Shine on.

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When I started this blog a few years ago, the intent was to share the ways in which The Goat and I were attempting to live lightly, leave a small footprint, be green, or basically how we were attempting to live in such a way that we would use our, and Earth’s, resources, wisely.

Since then a lot has happened.   That’s to be expected, as life moves forward day by day, hour  by hour, minute by minute.  We get older, all of us.  Situations at work change.  Situations at home change – sometimes due to everyone getting older, sometimes due to work, sometimes due to unforeseen circumstances, like an accident or sudden death of a family member.  Fashion, pop culture, and society’s ideals and positions change.

Right now America is going through a huge moral quarrel, and it will get ugly, because it already has.  Each time something horrible happens, my heart breaks a little more.  I can’t wrap my thinking around the hatred spewed almost daily on the nightly news.  I can’t grasp how someone can hate an entire group of people with such ferocity that they lose sight of the objects’ humanity.

Throughout modern history there has always been an “enemy” – and for some reason we like to assign them a color?!  This idea that the “other” is evil propagates an ideology of fear and hatred, entitlement and superiority, and the ever popular “us vs. them” mentality.  While it might be an acceptable attitude at a sporting event, it’s not acceptable elsewhere.

I’m tired of this “us vs. them” ideology.  There is no “them”.  We all live on a small planet with limited resources.  There’s just humanity.  That’s it.  Every human on this rock needs to eat.  Every one of us needs a safe place to sleep at night.  Every single one of us is linked to someone else.  We all need assistance from others, every single day.  You might not think so, but someone works at the power plant that feeds electricity to your home.  Someone wrote that app you can’t live without.  Someone harvested the veggies at the grocery store, yes even the ones that are imported from across the globe.  Someone butchered the cow that provided the burger you grilled last night.  Someone made the fabric from which your clothes are made.  You get the picture.

I may have digressed a tad, but I felt it a bit necessary to do so before getting to my point, which is that I’m going to strive to return to the original intent of this blog – sharing and documenting our attempts to live life the best we can, while using our resources wisely – be that upcycling, gardening, choosing our products carefully, or sharing healthy habits and ways to improve our life.

Right now things look pretty dark; and the only way to overcome darkness is to shine a light.  Once one candle is lit, it’s easy to light a second from the first’s flame, and a third, and a fourth, and a fifth…  We all need to find those people that help us stay positive, keep up the work we’re doing, and to stay focused on the bigger picture – living a good life while leaving a planet for all of those that come after us.

By forcing myself to refocus on the bigger picture I’m hoping to help others do the same.  Because as one of us shines brighter and shares their light with others, the light begins to overcome the darkness, making it easier for all of us to see a way out.

Image result for victory gardenCorny?  Maybe.  Mostly, I’m hoping to remind myself that while the Paradox of Tolerance is very real (see photo above), climate change is happening, violence is becoming the norm, and the political climate is tenuous (and historically reminiscent), sometimes the best acts of patriotism, defiance, and activism look very similar.  And sometimes they are as simple as planting a garden, mending a shoe, or freezing your leftovers…

So can your salsa, mend your shirt, and learn an apocalyptic life skill.  You don’t need to carry a protest sign to be a light in a dark world.  Shine on.

 

 

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Just Keep Living

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The back yard, June 2017

I’ve been doing a lot of yard work recently.  Over time, our yard has changed – trees and shrubs have grown closer to maturity so we have shade where there used to be sun, and sun where the shade has receded as other plants have died.  Jasmine died and critters took new routes, as hers grew over.  Then we got Charlie, and he’s wearing in new traffic patterns.

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“New” veggie bed

All of these changes have forced us to alter parts of the yard and have slowly rearranged the landscape.  Living in an urban environment however, poses some challenges in this regard.  I don’t have large designated veggie  garden, so I’ve been busy trying to find the right place to plant my tomatoes and peppers, moving the peas and broccoli to new spots this year, and preparing new areas for fall while figuring out what needs transplanted (and where!).

All of this garden rearranging got me thinking about the changes in our life’s microclimate.  Right now there seems to be a lot happening in our lives, and the lives of those close to us.  We all go through various seasons in life, and it’s perfectly normal, but, even if they are good changes, they aren’t necessarily

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Back yard, June 2017

easy to adapt to, and when they are negative changes, they can be especially difficult.

