Juggling Life Turning to Balance

juggling-lifeNo matter your life style, no matter your family situation, no matter, no matter, you are juggling your life. Even if it amounts to nothing more than “shall I sit here and watch The Price is Right, clean the toilet, or make some brownies?”, you are juggling choices that are only yours to make.

You decide priorities, the order of things, and the time devoted. Oh of course, it’s all to a greater or lesser degree I admit. But let’s not pretend we are at being controlled by outside forces completely. Even the prisoner confined to a cell twenty-three hours a day has control of his or her mind.

So don’t give in to the safe but ultimately untrue belief that you have no control, and that whatever mess you find yourself in, is not your fault. It may well not be in most of its tendrils, but YOU decide how YOU will relate to it at least.

No, I’m not giving you some lecture as to how to run your life. I have plenty enough trouble juggling my own. What I am suggesting is that the daily stories of people talking about how they are running all the time just to keep up, well, I don’t think it needs to be that way. That’s not the norm and if it is for all too many people, it shouldn’t be. For it’s simply not healthy.

I mean healthy in the broadest of senses. Physically, mentally, emotionally, and gasp, spiritually. Yes, spiritually.

Fully aware that a good many of my most loyal readers are at best agnostic, I still broach the term spiritual. For we are spiritual whether in a religious sense or only in a more naturalist, biological sense. For if you deny or suspect that no superior being(s) had a thing to do with this planet or you, then you probably believe rather wholeheartedly in evolutionary theory and have some thinking about how life started on this blue dot.

Not that believers don’t believe in a “scientific” answer for life and how it evolved. A good many of us do, in fact, I’d hazard a guess that most of us do. Evolution tells us how life forms change over time. And it is inescapable from the evidence at hand, that we, long in our past, share a common ancestor with chimps and gorillas and orangutans. Ultimately, we regress back to one-celled creature that first replicated in some primordial soup of chemicals and water.

Where am I going with this? Please you know me by now. I wander, as my dancing neurons flip and kiss, and circle and part, cross and leap in joyous chaos that is my brain. I’m getting to the point. Geesh, relax!

So last night the Contrarian and I sat down and watched Under the Tuscan Sun. If you haven’t seen it, I’ll summarize without giving away any of the goodies. A newly divorced nearing middle-age, writer takes a gift of a trip to Tuscany, and on a whim, buys a beautiful old villa that is in need of much work. The balance of the movie is about her growth as her house comes into itself, as does she. From beginning to end, she is challenged to rely on intuition, not do the safe thing, and to think with her heart. I think of it as living in the Spirit.

It got me to thinking, with all the dangers that that always entails. I thought about our trip here to Las Cruces, and the thinly veiled intuitive hope that we would find a home that would make my heart sing again. For those of you who have been on this long journey with me, you know that I was barely hanging on at times in the meadow, living on hope and faith that I could reclaim the free spirit that I felt had sunk deep within and was losing ground. I guess I make it sound worse than it was, for surely I found times of laughter and joy in those last couple of years, but my heart yearned to soar in a new place where the sun shined more, and the temperatures would tease forth my innate sense of wonder at life.

That happened for us. It happened with a shocking perfection that still takes my breath away when I think of it. If I had listed the twenty things I wanted in my new home environment, fully eighteen have been met and the other two are available, just slightly more difficult to achieve, i.e., I have to drive fifteen minutes to the pool instead of it being two blocks away!

It has been my firm belief for a good many years that there are several components to a good life:

  1. Proper care of the body. Nutritious food and reasonable exercise. Sleep enough.
  2. Proper care of the intellect. Plenty of good books, good movies and intellectually probing television (PBS of course) and conversation and study.
  3. Proper care of the psyche. The cultivating of relationships, creative spirit, and doing things you love for themselves.
  4. Proper care of the soul. Plenty of spiritual reading, and spiritual living (walking in nature, meditation,  mindfulness, kindness, charity, volunteering and all that that entails).

You note that I don’t include an involvement in civic affairs or something of that nature. Well, I find that doing that sort of thing is really feeding one’s own soul. So it falls under number 4.

