Monday, May 23, 2005

Find Your Joy

Do you need answers?

Do the great mysteries of life weigh on your mind?

I took my daughter to “The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy” this weekend. It was a great movie, although if you haven’t read the book, don’t bother as you won’t have a clue about what’s going on. A big part of the plot revolves around the answers to the mystery of why we’re here and what is the meaning of life. I read the books twenty years ago and it was great to relive the story, this was a tale full of depth and irony and it was DAMN FUNNY!!

I guess I’ve been through enough at this point to throw my two cents worth in regarding the meaning of life, so here it is:

Find Your Joy – Be happy. Share your happiness with others, especially those you love. Happiness is the best and truest gift that you have to give in this world, don’t be stingy with it. The noblest thing you will ever do in a day is to make someone smile.

Don’t Worry – Don’t fret the small stuff, which is pretty much everything when you realize we’re all going to die anyway. Nothing that keeps you awake at night is going to matter for shit in 500 years! Don’t let your worries take away from your happiness – remember that’s the most important thing in this life (at least according to my philosophy).

Choose Well – Pick your friends and lovers very carefully. We all tend to screw this one up and end up spending a lot of time with people that don’t make us happy. Find people whose joy adds to yours and get a big happy-fest going. You’re going to be forced to spend a lot of time with assholes no matter what you do, so keep good friends close to balance the time that you’re forced to spend with people who desire nothing more than to be unpleasant.

Do What You Like – Spend as much time as you can doing something that fulfills you. If you can get this from your career, that’s like winning the lottery. If not, find where your heart is and go there as often as possible. The memories that this gives will be another way of dealing with the assholes that I discussed before.

Love Yourself – Give yourself plenty of credit for the good things you’ve done and don’t be too hard on yourself for your screw-ups. I think most of the assholes in this world got that way by beating themselves up first. You’re not going to be much good to anyone if you don’t love yourself first and you’re not going to spread much happiness which is the meaning of life, remember.

Don’t Get in Too Deep – Don’t worry too much about the deeper meanings of things unless that’s what you like doing, in which case you should become a philosopher (not enough of those around any more, but there’s no money in it either). Solve problems that are fun, but don’t let the fact that you’re not omnipotent bother you…none of us are all that bright or we wouldn’t be here.

There you go…for what it’s worth; you now have my answer to the meaning of life. This and a dollar might buy you a cup of coffee. Still, it felt good for me to put it down. If you have a better or deeper philosophy, I’d be happy to hear it. Better yet, let’s discuss it over a few drinks.

Love to all! ;-{)} Norm.

Tuesday, May 17, 2005

Loving and Losing

Family…funny thing is it’s not what it’s cracked up to be, but it’s so much more. I’m one of eight kids; I guess that’s what comes of a Sailor Father and a Roman Catholic Mother. I can feel a few of my siblings right into the marrow of my bones, others seem little more than wall decorations at the occasional holiday back home. Then there are parents and children…I’m not sure what these relationships are supposed to feel like, but I have this strange suspicion that I’m not getting it right.

I had a distant father, typical for my generation, who loved his children but didn’t seem to consider it a full-time job. There wasn’t a whole lot of time for catch when I was growing up and I only remember him coming to one of my meets in the years that I was a swimmer. I guess after eight kids, he was tired…I have one son; I coach his baseball team and we play catch just about every evening when I get home from work. I haven’t missed a game or concert in his whole life. My wife complains to me all the time that I don’t give him enough love…she’s concerned about his self esteem. Not sure how I feel about that…I want him to have good self esteem, but I don’t think that mindless praise of anything he does is the right way to get there, but I digress... not sure how much of a daily impact my father had on my life, but I feel the hole that his passing left just about every day. I also lost a sister; it’s going on two years now. I had moved away 10 years before she passed and talked with her only infrequently. I can’t believe how much I miss her now that she’s gone! They say only loss gives us the perspective to understand our feelings. I believe that. I also believe that what we feel for some one is not directly tied to what they’ve done for us or how much we see them in our daily lives. I’ll never know, and suspect that it’s unknowable, why certain people have such a strong pull on our hearts.

Something inside me tells me I need to get used to this. I think that I will be here for a long time and will probably see most, if not all, of the people that I love pass away. I sometimes think about that future time, when I find myself alone with my memories. There are a few who’s passing I fear the most and who will leave me with memories that will be bittersweet with longing. Sometimes the touch is very deep. I think there’s something outside of this world and this lifetime that explains the pull (I’ve felt it for people that are only acquaintances). I believe we are connected in another and more perfect place and that we feel those connections here. When I am old and alone, I’ll focus on this belief and I’ll get through the day by realizing that the bittersweet memories are just a glimpse of the communion that we will have with each other in a better place and for forever.

