Pulling Water from the Air

Emptying my dehumidifier 4 or 5 times a day into my toilet, got my creative juices going. At 1st thought of building toilet tank into a dehumidifier. Then, about filtering the water for drinking water. Then checked areas of the world with water shortage, and the average humidity for those areas. Turns out many had average humidity of 70. Why not pull water out of the air, rather than pipes from dams? Also use solar power for them. Further searching turned up directions for building one for oneself. But I wonder about doing it for entire communities. More details about this tomorrow, but I’d appreciate feed-back.



Good or Bad? – Thinking Makes It So!

“there is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so.” –Shakespeare, ‘Hamlet’

I’m not a Pollyanna person who can look at another person suffering, and then just smile at how wonderful life is.  I just acknowledge the truth of what is, and if it’s something I don’t like, I try to maintain enough awareness to think creatively about what I can do to help alleviate that person’s suffering. What’s good about the situation? I feel good about the opportunity to help a fellow human. I try not to waste a lot of time making up stories about who’s to blame. Perhaps, later I might spend do some creative thinking to assess how such situations might be prevented. But, for the moment, my full awareness is best applied to solving the problem of this person in front of me.

I’m writing this while waiting for my car to be repaired. I had planned this to be a short visit to Home Depot. But while crossing the causeway about 2 miles from my home, lots of smoke started billowing from the hood of my 2003 Hyundai. I pulled over immediately, shut off the engine and assessed situation. After a short time, smoke cleared and I opened the hood, just long enough to realize something had bust and sprayed water over engine. Tried engine again, which started, so I drove slowly over bridge and continued to “Tires Plus” just before smoke started again. Waiting to hear mechanic’s diagnosis, I tried my best to practice mindfulness exercises. After being told the need for over $700 in repairs, I didn’t see many viable options.

So, it’s about 2 hours later and I’m waiting on a shady bench outside large shopping mall parking lot, after buying a writing pad at Publix. What’s good about situation??? It’s a beautiful day.  Nice breeze, and I’ve got time to express my thoughts on paper.

On the walk to the mall, I stopped along the way to look more closely at a beautiful yellow dandelion. But when I put on my reading glasses for a closer look, I noticed the flower had damaged spots on its petals — not quite as beautiful as when my flawed vision filled it the blind spots. And its surrounding area had lots of mite-sized insects.

Moved on by a computer repair shop I had never noticed before in this otherwise familiar area. Went inside, discovered lots of used computer stuff, services for which I might have a future need, and a great place to recycle years of the electronic clutter in my house. Also, had interesting conversation with clerk sharing our experiences with the growth of computers over the last 50 years. He had learned Fortran and Cobol in classes at FIT. I explained that I had been part of a group discussion on what “words” should be used in COBOL (Common Business Language for computer programmers) about 60 years ago.

But back to the “Good & Bad” of any situation. Due to age-related dementia, last month I got mixed up with dates for the Florida Pre-Burn, and ended up driving 2 hours to Lakeland a full week before it opened.  I quickly realized I was not going to spend a lot of time beating myself up with stories about why this shouldn’t have happened. Instead, I assessed the reality of the situation (I’m in Lakeland!), and what’s good about that.

Well, I remembered that Lakeland was the home of Florida Southern University, which has the largest ‘collection(?)’ of Frank Lloyd Wright buildings in the world, and is reputed to have the most beautiful campus in the country.  I had briefly started studying architecture at collage in the 50’s, and Wright was (and still is) considered one of the best architects in the world. Some 30 years ago I had visited the chapel he designed there, but had often entertained the idea of revisiting — particularly since Aaron had told me he was considering studying architecture in college.  Also, my good friend, Roy Lykes, had a relative for whom Wright had built on the top of a hill outside Phoenix. I had seen often from afar when I lived there. Also, I had known Ethel Marden and Wright’s site architect, when Ethel and her husband Luis were having their Wright home built near Chain Bridge in Virginia overlooking the Potomac.  Got to visit it several times while being built, as well as when complete. But never got to meet Luis, who seemed to constantly be on long, long trips for the National Geographic. I still enjoy looking at pictures of these homes on the Internet. One can easily Google them for ‘Lykes home’ and ‘Marden home’. Gorgeous structures with beautiful views!

