Days Gone By
“The Color Purple” Based on Alice Walker’s novel, appeared over 35 years ago. It is a great motion picture. Along with the matchless cast and acting it contains a number of wonderful life lessons that set it in a class by itself. It is definitely filled with wonderful material for sermons or lectures on faith, values and ethics in the classic tradition.
One lesson that is particularily vivid is that involving the character “Miss Millie.” Miss Millie is a wonderful depiction of a person so used to her privileged notion of herself that words of condescension issue from her mouth effortlessly. After saying to the character Sofia (Oprah Winfrey) “Your children are so clean” followed by “Do you want to be my maid?” she is taken aback by Sofia’s honest answer “H**L NO!” While she is puzzling over the reply a group begins to descend on Sofia and her children, including the towns mayor. She punches him in defence of herself and children and immediately is surrounded by an angry mob and struck in the head with a pistol, damaging one of her eyes. She is carted off to prison where she serves an 8 year sentence for her language and effort at self defence.
In the meantime, Miss Millie, after all those years have passed, is still at the starting line. She is totally clueless as to the horrible wrong she has done and what she might do to try to rectify it. Naturally she thinks small. Sofia winds up her maid “after all” and Miss Millie, after commenting that “it’s a shame.” Sofia has been locked in prison so long, suggests taking her for a visit to the family she has been deprived of for so long. “You can stay all day! You can stay ALL day!” Millie says with an emphasis on her own personal charity and magnanimity. (Of course Millie can’t even execute this trifling crumb of goodness correctly)
Sofia’s reunion with her family is bittersweet, her children are so grown and changed that they seem almost like strangers. Meanwhile outside Miss Millie, having just purchased an elegant new roadster, discovers that she can’t even turn the car around properly by herself. She interrupts Sofia with this knowledge and Sofia pleads with her to let one of her family drive her home so she can see her family, but Millie, after all only concerned with her own comfort and ideas of safety allows the “All Day” promise to dwindle into a few minutes as Sofia has to drive her home at once.
As the film proceeds, we are gratified to later find Sofia genuinely reunited with her family and sitting at the table with them, saying rejoicingly: “Sofia done come home! Things gonna be changin’ around here.”
Her jubilance gives the character Celie (played by Whoopi Goldberg) the courage to leave her abusive husband Mistah, played by Danny Glover.
Mistah, unlike miss Millie, continues in the film to show what real repentance actually looks like . He goes to his secret coffer of hidden money and bankrolls the return of Celie’s sister, sent away by him when they were young girls and lost to her for years. He doesn’t offer a scrap, he offers in Celies own language of pain to try as best he can to right some of his enormous wrongs.
Also to be said for Mistah he did not throw away all the letters Celie’s sister had sent to try to keep in touch while she was a missionary in Africa. He kept and hid them. Celie, with Shug Avery’s help, was finally able to find and read them, because of that spark of conscience on Mistah’s part.
When we do wrong, in this life, we can be like Miss Millie and simply not even recognise it. Or we can be like Mistah and knowing we can’t put those broken pieces back together again, do our best to show we realize our mistakes and are sorry. Pretty obvious which choice, I think.
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When I was a child I spent some priceless times with my grandmother and my uncle on their farm. My uncle called himself a “steam man” that term referred to a person who was a huge fan of steam power. He owned, at different times, two steam cars and a large variety of other steam engines, both full sized and miniature. Today as I was thinking of him and some of his steam adventures I began to see a parallel between one of his stories and our modern world.
One glitch in early steam cars was that since they did not work by internal combustion or use gears as we are used to, or have good brakes, they could, by mistake, begin going backward as fast as they were going forward.
He told me a story of that happening to him on a hill in Glens Falls, New York, with a scary but at least manageable result. He slipped back and sped up. Finally, avoiding a collision, he managed to back in to a side street and get the car moving forward again. What a thrill ride that must have been to look back on!!
His steam lesson, for me, was that just because you start going in the wrong direction at full speed doesn’t mean you have to keep going.
That story got me thinking about the early concepts of world communication and the high hopes spiritual and scientific people had for it.
Back in the early 1900s the great seer, Pierre Teilhard De Chardin (The Future of Man) wrote of what he called the “Noosphere.” He saw the human qualities of reflection leading to a sort of cloud or skin of thought covering the world. This would lead to a new expanded consciousness for mankind. Teilhard influenced Marshall McLuhan (The Medium is the Message) and Buckminster Fuller came along with his own angle on global communication (operating Manual for Spaceship Earth).
Poverty and ignorance will end, as we use machines to solve the world’s problems. Ray Bradbury liked these people but proved the most realistic for he saw, and wrote about, the problems of human evil, greed and willfulness as projected into machines and technology. I found his poem where he characterized our relationship to tech: “stuff right, get right, stuff rot, get rot, for no more power lies here than man himself has got” (The Machines beyond Shylock). That hit the nail on the head!
Psychologists like Philip Zimbardo and his colleague Stanley Milgram have given a good jumper cable for our start forward again. They help us recognize how easily we can, as individuals, slip backward, just as our technology has, with it now being used in so many intrusive, trivial and negative ways. Given permission, whether real or imagined, we slump way too easily into wrongful behavior and attitudes. What the dreamers thought would lead to a spiritually connected and less materialistic world, has degenerated into nearly the opposite. We are farther than ever from a global understanding and the rich and the poor are at different ends of the spectrum.
Time to restudy our mentors, time to pull backwards into that side street and get going forward again. If my uncle could do it, this whole world can.
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Eating right, a pretty simple idea but takes some thinking and planning to translate it into an every day plan. It can probably be compared to quitting smoking. Hard to do at first but later we’re amazed at how much better we feel for having done it.
I began thinking about my diet after a long bout I had with bronchitis a few years ago. I’m glad I did… I’m feeling better than I have in years. Here’s some of what I learned and admittedly each person’s experience is different.