Saturday, May 14, 2005

Digging in the Dirt

I spent the day working the land today. John has about 29 acres and he works about ¼ of that every year; corn, strawberries, beans, peppers, tomatoes, squash, melons, etc. I’ve got a strong back and the field help comes at the right price, so I generally find myself spending a number of days every spring and fall out at the property with John. In the spring we plow, build beds, and plant. In the fall, we harvest, clear beds and build fences...the deer and groundhogs love John’s vegetables too and we are in a constant fight to keep some on the plants until harvest.

It was what a day on the farm should be…we began at dawn and worked until the light started to go at dusk. Over the years, I’ve gained a better understanding of farmers and I’ve learned that this is not a life that I would wish on anyone. Farming is serious hard work!! I guess I do it for three reasons; John needs the help and I respect and want to help him, it gives us time together with no one else and we very much enjoy each other’s company, despite the back-breaking work, there’s something about working the land that I actually enjoy.

I guess I’ll talk a little about that last one as the other two are fairly straight forward. As hard as it is working the land, there a great feeling when you pull the corn in August that you laid in the previous May. The food tastes wonderful, of course, but there’s also that tangible connection to it. You didn’t get this from any shelf, you lived with it for months and you were part of the cycle that connects us all to everything else in this world. I know that’s the feeling I get. Even when my back is aching and the row ahead of me seems like it will never end, I smile to myself and realize that I get so much more out of this work than the work that goes on in my office. Compared to growing your own food, the problems that we spend hours in meetings to discuss and contend with seem pretty insignificant. It’s a shame that our priorities are as screwed up as they are. As time goes on, I’m going to try to do what I can to have as much of what goes on my plate come from my own hands as I can.

I know I could never be a farmer, but I sure as hell respect those guys.

Friday, May 13, 2005

Friday Night Lights

Special treat for the boys tonight, we played under the lights like big leaguers. They played really well and it was a good time for all. A couple of impressions…

…Under the lights, a ball field takes on an almost surreal quality. The colors are brighter, the grass seems greener and it doesn’t feel like any of it belongs in this world…it feels too perfect.

…I’ve eaten at some of the best restaurants in this country and overseas. I’ve had some of the best steak, lobster and escargot that anyone could ask for and I’ve loved all of it. … Still, I don’t know that there’s anything I’d rather have than a kraut dog at a ball park!

…There’s that special time before the game begins, when anything is possible. I sat and watched the 1st pitcher warming up. As the ball would smack into the catcher’s mitt, a cloud of dust would come off the back of the glove, caught by the lights above. The sound and the sight was enough to completely take me away and I was totally happy!

A note – One of our boys, who usually spends the game picking daisies in the outfield had a special connection to the park where we played tonight. The field had been named in memory of his uncle, a fallen local police officer. We had the game well in hand by the last inning so we decided to let him take the mound. He stepped up and made the last out of the game (a strike out) and was awarded the game ball from the team. I’m not sure that I’ve ever seen a better expression of pure joy than what he had on his face as we slowly left the field.

I wait for a better place.., I wait to move on from here…but occasionally this world shows me enough joy and beauty to let me know that there’s no rush and that plenty of happiness surrounds us every day…it was a good night tonight.

Tuesday, May 10, 2005

My Clothes Don’t Fit Me Right

I was just reading the news stories when I came across an article that said they’d found a shoe at some site in England that dates back to the Iron Age (700-43 BC). The shoe was found where a fresh water well had been built and was being studied. They weren’t sure whether the shoe was placed at the site purposely, or whether it just came off some workmen in the mud during the construction of the well…I wonder what life was like during the Iron Age? ...I saw a show a few weeks back that went through the last day of the “Ice Man” (he’s the one that they found in the Alps near the Austrian border; he's 4000-5000 years old). Watching that show made me think about what his life must have been like.

We all go through this…wondering what it would be like to live in a different era and often wishing we could trade our lives (if only for a little while) for those of the past. Everyone always tells us how silly this desire is…, "What would you do without plumbing? What about all the diseases?" I don’t agree with the naysayers. I believe that when you think the whole picture through, there are reasons for our desire to escape back to our past. I think we all harbor memories of better lives and these memories call us back to times when we were closer to ourselves and more in touch with loved ones. I believe that the best and oldest souls leave this world and that with each generation the love and compassion that exists here is diminished. I feel like I’ve watched the process just in this lifetime. I know there were hardships in earlier times; this world was never a good place, but I don’t believe that the lives lived in those days were as empty as ours are or that they didn’t know the happiness that we share today. As for disease, we all die and I don’t know that a short life isn’t as good as a long one. I think I’d rather die from infection at 35 than linger with Alzheimer’s through my 70’s.

