Monday, March 02, 2015

Commentary: THE BACHELOR

[Nyerges, the author of several books, also writes a blog, and posts Youtube videos. He can be reached at or Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041.]

An example of what's wrong with modern TV

I have been watching Chris the farmer on the Bachelor show on television, along with millions of other fixated, voyeuristic Americans.  I watched some of the last season’s Bachelorette as well, as my various feelings and thoughts about this “reality” show have jumbled around.

The show is obviously well-done, professionally produced, with exotic wonderful places they visit. Yet, on another very primal and basic level, the show epitomizes what’s wrong with our television culture. 

I am bothered by the fact that the show makes a contest out of the most basic fundamental building block of society and social structures: the relationship between a loving couple.   Yes, it is, at the end of the day, a contest to see which of the two dozen or so beautiful women will go home to the farm with Chris.  They are all decked out, trying to out-do the other in their favors and attention to the handsome farm boy. It’s somewhat like two people getting all dress up for a date, except Chris can pick any apple from the tree.  How realistic is that? It’s not, it’s TV!

In the beginning of the show, all the women are happy and having fun.  Of course!  But it is like playing the lotto – only one will “win.”  So it’s sad and disheartening to see the beautiful women all lined up like boxes of cereal while Chris gets to decide what he wants for breakfast.  It’s not real, and while everyone watches from their living rooms as women one by one are voted off, viewers don’t feel the very real emotional agony that the voted-off ones experience. It’s very real pain, and all unnecessary, all for the TV experience.

Relationships are very real, and the best meetings don’t occur in staged TV shows. The best meetings occur in everyday real life, where you will see the person as they normally are, going about their very real life. Meaningful relationships can begin at the flea market while examining ancient coins, or at  the farmers market while selecting apples, or at the park while studying plants and animals.  Life is that way. People meet and love flourishes where you least expect it. 

Real life does not always live up to all the beauty and hype of a TV show. Chris the farmer is far more likely to meet the right person and have a fulfilled life by visiting more of the families in his farm community, where he’d find someone already in-tune with the life he lives.

Each time I have watched the bachelor I get the sick feeling that I am watching some sort of horse auction where one of the horses gets selected for the race track, except these are women, not horses. 

At the root, I find the show demeaning, since it reduces the beauty and magic of relationships and love to a device of entertainment.  I understand the popularity of the show, and yet, we are looking at very real individuals, who perhaps didn’t realize the full ramifications of the web into which they entangled themselves when the agreed to be part of the show.  Viewers who watch the show might just be fooled into believing that real relationships can and should be developed by such an artificial method. But again, real life is very different. The people “dating” on this TV show are certainly not  paying for all the rooms and vacations and decorated sets at all the beautiful far-flung locations.  It’s a fantasy!

We watch as Chris is struggling with who to pick, and trying to decide with whom he might be “falling in love” with, and therefore who he may want to spend his life with.  And I struggle each time the show is on to turn off the TV, and get back to the very real work of living life, and finding meaning and fulfillment in the real world.

As long as we don’t forget that the tale of Chris the Farmer and his assorted potential wives is fantasy, then we might enjoy the tale. 

The big losers may be the “contestants” of the show: the women who publicly flaunted themselves to the star, only to be rejected, and the farmerboy himself, who one day may realize that he already lived in paradise where his ideal mate could have been found in a more organic and private manner.

Monday, February 23, 2015

What the Rain Said to Me

[written 02/22/15]
Outside my window the rain is falling.
like an ancient voice to me it’s calling
I listen to its timeless word
I let there be silence so it can be heard
From childhood’s trauma that voice was lost
Society’s trying to grow up was what it cost
My knowledge -- we and the land are one
My reverence for oakland, grass, and sun
This coastal desert plain where I was born
Where living life and heart was torn
Where for love of money the hair is shorn
No longer child for fear of scorn
In this Los Angeles basin where men go mad
For the love of money and the latest fad
And no sense of place or home to be
And no more goal of freedom’s free
For my ancestors once here this night I mourn
In this land where I was born
From my roots that I was torn
And my feelings all so ragged worn
Trying to be who I should be
In this land I try to see
Who we are and are born to do
Is much more than shiny shoe
And hair-do and money coup
Is living life all through and through
From the roof,  rain talks to me
I listen hard for pictures-see
Respect the land, an
d sea, and tree
Realize for sure, freedom’s not free
But built of work, respectfully
It’s all there, to live and see
And the rain tells it all to me
Mushrooms, food, from dale to sea
Respect the elders, those who know
Never stop, always grow
Rain is gift, its fruits will show
Now to dreamtime, I will go.

