Saturday, June 30, 2012

Leisure

There is a place where leisure merges with work, but there is also a trend where leisure has been dissipated by communication technology. The differentiation between work and leisure is important. Work, when performed conscientiously and correctly, requires focused attention. This is the basis of mastery of any job, craft or art. Similarly, leisure should be a relaxation from the real stresses and vague anxieties of work.

The current manipulation of the economic system by corporations has devalued the work force in the U.S.. Work itself has been devalued as a result. Americans work more and actually achieve less personally in their work, which is more and more reliant on mechanization in favor of increasing profits for shareholders. Long commutes in automobiles have been mistaken by many as available leisure time. Driving a car on an overcrowded roadway at rush hour is not leisure. It is a chore.

The surrendering of labor rights and benefits by the American worker in exchange for false promises and a perverted concept of entrepreneurship has corroded the balance between leisure and work, which characterized the prosperous and more egalitarian era of the 1950s and 1960s. Lower population in that period, combined with smooth new federally provided roadways, enabled the humblest Americans to travel comfortably by car all across the nation on regular vacations. Camping was available everywhere in a landscape uncluttered by strip malls and over-development. Touching Nature was a regular option in affordable mountain cabins and seaside cottages.

As too many humans compete for too few resources on an environmentally degraded planet, life will increasingly become work without leisure. The illusion of leisure provided by visual technologies, such as TV and Web, is a poor substitute for regular vacations and affordable travel. Travel itself has become more like work than leisure. Learning to carve out time for leisure will become one of the challenges of personal practice. My daily walk, without cell phone or specific destination, is a form of restorative leisure I have developed in my own practice.

'All work and no play makes Jack a dull boy.' This is an old saying from my youth. The increasing flattening of our culture reflects the corrosion of restorative leisure in favor of work which demands no mastery.

Friday, June 29, 2012

Community

The breakdown in the American community has been made very evident in the current flap about universal access to medical care. Another other issue, illegal immigration, also obviates the lack of a cohesive sense of belonging in the American consciousness. Americans are prone to nationalism without community. This is dangerous.

Isolation in relationship to a government and community is a tool of Fascism. Divide and conquer. This is one of the oldest political ploys. Americans are divided over an attempt to foster general well being by those in government who feel responsible for the wellness of the population they represent. This patently dysfunctional. It is a symptom of a sick society and a sicker political process.

While I applaud Chief Justice Roberts for saving the Affordable Care Act, I am deeply disturbed by the overall process of politicizing health and medical care.  In an increasingly old, unhealthy and obese society, this political bickering is not a healthy democratic process. It is obstruction of doing good for the people of the nation. Money, not alternative solution, lies behind this obstruction. 

It is difficult to be a humanist in times like these. Misinformation, greed and superstition trump logic, skepticism and compassion. However, humanism can be an antidote for this disease. Persisting in practice, no matter how contrary that practice may seem to popular culture, brings its own reward. Working for good causes for the betterment of the quality of human life improves the individual human life. This is the mentality of the majority of people who work within the medical establishment. Perhaps it is time for those in government and business to shut up and listen to what they have to say.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Sharing

Sharing does not mean commerce. Quid pro quo has become the manner of the age. You give me this. I give you that. This process is not sharing. This is commerce.

Sharing is a generous offering of what I have with another. It is not a win-win in an economic sense. It is not just another zero-sum transaction. It is free giving without expectations or conditions. In this sense, sharing is (a process of) caring.

In these materialistic times in the U.S., sharing has been equated with funding drives by non-profit organizations. These non-profits, as they are inaccurately dubbed by tax laws, are often personal businesses in philanthropic disguise. A six-figure salary for a CEO of a non-profit is a profit for the CEO, who is often the de facto owner of the organization. This may be a valid capitalist form of philanthropic action, but it is not really sharing. It is commerce.

