Some Random Thoughts on Divine Agriculture

(My continued quilting will return—hopefully next post)

I spent most of my working life in agricultural extension of a major university. There are things the average non-farmer just wouldn’t “get” unless exposed to this environment. I had grown up surrounded by farms and in an era where every family I knew at very least had a vegetable garden, but I learned a lot just by being in that office with farmers and experts.

There’s always been a lot of speculation about the end times, blood moons, wars and rumors of wars. It would seem, though, that our generation—with its ability to blow mankind off this big blue marble—indeed could be The One that sees the Second Coming of Christ. Matthew 24 shows that his disciples came to him privately and ask him straight out—and Yeshua gave them a bagful of great “clues” as to that time. In contrast to that whole somnolent “nobody knows the day and hour,” implying that we just go along until it comes (and maybe it won’t come on our watch), every piece of this chapter points to what’s going to go on.

A couple of the clues I want to focus on here are these, particularly the last two:

36“But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.37“For the coming of the Son of Man will be just like the days of Noah.38“For as in those days before the flood they were eating and drinking, marrying and giving in marriage, until the day that Noah entered the ark,39and they did not understand until the flood came and took them all away; so will the coming of the Son of Man be.40“Then there will be two men in the field; one will be taken and one will be left.41“Two women will be grinding at the mill; one will be taken and one will be left.

At first glance you have to wonder why he’s talking about the days of Noah and then the next couple of sentences refer to men in fields and women grinding. Well, they are together because they explain each other. I’m big on the Bible explaining itself without our help.

In the days of Noah, as reported in Genesis 6, there was an almost complete environment of lawlessness, mostly due to the fallen angels mixing it up with human women and producing a hybrid race. READ IT FOR YOURSELF, paying attention to how they were and were after also.

I was curious about this because I surmised that we’re getting a clue in verse 41 that the grain harvest will be over at that appointed time—because the women are in there grinding at the mill. They’re at the threshing floor and that summer work of harvesting wheat has been done and now they’re grinding the grain to be able to use it. Since the First Coming of Christ occurred to parallel the spring Levitical feasts, it’s a whole other post about Yom Teruah and the Coming of the Bridegroom. But who are the two men in the field?

I looked and looked on sites about grain production to see if there would be some reference but then I saw in the Bible Yeshua’s story in Matthew 13 about the wheat harvest—how the field was found to have wheat and tares. The farmer who sowed the field was most likely the owner, but then another farmer—who is identified as an enemy who wanted to destroy the crop—came in and sowed tares. Here’s what they look like—they are very, VERY similar while they’re growing:

wheat-and-tares

If you look carefullly you’ll see some green plants among the ripe golden ones. Those are not just unripened wheat–they are the tares. Tares don’t dry down to gold just before harvest–they stay green in the field and the stalk is tough. They are an imposter–a “double” of wheat. Look at this:

wheat tares

The harvested wheat here is on the left, the harvested tare on the right. The tare seeds are way smaller, non-nutritive, and will cause nausea, vomiting, headaches. But it’ll fool the person who doesn’t know their wheat. A farmer knows that his wheat will bow over (love that!) and the other stuff stands up when it’s time for him to get out there with his swather or combine.

Another point to make mention of here is this: Yeshua says the farmer told the assistant to let the tares grow up among the wheat. The wheat is stronger, more robust and won’t be threatened by the tares—but it would be unwise to have the help try to sort them while they’re still growing and looking so alike. No, he says to wait and bundle the tares FIRST and then bring the wheat into the barn.

I think our Blessed Yeshua put these clues together for this reason: The Genesis 6 demons have somehow survived the flood (probably Ham’s wife had messed around but that’s a whole other story) and are now (Yes, NOW—Jesus told his followers to go around casting out demons which must mean they’re even now among us)—those children of the fallen ones are sown among us and will have to be bundled up first, to be burned after the people of God are brought into the barn. The second man in the field was the deceitful, hateful farmer who sowed the tares—HaSatan—who will be cast away to everlasting punishment. Since a woman is usually identified in prophetic scripture as the church, there will be two grinding the grain and the one who was an imposter or possibly deceived would taken away to be destroyed.

Reading this, it’s apparent that it’s essential to get past that whole “the good will be taken away” mind-set that has infiltrated (and even popularized by the “Left Behind” books and some church leaders). We might get taken away but it’ll be AFTER the tares have been bundled and readied to be hurled to destruction. It also emphasizes to us that we do indeed live in “perilous times” and need to be wise.