Red meat is much harder on the digestion, especially when eaten late in the day. Chicken and fish leave you feeling like you’ve eaten enough, and, to me, they never seem heavy to digest.
The other plan I settled on was to feature fresh fruit one week and fresh vegetables the next, so salads for a few days then strawberries, blueberries, apples and bananas for awhile. Green tea can be a great stand-in for coffee. Coffee however, is healthy too. (thank goodness!)
Lots of water, as well.
I still have a hamburger now and then but it’s always for lunch. And I’ll tell you folks, this has worked for me. The folksters I’ve seen eat this kind of diet in my experience, like a lady I knew up North, who lived into her 102nd year on a mostly vegetable and fruit diet, have also been the clearest headed. My uncle, who lived to be close to 105, always included oatmeal in his diet. It is wonderfully digestible, early or late in the day.
So there are my thoughts from personal experience. If we’re stuck with depressing morning news on the TV or in the papers or internet we can at least feel good while it’s trying to make us feel bad… we’re more likely to snap back from the negativity and come up with some solutions to it all when we feel stronger and healthier.
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I’m close to giving up trying to tell the difference between news and ads when I read the rollouts in the morning internet feed. I frankly expect there is little difference between the paid for news or the paid for ads.
I find the urgency of the tech ads to be, perhaps, the most annoying. It’s a bit like a fisherman who loses his hook to a fish and is angry enough to be willing to jump in the stream with a net, if necessary, and chase the fish down. The Tech giants want to get on with their trapping of us and willingly pull out all the stops to be more certain we’re appropriately snaired.
I’m reminded pretty often of the sham of it all when I work on a little old fashioned research. The kind I used often to do at the public library with the help of a card catalog and a reference librarian.
Which leads me back to their latest pet effort, the sale of the coveted AI. “Soon to take charge of virtually everything and utterly hopeless for us to attempt to resist its relentless onslaught.” We must “Fear” its ascendency over us as it will easily outstrip human intelligence. “Within the year” it would seem.
Well…. My true life experience is a bit different on this subject.
I wrote before about my daughter’s experience with offering an item on an online auction venue which pertained to the history of India. The AI algorithms held up her sale and sent a curt AI written letter to her informing her she hadn’t given proper detail on the possible tribes involved which could lead to the hurt feeling of any indigenous people who might read it.
My own recent experience has to do with the large AI oriented search engines we now depend on for our research since they have been agressively sold as having out moded all “old fashioned,” human impelled efforts.
I was looking for a biographical piece on the author “Benjamin Franklin French…” so I typed “Benjamin Franklin French, Author” into the search engine. At once I was flooded with information on Benjamin Franklin, the founding father, but nary a word on French, the author.
It would seem from this that AI devices while from the auction experience above are seemingly programmed to be sensitive to politically correct or “Woke” issues, contain their own kind of bigotry and intolerance.
The East Indians of the country of India were of no account when weighed against native American tribes and similiarly, founding father Benjamin Franklin was to be honored while Author and historian, Benjamin French was to have his last name totally unrecognized. And, ironically, his last name, ‘French’ is also a national term.
All this might seem humorous were we not taking it so seriously right now. If a third grader made these errors we would surely smile as we corrected them. But these errors are made by inventions and technology we are told will soon be responsible for our very lives in hospital surgery situations, etc. Plans are also afoot by the super rich tekkies to cut into our very brains and insert AI programmed chips and wiring to “improve“ us… With an AI intelligence booster.
The most ironic facet of all this is that AI partakes of the same greed created mess that human intelligence has suffered. As the wealthy tech lords have worked to gear the internet to their needs for endless wealth as opposed to the earlier efforts of humanity toward shared knowledge they have sewn the seeds for their own defeat.
By dumbing down the internet and putting world knowledge and literature, even when it is public domain, into circus cages labelled “Tech Intellectual Property” where one must pay to see more than a page or two, they have made those ideas and concepts closed to AI searches as well.
CGI illustrated ads featuring swooping shots of mountains and oceans with pictures of seminar speakers framed within, tout how impressive they can make us appear when combined with “inference generated” images and “Tracking pixel” technology. They tell us it will make all our sales production presentations “comparable in appearance to “TED” talks,” (whatever the value or usefulness of our actual product).
No, fabulous, auto corrected appearences and backgrounds that make us look good should never be the point. Actually knowing what we’re talking about and being real and natural and truthful should be.
I believe that nursing our own human intelligence back to health as opposed to nurturing artificial intelligence will be a much better investment for us in all ways as time rolls on. We will have to go back to a better focus on culture and history. And work to return internet content that has been hijacked in the name of business attempted ownership. Most certainly, for all of civilization, it is the only healthy plan.
It took over 30 years of the gradually greater and greater misuse of technology to get us to our present state of decline. It would be hopeful to think that with a concerted effort we could retrace our steps making repairs in less time than that. Well then, “Lets give her a try, shall we?” (to quote Henry Fonda’s character, Norman Thayer, in ‘On Golden Pond’). He was talking about a technology there, too.
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The discovery of the “Lost Golden City of Luxor” loosely translated as “The Dazzling Aten” in Egypt, is a big piece of news for us right now. The discovery is compared to the famous discovery of King Tut’s Tomb in 1922. All this takes my memory back to an event in Nashville a decade ago. We went on a family trip to the state museum to see the King Tut, (Tutankhamun) exhibit, “Egyptian Relics, Replicas and Revivals,” it was called.
WOW is all I can say, in remembrance. Some museum events actually help you to feel like a time traveler, returning to the times depicted. This was definitely such an exhibit. Many of the objects displayed were actually from ancient Egypt, some were clever reproductions, but all of them transported us to the land of the pyramids during one of its golden ages!
The sarcophagus and mummified body of Tut himself were realistic imitations. However the museum also has a genuine mummy which attests to the realism of the reproduction.
