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Rumilluminations January -February 2015
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Thu, January 01 2015 - 3:21 pm

February 27, 2015                                   Madison, IN

Four months ago I bought a snow shovel with the idea of helping keep the sidewalks in the neighborhood clean.

It didn't snow for months.

Just when I began to think we would get no snow, it snowed (as I recall) eight or ten inches in a couple of days. I assiduously got to work - and didn't even get off the property!

Obviously I have to rethink this. My current plan is to go straight west, then straight south. Next time instead of trying to help keep the apartment walkways perfect I will concentrate on getting from my door to the end of the block.

Maybe the view of a citizen shoveling city walks (this route goes along a city park, the sidewalk of which has shown no attempt by the city to clear it) will inspire other people to help out. Right.

This neighborhood has at least two large dwellings specifically for senior citizens. That doesn't count our apartments the tenants of which are a mixture of ages (probably all above thirty) in this building.

I don't know why the residents of this town don't shovel walks. Maybe they just think if they wait long enough the white stuff will just go away.

True. And just hope that white stuff doesn't appear encasing the arm or leg of someone you love.

February 26, 2015                                   Madison, IN

Riding the van to my second cataract surgery, the driver made an  interesting comment.

In the past, he said, replacement lenses would correct near vision in one eye and distance vision in the other.

 Now that we know more about the brain we are learning that this division of visual labor might impede good communication between hemispheres of the brain.

Wouldn't it be wonderful if the newer toric lenses helped reduce dementia in the elderly - even Alzheimer's?

I probably need all the help I can get in that department!

Happy is not the word for how I am feeling about the surgical results of Dr. Pugh and his team at the Vision Surgical Center in Jeffersonville, IN.

The appropriate words are euphoric, excited and ecstatic!

Need cataract surgery?

My advice is do it soon. Why fumble stumble tumble around any longer than you must?

February 24, 2015.                                    Madison, IN

When it comes to our bodies who's in charge?

Am I a statistical conglomeration (democracy?) or is there really a bod-God in charge? (If there is it is not I.  I would outlaw all disease.)

Some people's concept of God is ruler of the universe. Does that mean that the universe is God's body?

Even if the whole universe is only half as big as it seems (mirror image) it is still way too big to have a consciousness monitoring my every move. Yours, maybe, but not mine. I'm not important enough.

Whew! Thank God!
Loopily yours, me

February 23, 2015                                    Madison, IN

When I first saw a book called Shades of Gray I thought it would be about an interesting assortment of seniors.

Later I thought someone said it was about a serial killer, so I imagined a predator of older women.

When the movie was advertised I realized it was about young people and the shades of gray must be moral.

From what I've heard since, though, the book/movie is completely misnamed. I'm with Doctor Drew. Shades of Gray sounds downright pernicious.

No, I don't have to read it myself. Any generation that was reared considering sick books like The Giving Tree to be okay is bound to have a screwed-up moral compass.

I'm really disappointed, though, that the book isn't what I originally thought it was. Sounded like fun. The real work sounds to me like a crashing bore.

February 22, 2015                                    Madison, IN

One cataract surgery down, one to go. I chose the toric lens which corrects astigmatism. The follow-up exam indicated perfect placement. Congratulations and thank you, doctor!

One suggestion I forgot to make the other day. For this option you'll have to undergo a lot of eyeball testing with your forehead pressed against a bar. My hair kept getting in the way.

Give yourself and the poor assistants a break by having your hair off your forehead as much as possible. For my upcoming surgery on Wednesday this might mean a peasant scarf or bandana. What the hell, I'm wearing jeans anyway.

If I had it to do again, I'd get a haircut.

February 21, 2015.                                    Madison, IN

TV ads are getting positively pernicious. (Ha,ha a seeming oxymoron.)

They started by telling us what to do with certain symptoms, then progressed to telling us what to do when we get them.

Now ads practically order you to have terrible illnesses.

No, not outright, but by suggestion. When you are told, "You are going to yawn," you are more likely to do so. So to have the major health disaster announced to you in writing it gains the force of a prediction even though there is a voice in the background saying that your relevant body part won't warn you.

Shrugging this off? Think I am being silly?

I assure you the advertisers know exactly what they are doing- and if they don't the corporations that have hired them do.

There are all sorts of ways to be susceptible to their wiles. One of the worst is to buy into the "healthcare" industry's claims that there are no warning signs when you're at risk and there is nothing you can do about your health besides take a pill.

Stuff and nonsense!

Surround yourself with as much positive suggestion as possible!

I'll give you one for starters: Today you'll receive a belated Valentine!

Think it's not highly likely?

Well, why not?

I did!

