To Experience

My then new friend Greg ecstatically described “The Gatekeeper” roller coaster ride as we waited in a long line of thrill-seekers. During the wait, I made sure to place my wallet and keys inside a flap pocket of my cargo shorts. I double-checked the Velcro closure several times. “The Gatekeeper” is a looping coaster ride on which riders go upside down six times. Greg explained that he loved the feeling of weightlessness and the side to side jolts.

During his description, I felt nothing but trepidation about what I had agreed to do. However, I knew that sooner rather than later, I would be indulging Greg’s passion for record-breaking coasters. We finally reached the front of the queue and were seated onto the “car” and strapped into our seats. Each “car” is a double-wing vehicle that seats two people per wing. It is unenclosed, so the riders are surrounded only by air and the aircraft-type safety straps.

After the pod of wing cars was filled, the ride abruptly began. There was no turning back. Right away, the cars dove into a 180-degree drop that was reportedly around 65-miles-an-hour. From that point there were repeated inversions, including a half loop topping out at 170 feet up from the ground. Greg had warned that the inversion was the world’s highest inversion of all roller coasters in existence.

The two-minute ride felt more like an eternity. Being strapped into a seat, bolted onto a horizontal surface without an enclosed car made me feel especially vulnerable. I was totally at the mercy of the mechanical device that must have been inspired by some sadistic engineer’s nightmare.

The ride slowed to its end allowing Greg and I to exit the wing shaped contraption. It took a few minutes for us to recover our equilibrium. We did so by strolling around the midway of the park, scouting out more thrills for Greg and terror for me.

I had met Greg a few months earlier on a dating site. We hit it off and carried on a long distance relationship. He lives in Sandusky, Ohio which is on a Lake Erie peninsula west of Cleveland. The drive from my home in Norfolk, Nebraska takes just over a day. Greg often talked about his love of roller coaster parks and his passion for “Cedar Point”, where “The Gatekeeper” was located. So, I had forewarning of what was in store during a meeting with my then new friend.

To experience an activity is different from the experience of an activity. The description of the ride at Cedar Point amusement park is a memory of the past that I can use as reference. To experience the roller coaster was an action that took place in the present tense at that time. Experiencing the coaster is different than the experience. Experience is already in the past tense. Experiencing is the present tense unfolding of observation and action. I am experiencing scary thrills on the roller coaster is different from recollections of the ride. The experience is a memory of a past event that happens in my mind as I write about it.

The impact and vividness of experience is a mental shadow that appears as a mental illusion that mimics the actual, past event. To experience something mentally morphs into an experience. However vivid the experience is, it prevents the unfolding of experiencing the present. An experience takes place in the imagination and blocks experiencing the present moment. If I wish to actually relive the experience, I will have to travel back to Ohio, meet up with Greg, and ride the roller coaster.

The experience would be different because Greg and I are older, and circumstances would be different too. I would probably compare the present experience with the past experience because that is how my brain works.

The mind works as a process of continuity. That is it is constantly experiencing. We usually live our lives as an expression of continuity. We understand our experience of life as a string of events and thoughts. The conundrum is that to fully experience something in life is to let go of that continuity. Experience must be put on hold in order to experience life fully in the present.

To experience is a matter of the absence of thought and self-reflection. To experience is a state of being and not something to achieve. The mind ceases conceptualizing and is free to engage fully in the present. To experience is not a meditation, nor a mental concept. To experience is simply being present in the moment.

Ciao

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes actor, author, musician, painter, photographer, and poet, Viggo Mortensen. “Life is short and the older you get, the more you feel it. Indeed, the shorter it is. People lose their capacity to walk, run, travel, think, and experience life. I realize how important it is to use the time I have.”

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I Just Discovered More Postcards

My father was a prolific pack-rat, but he was not a hoarder in the popular sense of the word. When he wasn’t designing and building bridges and highways, he was collecting antiques and vintage stuff to sell. He actually sold tons of antiques–earning supplemental income. The problem was that the intake of fresh inventory far outstripped sales of the balance of old inventory.

