Five Haikus

Where did Homo Saps come from?

An answer in five Haikus.

Heat dissipated

and crystals nucleated

the Rocks of Ages.

Rain scoured the rocks.

Small cracks multiplied

sand grains, freed to roam.

Lightening sparked union

of carbon, hydrogen, and

oxygen atoms.

Molecules arose,

mingled, merged, emerged as new

complex, craggy shapes.

Crags caught each other,

multiplying possible

outcomes. Here we are!

Note: This does not contradict the Bible, despite what some might think. Those are people who do not understand the difference between a mechanism (what I am describing here) and the cause, reason, or motivating force, which I can give no better answer to than anyone else. I am a deeply spiritual person, and it is aggravating when people accuse me of being an atheist. Consciousness preceded or coincided with matter. Like the bumper sticker says, “God Spoke, and Bang It Happened.”

Acts of God

The woman could not keep from crying. Between tears, she told me that she was returning home to Bengaluru, India, with her young son. Her    father had died.

“Was it unexpected?” I asked.

“Yes. Totally,” she replied, breaking into tears again. “I talked to him by Skype just two days ago. He was fine. No illness, no disability.”

We were on an Emirates Air flight from Texas to Dubai. From there, we had a connection to Chennai (formerly Madras), India.

I had worried extensively about having to go through customs in a Arab country, and fretted about contributing to the coffers of the repressive royal family. Though my funny bone was tickled when I found out that Emirates Air will serve you a Kosher meal, I still didn’t like the idea of flying on this airline. The flight was a non-negotiable consequence of going with my tour group.

“Why are you on Emirates Air?” I asked the tearful woman. “It was the best flight I could get on such short notice.” And the tears continued to stream down her face. I have to say that her five year old was more composed. Maybe, having lived far from Grandpa, he wasn’t as distraught. At this point, we had already established that she was from south India, which was also where I was heading. I assumed she’d be on the same connecting flight to Chennai.

“No, I’m going directly to Bengaluru.”

That was a surprise to me. That there were so many people going to south India through Dubai on a given day that there were regularly scheduled flights to multiple cities.

Little did I then suspect that my return trip would be moved up a week, due to a sudden and soon fatal injury to my own mother. It’s funny how the world has a way of telling us that events were already in the making, sometimes long before the actual event. Of course, we humans are pattern making animals, and see patterns, even where they don’t exist. So I am not saying that there aren’t other interpretations of these events. I’m reporting how they felt to me.

About 10 years ago, there was a fire at the building where I had my business. In the months or weeks leading up to that event, someone burned the plastic mail box in front of our house. No other boxes on our street were damaged. And then, one day as I sat down at my desk on entering the office, I noticed an arc coming from the electric plug for my aquarium pump. There was a burn mark, so it was not my imagination. After the main fire, we ended up having to sell the building, which wasn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it was very traumatic and stressful.

“Aquarium accessories are a common cause of house fires,” my friend the fire investigator said. “Be sure the plug is not at the low point of the cord, to avoid collecting condensate.” That was news to me. I’d had aquariums for most of 40 years. I immediately made sure to take his advice. The main fire started at a different location. After the big fire, my friend the Spiritualist Minister, Reverend Dan, had a different explanation. “The two small, inconsequential fires were pre-cursor events.”

“Huh?” I asked. “They happened so you would know, after the fact, that the fire was a part of God’s plan.”

I finally understood. That moment was truly the end of linear time for me. We are eternal creatures. We are a result of an infinite web of interconnected events. As the Buddha reportedly explained, the world we experience is a result of dependent arising. There’s no single cause for any event. If I had gone on a different airline, God would have found some other way to let me know that my mother’s pain was coming to an end.

Two small fires preceded a traumatic one. The tears of a woman unknown to me made it clear that God had planned to end my mother’s profound fear of the relentless onset of total blindness.

The tears of the stranger also revealed, in hindsight, that the scheduling problem that kept me from meeting my colleagues in Pune, India, which would have interfered with my being with my father for the funeral, was also an act of God. A kindness in this case, although experienced as a disappointment. It would have been painful to have had to cancel a professional engagement, or do a speaking tour, knowing that my mother was terminally injured. As it worked out, I had only to cut short my vacation.

