Thursday, December 30, 2004

Yet taught by time, my heart has learned to glow,
For other's good, and melt at other's woe.


I was discussing the Tsunami crisis with a co-worker and at one point she made the comment “ I know that good comes out of bad things, but it is hard to think what good can come from this.”
I began to think about that the following day and along these lines I began to consider what good can come first, from our family.
My son Matt is there with a job of photographing the good work of the aid workers and I know helping in any way he can. That began the process of thinking what can we under my roof do.
I began by thinking that my Grand-daughters should be aware of the crisis and can help out by prayer and giving in addition to sharing the world’s grief. We watched the news together and it brought up questions which we discussed.
We researched which charity has low administrative costs to give our share too.

As Christians, and not just Christians, we all support the hope of unity in the world and talk of how we care about others. This is our opportunity to demonstrate that concern and support the relief effort in all the ways we are able.
I’m optimistic that even in the midst of this horrid tragedy, countless thousands will shelter themselves, nourish themselves, drink pure water, have their wounds attended to by a world that supports and sympathizes with them, regardless of their race or belief system.

The earthquake was huge and it sent water flooding over land,..... but for a day.
As I watch and listen to the world’s response I think we will see a quake far greater in a flood of giving, caring, praying, that will flood the land with a far greater swell and far longer flood.
As parents take this time to teach their children to share in giving and as people from all countries send their gifts, prayers and sympathies, the brotherhood of man may be bound tighter than ever before. In a time when rivalry and differences among countries, parties and race seem to divide, I think the earthquake of care reverberating across the world may be the greatest memory.

Monday, December 20, 2004

1890's Humor

Mark Twain, Bill Nye, and James Whitcomb Riley were contemporaries. Bill and James were close friends. All three were well known wits of their time. This story is told by Bill Nye and if you have never heard of him this will give you a good idea of his humor.

His Garden

I always enjoy a vegetable garden, and through the winter I look forward to the spring days when I will take my cob pipe and hoe and go joyously afield.
I like to toy with the moist earth and the common squash bug of the work-a-day world. It is a pleasure also to irrigate the garden, watering the sauerkraut plant and the timid tomato vine as though they were children asking for a drink. I am never happier than when I am engaged in irrigating my tropical garden or climbing my neighbor with a hoe when he shuts off my water supply by sticking an old pair of pantaloons in the canal that leads to my squash conservatory.
One day a man shut off my irrigation that way and dammed the water up to such a degree that I shut off his air supply, and I was about to say dammed him up also. We had quite a scuffle. Up to that time we had never exchanged a harsh word. That morning I noticed that my early climbing horse-radish and my dwarf army worms were looking a little peaked, and I wondered what was the matter.
I had been absent several days and was grieved to notice that my garden had a kind of blasé air, as though it needed rest and change of scene.
The Poland China egg-plant looked up sadly at me and seemed to say: ”Pardner, don’t you think it’s a long time between drinks?” The watermelon seemed to have a dark brown taste in its mouth, and there was an air of gloom all over the garden.
At that moment I discovered my next-door neighbor at the ditch on the corner. He was singing softly to himself;
O, yes, I’ll meet you;
I’ll meet you when the sun goes down.
He was also jamming an old pair of Rembrandt pants into the canal, where they would shut off my supply. He stood with his back towards me, and just as he said he would “meet me when the sun goes down,” I smote him across the back of the neck with my hoe handle, and before he could recover from the first dumb surprise and wonder, I pulled the dripping pantaloons out of the ditch and tied them in a true-lover’s knot around his neck. He began to look black in the face, and his struggles soon ceased altogether. At that moment his wife came out and shrieked two pure womanly shrieks, and hissed in my ear; “You have killed me husband!”
I said, possibly I had. If so, would she please send in the bill and I would adjust it at an early day. I said this in a bantering tone of voice, and raising my hat to her in the polished way of mine, started to go, when something fell with a thud on the greenward!
It was the author of these lines. I did not know till two days afterward that my neighbors wife wore a moiré antique rolling-pin under her apron that morning.
I did not suspect it till it was too late. The affair was kind of hushed up on account of the respectability of the parties.
By the time I had recovered. The garden seemed to melt away into thin air.
My neighbor had it all his own way, and while his proud holly hocks and Johnny-jump-ups reared their heads to drink the mountain of water at the twilight hour, my little low-necked, summer squashes curled up and died.

Most every year yet I made a garden. I pay a man $3 to plow it. Then I pay $7 for garden seeds and in July I hire the same man at $3 to summer-fallow the whole thing while I go and buy my vegetables of a Chinaman named Wun Lung.
I’ve done this now for eight years, and I owe my robust health and rich olive complexion to the fact that I’ve got a garden and do just as little in it as possible.
Parties desiring a dozen or more of my Shanghai egg-plants to set under an ordinary domestic hen can procure the same by writing to me and enclosing lock of hair and $10.

