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level field one

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness

If the Founding Fathers had twitter accounts I think they would have shortened that line to:

We need to establish a level playing field.

The initial “inspiration” for this post came when I went to fill an inflatable pool for my grandchildren.  No matter where I positioned it on the lawn it was never level enough for a level fill.  This despite the fact that my lawn is, or so I thought, flat.

So, it got me thinking about the current expression of a level playing field.  In may ways I heartily agree with that aspiration.  Many people are unable to reach their goals because the playing field isn’t level.  Whether it’s where you got your college degree, where you live, your financial status, or who you know, many people have an edge.  Doing what we can do provide people with “equal opportunities” can be a noble venture.

However, if we move away from the world of careers and such and get down to the basics, life does not provide us with a level playing field.

level field two

Certainly Dorothy didn’t have a level playing field in Oz.  She had numerous obstacles and challenges she had to meet to get home.  But to be fair, she did have some advantages.  The kiss on her forehead from the Witch of the South protected her as did her ruby slippers.

In  the real world, more people than not do not have a level playing field.  Illness, the loss of a parent at a young age, a painful divorce, the loss of a spouse, and even then, the loss of a job can all “unlevel” the playing field.

Expecting outside forces to level the playing field can have its advantages and often is the right thing to expect. However, unless we play and active part in the process, we are taking advantage.

Life is not a level playing field.  Some of us have more dips than others, that’s for sure. But, in the end, we all need to see how many of those dips we can level by taking new courses of action or at the least by admitting that we might have some work to do.

Will new political policies level the playing field? Perhaps for some, but for others not so much.

The burden is on our shoulders.  If we ever have the opportunity to help level the playing field for someone (who deserves it, I might add), we should do all in our power to make it happen.  Fortunately we might be the one who is being helped.

Like Dorothy, we have our challenges, but we also have our blessings.

fishermanplank

WARNING: This blog might be offensive to people who are strictly literal by nature or default. I prefer absurdity over anything.

I had a difficult time coming up with an image for this blog because I didn’t want to take the easy way out and post a picture that ridicules the subject of this blog, because if anything destroys an open dialogue it’s mockery.

I was reduced to bat-shit bafflement the other day when I watched the news coverage of the opening of the Noah’s Ark (amusement/bemusement) attraction in Kentucky. I might cringe at Bible Villages and Water Parks (Old or New Testament) and other religious themes attractions, but I am rarely left dumbfounded.

It’s not that a certain conservative Christian raised money to reconstruct Noah’s Ark using a Biblical blueprint. It’s the fact that one man’s religious conviction/faith is dismissively arrogant and steel-trap closed minded.

The founder of this Biblical attraction is of the school of a literal interpretation of the Bible. His many visitors/followers are of the same school. That there has been a very vocal negative reaction to this Arktraction (my word) can be found by a simple Google Search.

What saddens me more than the literal reading of the story of Noah in Genesis, is the ripple effect such an interpretation has on almost everything else. Not only does it reduce scientific research and discoveries to a pile of saw dust, it supports such “arkaic” notions regarding life in the 21st Century.

But, and it was a big but that went off in my head like the big bang, Noah’s Arktraction is too easy a subject to attack when “we” are so willing to “accept”  other sacred stories, dogmas, religious rules, etc. on face value.

If we want to poop-poop the Ark ( and there must have been a lot of shit in the hold of that boat at the end of the voyage), we have to be willing to poke a stick at some of the other “big beliefs” proclaimed as truths by the other major world religions.

Walking on water, raising the dead, multiplying loaves and fishes, immaculate conceptions, virgin births, transubstantiation and resurrections, also have to be free game for thinkers and non-believers.

And lest we forget, Christianity is not the only belief system that obliges followers to strict adherence of dogmas and laws.  Have you ever taken a glance at the 613 Mitzvots (Commandments) of Judaism?  Oy! Made me shake my head so many times I risked having it fall off.

Not to mention some of the eye-opening “beliefs” put forth in the Book of Mormon (not the  musical) and the Koran.

Proving or disproving any belief system is a waste of time.  People who are wired to a particular belief system are usually not willing to abandon their beliefs…and people who are adamantly opposed to a particular belief system are equally unwilling to embrace the “thoughtology” of another person.

Because I have pushed the boundaries of a belief system imposed on me as a dumb ass kid and opened my mind to dozens of belief systems, I can no longer be a literalist in any fashion.

Joseph Campbell, a man who devoted his life to unraveling religious thought, once said, “Mythology is someone else’s religion.”

And to be very honest, I am not particularly concerned with religious truth. I wake up each morning excited about possibilities.  I live my day making an effort to be kind and compassionate and when I see a wrong, i.e. where someone’s life, liberty and the pursuit of joy is jeopardized, I will speak up and out.

I don’t need an afterlife. I might need an occasional breath mint after dinner, but I don’t do anything during the day to secure an orchestra seat in a place many people call heaven.

I no longer believe in a God presented in any so-called books of sacred scripture. If there is any truth to the idea that I was created in the image and likeness of “God” I don’t have to take it literally.  I’ll just think that I have to power in my little hands to do my part to create a world where all people can bathe in the sunlight of life.

Declaration-of-Independence

My economic sense is as good as is my sense of direction. Nonetheless, as we the people of the United States prepare to celebrate Independence Day, I couldn’t help but think about price and cost. Economically speaking the price is the what we pay for something, and the price we pay (supposedly) for something should represent the value of what we have to give up in order to acquire that something…and at the 4th of July that something is freedom.

But,as with everything there is always a cost involved and the cost is the amount we spend to produce, again as is the case, on freedom.

Essentially when it comes to our freedom price and cost are inexorably linked. (That’s theoretical, of course, because for many people the price of freedom is paid with the cost of their lives. So, the 4th of July is also another Memorial and Veterans Day.)

What was the price of America’s freedom? In a word, immeasurable.  And the cost?  In lives some 24,000 patriots either lose their lives on the battlefield or in prison. While that number might pale in comparison to the loss of lives in other conflicts, consider for a moment that the population of New York City at the time was only  25,000. So, using that as a comparison the cost of lives in current population would be close to 7 million.

Was it worth it?  No hesitation here. The cost of paying the price for freedom was more than worth it. But, here’s where I scratch my head. Is the price of freedom always worth the cost we pay?  Our freedom was at the cost of English lives. While the men in red coats were our “enemy,” they were fighting for what they believed in. Two centuries later we let bygones be bygones.  That’s easy to do when your differences have faded to dust. But the nationalistic wounds of more recent struggles for freedom are still fresh.

Today the world is struggling to keep freedom alive in a world where some people are willing to pay a dastardly cost to abolish the rights of all people so that a misguided ideology can triumph.

I’m all for “religious freedom,” but no religious belief should trump the rights of any man.  Take “God” out of the equation and let religion stand on its own two wobbly feet.  The very exclusive nature of “religion” is rotten to the core.  That one religion is the right and true religion is bull shit. That some ridiculous sets of doctrines and practices should cause permanent brain damage in the “faithful followers” is fucking unbelievable.

That one has to pray so many times a day facing a certain direction, that one cannot have a glass of milk with a ham sandwich, that one cannot marry the person (regardless of gender) they want, that one cannot drink or dance (and be merry), that one could have gone to hell because they ordered the hamburger helper on a Friday instead of the twin lobster tails, makes me question the belief that we are the most intelligent form of life on the planet. (Aliens take warning. Don’t waste your fuel coming to earth.)

With that said, until some time in the future when we understand the idea of universal freedom, people will still be paying the price for freedom.  What we have to consider is at what cost?

Oz for honest

In less than a week’s time, Orlando, the happiest place on earth, was turned on its head. The senseless shooting of an aspiring pop star, the brutal mass shooting of the innocent in a club, and the tragic death of a two year-old in an alligator attack caused national consternation, angst, sorrow and total exasperation.  Unless you were in a coma you are well aware of what happened, and undoubtedly you have been saturated with endless news reports.

And while more experienced commentators have “commentated” ad infinitum on the week’s events, I want to put my YBR spin to the table for no other reason than a blog is a medium made for getting things off your chest.

