To Everything…There is a Season

time enemy

“To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven. A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant and a time to pluck up that which is planted.” – Ecclesiastes 3:1-2

Time is my enemy now. Not only does it often seem to be in short supply when the work of writing begins for me, but over the years, it has been so heavy-laden with intrusions which divert me from the task, that many times, I have found myself near despair. Recently, I have only been able to manage short bursts of productive effort, and with all the chaos of late, I have been so frequently interrupted by a host of other considerations, it seems amazing to me that I’ve accomplished anything at all.

Modern technology has made great strides since the time I began this work, and I have been fortunate to have access to materials and resources that have helped me to make even the meager progress I have managed so far. With only a very limited budget over the years, and many competing priorities for the funds that were available, it has only recently become possible to acquire the tools needed to truly begin to construct a comprehensive summary of what has occupied me for more than thirty years now. At first, much of the work was recorded on hand-written loose-leaf papers, and whatever else I could get my hands on. Unfortunately, many of my original papers have been lost after moving and all the various changes which occurred in those years. However, I was able to preserve the core elements of the writings in the subsequent revisions and copies which I recorded in a series of paper-bound journals that I kept relentlessly during that time.

In recent years, as I was able to acquire a computer and access to the digital world, I was able to preserve and store the accumulating documents on compact discs, along with the many photos which were taken during the early days of my struggle to come to terms with the extraordinary events which led to my ongoing investigations. This blog represents my best efforts to gather the materials from my research and writing, and to make some kind of sense of it all.

Secret Double Magritte
Secret Double by Magritte

“If a man sits down to think, he is immediately asked if he has a headache.”
– Ralph Waldo Emerson from a journal entry in 1833

In the autumn of 1973, I experienced what C.G. Jung described as “an eruption of unconscious contents,” which led me to create a document entitled, “The Beginning, The Foundation, The Entrance.” Although I did not recognize it as such at the time, I have gradually come to view the experience as a pivotal event in my life, and I have spent much of the time since it occurred attempting to decipher the meaning contained in the document. The bulk of the document’s contents remained poorly understood by me for many years afterwards, and only in recent years have I finally begun to comprehend it more fully, and to begin to place it in a broader perspective. Magritte’s image above seemed an appropriate illustration of what felt like an agonizing struggle to reveal the inner workings of the process, which I subsequently engaged in attempting to discover what it was that erupted from within me.

Reviewing the cryptic writing in this document has always been problematical for me, as doing so not only reminded me of how it came into existence, but also of how much I struggled to make some kind of sense out of what initially seemed like a “stream of unconsciousness.” Over the years, even though the opportunities to spend time on the writing have been far fewer than my own inclinations would have provided, I have devoted every available temporal and mental resource in the service of enhancing my understanding of both the experience itself, and of the content in the original document. My temporal life during this time, all too often, “pushed” active pursuit of my goals to “another day.” Forced to find ways of getting to the research, I resorted to recording my incremental progress and my relevant observations in those journals, which at least provided a consistent location where I could continue to work as time permitted.

collective unconscious

According to the famous Swiss psychiatrist and scholar, C.G. Jung:

In addition to our immediate consciousness, which is of a thoroughly personal nature, there exists a second psychic system of a collective, universal, and impersonal nature which is identical in all individuals. This collective unconscious does not develop individually, but is inherited. It consists of pre-existent forms, the archetypes, which can only become conscious secondarily and which give definite form to certain psychic contents. It is man’s task to become conscious of the contents that press upward from the unconscious.”

After several exposures to what Jung described as “unconscious contents,” in my early twenties, it became apparent to me that a greater comprehension of my own cognitive processes was necessary if I was ever going to come to terms with the inexplicable nature of these extraordinary personal experiences. The learning process has engaged my own consciousness in ways that have been both rewarding and challenging. In the coming months, it is my goal to organize and communicate this process, as a means of formalizing a theory which will summarize and bring together all of the many pathways which I have been traveling these many years.