Quilting: Step 1–fabric selections

Image

If you ever have a couple of hours and nothing better to do, ask me what denomination I am. And then, wait five minutes, and it’ll change again.

I have identified as a Quaker—the Religious Society of Friends—for a long time now. I remember going on to BeliefNet and answering some pointed questions regarding… what else… my beliefs, and was specifically looking for a group that would not subject me to Christmas and Easter. The word was that Quakers held every day alike. After some research about their non-creeds and silent meetings, I looked up a nearby meeting and was gathered with them.

Well, the stuff about Christmas and Easter wasn’t exactly true; this particular meeting, while it definitely had Christmas and Easter in a decidedly Quaker, unadorned fashion, still observed those days. And while the silence was at first challenging (ask any Buddhist about the monkey mind) it wasn’t as challenging as a Meeting for the Purpose of Business. The Religious Society of Friends runs on consensus and that’s sometimes really maddeningly hard to come by.

I could start at the beginning and give you a long list of church “begats,” but suffice it to say that I’ve covered most of the major Protestant denominations along with side trips to high church, non-denom, inter-denom, Buddhist, and even New Age. Oddly enough, given my Santa/Bunny aversion criteria, I never ventured into Judaism. Sorry.

Along the way I’ve learned about simplicity and the worshipfulness of silence from Friends, liturgy and ritual as pathways to worshipful feelings from the high churches, modesty and religious-observant dress from Conservative Quakers. I’ve loved the depictions of Christ in the art of the Latter Day Saints. From “mainline” churches, I learned apologetics and also that little “Gentiles Eat Pork Chops” way to find Paul’s letters to the Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians. I’ve had to overcome a bit of reticence in the non-denom worship whose worship vigor was much less aligned with my personality than silence but, ya know. I really appreciated Mary Baker Eddy’s (seemingly) unwavering faith and the way she wrote about Christ in her “textbook” Science and Health, which is also laid out with consistent pages and line numbering that I really, REALLY like. Eddy also instituted the idea of the book being the pastor of the congregation instead of any human leader. Moving back further, I can remember asking my mother at a very young age if I could be a nun (because my bestie was a Catholic); her answer made me think Catholicism was a gene I didn’t get but I still love the idea of nuns wedded to Christ and the engaging pageantry and the stained glass.

Recently I’ve been investigating Messianic congregations through their Web sites and YouTubes, drawn by a presentation on headcovering given by a young lady (asisterofchrist) who is apparently in that. I liked what she said and how she said it so I watched another of her videos—this one about Yom Teruah in which she offered about the Hebraic betrothal process and how it relates to words of Christ (“Behold, I stand at the door and knock….” and “I go to prepare a place for you in my Father’s house….”). I’ve read the Bible through a few times but those things had never taken on the life she gave it. Thus, my curiosity piqued, I ventured on through more Web sites and things about the Messianics. What I’m taking away from that is the rich Hebrew texture that embroiders the entire Bible text.

Okay, so now I have this pile of pieces of varying shapes, colors and fibers. In my next post I’ll start laying them out to see if I can arrange a pleasing pattern or if this is just gonna be one of those “crazy quilts” where there is no geometric or other design, but the effect is just as nice.

Controversial. Sorry.

Day before Halloween, 1938. The CBS Mercury Theater had just begun its normal programming when an urgent voice broke in. “Ladies and gentleman, we interrupt our program…to bring you a special bulletin from the Intercontinental Radio News.” That “news” was the invasion of aliens from Mars (how would we know that again?—was it on the side of their spacecraft?) near New York City. Details and eye-witness accounts of the carnage followed.

Gullible listeners—and that was a LOT of people—thought it was actually happening (because the media told them it was) and hysteria spread like wildfire. People packed up their cars and fled while others took to the streets screaming. Some of those who did neither quickly improvised gas masks while others prayed to Jesus as this was the end. Other news broadcasts began alerting their audiences. It took weeks to convince the American public that the program had been dramatic adaption by Howard Koch of Wells’ book War of the Worlds. H.G. Wells went on two years later to publish a book called The New World Order, which at the time seemed nearly as bizarre as alien space invaders. But—I digress.