Friday, December 17, 2004

"Pity is a state of kindness excited by the sight of suffering." H.W. Beecher

Beecher has a way of defining things like few others I know. I have always felt the emotions one feels when sympathizing with a sufferer a very difficult thing to describe. The situations can be so grim but in the midst of it is a longing to be where the suffering abide. When I read this quote
"a state of kindness" it seemed so clear to me. Suffering humanity draws out, compels us, to do something kind to that suffering person. Even the most hardened person is drawn into that 'state of kindness' when viewing suffering or sorrow. The 'state of kindness' not only brings consolation to the injured but it is a medicine to us. We are lifted even though we are in the most distressing circumstances. A bitter, sweet frame of mind.
I can enter that state when I see dramatic needs, but I suspect the goal is to recognize quiet suffering with more and more sensitivity.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

This Mornings Muse

I had an interesting morning which started out considering the following piece.
In an effort to make the most out of life, and pass along any tidbits that I think will enhance the lives of those I love, I delved into the feelings that this piece triggered in me. It comes from a book called “The Simple Life” by Charles Wagner.
It was written around the turn of the century, surprise, surprise, and it is antiquated in many ways but this paragraph spoke to me as he recounted the joy in the simple festivals that country folk enjoy. He contrasts that with the commercial.

“Compare one of those out-door festivals of the good old style with one of the village festivals, so-called modernized. On the one hand, in the respected frame of secular customs solid countrymen sang their songs of the country, danced the country dances, in their peasant’s attire, drank their native drinks, and seemed to completely enjoy themselves. They amused themselves like the blacksmith at his forge, as the cascade falls, as the colts bound in the meadow. It is contagious and wins your heart. In spite of oneself one says; “Bravo! Children; that is just right.” We would ask to be of the party.
On the other hand, I see villagers disguised in “citizens” ; peasants rendered ugly by the dressmakers, and as a principle ornament of the festival a gathering of degenerates, who bawl concert-hall songs; and, sometimes, holding the place of honor, a few strolling actors of the tenth class come for the occasions, to smooth off the rougher points of these rurals, and to permit them to taste of refined pleasures. For drinks, liquors based on alcohol made from potatoes or absinthe. There is no originality or picturesqueness in all of it.
Of gay abandon, perhaps, and vulgarity, but not the abandonment which brings innocent pleasure.”

Now my dilemma is that I am an equal mix of the two styles he comments on.
I enjoy those that bawl out concert-hall songs, and the strolling actors intrigue me. That being said, the old style festival brought to mind certain images to me that satisfy something deep in my soul. I would liken his ‘old style’ festivals to the local Farmers Market. There is an effort to make them in keeping with those of old. Music is folk or country with all acoustical instruments or the like. No knick-knacks, or merchandise not in keeping with the spirit of the season and theme.
I very much like the environment, it has a true simplicity with ruddy faced farm children helping their parents sell their produce, lots of denim and flannel, strong weather worn hands abound.
That thought led me to other like experiences and I drifted off to the ‘October Fest’ in Mt Angel. This is a German affair with authentic dances, attire and food.
Again it is a simple production with the crescendo being the dance around the May Pole. Having German blood in me, I thought I felt a twinge of kinship rise in me from time to time as I watched little blonde haired, blue-eyed girls with braided hair skip and smile.
While visiting Mt. Angel we ventured up to a Catholic Church that had all day long entertainment inside. We walked in the breath taking sanctuary, past the Holy Water and into the warm rich light that the towering stained glass windows provided. There was a lone woman singing with a rich clarion voice. She put a spell on me as the beauty of her simple voice rang out songs like Danny Boy and other Irish songs of culture and faith.
From there my memory took me to the ‘Garlic Festival’ another harvest time gathering. This was more of a mix of old and new but still had the flavor of the previous mentioned gatherings.
How could I forget the pumpkin patch, with hot cocoa brewing, hayrides and petting zoos of rabbits, roosters and goats. Which reminds me of the State fair and the blue ribbon quilting, giant vegetables and horse competitions. Not to mention the barn smells that at once offend and draw me.
Then I began to remember the experience of Thailand. These feelings were completely fleshed out in the genuine old culture that dominates where I visited.
It was like walking into the past and I felt right at home. The most basic needs met, to me, were filled with charm and character. From the faces, village homes to the markets, I was enraptured with each site.

So with all these thoughts filling my head I decided to look for some pithy statements that might best describe my feelings. I looked up a chapter on ' The simple life' and began to read.
I found most of the thoughts brought out the dilemma of finding purpose in life and I turned a corner as I read this first quote—

“ We must not look for a golden life in an iron age.” John ray.
That kind of popped my bubble but it fits my reality and so on I went in search of more.
“ We live merely on the crust or rind of things.” J.A. Froude
That fits as well; obviously I can’t live at the Farmers market but better to enjoy the crust than nothing at all.

