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Rumilluminations July 24 - Aug. 25 08
By: Esther M. Powell
Posted on: Mon, July 21 2008 - 9:20 am

August 25, 2008                            Valparaiso, IN

Today I think I'm going to spank television.

At least twice now I have seen news shows present images that have nothing to do with Obama while they are speaking his name.  The most recent one was a picture of some arm of the civilian forces beating up on people at the Democratic National Convention forty years ago.

Do these people know their work?  I think they do.  If I know the media truism that people don't listen to what you are saying, they are looking at what you are showing, you bet the producers of those shows know it, too.  All I remember hearing is "Obama" while those extremely negative images are on the screen.

Intentional?  How can I believe it is not?  Well, I guess I can believe it if the people who are actually putting together the stuff don't know their stuff!  (Spank, spank!)

Sometimes I believe that there is a lot of liberality on television.  Right now I don't think so.  There is so much negative questioning going on about our Democratic candidate that I strongly suggest that it is intended not to answer legitimate questions about him, but to raise questions and doubts that were never in voters' minds in the first place.  (This kind of attempt at mind control sound familiar?  Remind you of anything else I have complained about lately?  Spank, spank, spank!)

But hey - I'm paranoid.  I have wondered if the movement Republicans for Obama is a nefarious group out to get him, really, instead of support him.  Anybody know for sure?

The Obama headquarters in Valparaiso has a tarp over its roof.  Is that the best the democrats could do in this rich town (I have heard the about the venue here being used derisively against him!)  Or is it really an attempt to discredit and undermine him?

Oh, I think I'll give the newspapers a little swat, too!  One of our regional papers had a headline about Obama headquarters "blanketing" the state.  The accompanying map of Indiana had twenty dots on it!  That isn't even one per county!

Let's put it this way.  If that "blanket" was on my bed, I don't think I'd want to sleep under it!

I'm really kind of confused, though.

Who am I giving a spanking to?  A rich, powerful, cynical old man?  Or a confused little three-year-old who doesn't know what it is doing?

Either way, can television be considered a responsible reporter?  After all, it is owned by corporations, and corporations are bodies responsible only to their owners.  Er kinda sorta.

Actually I think we are silly to be afraid of individual robots, thinking they are going to "come alive" and take over.  The corporate bodies already have!

August 24, 2008                              Valparaiso, IN

Is Hurricane Fay done spanking Florida?  Is Julian going to spank Baja?

Is McCain done spanking Obama?  Is the press done spanking both of them?

I'm planning to put an Obama sign up in our yard.  If my mom sees it, I wonder if she'll want to spank me!

I doubt it.  She voted for Obama in the primary too.  (She's never had a political sign in her yard, though.)

While I was mowing the lawn this morning I met a young woman wearing an Obama T-shirt.  If I buy one now, will it be out of date in November?  (The average tenure of clothes in my possession is probably about fifteen years!)

If I wear it in November, will I be spanked for being passe?  Or spanked for saying I told you so?

Is someone who spanks a spanker, and someone who gets spanked a spankee?  Is that where the nickname Spanky comes from?

Or does it come from spanking clean?  Or has someone who is good at making things spanking clean been the recipient of lots of spankings?

I doubt if Florida will be spanking clean as the result of Fay's discipline!

Hmmm.... looking around my place, I'm sure people would say I haven't had enough spankings.

Anybody know where those words come from and if they are related?

I'll look them up and report back!

Report:  As far as I can tell from my hasty "research", my spanking theory, though humorous, is probably not accurate.  The best guess is that the word "spank" is onomatopoeic.  Probably something that is "spanking clean" has been subjected to a spanking, e.g. a beaten rug, or the equivalent. 

Hmmm... wonder why I have taken up this subject and run with it this morning?  Could it be because today is a Sunday - a soul-spanking day?  Or 'cause cleanliness is next to Godliness - a spanking-clean soul day?

Have a lovely Sunday with no spankings!  Especially not the climatological kind!


 August 23, 2008                               Valparaiso, IN

Well, I have just about had it listening to John McCain and his campaign.  Little did I know how much I spared myself in those decades when I did not have a TV!

For John McCain to get up and call us all "friends" - talk about presumption!  That kind of behavior is appropriate if you are George Washington, being pressed into service as President by popular demand!

In John McCain it feels like attempted mind control.

I read an article today which quoted his campaign manager as saying that Americans are "realizing"  blah blah blah.  If you please, don't try to put words in my mouth and don't attribute thoughts to my head that are not there!

Affirmations are okay, but have them in your heads for yourself - don't try to control the American public with them!

It's creepy!

Admittedly, I have almost never voted for a Republican, maverick or not.  McCain is not going to get me to cross over.  Now if he were more like Barack Obama, then maybe....

Nah.  The only way Obama could be a better candidate in my mind would be, maybe, if he were a she!  Ha, ha!

Eat your heart out, McCain!

August 22, 2008                                Valparaiso, IN

Anybody else get turned off by John McCain's avuncular "my friends" the other (Saturday) night?

P.S.  To John McCain:  I am not your friend, and I know you are not mine!  All my friends know how many houses they own!

August 21, 2008                                 Valparaiso, IN

I'm beginning to see from my recent readings that I may need to add to my definitions of "love."  Or rather, new words to describe different kinds of love.

A book I'm reading now is focusing more on the nature of divine love as light, as electricity-like surges, etc. etc.  I'm not ready to add new words yet.  Don't know enough about it (although, I admit, when I am ready to add new words (if ever) I still won't know enough about it!)

I don't remember if the phrase "power of love" appears in the book or if I am just reminded of it.

I'm getting to the point where the word "power" puts me off, no matter what its context!

Do we really want divine love confusing our issues?  Does divine love really make it easier to get along with other people?

If it does, is that just because everybody is always kowtowing to you and giving you, as much as possible, what you want?

In other words, is the power of love just like any other power in the sense that you can get what you want with it?

Don't start defending gurus to me.  You don't need to.  I am aware that mostly they are benevolent and working for the good of the individual and society.  (Or if I am not "aware" of it, I am ready to believe it!)  But what does that have to do with meditating and getting your energies flowing in a powerful way?