To all of the many wonderful readers and visitors here, I extend my best wishes for much success to you all in the coming year……

Birds of a Feather

mike bird2
photo by Mike Hyland

“Once we reach a certain age, we often worry that those precious hours and days–the ones which we remember so fondly and so well–will never come again. We think that all of our best experiences are contained within them, and that all we really have now are our memories of them. While none of us knows well what the future holds beyond our basic understanding of the limitations of our bodies to sustain us indefinitely, all that we have experienced in our lives–every nuance of the totality of our contributions to life and those of life to us–every single twist and turn that led us to this moment in time, lives within us at every moment, and the reverberations of all those moments and memories echo in each of our thoughts and actions as we breathe in this very moment now.”
– excerpt from a recent correspondence with a friend

Sitting at my desk this afternoon, trying to resolve some of the inevitable clutter that accumulates during the all-too-brief time I get to spend at it writing, I finally felt comfortable enough with the clear view of the desktop to settle in to my writing, when I suddenly noticed a thumping sound outside my window. At first it was on the periphery which I dismissed as a branch from the tree outside banging against the window in the wind. Each time I heard the noise I would look over at the window, and after a moment, it seemed to be quiet, so I continued with my reading. After several minutes, the thumping sound would return and it started to make me wonder, so I stopped what I was doing and simply stared at the window, waiting for the sound to return.

bird window

To my astonishment, the thumping sound was being perpetrated by a robin, who apparently found some sort of fascination with my window. At first I was mostly curious as to what might be attracting the bird, which appeared to be attempting to land on the middle ledge where the two windows met. Some confusion may have been possible, I thought, and so I adjusted the window to change the appearance, hoping that would dissuade the bird. It did not. I decided to attend to some other chores for a time, figuring that the bird would get tired of failing to land or get through the window or whatever it was trying to do, but after several delays away from the desk, each time I returned to it, the bird returned as well.

Now I was starting to get a bit anxious. Why wouldn’t this bird get tired and just give up? I opened up the inner window to expose the screen, and when the bird came near I made loud noises and tried to wave it away with my hand. It still came back. I went so far as to walk outside, waiting for it to appear outside the window, and started throwing sticks in the air to discourage it from landing on the branches outside the window. It flew away, and when I went back to my desk, it would start thumping against the window again. This went on for several hours. I decided to call my sister to talk with someone calm and steady to question about this. We checked for a solution on the internet: “Block the window with something so that the bird can see that it’s not an open window.” This seemed to work for a while, but then the bird returned again. I started up Skype to show my sister what the bird was doing. It was so…persistent.

bird window2

We talked wistfully about how uncanny the whole thing seemed, and talked about our dear late brother, Mike, who not only was a bird fanatic, but whose last weeks of life were filled twice daily with flocks of birds–once in the morning and once in the evening, as they flocked in the tree outside his window as he lay dying. We marveled at the many such instances where birds seemed to appear since then in our daily routines, and how it always seemed like there might be some connection in the strangeness which always surrounded such appearances. I almost got through writing this post, some seven hours after the thumping began, when the bird appeared again. I opened the window all the way, and left it open while I typed. The air felt cool and the gentle breeze was soothing to my spirit. The daylight was fading as it past 7:30 PM here on the East Coast of the United States. I put on some classical music, and continued to write.

bird window3

The photo at the top of this posting was one of my brother’s favorites, and it was on his desktop background for many months after he took it at a nearby bird sanctuary. We all felt that there was some importance to the image of the bird, and today, as we skyped, we felt as though we must have needed to talk, and the persistent bird thumping at my window was the catalyst for our conversation. That seemed to satisfy us all, and whether or not the prompting was in spirit or just a practical matter, we enjoyed the conversation, and as night fell, I looked out the window, contemplating the words I had written to my friend. All of our wonderful memories of our lives which included our dear brother, as fine as they are, contributed to our lives in THIS moment now, and perhaps, that is the best conclusion of all.

Computer Meltdown

2013-02-03 12.43.11

If you’ve been working with a personal computer for any length of time in your home or office, (and I think it’s safe to say most everyone has at least some experience in this regard) or even if you’ve just heard other people talking about them, you may have heard them use the term “meltdown” at some point. It’s kind of a catch-all phrase for when the darn thing stops working right in the middle of some important work you are trying to complete, or when it simply won’t start at all. If you’ve ever lost important data or media files you’ve been storing on a desktop computer, this can be enormously frustrating, and most often, it motivates us to begin a regimen of making backup file storage of one sort or another. There are all sorts of ways to accomplish this, with a variety of “cloud storage” options, as well as data storage on discs and thumb-drives, or even just a portable hard drive that you keep in a separate location. In one particular case recently, I received a request from friends of mine to help with a computer meltdown of a very different sort.

