Recently the government in Colombia started to force farmers to give up their heirloom seeds. These are natural seeds that enable them to dry some from the fruit and vegetables for planting during the next year's crop. Based on pressure from the United States--specifically the current administration and our USDA--and the Monsanto company, they want the farmers to plant genetically modified seeds (as in GMOs), which, although are designed to do things like resist insects and survive on less water, are none-the-less dangerous as they do things like inject animal enzymes into them. Pesticides are also actually infused within the seeds. Not surprisingly, they can cause cancer. In addition, the farmers cannot take the seeds from the end of the crop and re-plant them. Instead they are forced to buy new seeds every year. It is one thing to let farmers know they are available, but it is an outrage in a free country like Colombia to force farmers to use them. I fear it is a sign of the times in other countries like the US when the government starts to act like the old Soviet Union with is totalitarian policies. Our industrial farming system is already dangerous enough without the government mandating that we literally poison ourselves all in the name of the greater good of producing more (inferior) crops to the glory of government control and corporate profits. I am all for capitalism, but once we start down this road it is a very slippery slope. Not surprising, the farmers in Colombia have started to revolt at the loss of this freedom. In fact, some have even been jailed for having the audacity to say no. Unfortunately, this is grossly under reported or misunderstood in the mainstream media. Like the Colombians, we are already being over regulated, such mandates will simply add injury to insult. Worse, the average person buying things like produce at their grocer is totally unaware that we already inject pig enzymes into such products as tomatoes. As the old saying goes, it is not nice to fool (with) Mother Nature. Too bad it is a lesson we have failed to learn.
Those of us of a certain age not only remember typewriters, but having stationary as well. These tools were often used to write old fashioned letters as a primary form of communications. In today's cyber universe, though, email and instant messaging have replaced the forgotten art of actual letters that were sent in the form of mail. Although not face to face, letters were a form of reaching out and touching someone that seemed more intimate than today's instant way to communicate. And, it required more thought.
Add to this the power of the internet to deliver instant news, gossip, video, pictures and all sorts of media and people are even more removed from any type of physical contact with others or things. We are fed the stuff of life from a cyber pipeline that reduces our need to actually interact with people. Indeed, with the advent of sexting, we can even have virtual sex.
In essence, millions have become voyeurs to life--able to sit at a terminal and tap into everything from chat rooms and forums to porno. Millions now experience sports in this manner, instead of actually playing something or going to the ballpark or stadium and interacting with others. In addition, we are increasingly meeting potential partners or dates through electronic means. In the past this was done through finding clubs or social activities where you could actually meet someone. Millions more experience sex through online porno or chat rooms. So instead of the physical experience of having an actual relationship, they find gratification by watching at home while sitting in subdued lighting and staring at a monitor.
The arts of actual conversation and social skills are becoming lost arts. We remind ourselves and help our children or grandchildren be aware that while technology has transformed the world in many ways that are wonderful, they should foster ways to avoid virtually becoming virtual voyeurs, void of a whole dimension of humanism. That is, the ability to actually interact with others where there is actually conversation, laughter, and physical contact. And, while you are at it, encourage them to actually pick up and read a book. The feel and smell of paper can be a wonderful experience, not to mention allowing yourself to be transported to a different place or to experience a new adventure. Just the physical contact with a book, rather than a plastic keyboard or mouse, seems to help what you are reading come more alive.
In case you are wondering, achieving this is finding ways to substitute 'actual' for 'cyber' as we live our lives in what has become a virtual world. Who knows, it might just help prevent a forgotten art from becoming a lost art as keeping us in physical contact with our worlds.
George Carlin was a grouchy, foul mouthed comedian during the the 1970s and 80s. Yet, his comedy routines made me laugh out loud because he clearly saw the ironies and contradictions that characterize our society. Amazingly, despite his often gross rants, when it came to writing he could be eloquent. I came across some of his words recently and thought they were worth sharing. He said, "We have taller buildings, but shorter tempers, wider freeways, but narrower viewpoints. Bigger houses and smaller families, more convenience, but less time. More degrees but less sense, more knowledge but less judgement, more experts yet more problems, more medicine but less wellness. We spend more, but have less. We buy more but enjoy less."