“ Ones real life is so often the life one does not lead.” O. Wilde.
That resonates as well; my day-to-day life is spent in an office or warehouse far from the farm or country. But my heart is at least in part, in the country.

A thought like it – “Real life is, to most men, a long second best, a perpetual compromise between the ideal and the possible.” B. Russell.
I couldn’t put my thoughts more succinctly. I’m not proud or thrilled to admit it but my dreams have little to do with my work and my home is not nestled where I would choose. But, we do what we can. Maybe that thought is spoken somewhere?
How about – “ We live, not as we wish, but as we can.” Menander
Yep, that about says it. We go where the money is to raise a family and make compromises for the whole, not just ourselves. Don’t we?
After all—“ There is one reason we cannot complain of life; it keeps no one against his will.” Seneca
True, dreams or not I’m not checking out.

Now I read a quote with some purpose to it, which I need about now.
“ Life is a mission. Every other definition of life is false, and leads all who accept it astray. Religion, science, philosophy, though still at variance upon many points,
all agree in this, that every existence is an aim.” Mazzini

So what was my aim again? I get kind of lost in all this but there are a few things I can say with certainty, or someone else can say it for me….
“ The poorest way to face life is with a sneer.” T. Roosevelt.
Sometimes I find myself doing this, with all I have to be thankful for? Still, it happens.

“ Life is made up of sobs, sniffles, and smiles, with sniffles predominating.” O. Henry
I got a chuckle out of that and there are seasons of my life where it was so true.

Then I read this quote and it really spoke to me;
“ Life consists in what man is thinking of all day.” Emerson
I like that. Most of what we experience in life is in our mind, or in my case my mouth, and it sparked a thought that there are many things I could do with my mind while at work. I could learn a new language. I wanted to learn Thai so I could talk with Nic, or I could learn Spanish with our Hispanic population growing.
I could memorize scripture. Anyway, I spend most of my mental energy during the day on trifles. What a waste.

Well, that was then end of my morning search on the subject but I wanted to read a little in the Bible so I turned to John and my eyes fell on this verse—
“I am the light of the world, Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
“The light of life” that just beamed out at me. That’s what I want, that light. Festivals are fun, travel is fine, smiles or sniffles are a part of life, but let me have the Light of Life.

Wednesday, December 08, 2004

The power of habit

Sir James Paget tells us that a practiced musician can play on the piano at the rate of twenty-four notes a second. For each note a nerve current must be transmitted from the brain to the fingers, and from the fingers to the brain. Each note requires three movements of a finger, the bending down and raising up, and at least one lateral, making no less than seventy-two motions in a second, each requiring a distinct effort of the will, and directed unerringly with a certain speed, and a certain force, to a certain place.
Some can do this easily, and be at the same time busily employed in intelligent conversation.
Thus, by obeying the law of habit until repetition has formed a second nature, we are able to pass the technique of life almost wholly over to nerve centers, leaving our minds free to act or enjoy.

Man's life-work is a masterpiece or a botch, according as each little habit has been perfectly or carelessly formed.
Orison S. Marden
By experience we find out a shorter way
by a long wandering.
Learning teacheth more in one year
than experience in twenty. Roger Ascham.
Pride goeth forth on horseback grand and gay,
But cometh back on foot, and begs its way.

Thursday, December 02, 2004

Here is a letter written by Abraham Lincoln to Mrs. Bixby, of Boston, Massachusetts, which is declared to be the most perfect piece of composition ever penned.
It is dated from the Executive Mansion, November twenty first, Eighteen Hundred Sixty-four;

Dear Madam; I have been shown in the files of the War Department a statement of the
Adjutant-General of Massachusetts that you are the mother of five sons who have died
gloriously on the field of battle. I feel how weak and fruitless must be any attempt to beguile you
from the grief of a loss so overwhelming.
But I can not refrain from tendering to you the consolation that may be found in the thanks of
the Republic they died to save. I pray that our Heavenly Father may assuage the anguish of
your bereavement, and leave you only the cherished memory of the loved and lost, and the
solemn pride that must be yours to have laid so costly a sacrifice upon the alter of freedom.

Yours very sincerely and respectfully, Abraham Lincoln.

Wednesday, December 01, 2004

I did not think that because I had done wrong
I ought not to do right. -- H.W. Beecher

The heart dwindles in contact with small things and
narrow interests; but when brought into harmony with
great ideas, striving for great ends, with strong feeling
excited and pouring upon the alter of success the most
costly and precious sacrifices, then the human heart,
developing the germ of immortal nature, rises to the
height of the loftiest ideas, and enlarges to the compass
of the broadest principles. -- Geo. M. Robeson

Just Hush

Let your words be few, especially when your
superiors or strangers are present, lest you
betray your own weakness, and rob yourself
of the opportunity which you might otherwise
have had to gain knowledge, wisdom and
experience by hearing those whom you silenced
by your impertinent talking. -- Sir Matthew Hale
The strongest plume in wisdom's wing
Is memory of past folly. -- Coleridge