2013-02-03 12.45.15

Imagine being awakened in the middle of the night by a fireman standing in your bedroom telling you that your house is on fire. Just the thought of it gives me the shakes, but it happened to my friends a few weeks ago. Everyone is fine and there were no injuries, and the story seems to be unfolding toward recovery well enough. There was insurance on the house and its contents and they are safely moved in to a rental house nearby, and are receiving assistance from family and friends. They were very lucky in important ways.

When I offered my help, it began with clothing and groceries and the comforting of friends, but a few days ago, they asked if I thought I might be able to recover the data off their desktop computer. It had been sitting on a desk in the living room, and was exposed to what the firemen described as “about 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit” temperatures at the height of the fire. I was skeptical from their description of the condition of the computer, but agreed to give it a try anyway.

fried electric board

When I finally got a look at the inside of the scorched electric panels and melted plastic pieces and roasted transistors, I was even less optimistic that anything might still be retrievable from the meltdown, but I pulled the hard drive out and installed it in an old desktop in my family room and to my surprise, it booted up and revealed that all of the contents were still quite intact!

The “brains” of the computer were fried beyond recovery, and my hands were filthy after poking around inside the blackened innards of the fried computer, but the smile on the faces of my friends….that was priceless!

The Abundance of Life and Love

earth from space

Recently in email I received a link to a video that presented a poem by Kate Nowak called, “May You Be Blessed.” It’s a very nice sentiment expressed in the poem, and her efforts have been re-posted quite often. I couldn’t help admiring her idea, but I really felt like it needed a response. Here is the poem and the link to the video on YouTube:

May You Be Blessed by Kate Nowak

May you be blessed
with all things good
May your joys
like the stars at night
be too numerous to count
May your victories
be more abundant
than all the grains of sand
on all the beaches
on all the oceans
in all the world
May lack and struggle
be always only serve
to make you stronger
and may beauty order
and abundance
be your constant companions
May every pathway you choose
lead to that which is pure
and good and lovely
May every doubt and fear
be replaced by a deep abiding trust
as you behold evidence
of a Higher Power
all around you
And when there is
only darkness
and the storms of life are closing in
May the light
at the core of your being
illuminate the world
May you always be aware
you are loved beyond measure
and may you be willing to
love unconditionally in return
May you always feel protected
and cradled
in the arms of God
like the cherished child you are
And when you are tempted
to judge may you be
reminded that we are ALL ONE
and that every thought you think
reverberates across the universe
touching everyone and everything
And when you
are tempted to hold back
may you remember that love flows best
when it flows freely
and it is in
giving that we receive
the greatest gift
May you always have music and laughter
and may a rainbow
follow every storm
May gladness wash away
every disappointment
may joy dissolve every sorrow
and may love ease every pain
May every wound bring wisdom
and every trial bring triumph
and with each passing day
may you live more abundantly
than the day before
May you be blessed
And may others
be blessed by you
This is my heartfelt wish for you
May you be blessed

BrigantineSunrise

There is much to admire in what Kate wrote here, but it seemed to me that her thoughts didn’t go quite far enough, and needed some additional thinking. After a fair amount of thought on what she wrote, I penned this response:

THE ABUNDANCE OF LIFE AND LOVE: A Response to Kate Nowak

May you share in the abundance of all that is good, and feel compelled to share your portion, whatever it is, with others.

May you know joy often and well, and when sorrow finds you, understand that it finds us all in one way or another; it’s simply a matter of degree.

Don’t attempt to compare the portions of joy or sorrow in your life to anyone else’s. We earn it sometimes, and at other times it just arrives unannounced. Be glad for what joy may come, and don’t allow what sorrow may come to prevent the return to joy in due time.

Know that every path we choose is simply the path we choose—nothing more or less. What happens along that path depends on who we are as we navigate through it. It is not the path which forms us; it is the form we inhabit as we walk the path that leads us as we go.

When diverted from our path by circumstances beyond our control, it is best to direct our attention to the task of finding our way back as soon as possible. Once we return to the path of our own choosing, we should look forward to the road ahead, and focus on every step we take in the moment it is taken.

Doubt and fear are the result of uncertainty within us and facing the unknown outside of us. As the only known species with the capacity for the higher cognitive tasks of imagination, intuition, and abstract thinking, we have the singular privilege of entertaining doubt. Don’t waste it!

