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Here’s to Females

                                                                   Here’s To Females

                                                                    by Marco M. Pardi

“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 bitches”.  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 bitch 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 bitch 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 bitches. 

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Natural Point of Aim

                                                                            Natural Point of Aim

                                                                               by Marco M. Pardi

                  

“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.

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.

What’s So Funny?

                                                                           What’s So Funny?

                                                                           by Marco M. Pardi

                                                                                mpardi.com

 “Humor: The ability to laugh at any mistake you survive.” Jerry Tucker. (1941 – ) The Experience of Politics: You and American Government. 1974

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All comments welcome

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When I was learning the American language I took interest in why certain words were chosen to represent certain ideas, etc.  I still wonder about that.  An interesting example is the term punch line. Was this the signal to punch the speaker?  The listener?

Somewhere I heard or read that most humor is based in tragedy. And then I discovered an area of inquiry into what, to me, is a far more interesting undercurrent: Why certain events, such as told in jokes, are considered funny.  Even in something as basic as a cartoon we are expected to find it funny when someone, for example, slips on a banana peel. No, don’t think of spinal injury or fractured elbows. Laugh.

Why laugh? Is it relief it didn’t happen to you?  I’ve heard people laugh after near escapes from what could have been a fatal incident. So we write that off as “comic relief”, or venting the stress.  But is that a reason to laugh when something bad happens to someone else?  To this day I cringe when having to watch a person present a public speech under what, to them, appears to be terrifying stress.  I don’t like to watch well meaning people struggle.

As a young, first time parent I took great interest in the varieties of ideas and events to which my daughter would be increasingly exposed as she grew.  I read several chilling psychoanalytic analyses of nursery rhymes and children’s stories.  And, remembering my own childhood of reading the newspaper comic strips, in my case as an aid to learning the American language, I looked again at these cultural icons.

It did not take long to form the opinion that in those comics which were supposed to be funny – as opposed to ongoing serial dramas – the male characters were almost invariably portrayed in a very negative light.  At the same time I happened to find myself in conversation with a retired, nationally recognized cartoonist. At first, he found my assertion puzzling. But, once we thought it through he agreed. Some of the examples I will cite go back further than some readers. And, readers in different locales will find comic strips not mentioned here.  But, just a few, brief examples were:

Lazy: Snuffy Smith; Lil’ Abner and male friends; Beetle Bailey; Sluggo – in the Nancy strip; Hagar; and Mr. Lockhorn;  

Drunkard: Snuffy Smith; Hagar; General Halftrack – in Beetle Bailey; and Mr. Lockhorn.

Dimwit: Dagwood; Snuffy Smith; Jon – in Garfield; Zero – in Beetle Bailey; Hagar’s sidekick;

Lecherous: General Halftrack; Mr Lockhorn; Killer – in Beetle Bailey

Dishonest/thief: Hagar; Snuffy Smith; the pirate crew – in Overboard; Cosmo – in Beetle Bailey.

Ineffective: Dagwood; Lute – in Hagar; Jon – in Garfield; Charlie Brown; General Halftrack.

In all of these examples the females were portrayed as more competent (but sometimes “ditzy”), but restrained in their opportunities to show competence, call out bad behavior, and put offensive men in their place.  Was this the adult world my daughter should come to expect?

Over the years I’ve watched the change in mass media portrayals of humor.  Even decades ago comedians were pushing the boundaries with material that could get them in prison. Lenny Bruce and George Carlin led the way, but each seemed consumed by their own private devils. What they were saying made people laugh.  But Lenny and George knew it wasn’t funny.

When I took a full time teaching post in 1970 a fellow faculty member asked if I watched All In The Family. He enjoyed it immensely.  I tried to watch one episode and had to turn it off.  Having, by that time, lived and worked in places where the bigotry we were to laugh at on screen was all too real on the street and in the homes, I could only sense outrage while others laughed.  My colleague had never once been exposed to any of that in real life.

