Archive for September, 2008

Overcoming Mental Paralysis

Posted on September 25, 2008. Filed under: Games, Health, HowTo, Musings, Philosophy |

I’m trying out a stream-of-consciousness kind of thing I have stolen from Curious C, as I’ve just not been in the mood to write, lately! I had a great time at the Mars lecture at the University last night, but that will have to wait for another sciency post, as I’m waiting for a specific thing to happen on Mars I want to include, and then I will stop talking about the red planet, at least for now.

I am doing fun things, and interesting things, such as going to the Greek Festival, snooping into an archaeological dig, traveling to the largest observatory in the northern hemisphere, and checking out the new projects and lectures at Biosphere II. Except for the Greek Festival (actually maybe even with that!), this probably sounds kind of boring to some of you, but it’s all stuff I really enjoy.

I think this economy thing the US is pouring its woebegone energy into is giving me some melancholy moments. It’s very hard to stay centered when people around one are vibrating with fear. I think it’s CRUCIAL though, otherwise mental paralysis can set in and it’s like living life in a fog, or slogging through syrup. One can always (!) find something to be grateful for, and the moment one does, ones mood is uplifted, and one can then contribute to the upliftment (if you will) of others.

Two of the organizations I work for are also in a bit of a chaotic state. Again, I feel my role is to look for the good; sometimes they spend so much time focusing on what needs aren’t being met, or how unpleasant people are being, that they forget why they are there in the first place.

OK, NOW, I must complain about my own whining, in the above!! Grrrrr. It’s quite tedious when I exhibit the very behavior I accuse others of. As I will do, I must ask myself what it is in all these things that has me not my usual chipper self? That elusive thing is keeping me from blogging as much as I would like—because I really do like it—but looking at the computer screen every day is currently not comforting.

Hmmm, the best thing to do in these circumstances is to re-write the news as I wish it to be. Here goes:

The Federal Government of the United States has discovered nineteen hundred and thirty billion dollars that somehow got stuck behind a sofa cushion at the White House. A gleeful soon-to-be former President said “Let’s give everyone in the world a few million each to pay off everything, and they can play with the rest!”

Soldiers everywhere suddenly forgot what the POINT is of all this shooting and bombing and stuff, and decided to melt down all their weapons and turn them into fountains and sculptures. They all had a nice line dance together before going home to their families.

All the people in the whole world have realized today that just because each of them, as an individual, believes something doesn’t mean that everyone else has to. People are stunned by how rewarding and entertaining diversity really is!

It was discovered that feeling good and having fun is possible, so it’s replaced all that other stuff we were doing.

For the first time in history there is enough grant money to support all the really good art! and music! and dance! and cuisine!

The Wordly News today reported that everyone is healthier than they’ve ever been. Also everyone is in love, and has fulfilling work.

Well, I could go on and on, of course. But for now, I’m feeling much better reading my own headlines than those other alternatives. Good day, all! :)

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Mememememe

Posted on September 23, 2008. Filed under: Culture, Games, Musings |

I hadn’t noticed before that the Internet phenomenon known as a “meme” is two “me’s” put together. In my last post, I talked about how I’m selfish like a cat; that one was all about “Me”. The word meme, though, (as defined by Wikipedia) doesn’t mean “double me” or anything remotely like that. Here’s what they have to say:

Meme, or MEME, may mean:

  • Meme, a term coined by Richard Dawkins, referring to a unit of cultural information transferable from one mind to another. A derivation of either French même (lit. “same”), or Greek mimeme (something imitated). See also Mimesis.
    • An Internet meme, a meme or fad that spreads quickly through the Internet.

I was only familiar with the first of these four definitions. I had not heard of Bioninformatics, which, in my brief skimming of the article I feel deserves further investigation. I find most kinds of science interesting, except for the boring kinds of science, of course. If Bioinformatics isn’t boring, it has the potential to be fascinating indeed! Computer models of the genome! Machine modeling the process of evolution!

I also had not heard of Milosh, who I find is a Canadian electronic musician whose training was started on ‘cello. Nice music. His Meme album has a track called “Playing with Yen”. What does that mean?

And then there’s the Japanese animated series called Ghost in the Shell. Have you heard of that one? I want to watch it now; it seems kind of science-fictiony/graphic novely; compelling and unique. The episode “Meme” appears to use that word in the “virus” sense of the meaning.

After writing last time about how I work mostly at home, I’ve been out for a couple of 14-hour days in a row, and I’m just settling back into my routine, such as it is. I guess I ought to be careful what I write about! So, I just planned to briefly address a meme sent me by the lovely Apar. In pondering once again why these Internet thingys are called “memes” though, I came across all of the above.

Just looking up the meaning of a word, I’m introduced to different worlds. Isn’t life just the most interesting thing?

So, without further digressions, I post the meme from Apar, as well as my disclaimers and equivocations:

The rules of the game:

RULE #1 : People who have been tagged must write their answers on their blogs and replace any question that they dislike with a new question formulated by themselves.

RULE #2 :  Tag 6 people to do this quiz and they cannot refuse. These people must state who they were tagged by and cannot tag the person whom they were tagged by continue this game by sending it to other people.