He added, "We drink too much, smoke too much, spend too recklessly, laugh too little, drive too fast, get too angry, stay up too late, get up too tired, read too little, watch too much TV and pray too seldom. We have multiplied our possessions but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom and hate too often. We have learned how to make a living but not a life. We've added years to life but not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back but have trouble crossing the street to meet a new neighbor. We conquered outer space but not inner space. We've done larger things but not better things. We've cleaned the air but polluted the soul. We've conquered the atom but not our prejudice. We build more computers to hold more information to produce more copies than ever, but we communicate less and less.These are the times of fast foods and slow digestion, big men and small character, steep profits and shallow relationships."
So perhaps we need to slow down a bit and savor a bit of life.As Carlin said, "Remember to give a warm hug to to one next to you because that is the only treasure you can give with your heart and it doesn't cost a cent. Remember to spend some time with our loved ones because they are not going to be around forever. Remember to say a kind word to someone who looks up to you in awe because that little person will grow up and leave your side."
Make a difference in life by not just taking, but giving, too.
To purists, Zen is the realization of Buddha's enlightenment in one's own life. Central to this is daily Zazen practices. This is the practice that melts away the mind-forged distances that separate man from himself. In Zazen, there is no reality outside what exists here and now. While sorrow, joy, anxiety, and stress cannot be completely avoided, by not clinging to them we set ourselves free of these conditions.
While understanding of Zen in recent years has come to encompass these basic principles, achieving them has evolved into something less structured than the traditional mind, spiritual, and physical exercise associated with Buddhism. For me, achieving self-mastery means composure and tranquility of the mind entails a more informal approach. You should strive to find your inner strength, which can take many forms. Indeed, most people who strive to achieve these states take the fundamental techniques and develop their own personal approaches.
Toward that end, there is one basic element. That is, to never panic, regardless of what you are facing. I know, easier said than done. But if you do find yourself heading towards the panic mode, just stop and take a deep breath. Better yet, take a series of deep breaths. This will help your mind and body from becoming paralyzed. This will enable you to calmly analyze what is causing you to panic so you can act logically and develop the best options possible.
Another technique if you find yourself heading towards panic or uncontrollable anger is to count slowly from one to ten, focusing on the numbers and temporarily shutting out what is causing you to stress out. Again, this will enable you to focus your mind and energy on problem solving, as opposed to worrying or agonizing.
If all of this sounds jut a little too basic, it is because you simply want to avoid the mental state, and accompanying tight physical state, that will prevent you from acting with thought and composure.
Zen and the art of life is just refusing to allow emotions, worry, and fear to take over your body and mind. Make a conscious effort to reduce panic and stress by using breathing and numbers to gain or retain control of yourself. After all, you are in charge of your body and mind, not external factors. Remember, if you refuse to dwell on such common states as sadness, anxiety, and worry, you eliminate them, or at worst, reduce them to something manageable.
In preparation for each day, you might want to take a few quiet minutes in the morning to remind yourself of this and to marshal your inner strength for the challenges you--and all of us--face as we go through our daily routines.
Regardless of your age, living life to the fullest is paramount. For me part of this means sharing. As a parent of adult children and grand kids, I truly believe I have an obligation to pass along wisdom born of experience, success, failures, mistakes, sorrow, and joy to those who will follow us. In doing so I hope I will inspire others to never give up and take life one step at a time. That's how progress is made. Another tangible benefit of articulating our life's lessons is that we remind ourselves that no matter our age, we should also never stop striving to be all we can.
The following first appeared in myhealthyseniors.com (currently under renovation), but I believe it is worth repeating. It was written by Pauline M. Hubig. She is a remarkable woman who has lived an extraordinary life--nurse, mentor, mom, aunt, friend, sister, business woman, humanitarian. From the time she spent working as a nurse for the Tom Dooley Foundation in the dangerous war torn lands of Laos on the Chinese boarder back in the 1960s to caring for elderly parents, her life is the stuff of books and films. For example, she was born in Michigan, but actually grew up living on Toughnut Street in Tombstone, Arizona. How many people do you know who can claim that distinction? Oh, and by the way, she is also my sister. Enjoy her musings on life. I apologize that it is a bit long, but it might just keep you motivated while you are inspiring a member of a younger generation.
Getting Back Up and Passing It On by P. Hubig
I am seven the first time I remember this feeling of wonder, fear and yet excitement at the thought of a new life. Since that time, I would say I have become a professional "starter over," experiencing this feeling of new starts multiple times. In the last 3 years alone I have changed my whole situation, location, and direction I am going. In taking stock of all this, and at 66 plus years of new beginnings and trying to keep myself moving forward, I have definitely learned a few pointers.