My daughter and I watched Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood and Sesame Street. I can still sing some of the learning jingles.  Of course, the dark Republican voices were already calling for the defunding of PBS, singling out Sesame Street as insidious Socialism. But they were stuck in a quandary: William Buckley was on PBS. They eventually elected Reagan but their real voice has emerged in this last election.  Hatred has replaced even “ethnic jokes”. Maybe that’s because hatred is no joke.

Once my daughter was in bed, I watched BBC programs.  Some of the best comedies were Fawlty Towers and To The Manor Born. There were others as well, though not serialized for long.  On American network tv Mork & Mindy was a great show, though there were characters with tragic circumstances. For my own reasons I enjoyed Get Smart.

Since then my life has not provided much time for television.  But I feel I am aware that some of the better and more thoughtful programs, those which challenge the “Conservative” views, do not seem to last long. With the current efforts to consolidate networks and providers it seems we will, in effect, be told what to watch.  And I assume that means we will be told what is funny and what is tragic. 

But I have recently found myself actually laughing out loud – without being told – in one area.  Every time the incompetent buffoon occupying the White House appears on television I laugh. And when he speaks I roar in laughter.  Could it be I’m sensing the tragedy at the heart of our current world? Could there be better proof that most comedy is based in tragedy?

But I must be clear.  Laughing at the symptoms of our demise does not mean accepting our demise.  I call out tragedy when I see it, and I join with others in challenging people to re-think what they take joy in. Perhaps an update of that old saying, Be careful what you wish for is needed: Be careful what you find funny.   

What Was That?

                                                                           What Was That?

                                                                          by Marco M. Pardi

“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?

 

 

 

       

Полезный идиот

Полезный идиот

                                                                 by Marco M. Pardi

It not infrequently happens that persons without any other special qualifications than the drama of their lives are precipitated into important political positions.”

Charles E. Merriam (1876-1953) Political Power. 1934

“You learn to know a pilot in a storm.” Seneca the Younger (5BCE-CE65) On Providence

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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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The term Useful Idiot, rendered above in Cyrillic, first gained common parlance in Russia during the early Soviet era.  It was used to refer to those who blindly applauded and followed Lenin and Stalin even as millions died, many of starvation.  It reappeared in NSA intercepts of Russian conversations about at least one highly placed member of the Trump campaign.

As the Cuisinart Chaos we assumed would be a presidential administration intensifies some of the more high profile sycophants, such as Pence, Sessions, and Scaramucci have been trumpeting out claims of Donald Trump being a strong leader.  In fact, little more than six months into the presidential term, this president has shown he is the antithesis of a leader.  He is what the low intellect rabble who elected him wanted: a simple disrupter.  A simple disrupter has no goal beyond disruption, no vision of a better working system for all involved.  Yet, for powers behind him he is often a useful idiot.      

In 1961 I was summoned to the hospital at the airbase from which my small unit operated.  I was informed I had received a Congressional nomination to the Air Force Academy and was to spend the day taking a battery of physical exams.  But one of the examiners asked me to define leadership.  I blurted out, “The ability to coordinate people’s wills toward a common goal.” He angrily asked, “Were you coached for this?”

If the definition I offered makes sense to you, apply it to the syndicate now in the White House. Do you see it working? Or do you see a family cadre working toward their own ends while others around them try to keep their jobs, not knowing from day to day what the next Imperial Tweet holds for them?

After a grueling day of exams at the base hospital, especially vision, the Flight Surgeon took me aside and told me I was disqualified on a couple of factors.  I did not knowingly disclose that I was hugely relieved. Having already been in some minor leadership positions I wanted no part of that, especially as a military officer.  And, I did not want to be removed from field positions.  As we talked, he said it was evident I did not want the appointment.  And, he had my medical records in hand showing my two week recovery in that same hospital’s surgical unit from field injuries I had received a few months earlier, minor paralysis still evident down my right leg.  Oh, and I flunked the vision exam.  I also realized I did not want to be a follower; solo assignments were my greatest prize. 

True to this orientation, through the years since I have never identified as a member of any political party. I consider that childish, like fraternities and sororities.  But I do enjoy analyzing human systems.  And so it is that I find the current “administration” so puzzling; it seems to have no system, at least not for the good of the country.

