Monday, October 06, 2008

Brother Can You Spare Some Change?

A current social commentary
By Christopher Nyerges

They’re telling us on the radio
That change is coming soon
They seem to think that they’re talking to
People living on the moon.

O brother can you spare some change?
I ain’t eaten since noon
The police have made me change my tune
I’ve changed three times since noon.

They’re telling us on the TV
That change is coming soon
I saw the guy who was talking fast
He was born with a silver spoon.

Another bum hit me on the head
He sure looked like a goon
He took what little change that I did have
And he contributed to my ruin.

They’re telling us in the papers
That change is coming soon
They’re lying to us through their red-tie suit
they sound like the outcasts of Dune.

O brother can you spare a dime
I’ve missed a meal another time
I’ve moved my tent three times since full moon
And they’re saying change is coming soon.

They’re telling us on the internet
That change is coming soon
but with no change in my pocket
I can’t even buy a prune.

Please take me to your leader
My life is full of changing tune
I don’t know where I am anymore
I feel like I’m living on the moon.

My life is full of too much change
But I can’t even buy an apple core.
I see the men in their clean suits
But each looks like a whore.

I’m staring out the window
Of the blue bus going downtown
The world was changing around me
There’s just too much change goin’ round.

They’re telling us on the street corner
That change is all the rage
I can’t live forever in the alley
I’m much too old for my age.

But these men in spotless suits and ties
From their open mouths do flow their lies
They speak with straight face and smile
That change will be here in a while

They’re telling us on the billboards
The world’s coming to an end
I don’t have enough change for a sandwich
But there’s plenty for the bailout to lend.

I long so much for the good old days
Back when no one even had a fridge
Back when Wall Street’s big bust hit
and bankers jumped from every bridge.

They’re telling us on the radio
That change is coming soon
They seem to think that they’re talking to
People living on the moon.

092508 – all the talk of change, while the homeless ask me for change, and banks are failing every day – change is certain…


Copyright Christopher Nyerges
Commentary on our current state of society

We’re whirly giggling very fast
Gotta hurry make these profits fast
No time for boring prophets past
Wear white robes, said first will be last
Today we seek the dollar profit
So from his pulpit throw him off it
We no longer need to rough it
Tell the preachers they should stuff it
We’re bright future moving fast
Hair that shines, polyester pants
Cut down more trees to build our plants
Try to ignore Ed Begley’s rants
Our great profit must be vast
Cuz we’re number one, future and past
What matters fresh? Let food be gassed
If dollars there, we’d mine Mt. Shast’
Wild land is a thing I hate
It’s non-performing real estate
Tree-hugging is a weakness trait
Save them a tree for go-away bait

O ye who control the fate
Of our vast land and of the state
Humbly look to what your action’s worth
Can’t you see beyond your wide girth
Don’t you see what your thoughts give birth
Your greed it makes a hell on earth

This greed it now is a pervasive thing
It causes us to no more sing
We hide inside our computer king
And no more does our mind take wing
We’re slaves indeed, our brain’s in sling
No more good fortune does tooth fairy bring

The mystery’s gone and no more awe
Our world is tightened by obey law
Mindlessly with spiritual flaw
Would choke us to death if we only saw
The ever-tightening order control
Little by little heads do roll
We pretend it won’t destroy our soul
But our lives become more grassy knolls
Computer chips, and credit cards
Cell phones, ipods, make us dullards
Our minds drained, no more chance for Bards
We open embrace our prison guards

We’ve met the enemy and he is us
We’re already locked inside blue bus
We justify and say "don’t fuss"
We’re already dead in New World crush

We’ve already made money our god
We’re all in body-snatchers pod
If we don’t like it, we’re called odd
We pretend OK with faceless nod
We’re already dead to spirit within
We’ve all committed too many sins
Maybe we hope for something that’s been
But all we see is grim reaper’s grin

God, there must be way out of here
But can’t be drugs and can’t be beer
Find a way to overcome fear
Can’t jump on comet when it is near

I don’t want to be forever podded
I one day want to say "I got it"
Don’t want life to be ‘bout what I’ve boughted
Want to know the point before I have death-nodded

O ye who control the fate
Of our vast land and of the state
Humbly look to what your action’s worth
Can’t you see beyond your wide girth
Don’t you see what your thoughts give birth
Your greed it makes a hell on earth

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Thinking About My Father

I never liked the manner in which some parents continue to treat their "children" long after they’ve grown up. I remember reading about a 90 year old father who still chided his 70 year old son as if he was still a boy.

