Monday, November 24, 2008

Soya Sauce in Your Coffee?

No big trauma in today’s events, but still enough going on to inspire a lengthy rant. Now to start with, I poured myself a cup of coffee this morning and reached into the fridge for a dab of cream. And in the act of doing so, there was a slight time delay before sight synapsed with brain, and when it did, I realized I added soy sauce, rather than cream, to my coffee.

But then I think, ‘This is probably how the more creative recipes are made. Furthermore, the bargain coffee I bought needs help and this might just be the help it needs’.
So then I add a dab of cream as well, and take a sip.

Nah. Not for me. Obviously that is not the help this coffee needs.

So I pour a fresh cup, add cream this time, (no soy sauce), and pull out my laptop. And away we go with an inspiring rant. It was about baking and Christmas presents. How I oft give home-baked presents with hesitation, only to find, to my surprise, that receivers of such gifts are truly delighted. And in the writing of that rant, I am inspired to want to give a gift of sweet ‘dainties’ to blogging friends.

So I think about the easiest (and most delightful) thing I have ever made. And then I recall, by some miracle, a recipe I jotted down in a notebook that I have had for more than 30 years. The book isn’t even shelved with other recipe books. It is in a small plastic bag against the back wall of the canister cupboard. There is no sticky stuff on it, no gritty flour, no curled pages. Because, except for the few times I wrote in it, I never use it.

And in that forgotten little book, I find the recipe I want. I still remember the few times I made those crunchy little snacks so many years ago. I remember how delicious they were. Like honey sesame-seed bars, but even better. Made so simply with nothing more than graham wafers, butter, brown sugar, and sliced almonds.

Could I hope to find a more perfect ‘daintie’ for my blogger friends? With only 4 ingredients, 5 minutes to arrange, and 8 minutes to cook. That’s as good as if I made it, packaged it, and sent it ready-made to each one of you. So now I am excited. This little recipe will be my special gift to you.

(Men, stay with me. This blog is not only about cooking.)

Now because the recipe is so old, and because I have not made these ‘dainties’ for eons, I decide to buy some graham wafers and make a test batch so I can be sure that if you try them, you will not be disappointed.

Now I haven’t bought graham wafers for 10 or 15 years either, but while in the grocery store, I grab a box. Turn it over, and oh horror, guess what I see? There on the box, big as life, is the very recipe I wrote this morning in my special blog for all of you. The nerve!

Then—while still in town, Hub and I go to the Hardware to buy some stove pipe for a wood burner. In the outside yard, with other hardware, we see some stove pipe. So we go to that part of the yard. We find the elbows in a large box and the pipe telescoped together nearby. We pick out what we need and go to the cashier.

The clerk cannot find the price code and neither can her Supervisor. So Hub takes the Supervisor back to the box where we made our selection. He laughs. Tells us that no one could ever criticize us for not independently looking (without assistance) for what we need. Turns out that the pipe and elbows in our cart are materials that are not for sale. They belong to a work-crew repairing the store heating system! There is stovepipe in another section of the store but only the not-for-sale-pipe was the size we needed.

I tell you this and the coffee story, to affirm that I am a separate-thinking individual. But despite the expanse of this separation, going back to the incident of the old recipe I wanted to post, here is a prime example of a definite plexus of my mind, with other minds, like-thinking as it were, despite the uniqueness of my thinking in the coffee story and the stovepipe story.

Now you’re going to be sorry you read this because then I start to think.

How do unique minds (as unique as illustrated above) collide the way they do? I am a unique individual. No one was nurtured in the self-same environment, handed the same lessons, or coaxed along the same path, except my siblings. And even they don’t think like I do in many respects.

But yet this colliding of my mind with others, with different backgrounds, differing values and environments – happens way too often to be brushed off as coincidence. I cannot even guess how many times I have written a blog on an out-of-the-ordinary theme only to find on that self-same day there were three more blogs written by other bloggers on the exact same theme.

But that’s not all. I think things, develop and explore them in my mind, then off to bed, grab a book, and there you go. Now I find myself reading about the very thing that I was thinking. It happened again. Last night, as a matter of fact.