A few years ago, I arranged to liquidate dad’s estate. There was a large auction that required the entire gymnasium floor of Wayne, Nebraska’s National Guard Armory. We sold probably 98-percent of his things, not including real estate property. The other two percent of stuff did not spark the interest of buyers, so my sister and I divided it up and claimed it.

Some of what remained were paper goods like photo albums, maps, books, magazines, and postcards. My sister did not want want to bring home most of the paper because she lives in a studio apartment and is short on storage space. Meantime, I haven’t had a lot of time to shuffle old paper. There are a couple of leftover, small boxes filled with miscellaneous postcards that I added to supplement the postcard collection I started as a teen.

This week, I decided to look through one of dad’s boxes of postcards that he had acquired over the years. There are the usual assortment of tourist “evidence” cards plus plain cards saved because the messages are of families’ importance. Part way through the stack, is a small stash of cards from World War Two. I separated them in order to examine them very closely. I’ll share the most interesting cards in this post.

The B-17 formation card was postmarked March 7, 1942 from Fort Pickett, Virginia. There’s a short note of sympathy about the passing away of a great aunt. The card was sent by a then recent recruit named Keith and was received by his family in Delphos, Kansas.

The color illustration of a “Flying Fortress” was postmarked before U.S. entry into the war, June 9, 1941 from Pendleton, California. A young soldier named Darol wrote to his parents in Norden, Nebraska. He was “just keeping in touch with friends and family”.

The aerial view of Hamburg, Germany is postmarked the 25th of July, 1938 from Hamburg. The message, in German, expressed appreciation for birthday gifts. The sender’s name was scrawled and hard to make out. The recipient was “Frl. Anita Gorsh in Weisbaden, Erbenheim Strasse 15”

The “Gasthaus” postcard was a simple “Hallo” greeting from someone named Georg Hegendorn in Augsburg. The recipient is Axel Trautman who was stationed at Schönwalde near Berlin. The card is postmarked “(smudged day)Juli, 1938 from München.

The card showing Hitler with his inner circle had no message, nor address written on the back. There is the name “Karl” written in a childish scrawl. I assume a young child owned the card.

The Graf Zeppelin flies over Friedrichshafen near Austria and Switzerland. It was postmarked 2nd of August 1935 from Berlin. The sender, Theodor Schäfer apparently was a passenger on the airship for his vacation. The card was addressed to Ewald Weiß who lived in Gelsenkirchen, Westphalia.

Ciao


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes the children’s author, Mary E. Pearson. “The world before us is a postcard, and I imagine the story we are writing on it.”

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Contemplating Crime

The atmospheric skip was favorable, so my multi-band ghetto blaster managed to receive a shortwave radio station broadcasting from New Zealand. I listened intently as the signal repeatedly faded out and back in. The “RNZ Pacific” announcer was interviewing a government official regarding an alarming white collar crime wave. Several corporate executives were being investigated for defrauding the treasury of a small city. Due to the tentative nature of the atmospheric skip, I wasn’t able to hear many of the important details about the crimes before the radio station’s signal entirely faded away.

I switched off the radio, and leaned back in the desk chair. I felt sad that even an idyllic country such as New Zealand is blighted with crime. It seems that wherever humans live, there is a certain percentage of people who do awful things.

Crime begins with unhappy people who either intend to harm others or do not care if others are harmed. The crime might be blatant acts of mayhem and murder or fraudulent such as the city in New Zealand suffered. To cause unhappiness in others is one of the results of crime. To foster unhappiness in oneself is where crime begins.

Crime is often the byproduct of unfavorable social circumstances and individual problems. The causes of everyday crime like muggings, robbery, and burglary are easier to understand than corporate and governmental fraud. Petty criminals are easier to apprehend because of the amateur nature of their wrong-doing. Vandalism and home break-ins are easier to solve due to the proliferation of modern technological surveillance devices. Cases involving fraud and organized crime are much more difficult to solve because nearly all of it is premeditated. The perpetrators are more likely to find ways to outwit police and official investigators.

