Monday, October 29, 2012

Our society is built around the automobile. I have become acutely aware of that since I have given up driving. Getting where you want to go is extremely difficult without a car. One of the reasons for this is the lack of public transportation, but that is not the only reason. Try setting out to do something on foot and see what happens.

Yesterday I had occasion to do some shopping. A friend offered to drive me to Latrobe 30, a distance of about ten miles or so, where there are several small shopping centers. I wanted to visit several stores so she dropped me off and made arrangements to pick me up in two hours.

The highway system is not meant to accommodate pedestrians. Sidewalks have, of course, been thought unnecessary for many years now. So much for lack of convenience. But that is what has not been built; what has been built serves as obstructions for a person on foot, especially one with several bags of purchases. Metal barriers in the median strips are meant to prevent vehicles from crossing from one side of the road to another. They also prevent pedestrians from doing the same thing. In one way that’s good, keeping people from crossing roads at any point and making them go to a crossroad. But when one gets to the intersection—no crosswalk. The pedestrian is still on his own in crossing the street and at the mercy of the driver.

In our society, the pedestrian is a thing of the past. They are not expected to be on highways. Still, there are areas in the country where there are provisions for such things as pedestrians and bicycles on public highways. Are such areas behind the times or ahead of them? Interesting question.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Penny, my cat, and I get along pretty well. We’re both easy going. However, there are several things of which Penny definitely does not approve. One of those is me making the bed every morning. I’ve always done that. I rather like to have it that way. Penny sees absolutely no sense in that. I don’t disturb her in the bed-making procedure as she is usually sacked out on the chair in the corner about five feet from the bed. She seems to simply regard it as an unnecessary disruption to the otherwise tranquil nature of the morning. As soon as she becomes aware that bed making is about to begin, she vacates the bedroom for the more restful atmosphere of the living room. I just let her go, secure in the knowledge that she will shortly show up in the kitchen for breakfast.

That brings up another thing of which Penny is particular and that is the conditions of her dining. It’s not the food that is the issue. She is quite happy with a bit of tuna or some dry food. What she likes is privacy. If I put out her food and then continue to putter around the kitchen, she will leave and wait until I finish puttering so I’ve gotten in the habit of putting Penny’s food out only after I have finished everything that needs to be done and can leave her if total peace. The situation may be due the fact that I once—no, twice—stepped on Penny’s tail (unintentionally, of course) in the midst of my puttering. She’s taking no more chances on that happening.

The third idiosyncrasy (I believe that’s the right word) of Penny is the fact that she objects to my singing. She makes that quite plain. If I start singing she heads elsewhere. Does that offend me? Well . . . yeah. I had a dog many years ago that objected to my playing the bagpipe. I could understand that. The bagpipe is an instrument that is either loved or hated with few in-betweens. This particular dog even hated the sound of the practice chanter and he would react to either the chanter or the pipes by sitting on the floor at my feet and howling his heart out. At least Penny doesn’t howl. She is much more discreet in expressing her displeasure—but express it she does. Does that stop me from singing? No. I put up with her idiosyncrasies; she’ll have to put up with mine.

Monday, October 8, 2012

The great longing in the world is for peace. That is a goal for many, the ideal that has been sought after for centuries. Others think peace is only a dream, something that can never be attained, an impossibility. Still others are quite satisfied with the existence of war, sometimes because of personal convictions and sometimes because it is profitable for them, either monetarily or otherwise.
There were times in which there was a popular belief that a war was for the purpose of preventing future wars. That was true at the time of World War I, the “War to end all wars.” That was also true at the time of the first Gulf War, the necessity for which was debated in Congress. One congressman asked citizens to call in with their opinion as to whether the US should enter the war, which he characterized as the “war to end war.”
There were, at times, scientists and inventors who hoped to develop a weapon so terrible that nations would never again think of entering into hostilities with one another. Still, war continues.
If peace is a realistic goal, by what route can it be reached? Certainly, war itself will not work. The use of violence only leads to more violence. Furthermore, any violence can generate enmity that will fester and cause violence to reappear long after years, generations or even centuries have passed. Examples of this are many. Throughout history, wiser souls have preached against such a policy. There is a story concerning Abraham Lincoln that illustrates this. At a reception held during the Civil War he spoke of the South in tones of reconciliation. A woman, a fiery patriot, rebuked him, telling him that those of the Confederacy were traitors and should be destroyed. Lincoln answered, “Madam, do I not destroy my enemy when I make him my friend?”
Non-violence is the current hope as a route to the abolition of war. It has been advocated and used by great men such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr. and is the method responsible for great advancement in freedom and human rights. Its use is popular in peace movements in this country and abroad. It is thought of as an instrument of peace because it confronts an enemy without the use of violence of any kind. It does, however, make great use of confrontation as its method of operation. This confrontation can, in itself, be an act that brings on violence. In this sense it promotes what it seeks to prevent.
Mankind has been concerned with the problem of war and violence and with the pursuit of elusive peace for centuries. We seem to be no closer to our goal in spite of all this effort. At times reaching the goal seems to be impossible and yet examples of peaceful times indicate that it is more than a dream. So why can’t we reach this goal?
It is a possibility that we have been looking at the entire situation in a manner that is totally wrong. We have been regarding peace as a goal. It is nothing of the kind. It is, rather, the way we reach the goal; it is a method, a road, a route, a path, a journey. The task, then, is simply to bring peace into being and then travel the path it indicates. How is that done? That is what we will have to investigate.        

Those who cannot think outside the box are destined to live within it.


Monday, October 1, 2012

My furnace came on in the middle of the night. It’s that time of year, the advent of colder weather, the slide into increasing darkness, the sun drifting away from us. Every year it happens and every year I greet it with mixed emotions, happiness and regret intertwined, and every year I wonder why that is.

When I was very young it was a simpler thing to understand. On the minus side there was school, which I disliked, and cold, cold weather, which I disliked somewhat less but which, at times, was daunting. I grew up in an old farmhouse with a coal furnace in the cellar. That furnace was banked at night but inevitably its source of heat diminished by morning into a few glowing coals. As the year progressed I could expect my room to be colder and colder when I arose. On mornings with freezing temperatures there would be a skim of ice on the water bucket in the pantry that furnished our drinking water. Staying under the covers on especially cold mornings would insure that the furnace had been stoked, heat had begun seeping back into the house and the kitchen would be warm and fragrant with the odors of breakfast by the time I got downstairs. Having to get up for school ruined that option.

On the plus side of the season were the sparkling days of changing leaves, long walks in the afternoon sun, the smell of wood smoke, and kettles of bubbling apple butter on a crisp morning. Later in the year, snow turned the whole earth into a playground.

I had thought to try to analyze in this little piece my conflicting feelings toward colder weather but I don’t think I’ll continue with that. It’s not that important. Every season contains both pluses and minuses and every one contains memories and emotions of both. But each season is a new one, both in the sense of being a change in the time of year and being new for me to experience—the first time in my life for that current series of days to occur. Who can say what they will bring and what there will be to experience and enjoy? I should not greet them with any particular emotion, either good or bad, but simply experience them for what they are.