Why has the word "power" been linked to the word "love" at all?  Isn't love really a kind of anti-power?  What is the "power of love"?  Some quality - acceptance, maybe - turning into its opposite?

Ooooh, goody!  A whole new set of paradoxes to ponder!

Pounding laundry with rocks by the internal stream!

(Is that image a message from my inner Deity that it might be more productive and more fun to sit cross-legged by the babbling brook?  How about panning for gold?

How about all three, in their own good time?  Or all at once?  Internally, I have as many sets of hands as I need!)

August 20, 2008                              Valparaiso, IN

One of the biggest mysteries in recent U.S. history is, why did we elect George W. Bush for a second term?

I was just reading a book that mentions that "the Republicans stole" the election.  I do believe that that is what happened.  We know, at any rate, that by the numbers Gore should have been the President of the United States.

So why did George W. get a second term?  (Assuming that the voting computers were not rigged, admittedly not a safe assumption!  In fact, I find computerized voting to be the scariest totalitarian idea I have ever heard!  I can't believe we are doing it!)

But all possibilities of cheating aside, why would we give Bush the Presidential role a second time?

This morning I think I figured it out.  By "stealing" the Presidency Bush basically kidnapped the whole nation!  When we were freed by the end of his term, a sort of mass Stockholm syndrome set in, and people made excuses for his behavior, and, trying to negate the fact that we as a nation had lost control, "proved" to ourself that we had control by voting him in for a second term.

When we elected Bush for his second term, the people of Europe were convinced that we were stupid.

Not stupid, just the victims of a recognized psychological syndrome!

Not me of course.  I and many others did not vote for Bush.  Ever.  Unfortunately enough did to tip the scales.

Am I joking?  Well, no.  I (no professional psychologist, you understand) am actually quite serious about this diagnostic analysis.  What do you think?  Do you have any other explanation?  (The "don't change horses in midstream" argument, for instance?)

August 19, 2008                              Valparaiso, IN

When it comes to hot weather, are you gelatin or are you agar-agar?  (Hint: gelatin melts, agar-agar doesn't.)

When I was young, I just used to mentally wilt all the way to the library and back when it was hot...! Collapse in the relative cool of our unairconditioned home.

Somewhere along the way I learned to internally meet the heat - fortify myself and internally face it off.  I may not love it, but I no longer melt.

Reminds me of the saying, "The coward dies a thousand deaths, the brave man dies but once."

Dealing with cold isn't exactly the same for me.  For the cold, I prepare externally.  Dress right!  Then I'm fine!  Keep moving!  I don't exactly square off to it - more like keeping it at bay.

Kind of like working to bring money in and working to save money - both techniques help keep the wolf at the door at bay.

Are we Americans spoiled?  Are we too lazy to work?  Do we expect too much out of life?

Is our obesity caused by greed or just a natural response to food?

In nature, food isn't always available.  It is natural to eat eat eat when it is there.

Can we be blamed for eat eat eating when food is there there there?

Maybe our preparation for times of plenty should be the opposite of times of hunger.  We should defend ourselves against food instead of embracing it.

Counterintuitive!  But isn't much of our growth (mentally and spiritually, anyway) based on learning to accept what seems counterintuitive?

Don't blame yourself for eating so much (I tell myself.)

Just stop doing it!

Indulge in this casserole of thoughts instead!

Ha!  It is kind of a hodgepodge - I hope we don't get indigestion! 

August 18, 2008                              Valparaiso, IN

This seems to be the year of the goldfinch in the Valparaiso area.  I've seen them several times this year, darting around in pairs as if they were playing a game of winged leapfrog.

I saw something fanciful today - morning glories using daylily stems as a trellis! That's one way to keep blossoms coming once the daylilies have passed!  The morning glories were the smaller dark purple variety.

The hollyhocks seem to be kind of twisting around these days, maybe trying to follow a lowering sun.

Last night's full moon was dark gold and looked the size of an Olympic medal.  I had time to admire it for a while while waiting for an interminable train to pass after chauffering a friend to where he is summering.

There, at Mink Lake, geese were silhouetted against the sunset as they flew in and settled on the water.

Firefly time is tapering off, but the summer is offering its consolations in dramatic thunderstorms, abundant blossoms, and a few errant 17-year locusts! 

August 17, 2008                             Valparaiso, IN

More white Christian shenanigans last night.  Easy-answers McCain set up by a minister of the faith with Olympic-style macho posturing to appeal to the easy-answers Christian Fundamentalists.

Wake up, white racists!  In a country where whites are headed to be the minority by the year 2020, maybe you shouldn't be concentrating on putting up barbed-wire-topped walls around your country clubs, er I mean churches.  Maybe you should be working harder to mend bridges and make friends than preserving (and oh, isn't McCain a symbol of preservation! (Low blow, mea culpa)) the privilege that no race should monopolize.

Or are you just stupidly (for the planet, do you care?) going to try to have more babies and out-multiply the other races?

I'm telling you, you won't be able to do it.

How about this for an idea:  maintain zero population growth and make friends with other peoples so they don't feel that they have to out-multiply you?

Nah, that's too hard.  Try to understand other people?  Let them pray!  If they pray hard enough and with enough faith, God will make them white!  (If they are Christian, that is.  The Bible says so!)

I wonder:  Am I enough of a Christian that, if I pray hard, God will make my own physical appearance more racially ambiguous?  I am so mortified by my own kind!

Mark my words:  if McCain wins, more U.S. citizens will die and the middle class (if there is any left these days, and how is it defined?) and lower class Americans will all be poorer.

(I forgot to say when I was talking about Obama weeks ago:  I do think we will be spiritually richer if he wins, but most of us will be financially richer, too!)

But many organized Christian religions in this country have long ago left spiritual concerns far behind.  It is all about external rules and appearances.  Everybody a mirror reflecting the church's dogma and no other side to the looking-glass!

Oh, I forgot to say, that in the interviews last night McCain got the last word.  The last thousands of words!

I mentioned this to a friend and she said McCain and Obama tossed a coin to determine order.

I accepted this at the time - she paid much better attention last night than I did.

But now I can't help wondering.  Did anyone see the coin-toss?

Who provided the coin?  

