An opportunity.

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This life is our opportunity to do that which only we can do. I wrote that earlier as an addendum to my vision statement for the Spiritual Awareness Community of the Cascades. It came rather trippingly off of my fingertips, and yet when I came back to it a while later it seemed poignant. It comes down the simple fact that we are the only people who can do what we do. I am the only person who is sitting at this keyboard so I am the only one who can type these thoughts at this time, and you are the only person right where you are and thus you are the only one who can be doing whatever it is that you are doing.

That seems too silly to state, and yet that is the situation every moment of our lives. These moments we are now filling with our consciousness are always the same moments. They are called now. Some of the moments turn out to be more significant when we look back from some distant perch, and yet in the moment they are almost always just simple little events.

My way of seeing these things is that it is physical actions that are the most important. Surely many thoughts are of great importance and we may even know they are important when we think them, but they are not meaningful until they are somehow expressed in actions outside of ourselves. That is why I often mention people who are waxing strong about the importance of having loving thoughts and insist that it doesn’t mean much until those loving thoughts are brought out into external reality as loving actions. And the most loving actions are not the ones that make the giver feel good, but the actions that are actually helping the person being “loved.”

Life is an opportunity to do loving actions for another living being and if those actions are helpful to that other being they are kind actions, but if those so-called loving actions are hurtful to that other person they are unkind actions.

Every moment you live is an opportunity to do kind actions.

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My Alpha symbol for SACC

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The last several days I have been having fun with creating a brochure for the Spiritual Awareness Community of the Cascades. Most of the work was on the text and layout,  and I sought and received considerable assistance with refining my concepts for that aspect of the brochure. A totally different problem was the graphics to be used on the cover. That is an artistic problem and personal decision making. I did discuss the artistic issues with a retired professional graphic designer of national reputation, but when it came to the actual drawing I was on my own. Here below is what I made of the Classic Greek letter Alpha:A stylized Greek letter Alpha.
This Greek letter Alpha is derived from a stained glass window found high in the Old Stone Church here in Bend, Oregon. I think it was put into the wall about the time the church was built in 1912. The whole large window is worthy of an ancient European church, but at the time it was installed this town was a tiny outpost on the fringes of civilization.

I must admit that every pixel of this picture has been reworked by me with what I must confess to being an overactive use of my privilege of artistic license. It is a ragged exploration of what the concept of a visual searching into the spiritual realm might be interpreted to mean. I had fun creating the weird curls, textures, and play of light in this seemingly most prosaic and mundane of human creations. The form of the letter alpha is a protean symbol that must exist in trillions of iterations and multitudes of variations after three thousand years of use by a substantial portion of the earth’s population. That said, the alpha I have created above has got to be one of the stranger ones.

Anyway, the fun of this Alpha is in the tiny details.

Alpha and Omega symbols for our group’s brochure

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I have been working on our Spiritual Awareness Community’s handout that is used for distributing current information. Such specific items as the background of the day’s speaker and printouts of the songs that will be sung that Sunday afternoon. It has been an interesting experiment in creative writing because the group is undergoing a radical transformation at the moment. I was designated as the person to design this document and given total liberty as what would be put into it. That was intended as a starting point for the people of our group to discuss and make improvements upon. I have been giving the group as near a finished product to work with as possible so it is more easy for them to see what the final product will look like. It has already gone through an hour of critique and improvements were put into the current document.

One thing that is more difficult to analyze and critique is the artwork that I have put on the front and back covers. I had previously made some high-quality photographs of the omega symbol that existed for a couple of decades in a stained glass window over the heads of our little community. It was behind us and I don’t remember anyone making a comment about it or the other symbols as they were not particularly relevant to what happened in our meetings. All the same, they were there looking down upon us for decades so I thought it was appropriate to put the Alpha and Omega on the cover of our brochure. We have moved into a new building and those stained-glass symbols are lost to us forever. The Alpha is the beginning and the Omega the ending of the Classic Greek alphabet and so, in a general symbolic sense, those letters represent the beginning and the ending of our use of that building. It was under those letters that my friend Ahonu and I did the Sermon on the Mount sermon on Christmas day. I thought that the most fitting ending service for a hundred-year-old church that may never host another religious service.

I have been working on the Alpha and Omega symbols for our group’s brochure for a couple of weeks, and the Omega symbol is spectacular because it was created from a close-up picture. Unfortunately, the Alpha symbol had been taken from a photo of the whole stained glass series and was only a few percent of the photograph. Thus the overall photograph was very clean and sharp, but the tiny portion of the Alpha wasn’t nearly as high a quality as the close-up of the Omega. What to do?

