Once a Mother, Always a Mother

I miss my children. It’s not the miles (we live across the country from each other), but it’s the passage of years. I am proud of them both. They’ve made good lives for themselves, with jobs and partners and children of their own. They have grown up to be what I had wished for them: responsible, independent, compassionate people.

But lately, I’ve been doing a lot of thinking about those years when they were young. (And I was younger, but that’s not the point.) Looking back over all those years, it’s like a slideshow in my mind. Flickering images, passing in succession, of babies and toddlers and tweens and teens. I have come to realize that I loved every moment with them. I’d like to be able to relive some of that, to have a second chance to enjoy all those “firsts” for those new beings.

I had only the first 3 days of my eldest child’s life as I gave her up for adoption. While that was a hard decision, I have never doubted it, have always known that it was the best thing for her–even if it wasn’t what I would have wanted for me. But my circumstances were such that I was not able to have a child in my life at that time. I am still in contact and I am happy to report that her mother did a great job–I’m also very proud of her and her accomplishments.

W, my son, was born in the year of the Texas sesquicentennial (150 years) of statehood and the 100th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty. I was 8 months pregnant with him when I watched Challenger blow up. Ronald Reagan was in the White House. We were listening to “That’s What Friends Are For”, “Addicted to Love”, “Rock Me Amadeus” and Prince was giving us a “Kiss”.

Ferdinand and Imelda Marcos had fled the Philippines, leaving her thousands of shoes behind. 1986 was the year of the nuclear accident at Chernobyl, Chicago won the Superbowl and the Mets were the World Champions. Science was giving us the first Hep B vaccine and superconductivity; Voyager passed Jupiter and sent back photos that answered some of our questions about it. Fox channel was born on our TV and Oprah had her show.

I was busy with more important things. W was born at the end of March. I watched him lift his head and turn it over while in his layette at the hospital. His father and I took him home and began our life as a family (not just a couple). Because I breastfed him, we had a lot of “face” time. I talked to him and sang to him–not unlike the mariachi bands that wander through the Mexican restaurants while you’re trying to eat. There were so many firsts, those remarkable moments of new actions, new abilities. His first smile was wonderful, all gums and happiness.

Now, looking back, it seems like the time went by like lightning…a flickering moment and then on to something else that was new. He learned to drink from a straw. He tasted strawberry jam for the first time. He laughed, that deep and wonderful belly laugh that only babies have. He went to Mother’s Day out, leaving the house as it had always been and then coming home to an empty house; then he crawled all over, looking for our things. He (and I) lived with his great-grandparents for several months until we left for Germany. His first Christmas filled the floor with presents from the grandparents / great-grandparents. He preferred his father’s optic orange golf ball.

He got a stuffed animal for his 2nd birthday, a duck we named George. W still has George and he still sleeps on W’s bed. Apparently his wife cuddled with George when he was on sea duty. He would take all of the toys out of the footlocker (toy box) and then climb in his…boat? Spaceship? Maybe it was his car… He had a toy phone and he would hold it up to his ear and hold a conversation–complete with pauses while the “other person” was speaking. He was a loving baby, happy to get hugs and kisses, which he learned to return with great enthusiasm. There was a certain feeling of awe to realize that I was the center of his Universe–at least for the first couple of years.

His sister (L) was born in 1988, when W was 2.5 years old. That was the year George Michael sang about his “Faith” and it was the first time we were Rick Rolled. (We didn’t even know that was what happened, those first few times of hearing Rick Astley singing.) And we all knew the words to Bobby McFerrin’s song…”Don’t Worry, Be Happy”. Reagan was still President. Pan-Am flight 103 exploded from a bomb, to crash in Lockerbie, Scotland. Benazir Bhutto was elected as the first Islamic woman to be Prime Minister in Pakistan; she said of her two terms in that position: “The government I led gave ordinary people peace, security, dignity, and opportunity to progress.”

Michael Dukakis and Lloyd Bentsen were the candidates for the Democrats; George Bush and Daniel Quayle were the GOP’s choice. Washington won the Superbowl; LA Dodgers were the World Series winners. CDs were outselling vinyl and Ted Turner created his own TV station. “The Last Emperor” won the Oscar for Best Picture. Oh, and the US Navy shot down an Iranian airliner after mistaking it for a jet fighter.

L was born in the middle of November, just in time to get Christmas presents that year. She was also born in Augsburg, Germany. The first stuffed animal she was given was from her father and brother–a little orange tabby kitten. Last I heard, L still has it.

Each of my pregnancies were different except for the morning sickness that lasted all day. This time, with L, I had a toddler to chase after and couldn’t just sit quietly, hoping for the queasiness to pass. By the time I was about 6 months along, poor little guy had to climb the four floors up to our apartment by himself. I wasn’t able to balance him and my tummy without feeling like we’d all go rolling down. The only question he asked me about the sibling that was coming along was “how does the baby get out?”. Whew. Missed the big one, “how did the baby GET IN?”

I announced this pregnancy to my grandparents (the “greats” for my kids) when I told my grandmother that I could not come to the US for their 50th wedding anniversary because the airline wouldn’t let me fly with a newborn. Instead, they came to Germany for Christmas and New Year’s. It was the first time they had ever been out of the US.

I got to see my children interact with my grandparents–the youngest and the oldest of the family. My grandfather took out his dentures to show W–who promptly ran to me and held on. I guess he thought he’d get bitten. For various reasons, I was bottle-feeding L and it has been a cherished memory, the sight of Grandmom, holding her and feeding her.

W took his position as the older brother seriously and was always helpful–bringing me diapers or a burp rag. He was always gentle with her and I enjoyed watching the two of them, learning about each other. BUT! L’s personality was already manifesting itself: she could be extremely vocal about the things she wanted (even if it only was in baby-babble) and I told her father that one day, our child would come running into the room, crying and saying, “SHE hit me!”. (I was not wrong.)

As a stay-at-home Mom (SAHM, so I’ve heard is the acronym), my world revolved around my children. Taking care of them (and their environment) was a major priority. I wasn’t chained to them, there were no bad feelings about being at home. As a matter of fact, I thoroughly took pleasure and joy in being with them, in the daily routine. And a daily routine with a baby and a toddler is a study in changes and discovery. (I don’t mean diaper changes, although we had those, too.)

I tried to mark in my own mind each of the many milestones, for both of them. The first food, the first drinking from a cup, the first step…so many “firsts” it could be overwhelming. I’d be marveling at one and then BOOM! We’d have another. Even the “firsts” I had had with W were different than those same things with L. And I loved every minute of it.

The whole world takes on a new, lustrous and exciting feel when you are seeing it through the eyes of a child. Even explaining and talking about the mundane things they were doing, I knew that “mundane” was my word and “wowee” was theirs. I took the time to explore their world as they explored this big world they were living in. The trees are a little taller, the grass a little greener, the dog or cat a little fluffier and softer.

As time passed (as it is wont to do), the “first” events slowed down a bit. I had a chance to really savor it and even catch my breath before the next one came along. L was my dramatic child. Supporting evidence: she was in the high chair, W and his friend were seated on the bench and W says to me, “Mommy, (L)’s face is blue.” Mommy went into freak out mode because when I looked at her, by the gods, she was blue. A blue that no human face should ever be. I pulled her out of the high chair and that action knocked the food loose so that by the time she was in my arms, she was breathing again.

She wasn’t done with us and high excitement. Not too long after the high chair episode, she was coughing and hacking around the house. Friday afternoon, of course. Did I mention we were living in Germany and had military healthcare? No appointments over the weekend. So her father and I both agreed we would be taking her first thing Monday morning. That apparently did not meet with her agenda… I was downstairs at the neighbor’s house when the husband knocked on the door, holding L. “You need to go back upstairs to be with W. I’m taking her to the ER. I was changing her diaper and she stopped breathing. I had to resuscitate her.”

