because the swirling snow kept our security light on all night.
My husband, Jim, and I have traveled in every
state in the nation and a large part of the rest of the world over the
past forty plus years. My most vivid memory of a visit to Alaska was
standing on the edge of Mendenhall Glacier with wind cutting through my
several layers of clothing. The Plains states of
I smother my laughter in Jim’s presence when I remember one of our experiences in Antarctica. He didn’t think it was funny. Before we left the small ship for any excursion, employees always went ashore and tramped down the snow to various points of interest, having carefully ascertained that they were on the same trail they always used. To step off the trail meant possibly sinking up to our ears in snow. We reached our destination point, admired the breed of penguins that lived there, and turned to leave. I doubt wind ever stops completely in Antarctica. That day there were gusts, some heavier than others. I was being tag-along-Tulu behind Jim when a gust hit me in the back. Now, be reasonable! Where else could I fall except straight ahead into Jim? So, was it really my fault that he landed face first in several inches of snow?
Howling, destructive, playful. Mischievous, gentle, caressing. Whistling, stinging, whispering. Boisterous, fickle, gusting. Whirling, punishing, cutting. Arrogant, buffeting, vigorous. So many adjectives to describe something we can’t see.
Here’s a question to ponder when you next try to ignore blustery, noisy, capricious wind.
Is wind friend or foe?
To a little girl swaying in the top of a pine tree, her laughter blending with the whistling wind, it was a friend. To a woman clutching a light post in terror for her life, it was a foe.
To a daydreaming adolescent, its gentleness was a friend. To the same adolescent walking to the school bus stop, its stinging was a foe.
To farmers in the Plains, it’s a friend. To people dealing with tangled hair, it’s a foe.
In wilderness areas, it can be scary or it can produce hidden laughter.
So, friend or foe?
On any given day, it can be either or both.
As this first issue of the RPG Digest makes its appearance, I am winding down my Jubilee Year. Yes, my 75th year of life as we know it. Like all of you, I have had many events and accomplishments of which I am proud but I have also had a few events and failures in my life of which I’m not so proud. None of them, however, were so terrible that I have regrets or sorrow about them.
I have always pushed myself—unmercifully at times—and given 100% to any endeavor. The result has been that I have gone further and accomplished more than I ever had thoughts of doing when I was young.
I will not bore you with these things because they are my memories to cherish and I will continue to do so because they have made me who and what I am today. I regret nothing even though in retrospect it is easy to see that other choices, other tactics in life, might have served me better than the courses of action I took but, over all, my life has been rewarding and fun!
Over these past twelve months of this, my Jubilee year, I took two major risks. The riskiest of these risks was not successful and gave me a few rocky moments but I do not regret taking that risk, the risk of opening up my life and letting someone else in it.
One of the things about being 75 that will probably surprise many of you who are still far from this milestone birthday, is that we do not really change. In our later years, we (and I can speak only for women) still love, still fall in love, are still attracted to men, and still recognize and respond to that illusive trait we call sex appeal. Some of us are a little more hesitant and fearful in this regard and it takes a lot for us to admit this to ourselves and take a risk on love again.
I was fortunate to have a most wonderful husband in my life. He was my second husband and I only had nine years with him until he died in 2002. During the fifteen years following his death, I was resigned to being alone for the rest of my life, certain that I would never meet anyone who could compare to what I lost.
Now, a woman in my age bracket is no longer cute, pretty, or beautiful as in our younger days. Besides that, we are plump in all the wrong places and sag in other wrong places. It’s almost a joke on the human race, really. We are like the fisherman who FINALLY has a free day to go fishing and is enjoying his day on the water. Imagine his chagrin when he realizes that he doesn’t have his lures and hooks and he is miles from shore. That’s sort of what it is like for Jubilee gals!
Our physical beauty (i.e. “lures and hooks”) has not only faded but downright withered. We still are not only capable of, but crave, that love between a man and woman which we experienced earlier in life and all that it entails. See what I mean about a joke God has played on us? And we don’t dare look into a mirror because our mirrors simply scream at us, “Forget it, Kid! Look at yourself! You’re in a size WHAT?”
So, as I said earlier, I was so certain that I would never meet anyone who could measure up to Sam that I put all those thoughts of love away and focused on other things. I wrote incessantly though much of it was junk and tossed away! I enjoyed playing piano engagements in the area and my job as church organist for my church. I took up hobbies I had set aside when Sam and I married.
Why, I even joined a gym. Did it help me lose any plumpness? Well, sort of because in no time my arms and legs became larger and firmer than ever! Yes! I had actually built muscle and increased in size in those areas while losing nary an inch of plumpness in those areas I considered crucial!
So, I left all that gym equipment and went downstairs and jumped into the pool where it was fun! Now, I’m ashamed to admit this, but I actually felt smug as I swam over in the deep end and watched others my age walking in the three foot lanes. Believe it or not, I actually reached the point where I could swim a solid mile. That’s 72 lengths of the pool and I could do it without stopping. It made me feel quite superior, I can tell you. I can only swim 38 lengths of the pool now but I enjoy every minute of it. No, I still didn’t lose any plumpness but I sure do have fun in that pool!
I have digressed, but all this leads up to my Big Risk. It happened just over a year ago. A friend of long standing and I somehow moved out of the Friend Zone into a better zone, making this Jubilee Year jubilant indeed. I finally took a risk of giving my heart again and letting someone into my life again and I have no regrets even though we gradually have somehow moved back into the Friend Zone. It was a sad turn of events but not devastating because for a while, at least, I felt like a woman again and not just somebody’s grandmother.
Also in this year, I did something I literally swore that I would never do again: I sold my house and bought a smaller one with absolutely no regrets on that score. I’m no longer overwhelmed with the cleaning, maintenance, and upkeep on a larger house and I thoroughly enjoy this little cottage of mine though as a dear friend of mine is fond of saying, “Moving is Hell!”
During the last twelve months I’ve lost through death several of my dearest friends of long standing while, during this same period, I’ve had other friends come into my life. Such is the ebb and flow of human existence though I still miss those who are gone and still sometimes give in to the tears. I see nothing wrong with that.
You see, life does not stop when we reach some particular number of years. There is life after youth. We are not really very different at age 75 than we were at 25. As for me, I feel 19 on the inside. Yes, it is only when I look in a mirror that I see a 75 year old woman and, believe me, I quickly look away because I don’t feel like that woman. I feel like the 19 year old who fell in love with the handsomest young Marine who ever came to Camp Lejeune. That’s who I am inside though I have gained a little wisdom since then!
Life at one’s Jubilee birthday, is still about love, still about friends, still about family, still about achievement and conquering fears and doubts, and, most of all, ENJOYMENT of what we have made of our lives.
My husband, Sam, has been gone sixteen years now and I can say this year, my 75th year on earth, has been the happiest one since his death. I have learned a lot about myself when I thought I already knew it all. It’s been a happy year and, for the most part, a happy 75 years.
However, I look forward with eagerness to whatever future I have left: Be it twenty years, twenty days, or twenty hours, life is good and I thank everyone who has helped make it that way. We don’t live a life just on our own efforts. Life takes on more meaning and pleasure as we relate to others and let them come into our lives.
August 2018 Monthly Horoscope
Mercury returns to direct motion on the 16th August 2018. Mars remains in Taurus, where it will stay until next February and Venus moves from Virgo into Libra on the 17th. Jupiter aligns with Saturn, Uranus and Neptune!
The New Moon brings romance and excitement into your life. With the Sun here too, as well as Mercury and Saturn, some kind of serious effort will be required. Don’t lose sight of the importance of your financial or property situation.
Your life will be busy, but rewarding. Mars will make your self-assertive, but you like to be left alone to get on with your own projects. This will make you happy, but don’t be insensitive to the needs of others. You may be tempted to over-indulge!
Communication will be critical. A new beginning is possible and even, travel. Your social life may change or you may meet new friends. Venus gives you refuge that home and family life to help with your hectic social schedule.
The New Moon affects your finances and personal
property, maybe even allowing you to turn over a new leaf. This would be a
very good time to put your financial affairs in order.
