Sunday, June 24, 2007


There are moments or stretches of time that I want to hold, to capture and return to over and over in my mind. I want to swim in them and make them the medium for my present being. But memory is like quicksilver, it changes shape according to the way I grasp it. It so often reflects my present face and mutates according to my experience. So the moment when my first son was born and those subsequent days when I could not stop laughing (even though it hurt so much) are not present the way I want them to be. They are, as they say, seen (felt) "through a glass darkly".

Recently, I was afraid of dying. It wasn't the apprehension of pain. It was the absolute certainty that the end of my consciousness meant exactly that: the end of my experience of life, the end of life. I felt assaulted by feelings of panic and melancholia. I realized the complete inanity of my trying to seek comfort in delusion and denial. The thought that I could exert control over what happened when I was gone was viciously filleted and abandoned. I was, "put in my place." But, there was an interesting byproduct. The fears and anxieties that have bedeviled me for so long evaporated and I had a heightened awareness of beauty, joy and human fragility. I felt a peaceful boldness. The feeling is slipping away. Yet, I vainly persist in trying to use these memories like a blueprint to reconstruct the experience.

So, I wonder who am I when I am telling stories drawn from my memory? Memory is mutable. It can't recreate states of being. Who am I being and who are You knowing when I am re-membering my past for You?

Friday, May 25, 2007


I will say, the Baptists do provide extremely comfortable seating while they take you on the mental trip to hell. The public high school held their baccalaureate in the local Baptist church. I believe I went with an open mind, having made only a few remarks about the separation of church and state. I was ignorant of the fact that women cannot lead a church or preach in the Baptist faith. It bemused the gentleman sitting behind me when he straightened me out on that point. His self-satisfaction bemused me. There is undeniably a great font of wisdom in the Bible. Unfortunately, the sermon hit on very little of it.

The topic was taken from Galatians. The thrust of the sermon was not to trust knowledge. He told these children going on to college that the only truth in the world was the literal unassailable word of God which was only found in the Bible. I find it frightening when so much ignorance is evidenced by often highly educated people. The funny thing was there was not an internal logic and consistency to what he had to say. Much of his exhortations revolved around avoiding man centered philosophies. "They will lead you astray," he said. But, here's the thing. What is more man centered than that the God of the entire universe would send "a man" to save "men". Isn't that just a bit man-centered?

Tuesday, May 22, 2007


What matters?

Is all human life worthwhile?

There are 6 BILLION people on the planet. Each one of us considers ourselves unique which may be an illusion generated by individual consciousness. We are currently experiencing an apparently human precipitated global warming which is beginning to pose threats to our food and water supplies. There will have to be massive shifts in where, how and how many of us are able to adapt to these changes. If a global pandemic wiped out 50% of the population would that solve the problem of global warming? Would the survivors moderate their reproduction rate and lifestyle in order to keep the earth viable?

Could this amazing development of the human brain, consciousness, be maladaptive?

We say life is precious. Which life? Don't we make value judgments every day that only human life is?

Sunday, May 20, 2007


I saw SHREK 3 today and there is a wonderful scene in the movie where Snow White, Cinderella (Amy Sedaris) and Sleeping Beauty are needed to help in a jailbreak. The three of them immediately assume positions of rest and when queried state the obvious, "We are waiting to be rescued." Later, while sitting around and reflecting on the day I am sure these animated women bemoaned the fact that once again they had passively stood by while someone else took action. Once again their "learned helplessness" training had kicked in and dictated their reactions.

This happens continuously in the world and I won't exempt myself. How often do we see friends, loved ones and ourselves make the same mistakes over and over while still being surprised at the way things turn out. What is it about human beings that at times work and relationships feel like the movie Groundhog Day with Bill Murray. We seem to be caught in a repeating loop of reality. However, we notice it mainly with our friend's choices. We only seem to notice it in ourselves for a brief period after "it happened again". Tonight while reading Stumbling on Happiness by Daniel Gilbert, he gave me a solution. Surrogacy. Instead of feeling unique, the three princesses could have recognized that they shared their "humanity" with the rest of the characters. Then, they could have asked the Queen and her daughter which action would make them happier with themselves at the end of the day. (The queen and her daughter are the surrogates because they are independent. action oriented and happier in their lives.) Then by following their advice the three could have broken out of jail and broken their pattern of passivity. (They could have also given Rapunzel a little advice about that prince she thought was so wonderful.)