These are the keys, I believe to a life well lived, or happiness as we commonly understand it. The bare outlines of course. Each of the four requires a fleshing out of several pages no doubt. And it is just not the four, but the BALANCE between them that makes it all work like a well-oiled machine.

I’m still finding the balance, but in the last few days as I have snuggled in, recovering from a cold, I’ve been organizing and puttering in my head, to better balance my life. And it’s coming along.

And it feels good.

How is your juggling going along and are you in balance?

 

 

Me Tarzan, You Jane, Nobody Knows What the Chimp Thought

We are a dualist species. We think of most everything in either or, left or right, up or down, in or out. You get the drift.

We are red state, blue state, we are elites, average joes, we are adventurous or skittish. We define binarily, we do it all the time.

Mostly we define us, them. We’ve always done this, in fact those in the know claim they know of no society or people who doesn’t have some concept of themselves versus others.

So, are we to throw up our hands and just give up and in? Are we doomed to any real concept of unity? Are we perpetually at some level of war with anyone not like us?

No. At least so says Erich S. Gruen, in a new book called, Rethinking the Other in Antiquity. Gruen posits that we make that a choice, it’s not an imperative. Basically, he looks at ancient groups and teases out the nuances of their relationships with others. While superficially, they may appear us-them, in practicality such was not really the case.

While perhaps not totally convincing, Gruen at least points to the fact that we are not in a hopeless adversarial situation,  never to be solved. In a world increasingly divided, this is good news.

***

If you are just dying to engage in some deep philosophical thought, (and who isn’t), then pop on over to read about morality and the good life. Can you achieve happiness without living morally? Is morality a virtue for its own sake? Should it be? Now that you are thoroughly all jiggly with desire to know more, go on, get over to read more! (Whew, now I feel like I’ve done my moral duty in presenting you some uplifting material.)

***

Good grief, the most funny stuff seems to be coming from Iowa these days. You better sit down for this one. It seems Sharron Angle, (remember her?) was in Des Moines, IA, no doubt for some teabaggery thing. She admits she’s thinking of running for President! Hip, hip, Hurray! Now just think. The handlers/caretakers of Bachmann, Palin and Angle gather the ladies together for a good old DEBATE. Can you just imagine the fun? Oh Please God, Oh Please!

***

Foxy Noise should leave well enough alone. Some days ago, that idiot Megan Kelly chastised a guest for claiming that Fox regularly used Nazi references to people they don’t like. Kelly said this was untrue, she watches all the shows and Fox NEVER does such a thing.

Of course this was too much for Jon Stewart, who a couple of days ago ran a montage of Fox “Nazi references, including Beck of course, but also O’Reilly. Well Billo couldn’t resist defending himself. You can read it at Crooks and Liars. Somehow, his calling Huff Po Nazis is not the same as some congressman calling the GOP Nazis. Billo—you are an idiot.

***

It wasn’t that long ago. Just a couple of years. Remember? Our foreign policy was in shambles. Bush’s cowboy diplomacy had angered most of the world. He epitomized the idea of “ugly American” and strutted around like we had no need of allies. Nobody could touch our stuff.

Yes, well it seems that most of the GOP potential presidential candidates continue in the same vein. American Exceptionalism continues to rear its ugly head.

This idea that we are the greatest, the best, the God-ordained perfection in the world is troubling. As we become more and more a global economy, and our political and security needs are necessarily entwined, boasting about our superiority is decidedly a stupid thing to do.

But morons like Palin, DeMint and others seem determined to alienate everyone. What’s worse, it’s being tied to a  religious element that is even more unsavory. A blatantly revisionist history, a call for a spiritual renew all seem aimed at reclaiming our rightful place as God’s favored.

To be so blind and obtuse as to not see how ugly this appears to the rest of the world is tragic. To not realize that every country’s people like to think well of their own homeland is short-sighted in the extreme.

Worse yet, these folks are starting to have a negative and embarrassing influence within other countries as they support groups and leaders who are properly Christian, as they see it, although they may be acting in decidedly unChristian ways.

It’s a long article at AlterNet, but well worth your read. (The Family raises its ugly head again.)

***

I admit to a good deal of ignorance. I’m totally ignorant why Tunisia is up in arms. Ditto for Egypt. I think I’m supposed to be for the Tunisian uprising, but not so about the Egyptian. Anybody want to explain it in a nutshell? I’m not so much a follower of international news. My bad.