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Lupercalia Roots of Valentine's Day

[Nyerges is the author of several books.  He can be reached via School of Self-reliance at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or, where one can view his various blogs.]

In the pre-Christian era, there was a celebration in honor of Lupercus, a pastoral god, sometimes identified with Faunus or Pan.  Faunus is depicted as having the body of a man but the horns, pointed ears, tail, and hind legs of a goat.  That is, Faunus is more or less identical with the satyr, who was said to be lustful, and always ready to party.

The pre-Christian observance of this day was called Lupercalia, which fell on February 15.  On Lupercalia, cards were given (often with subtle or overt sexual offers and overtones), and men reportedly chased women through the streets. Wow! Sounds somewhat like Mardi Gras, or Disneyland’s “Pirates of the Carribbean.”

OK, fast forward to 2015, and the stores of your town are full of red and pink hearts, and lovers and sweethearts are looking for something to give that special person.  Why?  Because February 14 is the day set aside to commemorate a real historical person named Valentinus, the day we now call “Saint Valentine’s Day.”  And who was Valentinus?  With just a little bit of research, we learn that this Valentinus person was stoned, clubbed, and beheaded in about the year 270 A.D.  He was violently killed by an unruly mob.  But why?  And how have we come to associate Valentinus with chocolates and hearts and lovers and all the festivities of Lupercalia?

It turns out that there were at least two people called Valentinus – possibly more – who lived in the 2nd and 3rd Centuries.  One – who the Catholic Church now called Saint Valentine – was beheaded in 270 A.D. 

Another Valentinus lived about a century earlier and founded one of the most important sects of Gnosticism.  He was born in Egypt and educated in Alexandria.  He settled in Rome during the reign of Pope Hyginus and taught there for more than 20 years.  He attracted a large following to his beliefs, due in part to his intelligence, his eloquence of speech, and his impeccable arguments.

But the teachings of this Valentinus differed in some ways from the Christian church of that time, and when the office for the Bishop of Rome opened up, he was not selected.  Valentinus decided to split off from the Christian church, left Rome, and continued to develop his doctrines as he saw fit.

Unfortunately, there are no original surviving documents from the teachings of Valentinus.  So, if you want to discover what he actually believed and taught, you have to study fragmentary quotations found in the writings of his orthodox Christian opponents.      

Through research, we learn that Valentinus was influenced by Plato (the main source of the teachings of Socrates), Zoroastrianism, and Christianity. Valentinus also spoke of a spiritual realm which he called Pleroma, which consisted of “emanations” evolving from an original divine being.  These have been described as the layers of an onion, with each layer being a wholly complete reality.  It’s all very interesting, though it’s all a bit second-hand because whatever Valentinus wrote was apparently “lost” or destroyed by opponents.

The term Gnosticism came from the word “gnosis,” defined as spiritual knowledge.  Those who followed this line of study were called the Gnostics, and many were referred to as Christian Gnostics.  But by the third century, the more orthodox Christian church (and the political power of the day), decided to oppose and persecute the Gnostics.   By the end of the third century, Gnosticism as a distinct movement had largely disapppeared.

Now, here’s the quiz:  Where in all this did you hear anything about chocolates, hearts, greeting cards, bunnies, jewelry, roses, or lace underwear?  Plus, there doesn’t appear to be any historical connection with any of the individuals named Valentinus with the date of February 14.

It is difficult to ascertain why the commemoration of Valentinus was used to supplant, uplift, and supercede the already-existing commemoration of Lupercus, but that’s what happened.  Yet, very little of the trappings of modern St. Valentine’s Day have anything to do with the historical Valentinus.

