Sacred Commerce

Sacred Commerce

 

What do you call the New Age these days? If the New Age dawned in the 70’s, then it’s getting pretty long in the tooth, coming up on its semi-centennial, so wouldn’t a new designation almost be a necessity? What if what we consider New Age is actually as old as the pyramids of Egypt, older even, while the ideas contained therein have been rebranded for the modern world? Does that make it less new? Rhetorical questions, yes, but if you want some real answers about how to improve your business and life, read Sacred Commerce, a Blueprint for a New Humanity, by Ayman Sawaf and Rowan Gabrielle.

Sacred Commerce plays like an ancient melody, resurrecting and restoring the concept of conscious capitalism, bringing it to life through the quality of resonance, a trait that surely must be part of our human DNA for all our predisposition to it. It’s no secret that negativity breeds negativity, and that one person having a bad day can ruin everyone else’s (the one friend that is agonizingly grumpy all the time) be it with a dour countenance or some serious negative juju (any one of the public shootings happening with so much more frequency), but if you buy into the concept then the reverse is also true, someone with a super positive attitude can raise the energy level of everyone around them. Such was the job of the ancient merchant priests who were skilled in the art of “resonance,” the process of lifting the energy level of everyone around them by elevating their own vibrations. It’s a skill that took years, perhaps decades to perfect through meditation and conscious creation and its based on three elements of the Soul: beauty, truth and goodness.

The merchant priests drew sustenance from these concepts, meditating on them and incorporating them into their activities of daily living. By doing so, they were not only themselves elevated, but were able to elevate the entire marketplace, expanding their own energy and sending that positiveness out into the world much like a tuning fork resonates with another when its struck. In ancient times, life was base and chaotic, marked by fear and a whole range of lower emotions that lived side-by-side with people’s survival instincts, while life and death were viewed much more indiscriminately than they are today. Imagine having someone who could elevate the thoughts of everyone around them simply by holding a higher vibration. As the merchant priests focused upon the concept of beauty, for example, sitting off to the side in the open air market, their entire aura changed and they were able to spread this supercharged energy to everyone around them. This in turn brought out the principles of democracy, emotional intelligence, fairness and conscious commercialism as a means not just to sell things, but to bring out the best in the individuals affected. In this manner, every transaction becomes a brush with the Divine Feminine.  

According to Sawaf and Gabrielle, our current system of capitalism, of bottom line dollars and greed above all else, is killing us and the planet. But fear not! We are on the verge of a renaissance, a return to the themes of beauty, truth and goodness, of conscious capitalism, of all for one and one for all, of the time of the merchant priest. Sacred Commerce recommends focusing on the 12 virtues of the merchant priest — honor, loyalty, nobility, virtue, grace, trust, courage, courtesy, gallantry, authority, service, and humility — to “automatically lift us to a higher octave of being.” If you want an inkling of what this new old world order will look like, read Sacred Commerce and immerse your Self and the world around you in a higher vibration.

 

SaveSave

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

We’ll Always Have Paris, Or Will Wee?

We’ll Always Have Paris
Or Will Wee?

Can we just agree that nothing screams “civilized society” like a well-kept public bathroom. Costs. maintenance, vandalism, and the like have resulted in the dwindling of this precious amenity, but if society is to retain its sense of propriety, then public toilets are a must. Sometimes in the early morning hours, the urine smell at the entrance to my office in Center City Philadelphia is so bad that I have to hold my breath. Sheltered by a roof and sitting back from the street, this particular space offers a bit of privacy, and while I don’t condone peeing in corners, if you’re homeless, it’s the perfect spot. But it isn’t just the homeless who need to avail themselves of a public potty. When you’re touring a new city or just out for a day around town, eventually, you’re going to need a place to wee, and since most establishments follow the rule that bathrooms are “for customers only,” that leaves the public toilet.

Let’s start with what I consider to be the gold standard here in the U.S.: the public bathrooms at Bryant Park in NYC, a gorgeous 315-sq. ft. Beaux Arts structure which would be equally at home in a 5-star hotel, one that The New Yorker calls “the Tiffany’s of public restrooms.” The 25-year old bathroom recently got an upgrade and now it’s even more divine.

Upkeep runs about $270,000 a year which covers over 14,000 roles of toilet paper as well as attendant’s salaries, and about $14,000/year for flowers (yes, real flowers!). Attendants earn between $25,000 and $30,000/yr., all paid for with private donations and sponsorships. They play classical music in the Bryant Park bathroom and any change to the lineup has to be run by the staff. In other words, the workers are invested. If you need to pee in NYC, Bryant Park should top your list.  