Capitalism couches everything in terms of profits, balance sheets and losses. Sharing in the humanist sense has nothing to do with balance sheets. It is heartfelt giving by one who has to one in need. It is not a negotiation, a transaction or a photo-op. Sharing can range from a spontaneous hug, to time given with a listening ear, to giving shelter to a homeless person. 

While there may be a place in a capitalist world for commercial non-profits to do good, there is a larger place in the humanist practice for sharing. Sharing is a main pillar of any humanist practice. It begins with simply and honestly sharing myself with those who are important to me. It expands to sharing myself and what I can with all other human beings whom I encounter in life on the street, in the subway or in my home. The benefits of sharing in this way are enormous, but they cannot be gained by justifying them with dollars and cents.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Darkness

A cloudy day in summer disguises the year's brightest days. Being able to see in the dark of difficult times is an acquired skill. In this time of chemical fixes for any mood, it is not popular to take the responsibility for maintaining mental health and resilience without popping a pill. This is the age of the biochemical excuse.

While, as a nurse, I accept that some mental disease is genetic or biochemical in nature, I also understand that mental disease, like obesity, need not be a passive affliction. The passive affliction model is an outgrowth of the victim culture. "Oh, I was born with this, so I can't help it." 

Yes, some genetic problems are irreparable and devastating, but they are very few. The eventual quality of life can be enhanced with effort, education and support. This is true of just about every state of being. Where there is life, there is hope. But hope needs a push from within. 

A daily practice helps dispel darkness and increase vision. Whether a person requires medication or not for some dark personal struggle, a daily practice of health and mental awareness can make the difference between passive affliction and proactive growth. Practice can be the lighted candle which shows the way out of the darkness and into the light.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Money

Learning to develop a healthy consciousness about money in a materialistic society is very difficult. These times necessitate some adjustment for many people. There has been a great theft. The middle class and the poor have been robbed in broad daylight by money/credit manipulators. Now the money/credit manipulators themselves have become tangled in their own webs. An international economic collapse looms.

While I do not subscribe to the antisocial mentality of Ayn-Rand-inspired Libertarians, I do believe that money should be managed from a perspective of independence from debt as much as possible. In other words, I think it is wise to live within my means. This is part of my daily practice. 

Living within my means does not require constant self-deprivation. However, it does require self-discipline. I avoid accustoming myself to things I cannot afford. By maintaining modest appetites in all areas of my life, I maintain a consciousness of appreciation of what I do have. This constitutes part of the foundation of my humanism.

Enabling the greed of others is simply a way to excuse the greed within us. This cycle has visible consequences everywhere in today's news. Taming personal greed is the first step to fairness in action. Fairness in action on a societal level creates a culture of equal access to basic human needs. Until all human beings have equal access to basic human needs, there is no fairness in society. Those with too much know their excesses. Those with too little are held back by the excesses of those who have too much. 

Money may be a necessity for an overpopulated human species. No longer can everyone barter with another for services with good faith that both have a vested stake in peace and prosperity of the community they share. Currency has replaced community. As a humanist, I try to practice a responsible use of money in my life for sustaining myself and promoting good in the lives of others. Doing this without incurring debt to live beyond my means is a real contribution to the common wealth.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Accidents

The illusion of control is the downside of good luck. No matter how I plan or take care of myself, accidents will happen. Accidents have no regard for schedules or agendas. An accident can radically change the quality and quantity of a life in the blink of an eye with no room for negotiation.

Being prone to frequent accidents may be no accident. A lack of practice can make accidents more likely. Practice develops attentiveness, mindfulness. The attentive person is less likely to ignore signs of danger or dangerous situations. 

Humanism accepts the chaotic nature of the Universe. By rejecting the idea that some invisible intelligence is in total control of human lives, secular humanists understand that life is risk and chance. While hindsight may clearly delineate the anatomy of an accident, the best foresight is to accept that much of life is accidental. Learning to graciously and intelligently take accidents, happy or unhappy, as they come is a skill of practice.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Jobs

How many times do we hear politicians droning on about jobs while supporting policies in favor of corporate trimming and devaluing of jobs? The same politicians who raise their eyes heavenward when speaking of Libertarian dreams of a jobless and entirely self-employed society slam their fists down in assertion that the biggest election issue in 2012 is jobs. This is either blatant idiocy or cynical hypocrisy.