In the room that boasted the full size replica of an Egyptian chariot was a picture enlarged from one of the original photographs made when the tomb was first opened, in 1922. I have to admit it both amused and touched me when I realized it reminded me of those old garages we sometimes enter where someone stored an old 1956 Chevy, with a number of tires and rims stacked against the wall. Those rooms also are heavy with dust and nostalgia.
The sameness of effect helped me to realize how much humanity has stayed the same over the thousands of years of our life here.
It is both comforting and awe inspiring to relive the past in an exhibit like this. We re-live the grandeur, and we also re-live the fragility of life through it. Tut was just a youth when he died.
I enjoy the human panorama very much and I believe the study of it is a treasure that we can always find pleasure and knowledge in. In our modern time we are temporarily beset by a fad of finding things to complain about in history and attempting to simply snip them out or censor them for fear they will annoy us. This trivial approach seems fueled by political stances of pretend moral superiority, modern tech money making agendas which focus on buying and selling, not learning and culture and /or simply laziness on the part of modern instructors and students. (Rather than study a moral or ethical issue, simply say we don’t like it and look away.) Thankfully this movement is likely to be short lived. Humanity has its decadent periods, but they always seem to pass.
I truly hope that as the archaeological work at Luxor continues there will be international exhibits arranged similar to the King Tut exhibits. When the world comes together through sharing the fascination of the past, it gives us something of timeless value. We need a lot more of those studies right now. The beauty and artistic pride of history can inspire us to pursue those qualities in the present.
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I got to thinking this morning… about how important a morning cup of coffee becomes. Running out of coffee is almost like running out of breath. (Perhaps a little worse.)
Coffee becomes a starter for the day on many levels, not just the caffeine which gives the burst of energy for an alert start. Also the social quality of sharing a good thing. The treat of a nice breakfast out is infused with the familiar things we associate with a good morning. For a bright start, coffee is always near the head of the list.
As a boy, in farm country, I remember country breakfasts were hearty and comfortably filling. The coffee my parents enjoyed was carefully brewed and they enjoyed it with gusto.
Thinking about the subject, I did my usual research and discovered coffee was the lucky discovery of an Arab goat herder in the 15th century. He noticed the friskiness of his charges after they had chewed on the wild coffee plants and decided to sample some himself.
In the 16th and 17th centuries Coffee houses were introduced in Vienna, Paris and London. And a little later in New Amsterdam (New York). The Dutch loved coffee and had planted it on the Isle of Java in the 1600s. Later in the 1600s there were holdings in South America from which point they exported it to Europe and North America. The better Dutch traders, like The Van Corlaers, who respected the Native Americans (and here I mean not just the first Arendt but his Grandson who traded well into the 1700s) would likely have shared and traded coffee with the natives in upstate New York and Vermont. A great account of chief Homer St. Francis of the Vermont Abenaki’s, shows him to have been a staunch coffee drinker in modern times. When, later in the 1700s the British taxed the tea, early Americans substituted Coffee.
I’m really glad they did, you know. It’s hard to imagine it any other way. I’m certainly enjoying the cup I’m drinking this morning!
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When I was a youngster, comic book versions of Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Super Girl and other heroic figures had already been around for a considerable time. There were many little “Variety” stores that boasted large shelves, brimming with these wonderful treasures. I partook of them with great pleasure when I got my weekly allowance. I would pour over them with my best friends. We would sometimes try to conjure ourselves into our own versions of these caped crusaders.
Perhaps the thing I kept with me the most from those innocent years was the impact comics had on my thinking about life. It was a big impact. They are actually a first rate teaching tool and they fostered good habits and ethical approaches to problems.
I’ve just had the belated experience of being reminded of all that through a film I missed four years ago and just a few days ago, finally watched.
“Wonder Woman” with Gal Gadot as the star. Wow, this film is totally unlike the majority of action films and super person movies I’ve seen in recent years. It is not just another noisy, gaudy and violent experience. It is a film with real heart and message. It has a wealth of hidden virtues as well. (Not the least of which is an underlying Christology which I noticed several other reviewers had also commented on.)
The concept of a marvelous, larger than life presence, empowered with super strength and spiritual gifts, who is willing to selflessly risk all for imperfect and flawed humanity, out of a belief in the transcendence of love, is hard to miss.
There is so much in this film. It leaves you with a sense of faith and confidence in our life that is often beaten to the ground by the relentless day after day fear mongering, politically devised lies and half truths and the eternal triviality of business models and methods hyped and touted to us hour after hour through our all reigning technologies and social platforms.
It seems almost miraculous that a subject from fiction and fantasy could have such an impact on real life. But I totally affirm this.
The film is set during World War One, in itself a departure from previous Super films set no further back than World War two. Through some kind of space warp Diana, the Princess, who was raised by Amazons on the Island of Themyscira, is able to see and save the American soldier, Steve Trevor, (Chris Pine) who has been shot down over the ocean by WW1 German soldiers. Following a short skirmish the arriving German’s are routed by Amazon warriors. After an interlude on the Island, Trevor and the princess team up and return to the war zone where Trevor hopes to defeat the German high command. Diana, on her part, is convinced the Germans are led by her dark nemesis, Ares, the evil God of War who she believes is disguised as Col. Ludendorff.
Incredible events follow, presenting twists and turns of plot as well as pulse pounding war scenes and character revelations.
Diana, step by step, takes on her role as Goddess incarnate while keeping all her best human traits in perfect balance. Her character continuously sets good examples for the time period she portrays and for our time period right now as we marvel and watch. One feels like applauding when she goes right to the point of issues while those around her try to follow the politics of the moment. She’s like the child in the Emperor’s new clothes, blurting the unspoken but obvious.
We need such honesty, right now, to snap us out of our automaton-like lethargy. Too long controlled news media has been our only horror laden source of “dis-inspiration”.. Get your four year old copies of this film out (or buy new ones) and watch it over and over as the wonderful lessons emerge one after another. It will focus your thoughts and brighten your day. It will also help give simple faith and courage, two of our best qualities, a new lease on life.
