Working, Fighting and Praying

I’m immersed in “The Terror of History” course and found the following interesting:

“In early medieval Europe, (circa 1000) there were roughly three classes of people: 5% of the population had stores of weapons and fought, either to conquer or defend – 5% were in the Church, praying for God’s protection and bounty.

The other 90% toiled in the fields – their job was to feed everyone – though not bound by chains, they were tied to their fields and work by necessity and the simple fact there was nowhere else to go.

Around the 12th century, there arose another class – those who manufactured goods and engaged in trade.   The development of this class lead to wide-sweeping changes in culture; the perception of time became less cyclical and more linear; Time became Money and various groups attempted to gain power through the control of Money.  The merchant/trading class desired to wrest power from the Fighting Nobles class and became the leading supporters of monarchs and their armies.

And still, the 85% percent vassal class, toiled in the fields to feed the other 15% of the population fighting with each other to gain power”

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I’ve heard that dedicated soldiers will march and fight on empty bellies.   General Washington and the Continental Army come first to mind as an example.    But they cannot continue to do so for long.

I’m again astounded by how those who toil to feed the population always end up on the bottom rung of society in so many time periods throughout history.   As soon as we become successful enough as a group to not have to spend 18 hours a day just surviving, we seem to boot those who ensure our survival right into the pit of “lower class”.  Only in the face of great desperation, do the peasant masses gather together with pitchforks and clubs to revolt against the elite classes they greatly outnumber.

Amazing.

As a species, we do this time, after time, after time.

I say we break the cycle and try something different…

Know your Farmer and Rancher – Buy Direct.  Pay them what the wholesale brokers refuse too.  Add your voice to theirs in defiance of Legislation that is geared towards obliterating the small family farm.

We can make a difference.

 

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The Lurking Troll and Lost Faith

Grief jumped out and grabbed me this morning.  I’ve come to the conclusion Grief must be a troll-like creature – he (obviously a he, no woman ever caused me this much problem!) has become more wily – stealthily evading all the wonderful detours , labyrinths and traps I’ve erected around myself in order to gain some peace and lead him somewhere far from me.

He’s learned how to sneak around, jump up and bite me in the butt when I least expect it…

Durnit….

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I’ve immersed myself in the Teaching Series, available at my local library.   These wonderful CD volumes with accompanying study guides contain a series of lectures from a host of college professors on a a variety of topics.

Yesterday, I started Professor Tefluio F. Ruiz’s course, “The Terror of History – Mystics, Heretics and Witches in Western Tradition”.   A broad overview of the culture, political, economical and religious mores of the time period from approximately 1000  – 17000 A.D., this course examines the foundations upon which Mystics were created, Heretics identified and what powerful social climates lead to the Burning Times for those labeled “Witch”.

So perhaps I should not be surprised that Grief showed up today.   After all, you cannot immerse yourself in the subject matter of the nature of God, nature of Man, how we explain our birth, life and death, without at some point, thinking about the ones you’ve lost…

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Interestingly, Professor Ruiz starts the course with his idea of how religion and culture come about.

Excerpt:

“The Satyr, who frequently dined with the gods, was asked by King Minos what was the best gift to request from the gods.   After he spouts a variety of possibilities, including wealth, power and wisdom, the Satyr turned on  Minos and blasted,

“You Fool!  The kindest gift man could ever receive from the gods is to never be born.”

This story eloquently illustrates what I call the “Terror of History”.  Once we became self-aware, conscious, if you will, we came to be at the mercy of the Terror of History – aware of our own mortality and fragility, aware of the apparent chaos of the world around us and the fact so many of the natural forces to which we could fall victim at any time were completely out of our control.

In order to distract ourselves from this Terror, we looked to magic and ritual – changing it as we went, in a futile attempt to control the world around us – and ensure our survival.  These rituals developed into religious beliefs and dogma.

Some looked to materialism, hedonism, if you will, in order to escape the Terror.   A focus on the moment and all the pleasures of life, immersing themselves in what could be experienced richly through the senses.

Still others looked to ways to bring order and beauty to the chaos.   Through intellectual pursuit, laws, art –  they forged cultures that strove to bring order and control to daily life.   Through the pursuit of obtaining order, they gave meaning to their lives.

These three responses to Terror are the cornerstones of the rise of  western civilization.”

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Makes sense to me.   I know about the Terror.   I also know about all the various ways you can attempt to escape it.   Lately, I tend to spend most of my focus of escape in the number 2 and 3 categories – cigs, intellectual pursuits and hobbies bring me a calm that meditating or praying fail to provide – –

In other words, I’ve lost my Faith….She’s probably wondering around in one of the mazes I set up to entrap that nasty ole troll, Grief….