Other NYC public bathrooms include the ones across from Washington Square Park, also attended, also clean, and large enough to accommodate the masses, as well as the Loeb Boathouse in Central Park, an indoor bathroom servicing the restaurant,

but which isn’t for patrons only. The bathrooms at Penn Central are a little less glamorous, but well-used and much needed after a long train trip. None of these bathrooms share the opulence of Bryant Park, but opulence isn’t the defining criteria for people who need to pee — access is.

A continent away, we have the communal toilets in Paris. In the glamorous attention to detail for which the French are known — or is it that everything seems more glamorous in French — as public toilets go, the French may have it all over us. Communal toilets in Paris were a product of the 19th century, a step up from the bed pan which, after use, was dumped out the window into the street or French drain. Disease was rampant and the average home was a hotbed of bacteria. It’s a wonder anyone made it out of the 19th century alive; today’s homes are sterile in comparison. As Paris became increasingly moderne, communal toilets, or chalets de nécessité, were built, and women — dames pipi — hired to monitor them.    In the 21st century, nearly everyone in France who enjoys the comforts of a residence also enjoys indoor plumbing. Sadly, it is this very luxury which may prove to be the downfall of the remaining dames pipi. About a dozen women, all immigrants, have sued the city to reclaim their jobs, caught in the city’s revitalization efforts which included charging people to pee. The company that bought the remaining public toilets 2theloo wanted to create an extraordinary bathroom experience for the average Parisian, whatever that might mean, and the dames didn’t fit 2theloo’s vision so they were let go. The dames pipi filed a lawsuit and lost and now Paris has to pay to pee. Not to make light of the plight of these noble women who’ve cleaned the public’s toilets for decades only to be unceremoniously dumped (sorry!), but what about the people who still have to wee??  

Two decades ago as many as two dozen toilets in Paris were free, but no longer. So where do people go when nature calls for surely not everyone can pay? Perhaps it was when the lamp post fell on a cab driver after one too many dogs had peed on it, causing the base to erode and the post to fall, or maybe it’s the persistent smell of urine in the streets and alleyways, but whatever the reason, France needed a solution.    Paris’ current answer is the Uritrottoir urinal, a composting public toilet that also grows flowers and whose composted material may be used for fertilizers. It’s a truly sustainable product, beautifully well-appointed, well-tended, and a welcome relief if you need it, although I’m still not sure how women are able to use it given that it’s “open air.”

 

Other venues offer different solutions. For the city that wants accessibility, but doesn’t want to give up too much prime real estate, there are the beautiful, compact phone booth toilets such as the ones in Switzerland.  

Other options are the two-way mirrored toilets, practical and able to be used on any street corner. You can watch the world go by while you’re in there doing your business, an unnerving experience, maybe, if you’re worried about the two-way mirror failing.  

Of course, NYC has it’s on version of this cutting edge commodity of personal hygiene:

If you’ve ever desperately needed a bathroom, you know how welcoming the sight of any one of the above options can be. So perhaps it’s time to “give a shit.” Whether you’re here or abroad, November 19th is World Toilet Day.

To celebrate, why not do something to help alleviate the suffering of some of the over 2.4 billion people who don’t have access to a toilet?   Donate to a charity that builds public toilets, contribute to financing a micro loan to help a family add indoor plumbing to their living situation, educate yourself on the state of wastewater in your country and the world. Due to our combined efforts, maybe someday everyone will have a place of their own to wee.

pjlazos 11.12.17

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 20 Comments

Sustenance

It’s time again for the We Are The World 🌎 Blogfest, #WATWB,  occurring on the last Friday of each month.  Started by a fine group of bloggers who wanted to focus on the good news as a way of expanding its reach, the #WATWB is like a balm for our battle-weary souls. Face it, it’s rough out there and more often than not, a bit of good news helps.

Here are the guidelines for the #WATWB:

1. Keep your post to Below 500 words, as much as possible.

2. Link to a human news story on your blogone that shows love, humanity, and brotherhood. Paste in an excerpt and tell us why it touched you. The Link is important, because it actually makes us look through news to find the positive ones to post.

3. No story is too big or small, as long as it Goes Beyond religion and politics, into the core of humanity.

4. Place the WE ARE THE WORLD badge or banner on your Post and your Sidebar. Some of you have already done so, this is just a gentle reminder for the others.

5. Help us spread the word on social media. Feel free to tweet, share using the #WATWB hastag to help us trend!

Tweets, Facebook shares, Pins, Instagram, G+ shares using the #WATWB hashtag through the month most welcome. We’ll try and follow and share all those who post on the #WATWB hashtag, and we encourage you to do the same.Have your followers click here to enter their link and join us! Bigger the #WATWB group each month, more the joy!

