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About this blog

As a retired college Anthropology and Death & Dying professor and a retired federal employee from various agencies I write about many subjects. My sole purpose is to stimulate and engage in conversation, similar to my blog mpardi.com  

I hope you will find the various materials interesting and worthy of your time to comment. 

Entries in this blog

Marco M. Pardi

Attention: Humans

Attention: Humans       by Marco M. Pardi        mpardi.com

 "People in our culture have a morbid tendency to avoid blame, because they do not wish to take the trouble to change their conduct in any way: blame-avoidance and blame-transference are therefore endemic amongst us. These are substitutes for repentance and renewal."

BEHAVIOR RESEARCH PROJECT (Texas) 1951

 "Man sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or the future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."

The Dalai Lama

 He who cannot dance claims the floor is uneven. Hindu saying.

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All comments welcome and provided a response.

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Humans, we recently became aware that one or more of your number published a plea that you no longer refer to solitary mass murderers as "lone wolves".  While we wolves have not seen this publication and therefore cannot give it due credit, we, the wolves, wish to enhance the theme with information and thoughts by which you, with your self declared intellectual superiority might benefit.

First, we remind you that you are animals.  Oh? Think not? What are you then, plants? Stones? We find it curious that an animal which bristles at being called an animal uses so many comparisons to other animals.  You say someone eats like a pig, is stubborn as a mule, reproduces like rabbits, and drinks like a fish. Yet you say someone is brave as a lion, has a memory like an elephant, is agile as a mountain goat, sly as a fox, wise as an owl, and noble as an eagle. Even one of your classic civilizations credited us. Remember the legend of the two infant brothers raised by one of our female wolves? Of course, when the boys grew up Romulus murdered Remus and went on to found Rome. We suspect we should have seen that coming.  But doubtless you can think of more examples.

Second, as animals you, like any other species of plant or animal exist only through the relationship you have with your environment.  Sure, you have developed endless technology to intervene between you and the normal variations and processes in "nature".  But in truth, you are the Apex Invasive Species, you are the Apex Predator on this planet.  You have spread your teeming masses to every livable continent on this planet, despoiling everywhere including Antarctica.  Your "pesticides" are found in the body fat of almost every species no matter where they are.  You claim to need these pesticides to assure your crops. Yet every year you throw out millions of tons of food before it ever reaches the market. Why? It's not aesthetically pleasing. Or, you want to ensure high prices. Your plastics are found in the dead bodies of animals you will never see.

You came into our forests, thriving ecosystems for a broad spectrum of biodiversity, and you stripped them bare for an extremely narrow ecosystem you know as pastureland to raise cattle and sheep, animals which require huge amounts of fresh water and which emit even larger volumes of deadly methane gas.  You then force these animals into slaughter houses where, if they are subject to your religious laws such as kosher or halal, you slit their throats and let them stagger around in their own blood until they collapse.  Of course, most of you don't do this; you allocate the dirty work to butchers who will wrap the meat in pretty packages for you.  You cannot stomach the reality of getting food for yourself. You eat some and throw the rest away. Our cousins, the coyotes, have long known they can subsist entirely on the dumpsters outside your restaurants and fast food joints.

You came into our forests to kill us when in fact you destroyed our food source and laid out a buffet of cattle and sheep we had little choice but to take our sustenance from. You gas our dens to kill our children so they will not grow up to sustain the balance with our prey animals such as deer and elk, animals you want to kill for your own amusement or because, having killed their natural predator they have become overpopulated.  You claim hunting is to "put meat on the table" when the money you spent on a hunting vehicle, fuel, high powered rifle and ammunition, hunting license and tags would keep meat from the local grocery store on your table for many months if not years.  No, you just enjoy feeling the power of killing an unarmed animal as in those "canned hunts" so popular in States like Texas. You kill an average of 96 African elephants a day, taking the ivory for trinkets and leaving the animal to rot.  You kill scores of rhinos yearly taking only the horn the powder of which you think will make your pitiful penises erect. You de-fin live sharks, leaving them to die a miserable death of starvation while you cook the fins for soup. You torture bulls to death, even setting their horns on fire for your amusement. And, sadly, the list goes on.

You raise populations of fur bearing animals, including "Man's best friend", in cages to electrocute them for your fur trimmed fashion garments and soft gloves made from dog skin.

You "introduced" us (we call it "returned" us) into parts of the northwest United States to show how good you are, how ecologically advanced you are. What happened?  The ecosystem quickly began recovering.  Streams that had become fast moving torrents yielding flash flooding and unsuitable conditions for fish, beavers, and a multitude of other animals began returning to a state which supports the balance of life. How so?  After you had trapped and shot us to near extinction the deer and elk were then free to wade into the wetlands, where they had been vulnerable to us as they sank a bit into the mud,  and eat the young shoots growing there.  Those shoots would have grown into the plants that stabilized the stream, keeping it from eroding the banks and making the water unlivable and dangerous.  As we returned, the deer and elk avoided those young shoots and the streams returned to a livable ecosystem.  And now you want to trap, gas, and shoot us again.      

Recently one of your "intelligent" hunters shot and killed a family therapy dog from ten feet away.  He claimed he thought it was one of us.  Apparently his only familiarity with us comes from the Big Bad Wolf type cartoons you scare your children with, just as the only familiarity so many of your self-styled "cowboys" have with cattle is the drawing of Elsie on their milk carton.

We know of no other animal which kills for enjoyment on the scale you do. You even kill each other in massive numbers.  You gut programs that help people live healthy and educated lives in favor of programs to develop even deadlier weapons for killing each other. No other animal on the face of this Earth is so consumed by and dedicated to the mass extermination of its own kind. No other animal on the face of this Earth claims divine sanction from some spiritual being as the justification for exterminating people who do not believe in or worship this particular being.     

For these reasons and many more we, the wolves, demand you cease and desist from calling your murderers, whether killers of a few or killers of many, "lone wolves".  That is a despicable slander against our good name and against our long standing place in nature.  In fact, we can think of no greater slander than calling one of us "human".

Marco M. Pardi

Enemy of the State

Enemy of the State      by Marco M. Pardi      mpardi.com

"It is not enough for a prophet to be inspired by God; he also must be informed about the world. The world and its fate are very dear to him. There is no hostility to civilization, only to its abuses." Abraham Joshua Heschel (1907-1972) The Prophets, 11, 1962

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All comments welcome and each will receive a response.

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In discussing the Anthropology of group organization and the development of political systems I distinguished between Nation and State, a commonly overlooked or misunderstood distinction. Nation refers to people of the same or very similar background and values no matter their location relative to each other. Thus, Cherokee Nation includes people in various (of the United) States or elsewhere even if they never meet. It is their demonstrable and felt ethnic solidarity which places them in the Nation, not their presence within a geo-political boundary. There can be no Nation in which there are no people.

"State" is a geographically bounded abstract.  It can be visualized as a flow chart of power and responsibilities, with each position currently empty. So, if every person left the "State of Missouri" the State would not cease to exist. It would simply not be populated, just as the chart would not be populated.

As some, not all, human groups developed from egalitarian bands to council of elders led tribes and on to single person led chiefdoms they continued to State level.  However, the continuation included the personhood of the hereditary leader first seen at the chiefdom level. Hence, the evolution of the "royal family" be it kings, pharaohs, monarchs, or emperors.  This readily provided what seemed to be a natural conflation of the person of the leader with the nature of the State.  And as all power was vested in the leader, what was good for the leader was good for the State; the obverse, of course being what was bad for the leader was bad for the State. It did not take long for the "what" to be vested in a "who". Who was good for the leader was good for the State, etc.  

That is, views whether supportive or opposing, do not spring to life sui generis; they are conceived, developed, and held by persons.  Those persons, then, are subject to judgment. And history provides a rich tapestry depicting the various degrees to which views could be freely expressed or in some fashion suppressed by "the State".

My federal career spanned nine Presidents. Each was different, but the ones from one certain Party had one thing in common: they initiated and developed all out attacks on the free press ( every medium).  Several stations were threatened with loss of license. I first saw the media attacks with Richard Nixon's henchman Spiro Agnew, later forced to resign for income tax evasion. I think this era saw the inception of the terms "liberal, left-wing media" into the American lexicon. And, of course, it was that free press which educated us regarding Nixon's attempt to cover up Watergate (though the press did not discuss Watergate's true purpose or who was behind it). 

During the Watergate investigation President Nixon's "Enemies List" came to light. But this was a personal list, a list of people who, in Nixon's mind, could do him political damage. There were no agencies or institutions listed. A strong concern at the time was whether Nixon would pressure the Internal Revenue Service to take action against his "enemies". Daniel Schorr, an Emmy winning journalist and prominent name on the list, had reason to fear for more than his bank account.

Later, as the evangelical religion industry largely absorbed this political party, sharing some of its feeding with the National Rifle Association and, covertly, with various White Supremacist groups the free press was also branded as "secular and profane".  Jerry Falwell, an architect of the mega-church televangelist industry crowed he had gotten Reagan elected. Fitting that another actor, Charlton Heston, who seemed to have never gotten over his role as Moses (Ten Commandments) became the leader and spokesperson of the NRA.  And emerging as the State "spokesperson" was, then in its infancy, FOX News, a consortium many have called The Voice of the 4th Reich.

Every subsequent president from that political party has criticized the national news media, with the exception of FOX News.  None have emerged as having kept a personal enemies list.  However, the message was clear when the man who was president during the September 11th Twin Towers attacks asserted boldly, "If you're not with us, you're against us." That covered a lot of demographics.  In fact, during this time the Director of Personnel at a federal agency in which I served asked me into his office to review a document from the White House.

It enumerated a long list of the president's priorities item by item with a space for the reader to sign each item affirming their allegiance to the president and his plans.  According to the accompanying paperwork, this was to be distributed to all personnel in that agency and returned to the White House.

I read it through and simply stated that my allegiance, as in my oath, was to the Constitution and to the people of the United States.  This document was a prolonged and exacting loyalty oath to a person.

The Director agreed and, after a few others expressed the same view, sent the document back that day. Not long after, spurious charges were leveled at the Director. Knowing my career was at risk, and why, I testified in closed hearing on his behalf.  Yet, he was unsurprisingly forced into early retirement.  The hearing was a sham.

The current president is long on record as placing personal loyalty to him above all other considerations in an underling.  And, as the underlings absorb this value they act in their turn. An example is Nick Ayers, a former Georgia Republican political consultant now Chief of Staff to the Vice President. As reported by Jay Bookman, of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, during the week of this writing Ayers "urged top Republican donors to take out anybody in the GOP who dares to question or challenge (the President), a step that would pretty much complete its transformation into a personality cult. '"Just imagine the possibilities of what can happen if our entire party unifies behind him. If - and this sounds crass - we can purge the handful of people who continue to work to defeat him."'

The attacks coming out of the White House multiply and expand daily. The United States has long been suffering from the It Can't Happen Here syndrome. The drivers of this syndrome are clever enough to segment the threats in ways beyond the ability of many Americans to connect. Stand back a moment and consider the variety of daily news grabbers, from taking a knee to bump stocks to health reform to tax reform to N. Korea to the Iran deal to castrating the environmental agencies to giving religions the power to buy elections to silencing unapproved news outlets to stripping women of their right to control their own reproductive function and on and on. A mosaic should be forming. And the world has seen it before.  

The attacks on the First Amendment are stunning. The current president is threatening the licenses of the major news networks.  They tell the truth, showing in his own words how he contradicts himself and capriciously undercuts and insults the very people he put into office. So, he calls it "fake news".

The drive to reduce or eliminate freedom of choice in reproduction is nothing more than a drive to ensure a population desperate enough to work at low wages without benefits or recourse. And, it ensures a ready pool of cannon fodder to further the Fascist aims of the Republican Party. Wrapping it in the guise of morals is a vile and simple minded hoax.