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It soothes me to immerse myself in the stories of the past.   Learning about the times when women couldn’t vote, inherit or own property – when 5 out of 10 of your neighbors were dying from plague – when life was a precarious existence, a daily toil in the fields with the possibility of either wacky weather killing your crops or the local Lord and his knights deciding to duke it out with another in your field of barley – -when despite your most ardent prayers and work, any number of natural or man-made disasters could befall you at any moment, without warning.

When I immerse myself in times of the past, I realize how wonderful my current reality is.   I realize how much worse it could be.   And I feel gratified that I have only had to bury one child, and not seven or eight or more, as many of my ancestors did.

Faith may be lost in the maze of my own making, but she still manages to shout directions to me over the top of the hedge….

Big Brother is Watching…

But he is apparently color- blind…

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Today’s saga starts with Hubby checking the mail.   And coming upstairs, where I’m in creative genius mode working on quilts.   He announces,

“You got a ticket for running a red light.   $100 fine.”

My insta-repsonse was, “No f*****g Way!!”

But sure enough, there is the print out, with pics, fuzzy blurred enlargement of a white license plate with the same number as mine….

On a green Ford Expedition…

At an intersection somewhere in Illinois, called “SW Hwy and Harlem Ave”…..

On Dec. 2nd at approximately 11:57 a.m.

Funny – I drive a white Ford Explorer with a license plate that has green mountains at the top and I haven’t been within 500 miles of Illinois since 2007.

But, still and all, I’ve gotten a ticket for running a red light….

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The Chicago Illinois Red Light Violation Enforcement system has a website.   You can go there, put in your violation number and look at all their “evidence”.  Which is handy, because my “Dismiss these Charges Immediately, Ya Dork” letter benefited from having Attachment A showing a dark green Ford Expedition and Attachment B showing my white Ford Explorer (with, I might add, a CU Buffs decal in the back window…and not as fancy of rims as their pic shows….and my car is dirtier…..)

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Fortunately, I was at acupuncture at the time the violation occurred and Hubby was at training with 50 other law enforcement officers, so we also have verifiable alibis.

Still, I’m torqued.   An hour of my time to write my “I’m innocent” letter, take pics, copy and paste said pics, locate their image of violation vehicle online, etc.    Add to that the cost of Certified Mail (ya don’t think I’m stupid enough to mail something to a bureaucracy without proof it arrived, do ya?), the paper and ink costs, plus I enclosed an addressed envelope for them to send my requested Written Confirmation of Dismissal notice.   I DID NOT put a stamp on the envelope, because their enclosed envelope didn’t include postage, so why should mine?

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I objected to the camera enforcement at intersections when it first started.   And I still object.

Now I just have firsthand evidence of why we should all object.

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UPDATE: 05/03/11 – Sometime about 3 weeks ago (April time frame) I received notification the charges had been ‘dismissed’ – they did not use the envelope I had included.   They did not say why it was necessary for me to respond prior to December 17th (15 days for me to do my stuff) but it took them nearly 5 months to investigate and mail me the dismissal.  They also did not say my name/date of birth was in the clear, just that my vehicle was.

Que-Sera, Sera…..

Christmas Traditions

This morning I stumbled to start coffee and started checking emails on my phone.   One from my Mom, Subject line: Love You

Opening it, I gaze upon a short message: “Morning kiddos.   Have a good day.  Luv you bunches.”

Hmmm…. Is Mom feeling the spirit of the season intensely this a.m. or is she perhaps feeling the voids left by those of our family recently lost and trying to fill it through extra loving?

Then I scroll down and see the P.S.:

“I know what you’re getting for Christmas”

Aha!  The whole blinking email was a front for her favorite Christmas tradition – Singing “I know what you’re getting for Christmas”.

I couldn’t resist – I replied with:

“Dear Madam,

We regret to inform you that you will receive nothing for Christmas, as the strain of anticipation and trying to guess what they were getting for Christmas, coupled with their embarrassment at not knowing what everyone else seems to know, has left your loved ones bedridden- unable to shop, sew or craft.

Sincerely,
Council of Physicians-North Pole”

I admit, my family knows how to get the full measure of Christmas jollies in a myriad of economical ways….

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Each year, around this time, I think back to past Christmases.   Especially since the passing of my Dad and my oldest son.   Each season, I sink into the wishful thinking  that they will magically appear and I’ll find the past three years were really just a bad dream, from which I awoke to find my whole family assembled for the holidays.  We shall laugh and joke about what a dweeb I am for having such horrific dreams.