February 19, 2015.                                   Madison, IN

Yesterday I had my cataract surgery. The process itself was more unpleasant than my appendectomy, but only because for my appendectomy I was out cold. The aftermath has been, so far, incomparably easier.

Once you get cataracts it is just what you have to go through so you won't go blind.

I will suggest that it is really wonderful to have someone go with you, although I may need to line up the transportation offered by the clinic next week when they operate on my other eye. (Am I glad I'm not a fly. Whew.)

Driving home with my partner, an hour-long journey, I had to keep my eyes covered a good deal of the way. I imagined what it would be like to be blind. From my miniscule experience of it I think it would be a real bore. I am not meaning this frivolously.

If you need cataract surgery get it sooner rather than later. Why wait? It is making your life more difficult than you realize, and we heal more quickly the younger we are. Furthermore, the assistant who saw me today said people seem to have an easier time the second time around.

Of course technology creates improvements apace. Maybe in a year or two this surgery will seem a picnic! Lucky for you if you're thirty.

February 17, 2015.                                    Madison, IN

Tomorrow is the big scary day of cataract surgery but I'm relieved that it is so close. With the clear weather of January I'm kind of surprised that we will be traveling on a day with a high of (shudder) eighteen degrees. Hopefully it will not snow.

Actually, everyone I know who has undergone cataract surgery consider it no big deal and are delighted with the results. For some reason, though, I have taken to unreasoning fears. Maybe because I finally have a life I somewhat enjoy and am looking forward to an even freer life (which means for me more camping and roaming around by foot, bike and car) in another year or two.

I'm pleased that by using the best deals offered by my insurance companies for the drops needed for preparation and recuperation we were able to save $500! The downside is that I will have to be putting more drops in my eyes every day.  I idealistically imagined myself doing this.  In reality, it has become clear that when he is available my partner will be doing it for me. Otherwise I'm afraid half the bottle will go rolling down my cheek.

He thinks it well worth the savings, however, so I guess we'll both survive this grueling February somehow.

What seems like the worst thing about the surgery now is that I have to go for six hours without eating beforehand. Now, that will be a real hardship.

If I experience any insights or helpful suggestions about this process I'll write about them when I can.  I have no idea what my energy level or visual capabilities will be like after this surgery. Hopefully I will be able to use my intact eye normally.

February 16, 2015                                      Madison, IN

It has been snowing all day.  After essentially no snow all winter this is exciting.

Lightweight, fluffy, sparkling, it practically floats off the car.

I swept and and shoveled three times. The walks need it again. Hmm, maybe closer to midnight around the time my partner gets home. Hey, he works! A clean walkway will make his return home easier. Too bad there's no red carpet hanging around the house.

Ha, ha, by the time midnight rolls around, I might flat-out be the carpet!

Snow covered.

February 15, 2015                               Madison, IN

I was talking to a man today and when I was done I thought about his Southern accent. I could actually understand him! It just occurred to me for the first time in three years that if I live around here long enough I might acquire some traits of pronunciation that have a Southern flavor.

Ha, ha!  Those idiosyncrasies can join the ones I picked up from my native Midwest, a summer in Brooklyn, my Jewish college classmates, a few formative childhood years in California, and my decades in New Mexico. Oh, and could I have picked up anything distinctive from three years in Oregon?

People who are into regional linguistics have asked me more than once where I learned to speak. They enjoy trying to tell me.  Me, I'm oblivious, usually, about my eclectic collection of verbal tells.

I guess it never occurred to me I would unconsciously acquire a Southern accent. After all, I certainly would not be able to imitate a dialect I can hardly understand!

February 14, 2015                               Madison, IN

Trying to get accurate information about how much people spend on Valentine gifts is a perfect lesson in how you can't necessarily trust what you read on the Internet.

Even the so-called average is all over the place -  I mean ranging from forty-five dollars to almost two hundred. It is ridiculous. Even more silly, though, is the idea that the number means anything. There are people who buy their lovers Ferraris for the Day, for pity's sake. Who can relate to that?

The mean - that is, the amount in the middle of what the population spends - might be a more accurate assessment. In the middle meaning that the same number of people spend more than that amount as spend less.

I have read that is almost one hundred dollars and I flat out don't believe it.

Either that is not the mean or I and everyone else I have ever known are meaner than mean!

If you know what I mean.

Happy Valentine's Day!

February 11, 2015 continued I'm learning all the time. Please read the entry below first.

Think about it.  

It's enough to make a conspiracy theorist out of anyone. 