There’s a beautiful song written by Jimmy Buffett called, “A Pirate Looks at Forty”. Even when I was in High School (young and stupid), there was something about that song that touched my heart. I read Mutiny on the Bounty when I was about 10 and spent several weeks actually grieving for that fact that I couldn’t live in Tahiti in the 1700’s with some beautiful native woman. I’ve written here before about my lifelong desire to enter the woods…never to come back out. I think we are so out of touch with ourselves and the world that we long for a time when there was connection. When we lived in this world and when it was all around us all the time. As for me, I spend most of my time in front of this computer screen wishing that I had dirt under my feet.

We talk about how much we know today, but how much do we really know about the world (as compared to those who came before us)? ...Can you find your way by the stars? ...Do you know what plants to eat when you’re in the woods? ...Can you tell the weather by the look of the sky and the behavior of the animals? Almost anyone could have done this just a few generations ago. And what of your knowledge of today’s world? Do you really understand how your TV works? …Your computer? …A radio? …Atomic energy? So how smart do we really think we are? Could you get your dinner if you had to do more than drive through McDonalds? I don’t know about you, but I’m not all that proud of our progress and I’M AN ENGINEER!!!

For me, it would be to live amongst the Indians of the eastern woods before the arrival of the Europeans. I don’t kid myself that it would be an easy life, but it holds all the things that are important to me and I can’t think of any existence that would make me happier. ...Maybe it’s just a memory of a life well lived and enjoyed. I know that when I think about this, it makes me happy and tends to throw whatever hassles I have into perspective. If you have some place and time that speaks to your heart, be open to it. Don’t listen to those who would tell you that this is, “The Best of all possible worlds” (yes – I remember my Voltaire). If you can’t turn back time, be sure to carry clothes that fit you in your heart; you’ll find them very comfortable when this world weighs down on your shoulders.

Sunday, May 08, 2005

Maybe I Think Too Much...Rational Theism

I guess I believe in something larger than myself.

Anyone reading the title of this blog might say, “well duh!?”, but this was not always a slam dunk statement. I was raised as a Catholic and the doctrine of that church never really took with me. I studied various religions during my drug-induced search for self awareness when I was in college…the closest I could come to anything that made sense was Buddhism, but I was enjoying the material world way too much at that time to give it up for meditation.

I am, at heart, a very logical person…Rationalist, Objectivist, Scientist. So after my brief exploration of Metaphysics, I fell back on my natural inclination to believe what I saw and leave the rest for some other time. It’s been twenty years and I have finally gotten around to fleshing out what I believe in and have a theology that makes sense to me.

I am a Gnostic.

Funny that I should find a belief system that is as out-of-touch with the mainstream as my politics are.

I am a Libertarian.

I guess I should be happy with my rejection of mainstream theology and politics…given my general lack of respect for the opinions and beliefs of most people. Still, I need to reconcile my religious beliefs with my Rationalist nature, so I am going to use this post to present some scientific/rational arguments for God…If you don’t think too much, stop here…you’ve go the gist of this post and everything that follows is just to satisfy those that are as anal-retentive as I am.

Some Arguments for God:

Thomas Aquinas – Based on the nature of cause and effect, the series of causes that we observe in the world of our experience must necessarily terminate in a First Cause, itself uncaused and unchanging, existing outside of time and space, and sustaining the physical universe in being from moment to moment… sounds a lot like God

William Paley (intelligent design) – Paley, and many others, argue that the complexity and orderliness of the Universe, especially on so vast a scale, exhibits strong signs of purpose. They follow that it is extremely improbable that anything other than an omniscient mind could have been its cause. This argument is only probabilistic, but having spent time in the study of Quantum Physics, I’m a real believer in probability.

G.W. Leibniz the guy who invented Calculus (contingency) – Leibniz argues that the world is contingent…that it could have been different than it is. He also states that the world could have not come into existence at all. It is incoherent to assume that the Universe always existed; it must, therefore have had a beginning, and that this beginning must have been caused by a being unlimited by time and space…sounds a lot like God.

I have only briefly introduced the arguments in this blog, but they are good arguments based on scientific principals and these philosophers and scientists are not alone in promoting them. I have been able to find essays in agreement with these theories, as well as other rational arguments in support of metaphysics by: Plato, Aristotle, Augustine, Descartes, Locke, and Newton.

So I finally find myself being comfortable as both a scientist and a spiritualist…just of a slightly different stripe than most of you. That’s OK with me…I’ve always been a little out-of-step with the rest of the parade and I’ve grown to like it.