August 16, 2008                              Valparaiso, IN

Today I picked up Harley the poodle doodle for his walk and, uncharacteristically, he started to run a beeline down the street - towards my house!

We ran over a block (this was a first!) and I began to worry that he knew something about the condition of my mother that I didn't know.

Maybe something was wrong and we were running to the rescue!  Maybe the house was on fire!

Across the street! Then - he stopped on a dime to sniff a shrub.  Either no emergency, or too much distractability for a rescue dog.  I inclined toward the former.

So much for my Lassie fantasy.  We proceeded down the street at a normal gait and he moseyed up to the back door.  Looked at me.  "Are we going in?"

At that point, no longer concerned, I said, "No, Harley, let's not.  She's still in bed."

We went on to wake up five households to the sound of their own dogs barking (at us!)  Walked by his latest girlfriend's house a couple of times, but she did not make an appearance.

I like to carry a long newspaper bag for poops just in case he does multiple numbers.  After leaving Harley with his mistress I saw so much poop on the way home that I thought, "Oh well, what the heck" and picked up several blessedly dry little piles.  Might as well get maximum use out of the bag, but I hope nobody saw me!  I don't want them to start counting on my poop-up service!

When I got home Mom was still in bed so I went back out and mowed the lawn.

P.S.  Mom's fine!

August 15, 2008                                Valparaiso, IN

A friend of mine mentioned he wishes I would talk more about internal spaces and less about what everyone else says.

Well, I don't have a map.  (Maybe that's part of the fascination with treasure maps.  As well as symbolizing real physical treasure, they also represent hidden, buried spiritual treasure.)

C.S. Lewis, in his Narnia series, talks about going "inward and upward."  I guess these books are about internal spaces.

We visit inner worlds in dreams every night.

Some of the ideas about inner spaces are parallel to outer spaces.  Going higher (becoming more disinterested) gives you more perspective.  Going farther into yourself gives you perspective, too.  Distance.

It seems that some people can't take internal (emotional?) distance and find it chilling.  But isn't a common image of hell intense heat?  If something makes you too hot, maybe you are too close to it.  Give yourself a break and move away.  Contemplate it from afar.

It might feel a little cool, but it won't hurt - honest!

If we've got buried treasure, who are the pirates?  Hmmm.... I'll think about that another time!

August 14, 2008                          Valparaiso, IN

I believe I have spoken before about internal spaces being as real as external ones.  I have heard about two coma victims describing the same place while they were in their respective comas:  a beautiful monastery garden.

Anne Sexton has described poets as joining the flow of a great river, or at least as hanging around its banks.  ( I read that poem a looong time ago!)  I myself can relate to that image of the poetic mentality, although maybe Anne was too water-bound.  How about the flow of the jet-stream as a more free place to be? 

I know I need to reach a special space in my mind to write poetry - one that I have to say I am not often in!  Forget working a full-time job, living with people and writing poetry!  (Not that I am doing that now.  I'm looking at my past activities.)

It seems that, Herman Hesse's Siddhartha notwithstanding, oceans (or at least seas!) make better epic and novel material.  I imagine writing a novel takes some of the mentality of a long sea voyage - nothing to do for long periods of time but concoct tales.  Aren't sailors known for their tales?  Or is that just because life at sea can be very dramatic - more often than life on land?

I've read book jackets of novels which picture the author and describe her life living in Massachusets with her husband and four children.  I used to marvel.  How did she do it?  Now I think maybe they omitted mention of the nanny!

I imagine that dramatists spend a lot of time in internal dialog, and essayists in internal debate.  Is it any surprise that essayists often seem to be concerned with ethics?

People who are too beset with internal conflict, who are always at war with themselves, may not realize how many different internal spaces they can choose to inhabit.  I have been one of these people myself.  Somehow they have entered a vast ocean (water is a symbol of the mother, according to an early psychology proponent, I believe - Jung?  Freud himself?  It seems more Jungian) without a lifeboat and are using all their energy to barely keep their heads above water.

Fellini's Juliette of the Spirit was a real pointer in a direction of internal serenity and space, with, unfortunately (as I recall) no depiction of literary creativity as a consequence!  (This was a movie I saw probably forty years ago, so if you got a different message, it's probably closer to the truth!)

Movies in general, though, I think of as moving more into external places.  Even movies about the interior (projections of the directors' or writers' internal spaces) are so external to the consumer that I can't think of them as internal spaces.  Signposts, maybe.

Same goes for plays seen on the stage, I suppose.

Maybe what I'm trying to say is, given the same education, creativity depends more on getting some internal space than anything else.  Why most Presidents and other very busy folk are, perhaps, not as creative - except, hopefully, in conflict resolution!

Artistic creativity, then, would be not so much innate ability as life focus.  Trying to do it with motives related to the external doesn't succeed.  (Or does it for some people?)

Well, I admit I'm struggling here.  Anybody mapped out an internal geography of artistic creativity?  I could sure use some discussion on this matter!

If you think this is all rot, don't bother to tell me!  You are probably in the majority!

I'm landlocked in the Midwest (ha, I almost typed Midwaste) and most days the internal journeys are the only ones I've got!

(ha, ha - looking for Anne Sexton's poem I ran across a website that in the midst of inducing hysteria criticizing lots of poetry deals with some of these issues - although I'm sure the writer would laugh at me too!  Or worse, maybe.  Snort with derision! is the address.  (I wonder why he wants to spend so much time hanging around the internal whipping post?  Was he beaten as a kid?))


August 13, 2008                         Valparaiso, IN

After I wrote my blahg yesterday I had an image of Jon Stewart saying the doctor's lines.  At first I thought, yes!  I'm good!  Then my fear of unconscious plagiarism kicked in and I got worried.  Better mention my reservations about my own originality, I thought.  As soon as I get home from my book club meeting and errands.  Instead I got sick.

I don't know what it was.  It started with a slight headache (which I've had more than usual the last couple of weeks) that got worse, especially on the left side.  Stroke?  I imagined.  My stomach felt too queasy to risk a painkiller.  Migraine?

Now, of course, I'm waiting to see what part of my brain is lost beyond recovery.