It’s interesting to note that no punishment has been strong enough to deter the commission of crimes. In even the most repressive police states, people steal from others, commit fraud towards others, and murder each other. Whenever a new form of punishment is devised to punish specific crimes, new ways of avoiding punishment arise. The jails and prisons overflow with new miscreants and felons. In most instances, the prisons are de facto universities that criminals teach and learn from each other. The result being more sophisticated criminals. Crime and means of punishment have been problematic and controversial throughout history and will likely remain so in the foreseeable future.

The most serious crimes are committed by organized syndicates. The instigators corrupt society at all levels. Whether it is a protection racket in the inner city or the corruption of a nation’s politicians and corporate executives, the harm is far-reaching. Such criminal activity affects great numbers of victims at a time. Organized crime can be found in nearly every aspect of society. When their venue is the Internet, the criminals exploit the international nature of the Web. The crooks are able to avoid apprehension to an alarming degree.

There are also environmental crimes such as pollution and exploitation of resources. Although these crimes affect the planet as a whole, they remain controversial with the perpetrators exploiting legal loopholes. The power of the wrongdoers is so immense that whistle-blowers are reluctant to come forward because of great risk to themselves. Thus, the crimes continue unabated.

The subject of crime is depressing to contemplate. It’s easy to understand why we wish to deny it or look the other way. Ironically, society loves crime in the form of entertainment. Cops and robbers television shows are always popular with the viewing public. Movies and video games that feature wars, organized crime, and lots of bloodshed are some of the most profitable forms of entertainment. We are fascinated by the evils of people like Charles Manson.

Historical tales of gangs headed by serious criminals such as Jesse James or Al Capone are perennial best sellers. I find stories of large-scale intrigue and deception fascinating. The stories about atrocities like the Jonestown mass murder-suicide in Guyana in 1978 are fodder for endless speculation.

It appears that criminals and crime will always be part of society. The best we can do is to nip it in the bud. Whether it is violent activity or financial corruption, crimes are violations of the heart and spirit. Learning compassion and consideration for others will go a long way towards a solution. This is not a pollyanna approach. When people care enough for themselves and others, we tend to get along better and not harm one another.

Anyway, these are just some random thoughts and opinions about a timeless subject. Be safe.

Ciao

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes actor, director, screenwriter, John Huston. “…After all, crime is only a left-handed form of human endeavor.”

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Be Strong

The year 2020 has become an example of setbacks. It has exposed our national, social, and individual vulnerabilities. To look at the news headlines and tragic statistics reminds us of our weakest aspects. When we examine the situation closer, we also notice that there is an integral core strength that has been present in the nation and in many people.

While we encounter tragedy and social injustice, some of us reconnect to the inner resilience and silent power. We remember to be compassionate to ourselves and everyone else. We recall memories of past successes and failures that taught us valuable lessons. Understanding our past actions demonstrates that we have what is needed to overcome challenges and to thrive.

Right now is the time to tap into our personal power, determination, and resilience. We do this to reinforce our self-confidence and not trying to control or rule over other people. Meantime, other people will see your nature and understand how elegantly strong you are. This is the advantage we have over bullies and tyrants. We can be strong without outward, excessive force and violence. We steer the scenario without our adversaries even realizing it. We accomplish this without resorting to manipulation.

That self-same confidence encourages us when we’re feelings stressed and burned out. It’s helpful to remember we’ve been able to get through harsh situations and to learn from them. This is also valuable when others rely upon us for support and strength. We are capable and willing to lend ourselves in their efforts towards their growing process.

“You have power over your mind–not outside events. Realize this, and you will find strength.”–Ancient Roman Emperor, Marcus Aurelius

We display our inner strength during those times when anger, rage, sadness, guilt, and greediness arise to tempt us. We are strong when such emotions and feelings are constructively channeled. We grow stronger when we are not only aware of our instinctual desires but restrain them to encourage balance and thoughtfulness. This is a way of creating strategies to help us cope with difficulty. An approach like this utilizes compassion, forgiveness, and love. When done mindfully, we act out of strength instead of hatred.