First and foremost, I have learned that what truly matters can never be grasped and put into a box, nor can it be perfectly described. What truly matters are the people in your life and all of the moments, good and bad, spent with your family and friends. People must always remain first and we sometimes forget that in our rush or desire to go forward. I have been to hundreds of seminars on motivation, self improvement, etc. etc., but it still boils down to not only the action we take each day and the belief in ourselves, but the lives we touch and those that touch us.
I have been trying for years to figure out what I can do more effectively and differently to better my life and the lives of others. I have been somewhat successful in this area, but like all other areas it could stand some improvement! Today, I finally know who I am and where I wish to go, but you can imagine at 66 how difficult it is to be able to verbalize this in a realistic manner.
I am no different than thousands, indeed millions, of others, except that today I not only have goals and dreams but this feeling that all is possible. In fact, it is stunning the goals I am now going after! If you are like me you go to great seminars on fostering a wonderful attitude, you see inspirational movies, read great books with new ideas, or see programs that inspire you so much that when you get up in the morning you vow to do things differently. In this new found excitement, you may even make a few positive changes. Then after a couple of days or weeks you forget. It all goes away and you go back to your familiar plan and do things the same way you always have.
Like you, I like instant results and changes that are beautifully packaged and easy to do! This is what I have finally realized. That is, I have to do something every day and it must be easy. I am not talking about taking the easy way out, but I have discovered that even without perfect feelings and situations I can and am changing my life by doing a series of small things. It's the steady and sure method that is consistent with one of my favorite old Chinese adages that "a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step."
Remember: Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power and magic in it. Begin it now. -Goethe-
Toward that end, I start each day, after doing some personal things, by reading my goals. Then I think and say out loud that I can accomplish anything and that I am a worthwhile person. I get going and make myself do some work. Your life must be based on a belief that you are wonderful and unique and can achieve anything. I am sure there are plenty of folks who know this, but I would venture a guess there are equally as many of us who must practice it to make it reality. I realize this is not new stuff. After all, thousands of people write about it and many others read it, but you must believe it. If no one has told you lately, I will assure you that if you are breathing and if you want to make some changes in your life for the better you can achieve this. I believe in you.
Today, I know the changes I wish for begin within me, the Italian girl who grew up in Tombstone, Arizona, on Toughnut Street. But it goes beyond that. We, the more mature folks, must instill this get up and go in our young people. They need to know that dreams and goals with actions that are consistent and persistent will get them where they want to go.
The world our children will inherit will be challenging. Pensions are a thing of the past and it is doubtful they will have social security, so they will need to work longer and smarter than others before them to be successful. I encourage you to help me make a difference in the world because our generation has so much encouragement and ideas that we need to give the next generation.
I have just moved, made several personal changes, and I will be working on making significant changes in my corner of the world. Please do the same in your corner and we will leave this place better than we found it. We are alive for a reason and no matter what, life is incredible no matter our challenges.
Embrace challenges. I love them. They make us stronger and more appreciative. Welcome today, tomorrow will be even better because of our efforts and we will all be better people for having tried. Along the way, strive to inspire a young person. Let them know they must not only dream, but take action to make those dreams reality. And remind them that they don't have to make spectacular leaps forward. Indeed, small, sure steps will work just fine. Remember the journey of a thousand miles...
Ah, how the times change. I wrote my first book on a manual Smith & Corona typewriter. When the personal computer first came out in the late 1980s, I bought one and gradually that become my word processing system. I was late in embracing social media. In fact, I just become a member of Facebook. Daunting to say the least. Daily I am amazed to see the varied interests, inspiring photos, and seemingly unlimited way the younger generation engages and plunges into and experiences life. I love being able to see it in almost real time. At the same time, it is intimidating and overwhelming because of the amount of items and activity available. It has affected my writing. Specifically, I am finishing up a new book about baby boomers (those of us born between 1946 and 1964). There are approximately 80 million of us in the US. As I reflect and write the story it is almost incomprehensible to me how technology and culture have changed and changed us. I went through a period of mild cynicism about the future of people, our nation, and our world. Yet, the more I am exposed to things like Facebook, I find myself becoming optimistic again. The generations who followed the baby boomers are smart, unafraid, irreverent, funny, and have a zest for life that bodes well for us as people. It is refreshing. As I indulge in some nostalgia and seek new adventures and experiences, I will start sharing them here on this blog.