Too Much SH*T

The tides are in our veins, we still mirror the stars, life is your child, but there is in me
Older and harder than life and more impartial, the eye that watched before there was an ocean
Robinson Jeffers

A report this week, published in Nature, stated the weight of human-made objects exceeds the biomass weight of all living things on Earth. Think about that. Human’s artificial creation is heavier than natural Creation. Man-made plastic, cement, steel, etc. outweighs all plants, animals, fungi, bacteria etc. Stunning. How is this possible? The report stated that for every single person on Earth their body weight in artificial shit is being produced – every week. Let that sink in for a minute. For every single person on the planet an equivalent weight of plastic whatchamacallits, doohickeys and steel-reinforced concrete is crapped out – every seven days. Relentlessly converting earth into synthetic reality. But one of the most frightening parts was how the scientist defined this point in time as a Crossover Point – “…the anthropogenic mass… will surpass all global living biomass….” That time is NOW – 2020.

Global Human-made mass exceeds all living biomass

Time magazine article has a link to the full article

To be able to comprehend the scale of this unnatural disaster, one has to get a handle on some large numbers. Man-made and Bio-made mass are equal to One Teratonne. Here is the dictionary definition: “1 Teratonne or metric teratonne (unit of mass) is equal to 1,000,000,000,000 metric tons. A metric ton is exactly 1000 kilograms, making a teratonne equal to 1000000000000000 kilograms. 1 Tt = 1000000000000000 kg.” Human-made = One Terratonne of mass / Nature-made = One Terratonne of mass. The enormity of this scale makes it hard to comprehend.

A group of data experts created this incredible info-graphics site for anthropogenic mass. Scroll down slowly and let the images impact your thinking.

https://anthropomass.org/

Serious groups of scientists from many disciplines are discussing how to identify the beginning of what is being called the Anthropocene Epoch Age of Humans. The majority agree that Epoch began sometime in the middle of the Twentieth Century. So within the Age of Humans, humans rapidly reduced the earth’s biomass in the past 120 years. In 1900 man-made objects weighed only 3% of all biomass. Although the Earth’s biomass is One Terratonne today. Plants make up 90% of the total biomass of the planet. 12,000 years ago, at the start of the Agricultural Revolution, there was Two terratons of plants on Earth. The nearly eight billion people on Earth today make up only 0.01% of total biomass, but have created 1,000,000,000,000,000 kg of “things” from the natural resources.

This is a tipping point in the history of humankind’s relationship with Nature. Like so many things in our modern world, the rate of change is accelerating. According to the report, in the past five years people have created 30 gigatonnes (30 billion tonnes) of material every year. The scientists calculated over the next twenty years – humans will have created three terratonnes of human-produced materials. When is enough finally going to be enough? The first sentence of the new report is: Humanity has become a major force in shaping the face of the Earth.

Years ago, a big part of my job was environmental education. I worked with thousands of wonderful teachers from kindergarten to high school. America loves legal definitions, and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines environmental education as “…a process that allows individuals to explore environmental issues, engage in problem solving, and take action to improve the environment” the end result being, “individuals develop a deeper understanding of environmental issues and have the skills to make informed and responsible decisions”. Curriculum development boils down complex concepts to their essence. It is time to practice a simple concept from environmental education the 3Rs – Reduce, Reuse and Recycle. We all need to put the brakes on this out of control man-made pile of sh*t. Perhaps the best lesson I ever received was, like so many, in my mother’s arms. As a little boy she taught me to love nature, respect life and live humanely. Peace.

My Monolith and Me

Everything you can imagine is real.Pablo Picasso

There’s been a lot of news about monoliths appearing in different parts of the world. Some clever folks have been enjoying themselves, so I thought I would join them. What got me going was I saw some moneymaking schemers in the news saying they were selling these art pieces for a high price. The best way to drive down prices is to flood the market 🙂 Why buy a monolith when you can make your own. Let your imagination run wild and start making your own monolith. I was inspired by the craziness and made mine from tinfoil and took it to the beach. Things have been way too serious these days and I thought I’d have a little fun. Make your monolith from any medium.