Anyway, the ‘mistake’ turned out to be a much appreciated detour in my life. And I would cast my vote for FL Southern’s campus being he most beautiful I have seen. Unfortunately, a private university and too pricey ($35K/yr) for Aaron. But would recommend his visiting, if only for a short time en-route to Tampa or St. Pete.

Walked back to “Tires Plus”, and paid almost $800 to get car back. Clouds seem to be moving in, but sun still out, and I’m still here!

So, if I knew that this day were the last day of my life, would I want to change something? STOP! NOT GOING THERE! “When I argue with reality, I lose! But only ‘always’!” – Byron Katie


Biased Reaction to “Danish Girl”?

I’ve realized for years that all humans, including myself, have biases —  some of which we don’t realize we have. For myself, I even tend to deny possessing the well-acknowledged bias toward explanations supporting what I already believe. I claim to regard “truth” with the reverence of a deeply-ingrained religion, and learning that I am wrong enables me to rid myself of another barrier to finding ultimate truths. Today, I felt like I had achieved an additional insight into one of my biases regarding “gender change”.

I like to think of myself as being very “open minded” regarding other people’s behaviors. I sort of assume that others, like me, are doing the best they can — considering the many factors that go into making decisions — even questioning just how much control any of us have over such decisions. The more I learn about the functioning of our brains, the less control I realize we actually have.  Though I’ve decided that if we are to have any kind of civilization, it’s necessary to assume individuals do possess some degree of control over their behavior.

In general, I believe that everyone should have the right to live their life however they choose, as long as they do not endanger others and grant others the same freedom. My personal belief, however, is that it is a mistake to argue with reality, which includes accepting the body I’m born with. As in most card games we play, we don’t get to choose the hand we’re dealt. However, since science has discovered new rules, people do have some options to change their bodies in different ways. And I think they are entitled to do so, though I have considered it distasteful myself. At least, that’s how I felt until I got more direct information from a trans-gender person. That info came in a Shepherd Center course for seniors I took last year. The course was on “The Human Brain”, using DVD recordings from “The Great Courses”. It included discussions with Charlie Rose, several neuro-psychologists and a trans-gender person who had undergone the transformation. I remember that one class definitely made a significant change in my understanding and empathy for that changed person. Oddly enough, and I found it hard to believe myself, but I could not yesterday remember this person’s gender, before or after. I’ve become used to my age-related (84yo) moments of dementia, and the important point was that it was a “gender change”, regardless of whether it was man-to-woman or woman-to-man. But last night I watched “The Danish Girl”, and realized I did not feel as empathetic toward the central character, who is a woman biologically born a man. I wondered why I felt differently than I had felt following the course. If both changes were man to woman, then my reactions must be due to my feelings about the person. But if person I learned about in the class was originally a woman, then my reactions might be due to my bias. Justified or not, I find it easier to empathize with a woman wanting to be a man, than a man wanting to be woman. I grew up with 3 older sisters, and quickly learned that men were given privileges over women. Although, I had a few brief thoughts about female privilege. One was more flexibility in taste — at least in my small mid-western town. I loved music much more than most guys, did not like fighting, or most sports. But the latter was due more to a lack of body-coordination and being too cerebral and self-conscious in learning. Last to be picked by team. I was trying too hard to be what I was supposed to be, so I did identify with that aspect. But I was not disappointed with the result. I went out for football in high school, and made the team,  playing tackle (much heavier then, and didn’t need much athletic talent), and got to go steady with beautiful cheer-leader. Lots of fun most of my life!

I did check on the Internet today about the trans-gender person in the course. His name is now Dr. Ben Barres (born Barbara Barres, in 1955), a Stanford neuroscientist. On the one hand, that does seem to support my male bias, but it may just be that he’s much easier to like, and more believable than the “Danish Girl”. The wife and friend in the movie were very likable, but I couldn’t understand what attraction they found in “Lily”.  Great acting job, but if I were creating the person in fiction, I would have given him/her some special unique attractive special trait. I guess I’m relating to some special gay friends I’ve had, who all had some very likeable unique traits that had nothing to do with their sexuality. Consequently, their sexuality is simply as unimportant to me as it is with any of my friends. I’m not saying sexuality isn’t important, any more than relieving one’s body waste isn’t important. But it has nothing to do with my relationships with them. Similarly, I like the freedom I feel being nude, but it’s not important enough for me to join a nudist colony. I don’t want to choose my friends based on what they are wearing or not wearing. In fact, I used to make it a point to do something different every year, and one year it was to join a nudist colony. Quickly learned not to automatically associate nudity with sex. But that experience probably deserves another blog page. Scatter-brain!