Doubt is a necessary prerequisite to wisdom, and drives us to search with vigor to uncover the truth. It cannot be eliminated in a single lifetime, but it can be diminished when we seek in earnest to move forward with a firm belief in the value of our individual life, recognizing that each of us has a contribution to make to the unfolding of life everywhere.

If we can observe the beauty, order, and abundance all around us in nature, with all its intricate nuances and sweeping natural vistas, and not conclude that it is a consequence of something much greater than ourselves, we cannot hope to discover the source of that beauty, order, and abundance.

It is through giving love unconditionally that we open ourselves enough to receive love in return, and it is through the creation of the universe that everything and everyone we know and love came into existence in the first place. However you wish to describe the source of all creation, the opening of the universe in the act of creation, and our very existence as human beings, is the result of the most unconditionally loving gesture ever made. Sharing our love, in all its various forms, with every living entity in creation, is simply giving back what was unconditionally opened for us.

Life is an expression and manifestation of creation, and while the whole range of existence includes all the pairs of opposites and everything in between, we can either embrace both the darkness and the light, or choose to limit ourselves to a narrow band of the spectrum of life. Every life, whether it lasts a few moments, a few years, or a hundred years, is not measured well by how it is spent, but most clearly by how it is earned.

May you be blessed to know the broad range of what life can be, and share as much as you can of what you experience in life with as many others as may be possible during your time on Earth.

May you be blessed, and may others be blessed by you.

John J. Hyland January 2013

Hurricane Update 2PM

It’s Monday afternoon here now and the storm has begun to show its effects. The satellite image above looks ominous in revealing the magnitude of this storm, and we are continuing to track the storm for as long as the power holds out. We have several mobile devices in the house, although we expect even they might not be fully functional at the height of the storm, which is projected to be later tonight and into Tuesday morning. If the mobile networks hold out, I will try to post as possible. We are hunkered down here and hope that all our preparations will carry us through. It has been raining fairly steady most of the morning, but the wind seems to be picking up now and overnight last night the leaves seem to have mostly fallen out of the trees in the front and back yards.

Water has already begun to accumulate in front of our garage. I’m guessing later on today the photos will look much different:

Unfortunately, we may have to endure the bulk of the strongest part of the storm in the dark, as it is projected to peak sometime after 8PM. As I am able, I will report on our progress, and keep you updated.

It appears that I will have plenty of time for reading by lantern light and I’m hoping that the experience will produce something of interest to my readers.

…fingers crossed…..

First things first…

Patrice, my good friend and kindred spirit at “The Heartbreak of Invention,”  http://patricemj.wordpress.com/ asked me to join in on this revealing look at personal “firsts,” inspired by one of her fellow bloggers, and in the spirit of friendship I offer this humorous look at some of my own firsts.  Enjoy!

First Girlfriend:  My first efforts at attracting what might charitably be described as a “girlfriend,” were so meager and tentative, that I really wouldn’t feel right putting any young woman in such a category until I reached high school, in which case I would have to say a wonderful young woman in my freshman year named Joan certainly qualified.  We met shortly after the school year began, and before long we had kissed and said, “I love you,” to each other, and were inseparable for quite a while.  I was so inexperienced as a “boyfriend,” that when I started to notice other girls, I couldn’t hang on long enough to make it work, and it ended badly for us both.  She married another guy years later and wrote to me that while it wasn’t the same “head-over-heels” kind of relationship that we had together, it was definitely better.  So much for my beginnings on the relationship road.

First Person I kissed:  A while before I met Joan, I was participating in one of the “after school” activities in my freshman year, and was cornered by a young woman who clearly had been “dared” to attempt it.  We were backstage in the auditorium, and she ran up to me, wrapped us both up in the curtains, and kissed me squarely on the lips, quite unexpectedly.

First Job: I was a porter at Dunkin’ Donuts at the age of 15, after school and then during the summer.  The manager was a wonderful man with an artificial leg with whom I would have “donut fights,” with the donuts we had to throw away at the end of the shift.