***

No one mentioned it. But I saw it. I figured John (Eye’s the SPEAKER!) Boehner was most aware that he was on camera during the SOTU. And it put him in a conundrum of sorts. I mean President Obama kept saying things that were universally good, and it would not look good to not applaud.

So John seemed, a good deal of the time, trapped into half-hearted clapping that he really didn’t want to do, but thought would look bad if he didn’t. Then there were other times that his face looked for all the world like he’d been chewing a lemon. How to keep a calm face when he desperately wanted to yell in the best GOP wacko form: “YOU LIE.”

I thought it was funny at least.

It’s So Hard to Believe

I’m a really humble person. Except when I’m not. I’m not more than I am. It’s the truth. I won’t deny it.

I have a healthy ego. I’m not insufferably stupid by a long shot, so intuitively, intellectually, and soulfully, I know that you don’t hang on every pearl of wisdom dripping from my typing fingers. I know you don’t expect to be enlightened ala the Buddha and damned if I can find a Bodhi trees around here anyway! I know you don’t expect the latest news and perfect analysis.

But I do believe all that in the secret place within my heart. Which means that I’m shocked, nay, bowled over, nay, near stricken with palsy, that some people (don’t worry, I won’t out you!) have become just the slightest bit borrrrrrdddd with my incessant lamentations on Facebook about my “ad troubles.”

In case you have missed it, I’m being bombarded by ads on Facebook which has slowed my already snail-paced leviathan of a computer to an inch an hour speed. And of course, nobody on FB seems to share my dilemma or my anger.

First I went to Firefox which solved the problem for two days, and then the ads returned. Then I googled around and found an adware block designed for Firefox, and I installed it. It worked perfectly but pretty much ground everything else to a halt.

So, I disabled it for most everything, and figured, okay, I’ll just use it for FB. Well, apparently it doesn’t play nice with other code, so “the troubles”  continued. So, I uninstalled the entire crappy thing.

Then I discovered that goggle was now offering a toolbar access to a limited FB on a little drop down. That wouldn’t load on Foxfire, but did on Explorer. Go figure. So far it seems to fit the bill in terms of letting me see my “news” and “wall” and “notifications” and “messages.” I can “comment” and “share.” I feel all warm and fuzzy again.

But I’ll be sure to keep you up to date. I  know you wanna share it with your family and friends over dinner no doubt. And if you have advice? Go ahead and share. Just remember I have D I A L – U P,  so treat me as a nearly extinct Tyrannosaurus.

***

Besides feeling all cuddly and wiggly, I’m cozying up to some goodly written stuff today. So do drop over to the quarterly, City Journal and read a great piece on happiness and the American manner of mucking it all up and making it a trial. Indeed from de Tocqueville on, we have been rightly perceived as a not so happy bunch here in Merika the great. Lots of interesting stuff on Benji  Franklin as well, another favorite of mine. Best lines:

If men are so bad with religion, just imagine what they would be like without it.

“Let us rejoice and bless God that we are neither Oysters, Hogs, or Dray-Horses; and not stand repining that He has not made us Angels; lest we be found unworthy of that share of Happiness He has thought fit to allow us.”

And that about says it all doesn’t it? (Note that the author of the piece has a book out called: Benjamin Franklin Unmasked. Might be worth a check out.

***

A book review you might enjoy is What Ever Happened to Modernity? by Gabriel Josipovici. He traces the movement from the 16th century forward through a line of philosophers. If ever you have difficulty with philosophy, then books such as this, I think serve to help us navigate. Ormsby writes in the WSJ, so you know it’s highbrow.

***

Tidbits from the insane:

***

Everywhere you go we keep hearing that the Dems are polling better and the Rethugs worse as election day approaches. The Daily Kos has some interesting speculations as to why this is.

Exploring the Known Unknown

From time to time, it occurs to me that I have been derelict in my duty to you in bringing you the latest in scientific discovery. No doubt, you depend on me for this, and so I’ve been shopping the blogs for the best and most useful bits of mystical magical info found around the Internets. (It’s the tubes you remember, a highway where kazillions of bytes are swirling through a vacuum induced plumbing maze.)