It is easy to submit to anger and rage. From our past, we hopefully learned that aggressive, explosive behavior and lashing out at people were counterproductive. Such impulsiveness created future regrets. Although it is unhealthy to repress such emotions, it is to our benefit to learn to channel them so as to avoid harming others and ourselves. If this becomes too difficult, then it is time to seek help from a friend or a professional counselor. Knowing when to ask for wise help is another sign of strength.

I wish you happiness and strength.

Ciao


The Blue Jay of Happiness contemplates some wise words from writer Hermann Hesse. “Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.”

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Some Thoughts About Food

The refrigerator defrosting chore earlier this week was a good mindfulness exercise regarding food. When defrosting a refrigerator or deep freezer, you have to temporarily remove each container of food and store it in a place where it will remain cold or frozen.

There are the usual staples such as dairy and perishable produce. Then we encounter other foods and condiments with much longer shelf lives such as bottled beverages and mustard. There might even be one or two items that we’ve forgotten about that had gotten shoved to the back of a shelf and need to be discarded.

The hidden benefits of owning an old-fashioned refrigerator without automatic defrost, is the process of sorting and the resulting mindfulness about food. What types of food are frequently replaced? What food items are in the fridge for long-term storage? How much neglected food has gone to waste? What types of food do we over-consume? What foods do we actually need?

This week, at the back of the freezer compartment, I discovered a slender box that contained one veggie burger. There was a bag that contained one serving of brussel sprouts. Another plastic bag contained half a serving of mixed vegetables. It seemed like I discovered free food. Those items were set aside to prepare for lunch later on.

“If you really want to make a friend, go to someone’s house and eat with him… The people who give you their food give you their heart.”–Cesar Chavez

During a vacation to India several years ago, I noticed a gracious practice at every household I visited. Shortly after being seated in the home, the host or hostess would bring out a tray of finger food. They offered chai or a soft drink to accompany the treat. In fact, Indian cuisine helped increase my fondness for the culture of India.

I wish I could duplicate a particular dish that was served by my Indian sponsor. It is a tomato soup prepared with fresh tomatoes, masala spices, and yogurt. The recipe had been in the family for several generations. The soup has become a personal grail food because I’ve idealized the memory of it. The soup represents the lovely hospitality of my hosts.

There is a commercially marketed beverage I enjoyed at a bus stop near Mumbai. My friends recommended I try some “Duke’s Mangola”. It’s a mango flavored soft drink that I instantly fell in love with. I wonder if Mangola would be popular in the United States if it was marketed here.

As a single person who too often eats alone because of social distancing, memories about communal meals are special. Dinner is better when consumed with other people. Although the dishes are prepared with calories and nutrients in mind, meals eaten with family and friends are about identity, honesty, and love. Sharing a meal with a friend seems like a holy act. The meal is an act of bonding. One of my favorite simple pleasures is to prepare stir-fry to share with a pal.

Now that the refrigerator has been defrosted and gleaned, there is the matter of slowly restocking it more mindfully. Healthier eating has become my intention, at least for awhile.

Ciao

The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes Ludwig van Beethoven. “Only the pure in heart can make a good soup.”

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Defrosting The Fridge …Floral Friday

The humid days of the warm season had pretty much practically passed this week. That meant it was time to do the bi-annual chore of defrosting the refrigerator. It’s an apartment size Coronado appliance that was sold by the now defunct Gamble’s/Skogmo store chain. I bought the fridge from a railroad salvage store when I moved into the house in mid 1984.

The appliance does not have an automatic defrosting feature. Humid air from the hot season makes its way into the refrigerator and condenses into frosty ice. The preceding five months yielded a thick coating of white ice. The frost had to be removed in order to restore efficiency and space.

I transfered the perishables into a large picnic cooler, then unplugged the fridge. I placed a portable fan in front of the open door to circulate the air. The defrosting usually takes a few hours and yields plenty of melt water. That means I must empty the drip tray several times.