As clearly spelled out in the Constitution, the State is a structure, not a person. This State is structured to afford and guarantee the people (Nation) certain freedoms.  An enemy of the State is a person who wishes to destroy the structure.  As we see the daily efforts by the current president to regress into a society in which the Head of State IS the State/Nation, we might ask ourselves, Who is the Enemy of the State? 

Marco M. Pardi

Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

"Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep..."     by Marco M. Pardi     mpardi.com

Note: All comments are appreciated, read, and responded to accordingly.  I will certainly look forward to your comments. 

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"For those who took the initiative of killing themselves, the SS issued (Dachau 1933) a special order: prisoners who attempted suicide but did not succeed were to receive twenty-five lashes and prolonged solitary confinement. Supposedly this was to punish them for their failure to do away with themselves; but I am convinced it was much more to punish them for the act of self-determination." Bruno Bettelheim (1903-1990). In W. H. Auden, "Camps, Concentration," A Certain World: A Commonplace Book. 1971

(Suicide) is a privilege of man, which the deity does not possess."

Pliny the Elder (CE 23 - 79) In R. Whitwell, Analecta Psychiatrica, D.30, 1976.

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Some say those who advocate for the Right to Die should understand what it is to terminate life. I well understand.  Some say these advocates should have experience in speaking with people who have declared intent to end their lives.  I have that experience.  And, some say advocates should be experienced in dealing with the aftermath of self termination, expected and welcomed and/or unexpected and shocking.  I have that experience.

The recent case of Brittany Maynard, a vibrant 29 year old woman, has burst onto the media stage in ways which are both encouraging and disturbing.  It is encouraging in that, perhaps partly due to our media filled age there can be few still unaware of her circumstances and decision.  This may very well lead to a groundswell of support for legislation that provides the public and social framework for an act which is inherently a personal decision.  Disturbing because the media seem to concentrate on her youth, her recent marriage,  and largely on her physical attractiveness.  She was not a middle aged or older person emaciated from years of living immobilized in "locked in" syndrome, often but not always the end stage of Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS),.  She was not an elderly, chronically ill person who simply felt the time had come.  And, she was not a person who had little or no access to media, struggling to die quietly in some nursing home, visited by almost no one.

In the years during which I was a licensed counselor to dying individuals and their families I interacted with a very attractive young woman confined to her wheelchair with Multiple Sclerosis, a progressive demyelinating disease of the central nervous system.  A young man I attended had advanced Muscular Dystrophy, a progressively wasting disease.  Of course, unlike Brittany, one could not look at them and say "They look fine".   

Brittany's case is disturbing for those of us who have spent decades in the academic and the applied field of thanatology - death & dying, not just on its own merits, but on its contrasts to the crowds of ghosts from our pasts.

As I have said elsewhere,  my initiation into the formal study of death & dying came at the hands of a 22 year old student who, coming to me after one of our night classes, informed me she had inoperable brain cancer and no one to talk with.  That was the early 1970's.  I had noticed in her a behavioral syndrome throughout the course but could not ascertain a source.  My first question to her asked why she had no one to talk with.  Did she not have a family?  Indeed, she did.  A "country girl" from rural Central Florida she had a family of people who, when she opened her mouth about her situation ran to the family bible and began quoting chapter and verse.  They did not want to talk with her; they wanted to talk to her.  She, on the other hand, had no interest in rehashing the scriptures, seeing them as a garbled "telephone game" passed down through the centuries by tired old men.       

I did talk with her; I talked with her until she was no longer able to communicate and was relegated into the hands of the medical caregivers to allow the cancer to eat and storm its way through her cranium, cannibalizing the brain as it went.

Resistance to the right to self termination is often based in agenda driven myth and misunderstanding.  Even the word suicide, self killing, has lost its original neutrality.  That's right, it is a neutral word.  It does not imply right or wrong; it does not imply purpose.  It speaks only of an act.  Yet, for centuries it has been vilified in some societies as de facto proof of mental illness.  It has been castigated as against the will of some god figure, a sin.  It has actually been criminalized by statute in some American States and still carries the onus of criminality through the ubiquitous linguistic coupling with the word "commit", as in commit suicide, instead of the word "perform".  And, by extension, people who have been helped in the performance of this act must surely have been unduly influenced to do so, probably for personal gain.  Hence, the assistants are themselves criminalized.  Let's look at these ideas.

A central focus of my teaching has been culturally induced cognitive dissonance.  Examples abound, but interesting cases include the soldier who volunteers for a "suicide mission" and the soldier who dives onto a grenade to shield others from its blast.  In either case, when death occurs we scrape together the pieces and pin a medal on them, saying he died for the greater good.  We do not say the soldier was a suicide; we say he was a hero.  Except in extreme and rare cases we do not charge the commanding officer with influencing his men to give up their lives.  Why no War Crimes prosecutions for the simpering neo-cons who, with the exception of Colin Powell and his Deputy, evaded military service (or got a posting in the National Guard) and then lied, influenced, and coerced American youth into the invasion of Iraq and the subsequent deaths, by most international analyses, of over one million people while their company connections brought in billions of dollars? Why are they not serving life sentences in SuperMax prisons?  Interestingly, this same political party is consistently shrill about personal freedom, yet it uses every tool possible to impose Draconian legislation on personal medical choices from conception to end of life choices.  In direct contradiction of their mantra of personal freedom and self determination this group cites an invisible, unknowable, non-human entity as having dominion over mankind and as having communicated its behavioral preferences to a select few who then, by legislation, force people to continue living in horrendous circumstances which, if applied to prisoners, would swiftly bring charges of "Cruel and unusual punishment." To ensure the success of their pogrom, they extend the reach of that legislation to those who would help to relieve and end  suffering by threatening them with imprisonment and destruction of their professional careers.  In what alternate universe does that make sense?

In fighting the Affordable Care Act this party raised the specter of "Death Panels" to frighten Americans into thinking some government panel would decide Granny had to go.  The response was predictable, given the median American I.Q.  But no one thought to look at the existing death panels: the insurance company panels that decide which conditions they will cover and for how long and which medical procedures they will deem acceptable;  the FDA/Pharmaceutical Cartel panels that determine drug approval on scales including an acceptable number of adverse outcomes, including death; and,  military field commanders who devise tactical objectives partly based on "acceptable losses".  No, it was simpler to listen to a self styled "Mama Grizzly" wiggling herself from stage to stage.

This same group has tried to claim that patients in the Netherlands who chose end of life assistance were depressed, and therefore not competent to make such a choice. Aside from avoiding full disclosure of the depressing conditions which had brought them to this medical decision in the first place, the underlying presumption here seems to be that pumping these people full of psycho-active drugs (anti-depressants) somehow renders them competent to make decisions.  Benny's really pumped.  You can trust him now.  Dr.  Margaret Pabst Battin, Professor of Bioethics and Philosophy at University of Utah has published extensive rebuttals on this subject, including her research findings in Oregon and the Netherlands.  But, those writings don't make the daily news; no media cachet.  I was impressed by Brittany's rebuttal of the assertion that she was suicidal.  To paraphrase her, "I did not choose to kill myself.  Cancer chose to kill me. I am simply determining the time and the circumstances."

Judie Brown, president of the American Life League, a Catholic group, opined on Brittany's choice that "Suicide is never a good solution, regardless of the circumstances that one is confronting." Elaine Harvey, a Republican State Representative in Wyoming, said, "The big guy upstairs chooses when we go and when we stay."

Startled by the breadth and depth of alcohol related problems with dying patients and/or their families I sought and received permission to sit in on closed A.A. meetings.  Despite their disclaimer on religion, a common mantra was, "God doesn't want you to die drunk."  I barely contained myself when one old regular said, "God does want me to die drunk, as an example to my kids of what not to do."

Is there anywhere a match for the hubris encapsulated in the assertion that one knows God, and knows what this God wants?  No doubt the last speaker was addressing this issue in his way.  It came as no surprise that he was dismissed as "just kidding around."

Through the media exposure Brittany Maynard has emerged as a thoughtful, rational and deeply caring person.  Yet there are hundreds, if not thousands of Brittanys among us, perhaps not all as eloquent or as photogenic.  They, along with their loved ones are sentenced by society to weeks, months, and even years in silent agony.  I remember those with whom I interacted.  Though dead now, they are still with me.

In contrast to the frequently botched lethal injections administered to kill prisoners,  the medically supervised preparation commonly used in Oregon and other civilized places is mixed into a glass of orange juice.   The individual soon goes to sleep and the passing is marked only by cessation of vital signs.  So it should be.  

Marco M. Pardi

Here's to Females

                                                  Here's To Females   by Marco M. Pardi      MPardi.com

"Across the curve of the earth, there are women getting up before dawn, in the blackness before the point of light, in the twilight before sunrise; there are women rising earlier than men and children to break the ice, to start the stove, to put up the pap, the coffee, the rice, to iron the pants, to braid the hair, to pull the day's water from the well, to boil the water for tea, to wash the children for school, to pull the vegetables and start the walk to market, to run and catch the bus for the work that is paid, I don't know when most women sleep." Adrienne Rich. (1929 -) Notes Toward a Politics of Location. 1984

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All comments welcome

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By now most readers know I take great interest in why people choose to use the words they do. That could easily be the subject of a major book. But recently the oaf some misguided Americans put in the White House called NFL players who kneel in protest during the national anthem "sons of b****es".  I do not usually listen much to Trump's speeches or news conferences. I can get more honest and intelligent information by listening to the toilet flush.

Son of a b**** was one of the first American slang terms I learned as I was listening for rebuttals I could use against those American kids who were incessantly calling me vile names for being from Italy.  I hadn't yet discovered the term "mongrel" which would have more aptly described them.  Nor had I yet discovered the true meaning of "son of a gun", a profoundly insulting term. So son of a b**** seemed exciting, even if off the mark for some reason.

But as I thought about it I wondered why people thought a female dog, or any dog, was so terrible. I decided these were people who had little contact with or understanding of dogs.  I think too, they conflated fictitious gender based myths with females in general.  I've had several dogs, some female, and had no problems with them. Okay, one greeted guests by taking a blood sample instead of a sniff. But she was really nice.

I think it is still far more likely that negative judgments about a female will be based on gender myths than would be the case for males.  This has been true for a long time.  While Trump was enjoying his 5th draft deferment, and defending against a federal lawsuit alleging housing discrimination against Blacks, I was explaining to my Anthropology classes why, overall, human females were "as good or better" than human males in most ways. We examined the myth of the "hunter-gatherer" and found that fecal analysis clearly indicates the diet of early Man was predominately vegetable, and only supplemented occasionally with meat, much of it likely scavenged from predator kills. Women and children dominated the gathering and food preparation, as they still do today in many societies. We looked at "higher" Primates for male/female patterns and found that while the myth gives us a dominant male gathering a female harem around him the realities of ethological studies show us multiple bonded females with a solitary adult male and a few juvenile males. The males serve only two purposes: reproduction and the discouraging of predators. In sum, the male dominated sciences, especially as laid out in text books, were slow in catching up to realities.  But, as might be expected of the times (late '60's and early '70's) the discussion turned to women in combat.

Starting with the basics, physiology studies of the time - the late '60's and early '70's, showed clearly that human females expended roughly half the calories as males in performing the most of the same tasks. So, using my recent military experience and knowledge of lightened weapons and gear, I expressed my preference for a female long range penetration team to "take the lead and eliminate sniper positions and/or enemy advanced scouts". Women could go further on fewer calories ("An army travels on its stomach"); were just as good as men in marksmanship (a famous example among many being Lyudmila Pavlichenko with a confirmed 309 kills at Stalingrad); and were not at all squeamish at the sight of blood (the Israeli army quickly found that its female soldiers were far more likely to inflict brutal mutilations on captive and corpses alike).  Still, some insist they are inferior in hand-to-hand combat.  But those of us deeply familiar with such combat know speed and accuracy count for far more than blunt force. Women have it on speed and accuracy.