These are not words you ever want to hear. The wait was horrendous. Husband came home, without L, about 10 pm. The hospital had done an xray of her esophagus. If this (      ) is the normal esophagus, hers was like this (XX|XX) where the “|” is the actual opening for air. No wonder she was not breathing well. Turned out, she had the croup. Poor baby got shots in her thighs every 6 or 8 hours…and the medical team had asked her father to help hold her down for the first couple. When I went to see her, she very pointedly refused to look at her father. I think I lost some popularity when I didn’t grab her up and take her home. Scary, scary times for a mom (and a dad).

It’s not like W didn’t have excitement. No, his was of a different style. When they were tweens, we accompanied their father to an office party at the boss’ house. There was an above ground pool. It is pertinent to the story to understand that in this circular pool, in the center, there was a slight dip so that all the dirt would collect in that one place. My son dove in and found himself standing within that dip. It made the water just *that* much too deep for him. I saw him, thought he was play-bobbing up and down and then I realized that he was in danger. It’s true: people who are drowning are NOT yelling for help. Their arms go out, up to shoulder height and they spend all their energy trying to catch a breath. I had a glass glass in my hand and didn’t want to drop it (making another hazard) and by the time I found a place to set it down, I heard a splash. Husband had gone into the pool (clothes, watch, wallet and all) and got W out of the water. Let’s just say that W didn’t dive in again and it took a while before he got back into the water.

I know it sounds melodramatic, but…except for the quick response of their father, there would be a very good chance that both of my children would be dead. And that thought still makes me shudder. I don’t want those scary times. But you don’t always get what you want…

At 14, L broke her arm, rollerblading. When he was about 3, W fell and cut the skin on his forehead/hairline. Head wounds bleed a lot, but a simple butterfly bandage fixed him up, no problem. I don’t remember any other medical emergencies, so I guess we were blessed with reasonably good health and a bare minimum of dramatic sickness or injury.

W went to Kindergarten and I had two school years of having just one child at home all day.  Then it was her turn and L went off to get some edumacation, too. For the first time in 7 years, I had days of being “single” again. Odd feeling and I got a lot of reading done. And handicrafts. And I could grocery shop without threatening my offspring for getting away from me. Or having to explain 469,756 times why I was not buying (X). I missed them.

Christmas time was always fun. I decorated our house and as the lights went up on the other houses, we’d ride around at night time and “ohh” and “ahh” over them. When they were little, we had some serious discussions about what they would like Santa to bring. The ToyRUs catalog would arrive and they both did the “I want this…and this…and this…and this”–you get the idea. So I would ask them the Big Question: “If Santa could only bring you ONE present, what would you really, really want to have?” They generally got whatever that one thing was–and Santa did bring some other things, too. But Christmas morning, Santa’s presents were always wrapped in Santa paper. The other gifts were from Mom and Dad. (And then we’d go over to the husband’s parents house for Christmas with the whole family. And when I say whole, I mean siblings and their spouses and children as they came along…and considering the number of siblings was 7…lots of family!)

We’d let them stay up long enough to see the ball drop on New Year’s Eve. There were a number of years where they didn’t manage it and had to be carried to bed. The Easter Rabbit hid eggs and treats all over the house. (I didn’t want to encourage animals coming along and eating them.) One year, he left plastic eggs with hints left in them–and when they got to the end of the treasure hunt, there was one special gift for each of them. (Actually two hunts, if I’m remembering right–one for L and one for W.) Halloween was also celebrated and one year I made their costumes–Robin Hood for W and Maid Marian for L. They were adorable. But the amount of work was too much to try and repeat it–and they were happy with the Power Rangers costumes from the Halloween section of Party City.

We had one Halloween tradition that saved them from sugar comas. Keep in mind that we lived on a street that had other children, and they were allowed to go around the block and across the streeet, around the block. So that’s about 40-ish houses. Once they had gotten their loot, they brought it home and we dumped it out to make sure there were no razor blades. Then I would have them pick out the ones that they only had singletons of, as well as the candies that were their particular favorites. These candies (probably 25% of their take) went back into their bags and no one else ate them. The remaining pounds of candy (not kidding!) would go into my 26 cup Tupperware bowl…and fill it to brimming. Anyone could eat out of that. While their bag had candies, our tradition was that they could eat all the candy they wanted for 20 minutes. Then they had to go brush their teeth…not quite 20 minutes, but certainly enough to get the sugar coating off! Sometimes that might mean just 1 candy–something larger, or a lollipop that was to be sucked on.

And I had candies to nibble on for the next month. (They nibbled, too…but you know what I mean!)

They played tee ball; W went on to play on a team but L decided that baseball was not her thing. They learned to ride bikes, rollerblade, swim (not just walk into the water and get wet–or dive in). They went fishing at the family cottage near Dundee in the Finger Lakes. When we visited my family in Baltimore, they went to the National Aquarium and the Science Center in the Inner Harbor. (L tried to jump into the beluga whale tank. She is and was always a Water Baby, like her mother and her great-grandmother.)
(Ed. note: Here is the story, “Water Baby” , which is where I got that term)

We only had one computer, back in the “old days”. Which saved me from having to buy TWO computers and never seeing the kids because they’d be up in their rooms, surfing the Net. Nope, we had one, and it sat in the corner of the kitchen. I could keep an eye on them and they could go pretty much wherever they wanted–and there were sites that wanted a parent’s “signature” to ensure that the child was allowed there. The three of us learned about Internet research–and Google, when it came along. I answered all of their questions, but when I didn’t know the answer, the 3 of us would go on the computer and find it. They weren’t the only one who was learning new things!

We started getting the Nintendo gaming consoles, starting with the SuperNES and Mario. All 3 of us played–my time was mostly at night, once the kids were in bed. And if it was a rainy day, I’d let them play most of the day…but on nice (not raining, maybe even some sunshine) days, I’d let them play for a couple of hours. Then I’d say, “It’s time to quit and save!” — and I always got the cry of “Mooooom, it’s SAVE and quit!!” And back in those days, I could rent the games for a week–and sometimes, if the game was involved enough…I’d spend most of my free time playing.

When they were tweens, their father and I split up. (It took 3 YEARS to get the final decree, but that’s another story.) I moved out and took them with me, getting an apartment about 20 miles away from our old home. I was working nights, so I’d get home after they had left for school. I’d sleep until they came home. Then we’d spend a couple of hours together, have dinner–and I’d go back to bed for a 2 hour nap. I discovered that I couldn’t sleep for 8 hours, be up with them and then try to work an 8 hour shift. I needed the psychological effect of getting up and going to work. (Even if it was just a nap.)

They were good kids, taking care of each other and not having *too* many fights. Then I was invited to share my friend’s house and get a (better) job in VA. That was well out of the range that I could take the kids. It was a tough, tough, tough decision. But I finally figured that if I could get myself in a better place, I would be a better mom for them. So I left them, living back in the house with their father. It was only 8 months before he allowed them to move back with me. Rather, I should say, that he asked the children if they’d like to live with me and he barely got the question out of his mouth before they were both saying “YES!”.

So South they came. We lived with my friend, her 2 kids, her boyfriend and his 2 kids and then me and my 2 kids. We counted 11 people for Christmas (boyfriend’s ex-wife and mother of his kids and a friend from work with no family in the area). We couldn’t afford to buy presents for everyone…or so we thought. My friend came up with a brilliant idea and I pass it on to those of you who find it helpful. We loaded up everyone and went to the local Dollar Store. We bought 11 big gift bags and everyone split up to go into different aisles. The idea was that each person would buy one thing for each of the others–and so in the end, we each had 11 presents to open.