And that’s really a shame, since Valentinus was as important as perhaps Socrates or Pythagoras, and yet most of us only associate him with the silly commercialism of Lupercalia’s remnants. Certainly it’s possible that the Church engineered this substitution so that men would quit chasing women through the streets on this day.

There’s really nothing wrong with telling your loved ones that you love them!  In fact, we need to do that more often.  But you might also benefit by taking a little time and study a bit about this great teacher Valentinus.  This is also a good time to contemplate the meaning of “love,” and how we can improve our ability to be loving with everyone.  One excellent book in this regard is Eric Fromm’s “Art of Loving.”   Once you get into this book, you may discover – as I did  -- that  much of what Fromm wrote is very relevant today, and very relevant to Valentine’s Day.

NOTE:             Every Sunday outdoors under a large banyan tree in Highland Park, there is a spiritual studies presentation on topics of current interest, such as the meanings of the holdays. The presentations are sponsored by WTI (see for details and schedule of upcoming talks).

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

"I HATE MY JOB": Your personal Economy is your Life, and your Health.

Earn your living through your particular gifts, serving the community by doing the things you love, even though it means starting small.   Money is the fringe benefit of a job you like.
                                                           --- Author unknown

[Nyerges is the author of “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Squatter in Los Angeles,”  and other books. He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or]

It is not surprising to hear reports that 80% of all “workers dislike their jobs, and that “jobs” are identified as the single greatest cause, or contributory factor to sickness or disease in nearly 80% of the people studied.  I don’t know how many workers in my town hate their jobs, but I suspect it is similar to the this study.
In a 1973 survey in Massachusetts, a special Department of Health, Education, and Welfare task force reported that the best predictor for heart attack was none of the classic risk factors, but rather, the level of one’s  job dissatisfaction  (Work in America: Report of a Special Task Force to the Secretary of Health, Education, and Welfare, 1973).  It is possible that this finding might be related to the observation that heart attacks (in the United States and other Western industrialized nations) cluster on Monday mornings from 8 to 9 a.m., which is the beginning of the work week. [Kolata, 1986; Muller et al., 1987; Rabkin et al., 1980; Thompson et al., 1992]. 

We’re not sure how scientific such studies can ever really be, but were convinced from personal experience, and observation, and interviews, that the so-called workplace, and the human dynamics of the workplace, are a major culprit when it comes to poor health and sickness.
There are some of the obvious issues that have been reported excessively.  Sitting behind a computer terminal all day, staring at that screen, your hands in one position.  The loud noises associated with certain blue-collar jobs.  The fumes and toxins associated with some manufacturing jobs and farming jobs.  The repetitive and non-thinking nature of so many service-oriented jobs.  But beyond these basic points, there is a more fundamental issue to look at.  In general, these observations apply to someone who is working for someone else, not the person who owns or runs the business. Why is that? Because it is harder to enjoy a job which is essentially fulfilling someone else’s goals.