I took the blurry Alpha and expanded it to the same size as the very sharp Omega. I then recreated the Alpha by cloning over the appropriate surface details onto it from the Omega details. There was quite a bit of “artistic license” in doing this, but the end result is that the two letters can be viewed side by side and have the same visual feel. I consider it a success, but I will have to wait until the next meeting to get some feedback on how the other people feel.

It is a feeling thing more than an intellectual one that is important in some situations.

 

Sage tip #61, Be content with what you can do.

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For several days I have been trying to write the handout folder for the Spiritual Awareness Community of the Cascades. I was asked to do this little task by the acting President of this nonprofit organization because I am presently the acting Vice President of the group. The people who were being paid real money for doing this job and several other jobs too had to be let go because our organization has hit upon troubled times and our board of directors decided to cut our financial expenses to the absolute minimum. We decided to cut expenses down to the rent for a meeting place and legal insurance. Most of the hundreds of people who were at least minimally members of the group don’t attend meetings anymore, and over this last year, most of the essential officers of the group have resigned. It is very sad that such an interesting group has lost its flame.

My interest in this seemingly peripheral group in modern secular society is very keen because they do some strange things. Some of those things are not very connected to everyday reality, but some of them have been mind opening for me. For example, experiments on how people pay attention to one another and how that affects their communication are stunning, and I have never read anything in the standard research literature that addresses the aspects these people have explored.

The group was about to disband several months ago for lack of officers on the board of directors, so to save the group I very hesitantly volunteered. Once at the meetings it became apparent that I had to take over an office. I chose to become Vice President because the duties of that office were minimal. I didn’t want to have an important office which I was just filling in for a non-existent person so I chose an unimportant office.

One of the things that needed doing was creating the weekly program flyer and its wrapper. That didn’t seem like much of a task, but I was wrong. I realized that this printed document included several key elements for the creation of an organization that needed serious reworking. A “Vision Statement” for an abstract and general idea of what the organization was about and trying to do. Also, we needed a new “Mission” statement, which is a specific wording of the more concrete goals we were aspiring to accomplish. We needed some clearly defined artwork that would have an instant visual appeal and identity. As a marginally religious organization, we needed a prayer to set our agenda for a better life.

I presented what was nearly a finished copy of what I had in mind for these needs. The results were considered very good by everyone, but there were several repairs that were obvious to a concerned but fresh eye. People wanted to dither over those words, but I rewrote the text immediately and read the improved materials instantly. That procedure worked. As a rule, I would suggest writing what seems to be the correct wording and get instant feedback from the people who didn’t like the earlier wording. That functioned really well in this case because the changes were subtle but important in their nuance.

Be content with what you can do, but do it and get it into a completed format.

Wake up grumpy! What’s next?

I don’t have this problem but one of my friends does. I was talking to him about the grocery store checkout line problem with the pile of candy and how I coped with that. The solution turned out to be easy to do and remarkably effective. Our conversation then evolved, or devolved if you prefer, into how to cope with his morning grouches.

The first thing for coping with being grumpy is to acknowledge the problem, as was done with the pile of candy at the checkout line. Admit to your conscious self that you have an annoying feeling and say out loud to your inner self exactly what is going wrong with your world. For example say something like, “I’m still sleepy, the clock alarm radio is stupid, I don’t want to do anything today, the floor is cold, I have to pee, the furnace is making too much noise and it’s causing a draft,” and so on and on with whatever it is that is causing your grumpiness. You first have to acknowledge that you have a problem.

The exercise I am proposing is to prepare a habit of coping with your morning grumps right now, while reading this, by mentally thinking about those things and acknowledging that when getting up in the morning they annoy you. Having done that and after sitting here reading this blog post, close your eyes, think about each thing that is bothering you and say an appropriate comment about each one, such as, I may not be in control of the temperature of the floor at this moment but I am in control of how I emotionally feel about it. I can choose to let this inanimate object make me feel grumpy or I can choose to be in charge of my emotions and feel some other way, such as cheerful or fierce. It’s my choice and not the floor’s choice.

You can probably make that kind of statement about all the things that are making you feel grumpy, and when you acknowledge that they are annoying you but that you are in charge of how you feel about them, that you, and you alone, are responsible for how you feel, you can feel emotionally better, because you are in charge of your feelings.