The New Moon heralds a new beginning in a personal matter, or maybe a change of attitude on your part. Focus on your needs and formulate your plans for the future. A personality adjustment will occur over the next two years. Your responsibilities may be heavier but the lessons you learn stand you in good stead for rest of your life. The urge to acquire things you don’t really need may cause you to blow your budget. The Full Moon in the second half of August 2018 will bring resolution to a partnership matter..
With the Sun moving into Virgo on the 23rd, you will come out of a quiet, reflective period and be ready to interact with others. Venus encourages your willingness to compromise and everyone you meet will be bowled over by your charm. The New Moon in Leo early in the month, may bring to light a matter that you have been keeping to yourself. You will be reluctant to discuss it with others and will be more inclined to keep things to yourself until Mercury returns to your sign in early September. You may suffer from a certain amount of confusion and anxiety without really knowing why.
Venus, your ruler, is currently in Virgo and until it returns to your sign you be concerned with caring for others who are less fortunate than yourself. After the 17th, life will take a turn for the better and your amiability will bring much good will. You will readily make concessions on a personal basis, but you will be prepared to fight for what you feel is rightfully yours in the matter of jointly owned property. The New Moon on the 5th, suggests the arrival of new friends, acquaintances.
The New Moon on the 5th occurs in Leo will affect your career or public image, giving you the opportunity make a new beginning. Saturn rewards the hard work you have put into your career.. If you are ambitious and well prepared may be the time of your greatest success. It is also a time of great responsibility which may put a strain on your home life. Close personal relationships will not prosper during long transit of Mars. An unwillingness to compromise will create tension and antagonism.
The New Moon on the 5th in Taurus falls is
connected with travel and education. Any long distance journeys you make
during this time will be undertaken for serious reasons or obligations
rather than for pleasure. Studies that you undertake will be with a
serious purpose in mind.
The New Moon on the 5th August 2018 in Leo is connected with jointly owned property or shared resources. A different approach to such matters is possible. Your responsibilities are likely to be heavier and more serious. Borrowing money may be difficult during this period. A resolution to all this may be found by the end of the month. Concentrate on self discipline because you feel more like playing than working and you might put off the things that you don’t enjoy doing.
The New Moon in Leo on the 5th is connected with your closest relationships. A new beginning is possible. You may have an opportunity to start afresh with a clean page. The demands and responsibilities of your closest relationships may be heavy. Strong relationships may become stronger and more serious. Weaker ones may collapse under the strain. Home and family relationships may be tense because of opposition to your ideas and plans. You may consider moving and may be insensitive to the needs of other family members, because you are intent on having it just the way you want it.
The New Moon on the 5th falls in Leo with focus on your workplace or your health and diet. New solutions may be found for a health matter. Saturn indicates that in the longer term you may have to cope with extra responsibility in the workplace without immediate recognition for your efforts. Your perseverance will pay off in the long term. Take disciplined steps to improve your fitness through your lifestyle and your diet. These efforts will also pay off eventually. The tempo of your life will increase. Resist being argumentative. You may also express your beliefs assertively because this is a very good time to sell someone on your ideas and an excellent time to work on anything that requires intellectual effort.
Arrayed in snow-white pants and vest,
And other rainment fair to view,
I stood before my sweetheart Sue-
The charming creature I love to best.
"Tell me and does my costume suit?"
I asked the apple of my eye-
And then the charmer made reply,
"Oh, yes, you do look awful cute!"
Although I frequently had heard
My sweetheart vent her pleasure so,
I must confess I did not know
The meaning of that favorite word.
But presently at window side
We stood and watched the passing throng,
And soon a donkey passed along
With ears like wings extended wide.
And gazing on the doleful brute
My sweetheart gave a merry cry-
I quote her language with a sigh-
My Lady Of The Hollies
In a voice as earnest as death,
And eyes sadly beseeching,
While yet they sparkled with hope and promise,
You implored me, then stilled your breath,
To teach you how to love.
An unclenched fist clothed in a velvet glove,
Your urgent request hinted at a future bliss,
That against your cold, shadowy cloister was already breaching.
Know this, my lady, in the very marrow of your being,
You are worthy of love, forgive yourself, begin seeing.
When first I came to you on the wild hillside,
I found two towering holly trees standing by your door,
Flush with lush green leaves sparkling in the sun,
Laden with clusters of red berries in garlands wide,
They whispered, the lady within needs love so here you must be.
Then I kissed you and I could see,
You were stifled, conflicted, eager to run,
Because your lonely hermitage could never be as before.
Know this, my lady, in your secret dream of yourself,
The agony of past betrayals has sluiced away like water through a delph.
The refuge from love where you drank your bitter consolation,
Denying yourself in desperate grief,
What your anguished mind decreed you did not deserve,
Affection, endearment, sweet adoration.
In panic and despair, you exiled your very soul,
And sealed up your heart in pitiless cold,
So you would not be forced to observe,
The death of your spirit from want of love, from lack of relief.
Know this, my lady, in the crucible of your pain,
Reap the love around you and come home again.
Because the heart only lives, it cannot die,
Like a well, it may stand empty yet it remains,
Encircling the deepest hurt until filled.
To the teaching you asked of me, I give this reply,
Love is like a holly, ever green and bearing red,
It is all the living can have until they are dead.
Green is reaching out, constantly willed,
And red is the expression of affection, free of chains.
Know this, my lady, love only lives when it flows,
Out of you and into another and back again it goes.
Within you my lady is the genius of your hollies,
To love, simply reach out to me,
And truly express your affection.
Fear not your missteps or follies,
Reach out with your heart to show me kindness,
Extend your voice and with your dreams, your love, your fears, do bless,
My love for you, my caring, my protection,
My most ardent fealty.
Know this, my lady, love is all we have,
To make life precious, to minister grief with a healing salve.
Reach out with your mind and reveal your ideas, your visions,
Extend your counsel when I err,
Reach out with your wisdom when I cannot decide,
Extend your touch when I am wounded by missions,
Reach out with your kisses to ease my duress,
Reach out with your naked body to share a sacred closeness,
Touch me, caress me, take pride,
That we join in pleasure, intimacy, affirmation and care.
Know this, my lady, in the kernel of your brain,
If you shower me with your love, I will dance in your rain.
My lady of the hollies, reach out to me, express your affection, stay fast,
Pour your love down on me like honey glistening,
In the joyous sunshine of your heart.
Sweet beyond death when we taste it at last,
Let us be content, in the moment we die,
That the well of our love is now empty and dry,
Because we drained it into our passionate romance from the start,
And went to our graves with the anthem of love in our spirits still singing.
“Smart people tend to be odd people,” says Sarah Bramwell in a review of George Washington on Leadership by Richard Brookhiser.
My First Published Articles
In 1979 I was transferred from beautiful Richlands, Virginia back to Durham, North Carolina into a staff position. The career folks in what was then called “The Personnel Department” told me that I needed staff experience if I wanted to “further” my career. I came up through the ranks and this saved me from a lot of mistakes in management because I knew at the ground level what worked.
One of my staff responsibilities was quality control and I, along with representatives from the Engineering and Service departments, traveled to all eight states inspecting outside plant projects. These trips would make a good-size book because we saw a lot of the southeastern United States.
Another responsibility was evaluating new types of materials and equipment. Things like cable closures, wire connectors, tape, anchors and test equipment.
When I was in craft (a worker), we tested cable and wire with volt-ohm meters, Wheatstone Bridges and oscilloscopes. The Western Electric Wheatstone Bridge was a most remarkable piece of test equipment. Using a 1000 cycle tone and turning knobs until the tone nulled, recording the numbers on the dials, and working an algebraic formula, we knew how far in feet we were from the fault. A good example of this was about 1962, when I was a service man in Jacksonville, North Carolina, there was a fault in the open wire toll (long distance) line between Jacksonville and Wilmington. The test board man sent me to a specific pole number a few miles south of Holly Ridge. The toll line in this location followed the railroad and was some distance off Highway 17. I drove down an old logging path to the railroad to a spot about 10 spans from the trouble location. It was early evening after sundown and soon I would not be able to see what caused the fault.
I climbed the pole in near darkness without seeing anything. I hooked up to the testboard line and told them I was up the pole, it was almost dark, and I did not see the fault. The Wilmington test man asked me which way I was facing. I replied, “Toward Wilmington.” The Jacksonville test man said, “Use your flashlight and look toward Jacksonville.” When I did, I saw a coat hanger that somebody had thrown up into the line and it fell in a way that shorted the wires. It out of reach but I knocked it down by throwing my handline over it.