(I have not replaced any questions, because it’s hard to imagine not liking a question. After all, it’s just a question, right? However, seeing the “rules” above causes me to bristle, a bit. I don’t react well to rules, but have made an effort to at least…try to play nice! Also, some of these questions are rather personal, and do not necessarily evoke in me a direct answer. Nevertheless, if you’ve read this far, thank you!)

1. If your lover betrayed you, what will your reaction be?
Can’t relate.
2. If you can have a dream to come true, what would it be?
I dream my life into existence daily. Therefore it always comes true!
3. Whose butt would you like to kick?
Butts are really too nice to kick.
4. What would you do with a billion dollars?
First, I’d hire a security guard; next I’d pay off my mortgage; then some relatives’ mortgages; then start a fun foundation and conference center. After that, meet with a financial adviser to help me manage it all. (Not very imaginative; but I’m a simple soul). Take classes, play music, travel, and smile. :)
5. Will you u fall in love with your best friend?
Um. Not anytime soon!
6. Which is more blessed, loving someone or being loved by someone?
Both, of course!
7. How long do you intend to wait for someone you really love?
Not good at waiting.
8. If the person you secretly like is already attached, what would you do?
I would continue to live a life of integrity, whatever that entailed.
9. If you like to act with someone, who will it be? your gf/bf or an actress/actor?
Hmmm. Not something I really think about.
10. What takes you down the fastest?
Criticism. But I’m good at getting past it.
11. How would you see yourself in ten years time?
‘Bout the same.
12. What’s your fear?
Forgetting to remember that there is no fear.
13. What kind of person do you think the person who tagged you is?
Sweet; finding herself; devoted; intellectually curious; getting stronger every day!
14. Would you rather be single and rich or married but poor?
Can’t really think of this in those terms
15. What’s the first thing you do when you wake up?
Recognize how amazing and fortunate I am. (Unless I’m waking up way too early because I’ve agreed to be somewhere at that unreasonable hour; then the first is to grumpily use the rest room.)
16. Would you give all in a relationship?
Nah!
17. If you fall in love with two people simultaneously, who would you pick?
Good heavens! Dunno.
18. Would you forgive and forget no matter how horrible a thing the someone has done?
No. But then, I’m not a “forgiver and forgetter” in the best of times. I’m more of an evaluator.
19. Do you prefer being single or having a relationship?
Yes, I do!
20. List 6 people to tag
Those would be the first six (or more) people who read this; think it sounds fun; and want to answer these questions!!!

Apar says this: “Would love to know their answers (esp the answer to q.13 :) ).” So, even though I don’t play fair, by the rules, or nicely, I have, at least, answered question 13, sincerely! :D

Finally, to end this rather odd post (if I do say so myself) I acknowledge this, awarded me by the sultry sulz:

1

Thank you, sulz! :) Interestingly enough, in the same post she rewards my honesty, she also responds to the above meme, for which she was also tagged! I can certify my answers were, actually, honest, just, perhaps not as…complete as they might be. (On the other hand, look at hers, if you think mine were succinct.)

Good day everyone, from the honest muse. :)

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How to live more like a cat

Posted on September 18, 2008. Filed under: HowTo, Musings, Philosophy |

It has come to my attention that my lifestyle has changed radically in recent years. At one time, I LEFT HOME in the MORNING to go to this place called WORK! (I know; shocking, really!) This never really suited me because I’m a creature of the night! Of course, I could have worked the night shift, but my best thinking and creating and (formerly) partying time was at night, so I didn’t want to spend that time at WORK! (What a dilemma!)

There’s also the fact that my attention span does not last eight hours. Or seven. Maybe 2 1/2 on a good day, when I’m really interested. So, working in an office, for me at least, would start out well. I’ve always done a great interview; I’m smart, and personable, and can describe with great enthusiasm why I’d be an asset to a company. And it’s all true, too! But then, after a while, my enthusiasm wanes, my neurochemistry begins to taunt me, I stop paying attention, and my poor employer wonders what happened to me?!? After a few experiences like this, I finally figured out that I’d be better off with several “little” jobs, than one “big” one.

I also discovered that I work better on my own than with a “team” (as I think they’re called these days). Most of the administrative and creative work I do involves poking at this very computer I’m writing at now. I still have to go OUT for SOME of my money-earning type things, but I’m fortunate that I can do a lot of this in my home office. There’s never any one place I go more than two days in a row anymore, even during the busy times. (This does not include holidays, where I’ve been known to travel to, and actually stay at, a location for as many as four days!)  Don’t get me wrong; I’m no hermit. I lead two groups, and serve as a board member for two others, so I do get out and see people. With my schedule, though, I do get to spend 40-60% of my time in my own office.

So, what is cat-like about all this? Cats are among the most selfish creatures there are. In fact their most common utterance, “meow”, or, if they’re just little, “mew”, starts with, you guessed it: “Me”! But—and I think this is important—a cat’s selfishness is without ego. Ego is a human construct, and it’s possible to engage in spiritual practices to distance ourselves from our egos. I’m not altogether convinced that’s a desirable thing, but that’s a discussion for another time.