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Sometimes a series of memories and connections seem to literally explode with meaning. A sort of atomic fission effect of synchronicities.
It happened for me this week, revolving around the classic children’s author, Dr. Seuss.
Of course we’ve all heard a lot about Dr Seuss lately, his birthday was on March 2nd. And, as it turns out the “Woke” kids are resting from bashing Shakespeare for awhile to go after him. They are deriding him as they point to wartime and other cartoons that they are certain are foremost in the minds of various ethnic groups . (Starting with works close to 90 years old.) I expect it will probably take them years to work their judgemental way up to the modern political cartoons we see constantly depicting famous people, which, in crudity and grotesqueness make the Dr’s cartoons look very benign indeed. It is truly amazing to see how some members of our modern educated youth keep busy during a pandemic. Digging, Digging, Digging, for anything that can even in the smallest way help to bring a little more hate into the world. (Or at least keep stoking what is already here!) It leaves me with sadness, and a sense of guilt.
But to return to my premise. When I first saw the references to Dr Seuss, I remembered a crime mystery film that I have thoroughly enjoyed over the years. It’s title, “Fracture” with Anthony Hopkins and Ryan Gosling. There is a scene in the film where “Willie” Beacham (Gosling’s character), an assistant district attorney, is reading aloud in an attempt to awaken his client, (the attempted murder victim,) who is in a deep coma from a gunshot wound to her head.
We are all much like Willie right now. We have reached an impasse in our national and global life. A place where all the old qualities of faith, hope and charity would be a considerable help in the sorting out process. Instead of keeping those qualities safe and handy for use, we’ve mislaid most of them. Some we have outright thrown away.
It comes as little surprise that the lack of interest we have shown toward our children’s education comes home to roost with many of the new young eagerly helping those with agendas in the destruction of our history and culture. All of those things are ‘old fashioned’ to a generation raised on video games and internet social networks. Inventing more and more intrusive tech apps is made to seem heroic to such a group.
The good Dr. however, told us right. The waiting place is just for awhile. A time to take stock and set things to right again. History has taught us this. The guilt we feel for having let things get this bad can be turned to good through bringing about change, lots of change.
“And will you succeed? Yes, you will indeed! (98 and ¾ percent, guaranteed.) You’re off to great places, today is your day. Your mountain is waiting, so get on your way!” We truly must follow that advice. We’ve a mountain of bad decisions and apathy to move out of the way. Time to use our own minds again and get on with the work.
Thank you Dr. Seuss, You left us a priceless heritage of simple and direct truth. Time to enjoy it and share it all over again. Appreciate comments send to firstname.lastname@example.org
I recently read a couple of articles relating to the “Woke” culture and it’s influence in modern classrooms.
Several younger teachers, identifying as “Woke,” have decided that the writings of William Shakespeare should be removed from the curriculum. Their logic suggests that over 300 years ago, Shakespeare, using characters from before and during his own historical time, packed as much racism, sexism, colonialism, and whatever other “isms” into his poetry and plays, as he could muster, apparently just to vex a future “perfect” generation such as the woke ones, consider themselves to be.
It’s quite an ambitious project for these youngsters to take upon themselves the responsibility of canceling the study of the greatest playwright and poet in English literature.
In rebuttal to these anxious literary surgeons, I will quote just two other witnesses on the subject of “woke” and Shakespeare. One, former president, Barack Obama; two, a man many consider the greatest American poet of all time, Walt Whitman.
Former President, Barack Obama’s statement on the “Woke” culture at his Foundation summit, left no doubt that he was not over impressed by the movement. Obama stated: “The idea of purity and you’re never compromised and you’re always “politically woke” and all that stuff, you should get over that quickly.” He went on, “The World is messy, there are ambiguities. People who do really good things, have flaws. People who you are fighting, love their kids and share certain things with you.” Obama had noted the trend of all this on college campuses and called it a “danger” which is “accelerated by social media.” He noted that, “some young people think that the way to bring about change is “to be as judgmental as possible about other people, and that’s enough.” “Criticising people on social media for doing something wrong gives those critics a sense of self-satisfaction,” he said. “Then I can sit and feel pretty good about myself because, man, you see how woke I was. If all you’re doing is casting stones, you’re probably not going to get that far. That’s easy to do.”
In approaching the attitude of Walt Whitman toward Shakespeare I invoke the adage “The proof of the pudding is in the eating.” Those woke people who are working to expunge the writings of the man loosely considered the greatest playwright and poet in the English Language should perhaps consider his effect on earlier students of his work. My example, Walt Whitman.
Whitman, early on, carried a dog-eared copy of Shakespeare’s sonnets in his pocket so that he could read it “when the mood demanded.” He eventually memorized long passages from the plays, especially Richard II. He ‘spouted’ them on the Broadway stage coaches and in the din of the city streets. As his own poetry and persona as the poet of Democracy developed he feared what he called the ‘feudal’ quality of Shakespeare’s work and knew that would not be filtered into his vision but retained his lifelong love of Shakespeare’s use of words, action , mysticism, and history. His final word on the subject, “If I had not stood before those poems, with uncovered head, fully aware of their colossal grandeur and beauty of form and spirit, I could not have written ‘Leaves of Grass’.
I remember when I caught up with the movie “Poseidon,” having watched the Gene Hackman version, probably 20 times over, I wondered what could be done to follow that act. After watching the new attempt I realized what I should have predicted. It is nearly impossible to follow a classic when you in any way imitate it. “Poseidon” is filled with people and scenes, which wind up appearing to be feeble ghosts of the original production. It would have been wiser to not even try. Likewise, “Titanic” could not be duplicated, any more than “Gone With The Wind” or Doctor Zhivago could be. After getting over being riled up, I went on however, to do some more thinking. Why was all this so emotionally important, why was I so loyal to the great Poseidon original?
