We have all experienced sitting in the car at a stoplight when the person next to you suddenly moves forward slightly. Your reaction is to press the brake so forcibly that you nearly break your ankle. It also relates very well to the experience in the automatic car wash, when moving arms of scrubbers and nozzles of jetting water sends you careening through the machine.

Well, I confess that I sometimes perceive other things differently. Ride with me on an elevator sometime.

I want to go to the 14th floor. I step into this room with a lot of buttons on the wall. I press the button marked 14 and I hear a motor and some cables rattling. Suddenly the earth is pulled away and the fourteenth floor begins to drop to my level. The doors open and I step out. It’s remarkable!

Later, when I leave, I step back into the room and press the lobby button. The motors and cables groan as the lobby level is pulled back to my room, then I step out to continue my journey.

I learned this new way of thinking after a very successful Hawaii vacation several years ago. Instead of the normal vacation of moving from one stop to another, unpacking packing, island hopping… instead we took a Hawaiian cruise tour.

I sat in a deck chair in the sunshine, and the islands came to me one by one. I never packed or unpacked, I just sat quietly sipping my infinite diet cola. The diet cola came to me in the same way. Delightful! It was the best vacation.

I am now working on that cylindrical tube that we call an airplane. Somehow the captain has the ability to repel the earth at the same time as spinning it at great speed. With a great deal of math analysis, the captain adjusts the spin direction so that the destination appears below us, then the captain pulls the earth closer and closer to us until we are parked at the gate. 

Everything is experienced from your own perspective. Own it!

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Which way should I go?

I believe I first thought of this because I wanted my children to know how to get home. We live in a suburb where the streets twist and turn, as if they were following some sort of geographic terrain. Not so, the planners could have done a simple street grid system, but that would be been too much like the city. So our roads are like asphalt snakes. Twisty!

What I did was simple… periodically I would drive home after picking up a child, and I would pretend to grow stupid. This was easy for my kids to accept. Then, I would declare that I was lost, and they would have to select the right roads in order to get home.

In order for this to work had to follow their directions, I had to be willing to turn when the said, even if it was a wrong turn. Eyes grew wide we we often ended up on a dead-end road.
And, to add to the dilemma I would read all the street signs backwards. Stop would become Pots. Deeps timil 51 and gnix dep were favorites.

I think the lesson was learned on several levels. First, trust your parents, they often know where they are going. Second, even if you are not driving, watch where you are going, because somebody could suddenly get stupid. 

I continued with this game until each of my four children could successfully find their way home. Or, if by following their directions I ended up miles away in the drive-in lane for fast food.

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I’ve been thinking about the worse word in the English language, possibly the worse word in any language. 

It ends up being a tie. 

No, they aren’t four letter words, or any type of discouraging words. (Wow, I never thought about the meaning of the line in the song, “Home on the Range”. Deep!) Not that I’m saying that those examples aren’t bad, they are their own way horrible.

It does seem that we have an abundance of discouraging words. My worse words are much more sneaky, and spiritually deadly. 

The first word is “hopelessness”. It describes a state of being that I “hope” is impossible. I can’t even begin to comprehend the complete meaning. I think perhaps it can be illustrated…

No, hopelessness can’t exist. Pandora’s jar kept “hopelessness” from being loosed upon humanity. We are allowed perceive it, but it is only a concept of the most devastating condition imaginable.
Yet, we can choose to embrace it.

My other word, the word that is equally the worse word, is “coincidence”. Very sneaky word, a word that can come up almost daily. It often appears to very perceptive people, people that are attentive and alert. It’s funny, because the dictionary definition is, “a remarkable occurrence…”

Why is it remarkable? Well, because it looks like the occurrence is part of a plan, but of course that’s ridiculous because there is no plan. What?

So much is lost because of sneaky words, resulting in living a life without meaning. Embracing coincidence steals from your life. Use it only in Scrabble, it can be worth nearly 200 points.

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How Old is Your Light?