When I’m home, I feel selfish like a cat. My life is all about MeMeMe, and what I want to do or think. I know what I intend to do, but I don’t have “office hours” as such. I’ll roll out of bed most days, switch on the computer, and see what’s going on in there. (Emails! News! Blog Comments! Stats!) I answer personal and business emails; perhaps draft a report; count money; prepare a bank deposit…then, breakfast! After a couple of hours I’ll realize I’m still in my jammies (unlike a cat, who doesn’t have to worry about such things), and then spend some time grooming, and such, as a cat does, whenever the cat wants to. After that, I might update a website, plan a meeting, or get bored of working and read a novel! Or blog! I’ll do that for an hour or so, and then feel the need to move around. Exercise time! Sometimes I’ll take a nice walk around the neighborhood; other times I have my own exercise routine, which I won’t describe much, other than it involves jumping around a bit, stretching, and manipulating weighted objects—see, cat-like again!

After that, I’ll probably make whatever phone calls I feel compelled to, or file papers (ugh), until I begin to get sleepy. I might put on some mood music, or cricket soundtracks, and…you know what’s coming, don’t you?…take a CAT-nap.

Hey, stop snickering! Thomas Edison took catnaps! And Marie Curie! and Buzz Lightyear! (Do you think?)

I also like to sit in a window-seat and let my mind wander, or watch the birds, or have a little snooozzzzze… (oh, oops, sorry! I drifted off there for a bit) and we know how cats love to sit in the window.

Well, analogies can only go so far, so let me assure you I will NOT chase small animals or insects, catch them with my bare claws, and rip them to shreds with my teeth. In fact I’m not much of a carnivore, but, like many house cats, prefer simple food that someone else prepares (My favorite chef at the moment: Trader Joe’s). Also, I’m not a “love ‘em and leave ‘em” type, as are most cats, but…well…never mind!

There you have it. If you’re a day-dreamer, multi-tasker, diagnosed-ADD (for what that’s worth)-coper like me, you may enjoy a cat kind of life. ME-ow.

UPDATE, Friday: I just had to include this photo I saw today on ICANHASCHEEZBURGER.com (the source of the other one as well) as it was just SO appropriate to the post!:

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Science Friday is coming to Tucson!

Posted on September 16, 2008. Filed under: Culture, Science, Travel |

The National Public Radio (NPR) program “Science Friday” with its host Ira Flatow, will be broadcasting live from the Science Operations Center at the University of Arizona in Tucson on Friday, September 19th!!! I know I keep bragging about the University of Arizona’s involvement in the current Mars mission (as if I had anything to do with it), but signs of life in the universe are rare (not to mention intelligent life) and the thought that our University here could be a major player in experiments which have far-reaching consequences for years to come just has me jazzed!

The University of Arizona is really the cultural center of our area. This is the case in many University towns. There are large cities which also happen to have one or more colleges and universities (like Boston), and then there are cities such as Tucson where much of the local economy and cultural activities either take place there, or exist because the U does. For instance, we have an amazing number of professional theater companies here. The U has a fine drama department, and people from there branch out and start their own. This in turn attracts new residents looking for a milder climate, or a more relaxed lifestyle than they had in, say, Chicago or Los Angeles, but still want access to the “goodies”—plays, concerts, and fine restaurants—they had back home. So, they move here, join the theater guild or the museum association, and those organizations continue to flourish.

Even so, let’s face it; Tucson is not London or Sydney; New York or San Francisco. So, when the eyes of the WORLD are focused on our li’l ol’ University because it’s instrumental in building and maintaining the Mars Lander, we get a tad excited out here back o’beyond.

Alright, I’ll cut the colloquialisms and get to the point. I listen to Science Friday every chance I get because it features interviews with those doing the most amazing research, with the most exciting implications for our culture. The show looks all over the world for those scientists doing work which can actually impact our lives for the good! It’s beautifully produced, and always fascinating, and this Friday they’ll be at the Science Center interviewing Peter Smith, principal investigator of the Mars Lander program. The Center itself is worth visiting both virtually and in person, as I’ve reported here, but I’m also looking forward to hearing the latest news on what has been a worthwhile, though, at times, controversial mission. This story has all the drama of a stage play, and it continues to unfold, in real time, right before our eyes via Phoenix’s cameras, and transmissions of data from the countless experiments it’s programmed to do.

The lander has already found and identified ice (oh my!) and all of us humanoids SO want to know if there were ever, or could ever be conditions favoring life! on Mars! If you want the answer to these, and many other questions, tune in Friday (live!) from 11am-1pm Pacific Time; 2-4pm East Coast time, and I’ll leave you in the rest of the world to figure out when it is there. If you don’t have NPR in your area, you can listen to the live stream at our local affiliate, or find one on the Science Friday page. You can also download the program there for later listening.

(And, no, I don’t work for them. Honest. Actually I pay them; they don’t pay me. You, know, because I’m a member and all.) :)

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The meaning of a life

Posted on September 14, 2008. Filed under: Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

Once again I am called upon to look at life through the lens of the death of a loved one. I have written some cheery posts lately, but interspersed with these intentions are life and death events, seemingly at an increasing pace. I’d just written a post about the loss of a friend, and l was about to hear of the loss of another. Neither of these women had been my contemporaries in age, but both, in their different ways, had great influence in my life.

I was on my way to a regular monthly board meeting on Saturday when I got a call. I let the answering machine pick it up as I don’t like to get involved in telephone calls when I plan to leave in just a few minutes (or any other time, either, if the truth be told.) When I heard the person’s voice, though, and heard him state his name, I instantly knew who it was and why he’d called. It’s not as if this person and I chatted often, or even at all. I hadn’t spoken to him in years. There would be only one or two reasons he’d call me, and one reason more likely than any other.