As I grew older and lived apart from my parents, I wanted an enlightened relationship. Perhaps "friends" was too much to hope for, but I wanted to be treated as an equal, not spoken down to, but listened to. But how to slowly bring about such a change?My mother was always easier to converse with, and she was much more willing to relinquish her reins of parenthood on her 30-something, and then 40-something, child. My father had much greater difficulty. He grew up in the Depression and lived his life in that mindset. He never fully trusted banks, didn’t communicate much with his children but expected our obedience, and "taught" us what he could via yelling at us.

I have said, jokingly, that I learned everything from my father. His ideas were too often tinged with stubbornness and folklore, and I often took a contrary path to his advice. Mushrooms were messy and dangerous, so I took up mycology. Everything I needed to know about plants was in the grocery store, so I took up botany and ethnobotany. A computer was absolutely not needed, so I learned how to use a computer along with the rest of the world. Oil, high heat, and a teflon frying pan was all that you needed to know about cooking, so one of my brothers became a chef.

Still, he was my father. As the years rolled by in our separate adult existences, I made the effort to get to know my father as a person, to talk to him, to be a real friend. So I refused to go to the normal family holiday gatherings where there was too much food, a nonstop blaring TV, and loud simultaneous talking (and yelling) by everyone. Instead, I would visit the next day and sit and talk with my father and mother, sometimes with a pie or other home-made dish. He regarded it as odd that I’d rather do that holiday meeting the day after everyone else met, and he even once went so far as to call me a "bad son." But as time went on, I could tell he was touched by having us share a reading and small meal the day after. He no longer chided me for non-attendance at family events.

Once, when trying to dissolve the parent-child bonds, I called him and began a discussion.
"Can I call you Frank," I asked.
"Is something wrong?," he responded.
"No, nothing is wrong," I told him. "I’m just trying to have a better relation with you."
"Do you need money? Are you in trouble?" he asked with worry in his voice.
Needless to say, that conversation did not go as planned, but was still a step in the right direction.

When he died (after a long illness), I got the word via an early morning phone call. In a daze, I walked into the moderate rain, crying, talking to Frank. I walked for hours, and I felt that I "reached" him, and he seemed to appreciate our continuing conversation.

I’d learned to love and appreciate him in his final years. He was by no means an ideal father. He was full of strengths, and weaknesses, talents, and flaws. He knew quite a bit of stuff that was not so. But I grew to admire and attempt to emulate his positive attributes, while also attempting to learn from his mistakes and avoid those patterns in my life.

In this way, I can say that my father taught me. I chose to no longer hold him in the mental bondage of "flawed father," just as I had demanded that he no longer hold me in the mental bondage of "deferential son." Rather than see him as a "flawed father," I saw that he was just another individual with his own life’s challenges, trying to make sense of this life, flaws and all.

By trying to see his life through his experience, I found that I could simply accept who he was, my father, one-half of the formula for bringing me into this world. At long last, I felt at peace with my own father, and felt an unconditional love towards him, years after he died.

Friday, April 04, 2008


"The Greatness of a Nation can be determined by how its animals are treated" – Ghandi

by Christopher Nyerges
[Nyerges is the editor of Wilderness Way magazine, and the author of "How to Survive Anywhere." He can be reached at Box 41834, Eagle Rock, CA 90041, or]

In memory of Cassius Clay, Christopher’s canine pal of 16 years
I have many fond memories of Cassie, but I remember the end the most right now. I thought that I was taking care of Cassie and helping and saving Cassie – I had to carry him in and out, and was always concerned about his welfare. In the end, I realize that Cassie was helping and saving me. He instilled in me a sense of responsibility and caring that maybe I never had before.

