Monday, February 27, 2012

Some years ago I was in a hardware store near Irwin, PA. It was close to quitting time and I was the only customer in the store. A number of older local men were standing at the cash register talking to the clerk. I was ready to check out but I wasn’t in a hurry, so I stopped to listen to the conversation.

The men were all older than I and had been schoolboys during the height of the depression. They were trading stories of their experiences during that time. I listened to tales of hard times, no work and little money. They told of the scarcities they endured, of patched clothing and no shoes. After a bit of time I ventured to ask them a question.

“Did you go hungry?” I asked.

“Oh, no,” they answered. “We had plenty of food.”

Irwin at the time of the depression was a rural area. Almost everyone had a garden and those that didn’t learned very quickly how to plant and maintain one. Most of the families were used to canning and preserving and there was no problem in having a stock of food.

I was younger than those men, having been born in 1932, in the third year of the depression, but my limited memories of that time were similar. My family did not lack for food. We also lived in the country and were used to raising and preserving our own food.

What would the situation be if a similar hard time happened in this day? How many people would be in the position of already raising and preserving their food? How many would be in a position to learn? How does one, for instance, turn a sweet pumpkin into a pumpkin pie from scratch? How many possess the equipment and knowledge to do that? And how many could do so if it happened that they were denied, either by lack of supply or cash, access to electricity, water, natural gas or gasoline? And, assuming a family were able to get seeds in the ground and successfully harvest a crop, would they, in this day of genetically altered seeds, be able to repeat that a second year without having money to pay for the new seeds required?

The depression that occurred from 1929 through the early 40’s was something no one foresaw and, apparently, no one could prevent. If such a depression occurred today it would have more disastrous results. The conditions for that we are largely creating ourselves.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

What does one do on a February day that seems as though it should be occurring on the first of April—wonder why winter never really came; think of global warming; worry about weather’s vengeance in coming months?

I didn’t do any of those things. Instead, I got out some seed catalogs. It’s not that I’m any great gardener, but there’s something about the approach of spring that has always caused me to think of growing vegetables, flowers, anything. I’ve been that way from the time I was a small child. It might be due to the fact that I was raised in the country. I remember the seed catalogs arriving to our house in January of every year. The luscious fruits and vegetables pictured in them served to inspire me, although I’m not sure which was most appealing, the thought of planting a garden or the thought of school ending for the summer.

My family poured over the seed catalogs and every year, as soon as the snow vacated the ground and the neighbor’s tractor could access the garden, that plot of ground was plowed. It was allowed to lie in that condition through most of April and then it was disked and about the last week of April the planting began. We had a large garden as did many of our neighbors, and my family canned and preserved enough to carry us through the following winter.

I moved away from the country when I grew older and for many years I didn’t have the opportunity to garden. But I never lost my yearning for spring planting. Eventually, city life changed to country living once again and I found that my desire to plant was still alive. To tell the truth, I was never as enthusiastic about the harvest. I loved to plan, to plant and to tend, but the harvest, for some reason, was not, for me, the high point of gardening. Perhaps it was the creation of something that interested me. If it had not been for the fact of waste I would have been just as happy to forego the harvest, or let it go to those more interested.

I wonder if similar feelings had some part in Martin Luther’s famous quote, “Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.” I think not, but then, again—perhaps.

Monday, February 13, 2012

Know thyself, said Socrates. Many other wise individuals have rendered the same advice over centuries. I have come to believe that this is the most important thing in life. I have also come to believe that when Christ taught that we should “seek first the kingdom of God” that He was speaking of the same thing. This is what we are meant to do—to know ourselves and to realize our connection to the divine. And I have come to also believe that this is quite possible because that connection is within ourselves, within each of us.

I am reading a book that offers a great clue as to the nature of this phenomenon. The book is “My Stroke of Insight” by Jill Bolte Taylor. Dr. Taylor is a brain scientist who, in her mid-thirties, suffered a stroke one morning. The stroke was due to a blood clot that caused the left hemisphere of her brain to cease functioning for periods of time. During those periods, she was left with only the right hemisphere of her brain operating and in those periods she experienced a different world.

A very simplified explanation of this is that the left hemisphere governs logic, language, ego, judgment, etc.—the everyday aspects of life. The right hemisphere is responsible for creativity, the present moment, intuition, imagination, our relation to the universe. During periods in which her right brain was governing her existence, Dr. Taylor experienced “the knowledge that deep internal peace is accessible to anyone at any time.” [1] When her left brain functioned, she once again became connected to the everyday world of existence. During this process, she became aware of the vast possibilities offered by the often maligned and neglected powers of the right mind.

In her book, Dr. Taylor builds an argument for everyone to achieve a more balanced use of both hemispheres of the brain. This, she claims, is possible by conscious re-training of ourselves. She quotes her friend, Dr. Kat Domingo, as saying, “Enlightenment is not a process of learning, it is a process of unlearning.”[2]

This is a fascinating subject. I shall read this book again, possibly a number of times. For me, Dr. Taylor’s experience opens the possibility of a real and simple means to begin a journey—one of self discovery that is, as I have intuitively felt, simple and available to everyone, without exception.

[1] My Stroke of Insight, Viking Press, P 111

[2] My Stroke of Insight, Viking Press, p 160

Monday, February 6, 2012

I bought a pair of boots yesterday. They’re really nice boots—waterproof, lined, and at a very good price. I was fortunate to get them. My old boots gave out last year. They sprung a leak and can not be repaired. It’s been on my mind to get a new pair but I procrastinated about that. With the weather being as mild as it has been this year, getting new boots never seemed to be a priority.

Perhaps my buying the boots yesterday was some sort of psychic prophecy, for today it is snowing, one of the few times it has done so this winter. It’s a bit unusual, having so little snow. I understand there is even more unusual weather other places. In this country, there have been tornados in Kansas and, if I recall correctly, Tennessee. This is quite early for tornadoes. Normally they don’t occur until April. I understand other parts of the world are undergoing periods of unusual cold, a condition that is deadly for many people.

This atypical weather brings on thoughts of global warming. Could it be that we are beginning to experience results of that phenomenon? The accompanying question is: Are we (humans) responsible for the phenomenon? Whether we are or not will probably never be decided. Actually, we may all die of heat stroke and still be arguing about it. The second possibility is that the unusual weather is part of the 2012 event, that which is predicted by the Mayan calendar. That also is problematical. There are ongoing discussions as to what, if anything, the end of that calendar signifies. Is it global calamity, the end of the world, a transition to more enlightened times or nothing at all? Either event may or may not hinge on the actions of mankind. We may not be able to prevent either from occurring by taking more care of the environment as is suggested by some. What harm there would be in proceeding to do that anyway is beyond me. But that is another subject.

Be that as it may, my new boots, warm, snug, dry and skid proof, make me prepared for any kind of weather, prepared for anything—except the end of the world, of course. That particular event calls for a different sort of preparation.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Valentine’s Day is coming. I know this because I’ve seen merchandise appropriate for the day on display in the stores for a number of weeks. That is only logical. Christmas and New Years are past. We have to have something to look forward to and buy for. Magazines get into the act as well. Valentine issues are out with recipes, party instructions, decorating ideas and gift (believe it or not) suggestions. Ironically, some of these magazines will have in them stories about days gone by when life was simpler, time passed more slowly and the high point and the whole idea behind Valentine’s Day was the valentine a child made out of colored paper and a scrap of ribbon—all by him- or herself.

Ah, but where are the snows of yesteryear?