GITIAG — God, If There Is A God !

For all my skepticism about believing in the Christian God I was taught (almost ‘brain-washed’) to believe in Catholic Grade school, I often find myself thinking, with some conviction, grateful thoughts like: “Thank God!” Often, before a meal, or after spending time with my family, or dear friends, and often it’s my first thought as I awaken, and realize I’ve been afforded another day in a comfortable and joyful life! But, then I remind myself that I didn’t really believe, and feel a twinge of guilt for my lack of integrity. So, one of those mornings, I decided it was a different God I wanted to thank than the God I was taught.  I could rename him, GITIAG, “God, If There Is A God”. Those were the words I used in the last prayer I remember praying. It went something like this:
“Dear God, if there is a God, you know my mind( You know I am willing to serve you, if only you turn off this brain of mine! But I feel compelled to listen to it! Why would you give me this power to use critical thinking, and then expect me not to use it? If you’re all-powerful, you are certainly capable of providing more credible evidence. In the absence of such evidence, I’m saying, “Good-bye!”.
It had taken many years after first giving myself permission to doubt, to come to this resolution. But I felt much better after sending my last formal message. It was much like I have ended a few other relationships — with a tinge of sadness, but with a healthy inner resolve that I was doing the right thing for both parties — ending something that was destructive not only to me, but to the other person as well.
I plan on writing my own funeral service on this blog, so friends and family won’t have to hop on a plane to come to an affair I’m not going to be attending as well.. I’d rather they come see me while I’m still alive to appreciate them. But I’d like them to read the following after I die:  It’s from “Tao Te Ching” translated by Stephen Mitchell, who prefaces with “If I haven’t always translated Lao-tzu’s words, my intention has always been to translate his mind.” :

The Master gives himself up
to whatever the moment brings.
He knows that he is going to die,
and he has nothing left to hold on to:
no illusions in his mind,
no resistances in his body.
He doesn’t think about his actions;
they flow from the core of his being.
He holds nothing back from life;
therefore he is ready for death.
as a man is ready for sleep
after a good day’s work.


Hypothesis: God “IS” Reality!

Hypothesis: God “IS” Reality!
There is a “reality” (what is; truth!) that exists independently of “perceptions of reality” (in human brains interpreting signals from their senses).
This “reality” is constantly changing, and is different in different places.(May be raining here today, but not tomorrow, or raining here, but not there.)
True Science is the search for “reality”.
If there is a God who created “reality” (Truth), He is part of that “reality.”
Therefore, “True Science” includes a search for God.
God would want us to know Him.
Therefore, there should be no conflict between belief in Science and a belief in God, if there is a God.

Personally, I find it impossible to believe in the ‘all too human’ Christian God, who finds me faulty from birth and needs me to change. Perhaps, and I only propose this as a hypothesis, God “IS” reality, which includes humans, as well as everything else in the universe (animals, cancer cells, planets, etc.), rather than separate entities (neither God creating man, nor man creating God), and nothing being good or bad, “but thinking makes it so” (as per Shakespeare’s Hamlet).

Think a “good” tennis serve. “Good” for you, “Bad” for your opponent. Think a “bad” cancer cell. “Bad” for you; “Good” for cancer cell. Maybe God doesn’t choose sides. When a woman has a miscarriage, does that mean God performed am abortion. Why? Did God make a mistake? He seems to be the world’s biggest abortionist! Who are we to judge that God? Who gets to make up the rules? Certainly, not I?

But, if I’m going to believe in God, I’m gonna think big! I’m not going to believe He has the same frailties as us humans. Nor does He have the same values! If he makes lions with a more powerful body than mine, I’ll avoid fighting lions, and develop my brain to learn how to live in a world that has lions. And if I notice he makes plants that get fed grow bigger than those that don’t get food, I’ll learn to feed the plants I like best. In other words, I’m going to learn about God by observing how “reality” works (aka “TRUTH”) — not pretend that I can make it be “fair”, the way children say the world “should be”! And I’m certainly not going to believe everyone who says there’s something wrong with me, and I need to buy whatever they’re selling to get better— be they “Super Bowl” commercials, or Evangelists! If, in the 21st century, God doesn’t know how to get messages to me other than bibles with more contradictions than words, he underestimates his own creation.