This was almost a 50 mile wire route and the Wheatstone bridge put me within 10’ of the trouble.
The Wheatstone Bridge was what a new computerized cable analyzer was supposed to replace. And I was chosen to evaluate it and write the instructions. This took almost a year, although I didn’t work on it full time and still did the project audits.
After I wrote the instructions for using the Cable Analyzer, my boss asked me to write a summary about it and it’s effectiveness for the executives. This was about a 5,000 word piece. Then my boss came back and asked me to write a summary that the people in Personnel and Public Relations could understand. The Public Relations people sent it off to a trade magazine and they published it. This was my first published article.
As a result of it being published in the outside world, I got invited to make speeches about electronic cable testing at most of the major telephone company conventions, including Anchorage, Alaska, in November. The high was 4 degrees while I was there. I also made my speech to telephone groups in Regina, Saskatchewan and Ottawa, Canada. All of this was at company expense.
BTW: The electronic tester would not have led me to within 10 feet of the trouble. It might have put me within three spans (600’ both ways).
My next published article was about shooting a target rifle chambered in 243 Winchester cartridge in 1,000-yard matches. This was published by Precision Shooting magazine and was translated into French and German that I know about. They paid me $300.00.
Now I am the author of 26 books and Lord knows how many columns like this one.
576 pages; $35
Reviewed by E. B. Alston
Anyone who pays attention to the news these days probably believes the world is an awful place. Innocent people in the Middle East, the old “civilized” world, the cradle of civilization, are being shot, beheaded, bombed, gassed every day. This has been going on for three generations. Tiny Syria is still at war after seven years of brutal conflict.
Here at home in the US lunatics target school children. Political debates consist of gross derogatory comments, finger-pointing and flimsy accusations. It’s poisoning the culture. News commentators of all stripes are lower on my trust barometer than politicians. It’s really like a Shakespearean tragedy, except you wouldn’t care if they all died in the end. Shakespeare’s plays feature many murders. Tragedy is dramatic.
In all this noise and clatter, who would notice positive news? Like a white man wearing a confederate cap helping a black family with car trouble on a cold, rainy night. Bad things happen suddenly and get lots of attention. A factory closing, an apartment burning down, a murder in the ghetto, a bad wreck on the interstate.
Good things happen less dramatically, and they are happening everywhere. Nobody is there to record them and take pictures. What if tomorrow’s newspaper headline was, “The number of people in extreme poverty went down 137,000 since yesterday,” and has done so every day for 25 years. Boring!
One reason people overlook the progress humanity is making is that nobody notices. To compensate for this failure, Steven Pinker has written a book called Enlightenment Now.
He writes that if we want to learn the true state of the world, reviewing the numbers are the only way. The book makes you want to turn off the TV, banish Google, and cancel your Facebook account.
The world is about 100 times wealthier than it was in the 1800s. Wealth is more evenly distributed. The number of people killed annually in wars is less than a fourth of that in the 1980s and half a percent of the toll in the Second World War. 20th century Americans are 96% less likely to die in a car crash, 92% less likely to perish in a fire and 95% less likely to die on the job.
In Pinker’s previous book, The Better Angels of Our Nature, he showed that humankind is less violent today. This one shows that steady progress is occurring on many fronts. He credits the values of the 18th-century Enlightenment, summarized by Immanuel Kant as Dare to Understand! When reason is applied to problems, people solve them and move on to the next, Trade and technology spread good ideas. This allows rich countries to grow richer and poor ones to catch up. It is the best of all possible worlds
Progress has often been stunningly rapid. Poor Americans enjoy luxuries unavailable to the Vanderbilt’s and Astor’s of 150 years ago. Such as electricity; air-conditioning and color televisions. Street hawkers in South Sudan have mobile phones. Better medicine and sanitation allow people to live longer, healthier lives. Labor-saving devices have given people more free time. People are getting more intelligent and more humane.
In every part of the world, IQ scores have been rising, by a whopping 30 points in 100 years. The average person today scores better than 98% of people a century ago. How can this happen? Intelligence is inherited. Why? Smart people don’t have as many children as less gifted folks. Better nutrition (“brains are greedy organs”) and more stimulation trains them.
Children today are more likely to go to school than they were in 1900. Away from the schoolhouse, analytic thinking is encouraged by a culture that trades in visual symbols (subway maps, digital displays), analytic tools (spreadsheets, stock reports) and academic concepts that trickle down into common parlance (supply and demand, on average, human rights).
Mr. Pinker wrote that braininess has moral consequences because people who can reason abstractly should ask, “What would the world be like if everybody did this?” The cause is educated populations embrace Enlightenment values. Two hundred years ago 1% of people lived under a democratic government. Women and working-class men could not vote. Today two-thirds of the world’s population lives in democracies. Ordinary Chinese are freer, and more prosperous, than they have ever been.
Polls show that equality for ethnic minorities and gay people has improved. Internet searches for racist jokes are down almost 90% in America since 2004. Polls find that young Muslims in the Middle East are about as liberal as young western Europeans were in the early 1960s.
Many readers will find this optimism hard to believe. Some suggest that, although we are materially richer but we are less happy because we know that others have even more. We may have supercomputers in our pockets, but aren’t they causing an epidemic of loneliness among the young? And what about global warming or North Korea’s nuclear missiles?
Mr. Pinker’s answer for all this is that in 45 of 52 countries in the World Values Survey, happiness increased between 1981 and 2007. It rose roughly in line with income per person. Loneliness among American students is declining. The number of nuclear weapons in the world has fallen by 85% since its peak.
Politicians like Donald Trump, Brexit and authoritarian parties in Europe try to make us believe that the old days were golden, and that experts can’t be trusted and the institutions of liberal democracy are nothing but a conspiracy to enrich the elite. Tearing these institutions down and starting over would interrupt the incremental progress that Mr. Pinker champions.
Pinker remains optimistic that the checks and balances that populists ridicule will outlast the current demagogues. Populists always become disillusioned, or die off. When people grow richer they rely more on reason.
Pessimism is useful because it makes us cautious. We have survived as a race because we learned to focus on problem solving, which means problems get fixed. I think Mr. Pinker’s point is correct. The world is not going to Hell in a hand basket. Barring a cataclysmic asteroid strike or nuclear war, people’s lives are likely to continue to improve.
I once used a Byron one liner in a book. I’d wanted to for years and the opportunity finally came in Hammer Spade and the Merchants of Death. The one-liner is Fare thee well, and if for ever, still fare thee well. This book also has a soon-to-be famous one liner that I made up. It’s the first time I ever got out of a jam by jumping in the sack with a woman. Quite a contrast on several levels from the Byron quote.
A few years ago I got to use another cherished one liner in a short story called Rainbow’s End. The story begins with the line; She looked at me with her good eye. It goes downhill from there. This is another one of those stories where my poor editor, after reading the manuscript, asked, “Where do you get this stuff from?”
One liners have been around for quite sometime. I prefer those by Dorothy Parker who, I think, was the wittiest woman who ever lived. Men seldom make passes at girls who wear glasses, Brevity is the soul of lingerie, Brevity is the soul of wit, She ran the whole gamut of emotions from A to B (Comment on Katherine Hepburn’s performance in a Broadway play.), It serves me right for putting all my eggs in one bastard and last, One more drink and I’d have been under the host. This list goes on and on.
The ancients did pretty well themselves. Would that the Roman people had a single neck, the Roman Emperor Caligula. Well done is quickly done, Augustus Caesar. Nothing endures but change, Heraclitus. Time as he grows old teaches all things, Aeschylus. I want a man without money rather than money without a man, Themistocles. Time eases all things, Sophocles. My tongue swore, but my mind was still unpledged, Euripides. It is better to be envied than to be pitied, Herodotus. Things that are holy are revealed only to men who are holy, Hippocrates. You have all the characteristics of a popular politician: a horrible voice, bad breeding, and a vulgar manner, Aristophanes. The life which is unexamined is not worth living, Plato. One swallow does not make a summer, Aristotle. Even God lends a hand to earnest boldness, Menander. And If I were not Alexander, I would be Diogenes, Alexander the Great.