While I could not observe my students in hand-to-hand combat, or in marksmanship, I did observe their behavior at the sight of a human dissection. Are women really that squeamish?  The group of my Death & Dying students I brought to an autopsy was evenly divided male to female. Before the torso Y cut was finished one male passed out cold and two others were weaving.  Eventually all the males wound up on the floor.  The females, however, took advantage of the extra room at the table to press in for closer looks. So much for the guys who had boasted how experienced and tough they were.

Those who still have doubts about women in the military may want to take those doubts to U.S. Air Force Brigadier General Andrea D. Tullos, Director of Security Forces or U.S. Air Force CMSGT Tamala L. Hartz, Security Forces Directorate. They will certainly put concerns to rest.  If you send your concerns or questions to me, I will see that they receive them and I will send you their responses.

In recent decades we've seen an increase in the number of females in significant political and diplomatic roles. Of course, history enthusiasts can point to Boudicca, the Celtic warrior queen, Jean of Arc, or Queen Victoria but I am no historian.  I see various women in recent decades who have been brilliant in their political or diplomatic careers.  As I write this I think of a possible exception, Margaret Thatcher of the U.K.  I say that because she was so effusive in her praise of Ronald Reagan.  But my better Muses tell me she was playing to Reagan's puppet masters, who scripted the coherent things he had to say.  

We could easily enumerate the women CEOs, still under represented in the male dominated business world, and the outstanding actresses, still cast in "supporting" roles.  And women in all manner of science, technology, engineering, math, the arts. But I think we are on message: There is nothing lesser about being female.  

What about us ordinary people?  Referred to a top medical specialist, do we look past her when a woman enters the examining room?  Seeing our Uber driver pull up, how do we feel on seeing it's a woman?  And speaking of driving, which is more likely to scream at you, ram your car or pull a gun and shoot at you in traffic?  A woman? A man?

Okay, I guess I've made my point. But I still do not understand what is so terrible about a female dog. So I raise my glass (Tonic water & lime) to females everywhere, two and four legged alike though I would never refer to either as b****es.       

Marco M. Pardi

Mind the Gap

Mind The Gap       by Marco M. Pardi      mpardi.com

"If a little knowledge is dangerous, where is the man who has so much as to be out of danger?" T. H. Huxley, "On Elementary Instruction in Physiology." 1877

All comments welcome.

When I was growing up the term "know-it-all" was a pejorative.  Of course, God, being omniscient was a know it all, but that didn't count. Nonetheless, I wondered what is so wrong with knowing it all, and is it possible. What do people do when they don't know, what's their "fall back"?

I recently caught a few minutes of Morgan Freeman's excellent series, Through the Wormhole. This episode addressed these questions.  The essence of what I gleaned from the episode was that we have islands of what we know separated by oceans of what we don't.  Hence, the phrase "connect the dots".  But on what does that connection depend, and is it merely a leap of faith?  Many people are inclined to take that leap, often in subconscious ways.

I used a simple device to illustrate this in my classes.  On the whiteboard I drew a series of large, curved lines.  The end of each line terminated somewhere near the beginning, but not touching it.  When asked what I was doing, the majority of answering students said, "Drawing circles." I then denied drawing circles, saying I was drawing only curved lines and pointing to the gap in the line. Some may find that picky, even obsessive; but a circle is a circle, and it is so only when there is no gap in the line.

The point of the little exercise was not to embarrass anyone, but to show how commonly we leap the chasm in our everyday lives leaving us vulnerable to the next time someone challenges with, How did you get there from here?  I dreaded that question in early math classes; I could intuit the answer but not write out the formula.

But without concrete and verifiable data do we just stand on the island we know and not stretch over the horizon?   

My initial questions were not new.  Plato addressed them and concluded the universe is governed by mathematical laws which are outside the universe itself, thus making access to the laws themselves impossible and leaving us only to infer their existence from their effects.  That's pretty unsettling to a mind which desires concrete, knowable "reality".  But, that is the state of much quantum mechanics today.  Like what is said about Enlightenment, the common saying here is, "Those who say they understand quantum mechanics do not understand quantum mechanics."  Einstein summed it up by coining the phrase, "Spooky action at a distance."

The idea that the principles of ultimate reality are outside the arena we think of as reality is similar to an idea I have proposed elsewhere.  That is: If one is so inclined, one can analyze and  discover the ultimate meaning of one's life ONLY when one is certainly and irrefutably at the very end of one's life. In practice, only when there is certainty that all data (life experience) has been gathered into our journal and no more input is possible can we examine the story and decipher its meaning.  Unfortunately, too many people can't, or won't do that.

But what about the meantime?  Most of the greatest advances in my knowledge have come from realizing what I don't know, how small my islands are, how vast the ocean is.  All too commonly people say, science knows, or science will one day find out. Without actually looking to see if science has found out, if it really is known, this is an act of belief: Faith in science - scientism.  I just can't go there.

Anthropology, properly taught, touches on every aspect of what it is to be human: Astronomy through zoology.  When I began college teaching that reality really came home to me; students were asking questions related to other subjects they were taking. While it may at first seem flattering to be the Final Answer, I was fortunate to have an extraordinarily liberating moment as I, for the first time, said, "I don't know." And in that moment I realized why I disliked the term "teacher" when applied to college faculty.  The term is acceptable for K-12, but presumptuous and condescending at the college level.  I prefer the term Facilitator.  Those of you who have helped a child learn to ride a bicycle know you cannot teach a child to ride.  You can encourage, you can remove the training wheels, you can facilitate the experience by providing a safe venue and safety gear as needed.  But the discovery of successful mind/body interaction is the child's own experience.  In the same way, the college student should be encouraged, the training wheels removed, and flexibility for alternative learning styles - within understood and agreed parameters, applied when necessary.  Admittedly, this works better in some fields than others.  Nonetheless, facilitating how to learn is better than teaching what to learn.

And so we again stand at the edge of the gap, the edge of the great void of the unknown in which our knowns, our facts, taunt us like rocks across a stream, daring us to make the leap.

I first saw Mind The Gap in the London underground.  The use of mind as a verb reminded (pun intended) me of my English grandmother's habitual opening words of any advice she gave: "Mind you..........".  I secretly imagined her advising someone before drinking, "Liver you....", before someone sitting down to cabbage and beans, "Colon you....".  But I soon realized she was speaking not to a physical entity like the brain or the liver, but to the intangible, ultimately unknowable entity we refer to as someone's mind.  She was, in effect, addressing the matrix of the mind and the gap.

Again, it is certainly not new but more attention has come recently to the proposition that the universe is an ultimately comprehensive consciousness - a "hive mind".  This has nothing at all to do with the simplistic folly of a personalized god.  Rather, it seems in many ways the logical outcome of learning how macro-reality and micro-reality are simply manifestations of our choice of which end of the looking glass to peer into.  Space/Time is unmasked as the relative perceptions arising therefrom. We are in our context; we are the context for our context.  If we view the Gap as a simple void, as space was so considered until recently, we completely miss the overwhelming body of in which we exist, we miss the fabric of our context.

For millenia the traditions of Buddhism have used Koans and other devices, mistakenly called teaching tools.  They are not. They are devices to help us to realize our training wheels are off,  to realize we are living in the gap.  Unlike any teaching system, I know of no truly Buddhist system which presumes to give Final Exams, measures of how close to or how far away we are from Enlightenment.

For those interested in these thoughts I've included a link to an interesting talk.  For me, it's time to Mind The Gap.  It's always time to Mind The Gap.

Donald Hoffman: Do we see reality as it is? | TED Talk | TED.com

           

Marco M. Pardi

Natural Point of Aim

                           Natural Point of Aim

                            by Marco M. Pardi

                                   mpardi.com

                                   

"There are no precedents: You are the first You that ever was." Christopher Morley. (1890-1957). Inward Ho! 1923.

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All comments welcome

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True to the genre, self-help books are blossoming on the market.  The old saying, "Self-help books are like diet books; no one can have just one" definitely applies.  Now, if the book addresses a specific issue it may have some merit. But we periodically see books that purport to solve all our problems - so long as we perform the physical and/or mental disciplines advanced by the authors and do so on a daily basis.

I get really irked when I see the books which claim to guide us to our true identity, and worse yet, to our higher purpose. It is hard to escape the conclusion that these authors view the broad spectrum of humanity in conveniently categorical ways. (A diet book corollary claims one should eat according to one's blood type. Aside from the gross misunderstanding of blood type, there is scant evidence that following the supposedly appropriate diet yields anything more than a placebo effect).   

When I see books which claim to lead us to our identity, and to our purpose in life I think of a favorite book from years ago, If You Meet the Buddha on the Road, Kill Him.  The meaning here is obvious: enlightenment is a singular and ultimately personal event. I cannot tell you that you are enlightened; you cannot tell me I am not.  I do, however, respect those rare books which guide. The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying is a favorite. Sounds arcane, but it is precisely written without judgmental positions or implications. There are no tests, there are no diplomas.

For people who are put off by such exotic sounding fare I would reiterate a sentiment I expressed elsewhere: I am thrilled when I find that a seemingly narrow and context bound principle is indeed applicable in a variety of applications.  Two examples germane to this topic came from Marksmanship training and an Alcohol rehab.  

I had owned and used several handguns and long guns before receiving formal training in their use.  I had several times spent a week or so alone in the woods with just a handgun and a knife to feed myself. So, I was not altogether new to the techniques being taught.  But match competition entailed learning a particular stance. Imagine this: Standing in the firing lane sideways to the 50 meters distant target holding a .45 semi-automatic at full arm extension. As you sight in on 6 o'clock on the tiny bull's eye you notice your arm quivering. What to do?  Answer: You swivel your head to face front, away from the target and you relax your arm as you let it rotate into a comfortable, steady position. That position is called your Natural Point of Aim.

Once your arm is steady you swivel your head to look through the sights.  But you discover your handgun is several inches to one side of the target. Do you move your arm? No. That would return you to a quiver.  Instead, you move your back foot, bringing your arm to align on the target. In short, your arm is in synch with your entire body.  Proof of this comes when the recoil of the first round returns your aim precisely to the bull's eye without you having to do anything.  Hold that thought.

The second example developed when, years later, a college administrator asked me to assist him in bringing a fellow faculty member into a 28 day alcohol rehab program.  As we got her through registration and into her room she commented on other patients we had seen. "They seem in a lot worse shape than me." The administrator instantly said, "Do NOT compare yourself to anyone else." I had never heard him speak so forcefully. Obviously, those words stayed with me to this day.  For me, they carry meaning far beyond the single episode playing out in that room.  Comparison to others is not simply irrelevant, it is potentially very damaging either way: "I'm better; I'm worse."  Instead, what I am is Different and preordained value systems do not apply.

The late 1960's and early 1970's were filled with popular discussions of Biology versus Culture, "Nature versus Nurture".  In teaching Anthropology classes to young college students it was clear they were looking for an alternative.  One day I picked up a blackboard eraser and informed the class it was a 1911A1 .45 caliber semi-automatic.  I told them I had been given the task of shooting the pencil sharpener on the far wall, some 50' away.  As I entered a common stance I could see the class was largely convinced; several students ducked as the eraser swung their way. I then explained the quivering of the "handgun" and proceeded into the exercise I described above. Then I invited anyone in the class to come up, take the eraser and, with my help, put their feet exactly where my feet were and see if they were on the bull's eye. Of course the students realized that simply could not happen; each person is built differently, each person is individual.  (Yes, you can try this at home. It would be especially interesting if you had a twin.)

The fundamental point of the handgun exercise is simply that no Range Instructor can tell you exactly how to stand, no training manual can give you the 12 Steps to Success; you must immerse yourself in the holistic experience, the relationship of the bull's eye to the barrel to the hand to the arm to the body to your breath and ultimately to the juxtaposition of what IS at that point in time and space. Only you will have that experience. Some readers will recognize this as the fundamental principle of Zen archery. I engaged in that practice for several years as well. 