But do not bemoan the princesses fate because according to Gilbert the faulty role of imagination in their lives will explain and alter their failure. They will be ready to repeat it in the future. Though the efficacy of surrogacy is irrefutable, "alas, we think of ourselves as unique entities-minds unlike any others-and thus we often reject the lessons that the emotional experience of others has to teach us." Pg 257 Gilbert

Friday, May 18, 2007


Running recently in the country, I looked over my shoulder at a passing car and then re-focused to the front. Suddenly, I leapt about three feet into the road. Luckily there was no oncoming traffic because I had no conscious control over my actions. My heart was pounding and adrenalin was coursing through me. I literally did not know what had happened and why I was standing in the middle of the road. I looked toward the side of the road and saw a three and a half foot long speckled King Snake sunning itself. Apparently, my peripheral vision had spied the creature about 6 inches from my foot and before I could consciously register "SNAKE" I had reacted.

At the time I was amazed at the brilliant way my brain registered the threat and galvanized me. (Though at the time this reaction was cemented there of course was not the dual threat from snake and oncoming traffic!) Then last night in reading Chapter 3 of Daniel Gilbert's
Stumbling on Happiness, I came upon a description of threat perception and reaction. Apparently the brain is designed so that we can experience very quickly that something is scary without knowing what that something is. This basic reaction keeps us alive. Our awareness of the object of fear comes progressively. This is one example of the possibility of the disassociation of experience and awareness (two separate things controlled by two separate areas of the brain). He goes on to begin developing the idea that we can be unaware of or mistaken about our own experiential emotional state.

My retrospective evaluation of what I called love as a child was in fact the feeling of fear. Naturally, this is not a helpful misconstruction. I may have to concede at the end of this book that additionally, I have focused on the experiences and people that I thought would make me happy while often being unaware of when I was experiencing happiness.


Thursday, May 17, 2007


It is one of the weird things I heard growing up: everyone in the world has a twin somewhere. I fervently wished this was true. I thought if I could find mine somehow I could convince her to take my place in the family. It had to be better elsewhere. Later, of course, I saw the fallacy in all of it. That is until last night. It wasn't my twin I saw but someone who was so close in appearance, mannerism and affect to someone I know that I was actually speechless. I recovered somewhat and when I spoke to them it was ghostly! Out of several hundred people we ended up across from each other in the buffet line. They had the same hands and nails, the eyes (though not the eyebrows), the smile, the hair (the cut and texture), the shape of the head and even the same shoes!! Later, I could not help openly staring at them across the room during the ceremonies. Then at the end we were in the same place waiting for about fifteen minutes and casually talking. Even the intelligence, quickly gauged, was familiar. The professions though different had common elements. But it was the demeanor that completely shook me. I had to remind myself that it was not the other person. I felt feelings that I have felt for the other person! It was so bizarre. If I were delusional I would have imagined that somehow I had conjured up the original, that I had actually caused them to trans locate.

Monday, May 14, 2007


Is it wrong to have as your goal the elimination of suffering? It is what is being discussed here. Illness, genetic defects, low intelligence all impact our quality of life and cause physical, mental and emotional suffering. If you believe there is a design or a meaning behind genetic selections then you are able to accept more easily what happens when a child is born with genetic problems. It's a gift of God, it's a teaching experience in compassion, or you might even posit that it is fate. Suffering and the things we learn from it in this context seem normal and necessary for our development because suffering is normal in our lives. Yet, our lives are spent trying to reduce or eliminate the threats that cause suffering. We try to feed, clothe, shelter and educate our families in a way that mitigates the impact of external events. Many try to battle poverty, war, disease and even global warming in an effort to lessen suffering. Then there are all the religions and the charitable work which promise a deliverance from suffering in this life or after death. The majority of us accept that life is suffering and we try to find our own ways out. But if we come to the conclusion that there is not a God or the Fates behind natural selection but rather a plethora of scientific laws then is it any surprise that we would seize on prenatal genetic testing as another way to control the suffering in our lives? Do we have an ascending scale of the value of different types of suffering and choices about which types of suffering we are allowed to eliminate and which we must keep? Where are we crossing the ethical line into the frightening arena of eugenics?