I held the phone, and waited for him to tell me the news. In many ways, it was as if we’d spoken very recently. We’d had a long history of entwined families and friends; we’d grown up together in the same city. I listened as he told me how he’d gone over to his mother’s home—only 50 feet away from his own—and found her sort of crumpled on the floor, with a towel in her hand; empty, spilled coffee cup nearby. Apparently she’d made her morning cup of coffee, had spilled some, and leaned down to wipe it up. This would be the last act in her long and eventful life.

I first met…I’ll call her “Jane”, here…(her real first name was so unusual that I’d rather not reveal it. I’ve never heard anyone else called by her name which, I’d been told, was from an opera) when I was four years old. She worked as a secretary at an organization my family was involved with, and seemed to think I was fairly OK, for a kid. I remember thinking she was not horrible. I was wary of new adults; they seemed kind of loud, clueless, and might at any moment give one a smooch, or pat one on the head and feel they had every right. Jane wasn’t like that, though. She acted as if she thought even a four-year-old had a brain. Which I did. If you think I have opinions now, you should have seen me then!

As our families got to know each other, she and my mother, who was a few years older, became very good friends. And I? I became a teenager. I don’t know how you feel about teenagers in general, but it’s taken me a very long time to get to appreciate them. I didn’t like them when I was one (which included not liking myself, much), and I spent my entire teenage time waiting and wanting to get older so I could stop being a teenager, and also get away from those other teenagers. Now, I try very hard not to judge people based on their age, but back then…well, I was a teenager; what can I say?

I didn’t feel I could talk to my parents for a variety of reasons; some of them actually valid. I could talk to Jane, though. Somehow, even though she was my mother’s friend, she was able to see me as who I was, separate from Mom. I did have a rather distinct personality, which horrified my parents (“where did this child come from?”), but Jane thought I was kind of interesting and unique. Looking back on it now, I don’t know how I had the nerve to do this, but I’d often wander into her office after school (or, as I got older, during school, when I decided to “liberate” myself from attending classes regularly) and just sit there. She’d say “Hi, Muse, there you are again”, and utter her signature phrase, “What’s doin’?” And I’d tell her, whatever it was. Sometimes she was busy—she was at work, after all—but I was content to wait, if necessary. Sometimes she’d put me to work; adding up columns of figures on a calculator, or sorting papers, or running errands. Other times, her elderly mother was there helping out, too. We had great times, like a family-away-from-family. They were actually quite nice to put up with me, but it seemed normal to me at the time.

Finally, I grew up old enough to move away from home. After being asked, not all that politely, to “leave” my high school (I later put myself through college, so don’t worry about me!) I found a job, an apartment, and started to live a life of much less tension; age 18 1/3. Still, Jane remained friends with my mother. They actually got closer. Somewhere along the path of our intertwining family events, my father passed away. Jane’s husband also passed away (he is a whole other story; he and I had an ambiguous relationship).

Also somewhere along the way, I entered into a long(ish) term relationship with the elder of Jane’s two children. At first, this was all well and good. Jane thought it would be a great idea for me to ‘marry’ into the family (which, quite frankly, was never my intention). I was drawn to this relationship because there seemed something fated; almost…karmic about it. That’s another long story, and I don’t like to talk much about my personal life, so I’ll just say that, after a few years, it ended. A lot of things happened around this time. I lived in Hawaii for a year; I came back; I got a different job in a different city, and Jane, now a widow, decided to move away to another state as well. Her son; her younger child; the one who just phoned me on Saturday, had relocated to a wonderful wilderness that was, as well, a tourist retreat. He and his family built his mother a house near their own, and Jane was content to leave the city behind. She and her son encouraged my mother to move up there, too, but my mother wasn’t having any of it.

In the meantime, my life had moved on, and it was a bit awkward between us all now because of the ended relationship. Still, Jane and I exchanged holiday cards, and the occasional email. I’d hear news of her from my mother, too; their relationship remained as strong as ever.

Jane and I had a bit of a falling out during my mother’s last illness. Jane would call every single day during the last two months, and if Mom wasn’t up to talking to her, she’d speak to me. Although my mother had nursing care, and a hospice nurse, I was the “official” caretaker and liaison, and it was a trying time for me. I began to realize that, although Jane had always seemed such a strong, independent person, in so many ways, she had a shadow side that came out at this time. I know now that Jane was beginning to feel the effects of several grave illnesses herself, but I didn’t know that then. All I could tell was that she was riddled with guilt. She didn’t feel up to leaving her home in another state, where she’d been for some years; but she felt she owed it to herself to visit my mother one more time. My mother had been to see her a couple of times, so she felt she owed her. But, she also felt that it would be emotionally devastating for her to make the trip. She would ask me what to do, to which I, unhelpfully, would reply “whatever you think is best”. I’ll admit, I wanted nothing more than to get off the phone! My mother was dying! I had things to do, and my own emotions to process!

After Mom died (Jane didn’t come), we continued to exchange holiday cards, but it was never really the same. I know now that Jane had many fears and frustrations. She’d been an excellent musician, but lacked self-confidence. She fell in love, way too soon, with a (probably) inappropriate man. She had her two children very early, and gave up her musical dreams. I think when we first met, she saw in me a bright, talented, musical child, and was interested to see where that child would go in life. None of us would have guessed how our paths would intertwine.