The Nature versus Nurture debate is a false dichotomy.  Each person is not merely an expression of their genes but also an expression of their (culturally driven) life habits.  The easiest example comes from examination of the arm bones and muscles of professional baseball pitchers.  We can tell not only whether he was right or left handed but also get a good sense of the particular throwing habits and years in the game by the distortion of the bones and development of the muscles. The principle applies in every aspect of our lives, expressing the intermesh of biology, culture, and personal habits.  In the classroom case I encouraged the students to each find their natural point of aim in life and in so doing to discover themselves.  And, do NOT compare yourself to others.  In a classroom culture ultimately ranked by grades, this is hard for some students to overcome.

So, the risks with the self-help genre as I see it are the aforementioned strong tendency to divide people into pre-determined categories, with presumed maladies, and then pitch "solutions" to them.  This encourages people to seek others "like themselves" and, through comparison, determine if they are working the solutions correctly or, worse yet, if the others are doing it all wrong and need some advice.    

So, have I written a How To piece despite my disdain for such material.  I hope I have written, if anything, a guide, not a manual.  Ultimately one can recall the popular wisdom of the '60's/'70's, "The universe is unfolding as it should" and dismiss every person's orientation and behavior as the expression of their Natural Point of Aim.  While that is certainly possible it cannot be denied that some people live in chronic distress from their perception that they are missing the target they have selected. Perhaps this small piece helps.

NOTE: Moments after I posted this I was notified that my older granddaughter, a college Junior, had passed the MCAT (Medical College Admissions Test) on her first try. She was told her score was high enough for her to apply to the College of Medicine of her choice. What was her score? She will not tell anyone, even her mother. Why? Even though her younger brother is now in one of the highest ranked Colleges of Engineering and her younger sister is firmly on track to complete a B.S. in Physics very soon after her high school graduation, she does not want to establish any markers by which her siblings would draw comparisons to their own achievements.  I don't know about you, but I consider this display of maturity a sure sign my elder granddaughter has found her Natural Point of Aim. 

Marco M. Pardi

Not Just For Young Boys

                                                                    "Not Just For Young Boys"     by Marco M. Pardi      mpardi.com

Note: All comments are appreciated, read, and responded to accordingly.  I will certainly look forward to your comments.

"I live in that solitude which is painful in youth, but delicious in the years of maturity." Albert Einstein (1879-1955)

In the mid-1950's I attended college prep school at Gilmour Academy, an all boys residential and day student school on 144 acres in Gates Mills, Ohio.  Bequeathed by a multi-millionaire to the Catholic order The Congregation of the Holy Cross, it was run by Brothers of the Holy Cross.  The quality of the education was unparalleled in that region; the curriculum I experienced as a Sophomore was almost identical to my university Freshman year when I returned to college almost ten years later.  Most of the teaching Brothers were college instructor material; some were just turds in black wrappers.

Dominated by a massive Tudor mansion, complete with sunken garden and gatehouse, the estate was surrounded by a high fence and included roughly one fourth the acreage in forest surrounding a small lake.  A dirt road ran through the woods, making the circuit of the lower half of the estate.

In those years the student body was small; of 100 or so Freshmen, about 30 would make it to Senior class.  Still, one might expect to encounter someone on a walk along that road through the woods.  Morning or evening, I never did.  I was glad for that.  The fence kept out the deer in the area, but many other species had established homes before the coming of the black robes.  They seemed to accept me, though I recall no meaningful conversations with them.

Some years later, after returning from some overseas military assignments, I was based at Ellsworth Strategic Air Command base on a plateau nine miles east of Rapid City, South Dakota.  A major hub in the nuclear arsenal, the policy of having one third of the heavy bomber force in the air at all times provided transportation to other areas on frequent occasions when my particular skills were required.  My two years at that base were divided among B-52 bombers, Minuteman missile complexes, and the nearby Black Hills.

Rapid City was a town you had to be born into.  Of the two main streets one was a mixture of bars and saloons that seemed at times to take themselves seriously.  After all, tourist season was rather short in an area that got -55 degree windchill and whiteout blizzards blowing sideways.  Most of the young people had left for university elsewhere, probably never to return.  The most active place, thanks to the Air Force, was what appeared to be a huge barn converted into a bar/dance floor.  The urinal in the men's room was a long, oblong feed trough at which six men could line up abreast and salute.  In fact, I'm reasonably certain the phenomenon called Line Dancing originated in the second row.  

Yet, there were opportunities for other activities.  On a day off I wandered into a small community theater just to get my mind to a different place.  Voices from an off stage room drew me into a group of people, but my attention went immediately to a large German Shepherd sitting at the side of a striking young woman.  The Shepherd's eyes never left me as I clumsily introduced myself as someone curious about the troupe.  As greetings, questions and answers floated about I slid down near the Shepherd and spoke reassuringly to him.  Only then, as his companion leaned down and addressed me, did I realize he was a guide dog for a totally blind Lakota (what Europeans called Sioux) woman. (She never wore the dark glasses so common on sightless people.)  She called the Shepherd Tonka, short for Tatonka, the Lakota word for buffalo.  By the way, Europeans misheard Lakota as Dakota, thus giving us the Dakota Territories and eventually North and South Dakota.          

Within the next few days, she having told me that she recognized a good person in my voice and my attitude toward Tonka, we became friends and the three of us would drive out of town for a few hours, Tonka settled on the parcel shelf behind the front seats of my English sports car.  Over time this became a bit more difficult as cold weather kept the convertible top up.  But Tonka was a sport.

We drove southeast of Rapid City to Badlands National Park, an area of 244,000 acres.  Largely eroded clay, it gets 16" of rainfall annually and temperatures from -30F to 115F.  As in all national parks, guide dogs were allowed and trails were differentiated by difficulty.  Wanting solitude, we chose the more difficult trails, Tonka and I keeping a sharp eye for rattlesnakes.  Here she told me of how her recent ancestors pursued buffalo among the gullies and canyons, not losing their way despite the maze they had entered, immersing themselves in Wakan Tanka, the forces that permeate and animate the universe, connecting the buffalo, Man, and all of nature.  But mostly, she was silent.  She was serene.

We went there several times, walking the arroyos at different times of day, eating the lunches we packed.  Although I had been friends with young people who had various disabilities, this was the first time I was with a totally sightless person.  I had questions I did not quite know how to frame.  But, as she was curious about my name, I explained to her I was born in Rome, Italy and, with British grandmothers, did not look "Italian" to most Americans.  She caressed my face, saying that while people assured her she was beautiful (which she was) looks didn't matter.  I also explained that I knew next to nothing about American Indians and their history with the invading Europeans, my focus in life being to return to Italy one day. 

She then explained (seemingly sensing my gestating question of why she would enjoys walks in the outdoors) her gradual loss of sight, culminating at around age 10.  The Indian Health Service, a feel good paper exercise, had examined and "treated" her but largely wrote her off to tough luck.  During the years when America was developing a Civil Rights conscience, almost entirely focused on what were then called the Negroes, American Indian populations, especially on reservations, sank deeper into squalor, alcoholism, domestic violence, and a newly defining disease - diabetes.  Now 20, and an honors graduate of high school, she and her family had been searching for a university ready and willing to accommodate her disability, and scholarship money to enable that dream.  She explained that, although she could remember pictures of the Badlands, those really were just background to the feel of the earth, the sound of the wind in the arroyos, the scent of the wildlife - plant and animal.

One of the Minuteman nuclear ICBM complexes to which I was assigned was fairly close to a place called Bear Butte.  One could look out from the Soft Support building - topside, and see the densely forested mount rising suddenly out of the plains.  Readers to this point may have noticed that I have not mentioned this young woman's name.  As I write this I want to keep that; it has far more meaning than a label such as Dick or Jane.  So, I will tell you how I saw her: Serenissima - most serene.

As we conversed through the hours and days Serenissima spoke of Bear Butte, telling me its Lakota name - Mato Paha, Bear Mountain, and its Cheyenne name - Noahavose, Good Mountain.  Of course, we drove there. 

Here she recounted the young Lakota boys, emerging from the sweat lodge to begin their hanble ceyapi, their "crying for a vision" as they ascended the mountain to seek the help of the sacred wakan, the beings manifest in Wakan Tanka, to gain the vision that would define the shape of their lives and their responsibilities henceforth.  As we climbed the steep mountain I thought again of that dirt road through the Gilmour forest, the boys in their dorm rooms dreaming of their CEO jobs to come, and my calm but vaguely expectant presentation of myself to Nature.  

Struggling at one point in the climb, Tonka pulling ahead, Serenissima brushed the 9mm semi-automatic holstered in the small of my back.  She slightly smiled, but asked no question.  Tall as me and with a trim but capable build, her raven hair glistened as we moved from shade to sunlight and back.

We reached the top and she sat cross-legged, something I could never do, while Tonka surveyed the world with what seemed like a sense of peaceful completeness, a mirror of Serenissima herself.

As I came to realize the fullness of the sounds, scents, temperature and the feel of the earth she turned her smile to me and said, "Visions are not just for young boys."

"Some minds seem almost to create themselves, springing up under disadvantages and working their solitary but irresistible 

way through a thousand obstacles." Washington Irving, The Sketch Book, 1820

    

Marco M. Pardi

Decathexion

                                                                                                          Decathexion

                                                                                                 (from Greek: Letting go)

                                                                                                  by Marco M. Pardi    mpardi.com

 

"Desire is the root of all suffering" Ascribed to Siddhartha Gautama, the Buddha.

"In the grand scheme of things, the vast majority of humankind will never know you ever existed" Me

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All comments are welcome and will receive a response.

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On paper, I have been retired from the last of my several intertwined long term careers since 2014.  I can recall living in Florida many years ago and picturing retirement as a vigorous day at the shuffle board court or, as I saw so often, a late afternoon on a park bench feeding pigeons from one paper bag and myself from another. Now, although I attend to my bird feeders daily, neither of those Florida options is appealing.

In a sense, we've been retiring from things, and people, all our lives.  This strongly occurred to me during my work with Elizabeth Kubler-Ross, developing Death Education and Hospice Care in North America. Obviously, the focus then was on end of life issues, especially those pertinent to long term irreversible decline.  But as I thought more about decathexion (sometimes spelled decathection), the process of letting go of attachments, I began to see it in every phase of our lives.

As parents we watch our children lose interest in once favorite toys, we say they "outgrow" them.  All in the nature of things.  We move those toys to the garage sale pile or the donations pile, telling our children some other little boy or girl will have a toy. 

Sometimes those toys aren't given up, they are taken by circumstance.  When my daughter was 3 years old the strap on a little bucket broke and her favorite tea set smashed to the driveway. The absolute anguish she expressed stayed with me to this day.  And, 40 years later I gave her a tea set I had found that was a close match. She had no recollection of the childhood set, but remembers the recent set as something from me to her.

Around the same time in her childhood she and I debarked from a train in Vienna very early one morning. Only after the train had left for Budapest did I realize I had left her favorite doll in the cabin. Despite the commitments waiting in Vienna, I rushed us to a toy store, waited for it to open and got her a little stuffed bear we named Orso (Italian for Bear).  Orso travelled with us through several more countries, eventually becoming Naturalized in the U.S.  Where he is now is anyone's guess.      

Looking at the seemingly endless television coverage of terrorist acts, warfare, famines, wildfires, landslides, and victims of Hurricane Harvey I see the entire span of human life, literally from birth to old age. I mentally freeze frame the individuals, wondering what it is they feel they've lost. What were they attached to?  What did they presume the future held for them? No doubt the older ones have answers to their questions of causality.  But what do we tell the children? God's will?  Man's stupidity?  In Vienna I took what I thought was the easiest and quickest way out and told my daughter her doll had to go to Budapest.  Sure. Now answer "WHY???"