Please visit our generous co-hosts Shilpa Garg, Sylvia McGrath, Mary Giese,Guilie Castillo and Belinda Witzenhausen.

 

Sustenance

Enjoy this story about a few groups in Madison, Wisconsin and Douglas County, Kansas who want to raise their vibrations one carrot, squash and string bean at a time. What’s that you say about raising vibrations? Well, you know, the best way to do that might just be to eat right — healthy, organic, non-toxic, non-pesticide-laden food grown in small batches, as opposed to acres upon acres of the same product, lovingly cared for by a group of like-minded individuals who know the value of community.  Who knows?  Maybe more than a few of them whistle while they work and that’s got to be great for the watermelon.

The groups are focusing not just on food, but on developing a “sustainable local and regional food system that supports equitable access to healthy, culturally appropriate food, nutrition education and economic opportunity.”  Another one of the goals is the creation of a better food pantry so that those who don’t have access to this kind of healthy food can share in the bounty.

 

You can access the article here. Sustainable agriculture — locally grown, small-batched, organic food — is a must if we are going to make it, nutritionally speaking, into the 22nd century.  Agribusiness with its acres and acres of a single, non-diverse product is not.  Maybe you’ll want to start a community garden in your neighborhood. Together, we can make a greener, more verdant world, one little community garden at a time.

pjlazos 10.27.17

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Posted in Uncategorized | 22 Comments

Stranger Things

 

Stranger Things

Winona Ryder, how we’ve missed you. Back in the 80’s and 90’s, Ryder was working so much it’s amazing that she had time for lunch, Heathers, Beetle Juice, Edward Scissorshands, Little Women, Girl Interrupted, The Age of Innocence, Reality Bites, iconic films that shaped decades of entertainment. In Stranger Things, a circa 1980s show that comes with all the fixings — the big hair, the fantastic music, the terrible architecture, even the acne — Ryder shows us why she’s still one of the most relevant actors of her time. She plays Joyce Byers, a divorcé whose younger son, Will (Noah Schnapp) has gone missing. Ryder’s Joyce is raw, unnerving, intelligent, almost unhinged, her life held in check, but barely, by sheer force of will, her own and her older son, Jonathon’s (Charlie Heaton). She and we both know that no matter what anyone says, something is definitely going bump in the night and if she doesn’t find her son, no one can.

The problem is, Joyce is considered a bit of a whack job around town so at first, no one believes her which makes Joyce even more hysterical. Prepare to experience heart palpitations right along with her.

 

The story opens with four friends and science geeks, Will, Dustin (Gaten Matarazzo), Mike (Finn Wolfhard), and Lucas (Caleb McLaughlin), playing Dungeons and Dragons. They’ve been at it for the last 15 hours.   When Mike’s mom calls the game, there’s a moment of confusion — the die is lost and Mike goes upstairs to negotiate more time. The die is eventually found, but it’s not good news for Will who decides to play it straight. In a move that foreshadows the entire season, Will is captured in the game by the Demagorgen, the game’s worst of the worst as monsters go.   Rather than cheat, Will comes clean, remarking to Mike on the inevitability of fate before Will, Dustin and Lucas mount their bikes and head off into the darkness. (It’s still the 80’s and parents didn’t worry as much about stuff happening to kids out alone at night as they do now.) As the kids race home, Will chooses a shortcut through the woods, splits off from Dustin and Lucas and disappears. Will realizes a bit too late that he’s being pursued. Despite making it home and loading a shot-gun to fight the beast, the Demagorgan still gets him, but no one realizes it until the next morning.

It’s The X-Files meets Stand By Me and the rest of this Netflix Original Series, eight episodes in total, focuses on the town’s search for Will led by Chief Hopper (David Harbour) and propelled by Joyce’s urgency. The day after his disappearance, the Byer’s receive a phone call. No words are spoken, only breathing on the other end, but Joyce is sure it’s Will. The call ends abruptly when an electrical jolt buzzes through the line (yes, in the 80’s phones had wires connecting them to a box on the wall!), with enough voltage to shock Joyce and scar the mouth and ear pieces of the phone. Lights have been flickering on and off in her house, a boom box randomly plays Will’s favorite Clash song, and Joyce believes

Will is trying to contact her through the electricity. She buys boxes and boxes of Christmas lights, strings them up everywhere, and writes letters below them, creating a life-size Ouija board so she can talk to Will. Time is limited. Joyce knows this.