Eventually the three of us moved out of the commune (haha) and got our own apartment. I got a new job (I had been working at a place called Dominion, making flash memory) at the local assisted living center. I started courses on Network Security and Administration. One of my fellow students suggested trying for a job at the place he was working. I did, and thus began my tenure as a Customer Service Rep, making reservations for teleconferences. I left for about 18 months to work at the help desk of a company that was contracted to provide computer support for Congress. There was no place to move up, and so I returned to being a CSR at the same company. I had not burned any bridges when I left.

The kids continued growing up and it seemed like it had only been a few days before that they were being born and being toddlers… They both participated in the Junior ROTC program at school; they were both actors in several of the school’s plays. W actually got the high school version of an Oscar nomination for his portrayal of Modred, King Arthur’s nephew (and son) in the musical, “Camelot”. L got her starring chance in her senior year with “The Hound of the Baskervilles”.

In the twinkling of the eye, in the space of time for one breath…they went from helpless, wide-eyed newborns to being teenagers and on the verge of going out into the big wide world on their own. I loved every stage. I was and still am grateful for the discoveries we made together. I was the best Mom I knew how to be and I must have succeeded because my two wee ones are all grown up now, with wee ones of their own. And I look into the face of my daughter’s older daughter … and see my daughter there. I can do the same with my son’s son. Both of those grandchildren have a younger sister. I am blessed with a foursome of proof that I did a good enough job that my kids were willing to try that role for themselves.

And yet I still miss my own little ones. Even the throw-up and backtalk and bickering between them. I’d like to go back in time and visit them again–and I’ve found a way to do that. I simply close my eyes and let the images scroll through my mind. My son. My daughter. And the 20 years that flew past like an express train. They were both very good children. They are both very good parents. I can only wish them the same joy with their children as I had with them.


Making a Difference

So things have happened since we last talked.

I saw my physician and he has changed my meds up a little.  Increased the Cymbalta and instead of Xanax, I am now on Klonipine.  Been taking them for 4 days and there is an appreciable difference already.  The pain is decreasing to very bearable limits, only coming back as I tire.  He also diagnosed plantar fasciitis.  Basically the fat pad on the heel thins and spreads out as we get older…and it becomes painful.  Heel cups (with gel soles) are a godsend.  Walking (foot) pain-free for the first time in months.  Means I need to find a pair of shoes to wear only in the house as I have gone bare foot a lot more than I wear shoes…and slippers will not support sufficiently.

The Cymbalta does take time to build up, but in only 4 days I have already had a serious improvement in my mood.  (Since it’s used to fight depression.)  I feel better than I have….well, since I can remember.  At least a year and maybe longer.  I have also made the conscious choice to stop letting the negativity overwhelm me.  Yes, we’re in a bad spot financially.  Yes, we’re both ill but we are getting better.  Yes, we are both being recommended to try for SSDI (Social Security Disability) so yes, we are both considered to be prime candidates for permanent disability (not something you really want to win.)  But I had made the mistake of looking beyond this moment and fearing what I perceived as being possible.

I should have known better and I am ashamed to realize that I let go of all I had learned over the past 10 years so easily.  I fought this battle before and won it but apparently the victory was not as enduring as I had thought.  I identify as a Tibetan Zen Buddhist.  Zen.  You know, the Zen moment.  This moment, now.  This moment, right here.  That’s all we can be sure of.  It is what we are experiencing and can identify, acknowledge and know is true.  It’s the only thing we can know is true with absolute surety–which is why part of my spiritual practice is to constantly verify my truths.  And I somehow forgot this.  I allowed past conceptions and future anticipations to overshadow the reality of this moment, this now.  In so doing, I missed the now–the fact that I am getting better, slowly–but better.  Better than I have been for a long time, which is a major accomplishment.

I recognize the human fact that I may very well have to keep on fighting this battle and I am grateful for the help the right meds, in the right doses, are giving me.  Depression creates its own chemical template in your mind and you actually need the antidepressant medications to help reset the brain to its normal, not depressed state.  Force of will is not sufficient and there is no embarrassment in asking for that help if you need it.  (As an aside: this is true of all mental diseases; they are chemical insufficiency or excess and medications are needed to regulate them and help the person so afflicted live a more normal life.  JUST LIKE a diabetic needs insulin or a hypertensive person needs high blood pressure medicine.  No shame, no need to hide it or lie about it.)

Today was the first day that I really felt good for ever so long.  We got up early and went to the chiropractor to get folded, spindled and otherwise mutilated.  Picked up our mail from the post box and had a bite to eat at Roy Rogers.  Decent breakfast at a cheap price.  Then off to the bank to deposit our sole form of income, my short term disability check…sigh.  Then we drove up to Chantilly to go to the Korean supermarket and get our hair cut.  Yes, that’s what I said.  It’s called Lotte Plaza and it really is a supermarket.  You can also get siding for your house, clothes, a massage, jewelry and get a hair cut–or color, perm and so on.  Both the beloved and I had our hairs cut and we look a little less shaggy which also helps with feeling better generally.

Then shopping…getting perishables, meat and some specific items not available anywhere else.  We love to shop there because they have the best selection of the specialty items we use in ethnic cooking.  I am learning how to do Punjabi (think Indian, but from the area near Pakistan, so it’s a “dialect” of Indian food) and we get all the (wonderful!) spices like Garam Masala, green cardomom, cumin seed and such there.  We also get shrimp–$6 per pound, 25-30 count.  (Heads off because you can buy WHOLE shrimp there if you choose.  I do not.)  They also carry Halal beef–if you cannot find or will not spend the money on pastured/grass-fed (and finished) beef, Halal is another option.  The animal is tended and butchered according to the Jewish/Muslim law; it’s much more humane, the animal is essentially thanked for the sacrifice of its life before it is thoughtfully and carefully killed.  The meat is handled a little differently–and it is my understanding that the quality of life for these animals is also more like grass fed (and may actually be)…so the meat is very flavorful.  And at Lotte, it is not expensive.  We also got ground pork, $3/pound and some nice little pork short ribs (also $3/pound) that I am going to cut into their individual parts and marinate in a Chinese style sauce before broiling them.  (We don’t have a grill or I would sacrifice them to the BBQ gods.)

Then it was time to head home, which was good because it’s been such a busy week and the day was long and busy on top of that, so I was tiring out.  But I still feel good emotionally.  My body is TIRED, not wrung out or feeling beat up.  The pain levels are a little up from where they were this morning (when I could actually “sink the chi” –start with your hands at your sides and then lift them up in an arc over your head, then lower your hands straight down in front of you — which has been so painful for me for so long I am surprised I remembered how to do it) but not unbearable.  A single Vicodin will deal with that and in a while, I will go off to bed with the nighttime meds and sleep.

Our friend is coming over tomorrow with his new dog so it will be another day of activity–and of a pleasant sort, which always makes things go well.

The clouds are rolling away and the sky is clearing up to show me the majesty of the sunset and the mystery of the stars in the black inky darkness, followed by the sunrise and the glorious blueness of a clear day.

Or as James Brown would have sung, “I feel GOOD….I knew that I would…I FEEEEL GOOD!”.


Fulfillment of the Chinese Curse: May you live in interesting times

It has indeed been interesting times here.  I took my husband to the UVA ER last Thursday night on the advice (more like direct order) of our PCP.  They have a bariatric unit and he has had the lapband surgery; he is also on meds that were prescribed at the time of the surgery and never adjusted after he lost so much weight.  Oops.  The doctors at UVA were also outspoken about the fact the meds were not the best ones to choose and quite possibly were not given in the correct dose to begin with.  Double Oops.  So they wanted to admit him for observation and to change/adjust his meds…but they didn’t have a bed.  They would need to look for one.  This was at 1 am Friday morning.  Dearest sent me home because we were told that it would be dawn before they knew–and if I stayed, I would not be safe to drive home.  So off I went, back up to Bealeton to await word.

Nearest bed?  Down in Salem VA, near Roanoke.  Off HE went.  And neatly solved the problem of my trying to go back and forth to see him daily, using up gas and money that we do not have to get there.