But even a 3 year old didn't easily transfer from her doll to her bear.  And, as they age children lose the sense (some would say trust) that their adults have the right answers.  I've heard it said that the experience of loss, especially if suffered early, helps inure you against the worse effects of greater losses further on.  I have never accepted that, and do not now. Each loss has its own story, each is unique.  And, because each loss is unique it is difficult to categorize them.  A quick attempt might yield People and Things.  But no sooner do I think that than I think of the non-human companions who have meant much more to me than most humans I've known, and certainly all objects I've owned. These companions certainly weren't "things".  In fact, even a cursory examination of the concept, Mini-Death introduces us to a hitherto unrealized variety of potential losses. 

Recently I wrote a condolence card to a family that had to euthanize their dog.  In it I wondered at how we know we are likely to outlive our dogs and will likely face the difficult and painful decision they recently did, yet we adopt them anyway.  As old as I am, there have been several dogs, cats and horses. It never gets easier. But what would I lose if I decided to decathect from further adoptions?  I would lose a unique companionship and a mysterious bond I simply cannot find with another human.  I would also lose self respect; knowing I could save a non-human animal from confinement and death, and I did not. 

Watching television coverage of people fleeing their homes I see, particularly in the case of wildfires, people grabbing whatever is valuable to them and portable. Family albums are common.  But there are still people who cling to heirlooms, things passed from one generation to the next.  However, there seems to be an increasing trend among younger people to reject heirlooms, or to quickly sell them when they feel obligated to receive them.  Perhaps this is in some way an artifact of a consumer society in which the object you bought just yesterday has been replaced by a newer version before you finish reading the instructions (if you do).  People, at increasingly younger ages, seem quickly obsolete as well.

I've never been much of a collector, but there have been times I have had to part with things I might otherwise have kept.  Moving as much as I have that is unavoidable.  Once, while several thousand miles away, I contracted an auction house to completely clean out my four bedroom home and sell all the contents. What they couldn't sell went to charities. Ever found yourself saying, "If only I had kept that"?  I'm well aware I parted with things for pennies on the dollar. So it goes - or went.

What about people?  When I was visible in the field of Death & Dying some people tried to fit me into the mold of grief counselor.  I've never been skillful in that area.  I do distinguish grief from bereavement. I do subscribe to the position that grief beyond a given time (commonly cited as 18 months) indicates an underlying problem not related to the subject of the grieving.

Short of physically dying, how about friendships? I'm guessing most readers have had "close" friendships that seemed to peter out and disappear over the years.  "I wonder what happened to old So & So." At my age I increasingly find myself thinking of someone, and then thinking They must be dead by now. Long dead in some cases. I didn't feel the loss. But surely some are still alive, and probably thinking I'm dead. And, thinking back I can remember the wildly popular sentiment in the 1970's, "If you love something (someone), let it go." That was a tough one.

In the past few years we've seen significant progress in the treatment of post traumatic stress disorder.  Some of these were familiar to me, seeming derived from techniques used to move a person through grief.  Others, however, are new, especially the pharmacological methods. Propranolol has been remarkably successful at chemically washing out selected memories. I have vivid memories of decisions I had to make and actions I had to take.  Dwelling on these for even a minute can plunge me into the darkest blackness of soul I can imagine. I've spoken to no one about these, even my very dear friend Mark (Br. Mark Dohle).  But do I want to wash them away?  It's tempting, but No. They are part of who I am and I feel they are part of the well from which I draw compassion and understanding for others.   

Yet, we do let go. We decathect from things and from people.  Perhaps there is some unspoken assumption "there will always be another", the commonly said More fish in the sea. But the aging process is more intimate than decathecting from things and other people; it is also decathecting from functions and aspects of the self. Unless one dies instantly, decathexion from self will face each of us. In fact, a primary fear in facing death is loss of self.  A common question people express about what they hope is an "afterlife" is, Will I still be me?

The acceptance of the possibility that one is no longer the self one has come to know and love is the ultimate decathexion, the ultimate "test". Serious evaluation of what we love and why we love it is a Life Curriculum, one for which there is no CLEP or cheat sheet. Know it or not, we are all in class.

Marco M. Pardi

Solvitur Ambulando

Solvitur Ambulando     by Marco M. Pardi      mpardi.com

"It is solved by walking." Latin. Apocryphal. Often posted at entrances to labyrinths.

All comments welcome.

Every morning I get up, have my coffee, and go for a 1 & 1/4 mile walk with Plato, my furry companion.  Since I don't shave much anymore he probably thinks I'm furry too.  In cold weather he wears his Kodiak full wrap-around coat; in rain he wears his Nor'Easter raincoat with hood.  Each has a slot in the back to pass the leash through to his chest harness; I've always thought leashing a dog by his collar is demeaning to the dog.

The first hundred yards are the hardest; the Voices tell me I don't have to do this, skipping a day won't hurt, we can walk around in our woods out back. But, one foot in front of the other.  Apparently others have problems coping with walking; they must have some distraction.  We see people with wires in their ears, noses fixed on a hand held screen in front of them, or babbling like an ambulatory psychotic - until one sees a plastic bauble above one ear.  And, the joggers.  About the dumbest thing a person can do, but the hip and knee replacement industry loves them.

What we do not see - or it may just not be obvious, are people taking in their surroundings.  It's as if the surroundings are just to be gotten through one way or the other but not appreciated for what they are.  I am reminded of three days in the mid 1950's when I spent time in a monastery/retreat house literally on the shores of Lake Erie. The days were filled with various religious instruction including the frothing rants of a priest who lectured very graphically about the fires of Hell, even showing a film purporting to show how it would be if we didn't rid ourselves of impure thoughts. But an adolescent penis speaks its mind when it wants and where it wants.  The nights were far better, with allowance for us - the boys from Gilmour Academy, to walk the large labyrinth in the gardens.  Although ignorant of the term "detox" at the time, I walked that labyrinth with the sensation I was walking through a cleansing shower.  In the gloom I heard other boys cracking jokes, mocking the priest and talking about girls as they bumbled along the stone pathways.  In fairness, some may have gotten something from their walk but what I saw and heard could as easily have been gained in hallways between classes.      

I've always had a deep attraction to the Moon, Luna in Latin, Selene in Greek.  Psycho-analysts would say it was a desire to be elsewhere, and I would agree.  But I feel I've made an important discovery in my walks.  The Moon at night is clear and well defined, but Other; it is distant in a way other than mere miles. Because everything else is shrouded in darkness it stands alone.  But the Moon in the bright blue sky of morning conveys a deep sense of presence.  In the context of the world I can now see around me it is an undeniable reminder that we co-exist in endless space; it is the larger context in which I, a mere micro-speck, traverse an almost equally small micro-speck I call my neighborhood.  Time becomes irrelevant except as a measure of the Moon's transit, reminding me at once of the ultimately meaningless way we order so much of our lives, reminding me too my efforts to speed or slow the hands on the clock are meaningless in the cycle and flow of all things.  My walk is a metronomic cadence against which the rhythms of my life are felt, analyzed, and allowed to vaporize behind me.  A destination cannot be reached without a journey, inside or out.  And if I carry all my life baggage with me, have I reached my destination or have I just moved my baggage?

And Luna appears. A stark counterpoint to our houses, cars, manicured lawns, mailboxes, wars on each other, predation on every other living thing, and self-righteous tunnel vision. Never moving an eyebrow, simply being with a Mona Lisa smile that says her perspective is far beyond our tiny self made labyrinth. She is inching away from us year by year.  Perhaps sick of watching Gaia struggle with the melanoma known as mankind.  Who can blame her?

Not given to pareidolia - seeing images in clouds, I nonetheless enjoy watching dawn break, illuminating clouds from below. Some clouds are Wagnerian in their splendor, some more reserved, not sharing their judgment with those below.  Different regions seem to have their own characteristic cloud formations.  Blue water sailors tell you they can predict landfall by the kinds of formations. Before I was married I had an associate who owned a 48 foot motor yacht.  We often cruised to the Bahamas to mix with the international elements who found safe haven there.  But she was killed before I learned much about open ocean cruising.  Some would say she chose the wrong path, intersecting with another in her walk through life. I disagree; quae cursu suo - things take their own course.

The morning clouds put on a spectacular show but I have yet to see any fellow walkers/joggers looking up.  The colors are ever changing, making me wonder how, before photography, artists managed to mix their paints so correctly before the color changed. Must be something about "photographic memory" at work here.

As the temperatures change throughout the year I'm reminded of a question I once asked my major professor, a Psychological Anthropologist from Finland: "Are people from cold climates less likely to be outgoing and demonstrative in greetings when outdoors and, if so, is it that the cold keeps them huddled in their winter gear?"  He said he didn't know, but there were two linked hypotheses in there that deserved examination.  We never got the chance to pursue these, but I wonder to this day.  Unless someone is obviously engrossed in cell phone conversation I almost always greet people Plato and I encounter.  The colder the weather, the shorter the reply although Plato often gets compliments on his very fashionable "Detective" coat.  In warmer weather I'm reminded that insects do not fly, despite our mistaken impressions which actually lead to calling particular insects "flies".  Most small "flying" insects do not fly; they swim.  Even indoors, wave your hand briskly from side to side.  You will notice air has density.  And when you compare the density in our human context to the density in the context of a normally immeasurably light weight insect, you realize the insect is being carried along on a current - or swimming against it, just as a swimmer in a fresh water lake (less dense) or a salt water ocean (more dense).  Beginning SCUBA divers learn this difference, sometimes at cost.  That mosquito did not fly to you, it swam to you. Want an insect free evening on your patio? Forget the expensive zappers and the poisonous lanterns.  Place a simple box fan so the air currents prevent the insects from swimming to you.  Getting out of our contextual perspective opens the world in innumerable ways.

So no matter the weather, each walk is a realization, an experience of the real.  Also known as Enlightenment.  What's real does not change because we realize it. The face in the mirror does not change because we see it for who it is.  Mindfulness is full realization of context.  My morning walk, shedding the aches and pains of aging while experiencing the morning songs of birds around me is not a walk to a destination. With each new step it is an affirmation I am where I am.  As long as I think I have not arrived I will deny myself the realization of who and where I am.  And that denial shuts out life. 

Marco M. Pardi

The Man Who Had No Purpose

The Man Who Had No Purpose    by Marco M. Pardi 

                                     mpardi.com

Note: All comments are appreciated, read, and responded to accordingly. 

"Ours is a world where people don't know what they want and are willing to go through hell to get it." Don Marquis (1878-1937).  In "Thoughts on the Business of Life".

In my Freshman year at Gilmour Academy Brother Adolphus (not his real name), an exemplary teacher in the very fullness of the word,  tasked his English class with a writing assignment, the title of this blog piece.  I will not pretend to remember the words I wrote, but I do remember the tone those words conveyed.  To say "adrift" would be to imply movement, perhaps even direction.  To say "lonely" would be to imply a wish to connect with others.  Neither was there, for neither was true.  My man stood beneath a streetlight.  Not for the light; the streetlight only happened to be near. My man had no sense of connection to others, nor even the desire for such.  My man was awarded an A+, marking me, at least in the minds of others, as having a purpose: writing,  or some form of communication with others.  10 to 12 students per class, of the record setting 75 Freshmen at most 33 would graduate.  Perhaps they discovered their purpose elsewhere.  Many would go on to CEO positions or high ranking military or government positions, despite Gilmour.  Some families tend to identify the purpose for a child.

