Category Archives: Life & Death

Trump Signals the End of Our Democracy

My brother, Bob, used to talk about the impending end of our democracy. I am glad that Bob did not live to see it.

The end has arrived. It is embodied in the man recently elected – not by popular vote but by the Electoral College – to the highest position in this country. the President of the United States.

If you don’t believe me, please read American Has Never Been More Ripe for Tyranny.

This is not Facebook hype or Twitter trash. This is article is well-thought out; it is insightful and it is terrifying. Written in May of this year, 2016, before the primaries, before the conventions, before the debates, its author predicts what was going to happen.

It has happened.

Andrew Sullivan builds his case meticulously, without rhetoric, without “sound and fury” but brick by brick.  Sullivan quotes the work of another author, Sinclair Lewis. Perhaps you read his novels in high school. But most of us never read or even heard of It Can’t Happen Here – Lewis’ 1935 novel about what would happen if fascism…were to triumph in America.

Lewis imagined American fascist leader is Senator called Buzz Windrip —  a “Professional Common Man …who was vulgar, almost illiterate, a public liar easily detected, and in his ‘ideas’ almost idiotic.”

The description sounds familiar but Windrip was fiction written more than 80 years ago. Unfortunately, Sinclair Lewis’ writing, like Sullivan’s, was predictive, as well.

Read the article. It will scare you but it will also help you understand how we come to have Donald Trump as the President Elect of the United States of America. If you don’t want to read the entire article, read the final paragraph. It pretty much says it all for me:

“…Trump is not just a wacky politician of the far right, or a riveting television spectacle, or a Twitter phenom and bizarre working-class hero. He is not just another candidate to be parsed and analyzed by TV pundits in the same breath as all the others. In terms of our liberal democracy and constitutional order, Trump is an extinction-level event. It’s long past time we started treating him as such.”

We are witnessing the end of democracy in America. I, for one, will be glad to leave this world before it gets as bad as I think it will.

 

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10 Ideas for Living a Good Life in Bad Times

Face it. We live in a very uncomfortable time with some very uncomfortable realities.

Donald Trump is actually a viable candidate for President. The alternative, Hillary Clinton, is no better than La Donald, just a different shape and different background. On November 8th, 2016, the American public gets to choose between a male bully with megalomania and  no morals or a female cobra with ever-changing ethics and situational morals.

Can you say Hobson’s choice?

Whoever wins this election, these United States are in for a rough ride, facing international sanctions and national crises — all of our own making and all born of greed and the overweening desire for power and control.

I can’t change any of this. All I can do is live my small life. You can’t change any of this either. So, this morning, I offer a way for you and I and anyone else who is tired of the trash talk, afraid of the looming future and worried about their loved ones, some insights from  one of my very favorite intellectuals, writers, and muses.

Maria Popova offers 10 core values which, she has gleaned over the 10 years of writing her amazing blog – Brain Pickings

My Sunday mornings are spent with a cup of coffee and her newsletter – my break, my solitude, my weekly dose of philosophy, culture, insight, learning and being.

I offer Popova as an antidote to the idiocy we see all around us. I offer her as peace in a world fraught with panic. I hope she brings you the same joy that she brings me.

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Filed under arm wresting, Death & Dying, Education, Freelance Writing, Gifts, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Mysteries, Politics, Religion, World Changing Ideas

A Fundamental Life

I spent most of yesterday at a funeral in Philadelphia.

It was an Italian funeral which started with 3 hours in church, the viewing, the mass, Communion, the recessional. Then the burial in a small graveyard right behind the church. The afternoon blended into evening, ending with a catered 6 course dinner.

Leila was 90 when she died. She lived her entire life in a small Italian neighborhood in Philadelphia. Loved and loving, she was surrounded by sons, grandchildren, great grandchildren and friends — in life and in death.

As I witnessed this gentle good-bye, I realized that Leila lived and died exactly the way I want to. She lived what I call a fundamental life. That’s not to say she denied herself any of the usual pleasures, a good meal, good wine, books, friends, community but she didn’t need all the “stuff” many people think they need today to feel happy.

Leila didn’t have the latest iPhone. She didn’t want or need high-speed internet, satellite television, Sirius radio or GPS. No constant noise, no endless entertainment, no need to shop for new clothes or new shoes or new anything, Leila already had everything she needed to be happy.

She cooked her own food. she cleaned her own house, washed her own clothes and walked, everywhere. And her house was beautiful. Always welcoming and always filled with friends or family or both, it wasn’t a decorator’s show home. Her furniture was not new; her dishes and silverware didn’t always match and sometimes we drank wine from Mason jars.

But Leila’s house, her home, was always filled with the aroma of homemade Italian or German food, quiet conversation, and laughter. Her door was always open and her smile was ready. This was a place where everyone felt at home.