I love old books, the older the better. But still in 18th century books, of old England, old Rome, old Italy, and early America and the Wild West, I find expressions of thoughts colliding with my own.

I went to bed thinking about dreaded trips to town for Christmas shopping. And thinking about the guilt I feel because of my love of seclusion. And thinking how ‘not normal’ others make me feel about it. And so, to ease an anxious mind that wants to be left alone, and given solitary space, I randomly pick a book the way I picked soya sauce from the fridge, and this is what I read –

“How calm and quiet a delight
Is it, alone
To read and meditate and write,
By none offended, and offending none
To walk, ride, sit, or sleep at one’s own ease;
And, pleasing a man’s self, none other to displease.”

(and farther down the page…)

…Lord! Would men let me alone,
What an over-happy one
Should I think myself to be, –
Might I in this desert place,
(Which most men in discourse disgrace,)
Live but undisturbed and free!..”

“Retirement” by Charles Cotton (Apr 1630-Feb 1687)

I assume, in reading this, that the bracketed comment referrences a prominent social belief as far back as the 1600’s that those who love solitude are not normal. So here we go, again. How does this happen? How do these thoughts from another time, another world, another space, (i.e. the 1600’s) manage to collide and duplicate social conventions of the 21st century and at the same time, convictions of my own?

So now I have a new theory.

I have always based my God-belief on the unequivocal determination that all the wonders of nature show the hand of a superior being. But maybe, that is not what was intended to give or offer validation of a creator-god existence.

Maybe the spiritualism of mankind stems from all the like-minded thinking that goes on that would never have become apparent without the connectivity of very old books and more recently, The Web.

Archaeologists made us a wee bit suspicious when they first determined that all tribes believed in an afterlife – even the earliest humans that they have been able to investigate. Proof being in the manner in which the dead were buried with cooking pots and hunting tools or other paraphernalia that served crucial purposes in their daily lives.

And so we assumed, that like us, it was nature’s displays of life and death and rebirth that convinced early man of sun-gods, moon-gods, and an after life. But maybe, that is not what it was. Maybe it was colliding thoughts. The thoughts of uniquely different individuals, colliding over geographical distance, ethnic distance, astrological distance, from the Cambrian period right down, or conversely, through the ages to present time?

And then I think about the Bermuda Triangle. It’s not that I necessarily believe all that has been reported about it, but it is the only thing I can think of that resembles the theory I am discussing here. The only reference I can use to spare you from another 30 – 40 pages.

How inexplicable the history of planes and ships that have disappeared there. How remarkable the theories put forth about warps of time, space, speed, and magnetic fields. And the assumptions that in this triangular area one inadvertently slips into another dimension of life – another plane of reality. And a place of disorientation of thought that could easily lead one to add soy sauce to their coffee. And then I wonder if perhaps this skewed environment might be part of the same skewed current that magnetizes thoughts so that they collide across vast distances of time and space.

It is unfortunate that pride in our intelligence makes it necessary for us to rationalize every conviction through our five senses, and anything outside of that ‘box’ is dismissed as fanciful or imaginary. I say that, because maybe thought collisions are a space > (greater than) or = (equal to) the Bermuda triangle.

Maybe it is not patterns of nature, but thought collisions existing somewhere in another plane that causes, each and all of us, to endlessly question, since the beginning of time, why we are here and what life is about. And maybe the answers are forever elusive because we refuse—adamantly refuse—to explore any space that we are convinced is pure fancy, and therefore, for the sake of ‘intelligence’, must be avoided.

Ultimately, maybe all mysteries are resolved somewhere in the current of the garbled global and timeless transmissions of the subconscious that make thoughts collide. We will never know if we don’t investigate such a notion.

So now, that’s it for today. Soya sauce in your coffee, anyone?

Monday, November 17, 2008

Ethics Authorities & Choices

I guess I watch too much news….
When I start thinking…

Isn’t it time for a Hetero-Dignity celebration, parade, and civic holiday? When the streets are blocked from traffic and hetero couples (and their offspring) march in masses through city streets fully and modestly dressed, only in blue and pink (blue for boys, pink for girls). And signs that say ‘Down with social laws intrinsically linked to the philosophy of demand, without compunction, based solely on physical ‘wants’. Life and love and family partnerships are not steered by those things!”