I decided to whip up a few floral projects during part of the wait. I began with a small, mandolin-shaped, vintage wall pocket vase. A selection of purple flowers graces the wall just above the kitchen sink.

A Haeger florist planter contains greenery with river stones. The jumbo rose converts the grouping into a solitaire arrangement.

The base-weighted brass bud vase contains a single yellow bloom in a Zen-inspired solitaire. The project is displayed on an old dishtowel that was decorated by my mom back in the 1960s.

Ciao


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes novelist/writer, Eileen Pollack. “Figuring out why people who choose not to do something don’t in fact do it is like attempting to interview the elves who live inside your refrigerator but come out only when the light is off.”

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Contemplating Corn Production

This time of year in Nebraska, our state flower, the goldenrod, is mellow yellow. The deciduous trees have turned color, and the corn growers are sweeping their fields with massive combine harvesters.

If you’re driving down rural roads in mid-America this time of year, be on the lookout for large, slow-moving farm equipment. You might see one just as you pop over the top of a hill. In the autumn, at night, you may see bright headlights in the fields as farmers work to bring in the corn before the onset of unfavorable weather.

Farmers always have deadlines and must adjust their personal schedules to accommodate windows of opportunity. The corn plants have to be dry in order to achieve a relatively trouble-free harvest. If the rains arrive before harvest is complete, the grain must be mechanically dried before it can be put into longterm storage.

Corn is the major crop here in Nebraska. One of our state mottoes is that we’re the Cornhusker State. In most regions of Nebraska, it’s hard to get away from that fact. (The western areas are less favorable for the crop, so there is far less corn grown there.)

Fun facts: the top four corn producing American states are Iowa, Illinois, Nebraska, and Minnesota. While the United States is the world’s largest corn producer, China isn’t far behind at number two. Brazil is the third-ranked grower. They are followed by Argentina, The Ukraine, and India. We’re told these facts in school and in corn industry advertising. Corn is big business.

“Corn is already the most subsidized crop in America, raking in a total of $51-billion in federal handouts between 1995 and 2005–twice as much as wheat subsidies and four times as much as soybeans. Ethanol itself is propped up by hefty subsidies, including a 51-cent-per-gallon tax allowance for refiners.”–author and journalist, Jeff Goodell

Corn and grain growers are chronically plagued by unfavorable weather, global climate change, and worst of all–financial debt. If you’re acquainted with farmers, you know that their conversation usually centers around harsh weather and bank debt. They account for a sizable share of bank loans. Financially stressed grain growers are often in line for government assistance.

Broadcast newscasts in the Great Plains often feature stories about farmers’ weather and money woes. Speaking of advertising, there is a never-ending stream of advertising for seeds, fertilizers, herbicides, and pesticides. The advertising dollars from corporations that manufacture these products keep broadcasters afloat.

Meanwhile, the relationship between agribusiness and local communities borders on dysfunctional. Local business depends upon multinational and producer input. At the same time, as farmland ownership becomes more consolidated, there are fewer farmers to support local mom and pop businesses.

Local grain producers have become less independent and are more like employees or serfs to major multinational corporations. The producers are obliged by social custom and legally bound by financial law to plow their fields, plant the seeds, cultivate it mechanically or chemically, harvest it, and store it. To accomplish this, the growers must maintain relationships with big business, banking, and insurance.

As I drive down rural two-lane highways in the fall, I am sure to encounter at least one slow-moving grain combine as it takes up an entire width of a lane. I marvel at the cost of the machine. To buy one new, someone must pay close to half-a-million-dollars. Even pre-owned combines costs are in the six-figures. There are hidden costs such as maintenance for these complex machines. Routine care such new tires and engine upkeep must be figured in, as well.

Earlier this week, I had to follow one of these mechanical beasts on the highway for half a mile because of traffic. That’s what inspired me to write about corn production today.

Ciao


The Blue Jay of Happiness quotes restaurateur, entrepreneur, Kimbal Musk. “If you’re a commodity corn farmer in Iowa, you’re locked into an infrastructure that keeps you a commodity corn farmer.”

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