P.S.  Well, Samsung has backpedalled a little.  Now they are saying they only register when the viewer "hails" the set.  Hmmm.... I might like the idea of having them change ads if I say I hate the one I'm watching. If so, however, my (not Samsung) TV must not be too smart.  It keeps showing me La Quinta ads, which I think are the most racist, sexist, body-imagist ones out there.

Me, addressing the TV: Hey!  Stop showing me those stupid ads! I will never stay in your hotel, ever again!

(And now that I have said so to my TV, I would be afraid to!)

February 11, 2015                                     Madison, IN

Whew, the latest I'm reading is that a person can be considered to be insane (or at least "disordered" (the quotes are mine)) if she is a nonconformist or a freethinker.

This is seriously scary stuff - especially combined with the recent news that some people's TVs are spying on them.

Seriously, I saw this on the news. Whether it can seriously be believed is another matter, but why not?

Samsung, which has supposedly equipped its smart TVs to listen in on conversations carried on in its presence, has said its TVs comply? reflect? meet? industry standards.

Brother. Big Brother, that is.

Nicholas Freeling said decades ago that 1984 was already here. This would be more evidence for that position.

Think about it

 February 9, 2015                                    Madison, IN

God is a mystery, all right. I mean, why we invented a God. (Oooh, this word program just capitalized that g-word even though I had not! Just a little ethnocentric, no?)

I have a theory about the invention of God. He was, I believe, created by Man right around the time we started domesticating animals.

If we take care of animals, Man figured, maybe there's some superior being taking care of us. Maybe we extrapolated to create God.

The only trouble with this from my point of view is that sheep and dogs can perceive us with their senses. The human herd can't honestly say the same for god, except for those few who rate their intuition or imagination over everyone else's reality.

(Hmm, just now the program didn't correct my form of the word God. Is it beginning to have doubts?)

At any rate, our relationship with any possible God is more comparable with an ant farm watched over by a subadult than a shepherd and his flock.

Does an ant farmer get to know the organisms under his care? Can he recognize individuals aside from the queen?

I doubt it. And no, I refuse to count behavioral responses like accepting food from your big God hand as evidence that either of the parties concerned recognize each other as individuals.

I still like the idea of God as extrapolation, though.

It would demonstrate a very pleasing sense of proportion on the part of our early forefathers.

February 7, 2015.                                    Madison, IN

This is an experiment. For the first time ever I'm trying to write with a handheld device. Consequently I finally get it. 

It always seemed so laborious - this variation on the theme of  twiddling one's thumbs.

No one ever told me that the keyboard would offer to complete typing my word for me.

Did they think duh that's obvious?

This is the first time lately I've been interested in learning to do something new with my hands (also good for one's brain.)

Wow this is so educational.

When I used the word health the word  body was suggested but not the word brain.

This cool device really lets you know when you're being common and trite. (Common by the way being more common than  trite.)

Ha, ha!  This invention is a writer's dream!

Might however portend the death of punctuation with only its ghost the period (perhaps dot to you) remaining.

...and a palsied persons nightmare I might add.


February 5, 2015                                      Madison, IN

I've been standing by watching the increasing obsession with my fellow citizens over their pets, kind of wondering why.

I don't object to the fact that they talk more about their pets than I used to talk about my own children. To each his own.

Now I think I understand it.

This little piece of domesticated wildness is about the only contact many of us have with nature. Gone are the chores of farming, gardening and even chopping vegetables and baking bread.

Pets are okay. So are nature shows on TV, especially the ones about wildlife in foreign lands which I cannot, at this time, visit. My preferences for experiencing nature are simply different from pet-lovers. I like my hits of wildness more direct and environmentally overwhelming.

Bringing a representative of the natural world into the home simply can't compete with complete external immersion.

February 2, 2015                                       Madison, IN

In the United States people seem so sure that most of the populace believes in freedom of religion. I myself shudder when I hear fundamentalist Christians empathize with the most conservative adherents of other religions.

Why do I find this threatening? Freedom of religion is fine, isn't it?

Well, I am beginning to wonder about that, especially when it comes to fundamentalists of any creed or breed, because there is one thing they all have in common.

They want to keep women down.

Why should their religious "freedom" involve a woman's loss of individual freedom?

In fact, for me, the idea of any individual's "religious freedom" has become, more and more, an oxymoron.


February 1, 2015                                          Madison, IN

Recently I read that Facebook controls your feed. (Ha, ha, even calling it that is like what farmers do to nourish their livestock.)

Facebook and email-senders and Internet advertisers make the assumption that whatever you like you want more of.

That is not at all a safe assumption. To make an analogy with gardens (I do love garden analogies), a good garden has a variety of elements.  

Regularity and consistency of bloom is reassuring. We love the reliable bulb plants and the flowering shrubs. You don't, however, want every flower you select to run rampant.