One interesting question is whether culling embryos with genetic defects would reduce the diversity of the gene pool. If we discard an embryo or a fetus based on our knowledge of one negative trait are we like the blind men in the room with the elephant? No one "sees" the whole creature but rather the man holding the tail thinks it is a snake and all the men lack the vision to understand "elephant" because they are touching only one small part completely different from anyone else's part. If we were to reduce the diversity of the gene pool would that entail greater suffering at some point ?

Friday, May 11, 2007


"Artists and scientists realize that no solution is ever final, but that each new creative step points the way to the next artistic or scientific problem. In contrast, those who embrace religious revelations and delusional systems tend to see them as unshakable and permanent"
Anthony Storr

It is the beauty of thought that it is an open system. When I begin work on a project, I always have some ideas about what I expect to happen. If I am drawing a landscape design, I know the dimension and topography of the site with which I am working. If I am writing, I have thought over different ideas until something rough has started to coalesce in my mind. Even the beginning is the creative result of a series of decisions for inclusion and exclusion. But when I start everything can change in seismic ways because my mind makes connections and sees patterns that I could not see before. Often, I will follow a line of development only to hit an end or a branching off that is irrelevant to what I think I am doing. However, many times that branching off becomes the main pursuit. Sometimes I'll discover something unexpected which sends me scrambling to do further exploration before I can continue. The thinking is itself creating (or some might say uncovering creation). All along I am making choices and changes which are working toward a whole, but at the same time I know that whole piece is itself unfinished. At the end I have a plethora of ideas and thoughts which I didn't have before. I have left numerous things unanswered and unaddressed. Raising questions and leaving things open lets us enter into dialogue with the world and gives us the gift of curiosity. In contrast, something "unshakable and permanent" is closed and unable to evolve. It puts people in untenable situations by giving "TRUTH", an answer which can't be questioned. This negates the whole process of thought and creativity. This negates our humanity by falsely making doubt a failure rather than a natural strength.

Can we point to anything that is the "same as it ever was"? Or is permanency the ultimate delusion?

Thursday, May 10, 2007


I hate it when I pick my head up from the craziness of the week and realize my son will be gone over the weekend. Not only because I have a lot of anxiety about where he goes but also because I often fail to think far enough ahead to make plans for myself. I never lack for things that could be done. Books I want to read that have languished under the detritus of baseball practice, spelling drills and Pokemon tournaments. Gardening neglected to make paper airplanes. And, well, yes that list is rather endless........ and solitary.

I relish the freedom and independence I have had since my last relationship ended. I absolutely would rather be alone than in an unhappy or unsatisfying partnership. But I miss the weekends. I miss the anticipation of going out and doing something not just with anyone but with someone with whom I have let myself become emotionally involved. The experience of being somewhere and flirting, letting the energy build between us and anticipating what will happen later that night is so fun. I miss waking up for sex at 3 in the morning when my mind is quiet and it's easier for me to completely surrender. I miss Sundays. Reading weird things out of the paper to someone and hanging out, cooking on the grill or going for a run. Mostly, I miss the talking-----that kind of talking where I can say anything and I don't have to censor myself.

It feels good to have someone value you above the other 6 billion or so people on the planet. I don't mind staving off thoughts of the brevity and perhaps futility of human existence with a little love and sex. I mean what's the alternative?

Wednesday, May 9, 2007



By T. 5/3/07

I love friendship. Do you? I love my friends. But, there is something wrong about it. I do not like it when they leave my toys on the floor. Let me tell you what friendship means to me. It means a lot to me.

This simple essay disguises the angst and anxiety of a first grade year fraught with loneliness, ostracism and confusion but also, in the end, connection. About four months of the year, the late fall and winter, were spent wishing he could go back to kindergarten and the friendships and love he felt there. Loss and grief are felt so acutely in childhood perhaps partially because children do not have the benefit of perspective. Everything is so immediate.