;-{)} Norm.

Thursday, May 05, 2005

Movin' Out

…Anthony works in the grocery store, saving his pennies for someday – Billie Joel

If you won the lottery today, would you go to work tomorrow? This was always an easy question for me; “Of course I’d go to work, what I do is a big part of who I am.” … I’m reminded of another lyric

…but I was so much older then, I’m younger than that now. – Bob Dylan

Funny trick that only as we get older do we see how full of shit so much of what we believed and based our plans on really was. If what you do (for a living) is what you are then I sure as hell don’t want to spend three hours in a waiting room with you! Maybe I was just too “brainwashed” by every message we receive every day to see how futile the whole thing really is. They say you can’t take it with you, but I’m not even sure I want to have to carry it around with me here?!

When I was in High School, we used to go out to the 28th Street Drive-In on Friday nights. Robbie Rummell would put a keg in the back of his Gremlin (that had to be one of the ugliest cars ever made) and we would smoke pot, hang out and have sex with our girlfriends in the back row…I can still see Rachel Seymour on my lap and facing me in the back seat of my old VW as we steamed the windows…some of the better memories never fade.

The movies were usually mindless crap and I doubt if we paid enough attention to remember most of them. I do, however, remember one scene from one of those films. The movie was called “Loose Shoes” and was a series of funny skits. The scene that has stayed with me my whole life follows all the troubles this one guy gets into during a normal morning. Everything bad that can happen does, but at the end of it all and even though he has nothing, he finds the few good things in life. The skit ends with our hero dressed in a tux, doing a Cab Calloway type number, outlining the things that make his life good. The hook line is…”All I really need is…tight pussy, loose shoes and a warm place to shit.” The older I get, the more profound that line is…In fact this is my philosophy of life….tight pussy, loose shoes and a warm place to shit…that’s it!

I have goals!

I have focus!

You can take your wide screen and your play station, just give me the three things that matter to me and I’m a happy man.

US Soldier comforts dying terrorist Victim in Iraq 050405 Posted by Hello

Wednesday, May 04, 2005

The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly - American

We are one of the most self-critical people on the planet.

I am reminded of the flagellants of the Middle Ages, who would beat themselves as a penance because they thought their sins had brought on the Black Plague. There are those in this country who attribute some self-serving or evil motive to virtually every policy instituted by our government. I don’t begin to believe that our government is fully benevolent or that those in power don’t need to be watched. In fact, as a Libertarian, my thinking comes down from our founding fathers. They believed that Government was a dangerous thing by its very nature and that the power of the government must be restricted as much as possible. I have always felt that Religion and Government were collectively responsible for more pain and suffering than any other constructs in the history of the world. At least that was my feeling before the rise of Terrorism.

The war in Iraq puts my practical concerns at odds with my core beliefs. I am not in favor of military intervention or entanglements and would agree with those who have argued that we should be a market to all (and militarily neutral whenever possible). I don’t agree with the amount of money that is being spent on the number of troops we have in Europe and would support a general pullback of our forces throughout the world. I am not, however, an appeaser and feel that anyone who could advocate this policy after he example of Neville Chamberlain is simply stupid or in denial or both. I don’t really care about WMD and I think the incident at Abu Graib was sad, but was puffed far out of proportion for political gain. Sadam didn’t strip people and laugh at them, he TORTURED, MUTILATED, and KILLED them…by the Hundreds of Thousands!!!

The people at Abu Graib should have been treated humanely and those responsible for their mistreatment should be, and are being, punished. Let’s not forget, however, that these people are wanton murderers of the innocent. Look at what those that have not found their way to Abu Graib are doing on a daily basis to the men, women, and (most importantly) children of Iraq and you should be able to see who the Good Guys are in this situation. It is sad that so many around the world, and more so that so many within this country cannot see the good that is common in the American people.

I have respect for the pacifist, but realize they can’t exist without someone protecting their right to pacifism with a gun. It is not in this world, but the next where we can live our ideals of peace and love. For now we must thank those who guard against the evil that surrounds and would engulf us. I want to thank the brave soldiers that risk their lives to protect our freedoms as well as the lives of others…and I also want to thank the President who saw what was right and did it in the face of harsh and undeserved criticism.

Sunday, May 01, 2005


It is impossible to see anything in the real realm unless you become it.
Not so in the world. You see the sun without being the sun,
see the sky and earth but are not them.
This is the truth of the world.
In the other truth, you are what you see.
If you see spirit, you are spirit.
If you look at the anointed, you are the anointed.
If you see the father, you will be the father.
In this world you see everything but yourself,
but there, you look at yourself and are what you see.

-from the Gnostic Bible