So…for the past several days, I have had the house to myself.  And frankly, I don’t like it.  I miss him.  It’s very quiet in a more than just audio sense.  It’s missing his presence in the house.  I have spoken to him each day, and each day he sounds better.  The meds are working, and seem to be working well.  For which I am glad.  He’s doing better, more relaxed and not needing his anxiety meds.  Which makes both of us glad.  This has also given him the documentation he needs for staying out of work, even if it’s just a “personal medical leave of absence”–at which point his company keeps him on the books as an unpaid employee, within the health insurance pool and they will pay their portion–we just have to pay what would have been his payroll deductions for that insurance.  We can live with that.  We have several new avenues to explore for assistance and benefits and income.

So his going into hospital, while at first seeming to be a bad thing, is actually a good thing.  We both agree on that.  On the other hand, we both miss each other terribly.  We haven’t been apart this long since the day we first met, almost exactly two years ago.  And for the past 2 months, we’ve pretty much been together 24 by 7.  So forgive the syrupy sweet mushiness of my saying how much I miss my beloved and he misses me.

And me…I have actually been doing some things around the house.  I got those boxes in order…remember, the ones I mentioned in an earlier blog, that I wanted to sort and move?  I did it!  Slowly, took plenty of breaks, did it carefully but bygod did it!  I can even open the other closet door now–not that I want to, because it’s full of MORE boxes, but hey.  It’s a start.  I even ran the vacuum because there’s enough carpeting to merit it.  Found my box of books and did something I haven’t done in over two years–read a “real” book (not my Kindle).  I found my external hard drive that I had been searching for!  Got all my music now which makes me very happy. Took out the trash!  (All by myself, just like a big girl! LOL)

Oh and I found my passport flash drive (the one with my life on it!?)–well, actually my daughter found it.  I thought it was with the external hard drive, but nooooo, I had put it in a “safe” place.  And promptly forgot that’s where it was.  So talking to her today, I mentioned it and she says, “Is it square and black and says “WD My Passport” on it?”  Yes. “I’ve got it.  It was in the bag with the laptop you’re lending me.” OHHELLSYEAH!  (She has been threatened with a most grievous death if she fails to bring it with her the next time she comes to visit.  Just saying.)

I cleared the boxes from in front of the closet with shelves (as opposed to the one with all the “more” boxes) and rearranged/organized said shelves.  Put some tchotchkes (Polish: knick-knacks) on my bamboo and iron shelving unit.  Cleaned the bathroom (ok, the toilet and sink, but it’s a start).  Cleaned out the refrigerator.  Updated everyone daily on Beloved’s status–and this will amuse you–as well as running maintenance on his Facebook games (Castleville and Dungeon Overlord).  Once I realized how close to Blacksburg he was, made sure that friends he has who still live there were made aware of his nearness–two phone calls and a visit from some of them helped make his days a little brighter.

Did my stuff on my own Facebook, including the games.  Had dinner with his best friend and the best friend’s significant other.  (Chinese, very good, would do it again–a major coup for me because his friend, like himself, is a “foodie” and finding new places for him that he would go back to is an accomplishment.  Yay me!)  Spoke to his parents each day and updated them.  Spoke to my parents as well.  Talked to my son and daughter (as I mentioned earlier).  Slept 8 -10 hours each night, which is a major feat for me, since I usually only do about 5.  Think the reduction of stress had anything to do with it?  Knowing that he was getting better made me sleep better, yes?

And how is that fibro thing going?  Well, there’s still pain.  I suspect that there will ALWAYS be some pain, somewhere.  Legs are doing better and as I move around, I realize that the soreness (rather than pain) is from lack of use–need to do some serious building back up of muscles that have been let sit too long.  My arms and hands are still the worst part and I do not see how I can go back to a job (any job) that requires me to be on the computer 8 hours a day.  Doing this is taking a while, as I have to stop and rest them.  Do various exercise motions and generally stretch and move them to relieve pain.  But all in all, I don’t feel too bad.  Still limited, and almost giddy when I do accomplish something (like moving the boxes without really putting myself out of action to recuperate from it).

And while it may seem almost childish to someone else, it’s those little moments of doing something that has been un-do-able for so long that makes it noteworthy for those of us with this disease.  Baby steps, baby steps.  Do a little, rest a while, do a little more.  Rest a little more.  Build back up the endurance that I’ve been robbed of, learn how to do things in new ways to prevent pain or alleviate the worst of it.  I am right-handed, but since that’s the one that hurts the most, I am becoming more ambidextrous than I already was, which was not inconsiderable.  And since my ability to do things is limited, I can prioritize better, can learn to let go the things that aren’t as important to me and how to do the things that are in a less stressful and stressing way.

And I get to bring my husband home on the day after tomorrow.  I go to sleep tonight, and I’m here tomorrow, then I sleep tomorrow night and when I wake up, it will be time to go get him!  So in roughly 40 hours, I will have my beloved back home with me, where he belongs.  And everything will be just fine.


A Friendly Discussion: The Scientific Atheist and the Tibetan Zen Buddhist on Prayer, Truth and the Meaning of Life

This is not a “typical” blog, but a reproduction of a conversation I had on Facebook that seemed important enough, interesting enough, to be shared with you.  The names have been changed to protect the inquisitive, but the ideas put forth are worthy of more thought and introsepction.  I’m still mulling them over in my head.  So here it is, a friendly discussion between a scientific Atheist and me, a Tibetan Zen Buddhist….

It began with a link on my friend, SB’s Facebook page:

Anonymous Comment:
I think prayer works because it focuses the prayer’s attention on doing something about the situation.  Christians are the voices and hands of Jesus.  The New Testament is about living the life that follows Jesus.  The Old Testament does speak of natural disasters that punish evil doers.  I believe that it rains on the just and the unjust.  Pat Robertson seems to me to be preaching only from his interpretation of the Old Testament.  Prayer should be a call to action.
Kitty adds her two cents’ worth:
Two hands working can do more than a thousand clasped in prayer. ~Author Unknown
Anonymous Comment:
That is true.  Prayer should lead to focus and actions.
(SB’s husband) JB:
‎”It may be that ministers really think that their prayers do good, and it may be that frogs imagine that their croaking brings spring.” — Robert G. Ingersoll, Which Way? (1884)
“What is the purpose of prayer?  What can a finite being on Earth possibly tell an omnipotent, omniscient, Universe-creating deity that he/she/it doesn’t know already?  If prayer actually worked, the Pope would live forever.”  Infidel Guy
Anonymous Comment:
I think that Infidel Guy and Robert G. Ingersoll lack ample experience to comment on this subject.
The whole point of this is that Pat Robertson is a nut job and has accused everyone of causing God’s wrath unless you’re just like him….yikes. I think that even devout Christians make fun of him. He’s just so wrong.
Yes, SB…and (in response to Anonymous), prayer is a mighty and powerful thing, but so many people tend to use it either as a way to get God to give them all the things they want or as the Pharisee did in Jesus’ parable: “look at me God, see what a great person I am”.  And sadly for too many Christians, “I’ll pray for you” is a rote and meaningless response to disaster, need and a request for help.  It’s a way to sound like you’re doing something when you’re asked to pitch in.  Jesus DID things throughout the Gospels and only PRAYED near the end of his human life.  I have always liked Mother Teresa’s praying–done as she was helping others, active physical praying with hands that were working, eyes open to see the sacredness in the people she was caring for.  Her entire life was a prayer.  THAT is the kind of praying that will make a change, not the mouthing of words that mean nothing to the one saying them and certainly not when the pronouns being uttered are I, me, mine.  And thus endeth the lesson for today.  Blessings to you all!
Anonymous Comment:
I was trying to say that.  Thanks.
To Anonymous:  FYI:  Ingersoll’s father was a Presbyterian minister who should have had some familiarity with prayer and passed it on to his son but he rejected it. Scientific studies in 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006 as well as others have established beyond any reasonable doubt that prayer has no effect on anything.  In fact in certain instances it actually has a negative effect on sick persons who realize they are so bad off people are praying for them and they get worse instead of better!  My experiences with it, when I went to church in my younger years and actually believed it might help, were uniformly and completely negative and accomplished nothing when attempting to help grievously ill loved ones: they all died.  Like the Infidel Guy says: if prayer actually worked, the Pope would live forever as millions of Catholics worldwide pray for him every time he gets sick.  If it worked, we also would always get what we want, have millions of dollars and would never be sick.  This obviously doesn’t happen however so it’s obvious any results, either positive or negative from prayer, are sheer coincidence and belief in its efficacy is pure superstition.  You of course are at liberty to believe what you want.
Our conversation inspired me: https://knottykittehsavestheworld.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/i-pray-these-words-that-thou-may-hearest-me/