So this apology if I have plagiarized is coming late.  Maybe the idea came from Jay Leno?  Maybe it was mine!  (Millions are supposed to watch these shows!  Did it sound familiar to anybody?  Did anybody go, "Aha!  Gotcha!"? )

My original inspiration for the idea came from an attorney boss who was fed up with his clients' lack of faith in him, and their constant hectoring instructions.  "They wouldn't dream of telling their doctor how to remove a kidney," he used to grumble.  "Why do they try to tell me how to manage their cases?"

C.G. Jung said that in modern society the man who didn't specialize was worth nothing to himself or to others.

So why don't our leaders just concentrate on their specialties - make something of themselves?  Ha ha!

Why don't we respect the hours and years somebody has put into his/her work (ha, ha, almost wrote "word")?

Me, my specialty is louding off - the only specialty lower than that of attorney and maybe car mechanic in respect and credibility!

Oh well...  I feel that headache coming back on!  Time to get horizontal again!


August 12, 2008                           Valparaiso, IN

Come to think of it, both the President and the Taliban are making themselves ridiculous.

President Bush stands up there and seriously (with a smirk) talks about God and the Spirit.

Do people who really care a great deal about God and the spirit aspire to the Presidency?  Aspire to the political life, really, at all?  Are those people not too afraid of dirtying their hands with compromising activities and afraid of the effect of power on their souls?  (As an allegory to what I am talking about, read the story about the young woman and the hermits in The Decamaron!  (At first I typed the Decamoron - ha!  Me, I guess, for bringing it up!))

Are not spiritual leaders ridiculous for trying to head governments and make rules for everybody?  It seems to me that spiritual leaders should have more humility.  Why not let God take care of it all?

Well, yeah, okay, maybe I am indulging in circular reasoning, but you get my point.  Isn't being the leader of a large spiritual community enough for one man?  Isn't being the leader of a nation enough for one man?

Who do these people think they are?

It would be like your doctor saying, "Yes, I'm going to give you a liver transplant, but before we put you under I'm going to draw up your living will and do your estate planning just in case.  Then, after the surgery, when you are under the anaesthetic, I'll go out to the parking lot and give your care a tune-up.  Make sure you really get home safely!"

To the nth degree!

Please, Mr. President, stay out of religion.  I, a humble little agnostic (if not atheistic) type, don't want you drawing down fanatical religious fire on my poor little head!  Spare us all your religious involvement and belief!

If I weren't so concerned about the state of our poor neglected Constitutional separations, I'd have to laugh! 

August 11, 2008                           Valparaiso, IN

How much do you think ahead while you are driving a car?  Or should I say, looking ahead?

I just read an article in the regional paper today about driving habits that save gas.  The article says you should look ahead three to six blocks to plan how you drive.  My dad taught me to look ahead - more like three or four cars!  But maybe that was in heavier traffic.

I do look ahead, and wonder why people are charging past me when there are two semis up there on the highway that ain't nobody gonna get by until they are good and ready!

Why not hang back and breathe clean air?

On the bicycle, I sometimes am the recipient of heavy judgment.  Why don't I obey the laws that the car-drivers have to obey?

Well, here's a good reason to cross one-half of the highway to the median on a red light when no one is coming anyway:  so when the light turns green the four or five cars waiting across the road to turn left don't have to wait while I toil across the road on my bike!

Makes the other drivers happier!  (Unless they are grouchily judging me, of course!)  Saves the gobbling-up of that much more oxygen by internal combusion engines while they are sitting there waiting for me to cross two lanes!

Why do I even think about stuff like this?

I dunno.  I just do!

(Note to the author of the gas-saving article:  I think it is okay to drive a safe distance behind a big truck.  I believe it would still cut down on wind resistance and save gas!

I've noticed, however, that truck drivers who are perfectly happy to tailgate you don't like to be intentionally followed!  Usually if I hang around behind them too long (following an if-you-can't-beat (I almost wrote "bean" ha ha) them-join-them philosophy) they usually speed up and shake me loose!

I don't know how they can tell when their presence irritates me and blocks my scenery!  Then they are perfectly happy to remain in my field of vision.  Must be ESP!)

August 10, 2008                              Valparaiso, IN

Today is going to be a bike-riding day.  I'm going to put on my helmet and head toward Lake Michigan.  If I leave early enough I'll make it all the way to the lake and stop at the Taj Indian Restaurant on the way home.

It really bothers me that not everybody can or will do stuff like this.  The average world citizen cannot; and to pretend that he/she will ever be able to do it is, I think, a pleasant fiction.

We in the U.S. are spoiled, but not as spoiled as the folks in the ad I just saw on the weather channel who say they want free gas.  I know it is supposed to be humorous, but how does it make other people in the world feel, who could certainly use some free food?

How idiotic does it make us look?

I admit, I didn't watch the whole ad, which puts me on a par with most people, I suppose.  Ahead of the ones who don't have a TV set at all, or watch a government-controlled one or two channels.

Or it puts me behind them, if you believe that watching TV is the biggest possible waste of time.

To me, watching TV is part of what I need to do to be part of the United States community.  (I know the difference - I didn't watch TV for twenty years or so as a young adult and could hardly carry on a conversation with my fellow Americans!  I didn't get any of their jokes!  Admittedly, there are options of stuff to watch now and people's watching habits don't intersect as much, but still... who would want to have missed Beijing's opening ceremonies to the Olympics?  Even TV-side, it was a great show!)

Spending some time watching the news channels TV is a great introduction to being a citizen of the world!  (Anybody think I'm arrogant for calling myself a citizen of the world?

How silly!  We all are!)

August 9, 2008                            Valparaiso, IN

My mom and I do crosswords every morning but Sunday.  (She does them every day!)  She thinks it is good for the mind.

It's okay.  As she says, it is something we can do together.

Today is Saturday, though, and the Saturday stumper often stumps us.  (Forget the N.Y. Times puzzles!)

It seems to me that even in the three or so years we've been doing this, the puzzles have changed.  Instead of being ignorant about geography I find I am more often being ignorant of TV shows and movies.  (Sports I have always been ignorant about!)

After we gave up on the puzzle, Mom said, "There's so much to know!  You can't know everything... !"

I interrupted her, saying, "There's even more not to know!"