First Pay/What did I buy:  My first ever paycheck went straight into the bank in a savings account (per parental decree), but when I was finally allowed to actually buy something with my own money, I bought my first set of genuine artist’s watercolor paints and several high quality brushes in preparation for my summer art classes. (age 16)

First CD I recall buying:  It’s always funny to think of CD’s as the only way of buying music these days, because my first ever purchase of music was a 45 (record) by B.J.Thomas called, “Hooked On A Feeling,” which I played so many times it eventually became unplayable.  My first purchase of an album, which was an LP (record) was Emerson, Lake, and Palmer’s “Trilogy.”  In between LP’s and CD’s were cassette tapes, and my first cassette purchase was “Yessongs,” by the progressive rock group, “YES.”  My first actual CD purchase when they became available was “Abbey Road,” by the Beatles.

What Age Was I When I Moved From My Parent’s Home:   I enlisted in the US Army at the ripe old age of 20 and never went back for more than a few weeks after that except for the summer after I got out of the military when I spent the whole summer with my parents down the shore in Brigantine, NJ.

First Holiday Abroad:  When I completed my military training, I was assigned to the Federal Republic of Germany, and only two weeks after arriving in that country, I spent a week in Munich, and attended the Oktoberfest.  Not only was it my first ever visit to another country, but one of the most amazing international celebrations imaginable.  I met people from all over the world, and discovered what might possibly be the biggest and best beer party in the whole world.

OK….and now I will pass this Memes:First challenge to http://jennifermhartsock.wordpress.com/   who is one of my favorite young writers here at WordPress.com and who might have some fun firsts to share, and also to http://justmarj.wordpress.com/  who is a wonderfully talented writer and teacher of English in the Philippines who inspires me with her drive to enhance her skills in all areas of language.

Madness and the Demise of Common Sense

painting by untitled blue on flickr – Acrylic on 4 Canvas: 125x90cm

On a recent errand to acquire a bottle of aspirin from the neighborhood drug store, (never actually having set foot in the place previously,) as I walked through the door, I was immediately seized by an overwhelming desire to check the sign out front again to make sure I entered the right building! What I assumed was a place to buy medicine and health care products now appeared to be a Wal-Mart. Looking around briefly, I was tempted to ask directions to the pharmacy. Refusing to be intimidated, I walked past the lawn chairs, gift wrapping, housewares, videos, toys, and food, eventually ending up in the part of the store where one could find over-the-counter medicine. After a minute or two of further searching, I ended up in the aisle containing aspirin.

Easily forty feet long, what looked like a row in an aspirin warehouse contained hundreds of boxes of analgesics, with innumerable varieties of additives designed for every contingency of illness, except perhaps for the anxiety produced by too many choices.


Mike Kemp/Getty Images

Finding a particular brand, if you knew which one you wanted, was only marginally easier than deciding on a brand if you didn’t know. Cost-conscious consumers would have it a little easier, only having to choose amongst the generic versions of every brand name, knocking the search down by half. At that point you need only narrow your selection to small, medium, or large bottle; liquid or gel-tabs; chewable or time-release capsules; coated or plain. If you read labels you may have to spend the night! Of course, this is possible since the store is open twenty-four hours a day. What led to this madness? How did we get diverted from the relative simplicity of life a hundred years ago, to the virtually limitless chaos of modern life?

Common sense, long ago revered as the most important form of everyday reasoning, seems to have all but vanished from modern life in the 21st century. So diverse are we that finding something in common with even most of us may be unreachable. Ask people what is meant by common sense, and you will inevitably get no consensus. In a very unscientific survey of a dozen diverse men and women in different departments of my own workplace produced twelve remarkably different responses. Here are the results of my short survey:

1. What ought to be obvious and sensible to a majority of individuals.
2. The innate ability to reason and find the easiest and most efficient way.
3. What you know instinctively to be the right way to do something.
4. Going along with the norms of society.
5. The ability to think without external guidelines.
6. Knowing right from wrong.
7. The golden rule. Don’t do to someone else what you wouldn’t do to yourself.
8. Popular opinion
9. The ability to handle life situations and react in a logical, thoughtful process.
10. Native intelligence.
11. Levelheadedness.
12. The understanding of logic.

Unable to find agreement among my contemporaries, I sought out some definitions from established sources. Webster’s dictionary defined it as “sound practical judgment not based on reasoning or special knowledge.” Ralph Waldo Emerson described it as “Genius dressed in its working clothes,” and “the shortest line between two points.” In an essay for the first issue of the Atlantic Monthly in 1857, Oliver Wendell Holmes related a criticism of an old gentleman, responding to a statement Holmes had made, which the gentleman said made him sound, “like a transcendentalist,” and proclaimed that “for his part, common sense was good enough for him.” Holmes then replied, “Precisely so, my dear sir, common sense as you understand it.”