So, get pen and paper ready to jot down these factoid particles so that you can wow them at the next office lunch.

***

It’s a case of the more you look the more you find. And I’m not sure this is any longer a good idea. It seems that with newer techniques, more and more asteroids are being found around the Earth.

This cannot be a good thing, for no one wants one of those darned things to run into us. And plenty of that has occurred in the past, and present as well, if you believe all those made for TV movies such as Attack of the Killer Asteroids.

Frankly knowing this is about as comforting as knowing that Yellowstone sits atop one of the hugest volcanic calderas known to man, or alien probably for that matter. One day, that baby is gonna blow, and well, won’t we all wish we lived in Hawaii then? So sweet dreams with this piece of juicy news.

***

Once upon a time, we wondered if there was water on Mars. Now it seems we can’t stop finding it. Once thought to be confined to the polar regions, it seems the dang stuff is just everywhere now. Most if not all in icy glacial type configurations.

I recall that just last week, I heard that they were now thinking that there was actually water, again in frozen form, on the moon. I’ve become rather suspicious.

After all, WE have been to both places. In the case of the moon, we have been there quite literally, tramping around on foot and by vehicle (emissions control? did we have any?), and in the case of Mars, via little rover landers.

So, given that we have nearly trashed this planet, no doubt we have induced climate change on both the moon and Mars as well. And that’s a fine how do you do isn’t it? I imagine God might be a tad ticked at us.

***

Heads up liars and cheats, another tool in the old arsenal is not working. You thought that getting me in a good mood would make me susceptible to trusting you? WRONG!

So say scientists anyway. It seems that our predisposition to trust or not is only enhanced by being in a good mood. It doesn’t make us more likely to trust the likes of low down scoundrels who are out to take us to the cleaners.

Another plus for the good guys. As to who thought up this wonderfully quirky experiment,  I have no clue. But do continue to ply me with free lunches, free booze, and well, anything free in an attempt to woe me to your side. I’ll be happy to accept your largess if I still refuse to give you my life savings.

***

Speaking of happiness and all, this just in. It may be time to cancel the cocktail parties and other water cooler type conversations. You know the ones I mean. Hanging over the partition between your cubicle and your office mates. Chatting about the weather, the football pool, and the chances of nuclear fusion as a good energy source. Okay, maybe that last one goes in the other column.

Anyhoo, again the ubiquitous science community has determined for your social pleasure, that people are much happier the more they engage in real deep conversation rather than the polite meaningless drivel we mostly engage in most of the time. Who would guessed? I mean are these folks geniuses or what?

***

I suspect I need say little more, since the diagram at left pretty much is self-explanatory.

But in case you are even slightly confused, physicists want you to know that they are busy creating new stuff, most of it of the anti-matter sort. Somehow, it’s not dangerous, or so they say.

What you see here is an anti-nucleus, containing an anti-proton, an anti-neutron, an anti-Lamda particle, as well as what you can clearly guess on your own, an anti-strange quark. Said, anti thingie was present at the Big Bang, when God (okay, maybe not, but maybe) wiggled his finger and thought, “A universe, now that would be nice. Start cooking up while I baste the turkey.”

As you undoubtedly already see, this discovery opens up unprecedented ideas about, well, particles, and asymmetries. You understand, I’m sure. The strangeness value  means that non-zero errr, strangeness exists at the core of collapsed stars. Go and check any collapsed stars you have stored in the freezer and see if I’m not right.

***

Where do atheists come from? I was pulling for the Isle of Man or the Northern Hebrides, but alas, no actual location was given.

Another of those wonderful question and answer things, wherein conclusions are that the better educated and more IQ’ey among us are more likely to disdain the idea of a God, and opt for idolatry of the human as the highest form of intelligence.

Before all you non-believers start patting each other on the backsides and high fivin’ and all, listen up. I’ve read elsewhere that most “scholars” are not impressed with the self-reporting analysis much.  In fact, a close look at the numbers suggest that the highest educated seem a bit more believing than the undergrad types.

