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simply being human

Human Reality

July 18, 2012

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“We are
Born like this
Into this
Into these carefully mad wars
Into the sight of broken factory windows of emptiness
Into bars where people no longer speak to each other
Into fist fights that end as shootings and knifings
Born into this
Into hospitals which are so expensive that it’s cheaper to die
Into lawyers who charge so much it’s cheaper to plead guilty
Into a country where the jails are full and the madhouses closed
Into a place where the masses elevate fools into rich heroes”
Charles Bukowski

Welcome to the realities of life—well at least the human made realities. We were given the tools and this is what we created. We made the rules, set up our societies—and we can change them for the better.

Life is messy, it’s not perfect—and it’s not meant to be. But that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved—that we’re helpless to change our situation. We can use our imagination to see things not as they are now, but the way they could be.

It starts with one person asking, “Why does it have to be like this?” People created these norms and people can change them. It’s about doing what’s right—helping each other make sense of our limited time on this planet. We’re part of a changing Universe and we need to evolve and improve the human condition.

Just because we’re born into this, doesn’t mean we’re stuck with it.

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.” Mahatma Gandhi

D’oh!

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Food Zombies

July 17, 2012

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obese people“According to the surgeon general, obesity today is officially an epidemic; it is arguably the most pressing public health problem we face, costing the health care system an estimated $90 billion a year.

Three of every five Americans are overweight; one of every five is obese. The disease formerly known as adult-onset diabetes has had to be renamed Type II diabetes since it now occurs so frequently in children.

Because of diabetes and all the other health problems that accompany obesity, today’s children may turn out to be the first generation of Americans whose life expectancy will actually be shorter than that of their parents.”
Michael Pollan

We’re becoming a nation of food zombies—hypnotized, without consciousness and self-awareness about the bad food we’re eating. We mindlessly shuffle through our days responding to pizza, fast food and soft drink advertising, consuming huge quantities of sugar, fat, salt and other chemicals. This over-processed food has taken control of our brains, making us crave the things that are killing us!

We’re lured in by mouth-watering ads, free samples, super-sized portions, all we can eat promises and low prices—but there are hidden costs.

Over time, this bad food causes high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, diabetes and cancer. And if we want to live, the price goes up. They sold us the poison, and now they’ll sell us the cure—well at least a temporary fix:

“Come on down! Here are your pills and if they don’t work, we can staple your stomach or suck the fat out of you—maybe all three!”

It’s a rigged game and we’re the losers, if we don’t wake up and make healthier food choices.

“More die in the United States of too much food than of too little”
John Kenneth Galbraith

When you super-size your body—you minimize your life.

Fighting Dragons

July 14, 2012

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Credit: Suzan Black

Professor Moody: What are you going to do about your dragon?
Harry: Oh… um… well, you know, I just thought I’d…
Professor Moody: Listen to me, Potter. Your pal Diggory? By your age he could turn a whistle into a watch and have it sing you the time. Miss Delacour is as much a fairy princess as I am. As for Krum, his head may be filled with sawdust, but Karkaroff’s is not. They’ll have a strategy. And you can bet that it will play to Krum’s strengths. Come on, Potter, what are your strengths?
Harry: I dunno… I can fly, I mean I’m a fair flyer…
Professor Moody: Better than fair the way I heard it.
Harry: But I’m not allowed a broom.
Professor Moody: You’re allowed a wand…

We all have dragons to battle. This scene from Harry Potter can apply to any of the problems we face in life—scary challenges that we have no idea how to tackle—such as: What are you going to do about your addiction? health? gambling? debt? weight? drinking? anger?

Life is a series of problems to be solved and we all have unique talents and abilities to help us find the solutions. Face your challenges head-on and use your strengths to overcome them—fight fire with fire!

What is your dragon? What are your strengths?

“Opportunities to find deeper powers within ourselves come when life seems most challenging.”  – Joseph Campbell

Got a light?

Blue Ice

July 12, 2012

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melting iceberg

“Global warming sounds so big that it’s hard to imagine that you as an individual can do anything about it (“what I do is such a tiny drop in the bucket it doesn’t matter anyway”). But that’s where you’re wrong: the reason Earth is in peril is because of individual actions—by me, by you, by the person sitting next to you, by the person you bump into on the street.

The bad news is that when we put all those individual actions together, it becomes one huge number—big enough to change climate, big enough to change how Earth supports life. The good news—the very good news—is that, just as the problem is the sum of what each one of us is doing, so is fixing the problem.”
Anthony D. Barnosky, Heatstroke: Nature in an Age of Global Warming

“Ohhh…you cursed brat! Look what you’ve DONE! I’m melting! Melting! Oh…what a world, what a world!” Wicked Witch, The Wizard of Oz

Be cool. Reduce your carbon footprint.

To Serve Man?

July 11, 2012

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cow

“A veteran USDA meat inspector from Texas describes what he has seen: “Cattle dragged and choked…knocking ’em four, five, ten times. Every now and then when they’re stunned they come back to life, and they’re up there agonizing. They’re supposed to be re-stunned but sometimes they aren’t and they’ll go through the skinning process alive. If people were to see this, they’d probably feel really bad about it. But in a packing house everybody gets so used to it that it doesn’t mean anything.”  – Gail Eisnitz, Slaughterhouse

There’s a classic episode from The Twilight Zone called To Serve Man—where humans lose their place at the top of the food chain. Alien visitors come to Earth with the seemingly peaceful intention of ending war, improving our agriculture and creating the ideal environment for our species.

We’re wary of them at first, but their actions and the title of a book that they brought—“To Serve Man”— gain our trust. Eventually thousands of humans are being transported to the aliens planet for “vacations” and to learn more about their culture.