Last December a few days before the holiday known as Christmas, the American people were shocked and saddened by a crime of incredible magnitude. Only…the crime was the hoax perpetrated on them—not the alleged school shooting that occurred in Newtown, Connecticut. What Mr. Wells and CBS were able to do with mere early 20th century technology—the galvanizing of an entire country, it seemed—70-odd years later has been done again, only with much improved technology and much more sinister implications.

If you doubt the “facts” of Sandy Hoax, I challenge you to watch the video of the medical examiner. I won’t link it here in case you think I’m stacking my deck. In the face of simply the most heinous crime anyone can remember, this buffoon put on quite the show. Standing there in a lab coat (who does that for a press conference?), which was quite frankly the only “evidence” that this idiot went to medical school even, this man alleged that he was a firearms expert due to the thousands of shootings he’d investigated in his career. Really? If there had been that many, wouldn’t Newtown be known as Crime Central and not a place where well-off families moved to to escape violence? His entire demeanor reeked of “staged” and acted BADLY. Maybe they should have tried to get Jack Klugman for the part—Quincy did a much better job as an M.E.

Another player (and I use that word pointedly) was Robbie Parker, supposedly the dad of Emily who had been murdered in the rampage at Sandy Hook. A day later he’s caught on a recording laughing and looking for cues. Really, Mr. Parker—if that’s who you are? You had to work up some tears for your dead child?

Facebook devotees have already been treated to the fact that Victoria Soto had a memorial Facebook page up FOUR DAYS before the incident occurred but which was quickly removed (why?) when it came to light via screenshots that began circulating.

The ‘neighbor’ Gene Rosen who didn’t bother to call 911 to alert them about the six children in his home. The bus driver (?) who had brought them to safety in his driveway (without calling 911 either, apparently) changed gender depending on which teary-eyed-but-no-tears interview you watch.

The list goes on and on. Where was the rifle that Lanza allegedly killed everyone with? Where is the video from the swanky brand-new school security system that shows him shooting his way into the building—or maybe just walking in dressed in commando gear—depending on which story you want to read. How did the dead principal give a statement to the Newtown Bee about the incident? The police commander who totally changed the subject. The discrepancy about how many people were seen where, the parents of the dead who were content to just drive away (we’re told) instead of grief-stricken attempts to get to their children at the school. Who were the nuns that mysteriously showed up and why did one resemble a linebacker? Bad acting from nearly everyone involved. Miscues, Photoshop and lies, oh my.

If you still want to believe that Sandy Hook actually occurred, I hope that Santa Claus was good to you this past Christmas. And I’ve got some beachfront in Kansas I can let you have cheap.

Happy New Year

Yes, it’s the third day in but punctuality isn’t on my list of resolutions. Here’s what is:

  • (almost a cliché but….) A better diet by 1) purchasing food, not packages, 2) learning new recipes for non-meat based dishes, 3) seeking out farmers and others and develop relationships with them since it’s hard for me to grow anything up here.
  • Join a faith community and participate.
  • Fill a new address book (yes, the paper/bound kind) with names and information for new friends I meet this year.

That’s it. That’s enough.

jec 2013

Snake Wranglers Wanted

snake 2013

Across the Potomac River just a half-hour’s drive from where I live in the Western Piedmont of Maryland, lies West Virginia, where it’s still legal to handle poisonous snakes—one of the few places left in the country where you can do that. Earlier this year, Pastor Mack Wolford followed his father’s faith—and death—by handling a rattlesnake; he died following that Sunday service last May just as his father had died. Appalachia is home to the Holiness Pentecostal movement in which some congregations practice snake handling as their faith response to Mark 16:18:

And these signs shall follow them that believe: In my name shall they cast out devils; they shall speak with new tongues. They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them; they shall lay hands on the sick, and they shall recover.

While the text seems pretty straightforward, there are layers of parable-like meaning (just like the entire rest of Scripture, no?) that give us a better understanding of what exactly is being conveyed. Someone with only an intellectual understanding (which really means it’s what someone taught them; they don’t REALLY understand it as their own experience) only “gets it” to their level of ability to understand. Some, like the flamboyant Pastor Wolford, experienced this meaning as a testing of his faith. Perhaps obedience has yet other dimensions.