There is something very real and deep in doing a great work on the struggle of life. When we see the daring efforts to survive a seemingly hopeless catastrophe, we imagine bits of ourselves in the characters.
First we identify with them, and eventually come to admire and love them. Gene Hackman, as the “Renegade Priest” is perfect. He is genuinely Christ-like in his efforts to move his “flock” onward toward salvation. And salvation in a world turned up side down, no less. Like Christ he makes the ultimate sacrifice, but that sacrifice opens the way for the rest to survive. Shelley Winters as the portly grandmother who dies having secured a way through and saving the priest, is also perfect and unique.
These archetypes of human courage become investments to us. It is our own best effort we see in them. If they can make it through, we can make it through.
And so, in our own modern world, often feeling upside down ourselves, still we grope toward the light. I guess its no wonder we are picky about the presentation of our struggle when shown in symbolic style. We know we have it in us to “go the distance,” and using the courage our heroes have helped give us, we finally return in full measure, by doing our part.
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Every couple years I like to pull this story out of my trunk of memories. I had more people stop me on the street and tell me how much they enjoyed it than any other story I’ve written. So, to lighten the atmosphere , one more time.:
One of the stories I tell to my little grandchildren is the following, which has come to be known as “The Marshmallow Fluff Story.”
When my daughter, Rachel, was small, I often prepared her school lunches. A favorite treat for her was the famous “Fluffer Nutter” made of Marshmallow Fluff and peanut butter.
One day I had finished making a lunch for her and with the small tad of Fluff left I made myself a half a sandwich.After eating it I realized how good it was and got the notion I wanted another. “It will only take a minute,” I thought, and I drove down to the local market.
At that time Cambridge, New York, where I lived, only had three small markets. No big ones like “Grand Union” for example. I was certain I would meet with success at the first one I went to…. Wrong. After looking through the whole store I could find no fluff. Finally I asked a clerk, “Where do you keep the Marshmallow Fluff” … The clerk looked at me a little strangely and finally said, “I’m sorry but we’re out of Marshmallow Fluff and the new shipment won’t be in until Thursday.”
“No Fluff” I said, disappointedly, “You could try “McWhorters” I was told by the clerk.
So off I went to McWhorters. I looked awhile before asking, and still could locate no Fluff. Finally I asked the manager, a young man with a crew cut. ” Excuse me ” I said ” Do you have any Marshmallow Fluff in the store?, I can’t find it anywhere.” This manager looked at me a little strangely also, but directed me to the ice cream section. Alas, no fluff there either.
Finally I made it to the last store, my dander up by this time. I would surely find fluff here. Again after a short search I asked the clerk. She also had a strange expression on her face. “Try by the cake supplies,” she said. Sure enough I finally found it! Only two containers left so I bought both. I noticed as I stood in line a woman who had been in the last store, (probably comparison shopping) she was studying me intently as I checked out. The check-out person also seemed curiously looking at me.
Getting in my car I drove home happily. My stubborness had paid off ! But then . . . as I was turning off my car in my driveway I happened to look at myself in the rear-view mirror. And there, at both corners of my mouth, were small daubs of marshmallow fluff, left from the half sandwich I had eaten at the beginning of this story. . .
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We still hear a great deal of reference to learning in our society, but when it comes to the actuality of method a lot has changed.
It was a given for years and years that much of our ongoing life learning (besides personal experience) came from books, (or newspapers with impartial content). It was so obvious no one really thought about it. We learned good reading, studying and researching habits from our parents and teachers. We had good, solid dictionaries and encyclopedias for general reference. Usually at least a small personal library and beyond that the local public library and for serious research, access to the state or local college library.
It was not surprising most people were knowledgeable on a wide range of subjects.
This was, of course before the tech revolution of the last 30 years. The tech revolution came into our lives like a thief in the night and with pretty much the same intention. The thievery was enacted very effectively.
We have been robbed of our pleasure in learning from books, our individuality in our personal learning and growing process, as well as our ability to make decisions based on that unique personal knowledge that was such a powerful feature of our lives.
Now we look down at the phone or over at the computer screen. For relaxation, instead of reading a book, we watch the much larger television screen.
From all those vantage points the voices speak to us. A common statement made all day long is “Here is what you need to know…” most everything we “need to know” is prompted either by a political agenda or a corporate, money-making agenda. People we are not supposed to like are referred to as people who have “baseless” arguments in their favor. The voice does not explain why they are baseless. It only speaks as an omnipotent force we must obey.
We are told medical products are good for us and listen to beautiful music and watch outdoor scenes of waterfalls and sunrises while in the background in a low voice the possible side effects of such potions are read off. “Heart failure, instant death syndrome, difficulty breathing,” etc. etc.
Sometimes a “news” program will play for a bit and we will be told about, for example, an old Amish man who was put in prison for selling a healthy salve because he said it was healthy on the container. (We should have realized by this time that unless the small print on a product is filled with horrific side effects it’s not worth buying!)
Likewise the “side effects” of the tech products we use are equally horrific when we use a magnifying glass and read them. They tell us that by using the product we have automatically agreed that our life is an open book and the companies involved have henceforward free use of all our personal information to be harvested and sold as they please.
When a large social tech company admitted that they had, without the customers knowledge, manipulated them in a Pavlov dog sort of experiment to see how gullible they might be to purposeful leading and false information slanting, the company spokesman felt no apology should actually have been necessary as it was all covered in the terms of service they had agreed to.
This is a big subject but in summation, I refer back to my opening on the subject of books and learning. Now the majority of reading that goes on is simply the contents of the internet news. (Slanted information, ads made to resemble news, and directions on how we should act and live, from unknown sources.) That’s it. Ray Bradbury once said “You don’t have to burn books to destroy a culture, just get people to stop reading them,.”