Here in the US, serious problems keep happening every day. One of my many past jobs was in print as an editor/writer/journalist – the three go together. But now the 24 hour a day global news cycle demands to be fed gritty news. I love positive happy news, but that won’t sell advertising. And the news is a for-profit commercial business. Because of the bottom-line, we consumers of news are fed just enough terror and sadness to make us feel threatened or nervous. In this way we’ll come back for more. For months now, the news has taken on a dystopian edge. It isn’t Planet of the Apes (seen every movie) yet, but the media makes you think it could be possible. To paraphrase Charlton Heston, You maniacs, we won’t let you blow it all up. When the news gets too heavy, put it down and get creative. Take your monolith out for a walk.

One of my favorite quotes about politicians is: Politics is Hollywood for ugly people. There is a great movie called Elvis & Nixon. Both of those guys were strange in their own way. But Elvis was the King of strangeness. If you go to Las Vegas you’ll meet several Elvisses – or is it Elvi? I used to do a lot of impressions, and Elvis is one I can still do. So when I took my monolith to the beach, I was channeling my Inner Elvis. When I was a kid, I had a couple cousins who wanted to be Elvis – not the old Elvis with the big belly full of fried peanut butter and banana sandwiches. They wanted to be cool cat Elvis. In fact, Elvis’ Chinese name is “King Cat”, and everyone knows him by that name. The King was a monolith of music, and that cat was a kung fu hero.

When I was studying the media in college, one of the guys we studied was Marshall McLuhan. His most famous phrase was “The media is the message”. The form of the media takes the person’s mind off the fact that they are being subtly manipulated – not by the substance, but by the media itself. Where does the money come from to create the more traditional media like newspaper, magazine, tv, radio? Advertising. Advertisers pay to grab your attention and offer you a product. Advertisers target audiences through the media they select to sell their crap. But now, digital media targets individual users based on the activity the media manipulates them into performing. Do you know what social media markets? You – you are the product. Every click, every action is logged analyzed and cross referenced. And your time is the treasure. Second by second you are being massaged into lingering a little longer. The news media talks about people “going down a rabbit hole” when referring to time spent wandering around cyberspace. Just like Alice in Wonderland wondering through nonsense. The social media business is a global monolith.

The Social Dilemma is a truly frightening movie.

We can choose to fashion a new world. We, the billions of people whose lives are being influenced by monolithic corporations, can once again be the shapers of the future. The giant leap we can take right now is a leap away from time wasting crap. This weekend get busy and make something with your own two hands. Draw/paint/sing/dance/cook/build/sew/hammer/photograph/video … Choose the medium of creation that suits you best. Open your mind to the incredible world of imagination we all possess. Lose track of time making something. Creativity is yoga. Freeing your imagination is a spiritual endeavor. Make your monolith. Choose your future wisely.

In Remembrance of John Lennon

A dream you dream alone is only a dream. A dream you dream together is reality. John Lennon

It was forty years ago today that John Lennon was murdered outside his home, in front of his wife. John was just forty years old. He was shot in the back four times by a madman whose name I refuse to ever write or speak. Later that night, Howard Cosell’s announcement of John Lennon’s death began with “…An unspeakable tragedy.” That term sums up the immense emotional impact John Lennon’s murder had on millions. December 9, 1980 I stood with thousands of my fellow students for a candlelight vigil in honor of the great lover of peace. On the following Sunday December 14, I joined with millions of people gathered together around the world for ten minutes of silent prayer. Many radio stations went off the air as the world paid tribute to the singer, songwriter peace activist.

With more than half the world’s population under the age of 30, billions of people may not appreciate John Lennon’s legacy. He is most famous for his signature song “Imagine”. That was also the title of his second solo album. This song has touched the lives of billions of people. I will never forget walking, besotted with love, with my future wife (now my wife) in the city of Guilin (famous for its rounded top karst hills). We passed a small coffee shop, the Stone Rose, I heard a young guy playing acoustic guitar and singing “Imagine”. The half dozen or so patrons all joined in to the best of their abilities, as did I. The memory of singing that last line of the second verse together pulses like a brilliant star to this day: “Imagine all the people living life in peace, you.” And it was that sustained rising and falling pitch on “you…” that brings me peace today.