The two main themes I detect are: preservation of one’s job through sycophantic adulation of a mentally impaired authority figure; and, desperation to deflect attention from what appears to be a long established family crime syndicate specializing in money laundering for dictators and oligarchs around the world.  The laundering service appears to be a network of golf clubs but the real money flows through associated hotels and rental homes with a portion for the developer/owner and the rest held for the oligarch of the day. The golf clubs are almost entirely money losers.     

Intelligence officers never retire; they just grow more detached.  But an intelligence officer still keeping his, albeit retired mind in the game quickly sees the players must be sorted.  Particularly when civil and possibly criminal charges may be in the offing.  In the public eye the latter category, the Trump syndicate, appears in charge.  The ultimate validity of that, given what appears to be a world wide closed and small network of uber-oligarchs, is open to question.  The former category, the for-hire sycophants,  are simply chameleons who change their colors for a job.  The deep “love” for Trump professed by Anthony Scaramucci, who had long blistered Republicans and recently the late-comer Trump, is only a blatant example.  So we see here a dyadic paradigm forming, Users and Useful Idiots.  Of course, the broadest class of Useful Idiots was the predominantly under-educated, evangelical, angry White men who answered the siren of the Morlocks and entered the voting booths. But their very existence matters only when it is time to rouse them.  Like farm stock, it is easy to determine what moves them and to supply that when needed.  Their intelligence will not improve; they are worth only watching and perhaps feeding as needed.  Being unintelligent is not a prosecutable offense.

Without documentation, however, it is more difficult to discern and prove the motivators, the driving forces of the syndicate.  But, as Jared Kushner, referring to the Trump Empire, said, “We get lots of money from the Russians”.  So, since money is the obvious driving force, a complete and thorough examination of all financial records, including tax returns, for every syndicate member is in order.  These records should also facilitate insights into the discovery of hitherto unnamed partners and beneficiaries, domestic and foreign of these transactions. Now, do you see the reason for the current president’s refusal to provide his tax returns?  

In the waning months of the Obama administration President Obama enacted the Magnitsky Act, named for a Russian financial expert who exposed the crime syndicate overseen by Putin, the main benefactor. Magnitsky was killed.  The Act froze all Russian financial assets in the United States and stopped further dumping of Russian money into U.S. banks and other American investment shelters.  Done as a sanction against Russia for annexing Crimea and its incursions into Ukraine,  it hit Putin and his fellow oligarchs precisely where it counts. But it also hit those Americans who were providing the shelters. Putin responded by freezing all American adoptions of Russian children.  

Well, gosh.  Do we now have some insight into why Trump likes to play kissy-face with Putin? Do we now have some insight into why the Russians supported the Trump campaign? And why the Russians concocted a code word “adoption” for meetings with high level syndicate members to, in fact, plan ways to revoke the Magnitsky Act once Trump was on the throne?

A consistent theme throughout this past election cycle was that Trump did not actually want to be president.  Shortly after his win even he bemoaned his fate, saying it was much harder than he thought.  Yes, it is harder.  Because there is more to do than just revoke one Act which frees up the money which was the sole driver of the run for president in the first place. And now we are stuck with a syndicate in place thrashing about internally as each person’s USEFULNESS is reassessed from day to day. The White House has been taken over by a new political party, the Opportunist Party.

As I write this I am receiving information that Anthony Scaramucci, who forced out Republicans Reince Priebus and Sean Spicer has himself been removed by General Kelly. Further, it is now clear that General Kelly, while Director of Homeland Security, called FBI Director Comey immediately after Comey had been fired to express his anger at the firing and threaten to resign.

It seems increasingly clear the factions in play are the family/friends Opportunist Party (syndicate) versus the Republican Party.  Each side apparently viewed the other as Useful Idiots to achieve its aims and both played the poorly educated White evangelical fundamentalists as Useful Idiots to get elected.

It makes one wonder about the rest of us.  Me, I’ve never been so happy to be truly useless.

Things to do While Dead

                                                                    Things To Do While Dead

                                                                          by Marco M. Pardi

 “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.