You write to me that it’s impossible; the word is not French, Napoleon Bonaparte. Nothing except a battle lost can be half so melancholy as a battle won, the Duke of Wellington. The God who gave us life, gave us liberty at the same time, Thomas Jefferson. It is hard, if not impossible to rebuke a beautiful woman—they remain beautiful and the rebuke recoils, Winston Churchill.
The serene confidence which a Christian feels in four aces, Mark Twain. The man who dies rich, dies disgraced, Andrew Carnegie. An expert is one who knows more and more about less and less, Nicholas Butler. Between two evils, I always pick the one I never tried before, Mae West. You can observe a lot by watching, Yogi Berra. Marriage has many pains, but celibacy has no pleasures, Samuel Johnson.
Quite a few famous one liners didn’t happen or they weren’t said exactly like what became famous. Patrick Henry did not say Give me liberty or give me death. Charles Boyer never said, Come with me to the Casbah. Leo Durocher never said Nice guys finish last. Sherlock Holms never said Elementary, my dear Watson. Marie Antoinette did not say Let them eat cake. Nobody said Play it again, Sam in the movie Casablanca. Herman Goring didn’t say When I hear the word ‘culture’, I reach for my gun and James Cagney never said You dirty rat in any of his films. Horace Greeley is not known to have advised Go west, young man.
I’ll end this with one by George Romney when he was running for president. He had stated publicly that he might have been brainwashed by the military on a tour of South Vietnam. You can imagine the field day his opponents and the press had over that one. Every statement that he made afterwards only made things worse. But the one that sunk his presidential aspirations ship was his “explanation” of a previous flub up. I didn’t say I didn’t say it. I said I never said I said it!
What would you do?....you make the choice. Don't look for a punch line, there isn't one. Read it anyway. My question is: Would you have made the same choice?
At a fundraising dinner for a school that serves children with learning disabilities, the father of one of the students delivered a speech that would never be forgotten by all who attended.
After extolling the school and its dedicated staff, he offered a question, “When not interfered with by outside influences, everything nature does, is done with perfection. Yet my son, Shay, cannot learn things as other children do. He cannot understand things as other children do. Where is the natural order of things in my son?”
The audience was stilled by the query.
The father continued. “I believe that when a child like Shay, who was mentally and physically disabled comes into the world, an opportunity to realize true human nature presents itself, and it comes in the way other people treat that child.”
Then he told the following story: “Shay and I had walked past a park where some boys Shay knew were playing baseball.”
Shay asked, “Do you think they'll let me play?”
I knew that most of the boys would not want someone like Shay on their team, but as a father, I also understood that if my son was allowed to play, it would give him a much-needed sense of belonging and some confidence to be accepted by others in spite of his handicaps.
I approached one of the boys on the field and asked (not expecting much) if Shay could play.
The boy looked around for guidance and said, “We're losing by six runs and the game is in the eighth inning. I guess he can be on our team and we'll try to put him in to bat in the ninth inning.”
Shay struggled over to the team's bench and, with a broad smile, put on a team shirt.. I watched with a small tear in my eye and warmth in my heart. The boys saw my joy at my son being accepted.
In the bottom of the eighth inning, Shay's team scored a few runs but was still behind by three. In the top of the ninth inning, Shay put on a glove and played in the right field. Even though no hits came his way, he was obviously ecstatic just to be in the game and on the field, grinning from ear to ear as I waved to him from the stands.
In the bottom of the ninth inning, Shay's team scored again. Now, with two outs and the bases loaded, the potential winning run was on base and Shay was scheduled to be next at bat. At this juncture, do they let Shay bat and give away their chance to win the game?
Surprisingly, Shay was given the bat. Everyone knew that a hit was all but impossible because Shay didn't even know how to hold the bat properly, much less connect with the ball.
However, as Shay stepped up to the Plate, the pitcher, recognizing that the other team was putting winning aside for this moment in Shay's life, moved in a few steps to lob the ball in softly so Shay could at least make contact.
The first pitch came and Shay swung clumsily and missed. The pitcher again took a few steps forward to toss the ball softly towards Shay. As the pitch came in, Shay swung at the ball and hit a slow ground ball right back to the pitcher.
The game would now be over.
The pitcher picked up the soft grounder and could have easily thrown the ball to the first baseman. Shay would have been out and that would have been the end of the game. Instead, the pitcher threw the ball right over the first baseman's head, out of reach of all teammates.
Everyone from the stands and both teams started yelling, “Shay, run to first! Run to first!”
Never in his life had Shay ever run that far, but he made it to first base. He scampered down the baseline, wide-eyed and startled.
Everyone yelled, “Run to second, run to second!”
Catching his breath, Shay awkwardly ran towards second, gleaming and struggling to make it to the base. By the time Shay rounded towards second base, the right fielder had the ball. The smallest guy on their team who now had his first chance to be the hero for his team. He could have thrown the ball to the second-baseman for the tag, but he understood the pitcher's intentions so he, too, intentionally threw the ball high and far over the third-baseman's head.
Shay ran toward third base deliriously as the runners ahead of him circled the bases toward home.
All were screaming, “Shay, Shay, Shay, all the Way Shay.”
Shay reached third base because the opposing shortstop ran to help him by turning him in the direction of third base, and shouted, “Run to third. Shay, run to third!”
As Shay rounded third, the boys from both teams, and the spectators, were on their feet screaming, “Shay, run home! Run home!”
Shay ran to home, stepped on the plate, and was cheered as the hero who hit the grand slam and won the game for his team.
“That day,” said the father softly with tears now rolling down his face, “the boys from both teams helped bring a piece of true love and humanity into this world.”
Shay didn't make it to another summer. He died that winter, having never forgotten being the hero and making me so happy, and coming home and seeing his Mother tearfully embrace her little hero of the day!
AND NOW A LITTLE FOOT NOTE TO THIS STORY: We all send thousands of jokes through the e-mail without a second thought, but when it comes to sending messages about life choices, people hesitate. The crude, vulgar, and often obscene pass freely through cyberspace, but public discussion about decency is too often suppressed in our schools and workplaces. If you're thinking about forwarding this message, chances are that you're probably sorting out the people in your address book who aren't the 'appropriate' ones to receive this type of message. Well, the person who sent you this believes that we all can make a difference.
Where All This Ends
In 2003 I wrote a book called The Kingdom of America set in the future when most of the United States is a part of an aristocratic kingdom. The kingdom uses IQ tests to determine a person’s place in society. There are aristocrats, with the highest IQ’s, workers, like bricklayers, mechanics and other technicians and a labor class for hauling trash, shovel and broom work and waiting tables. I wrote that all this would start to happen in 2020.
Current trends in the United States put my schedule much ahead of what I predicted in my book. Local and national politics are a mess. Corruption rules the country and the three classes I described above are in de-facto existence. All we need is a hereditary set of absolute kings. My kings were competent, no nonsense and spoke the truth. There is nobody on the political horizon in the US who meets those requirements.
My little exercise in egotism has been validated by a book written in 1957 called The Rise of Meritocracy by Michael Young.
His book exposes the tensions that are tearing the western world apart. Smart people focus on getting their children into the right schools and universities. The penalty for failing exams rises every year. The government is run by manager-despots who treat their workers as “human resources.” There are very few working-class people in congress and the state legislatures.
The proportion of working-age men without qualifications who are not active in the labor force is ten times higher today than it was in the 1980s. One reason is the marriage of merit and money. Smart people tend to marry other smart people and produce above average children. The country has learned the importance of merit. Schools are exam factories and the children of the rich study for advanced degrees. The well-to-do like to have money. The cleverest computer scientists dream of IPOs. Senior politicians and civil servants cash in when they retire with private-sector jobs.
Young’s book was published 60 years ago. You can’t avoid being surprised to learn that we are now living in a Meritocracy. Democracy is as dead as a doornail. How prescient this was. This imaginary revolution began in the north of England because working class people became sick of the arrogance of the moneyed class. The revolution was led by a “dissident minority” from the elite meritocracy. The knowledge society strikes an alliance with the lower orders. They rouse them from their traditional docility.
The tension between the Meritocrats controlling means of production and the workers who ran the machinery and the inequality of educational and occupational choices ran high. The easiest way to irritate populists is to accuse them of being bitter because they have nobody else to blame for their failure but themselves. This book is as odd as it is brilliant. It purports to be a government report written by a sociologist in 2033. It is about conflict between the meritocracy and the masses.