You can only really cherish the rare. We value some blooms especially because you never know when or where they will pop up. Even a controlling gardener is not going to attack a rare random wildflower if it is beautiful. A nonflowering species like a group of morel mushrooms would be considered a gift from the gods by gardeners in the know.

Color is important, but just because you have a variety of tulips to choose from doesn't mean you want every possible shade of tulip for your very own.

Imagine a garden with all the flowers trying to sell you their cousins by having them drop in by the dozens!

"Well," I can hear someone say, "The Internet isn't a garden."

Oh, yeah?  Then how come I spend so much of my time on the Internet weeding?


January 31, 2015                                        Madison, IN

Finally, the last day of January.

Have I not written because of so much spring weather? Is it because there is not enough to write about? Too much?

There is always the same amount of stuff to write about: infinite.

Because I am lazy? Uninspired? Have feelings of inadequacy compared to those who produce jazzy sites with photos and interactive capabilities? 

Whatever the cause, I seem to stand paralyzed by my life. 

January 26, 2015                                        Madison, IN

The San Francisco zoo is planning a Valentine's event for singles. All I caught of the news is that for a price the zoo will name a scorpion or a cockroach after your ex-whatever, and send a notice of the naming to the ex!

I never heard of such an institutionalized mean gesture.  It is probably meant to be funny but it seems like bullying to me.

Of all times it might be difficult to laugh off an insult, after a breakup probably would be "it."

Aach, I must be getting old, because I sure don't see this as a positive step forward in our treatment of each other.

As my partner observed, "... and this must be the bug that was up the ass of the sender?" 

January 25, 2015                                         Madison, IN

I've been a little distracted lately because I am going to have cataract surgery next month.

Having cataracts isn't like I always imagined - maybe because I read descriptions of the sight of people with advanced cases of cataracts in the days before it was possible to do something about them.

I haven't been comfortable driving at night for a decade, though, and increasingly I need glasses, more light and larger print in order to read. Supposedly this is largely correctable by having my lenses replaced.

My sister told me anyone I get to do the procedure should have performed thousands of surgeries. Hmmm. Too bad I didn't know to ask that question during my pre-surgery exam.

How are people supposed to get experience, though, if no one trusts them early on?  Somehow I don't think frogs or the lower mammals would be able to give the requisite responses to provide post-surgical feedback.

Even if they could, would operating on the eyeballs of a different species really provide appropriate experience?

In addition to your choice of surgeons, you have to choose what kind of lens you want. I'm opting for a laser treatment but not the kind most expensive and fraught with potential complications.

Even after surgery I will still need glasses for reading.  When I mentioned to the doctor with a shrug that I would need to wear glasses for distance anyway to protect my eyes from UV rays, he said the lenses would have a yellowish tint to cut down on the entrance of damaging frequencies to my retina.

"Does that mean I will be able to sleep better at night? Does that mean I will be more depressed? Or both?"

The doctor was amused that I had heard about these issues related to the color of the light that is permitted to gain entrance through my pupils. Oh, yes!  I am a pupil of these color questions.  It seems that I have encountered yet another of the many tightropes that aging and health-related decisions represent.

A humorous footnote: It seems that astigmatism, a problem I have, is caused by having a more football-shaped rather than a rounder lens.

Ha, ha.  Maybe beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but it seems a love of football is not!

January 23, 2015                                          Madison, IN

As soon as I saw an article (via Facebook!) about what was going on in Nigeria I was shocked and kind of ashamed with my preoccupation with what happened in Paris.

What should I have been saying? I am an innocent Nigerian victim of Boko Haram?

The very thought makes my blood run cold. It is one thing to imagine yourself shot up while working at your physically comfortable job - perhaps right after taking a sip of really good coffee. And most of us can relate to being subject to a tragic death while riding in an airplane. I can imagine that. Terrifying as these happenings would be, the images are supportable.  

It is a totally different thing to visualize yourself trying to live your life in a struggling third-world country beset by multiple deprivations and all the evils that come along with poverty. That is already a difficult thing. Add to that image an attack by fanatical hordes wielding bloody blades in addition to guns mutilating family members before your very eyes and the thought really becomes insupportable and worthy of the word horrifying.

I don't know why the press doesn't report these happenings (and tsunamis and epidemics) in better proportion to the sheer numbers of people involved. Part of the problem is that there are not so many journalists and photographers on the scene. But can't they at least do a better job of letting us know these other situations are happening at all? Can't they at least give us a heads-up by repeating the nutshell story more often than they show the same time-consuming video of the aftermath of the slaughter of publishers?