When I walked today, I missed Cassie so much, and I thought about his role in my life. I thought about how I tried to see his dog pictures of the world, how he processes the many smells that he takes so long each day to smell. When I attempted to go into his mind, like Beatrice Lydecker described in her What the Animals Tell Me book, I "saw" a colorful, very dynamic image of flowing geometric shapes that all moved like the wind in varying patterns, in a three-dimensional complexity. To me, it was the complexity of odors that meant so much to Cassie, and very little to me.
Shortly after he died, I asked him to show me his picture, and I "saw" in front of my his big face licking mine. He was telling me that he was happy, in peace, no pain and that I was OK.

As I walked this morning, I thought about Easter Day when Cassie died. Though he had had trouble walking for weeks, he seemed OK in the morning. When I came home in the early evening, it was dark and Cassie was warm but I could not rouse him from his house, and when I pulled him out, I knew it was over, even though I tried to bring him back. There was no music, no singing of birds, just the quiet of the night and the final sounds of his dying body.

As I walked this morning, I realized that Cassie’s gift was his unconditional love. And now that he was gone, I tried to sort out the meaning of that love. I have heard it said that Eternal Life is synonymous with Eternal Love. That Eternal Love is also impersonal. It is universal loving without concern for prejudice or opinion or preferences. It is doing what is right, and not being concerned about my group, or my party, or my race, or my gender, or my family. It is finding those ways of thinking, and of living, that exemplify the Golden Rule, and Jesus’ command to "Love ye one another as ye love your self." Which means we must love our spiritual self, and see that every single one of us is the same.

Cassie taught me to be a better person. He taught me to see that only through impersonal love can we ever find real meaning and harmony. Of course, I feel a personal love for Cassie, and for other close people in my life. But now again, Cassie has made me realize that death is inevitable, and personal love is full of pain and heartache and disappointment. Impersonal loving is not focused exclusively towards one person or animal but is a way of thinking about all life, including all animals. This was Cassie’s gift to me.

NOTE: We held a "fauneral" for Cassie a week after he died. We buried him in the lower orchard, planted a tree over him, and 30 people joined us to talk about our love of dogs and animals.

Sunday, March 09, 2008



by Christopher Nyerges

Who was Saint Patrick? Really, who was he? Not the mythological story we tell to our children each March 17 in sing-song voices: "Saint Patrick wore a green suit, talked to leprechans (he was probably drunk at the time), and while trying to convert the pagans with a shamrock, he marched all the snakes out of Ireland." Will the real Saint Patrick please stand up?

His real name was Maewyn Succat, born around 385 A.D., somewhere in Scotland, or possibly somewhere else, as there is conflicting historical data on his exact date and place of birth. His baptismal name was Patricius.

Around age 16, he was sold into slavery in Ireland and worked for the next 6 years as a shepherd. Keep in mind that human slavery, as well as human sacrifice, was considered normal for those times.

After his six years in slavery, an angel came to him in a dream, prompting him to escape and seek out his homeland. He actually walked about 200 miles to the coast, where his dream indicated a ship would also be waiting for him. He successfully escaped, and spent the next twenty years of his life as a monk in Marmoutier Abbey. There he again received a celestial visitation, this time calling him to return to the land where he’d been enslaved, though now with a mission as a priest and converter.

Patrick was called to Rome in 432, where Pope Celestine bequeathed the honour of Bishop upon him before he left on his mission.

Patrick returned to Ireland not alone, but with 24 supporters and followers. They arrived in Ireland in the winter of 432. In the Spring, Patrick decided to confront the high King of Tara, the most powerful King in Ireland. Patrick knew that if he had the King's support, he would be free to take his Christian message to the people of Ireland.

Patrick and his followers were invited to Tara by the King of Laoghaire. It was there that he was said to have plucked a shamrock from the ground as he tried to explain to the Druids and the King that the shamrock had three leaves just like the idea of God’s three aspects - The Father, The Son and the Holy Ghost. This was called the Trinity.

Of course, triads and trinities were a common concept among the Druids. In fact, one could argue that the trinity (a term not found in the Bible) was a concept given to Christianity by the Druids, rather than the other way around. Nevertheless, King Laoghaire was very impressed and chose to accept Christianity. He also gave Patrick the freedom to spread Christianity throughout Ireland.