There are so many in our circle who are experiencing health issues and all that they encompass; the uncertainty of what to do next, the financial burdens and obligations, mortality, adjusting to a new “normal”, and everything else that comes with a new diagnosis or the expected  progression of a disease.

The grief that some are experiencing is gut wrenching.   Everyone experiences the circumstances surrounding grief differently; even when siblings lose a parent, the siblings will likely react differently because they each had a unique relationship with the parent.  So even when we can’t relate to the specific situation, we can all relate to the pain and feelings involved when someone is grieving.

Addiction is touching the lives of more people everyday.  People we know.  Friends of friends.  It could be alcohol; it could be pain medications; it could be illegal drugs.  But addiction is more common than most want to believe; and it’s not just the life of the addict that is affected.

All these scenarios, and so many others,  make for a gloomy outlook – and leave us wondering what to say or do in response.  What do you say to the couple who lost a 3 week old infant?  To the person trying to come to terms with addiction?  To the person waiting for test results?  How do you help the ailing neighbor dealing with age related issues?  Or the person trying to live day to day with mental illness?

Let’s face it, life is hard.  There are a lot of things that can go wrong.  There are a lot of ways in which we can become overwhelmed with sadness, fear, dread, grey thoughts, feelings of uselessness, loneliness, and anger.  No one is immune to tragedy, not even those annoyingly always upbeat and cheerful people.  You can’t will away unfortunate events.  Bad things can happen to good and happy people, good things can happen to grumpy or mean people too.

There’s a lot of unpleasantness going around.  How do we combat that?  How do we, as a society, rise above it and create a world that helps those who struggle rather than a world that continues to pound them down?  How do we keep going and keep living?

Some people rely on faith to keep them going.  That’s beautiful, and great for them.  But what if faith isn’t something you lean on in times of difficulty?  How do we comfort or care for those whose faith is different than ours without pushing them away by proselytizing at an inopportune time?

Be kind and just keep living.  That’s it.  Just because someone doesn’t believe as you do, doesn’t mean you can’t comfort, care for, or be by their side during a trying situation.

Being kind isn’t hard, or at least it shouldn’t be.   And kindness has this weird way of rippling outward like when a pebble is dropped in a pond.

Smile at that giggling kid.  Be kind to your casier.  Be thankful for the little things.  Walk your dog.  Watch the birds.  Sit on your porch.  Talk to your neighbors.  Be there for your friends.  Actively listen when people tell you what they’re experiencing.  Make dinner, or order take-away, for someone you think might need it.  Send a card – yes, through the post, e-mail doesn’t count.  Leave your extra garden produce on the neighbor’s stoop.   Turn off your cell phone, or don’t answer it, when talking to someone – including cashiers, waitstaff, and receptionists.

Sure, we don’t feel like being kind all the time.  I mean, it can be exhausting.  But if we all do our best to be kind when we are able, it’ll make it that much easier for all of us to just keep living.

Go Team Go!

Recently a regional professional sports team won their league title – you know the best thing that could ever happen to their team.  I understand that that’s a big deal.  Afterall, achieving the best you can in your chosen profession is always pretty damn cool.  What I don’t relate to is the reaction of so many of the fans.  And for this I will be criticized and will offend a large number of people.

Here’s the thing.  There was a parade.  A parade in which hundreds of thousands of people attended – to watch people they don’t personally know drive around a giant trophy.  It was blistering hot, and a weekday.

Yet, earlier in the spring, the remains of an POW/MIA Korean War Vet was returned to his family.  I heard about it on social media and the radio, there was a request to line the route and fly a flag as the convoy passed.  However, there was no traffic jam, there were not thousands, not even hundreds, of people lining the streets.  Honestly, the only evidence I saw just an hour later was an American flag, that previously wasn’t there, hanging from a local business.

And let’s not forget the people who daily do amazing things, but rarely get recognized  – the surgeon who saved my neighbor’s life, the teachers who helped your kids get through a rough spell in their life, the garbage collector who collects our refuse, the maintenance crew that shows up when a water line breaks, the friend who saves a stray animal, the kid who shovels their elderly neighbor’s walkway without being asked.

Again, I’m not trying to belittle the achievement of the team that won their league “We’re number 1” title.  Instead, I want to ask you to think about how you react to that, after all, it’s very likely that you had nothing to do with their victory.  But celebrate, it’s always fun, and I get the excitement behind it – after all, sports provide some of our best entertainment.