Human overpopulation necessitates the assignment of jobs. However, the current assignment of jobs, based on class and archaic educational hierarchies, is breaking down, as evidenced by our current high unemployment and global economic dysfunction. As a humanist, I see honorable, safe and gainful employment as a basic human right, regardless of education level or need for training. However, I do not expect the 1% of the human population who run things to comply with humanist principles. These are the greediest and most aggressive among us. These are predators, not providers. Their philanthropy is self-idolizing at best.

Labor movements throughout history have been colored as revolutions, riots and lawlessness by the intellectuals who write the history books. They, after all, are predominantly children of the elite. They achieve academic and literary power by aligning with political and economic power. Those who refuse to follow this path are consigned to the shadows shared with Marx, Mao and others. 

Practice is the primary job of the awakened human mind. With social and personal self-awareness, gained from reading, social interaction and observing life, liberation from intellectual and economic slavery leads to new ways of seeing self-employment or employment by others. This is not the path followed by purchasers of cheesy get-rich-quick real estate books about becoming a slum lord. Those are fine for the people seeking to join the 1% in their heaven of narcissism and greed. A humanist does not seek to profit at the expense of the quality of life of others.

If a humanist embraces the job of simply living humanism, by accepting reality, maintaining healthful mindfulness and resolving to live compassionately, the road to a sustaining and contributing job within society becomes clear quickly. This process is perhaps the first and most important job of a humanist in a capitalist society, which is hostile to humanist ideals. This job, the job of practice, is both sustaining and enabling of the ability to see the path to ethical employment.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

Catholicism

Catholicism is a matter of indoctrination for most Catholics. Mind control begins early in life. National and ethnic identity is often wrapped up with Catholicism as well. A child's mind is filled with mythology and fear of a vengeful god and a panoply of moderating patron saints and guardian angels. The religion mirrors the Roman familial model of the late Imperial Roman era, when Roman Christians took over the Western Empire. 

Convicted: Monsignor Lynn
So, when I hear that an American monsignor (executive) of the Roman Catholic Church may now be going to prison for hiding child abuse by his subordinates, I can imagine the emotional turmoil of those people who have not awakened from their childhood conditioning at the hands of this church and its adherents. I know that turmoil well. It led to my own personal liberation and freedom from those haunting superstitions which impose an unenlightened morality.

Organized Roman Catholicism was never really Christian. Once a Roman Emperor became what is now a Roman Catholic, the gig was up. Politics obliterated the Christian message in favor or money and domination. Those rare hermits and cloistered devotees who tried to live Christ-like lives were often condemned and abused by the organization which perpetually tried to monopolize the Christian message. 

Greedy abbots and abbesses turned monasteries into agrarian corporations. The devout became willing, self-effacing drones for producing profits. What a racket! This was, in part, Henry VIII of England's motive, as a disillusioned Roman Catholic, when he leveled a majority of the monasteries in England. His anger was also fueled by the refusal of Rome and the religious orders to cut him a piece of the action, of course.

I am happy to be living in a time when Roman Catholicism is on the slow decline, at least in the educated countries of the West. The business model has changed at the Vatican in response. The poorest pockets of Africa, South America and Southeast Asia are their target markets these days. Overpopulated places with high poverty rates promote ignorance, gullibility and unquestioning loyalty in exchange for blessings, absolution and assurances that their misery will be rewarded after death. The message works for hierarchies in many poor places.