The press is supposed to be unbiased. None of us really expects that completely; we are all human.

But to report the murder of forty college kids in Michoacan, Mexico with the brevity of a footnote (if reported at all on the major news shows) is just too mystifying when we think of the attention paid to multiple killings in our own country and Europe.

Either the Western press is so stunned and incapacitated (and terrified?) by the alien experiences and worlds of these other multiple victims, or they (we?) don't think that what happens "over there" is as important.

I haven't studied these issues.  Maybe there are other explanations, like the surprising nature of these behaviors in relation to our high perceptions of our own level of civilization.

We can't afford to ignore, though, what is happening in the third-world countries, or what they are going through will no longer be for us something we are trying to imagine.

They will become our own nasty reality.

January 21, 2015                                          Madison, IN

Tinnitus.  RinTinTin-itis. Rinny-tinny-tintinnitus.  Ramshackle runny-nosed shambling Titus.  Rheumy shufflenose scaramouche doggy-run find us.

Blue.  Bleu.  Blooey phooey.  Chewy kangarooey.  Rabbit-stewy gluey arugularity disparity.

Yes, it's that time of day and that time of year!

The light is returning and my mind is churning.

Illusion, illusion! you say. Winter is still here!  The sky will not stay clear and neither will the sidewalks here.

I know, I know.  But the little yellow dandelion bud I saw last week doesn't know.  The unborn snowmen waiting in line for their turn at creation don't know.  My barely-used winter socks and sweaters don't know.  They don't know.

My heart doesn't know, either.  My heart is singing, Spring is here!  Spring is here!  And my ears are ringing with cicada thrills.


January 20, 2015                                           Madison, IN

To some of our local store owners, Amazon and Kindle are dirty words.  I understand this, but in my case book stores at least have lost nothing with my purchase of a Kindle.

I rarely used to go to book stores.  My stance was pretty much that I couldn't afford to buy books new, so I bought them only for special occasions like gift-giving.  I used the library and was rarely able to read any of the hottest new items.

Then I got my Kindle for use mainly in the middle of the night and on the road.  At first my purchases rarely topped the two or three dollars necessary to purchase complete works of nineteenth-century authors.  These prices even beat out library book sale prices, but so what?  I wasn't about to purchase even one volume by Joseph Conrad or Thomas Hardy when there was a good chance I could check it out from the library.  (In fact I have read half a dozen Conrad books now - purchased by my partner who has found he doesn't enjoy reading with the ereader anyway.)

Recently I have bought a few newish books for my Kindle that I could have ordered from a book store, but I don't figure they are the book store's loss.  No way would I have ever paid store prices for these full-bodied books!  I just would have had to wait to read them until they were available at the public library - if I even remembered or cared that much later.

As far as I can tell my owning a Kindle makes me spend more on books than I used to.  There is no adding to the weight of my possessions.  I indulge in occasional impulse-buying in the middle of the night at a time no small-town bookstore is open. If I was tempted by such a purchase during the day, I would undoubtedly make double-sure the library didn't have it before I bought it.

The way I figure it, the authors gain by ebook sales to thousands if not millions of circa-poverty-level people like me, and bookstores haven't lost a thing as a result.

As for those who can afford more expensive books and still expand a ereader-only library, I leave their choices to their own consciences.  They might be greedy or they might want to save the forests.

If you want to support bookstores, ask me for a book for your next birthday!

January 18, 2015                                           Madison, IN

Yesterday I walked up to the top of the Heritage Trail and back. It was a day in March. The sun was shining, there was wind but it wasn't a cold wind. I'm hoping for the same weather today; maybe I'll walk across the bridge and explore Milton a little.

This morning, though, I had some more thoughts about education.

Any given generation thinks that it is the cat's meow, of course, when it comes to being "with it." That is probably partly a consequence of older folks finding it more difficult than the very young to pick up new information and techniques.

Looked at in a different way, though, as a whole history of culture, the human race hasn't done too badly in the realm of invention.  Why are we so hasty to overturn styles and habits of life that resulted in such magnificent progress?

What I would hope to be self-evident has to be "discovered" and "proven" by science. For instance, the modern world seems to think that connection with nature is unimportant. People have to be told that trees and flowers and sky are good for our psyches. Well, duh.

Play and leisure are important for everyone - for a multitude of reasons. Without some freedom for random experience we are slaves. (And yes, some people make slaves of themselves.) Yet we have to be told that we are more creative when we experience the mental release of play.

The ugly sterile space-age look that was offensive to my eyes even when I was young is now just something the younger folks expect and are used to. Many people don't find insult to their senses in places I find intolerable: witness some of the cheaper, corporately-oriented hotels (we stayed in one in Chicago) that have all the ambiance of a warehouse. Maybe the young think these places are cool. They're cool, all right - so cool they leave me cold.