In general, we like to know that people are cheering us on, be it in a business venture, a friendly competition, a performance, or a league title.  And believe me, if my nieces and nephews lived closer, I’d be trying to get to a few of their events to cheer them on – be it an athletic event, spelling bee, or dance recital.  Because, again, it’s nice to know we’re being supported by those who know us.

What I don’t understand is why so many people think having a “winning” professional sports team in the area is such a great thing for the children.  “Think of the kids!  They got to see their team win!  It’s so inspiring!”  First of all, it’s not “their team”; their team is the one they play on through their school or the local organization that is home to the field/arena on which they practice and play.  Secondly, how is watching a group of paid, adult athletes  who are done developing physically, and with resources the kid will most likely never have access to, inspiring?  I understand that it can be inspiring to watch someone play the game well.  But to put so much emphasis on a team or player at a level which so very few can ever attain, just seems silly to me.

Which brings me to a bigger question, especially if you’re a Christian and have ever, EVER, accused someone of worshiping a false god: Are you simply a fan of the team, or are you worshiping them?  I know that sounds harsh, but if that question ruffles your feathers, you might want to ask yourself why it agitates you.  If you are a Christian, ask yourself, if the parade were held on a Sunday, would you have skipped church for it?  It’s a slippery slope, being a fan vs. worshiping a false god.

Many of the Christians I know often use the word “idolatry” when referring to money, greed, keeping up with the Joneses, pride, or vanity.  But how often do we use the word “idol” and forget that it designates the object/person being idolized, meaning, it’s a form of idolatry.   Sure, it’s good to have people to look up to, even idolize, as we all need a goal, something to strive for, or a person to inspire us to do better.  But at what point does it become more than that?

Unfortunately, I see way too many people, regardless of religious affiliation, who act in ways that treat professional sports teams and players as if they are gods to be worshiped.  Are your religious rituals much different from your sports rituals?  Both have designated locations, suggested attire, chants or songs, food or culinary expectations and rituals, and strong affiliations.  I can just imagine an alien life form viewing our broadcasts and labeling the planet based on professional teams as religious sects?

“Hmm, it looks like the major religious beliefs are based on a checkered round ball, but this continent seems to have adapted it to a pointy oval one.  And across the planet there seem to be variations on the round ball, they aren’t all colored and they come in different sizes, some groups kick it, some hit it with an object.”

“Agreed.   I can’t seem to keep the different sects separate.  It looks like the prominent biped species shows their allegiance by wearing and displaying the colors and symbols of the sect they follow.  A large number of them have shrines in their home and have rituals they must follow before the clergy meet.  And the sects do seem somewhat regional with missionary type pockets around the planet. “

“True, but I haven’t yet figured out what the primary clergy are trying to accomplish when they meet.  They seem to schedule meetings of different sects during certain seasons.  But I’m not sure how the outcome is interpreted by the followers or what the different types of clergy are trying to to do during the meetings.  And why are some sects physically violent, but not others?”

Silly?  Yes.  Harsh?  Probably.  But again, I’m not against sports; team sports are a great way for people to build relationships and learn to work together, and all sports offer physical exercise, which many of us don’t get enough of.  Don’t even tell me that you think I’m jelous – because let’s face it, the odds of anyone making it to a professional sports team is pretty slim (The Goat has done the math).  And I’m also not against being a fan of anything – I’ve got favorite bands and musicians, authors, foods, restaurants, etc.  And I will gladly tell people about them when asked or the topic comes up.  It’s the level of fanaticism, bordering on idolatry, so many people have towards pro teams that I don’t understand.

If you have a favorite team, by all means, keep cheering them on – especially your little league and local minor league teams.  Please just remember that for many of us, including most sports fans, a victory will most likely only minimally affect your daily life, if at all.  Tired or hungover because you stayed up to watch the game?  You probably still need to get up the next day and go about your routine; just like those who were up to late with a sick kid,  someone who made a trip to the ER, parents waiting for their teens to get home safely, and everyone else who was going about life as usual.

I’m not trying to villainize sports fans, or take a righteous high road.  I’m just looking at it from a different perspective, albeit a minority perspective.  But then again, if I were born ages ago, you probably wouldn’t have found be at the Coliseum watching gladiators either.  Go Team Go!

 

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