(If you haven’t read this blog o’mine, you might want to, because then JB’s response will make more sense.  Just saying.)
It would be nice if these things worked but I haven’t changed my mind.  I studied and tried the visualization technique(s) over the years too:  nothing.  Maybe I was doing it wrong or maybe they’re all just wishful thinking.  There’s no science to back them up I’m pretty sure.  I just definitely know it’s not for me.  I ‘m open minded and  really wish they did work believe me!  We could certainly use them!  Unfortunately I remain steadfastly unconvinced.  Got any proof?
My husband.  Took me 48 years to figure out how to ask for him, but I did get him.  And between you and me and the fencepost, I also believe that we create our reality, so if you think it, it will be.  Have you ever seen “What the Bleep do We Know?”….it will bend your mind and expand it and pull it around like taffy.  Too much to go into in a simple comment space, but we may have to all meet up some day and talk about it.  Chaos theory and infinite possibilities–and infinite probabilities, all existing simultaneously until we look at one and lock it into reality.  And after we have discussed all of it, maybe even watched the movie together, we’ll have to have a Three Stooges marathon to help us settle back into this world.
Kitty, I would love to see a conversation between you and JB in person….two of the most intelligent people I know…would be so interesting! I also enjoyed the article about prayer…
I blush in modesty….thank you for enjoying my little effort to get some of the craziness in me head straightened out on paper.  HUGS
Anonymous Comment:
I’d like to listen also.  Maybe they should write the book.
I can’t write a book now.  My son and I are struggling through researching all the Confederate casualties at Gettysburg now.  Over 20,000 names!  What a pain!
(Reply to Kitty): I did see “What the Bleep” but can’t say I share your enthusiasm that we create our own reality.  Believe me, I wish we could!  I and the people I know would be much, much, much better off than we are now!  The premise of the film was that quantum mechanics proves that a conscious observer is necessary to create reality.  Not true.  Would the universe not exist at all if no one were here to observe it?  Of course it would.  Did dinosaurs consciously create their environment (including the asteroid that destroyed them)? The assertions of the movie are very similar to the Advaita and other Hindu teachings I’ve read over the years but I now know this is false by simple observation.  We’ve all seen unconscious things in our daily lives but know full well the universe continues to exist without their consciousness.  The universe might end for them but certainly not for us and it’ll still be here when we’re gone as well.  I’ve never heard of anything in science which supports a theory that consciousness creates everything.  Certainly not the theory of quantum mechanics which, as I understand it, explains what MIGHT be going on at the quantum level but the observer assumption is not part of the theory because it cannot be tested in such a way that if it were false it would fail any test.  You would have to see what would happen without a conscious observer monitoring the experiment and that’s impossible and thus unscientific.  Even if the assumption were true, assuming we create our own reality is going quite a bit too far.  Even David Albert, the professor from the Columbia University physics department who was featured in the film, is quoted in Salon.com as saying:  “I was edited in such a way as to completely suppress my actual views about the matters the movie discusses. I am, indeed, profoundly unsympathetic to attempts at linking quantum mechanics with consciousness. Moreover, I explained all that, at great length, on camera, to the producers of the film … Had I known that I would have been so radically misrepresented in the movie, I would certainly not have agreed to be filmed.”  That should give you some indication as to how many scientists view the movie.  I’m sure you can find many others as well.  Physicist Richard Feynman said:  “If you think you understand quantum mechanics, you don’t understand quantum   mechanics”.  I think I’ll take his word over the producers of the film.  The examples provided in the film are silly also.  The claim that natives couldn’t see Columbus’ ships because they didn’t know what they were is ridiculous.  There were many problems with the 1993 transcendental meditation experiment in Washington, D.C. too (the murder rate actually went UP during the period of the experiment not down).  The people who reviewed the results were also followers of the Maharishi, there was biased data selection in the Emoto experiment portrayed in the film, etc., etc.  Many of the people involved in the production were affiliated with new-age institutions such as the Institute of Noetic Sciences and the Maharishi University of Management and many, like the movie’s producers and directors, were devotees of Ramtha, a 35,000-year-old warrior channeled through a woman named TZ Knight.  I really don’t think this even approaches scientific inquiry.  To get an alternative viewpoint to your way of thinking, you may want to read the following, among many others sites:  http://skeptico.blogs.com/skeptico/2005/04/what_the_bleep_.htmlhttp://www.math.columbia.edu/~woit/wordpress/?p=83 In the end, the idea that the universe is all and only about us, and that everything in our lives are products of our minds is to me erroneous and self-serving. Try selling that idea to tsunami survivors in Southeast Asia or all those dying of cancer or heart disease every day.  I don’t think they would agree.  Oh, well!  To each his/her own!  Sorry to ramble on so!!
No apologies necessary.  You told me some new things that I did not know, and I’d like to address some of them.  I had suspected that the film had been biased, because of the inclusion of “Ramtha” –and the fact that (his) words were given as much credence as the scientists’ comments.  And I consider the film to be PART of how things might work.  If no one were here, would the universe still exist?  Of course.  Because of the infinite possibilities, because each and every possibility exists, no matter who sees it or not.  Schroedinger’s cat, you know.  Doesn’t matter whether the experiment is observed or not, it does exist.  Just because we cannot observe it does not make it nonexistent.  We are limited by our collective “What we know” and the agreement that “THIS” is the world. MY concept of us creating our reality works like this: We have at least two realities.  One is the common world reality, where we agree that “this* is a chair, and that *that* is a tree.  We also have our own personal reality, which may or may not mesh completely with that world view.  Mentally ill people certainly do not mesh with the common world view–but I don’t think that their (other) world view is necessarily false.  They may actually be seeing something different than we are that is just as valid, just as real–just not what the rest of us have agreed upon in order to interact with a common starting point. I believe that we create our reality with the choices we make.  And I mean every single choice, not just the obvious major choices like which college you’re going to attend, or taking this job over that.  I mean, quite literally, EVERY choice.  Which means that every action is essentially a choice, this over that.  And each time it happens, there is a branching from the path–but every other choice also branches off, infinitely.  I believe in infinite universes; we don’t see them because we are focused on our common world view.  (It is possiible, occasionally, to make choices that bring us back and connect us to an alternate branching made somewhere in the past.)  I also suspect that some of the paranormal activity we do acknowledge (some more than others, haha) is actually “bleed over” from other universes.  The dinosaurs exist in other realities where the asteroid did not wipe them out. Our secondary reality is our own, personal reality.  Again, it may mesh completely with the common world reality.  But think of how many times you thought things were going swmimingly, only to discover that the other person/people in your life were unhappy with the situation?  Your view of the shared reality was different from theirs, causing conflict because you didn’t hold a common view.  Thus your shock when the lover suddenly (to your mind) ends the love affair, or the dismay to discover that while you thought you were doing a great job, your boss did not…and you’re no longer employed. What is reality?  What is real?  “Real” is like “Truth”.  Very dynamic, very fluid–and mostly based on your point of view.  (Thank you Obi Wan Kenobi, for pointing that out.)  The reality of our world today is vastly different from the reality of the world 20 years ago, 40 years ago, 300 years ago.  Choices changed it.  But again, I believe that somewhere, where we no long focus, there is our world, in a different reality–but just as “REAL” and just as valid as the one we are living in today.  And get ready to have your mind blown: if we could look at those worlds, we could see ourselves–the alternate self who made another choice.  Who is to say that *we* are really the person whose name is Kate or John?  Maybe WE are the “alternate selves”.  The wonder of this concept of mine is that it doesn’t matter.  Whether we are the dreamer or the one in the dream, our perception of ourselves and of our world is “real” and valid.  It is the truth.  Well, it is OUR truth. And like Pontius Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?  Is truth unchanging laws?  We both have truths, are mine the same as yours?”  Even scientists are working within this paradox of infinite choices, infinite universes.  They observe their experiments and get AN answer in THIS common world reality.  I believe that there are other results in other realities.  So our scientific knowledge is also limited by the agreed upon, common world reality.  Doesn’t mean we should stop trying to find things out… And as for your being “Dumber than dirt”…that inquisitiveness you talk about is what I refer to as “questing intelligence” and I prize it over any super IQ level a person can show.  You can be very smart and not have that drive, that “want to know why”–and frankly, I consider smart with out wanting to know why as very boring.  You, sir, are NOT boring!  This thread is precisely the kind of discussion I enjoy the most.  So now the ball is back in your court…looking forward to your next volley of thought! Namaste!
I think JB and Kitty, that you both, with your inquisitive and intelligent brains, should write a book…a back and forth of ideas and realities. It would be really really interesting. At least an article of these comments would be fantastic and we could both use the money! My son and I will sell it for you! Loved reading all the comments. JB…you have met your match with Miss Kitty.