Now, does that make any sense at all?

August 8, 2008                             Valparaiso, IN

The aftermath of the storm is still with us:  big piles of what used to be trees, little piles of branches for the more fortunate yard-tenders.

This morning I thought I would mow the lawn and spent time picking up branches and walnuts instead.  A little squirrel was chittering frantically at me.  I guess he thought I was taking all his food supply.  Well, I was going to toss all those walnuts, but I put them in a plastic container and left them on the falling-down table under the walnut tree.  Maybe that will still be hard on the little squirrel - some bigger squirrel might try to corner the supply.

I'm seeing lots of small squirrels this year.  What happened to the larger ones?  Was there not enough rainfall earlier in the season to support them?

Walking around town I see that my lawn is not the only shaggy one.  Clean-up takes time work, and the rain made the grass grow faster.

Right now I'm kind of discouraged.

It seems as if not love, but crabgrass conquers all!

August 7, 2008                             Valparaiso, IN

When I was younger, I divined I was really good at synthesis.  When I graduated from college I went to graduate school mainly to avoid a dead-end job, but really I was tired of school.

What I wanted was for someone to pay me to do library research.  But I sure didn't see any ads in the paper for that!  I had no clue as to how to get support for what I thought might be fun.

In graduate school I was shocked to learn that agriculture and industry drove the funded research (this was at University of New Mexico), not interest in cool stuff like the irritability of plants.  (Although a year after I wrote about the subject for a college class, I read a cool paper about it in some biological (I think!) journal.  That paper was written by a scientist working in India.)

After I dropped out of graduate school with biology and chemistry coming out of my ears, I remember thinking that everyone was doing research in ever narrower fields, but who was doing the oversight?

It might have been around that time that I read that science had a need for more synthesis of various studies, but it offered no solutions to the problem.

Not being particularly career-oriented and having no idea of how many grants were available (in the sixties and early seventies?  Still don't know!) I dropped out of sight into a series of the dead-end jobs I had always feared so much.

I didn't have a PhD in anything, so maybe if I had tried to get grants I wouldn't have.  But maybe now I could!  Judging by the recent PBS show on global dimming, in which a Israeli scientist says his findings were "largely ignored by the scientific community", we still need people to read in a bunch of different fields!

It is kind of like our personal lives.  Do we pull the weeds in the garden or call a relative?  Do we cut our bangs or mow the lawn?

Do we take the time to look up and see the robins' nest built beside the hornets' nest that passed our notice until Halloween last year or do we obsess on the Japanese beetles eating the basil below?

If Science doesn't think it needs human angels at least trying to see the connections ricocheting between all those tunneling scientific studies it really is a Godless community.  Even the Scientific God Truth isn't getting its due!

(Anybody see the special on another public channel about the communication between bacteria?  I wish I had caught it from the beginning.  Fascinating!  Kudos to Princeton for hiring a woman (Bonnie Bassler) whose economic advantage to the school was not immediately obvious!

Just live-searched and found a book by Bassler and Stephen Winans, Chemical communication among Bacteria.  Looks interesting but is a whopping $78!  Dang!  Time to go to the library! 

August 6, 2008                               Valparaiso, IN

They say stress causes cancer.  That, and oh yeah, animal fats!

A relationship getting better or worse is supposed to cause stress.

How about laughter?  That makes your mood better.  Does that cause stress?  Your mood getting better?

My biggest stressor these days is, I think, dealing with the communications corporations via telephone.

Only my desire to communicate with my children and other loved ones at a distance keeps me paying for a phone!

And only my desire to communicate with you from home keeps me dealing with the communications internet industry!  After all, if I only wanted to express myself I could write in a journal and put it in a drawer!  But how lucky I am, to be able to reach out to people all over the world to communicate an idea or give a chuckle!

I just wish I didn't have to spend time on the phone with tape recordings to do it!

I don't want you to feel the same way.  E-mail me if you have a response to what I say.

One warning, though.  I delete all bulk mailings without reading them!

Inconsistently, perhaps, stressed out, perhaps, but constantly (I hope) yours,

                                 Esther the Queen of Introspection


August 5, 2008                              Valparaiso, IN

Go down to the dark dank uncomfortable basement because of a tornado warning?

Are you kidding?  There isn't even a comfortable chair down there!

So I, the occasional buyer of Powerball tickets, bet with the odds against anything terrible happening for the privilege of sleeping in my upstairs bedroom.  (Come to think of it, I think that might make a good philosophy of life - bet with whichever side is more optimistic!  Hmmm, don't hold me to that one!)

There were lightning strikes very close to the house.  A conifer next to a house on the alley was struck.  It will be interesting to see if the owners take it down completely.  (It is already 1/2 gone, I would guess.)

A sugar maple a block in the other direction was forked in a way that left it vulnerable to splitting in half.  The first branch is still upright, the rest blocking the street.  No houses were hit, and the lucky man who usually parks his jeep in the spot where the tree now rests made a different decision last night.  No lasting harm done, except to the tree.  It is now doomed.

The "down" side of the tree is now buckling the electrical wires, creating a snowstorm on our TV screens.  I'm sure the electrical company will be taking care of it soon.  (Actually from the noises down the block, it is happening right now!)

The treefall gave me the opportunity to meet its owners, whose landscaping I have been admiring since I moved back to Valpo.  Turns out the husband grew up across the street.  He always wanted to own the house he lives in now!

My upstairs berth for the night was not such a success story.  The storm woke me up so many times that even I, former drama queen extraordinaire, got tired of all the fireworks and wished it would just shut up already.  When I was tempted to get scared, I wondered if I could enjoy my final wild ride on my flying mattress borne by the 100-mile-an-hour winds of a tornado!

I must have kicked my favorite sheet on and off twenty times!

When the electricity came back on and the telephone talked to us I woke up, but the storm wasn't over yet.

Harley the poodle seemed just like he normally is on a walk, not timid or cringing at all.  But after he pooped - he ran all the way home!

I would love to report how the city as a whole fared, but aside from a restaurant I've never heard of (my, this place is growing!) losing its roof, I don't know much. 

Judging from all the branches down, though, a lot of us will have higher electrical bills!