You may not be able to do that in the morning because your old habit is to feel grumpy in those situations, but you can do it now. You are sitting in a comfortable chair and are not driven by work, or pee, to do anything. You have the thirty seconds it takes to go through that little exercise and at the end of it to physically smile for a couple of seconds. You even have time to do it a couple of times. Right now. … and smile. Furthermore, you can remember to do this little mental exercise a couple of more times over the next few hours and days. After you have done this seemingly inane task several times you will remember to do it when getting up in the morning and it will be easy. Without this mental practice to create the habit, it is hard to control these kinds of negative emotional states when barely awake, but when sitting here it is easy to mentally go through the cycle. So do it now. …

Mentally practice how you want to behave in problem situations when you are certain to be in control and certain to succeed. Now! …

An intermittent diet that worked for me.

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I have a typical body for an American male of my age. All my life I have been average. I mean average! Average height. Average weight. Average grades in school. Average.

Unfortunately for me, average means I gained weight consistently throughout my adult years. I did a lot of the average things during the 50s, 60s, 70s and all the rest of those decades, and one of those things was slowly gaining weight. I jogged a lot during most of those decades; when I lived in Berkeley there were long runs to the top of Grizzly Peak twice a week for ten years. Maybe that is a bit more than average, but it wasn’t unusual among my acquaintances. The point is that I went from weighing 150 pounds when I graduated from high school in 1953 to 194 pounds in 2007. I know that was my weight that day because we just put up our fancy Tibetan calendar from Shambhala and I had noted 194 there on January 1st 2007.

This last year Debbie and I have been dieting and we each have lost 22 pounds and I now weigh 161 pounds. Wow! Or boring, you might say, but a bit of further research on dieting here in America demonstrated to me that the diet industry is flawed. Flawed! There is a blizzard of information and yet two-thirds of Americans are overweight and about five percent approaching BMI of 40. That’s fat! Don’t get upset with me for saying that word if you are one of those people. BMI of 40 is fat! The diet industry is a total failure, or perhaps only 99% failure, and thus their advice isn’t worth much.

Debbie and I have been doing the intermittent fasting diet for 13 months now and the way we have been doing it is as easy as breathing. We hardly think about dieting. We have some easy habits and we do them. We eat as much as we feel comfortable with at our meal times and our bodies rarely tell us that we are hungry, so there is no pressure from within to eat. So, there is absolutely no strain of any kind to our dieting.

Google “diet” and there is mountains of information and most of it presented in such a way that it seems to make sense. Some say eat lots of this and none of that, but there are others who say exactly the opposite: they say eat lots of that and none of this! Most of the problem comes from excess sugar and especially excess fructose sugar, but notice I say excess. A little of that stuff won’t hurt you, but … and it’s a big BUT! It is hard to eat only a little sugar and it’s functionally addictive. It is far easier to just avoid as much sugar as possible. Just say NO. That was a slogan several years ago when it was being applied to drugs, but fructose sugar is a big one of those drugs that should have been included. “Just say NO to sugar!” Our food industry pushes sugar because it’s cheap to include in their products and the sugar addicts like it. Because so many foods have been loaded with sugar we have all become sugar addicts without realizing it. The modern world is loaded with sugar addicts.

Intermittent fasting works if you do it in a sensible way. Eating the way people did back in the 1950s works just fine. Eat breakfast, lunch and supper and nothing else before or after those times and you will do just fine for weight maintenance once you are near your ideal weight. When you want to lose weight at a pound per month close your eating window up an hour on each end. That means eating breakfast an hour later and supper an hour earlier. If you want to lose two pounds per month tighten up your eating window two hours on both ends. Do a couple of weeks with one hour before you move to two hours; that will make the adjustments easier. If you are twenty pounds over your ideal BMI of about 23 it will take about ten months to get there. Yes, that is a long time but it’s as easy as breathing, and I assume you expect to keep breathing those ten months. Our eating window has been noon to 6 PM.

Our bodies easily adjusted to six hours of eating.

A prayer acceptable to atheists, scientists, and the spiritually minded

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I am basically a scientifically minded person who seeks real-world answers to all problems. Ideas that can be tested and falsified, as is the current wording of the scientific aspirations, and thus approach reality as closely as possible with a word-bound description. That said, I have also been willing to explore the outer limits of other people’s experiences, even if they are considered totally insane. Probably all seven billion humans are somewhere between those opposites of contact with ultimate reality. For example, Albert Einstein was able to create better grasps of physical reality than everyone else, and a pretty good grasp of abstract descriptions of social reality too, but his personal social relations are reported to have been far less than ideal. Science and understanding isn’t the whole of coping with human reality.