 

Trump: A Man of Integrity?

What does it mean to be a person of integrity?

Many people think that a person of integrity is one who is honest and truthful, doesn’t steal, cheat or lie. But this is not the real definition of integrity. Integrity means whole.

I recently saw a quote to the effect that the person’s words, actions, thoughts, were consistent. I agree with this definition.  Sometimes I find a person of integrity to be a jerk, but that’s simply my opinion of the person, which I arrived at using my own moral and ethical standards.

I was having a discussion with someone and said that by this definition, Donald Trump is a man of integrity. He is who he is. He is not deep or thoughtful, but according to New Yorker staff writer David Owen, who was speaking with Terry Gross on the NPR program Fresh Air, on April 13 (the anniversary of the Titanic disaster), Trump behaved the same way when Owen met him for an interview for Golf Digest, as he behaves now, as president. Terry Gross asked:

How did the man that you golfed with compare with the president you’re watching on TV?

And Owen answered “Very much the same.” You can find the exchange in the transcript of the interview, about half way down, at the link above.

I don’t know if Owen is right, but at least he has spent time with the President. I have not. So I have to leave the possibility open that Trump is who he says he is. That is what  a lot of people who voted for him said they wanted.

That does not mean I like his value system. In the end, most of us feel friendlier toward people with whom we share the top levels of our value hierarchies.

A new story

“The river of cake batter was a nuisance,”        Officer Blando grumbled sarcastically to           himself.”

He continued mumbling as he drove away from the house, shaking his head. He knew that the river of lava was well beyond being a nuisance. It was an outright danger, and those new immigrants just didn’t understand that they needed to obey the evacuation order pronto. They thought they were far enough away from the molten rock. Akamenabar had told Officer Blando that they’d leave the following day. His family was still working on cleaning up the river of cake batter.

***************************

Commentary: This came from two sets of prompts. On March 3, 2017, we had “nuisance, river, cake.” I usually don’t do the homework for my writing group. Most of they are retired and have more time. But that day I felt smug, as I had immediately written “The river of cake batter was a nuisance.” There the sentence stood, in its loneliness, on March 22, the next time I could attend, when the prompt was a photo of a lava flow. When I read the story, one of the listeners said she saw The Sorcerer’s Apprentice. That’s what I like about creative writing. It’s a new story in every reader’s mind.

Interestingly, coincidentally, NPR’s RadioLab episode for today, April 2, 2017, is about translation. The first piece is about a writer who ended up with a 700 page book that resulted from multiple translations of a 28 line poem, that had only 3 syllables per line. Check it out. https://www.wnyc.org/radio/#/ondemand/745884

Hiring a Saint

“I took the liberty,” Dharmendra said, “of asking a saint to come with us.” I must have looked a little confused. “A saint?” I asked. “Yes, he’s a saint. I asked him to come so he can do a ritual for your mom.”

We were on our way to a thousand year old temple in the Kumaun  (click for some maps), a division of the State of Uttarakhand, on the Indian side of the borders of Tibet and Nepal. I had already traveled twice to the Kumaun, and always found myself wishing I used some type of prescription tranquilizer as the taxi travels along the narrow roads, along the edges of nearly vertical mountain slopes. Dharmendra has been my guide all three times. We’ve never actually gone to the peaks of any of the tallest Himalayan mountains. Only the foothills. But the views are fantastic.

During the last trip to India, in 2008, which was a birthday gift from my parents, my mother, who was born in West Virginia, and could not wait to move away to a big city, but who always loved mountains, turned to me at one point, and said “I see why you wanted to come back.”

My mother was quite an impressive woman. She passed the CPA exam in 1956, and the Maryland and DC bars in 1967. There were not very many women lawyers at that time. In any case, she certainly impressed Dharmendra on that trip. He informed me that MAYBE my mother was as good as packing suitcases as he was. But he seemed to acknowledge that she was going to get what she thought was her due, and he learned some skills in that vein from her. I had gotten the news that she had fallen, and was unlikely to survive, a few days before I was to leave Chennai and head to north India, for the “vacation” part of my trip to the sub-continent. There was nothing I could do for my mother at that point, by going home right away. So I continued my trip, with modifications in case I had to cut the trip short, which I did.