One “problem” that I have with this particular verse, and it’s not really a problem as such, is that the Greek verb arousin (root word of our English “arouse,” and containing the Greek root “airo”) translated as “take up” here in Mark is the same one used on other occasions in the New Testament and translated “lift up.” More like raising up than simply picking up and grasping. But even as I type that, I know that it’s that way for a reason—so that the undiscerning, those who don’t examine their faith, will trip. “Take up” offers the sense of pick up and handle, whereas “lift up” obviously pertains more to a demonstration—sort of similar to raising up a flag to carry in battle maybe or perhaps as in the foreshadowing example in the Old Testament book of Numbers. (And, yes, I know that Numbers is a bit dry, but stay with me here.)

Essentially, in Numbers 21, Moses had brought the children of Israel out of Egypt and sooner rather than later they’re complaining about the sameness of their food and how they were just going to die wandering around the wilderness. Early in the chapter, some of them are taken prisoner after a half-hearted attempt to foil Canaanite King Arad, which incites the Israelites to make a vow with the Lord to conquer Canaan and they are, in fact, successful. But then Moses leads them off instead of letting them set up camp right then. And so now they’re groaning and whining about their poor circumstances or perhaps, more to the point, poor leadership. “Fiery serpents” descend on them now, killing many, so they again cry to Moses, this time to ask God to fix it (whereas they hadn’t asked God for better food or more water…hmm.) The image “fiery” lends a feeling that the snakes spread through the community much like a wildfire in a strong gale and that their bite was particularly consuming, stingy and burn-y. The people realize they have sinned and clamored against God’s chosen leader, so they now want Moses to ask God to take the serpents away. “Okay, we get it, we get it. We screwed up. Just get God to take away the snakes that are biting and killing us.” Sounds rather like a 4-year old who has learned socially she must say (an oft-mumbled) “Sorry” when she’s hit the kid who took her doll—and seems just about as sincere.

The mostly-patient Moses indeed goes to God who tells him this to do:

“Make thee a fiery serpent, and set it upon a pole: and it shall come to pass, that every one that is bitten, when he looketh upon it, shall live.” (Numbers 21:9)

No capturing of snakes, no building of snake pens, no appointing of notorious snake killers—indeed the snakes are not said to have been vanquished by any means at all. (Maybe they just later dwindle away in another cosmic instance of the teacher arriving when the student is ready and then vanishing when no longer needed.) Instead of watching snakes slither away, propelled by arm of the Mighty God in obedience to cries of the Israelites, there is now this object of their own obedience to be reckoned with. The snake-bitten must decide to look at this pole where this bronze snake reminds them of Who saves them. This surrendering act of humble obedience, this gaze on what God has provided—the loving symbol of God as Supreme and Salvation—and they recover.

After Moses tells them what to do, I imagine there were those who then again complained, like, “Hey, we asked you to get God to send the snakes away. You really expect us to just look at your metalcraft artwork up on that pole? We NEED the snakes removed and you hand us this?” And those faithless ones would be the very ones who would die in the very presence of salvation, rather than humbly submit to the power of obedience to save them.

Jesus tells Nicodemus in John 3 about being lifted up to save His people similarly in their sin. Much in the same way that bronze snake was made and raised up on a pole so as to be readily available to all who would look, Jesus himself was raised up on display as the loving symbol of the Supreme God of Salvation. His love is there for the taking, and obediently looking—considering that grace—will save you. When you have fiery snakes all around, when you’re charred and seared by unemployment, unhealthy relationships, or whatever your snakes look like, you might not think such a simple thing will help at all.  Our minds don’t think of obedience as much at all; it’s more a feeling of the heart.

Just look upon Him, and you will live.

Just….

 

My Shopping Experience

When I go to a grocery store—well, most stores really but in my reduced circumstances I rarely “shop”—it sort of looks like this to me—

grocery-store

—well, except that I wouldn’t actually get a lot of that stuff in that cart, but you maybe get the idea. The store’s efforts to the contrary, it’s personally actually NOT a great shopping “experience.”

Despite my non-consumerist outlook on life, I actually do quite a lot of work “in” marketing (read that—transcribing focus groups) and hear about this a lot. There are professionals in customer experience now—who knew? And apparently from this and this it’s quite the intense field on beyond suggestive selling or those engineered ads. And, yes, I read Subliminal Seduction when it came out AND Hidden Persuaders, buddy.

I’m sure my local chain grocery store has spent a lot of money and interest toward enhancing their customer experience. I would have to guess most places have to in order to stay competitive. But no matter what they do, they are unable to have me leave their store without feeling overwhelmed, tired beyond belief and sometimes all but shattered.