When Patrick returned to Ireland, he treated the "pagans" with the respect implicit in his dream. Part of this respect was attempting to communicate with the Druids on their terms, which is why he used the shamrock as a teaching tool. He also blended the Christian cross with the circle to create what is now known as the Celtic cross. He used bonfires to celebrate Easter, a Holy Day that Christianity supplanted with the already-existing spring equinox commemoration. In fact, he incorporated many of the existing symbols and beliefs into his Christian teachings.

He spent his last 30 years in Ireland, baptizing the non-Christian Irish, ordaining priests, and founding churches and monasteries. His persuasive powers must have been astounding, since Ireland fully converted to Christianity within 200 years and was the only country in Europe to Christianize peacefully. Patrick's Christian conversion ended slavery, human sacrifice, and most intertribal warfare in Ireland.

Patrick was also unique in that he equally valued the role of women in an age when the church ignored them. He always sided with the downtrodden and the excluded, whether they were slaves or the "pagan" Irish.

According to Thomas Cahill, author of How the Irish Saved Civilization, Patrick's influence extended far beyond his adopted land. Cahill's book, which could just as well be titled How St. Patrick Saved Civilization, contends that Patrick's conversion of Ireland allowed Western learning to survive the Dark Ages. Ireland pacified and churchified as the rest of Europe crumbled. Patrick's monasteries copied and preserved classical texts. Later, Irish monks returned this knowledge to Europe by establishing monasteries in England, Germany, France, Switzerland, and Italy.

When the lights went out all over Europe, a candle still burned in Ireland. That candle was lit by Patrick.

Veneration of Patrick gradually assumed the status of a local cult. He was not simply remembered in Saul and Downpatrick, he was worshipped. Indeed, homage to Patrick as Ireland's saint was apparent in the eight century AD. At this time Patrick's status as a national apostle was made independently of Rome. He was claimed locally as a saint before the practice of canonization was introduced by the Vatican. The high regard in which the Irish have held St Patrick is evidenced by the salutation, still common today, of "May God, Mary, and Patrick bless you".

Patrick was not Irish, had nothing to do with leprechauns, almost certainly was not a drunkard, and didn't drive all the snakes out of Ireland. In fact, there were no native snakes in Ireland, though this story is believed to be an analogy for driving out the so-called "pagans," or, at least, the pagan religions.

Patrick was one of the "greats" of history who nearly single-handedly preserved the best of Western culture when much of Europe was devolving into chaos and ruin. He deserves far better than remembering him in the silly ways we do today, such as wearing green, pinching each other, and getting drunk. Rather, he deserves an accurate memory, and our emulation. Unfortunately, like all true Saviors of history, they are either killed off, or relegated to the closet of ridicule.
Perhaps it's time for all of us to re-think how we commemorate this special man, and his vast contribution to world culture.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Earth Day Every Day?


Seeking the Path of Practical Ecology

"Live light upon the Earth,
If you would not be earthbound."
-- Shining Bear

I was only a teenager, but I could never get it out of my mind: "How should we be living our lives? Is there not more to life than seeking money, possessions, and pleasure?" These questions, and their countless variations, were the driving force that led me on my path of botany, ecology, indigenous skills, and spiritual evolution.

Back in the early ‘70s, there was the beginning of a heightened ecological awareness, but you were still a "kook" if you expressed an interest in practical survival, and if you expressed concern about the growing ecological crisis.

A lot has happened in 30 years. Things have gotten worse. "Great interest" and "good intentions" of the 1970s did not succeed in materially improve our overall trends in the United States. Our rapid population growth, both from within and without, has only exacerbated the situation.

I spent the last 30 years attempting to learn and to apply the "little things" that I can do, and that anyone can do, to choose to be a part of the solution. It is the way that I maintain hope, and that I can find a way to mentally rise above what seems a hopeless situation.

Besides learning many of the elements of what anyone can do, even if you’re in the cities, I realized that there is no "enemy" out there. The "enemy" is always within. It is my own proclivity to laziness, to choosing the path of least resistance, to choosing something based solely on economics. Though I have not always succeeded, I have attempted to take the time to determine why we’ve even here on this earth for a few score years before we die. It certainly cannot be solely to accumulate a good portfolio.