Shades of the X-Files overlay each episode — the government conspiracy; the crusty cop, good at heart, but decimated by a life event that left him with a fatalistic edge; the creepy dark way the series has been filmed, adding to the broody horror of the story.

The home run of “Stranger Things” though, is the relationship between the four friends, plus the add-on of “11” (Millie Bobby) who appears soon after Will disappears and is the key to all the crazy unfolding events. Mike, Dustin and Lucas find 11— who they rename “El” — in the woods while searching for Will. She’s scared and hungry and they decide to hide her, stashing her in Mike’s basement while his parents carry on upstairs. Turns out, some creepy shadow government guys, particularly Dr. Martin Brenner (Matthew Modine), who plays mean magnificently, really are looking for El, so now it’s not just clueless parents the kids have to outsmart. Each of the characters has their own hero’s journey, and every episode has life or death consequences, especially for the kids.

My own kids turned me on to Stranger Things, but I couldn’t wait for them to finish watching and blew through all eight episodes in less than a week. (Seriously, try to find eight hours in a week just to watch TV. It’s not that easy.) The satisfying final episode resolves many of the strands even while leaving a giant cliffhanger for us conspiracy theorists to cogitate over until the start of Season 2 which is now upon us!

At a time when many of the movies and much of TV programming consists of stories about a dystopian future — one that looks strikingly similar to the place we are living now what with one environmental, military, and hacking crisis after another — it’s great to have a nostalgic throwback to a time when we only thought that government conspiracies existed. Retro aside, to me it feels shiny and new (and I invite you to call me, Netflix, if you need help with the soundtrack).

So grab the popcorn and the remote, people. The next eight-episode installment of Stranger Things begins on October 27, 2017 and all episodes will be released at once. I know what I’m doing this Halloween. May the best Demagorgen win.

Watch the trailer here.

pjlazos 10.22.17

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , | 23 Comments

Not A Scientist

Not A Scientist

Did you go to the March for Science on Earth Day? Did you feel the swell of pride for all the people who lent their support in favor of science? Do you worry about the current state of science in America, especially when politicians are holding the purse strings? Then Not A Scientist, How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science by Dave Levitan is your next read. Not a Scientist is loaded with examples of real life politicians ditching the facts, disputing the evidence, and generally disrupting the scientific status quo on topics of which they know little to nothing about.

Today, there is an ever-growing divide between science and politics. Maybe it’s because the problems are too big, the solutions too expensive, the public loathe to change. There’s little disagreement in the scientific community that humanity is on the brink of critical mass, a 6th extinction, if you will, but to hear the politicians talk one would think that great controversy exists among scientists where it concerns the environment since politicians are always doing their best not just to ignore, but to call into question the most fundamental of scientific principles and method, rolling back regulations, and naysaying whenever possible.

Politicians aren’t dumb. They know it’s easier to lie then tell constituents that it’s going to cost a kajillion dollars of hard-earned cash to address some of the more intractable environmental issues. Fix climate change? cha-ching. Repair or replace an aging water infrastructure under every large metropolis in the country? cha-ching. Stop a new development in order to preserve an endangered species? Lost profits. It’s all too much for the overburdened consumer. Politicians know this and have offered to do the thinking for us. And since they take their jobs seriously, they’ve devised clever phrases that should help ease the burden and obfuscate the truth. All you have to do is keep voting for them on election day.

Levitan searched the internet to find the first time a politician used the phrase, “I’m not a scientist…,” tracing it back to Ronald Reagan in 1980. During his campaign against Jimmy Carter, Reagan waxed philosophically about the amount of sulfur dioxide (a component of acid rain) Mount St. Helens had released into the atmosphere following its eruption: “more … than has been released in the last 10 years of automobile driving.” Turns out that you can be really REALLY wrong when you don’t understand the science. In Reagan’s case, it was many orders of magnitude off the mark — the volcano’s eruption released 2,000 tons of SO2 per day into the atmosphere while at the time, the U.S. population was releasing 81,000 tons of SO2 and the world population was at 300,000 tons!

Not a Scientist is great for science geeks and everyone else who lives on planet earth (notice I didn’t say “anyone who cares about the environment”?), but let’s just get this out — you’re not going to walk away with a warm fuzzy feeling after reading it. You will gain a few tools to help you spot and then navigate around the many lies you’ll hear about the environment from those elected to represent you, so go for it. As they say, knowledge is power. Read Not A Scientist and get on with your powerful self.

pjlazos 10.15.17

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 26 Comments

Interview with Dave Levitan

Interview with Dave Levitan

       This past Saturday, I had the privilege of moderating a Q&A session with author Dave Levitan at the 15th annual Collingswood Book Festival in Collingswood, New Jersey. Levitan’s book, Not a Scientist, How Politicians Mistake, Misrepresent, and Utterly Mangle Science was the topic of lively debate. One of the organizers told me she’d been involved since the Festival’s inception when it was just a few authors sitting around in the library discussing their books. Today, it’s grown to over five city blocks along Main Street, chock full of authors selling their works. Whether you’re a reader or a writer, the Collingswood Book Festival a great way to spend a Saturday in autumn.