I first thought of the word “Deprogramming” as a title for this but decided it sounded too much like a tech term so changed it to “unlearning.” There is a lot we have to unlearn if we are to reclaim our individuality and focus. And there’s no time like the present.
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A lot of things are happening all around us so quickly that sometimes I miss developments and then finally catch up with them all at once. One such development I missed for awhile is the GMO. (genetically modified organism.) GMO seeds are seeds that have been modified in a laboratory. Their genetic makeup has been altered. Owners copyright or trademark these versions and therefore “own them.” It is argued that they produce very bountiful crops for one season, then the farmer, because he has had to buy these seeds by contract, must destroy any remaining seeds and refrain from using the seeds from the plant itself. Someone else owns the seeds, even after purchase and assumes control and manipulation of the crop to this extent (which is a large extent).
Some published findings on GMO plants show that they tend to mutate further and sometimes create what look like dangerous results. Others that have been reported are: “Rodents fed GM corn showed ‘immune system responses and increased toxicity.'” The stomach lining of rats fed GM potatoes showed increased cell growth, a condition that can cause cancer. Mice eating GM corn had fewer and smaller babies. More than half the babies of mother rats fed GM soy died within three weeks and were smaller than usual. There are a variety of other problems , which, since I often look for a spiritual side to things, I personally ascribe this to the old concept of Human Greed (not to mention other agendas). Things that are wrong bring wrong results. It is ironic that some of the people who back and invest in GMO foods make claims of being humanitarian in helping the poorer people of the world have access to these products. The actual results of these products in use seems pretty iffy (and now, five years after I originally published this article the same crew are experimenting with actual animal cell meat products in laboratories!). (Frankenburger, anyone?)
One thing I know… I’d like to be told well in advance by the Congress or whoever about any purposeful efforts to tamper with nature and the natural order of things, much less the foisting of such questionable inventions on uninformed people. No matter how wealthy people may become, they best not equate that with “Being God.”
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I’ve always suspected that the little boy in the Emperor’s new clothes was some distant kin of mine.
That little boy had no compunction at all about pointing out the truth of the emperor’s nakedness. The Emperor, of course, had been the victim of both the swindlers who sold him the invisible robe and his own vanity in pretending that he could see it.
As we’re being duped into believing that we are full scale into the “Digital Age” because of the reckless advances in technology in recent years… Advances way out distancing our ethical and moral capability to handle them.
Ray Bradbury pointed out to me years before all this came about a poem he had written called “The Machines beyond Shylock.” “They (the machines) are but a dumb show, Stuff idiot in, And the Moron light you’ll know. Stuff right, Get right, Stuff Rot, Get rot, for no more power lies here, than man himself has got. “
Well we’ve been stuffing rot like it was going out of style and we have all sorts of results to show for it. A while back a large public library destroyed 250,000 books without donating them to a “friends of the library” sale or anything else. When asked why by horrified patrons they said it was their way of preparing for the “Digital Age.”
Technology has given us GMO crops that, reputedly, damage our health, the environment and infect local organic plants. We have legal shielding for these unethical business people. We have secret surveillance programs that stomp on our Constitutional rights. The perpetrators of these programs using the argument that the programs became so large they didn’t even know what they were doing (so large at taxpayer’s expense). And now, by stealth, these same kind of people attempted to take over the education of our children at the most impressionable ages, teaching them that it no longer matters if they know how to write, and hard cover books, and much of our history are a thing of the past, and of no importance to the modern world. All in the name of the “Digital Age.”
A few years back a California program provided school children with a billion dollars’ worth of I-Pads to advance them into the digital age. Shortly after the students began to dismantle the firewalls and use the tablets for Face Book, YouTube and Gaming.
It’s a sort of poetic justice that the very things that have been used to “hook” us on computers prove at least a temporary downfall to other efforts at mass control. This is certainly food for thought.
Those are just a few examples of where our technology has brought us!
Every few weeks I go spend time near Amish and Mennonites so that I can remind myself how real and healthy living really looks. No planned obsolescence here. No computer voices constantly leading off with “This is what you need to know.” No cars that go out of style, no computers that are obsolete nearly as soon as they’re built (so that creative writing, books and other records are subject to loss, and so that the environment constantly suffers from the needless selling and re-selling of updated models just to keep the companies flush with wealth and wealth is the only thing these hucksters can boast of with accuracy. And wealth at such a price!).
No folks, the Emperor is Naked, his promises are lies. He does not even want to share the smallest space with the customs that have seen us safe for thousands of years. He won’t be content until we have no books, no post office, and no ability to write or understand history and literature as we have in the past. It’s his way or the highway. He wants it all. The Emperor is naked. If good is to come out of the “Digital Age” we need to get on with stuffing right, not rot. And see what can be salvaged from the mess greed has created.
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by Geoffrey Jones
Not long ago I overheard the manager of our local Salvation army store telling a customer about his pleasure as a youth exploring a stone quarry.
When I was a kid the only thing I looked forward to more than the Saturday matinee was a hike to the stone Quarry.
A hike to the stone Quarry, for me, was like a trip to the dinosaur age. The fact that it was loaded with fossils helped that fantasy. Every chunk of crinoid and trilobite laden rock was another time travel ticket. Also there were rumors of gold deposits. I could easily imagine finding a stone laced with pure gold.
Sometimes quarry trips were group endeavors. A little group of friends, not unlike the gang in “Stand By Me” would meet, early if possible, and carrying some water in a mayonnaise jar and a few peanut butter sandwiches we’d be off for the hike.
It was almost “Cloak and Dagger” such an expedition. We would feel self important, like prospectors, or archaeologists. Our talk was usually serious in nature, loaded with as many recollections of previous acts of adventure as we could muster.
At the quarry itself was not unlike an astronaut’s moon or Mars landing. There was an almost sacred quality to the site, removed as it was from everyday life. We always moved slowly, savoring the richness and variety of the jagged terrain. If we had small picks or scoops we would begin a search for the fossils or mystery minerals we knew abounded.