In the western world today, the top 10% of households own 44% of the wealth. That means the other side is right. That said, in the end, the Meritocratic race will be won by the10%. Young’s dystopian meritocracy will rule everywhere. In this very believable scenario, ordinary parents chances for improving their children’s lot is, and will continue to be, vanishingly small. And the Meritocrats running the government will keep it that way.
Illiteracy is fascinating to me because conscious understanding is the key to eliminating illiteracy. Alphabet characters are scripted codes that form words, sentences, and paragraphs representing meaningful information. Written coded information is not consciously comprehended by those who lack the reading skills to interpret scripted character patterns of words and sentences. Information arranged in alphabet symbols is not accessible by a conscious mind unequipped to decipher it.
My recent studies in ancient Greek language provided me first-hand experience with learning to recognize, pronounce, and understand alphabet characters and words previously incomprehensible to me. Ancient Greek pronunciation is consistent, and I can now pronounce Greek syllables whenever I see them. I can speak them even if I don’t yet have the vocabulary knowledge to understand all the words I can pronounce. It is fun and empowering to decipher formerly incomprehensible Greek alphabet characters and words as my vocabulary knowledge grows. Information is embedded in ancient Greek writing, but to understand it you must be capable of consciously interpreting the symbols that represent it.
The point of all this is that information and consciousness are two distinct things. Information is found everywhere in many different mediums of storage and expression. Conscious awareness of information content, however, is always limited by our individual ability to interpret symbolic meaning. In an effort to better understand consciousness, let’s take a closer look at the distinctions between consciousness and information.
In this essay, the terms “mind” and “brain” will refer to two different things. The mind refers to the ineffable conscious awareness we experience (our thoughts, feelings, and perceptions) while the brain refers to the physiological processes that underlie our conscious awareness. Property dualism is the concept that the mind has different properties than the brain, although the two always occur together and are inseparably integrated. The mind is not a separate substance and does not exist without a working brain, but the mind has properties that differ in kind from physiological brain mechanisms. Property dualism will be our working hypothesis in this essay.
The mind becomes conscious of physiological sensory information encoded by the brain. What is the difference between sensory information itself and conscious awareness that renders sense data intelligible? That is the million-dollar question we must try to answer. Consider seeing the color red. What is “red?” A traffic light is a source of red, yellow, and green lights alternating one at a time. Suppose we are in a hurry, late for a doctor’s appointment, and the traffic light is emitting red light.
That red light has a specific frequency and is absorbed by the cones in our retina. The light is converted by retinal neurons, in a process called transduction, into patterns of neuronal electrical firings that have a particular rate and amplitude. These electrical impulses travel down the optic nerve to the lateral geniculate nucleus in the thalamus. From there, after a chemical transfer of neurotransmitters between neurons, the impulses travel to other neurons located in the primary visual cortex, located in the back portion of the brain called the occipital lobe. This processing of the original red light from the traffic signal by brain physiology is well documented in neuroscience.
But where and by what method in this path of brain physiology do electro-chemical firing rates of neurons become the mind’s conscious awareness of the color red? No one knows. It just somehow magically happens. Current neuroscientific speculation indicates it happens sometime after the neuronal pulses reach the primary visual cortex. The color red is a construction by physiological information processing inside the brain into the mind’s corresponding conscious experience of red. The brain never has a mechanical, physical component that is distinctly red in itself. It only has information represented by variable patterns of electro-chemical impulses in neurons distributed across particular brain locations, all initiated by a certain frequency of light striking retinal neurons. Yet the mind consciously perceives red as red. When the traffic signal turns green, a different electro-chemical pattern rate pulses down the same neuronal pathways, and the mind experiences, or sees, green.
A similar series of events occur when we hear sounds. Sound waves consisting of compressed air strike the ear drum and cause vibrations. Small bones in the inner ear move and create fluctuations in the fluid inside the cochlea. Cilia, small hairs inside the cochlea, move in relation to the motion of the fluid. The moving cilia excite neurons, transducing the frequency and loudness of the sound source into electro-chemical neuronal pulse rates. These electro-chemical pulse rates are routed directly to the medial geniculate nucleus. From there, the pulse rates go to the primary auditory cortex in the temporal lobe of the brain. Again, neuroscience indicates sound is consciously perceived after the electro-chemical pulse rates reach the primary auditory cortex.
I say that vision and hearing are similar because they both end up as transduced electro-chemical pulse rates which are somehow translated into conscious perceptions. They differ, however, in the sources and types of initial stimulations, methods of transduction, rates of neuronal firing, and their final destinations inside the brain. Visual and sound processing happens simultaneously in different parts of the brain. Conscious awareness of both vision and hearing occur together in real time, a remarkable achievement of consciousness, which itself clearly has no centralized nucleus location in the brain.
What about stream-of-consciousness, which is central to our internal conception of self? In addition to our ongoing conscious awareness of visual and aural processing of sensory information, we have a sequential stream of silent words running through our conscious minds that carry intonations of emotional and intellectual content. The brain physiology of stream-of-consciousness is complex, with a variety of neural locations producing electrical and chemical signals in a coordinated fashion. The conscious mind perceives the emotional and intellectual content of ideas by interpreting these integrated physiological electro-chemical neuronal pulse rates in the brain.
The cacophony of firing neurons is distributed throughout the brain in real time, and each individual neuron contributes to the overall instantaneous pattern. The location of a neuron and its rate of firing determine its physiological contribution to resulting mental awareness. The question that remains unanswered is how and why stream-of-consciousness and sensory perception occur in the mind from these physiologically distinct brain mechanisms. I believe in the property dualism of mind and brain. Content of the conscious mind differs from the distributed electro-chemical pulse rates that underlie it. The title of this essay is “In Search of Consciousness.” I am close, modern neuroscience is close, but the fact of the matter is that we are all still in search of consciousness, even though we experience it every waking moment.
“If work was such a good thing, rich people would have it all and not let you do it.” Elmore Leonard in Forbes
“Ninety percent of the politicians give the other ten percent a bad name.” Henry Kissinger
Complaints from travelers.
“On my holiday to Goa in India, I was disgusted to
find that almost every restaurant served curry. I don't like spicy food at
The beach was too sandy.
Topless sunbathing on the beach should be banned. The holiday was ruined as my husband spent all day looking at other women.
It took us nine hours to fly home from Jamaica to England, whereas, it only took the Americans three hours to get home.
I was bitten by a mosquito - no-one said they
For the Loveworn
Heavy drinker, 35, Glasgow area, seeks gorgeous sex addict.”
Bitter, disillusioned Dundonian lately rejected by longtime fiancée seeks decent, honest, reliable woman, if such a thing still exists in this cruel world.
Tall, athletic, blonde-haired troublemaker, gets slit-eyed and obnoxious after a few drinks, seeks attractive, wealthy lady for bail purposes, maybe more.
CPA, 42, seeks female for marriage. Duties will include cooking, light cleaning and accompanying me to office social functions. References required. No timewasters.
Man, 27, medium build, brown hair, blue eyes, seeks alibi for the night of February 27 between 8pm and 11:30pm.
“Have you heard the one about a tree falling in the forest, but no one hears it, because some guy’s wife won’t stop talking?” Richard McGuire.
Topless saleswomen are legal in Liverpool, England - but only in tropical fish stores.
Banging your head against a wall uses 150 calories an hour.
The ant can lift 50 times its own weight, can pull 30 times its own weight and always falls over on its right side when intoxicated.
Butterflies taste with their feet.
Turtles can breathe through their butts.
A man in New York City (Where else?) dressed in drag as his mother for six years to collect her benefit checks. Thomas Prutsik-Parkin hid his Adam’s apple with a scarf but somebody finally noticed his large hands. He has been arrested.
Two flamingo chicks in the London Zoo are afraid of the color pink. Flamingo chicks have gray feathers. Zookeepers are hoping they can overcome their phobias before they mature enough to grow pink feathers.
What have we learned in 2,073 years?