SB: I think you’re loco! Kitty is smart but any scientist with any knowledge at all would probably laugh at me! I’m just a curious novice, that’s all. Thanks for the mention though!  This isn’t a “match”.  Just a friendly discussion that’s all!
Hi, Kitty: Each of us perceives the universe from our own perspective depending on all that has happened to us during our lifetimes.  Agreement of our personal realities create our perception of the universe as we know it (a chair is a chair, a star is a star, etc.).  In that context, mentally ill people do mesh with the world view in that the world view agrees something is wrong with these folks (like myself for example!).  The choices we make most definitely do create our reality but I’ve read that we actually don’t make these choices consciously.  Rather, our brains compute all our decisions on a second-by-second basis based on environmental factors, other people’s ideas, and past experiences without us even being aware of what’s going on.  I believe more than one experiment has proved this.  We think we, as individuals, are making these decisions but it’s actually just our brain computing what to do next without our knowledge.  Because of this, I, and many others, don’t believe we humans really have free will.  We just instantaneously react to our environment based on what we’ve learned in life.  Depressing, I know!  As you say: anything anywhere in the universe does affect all other things in the Universe to one degree or the other no matter how slight that effect may be.  The effects are so insignificant in the overwhelming majority of instances, however, that they really have no effect at all and aren’t even considered in our daily lives.  My movements for example do affect the planet Jupiter to an infinitesimal degree but this doesn’t make any difference in the overall pattern of things.  In other words:  there are some very weird truths in the Universe but they don’t matter if they don’t affect us.  I think this may apply to consciousness and the Universe and am fairly convinced that our consciousness does not in any way affect the Universe.  Just my opinion of course.
The concept of multiverses is an accepted one in astrophysics and cosmology although I don’t pretend to know all the particulars of this mathematical concept.  It’s of course possible dinosaurs still exist in another universe but there is no way to prove it.  I don’t believe in the paranormal although there may be some biased evidence pointing to it.  As someone named James Huber once said:  “I’m a strong atheist.  I believe that gods are by definition supernatural beings, that the supernatural by definition violates natural law, violating natural law is by definition impossible, and impossible things by definition can’t exist.”  Narrow-minded?  Maybe:  but it makes sense to me.  Truth is subjective.  What some believe to be true is obviously not true for others. Choices DO change everything but you lost me when you said, “somewhere, where we no longer focus, there is our world, in a different reality–but just as “REAL” and just as valid as the one we are living in today.”  “Where” would this other world be?  In a multiverse of some sort?  OK.  But how can we prove this and isn’t proof and evidence the basis of all science?  Without proof there is only faith and that can’t be used for much of anything.  Imagine us using faith to get to the Moon for example.  Yes.  We could indeed be in another multiverse but, while this concept is fascinating and certainly possible, how does that help us in our own multiverse here and now?  In the realm of our universe truth in my opinion is what can be demonstrably proven through experiment and hard facts and this would be accomplished through the laws of physics.  Sure they’re not perfect by any means and we obviously don’t understand them completely (apparently they cease to operate in a black hole for example) but they explain much of the observable universe as we know it and are very useful in our daily lives and the progress of society.  They would be my “truth” against which to measure things, but that’s just me.   I don’t believe the Jesus story (there are nothing but the gospels to substantiate his existence and these are suspect) but I do agree the universe or universes is (are) infinite as are all possibilities.  However, all we know is THIS reality here and now and we are unquestionably limited by that fact.  While we can speculate about other realities, unfortunately at the present time all we can know and use is the reality we’re in.  I agree completely that we MUST continue to pursue knowledge wherever we can in all disciplines as this will result in the progress of mankind and maybe in the eventual survival of our species (the Sun will fry and envelope us in a couple of billion years if we don’t find another place to live). I’m a very curious person and that’s what drives me to investigate things as much as I can in my limited little universe.  Thank goodness for inquisitive people such as yourself or we’d still be living in caves!  In my opinion, it’s the “why?” in life that drives society and our species to be better and better.  When the search for knowledge is throttled, civilization deteriorates and that’s what I’m afraid is occurring in the U.S. with the results of the 2010 elections and the advent of the Tea Party and its disciples.  I think the entire country is “dumbing down”, and this scares me to death!  Ignorance is NOT bliss in any context!  Thank goodness for open minded folks such as yourself and your quest for knowledge! Without it we’d be in deep, deep trouble!  I’m used to dealing with people on Facebook who are satisfied with what is or was and are easily offended by things I say.  My conversation with you is a very fresh and enlightening experience for me!  At least you listen.  I really enjoy these little exchanges also.  You can’t learn unless you listen to the other person.  It’s been nice listening to you! Oh, well!  Back to Travis’ and my Confederate Casualties at Gettysburg research project. We’re WAY behind schedule and our book is due to the publisher this summer.  It’s interesting but VERY tedious!
(to Kitty) I’m proud of son’s book (he took JB’s original research at the national archives and worked four years on researching each man there plus other information) and he found a great publisher and it was published last year. Now they have a contract for the companion book to be finished this summer but is a harder book to research because of lack of records in the south.
Hey there, JB! Read your comments, and now I have some of my own to share: “Each of us perceives the universe from our own perspective” – absolutely.  Couldn’t be any other way.  And yes, we do then agree on the “norm” of the shared pers…pective of our current living situation.  But I would argue that “the world view agrees that something is wrong with (the mentally ill)” does not mean that they are wrong—only that we perceive them to be wrong because they don’t agree with us–on the common perspective.  But that may find its roots in my belief in reincarnation (For a full explanation of this, see my essay on this subject on www.cotcg.com, in the Library under Essays, called “Choosing to Live Again”).  When you live life after life, experiencing all that there is, perhaps being “tuned in” to alternate universes (as part of your life experience) may be a symptom of mental illness for those within what is your “common universe view”.  More simply, those who agree with the common view would of course view those who did not as wrong, “not all there”, or mentally ill. I would agree with you that many, if not most, of those choices are made on a very subconscious, even UN-conscious level.  Most people are simply not aware of themselves and their surroundings on a conscious, thinking level at all.  But choices must be made, and the brain WILL compute it, with or without input from the “self”, or ego, whatever you want to call the person of the person.  And most certainly our past experiences and our environment (nature and nurture) will strongly influence even those unconscious choices. Free will is an interesting concept.  It requires a precise definition before you can really apply the term.  If you say that free will is the opportunity to choose whatever you want without a specific limiter of what the choice is about, it does exist in a sort of symbolic, non-attainable way. (At least, not without a high cost, I think—the self awareness necessary for it is not something that is encouraged in our world, no matter what your nationality.)  Yes, we do rather tend to react as you say, instantaneously to our environment based on what we’ve learned in life.  So many people go through their lives in a sort of fog, just drifting like smoke through the air, going where the winds take them.  If free will means that we can choose our destiny—the path of our life—then it most assuredly does exist, but again most people just prefer to have someone else do their thinking for them and make their decisions based on external stimuli and past actions.  As far as making a difference in the universe, I must humbly but staunchly assert that you sir, are incorrect.  We DO make a difference.  Most people do not make perhaps a difference that we can see or measure…but we all make SOME difference.  The very fact life exists makes a difference to this universe, which would otherwise be nothing but interesting rocks and stars and gas giants, etc…Carbon-based life was a choice, rather than silicon or helium based life forms.  But as individual humans, our differences measured against the infinite scope of the universe would be so small as to appear non-existent.  You can’t prove that we make a difference, but you can’t prove that we don’t.  So I shall stand on this side of the argument and hold your hand from where you stand on the other. And Truth is most assuredly subjective.  We are in complete agreement on that one.  As for un-provable concepts (other realities, for examples)…I guess it’s word-chopping, but I prefer to consider them as “un-provable but viable” rather than “faith”.  To quote that great scientist, Tommy Lee Jones (Men In Black): “Fifteen hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was the center of the universe. Five hundred years ago, everybody knew that the Earth was flat. And fifteen minutes ago, you knew that humans were alone on this planet. Imagine what you’ll know tomorrow.” (Substitute the words “it was accepted as scientific fact” for “everybody/you knew”.) Just because we cannot prove it today does not make it UN-provable.  Our scientific methods and learning are as fluid as Truth.  So YOUR “truth” (against which to measure things”” is also a dynamic, changing truth and open to new knowledge, new proofs.  But that’s just me! Thank you for your kind words.  It is the “why” that drives me and the force in other’s intelligence that I seek out.  You are right when you say that so many people (and not just on Facebook, sadly enough) are “satisfied with what is or was and are easily offended by things [being said]”.  I don’t watch a lot of TV, but when I do…it’s things like Sci, History, DIY, Discovery and those type of channels.  I adore “How It’s Made” and “Modern Marvels”.  Fortunately, so does my husband—although he probably wouldn’t BE my husband if he did not also share the need to know why.  And the discussion we are having (I was only using the tennis allegory, I do NOT consider this a match for how could we tell who had won? LOL) is the kind of talk I adore—and I’m glad we’re having it.  Would you mind if I use the marvelous cut’n’paste to put it all together into a blog?  I agree with SB that it should be put “out there” for others who might want to join in.  Let me know… And I am impressed that you are a published author…my publishing is all softcopy, nothing in hardback yet!  I appreciate that you take the time from your research to have this little chat with me.  We can talk about Jesus some other time, because I have some interesting ideas about him too.  <Grin> Namaste!