Time stood still, while we were there, and finally as the day waned, we would make our way homeward, lunch bag now filled with our rocky hoard of finds.
I’m glad I listened in on that conversation. It reminded me once again just how much pleasure is here in this life in the simplest and most overlooked places..
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Classic authors in our English language have come up with some really splendid titles for their works, and the above is a good example. The original title was even longer as it was prefaced with the words “A Journal of..” Charles Mackay, Scotch jounalist and songwriter compiled the work in 1841.
What I like best about Mackay’s collection is that I can cite it without being accused of loading the deck against the usual stacking deck of our times that I seek to make “transparent.” (It’s much too old and classic to be considered in that way.)
He would probably think to himself, “Wow, this is great, my machine could be the greatest vehicle for mass hypnosis ever seen. I could tell things to people and they would believe them, simply because I tell them to believe them. Not only will I become ridiculously wealthy but I can control the thinking of millions and aim it all toward my own aggrandizement.”
“Now let’s see… he continues, “What might hinder my scheme..” “I know, 9,000 years of recorded history and art could throw a slight crimp in things, but hey, power is on my side…” “I’ll simply use my machine to beam out the idea that my 20 years of huckstering my products out does the whole of history and it’s spiritual growth.” “Ambitious plan you say? Hey nothing is beyond my program for personal success.” “I have to laugh” (he continues), people will all walk around like gullible Lil Abners saying, “We must realize that the Wublee Machine Age has changed all of history. There is nothing else now and we have no choice but to accept it” ….”and where will they have gotten this concept? From the Wublee Machine!.” (Mr. Wublee would then laugh and walk off to make another huge deposit into the Bank he owns.
by Geoffrey Jones
NOTE: (I just got through reading another piece of political correctness about the Cleveland Indians renaming project and decided it would be a good thing to reprint this column for any who missed it the first time, years ago.)
Awhile back an old friend of mine asked me my opinion on the matter of referring to Native Americans as “Indians.” She was confident that a native American would be deeply insulted by this term. Native Americans want to be referred to as “Native Americans ” she said. I answered “Well I’ll tell you what the chief had to say ‘(I was referring to a friend from earlier in my life, David Honyoust, a war chief of the Oneida nation.)
My father and I, as historians, had “fought” side by side, with David and American Indians from all across New York state to save an early burial site from being used for road fill. The effort was a victory and the site’s owner made note in the deed to the property that it was never to be touched. The memory I have of David however that applies to my discussion, was about the name of a nearby school team. It was called the Cambridge Indians.
Some local reporters asked David if he wasn’t offended by the team being so named. “No, said David, in fact I look on it as an honor. When I watch the games and cheer for the team, I feel quite moved knowing that our team is named “The Indians.”
Recently I read the account of a professor who took offense at the ads for the Walt Disney produced animated film depicting Pocahontas and Captain John Smith. She found the film idea “sexist” and “racist,” her argument was that it suggested that a native American girl might not be satisfied with a man from her own village but would be excited over an Englishman like Capt. Smith.
Well my answer to this would be, that was up to Pocahontas wasn’t it? To Pocahontas Capt. Smith would have been like a modern day astronaut. Many modern young girls are taken with astronauts and other celebrities and more than happy at the thought of a relationship with such a one. Pocahontas was a celebrity herself. The morning internet news is filled with such accounts. Modern debunking historians have sneered at the story as being a lie on Smith’s part. “After all he didn’t mention Pocahontas saving his life in his first accounts, only in his 1623 book.” Not bothering with original sources they overlook the fact that Smith’s first accounts were sent to England by a trading company to help interest new settlers for this continent. Telling his experience of being nearly crushed to death would hardly have helped that cause. It was also known that the trading company tailored his early published comments for that very reason.
Other modern comments intended to steer us away from the accounts of those who were actually there are “Pocahontas was only 12 years old at the time. No way there could have been a serious relationship between them.” Again actually understanding history in its own context helps greatly. The age of marriage for young native American girls then was between 12 and 15. In England 12 was also considered an acceptable age for young women to enter into courtship. I suggest watching the great, more recent film “The New World;” it follows original sources very well and is, I believe, a close approximation of what really happened.
An article in “The Atlantic” published helps a lot in explaining these efforts to actually change history to please modern whims. It is called “The Coddling of The American Mind.” It goes in depth into how such modern phenomena as “micro aggressions,” “negative filtering,” “blaming,” etc. are leading to an educational system which literally serves to infantilize students right at the point they are preparing to enter the real world. Even the accepted debate program is challenged by those increasingly thin skinned folks who find ethnic and sexist slurs in every corner. Comedians like Chris Rock are no longer happy about performing in front of such students. Imagine what Don Rickles would have experienced!
My own thought would be in keeping with the old Chinese I-Ching saying, “One should let many things pass without being duped.” We are all human beings with both good and bad qualities, hopefully we feature the good. The Story of Pocahontas and John Smith is some of the good of history, it shows more of how things should have gone during that period. Trying to turn it into something ugly is a loss for everyone. Our study of life and history must always understand this. We study the bad of history along with the good, but take it as it actually happened. Elsewise we become “dumbed down” in just one more way. We have enough to deal with in that respect as it is. Time to toughen up again. Life as it is is a great gift, in scorning the wrongs we still have to honor the rights. We’re not here to give up, but as William Faulkner said…”to prevail.”
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by Geoffrey Jones
Sometimes the most simple motif can contain the most stark and terrifying truths.
It was my pleasure, as a youngster, to live near and see several times the remarkable writer Shirley Jackson. Shirley lived in North Bennington Vermont, (not far from the North Bennington Post Office).
Shirley is well known for having written the original for “The Haunting of Hill House.” Her award winning novel spawned at least two feature films. It is considered by some to be the greatest ghost story ever written.