Do you enjoy your work?  No one seriously questions that we ought to perform duty in life, and that these duties are required to earn the medium of exchange for those things we cannot or choose not to make ourselves.  But we seem to have taken this to a radical extreme. 
We recall a cartoon from an anti-automobile magazine.  Two men are driving in a car on a gridlock freeway.  The cars are not moving.  The driver says, “I hate driving, but I need my car to get to work.  The passenger says nothing.  In the next panel, the two men are sitting behind computer terminals in a big office, and the first man says, “I hate work, but I need my job to pay for my car.”
The cartoon was funny, but insightful into the way we have chosen to think about our world, and the choices that we have come to believe are necessary.
That is, if 80% of traditional workplace workers hate their jobs, then that is having a profound effect, hour by hour on their health.  Assuming a 40 hour work week, this means (conservatively) that one spends 30 minutes getting ready for work, 30 minutes driving to work, 30 minutes driving home, 30 minutes undressing, and “unwinding.”  That equals at least 10 hours a day, for most people, five days a week, with two days “off” to have to do whatever else it is that is important in your life. 
And if you hate whatever it is that you have devoted 50 hours a week to, you will very likely spend some of your free-time doing things to relax and get-away from what you felt you had to do to pay the bills.”  In other words, your “job under such circumstances takes even more from your life than just those 40 to 50 hours.  In essence, a job that we perform becomes our very life.  We identify with that job, whether or not we like it.  It is foolhardy in the extreme to not consider “what we do for a living” as being a major contributory factor to our health and well-being.
So, now what?
Work is necessary. Work is good.  But how do we get to a place where each person is spending the cream of their life promoting their own health and well-being, feeling good about what they are doing, making their own choices? 
There are many trends in this direction already.  Home-schooling is one example where parents want to take-back control of their childs education from an educational system that seems to have failed in most cases.  And though there are many late night TV schemes you can buy to work at home and be independent, we suggest you switch off the TV and start with yourself. 
What do you like?  What do you like to do?  What are you good at?  Where would you like to spend a good portion of your day?  What skills do you have which can be improved upon, or further developed, so you can turn that interest or skill into a profession?  That is how you get started.
Let’s go one step further.  What is your purpose in life?  We are not referring here to everyone’s ultimate purpose in life.  We are referring to your individual purpose for embodying on the earth. What is your dharmaic destiny?  Have you ever asked yourself: “What did I come here to do?”
If you limit your concern only to “ways I can make money,” you might succeed at breaking out of the nine-to-five rat race, but you will not yet have risen to the level of fulfilling your own dharmaic destiny.  As long as one is spending the majority of one’s life, time, and Light, at a job that they do not like, it is inevitable that your body rebels, and fights back, and explodes with occasional bouts of sickness, and flus, and colds, and headaches, and disease, until death.
Our health in the fullest sense is a factor of what we do, what we think, how we use our emotions and feelings.  Yes, “we are what we eat” is true on both a physical and psychic level, though that does not go far enough.  Everything we do arises from our thinking.  This includes whatever work we choose, whatever life we pursue.  Thus, it has also been said that “We are what we think we are,” which is not quite the precision we prefer.  We think it is more accurate to say: We are what we think.
Finding your optimum daily “work” activity is something that only you can do for you. You have to work at it.  You may not hit-upon the all-around ideal best occupation at first, but if you have an attitude of willingness to learn, and a feeling of gratitude that you can actually pursue your own occupation (in many countries of the world today, this is neither legal or practical to do, because of the prevailing political, economic, or social conditions). 
It can only help to continually take classes at a local college, or even TV classes, and learn more to expand your skills.  It can only help to take small business classes (via H&R Block or the Small Business Administrations, or local colleges).  We are not in any way suggesting that there is some “magic” in finding the ideal occupation for you.  We are simply saying that the very act of seeking your ideal occupation, and working towards it with an uplifting, positive attitude, can have a remarkable influence upon your overall mental and physical health. 
One of the ways to begin pursuing “self-employment” is to take a large sheet of paper or poster, and vertically list all your skills and talents and interests and work-experience.   Then list in the columns to the right all the “pros” of each pursuit, and all the “cons” to each pursuit.  At this stage you might eliminate some pursuits because the cons outweigh the pros.  In the next column, write how you might actually earn an income from each skill, talent, or interest.  Let it be a brainstorm -- you won’t know until you actually get into the field and apply this -- but list whatever possible ways you can determine to earn an income from each item on your list.  Next, check off those skills, or talents, or interests which are at a level of competency where you could feasibly go out and begin earning an income. 
Where possible, such a pursuit can be done with other family members or close friends  and associates.  Then you must make a decision, and where you know that you do not know something, find out!  Call people already engaged in the activities youd like to pursue. Ask them questions. In most cases, they will be willing to help and answer questions. 
We again point out that our intent here is not to provide “business advice” or “career planning.”  But this is an important area to personally deal with when you’ve decided to take control of your life, and ipso facto, your health.