Right and wrong are subjective concepts established by the society we live in.  Nothing in essence is really “right” or “wrong”.  We just use these terms to define things in that way based on our subjective interpretation of things as the m…ajority of society interprets them.  Everyone is “right” in their subjective opinions but others think them “wrong” based on theirs.  What we consider “crazy” people are by their own standards perfectly normal (people think I’m “crazy” but I know I’m not; ha, ha).  But what does that really all mean when you get right down to it?  We have different subjective perspectives but so what? Scientists are now relatively sure that the universe came from absolutely nothing.  No divine entity, no god, simply not anything.  As physicist Stephen Hawking said, “As recent advances in cosmology suggest, the laws of gravity and quantum theory allow universes to appear spontaneously from nothing.  Spontaneous creation is the reason there is something rather than nothing, why the universe exists, why we exist.  It is not necessary to invoke God to light the blue touch paper and set the universe going.”  Physicist Robert A.J. Matthews of Aston University in England says the same:  “It is now becoming clear that everything can — and probably did — come from nothing.”  And the astronomy department at Cornell University the same:  “Space and time both started at the Big Bang and therefore there was nothing before it.”  If this is true (and based on science I believe it is) the remainder of your assumptions are unfortunately null and void.  There is no “divine” to return to after many reincarnations because there was none to begin with.  I unfortunately do NOT believe in the concept of reincarnation itself.  Believe me….I wish I did!  It would give me some comfort in my old age!  My first question to believers in this concept would be what actually reincarnates?  Science has found nothing in the human anatomy, physiology or neurology, which could possibly do this.   Human thought, memories, consciousness and everything else we associate with being “ourselves” comes from the brain.  All of these things can be influenced by alcohol, drugs, a rap on the head, and most importantly death.  They all die when our brains die.  What can possibly survive to be reincarnated?  A “spark”?  What exactly would that be?  As I’ve explained before, I also don’t believe in “free will” or that we really make our own choices.  Our brains do that.  As you say, our choices DO affect our lives (including the choice not to choose) but I don’t feel we really have any choice in any of these decisions.  We simply react to what’s going on now based on our unique past experiences and what they’ve taught us.  I’ve never heard any scientific description of “spiritual planes” or “mentor/guides”.   These are all in an invisible spiritual realm of some sort and as John Stuart Mill said, “The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.”  I therefore don’t rely on invisible support to get by.  As one very cogent individual once said, “If we were made in his (god’s) image, then why aren’t humans invisible too?” To me our “sense of purpose” is what we learn as we develop in life.  To learn to do “good” rather than “bad”; to help life rather than hurting it; to find the truth in myth and superstition; in short, to the best of our abilities be a useful person helping civilization progress and become better and more knowledgeable as it goes.  In essence, be “Another Godless Atheist for Peace and World Harmony” as someone once said.  Acceptance of this concept doesn’t require reincarnation but simply a willingness in each of us to help improve the world in some manner or the other no matter how little our contributions may be during our lifetimes.  Everyone pulling together would create miracles.  Maybe it’ll happen one day!  We can only work toward this goal and hope. Remaining in the Zen “now” moment, while useful during our lifetimes, unfortunately stops when this moment reaches the death or malfunction of our brains.  After that there unfortunately is no “now” for any of us.  I wish there was!  Is there any proof the now continues? Of course we make at least SOME difference in our daily lives but only to those in our immediate vicinity as we encounter and interact with them during the day.  We can also influence others by what we say or do or otherwise communicate.  Others make a lot of difference to a lot of people (Obama for example and other world leaders), BUT physically, compared to the enormity of the Universe, the solar system or even our Earth, we make no difference at all.  If we did the Earth would react to each of the 9,000 or more human deaths which occur each and every day (over 11 million this year alone).  Some 103 billion people have died on the Earth, yet it keeps humming along without them.  Our body mass, compared with that of Jupiter, the Sun or the Universe, is totally insignificant in all respects.  It’s like we don’t exist at all.  That’s what I was trying to say. Life undoubtedly exists in infinite variety in any numbers of localities in the universe but that life has absolutely ZERO effect on us here on Earth.  Our civilization also has zero affect on those civilizations (unless they picked up some of our TV transmissions at some point:  ha, ha).  I, and many scientists, think carbon-based life was simply a chemical accident.  As Dr. James Watson (co-discoverer of the structure of DNA) has said, “I don’t think we’re here for anything, we’re just products of evolution.  You can say ‘Gee, your life must be pretty bleak if you don’t think there’s a purpose’, but I’m anticipating a good lunch.” Silicon or helium based life forms, as well as any number of other combinations; probably exist in one form or the other throughout the universe.  We just don’t know it.
According to physics, we DO make a difference but only in our immediate small areas of habitation.  Our mass is infinitely too small to affect much of anything and its effect decreases with distance so, as I previously pointed out, we as in…dividuals DO affect Jupiter but the effect is practically nonexistent since we’re too small and far away.  Jupiter affects us also but again in a minor way as gigantic as it is, it’s so far away.  You’d best not hold my hand:  SB might get jealous!  Ha, ha! As I said:  literally ANYTHING is possible and potentially viable but unfortunately not provable.  I stand on the side of provable rather than that of speculation, myth, fantasy or faith.  In my book, faith is good for nothing but imagined false comfort during hard times. I remember Jones’ little discourse alright.  Of course we don’t know everything at the moment, and humanity may never accomplish this, but science through learning, study and experimentation has got us to where we are today and I would much, much, much rather accept this “proof” and approach than depend on myth, superstition and faith.  You’re right:  scientific “truth” at this moment in time is of course not the final truth, but science becomes more and more refined, precise and evolved on a daily basis and I’m confident will one day be able to explain our current mysteries as it has done in the past.  I hope we continue on the path of knowledge rather than descend again into the myths and superstitions of the past.  Think where we would be if not for the Dark Ages when the myth and superstition of the church ruled the roost!  If we continue the path of science, imagine where we’ll be in another 100 years! I’m strongly of the opinion that religion of any sort, belief in the supernatural, and belief in the efficacy of spells, rituals, etc. is simply wishful thinking on our part.  We humans feel small and helpless (and we are:  I’ve read that the only reason humanity survived is because the carnivores of the time didn’t like the way we tasted!) and sincerely want to have some sort of control over our lives.  Believing an invisible entity is watching over us, that we survive death, or that we can somehow influence our surroundings to our benefit is purely and simply a way to help us get through the day and make us feel better.  It’s nice to wish these things were true but there is no evidence they exist.  Oh, well!  We can always hope!   I watch the same channels you do and LOVE “How It’s Made” and similar presentations.  I find them fascinating!  It’s wonderful and marvelous what the inquisitive, every striving mind of man has accomplished over the centuries.  Hopefully we’ll keep it up (we must to one day survive the bulging Sun)!  The neo-conservatives and Tea Party have me REALLY worried however!  They’re “dumbing us down”! I’m really not the brightest bulb when it comes to this kind of stuff:  I’m just curious.  I’ll probably be embarrassed and put to shame if a true scientist joins the conversation!  Still and all:  I might learn something so it’s up to you if you want to “blog” what we have said.  I’m sure others will think me stupid (as well I might be)!  I also must devote more time to my son’s and my work on the Gettysburg Confederate casualties so may not be able to participate for much longer (if that matters).      My publications are all strictly reference material for Gettysburg aficionados (number of soldiers in individual units, number of casualties, a long list of the Federal dead and other casualties, burials in the National Cemetery at Gettysburg, etc., etc.) and the rest of the country could care less (hence my very small royalties twice a year or so).  Your article was very well written and knowledgeable.  I just don’t agree with its basic precepts which of course means ZERO to everyone else in the world, ha, ha!  Like I said:  I enjoy trading ideas with folks, but most of those I’ve encountered on Facebook are rather strongly tied to their ideologies and don’t much countenance by observations.  Oh, well!  “Different strokes for different folks”, I guess!  Exchanging ideas with you has been fun though!  Thanks! I’d like to hear what you have to say about JC because I, with scholars such as D.M. Murdock (Acharya S.), Earl Doherty, Ken Humphreys, Jim Walker and others really don’t believe he ever existed at all.  Interesting huh?!  All the best, and have a good one!  (The End:  I’ll bet you’re happy!).
Anonymous Comment:
OMG what?  Just a friendly discussion.