Life is so short on this wonderful planet. As the dominant species, do we need to subscribe to a religion which absolves us of our mistakes in favor of some promised afterlife? Shouldn't we be facing up to our adult responsibilities to the planet, our life source, rather than kneeling to an imagined father-figure? Our life is here, now. I have only one life that can be proven, that can be consciously lived, as best I can. The more I focus on that reality in my daily practice, the easier it is for me to live joyfully, responsibly and compassionately. No religion is required to do this. Just commitment, effort and awareness.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Details

When life is in focus, the true spectrum of human life from birth to maturity to death, material details become unimportant. When material details seem very important, it is time to evaluate the mind and the body for stress and/or dysfunction. The culture in the U.S., which is entranced with materialism, is displaying that need for serious evaluation.


Thursday, June 21, 2012

Decisions

Every waking moment is involves some decision, mental and physical. An activity may be a block in a carefully planned agenda, but commitment to that activity lies in each moment. A belief may be a piece of some dogma or complex value system, but commitment to that belief lies in each moment. Each moment offers the potential for a different decision, for change. True freedom lies in the decisions made moment by moment.

In many ways, practice is the development of decision-making in the moment. Like the martial artist, the practitioner of humanism or any other discipline must find his/her pivotal center from which to move in any moment. Balance is as important as strength. Judgment is as important as values or beliefs. In the moment, we are fully alive. In the moment, we all hold the potential for mindful action and compassion. Practice is the way to realize and live that potential.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Morning

The temperature in Boston today is predicted to be in the mid-90s. I poured gallons of water into two buckets this morning for my newly planted perennials and annuals. The house has no outside faucet for a hose as yet. I watered the new plantings and stood still in the gentle summer breeze. 

A mourning dove wailed to its mate. Blue jays screamed to each other. English sparrows flitted everywhere. In the large beech tree behind the house, a symphony of birdsong. The lack of human sound was palpable, luscious. How different this planet would be without our billions.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Silence



There are days when my wisest choice is to keep my silence.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Time

Long days approaching the Summer Solstice create the illusion of expanded time. But time is not expandable for the human body which has a calculable amount of heartbeats in its most ideal future. The most charmed life with no illness will eventually end when that last heartbeat is expended.

The expansion and contraction of periods of sunlight as the planet tilts this way and that on its journey around its sun are wonderful reminders of the reality of my life. I am a relatively small organism on that spinning and tilting sphere. The Universe is vast around me. My life, as important as it seems to me, is a microscopic moment in the grandeur of Space and Time. 

How precious my time becomes in light of this. How irrelevant most of my worries become as well. I need only be aware of all this in this moment to feel a part of the Universe. My troubles with material life shrink in importance. My mind opens to the greatness outside myself. I yearn to share my amazement with those who are also awakened. This is part of the practice and the community of humanism.

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Clarity

Clarity comes with practice. As long as practice is the priority in life over pleasure or satisfying need, the clear path in any moment is easy to perceive. Of course, this sounds simple, but it requires great effort in every moment of every day.

The natural animal path of the human mind and body is the way to gratification. Gratification of hunger or need. Sex, food, euphoria, wealth...these can all become the driving needs which push the unpracticed mind along the instinctive animal path. Emotions which are unexplored or misunderstood provide great momentum to this path of desire. Many modern preachers of materialism encourage surrender to this form of narcissistic life.

Practice is the assertion of human values over animal drives by the informed and reflective mind in the moment. At first, practice feels like austerity and deprivation. The body tantrums against the influence of the meditative and committed mind. Gradually, mind and body learn to live in harmony within the self. With daily practice, the freed mind, supported by a healthy and satisfied body, perceives the way of living mindfully and compassionately... clearly moment by moment. It then becomes an instantaneous choice whether to walk the path of humanist values or to revert to narcissistic instincts, tempered perhaps by some religious or superstitious guilt.

The practicing humanist is not motivated to do good by guilt or masochism, because the practicing humanist understands clearly that each action is a matter of self-sustaining choice and personal responsibility.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

Work

The concept of hard work in the United States has been corrupted. Sitting at a desk and playing with numbers or words on a computer do not constitute hard work. A creative effort perhaps, but not hard work. Hard work entails the expenditure of real physical energy against gravity and inertia. 