What is of perhaps more interest is what constitutes the atheist mind? That answer is not yet forth coming. I’m of the opinion that its a little too much puppy dog tails and horseradish myself, but so far the jury is out. Other contenders are too much fish sticks for lunch during the formative years of six through twelve, or exposure to too many episodes of  the Honeymooners.

Happy Weekend to ya!

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Just My ‘Magination, Runnin’

bootsThose of us who live in the country, are very conscious of our fashion. You may have guessed this already from plenty of pictures which show us in fine farmer garb–the one piece denim bib is a great example. Functional and oh so elegant. Just a bow tie clip-on for the t-shirt and you are ready for any dinner party.

The other day, I was fashionably clad in my rubber muddies, walkin’ through the watery muck of the lane, when my brother-in-law caught up to me on his backhoe. He had been hauling some hay to the cattle who did  not have have benefit of the corn silage, since the fields were still not done due to crap weather.

As he shut off the motor and opened the cab, I saw that he too was clad in rubber muddies and but for the size, no doubt, they were identical to mine.

I mused on this fine sense of  the fashionista shared by us both, when I realized upon heading back down the hill into the timber that the trees were indeed nearly bare of leaves. “Damn, it seems he was right again!” This to mean, the Contrarian, who but a few short weeks ago had predicted in Nostradamus fashion, “I think we are going to lose our leaves this year.”

Not to be all depressed and such, since last early spring, he confidently predicted that we would have leaves this year, and of course, that too transpired.  The Contrarian is proving himself to be quite good at this prognostication business. One is tempted to say the same of many things in the bible, until one learns that often, the book in question with its “prediction” was written well after the event in question happened. At least the Contrarian announces his predictions well in advance.

Anyway, such thoughts give rise to still more ideas and sneaky partially worked out theories. I’m always happy when I see that I’m not alone in devising such philosophical questions of the month. This morning, Charlie Gibson, late of GMA and now nearly late of the Nightly News, was interviewing John Irving, the writer. Gibson in one of his better moments, asked, “Do you think one can find real happiness in one’s own imagination?”

What prompted this jaw dropping, stop in the street kind of question, is anyone’s guess. Yet it seemed to me, worthy of some thought. I think that you can, and in fact some people do. Then again, some can’t and some don’t.

Do you construct day-dreaming scenarios of lives unlived? I mean do you have a dream house/job/spouse/hobby/you name it, that you construct delicately and with precision, making it all just perfect? Is it your place to escape the cares and turmoils of the day? Is it a place where Johnny Depp falls in love with you, forgetting that you are nearly though not quite old enough to be his mother? Does Halle Berry hang on your every word while sipping Dom Perignon?

I can see how such worlds could be happy. Truly I can. I rather suspect that liberals engage in such mind play more so than Republicans. Just a guess. No polling or scientific evidence. But there is evidence that liberals are more unhappy than Republicans. We tend to take on the woes of the world and grouse about them. We have guilt as to what we have, given that so many have almost nothing. We can’t compartmentalize as well it seems as Republicans apparently can.

We probably drink more and drug more and sex more, though that last may truly be wrong. Republicans with their public stance on morality and their dirty little minds creating all kinds of kinky plays which they all too often cannot help but attempt to act out, may in fact engage in more sexual naughtiness than liberals. I dunno.

But escapism is escapism as they say, and so I suspect more liberals have a fantasy get away that allows them to unwind from the mean little world that we inhabit every day. And perhaps there, we do find the happiness we are so prone to deny ourselves in reality.

Someone the other day suggested that liberals “talk a good game” but that somehow we don’t live it. Actually, I think its the conservatives who act rather differently than they talk. The evidence seems on our side. I have a ton of liberal friends (Facebook proved that) and a huge number of them are very actively engaged in regular service to their communities through food pantries, homeless shelters, health care clinics, and such. They aren’t paid, they just do it, because they have to do something to help. Our unhappiness at the state of affairs in the world forces us to engage and make a difference, no matter how small that might be.

I’m not suggesting that conservatives don’t do charity work, but I suspect they see it somewhat differently than liberals do. I could be wrong on that. I’m wrong on a lot of things. But I feel comfortable in saying it. I hear way too much about how we “have to have  the poor” as a means by which the rest of us can perfect our salvation, to think any differently. And then there is the failure of most conservatives to agree to anything that smacks of redistributing wealth in this country to make life reasonable for ALL. They start raising words like, lazy, and pulling oneself up by one’s boot straps. (I checked, and my muddies don’t have any boot straps by the way.)