I have a theory that the popularity of horror films has inured us to ugliness in real life. Ever since special effects have astronomically improved, those who go to these features are treated to some of the nastiest, ugliest visual experiences I can imagine.  (How do I know?  Because of previews I don't manage to avert my eyes from quickly enough.) Maybe sterility is refreshing by comparison.

January 17, 2015                                           Madison, IN

It's too bad the people who want to make decisions about our children's education don't want to educate themselves about the learning process.

Just recently I've read that the best way to solve problems (and absorb lessons) is to spend a period of time addressing those problems (and learning about a body of knowledge) and then spend time in leisure or recreation - like RECESS!

What is with these driven and yet lazy adults that they want to take childhood away from children?

Recesses and other more light-hearted pursuits are a necessary part of education.  "All work and no play" doesn't just make "dull" as in boring, it makes "dull" as in not sharp - i.e. stupid.

Afraid of bullying?  Don't take recess away from the kids - get your asses outside and supervise them during recess!

I still remember how almost everybody in my grade school felt on snow days when we couldn't go outside.

Too bad the adults don't remember or feel that way themselves. No wonder their souls are so sick that they could seriously contemplate eliminating recess.

It's bad enough they don't let middle or high-schoolers off school grounds for lunch.  Now they want to imprison the eight-year-olds.                

January 14, 2015                                            Madison, IN

Here we are, almost halfway through January, and we have had no snow.

Snow! Snow! snowsnowsnowsnowsnownosnow!  Crystalline snow! Sparkly snow!  Flaky snow!  Soft snow.... Mounding snow piling snow falling falling snowfalling snow.

I'm beginning to kind of miss it.

Ha, ha.  My partner comments, "What a snow job!"

January 13, 2015                                             Madison, IN

Yeah, I know, I know.  Pretty self-important of me to say "Je suis Charlie" like all the front-line people.

No way do I belong in their company.  For one thing, I was brought up to try never to give offense to anyone.  That is a really good policy, really.  Why set yourself up for possible injury (or as we have seen, worse?)

I totally understand being offended by the rude and crass.  At least I used to be.

I understand how wrong-seeming it is to portray the North Korean dictator as being killed.  Shocking, really.

That is, until you find out what he and his ilk are doing.  One measly little assassination seems only... well, deserved.

And where does a President get off rebuking a film company for portraying (in a comic manner) the death of such a dictator?

Presidents try to have people killed.  I can still remember the shock I felt when I found out John Kennedy tried to have Castro killed.  Obama gave the order that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden.

So, people, go on rebuking the talkers among us: the whistleblowers, the muck-raking journalists, the bearers of bad tidings, the exposers and the would-be deposers.

We can respond to you just the way you respond to us. "Blah blah blah blah blah."

Say what you will. In the real world, gunning down the staff of a magazine like Charlie Hebdo is like killing the class clown.

January 12, 2015                                              Madison, IN

Here we go again. The antiword forces are out in numbers.

What is it about words that is so disturbing?

I know that words can be used in both positive and negative ways, but the correct description of either adjective about any given use of words is in the ear of the auditor. 

Sane people who don't like a given painter don't turn against paint entirely.  Just because I don't particularly care for Francis Bacon's meat slabs doesn't mean I no longer tolerate a print by Van Gogh or sky-blue paint on my walls.

Maybe the distaste has to do with fear.  Lately I am inclined to believe that the fear of words is terror of being judged.

As a psychiatrist told me long ago, to be adult is to make judgments.
If you are being afraid of being criticized by your fellow-citizen, try being tried in a court of law and really judged by a jury of your peers!  Judgment in that case can mean physical imprisonment.

People who have a hatred of verbal judgments seem to forget that the thumbs-up thumbs-down gestures used to mean literal life or death.

If you are afraid of being laughed at, try being beheaded or assassinated. Now there's judgment for you.

Let's put the sins of our fellow-beings in perspective. Whatever the folly or rudeness of the deed, it is the opinion of reasonable people that not many wrongdoings are so grave that the perpetrators deserve to be interred in one.

Let's revive the literal image of a "grave offense."

As for words as being separate from other actions - well, uttering and writing words are actions, and everyone who is not incapable of speaking and writing speaks and writes.

I do something even though I no longer play the oboe, sew clothes or quilt or even cook much.  What I do is speak and write.

That is what I do - and, ha, ha, stop being so judgmental!

Je suis Charlie.  Er, without the pictures.