And then after that, I start wondering why more protest is given to the above themes of personal and physical want than is given to lost and abused children, or young men dying in a needless war.

And then I start thinking, maybe our failed economics could recover if we did an about-face. My strategy being that we need another set of auditors.

Who are we kidding when we so arrogantly say to ourselves. “All is good. All is well. They’ll not get away with that theft and corruption,” we say. The auditors will catch that underhanded business.” But so often they don’t.

And the reason they don’t is because so many Auditors check only the math. And they don’t worry, as long as all the sums fall in line. So for years, pilfering goes down without the slightest suspicions.

So then I start thinking, if businesses are going to operate with absolute integrity and stay above the water line, what is needed besides a Calculus auditor is an Ethical auditor.

And then I start thinking….Ethics is good…reads nice, sounds nice, parses nice. But at the same time, it is way too weirdly defined. It is a rather slimy thing, dependent on the various authorities that are allowed to pattern it.

Authority number one is Divine authority (i.e. spiritual, religious). This authority demands obedience to divine/religious codes of conduct.

Number two, is Nature authority, and within this value system, human nature and the desires of the flesh sculpt the demands.

And finally, at the bottom of the list is the Authority of Reason. This authority propagates patterns of behavior that fall within the context of rational common sense.

It’s a choice, so what am I so dis-enchanted about? Everyone gets to pick their own ethics and their own authority. And everyone gets to slice it how they want it. This is a democracy, is it not?


Perhaps what all countries need to do is vote for a preferred Ethics Authority, rather than twittering around with specific plebiscite proposals (i.e. same sex unions) being added to voting ballots. Because once the authority is chosen and understood, governments will no longer have to spend all that time, energy, and money on circular debates, that approve one proposal this year, and dish it the next.

With a duly elected Ethics Authority in place, full dedication could be given to a complete spectrum of social issues without parades, protests, and uprisings.

It’s none of my business but still I can’t help asking…
Which Authority would you vote for?
Which Authority do you think would win?

Sunday, November 9, 2008

Musing Regrets

Because I’m a bit of a recluse, people who know me often don’t converse with me face-to-face for months on end. And so when they do, they see changes in my looks, relative to the senior years of life, that are quite melodramatic. Particularly because for the last forty years, I did NOT look like I was getting older. I looked like I was getting ‘better’.

But now ‘better’ is out the window. I’m just getting ‘older’.

I can no longer hide the ripeness of maturity. I suppose, I could if I made more of an effort, but when I do the math, I need to budget time wisely.

Daily bathing, cooking, vacuuming, laundering, and bed-making take double the time that these tasks used to take. And then there is the time I need for writing, knitting, and reading, and self-reflection. Add to that extra time for cleaning my teeth and more frequent bathroom visits and I have no time left to color my hair, moisturize my skin, and apply cover-up to darkening age-spots. So with beautifying routines virtually eliminated, with each passing day, I sport a few more gray hairs, a few more crows-feet, a few more age spots, and a few more coarse hairs on my chin (though I watch cautiously for the latter and pluck them out promptly). Pluck. Pluck.

But the age of maturity, with its crows-feet, wayward chin hairs, etc… are the signatures of sage wisdom, fullness of experience, and expanded comprehension of every stage of life prior to my present one. Though outwardly only superficial transitions, nevertheless they prove, that I am no longer a raw recruit of anything – physical distresses, emotional anguish, or even philosophical questioning.

There’s no denying it. Life is wisdom. And so, assuming this is true, that would be me. Big wisdom that cannot be denied. With my chin hairs, crows-feet, graying hair, and age spots – I am there.

Yes, There I am. At the place of knowing. Big faux academia – you betcha’! [Accreditation - Roberta Smith, ELD, SR]

I know this is true because this week I was asked the same question, by not one, but two individuals. The question being as their eyes focused on my gray hair, crows-feet, age-spots, and ultimately on the 4” coarse looping hair on my chin –

“As you look back on all the years of your life, what do you most regret?”

