Thursday, February 02, 2017

You Didn't Build That

I didn't catch the whole speech, but I knew what Obama meant when he said, "You didn't build that." I heard different parts of his speech at other times, mostly not in a favorable way. It was Obama after all. But I knew what he meant from the first minute I heard the words. I wasn't going to comment on it, negatively or positively. There was no need. The Left and the Right were already commenting, oftentimes in a nasty manner. The Obama Choir was in full voice shouting down the Tea Party clamor. They didn't need my two cents. After all, what did it matter anyway? I'm one person and very little I say matters even when I want what I say to matter. I am forgettable and indistinguishable from the background noise. My one voice will make no difference. Since I avoid pointless battles, I felt secure in my decision to keep my words and my thoughts to myself.

I was wrong. I was ignorant.

Whether I said the words out loud or not, the very thought and my reluctance to join the clamor did matter. They still matter and not just because I'm writing them down to send out into the cyber void. They always mattered because my thoughts, like my unspoken words, are real. They have weight. They make a difference.

They make ripples.

And here come the shouts and name-calling from the opposition. There is always opposition, except in story books where good triumphs over bad. Those stories where good triumphs also cause ripples when the author thinks about the story, puts the words together, types them onto paper or creates them on a screen and sends them into the virtual world, and every single time someone reads the story and laughs or cries or stops to wonder what it all means. Those first ripples create more ripples and each ripple creates ripples and the ripples keep spreading out and out -- and in and in -- forever.

Nothing goes on forever you say. You probably believe in forever after and eternity and the vastness of God or Allah or whatever name you give to the Infinite All the created everything. That created you and even me. Everything goes on forever.

That is what Obama was saying . . . badly . . . but he did say it. Nothing you create is yours alone. It is the result of everyone who helped you make your vision a reality, from your parents to your teachers to your friends and community to your banker, the workers, and the men and women who helped make your creation a reality. It doesn't stop there. The ripples keep going to the people who advertise your work by talking about it, by putting together a marketing campaign, and by continuing to raise awareness of your work by keeping the words flowing. Every person who buys or appreciates your work, long after you are dead and gone, create ripples that create ripples that keep creating ripples. Then, long after you are gone someone will find your work dusty and covered with cobwebs or see an newspaper write-up or read about it in a book, hear about it from someone who knew you when you were putting it all together, and so on and so on and so on forever. Whether in memory or in use, that initial thought you believed was yours was a single ripple in an infinite pond, something you built in your dreams others helped you make tangible reality, helped you build that.

Okay, so I used a whole lot more words than Obama, but the message is the same. You had help to build whatever. You did not build that alone.

Nothing we do, even when we think we do nothing, is ever done alone. No, I'm not talking about the people that believe that God (or Allah or Mohamet or Baal or Lucifer or whoever/whatever) is the author of all. He/She/It is not the all. Nor are you or me or some nameless someone down the road out of sight.

A little too religious, holy . . . forgettable for you? You don't go for all that self-righteous, mumbo-jumbo, airy-fairy, New Age crap. Does it make you nervous? Anxious? Frightened? What if . . . ?

What if.

Obama wasn't the first to create "You didn't build that." Millions of people did that long before Obama's time came up with the same idea. Obama built on someone else's words, someone else's thoughts, someone else's ideas. He did not build that. He had help -- a lot of help standing on the shoulders of others. The words might have been a political slogan, a lesson to a child, an explanation of so much more than just the words, the teachings of a priest, a leader, a father, a mother, or a friend. All that is happening has happened before, many times before. I'll bet you've heard or read that as well. It's true and here is where it gets uncomfortable for some of you.

We are all connected. We are ripples in the stream of time and consciousness forming, colliding, ricocheting off each other to create more ripples creating more ripples -- forever. Everything we do affects everything else. Describe it in scientific terms, refine it until it can be expressed in an equation as simple as E=mc2. No matter which way it come out every thought, every word, every action, every inaction, everything affects everything else.

From the beautiful and sublime to the frightening and ugly, it's all connected. It's not just you and it's not just me or her or him or them. We are all connected.

In simplest and graphic terms, what ripples you make affect everything and everyone around you. You pick up a dropped spoon or pencil and put it on the table or give it back to the person who dropped it. Ripples. Someone finds the spoon on the table or the pencil dropper smiles and thanks you. Ripples. The spoon dropper in a moment of irritation throws the spoon against the wall or the floor or through an open door and hits the boss when she walks past while the pencil dropper notices the pencil is broken and screams at you for breaking their pencil that they can no longer use because they don't have a sharpener. "It's your fault!" they scream at you, spit spraying your face. Ripples. What you do next will either make things worse or make them better. Ripples.

The ripple effect is the same as the butterfly effect. The only difference is the way the effect is illustrated.