Her short story “the Lottery” created a sensation when it was first published in the New Yorker magazine. It depicts a small New England town where an ancient ceremony is carried out every year. The plain folks narrative of a Norman Rockwell kind of place is dispelled in the last scenes where it is revealed that the ceremonial lottery simply chooses a member of the community to be stoned to death.
The horror in the film “Circle” starts at once. A group of 50 people awake from a sort of trance and find themselves on a strange electronic circle facing inward. (The circle resembles those Simon games we bought for our kids some years back.) Every couple of minutes someone in the circle is executed as if by a lightning bolt. Rather quickly the people in the circle begin arguing about how to control the executions, thinking they can help direct the fatal results toward the elderly, minorities, the poor and other’s deemed less desirable or deserving than those judging.
A pregnant woman and a young child give them momentary pause, but only momentary. The device however, plays no favorites, despite the group’s increasingly selfish efforts, person after person of all types and beliefs are zapped away. The executions, very Democratically, include all.
Some folks reviewing this film think it is about the pointlessness of modern politics. I can see that in part but I’m afraid I hark back, once again, to Dr Zimbardo and his “Lucifer Effect.” We contain these selfish and evil qualities and do not have to look outward to “The enemy” to find them. Dr Zimbardo, Shirley Jackson and the writers of “the Circle” all keep the same problem in the forefront. We have to take hold of ourselves and not allow the trivial and mean to rule our psyches. We must fan the flame of good not of evil. Only then can we truly “Overcome.”
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by Geoffrey Jones
Mentoring is a process as old as thought.
There were probably cave people who mentored the cave children with better ways of climbing trees or throwing spears at woolly mammoths.
It can be done quietly or in some cases with gusto. The bottom line is that it works and it enriches life.
We seldom hear much about great mentors but we hear plenty about those who were mentored.
A man named Ferdinand Earle mentored the great poetess Edna St Vincent Millay. He mentored her by snatching her great poem “Renascence” back out of the waste-basket where the other editor of ” The Lyric Year” had thrown it. “Really very well written,” said Ferdinand, and a career was launched.
When Ralph Waldo Emerson sent an excited letter to the fledgling poet Walt Whitman, after reading his little self-published edition of “Leaves of Grass” saying “I greet you at the beginning of a great career…. I find it the most extraordinary piece of wit and wisdom America has yet contributed;” He little expected Whitman to turn around and publish it in gold letters on the back of the second edition. But, after all Emerson was right in his appraisal and Whitman right in moving the work forward, self serving as it may have seemed. Emerson became a mentor in spite of himself.
Likewise Emerson mentored Henry Thoreau. When Emerson found Henry in the town jail for acting out some of his beliefs in “Civil Disobedience,” Emerson asked “Henry ..why are you here?” Thoreau’s answer was “Waldo, why are you not here?” (A saucy answer from one about to be bailed out.) Emerson was long suffering in the mentoring department.
We discovered a poem years ago by a member of the Archbishop Harcourt family. It was written to Princess Victoria when she was a teenager envisioning her whole career. It proved uncannily accurate in showing her future. Her other great mentor was Lord Melbourne, a holdover from the romantic period who was able to slake her thirst for knowledge of that historic earlier age.
I wouldn’t be surprised to find many hidden mentors in the published lives of all the greats. It seems to go with the territory. It puts history in a much broader context, which is always exciting.
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Heston’s character appears to be, as the movie opens, the only normal person left on Earth. He shares the city with a group of vampire-like mutants who have formed an angry cult bent on destroying all remnants of the former society including Neville.
by Geoffrey Jones
Recently I stopped to visit with two of my neighbor friends. We began talking about life in general and one friend mused on the concept of gratitude. Talked about how it had come to him one day how important a thing it is to remember all the good he has experienced.
What a true thought.
Not only is it a happy memory but it powers us up just remembering it. It was a good evening to be thinking along these lines, warm enough to sit in the yard for a change in our shirtsleeves and drink a cold drink and reflect on things.
We humans (one of the other topics we touched on) have that gift for reflection that the animals do not. They work from instinct, we from thought. Lots more variables for us humans.
My uncle taught himself the habit of making notes so that he would be sure to remember important things he had to accomplish during the day. It would be a great idea, nowadays to remember things like gratitude for those milestone blessings that dot our life history. Only too often we get mired in negativity and let all that slip away. We need constant booster shots of gratitude to keep us moving at a healthy pace.
The country old timers didn’t need as much help as we do keeping happy and content. Life was so simply good that gratitude was a daily experience. Every week the local church would hold a social or Grange picnic and the end of the day left a person looking forward, expectantly, to the week ahead. People weren’t going around jealous and rancorous, always worrying that someone else might be getting a better break in life. At that time everyone was a part of the same general experience, and it was a good experience. Neighbors took the time to help each other. People were close to the land and much closer to God.
I’m grateful just thinking about it!
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by Geoffrey Jones
Walt Whitman, sometimes called “The Good Grey Poet,” wrote two of the best known poems about President Lincoln we have in our schoolbooks (at least I hope we still have them in our schoolbooks). The poems are “O Captain My Captain” and “When Lilacs last in the dooryard bloomed.” In a lesser known poem named “A song for occupations” Whitman summed up our relationship to government in a free democratic country.
“The President is there in the White House for you, it is not you who
are here for him,
The Secretaries act in their bureaus for you, not you here for them,
The Congress convenes every Twelfth-month for you,
Laws, courts, the forming of States, the charters of cities, the
going and coming of commerce and malls, are all for you.”
His Hero, Abraham Lincoln had this way of putting it. “Government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”
Some very great men and women have extolled the virtue of American Freedom. The founding Fathers wrote The Bill of Rights and our Constitution with all this in mind. The Government is “Of the people…” That’s all of us folks. At this time, of all times, we need to remember that.
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