An Indian engineering colleague had a question for me at the time I was planning the 2008 trip. “Is it wise to use Dharmendra’s services? Is he accredited by the Government of India?” I said no, but I couldn’t let myself worry. Dharmendra’s tour guide service is no ordinary tour guide service.

Dharmendra is going to give his clients an experience to remember. It’s never mediocre. Apparently, as I found out on this trip, it includes the services of a saint to pray for your mother’s soul, should the need arise. Dharmendra arranged for me to do what he would have done had it been his own mother near death.

Swami Shivachaitanyananda, I found out the next day, really is considered a saint.

Swami Shivachaitanyananda at Shangrila Resort, holding a children’s book in English, that someone had left behind. The Swami doesn’t read English.

After spending twenty years in a cave, he decided to rejoin society. He loves to talk. Making up for lost time, he’s extremely cheerful and active for 70. He is a self appointed concrete inspector. If he sees the wrong mix of sand and cement, he complains to the authorities. Apparently, a large construction in Rishakesh was redone after the contractors were caught cheating by the Swami.

His materials engineering skills don’t interfere with his regular swami activities. He taught me a few Vedic mantras on the way to the mountain temple. He was impressed with my Sanskrit pronunciation, which I had learned at the beginning of my trip at a chanting yoga retreat.

After driving for 5 hours, to get to the town with the nearby temple, we got out of the car, bought around 150 pounds of rice, potatoes, carrots, cauliflower, etc., and called the temple priest to send down people to carry the food up the 3.5 km switch backed, gravel, rock, and tree root covered, steep path. I only had to carry myself and my purse. The taxi driver carried my sleeping bag and knapsack, along with his own stuff. As I looked up, and reminded my dear friend and tour guide that there was a reason I brought a cane with me, and that there was a difference between 3.5 km horizontal and 3.5 km vertical, he assured me it wasn’t strictly vertical. I made it. Slowly. The Swami beat me. Easily. Here’s the view from the “guest house,” at the 3.5 km mark. A mere half km from the top of the mountain, where the actual temple is. It was worth it.

Hopefully there will be a photo of the guest house itself in a later post, but for now I will say that we took the room that did not smell like burned plastic. The rest of the amenities? A concrete floor and a metal door, and two small windows with metal shutters. They were nice. They gave the spoiled American 3 extra blankets.

The resident priest made dinner for us. The most delicious dahl (spiced lentils) I have ever had. Dharmendra claimed it was because it was cooked on a wood fire. Despite the hot meal, I had never really warmed up after breaking into a sweat on the hike up. The mountain air was cold.

“No, Dharmendra,” I said. “Narendra (our driver) is not sleeping in a different room. He’s sleeping with us, to add his hot breath and heat radiations to the three of us.”

I asked if I had been snoring when we all woke up, and an affirmative answer let me realize that I did probably sleep for a few hours. Morning light at 7 meant time for me to eat the chapati that the priest had made specially for me so I could take my pain meds before walking up the last half km to the temple.

The last part of the climb to a mountain temple is reliably steeper than the rest. Getting to a mountain top temple is most of the prayer. As one of my companions on the earlier part of the trip, the yoga retreat, said, “The Indians With Disabilities Act has two words: Tough Shit.”

But with the cane, I made it. And the Swami performed the healing ritual for my mom. It turns out that she started breathing on her own, right around that time.

Never underestimate the power of prayer, whether it is from your own tradition or not.

Ultimately, as I already knew would be the case, my mom did not survive. But because she was breathing on her own, they were able to remove the ventilator mask, and my dad got to see her face, and kiss her face, and that meant a lot to him at the time.

Seeing her face, he was able to see that “she” was gone from the physical shell that had housed his wife of 59.5 years. It was still hard to let her go, but I think easier than it would have been otherwise.

Back at the guest house, the priest and Dharmendra had a little disagreement. Turns out that the Swami really is considered a saint, and the priest did not think that we should pay if we brought the Swami with us to bless his facility. Dharmendra had to clandestinely leave the money to pay for our accommodations.

Back at the bottom of the trail, as we got in back in the car, Dharmendra told me “Now you realize you are stronger than you thought you were.”