The following is an email interview of Dave Levitan that we did as a warm up to the moderation session.  I, of course, didn’t ask him all these questions at the live event as the audience wanted their chance, too, but I wanted to share his answers to give you a feel for Dave’s wit and good humor. Enjoy!

PJL:  I read your essay entitled, “The Squid Will Not Be Happy,” which explains how you came to your career in journalism, starting out as a physics major and then switching to English but never losing your love of science. I happen to think that there’s a gap in this country when it comes to understanding science fundamentals and a real need for a translator who can bridge the gap of understanding between the nerdy science geeks and the rest of the world. You do that brilliantly in your book, “Not A Scientist.” Do you ever just wish you would have stayed with physics (or chemistry, or math) and became a scientist?

DL: In general, no, I feel like I made the right choice. Scientists generally have to focus in on some tiny bit of their field, and work for years or even decades on that little thing, and I just don’t think I have the attention span. I’m much more comfortable flitting around a bit from topic to topic, which makes science journalism a good match. I will say, though, that there have been exceptions—every time I watch SpaceX launch one of its rockets and then land it perfectly back on the landing pad, and they show the people who work in the control room cheering their heads off, I wonder if I ended up in the wrong field. It just looks so collaborative and joyful! But most of the time I feel okay about that decision.

PJL: Obviously, your idea for the book came out of your extensive science background. How did that first come about? Were either of your parents scientists? Did you have a great science teacher that sparked your curiosity? Or was it something else?

DL: Yup, my father is a neuroscientist, and I’m sure that helped to some degree. When I was growing up, we would spend summers in Woods Hole, on Cape Cod, which is a weird little summer town almost entirely populated by scientists and their families – the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution is there (they’re the ones who found the wreck of the Titanic), the Marine Biological Laboratory, and like four other scientific institutions. In other words, it just sort of surrounded me as a kid, and while I didn’t feel any urge to take after my father or anything, I think the appreciation for science and scientific method and evidence just sort of seeped in over the years.

PJL:  This past Earth Day we had a March for Science in lots of cities around the country. What I got from that is that lots of people are simply out of touch with the role of science in their every day lives. What would you do to educate the layman on the importance of science, but also to the prevalence.

DL: That’s a great question, but a really far-reaching one. I think the long-term answer involves improvements to science education in the country – if we all grew up with a better appreciation for the scientific method, and for the ways science plays a role in our lives, then we probably wouldn’t need marches to remind us. But again, that’s a long-term solution. In the nearer term, I think the media needs to be more willing to drive the conversation rather than reacting to it, and science is the place to start. If network news (and local tv news) would talk about scientific issues from climate change to pesticide regulation, people would start to feel it surrounding them they way it actually does. But that’s a steep hill to climb.

PJL:  In the days of Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Erwin Schroedinger, and Neils Bohr to name a few, science was cool. Crowds would wait for Marie Curie at the airport as if she was a celebrity. When did all that rock star behavior stop? What do you think happened,

DL: One answer that just occurred to me, as to when that stopped: when we got actual rock stars! Celebrities weren’t much of a thing back when Marie Curie was rockin’ the literal runway in front of her fans, so maybe it’s just that scientists, who are not in movies or on tv, got pushed toward the back by the handsome folks who ARE on our screens all the time. I’d say the last generation of real celebrity scientists were maybe the early astronauts, but they were also air force pilots and generally cool people themselves, so maybe it’s not the greatest comparison. But yeah, I think the main answer is that we have a lot of other things to entertain ourselves with, and scientists are often so specialized now that they may not have as wide-ranging an impact as Curie or Einstein, so breaking that rock star barrier might be a bit tough.

PJL:  How do you think future humans will relate to science. Does that disturb you or fire you up?

DL: To be honest, that’s not something I’ve given a ton of thought to, really. Again, if we can improve our science education, then maybe we’ll all treat it less as some unknowable far-off thing and more as just a regular part of existence. But it’s tough to say! Part of me feels like the coming catastrophes – climate change, antibiotic resistance, a few others – may force us into a deeper relationship with science, because we simply have to be thinking about it all the time. But that’s not exactly an inspiring thought.