Light is never appreciated until you don’t have it. Well, that probably includes most everything, so maybe it says more about our ability to appreciate. 

I had occasion recently to advise a new photographer that taking a picture is “drawing with light”. I never tire to explain that this is the literal meaning of the word “photography”.

It certainly means that one must understand light in a greater way than peeking outside to see if the sun is up.

First thing, I would like to give Newton credit for his work with prisms and sunlight. It certainly explained rainbows, although I still see them as a gift from God. Newton did nothing to explain pots of gold at the end of rainbows so there is that. It does appear that Goethe is not far off in his different view of light. Particularly in our world of LCD screens. 

The thing that I’m currently grasping, but only barely, is just how old our light is. We have the phrase “fast as the speed of light”, well, apparently that is only valid for that living room lamp. Hit the switch and light is nearly instantaneous. Not so if you walk outside. 

The light that falls on your skin is at least 8 minutes old. 8 minutes and twenty seconds to be exact. We are constantly behind in our awareness.

I must admit that I have thoughts about a solar switch going off, and for eight minutes I’m acting as if everything is perfectly okay. I suppose knowing that we will have moonlight for approximately 1.3 seconds after it is dark on Earth should give me some comfort. It doesn’t. 

So we simply must adjust to our old light. If comfort can be found it would be in starlight. That’s some old light. The light from the closest star takes about four years to reach us, the star furthest away is the most challenging for light. It would take about 13.3 billion years to reach us. Real old light!!

Credit to Regina Spektor’s song, “Samson”.

“Beneath the stars came fallin’ on our heads

But they’re just old light, they’re just old light.”

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I was thinking about Venusians. Venus had been an early target for space probes, but we haven’t been back there in decades. Why? Perhaps because the probes sent back all the inportant information we needed. Perhaps it was because the Soviets beat us there with the first of many probes.

Perhaps because the surface is so harsh that nothing sent there lasted more than 54 minutes. Why go back?

If there were life, it would be life unlike anything known on this planet. Perhaps a little bit like the life found around the sulphur vents in the deep ocean. Yes, the Venusians, if intelligent, would have very little in common with us. 

I wonder what any other life forms would think of us? I’ve learned that we are heterotrophs. In fact, all animals and most fungi are heterotrophs. 

Fancy word for life forms that live by eating other life forms. This is not an encouraging fact for creatures from another planet. Where are the boundaries?

I mean, let’s just say that Venusians are found to be intelligent, but also the best tasting, high protein, gluten free, low calorie, low fat, low sugar, non-allergic, food that provides all the essential nutrients and vitamins. Literally the perfect food!

Okay, sure, they are intelligent, but they don’t have to have a first name, (my current rule for the question, Is it edible?) And their thoughts, stories, philosophies, might have no relation to anything we can understand. But somehow we found out that Venusians make a great barbecue. And there is also a tremendous amount of Venusians, almost inexhaustible because there are no heterotrophs on Venus. 

Hmm, decisions, decisions. By the way, autotrophs do exist. Most plants do not need living food, but that does not mean that they are safe. We find most autotrophs quite tasty if prepared well.

It might be said that vegetarians are kinder because the only eat plants. Kinder? Eating defenseless autotrophs, plants that can’t even run away?. Heterotrophs that eat other heterotrophs seems more fair. At least for the main entree. 

Gotta stop thinking, I must be hungry.

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The Accounting

To keep accounts has to do with numbers. But in many languages it is also connected to the word “story”. You have account books that will keep a record of your expenditures and your receivables, and hopefully there will be only one record, the true record.

There might also be an account, a story, of your life. It might not be written it might just be a collection of memories, a family oral tradition, or perhaps stories that are told about you from complete strangers. One would hope that this would also be a true record.

The ancient Egyptians believed in an afterlife, their whole process of preparing the body for burial was necessary because the afterlife was as real as their current life. One of the first steps after death was the judgement before Anubis. The Egyptians believed that a light heart would be a good thing. A heavy heart would be laden with guilt and evil. Anubis had a scale with a feather in one tray, your heart would be balanced with this Feather. The god Thoth would be there to write this all down, making your potential condemnation legal, if necessary.