Perhaps the most famous pamphlet in American history was the one entitled, “Common Sense,” published in January of 1776 and written by Thomas Paine advocating a “Declaration for Independence,” by the American colonies. In it, Paine asserted that “the more formidable weapon against errors of every kind is reason.” He summed up his view on common sense in this way:

“Could the straggling thoughts of individuals be collected, they would frequently form materials for wise and able men to improve into useful matter.”

It was a very different world in which Mr. Paine announced his essential description of common sense, and who actually qualified as”wise and able men” is unknown. However, even a brief examination of life in the colonial era shows how the word “common” applied. Life in colonial America was difficult. Many people lost their lives while attempting to adapt to frontier conditions. Compared to our modern standards of scheduled working hours, vacations, and leisure time, the colonist’s lives were bleak and tedious. They worked from dawn to dusk and could not restrict their work to any set number of hours. The needs of simply existing required constant effort. The family unit was paramount, spending time with each other in a way that is virtually unknown today. Most people had so much in common, that “sensible” almost always translated into “self-evident.” These days, we appear to have so little in common that what could be called common before, not longer seems possible.

Recent quantum leaps in the availability of information technology have resulted in an overwhelming volume of possible avenues to explore, presenting an entirely new problem to challenge the survival skills of modern humans. With this landslide of technology, we seem find ourselves slowly being buried under the weight of every new development, and its accompanying library of information. Take a look at any computer or science magazine these days and you will notice a great deal of shouting going on about the latest technological leap. Wizardry that makes Merlin’s magic pale by comparison is now routine. Our mass media is replete with spectacular showcases of special effects and futuristic fanfares designed to dazzle and delight, and anything that does not contain these elements, regardless of its significance, seems to end up somewhere between invisible and absent.

State-of-the-art technologies in the real world, such as those responsible for the Hubble Space Telescope, the Space Shuttle, satellite communications, and the many breakthroughs of modern medical science have long term, permanent, and profound consequences for all of humanity. Already, in the short time it has taken to develop these bodies of knowledge, we have been faced with serious moral and ethical questions. As the pace accelerates, so too does the necessity to search deeper within ourselves for the wisdom to create appropriate responses to them. As we expand our horizons, we expand our understanding, and acquire the raw materials for enlightened social change. We will not be defined so much by the new technologies of the future as we will by our thoughtful and intelligent use of them. Before we plunge headlong into the new and spectacular, we need to be better prepared for the challenges they will present.

Before the greatest ballerina gives her greatest performance, she hones her skills, relentlessly practices her routines, and labors endlessly to be the best she can be. Buying a bottle of aspirin, by comparison, should not require quite as much work. We must find a way to shift our concentration from consumerism and razzle-dazzle, to the urgency to prepare like the great ballerina, for the most important performance in history–our future survival as human beings.

The Versatile Blogger Award

Many thanks to http://patricemj.wordpress.com/ for including me on her list of fifteen bloggers here at WordPress.com for being…well…versatile. Dictionary.com describes the word “versatile” like this:

ver•sa•tile
[vur-suh-tl or, especially Brit., -tahyl] – adjective

1. Capable of or adapted for turning easily from one to another of various tasks, fields of endeavor, etc.: e.g. – a versatile writer

Based on that description, it sounds like being versatile is a good idea, and anyone who has read Patrice’s blog knows that she is an enormously talented and versatile writer. No mystery there. Her narratives are not only superbly written, heartfelt, and passionate, but they also reveal the character of her personal humanity, which is loving and generous and compassionate. Anyone who is NOT affected by her writing is simply not paying attention.

The person who is “Patrice the Writer,” is courageous and bold and articulate and astonishingly refreshing in her unique approach–one that I aspire to emulate. “Patrice the Person,” is someone that I admire greatly and I am especially glad to share the planet with her. Patrice has been generous in her characterization of my blog as being worthy of the attention of others, and I am grateful for her support and encouragement, but I actually think she simply enjoys tormenting me, as her brothers did to her growing up. Thankfully her approach to the task does not include spit, but even without the inclusion of spit in her method, I too have developed a deep and abiding fondness for her.