Moving on through life was largely a process of repeatedly coming awake, like an alcoholic coming out of blackout, and wondering what had brought me to this point, what was I doing.  I knew only that my fundamental value was personal freedom, irrespective of the circumstances in which I found myself.  Except for only a very few classes,  school was boring to the point of near fatal depression.  It was the crushing of soul I would read of in Hermann Hesse's book Beneath the Wheel; from primary school through today I average one book per week.  Scoring an I.Q. in the higher 150s at age 11 was okay, having it known was not.  It became the club used for mental beatings,  the evidence that I was flawed because my schoolwork did not match my "potential" whatever that was.  I knew only that one day, potentially, I would be free.  Reading fiction, all of Hesse and several others was good so long as I learned something.  Mainly I read non-fiction.

In the military I rented Uncle Sam my body, and kept my mind for myself.  I was 25 at my first marriage.  The woman's family, fanatic Scandinavian Lutherans, insisted on a church wedding.  The minister insisted on a period of "pre-marital" counseling.  Soon into the first session he asked me if I was certain this was the woman I would want for the rest of my life.  I laughed as I told him it was absurd to ask such a question of a 25 year old and he would be foolish to believe the answer.  Immediately spared from further sessions,  we learned he refused to perform the ceremony.  I secured a second session with him, long enough for him to weigh my sincerity in the roll of bills placed in his palm.  Clerics have such a way of divining purpose in life.

I occasionally received updates and reunion invitations from schools I attended.  I was amazed at the number of my classmates listed "In Memory".  They lived, they struggled, they may even have sensed a purpose.  They died.  Several died in the abattoir of Viet Nam.  Somehow, I doubt many of them would agree with the "purpose" intoned solemnly over their caskets.

Recent decades have seen the proliferation of books, DVDs, other media, and workshops purporting to help us answer the question, "What the hell am I doing here?"  The authors and presenters seem to have a clear purpose: separate you from your money.  Of course, it seems many people don't ask anyway.  They eat, they ****, they die, with occasional reproduction and distracting entertainment along the way.  For them, the bottom line is: Okay, you were born; now make the best of it.

But few people seem to examine the nature of the drive to ask the fundamentally existential question,  the Why am I here question.  It has been said the human mind is hard wired to look for causation; there must be a reason this effect, being here, is in place.  It also seems this question is not commonly asked by people enjoying the moment.  Yet, when things are dark and painful Nietzsche is not an uplifting person to call,  nor is Albert Camus.  Camus' L'Etranger was one of the most devastating books I've read, along with Arthur Koestler's Darkness at Noon.  Even the Dalai Lama, and several rinpoches,  offer the masses largely a matter-of-fact approach to life, something which doesn't usually climb the charts.

No, we want Mr. Happy.  Rick Warren and Joel Osteen currently lead the charts, with numerous others fielding books, DVDs, and other spin-offs.  "But, wait!  There's more!"  The mere fact that there are so many of these books on the market should suggest they do not carry the answer.    

Perhaps the most despicable of the purveyors of purpose are those who take the existential question and loop it back into a proposed state which, hoped for in the future, is granted a past; the state of non-corporeal existence "before you were born."  I have explained my position on non-corporeal existence exhaustively in other posts on this blog, making it clear that I deem it a certainty but without the illogical trap of a god or super spirit.  Having said that, I re-clarify that such existence is of a nature other than the "time" we experience when observing the ever changing coalescence of what we call the physical.   Thus, existence in this dimension is such that we, as physical entities, can reckon a "before" the particular coalescence we call ourselves, a "during", and an "after".  But timelessness has no end points, in any direction.  It does not even have an identifiable, fixed point.  Our orientation to the physical presents us with fixed points and end points which we wrongly project onto this other dimension of existence when in fact these concepts are irrelevant.

Digging themselves deeper,  the purveyors of purpose devise a "before" period for us during which we confer with various non-corporeal authority figures and chart out a physical life to come in order to experience and learn from that which we are so far lacking or to make amends for something we did in a previous lap around the block.  This convenient little paradigm allows us to do several things:

1. Displace the responsibility for one's current miserable state (content people rarely ask why they are content) onto some pre-ordained plan which is larger, and therefore more authoritative than the self.  KEYWORD - shirk.

2.  Compensate for a sense of personal inadequacy (It's in the Plan).

3.  Develop and inflate self importance (I was sent here on a mission and the people and events in my life are to serve my purpose).

and,

4.   Develop and reinforce the hope, generated out of self- love, that even should we fail we will get to repeat the process as the same person we love so much.

Can there be anything more simple minded than this?  Yes.  Buying the books that purport to tell you how to discover your life's purpose.  Going to the workshops to hear the speakers milk the audience, like vampires draining the life blood of approval from their victims so they can live on to the next workshop. I've said before, in so many words, that as far as it is logical to me, there is only one time when you can know what your life has been all about: In the moments it is ending.  I'm appalled when I hear so many people say they want to sleep through their death.  ESD.  Eat. ****. Die. That must be the sum of those lives.

Years ago I happened to be in the area of Gilmour Academy on a separate matter.  I stopped by Gilmour to see who might still be around.  Brother Adrian Cignar (actual name) taught me a Sophomore biology class which was almost identical to that which I took in college years later.  I wanted to tell him that.  He was not there.  But,  my guide through the re-modeled campus (now co-ed) was an upper classman who had become a priest and served at the campus.  As we toured the new underground tunnels connecting the various buildings I enquired about Brother Adolphus.  The priest continued through the tunnels, explaining that, built for winter, they were hardly ever used during summer breaks.  He stopped at a particular bend and turned to me.  "This is where Brother Adolphus was found.  He had shot himself to death during a summer break."

Knowing Brother Adolphus even for the short time I did,  I was quite certain that, as he stared into the barrel of that revolver he took his time to sum up what he thought had been his purpose.  My mind flashed to that writing assignment and I wondered just how long Brother Adolphus had been pondering purpose.

Marco M. Pardi

Species?

                                 Species?

                           by Marco M. Pardi

                                  mpardi.com

"It should not be believed that all beings exist for the sake of man. On the contrary, all the other beings too have been intended for their own sakes and not for the sake of something else." Moses Maimonides (CE 1135 - 1204) The Guide for the Perplexed. CE 1190.

All comments welcome.

Some months ago my wife and I were exiting a restaurant by crossing the outdoor patio.  We encountered a couple of women who had two Great Pyrenees on long leashes, rescue dogs being fostered for adoption.  One was clearly an older dog.  As my wife spoke to the women on her way out I knelt down on the patio and spoke quietly to the dogs.  The younger one briefly checked me out and the older one stood there as I continued speaking and getting closer, moving my hand to rub his chest. (Note: Please do not make the common mistake of trying to pat a dog on top of his head, especially a strange dog)  My voice dropped to a near whisper as I spoke, he appeared to listen and consider while I rubbed his chest, our faces side by side, eyes only inches apart.  I don't know how long we spent like that, but sensing it was "time to go" I quietly wished him safety and happiness in his new life, got up and began to walk away.  He quickly turned and, with his side against my leg, seemed to signal he was going with me.  The woman holding his leash said to my wife, "Looks like he's got a friend."  My wife said, "Oh, he's a dog whisperer."  

I think of that dog often, the deep eye contact we had, the immediate bond we seemed to form despite the human on the other end of that leash, and all the other people on the patio.  I hope he's happy.  And, I hope he remembers me, though that is tempered by concern that he may have felt yet another rejection or lost bond when I left.  Too often life is what you have to just settle for.

I know that feeling, and I know that I am perhaps overly quick to ascribe that feeling to others, particularly my non-human animal family.  In my immediate family my earliest self realizations grew from the familial tradition that children were the inconvenient, and in my case unwanted outcome of failure to take due precautions.  At best, they were what was socially expected.

My first years in the U.S. were spent in a large apartment in downtown Cleveland.  My days included long stretches of looking out the windows. There below me, in the concrete canyon, I saw my first horse.  On occasion a police horse and rider would pause for a while on the broad sidewalk, the cars, trams, and pedestrians swirling past. I never saw the officer interact with the horse, beyond sitting on him.  It was the same as sitting on a motorcycle, only higher.  Though neither the horse (I think) nor I had the vocabulary at the time, I think I formed a concept in our minds of, "WTF am I doing here?"  I did get to meet and pet the horse once.  No other children my age ever being around, perhaps he wondered how this human got so small.

My brother, four years senior and someone I barely knew, came home on summer break from the military school I would also soon attend and, because he was going, I got to also attend summer camp.  Not too much under six years old, I learned to ride horses.  The counselors saw I did so well they put me with "Boom", a large retired Army horse with a neck brand of that name.  Of course I enjoyed riding, but was far happier just holding and talking with Boom.  I wondered if that brand had hurt him.

Years later, on returning from Italy, my (then deceased) grandfather's secretary came to the house we had bought and a black Cocker Spaniel puppy wriggled out of her coat.  Although intended for my grandmother, he quickly became my mother's dog and a major focus in her life.  Cleveland winters can be brutal, so one of our four bathrooms became his when the snow was too high to go out.  He was also locked in that bathroom when my mother didn't want to bother with him.  With school and other activities I never had a chance to really bond with that dog, though when he was aging and sick my mother turned to me to take care of him.  Beyond having a few dogs follow me home, I've no idea what I projected as some kind of "animal person."  

Years later I escaped into the Air Force, volunteering for Security Forces.  In Libya I then volunteered for K-9 Security, handling an Attack dog, working only at night and usually on solo distant assignments.  These are manifestly not the police K-9s that ride around in police cars and perhaps get to retire with the handler's family.  These dogs are raised and trained to seek out and attack, fatally if not stopped, any human other than their handler - in any and every circumstance. Retirement was a shallow grave in front of the kennels.

One handler was too hung over to get himself into clean fatigues so he borrowed a previously worn set from his roommate.  He entered his dog's kennel, the dog got the roommate's scent first, and, after dozens of stitches to close the rips and gashes in his groin he was out of the hospital and transferred to a safer job.

Attrition from various causes had thinned the K-9 handler ranks.  On my first day the kennel master gave me my choice of several dogs, all in their individual chain link and concrete enclosures.  I reviewed them all and knew immediately who my dog was.  "You won't get in that dog's kennel in under 30 days, so bring a book and sit outside reading to him", said the kennel master. I went in on the 3rd day.  Okay, a trip to the hospital and a couple of stitches later I came back and went in again. This time it was a bond.         

We spent our nights together, six on and three off.  The kennel food was minimal ("hungry dogs are mean dogs") so I smuggled food to him and gave him Kaopectate whenever the kennel food gave him diarrhea - which was almost all the time.  The base was under frequent hit and run attack from various factions for various reasons. The operating policy was that the handler should release the dog when he alerts and then follow him into the fray.  I thought that a stupid way to get a dog hurt or killed so I released him, ordered him to Stay and Watch, and terminated the problems myself.  Other dogs were hurt, or killed, but he never got a scratch with me. Okay, I was threatened with court-martial several times, but my dog won the Best Dog/Handler award (I still have the large trophy) and no one pressed the issue.

After thirteen months, a lot of interaction, and a lot of learning from him I got one of my off-book assignments which meant flying to Germany with him as my ostensible reason: to attend the Hundeschule, or dog school in Germany.  A flight by C-130, during which I had to tell the Load Master just once not to approach his kennel, and a truck ride to the air station a few hours from the base where we landed, and I brought him into his kennel.  I had been given three weeks to complete my assignment, during which he would stay at the kennel.

Unlike the concrete box with chain link enclosure he had lived in for six years, this kennel was wood, with a real wooden doghouse and a large fenced enclosure.  The moment I walked us in, locked the gate behind us, and released him he exploded into the most joyous frenzy I had ever seen in a dog.  He bounced off everything, repeatedly coming to me and licking my face, and vocalizing like a puppy.  I was overjoyed........and heartbroken at the same time.  In all that time I had no idea he could feel such joy.  But I knew it was to be short lived; three weeks at most. The German kennel master wrote me up for "not controlling my dog".  b***** off.