What Happened Today

Today was a wonderful day.  I didn’t do anything spectacular or earth-shattering, but I did do something that was, well, in a word, wonderful.  I spent the day with my daughter.  And it was worth the spending…we had a glorious brunch together at Black Bear Bistro in Warrenton.  (Shameless plug for it: www.blackbearbistro and it is amazing!  Farm to fork, fresh! In the category of “nommy” it is the NOMMIEST.)  I had bagel and cream cheese with gravelox (smoked salmon), and the incidental garnish was fresh (and sweet) pineapple and fresh blueberries.  We shared a smoked crab and cheese dip on crunchy hot bread.  She had a club hoagie and the husband had something they call the “Concordia”–imagine a Monte Cristo (essentially a French Toast sandwich) but instead of turkey, ham and swiss, it’s filled with chopped roast beef and ground beef (all free range, grass fed beef) in a marinara sauce.  First bite, it’s like oh Sloppy Joe but wait a minute, no it’s not.  Words fail me to describe it; it must be experienced.  We also tried the multigrain waffle–still light and fluffy while filled with whole grain goodness.

We then came home and spent the rest of the afternoon chatting and almost more importantly, getting more things sorted and moved around.  We moved in last November and while it’s not *quite* as bad as when we first started, it still looks like more shit than this bag was meant to hold.  In our defense, we did go from a 3 bedroom down to a 1 bedroom–and well, we’ve been sick lately.  So it was a great blessing to have her move boxes and take out trash and sort stuff to open up some more real estate.  We really do have wall to wall carpeting and we are gradually reclaiming it.

She is seriously contemplating moving back to VA and after the fabulous brunch, particularly thinking about living in Warrenton.  I think the food had something do with it, although she did indicate that the charm of Old Town Warrenton attracted her.  It would be totally awesome to have her (and by association, our granddaughter) living closer than MD.  I am very happy that my daughter and I are friends.  Related by circumstances and family by chance but definitely friends by choice.  And I’ve missed having her around because she’s fun, intelligent, good to talk to, and generally pleasant to be with.  She’s also doing a wonderful job raising her daughter and I’d like to think that I had some little part of that…although I saw how she disciplined her dog and I wasn’t worried about her parenting skills.  (So get miffed, but really?  Training a dog and raising a child have a GREAT deal in common.  If you can do one well, you can do the other one pretty well, too.  Although the cops do get unhappy if you crate your children to go out for the day, no matter how much food or water you leave with them.)

It is no small matter of pride to see how well she is doing in the world.  She holds a job, cares for her child, is a responsible human being…it doesn’t matter that she has had to change course midstream, so to speak…first with the discovery of being asthmatic which prevented a Navy career path and then the normal changes a child brings to anyone’s life, the stuff you can’t prepare for but have to handle.  And while she was always the child who had to do it the hardest possible way, she has persevered each time.  Stubborness runs deep in our family and she is blessed with more than her fair share.  🙂  Hemingway referred to it as “grace under pressure” and she does indeed maintain her grace even in the face of the most trying times.  I suppose as her mother I could say that life has not been fair to her, but both of my children know that you don’t say that “f” word in front of me.  Life is NOT fair.  And she doesn’t expect it to be.  In that way, she’s miles ahead of most people who expect some sort of parity in their experience.

It was a deeply satisfying day, to reconnect with her even as I missed seeing my granddaughter who stayed home with her father–specifically so that we could have our own mother-daughter time.  No drama, no earth-shattering topic of conversation, just the gentle pleasure of small talk, the kind that fills the chinks of our souls, the small bites of normal living that bind us together in a more profound way than the greatest crisis faced or roaring emotional storm weathered can ever hope to do.  A normal day, a gentle day, nothing to write home about…but something to write about and share with you to remind you that our lives are made of such normal and gentle days, the small talk and trivial chatter of “this’n’that” and they are, after all, worth noting.  Consider today so noted.  Thank you, my darling daughter.  Thank you, most benevolent Universe for giving us this day.