I actually no longer register the other maybe 250 kinds of cereal on the shelves; I head straight for the bottom shelf about one-third the way down the aisle where they keep “old fashioned” oatmeal in the red box (the blue one is that quick-cooking mess). Each generic thing on my list has a definite location where I can go straight away and fetch it. When they move stuff around—which they do with alarming frequency—I’m aghast and have to look (which is why they do it) for “my” stuff. I aim to get in and gone as quickly as possible.

The store itself is long walk, not including the trek in from the parking spot. And when you count the number of times you’re hefting each thing—one to get it off the shelf, down into the cart, back out of the cart at the check-out, back in the cart because the cashier stuffed the bags and lined them up at the end of the check-out, into the car, out of the car and again to give them their appropriate homes in pantry or fridge. It makes me exhausted just thinking about all that lifting.

And then there’s the check-out lane. I flatly refuse to use the self-check-outs no matter how few items I have. I will go to express with my 15 items or FEWER (not “less” grammatically) or to a regular check out complete with the cashier. I’ll stand there and wait it out because they may only one actual person assigned there to ring me up; I prefer for people to have jobs instead of machines. I also somehow am old enough that I happen to like the human element, though I must confess to some impatience when that human hands me my change in a little wad with the receipt instead of properly counting it back, but I know that that gentility of counting the money back “in reverse” is a lost art.

No, I like the little Mennonite family-run store I found in a nearby more rural town a few months ago. They sell stuff that looks like this:

farm market shop

The store is quite plain with no fancy banners with the next “exciting offer” nor nauseating music or blah-blah-blah on the public address. It’s actually quiet except for sometimes they might have their radio on.  Aside from the (forgivable) “placement” of candies near the entrance, things are pretty much grouped into things like flours, spices, jars of things and a cold case with milk and eggs and a few other things in. (There’s a meat section, too, that doesn’t smell weird and is easily ignored by this vegetarian.) Carts and baskets are available but they also don’t mind if you lay stuff on the counter and go shop some more because you came in for two things and are leaving with more. They smile and ring you up. They count back your change (I try always to take cash so they don’t take the hit from a credit card).

It’s a tiny store with certainly no 250 types of cereal. There is “white flour,” “wheat flour,” and even “spelt flour.” I can get my dried soybeans and spelt berries there, too, which that chain doesn’t carry. There is one milk to choose from, unless you count chocolate milk (not “chocolate flavored drink”) and the only variety in eggs is whether you want large or extra-large. It’s not a gauntlet or science project.

More to the point, I leave feeling content. I believe I’ve traded fairly. I’m smiling when I put the stuff into my car. It’s the difference described by Natalie Goldberg in her book Writing Down the Bones in which she tells about how she and her friends in college opened a lunch shop. She says that when she cared about the muffins she made, the customers liked them. We’ve all (I hope—though it’s increasingly rare) had the “experience” of shopping whatever store and just feeling better about it. It’s the mark of that indefinable element that no “customer experience transformer” is going to suggest to her company—that the employees MATTER (afterall—they are ‘human resources’) and what matters most about them is their caring they can bring to what they’re doing. You can put in all the trappings you want but an employee who cares is the best investmen in customer experience.

 

 

Embracing for Change

This is the only “jewelry” I wear.

 SAM_1801

 It has a funny history actually. A friend of mine and I got together one day. We were all about “embracing” it. We made these little bracelets to remind ourselves to do that.

Fast forward to late last year. While walking around the lake at Baker Park (I’m sure it has an actual name other than that lake at Baker Park but fobbed if I know it—Lake Culler, maybe?) with another friend in deep discussion of our joblessness and other troubles, we bandied our thoughts about more than accepting, but embracing our situations. She was quite taken with the idea and so I presented her this bracelet. I pretty much forgot about the bracelet for the entire next year.

Little did I know that there would be much in the intervening year’s time would throw me into loss, loss, and more loss. While struggling to keep a few dollars in the door by contract employment and doing the child care so my single parent daughter can get a career launched rather than have it founder, I almost didn’t have time to mourn the very dear friends who drifted out of my life (including one who laughed and crafted and wore the other “embrace-lit”–now if that’s not irony….) and my beloved Jeep (my Toy) that I had to sell as a hedge for continued solvency. Those were the big things; other collateral damages have occurred.