It was also thought that the newly dead could present a written record, an accounting of their life, just in case the gods had forgotten all the goods deeds that had been done. Of course this was written before death, and one would hope that it was current. Accidentally death could have been problematic, but perhaps a scroll was stashed away someplace, or maybe a scribe was in the family and could whip something up on the spot.

These scrolls, the story of their life, were rolled up and placed in the hand before burial. Thoth, the wise god, could read what was written and perhaps tip the scales. After the Great Library of Alexandria was destroyed, many scrolls were not burned in the fire. The poorest of the rioters gathered arms full of scrolls, and carried them back to there homes. For years, when one of the family died, the body was wrapped in random scrolls before burial, and often, perhaps a classic Greek play was carefully rolled and placed in the hand of the corpse. The poor were mostly illiterate, but they thought that they should go to the afterlife with a story in their hand.

We know all this because of archeology digging in the cemeteries of the poor. More scrolls found there then in the tombs of kings.

Today we don’t have that custom. Some people write about their thoughts, they keep journals, and they even publish what they have written. Most do not. Some people make a better account of their lives than their actual life. It is not fun, nor particularly enjoyable, to write of the more darker thoughts or actions. Better to leave a record of the positive things. If the bad things are serious enough, then surely you will be judged on them. We even have legal issues around self-recriminations, why remind everyone how bad you can be?

By the very nature of the “accounting”, we are the star of our own story. We took a breathe, we grew, we did things, and then we died. Very straightforward story. 

However,the world is not full of individual stories. It is a mixture, a blend of the impacts of story upon story. History may only record that you bandaged the knee of a future Olympian, and because you stopped a potential infection, he ran the fastest mile ever recorded. Yet, your life was complete on its own, full of accomplishment and failure.

Harald Hardrada was king of Norway, by his own hand. He was fifty years old and had never lost a battle, except his first one. He invaded England stating his claim was more valid than the current Saxon king Harold Godwin. It should have been Hardrada’s story. Instead, he took an arrow in the eye, and died at Stamford Bridge. So it really was King Harold Godwin’s story. Except that King Harold of England lost more than half of his very best men in the battle, and then he found out that William the Bastard had invaded from Normandy. He quick marched his mauled army down to meet William and might have beaten him, but he took an arrow in the throat and died on the heights. It was actually William the Conqueror’s story after all.

George Eskridge was an colonist born in 1660 in Lancaster, England. When he was ten years old, he was visiting Wales, and playing in the city square. A British Naval Press Gang moved through the square and young George was soon on board a ship bound for the colonies. Upon arrival he was sold as an indentured servant to a plantation owner in Virginia. What his parents thought, or knew has not been recorded. Indentured servitude was for seven years, so young George was freed at seventeen and was allowed to return to Lancaster.

Apparently he has used his time in America to learn how best to run a plantation. He enrolled in college, earned a law degree, went back to Virginia, and bought the most promising plantation in Westmoreland County. He also became a politician and was part of the House of Burgesses for ten years. He married well, had healthy children, and was a man of honor. 

The story of George Eskridge was known far and wide as a remarkable success, and he was not embittered by his kidnapping as a boy.

A neighbor, Mr.Ball, had gotten sick, and George had helped him, his wife, and daughter to bring in the harvest. When the neighbor died, George convinced the widow to keep the land, and he would continue to help with planting and harvesting. When the mother died, George brought in the orphaned daughter and raised her along with his multiple children. George even helped Mary with her engagement party, when she planned to marry another neighbor.

Mary was so influenced by George Eskridge, by his kindness, by his commitment to community, that she named her first son George. This was to be the story of George Eskridge, but the impact that he had on young Mary Ball was so profound that the lessons she learned she passed on to her son, George Washington. And it became George Washington’s story.

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Off Trail

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