"The budget should be balanced, the Treasury should be refilled, public debt should be reduced, the arrogance of officialdom should be tempered and controlled, and the assistance to foreign lands should be curtailed lest Rome become bankrupt. People must again learn to work, instead of living on public assistance." Cicero - 55 BC
The Philosophy of Golf
“Sex and golf are the two things you can enjoy even if you're not good at them.” Kevin Costner
“After all these years, it's still embarrassing
for me to play on the American golf tour. Like the time I asked my caddie
for a sand wedge and he came back ten minutes later with a ham on rye.”
“I'm not saying my golf game went bad, but if I grew tomatoes, they'd come up sliced.” Lee Trevino
“These greens are so fast I have to hold my putter over the ball and hit it with the shadow.” Sam Snead
“If you think it's hard to meet new people, try picking up the wrong golf ball.” Jack Lemmon
“While playing golf today I hit two good balls. I stepped on a rake.” Henny Youngman
“I never pray on a golf course. Actually, the Lord answers my prayers everywhere except on the course.” Billy Graham
“The uglier a man's legs are, the better he plays golf. It's almost a law.” H. G. Wells
“Give me golf clubs, fresh air and a beautiful partner, and you can keep the clubs and the fresh air.” Jack Benny
“Swing hard in case you hit it.” Dan Marino
“The ball retriever is not long enough to get my putter out of the tree.” Brian Weis
“I was three over. One over a house, one over a patio, and one over a swimming pool.” George Brett
“You can make a lot of money in this game. Just ask my ex-wives. Both of them are so rich that neither of their husbands work.” Lee Trevino
Emailed marriage announcement, “Charlotte and I tied the knot yesterday. I'm now officially the luckiest man in the world.”
Emailed reply, “Well, maybe Charlotte's luck will turn around soon.”
Government at Work
A team of government people spoke to an automotive engineer explaining that the auto companies needed to make a car that was electric and liquid natural gas (LNG) with enough combined fuel to go 500 miles so we wouldn't need so many gas stations. They were quoting BTU's of LNG and battery life that they had looked up on some website. The engineer explained that to do this you would need a trunk FULL of batteries and a LNG tank as big as a car to make that happen and that there were problems related to the laws of physics that prevented them from doing this. A government person interrupted and said, "These laws of physics? Whose rules are those? We need to change that.” Some of the other government people wrote down the law’s name so they could look it up. “We have the congress and the administration. We can repeal that law, amend it, or use an executive order to get rid of that problem. That's why we are here, to fix these sort of issues." Names withheld.
After 148 years, Italy and Switzerland are redrawing their border because Alpine glaciers are melting. London Daily Telegraph
Must Have Item
You can buy a “Picket Fence” recliner that looks like a propped up section of a picket fence for a mere $250.00. You can purchase your very own “Recreational Recliner” from www.normann-copenhagen.com.
If your ancestors had bought a Stradivari or an Amata violin in the sixteen-hundreds and passed it down to you, its value would have increased an inflation adjusted 3% a year. They are worth millions today.
A new study disputes the idea that positive thinking helps everybody. The study demonstrated that positive attitudes worked for those with high self-esteem. Saying positive things to themselves does not help those who do not think highly of themselves. It makes them feel much worse. Positive thoughts may backfire on the very people who need them the most, the study concluded.
A Brief Treatise on Literature
“I was reading this James Bond book, and right away I realized that like most books, it had too many words. The plot was the same one that all James Bond books have: An evil person tries to blow up the world, but James Bond kills him and his henchmen and makes love to several attractive women. There, that's it: 24 words. But the guy who wrote the book took thousands of words to say it. Or consider The Brothers Karamazov, by the famous Russian alcoholic Fyodor Dostoyevsky. It's about these two brothers who kill their father. Or maybe only one of them kills the father. It's impossible to tell because what they mostly do is talk for nearly a thousand pages. If all Russians talk as much as the Karamazovs did, I don't see how they found time to become a major world power. I'm told that Dostoyevsky wrote The Brothers Karamazov to raise the question of whether there is a God. So why didn't he just come right out and say: ‘Is there a God? It sure beats the heck out of me.’
Other famous works could easily have been summarized in a few words: Moby Dick -- Don't mess around with large whales because they symbolize nature and will kill you.
A Tale of Two Cities -- French people are crazy.”
Old Age: Old guy sitting in a bar complains to a man sitting at the other end of the bar, “Sometimes I forget to drink.”
Edgar Allan Poe
January 19 was the 210th anniversary of the birth of Edgar Allan Poe. He died 40 years later, in the same pitiable penury he was born into. His mother, Eliza Poe, was a talented actress. His father, David Poe, was a hapless ne’er-do-well who deserted his family soon after Edgar was born. Edgar’s mother died when he was two. He and his brother and sister were orphans who had to depend upon strangers. Edgar ended up in the home of a well-to-do childless family in Richmond, Virginia. He was never legally adopted, or loved, by his benefactor, John Allan, but Edgar took Allan to be his middle name.
The family moved to England in 1815 where Edgar attended posh English public schools. The financial panic of 1819 ruined John Allan and they moved back to Richmond. Edgar took up writing poetry.
Edgar Allan Poe was a man who couldn’t help making a mess of his life. He eventually bit every hand that fed him. John Allan gained another fortune but by then, his relationship with Edgar was such that he wouldn’t give Edgar a penny. He died a rich man but his will didn’t mention Edgar.
In 1823, Poe fell in love with Jane Stannard, the unhinged mother of a school friend. A year later she died. In 1836, he married Virginia Clemm. She was 13, he was 27. He called her “his little wifey.”
A lot of Poe’s misfortune was brought on himself because he was an inveterate liar. He is a challenge to biographers because so much of what he wrote about himself is contradictory. Edgar Allan Poe was an irresponsible, ungrateful, arrogant, lying, drunkard. He lived a life of abject misery.
Poe had many admirers who could have helped him but every relationship was irrecoverably broken by Poe’s actions. He was improvident in the extreme. There was a time when his wife and mother-in-law had not eaten for days. Some friends heard about it, passed the hat and gave him $15.00. A couple of hours later, they saw Poe drunk.
Poe wanted to be a novelist but his financial circumstances did not permit him to write what he wanted to write. He wrote what he could sell and he sold it cheap because he was, for most of his adult life, in severe financial straits and sometimes he and his family went hungry.
He invented the detective story. Mystery writers, from Mary Shelley and Sir Arthur Conan Doyle to Steven King, owe a debt to Edgar Allan Poe. Poe’s The Gold Bug is his most famous detective story.
But, in my opinion, no man has had such mastery of poetic English verse as he. To read his verse is to remember it. After three readings, The Raven was permanently engraved in my memory. In a piece called, The Philosophy of Composition, Poe said he composed The Raven backwards, from end to beginning. I suspect this was one of his lies.
And so, in 2018, we still remember this unlikeable genius whose life consisted of one unfortunate event after another, and who wrote unforgettable verse.
And the raven, never flitting, still is sitting, still is sitting
On the pallid bust of Pallas just above my chamber door;
And his eyes have all the seeming of a demon that is dreaming,
And the lamp-light o’er him streaming
Throws his shadow on the floor;
And my soul from out that shadow that lies floating on the floor
Shall be lifted—nevermore!
From The Raven by Edgar Allan Poe
Marilyn vos Savant, supposedly the person with the highest recorded IQ (228), was immortalized when she correctly answered the mathematical dilemma concerning the three doors question on the game show Lets Make a Deal. The contestant stood before three doors. Behind one was a new car. Behind the other two were goats. The contestant’s odds for choosing the door with the car behind it were 33 1/3. If the contestant chose door #1 and the host, who knew which was the correct door for the car, opened door # 3, behind which was a goat. Then the contestant was given the choice of keeping door # 1 or changing to # 2. On the surface this appears to be a 50/50 chance. Our brains are programmed to see it this way. When this question was posed to Marilyn, she answered that the contestant’s best choice is to choose door # 2. Mathematicians from all over the world challenged her answer. When presented with the mathematical proof that the odds were 2 to 1 favoring door # 2, mathematician Paul Erdos proclaimed it impossible. But computer simulations proved that Marilyn was right.