I’m left feeling as if I’ve lost a family member. I have come to be at peace with who she was, and have even forgiven who I was. Her acceptance of me when I needed—more than anything—to be heard, will always be something I’ll cherish. And she taught me with her words, and with her example, to live my own life; to take responsibility for that; and to nurture those dreams which still are mine.

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Remembering my friend; remembering everyone

Posted on September 11, 2008. Filed under: Health, Music, Philosophy, Spirituality |

Last year, I didn’t write anything about 9/11/2001. Even after all that time, it felt too tender; too close. It is now the seventh anniversary of that event, and it still seems fresh in my memory. There is much in the news, as there’s bound to be, about it all; presidential candidates honoring memories together; other politicians giving politically charged but hopefully respectful speeches; families remembering their loved ones in their own ways.

I did read some 9/11 blog posts last year, and commented on one which touched me. In his response, my blog friend suggested that I post about how I spent the very first anniversary of 9/11, back in 2002, and so I am, a year after that suggestion. This post is as much about my friend Anne as it is about the impact of 9/11 on those I knew. A few weeks ago, I wrote about Anne, who passed away on the last day of July of this year. Since then, a few people have asked if her memorial service has been held yet. I deferred asking the family, as they had deferred definitiveness. I figured there were family reasons for delaying it for so long; there are three children in the family as well as a couple of grandkids. Was it school? work? I learned that the service had finally been scheduled to be held more than two months after the death. I didn’t want to ask too many questions as I didn’t want to intrude, but I saw Anne’s husband the other day, and he explained it to me. Their daughter’s second baby is due this month, and she had been forbidden to fly, or even take long car trips this close to the delivery date.

Oh! Of course! Now I remember. When we had our last visit, Anne spoke of how excited she was about this new baby. She planned to fly up north where the baby would be born, to help out and get to know her new grandchild. How could I have forgotten this? So, the newborn will be making the trip next month and will be introduced to the home and memories of the grandmother s/he will never know.

What does all this have to do with 9/11, though? It was in planning our local memorial event in 2002 that I first really got to know Anne. She and I were both on the committee that organized our “Rolling Requiem”, a world-wide choral event which would begin, in each time zone, at exactly 8:46 a.m., the time the first plane hit the first tower in September 2001. Instead of offering only grief and anger, this event would offer music; the most glorious choral piece the organizers could imagine; Requiem by W.A. Mozart. The word “requiem” refers to “Requiem Mass” or “Mass for the Dead” in Roman Catholic literature. But the words, and particularly the music, transcend all cultures and religions. If you saw the film or some settings of the stage play Amadeus, this was the music playing when Mozart himself lay dying.  

The Rolling Requiem in 2002 was a tribute to all who lost their lives or helped others on that tragic day a year earlier. The choral group I sang with joined with other groups and individuals in our area to host over 350 singers for this day. (We normally have about 60.) Each of us wore a badge with the name of a person who had perished, whether rescuer, victim, or participant. The large concert hall space was donated (nearly unprecedented) and all the professional soloists and orchestra members also donated their time and talent (almost unheard of). It was broadcast on local television and radio, and nearly every timezone heard their own local choruses singing the same masterpiece as the Requiem rolled around the world.

Our choral group had never put together an event of such magnitude, and Anne was instrumental in getting everything organized and publicized. We only had four rehearsals before the day, and our director worked miracles in getting such wonderful sound out of such a diverse group—from high school age through senior choirs—in such a short time. Among the many memories I shared with Anne, this would remain close to both our hearts. I will always associate her with this day, this memorial time.

Blessings to all, of every culture, every belief system, and every political leaning as we pause for a moment in time to cherish each other and allow love into our hearts. Namasté; Peace; Salaam; Shalom.

“Imagine a world standing together to remember.
Humanity gathered for a moment in time,
to lift up its voice in song, in prayer,
in honor of those who perished one year before.

On September 11, 2002, it happened.”

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The wrong adventure, Pt. 2: Tombstone, Arizona

Posted on September 9, 2008. Filed under: Culture, Games, Philosophy, Travel |

This is about my visit to Tombstone, Arizona, and the metaphysical speculations that have since arisen from it. I live about a two-hour drive from Tombstone, and unexpectedly found myself there one afternoon. (For how and why this happened, please see Part one. In fact, see it anyway because that one’s funny; this one is more philosophical.) ;) I walked into town, confident it would have all the requisite western trappings, which, in fact, it had. These include:

Boardwalk/plank walks; saloon with long oak bar and swinging doors; false-front wooden buildings; dust; history of debauchery; historic gunfight; corral (optional); lots of artsy-craftsy-toursity shops (modern addition to list).

A lot of old western towns in Arizona, Colorado and New Mexico—among others—have made the attempt to preserve their character while doing their utmost to rake in tourist dollars. I have no quarrel with this; “The Town Too Tough To Die” (Tombstone’s nickname) still has to live, or the name wouldn’t mean much. I’ve seen similar preserved-but-converted-to-souvenir-or-art-gallery areas in Prescott and Bisbee and Jerome, Arizona, and Santa Fe New Mexico.