When we mourn, it’s so easy for our judgments of “should” and “ought” to slip into the vocabulary and, if Eckhart Tolle is correct, prove that we are verifiably insane. He should have understood; she shouldn’t have left. I ought to have…and on and on it goes and with each judgment of what would happen if I were Queen of the Known Universe, is another hash mark to my mental instability. Of course he shouldn’t understand, because he didn’t. I know she should have left because she did. I oughtn’t have my Jeep to toy around in because I don’t.

When we make these pronouncements, we argue with what is. The only sane choice is to accept the situations, which is not the same thing as being resigned to them. And truth be told, acceptance is actually quite the mild breeze compared to embracing that which is.

It is at this point that the bracelet enters, Stage Right. My friend handed it off to my husband when he was lately over there to fix some computer glitch or other. It came back into my possession and back on my left wrist a couple of months ago now. Am I finally to a point of being able to embrace these certain things? I think I was glib last year when speaking of embracing. I think I was talking about acceptance in embracement’s clothing. To accept is a much more passive thing—the dictionary likens it to allowing or receiving. Embracing is to actively draw something or someone to oneself with affection.

So I’m not only to hold at arm’s length, but also to warmly and gladly and even eagerly clasp my losses. I’m to adopt, join with, and take in. The word derives from a word that speaks of two arms. Somehow I get that I’m to be all in, as opposed to simply offering a polite cup of tea. Another word that is related means to set on fire. And so my “embrace-lit” silently reminds that teeth-gritting tolerance and even acceptance are not quite there. We forge on together no longer trying to make sense of my losses, but gathering them close around and loving them.

What’s in a Date?

Thanksgiving is upon us in a couple of days. I feel 98% sorry for Thanksgiving. It lacks the cache of Halloween and is now little more than a rest period complete with mid-week football games before Black Friday (unless you’re in retail in which case you stuff down a meal, kiss your family and hustle off to work). My practice has been to have a quiet Thanksgiving day and then have family in on Saturday to give them the opportunity to celebrate elsewhere on the day and still make time for mom. This year, though, a cop and a heavy-duty tow truck driver who’s on call have split our day into Thursday and Sunday. I can’t remember the last Thanksgiving I had on a Thursday.

It doesn’t matter really. I mean, Lincoln proclaimed the last Thursday of the month (next week in 2012) as the day of thanksgiving and praise. Up to then, states had randomly selected days to recognize and receive their many blessings. Canada, whose harvest is closer to finished in October—has theirs then.

I guess what bothers me is that Thanksgiving was pushed around by whiny retailers complaining about sales in 1939; there would only be 24 post-Thanksgiving days in which to shop. Roosevelt gave in and moved it up a week. Calendars were now wrong. Games had to be rescheduled. People of faith generally and loyalty to Lincoln particularly were outraged. About half the states went along with it, while half did not. A couple of them did both days. In the subsequent year, a few more states went along with what was being called “Franksgiving,” with confusion ensuing for another couple Thanksgivings until Congress fixed the celebration where it is today.

Did it work? The simple answer is “No.” Spending patterns shifted so the graph was more evenly distributed over the weeks leading to Christmas (instead of most of it the week just before), but spending was what had been expected.

The recovery was in full swing by then. Shell-shocked Europe, though, grimly watched as Hitler began invading one country after the next. But the President of the most powerful country in the world was puppeted by financiers, banks and others with interests in commerce in an effort to finagle more and more money from the American people.

Now it’s all about Black Friday. Odd when you remember that “Black Tuesday” was the moniker given to the day the Stock Market crashed in 1929–we all know that but did you ever think why it was BLACK. Somehow in our history classes we’ve filled in that blank to be a black day, a day of mourning, a day of loss and a grim future. Actually black and red are terms related to financial profit/loss statements. Black is good; not so good to “in the red” or showing a loss. (Kinda makes you wonder about that day in 1929 when we can see plainly these days who has benefited the most from the Great Recession–just sayin’)  Black Friday is called that because it’s the day that retailers pin their entire annual profit hopes on. The larger chains and mega-stores can literally afford to lose money ALL YEAR if they have a “good Christmas.” They’ll still be “in the black” on their profit/loss sheet. Merry Christmas, indeed.