August 4, 2008                                Valparaiso, IN

I read an enthusiastic poem by Rumi about the spiritual benefits of fasting, which ends with the humorous comment that the food you will enjoy in heaven will taste a lot better than cabbage soup!

I guess for the mystics fasting is next to godliness, where some people in our culture put cleanliness.

While I admire people who can and do fast, I only did it voluntarily for one day while I was in my mid-twenties.  I drank nothing but water and went and did my job at the library as usual, walking to and from work.

I felt fine!  The next morning I ate a bowl of crunchy granola with whole milk and promptly chucked it up.

People tell me that my mistake was not the fast, it was the way I went off the fast that made me sick.

I'm willing to believe it.  But I also know from many an experience on other occasions that I do not handle hunger well.  (This is something that has not gone unnoticed by my friends and family.)

In my case, hungriness isn't next to godliness.

It's next to bitchiness! 

August 3, 2008                               Valparaiso, IN

More on laughter:

I've mentioned before a landlord I met who thought that laughing alone was "of the devil."

Lately I've read more about laughter being a negative thing.  In a book (I'm so sorry, I don't remember the source at all!) the idea came that laughter is the result of a sense of superiority.  What a stupid ridiculous idea!  Ha ha ha!

Another sourceless quote (Lord Acton?): "Laughter is the height of vulgarity."  I hope the person he said it to laughed!  Surely it must have been a joke!

Shoulder-baring tank tops!  Shiny silver high-tops!  Big overblown flowers!  I love vulgarity!  Ha ha ha ha ha ha HA Ha!

August 2, 2008                               Valparaiso, IN

Are there really that many people out there undecided about who they will vote for this November?

No matter what the candidates say now, about themselves and each other, aren't the issues pretty simple?  Aren't these people pretty different?  Doesn't what they have said and done in the past tell us what they really care about?

Please, people, forget about all the rhetoric about religious affiliation and family values!  They are irrelevant!  People who care about humanity care about people whether they have a family or not, don't they?  Do you have to have family to make you a member of the human race? 

If you are financially rich, vote for John McCain!  He will make you richer!

If you are spiritually rich, vote for Barack Obama!  He will make you richer!

Oh, yeah, I haven't read John McCain's book yet!  I'll read it and let you know if it changes my mind about who I'm voting for!

Ha ha ha ha!  Fat chance.

I'm curious, though.  I couldn't read Hillary Clinton's book.  Can I even get through McCain's?  I'll let you know!


August 1, 2008                                Valparaiso, IN

Poor McCain.  Comparing - comparing! - Barack Obama's fitness to be president with Paris and Brittney.  I'm beginning to believe he has not read Obama's books.

Well, I have.  I haven't read McCain's book (written with the help of a professional writer, I understand, like Brittney Spear's book, which I also haven't read.

I've only read the Audacity of Hope and half of Dreams from my Father.  After reading his books, I feel that Obama is uniquely placed to be one of our great Presidents.

But McCain's campaign has proved him to be too base to be my President.  Attempting to demean his opponent so stupidly only demeans himself.

Tell you what, John McCain.  I'll read Brittany Spear's book (and maybe even yours!) and let you know who I think would be a better President!  

July 31, 2008                                  Valparaiso, IN

I don't get it.  Why do so many people who proclaim belief in God not believe in wear-and-tear on their automobiles?

They believe in the Virgin birth, or, if they are another religion besides Christian, they believe, like Christians, in an all-powerful, all-knowing God.

But they don't believe in the cost of wear-and-tear on their vehicles.  They insist upon calculating the cost of a trip by how much gas for the trip would cost.

If you bring up the cost of the repairs for break-downs and the cost of routine replacement of parts, they look the other way.  They shrug it off.  Instant loss of rapport!

Either they don't want to deal with the long-term reality:  that lots of driving equals a new car sooner equals $$$;  or they don't want to figure wear-and-tear as part of the cost of that trip or they would never take it;  or they just don't believe in the phenomenon of wear-and-tear.  (I wonder if this pool of people includes some of the people who disbelieve in the Holocaust?)

Maybe people don't want to believe in wear-and-tear on their cars because they're projecting.  Relax, folks, your bodies are more renewable that your Audis!  (Mostly)

Or, hey, maybe it's just a lot easier (and pleasant) to believe in some unseen daddy-like Being that is responsible for all the good things in our lives and not responsible for any of the bad stuff than it is to believe in the hard cold fact that physical things wear out!

Swing low, Sweet Chariot!  I'm sure you won't suffer any loss of function through all eternity!  There are lots of people around here dreaming about you!

Me, I'll just pass on your ride offer for now and calculating 60 cents per mile for any automobile trip, probably decide to walk, ride my bike or take the bus.

On second thought, I'm sure 60 cents is too low!

Anybody know what it really would be (on average) today?

Just remember to include wear-and-tear on the vehicle!

July 30, 2008                              Valparaiso, IN

A friend of mine is sure that if we didn't have health insurance we would have better medical care.

If everyone paid for their care themselves, doctors would have to be more competitive in their pricing.

True, not everyone can afford care, but more people could afford it if the attitude that cost doesn't matter (because the insurance is paying for it anyway!) didn't allow doctors to charge more than the market would otherwise bear.

The truth is, of course, that we are supporting the doctors plus a whole bunch of insurance company employees in order to have health care.

Which is more expensive overall, just doctors and nurses and hospitals or all those things plus big companies with multitudes slaving away on mostly - paperwork?

I've elaborated on what she said to me, of course (could I help it?) but you've got to admit she has a point! 

July 29, 2008                               Valparaiso, IN

Punctuation is funny stuff.  It is designed to give text the maximum amount of clarity and the minimum amount of ambiguity.

Then a master writer, who has punctiliously mastered the rules of punctuation (oh, am I being redundant?  So sorry!) proceeds to write with subtle indirection, endowing his work with tantalizing, possibly self-contradictory layers of meaning.  (Or in layman's terms, he makes it hard to understand what the hell he's trying to say!)

Ya gotta love it.

July 28, 2008                                Valparaiso, IN

I realized today (two days after seeing Mama Mia and writing about it in *Movies) why I got restive during some of those final long songs.