In Tombstone, though, which is remembered mostly for the famous “Gunfight at the OK Corral”, that very Corral has been turned into an “attraction”. I have mixed feelings about this. History tells us the town was corrupt, and the gunfight just waiting to happen out of necessity to “clean up” the town. There are some excellent films about the town and how it got to the condition it was in, most notably the appropriately named Tombstone. That film portrays the politics of the wild west with nuance and, perhaps, respect. I understand the desire to “see the sights” we tourists have, and I wouldn’t mind if there were markers inside the site stating where events took place. The reenactment, for tourists, seems a bit disrespectful somehow. There are rows of shorts-and-t-shirt clad visitors, with their children, waiting for the “entertainment”. Here is a video showing what they see. There’re lots of other video perspectives on YouTube, so you can get a good sense of what it’s like to be there.

I remember the first time I watched the Star Trek episode “Spectre of the Gun“, which takes place mostly inside a representation of the town of Tombstone. I was very young at the time. I felt it gave me some perspective on the incident, and also into human nature. I’d been so sure that the Earps were the good guys, and the Clantons were the bad guys, but the episode showed the Clanton gang with real feelings and real lives and loves.

Watching Star Trek all those years ago was what made me want to visit Tombstone. I’d never been an old west history buff, even as a child, but this episode made me realize there was more to human nature—even in Tombstone—than spittoons, dust, and shooting someone just because they looked at you the wrong way. To me, the old west in movies and television was portrayed quite simplistically. Perhaps I didn’t see the really good westerns, but I wanted no part of any of it!

Tombstone was weird for me, kind of like visiting a (much) lesser Disneyland. You have actors in period costumes working in the shops and roaming the streets, telling little children that “this town ain’t big enough for both of us” and either scaring them or making them giggle. You have the tourists—and I made one of their number—looking completely incongruous in their shorts and sandals. The town itself is remarkably unchanged in appearance from what it must have been in the 1800s. The “gunfight” site (it actually wasn’t in the corral, but in a vacant lot behind a nearby building) has been completely fenced in so that people strolling the streets can’t see a “show” they haven’t paid for. I chose to forgo this opportunity, but did enjoy some of the shops. I acquired a wonderful wall sculpture I still have, and the Crystal Palace Saloon has been lovingly preserved. It looks just right, with its long bar, player piano, and wooden tables and chairs on a wood floor. It has the requisite swinging doors, and I got to thinking about why that was? What is the purpose of swinging doors in a saloon, anyway? They wouldn’t keep people or animals out; since they didn’t go all the way to the floor or ceiling you couldn’t really lock them, and they didn’t prevent people on the street from seeing what was going on in there.

It turns out that the saloon owners indeed wanted the strolling public to see the antics of saloon patrons, and hopefully be lured inside. The doors were there ostensibly to protect the children from the “horrors” of saloon goings-on, but in reality the parents had to counsel their children to look away!

My favorite building was the Bird Cage Theater; famous and fully restored, and it is mention of this theater in a recent lecture I attended that got me thinking about Tombstone again. The lecture was on the topic of Ghosts and Hauntings. Normally I wouldn’t attend a talk like this, but I’m a member of the group which sponsored it, and thought I “might as well” go. The lecturer is an actual “Ghost Hunter” by trade, and his lecture was about the tools and investigative methods his team uses. He points out that his service is mostly for the purpose of easing his clients’ minds. They hear funny noises. They see strange manifestations. They’re worried. They like their home, but wonder if it’s safe to live there. The lecturer says that 96% of these anomalies can be explained by conventional means, and that’s what his business is there to do. Some of the answers to “unexplained phenomena” are: squirrels in the basement, a sun ray bouncing light off a neighboring building’s window at a certain time of day, or a chimney that needs cleaning, causing smoke, which looks like an eerie ghost, to appear on the floor above the fireplace.

Given all that, our lecturer told us he and his team had been allowed unprecedented access to the Bird Cage Theater for a whole day of investigation. You must know that the Bird Cage has been reported as one of the more haunted sites in our state, and the investigators wanted to find out what’s behind the reported manifestations. Well, the team experienced several weird events that they couldn’t track down; it was one of their few “unsolved” cases. And this is why the lecture caused me to revisit the memory of visiting the Bird Cage.

I walked in, and immediately felt a rush of anticipation. It was so beautifully preserved and met all my expectations of what a fine old theater (and house of ill repute) should be. I walked around, and though it was a hot day, I felt a chill! There are so few buildings in the western United States that have any sense of history; ours simply haven’t been around for centuries like those of countries in Europe or Asia. I fancied I could feel the…I’m not quite sure what to call them…”energy signatures” of those who had come before. There had been shootings at this theater, too, (it truly was a tough town) not just in the Crystal Palace or Corral, as well as intense moments of pleasure, as it was the town’s best entertainment venue. All that raw emotion seemed almost palpable.

The closest thing I’ve felt to this was many years ago when my family visited Canterbury Cathedral in the UK. For some reason, this, more than any other location on our European trip, evoked that sense of all the people who’d prayed there in centuries past. It’s a very old building, and was a Roman Catholic cathedral before the “changeover” to the Church of England. There was a heaviness about the atmosphere that owed nothing to what was visible.