Each year I taught in China, I would celebrate John Lennon’s peaceful vision of “the world will be as one”. But I did not celebrate John with my thousands of students on this day of unspeakable tragedy. I celebrated his life in the week of October 9 – the day he was born. He would have been 80 this year. Imagine that for a moment. All the wonders he could have produced, or maybe he would have simply grown old with his beloved Yoko. I just today found out he had his name legally changed to John Winston Ono Lennon. The final professional portrait of John Lennon was taken that morning, December 8, 1980, by the famous Annie Leibovitz for the cover of the Rolling Stones magazine. The editor wanted just John on the cover, but Lennon insisted he wanted photos with Yoko. On January 22, 1981 that photo of John Lennon naked curled up in a fetal position next to Yoko became one of the most iconic photos of all time.

Over Fifty years ago, the Beatles last performed live on the rooftop of Apple Records. Don’t Let Me Down

People still make disgusting racist remarks about Yoko. I know all too well how painful it can be when some idiot judges the person you love based solely on race. The definition of race is a social construct, and as such we can deconstruct that remnant of the wretched past. A dictionary definition of race includes:

A race is a grouping of humans based on shared physical or social qualities into categories generally viewed as distinct by society. The term was first used to refer to speakers of a common language and then to denote national affiliations. By the 17th century the term began to refer to physical traits.

The fact that my wife and I have different skin pigmentation or we are in different socially constructed groups is meaningless. I would tell my students that there were people who did not like seeing my wife and I together, and just leave it at that. The racism of others is their immorality not mine. But we have felt it together. My dearest sweetheart and I will be together until I draw my last mortal breath and beyond.

Stand By Me

It is astonishing that here we are at the beginning of the third decade of the 21st Century, and we still have to confront issues of racism, injustice, poverty. My mother taught me to overcome racism with LOVE. Her words have been written across my heart since I began school: “You are not better than anyone else, and they are not better than you.” Although I passed that wisdom on to my children, they already knew it deep inside the good people they are. And that, more than anything I know, will lead us to the point where “…the world will be as one”. Amen to that Brother John. So on this anniversary of grievous tragedy, search your good souls for the sticky remnants of hatreds we all grew up with. Clear away the lurking rot of prejudice. Pull up root and stem the dark weeds of animosity and antipathy towards others. Pray for those around you who may be lost within a whirlwind of bitterness and contempt for perceived differences. Shine the light of Loving Peace from your heart. “Give Peace of Chance.”

Move the World

Music, like mathematics, is a universal language. Music can unite us by connecting the daily rhythms of our common humanity. I have deep oceans of memories painted with music. Music carries me back to every stage of my life from a little boy to today. You can search my blog for more posts about my love of music, such as Refreshed by Music and how that relates to the vibration of the Universe like In the Silence Between. Music brings the world together. Music can move our planet. Today, I would like to share a few international musical collaborations with you.

The other day I read an article about an amazing musical collaboration. The Earth Orchestra “ 197 countries – 197 musicians – 1 Band -1 World”

Trailer for Documentary

Song: Together is Beautiful

The first large international musical collaboration was probably the 1971 Concert for Bangladesh.

That concert introduced me to the great genius Ravi Shankar and the incredible sitar. I have loved Indian music throughout my adult life. I especially love seeing Ravi Shankar playing with his amazing daughter Anoushka Shankar Indian music is so rich and complex, and to think so much of it is improvised is mind-boggling.

In 1984 the musical charity Band Aid released Do They Know It’s Christmas to raise money for the famine in Ethipoia.

In 1985 the charity USA for Africa released We Are the World

On July 13, 1985 Feed the World Live Aid global concert rocked the world with music. One of the highlights was Freddie Mercury and Queen performing before 75,000 people.

1985 was also the first Farm Aid charity concerts for American Farmers, which was held an hour from my old hometown. The lineup for the twelve hour concert was incredible The concerts are still held every year.

Another great international musical collaboration is the group – Playing for Change

According to their YouTube channel, “Playing for Change is a movement created to inspire and connect the world through music. The idea for this project came from a common belief that music has the power to break down boundaries and overcome distances between people”.

https://www.youtube.com/c/playingchange/about

One of their collaborations was on the great tune from The Band – The Weight

The lyrics of this song, like any work of art, are open to interpretation. For instance, the songwriter Robbie Robertson said the town Nazareth was Nazareth, Pennsylvania the home of the world-famous Martin Guitars, and not Nazareth the birthplace of Jesus.