Fast-aging men in Home Depot parking lots can tell you about hard work. A person in line at a day-labor agency can tell you about hard work. A homeless person pushing a shopping cart with all his possessions can tell you about hard work. Mark Zuckerberg is no expert on hard work. A Wall Street trader is no expert on hard work. Mitt Romney is no expert on hard work, nor is President Obama. 

Those who keep the lights on and repair the streets work hard. Those who maintain the yards of the wealthy for little money know hard work. Those who work in fast food restaurants to get through community college know hard work. They spend their bodies on their work for wages.
                                               
The wealthy 1% are stealing the American conscience by controlling American government and American media. They are redefining human worth and the values of human work. The new underclass of immigrant workers are living under the weight of this perversion of what it means to work hard or to be worthy of a life of ease. American citizens, born in this country, who work hard in trades once organized in unions, are losing ground. 

The bourgeoisie throughout the ages have demonized those who step forward in praise and defense of those who work hard for a decent living. Marx, Mao, Che. Now the bourgeoisie are being cannibalized by the aristocrats they emulate. Eventually those enslaved by the folly of greed and materialism awaken. That is when the hard work of tearing down social and economic inequality begins again.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Family-Friendly

The American Family Association is a Right-Wing hate group, disguising itself as a moral vanguard. It is politically powerful in the Republican Party. As a gay man acknowledging the effects of this kind of family-centric thinking on my life, I see the words "family-friendly" in any establishment as code that my business is not wanted. I spend my money elsewhere.

Family is touted as the keystone of civilization by conservatives. Those of us who have been forced to devise our own concepts of intimacy and commitment in groups due to overt hostility and prejudice from family-friendly heterosexuals learn quickly that we have to shed the trauma of the nuclear family to open ourselves to love and joy in our more creative relationships. This benefits our mental health and strength as human beings. 

The patriarchal-matriarchal paradigm is slowly crumbling. This explains the vicious desperation of those who feel they must defend it. The deterioration of genetic family's sway on social relationships is necessary for racial and ethnic mingling. Individual identity is trumping family identification in an age of individual communication and information, delivered by computers and phones. Even the undereducated are becoming subliminally more informed by technology through exposure to current affairs and social trends via their personal devices. Information is power. It tends to liberate the individual mind from blind submission to any one ethos, whether that is based in family or ethnicity.

How about a world that is human-being-friendly? How about a world which is difference-friendly within the context of love and peace? How about a world that is unfriendly to greed, domination and elitism?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Process

Process, the way life unfolds and evolves, has always fascinated me. Unlike those who are fixed on goals or maintaining a certain kind of lifestyle, I have consciously surfed my own life's process. The illusion that we control or totally shape our own lives has never taken hold in my mind. I leave that thinking to yowling Libertarians and the lucky rich.

My recent lesson in process is coming from a contractor, a plumber and others. Consulting with these skilled people on a project has already expanded my understanding of the layers of a process to achieve an apparently simple concrete result. Timing can be everything. Coordination is key and requires flexible patience. 

What about my own process then, in light of what I am learning now? Linear thinking continues to plague my own process. My head spins at the sight of a complex calculus equation. Learning to think in multiple dimensions comes slowly to me. This isn't multitasking, which can just be an excuse for disorganization. Thinking in multiple dimensions is a form of compassion. It includes the process of others in what I hope to achieve or who I wish to become.

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Water

Water, inexorable, brings you to its own level. Anyone who has managed property or maintained a house knows what I mean. Water teaches anyone who wishes to control it some valuable lessons about life.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Dragonflies

This morning I heard an NPR story on obesity in dragonflies...yes, dragonflies. The presenter was explaining a study of full-figured dragonflies which revealed a parasite which caused a pre-diabetic condition in the portly insects. I was interested until the presenter said this may be a step to eliminating the notion that diabetes should always be managed in part by diet and exercise.