Gilbert K. Chesterton is probably the most quotable writer in the English language. His writings are like the Bible. You can open them to any page and find a message, or a lesson, or something beautiful to recite all day in your mind. In Orthodoxy, he complained that Christian theologians of his day were denying the existence of original sin which was the only proven element in Christianity. He also said on the same page that the advantage of being dull is you could never be accused of being flippant. On that same page, he says that worldly people never seem to understand the world because they rely on a few cynical maxims which are not true. He also says that spiritual doctrines do not actually limit the mind as do materialistic denials. If we believe in immortality we do not need to think about it. But if we disbelieve in immortality we must not think about it. In the first case, the road is open and we can go as far as we like. In the second case, the road is shut.
old man in his mid-eighties struggles to get up from the couch then
Thomas Jefferson defined it as, “If it neither breaks my leg nor picks my purse, what you do is your business.”
The United States has moved a considerable distance from the Jeffersonian point of view and the change accelerated by leaps and bounds during the last eighteen months. Sad to say, neither we, nor our descendents, will ever again see true freedom in this country. Totalitarianism is on the horizon and it advances relentlessly toward meddling in every aspect of our lives.
I don’t like to be pessimistic, and there is no pessimistic literature worth reading. So as a reminder of what we missed this Fourth of July, I have collected excerpts from famous speeches from glorious bygone days.
Heroism is in short supply and today heroism is not accorded the honor and respect it deserves.
In 532 AD, Roman Emperor Justinian was facing a revolt and his prospects were not thought to be good. Taking the advice of his councilors, he was preparing to flee Constantinople. Ships were waiting in the harbor to transport him and Empress Theodora to safety in Thrace.
As the panicked Emperor made for the door, the Empress rose from her throne and said, “My lords, the present occasion is too serious to allow me to follow the convention that a woman should not speak in a man’s council. Those whose interests are threatened by extreme danger should think only of the wisest course of action, not of conventions.
“In my opinion, flight is not the right course, even if it should bring us to safety. It is impossible for a person, having been born into this world, not to die, but it is intolerable to be a fugitive. May I never be deprived of this purple robe, and may I never see the day when those who meet me do not call me empress.
“If you wish to save yourself, my lord, there is no difficulty. We are rich; over there is the sea, and yonder are the ships. Yet reflect for a moment whether, when you have once escaped to a place of security, you would not gladly exchange such safety for death. As for me, I agree with the adage that the royal purple is the noblest shroud.”
As a result of this brief speech, her husband changed his mind about fleeing. Instead he rallied his troops and allies and led them to victory over the insurgents.
This is the conclusion of Daniel Webster’s speech at the dedication of the Bunker Hill Memorial on June 17, 1825:
“Let the sacred obligations which have devolved on this generation and on us, sink deep into our hearts. There are daily droppings from among us who established our liberty and our government. The great trust now descends into new hands. Let us apply ourselves to that which is presented to as our appropriate object. We can win no laurels in a war for independence. Earlier and worthier have gathered them all. Nor are there places beside Solon, and Alfred, and other founders of states. Our fathers have filled them. But there remains to us a great duty of defense and preservation; and there is opened to us also a noble pursuit to which the spirit of the times strongly invites us.
“Our proper business is improvement. Let our age be the age of improvement. In a day of peace, let us advance the arts of peace and the works of peace. Let us develop the resources of our land, call forth its powers, build up its institutions, promote its great interests, and see whether we also in our day and generation, may not perform something worthy to be remembered. Let us cultivate a true spirit of union and harmony. In pursuing the great objectives which our condition points out to us, let us act under a settled conviction, and an habitual feeling that these twenty-four states are one country. Let our conceptions be enlarged to the circle of our duties. Let us extend our ideas over the whole of the vast field in which we are called to act. Let our object be our country. And by the blessing of God, may that country itself become a vast and splendid monument, not of oppression and terror, but of wisdom and peace, and of liberty, upon which the world may gaze with admiration, forever.”
General Douglas McArthur had a remarkable way with words. He was also never at a loss for the most apt reply. A critic asked him if he loved war. The General replied, “No one who has seen combat loves war. Combat causes one to love peace all the more ardently. But once the decision has been made to go to war, war must be waged to win, to win at all costs, no matter what the sacrifice, until the enemy is defeated and their urge to make war is no more.”
His most memorable speech was his farewell speech at West Point May 12, 1962. This is the conclusion:
“You are the lever which binds together the entire fabric of our national system of defense. From your ranks come the great captains who hold the nation’s destiny in their hands the moment the war tocsin sounds.
“The long gray line has never failed us. Were you to do so, a million ghosts in olive drab, in brown khaki, in blue and gray, would rise from their white crosses, thundering those magic words: duty, honor, country.
“This does not mean you are warmongers. On the contrary, the soldier above all other people prays for peace, for he must suffer and bear the deepest wounds and scars of war. But always in our ears ring the ominous words of Plato, that wisest of philosophers: ‘Only the dead have seen the end of war.’
“The shadows are lengthening for me. The twilight is here. My days of old have vanished—tone and tints. They have gone glimmering through the dreams that were. Their memory is one of wondrous beauty, watered by tears and coaxed and caressed by the smiles of yesterday. I listen, then, but with thirsty ear, for the witching melody of faint bugles blowing reveille, of far drums beating the long roll.
“In my dreams I hear again the crash of guns, the rattle of musketry, the strange, mournful, mutter of the battlefield. But in the evening of my memory, I come back to West Point. Always there echoes and re-echoes: duty, honor, country.
“Today marks my final roll call with you. But I want you to know that when I cross the river, my last conscious thoughts will be of the corps, and the corps.
How to Get What You Really Want!
It’s at our very core. Something so basic that we all accept it without question. The founding fathers even wrote it into American DNA when they wrote that we were entitled to “Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” Read that again and you will notice you are entitled to life, liberty and pursuit. Happiness is not an entitlement. No one can give it to you. You have to find it for yourself.
Most of us seem to have a hit and run record with happiness. A few seem to have it running over, some seem to have every reason to be happy but live in misery and others just can’t ever seem to get a break. Is happiness elusive? Some seem to find it for a short while and then something happens and happiness vanishes. Maybe replaced with grief, loneliness, shame, anger, hate or just a sense of empty. Bad substitutes for happiness. The enemy is always ready to give you a substitute!
Before we go any deeper we better decide what happiness is and just as important what it isn’t. Happiness is hard to define for everybody because it is a feeling. You never know what another is truly feeling. We only gauge it by what we feel or think we would feel but we can only define it for ourselves if we are willing to go deep in our mind and explore places we rarely go. Like a diamond it probably won’t be on the surface!
Ask someone what they want and you will get a broad range of responses. If they say “A million dollars” ask them why? When they say to buy everything they want ask them why? When they say so they can do whatever they want ask them why? About now you will be getting close to what they are seeking. The true desire is buried deep. It will be the things they really value. Respect, Love, friendship, purpose and other lofty goals that are integral with that sense of well-being and contentment.
Just as important is how we define what happiness isn’t. We use some terms like pleasure when we speak of happiness. Pleasure isn’t happiness! Pleasure is a short term intense experience. It leaves us wanting more. Not more just like we had but even more intense and longer. It is a high! A rush.
How many times have you seen someone get what they thought they wanted only to find out later it wasn’t what they really wanted. How many times has it happened to you? It happens to every one of us.
It gets so tricky when we want because we attach emotion to the item. We think about getting something (or someone!) that will make everything better. Being seen as a success with a new car, house, and boat or having that mate that everybody wishes they had. We start to believe that not having that thing is making us miserable and that thought becomes self-fulfilling. Then we get afraid of what will happen if we never get it and fear always turns want into need. Told you it was tricky!
This problem was explained by Paul in Romans 7:15. This could be a life verse for me. You know like that one verse that really defines you. It says, “what I do I don’t understand!”
Paul explains that he wants to do good and then doesn’t do it. He then turns and does the very thing he hates. Sound familiar? Why? If you know the right thing to do why not just do it? Oh were it so simple. Something is obviously in the way.
It’s back to the basic question of do we want pleasure or happiness? Which is better? Can we have both?
1. Pleasure is short term, Happiness is longer
2. Pleasure is taking, Happiness is giving
3. Pleasure can be achieved with substances, happiness cannot
4. Pleasure is experienced alone. Happiness can be experienced in a social group
5. All extremes of pleasure leads to addiction. No such thing as being damaged by too much happiness.
6. Pleasure is Dopamine, happiness is serotonin.
Dopamine and serotonin are brain chemicals the brain cells excrete to send a message from cell to cell. Its how the brains thinks. Actually sort of similar to a modern computer when it communicates. Its either on or off for the cell. Why do we care?