I only met her a few times but each time I was struck by her joy, her kindness, the light in her eyes and the smile that lit up her face. I felt lucky to have spent some time with her. Those who spent their lifetimes in her presence must have felt truly blessed.

Leila left us this week but she left behind the sure knowledge that we don’t need “stuff” to fill up our lives; we need each other. We need simple acts of kindness. We need time alone, time with nature, time with those we love. We need to clear the clutter, stop the noise and come home, to ourselves and to our families.

We need to live more fundamental lives.

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Carl Jung’s Words of Advice for the Depressed – Beyond Meds

Please don’t let Carl Jung’s name put you off reading this. It is an amazing post from Jason E. Smith, founder of Heartsfire Counseling and a Jungian psychotherapist.

In my younger days I suffered from depression. I can honestly say that I don’t know anyone who has not fought the twin demons of rage and depression.

Smith explores Jung’s approach to both and shares some practical advice from Jung, himself, on how to do battle with both.

“From Jung’s point of view there is a hidden intention in depression. It “forces us downwards.” This is not, as it might sound, a punishment for arrogance, but rather a consequence of having become cut off from the human, instinctual part of ourselves.”

Source: Carl Jung’s Words of Advice for the Depressed – Beyond Meds

Also, if you are thinking of sharing this post, please adhere to Smith’s copyright requirements:

All rights to original works reserved. No works may be reproduced without permission. Brief quotes may be used with a link and attribution back to the source.

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Amazing Thinking & Amazing Insights from BrainPickings

My Osteopath introduced me to Brain Pickings.

It’s hard to put this eclectic, philosophical, introspective and intriguing site into words but founder, collator, researcher, writer and bottle washer, Maria Popova offers this description:

“Brain Pickings is my one-woman labor of love — a subjective lens on what matters in the world and why. Mostly, it’s a record of my own becoming as a person — intellectually, creatively, spiritually — and an inquiry into how to live and what it means to lead a good life.”

Every week, when I click through a link in Popova’s newsletter, I feel like I imagine Alice felt when she fell down the rabbit hole and into Wonderland. But this Wonderland is more of a literary and intellectual salon — a place of good food, good wine, good conversation and always, good insights.

In one of these rabbit holes, I discovered why I did what I did for a living despite the fact that it was mind numbing and simultaneously self important.  I worked in corporations. I know how much there is to do, how good it feels to cross off items on your list of work.

I could never articulate just how intellectually and spiritually deadening my work environment was.  Then Popova shared a passage written almost 70 years ago by writer Willa Cather who was writing in response to her long time companion, Sarah Jewitt:

My Dear, Dear Miss Jewett;

Such a kind and earnest and friendly letter as you sent me! I have read it over many times. I have been in deep perplexity these last few years, and troubles that concern only one’s habits of mind are such personal things that they are hard to talk about. You see I was not made to have to do with affairs — what Mr. McClure calls “men and measures.”

If I get on at that kind of work it is by going at it with the sort of energy most people have to exert only on rare occasions. Consequently I live just about as much during the day as a trapeze performer does when he is on the bars — it’s catch the right bar at the right minute, or into the net you go. I feel all the time so dispossessed and bereft of myself.

My mind is off doing trapeze work all day long and only comes back to me when it is dog tired and wants to creep into my body and sleep. I really do stand and look at it sometimes and threaten not to take it in at all — I get to hating it so for not being any more good to me. Then reading so much poorly written matter as I have to read has a kind of deadening effect on me somehow.

I know that many great and wise people have been able to do that, but I am neither large enough nor wise enough to do it without getting a kind of dread of everything that is made out of words. I feel diluted and weakened by it all the time — relaxed, as if I had lived in a tepid bath until I shrink from either heat or cold.

Popova finishes these observations with this very salient quote from Parker Palmer, “… “the tighter we cling to the norm of effectiveness the smaller the tasks we’ll take on.”

That was my life; don’t let it be yours.

 

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Filed under arm wresting, Death & Dying, Education, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Uncategorized, Work

In Honor of ALL Differences & In Celebration of Black History Month

The poem below focuses on being different because you are black.  I share it in honor of black history month, in honor of all the wonderful women I have met in my life whose skin was a different color than mine but whose soul was my mirror.

I share it for Rosella Clemmons Washington, my soul sister.  She sang like an angel, laughed with her whole body and still makes me smile when I look at her pictures.

Jazz singer Rosella Clemmons Washington.

I share it for  her mother, Mama Rose, who taught me how deep love can be and how long it can last.

I share it because this beautiful poem goes to the heart of what I have said all my life. I cannot imagine how very many lovely souls I would have missed had I stopped at color, or weight, or height, religion, sexual orientation or any of the myriad ways we categorize each other.

We are all so much more than the wrapper we live in.
Please treat people the way you want to be treated.