Whether or not I added my voice to the clamor when Obama spoke those words, "You didn't build that!" I created ripples. I affected someone or something even though I kept my words to myself. The thoughts I kept to myself had as much effect as those unspoken words and how much of a ripple I caused is determined by my emotions. I dismissed Obama's words out of hand. It didn't matter. He didn't matter because people would still see and feel the same way because Obama said the words. I didn't care. No matter. I still created ripples. I still had an effect whether I knew it or not. Ignorance is no excuse.

And here is where it gets scary.

All those unspoken thoughts, all those hidden dreams and fantasies, all those secrets you swore to keep to yourself, every random angry thought, all those times you wished someone harm or worse, all those thoughts floating out there in the void you were sure were locked in some hidden corner of your mind are ripples.

Every fish, insect, and species living under the water, no matter how deep, create ripples. You may not see them on the surface, but the ripples are there all the same. So are all those thoughts, secrets, fantasies, and emotions hidden beneath your surface. Think of the ripples created by all that life below the surface of the pond. It doesn't matter how big the pond is, even if the pond is as vast as the seven seas or the world's oceans, there are ripples from all the sea life from the deepest depths to the sea life close to the surface where their movements are not visible to the eye, your eye. Ripples.

Yes, that butterfly in Brazil can create a tornado in Texas -- and here's the kicker -- as long as the butterfly in Kathmandu doesn't get in the way.

No matter what Obama intended when he spoke those words, "You didn't build it!" that is not sound byte remains. What remains is Obama taking away the pride someone feels when their dream becomes a reality. Obama trampled on their dreams, turned an accomplishment to nothing more than trash that will end up in a landfill. My silence, my unwillingness to speak, my ignorance changed the effect those words could have had. My choice to refuse to add my words and my voice to the clamor made a difference. My ignorance is no excuse. I knew what Obama meant and said nothing.

This butterfly in Colorado contributed to the forced that made something meant to be positive, to be inclusive, into a weapon and a joke.


That is all. Disperse.

Monday, January 30, 2017

A Different Kind of Green

 Sometimes too much information is TOO MUCH information and not helpful when making life changing choices.

I've read numerous articles, listened to far too many experts, and spent a load of cash trying different products supposed to make me healthier. The problem is information overload beneath an avalanche of data without the time necessary to thoroughly sort through it all, check out credentials, and verify scientific papers and statistics, most of which are contradictory and decidedly not helpful.

I no longer believe that a pill can solve all health problems and I know for certain that drug companies are more interested in problems than in health. That much has been easy to sort out.

Blame my focus on health on the early (very early) lessons learned that one can only be healthy when one is the size and shape of an anorexic bean pole that shows off the clothes because making the clothes look good is all that ever matters.

I was a gawky child with oddly shaped parts, mostly notably thick ankles, thick calves, and blocky looking legs. The rest of me was pretty average in some areas and too mature for my age in others, as I was regularly reminded every time I was forced to drink reconstituted Carnation dry low fat milk and given diet pills at the age of 8 or 9, until the doctor said I was far too young to be on drugs. The result was that every mouthful I ate was constantly scrutinized and taking too much meat, too many pieces of broccoli, sliced fresh tomato, or salad followed by the public shaming, most effective and most often used during family dinners. The tablespoon-sized piece of meat, no matter how I nibbled at it, went too quickly and I was always hungry for more salad and more vegetables, especially the kind kids usually do not eat. I couldn't get enough, but then most of a person's growth happens in those years up to the middle teens (and for another 10 years) laying down the skeletal and muscle growth that supports an adult throughout their life. In short, kids are always hungry because they are still growing.

At any rate, through the diets, forced austerity, and deprivations, not to mention the pregnancy years (one right after another), I had an unhealthy relationship with food. To me, food meant deprivation and denial -- a whole lot of denial -- of the foods I loved the most, vegetables, fruits, salads, and the occasional (when we could afford it) steak.

As I've aged, I have learned more about food and about what little I know of my genetic and familial history, and have decided that maybe becoming a vegetarian is a good choice. I still cannot decide whether corn, whole grains, legumes, and peas (I do enjoy them all) are healthy or harmful. I worry about diabetes (corn, green peas, whole grains, and legumes are no-nos and lead to diabetes) because so many of my relatives have had and continue to have diabetes. I don't want to be one of them. I am concerned about which is healthier, grass fed or grass finished, meat. I already search for the best place to get fish and how much mercury and toxic effluvia are contained, avoiding shellfish of all kinds, and won't eat farm-raised fish because of the antibiotics used in massive doses because of the conditions in the fish farms which beggar imagination and are horrifying enough for me, even more so for the fish confined in over crowded pens for the sake of maximizing profits and ignoring the needs of fish and the people intended to eat them. Not even with a really good sauce.

From that perspective, going vegetarian is probably the best route for me. But then there are the conflicting studies, conflicting views, and conflict, conflict, conflict with not a clear truth anywhere to be found. Even choosing to be vegetarian, there is the issue of whether that would be just as restrictive as the rest of my life because of what I should, probably, must give up to be healthy. It's all so confusing.