The question startles me. But why, when the truth is, since retirement I’ve pondered the question of regrets more than I ever wished to? But still, in all that pondering, I made deductions without words. And now I am compelled to give voice to these deductions.

My response comes from someplace external. Some place outside my own mind. I know that because it is so surprising, even to me.

Unwittingly, it must have come from the muse that sits on my shoulder and prompts me to tell so many of the imaginary and fantastic tales I oft tell you on this blog. The same muse that often playfully tugs at my keyboard fingers when I am writing and leaves me bloody downright surprised at the thoughts that spill onto the page.

And so, my muse gives me a friendly little shoulder nudge and I hear myself saying, ‘I regret most those situations where I did not do the best I could.’
I love my muse. And believe me, I am not trying to be self-righteous here, but that bit of muse-wisdom smartly trims my list of regrets down to next to nothing.

Wonder how old muse is?

Monday, November 3, 2008

What Do You Want, and How Do You Want It?

Yes, I’ve been watching the U.S. election, but I’ve been keeping my mouth shut. I’m Canadian so it seems like it is none of my concern. So we’ll not discuss who should win.

But I do want to tell you, that what I find most irritating is the long, never abating, attention given to ‘spreading the wealth’ around. All I can think with impatience, is ‘What do you want, and how do you want it?’

Political science is not my forté, but this is how I see it.

When I was a child and asked why we got great huge boxes of free canned lunchmeat, I was told it was a gift from the Government. When I asked why cod-liver oil pills were distributed to each child every morning in school, this was spawned by the Government to make sure none of us got Rickets or other diseases from lack of sunshine. When I asked why I got a Child Allowance, I was told it was a gift from the Government.

When I asked who was tracking the movements of my dearest friend in Grade 1 when her parents separated and moved away and I knew not where, I was told that Government was tracking her. Through the intervention of Health Unit nurses, the Old School in consultation with her New School, and to ensure that her Allowance was paid to her parents, specifically for her needs – her physical location would be ‘absolutely’ verified, by the Government.

Man, that Government. It was looking after everyone everywhere. Good. Very Good.
No children hungry, no children with Rickets, no children missing.

So now, this is how I see spreading the wealth around. The Government can let us keep more of our tax dollars by slashing the special programs that track and support the needy. But when that happens, they force us to sate our own guilt with the inconvenience of canvassing and volunteerism.

Or, for the heartless, which are not part of this discussion, we can choke on our guilt and simply ignore the need of physically challenged individuals, or the poor or those in want while we count our extra shekels. But with no umbrella of Government support, then what happens?

Without government programs for those in need, our door bells and phones ring endlessly soliciting support for these people. Volunteerism becomes mandatory if you want a good work resume. And we live with the searing pain of our guilt if we don’t give and give and give some more. We are compelled to do door-to-door soliciting and canvassing even though we hate it. Still it is the only antidote for the guilt overwhelming us as we partake of our turkey dinner while thinking of those that have none. And always in the back of our minds, we cynically wonder how much of the gifts we give go to those private (non-profit – oh yeh??) organization’s top dogs and how much of it to those in need? And we further wonder how many ‘have’s’ are exploiting our generosity by going to food banks and suppers that are intended for those in need.

So me, I’m in favor of taking it off the top. Take it out of my income. Add it to my tax dollars. Just leave me alone to sleep sound at night without guilt and without having to go around knocking on doors, begging for money to recycle in ways that give me no assurance that the intent has become fixed reality. Let me find comfort in the fact that the Government has in place programs that will track the needs of individuals and ensure their needs are met. Someone has to do it and I would rather it were them.

Because they can more adequately locate those in need, more adequately track those that are missing, more adequately distribute lunch meat and Vitamin D to those that have none. I know they can do all this, cause they did it when I was a child. And I know they still have that ability if, in Australia, they can locate and fine those who do not vote!

So you see, the need is there. The need to spread the wealth around. The only question remaining is “What do you want and how do you want it?”

[I now want to say, but I won’t say it out loud – ‘this Palin moment’ of philosophical expression brought to you by Roberta.]