Dharmendra at
http://www.exotic-himalayas.com/

Miraculously, my arthritis pain was greatly reduced the day I got off the plane in India. Still, after two years of severe inflammation, my fitness condition wasn’t great. Back in the US for a month now, the arthritis pain continues at a much lower level than it was before I left. Maybe this is part of why old people go south for the winter. And probably why this wasn’t my last trip to India, even though I had said before I left that it was my bucket trip.

It was supposed to be MY bucket trip, not my  mom’s.

 

 

 

 

 

Spiritually Attached to India

“She won’t like it here,” the good professor wrote. “Westerners never do. There’s no room service, and the food in the cafeteria is all South Indian style.”

“She’s spiritually attached to India. She speaks fluent Hindi. This isn’t her first trip. She’ll be fine.”

My soon to be friend Shankar nailed it. I had never thought about it in exactly those words though. I’m spiritually attached to India. It would be my third trip to the subcontinent. The fluent Hindi was a bit of an exaggeration. I had pretty darn good tourist Hindi, maybe a thousand words. Grammatical mistakes in most of my sentences, but I was usually understood, then corrected, proving that they understood what I was trying to say. (My most used sentence on the hair-raising ride on the 1.5 lane wide roads on the sides of the “foothills” of the Himalayas, was -after correction- Nicche na dekko!!- “Don’t look down!”

Scary Road on the way to Rudraprayag

 

sometimes followed by “But Look Down- it’s beautiful!”)

Shankar was correct, but he humored the professor, and asked me if I agreed that the accommodation planned, without room service, would be ok. I assured him that it would, and was very happy to have this new idea of spiritual attachment, and to have had someone who never met me in person realize it was true. I can’t really explain it; maybe I had a past life or three in India.

Really, my main concern about hotels in Asia is that the mattresses  are so hard. Difficult on my arthritic joints. But I had resolved to just take extra pain killer, when I needed it. This was my bucket trip. I was acting on my desire to teach a failure analysis class in India, before the onset of my ultimate, inevitable deterioration. The mattress at the University guesthouse was unlikely to be harder, I reasoned,  than the one at the rural Christian monastery where I was going to be spending the first week and a half in India on the upcoming trip. And the food was unlikely to be more difficult to enjoy than what the monks and nuns ate. And anyway, I had just returned from Japan, where I became convinced that the more expensive the hotel, the harder the mattress.

If I really hated sambar, rasaam, and idly, I probably wouldn’t go to south India. But I had learned to eat, if not love, the first two items, spicy soups, back in the mid 1970’s, when my South Indian ex-boyfriend moved to a town near my parents, who really liked him more than any other boyfriend I had before or after, and proceeded to teach my mother how to do South Indian cooking. I learned to more or less enjoy idly, a somewhat bland lentil flour based sponge, used to sop up the sambar, on my first trip to India, where they served it at the Hindu monastery (ashram) that hosted the meditation retreat that I was attending in 2001.

So I just had to deal with the reality of the hospitality that my hosts, for what was becoming a four day speaking tour in Chennai, were able to provide. I had offered to teach a two day seminar, give a dinner talk to my fellow members of our international engineering society, and a lecture to the engineering students at the local university.  I ended up also giving a longer version of the dinner talk at two private companies, and another presentation to some eleventh graders, entitled “Is a Career in Materials Engineering Right for Me?” I wasn’t charging a speaking or teaching fee, but I thought it was reasonable to ask them to cover my expenses for the four days that I’d be visiting them. They agreed, but were concerned about the budget. It all worked out. I was back to normal food after buying myself four days of temptations at the Radisson Blu buffets.

Back home after a month in India, I feel more spiritually attached to the people and place than ever. After twenty years of trying to get traction exploring new ideas of how engineers can embrace critical and creative thinking, or what I’ve started to call “cultivating clarity,” I am lucky to have developed a small group of local, American people, who appreciate my creative approach to critical thinking. But each of the two Indian companies that invited me to the give the “Thinking Skill Optimization” talk had 85+ people attend. And they participated. And their managers thanked me in unique ways that allowed me to see that they were also paying attention. My new friend Prasad told me “You have gotten pretty close to giving a method for developing intuition.”