I completed my task in 10 days and had to quickly leave for Africa.  Again, the feelings were indescribable as I brought him back to his concrete and chain link enclosure.  He once again became the serious, but resigned fellow prisoner in the all encompassing  enclosure we call Life. Making matters worse, dependents and non-essential personnel were evacuated and my tour was cut by six months.  Near my departure date I was given permission to take him into the cleared out kennel yard and say my good-byes.  I thanked him for all he had taught me on those long nights.  I cried without shame. I think he knew exactly what was happening. My next years were without my dog physically present, but always in my heart. So many times I've wanted to go back and visit his grave.  In the 1970's I was invited to do so by the Libyan diplomats I met at an official function. (Yes, assignments have long been a part of life.) But I knew I must keep my imaginary image of it rather than face the stark reality that, after the base was surrendered, all that was plowed under for different purposes.  Yes, I can still cry.

In the following years, once I had settled into a reasonably stable life I had dogs, horses, and a cat I had saved as a kitten.  Each of them has had a deep emotional meaning for me.  I've walked and talked  with horses whose days were growing shorter.  I've always found the smell of horses evokes in me a deep sense of peace and companionship.  And, there are stories I don't care to express in which I've had to make decisions which break my heart to this day. Who among us can say we've lived a life in which there are no moments we wish we could do over, do differently?

Being a Stranger in a Strange Land, I "connect" with non-human animals who have been born or captured into a context simply not their own.  I don't see them as species; they are fellows.  And when I whisper to a dog on a patio, or to a cat clearly aching from overwhelming disease, or a horse stepping uncertainly as its system shuts down I try to see and feel their context, their lives, not just the category we've put them in and the uses they've been to us.  I feel a mutual love in ways that are all too rare with humans.  And I cannot describe how it feels to have that love returned.

Going through college and graduate school my K-9 was always "with" me.  (Two large pictures of him are on the wall by my pc now) Yes, I set the curve in various biology and related classes, but I never saw a species as just a closed category in someone's taxonomy.  I saw non-human animals, even plants, in their full context, with their feelings - where credibly possible.  Sure, there are people who would sneer at my attitude, just as there were K-9 handlers who sneered when I hugged my dog.  I've gotten largely past the point where I would debate these people, but it makes one day leaving the human species that much easier.         

Marco M. Pardi

What Was That?

 

                        What Was That?

                      by Marco M. Pardi

                              mpardi.com

 

"You want to know whether I believe in ghosts. Of course I do not believe in them. If you had known as many of them as I have, you would not believe in them either." Don Marquis (1878-1937) "Ghosts" Archy and Mehitabel, 1927

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All comments welcome.  To those readers who have been hesitant to comment or ask questions, please be assured you may do so freely. In recent days several new people have signed on as followers, enabling them to comment freely, and it is hoped they will. All previous posts are open for comment by clicking on "uncategorized". Reader participation keeps this site vibrant. MMP

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I have just recently been asked to consider presenting a video recorded discussion of ghosts and how different cultures through space and time have viewed them.  I was a bit taken back by this request.  In the years I taught college classes on Death & Dying and Critical Thinking - using end of life issues as the focus, I did not give much attention to ghosts. So, I thought I would try this venue for some thoughts and reactions....and maybe a little "in-spiration". 

 

Requests of this kind have problems.  At any moment in time there are thousands of cultures. Each, by definition, perceives and constructs its world differently along a broad scale of possibilities.  Obviously, a statement about cultures would be selective and incomplete. Furthermore, cultures change over time and these changes are often reactionary.  Describing them as static entities is shallow and misleading. So, a complete and accurate presentation about cultural views on a topic would require many written volumes, many taped sessions.

 

A less obvious problem is the concept "ghost".  What exactly is meant by this?  For example, Catholics believe the "Godhead" is tripartite: God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Ghost.  And, people of several faiths believe they see (or hear) discarnate figures pertinent to their faith.  Is an apparition connected to a faith not a ghost while an apparition not so connected is a ghost?  Then there are the actions attributed to these figures; "God kept me from going too fast around that turn." "My Dad, several years deceased, warned me about marrying that person." Which was the ghost, or were they both?

 

Where ideas about ghosts occur, they are part of a given culture and, as such, are enmeshed in the overall world view, including what we would call religion. The list of these world views, or cosmologies, is almost endless.

 

Each of the two problem areas above bring to mind two dicta to which I have tried to adhere: Any examination of others must first begin with an examination of the examiner; and, That which is perceived is at least in part an artifact of the perceiver.  In fact, the second dictum is rendered more potent in tandem with the degree of failure to observe the first dictum. 

 

So, as we examine our textbooks, be they history, anthropology, or some other related subject we are reminded that "history is written by the winners", or at least the survivors.  There are several issues of importance here.  Written history represents only a tiny fraction of human history. And, there are still large areas of humanity for whom history is written by someone else.  So who is it telling me the history of how pre-literate or non-literate people felt or currently feel about "ghosts"? Are these the same people who used terms like "primitive" to describe pre-literate or non-literate cultures?  Are these people simply unaware that when developing mankind crossed into the Homo sapiens species they were the very same species we are today, with the same variations in mental acuity as we now see in a spectrum from our marginal people to our most advanced research centers or from our low I.Q. members to our geniuses?  A clear example of the failure to recognize this is found in the common attitude that if the material remains of a culture are simple, the culture and its carriers - the people, must also have been simple. This belief finds no support in anatomy, physiology, or psychology. Another example found even in today's textbooks tells us the pre-Christian populations of what is now Europe were Pagans. Apparently, the writers of these textbooks flunked Latin.  "Pagani", a Latin term specifically meaning country people, was a pejorative used in the same way modern Americans use the term "rednecks".  There was no cohesive "pagan" culture or religion - another term for cosmology, much to the dismay of the modern Woo-Woo crowd that claims to be its descendants.  Anyone who reads the actual literature of Classical Greece and Rome knows fully well the educated, literate people of those cultures held world views which only acknowledged the common beliefs in various god like entities and discarnate entities but did not themselves subscribe to those beliefs.  Furthermore, the concept "gods" was very different from the later personified deity claimed by the monotheistic religions.  The "gods" of Rome were the core values of the State. Refusal to honor the "gods" was not an affront to the frail ego of a god, it was a threat to the integrity of the State much like the refusal to recite the Pledge of Allegiance. Remember, the philosophers and educated classes of Greece and Rome were not the ones who plunged the Western world into the Dark Ages. The "history" books were written by members of a predominantly Christian culture - the winners. And, (I can't let this one go by) in my youth I saw several movies in which dark skinned people, be they African-Americans or "natives", were uniformly terrified at the possibility of a ghost.  In fact, the actors seem to have been hired on their ability to generate saucer eyes and "OooOooOooh" wails. The producers of these films were urban Whites.  But have we seriously examined how these textbooks and other media have shaped our perceptions and interpretations?  If someone asked us if we thought ghosts were real, would our response be what we thought socially acceptable or would it be how we actually felt?

 

If there is a common denominator among pre-modern and contemporary marginal society world views and religions it can be found in the concepts of Animatism - the belief in an intangible force within all things, animate and inanimate, and Animism, a religious view of a life force in all living things, not just humans.  But these are not foreign to the most modern of societies.  Many people believe a force resides in some amulet, such as a religious medal, or even their automobile. And, a great many pet companions are certain their pet has a spirit, even one which lives on with them or awaits them after death. The inclusion of deceased pets in perceptions of "ghosts" is so common as to be unquestionable.  But aside from Stephen King novels, I've not heard of cars coming back for revenge while the literature on pets manifesting to beloved human companions is exhaustive.  Also, I have hundreds of cases pertaining to discarnate people and the evidence cited for their reality.  Some of these are undocumented but most are thoroughly documented with supportive and matching testimony often by multiple unimpeachable witnesses.  The report sources range from children to top of their profession scientists. The settings vary from spontaneous to hospitals to controlled settings.  Just in the United States there is unimaginable variation in the instances, the witnesses, and the circumstances under which the perceptions took place. So too, there are unimaginable variations in interpretation - and I am not even referring here to the materialists who, knowing little to nothing of how science operates, deny everything. I have read or directly heard interpretations of the manifestations ranging from: He doesn't know he's dead and hasn't crossed over, she's attached to the place she lived, he is looking for vengeance against his killer, she is watching over her grandchildren, he is looking for a vulnerable body to enter, to she has a message for us.    

 

In sum, I simply cannot venture into a discussion of a subject for which the variation is so great an adequate and properly contextual treatment would require several printed volumes or many hours of recorded video.  In fact, even an extremely narrowed subject topic would, in my opinion, run intolerable risk of misrepresenting the seriousness of the subject as a whole.

 

What do you think?

 

Marco M. Pardi

Things to do While Dead

                                                                                                        Things To Do While Dead

                                                                                                             by Marco M. Pardi

                                                                                                                 mpardi.com

"On him does death lie heavily, who, but too well known to all, dies to himself unknown." Seneca the Younger. (5?BCE - 65 CE). Thyestes 1. 400.

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All comments welcome.  To those readers who have been hesitant to comment or ask questions, please be assured you may do so freely. In recent days several new people have signed on as followers, enabling them to comment freely, and it is hoped they will. All previous posts are open for comment by clicking on "uncategorized". Reader participation keeps this site vibrant. MMP

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I should briefly reiterate some positions I've stated before. 1. I define belief as: Acceptance without proof.  I do not believe. 2. I see beyond the conventional dyad of: No "afterlife" versus "afterlife" must therefore include a god. My experience, of which I've written often, supports my conclusion that life is incarnate and discarnate at the same time, "after" being only an illusion arising from materiality and our material structure of time. Hopefully, that obviates the need for further discussion along those lines.

Two more clarifications: Anyone who has Googled Marco M. Pardi has likely seen entries citing my endorsement of a book written by a physician following her son's suicide.  In fact, I was asked to provide that endorsement. And if you read it you will see I specifically spoke to the courage of the physician in writing a book which could certainly be harmful to her career.  As for the content, were it not for the fact the medium through which the book was written is a decades long friend I would have put the book straight in the recycle bin.

Finally, although I've written some dark stuff lately, please do not feel I've turned toward the Light, in hopes of going through Door Number 4. That will come in due time. As a side note, I want to be fully conscious and aware of the process, the last chance to put everything in perspective; I reject the idea of studying for the Final all my life and then sleeping through it.

So, what to do when I close that door behind me?  As a child I firmly determined that if I were condemned to spend eternity floating around strumming a harp all day I would disassemble the harp, fashion the strings into a noose, and hang myself.  But the problem of hanging one's self while floating, though it has perhaps contributed to my lifelong interest in physics, has so far proved intractable.

In recent years we've seen a few popular books on the people you meet in "heaven" - heaven being open to interpretation.  Perhaps it's my legacy as a loner, but I never thought much about meeting people after death.  I always thought more of exploration, especially with my dogs, horses, and cat (yes, I'm entirely confident, based on experience and not belief, that non-human animal companions are as fully vested in discarnate life as I am).  Maybe they aren't as curious about the Cosmos as I am, but hopefully I can get them to tag along.  Much of the woo-woo and even the serious literature suggests discarnate beings hang around Earth.  This is not to be confused with "Earthbound",  a condition arising from failure to accept one's self as dead. C'mon, who can be that dumb?  No, it just suggests discarnate beings, whether people or otherwise, exist in a kind of halo around the planet. This must be a hassle, what with the satellites whizzing around and the occasional missile leaving the atmosphere. And how about those meteorites? No, I want to explore the Cosmos. Fully. Of course, one might wonder why bother.  So much of what we learn is done so we may impart it to others.  But when I'm dead, who's listening?

I certainly wouldn't say I've seen all there is on this planet. But traveling since about age 4, including a career which for a long time had me living with a go-pack in the closet, complete with two passports and various identity papers, has dimmed my enthusiasm for the hassles of putting up with zealous border guards and transportation which is more of a free expression of culture than a reliable resource.  Thanks, but I'll catch the travel documentary on tv.

