Climate Change Resolved

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“Now you resemble nothing so much as the fatted calf you once sacrificed by the countless hecatombs to placate your imaginary gods.”

The controversy continues. Are we having climate change and/or global warming? Are humans responsible in any way? Is the weather just fluctuating a bit, or are we on the threshold of the sixth great extinction? I thought an Homeric visitation might help clarify. Read Full Post »

Return of the Omen

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That would certainly avoid diplomatic problems: “Jove did it.”

Well, I have finished reading the Odyssey, not light summer reading exactly but well worth it. I undertook this for two reasons. First of all, the title of the book had come up three times recently (see “The Magic of Three”); and secondly, I became curious about the elements in the story that have made it timeless. I have just published a book myself, and timely would make me happy.

It was slow going at first, but the grand language does begin to imprint, and I was fascinated by the end. My edition from The Great Books by Encyclopedia Britannica touches lightly in the introduction on whether Homer actually existed and whether this book, as well as the Iliad, has been created from a collection of poems embellished over centuries. I don’t have the background  to get into that. I haven’t studied Homer before, and I brought a virgin mind to my inquiry.

The ordeals of the ten years it took Ulysses to return to Ithaca after the Trojan War are the foundation; and it is a story filled with heroism, violence, treachery, and the storytelling gifts of Ulysses himself. Any time anyone addresses him with the phrase, “Tell me and tell me true,” he usually launches with a fiction. Though he is repeatedly described as having godlike cunning, wisdom, strength, and beauty, he is often driven by pride, curiosity, and an audacity that imperils both him and his men. Read Full Post »

Retire the Rescuer

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“A born caretaker, I could probably develop a codependent relationship with a pet turtle.”

Interesting how a click of the mouse can change your perspective.

While composing my last post on the Odyssey, I searched for a figure for the 2012 defense budget ($683.7 billion). My underlying conviction is that the more we invest in defense, the more likely we are to have conflict. After all,  if you have something, you have to do what it’s for. In searching the Internet for that statistic, however, I found others that gave me a potentially transformative pause.

The site I happened on was www.usgovernmentspending.com. It is produced by a gentleman named Christopher Chantrill, and it caught my eye from the outset because the information seemed unusually objective. The standout figures were the following: (1) Government spending started out at the beginning of the 20th century a5 6.9 percent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP). (2) It surged to 45 percent of GDP during the 2008 economic meltdown and is expected to settle at 40 percent of GDP. (3) Federal spending on health care alone has risen to around 7 percent of GDP–higher than the total of government spending as a percentage of GDP at the beginning of the century.

Hmmm. This is indeed an unsettling trend. Those irritating people I have tuned out have a point. Read Full Post »

The Odyssey Revisited

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“So how long will it take us to get home?”

Due to a series of coincidences, the Odyssey attributed to Homer has come up recently, and I decided to read it for the first time. A couple of days after beginning, I realized how appropriate the timing of my project was. The Odyssey is the story of Ulysses’ journey home at the end of the ten-year Trojan War. After fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan for ten years, the United States is trying to get home. It took Ulysses ten years. I hope we can make much better time.

The Trojan War has always been considered a story of great heroism. However, at this remove, more and more questions have begun to arise about whether our engagement in the Middle East will ever enjoy a similarly gratifying summation. Contradicting perspectives are beginning to show up even within the military.

We lost about 3,000 people in the terrorist attacks of September 11. About 6,000 American service people have died in the war since then, and we have spent about $1 trillion on it. The day before Memorial Day, The New York Times ran an article quoting two officers at West Point with opposing views about whether it has all been worth it. The author, Elisabeth Bumiller, pointed out that West Point prides itself on “academic freedom and challenging orthodoxy.” Read Full Post »

The Numbers for President

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“We have always thought a lot of Pythagoras, so . . .”

Since I’ve been on the subject of numbers, I thought I would do something I have been thinking about for some time–check on the numerology of Barack Obama and Mitt Romney.

Groan. I can just imagine the left-brain response. The irony, however, is that numerology is a means of exploring the proposition that “life, and the universe as  whole, is an orderly system and that numbers reflect tht orderliness.” That’s very left-brain, I think. And according to the book I just quoted, Numerology by Hans DeCoz, it was the Greek philosopher and mathematician Pythagoras, who combined the mathematical disciplines of Arabic, Druid, Phoenician, Egyptian, and Essene sciences to create the Western form of numerology. We have always thought a lot of Pythagoras, so . . . Read Full Post »

Oracle Mouse

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“When mouse appears, it is a time to examine life’s lessons, especially those going on at the moment.”

As mysteriously as it appeared, my mouse problem has disappeared. The traps were still loaded this morning, and I could not find a single dropping anywhere. Amazing. There is more to it than just this, of course, but I must digress.

The invasion was an intersection with nature, and I have learned to pay attention in unusual ways. Over fourteen years of walks in nature with a beautiful white dog, I tapped into the idea that we live in an “ensouled” world that is animated and communicative. Symbolism seems to be the preferred language, and I have collected quite a library in the process of increasing my vocabulary. As I’ve written before, numbers also have special meaning, and that came in handy with the mouse issue. Read Full Post »

Mouse Attack

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“It doesn’t matter what happens to you in life; what matters is how you deal with it.”

I have been invaded by mice. “How can this have happened?” I wondered indignantly. “Here I have just spent three weeks being a good citizen serving as juror on an intense and emotionally draining trial, and this is my reward? A mouse invasion?”