The fact that money permeates our modern life is neither “good” nor “bad,” -- but it is something to be reckoned with.  It has been said that arguments over money is the single greatest cause of marriages breaking up, and worry over money is one of the biggest ulcer and cancer causes in anyone who deals with money as a profession (stock broker, investor, commodity broker, etc.). 

No man can hope to control his destiny.  The best he can hope for is to control himself -- ONE SINGLE ACT AT A TIME.  EACH SINGLE ONE of those acts are like bricks in a wall.  A wall made of such bricks is a man’s character.
                                                            --     Anon.

Obviously, there’s a lot more to be said about this – we’ll come back to this in another installment.

Monday, December 29, 2014

Weather Lore -- from "Enter the Forest"

[Nyerges has been teaching outdoor skills since 1974.  He is the author of many books, including “Testing Your Outdoor Survival Skills,” “How to Survive Anywhere,” “Enter the Forest,” and others. Information about his books and classes can be seen at]

Aside from consulting with newspapers, the weather service, and such online services as Weather Underground, you should learn to make your own weather observations, and learn to interpret what you see.  If nothing else, this helps to increase your awareness of the environment and keeps you alert.

Birds perch more and fly lower before a storm because the low-pressure air makes it harder to fly.

A barometer – either store-bought or home-made – is a good tool for determining if there will be clear days or rain ahead.  A rising barometer indicates decreasing air pressure and clear weather, while a rapidly falling barometer sometimes forecasts rain, snow, or other stormy weather.

Though you might have a barometer on your wall at home, most people do not carry a barometer with them into the wilderness areas.  However, many people do carry altimeters (sometimes built into their wrist watches), and these are essentially barometers.  First, you need to know where you are on  your map, and your altimeter needs to be accurate.  Then, over the course of a day or so, if our altimeter shows a higher elevation than is accurate, it means the pressure is falling and this could indicate that a storm is coming.  If the altimeter shows a lower elevation than what the map indicates, then the pressure is rising and you have a general indication of clear or clearing weather.

The key here is an accurate altimeter, and your observation of a change in the altimeter while you were at the same location.

Dew on the grass at night or early morning can be a sign of fair weather, and dry morning grass can foretell rain or an overcast day.  However, in some areas where it is very dry, you may not get morning dew even though  the day will be clear.

The presence of a red sunrise or sunset is also a good general indicator of the weather to follow.  A red sunset generally indicates fair weather, and a red sunrise may foretell rain within 48 hours.  A simple rhyme makes it easy to remember:  “Red sky at night, sailors delight; red sky in morning, sailors take warning.”

Learning to read the clouds can be another skill for short-term weather forecasting.

For example, cumulus clouds are the puffy, flat-based, cauliflower-like clouds which are constantly changing. They mean fair weather followed by clear nights. However, if they begin to stack up into cumulonimbus clouds, that means rain or snow is on the way.

Cumulonimbus clouds result from strong vertical air currents.  These are the most familiar thunderheads, with winds often molding the tops into an anvil form.  Their based may almost touch the ground in the mountains, and violent updrafts can carry the tops to 75,000 feet.  In their most violent form, they can produce tornadoes.  Usually a sign of approaching storms, these cumulonimbus clouds will drop rain or snow, and sometimes hail.

There are many other natural signs which will tell you about upcoming weather systems. Most of these signs are fairly logical once you understand the mechanisms at work.  One of the best books on this subject is Eric Sloane’s illustrated “Weather Book.” Sloane gives the reader a basic understanding of the principles which control weather, and his beautiful drawings make the subject easy to grasp.

I have also learned a lot from Ellsworth Jaegar’s “Wildwood Wisdom” and from the weather section of most Boy Scout manuals.

Observing short-term weather signs is a good way to increase your awareness. When planning your trips, take advantage of all the modern resources.

Once while discussing weather with meteorologist Dr. George Fischbeck, well-known to Southern California TV audiences, he told me that he is very suspect of the long-term weather projections of a week to 10 days. “Weather is a very dynamic thing,” he told me. “No one can accurately predict the weather beyond more than 48 hours.”


How to determine weather conditions by observing a rope that was hung from a tree limb:

If the rope is:
The weather condition is: