I'm reading a book called Rascals in Paradise by James Michener and A. Grove Day. This book was published in 1957 and I'm surprised I'm just now discovering it. My daughter, Rachel, brought it to me from the Caribbean last summer. It's a non fiction account of the lives of some of the most amazing and nefarious people who lived their lives in the South Pacific. Pirates, mutineers, fortune hunters, or just people wanting to find a tropical paradise to while away the years. Here's one vignette I found in the introduction that I think relates to my previous post about creating our own narrative thereby our own reality.
"In the 1930's there was in Australia a learned gentleman who clearly foresaw that a great war was about to break over the world. He had no desire to participate in this foolish war, but he had to conclude from his studies that Europe was going to explode and that the resulting fires would involve Africa and much of Asia. With extraordinary clairvoyance he deduced that Australia, left unprotected because the military men were preoccupied with Europe, would surely become a temptation to Asia and would probably be overrun.
Wishing to avoid such a debacle, he spent considerable time in determining what course a sensible man should follow if he wanted to escape the onrushing cataclysm. He considered flight into the dead heart of Australia, but concluded that although he could probably hide out in that forbidding region, life without adequate water would be intolerable. Next he contemplated removal to America, but dismissed this as impractical in view of the certainty that America would also be involved in the war.
Finally, by a process of the most careful logic, he decided that his only secure refuge from the world's insanity lay on some tropical island. He reasoned, 'There I will find adequate water from the rains, food from the breadfruit and coconut trees, and fish from the lagoons. There will be safety from the airplanes which will be bombing important cities. And thanks to the missionaries, the natives will probably not eat me.'
Fortified with such conclusions, he studied the Pacific and narrowed his choice of islands to the one that offered every advantage: remoteness, security, a good life, and a storm cellar until the universal hurricane had subsided.
Thereupon, in the late summer of 1939, one week before Germany invaded Poland, this wise Australian fled to his particular South Pacific refuge. He went to the almost unknown island of Guadalcanal."
Scientists wrestle with the question of whether the universe would exist without an observer. There are over 6 billion observers on this planet which means there are over 6 billion realities. We take in all of the stimuli and data through our senses and over a lifetime our brains create the reality we live in. Reality for some people is a brittle shell they’ve built around themselves and must continually patch and reinforce to keep it from caving in. There are humans whose concept of God was formed as a child in Sunday School and they would feel threatened by the idea of a deity that wasn’t a kindly old gentleman that sits on a throne in the sky and grants them their every wish, or who vote for a political party that panders to their limited world view and allow no information into their mind that might undermine that view, or those who found a vocation early in life and define themselves by it, whether it be butcher, baker or candle stick maker. Their universe must be nailed down and unchanging for them to feel secure.
Change is a mystery. Although this universe is held together and operates by certain physical laws which should keep things constant, there is an element of entropy or chaos that results in things never being quite the same as they were at an earlier point in time and space.
It is a characteristic of human nature that we both resist change and yet crave it. Washington Irving said, “There is certain relief in change, even though it be from bad to worse! As I have often found in traveling in a stagecoach, that it is often a comfort to shift one's position, and be bruised in a new place”
I have a lovely and devoted wife, two beautiful daughters, and six grand children that think I'm the cat's pajamas. Losing the love and affection of my family through death or alienation is a change that I fear. I heard a preacher say that we should expect to lose our loved ones. It happens to every one of us eventually. We should prepare ourselves for it. Each life change; each loss or gain is an element in a chain reaction that echoes through the years. Deep within our psyches change in who we are is the response to change in our environment.
Now, here’s the metaphysical rub.
There are people whose sense of reality is fluid and evolving. They discard old concepts as they learn new ones. Ideologies and creeds must actually work in their daily lives for them to embrace them. They belong to many tribes whose memberships overlap and blend.
We take in all the information our senses perceive over a lifetime and build our own reality or world view from it. But, there are forces that attempt to manipulate our world view; political ideology, religious dogma, the latest scientific theory, the evening news, even popular psychology and culture. There’s a Bible verse that I like that says, “Don’t let the world squeeze you into its own mold”. That’s good advice. We need to become logical thinkers and filter the information we receive through a healthy skepticism.
In regard to unexpected happenings, we write the narrative of our own reality. For most of us this narrative must contain certainty. We don’t like to think that we could be undone by improbable events. I read a book by Nassim Taleb titled “The Black Swan - The Impact of the Highly Improbable” In it he tells the story of a turkey who lives for 1000 days and is comfortable and well fed. All he has learned in his life indicates that the comfort will continue indefinitely. Then one day the farmer shows up with an axe. We would like to think that we have control and then when something extreme happens, whether it’s being blindsided by a truck or winning the lottery, we have to create an explanation that makes it appear less random.