Perhaps there can one day be a global charity concert held for world peace – held over the Internet or when possible live in a covid safe way. Let’s move the world with a peaceful beat. Send out positive vibrations of lyrical peace and love into the future.

Leave a comment below about the music that moves you.

The Amber of the Moment

Here we are, trapped in the amber of the moment. There is no why.Kurt Vonnegut

Trapped within the amber of the moment here in the US clarifies life. The sheer magnitude of ongoing rotten events shredded many veils of self-delusion. If you’ll pardon the comparison, but the cumulative impact of so much bad news reminded me of a time I went to visit my Dad. He was in his early eighties. My kids and I lived next door. I had gone over to check in with him to make sure he was okay. I knocked he didn’t answer. He usually shouted: come in or just a minute. Our family home is about five hundred square feet so he definitely could hear me knocking. So, I walked in and there he was, in all his nude glory just standing in the living room. Thank God he was facing away from me. But that brief glimpse of the pale pallor of his flat ass is seared into my mind. Just as the inexplicably hideous behavior of so many people in this country, warts and all, is scratched into my memory.

The curtain has been pulled back on cultural illusions, and I will ever be able to unsee the shocking truth. Without national leadership for months on end now, we have all been at the mercy of the worst of us. The bad behavior of groups and individuals in the face of psychological, spiritual, health and economic emergencies pounds away at society’s cultural foundation. The structure of America itself is under stresses unseen in living memory. Our country is currently enduring some of its darkest days. At the same time, far too many spineless politicians continue to scheme out ways to gain an advantage during the onslaught of misery. These swine are in essence playing politics with the suffering of millions. Sitting here suspended in the amber of the moment, I take comfort in knowing, the makeshift walls they are hiding behind will crumble. They always do. There is no why to what they do, beyond greed.

Just as amber conducts electricity, transformational energy surges through these dark days. That energy is coming from the younger generations. I am so proud of them. A clear message has been sent globally for young people to reconstruct a better world from the remnants of the old world. Have no doubt that the world that once was will not be returning. As a mature adult (nice way to avoid saying old), I can say without hesitation – God bless the youth of this world. They continue to give me hope while I remain trapped within the amber of the moment.

In Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” his character Miranda says innocently,How beauteous mankind is! O brave new world That has such people in it.” She praises the men she has encountered. But her father Prospero knows the wickedness of the men, and answers her with “’Tis new to thee.” Throughout history the role of the older generation is to guide the younger – to point out the wicked and profane. Aldous Huxley’s ironically used the phrase brave new world as the title of his 1932 novel, for he knew powerful people corrupted whatever they touched. But we temporarily live in an upside down world now where the youth must lead us into the new lands ahead. For the sake of the future, the elders must step aside and follow the lights shining from the hearts of the young. Their sweet souls are the only reason why I need to follow them.

Those of us who are mature adults should do our best to stand between the greedy and self-serving in order to prepare the way for the young. When spring returns, help the young people sew the seeds of a better world. Take these indelible memories of the time we are passing through, and memorialize them. But do not allow the toxic behaviors to survive. I will close with the end of a speech from Abraham Lincoln in which he reminds us, this too will pass.

“It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence, to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: “And this, too, shall pass away.” How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! — how consoling in the depths of affliction! “And this, too, shall pass away.” And yet let us hope it is not quite true. Let us hope, rather, that by the best cultivation of the physical world, beneath and around us; and the intellectual and moral world within us, we shall secure an individual, social, and political prosperity and happiness, whose course shall be onward and upward, and which, while the earth endures, shall not pass away.”