The further horror is that this could have been caused by my bird feeding, which ended several days ago. I have been watching for mice, because my neighbor has been having problems. (“Please don’t let me have caused it,” I prayed. ) Over the weekend I swept out my garage and found not the tiniest sign. But then on Monday morning, I discovered little droppings all over the kitchen counter. There were so many that I wondered if the creatures were extrusion-propelled. They were in a living room window. There were even two inside my bathtub in spite of the tall, slick walls. A desk drawer revealed a stack of unused manila envelopes with the sticky edge nibbled away. Either they like the taste of glue, or they are building a nest nearby.

I am a careful housekeeper to the point of being obnoxious, I have gathered, so this is major. My mind reeled. Where did they gain entry?  Read Full Post »

Final Worm Class

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“Things will never be the same, but her legacy is a beautiful garden near the playground.”

Due to my involvement for three weeks as a juror in a death penalty trial (see “Life Sentence”) I was unable to schedule my last worm class at Acequia Madre Elementary until this morning. As a review for new readers and inspired by my sister’s experience with worm farming, I wrote a book called The Red Wriggler Teaching Manual, which was designed to teach math, science, social studies, and language arts with the help of the composting worm. For five years, I have been working with this material in the class of Ms. Barbara McCarthy, who retired today.

In my last post on this matter (see “Worm Day”) I explained that on the last day of class I would read a story the students had helped develop called “The Prince and the Dirty Kingdom.” I gave them the general outline, and after much discussion, they gave me the names of the three princes who would compete for the hand of Princess Claire. They also came up with two unsatisfactory ideas for disposing of garbage so that the prince who knew about composting worms would win. In gratitude for her hospitality, I gave Barbara a puppet of a raven, her favorite bird.

The students ended the session by decorating boxes I gave them in which they would place the notebooks they had been working on all year and the story of “The Prince and the Dirty Kingdom.” My hope is that they will keep the story as a treasure to be shared with family and friends–and eventually their own children.

Barbara provided me with a wonderful experience at Acequia Madre, and she has been loved by everyone. Things will never be the same, but her legacy is a beautiful garden near the playground. Fruits, vegetables, and flowers grow luxuriantly there due, at least in part, to the compost emerging from piles populated by the red wriggler. And now for the story: Read Full Post »

Solar Eclipse

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 Sooner or later, the movement will overstep and bring the tipping point.

I kind of doubt that this was deliberate, but I was amazed at how beautifully aligned the Sunday editorial at The New York Times was with the symbolism of the partial solar eclipse that evening. “What symbolism?” you may ask, so let’s take a look.

First of all, the partial solar eclipse–the first in 18 years–occurred at  new moon. As I have written before, the new moon is classically associated with rebirth, resurrection, and the second chance. Interesting that the new moon and all it signifies created the eclipse and coincided with the newspaper article.

The genders imaginatively associated with sun and moon have switched back and forth over time and have differed among cultures. Since we live in modern times and in the West, however, I am working with the dominant paradigm that the sun is masculine, the moon feminine. A thirteenth century text describes how God created two lights, the foremost being the sun, of course. He ordered the moon to diminish “herself” in order to lead the “lower ranks.” It goes on to say that “From that time she has had no light of her own, but derives her light from the sun. . .” (I’m getting this from The Moon by Jules Cashford.)

So here we have the idea of the lesser being, the feminine being, which became firmly established through the various patriarchal religions including Christianity. Read Full Post »

The Life Sentence

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“Disagreement can be both intelligent and honorable.”

I have just emerged from three weeks as a juror in a trial to impose a sentence–either life imprisonment or the death penalty–on a man convicted of murder. The victim was Deputy James McGrane, who was murdered in Tijeras, New Mexico, on March 22, 2006, while he was on duty. The defendant was Michael Astorga, who was convicted of the crime in 2010. Serving as juror in this matter has been the most intense and grueling experience of my life.

The salient facts are that, minutes after calling in a license plate that was traced to Astorga, Deputy McGrane was killed by a bullet from a 10 millimeter Glock. The bullet entered his jaw and severed his spine, and he died instantly. It was traumatic seeing all the photographs of the murder scene, and the horror deepened as the jurors learned more about how dedicated and well-liked McGrane had been. We repeatedly saw so many photographs of him in death; but finally at the end of the trial, his parents and sister shared pictures of how attractive and appealing he had been in life. Their testimony was heart-breaking.

During the course of two weeks, the jurors had gotten a major review of evidence from the previous trial, but additional material was brought in. The incriminating testimony that was presented from Astorga’s friends and acquaintances provided a glimpse of a reality that must have been pretty alien to all of us. His community was basically completely dysfunctional. Who can say all the reasons–poor parenting, lack of intelligence and education, psychological disorders, and poverty–but his circle seemed to be a collection of people living disordered lives based on mistakes that continually multiplied. They made matters worse by begetting children who would inevitably extend the reach of the disorder.

They did so many stupid things, and the first and foremost was to get involved in drugs in any way, shape, or form. The undertow of misdeeds included criminal records in some cases, tax evasion, irresponsible parenting, possible infidelity, drug running, and keeping drugs and equipment in the home. It all resulted in panic and vulnerability to police inquiry. Those who testified repeatedly contradicted themselves, compromising their credibility; and they all paid a price for even knowing Astorga. The undertow of misdeeds will get you. Read Full Post »