January 10, 2015                                               Madison, IN

There's been quite a cold snap here. Today we went on a walk in the morning and passed the trees that were wearing hula skirts of ice last winter.

This time they are wearing mini-tutus, "a change of costume," a friend laughingly said. I was surprised because we have had little snow and no ice storms yet. These formations were created solely by days of below freezing weather and the rise and fall and lapping of the river water.

This afternoon it was so sunny and gorgeous that I went out again even though it was still supposed to be in the twenties.

The driftwood along the river had coatings of ice with a sensuous smoothness that begged to be touched. I resisted the temptation, not wanting to get wet and cold. Maybe tomorrow.

Some logs were turned into monster crocodiles dripping icicle teeth. Others were like giant insects or crustaceans. There were two or three large jellyfish close to the water, also made of ice.

It will be warming up this week into the thirties. I trust, though, that there will be more fantastic ice sculptures to enjoy later in this very odd winter season.

January 9, 2015                                                 Madison, IN

I can relate to fanaticism. Some of my childhood religious teachings bordered on the fundamentalist. Even if my parents' church didn't, my mom allowed (or sent!) us to attend summer Bible classes held by God knows what evangelical worship groups.

I remember being taught to admire the martyrs and sing "Onward Christian Soldiers" with great enthusiasm. Of course I assumed I could be one of those brave souls who would be willing to die for my beliefs.

At the most dramatic and fanatical, though, I could relate to martyrs only - not assassins.  The Christianity I was brought up with replaced all that bloody Old Testament stuff with the concept of love and turning the other cheek.

So what happened to all that passionate self-sacrificing belief?

Well, it was modified by exposure to other ideas and everyday reality.  In other words, I grew up.

If I were now willing to sacrifice myself to beliefs, they would be less religious and more Constitutional in nature.

I was surprised to see, in the tally of those dead in the recent Paris massacre, that all of the victims were over forty.  Several were over sixty.

If Islamic terrorists want to outnumber the rest of us, maybe three strapping young men like those assassins who died today might have done better to stay home and create life rather than terminate the lives of older folks who have already put their child-rearing years behind them.

The Slaughter of the Elders?  The Slaughter of the Cynics?

What a stupid thing to die for.

January 8, 2015                                                 Madison, IN

P.D. Wodehouse made fun of it, when - in the nineteen thirties?

Kellogg's brother twisted and distorted it after Kellogg's death.

St. John the Baptist preached the virtues of sun and fresh air and water; Jesus probably rolled his eyes!

The desire to diet and exercise one's way to health has been mocked probably throughout time.

Today after I made a comment on a Facebook page advertising a documentary about sugar (gotta see that!) a fellow visitor said something about sensing a round of orthorexia obnoxia coming.

Ha, ha!  I thought he had completely made the expression up, but evidently the expression is gaining some acceptance already. It is defined as an adherence to dietary restrictions so extreme it ruins the enjoyment of food.  Funny!

Maybe in the absence of religious fervor we have to substitute something else - in the case of the good old U.S.A., worship of what we perceive as the good life.  It amounts to an addiction.
Unfortunately, if the whole country is addicted that becomes the norm.

The other day I saw a film about Chicago made in 1943.  All the people were so skinny! Look at old group photographs. Most everyone is so thin! P.D. Wodehouse, who made fun of people obsessed with dietary restrictions, would have been shocked at our dietary excesses today.

Of course, these comments just illustrate how obsessed I am with diet. 

This is certainly especially true on a day during which the high temperature was 15 degrees.

Religious fervor, in my case, has been replaced by cabin fever!

Believe it or not, though, I still enjoyed my food - vegetables and all!  (In fact, sometimes I think my dependence on vegetables amounts to an addiction - but I could never say that.  No one would believe me!)

January 7, 2015                                                 Madison, IN

The fact that this country has given over its Congress to the Republicans means that we are a country being flooded by denial.

We may not collectively deny that global warming is happening, but we are either denying that global warming is caused mostly by humans (the only ones that can do something about it) or that it matters.

Either way, we are in denial, and there will be severe consequences.  Evidently we don't, my dear, give a damn! 

January 6, 2015                                                  Madison, IN

After a holiday season (Thanksgiving through the 9th day of Christmas or so) of relaxed eating habits (more fat, meat, candy) I had heartburn one afternoon and woke up that night with a racing heartbeat.  It wasn't really scary, but lying prone in sleep should not elevate your heart rate!  I was also finding walking uphill more taxing.

As a consequence, I decided to go back to my stringent August - November dietary regimen (well, almost).  Already I feel better.

Maybe high cholesterol doesn't kill and maybe with low cholesterol you die more from other causes (I would actually now be considered borderline high for heart disease and borderline low according to those who consider cholesterol a non-issue) but I will go with the diet that makes me feel better.