Do I believe in ghosts? Not really, because I’ve never seen one. I do believe in something like concentrations of energy. I think strong emotion leaves emotional residue, that, if intense enough, may last for years. That’s why we sometimes get “the shivers” when visiting certain buildings, or a feeling that “I just don’t like it here!” I don’t quite know what to make of such things, but, if there are ghosts anywhere, Tombstone, Arizona surely feels like one of those places. If you go, or have visited there, let me know if you “felt” anything!

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The wrong adventure, Pt. 1: “not” Tombstone

Posted on September 7, 2008. Filed under: Culture, Games, Philosophy, Travel |

I didn’t intend to go to Tombstone that day. I can’t believe how gullible I was (well I can, ’cause I tend to be). My buddy and I left early to tour a “new kind of resort complex” we’d seen advertised in one of those flyers that arrives with newspaper ads in the mail. This resort offered “old west ranch-style living in the heart of the Arizona back country” (whatever that is). Why on earth would I be interested in such a thing to start with?  But, here’s the clincher, they were offering a “prize”, a big-screen television, for those presenting the coupon and taking the tour, and the coupon had 6 “scratch-off” spots like a lottery ticket. In order to qualify to win the TV, the coupon said, my coupon needed to have a series of four spots with “$100″ imprinted.

Dubious, I began to scratch. $100. $100. $50. $100. $100. $25. Hmmm. Well someone’s got to win that television! We duly set off to “tour” the “new kind of resort complex”, about a 2 1/2 hour drive from home. We had the day free, and were up for an adventure, so why not? The coupon had driving directions from Tucson, and a detailed map. Even so, we got lost twice, but finally found the resort after backtracking a bit.

The place was way down an ol’ dusty trail. It turned out that it was a camping timeshare resort! I’d never heard of one of these. I’d seen lots of timeshare schemes, in fact some friends own a week in two of them in resort areas they frequent. I’ve never been up for buying into one myself, but certainly not one where I’d have to bring my own tent or RV (which I don’t have one of) and then be called to dinner in the “Ranch House” by a clanging triangle. This might be great for some, but not my idea of a holiday. Still, the…”gentleman” at the front desk asked if we wanted to experience the tour sales pitch. I said that I’d probably not use such a timeshare arrangement, but I did have this coupon…

“Oh, did you think you had won that big screen TV?’

“Well, in fact I did! See, there, four “$100″‘s just like it says!”

“No, no, no, no, you’ve got that all wrong! You see, it says you need a series of four $100′s…['yup, there, they are, count 'em: one, two three, four']…and you don’t have a series there at all. A series would consist of four in a row, one right after the other, you see.”

Darned if he didn’t slap his knee and chortle, just like an old westerner sittin’ in a saloon! (More about saloons in a bit.) Since you, the reader, are probably smarter about things like this than I am, you probably saw through this right away. That grinning…”gentleman” had got dozens of people driving over from Tucson and Phoenix thinking they were going to carry home a brand new large screen TV. While I was muttering to myself about deceptive advertising, he said “Aw, don’t feel too bad, y’ain’t the only one!” (OK, he didn’t actually say “ain’t”, but by now, I was less than enchanted with the good-ol’-cowboy routine, so it sounded like that to me.) He then offered us an opportunity to still get a TV to take home. He showed us a box containing a little 13-inch battery-operated black-and-white telly, which he said would be ours if we just agreed to take the tour opportunity to own one week of dust per year.

Even at this point, there was a moment I was tempted. I’d come all this way—perhaps I should at least see what the resort dust pit had to offer. And I could put that little TV in the…kitchen?…bathroom? Then good sense returned. I’d already spent the morning on the road, chasing this elusive large entertainment device (we had, though, discussed the “adventure” aspects, the trip wasn’t driven by pure greed, honest!), then listening to this fellow making fun of our gullibility (great sales method—not!) and I was stubbornly determined to have the “adventure” part of the adventure. It could be argued that what had already transpired was an adventure, but I generally don’t include in the “adventure category of life” things which make me mad!

So, we slunk off back to the car (sans any kind of television) and studied the map for a bit. Turns out we were only about 20 minutes from Tombstone, Arizona (“The town too tough to die”) and neither of us had been there. OK! Off to Tombstone, then! I was glad we’d started off early.

{Tomorrow: The Ghosts of Tombstone. Stay tuned!}

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Righteous Indignation

Posted on September 4, 2008. Filed under: Musings, Philosophy, Spirituality |

So, I’m writing this post for myself, basically, however, anyone who wants to read along is invited to do so! :) I’ve had a series of life happenings lately that have caused me to question lots of things about how I process information. The incidents are startlingly similar, which makes me think there may be a message: “Hey, you! There’s something to look at here!” I am looking, and this is what I see:

At the risk of losing interest in the whole thing, I’ll share just one example of what I’m talking about, although, keep in mind, that the others are similar. I’m a member of a non-profit organization. In fact, I do some work for them (one of my many little jobs), and I believe in their ideals. The group is in need of a new leader. That person must have a special set of qualifications, and it’s among the few paid positions this organization has. (I actually work for three such organizations; and although not all at the same time, all three have faced the above set of circumstances.) There are committees; processes; interviews; demonstrations; presentations; and at the end of all this a new “leader” is chosen. The usual sort of thing; all well and good, right? Except—there are people involved, all along the way. Every time I’ve been through one of these processes, it seems to cause great consternation among the participants.