PJL:  Why do you write and when did you officially become a writer.

DL: I don’t think I ever made it official! I got a job pretty much right out of college at a medical publishing company, and became a staff writer for them pretty quickly, writing about various medical research, so I guess that’s when I started. As for why… I guess I don’t claim to have some intrinsic, heartfelt need or anything, it’s just a meaningful way to describe and examine things happening in the world. I’m glad that I’ve figured out a way to write about things I find interesting, I suppose!

PJL:  What made you sit down and start writing, “Not A Scientist.”

DL: The idea arose when I was a staff science writer at FactCheck.org, and I started to notice some repeating patterns of how politicians were getting science wrong. I began collecting those tricks and techniques, and pretty quickly had a pile that seemed worth putting down in one place, and lucky for me, a publisher agreed. Toward the end of 2015 I left that full-time job to work on the book, so that’s when I really got started with it. It didn’t take long after that, only about a month and a half or so, since I had done a bunch of the research already.

PJL:  Do you have a spacial place to write?

DL: It’s not all that special, unfortunately – just my office at home. Nice enough, though, view to the backyard, and so on. I’ve never had much luck working elsewhere, like coffeeshops or anything – too much distraction.

PJL:  If you could ask Schrodinger’s cat one question, what would it be?

DL: Sorry! Been gone all day crawling around inside a giant cave system. In answer to your Schrodinger’s cat question, I would ask: “Heads or tails?” That is about as nerdy, cryptic, and dumb a physics joke I can muster. Hope it works!

Thanks, Dave!  Next post will be a review of Not A Scientist.

pjlazos 10.13.17

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Evolve or Revolve

EVOLVE OR REVOLVE

Let me start by saying that I do not now and never have owned a gun.  There was that brief period of time when I was the titular owner of a handgun.  It had belonged to my father and when he died, my mom gave it to me and I stuck it in the back of a drawer and forgot about it.  I have since given it to my husband who does own guns because I have no real use for one, but didn’t want to get rid of it because it was my dad’s.

My dad was a reluctant gun owner, his gun, a 22 short, which means the bullet casing is short with half the fire power of a normal 22.  It’s barely a gun, especially by the Las Vegas shooter’s standards.  My dad kept his gun in a dresser next to his bed, ostensibly so he could get it should the bad guys burst in, but because he didn’t want his kids to find it and get hurt, he kept the bullets in another drawer.  If there would have been a home invasion — a term that wasn’t even coined when I was a kid — I doubt whether he would have been able to put the gun together in time while in the dark, but whatever, it made him feel better to know it was there.

My husband owns an array of guns — one he even built — because the men in his family like to hunt, a tradition that he is passing along to our son.  I don’t like the idea of hunting, but I realize the need for it — the deer would eat everything if we didn’t cull the population — and I think people should be allowed to be who they are and not have to change for someone else.  Hunting, even though they only go once or twice a year, is as much a part of his family’s heritage as drinking coffee and arguing about politics is a part of mine.  I like that we are able to think about an issue from two entirely different points of view and retain our individuality while still maintaining a peaceful abode.  I’ve never gone hunting with him, but I have gone to the shooting range a couple of times and am deadly at 25 or 30 feet.  Under the right conditions, gun ownership is fine, and can even be fun for a liberal like me.

Of the maybe dozen guns my husband owns, four are muzzleloaders, which means that you have to load the gun powder in through the end of the barrel and pack it down with a ramrod, the same way they did it back in the 1791 when the 2nd Amendment was ratified.  There is no way the Congress at the time had any idea that assault rifles were going to be a thing.  If they did, I can guarantee they would have thought that amendment through a little more.

Almost five years ago now, soon after the Sandy Hook shooting, I wrote the following piece  on gun control.  I hesitated then as I do now to jump into the fray because it seems that no matter  how high the death toll or how much we raise our voices, Congress does nothing to reign in the terror that is the result of a lack of gun control.

 

This time around, Senator Dianne Feinstein (D-California) has introduced a bill that would ban the sale of bump stock equipment, and, amazingly, some Republicans are considering supporting it.  It’s a tentative, positive step, and while we may never figure out the motives of Las Vegas gunman, Stephen Paddock, eliminating at least one of the reasons for his success is a small, tentative start.  Let us hope that reason reigns and Congress, for the first time in a what seems like forever, does the right thing.