That attitude was my personal starting point toward writing a prayer for the Spiritual Awareness Community of the Cascades. That official nonprofit organization was on the verge of collapse a couple of months ago and rather than let it die I agreed to serve on the Board of Directors. Once there it was imperative that I accept an official position, so I chose to be the Vice President because it had the fewest immediate responsibilities. The group was in dire straits during this time because we were being forced to move out of our physical home of more than twenty years. The former officers were all disheartened with serving and have resigned. I was given the task of rewriting the Vision Statement and Group Mission. I have done that and so far have been receiving positive feedback on my efforts. Here is an example of my approach which I have read to atheists, degreed scientists and the spiritually minded. They all liked it. These seemingly intellectually opposed people liked the following “prayer.”


An Acknowledgment of Our Dependence on Reality

We thank the matter of the Universe that embodies us,

We thank the space of the Universe that contains us,

We thank the energy of the Universe that empowers us,

We thank the time of the Universe that permits our actions!

Reality gives us life for our use and for our pleasure.

We acknowledge, and feel gratitude for all that IT has given us.


That is an obvious statement of our relationship with reality.

 

 

 

iPhone closeup photos are astonishing.

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I have been fiddling with my old iPhone and using the camera function with a tiny lens attached in front of the iPhone’s lens. It wasn’t working very well because when taking microscopic photos the tiniest wiggle totally ruins the picture. I worked out quite a few instantiations of things that I thought would work to control the jiggle, and they did sort of, but they were cranky to use and difficult to get lined up with things I wanted to photograph.

Finally, I made one that is very steady, easy to move about and can be taken out of a camera case and installed easily. If the camera and the camera case are sitting here on my desk, I can get the whole thing set up, take a picture and put the equipment away in under a minute. It’s harder outdoors where I don’t have a flat surface to put things down on. In my next incarnation, I plan to have more limbs and hands for such situations, but I’m not expecting much in that venue. Anyway, I took this photograph of Abe Lincoln on the back of a five-dollar bill here in front of my computer without the slightest special equipment other than what I made by hand here last night. The picture below may look kind of rough so go to your wallet and pull out a $5 bill and check out Lincoln’s beady eye on the back of your bill. Abe Lincoln on the back of a US $5 bill

If you have trouble finding Honest Abe look carefully in the shadows of the Lincoln Memorial building.

My cancer returns.

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I watch my health carefully and try to identify and correct little problems before they become big ones. In this case, the problem is tiny, only pinhead size, and even I would ignore this tiny growth if it wasn’t inside the divot where a quarter-inch patch of squamous cell cancer was removed from the top of my right ear about a year ago. This type of cancer is the least dangerous and is usually only a superficial skin thing that grows slowly and usually doesn’t metastasize. All the same, it is best to have it removed if the dermatologist suggests that is the right thing to do in any given circumstance.

I was seeing my general practitioner yesterday about several minor things, like the pea-size Dupuytren’s disease lump in my right palm. I would never have discovered this little lump if 23andMe hadn’t revealed the possibility. That’s a long story but this is a common lump found in older north Europeans’ hands. Probably it will be scheduled to be given a direct injection of something that will suppress its growth.
The bigger concern is the presently minor cancer on my ear, and today I went in to have a photograph taken of it using one of those scopes like the doctors use to look into your ear coupled with a digital camera. They send the photos to some administrator somewhere in the noosphere for analysis and the okay to proceed with a treatment. Obviously, an onsite dermatologist could do a much better analysis than the noospherologist could do from a remote office, but procedures must be obeyed; after all George Orwell’s 1984 is long past and we now live in Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World.

This was an opportunity to use my new invention with which I can take very close closeup pictures. Actually, since it was my ear I couldn’t do it, and I had to have Debbie line up the camera and press the button.A closeup photo of the top of an ear.

Closeup photo of the top of an ear.
Nice, closeup photo. Huh?!

Well, that tiny object isn’t a wart, so you can’t accuse me of being a worry wart.

Scamahorn right ear 2017-03-31 DSC08549 02 [Next day. I discovered this photo taken before the surgical removal. The angles are different in each photo, but it’s the same ear.]