Unfortunately for me that is the more stringent one.

Good luck with your own pursuit of good health and greater physical well-being!  I'll keep you posted about any more (purely anecdotal) discoveries on my part.  

January 5, 2015                                               Madison, IN

I have never understood the blues.  I don't mean depression. I've been there. I mean the music.

If you've got the blues and you know about/feel like singing, why not sing something upbeat that takes you right out of there?

Surely you singers know about that.  You might start out a little melancholy, but you can gradually lead yourself out of that bad mood by singing successively more upbeat music.  (Gee, I wish I had thought of this when I was younger - or maybe it isn't that easy.)

So why the blues?  To hell with the blues!

The only reason I can think of for singing the blues is as a profoundly unselfish attempt to empathize with the miseries of others - the listeners.

It is interesting, though, that the musician Orpheus could lead Eurydice out of Hades only as long as he didn't look back at her.

Don't get sucked in, blues singers, or there will be hell to pay!

January 4, 2015                                                Madison, IN

It occurred to me yesterday, that for me being a freethinker probably reserves my right to think whatever I want at any given moment.

If I am a doubter, so what?  Does that mean I don't have the right to call on an imaginary friend to help me in time of need?

Are my atheist and agnostic friends going to criticize me for lack of consistency or weakness?

If I'm supposed to be free, then I should be free not to have to account to anyone for what my beliefs are in any given moment.

I strongly maintain my right to vacillate!          

January 3, 2015                                                Madison, IN

I was wondering a month or so ago about the freethinkers' group - what it takes to keep people coming back. That is, assuming that the membership wants to - that it values support and cohesion.

At the time I thought about what most religions have.  Not only do they have a body of faith or teaching often involving a liturgy, but they also have songs - or strong feelings against such worldly aesthetic elements. 

Last night I was reading Drunk Tank Pink and was reminded by the author that religions also have symbols, which are exceedingly emotionally evocative.  Without words a symbol creates powerful feelings of allegiance.

What kind of symbol could represent freethinking?  A circle with wings, maybe?  Or more energetic, a spiral with wings, to represent springing out of the morass of doctrine into transformation to spiritual flight?

I don't know.  Maybe it takes proselytizing to get symbols recognized among large populations.

It might be worth the energy, but I think that people who have won freedom from the unhelpful "teachings" of others might not be too eager to impose their own current impressions about the nature of reality on their fellow citizens.

Freedom for all, after all, with the emphasis on freedom.

January 2, 2015                                                Madison, IN

Yesterday there was a video on TV showing a young dog chasing his own leash around a chair.  

It was just the right length for him to catch only a glimpse of it as he ran faster to catch it.  He must have circled that chair twenty times.  The video quit, as I recall, before the dog did.

At about number 15 I had a flash of recognition:  "That's us!"

Too many of us are carrying something from our past that we just catch glimpses of from the corners of our memories, and we chase it obsessively through our minds over and over again.  We do not realize that we are chasing only ourselves, that there is no one at the other end of the leash and hasn't been for a long, long time.

January 1, 2015                                                Madison, IN

In the last few days of the old year, I had a crisis of disbelief, or crisis of nonfaith, if you will.

I have pretty much embraced agnosticism, and am usually pretty comfortable with that.  "I don't know" is a humble enough stance, I figure.

The other day, though, I was reminded of a very bad period in my youth when I not only was afraid that someone meant me harm, but that at some level I was willing to participate in doing that harm to myself.

It was a very scary time.

The other day I wasn't afraid that someone else intended to hurt me, but that didn't keep me from fearing that some part of my own self was ready to toss in the towel - in other words, die.

It made me wonder.  It is all very well to think that God is within you, until you start wondering if that God within you is out to get you.

Maybe it is better, I was thinking, to project a fatherly God outside oneself as a power that wants what is best for you.

In other words, better to have an imaginary friend than an internal enemy!

It took some more thought to calm me down a little.

For one thing, that friendly fatherly God is often described as having a "bigger plan" to which He, while supposedly feeling for us, has no compunction about sacrificing us. 

Another idea that helped me was that some Hindis believe that everyone has two entities within them, one of which is trying to save him and one who is trying to destroy him. That thought consoled me a little until I realized - well, what do we mean by saving "him"?  A person's body or what religions think is much more important - his spirit?

I guess we all have to make decisions that don't seem to be life-or-death when we make them but which will have serious consequences for our mental health, physical well-being, or at least our ability to sleep!

My wish for all of us is that we make the best decisions possible, and that we are here next year to - again - take stock of how we have done.

Happy New Year!

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