I do not begrudge any scientists his/her passion for discovery. However, the capitalist interference in science has corrupted the motives of some of our best minds. In this dragonfly case, the research is most likely being sold to funders as a potentially marketable cure for diabetes. In other words, a competing (in capitalist terms) product for diabetes treatment.

Advances in treating any disease are welcomed. However, as seen with the vast marketing of antibiotics by capitalist pharmaceutical companies, losing sight of the practical in favor of the profitable can do great harm. Capitalism is in love with the new and marketable. However, the new and marketable is often detrimental to human life, especially when it overshadows the practical, simple and reliable.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Pruning

How often do you take time to remove the deadwood from your environment and your mind? Probably not often often enough.

Trimming trees and bushes yesterday was a rewarding activity. Removing weeds from a flower bed. Laying down fresh mulch. Transplanting. Making the public sidewalk in front of the house more friendly, beautiful and passable. 

Pruning clears way for more light and air. These are required for new growth and the health of what is already growing. Understanding the land, even in the smallest urban ways, contributes to self-understanding. Nurturing the environment nurtures the mind and exercises the body. These activities promote consciousness and compassion by raising the awareness of the human place in the Universal ecology.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Durability

I recently spoke with a friend who has had a relapse of breast cancer. When I told her that the news saddened me, she said, "Why sad? I'm not dying yet!" This is an indication of her determination to stay well despite the threat on her life. It also indicates her defensiveness, a normal state when dealing with the harsh effects of chemotherapy, including hair loss, devastating fatigue and a daily test of resolve.

Crisis is an inevitable part of mortal being in a chaotic Universe. We will all sicken in some way and eventually die. However, some of us are more durable in the face of crisis than others. Why is that so?

Daily practice is a way in which I consciously try to maintain my durability. My intentional efforts to have durable strength as my body ages becomes ill are motivated in part by my experience of severe illness. Many people my age, who have never experienced severe illness, are obsessed with maintaining beauty or youthfulness. I know from experience that beauty and youthfulness are not durable qualities in the face of cancer or other severe illnesses. During my work as a hospice nurse, I have seen beauty rapidly evaporate and leave its youthful bearer adrift.

Aging isn't for sissies, as the saying goes, but even sissies must age. Establishing habits of health and mental well being is the best path to developing a durable body and mind. This is the core of what I call a humanist practice.

Saturday, June 9, 2012

Pride

I experience annual Gay Pride festivals as a gay man of sixty-two. I visualize myself as a bedraggled veteran, like a familiar specter at any November 11th parade, my body shifting and shrinking within my gay uniform of shorts and T-shirt. While I look own with some reserve, the exuberance of youth amuses me. Memory brings me back there with editing.

The adolescents fascinate me. They are two generations away from our struggle. We worried about them back then. We didn't want them to be tortured as we had been. Do they get it? Does it matter? We succeeded for them, whether they get it or not. That is our reward. They must find their own.

Tolerating the occasional stare which says, "What are you doing here, old man?", is easy. It beats being invisible and discarded, like so many of my gay forebears. Peter and I walk along together. Our nine years have been punctuated by these parades. He snaps scores of pictures. I wield the small video cam. It is a ritual of sorts. A creative one.

Celebrating hard-won victories year after year reduces them to enshrined history. Static and done. Gay activism is not a done deal in a world (Iran) where gay men are still hung in public squares in the name of religion. It is not a done deal in a world (Uganda) where gay people with HIV are threatened with execution. It is not a done deal in a world (U.S.and other nations) where same-sex partners are second-class citizens.

Let the marching and dancing begin. We have always been able to celebrate our forbidden passions with stolen joy, but now we must do it in public streets every year to make our point. We are loving human beings, to be respected as equals and not to be feared.


Friday, June 8, 2012

Reality

"Do not, I beg you, look for anything behind phenomena. They are themselves their own lesson." ..Goethe.