Before getting into the meat of the events, I want to take a moment to focus on what the politicians have had to say, and in this case I will limit my comments to the presumptive presidential candidates.

One word kept flashing in my head. Honest…the last word we associate with politicians. (You remember that often quoted saying about an honest politician is an oxymoron? Well in this presidential race you can leave off the oxy.)

The dictionary defines honest as “free of deceit and untruthfulness; sincere.” When it came to the shooting in the Orlando club, who was the more honest? Trump or Clinton? I’d have to say that Trump spoke “honestly.”  His comments were, as usual, unvarnished.  He didn’t mince his words and he could not be accused of being deceitful. He was also sincere, in that he said what he meant and he meant what he said.

Clinton, on the other hand, was less than honest. That doesn’t mean she was dishonest or that she lied to us when she spoke. It only means that none of us have any idea if what she said was what she really feels/believes deep down inside her. She spoke the language of politics, meaning every word was scripted.

Because Trump is not a politicians he has no filter.  As the big guy he has never had to worry what he said, when he said it and to whom he said it.  Clinton is a politician and she had a filter inserted in her mouth so long ago that she can’t let it go.

As ridiculous as I might have thought Trump’s comments were, I was left confused by Clinton’s remarks.

Space doesn’t allow me to go into any detail on their statements. Suffice it to say that we need people to speak honestly and that means going off script even if what you have to say doesn’t meet with universal approval.

To Donald Trump I say, start to take a wider look at the world and realize that being bombastic might make the news but being a broader and deeper thinker might actually make your “opponents” sit up and take note.

To Hillary Clinton I say, get off your high horse and throw the script away. You might win over more people if you spoke from the heart, not a teleprompter.

To Donald and Hillary: I want to hear what you both  have to say. I have an open mind.  Unlike the two of you.

tin-man-edit

“When words fail it’s best to say nothing, but don’t fail to
do something unselfish for someone else in honor
of those whose lives were cut short.”

forrest-gump-30

Momma always says there’s an awful lot you could tell about a person by their shoes. Where they’re going. Where they’ve been. I’ve worn lots of shoes. I bet if I think about it real hard I could remember my first pair of shoes. Momma said they’d take me anywhere. She said they was my magic shoes. – Forrest Gump

It’s funny how the mind works, or doesn’t work as the case might be. I was thinking about Dorothy’s silver shoes (the ones MGM found it necessary to turn ruby red) and my mind went a wanderin’ as it often does when a thought drops into my head.

The meaning and role of the shoes, silver or ruby, in The Wizard of Oz, is something even the very young can grasp. But, thinking outside the shoe box, there is much more to the shoe in fairy tale, fables and folklore.  Shoe expressions have even found a permanent place in our daily lexicon. Three of the most common sayings using shoes are “You won’t understand a man until you walk a mile in his shoes” (moccasins as in the original), “It’s going to be hard to fill your shoes,” and “waiting for the other shoe to drop.”

I don’t think any other item of apparel has gotten as much attention in stories. Where would the Cinderella tale be with out her glass slippers? And while most of us don’t remember the fate of Snow White’s not-so-nice step mother, it was the shoes that done her in when she was forced to step into a pair of red hot iron shoes and had to dance to her death.

Hans Christian Anderson’s telling of the tale about the red shoes has not only earned  a fixed place in literature, it went on to become a classic piece of ballet. And we can’t forget Puss in Boots and the whole idea of the boots of a hundred leagues.

Shoes, sandles, boots and even sneakers, cast a magic spell on us. As a kid, I was convinced that unless you wore Keds, you would be at a disadvantage.

Keds TV commercial from the black and white days

A shoe historian wrote “In Biblical times a sandal was given as a sign of an oath. In the Middle Ages a father passed his authority over his daughter to her husband in a shoe ceremony. At the wedding, the groom handed the bride a shoe, which she put on to show she was then his subject. Today in the U.S. shoes are tied to the bumper of the bridal couple’s car. This is a reminder of the days when a father gave the groom one of his daughter’s shoes as a symbol of a changing caretaker. In China one of the bride’s red shoes is tossed from the roof to ensure happiness for the bridal couple. In Hungary the groom drinks a toast to his bride out of her wedding slipper.”