My pursuit of "what to do?" initially led me to study botany. In botany, and specifically in discovering how indigenous peoples used their floral friends, I realized that food and medicine were richly abundant on this earth. While modern agriculture continues to travel down the high-tech path of genetically modified foods, the most nutritious plants on the earth are still wild plants, plants such as dandelion, purslane, curly dock and other so-called "weeds" that are found in urban areas throughout the world.

Dandelion – richer in beta-carotene than carrots. Purslane, the richest plant source of Omega-3 fatty acids. Curly dock, one of the richest sources of vitamin A. These wild plants, and hundreds more, I have used and taught to thousands of students over the past 3 decades. Acorns still abound, and it is a fascinating path of discovery to collect the acorns and process them in the traditions of the Old Ways. In our urban areas, we can find lambs quarter, a spinach relative that is arguably nature’s best mineral tablet. We find abundant carob trees planted as ornamentals, and these are edible right off the tree, with three times as much calcium as the same amount of milk. Chickweed is a common weed of lawns, rich in vitamin C and a delicious salad plant.
And get this – because chickweed has the audacity to grow on lawns, there is a poison you can buy in most nurseries that promises to kill all the chickweed on your lawn, as well as dozens of other so-called weeds, which are actually good foods and good herbs.

Why, why, why? It is apparently because "we" believe that there is some socially redeeming value in lawns. We have never cared for lawns, and have always used that space to create compost, and raise such plants as fruit trees, roses, lavender, and edible groundcovers such as nasturtiums, mints, and tradescantia. This is one of the "little ways" we choose to not contribute to the waste of water and fuel that goes into the care and maintenance of lawns. It is one of our little ways in which we can take charge and be a part of the solution.
And we have spoken up when other neighbors cut their "weeds" down to the bare soil. This is as foolhardy as a lawn, even worse, for it dries the soil, reduces the amount of moisture that that soil can release into the local atmosphere, and contributes to desertification.

Once you learn about the uses of plants, you become a confirmed ecologist. You will not want to pull "weeds" pointlessly, and you would not scrape plants down to the bare soil, as so many of the so-called "gardeners" do with their weed-whackers.

It is difficult enough to create a beautiful area where there was once a pointless lawn. It is more difficult to convince others, since most in today’s mindset will not only ridicule you, but will find ways to fight you, legally or otherwise.

It is wise to find ways to become a part of the solution, and it is also wise to go forward with eyes open, to avoid unnecessary battles. It is wiser to convince your neighbors to the vast practicality of what you do, rather than have to fight your neighbors when they suggest your "overgrown lawn" is lowering their property values.

One person may not be able to change the world, but each of us can change ourselves. By studying plants, and learning their value, I have begun to see how botany is related to the health of the soil, and how the health of the soil is related to the network of animal life on that land, and this has led me to see how the health of the wild animals directly affects my health and well-being. This is a science, not a "New Age" word game, and the application of practical urban ecology should be approached as a hard science, where you can observe positive results, and where you can repeat those results if you follow the same procedures.

I pursue both wilderness and urban survival skills. On most weekends, I conduct field trips where our students learn about using wild plants. We collect woods, and we make fire without matches as people in the past have done for millennia. We teach our students to find natural fibres and make such things as twine, baskets, sandals. We build shelters from branches and leaves. It has become relatively easy to be safe and sound in the wilderness using what nature has provided. But most of us live in the city most of the time.

So we teach and practice urban skills too. Urban skills include such things as making compost, finding ways to recycle just about everything, growing fruits and vegetables, and having battery-operated or hand-powered devices where possible. We have solar heated water, and a small solar electrical system. We would never just toss kitchen scraps into the city trash container, nor would we mindless "pull weeds." Kitchen scraps make good soil, and any wild plants that must be pulled get eaten by us, or the animals.

A side benefit of practicing urban ecology is that you’re a little more prepared if there’s ever a major earthquake or a blackout. But that shouldn’t be your overriding impetus for pursuing practical survival. You should pursue it because it’s the right thing to do.