The Black Prayer

Why Did You Make Me Black Lord
Lord .. Why did you make me black?
Why did you make someone
the world would hold back?
Black is the color of dirty clothes,
of grimy hands and feet.
Black is the color of darkness,
of tired beaten streets.

Why did you give me thick lips,
a broad nose and kinky hair?
Why did you create someone
who receives the hated stare?

Black is the color of the bruised eye
when someone gets hurt.
Black is the color of darkness,
black is the color of dirt.

Why is my bone structure so thick,
my hips and cheeks so high?
Why are my eyes brown,
and not the color of the sky?

Why do people think I’m useless?
How come I feel so used?
Why do people see my skin
and think I should be abused?
Lord, I just don’t understand.
What is it about my skin?
Why is it some people want to hate me
and not know the person within?

Black is what people are “Labeled”
when others want to keep them away.
Black is the color of shadows cast.
Black is the end of the day.

Lord you know my own people mistreat me,
and you know this just ain’t right.
They don’t like my hair, they don’t like my
skin, as they say I’m too dark or too light!

Lord, don’t you think
it’s time to make a change?
Why don’t you redo creation
and make everyone the same?

God’s Reply:

Why did I make you black?

I made you in the color of coal
from which beautiful diamonds are formed.
I made you in the color of oil,
the black gold which keeps people warm.

Your color is the same as the rich dark soil
that grows the food you need.
Your color is the same as the black stallion and
panther, Oh what majestic creatures indeed!

All colors of the heavenly rainbow
can be found throughout every nation.
When all these colors are blended,
you become my greatest creation!

Your hair is the texture of lamb’s wool,
such a beautiful creature is he.
I am the shepherd who watches them,
I will ALWAYS watch over thee!

You are the color of the midnight sky,
I put star glitter in your eyes.
There’s a beautiful smile hidden behind your pain.
That’s why your cheeks are so high!

You are the color of dark clouds
from the hurricanes I create in September.
I made your lips so full and thick,
so when you kiss…they will remember!

Your stature is strong,
your bone structure thick to withstand the
burden of time.
The reflection you see in the mirror,
that image that looks back, that is MINE!

So get off your knees,
look in the mirror and tell me what you see.
I didn’t make you in the image of darkness.
I made you in the image of ME!

by RuNett Nia-Ebo

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Mating in Captivity Isn’t Just About Sex

Therapist Esther Perel offers insights into some of our funny and often unworkable coping mechanisms for sex.

Perel has spent twenty years as a couples therapist; Mating in Captivity (subtitled Unlocking Erotic Intelligence) is the result. On its pages, Perel explores what interferes with intimacy and sexuality in a long term relationship and what it takes to keep one alive and healthy.

That alone would make this book worth reading for many people who love their significant others, love their relationships but miss the passion of the early days.

But this book offers so much more than insights into keeping a long term relationship healthy and exciting.  In the following excerpt, I found Perel as insightful in the area of parenting as any of the so-called parenting experts currently “selling” their ideas on rearing healthy and happy children.

Throughout our lives we grapple with this interplay between dependence and independence. How artfully we reconcile these needs as adults depends greatly on how our parents reacted to the stubborn duality (hold me-let me go) in our little selves. It is important to point out that our parents’ behavior, what they actually do, is only one part of the situation. Another part is our interpretation of their actions.

 Each child brings an individual resilience to the lottery of life. What might feel good to one will feel overwhelming to another. Some of us may wish our parents had been more involved, while others may cringe at memories of their parents’ scrutiny and intrusion.

 Every family has its preferred responses to dependency and autonomy – what’s rewarded and what’s thwarted.  In the give and take with our parents, we determine how much freedom we can safely experience and how much our connections will require the subjugation of our needs.

 In the end, we fashion a system of beliefs, fears and expectations, some conscious and many unconscious, about how relationships work.

Perhaps what Perel writes about  the “…interplay of dependence and independence” rang true for me because my ex son-in-law just ran head on into my beautiful and only granddaughter, she of the artistic, capricious and oh so creative spirit.

Exercising his usual style of parenting — a combination of bluster, volume and physical size (which he used on his sons, as well), he tried to force her to do what he wanted her to do.  The result was not to his liking and it certainly was not to hers.  Trying to bully a 16 year old girl (who is going on 30), resulted in an explosion that tore their relationship and his “second family” in half.

If he had read Mating in Captivity, he would have read how eloquently Perel captures how different each child is and how very different his daughter, my granddaughter is. Perhaps every parent should remember what it was like to be moving from child to adult and how our parents helped or hurt us.  Perel’s point is that the way this pivotal part of each of our lives is handled affects all of us in our adult relationships.

If you’re a parent, this is a golden insight.

BTW – Perel has delivered a number of very interesting and insightful TED talks which I have thoroughly enjoyed.

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Filed under Gifts, Inspiring People, Life & Death, Love and Marriage, Uncategorized, World Changing Ideas