Dopamine is the pleasure monkey drug of choice. It excites the cell and makes it go. The brain knows something is wrong when cells fire too much. The brain turns off some of the receptors to keep this from happening. So next time it takes a bigger hit to get the same rush. And more and more. This is called down regulation. Eventually the cell dies from over use and this is addiction.
Serotonin is a chemical that inhibits the cell and keeps it from firing. It causes a peaceful state of mind that says everything is as it should be. You can’t overdose. You can’t be harmed by too much happiness! Now there is one thing that will down regulate serotonin. You guessed it, dopamine! That’s right, too much pleasure will destroy happiness. The Bible tells it and modern science backs it up! (Isn’t it amazing how smart the ancient Christians were?)
Paul gives an example of immediate desire for pleasure destroying happiness. It’s an Old Testament story that you have probably heard before. It’s about a dysfunctional family. Isaac and Rebecca had twin boys. The first baby was hairy so the named him---Hairy. In Hebrew Esau means hairy. The second born was born holding his brothers heel. He was named Jacob which means one that is pulling something. Isaac and Rebecca made a parenting mistake, they played favorites. Esau grew up a favorite of Isaac and hunted the fields. Jacob was a foodie (like me!) and stayed home with Mom learning how to cook.
You probably remember the story. Esau came home hungry and went in where Jacob was cooking a stew. It smelled sooo good. He had homemade bread and the stew ready and Esau said gime, gime, gime or I will die. (If you have ever been a bird hunter you know how he felt. Walk behind a bird dog all day and your dog’s food will smell good!) Jacob said “sure, just give me your birthright as firstborn and you can have some.
Esau said “Sure why not, I will die anyway if I don’t get some.” Now I know Jacob couldn’t believe his ears. So he made him swear and he traded off the birthright for a bowl of stew! Who would do such a thing? He wasn’t dying. It takes over a month to die from starvation.
The first born received a double portion of the inheritance. Money, status as head of the family and prestige. All for a bowl of stew. Who would do that? Only someone who let the desire for immediate pleasure override his thinking. It’s just as true today, getting what we want many times keeps us from getting what we really want.
Paul knew it way back then and so did a lot of others. There is a battle going on inside our minds. Doesn’t matter if you are aware of it or not. The battle is real! So how do we start scoring some victories in this battle? First we have to dig deep into who we are and know what we value. We all have values. It might take some work and it might not be comfortable to admit some things but if you are going to get what you really want you have to know what it is.
Then we start asking God for his help. We accept that Gods plan is the ultimate path to happiness. We pray and ask God for knowledge and courage. God has the knowledge, but do we have the courage to walk away from that next pleasure high? Maybe now that we know it is always at the expense of happiness we might. Remember, happiness is longer!
Maybe you have been searching for happiness for a long time. Maybe you gave up the search and learned to live without it. You don’t have to live without it anymore. Jesus made it simple for us. All he said was “Follow Me.” Not fix yourself and come back (as if you could!), just “Follow Me.”
Our Government at Work
Submitted by John Burnette
A guy stopped at a local gas station, and after filling his tank, he paid the bill and bought a soft drink. He stood by his car to drink his cola and watched a couple of men working along the roadside. One man would dig a hole two or three feet deep and then move on. The other man came along behind him and filled in the hole. While one was digging a new hole, the other was 25 feet behind filling in the hole. The men worked right past the guy with the soft drink and went on down the road.
"I can't stand this," said the man tossing the can into a trash container and headed down the road toward the men. "Hold it, hold it," he said to the men. "Can you tell me what's going on here with all this digging and refilling?"
"Well, we work for the government and we're just doing our job," one of the men said.
"But one of you is digging a hole and the other fills it up. You're not accomplishing anything. Aren't you wasting the taxpayers' money?"
"You don't understand, mister," one of the men said, leaning on his shovel and wiping his brow. "Normally there's three of us: Me, Elmer and Leroy. I dig the hole, Elmer sticks in the tree, and Leroy here puts the dirt back. You see with the government sequestering, they are not buying any more trees so Elmer's job's been cut ... so now it's just me an' Leroy.”
It's Worth the Journey
Laura A. Alston
Rain is falling, entering our hearts and minds.
The road ahead of us can barely be seen.
But we will keep trudging onward
Because hope is our constant companion.
As we travel along our way, we encounter heartache
That makes us weep and slows our footsteps.
But we have found that dwelling on past and present hurts
Chokes the life out of our progress toward healing.
So we walk on winding roads that we try to straighten
With talk, laughter, and sometime tears.
However, we know that we are not alone;
Others have traveled this way, too.
Now, the rain has stopped, gray clouds dissolved.
Sunshine is peeping through, showing us the way.
We will dance, sing, and make a merry noise
Because we know it is worth the journey to get here.
Impartiality is a pompous name for indifference, which is an elegant name for ignorance.
There is a certain poetic value, and that a genuine one, in this sense of having missed the full meaning of things. There is beauty, not only in wisdom, but in this dazed and dramatic ignorance.
The only thing that has kept the race of men from the mad extremes of the convent and the pirate-galley, the night-club and the lethal chamber, has been mysticism — the belief that logic is misleading, and that things are not what they seem.
The riddles of God are more satisfying than the solutions of man.
E. B. Alston: Author, columnist, literary critic, and sometimes poet. His work has been published in various newspapers, telecommunications trade magazines, and books. He is the Managing Editor of the magazine.
Laura A. Alston: It’s Worth the Journey, lives and writes in Henderson, North Carolina. Her first book, My Pet Rocky Renee, was published in June 2010.
Peggy Lovelace Ellis, Natters of a Nomad, has been a freelance editor for 46 years, and a published author for considerably less. Over the past 25 years, she has published regularly in such magazines as Good Old Days, Reminisce, Reminisce Extra, Rock and Gem, Aquarium, True Story, Splickety, Woman’s World, Highlights, and Righter Monthly/Quarterly Review. She publishes in the Divine Moments series, Merry Christmas Moments (November 2017) and The Right Words at the Right Time (forthcoming). She has compiled and edited three anthologies for her writers’ group: Challenges on the Home Front World War II (Chapel Hill Press, 2004), Lest the Colors Fade (Righter Books, 2008), and A Beautiful Life and Other Stories (Righter Books, 2010). Each contains her short fiction, memoirs, and research.
Elizabeth Silance Ballard: A Jubilee Year, is a magazine columnist and author of Three Letters from Teddy and Other Stories, co-author of Whoopin and Hollerin in Onslow County, Kate’s Fan, Christmas Without Koyoko, The Fourth Wife of A Markham Gillespie, Welcome Home, Teddy Stallard and her latest, Three Rivers to Cross.
Rita Berman: Creativity - Quotes from Famous Writers; was born in London, England and now lives in Mebane, N.C. Her business, travel, and writing advice articles have been published in more than 500 diverse newspapers and magazines in the United States and Gt. Britain. Her reference book, The A-Z of Writing and Selling, was a Writer's Digest Book Club selection for September 1981. Her other books, available on Amazon.com are Still Hopping, Still Hoping, (2012), The Dating Adventures of a Widow, (2013), The Key, (2014), Parallel Lives, (2016), Ariana Mangum's Books and Columns (2017),and Military Wives and Widows Tell Their Stories, (2018).
Randy Bittle: In Defense of Philosophy; is a self-taught independent philosopher who is still learning. He has two books, both collections of essays, available on Amazon.com. His latest book, More Colors Through My Mental Prism is also available.
Joan Leotta: Song of Winter Joy, Groundhog Day, January and Valentine’s Day,; has been writing and performing since childhood. This award winning journalist and performer’s first poetry collection is out, Languid Lusciousness with Lemon. You can order that and the fourth of her picture book series for children-Rosa’s Shell from her at email@example.com.
Minerva P. Shaw: Ask Me Anything! Is a North Carolina writer and humorist.
Michael Warren: My Lady of the Hollies, is the author of the novel The Estrangement of the Rain God, 2nd edition, published by Righter Books. He maintains his author web site at http//:www.tiliks.com. His first novel is the first of a tetraology, The Glory River Saga. He has just completed the second novel, The Cripple Goat.