If I preach, I preach the Religion of Reality. Goethe's words represent my mantra, "What is simply is!" Taking a responsible and joyful place within the reality of the planet's ecology is liberating and healing. Accepting mortality and the grandeur of life beyond narrow human experience expands the mind. There is no time to waste on hollow religion and meaningless ritual. Life seems very short for the awakened. Its seconds are precious drops of irretrievable time, more precious than diamonds or tears of regret. Wake up. Walk in the real world. Accept and inquire. This is living life to its fullest.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Procrastination

There is is difference between being deliberative and procrastination. Procrastination is a sign of anxiety or depression. Deliberation is a conscious and intentional process of determining the best response to a situation or need.

Being in the moment, in the now, fully with brain and body allows for deliberation. Procrastination is not possible when living in the moment consciously and intentionally. Personal environment reflects the level of being in the now.

Seeing what needs to be done clearly in the moment comes with reflection and meditation on a regular basis. Learning to coordinate awareness, deliberation and best action is an art. It is the art of daily practice.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Home

The wandering seeker is an archetype. Homeless, happily alone and begging for his fare. The Buddha, Jesus and other icons of ethical movements did not own real estate, pay rent or cut the grass on the weekend. 

I have moved from one structure to another many times in my life, more times than most people have. My mother once told me I had inherited her father's penchant for the nomadic life. He kept his own homemade moving cart in the back yard of their many addresses. Money has been involved. Rent, mortgages, insurance policies. It is an age of money and materialism. I am a practical man. Yet, the message of the wanderer is not lost by me.

I do not reside in a home. Home resides within me. This was a notion which came to me early in life. It has always sustained me in times when I wondered where I would be able to go next. My new structure is very pleasant. I look forward to sharing it with my partner and his two spoiled old cats. My home, however, has not changed. It lies within my practice, based in my values, ideas and feelings.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Moving

This practical humanist will be off line for a couple of days. Moving house across town necessitates my full attention and dealing with cable communications technicians to get my access to the Web. There are more than 1100 of my essays here on Blogger. I don't think this short break will break my habit.

I am using this move as a learning experience about the meaning of person, place and change. A year ago, after my mother's death, I was cleaning out her house, where she had lived for 56 years. It was another kind of learning experience about person, place and change. Soon I will be joined by my partner of nine years in the new house. We will be learning together about person, place and change.

Life for the conscious is an accumulation of lessons about person, place and change. Without learning, life is simply a repetition of behaviors without wisdom. So, while I am learning from my move, I hope those of you who read my blog will also be learning, perhaps in part from my short absence.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Where?


Where are you going today? I'm not asking you what you are doing or for your itinerary. Where are you going with your mind and intentions?

Friday, June 1, 2012

Dementia

Yesterday I spent some time with my aunt. Barbara is demented with Alzheimer's Disease. She is very happily housed in an assisted living facility. 

Barbara's dementia is fascinating to me as a nurse, a nephew and an aging person. She is 89. I am 62. Her eyes display a clarity of in-the-moment awareness that is rare. The content of her speech tells me that she has no idea who I am, but she is intensely interested in who I am. There is still an obvious confidence in her about who she is, but she has no retrievable history, no snapshots most people rely upon to identify themselves. She is Barbara. She is the person in the moment. That's it.

How does a woman who was an obsessive bookkeeper for a major corporation for four decades become so happy without any accessible details about her own identity? Is her dementia a form of liberation? Her longstanding depression is nowhere to be found. Her haunting rumination about her past has evaporated. 

I didn't stay long. Barbara certainly didn't need me to. She was as happy to say good-bye as she was to say hello. She was floating in the stream of time without resisting its current. I am still trying to row and steer with or against time's currents. I had things to do. Barbara had only to be.

Learning to accept and not fear the totality of being a human animal is part of growing up and growing old. Barbara is a teacher without effort. She is totally dependent on others, yet totally free.