 

pjlazos 10.6.17

 

 

EVOLVE OR REVOLVE

Perhaps if Congress jumps off the fiscal cliff the rest of us can have a shot at redemption. We’re mired waist deep in arguments about economic policy, gun control, and women’s reproductive rights, among others, and the level of divisiveness, at a new high, has left us feeling uncharacteristically low. Our elected officials behave like kindergarteners disagreeing on the playground, the difference being that in kindergarten they teach you kindness, truth, respect and forgiveness so there’s a good chance those same kids will play nice tomorrow. That’s not even a remote possibility where Congress is concerned and maybe where our kids are concerned as well. By the time they get through college, the stress of competing with each other for spots on the team, A’s in the classroom and the few jobs still left out there, in addition to paying back mounds of debt, all the kindness, truth and respect will have been wrung from them and replaced by a need to win at any cost. And one day, some of them will be Congressmen.

While the American ideal of going for what you want no matter the cost settled this country, assuring our sense of individuality and a “can-do” spirit, the pendulum has swung too far. Witness Lance Armstrong who thought he was so above the fray that truth didn’t apply to him. Bernie Madoff. John Edwards. The Enron guys. Half of AIG. Even General Petraeus. We’ve become a nation of psychopathic egoists. If I could, I’d blame Ronald Reagan for most of it. Ronald Reagan, the actor turned President, who was lionized, romanticized, aggrandized and super-sized. Ronald Reagan, who Republicans fondly remember as the greatest Republican President of all time (why is it the Democrats remember Lincoln as the greatest Republican President?), the “Way Shower” of the modern right who ended the Cold War and proved to the world America was still boss. I could, but I’d be wrong to blame him for everything.

Reagan did a lot of things that were antithetical to a democratic society. I’m a little fuzzy on all of them since 1984 was a year after I was graduated college and I busy celebrating my freedom and the fact that I had a few extra bucks in my pocket. However, I did notice one or two things. One: For purely economic reasons, Reagan closed a lot of the mental health institutions, turning crazy people into crazy homeless people. America said little about this and since it was happening to the disenfranchised who had no voice, it all went through without guilt or remorse. Two: Reagan made popular the term “trickle down economics” which later became Reaganomics, a theory embraced by the rich and hardly anyone else. The last thirty years have proven that the trickle down theory doesn’t work, rather it has contributed to the huge dichotomy of wealth in this country. Decades later, the tricklers are still trying to sell us the same piece of crap car, thinking we’re still not going to look under the hood. Currently, 1% of the people own 99% of the rest of us. Exaggeration? Perhaps, but what are we, the 99%, waiting for? The Messiah? Rush Limbaugh or Fox News to stop spewing fake news? A half-price deal on Groupon?

 

Reagan’s policies set generations of people back. They just didn’t know it then because it’s only started happening now. Reagan knew trickle down would take years to catch up with him and when it did, chances are he’d be dead (surprise!). But now it’s arrived (surprise, surprise!) and people are borrowing against their 401(k) plans, the ones the government suggested they set up in lieu of their soon-to-be-extinct pension plans, because they can no longer meet their mortgage payments or pay their electric bills given the 30% cut in salary they’ve been forced to take to keep their jobs. It’s the new 60-hour-just-be-happy-you-still-have-a-job mentality rolled out by corporate we’re-people-too-America.

“How did we get here?” we ask. The answer is karma — cause and effect. Unfortunately, because we don’t always immediately see the effect of our actions we irrationally assume that things are not related. Some effects, especially those of a policy nature, take years, maybe decades to manifest. A person involved in a car accident sustains immediate injuries and is rushed to the nearest hospital, but a person who eats pesticide-laden food every day for 30 years may take that long to develop cancer or an auto immune disease, or have their organs start breaking down. You don’t get lung cancer from smoking your first cigarette, and the economic s*** doesn’t hit the fan the first time a company lays off its American workforce and sends the whole shebang to Mexico.

What do you have when you gut a company’s assets, do nothing to rehab or reconstruct the infrastructure, and give all the profits to the corporate shareholders? You have a shell. A shell by definition is “an outer form without substance,” an exterior whose interior consists of empty space — no heart, no brain, no guts and no soul. Without conscious intent and conscientious enterprise karma will get you every time. Reagan’s trickle down theory is why we’re in such a mess today. Our self-serving, purely economically motivated decisions are why so many live without health care. Republicans are bitching about the upfront cost, but do you know what the downstream cost of no health care is? What the societal cost is of one bipolar guy not on his meds is, one guy who needs a facility with trained health care professionals to make sure he takes them? Surely more than what it costs to keep him in a facility, especially if he decides to start shooting. In the end, somebody always has to pick up the tab, and the front end is always cheaper than the screwed up, triage-laden, wow, I didn’t see that coming back end. Typically, Congress chooses the back end, but that’s only so others can deal with it thirty years down the road. That’s because they’re cowards.