There are a few conditions for this award:

1. In a post on your, blog, nominate 15 fellow bloggers for The Versatile Blogger Award.
2. In the same post, Add the Versatile Blogger Award.
3. In the same post, thank the blogger who nominated you in a post with a link back to their blog.
4. In the same post, share 7 completely random pieces of information about yourself.
5. In the same post, include this set of rules.
6. Inform each nominated blogger of their nomination by posting a comment on each of their blogs.

7 random things about me

1. Although you probably wouldn’t even notice me in a crowd, in small groups I seem to be taller than just about everyone. (6 ‘ 3”)
2. I lived in Germany for two years in the late 1970’s.
3. I was the biggest baby my mom had out of eight children. (middle child)
4. Camping in the forests and mountains is my favorite vacation choice.
5. When I was in high school, I fell thirty feet off of a painter’s scaffold to the wooden floor in the gymnasium while hanging decorations for a dance.
6. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s I hosted a poetry discussion group on ThirdAge.com
7. When I was in college I met and conversed with Truman Capote.

These blogs all have something to offer beyond the average…Enjoy!

http://islandsontheroad.wordpress.com/ – Life and love on the road in America

http://justmarj.wordpress.com/ – In her own words, “a wanna-be writer with an offbeat personality and social skills bordering on esoteric.”

http://gideonjagged671.wordpress.com/ – Gideon Jagged is a novelist, essayist and all-round smart guy.

http://mindscienceandcreativity.wordpress.com/ – A new voice on the scene with fresh insights

http://modernartists.blogspot.com/ – A pop culture wiz with a keen sense of style

http://mooselicker.wordpress.com/ – His goal is simple, to get you to think. Whether you agree or disagree is irrelevant

http://jonelfernando.com/ – living a full life isn’t about having possessions, it’s about gaining and maintaining human connections.

http://jaggedwriter.wordpress.com/ – Striving every day to make her dreams come true, and never forgetting the dreams that got her there in the first place.

http://futuristicallyyours.com/ – a group of 26 of the brightest futures, ranging in ages from 18-29, write REVERSE self-letters, as in their future-self (their age advanced 20-30 years) writes them, their present-self reads them.

http://yellowvoices.wordpress.com/ – a woman with a passion for art currently working at the bottom of the food chain in the fashion industry.

http://fasterthanlight.me/ – Gaming, media, technology, and philosophy.

http://derekbang.wordpress.com/ – Amazing photography and a deeply spiritual philosophy

http://spl225.wordpress.com/ – Great blog about books and Libraries and everything literary

http://boggletondrive.com/ – a totally unique graphic comic blog

http://workmadeforhire.wordpress.com/ – everything you could possibly want to know about negotiating

Nostalgia and the Future of Humanity

Some years ago, I photographed Roy Rogers at a meet and greet in New Jersey. A friend of mine recently forwarded an email which reflected on some of the television characters from our childhood years, like Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, The Lone Ranger and Tonto, Sky King and Superman and Sgt. Friday, Captain Kangaroo, Mr. Rogers, and Captain Noah, and “all those people from children’s television in the 1950’s whose lives touched ours, and made them better.” Nostalgia for those years afflicts many of us “baby boomers,” who remember fondly those years when there were great television heroes during our childhood, who tried to teach us right from wrong, and “how to have and show respect for each other and the animals that share this earth.”

As a result of the invention of television, “we were able to grow up with these great people even if we never met them. In their own way they taught us patriotism and honor, we learned that lying and cheating were bad, and sex wasn’t as important as love. We learned how to suffer through disappointment and failure and work through it. Our lives were drug free.”

While these inferences strike a chord with just about everyone over fifty, there is a deeper issue which many of these nostalgic messages seem to miss. These reminders of life during what now seems like a time of innocence and uncomplicated choices, while they evoke a genuine charm and sense of delight, are actually a result of us remembering, not so much the charming particulars from our daily lives, but rather how the experience of those events and pleasures made us feel, and how they compare to our lives today.

The emphasis generally centers on our fondest memories, and neglects the accompanying difficulties and trials of those times. We lament the passing of simpler times and uncomplicated lifestyles, and yet those times contained many of the same charms and delights that exist in our lives today. We just have to look a little harder because our youthful perspectives have become obscured by maturity and balanced by adversity.


Sorbonne-neighborhood bookstore by treviño – Flickr – Photo Sharing!