We have a friend who always carries a cloth napkin of his own when at restaurants. He doesn’t want to participate in the extra paper waste that goes into the napkins. He has even collected other people’s napkins (unused) and took them home to use in various recycling projects. I once told him that the trees still get cut, and that the restaurants still use and discard massive amounts of paper. He reminded me that he wasn’t trying to change the world. He was only trying to do the right thing in his little sphere of influence. "And at least the paper I take isn’t going into a landfill," he told me.

Yes, little things, but little things add up. We carry our used dish water outside and we pour it onto our plants. Of course, this means we must buy safe detergents. All things are related.
We are often confronted with the challenge that things are just too bad, "we don’t want to think about it, and besides, we’re not the problem. What we do is just a small insignificant part of the trash problem." But don’t millions of people make that same excuse?

I hold that view that even if I cannot change the world, I should still make the right choice in those cases where I have choice. To take the path of making wise use of resources is often difficult and often inconvenient. If "karma" has any meaning, then even if I cannot change the world, I do affect my own destiny by how I make my personal choices that pertain to all the resources that I come into contact in my daily life.

I urge us all to work together to find the little ways in which we can change the world by changing ourselves. It is the right thing to do.

Friday, February 01, 2008

"Indian Gaming" is not "self reliance"

A commentary on Indian Gaming Propositions

A friend asked me, "So, are you voting in favor of Indian gaming?" He was referring to Propositions 94, 95, 96, 97, to be voted upon by the California voters on February 5, which would effectively expand so-called "Indian gaming." [Note: by the time you read this, Feb. 5 will likely have past. Still, the overall principles are important.]

"No," I said, "I’m voting against it."

"Really," my friend retorted. "Don’t you realize that the opposition is actually just other casinos and racing concerns who don’t want more competition?"

I signed. "That might be true," I responded, "but that’s not why I’m voting against it."
I explained to my friend that I vote against any and all gambling measures. It is not a good element for any society to promote get-rich-quick schemes which statistically will get very few people rich. I find it particularly perverse that the native Americans who are now so enriched by gambling profits choose to call this "self-reliance."

That’s an inappropriate use of the phrase, "self-reliance." Self-reliance refers to farming, food processing, manufacturing, creating energy (wind, solar, etc.), building stores, building schools, putting people to work in a self-sustaining way that benefits the society.

Creating and supporting the infrastructure of gambling certainly produces money, but it is not true self-reliance. Gambling fosters the notion that we might get something for nothing, or at least, get a lot for a very small investment. It relies on luck or chance, not skill, merit, or work. Gambling does not pay us! The hopeful gamblers pay to support the gambling institutions. That is, no one really "wins," and most "lose." It is this very fact that keeps "gaming" alive and able to generate so much money.

There are those who feel that native Americans deserve this chance to bring in the needed money to the tribe. This is understandable, given the history of broken promises, of extermination via warfare, and massive deaths brought by the white man’s various diseases. So
I don’t fault the desire, and the need, to grow in financial health. I am against the means to do so, which brings along with it all of the unintended consequences.

It is sad to me that after so long of being the "forgotten minority" in America, the native Americans have hit upon one of the least overall beneficial means to become "self-reliant." By the pursuit of gambling, such proprietors also take on the karma of all that the enterprises generate, and whether native Americans or other gambling operators, they become another soulless lemming in the pursuit of Mammon. So be it, since that has already happened to 95% of us. Let’s just not call this "self-reliance."

It is not spiritually uplifting to the individual or society to choose luck and chance as a means of making one’s living. It invites the underworld so long associated with Las Vegas – money laundering, drugs, prostitution, mafia. How well have our native brothers been holding up against such tremendous pressures which the avalanche of gambling money brings?

I vote against all such measures on principle. It is why I voted against the California state lottery, and why I encourage all thinking individuals to also vote against yet another Trojan horse in our midst.

Friday, January 18, 2008

CHANGE: The Candidates' Clamor

CANDIDATES: Tell us who you are!

Ironically perhaps, change is the only constant in life. Seasons change. Our bodies change – sickness, health, growing older, losing hair, losing teeth. Economies change, usually fueled by fraud, fear, and greed – no shortages there. Fashions and tastes change, generally fueled by economic interests rather than interest in any immutable values.

We are surrounded by change.