One of the songs (a very old one, I believe) was a very passionate one about winners taking all.

For the first time, I realized, I actually paid enough attention to the song for it to bug me (congratulations, Meryl Streep!)

Unless you are a gladiator and die when you lose, the winner never takes all.  Life and the world just aren't set up that way.  All the intensity of the song tends to catch you up in its worldwind of emotion, but what is says just isn't true.

Say you are the winner of the Kentucky Derby.  Yes, you get the big prize, but you don't take all even if there aren't purses for second and third place (are there?)  What you don't take with you is the glare of attention that success brings.  What you take with you is immediate peace and quiet and experience to prepare you for the next time round.  What you take with you (hopefully) might be what you bet on another horse!  (Ha, I don't even know if that is allowed.  Probably not.)

Is the song about love?  "Winner takes all" really isn't true about love!  Well, on second thought, yes it is!  The winner does get it all, including the shortcomings, faults, and conversation of the one whose heart she/he has won - at least temporarily!

But that is just the rub of all these winnings.  Firstly, the winner doesn't take all, because "all" is impossible to take!  Secondly, some of what the winner does get turns out to be not so desirable.  Thirdly (and not leastly!) you only get it now!

Of course, we all know that "now" is everything.  Except the frustrating thing about "now" is that it... was!

Nobody's live-long "now" consists of holding up the trophy while thousands of people cheer.  Even famous people have to occupy themselves with activities that bore them, aches and pains, and ordinary chores like getting from one place to another.  They have to do terribly mundane things, like lifting first one leg and then another to get across the room.  And chewing!  What healthy person gets to opt out of that?

I might even venture to guess that a book-lover who does very little other than sitting and reading could be happier than Angelina Jolie!  (Perhaps not a good example, I admit!  How could someone so driven possibly be happy?  But who am I to say?  All I can say is that right now I'm happy that I am not Angelina Jolie!  (Putting on make-up bores me.))

So if you feel you are the loser at any particular moment, congratulations!  You have the opportunity to win another time, freedom from the drawbacks of success, and the anticipation that comes with never having been where you think you want to be!  You still have your great moment to look forward to.  All your future great moments!

Doesn't that feel good - right now?

July 27, 2008                           Valparaiso, IN

Today is Sunday, and Lordy, I feel a sermon coming on!

But it's a short one! 

When I think of all of Christianity's hullaballoo about heaven and hell and all the extreme rapturous praise about Jesus' perfection I imagine what Jesus' response might be:

"Oh, for God's sake."

July 26, 2008                                 Valparaiso, IN

Assumptions can really do us in, can't they?

The Japanese beetles scorned one of our new rose bushes last year (the other got eaten to death before I saw the beetles clustered on it - obviously I wasn't looking!)

This year the I-thought-beetle-free shrub has donated four perfect blooms.  Not bad, I thought, for its second year living under the conditions we provide!

But this morning the latest bloom that looked perfect from a distance looked tattered from close up.  No fewer than three beetles were hidden it its abundant petals - you guessed it - chewing away!

Silly me.  I enjoy the flowers much more than the foliage - why wouldn't the Japanese beetles?

So now I know.  I will have to keep a sharp eye out for beetles on that shrub from now on.  Another bud is coming on, so beetles, watch out!

It's amazing, the stuff you can learn when you just look!

July 25, 2008                                  Valparaiso, IN

I have observed a most fascinating phenomenon in the last two weeks or so.

I have had two visitors, and it seems as if not only I wished for them a very good time!  Admittedly, it is not too surprising that my first guest loved the trip to the Dunes.  I figured if I could get him to a point on the beach that was complete peaceful solitude (except, come to think of it, for me!) he would absolutely love it, and he did!

The Bonne Femme Restaurant visit for a Bastille Day celebration with Dot playing a small accordian and singing French songs was also partly my plan, of course.  But the fact that we got a "ring-side" seat for the presentation of a French Medal of Honor Award by the French Consul from Chicago to William Tuley for his service in World War II, why that seemed like a gift from the Universe!

When my daughter came to visit a few days later, she wanted to visit Michigan (add a new state to her list!)  A visit to Benton Harbor seemed in order.  When I was in college a boyfriend and I had been there overnight on a yacht (part of my experience learning that I can't stomach riches!), but I never saw the town and always imagined it as a wealthy tourist destination.

When we came to a pretty tourist town that had a beach, we stopped there.  It was only after having lunch at a Greek restaurant and enjoying the little painted sailboats on the street corners that we knew for sure that we were not in Benton Harbor, but in St. Joseph!  I felt like Christopher Columbus!  (Didn't know where he was going... didn't know where he'd know the joke.)

After lunch we discovered a park full of contemporary sculptures.  My daughter, an artist herself, took a great deal of pleasure in this unexpected and distinctive display!

I enjoyed it too.  We never actually made it to water's edge on a sandy beach, but the views of Lake Michigan we did see were broader than they are down here on the southern tip of the lake.  The horizons were unencumbered by Michigan City's nuclear power plant and Gary's steel mills.

Of course the proof of that for me remains for another trip.  Next time I visit St. Jos, I'll go all the way down to the water.  And I will be going back!

(Oh, by the way, Benton Harbor is not miles away from St. Joseph as it appears on my little midi atlas.  It is nestled right against the larger community and is definitely not a rich tourist town.  So much for the illusion of forty years!

(An acquaintance told me yesterday about Sleeping Bear Beach up in the northwest of Michigan.  That definitely sounds like a good Lake Michigan camping destination.  I can hardly wait!)

I'm so glad the Elegant Universe seemed bent on showing my visitors a good time!

July 24, 2008                                 Valparaiso, IN

This morning I had a dream that I was playing some kind of outdoor game with some other people, and a great idea for these Rumilluminations came to me.

"Wow, I just had a great idea for my website!"  I was tickled pink.

Later I woke up, and could not remember a thing about the idea.

Good thing!  I had it in a dream!  It probably wouldn't have made any sense at all!

(But just in case, I'll try to dream about it again tonight.)

If the idea is any good, I'll tell you tomorrow!

How is that for a non-message?

July 23, 2008                                       Valparaiso, IN

We spend a lot of money in this country to make life easier and more enjoyable for the physically disabled.