However, as one of the head scientists is entering their spacecraft—a colleague, having translated the rest of the alien’s book, rushes up and yells: “Don’t get on that ship…To Serve Man…it’s a cookbook!”

This plot twist is shocking to us because our species is the one who raises animals for food—and the idea that we humans are on their menu—is a nightmare.

The only difference between the aliens and humans in this story is that they showed more compassion towards us than we do to our fellow animals.

“Poor animals, how jealously they guard their bodies, for to us is merely an evening’s meal, but to them is life itself.”  – T. Casey Brennan

Evolve—moove on.


Our Search

July 10, 2012

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man meditating by ocean sunset

“It is very reasonable to want to understand something of our context in a broader universe, awesome and vast. It is also reasonable for us to want to understand something about ourselves. This two-pronged investigation into the nature of the world and the nature of ourselves, is to a very major degree, I believe, what the human enterprise is about.”  – Carl Sagan

When I was five or six years old, I asked my parents “Why am I me?” I don’t remember what they told me, since no one really knows the answer—but I’m still asking myself that question.

My existence in the universe has been like coming into a movie that’s already started—knowing that I’ll be leaving before it’s over. I wasn’t there to see the beginning—and I won’t be here to see how it ends. So while I’m alive, I want to learn as much as I can about what’s going on and who I am.

Society sets us on a path: religion, education, civic duty, work, marriage, raising a family, retirement and death—not necessarily in that order.

But what’s the bigger picture? What’s all this suppose to really mean—if anything? I may never know for sure—but I’m starting to understand.

It’s the experience—learning and evolving—being true to yourself—even if it doesn’t make money. It’s helping fellow travelers along the way—it’s the journey.

T.S. Eliot sums it up nicely— “The end of our exploring will be to arrive at where we started, and to know the place for the first time.”

So enjoy the ride and try not to miss too much of the scenery.

“Without knowing what I am and why I am here, life is impossible.”
Leo Tolstoy, Anna Karenina

Ohmmm…

Stuffocation

July 8, 2012

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Wrecked Cars“Dharma Bums refusing to subscribe to the general demand that they consume production and therefore have to work for the privilege of consuming, all that crap they didn’t really want anyway such as refrigerators, TV sets, cars, at least new fancy cars, certain hair oils and deodorants and general junk you finally always see a week later in the garbage anyway, all of them imprisoned in a system of work, produce, consume, work, produce, consume…”
Jack Kerouac, The Dharma Bums

I have too much stuff. So I’ve been getting rid of a lot of my possessions: old clothes, shoes, TV sets, books, CDs, dishes, paper files, sports equipment, and generic junk. It clutters up my life and weighs me down. It liberates me to donate, sell, giveaway or throw out these things. I feel better without them.

This is just one step toward my goal to live more simply. Getting rid of material things lets me focus on what’s important in my life—and it’s not “things”.

Here’s George Carlin’s classic standup routine about “Stuff”. It’s a funny observation about how the stuff we own—really owns us.

“A house is just a place to keep your stuff while you go out and get more stuff.”  – George Carlin

Got stuff?

Fellow Travelers

July 7, 2012

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bees honey

“So the next time a bee hovers above your breakfast toast, attracted by the sweet jam, gently shoo her away. For she might be a fellow sentient being, experiencing her brief interlude in the light, shoehorned between this moment and eternity.”  – Christof Koch

This reminds me that a life is a life—something we seem to forget when we get too wrapped up in our own.

“Until he extends his circle of compassion to all living things, man will not himself find peace.”  Albert Schweitzer

Bee aware.

Humans Gone Wild

July 1, 2012

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earth

In my lifetime, the earth’s human population has grown from2.6 billion to over 7 billion people. The following quote from The Matrix, offers this perspective on our species:

“I’d like to share a revelation that I’ve had, during my time here. It came to me when I tried to classify your species and I realized that you aren’t actually mammals. Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with its surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area and you multiply, and multiply until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. Do you know what it is? A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet. You are a plague, and we… are the cure.”  – Agent Smith

Carl Sagan talks about how it’s up to us to save our species and preserve the earth in this quote from Pale Blue Dot:

“Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all the vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. To me, it underscores our responsibility to deal more kindly with one another, and preserve and cherish the pale blue dot, the only home we’ve ever known.”

If any other species on earth were reproducing at this rate, depleting the earth’s resources and destroying the environment, we humans, would do something about it…we are the cure.

“Two things are infinite: the Universe and human stupidity; and I’m not sure about the Universe.”
Albert Einstein

It’s getting crowded in here.

The Moments

June 30, 2012

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moments billboard

I used to drive by a wooden billboard that was rundown and falling apart. Every time I passed it, I told myself I should stop and take some pictures. An old, weathered billboard would be a nice addition to my iStockphoto portfolio.

One day, I parked nearby and began to take some photos. At first, I was only interested in shots of the entire billboard, but as I started to look closer, I saw some interesting words and letters to photograph. This is one of the images.

At the time, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the tear in the letters, I noticed it later when I was processing my images. I like this picture because of its message. The word “moments” and the tearing away of the letters, symbolizes the fleeting nature of all things—living or not. The moment is here now—but already giving way to the next one.

This quote from Zhuangzi states this in an elegant way: “Mysteriously, wonderfully, I bid farewell to what goes. I greet what comes; for what comes cannot be denied and what goes cannot be detained.”

A few weeks later, the wooden billboard was gone—replaced by a sturdy steel one that looks like it will last forever—but nothing ever does.

“Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.”  – Omar Khayyam

Got a minute?