Here’s what an e-notes writer says that sounds eerily familiar:

The stock market was only one cause of the Great Depression, however. Unequal income distribution was another problem. While businesses showed great profits during the 1920s, workers got only a small portion of this wealth in their low wages. People who had small incomes therefore bought merchandise on credit. Advertisers pushed them to do so with the slogan “Buy now, pay later.” Many consumers accumulated so much debt that they could no longer purchase products, leading to a slowing of manufacturing because there was a backlog of merchandise. During the 1920s American farmers in the Midwest had been suffering from drought conditions. Others had geared up for high production, but after the end of World War I (1914–18) they found that the international market was overstocked and prices fell so low that they could not make a profit on their crops. The banking industry also made mistakes in too freely lending money, especially to foreign countries trying to rebuild after the war. These countries had trouble repaying their debts. To make matters worse, the United States (and other industrialized countries) charged high import taxes on goods that other countries offered for sale. These taxes prevented countries from selling the goods they needed to earn the money to repay loans from U.S. banks.

Will we never learn?

Source: http://www.enotes.com/history/q-and-a/what-was-black-tuesday-286639  comment by “fact-finder.”

Self-Sufficiency Turned Out to be a Lie

I’m one of the last of the Boomers. I hit my teen years a little after the Summer of Love (1967 for you young whippersnappers) and while Vietnam (the war, not the country) was noisily winding down. John Denver, bless him, crooned about life in the mountains and everybody in the know had the Life Subscription to Mother Earth News. Jeans with handmade anything were pro forma.

Among the mantras of that time was the phrase “self-sufficiency.” Among the now-speak of back-to-the-landers, DIY, off-the-grid and “health food” was this notion of providing for oneself all the necessities of life. Grow a food garden (what was the big deal—my family always had!). Not only sew your clothes, but also weave the cloth, spin the fiber after sheering your sheep. The point—or at least part of the point, was to leave Corporate America out of the loop, to be shed of those accoutrements of a wussy dependency upon The Man.

I can even say that at a certain level self-sufficiency grew to become a competitive sport. “Oh, you bought your shoes? We grew the cow from a pup, slaughtered her ourselves, and tanned the hide on the side of our barn.” Now words like “total self-sufficiency” moved the end zone of virtuous living out another 50, 60, 100 yards. The new path of Enlightment was trod by the self-sufficient.

Even then, it occurred to me, probably while I sewed a recycled fringe for my jeans out of those deadly pop-tops that we had on soda cans then, that to learn every skill, to acquire every tool, to manage every farm animal while growing your veggie garden was, to put it simply, a herculean feat. I mean, I was having enough trouble just fiddling my fingers around macramé (1970’s glossary entry meaning twisting cords into knots to make pretty plant hangers). There was always somebody who found enough hours in the day to do all of that AND make macramé. I was in awe.

It turns out that all that talk about self-sufficiency was a lie. Why?

Somehow it was possible to be self-sufficient because it was held forth as a beacon of youthful energy, the goal of my age, but what I learned most from my attempts at bread making, quilting (shamefully removed from the original frugal art by the  purchase of fabric and patterns instead of using scraps from sewing something useful like clothing), growing food in containers (we lived in an apartment) and making my children’s baby food at home was that each of these skills takes time to learn well. Making bread requires commitment to do it all over again when the centers of your precious loaves are all sodden still.  No normally proportioned human being wanted to wear my hand knit sweaters no matter how much I had om’ed (glossary entry for a repeatable mantra that doesn’t basically mean anything but sounds exotic) while my needles click-clicked. I conservatively estimate that it would require several lifetimes to learn all the needed skills for a subsistence existence.

The part of all this that we Self-Sufficient, rugged, individualistic Americans missed was this: that we are social animals. The Wiki defines self-sufficient this way—

 “Self-sufficiency is the state of not requiring any aid, support, or interaction, for survival….”

 —and while that sounds very much like a noble thing, when it all boils down in the iron kettle over the hickory fire is that somebody, be it Corporate America or some self-sufficiency guru, was able to hype this and sell each of us a food grinder, each of us a loom, each of us pottery making classes. While nobody can argue that farm fresh eggs are better for man AND chicken than battery farmed eggs, it’s clear that my generation was retailed, even as we protested being sold. But that’s not the crux of this.

Human life is intelligently designed to MAKE us dependent on one another. The job of surviving, of simply existing in this 3-D world of effects, is just too big. Even in our most equitable (and now considered primitive!) social models—the hunter/gatherers—cooperation was necessary to survive. They had to think of themselves as a member of the group, as within the larger community. Competition was considered insane or sport until the innovation of agriculture allowed us to be able to store food and thereby threaten the rest of us with starvation.