To save myself from this obvious waste of wishing energy, I instead focus on my favorite Christmas memories, of which I have quite a few.   And, interestingly enough, few of them have to do with “out of this world” gifts, although if you would count the man hours and love put into some of the gifts I have received, I would estimate that I’ve been the recipient of some of the most expensive gifts in the world.

Mostly, my memories revolve around events and the people who perpetrated them – – Here’s a list:

  • You always knew what gifts Dad got for you – they were either wrapped in the bag from the store, or secured with gray tape.
  • Coming up with funny little poems and short stories to attach to gag gifts or explain the gift that didn’t make it through the postal system in time to arrive for Christmas.
  • Keeping Christmas Eve dinner warm, waiting for the bachelor of the group to finish his Christmas shopping and get back to the house.
  • Positioning each ornament, just so, to get the resultant, “Oh sis, your tree is sooooo pretty” from my Mom.   Years when we have not had Christmas at my house, she still travels sometime during the season, just to admire my tree.   She understands that her admiration of it is part of my Christmas gifts.   I understand the sacrifices she makes to give me that gift.
  • Making cookies and then threatening the men in my house with their lives if they eat all of them before company arrives.   And slugging back into the kitchen to make second and third batches….
  • The gift of cooking, cleaning and support the men in my house never fail to give me when, despite my best planning, I’m furiously finishing crafted gifts the last 3 days before company arrives….And the forgiveness from them when I’m cranky from sewing or hot-gluing 20 hours straight….

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Interestingly, my least fond memory is the year we were in high cotton and I giddily shopped til I dropped, getting everything I could think of for the boys.    Sadly, on Christmas morning, they were worn out 1/2 way through opening and just wanted to play with their new things.   Family members kept saying, “No, you can play with that later, you need to open this one…”   This was especially traumatic on the two-year old.

I’ve never made that mistake again, even in years when I could have afforded too….

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This year, Mom and I started giving each other gifts when we got them.   Her afghan to match her new couch has been in use since Thanksgiving, instead of waiting for her to open it on her birthday, which is 2 days before Christmas.  And I’m using the new kitchen tools she picked up for me…

But we can’t quite get away from the traditions of teasing, “I know what you’re getting for Christmas” and insisting there must be something under the tree on Christmas morning….

Long live Christmas traditions.

 

Really Supporting Our Troops

Last week I was introduced to a friend of a friend – who spent 12 years in the Air Force – who is very proud of his service and REALLY on the Freedom Bandwagon.   He also spent some time in the service of Air Force One – –  (he can’t really talk about it, but he had an opportunity to be around those near the top – maybe, maybe not, but who am I to say?)

He and I have differing points of view on many things, but there was one statement I made that received a high-five from him:

“If we, as a nation, would modify our daily lives to be less dependent on foreign goods/resources, I don’t think we would be ‘going to war’ quite as often as we do.”

Where we parted ways, was his passion to bring Freedom to folks in other countries who were in danger of getting shot if they spoke their mind.   While I, too, wish all humankind the freedoms we have here, history tells me we often to go to war protecting our rights/interests FIRST (if we can free the local populace from tyranny at the same time, then that’s just icing on the cake.)

Yes, I’m cynical – but truly, there are evils and oppression, starvation and disease every day of  the week – all around the globe – I do not believe “Spreading Freedom” is always our first agenda for military action in other countries – Until I have some kind of reassurance that REALLY is the first reason, well, then, I’m cautious about getting on the Freedom bandwagon.

Since all the data around wars doesn’t fully come to light until everyone responsible for starting them has been dead 20 or more years, I don’t know when I’ll have all the info I most need in order to gauge whether my cynicism is well founded or not.

But given my current perspective, I believe most wars are started over resources – With all the resources we have here in this country, I have to ask, what could we possibly need from somewhere else?   From the freedom to innovate (one of Mr. Air Force’s main points) to Sunshine, Wind and Water, we have so many opportunities in this country to be at the forefront sustainable living – of utilizing the resources in our own back yard to greatest effect AND then sharing our extra with those less fortunate than we.

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Until we, as Americans, decide to make changes in our daily lives that transition us to living within our local means – –  there will continue to be a host of holidays where many families will do without their military loved one’s presence.

And there will be more funerals.

And in the end, were they fighting for the basic human rights each individual deserves?

Or were they fighting to make sure I can drive my SUV next week?

Let’s give our gallant lads and ladies a gift this Christmas – let’s vow to consume less, get our consumables locally and support companies with the same ideals.  Let’s take our Freedom to Innovate and create affordable options to utilize solar, wind and geo-thermal resources.

Let’s have everyone home by next Christmas.