Thinking About Thinking

I’m still not sure you get it!
It seems so simple to me, and yet I sort of understand, and even empathize. I was brought up to believe it was important to get other people to like me. And it wasn’t hard. I even enjoyed it. But somewhere along the way, I was able to experience the joy of true freedom — the freedom to bare myself completely in front of others! Not even caring if they believed me or not! I’m not even sure I believe myself what comes out of my mouth. It’s like taking a good shit, particularly after a spell of constipation! Gets rid of the waste matter, and frees my mind to be filled with new stuff!

I enjoy the act of thinking. Sometimes, it’s sparked by an original insight, but often it comes from running across something an author writes. A particularly important example for me, was when I first found a quote of Mark Twain: “Life does not consist entirely, or even mainly, with events that happen, but rather with a stream of thoughts that go through one’s mind!” It struck me immediately as a very profound truth — a truth which most would probably acknowledge as true, but ignore in reassessing its implications on our behavior. I was studying psychology at the time, and began questioning the wisdom of how we treat psychological problems. Perhaps we were spending too much time trying to change behavior, rather than helping us “get over the hurt” simply by changing our thinking. A child falls and skins his knee. It bleeds, he cries, it heals, and, hopefully, he learns something useful about dealing with life’s mishaps! But it’s also possible that adults, by applying their own standards to the mishap, cause the child to think more about its importance, and embedding a life-altering belief that comes more from the reaction of others than that of one’s own.

At the time I ran across the quote, I used to create my own Greeting cards, usually by adding my own quotes to pictures I would find in movie books — especially of the old silent movies! I found a picture from one of the “Laugh In” TV shows with a silly-grinned Dan Rowan strapped to a chair with electrical wires going to his head like Frankenstein. As a Xmas card, I added the above quote to the picture, and inside wrote my greeting: “May your thoughts of the season and during the new year be happy ones!”

At some later time, I happened across a very similar, but much older, quote of a Greek philosopher: “People are bothered not by what happens to them, but by their thoughts about what happens!”. For several months after, I tried unsuccessfully to remember the source of that quote. Then, one Sunday I heard it repeated by a speaker at a Unitarian Universalist church. His talk was about “The Work” of Byron Katie, which, he said, was based on this very quote of Epictetus. Immediately after I got Katie’s book, “Loving What Is!”. Practicing her exercises had such a wonderful effect on me, I was amazed at its simplicity. Simply writing down the thoughts that brought stress into my life, and then writing the answers to the simple questions she asked. I was able to be my own therapist simply by discovering my own answers — mainly that many of my thoughts were not even really true, and what bothered me about other people was something I realized I was doing myself. Much easier to find fault in others! Also, that arguing with reality it always a losing proposition. I devoured her next book as well: “I Need Your Love, Is That True?”. When I found on the Internet that she was giving one of her 9-day workshops, I decided I had to meet this amazing person. Driving down to Miami, I didn’t even feel as though I had any personal problem I needed to work on. I just felt compelled to meet and watch her.
I was not disappointed. Some amazing experiences. Particularly, watching her work with two opposing people with opposite opinions screaming at each other, and ending up in tears and lovingly hugging. One can watch her on http://www.thework.com . One of my favorites is with a gay guy, who’s very angry at homophobic people. Answering her simple questions, he ends up smiling at himself, for realizing his problem is that he is homophobic himself, and doesn’t have to be!

So, it was through Byron Katie that I learned about her husband, Stephan Mitchell — another amazing person who helps spread love and tolerance in this crazy world!

Rethinking the Bible – Whole vs Parts

I have far too many books, and really need to get rid of at least 75% — many still unread – very few that I’ve read from cover to cover. But, much like the photographs I still haven’t tossed, the process of scanning for final execution revives my diverse interests which motivated their original purchase. I told myself I should put aside my religious books arguing various positions, retaining only those for reference == maybe 2 or 3 bibles, one Torah, one each on the major religions, a few of Karen Armstrong’s religious history, and copies of the Bible History and Baltimore Catechism No.1 used in my Catholic grade school, as well as the 1994 English translation of Catechism of the Catholic Church sanctioned: “A sure norm for teaching the Faith” — Pope John Paul II. (Starting at age 7, I was taught by the nuns to memorize the answers to questions in the Catechism. Question #10: “How shall we know the things which we are to believe?” Answer: “We shall know the things which we are to believe from the Catholic Church, through which God speaks to us.” Other answers we memorized included: “God had no beginning; He always was and He always will be. God is everywhere. We do not see God, because He is a pure spirit and cannot be seen with bodily eyes. God knows all things, even our most secret thoughts, words, and actions. Adam and Eve did not remain faithful to God; but broke His command by eating the forbidden fruit. Through the disobedience of our first parents we all inherit their sin and punishment, as we should have shared in their happiness if they had remained faithful. Baptism is necessary to salvation, because without it we cannot enter into the kingdom of heaven. The priest is the ordinary minister of Baptism; but in case of necessity anyone who has the use of reason may baptize.”