Most of the people I've known I really don't want to meet again, especially family. Aside from the obvious figures, like Siddhartha Gautama, the Dalai Lama, and a few others there are a couple I would like to meet up - or down - with.  One guy keeps coming to mind. Maybe he's floating nearby.

In 1964 I was doing lone night duty at Hotel Control, the security facility for the "Hotel" ICBM complex. Golf Control and India Control flanked us, somewhere out there. The ten seismographs were scritching quietly, the sensors on the ten dispersed ICBMs were quiet (some bright star had rigged the skin temp. sensors with a come hither female voice which said, "My skin temperature is rising"), the inside lights were dim, and I was listening to a really moving radio speech by Martin Luther King.  Just then Sgt (I'll call him Sgt P.) stepped into the control room from where he had been eavesdropping. Sgt P was in charge of the housekeeping at the facility; we spent 10 days and nights on site and two off.  I referred to him as the Maitre d'Hotel, apropos our site designation.  A formidable looking man, he was what we now call African-American.  The scars on his face gave him something of a Picasso figure look.  I never asked, but I assumed he had brought a squirt gun to a knife fight, more than once.

Seeing my involvement in Dr. King's speech, he sat down and waited for it to end.  We then had a real mind to mind conversation which, given the normal 12 - 14 hour duty shift, seemed timeless. I think things like that were unusual in 1964, especially in the military and between two men in completely different career fields.       

He talked about how his life would have been so different if slavery had not occurred.  He mused about being brought up in an African village, illiterate and picking the most obese girl to marry.  And more.  Having recently transferred in from postings in Africa I saw things differently.  And looking back later I could see how he had internalized American myths about African village life.  He was, after all, an American.

So I wonder about the much vaunted meetings with intellects who have preceded me.  Have they developed away from the cultural milieu which produced them?  Were I to so develop, free of the cultural themes through which I have come to know myself, would I still be me?  Who is my EGO once my time/space/cultural boundaries dissolve? Once I realize and come to accept those boundaries, and all they contain, as no longer relevant? And how does this development happen?

While the physics community and the medical community are quickly coming to accept the reality of separation of mind and brain and the continuation of mind long after brain death, there is little serious material on what to do with that mind.  True, as scientists and other intellectuals are coming to feel their freedom in this foolishly materialistic culture we hear more about how their work has been inspired ("in-spire" coming from the sense of the intrusion of another mind into one's own) by what they fully accept - not believe - as discarnate predecessors.  But these notes are still sung only in the closed opera houses of the scientific/academic community.  The "common man" does not even bother to try entering.

So the broad field is left open.  If Nature abhors a vacuum, possibly stupidity does too.  In rush the purveyors of "eternal bliss", "love beyond anything ever known", and on and on.  Unnoticed in all this orgasmic rapture is a simple fact.  Something is what it is by contrast with what it is not.  And, where there is no contrast what IS quickly becomes the routine, the "same old same old".  There are no week-ends in the afterlife if there are no Mondays.   

As children we slogged through the school year, visions of summer vacation bliss making life worthwhile.  It arrived and was blissful........until it wasn't.  As young adults we feel deeply in love, visions of marital bliss making life worthwhile.  It arrived and was blissful....until it wasn't.  As workers we sold our lives for a paycheck, visions of retirement bliss making it all worthwhile.  Retirement arrived and was blissful......until we started looking for something to do.

Your once new car no longer a dream boat?  You can buy a spray can of "new car smell" at an auto parts store. Your life no longer a joy?  You can buy and endless assortment of New Age woo-woo books, attend a variety of classes from storefront gurus, hire a spiritual counselor. Then die.

For those who accept (not merely believe) the greatly increasing apparent reality of non-corporeal existence - the mind functioning independently of the body, here's a thought: As far as you are concerned you are as dead now as you are ever going to be.  Not seeing that means you have bought into other people's definitions as the ultimate reality. They look at and listen to your body and pronounce you not dead. But the bag of meat you're sitting in while reading this will one day fall over and not get up.  So?

When one sees the self as more than its wrapper, when one sees the self as the expression of every other being that has ever been, is now, and is coming the opportunities for exploration and understanding are in fact endless.  A simple change in perspective opens Door Number 4.  And we realize it was never there to begin with.

p.s. I still want to ride my horses through the Cosmos.

Marco M. Pardi

In Plain Sight

 

In Plain Sight                                                                                                                  

by Marco M. Pardi 

"The art of secrecy lies in being so open about most things that the few things that matter are not even suspected to exist." B. H. Liddell Hart (1895 - 1970) Strategy. 1954.

 "When you want to hide the needle, add more hay." Classic Intelligence Community adage.

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All comments welcome.  To those readers who have been hesitant to comment or ask questions, please be assured you may do so freely. In recent days several new people have signed on as followers, enabling them to comment freely, and it is hoped they will.  Reader participation keeps this site vibrant. MMP

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In these past few months I have noted what appears to be an increased tendency among people to keep their thoughts to themselves.  This is not surprising, given the presence of a demented man-child in the White House and a virtual take-over of government by the cabal which supports him.  As we've learned in the past few days, even being a spokesperson for this administration puts one's credibility at risk of irreparable damage from the almost Tourette's like tweets and pronouncements coming from the titular president.

Official secrecy has long been a tool of governments, accepted even in the same breath as transparency.  However, most concerns are raised not over secrecy itself, but about what is being kept secret.  And, as the opening quote implies,  some subjects are and remain secret simply because they have effectively been made a non-issue.  The recent Trump order to the Environmental Protection Agency to remove all mention of Climate Change from their website, Trump's "looking into ways to change the libel laws so as to sue journalists/media" for publishing unflattering statements about him, Trump's abrupt firing of the FBI Director heading an investigation into the election, and the Trump administration's move to place access to the internet in the hands of a select few reminded me of a twenty six page article in the August 2008 edition of the journal Political Theory.  Dr. Alexander Wendt, then an award winning author and professor of political science at Ohio State University and Dr. Raymond Duvall, then professor and chair of the Department of Political Science at the University of Minnesota wrote, "Sovereignty and the UFO" (the term UFO, carrying non-rational baggage, has since been replaced by UAP -Unidentified Aerial Phenomena). Surprisingly, not a single political scientist, or other reader, subsequently responded to the article in the journal Political Theory.    

No, I'm not writing about UFOs or UAPs.  For the record I, along with the governments of Argentina, Chile, Peru, Brazil, the U.K., France, Belgium, Sweden and Russia have accepted the mountains of physical, electronic, photographic, radiologic, botanical and testimonial evidence of their existence from multiple unimpeachable witnesses but I stand fast on the Unidentified appellation since there are several equally plausible hypotheses regarding their origin and nature.  What I am doing in referencing this article is drawing a parallel with the very successful burial (only in the United States) of any discussion of UAPs in heaps of illogical but effective criticism with the equally successful burial (again, only in the U.S.) of any serious discussion of the nature of a major American political party and its true agenda. (UFO/UAP Note: In January 2017, under direction from then-President Obama, the CIA de-classified roughly 1 million UFO/UAP documents and made them available on their website).  Did you notice?  Adding more straw.

Wendt and Duvall's article was not intended to prove or even support either side of any UFO/UAP debate; it was intended to elucidate how an authoritarian State can render a subject invisible despite the mountains of evidence for its presence. The article did so in truly remarkable fashion. 

Essentially, the paper lists a series of tactics used to discredit UAP advocates and even serious and credentialed scientists by: Portraying the subject as fringe, New Age, and incoherent while casting a shadow over the career futures of anyone should they speak approvingly of it publically; inventing "straw man" arguments based on only one of a series of plausible hypotheses and then attacking the stated hypothesis with information not scientifically valid ("space distances make travel impossible, so it has not and cannot occur" - this has long been shown to be false); and, appealing to an anthropocentric belief that humans, as children of God, enjoy primacy in Nature, including the universe.  Discovery of another life form, so advanced as to master the technology displayed through UAPs, would not be acceptable to people who, having no competence in science, must fall back on religious dogma.  This is appealing even to those who do not see themselves as particularly religious, but also have little to no understanding of science.

But more importantly,  Wendt and Duvall's article shows us that the worst way to keep something the public already knows about secret is to call it secret. This only spawns distrust and conspiracy theories - "they know and aren't telling us."  The far better way, as demonstrated by the official U.S. position on UAPs, is to declare them invalid and not worthy of attention from competent people. The parallel, for me, is the treatment of the F word - Fascism.

I've written elsewhere of my understanding of Fascism and will not repeat myself here.  The internet is now alight with entries such as, The Defining Criteria of Fascism and similarly informative pieces. One might think this blossoming of information is new.  It's not. Every Republican administration since Richard Nixon has been held against this list of criteria and found, in various degree, to be a match.  But institutional checks and balances have, until now, provided a firewall against a looming conflagration that otherwise would have burned democracy to the ground.  Now, our modern media have made the publication and understanding of the criteria of Fascism more accessible.  So, it's out there in plain sight.  Several excellent lists are available on line, for those who bother to look.  But how many are willing to sort through the haystack?  How many have decided a priori it is fringe thinking, impossible here?

Also in plain sight is the historical success of the advocates of Fascism in labeling such accusations (those arising from an understanding of Fascism) as fringe, radical, Leftist, and unworthy of consideration from "normal" and "patriotic" people.  I remember a nationwide exercise in the 1970's in which people across the country were shown a copy of the American Bill of Rights, with the title obscured.  They were simply told it was a proposal for submission to Congress and asked their opinion of it.  By an overwhelming majority the Bill of Rights was vehemently denounced as Communist, un-American, Socialist, Radical, and/or dreamed up by Hippies.  At the same time the word Fascist elicited "Jack booted" Storm Troopers, armbands, extended arm salutes, marching armies, and - horror of horrors, seizure of privately owned firearms.  No one seemed to know of Mussolini's own words: "Fascism is corporatism".  Now, the granting of personhood to corporations, embodied in the Citizens United Supreme Court ruling empowering corporations to fund political campaigns with no restrictions is the very backbone of Fascism.  In plain sight. Unseen by most.

So, I am not at all surprised that, today, Fascism can come into full bloom in America through the recent complete takeover of the Executive, Legislative, and Judicial branches of government by the very people who have advocated Fascism all along.  I mentioned elsewhere attending a dinner about 5 weeks after the November election at which a senior staffer for a highly placed United States Senator crowed, "Now we can do anything we want!" Sadly, he is so far correct.

I accept the likelihood that some readers will dismiss what I've written as radical drivel.  I also accept that some drivers see State mandated seat belt laws as infringements on their personal liberty.  Darwin can be so current.  I will not accept a continuation of the "Pendulum hypothesis" of politics, the idea that we continually swing from left to right while living mostly in the middle.  James Clapper, the former Director of National Intelligence, was interviewed yesterday and said our basic democratic institutions are under attack, from outside and from within.  Asked if, by "within", he was referring to Trump he said "exactly". Pendulums can be stopped.  Do you care where it stops?

Contrary to some public opinion, Trump did not break and enter into the White House by himself, or even merely with the help of the "undereducated White males" he appealed to.  Every move since his election, every executive order and appointment has had the backing of a hitherto largely silent cabal which can be described only as Fascist.  His repeal of every environmentally and socially beneficial action of his predecessor enables corporations to freely plunder and rape the planet, economically, socially, educationally and medically disempowering the vast majority of Americans in favor of a very select few. 

We have lived for decades with the now defunct belief that inter-stellar space flight is impossible so it doesn't happen.  We are living now with the same flawed logic telling us that Fascism can't happen in the United States so it isn't happening.  Refusing to see Fascism is here until we see boots and salutes is of the same order of flawed thinking as refusing to admit to UAPs until we see little green men. So long as people continue to think that Fascism is only here once we see "boots and salutes" we will miss, at our peril, the actual parade of Fascism as it marches by in plain sight.