What about those with sensory deprivations?

I have known people who have no sense of smell.

Of course not being able to smell could be life-threatening.  It may be why smoke-alarms were originally invented(?)  But honestly, it seems to me that the loss of a good deal of the joy of eating could be life-threatening as well.  If the four basic tastes and texture are all that are left the subtlety of the dining experience (Oh, let's face it.  What do I know about the "subtlety" of anything?  The yumminess of eating) has got to be greatly reduced.

How many people out there really can't smell much (or at all!) any more?

Maybe there is a market for recipes and prepared foods designed for surprising and delighting the smell-senseless!

Maybe there is a way to make a gourmet meal for those deprived of the traditional pleasures of the palate!

What fun it would be to try to find interesting new combinations that would make those who can't smell smile with a new joy in the treats of the table!

Remember, now you might have a world-wide market!

What the hell am I talking about?

I don't know - how about a food that time-releases sweet into an orgiastic climax in your mouth in the time it takes to chew your food?

How about a food (like sweet-and-sour, maybe, or sweet/tough -and-bitter/soft) in which textures and flavors (combined in teams) have a war in your mouth, the results of which are never certain?  (If bitter wins, the eater has a strong motive to eat more, which is often needed in someone who does not much enjoy food!  Unless they love bitter, of course, in which case they'll have to savor something bitter to get rid of that cloying sweet!  End result more food in the stomach!)

How about drinks that turn to solids at body temperature - surprise! (Is that possible?)  Or solids that turn to liquids - like ice or ice cream but maybe sour at the same time!

Dinner could be a drama that unfolds over time, with a climax and denouement that those who smell might appreciate as much as those who can't!

Well, you get the idea.  If you know someone whose life you want to improve, you can try the stuff out on them!

(Your experimental subject will have to have an adventurous spirit, though!  How many people felt grumpy at the first Thanksgiving dinner because it wasn't what they were used to eating on feast days in the Old World?)

July 22, 2008                                     Valparaiso, IN

In the sixties and seventies, the revelation that a candidate had visited a mental health professional was likely to derail her/more-likely-his career, at least if he was vying for high position.

No matter that most people would improve with professional help!  Even now people who have their hair routinely done by professionals seem to think that the state of their psyches is something they or some equally psychologically unsophisticated spiritual advisor can be entrusted with.

But there is a limit to how much mental instability or insanity can be cured or helped, depending on the diagnosis.  There are some people, paranoid schizophrenics say, that I just don't want as my president, on or off their medications.  (It's too easy to rationalize going off them!)

Why is this country in denial about John McCain?  He has been a prisoner of war for years, for goodness' sake!  How can he possibly not have suffered irreparable damage from that experience that would seriously undermine his ability to make decisions about our futures?

I can understand that he might be in denial about the distortions his world-view must have sustained.  But what is with this positively river of denial that is flowing in this country with regards to this candidate?  I feel like I'm in Egypt!  (Sorry, hackneyed, I know - I couldn't resist!)

The ironic thing is that McCain is up there saying about how much more he knows about cleaning up this Iraq War mess than Obama.

I'm not impressed by people who clean up messes faster or better than others.  I'm impressed by people who can avoid making messes in the first place.  Of course our next President will have to deal with the political reality he "inherits."  I think that Obama can do it with greater humility, humanity, and probably even intelligence than McCain.

But what I really trust Obama not to do is arrogantly plunge us into a new mess during his tenure as President!

McCain just loves to clean up messes, I guess!

I just wish we weren't talking about abuse of power, greed, and major social breakdown caused largely by ourselves, using human lives as mops! 

July 21, 2008                                  Valparaiso, IN

Yesterday was a funny day.  We planned to head into Chicago to take in the Art Museum and an Eastern Indian restaurant, if I could find it.

Since it is hard for me to motivate others to get up early, I was relaxed about when we got to the Dunes Station of the South Shore train.  What did it matter when we got there?  There would be a train within an hour or so.  We could go on a walk in the woods or something.  (I almost said "words," ha ha!)

But when we got there, missing the 9:45 by minutes, we looked at the schedule and saw that there would not be another train until 11:40!

Two hours began to make that morning stroll in the woods sound like a sweaty, dirty hike!

We decided to chase the train.  Since I didn't want to speed and because we kept thinking maybe instead we would look at some of the byways, we didn't come close to catching it.

So we just kept meandering along on Highway 12 towards Chicago.  Saw every South Shore station up to the Gary airport, so now I have an idea of where to aim if I am chasing a train!

It is not a beautiful drive, but there was almost no traffic.  We hit the tollroad (94) for an instant or two, then the Chicago Skyway and Stony Island Road.

We went to a gas station on Stony Island run, seemingly, by someone from Southeast Asia.  In lieu of toilet paper, there was a pitcher of water on the tank of the toilet for washing yourself after using the facilities.

No paper of any kind, but the trash receptacle was full of kleenex, so the neighborhood obviously came prepared!

It made me reflect on the customs of some peoples to cleanse their bums with the left hand and eat with the right.

Is that where the custom of shaking hands with right hands came from?

How does that difference of function, right to left, split your concept of self?  Do you never want to join your own hands because one is so unworthy, so dirty?

Does the arrival of greater wealth, water, soap, and sanitation ease the split between clean and dirty in a person's mind?  Does the ability to cleanse yourself frequently and well erase some of the self-disgust that allows us to feel so bad about so much of our behavior?

In other words, does Americans' cleanliness lead to what is perceived in more traditional circles as licenciousness?  Where does that idea of "cleanliness is next to godliness" come from?  St. John the Baptist, or the early immunologists?

Well, anyway.  We ended up going on impulse to the Museum of Science and Industry (arrival time, 11:20) and eating at Edwardo's Pizza on 57th Street.  Sitting in the relaxed restaurant after a hard day's sightseeing in the Museum, I couldn't believe we were in Chicago.

Chicago!  I felt transported back to the days (before my time) when there was only one road to the big city.

It was all way less stressful than the ordinary thirty-mile trip down highway 30 to Merrillville.  Just a little mosey along the highly industrial southern tip of the lake.

Of course, yesterday was Sunday!

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