Yes, that’s right. And it was very interesting to me that someone who lives in the land of the longest lasting collective consciousness, the very source of intuition, understood that to be a major part of my approach. Of course many engineers would not be attracted to a class on developing their intuition, and even if they were, I imagine they’d have a hard time convincing their bosses to cover the costs to attend. It sure is useful to have a way to calibrate intuition though. When effective, it’s a lot faster and easier than calculations and analysis.

Thinking about it further, I am just realizing how unusual it was that both managers attended the training with their employees. How often does that happen in the USA? Most American managers think that the only thing they need to know how to do is balance a budget.

I think there is more to the success of the contribution of Indian industry to the global economy than low wages.

Fake News and the First Amendment

Fake news is very hard to distinguish       from the real thing, and we have to     balance actions against fake news with    First Amendment rights.

REALLY? Is that true, I wondered, as I listened to NPR’s talk show version of CNN style hyper news, “On Point,” hosted by Tom Ashcroft, from WBUR.

This topic is perhaps more important now than it was when I first posted this. I’ve added some new links at the bottom of the post, and will try to keep this updated.

The event that precipitated the show was the “Pizzagate” scandal. A man, acting on his own to investigate the completely false accusations of Hillary Clinton running a child sex ring out of the basement of a Washington, DC area family pizza restaurant, (if she was so tired and weak from the campaign activities, I wondered how would she find time to run a sex ring??? And oh, by the way, according to CNN, the pizza place has NO basement)  fired an assault rifle in a room crowded with families enjoying their pizzas.

Thus, we have entered a new age, where fake news not only influences people’s opinions about who to vote for, or what to think, but starts chains of actions that have a lethal potential. Of course, there might be those out there who think that it should be a capital offense (benefiting from vigilante action, and needing no criminal proceedings) to eat in a pizza parlor that is owned by someone who donated money to the Democrats. But assuming for now that most Americans have not gone that far, what other lessons might we look for in Pizzagate and it’s origins?

What was surprising to me was the juxta-position of the First Amendment with the right to publish fake news.

But what is the First Amendment FOR EXACTLY? Is it to protect liars and libelers? That was never my impression from my civics classes in school. I thought it was to protect the expression of opinions about how we SHOULD live. Even the Nazis have a right to to assemble and speak and try to convince the rest of the country that we should kill or oppress all those they don’t like. That is protected speech. However, we do have laws against libel and slander, and that is much of what fake news is.

Here is what Scholastic.com says (red is Shona’s highlight)

Freedom of Speech. This freedom entitles American citizens to say what they think, provided they do not intentionally hurt someone else’s reputation by making false accusations. Neither may they make irresponsible statements deliberately harmful to others, such as yelling, “Fire!” in a crowded theater when there is no fire. There are many issues about which Americans disagree, from child-rearing practices to baseball teams to Presidential candidates. Freedom of speech enables people to state their opinions openly to try to convince others to change their minds.

The First Amendment also gives you the right to disagree with what others say without fear of punishment by the government authorities….

Freedom of the Press. This freedom makes it possible for Americans to keep informed about what is going on in government. It helps them to be responsible citizens. Reporters and editors can criticize the government without the risk of punishment, provided they do not deliberately tell lies. Newspapers, magazines, and books, as well as television and movie scripts, do not have to be submitted for government inspection before they are published. This censorship would violate the First Amendment.

Back to Shona’s thoughts now… What I can’t figure out is why the journalism and philosophy professors, the journalist, and the host of the show could not see that the purpose of the First Amendment is to protect the individual going about their business as a free citizen. The idea of the First Amendment is not and never was to protect liars whose goal is to interfere with the democratic process, or to intentionally harm law abiding citizens they do not like. In other words, we don’t have the right to help God punish those who we don’t like, for something they did not do.

My understanding of the First Amendment was in line with what Scholastic.com wrote. Now maybe some would consider this a “dumbing down” of the First Amendment. All parents teach their kids not to lie, since they don’t want their kids lying to THEM about household matters. But the God of the Hebrew Bible did not make a commandment against lying. That God knows that lies have a valid purpose in life. The God of the Hebrew Bible prohibited BEARING FALSE WITNESS. This is  a specific TYPE of lying, that would undermine the foundations of a just society. Bearing false witness in a court proceeding before a judge is a crime in American law as well. We call it perjury, and if we bear false witness we can be held in “contempt of court,” since the court proceedings include swearing that the witness will tell the truth.