Part of the issue is that many of us don’t like change. But, nevertheless, change there is! In my last go-’round with the organization, several members actually left the group because we’d hired the “wrong” person. We allowed ourselves to be bullied into a decision which was “wrong”. Now, I wouldn’t want anyone to hang around somewhere they were not happy, but, I’m suspicious of some of their reasons for leaving. And, I must admit, equally suspicious of my reasons for staying…

I wouldn’t leave a group unless I was unhappy there, but I do feel that I should give the new administration a chance, and not stalk off in a huff if I didn’t like something that “they” did. I believe (or fantasize) that I’m well-balanced, emotionally stable, and doing the “right” thing in supporting the organization! Those people are short-sighted judgmental imbeciles! I’m…doing the exact thing I’m accusing them of, and engaging one of my most stimulating emotions: Righteous Indignation! (Thus, the title of the post.)

I’m so very capable of getting myself all worked up about how “they” said this, or that, which “isn’t fair” (that’s always a good one), how my principles are noble, and I shall never surrender! As usual, it’s easier to see these traits in others than in myself, but in my belief system it’s always a clue to step back and have a look when my emotions get the better of me. I mean those last words quite literally. If I’m distressed because of how “they” are acting, the best part of me is not in evidence. However, when I’m engaged in cycle of Righteous Indignation I notice how stimulated I feel. I may be angry or upset, but WOW, there is a lot of energy coursing through me.

That high level of arousal is caused by the addictive chemicals released at such times, according to research neuropharmacologist Candace Pert. She and others have shown that we’re addicted to mental states like anxiety, or depression, or joy! This doesn’t mean they’re not “real” emotions, but does mean they’re, for the most part, physically rather than situationally generated. How else can we explain that an incident or event will elicit a reaction of anger or offense from one, and mild indifference from another? We’ll use a situation, or a person, to get our chemical “fix”, or, perhaps a little less ominously, a situation will engage the body/molecular memory of a similar situation in which we generated these chemicals for survival or protection. The body has a looooong memory of such things, and may torment us with unexpected emotional reactions all our lives without some intervention. (More on that, later). *

Pert says: “…we all make up stories to describe so-called reality when incoming information hits our higher brain. And of course, we all get to create our own version of what’s going on! But this is so important, this ability to either blame others or take responsibility for our actions, which are both decisions made at the level of the frontal cortex.” In a way, we’re products of our emotional and physical addictions. They shape our personalities.

For instance, there is anxiety. Until recently, this would come up for me when I did something like paying bills. It didn’t matter whether there was plenty of money in the bank, or not. My body had learned, through circumstances, that bill-paying is an anxiety-producing activity. I’m also pretty comfortable with feeling smug. I sometimes enjoy that one, even though it is ultimately not helpful. I felt smug when I stayed in the group out of principle when “they” didn’t; I feel a bit smug right now writing this post! ;)

In fact, that “smugness” is the attitude I’ve become aware of when considering my recent life situations. It goes along with, and is the core of Righteous Indignation. In addition to feeling that way in my groups, I’ve written some post comments and emails from that smug perspective, and felt justified. But, is this attitude truly representative of my highest and best self? I don’t think so!

Emotions shape our personalities. On one level, our emotions are the only guidance systems we have; on another, we take them far too seriously: You tell me “I’m upset.” I may feel I must “do” something about that; i.e. your upsetness. If I’m the upset one, I may feel I need to do something about that, also. There really is only one thing to do, and that is to ask a question. The question I mean is not “Why are you upset?” —The “why” doesn’t really matter. The answer to “Why?” is a fairly useless bit of information, made up as it is of our emotional addictions.

The question really is: “Would you like to no longer be upset?” That’s it! That’s all there is to it. Justification; adrenaline; none of it matters. What matters is how we want to feel. I have a dear friend who will periodically repeat to me a question he heard at a lecture, once: “Do you want to be “right” or do you want to feel good?” Generally when he says that to me it’s at a time I’m not very receptive to hearing it! (Grrrrrrr). :| But, in thinking about it when I’m in a calm state of mind, it becomes obvious. I want to feel good. (“But they said; she did…”) I want to feel good. (“ANYone would be upset if this happened to them!”) I want to feel good. (“We have to DO something about this!”) I want…

Yes, s/he-they-them did what they did, and the odd thing I’ve found, as have many others, is that when I get right with myself, the people I interact with tend to calm down, and let go of the qualities which were disturbing me to start with. Once I identified my “smuggish” tendencies (I was fairly dense, as I’d had lots of clues) I realized my “blogging block” of late, as well as my inability to move forward with my work were all tied in with my smuggish oscillations. I cannot make the statement, yet, that I’ve given up smuggishness, but now that I know what it is, I also know what to do with it. *

As my favorite (living) physicist, Fred Alan Wolf says: “There is no ‘there’ out there”. I extrapolate from this to say further that what we perceive as reality is, in fact, only perception. The entire universe “exists” inside our own minds. This is not just a philosophical abstraction, but a tangible—if elusive—quantum physical principle. Therefore it’s possible, once we realize it, to actually change the biochemistry of emotion right inside our own brains. I’m so looking forward to leaving the “smug bug” behind!

*for my favorite tool to let go of unwanted stored emotions, see this post.
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