Passion Vitalizes Art: A Poem

The Universe inspires ardent flames of passion

Artists must shape life with the abandon of a hungry lover

Insights are formed upon

The fiery golden forge of eternity

Spark the soul’s hearth with courageous fervor

The glory of glories does not respond to gentle entreaties

The wellspring of creation is unreachable to sober pleas

Awakened imagination generates ecstatic abandonment

Through art we re-unite with Creation

Initiation slithers from fingertips
Glowing vitality
Sparkling originality
From blankness comes the reflection

Transforming the emptiness

Through sincere devotion

Unquestioned desire
Unquenchable thirst

Are slaked by artful conception

Channel the flow

Across raw flesh and bone

Until a portion of your essence

Lies captured within the medium

Of its creation

The Infinite Now

Hold to the now, the here, through which all future plunges to the past. James Joyce

For the past month, I have been editing a new novel. To write a novel you have to deal with characterization – where a writer “reveals the personality of the character”. But a terrific amount of creative alchemy occurs during the summoning of a fictionalized being out of the ether. All creative people, in one way or another, call upon fundamental elements that transcend time and space. Whether they use years of training and experience or gather inspirational lightning, regular time is suspended. The prosaic world recedes leaving behind the boundlessly imaginative. And, when wandering within this Infinite Now, anything is possible.

How long is Now? This moment, then this, then … Masters and gurus teach we need to let go of the past and focus on the Now and not the future. But few minds can work this way for extended periods of time. Some elements of modern life require knowledge of the past, and plans for the future. It would be unsafe for instance to drive a car without anticipating what’s ahead or behind. Work, school, appointments… demand we note the time. However, there are enchanted moments that transcend normal time. These are the moments when we are in-sync with the Infinite Now. We all are capable of entering that transcendent flow state. You all have experienced this altered state many times, but it is often dismissed. Realize this truth – the path is within us all.

Out of nowhere the mind comes forth. Diamond Sutra

Trying to focus on my fictional work, today I was reading about a philosophical and psychological concept called self-continuity. It is said to be the basis of identity. There is a cord of continuity called “I” which runs throughout our lives. All our experiences across time are intertwined around this belief that the me then is the me now and will be the me in the future. This continuum across time helps root our minds in the NOW. Our culture plays a part in this as well. Western cultures have a very literal approach to time. The clock marks off life second-by-second; the calendar month-by-month; actuarial tables year-by-year. Along the way, we accomplish or don’t accomplish what we set out to do long ago. But that I, the me within, forms around the original seed of identity sprouted at birth – or perhaps before. Will that self-continuity endure beyond this mortal body? The very personal answer is the foundation of belief. Are we part of a finite or infinite realm? Many people require an unlearning process in order to have faith in the answer they find.

Most people are other people. Their thoughts are someone else’s opinions, their lives a mimicry, their passions a quotation. Oscar Wilde

And so, how do you determine your sense of narrative? If you are part of a high context society (group identity) or low context society (individualism) can change how you create your personal narrative. Each provides for self-continuity in different ways. I learned that psychologist call the relationship between events or conditions in the past/present/future is called intertemporal. Chasing after that temporal root led me to some interesting brain food. It is related to: worldly, secular, earthly and terrestrial. It is derived from the Latin word temporalis – temporary which from the word tempus – season, moment. And so embedded within such a high minded scientific word – intertemporal – we find the concept that this world is temporary. These moments strung together are all part of an eternal thread – the Infinite Now.

It has been said that what really separates us from other animals is our awareness of our own mortality. This awareness brings out sweetness in some and bitterness in others. As Camus said “There is not love of life without despair about life”. But we mustn’t let the despair define this life. Do not allow your personal narrative to be based solely on anguish and melancholy. Define your character increasingly in a positive light. Let that life-affirming illumination shine upon the infinite now connecting us all.

Into the Mystic

For my part I know nothing with any certainty, but the sight of the stars makes me dream.Vincent Van Gogh

I for one have had way too much data thrown at me this year. Numbers, graphs, charts all displaying little hope, and instead offering increasingly more of the same. Numerical data drives the 21st Century – Information Age. The very system we all use to connect to one another is based on the basic binary code of zero and one. People have been counting and calculating for thousands of years. But for tens of thousands of years, we have looked to nature, and the stars for signs and portents of the future. The year 2020 is being consumed by the inexorable passage of time. Scientists are telling us there is a great dark winter coming. Let’s look up for omens of change.

We all need signs of hope, even if they are so-called “unscientific”. All matter in the Universe was created from cosmic energy. From the atomic to the galactic, vibrating waves of energy create our reality. So lets throw some celestial energy into the mix. There are many ways to astrologically forecast what’s up ahead, and you don’t have to believe in them to enjoy them. Let’s delve into the metaphysical for a bit. First: The Great Conjunction on the Winter Solstice – December 21, 2020. Conjunction – two or more heavenly bodies at the same celestial longitude. Jupiter and Saturn will be so close in the night sky they will appear as one planet. They will align in the constellation Aquarius for the first time in 400 years.