It just occurred to me that I've been remiss about keeping up with this blog. I've read a lot of quotes lately that I think are quite profound but I don't post them. I'm keeping apace with the tall stack of books that is growing in the corner, yet no reviews appear on the blog. I haven't expressed an opinion in ages. I wonder. My enthusiasm has gone AWOL and my curiosity wanders down the garden path. Is it old age? I fear the synapses in my brain are getting frayed around the edges and no longer fire off snappily like in days of yore.
While I talk myself out of this fog let me leave you with these tidbits:
Game Change: We all got odds and ends of this book before it even hit the bookstores. It details the campaigns, personal scandals, and political mistakes made by the major contenders for the presidency during the 2008 presidential campaign. John Heileman and Mark Helprin put together an informative and entertaining account of one of the most interesting campaigns in history.
"Do something instead of killing time, because time is killing you." ----Paulo Coelho
Chocolate Days Popsicle Weeks: I read this book in 1970 when it was first published. I liked it then and reread it recently and gained as much insight this time around as at the first. Edward Hannibal tells the story of a young couple finding success in New York City during the 60's and all the trappings that go with it. The author paints the life like portrait of a marriage that struggles and succeeds to flourish amidst the turbulence of the age.
"You can't leave footprints in the sands of time if you're sitting on your butt--and who wants to leave butt prints in the sands of time?" ----Bob Moawad
Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger: I read The Catcher in the Rye in 1966 while I was in the Army. I've read it twice since then. I'm just now getting around to reading Franny and Zooey. it's actually two interrelated short stories. Franny and Zooey are sister and brother and very bright lights in a world of dim bulbs. Franny undergoes a nervous break down while trying to cope with the world by "unceasing prayer" and Zooey attempts to talk her back to safe metaphysical ground using his own understanding of philosophy and religion.
Life....punishes those who try to compartmentalize it. Thus if, for any reason whatsoever, moral standards are conspicuously and unprecedentely breached in one area of society, such as the political, it will follow as the night the day that those standards will start collapsing all down the line--in sports, entertainment, education, the armed forces, business, and government.------Margaret Halsey
I am thankful not just for the abundance of food and material comfort I am able to enjoy, but also for my family and the fact that we can share good times together. My daughter, Rachel, and her husband Brad were not able to be with us, but they will join us for Christmas.
Hunter, Kelly, Jenna, Burk, Marley
Before the rest of the family arrives Jenna takes
her place with a can of root beer.
The line forms to the left.
After the meal the Black Friday ads are perused for bargains.
They'll start tonight instead of just before dawn.
After dinner ennui.
The one person not using a smart phone is watching a ball game.
Years ago our extended family would have Thanksgiving dinner together, but as the years went by the family grew larger and there was no way we could get everyone together in one house. So, today we rented the community building and all got together and then Thursday we will all have dinner with our individual families.
Me, Dorothy ,my sister Rita, and my sister Kay
Samantha, Tara, Kelly, and Jenna
Cindy, Amy, Robin, Rita
This is a rare picture of me. I usually don't smile
for photos, but my grand daughter Samantha got me
tickled about something and took my picture
Gracen and I went for a walk and ended up here.
I'm getting old and forgetful. I didn't get enough photos. If any family members
have additional pics that you would like to see here, just email them to me and
Well, I didn't quite get off line yet. Here's the deal. I'm upgrading one of our phones to an iPhone 4 and we'll have a wireless hot spot which will give the Internet signal to our laptop. I think it will save us money. Usually, when I upgrade online I get the new phone the next day, but according to their website the phone company is still processing the transaction. So I'm glad that I didn't immediately sever our ties with the old service provider.
In the mean time, yesterday we went to Jenna's school for Thanksgiving dinner. The kids dressed up as Indians and pilgrims.
I'm going to be off line for awhile. I'm in the process of ending my association with one internet service provider and connecting with another. So, I'll be navigating through foggy cyberspace and hopefully I'll see you on the other side soon.
I decided to take the advice of my blogger friend Steven at Projections and pick up the paint brushes once more. It's been five years since my last painting, so I'm out of practice. I painted this picture of my daughter Rachel and her husband Brad's sail boat. Below is a photo of the boat at anchor in Culebra.
When using paint I've always had problems establishing color values. Light and dark values are easier to create in black and white so I painted the picture below in black and white first then applied the background colors with a translucent wash of acrylic paint, water, and flow enhancer. Then I used opaque colors for all the surfaces that were reflecting bright sunlight. I'm not real happy with the results but I'll keep trying.
The Casual Vacancy is J.K. Rowling's first novel for adults. Ms. Rowling is an excellent writer and her characters have an authentic voice. She knows how to hook the reader into diving into the next chapter. It didn't take long to finish this book because it was such a pleasure to read. It takes place in a picturesque small town in England where life seems ideal among the cobble stone streets and quaint shops. The death of a town council member creates a "casual vacancy" and the attempt to fill the position sets off a struggle that reverberates throughout the community. One group of citizens conspire against another. Dysfunctional families come apart at the seams. Teenagers attempting to deal with the normal angst of adolescence are drawn into the adult drama. Read the book, you'll enjoy it.