I love friendship also, but there really are some things wrong about it. To me friendships/relationships are like walking through the back fields at dusk. I am continually amazed but, also startled by the things which appear out of the gloaming. I don't have the same bearings and orientation that I do in the day. I don't have the same sureness of footing. In relationships if I rely on my own sense that the intimacy of communication or the ease of interaction have meaning, I am inevitably brought up short by the other person's view. At other times, certain someone does not desire my presence, I am flummoxed when I discover I should have shown up.
Even with the benefit of perspective that age brings, when it comes to other human beings, I can feel like I am seven years old again, in first grade, and wishing for the simple kindness of kindergarten.

Ultimately, I agree with T. "I don't like it when they leave my toys on the floor."

Monday, May 7, 2007


Instead of abandoning the injured to death, disability or insanity the human mind has discovered innumerable ways to ease suffering. So many people are compassionate in their work, thoughts and deeds despite their own struggles and personal failures. Is compassion at base an instinct to ensure human survival by cultivating those who choose the health of the other (and thus the group) over limited self interest? Or is compassion a learned ethical stance divorced from survival? I hope the desire to relieve suffering signifies more than a selfish need to relieve our own pain from witnessing suffering. I hope it says something about our character and ethical evolution. Recently, acts of compassion and understanding toward me by my friends helped me take some steps to try to alleviate the suffering of someone I love. Thanks...........

*Peonies from my garden

Sunday, May 6, 2007


Are human choices as natural as forces like DNA? Are humans subject to natural selection laws when we make moral and ethical choices? I was wondering if we subvert or support natural selection through rational and scientific thought.

A comment to my Avian C.S.I. blog by a well-known agitator states categorically that we are interfering with natural forces when we value some life forms (Bluebirds) over others (House Sparrows) and make decisions based on those valuations. I think the implication is the negative involvement of a human ego posited to exist outside of the natural selection process. They may be right. After all, life forms that we have valued as destructive and wiped out or begun to control through medical advances (polio, AIDS, smallpox, measles, cholera, malaria) do affect only the human population. Would it be wiser to view these life forms as equivalent to our own and let viruses and bacteria run their course? Perhaps they are necessary checks to the overpopulation of the earth. Or is rational scientific thought a natural force. (We did invent birth control.)

It's a very ticky issue. After all, the House Sparrow was intentionally introduced to this continent by a human decision not by an external force. Was that decision part of a natural selection? Would the decision to destroy them be a rational natural selection for evolution by one of the forms of life naturally selected for survival to this point? Or are our limited abilities causing us to self-select a route towards extinction not only of other species but of our own species?

Saturday, May 5, 2007


I recounted the "Bluebird Murders" to a new acquaintence about a month ago. On a first date, I somehow found it appropriate to tell the story of the two separate incidents of female Bluebird murder in my backyard last spring. About a month apart I found the birds whose skulls had been savagely crushed while they were in the nesting box. There was blood spatter and all the physical evidence of extreme violence. Feral cats or similar beasts were quickly discounted because of the lack of claw marks. It remained a mystery....... until today.

He sent me an email which first posited a bizarre implosion of the skulls after freezing during a cold spell. Because one was found during a warm month this was discounted without further investigation. Then consumed (I posit) by the deed, he tracked down a bizarre but true explanation. Flying squirrels will not only kill birds to get their nests, they will EAT them. Though hard to comprehend, this is A FACT. However, due to a lack of trees nearby and the intact nature of the bodies, the squirrels were exonerated (in this case). Fascinated, I searched web sites and found the culprit---House Sparrows.

Yes, not only will cute little squirrels eat birds but house sparrows will attack them in their nesting boxes and peck them to death. I emailed him my discovery and wished him safety from the murderous intentions of the beasts of the field. Then, I thought, "If the circumstances were exigent for my children what would I do for a home?" The American soldiers were sent to Iraq in my name supposedly to protect the American Homeland. For whatever reasons the war has led to the catastrophic and senseless murder of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians, including innumerable children, in their Homeland. I wondered, "Where do I stand among the beasts of the field?"

"Wherever we go there we are."