A good illustration of how life has changed over the years can be found by reviewing a recent column by Marc Fisher of the Washington Post, which expressed sadness about the loss of the neighborhood bookstores to the much more economical and less complicated practice of ordering books online at places like Amazon.com. In much the same frame of mind as many of us who cherish the experience of walking amongst the rows of freshly printed pages and browsing our favorite sections, inhaling the scent of new books and cappuccinos, and thumbing through our cherished, secret, and silent worlds, Mr. Fisher’s lament struck such a chord with me that I emailed him expressing my empathy and agreement.

Not even thirty years ago, I wrote to Darryl Sifford of the Philadelphia Inquirer about a column he wrote, which I typed on a manual typewriter and sent to him in an envelope with a stamp. A week later, he responded with a nice note which he also typed on a manual typewriter and mailed to me. I sent my email to Marc Fisher by clicking “send” on my “Hotmail homepage” with my “mouse” at 5:58 PM and received his response at 6:04 PM, just six minutes later!

I’m guessing that our children or grandchildren will be sending each other some kind of “Holographic Laser Visual Message,” remembering how quaint it used to be to type an email on a keyboard, and rather than calling older folks “older than dirt,” they may end up calling each other “older than silicon” or something.

Humanity has begun to evolve less through natural selection and more toward artificial selection as a result of the quantum leaps in new technologies, and as with most circumstances that result from radical changes, those who are able to adapt seem to fare better than those who either cannot or will not embrace the inevitable changes that adaptation demands.

However, what we cannot do is to lose sight of what lies at the core of our humanity. No matter what evolution may require of us as temporal beings in order to adapt and survive, within us and all around us, there is a unity of all living things which connects us to each other and the wider universe.

Jonas Salk, the great pioneer of the polio vaccine, once wrote that “Evolution is no longer a case of survival of the fittest, but rather one of survival of the wisest.” We are now entering one of the most important epochs for our species, and we must find a way to bring humanity together, without sacrificing the hard-won progress of our ancestors that brought us this far. There were many great aspects of our childhood that are no longer existent in the same way today, but the promise of the future, represented by our children and our grandchildren is even more important to consider as we evolve in the centuries to come.

Conscious Machines?

One of the most compelling forces behind much of my writing also happens to be one of the most important reasons why we should question the current wisdom of the modern study of human consciousness. Aside from acknowledging the central role that consciousness plays in our existence and the nearly complete lack of comprehension of its nature generally, the repeated encounter with individuals who feel confident that the subjective experience of consciousness is a product of brain function only, virtually screams for a dissenting voice in the world.

It’s not that I don’t appreciate the completely reasonable disparity in the thinking which surrounds the controversial nature of the subject matter. Throughout human history, many of the most important issues of the day usually find a variety of human beings landing on opposite ends (and in every variation in between) of the whole spectrum of human thought regarding everything from what constitutes reality to morality and ethics. Diversity of thought in the realm of public discourse on most any subject will eventually result in some sort of consensus in the long run, and while I would not discourage discussion on any genuine attempt to describe the nature of our very human existence, to describe neurobiologists as “interested in how brains give rise to subjective experience,” as an article in the June issue of Scientific American did, immediately raised every hair on the back of my neck.

According to the article, “A Test for Consciousness,” by Christof Koch and Giulio Tononi, in the June 2011 issue, “The unified nature of consciousness stems from a multitude of interactions among relevant parts of your brain.” The writers go to elaborate lengths to justify this premise, none of which, in my view, even come close to convincing the reader that consciousness can be so easily explained away.

Part of the problem with judging as to whether or not a machine can be “conscious” lies in the difficulty we currently encounter when we attempt to confirm this same condition in other sentient beings. We experience conscious states vividly in our own day-to-day existence, but can only “infer” conscious states in others through observations and interactions with them. We cannot know with absolute certainty what others are experiencing, precisely because of the nature of conscious awareness. Even when conscious awareness was finally possible for the early humans, they did not immediately spring into functional consciousness. Even with the advantage of being able to “load” information into a machine, which is still a fairly lengthy process for humans needing years of learning, there are very few shortcuts available for accumulating experience, which is the real game changer.

In the postings to come, I will attempt to elaborate on this theme from a variety of viewpoints, and encourage anyone reading who is genuinely interested in the subject, (is anyone reading?) to ask questions or comment as I cover this ground.