This last point (about who can baptize) made important history about 150 years ago. At the time, the Vatican was a separate city, independent of Italy, the country surrounding it. Within that city, the law allowed Jewish people to raise their own children Jewish, but the law forbad them to raise Catholic children. A Catholic teenager who was baby-sitting for a Jewish family claimed she baptized their very sick baby boy, not expected to live. She wanted the boy to enter heaven. When the boy recovered, and the Catholic baby-sitter revealed that she had baptized him (making him no longer Jewish, but Catholic), the boy was taken from his parents and raised by the Pope’s staff. This caused an international uproar. But by the time the case was processed by the law, the boy wanted to stay with the Pope against his parents’ wishes. He not only became a Catholic priest, but came over to New York, with the specific mission of converting Jews to Catholicism. U.S. bishop refused to support him in any way, and appealed to the Pope to get him ‘out of here’. N.Y. had a large Jewish population, and we just don’t do things like that in America. I might have remembered some of the details wrong, and I can’t remember the name right now. But I got most of my information off Wikipedia, which is usually a fairly reliable. My point is that this kind of religious behavior is not ancient history. Some scientists are still trying to find a “God Gene”, because it might help explain humanity’s persistence in the God search. Personally, I don’t think it’s all that complicated. I suspect most people simply choose the same religion as their parents, with basic beliefs accepted without question. And sometimes, even in my life-time, it’s a survival question. I wouldn’t doubt that there are German Jews who became Christian just to stay alive. In Galileo’s time, it was the Inquisition. Many Americans may not even know about the Crusades, but you can be sure people in the Middle east are taught about it. Religious Wars throughout history! Protestants and Catholics killed each other. And our Native Americans were robbed of their homes and treated as savages needing to be converted to Christianity.

Got side-tracked a little, there! The point I wanted to make about books, is that, rather than a quick scan, I started reading Steven Mitchell’s “The Gospel According to Jesus — A New Translation and Guide to His essential Teachings for Believers and Unbelievers”. Reading only the first 20 pages, not only makes me want to want to keep it, but to also get his “The Book of Job”. I also have his translation of “Tao Te Ching”, but mainly because I’m a great fan of his wife, Byron Katie. She lovingly mentions him occasionally in her workshops and books. i want to write a few blogs about my experiences with her work. ( http://www.thework.com ) I had rejected my belief in the all-too=human Christian God, specifically because of my dogmatic early education, and some of the teachings in the Bible. But it turns out I’m far from alone. Mitchell writes: “No good scholar, for example, would call the Christmas stories anything but legends, or the accounts of Jesus’ trial anything but polemic fictions…No careful reader of the Gospels can fail to be struck by the difference between the largeheartedness of such passages and the bitter, badgering tone of some of the passages added by the early church. It is not only the polemical element in the Gospels, the belief in devils, the flashy miracles, and the resurrection itself that readers like Jefferson, Tolstoy, and Gandhi have felt are unworthy of Jesus, but most of all, the direct antitheses to the authentic teaching that were put into “Jesus'” mouth, doctrines and attitudes so offensive that they “have caused good men to reject the whole in disgust.” I’m reconsidering ‘rejecting the whole’ because of the parts I cannot bring myself to believe.

Steven Mitchell continues “Once the sectarian passages are left out, we can recognize that Jesus speaks in harmony with the supreme teachings of all the great religions: the Upanishads, the Tao Te Ching, the Buddhist sutras, the Zen and Sufi and Hasidic Masters. I don’t mean that all these teachings say exactly the same thing. There are many different resonances, emphases, skillful means. But when words arise from the deepest kind of spiritual experience, from a heart pure of doctrines and beliefs, they transcend religious boundaries, and can speak to all people, male and female, bond and free, Greek and Jew.”
Such thoughts give me pause!