Maybe my fascination with shoes is genetic.  My Irish great-great-great grandfather was a shoe maker. As a kid I used to like to go to the shoemaker with my father back in the day when you would have shoes repaired (new soles and new heels).  There was just something about a shoemaker’s shop. I found the massive mess confounding because as messy and disorganized as it was, the shoemaker never had a problem locating your shoes!

shoe-maker-9

 I’ve learned that the shoemaker is often a magical and mystical character in fables and fairy tales. I also learned the difference between a shoemaker and a cobbler.  A shoemaker was considered an artisan while a cobbler held a much lower position because all he did was repair shoes. (Even our language denigrates the cobbler because when we say someone has cobbled something together, the result is usually shabby or second rate.)  The two professions became one when shoe making was industrialized.

I fear that today we’ve lost our ability to grasp onto the symbolic nature of something.  As magical as today’s Nikes are, I can bet that most wearers don’t even give the iconic swoosh a second thought.

nike-swoosh-1

Very few know that the athletic shoe is named after Nike, the Greek Winged goddess, and that the swoosh is her wing.

Dorothy had the power to return home by clicking her heels together (three times). Remember that. And don’t forget what Forrest Gump said about how shoes can reveal a lot about a person’s character.

If the shoe fits, you might consider wearing it. But if it doesn’t, kick it off because you’ll never be able to run like the wind if you’re wearing shoes someone else tells you to wear.

Don’t ever lose the magic of your shoes.

flipping-coin-500x300

When I was a boy
World was better spot.
What was so was so,
What was not was not.
Now I am a man;
World have changed a lot.
Some things nearly so,
Others nearly not.

There are times I almost think
I am not sure of what I absolutely know.
Very often find confusion
In conclusion I concluded long ago
In my head are many facts
that, as a student, I have studied to procure,
In my head are many facts..
Of which I wish I was more certain I was sure!

“Is a Puzzlement” from The King and I

I am confused (so what else is new). Of all the things I am confused about I am most recently confused about two labels that seem to get more press during the presidential election process.

Conservatism and liberalism. To some one is a blessing and the other is a curse. Some have no problem wearing one label with pride while demonizing anyone who dares to proclaim they are the “other.”

Dorothy never claimed to be either. And that’s where I stand. Not that I don’t have an opinion. I do. But my opinion  will not win me friends in either camp. To be honest, I have a very hard time stomaching a staunch conservative. They are like an immovable force.  They are so entrenched in  thinking that doesn’t make any sense. But they will go to their craves defending their ultra-conservative vision.

I also want to wretch when I see ultra left wing liberals trample any other viewpoint that does not support their own largely political positions.

I must add that (sometimes) conservatives have a valid point that actually makes sense. I also need to follow that up by saying (sometimes) liberals have a valid point that actually makes sense.

In my experience,some conservatives cling to beliefs without ever, ever being open minded enough to do some self-challenging. Thumping the Bible or some other ancient religious text is not the way to be open minded.

And then we have the liberals who (some) in my experience are selfish and childish people who don’t give a flying fuck about other people who are unwilling to trample any thing that even has a hint of being traditional.

Every day there is another issue that further divides us, another issue that forces some people to espouse either a conservative of liberal POV.

I can’t help but think that to be a conservative means saying NO to any and every thing that is out of their comfort zone. That also makes me think that to be a liberal means saying YES to any and every thing regardless of the consequences.

And…in my opinion staunch conservatives and dyed-in-the-wool liberals rarely care about what their counterparts think.  It seems it’s an all or nothing war and neither side is interested in prisoners like me who believe that everything is not black and white.

It reminds me of a scene in “Fiddler on the Roof” when one of the townspeople makes a claim and Tevye says to him “You’re right.” And then another person says just the opposite. Tevye says, “You’re right. In fact, you’re both right.”  A third man chimes in and says, “They can’t both be right.”

That’s when Tevye said “You know, you’re right, too.”

In my old age am I morphing into Tevye?

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