I understand that becoming a public figure widens the opening for allowed criticism. However, outright lies that harm an individual’s reputation should not be protected “speech,” whether they are a public or private person.

Currently, if someone slanders or libels an individual, the individual is responsible for bringing the legal action against the perpetrator. Maybe this should change. If someone physically or psychologically harms or kills an individual, the STATE (the government) takes the action against the alleged perpetrator. If I am killed, my family members do not have to sue the alleged murderer in order for the murderer to be brought before the justice system. There are problems with this system, as the OJ Simpson trial showed, and the victims’ families did end up having to go to civil court to get some justice… But there will always be times where individual justice fails in the interest of having a “neutral justice system.”

Maybe it is time to rethink the way libel and slander laws operate. When the target is a public figure, a political figure, maybe it is of interest to all of the people to know the truth, and the State (Government) should represent THE PEOPLE in an action against the liars.

I just keep scratching my head about why the two professors and the journalist could not come up with this “angle” on how to slow the tsunami of fake news while protecting the First Amendment. The First Amendment is not there to protect liars. It’s there to protect the ignorant. And we are all ignorant of a lot of things, even if we are experts in others.

NEW LINK: Check out this interesting editorial about how fake news is used by those in search of power.

The Sacred Media: Another new link to some thoughts about freedom of the press, from a fellow writer of Mid-Michigan Word Gatherers.

Another link to how to tell fact from opinion. A well done video.

 

Murderer’s Lament

The water opened in front of me. Ripples at the edge of the lake transitioned into sun-speckled wavelets. I bent down to feel the coolness, and brought my cupped hands to my face.

A small silver dart exited the brown forest of underwater plants. Pink  granite and grey feldspar protruded from the sand, carrying memories of their faraway origins.

I lifted my head. A wall of late-summer-green leaves edged the far shore, framing the emptiness of the water’s surface. A few cottages, white, turquoise, lilac and pink, punctuated the living barrier. I silently thanked the houses’ inhabitants for their contribution to what would become my lasting vision of tranquility.

It had been years since I had seen so clearly. The memory of this last moment of quiet freedom has played over and over again in the cinema of my mind, as I knew it would, long after the small fish forgot all about the looming shadow that briefly darkened its way.

The Problem with the Two Party System

Sometime in my youth, I remember expressing happiness to my dad that my preferred political party had won the presidency, after a long drought. Unfortunately, the new president was having trouble finding well known, experienced, skilled, proven Democrats to fill the leadership roles in the Cabinet, and beyond. My father, long interested in government, to the extent of reading multiple histories of the Romans, ranted about the incompetence of the new president, and the general failure to fill many of the positions, due to the refusal of Congress to approve his nominees, thus proving his general incompetence to be president.

Is Now The Time to Expand Our Two Party System?

That’s the problem with election cycles in the two party system that we Americans love so much. We’re proud of the fact  that we have only two major parties. We avoid that messy coalition building that other democracies have to to through. We let the people choose, and then let the chosen person / party govern. At least that’s been the theory. The winning party claims a mandate based on the electoral college “landslide,” even if the popular vote went the other way. The winner then gets to fill the leadership roles in agriculture, the military, education, finance, drug policy, and all the other aspects of modern life.

But experience builds on experience.

As an engineer, age late 50’s, suddenly my clients are asking new types of questions. I would not have been able to answer these questions even a few years ago. Or maybe the questions have always been there, but I’m able to hear them now. Hard to say. A few times in the recent past, the answers have popped into my mind almost as soon as they are asked, and anticipated side concerns also seem to articulate themselves in the compost of the confusion of the questioner.

When only Democrats get to fill top positions for 8 or 12 years, Republicans don’t gain the skills required to lead. When only Republicans get to fill top positions for 8 or 12 years, Democrats don’t gain the skills required to lead. When Republicans, who by definition think multi-level hierarchy is the natural and best state for humanity, are in charge for long stretches of time, the sprouts of true egalitarian democracy are killed, pre-emergence.