All That Is/God/the Universe knew we’d be at each other’s throats with ego-ic judgments and an entire litany of other sins and that if we weren’t having to bank our survival on our fellow man we’d have blown this planet to smithereens a long time ago. We’re engineered as community beings. I’m happy that the current planetary shift is teasing out those values and beliefs we hold dear that run counter to the idea of being gathered. Jesus showed us how to think of it; in what is known as “The Lord’s Prayer” we find the personal pronouns to be plural—“our,” “us.” Do you think “US-sufficiency” could catch on?

Fearsomeness

Today is October 31, Halloween, 2012. We here on the East Coast are just emerging from the various and horrific devastation of Hurricane Sandy. An estimated one-third of the United States, and countries in the Caribbean, are affected by what they are calling a one-of-a-kind “Superstorm.”

And already the theories and high-class conspiracy concoctions are flying about like leaves in the comparatively gentle autumn breezes outside my window today. Everything from chemtrails to H.A.A.R.P to election tampering are being posited, as if the aftermath of the storm isn’t enough to dredge our way through. Somebody should take the blame, I guess.

If you live in a Mason jar and don’t know about H.A.A.R.P or chemtrails or anything having to do with the so-called elite/Illuminati/New World Order/conspiracy stuff, the Readers’ Digest version is that there are those who believe that there is a ruling super-class (or group of families perhaps) who have an agenda of world domination, population reduction, global economic dictatorship. These same folks are now said to be responsible for the storm—either by way of weather tampering or something else. Some of the nice people who believe these things are just nice people and others are vapid extremists and everything in between. Now, I don’t know how much I believe or disbelieve these theories (have you ever noticed you can’t have a conspiracy without it being a theory?) but what I will discuss are two things I know for sure.

One is that there is a definite culture of fear promulgated by many, if not most, of these notions. We are terrorized by those faceless, nameless, unknown Deciders of Our Fate. They are demonic and capricious and we will never know how or when or where they will strike. Are the skies filled with chemicals as surely as our food is? Is the run-away pharmaceutical industry an arm of these hellions? Do they really put the man in the Oval Office that they have groomed to be there? The shadowy world of this undercurrent of impending doom could drive you to madness.

The other thing I’ll put out there is my belief that EVERY external circumstance has its origin in thought—either your own private situation or the collective “mind.” Many, many spiritual teachers have said this: There is one earth but there are billions of worlds. On a quantum level, we know that Newtonian physics has long-ago been replaced by ideas of the field of possibilities which are brought into our existence by awareness. Thought is the vehicle of that awareness. It’s kind of like that old-school Star Trek episode (“Shore Leave,” December 29, 1966, to be exact) where the Enterprise crew is vacationing in a world in which their every thought is made manifest. Captain Kirk must fight his self-created nemesis/Starfleet academy rival, Finnegan, who embodies his fear of failure. The crew is told to try to corral their thoughts, but it’s obvious by what’s popping up in front of them that they are filled with uncontrollable thoughts spinning with angst, pride, fear, hate, gluttony—every sin you can name.

Jim, there are easier ways to conquer fear.

This post is not the place to go into quantum science; I’ve studied this for nearly 40 years so it would have to be at least two posts. ; ) And you’re probably wondering if I’m going to wrap this all up into one Halloween treat or maybe it’s just a trick. What has one to do with the other?

I say all this to say that fear is of our own making. I’m unshakeably convinced that whether or not there is an evil Illuminati or whether or not Hurricane Sandy was geoengineered or whatever menacing shadow you want to name, it’s a product of our own making. Study after study after study have shown the force of our thoughts and, in particular, the power of our collective thoughts. I know—you’re saying, “Whatever, dudette. Didn’t nobody make the winds blow, the water rise, the snow pile up.” Okay. But I believe that the increasing vacancy of our lives is manifesting increasing peril for us. The more consumerist, the more self-absorbed, the more uncertain we become—the more we’ll see these horrific incidences attributable to whatever source. They give us a place for our fear to stand and shake its fist at us.

Just as Halloween gave primitive peoples tangible symbols of their fear and dread, we are silently and consistently creating the manifestations of our own thoughts, beliefs, attitudes and emotions.  Franklin D. Roosevelt didn’t know probably the amazing truth of what he said, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself—nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror….” Fear is a manufacture of the mind. And mind can—not overcome it—but transcend it, but only 100% of the time.