In a wrongful death action, the court will valuate a life, i.e., put a value on the deceased’s earning capacity over his potential lifetime as a way to calculate the individual’s worth and make whole the loved ones left behind with cash (unfortunately, it’s the only way we know how to do it). But how can we even begin to assess the loss of the love light of a single one of those first-graders in Sandy Hook Elementary? Can you put a value on the sun? Impossible.

In Pennsylvania in 2011, we had no qualms about allocating $2.1 billion out of the General Fund to cover the cost of the state’s prison system, but in a less punitive, less primitive society — i.e., more heart-centered — most of those people wouldn’t even be on the prison track. They would have had an education, a job, people who care about them, a sense of self-worth. Hidden truths (cause) may take years to come to fruition (effect).

Despite all of that, I withhold judgment on Ronnie and here’s why: the uber-Republican Reagan supported a ban on assault rifles. Even with the Second Amendment’s hallowed place in our shared history, Reagan was against unfettered freedom when it came to owning assault rifles. True, he had a change of heart from his own presidency, but in 1994 he wrote to Congress, asking them to support the Clinton ban on assault weapons.

Reagan himself, his press secretary, a cop, and a Secret Service agent had been victims of a deranged man’s shooting spree in 1986. Even so, calling for support for Clinton’s ban was a ballsy thing for a Republican to do, and for this I’m admire the guy. He lobbied specific members of Congress and the measure passed by two votes in 1994. (It expired in 2004.) Sometimes you have to do the right thing, make amends, say your sorry. Our current Congress never seems able to do this. Do they simply lack the moral fiber to legislate responsibly or is the NRA lobby that freaking strong?

Recently. the NRA ran an ad calling Obama an elitist and a monarch because his kids go to school with armed guards protecting them while the rest of the country’s children do without. Last time I checked, there was only one POTUS and Secret Service protection for him and his family came with the job. It has to because it’s like the Wild West out there and without protection, some psycho would have taken the First Family out a long time ago. However, most of America’s children don’t have such high profile parents, and armed guards aren’t necessary although at times it seems like we’re trying our darnedest to make them so. Did twenty little school children give their lives in vain? How many more will it take to get people to put their murderous toys away, sit down at the table and talk to each other with respect? What kind of world do we live in when TSA pulls you out of line at the airport for a Swiss Army knife, yet people walk around freely carrying concealed weapons?

Here’s the difference in how a child and an adult deal with their stuff. It was the night before the first day of school and my daughter was nervous. After we talked awhile, I kissed her goodnight and left her to deal with her anxiousness. The next day she reported trouble sleeping, fear, circadian rhythms in disarray.

 

“I couldn’t sleep last night.”

“Did you hear the rain?”

“No, I didn’t hear anything.”

“Well, it poured so you must have slept.”

She actually did sleep, and what’s stellar about it all was her coping mechanism; she realized she needed to take action in order to be at peace. After an hour and a half where anxiety barred the gate, refusing to let her eyelids shut, she decided to have a “closing ceremony” a la the Olympics games, and wave a fond farewell to the summer she thoroughly enjoyed. She enjoys every summer, but this year she was on the cusp of something big, of going from child to adolescent and it was happening so fast she wasn’t quite ready for it.

My daughter recalled all the events of the summer, the vacations, the swim meets, the week-long sleepovers with cousins at our house, the friends, new and old. She thanked them all for their part in her amazing summer, blessed them and sent them on their way with nothing but well wishes. Moments later, relaxed and in a state of completion, she fell asleep. The endless summer was over; her new chapter about to begin. What she did was to shift her awareness from fear to love. Instead of clinging to the old and fearing the new, she blessed the old and embraced the new. Here again the wisdom of a child surpasses.

I’m always amazed by how hard people fight evolution, how they argue for their limitations. Sometimes it’s only when they get to their deathbed, taking those last few remorseful breaths that they finally get their affairs in order. Some people cross over without ever changing their minds. I guarantee those people will be back to try again. Evolve or revolve — those are the only options. There are secrets waiting to be discovered in this vast and mysterious universe, but in order to do so we have to open our hands and let go of the past otherwise they’ll be too full to grasp what’s coming. Scientists say time is speeding up, faster and faster, and one day it will finally collapse. Then it’s bye-bye 3D, and hello to the 4th, 5th and beyond dimensions. So until time literally runs out, let’s shift our awareness before what’s left of it collapses and shifts it for us. Call it an evolution of the spirit. Either we evolve or in ten years, or even ten minutes, we’re going to have a revolution on our hands — and some of us are going to be armed to the teeth.

 

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

SaveSave

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 29 Comments