Empowerment is the Key!

I heard an African-American community leader calmly insisting, correctly in my opinion, that money for White-led organizations helping African-Americans was wasted. African-Americans, he kept insisting, have to be empowered to solve problems by themselves. That means the role of the white cultural matrix must be to try to weed out the systematic discrimination that keeps African-Americans dis-empowered.

Empowerment is related to the SELF.

It does not mean power OVER others.

What are the major, current and actionable sources of this dis-empowerment? I’ll leave that question for all of us to meditate on.

Only by solving problems can we learn to solve problems.

This happens  at many simultaneous levels: individual, community wide, city wide, state wide,  nation wide, and world wide, and over many generations. It takes a long un-interupted time for the poisonous preconceptions carried in every culture to be weeded out in the “market-place of ideas.” These poisonous ideas are left from earlier times, were created in different circumstances, by well meaning people. But the only constant is change. And as change accelerates in the accelerated mingling of different groups in modern times, we need to move toward a system where people of all cultures and political persuasions have un-interupted chances to develop their leadership skills.

You may wish to view this Wikipedia article on other problems associated with the type of voting we have, which is not necessarily confined to two party systems. Thanks to the person who called this article to my attention.

Wrong about Worms!

The worm, surprised by the sudden appearance of daylight, quickly retreated into its tunnel.

“Do worms have eyes?” asked Danny.

“Hmm, good question. I don’t think so.”

“Either did I. Maybe they can sense light though. Or maybe it simply felt the air move. Or maybe it was resting against the bottom of the flower pot when you picked it up.”

I had recruited Danny to help me clean up the yard, his young skeleton being more flexible than mine, and his muscles stronger.

“It’s hard to say what a worm knows!” Danny pointed out.

“Well, it’s easy to find some verbiage about worms. But saying something meaningful and truthful requires mental wrestling,” I reminded my young neighbor.

Worms do not have vertebrae!” retorted Danny. “That did not require too much wrestling.”

I nodded, happy to hear this entity of tender years producing such a pithy aphorism, and replied to him.

“We do have vertebrae, but we are still subject to the winds of fate. Our vertebrae help us stand straight, but we can’t avoid making some wrong turns in life.”

“Yeah,” mumbled Danny. “I’m still calculating the worth of that last explosion of wrath I indulged in.”

My eyes involuntarily sought the exit to the wormhole. I knew the feeling. We had met in the advanced anger management class. Our warped personalities were both on the mend. We were cultivating our minds. Tired of having to wriggle away from the complicated conditions we had created for ourselves, we were learning new habits. We were learning how to un-braid the strands of our troubled lives. We were learning to unwrap the layers of weird circumstances that had trapped us in inner turmoil. We were learning that prose is preferable to fists. Versatility is what we can learn from the worm.

Your face is wreathed in smiles,” noted Danny.

“Versatility is what we can learn from the worm,” I cheerfully replied.

“Right!” said Danny. No damn vertebrae to get in the way.”

MUSE

Our homework assignment in writing group was to randomly pick a word from the dictionary and write something about it or with it. I usually don’t do the homework. Most of the others in the group are retired and have more time. This time, I was inspired to write something though, but “WREATHE” (the verb) just did not give me much to go on. So I turned to the “Indo-European Root” dictionary at the back of the American Heritage Dictionary that I got a few years back. Word origins are very interesting. I read and underlined the entire Indo-European and Semetic root word appendices when the book arrived.

“Wreathe” comes from the root word “wer” of which there are three unrelated versions. (They’d sound different in the original Indo-European language, but all are represented as “wer” in modern American English. Wreathe comes from “wer” #2.) This version of “wer” has to do with turning and wrapping. It’s amazing how so few root words have generated so many individual expressions of nuance in the last 5000 years or so.

The highlighted words are all derivatives from “wer” #2. Of course some of the derivations in this dictionary are (IMHO) wrong. It’s tough work and the professionals tend sometimes to ignore the obvious in favor of the obscure. Sovereign, for example, (meaning self rule) obviously comes from whatever roots generated “swa” (self) and “raj” (as in “raja, king, also like reign!) but they have a different take.