I watched a documentary last night about the plant-based lifestyle showcasing athletes who have grown big and strong with loads of stamina and look healthy and fit. I've seen athletes touting carb-loading before strenuous events, low carb and high protein/paleo/Atkin's plan adherents and the many rebranded but still Atkin's based plans, the fruit-only plans, the vegan and vegetarian plans, and everything in between. I've heard that soy-based foods are healthiest -- and unhealthiest -- choices and then there is the prevalence of GMOs in soy and the nearly universal use of soy to make all kinds of meat substitutes and replacements for estrogen to ease menopause (which is behind me now), lost weight, grow hair, battle diabetes, etc. until I am tired of listening, reading, and making sense of out what has become mindless nonsense touted by whichever corporation has figured out a way to sell their snake oil for the most money by bilking the most people.

I can live without meat and fish as I have lived without shellfish and fish without scales like bottom-feeding catfish, but I'm not willing to do without vegetables and fruits. That far I will not go.

As long as I can be sure my plant-based foods are non-GMO, not treated with glyphosates at any point from preparing the soil to harvesting the food, and are from organic sources grown with organic practices, I'm good. There is no one to tell me I cannot have more salad, another ear of corn, or more Brussels sprouts to go with my baked sweet potato. I choose plants and will explore the adventure of plant-based foods until I find no more plants to discover. I might even resurrect a few plants from the past, anything is possible.

One final thought. Roman soldiers, and gladiators, were called barley eaters. From my historic research, only the wealthy could afford to eat meat regularly or had access to the finest fish. The bulk of the common Roman soldier ate barley bread, vegetables, olives, dates, and legumes and they conquered the known world. I'll take a page from their history and choose barley, corn, vegetables, herbs, fruits -- plant-based foods. Imagine fields of growing fruits, vegetables, legumes, and tubers instead of cattle, sheep, and hogs. Better yet, think of all the oxygen all those plants will add to the atmosphere. Fresh country air will have a very different aroma then.

That is all. Disperse.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

Cult of Personality

People think the cult of personality is something new, a relic of the late 20th and early 21st centuries. The only difference between the 1780s and 2017 is the speed with which information -- and scandal -- are disseminated.

Victoria Claflin Woodhull was not yet 35 in 1872 when she decided to run for President of the United States. She was not allowed to vote, but she was determined to vote, citing an eloquent argument based on the U. S. Constitution and building on what had already been written by like-minded men and women. Woodhull was the first woman to petition Congress on this matter and present her well reasoned arguments before that august body.

An entrepreneur, the first woman stockbroker in history, and a vocal advocate for women's rights and free love, Woodhull was determined to push women's suffrage forward and gain the vote for women. She also pushed her feminist agenda for free love and an end to government deciding marriage, divorce, and every other aspect of a woman's life, especially with regard to what was permissible in modern society. If men could marry and carry on illicit affairs, then women should be allowed to determine their own fate as well. It was Woodhull's version of quid pro quo and met with mixed acceptance.

One might say that Woodhull's publication of Rev. Henry Ward Beecher's adulterous affair with Elizabeth Tilton and subsequent arrest was over the top in regards to punishment and using the U. S. mail to circulate the issue in Woodhull & Claflin Weekly's edition containing the details of the affair an obscenity as petty as it was political. The fact that Woodhull was a presidential candidate and unable to cast her unsanctioned vote because of her incarceration on charges that were specious at best is still notable, as is her choice of Frederick Douglass, a presidential elector from New York in the Electoral College, as her running mate for Vice-President. Douglass never acknowledged his candidacy nor did he attend the nominating convention. Woodhull ran under the Equal Rights Party banner.

Woodhull did garner votes, as one man from Texas claimed, stating he voted for Woodhull as a vote against Ulysses S. Grant, who eventually won the presidency in 1872. She received no electoral votes and all votes for her were not counted. She ran again unsuccessfully in 1884 and 1892. In the meantime, Woodhull was bankrupted by her opposition in the Women's Suffrage Movement by women like Susan B. Anthony who did not like her position or her politics.

As Otto von Bismarck stated, "Politics is the art of the possible," a sentiment echoed famously by Eva Peron in the opera penned by Andrew Lloyd Webber.

Looking at George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln, Theodore Roosevelt, and Franklin Delano Roosevelt, as well as John F. Kennedy, can we really not see how the cult of the personality is the bedrock of politics? The Cult of the Personality did not begin with Barack Obama or Donald Trump and its roots are strong and deep throughout the history of politics in the United States of America as it has been throughout the history of the world, from Julius Caesar all the way back to Agamemnon and beyond. Victoria Claflin Woodhull is in memorable company and not only for her presidential candidacy but for her beliefs in communism, free love, and business and for her business acumen and refusal to bow to pressure, even when she was jailed.

That is all. Disperse.