It is thus amusing and childish that each presidential candidate now clamours for "change." I am
for change. I am the best candidate for change. I represent change. I am for the most change, and all its variants, ad nauseum.

Everyone is a distinct individual. Regardless who next sits in the White House, it will represent "change."

Obviously we cannot predict what will occur in the future with absolute certainty. The past provides a clue, of course. But how each individual deals with the unknowns of the moment is determined by their inner character. So rather than tell us the obvious – "I will bring change" – as if change, per se, represents some sort of universal panacea – tell us what you believe. Tell us your values. Tell us specifically how you regard each of the many problems we face, and tell us your vision of the implementation of solutions.

To tell us that you are the candidate of "change" tells us nothing, except that you’ve jumped on the bandwagon of an empty slogan.

There will be change, yes, we know that. Tell us why we should vote for you. What is your vision for the nation? What specific economic principles do you embrace, and why? How should we be, or not be, meddling all over the globe? What should we do short-term and long-term in Iraq? Should we or should we not secure our borders? Should we be addressing a great moral and spiritual crisis? Or not?

In other words, beyond your smile, your hair, the color of your suit, who are you?

But – and now I speak to the voters – are we easily taken in by the smile, the hair, the color of the tie? Are we too "busy" to investigate in-depth those who would be leader? I hope and pray that such is not the case. If we allow the surface appearances of the candidates to determine our votes, than we have once again become our own worst enemy, and it will

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Another Year -- Doing the Birthday Run

Since 1976, I have commemorated my personal New Year, my birth-day, by running a lap for every year at a local track. I mentally divide the lap into the months, and review what I was doing each season as I run through my life and review it all.

This year, my throat was rough and breathing was difficult, so I chose to run around the casting pool in the lower Arroyo Seco. It’s certainly not as big as a typical ¼ or 1/5 of a mile lap at a school, but it still took me about two and a half hours to run the 53 laps of my life.

When I got there last Friday morning, it was a bit overcast, and I thought it wouldn’t work to run around this artificial body of water. But it was actually a remarkably pleasant and uplifting experience. There was a bit of mist in the air from the water, and leaves were everywhere. It was quiet, and birds were in the trees. It was very much like running in a forest around a lake, though I was not far from downtown Pasadena.

In the early years, up to about age 11, I was struck by how great an impact "older people" had on me. I don’t think most adults realize how much influence we actually have on very young people, but I knew that I was strongly influenced, for better and worse, by parents, older brothers, other parents in the neighborhood, friends of older brothers, and even unknown people who would tell me something, or command me to do something.

I didn’t feel closely supervised or mentored in any specific way, and I realized that allowed way too much time for trouble to occur—which often did. While I ran, I was feeling how I wished I had been firmly guided into a very strict environment. Of course, I know I would have initially rebelled but would have reaped the rewards today of such a youthful discipline. But I wasn’t doing too much analyzing as I was running – I was simply trying to see it all again, to live it all again and to see what I should learn.

It was clear that many of my life patterns and habits were established in these first ten years, a point probably well-established to psychologists, but one that I hadn’t felt personally.

Interesting, I ran though my school years, moving to the farm, my interest in plants, writing, and various jobs as an objective observer. I saw my mind come up with great plans and great ideas, some achieved, some not. I saw how life just goes on. You make a goal, achieve it or not, and if you do achieve it, that plateau is never as interesting as the struggle to get there. So you go on. I ran through marriage, and divorce, and various places of residence, and I cried at my own lack of understanding of others in my life.

When I was done running, I felt that the major insights this year were that I should continue to work with young children, who are so impressionable, and I should do my best to provide good guidance in a truly insane world. I also felt that, beyond such goals as money and work and career and homes and all that stuff, what really matters is how I deal with the people around me. It was all very humbling, because I have vast room for improvement.

Run done, I went home, added herbs to my bathtub along with bath salts, and soaked and reviewed personal goals for the next hour.

Even though my body was a bit on the sick side, and I was nearly in a dream-state much of the time, it was a wonderful and uplifting day because the run enabled me to look at myself, and to look for ways to improve.

I thought you’d enjoy hearing about my experience. There are other details about how to do the Birthday Run – let me know if you’re nterested