Just so ya know, this is what you get when I’m sun deprived. It’s SAD isn’t it?

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Legislating Happiness?

bhutan
Once upon a time, there was a small principality, nestled between two giants.

It was a quaint and some would say backward land, which banned cigarettes and only allowed TV a mere ten years ago.

It had a small population of 700,000, most all of them Buddhists, and it got an idea. The idea was of course laughed at by all the modern powers, but the little country that could, didn’t despair, it quietly proceeded and continued thinking out of the box.

For this was an enlightened people, perhaps from their long hours of meditation. They seemed to have discovered something important. They realized that whether you claim it from God, or just because it’s right, people are born to be happy. They deserve that, and that should be every one’s highest goal. Any rational government, instituted by the people should have that as its aim.

They realized that a democracy was the best vehicle for pursuing the goal, and so the King abdicated, and was replaced by the son, whose powers were stripped completely. A new constitution was drafted and passed. No more attention to gross national product for this land. Instead the objective was gross national happiness.

It’s Prime Minister, Jigme Thinley, said that greed, awful greed was the root of what was wrong in the world economy. We had gotten it all wrong by measuring success by numbers that represented wealth. Instead, happiness was the key.

To this end, all the government agencies and programs are measured for success by how much happiness they bring to the people of the land. They reminded the great super power America, do you not have a document, written at the beginning of your history in which happiness was declared the national pursuit?

Of course, they recognized that happiness itself couldn’t be a goal, because in truth, that is a subjective notion and people define it for themselves. But they did understand that government should be putting in place the conditions under which human beings could attain what they felt was happiness for themselves.

Of course, such a system requires a thought out political theory, and the people are working on that. Ways to quantify and judge success help to determine what needs to be done next.

Specifically, the government has determined that the four pillars of a happy society involve the economy, culture, the environment and good governance. It breaks these into nine domains: psychological well-being, ecology, health, education, culture, living standards, time use, community vitality and good governance, each with its own weighted and unweighted G.N.H. index.

The government looks at factors that one would seldom if ever see in the West, such as frequency of prayer and compassion, calmness and weird stuff like that. They care about how much time people work and play and spend with family and friends.

A lot of smart people work out mathematical models to define this further, and everything is reassessed regularly.

No one knows if this little place will have success or not in its quest to survive in the big ugly world of globalization. But it is to be commended by everyone that it has the courage to re-examine the entire matrix of how we do business.

bhutan_map

I’ve been reading Walter Wink’s book, The Powers that Be. One of the shocking, to me at least, claims of the book is that profit is not the goal of business. Now this might shock you too, accustomed as you are to living in America where everything on earth is quantified by value and investment dollars and return.

But apparently even Adam Smith, the 18th century philosopher on capitalism, suggested that the goal of business was the “common good.” Profit was but a means of measurement or a side benefit. Indeed Wink’s whole premise this that all institutions are supposed to strive for the common good, and are thus good by creation. Alas they often veer off that track and act in ways we consider evil. They are not evil he argues, but good institutions exhibiting very bad behavior. Like all of God’s creation, they are redeemable.

So maybe the folks of Bhutan have something to say to us in the West? Wink would state it quite differently, but really they are thinking along the same lines I believe.

We live in a cesspool of economic greed, a shrinking minority of the super rich, violence, and extreme pollution. Most of us are struggling to house, feed, educate, and properly care for ourselves and our children. We work at jobs we mostly hate, we haven’t the time or money to really relax, so we deaden our senses with mindless television, drugs and alcohol.  We send our best off to wars where if they come back at all they are physically and mentally harmed so deeply they never attain their true potential as human beings.

It may seem pie in the sky that a little country of Buddhists is doing something so very radical and most here would say totally impractical. But it’s time to examine radically new ideas. These old ones just purely suck.

AFeatherAdrift, reporting from Utopia meadow, deep in the woods of Iowa.

**Learn more about Bhutan, here.

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