They say Aquarius is the sign of innovation, intellect and ideas. It is a time for intellectual innovation and introducing new ideas. I learned there are many ways to calculate the Age of Aquarius. This is all based on a 28,500 year cycle called axial precession or precession of the equinoxes. That big a number gives us some breathing room on the dates, so let’s just say we are in the Age of Aquarius now. Researching this stretched my imagination at times, such as an “expert” saying Aquarius is traditionally associated with “electricity, computers, flight, democracy…” To me it seems they are stretching that word “traditionally” to its breaking point. But hey, It’s the Age of Aquarius – “…peace will guide the planets; And love will steer the stars…”

But wait, there’s more. It all begins November 30/December 1 – with the Mourning Moon. This night there will be a “penumbral lunar eclipse” (at 9:44 UTC). The moon will darken but not like in a total eclipse. The King of the Meteor Showers is Coming on December 7- 17 – Geminids Meteor Shower. The peak will be on the night of the 13th , and morning of the 14th. But the morning of the 15th will be great too, because of the new moon. There may be up to 120 meteors an hour. Although they can appear anywhere, look towards the constellation Gemini. December 21 is the Winter Solstice. That day don’t forget to look for what looks like a double planet. Jupiter and Saturn will be extremely close. Look to the West just after sunset. The Ursids is another meteor shower coming out of the Big Dipper Dec 21, 22.

It’s not over yet. The full moon in December is called the Cold Moon. There will be another Blue Moon on December 30. So the stars and planets are aligning for the end of 2020 to go out in icy blue glory. While the data shows frightening darkness ahead related to the pandemic and global economy, let’s look up to the stars to guide us through the cold dark nights. Let us all shine on together. We all shine on…like the moon and the stars and the sun…we all shine on…come on and on and on... John Lennon

Giving Thanks

If the only prayer you said was thank you, that would be enough.Meister Eckhart

Let us all give thanks this day and every day. So many people in the US are traveling to be with family. I cannot understand that. Truly, why take the chance for a day or two of eating together? There are many ways to stay safe no matter what you do. I have three kids in three different states and my wife is away. So I will be celebrating by giving thanks for them being in my life.

Piglet noticed that even though he had a Very Small Heart, it could hold a rather large amount of Gratitude. A.A. Milne

I have been puzzling over how to keep moving forward through this pandemic. Here in the US, millions are setting off on the road and in the air. The flights overseas are incredibly limited. Massive airports are empty. I am one of those people who enjoys airports. When I was a little boy, my hero-uncle worked at our local airport as a mechanic. We would go visit him, and it was such an amazing place to me. The international areas of airports really are one of the most incredible places to me. I miss traveling, but at my age and with my health conditions, I wouldn’t even dare get on a plane right now. This morning I was cleaning and found my travel backpack had fallen behind some things. As I cleaned it, I started thinking of where I would like to travel to, after I get to hug and be with my kids again.

My expectations were reduced to zero when I was 21. Everything since then has been a bonus. Stephen Hawking

I would like to share my meal with all of you. From the top left to right: Stuffing – my mom made wonderful sage and cornbread stuffing, but that was decades ago. I like the tartness of cranberries, and they are essential in one form or another. My family always had creamed corn casseroles with saltine crackers – simple but the memories it brings back are priceless. Gravy – this was always one of my Dad’s favorites, and he never failed to tease my mother, asking her is the gravy wavy? Mashed Potatoes are a great filling part of the meal. I thought about adding mac and cheese also, but holy heck the carbs are already too much for me (maybe over the weekend :-). This year I am having a walnut brownie mug cake instead of pumpkin pie. Confession – I ate the pie already. I bought a small pie to share with my young remote learning students in China – and, well, it was delicious. I don’t have the room for a full size turkey any way. I’ve cooked many turkeys in my day. So this year it’s a microwave turkey dinner for me. No leftover turkey. Cold turkey is another joy I will have to do without this crazy year. Oh yeah, I gave myself a Christmas candy cane early this year, because I have been the best boy I could be.

Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom. Marcel Proust

We all must measure the risks we are willing to take. This is true every day. We can run into unexpected risks in a variety of ways. For instance, this morning I was going to wander the beach. I have been driving over instead of walking, to reduce my chance encounters with people on the way. When I got there, the tides were rolling in higher than normally. This was not a risk I was willing to take, since I have dodged tides down there that have swept all the way up the beach. Don’t take chances right now.

That’s my Thanksgiving dinner, physically alone, but with my loved ones in my heart. I hope you all are able to spend time with someone who means the world to you. If not, please find reasons to give thanks for this day, and every day. Say a little prayer for your loved ones.

Cultivate the habit of being grateful for every good thing that comes to you, and to give thanks continuously. And because all things have contributed to your advancement, you should include all things in your gratitude. Ralph Waldo Emerson

Make Your Soul Grow

To practice any art, no matter how well or badly, is a way to make your soul grow. So do it. – Kurt Vonnegut

I normally spend part of each morning and evening reading, browsing through interesting facts, articles, and images. At various times during the rest of the day, I create things. I write, paint, and draw. But I also cook, clean and tend to the menial things that makes the world go ’round. This morning, to my delight I discovered the story behind the quote above. For an English assignment, a group of New York high school students had to send letters to favorite writers and Vonnegut was the only who replied. You can read his letter HERE. In the letter, Vonnegut advises the students to write their very best six line poem, and tear it into tiny pieces when they finish. “…you have already been gloriously rewarded for your poem. You have experienced becoming, learned a lot more about what’s inside you, and you have made your soul grow.

Make Your Soul GrowKurt Vonnegut’s letter read by Sir Ian McKellen

Our souls are not one size fits all. Your soul does not come preformed, packaged and ready-to-wear. Your soul is a unique universe nested within a universe of universes. Scientist have even tried to weight the soul as it departs upon death. The weight of the soul can be measured by the impact on the lives of others. The soul’s mass can be measured by life’s impact on you. But please do not measure yourself against the “famous”. You are unique. The word unique is regularly misused. Uniquebeing the only one of its kind; unlike anything else. And the gravity of your uniqueness increases through your experiences with others and with yourself. As the author of “The Little Prince wrote”…To live is to be slowly born.Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

The master storyteller Vonnegut recommended students make art throughout their lives. He wrote to them “…Practice any art, music, singing, dancing, acting, drawing, painting, sculpting, poetry, fiction, essays, reportage, no matter how well or badly, not to get money and fame…” Art, the act of creating, has shaped my soul more than anything. And I include love as part of art. Love germinates in the soul before it grows between: a couple, family, pets, nature… Love is Art expressed in infinite ways. Art is Love revealed through the reflections in immeasurable eyes. Any “student of life” is also a student of love-art-hope-faith-wonder. There is no sense to it, no rhyme or reason. In fact, as Picasso said, The chief enemy of creativity is “good” sense.

Your life is a creative act of faith. No matter the situation, to keep going forward requires faith in oneself and the soul’s connection to something – anything. The more positive connections one can make, the more the soul grows and expands. I learned this lesson as little boy. My beloved grandfather died. I was lost for a time – adrift in a world without the one person who accepted and nurtured me without hesitation. The loss of the great soul in my life though led me eventually to discover the goodness in my heart, the positive energy flowing through my soul. My grandpa is still with me, as are so many others dead and living. In this way, I feel my soul is like the universe – ever-expanding at the speed of life. The known is finite, the unknown infinite.Thomas Huxley

I have a three-part assignment for you, like Vonnegut. Gaze out a window today. Clear your thoughts and just look. Let your mind wander the landscape around you. Engage all your senses. Gaze at the nature, humanity, spirit, art; listen to the shouts, laughter, songs; smell the meals cooking, the rain on the asphalt, the salt and sewer; feel the wind, stroke the sill’s rough-smoothness, caress life; taste the air, savor the zest of becoming, appreciate the joy of making your soul grow. Now create something – an artifact of that joy your discovered, or re-discovered. It doesn’t have to be grand. It is already perfect because it is an expression of your soul. Now, give that object to someone you love. Tell them you love them. Mean it when you say it. Be fearless and truthful. Let your souls grow closer.