« November 2002 | Main | January 2003 »

December 31, 2002

The Blunders of the World

I found this Web site, and although I disagree with some of what this person says and how he interprets things (for instance, he seems to be unaware that Gandhi himself said that the worst thing the British did was to disarm India (see footnote 1), and that that is what forced him to use nonviolent methods to achieve his ends), I do like the principles themselves.

The "blunders of the world" are

  • Wealth without work
  • Pleasure without conscience
  • Knowledge without character
  • Commerce without morality
  • Science without humanity
  • Worship without sacrifice
  • Politics without principles
  • Rights without responsibilities

And at this Web site, I found the following small tribute to the Quakers, whom I think are the great unsung heroes of religion. (Quakers prefer to call themselves Friends.)

"I?ve heard it argued that Gandhi indeed was a saint, since he was a master of meditation. Well, I must tell you that in all my readings of and about Gandhi, I?ve never come across anything to say that Gandhi was a master of meditation, or that he meditated at all?aside from observing a minute of silence at the beginning of his prayer meetings, a practice he said he borrowed from the Quakers."

While on the topic, take a look at this Web site. Mind you, the "lies from the other side" is meant to be tongue in cheek; i.e., the maintainers of this Web site are actually in agreement with the quotes on this page. A choice sample:

"If someone has a gun and is trying to kill you, it would be reasonable to shoot back with your own gun." ~ The Dalai Lama. (The Seattle Times, May 15, 2001)

Footnote 1: "Among the many misdeeds of the British rule in India, history will look upon the act of depriving a whole nation of arms as the blackest." ~ Mahatma Gandhi, Gandhi, An Autobiography, M. K. Gandhi, page 446. Taken from http://www.handguncontrolinc.org/lies_political.htm.

Simple Pleasures

My entire life, I have been easily pleased in many ways. As I grew older, it gradually came to my awareness that not all people are that way, and in fact some have evinced scorn at what they considered my naivete or lack of sophistication. And for a while, that stung, though yet I could find no fault in myself for my approach.

In more recent years, I have come to think that mine is a much more sophisticated and wise approach to life than many understand. For one thing, if nothing else, I am happier and more cheerful much of the time than many people are, simply because I neither get angry at things that others get angry at, nor do I feign some kind of pseudo-sophisticated ennui at things that I truly find delightful. If that makes me a fool in the eyes of some, so be it.

Yet still, despite all this, I find that my delight in the simple pleasures of life sometimes leaves people wondering, and I have to admit that I wonder in turn how it is that people can move through life without taking greater pleasure in it. After all, life is truly made up of all the little things cumulatively; compared to the big things, there are thousands more little things--small pleasures, small events--to enjoy. So why not enjoy them? Why wait until something "big" happens to allow oneself to be happy or to experience pleasure?

When I talk about the little things, I mean any number of things of nature or humankind involving the senses or sparking my appreciation for all things well-made.

It could be the lovely color and sweet, deep fragance of a rose blooming on a rose bush I selected and planted with my own two hands. (I have about 50 rose bushes--how I crammed them all onto my small suburban lot, I still wonder to this day! And some are even yet blooming despite the chilling cold rains and high winds. Some time I will tell you of how sturdy and wonderful roses are, especially roses grown on their own roots, such as are sold by Vintage Gardens, which I have the great good fortune of living just the next town over from.)

It could be the way one of my cats, whom I have seen do this a thousand of times before, turns his or her head or blinks trustingly at me or cuddles up next to me, purring for all he or she is worth.

It could be a tiny weed blooming in my lawn.

It could be the staccato chatter of a hummingbird visiting my yard and chewing me out for disturbing its nectar gathering.

It could be the soft, subtle colors of a sunset casting that otherwordly light over everything before the last of the light fades.

It could be a well-crafted tool, such as a cooking implement or something for my tool chest, delighting me with its workmanship and usefulness and the sheer aesthetics of it all.

It could be the colors used in a painting, or the smell of cookies baking, or the sound of my daughter laughing, or the lap of waters against a boat that I am on, or the gentle susurration of the waves at the often-rough and wild Northern Californian coast.

It could be the tiniest of fragements of California jade collected at one of those beaches by lying in the rough sand patiently and contentedly sifting through the course grains while the sun slowly turns my bones to toffee.

It could be a well-made turn of a phrase, or the completion of a task well-done and long-worked-on, or appreciation from others for something small that I have done.

it can even be--and perhaps here you will laugh--the discovery that one's shower curtain liner does not have to be vinyl, but instead can be of a tightly-woven fabric that feels much better against the skin and is more practical because it can be washed and because it breathes, so it does not mildew nearly as readily as vinyl. Okay, now you really are laughing. But truly, every time I take a shower now, I think to myself how much more aesthetically pleasing my new shower curtain liner is. Multiply that by how many times I have showered since buying that liner (in November), and you have a lot of little moments of pleasure. Sure, eventually, I may stop appreciating it quite as much, but I have certainly gotten a lot of pleasure mileage out of that liner already. If I never appreciate it again, I have still had many moments of a small delight. And that is just one thing.

There are so many things that can bring either a momentary or longer-lasting delight and sense of joy, however small, into our lives, that, although I do understand sadness and melancholy and worry, and am certainly no stranger to any of them, yet I find that on the whole, life is a source of joy for me. It needs no reasons, though yet I find them (and the finding of those reasons enriches my life as well). It just is, and it is good.

For the many small joys of life, and for the fact that I somehow came into this life with a great and deep capacity for enjoying them, I am very grateful. Thank you, dear Creators, for all your gifts.

December 14, 2002

The Furry Weather Report: Animal Rights

I haven't posted a furry weather report in quite a while, as the entries would have been quite monotonously the same. "Hot, dry, dusty." It was an unusually long, dry summer here in wine country, though it was good for the grape harvest. Not perfect, but it should be a good year for wines made in Sonoma County.

However, the past month has been a different matter. The winter storms have swept in with vigor. It has been raining off and on all week, and yesterday and today the storm picked up strength. The weather person on the radio last night gave a coastal storm warning, predicting twelve-foot waves, and warned of downed branches and power outages.

Today, as predicted, it is storming hard, with a strong wind and rain coming down so thickly that sometimes the fence in my back yard, a mere sixteen feet from my back patio door, is partially obscured. I love the wild energy of rainstorms, and consider them to be one of nature's ways of pruning trees. Though I have heard today that not just branches, but entire trees are down, and the Russian River, not normally due to flood this early, has overridden its banks and is flowing in some new directions today.

And the cats, like the tide, are in for the winter, cuddled companionably about in various cozy, warm places, such as the baskets around and on top of my desk.

(As I am typing, Merlin, my large Maine Coon-like cat, has crammed his furry and warm 16 pounds of bone and muscle onto my desk between me and my keyboard, and is sound asleep with his head resting on my left arm. This is an arrangement he and I have worked out whereby he gets the cuddling he loves and I am not totally bereft of my computer. It works particularly well with the ergonomic keyboard I use, a rather space-age one I purchased to prevent repetitive stress injuries.)

Even Marigold, my sometime cat, who as often as not had spent her life, until this year, elsewhere, has taken to coming in from the outside, soaked, then swarming up onto my chest and using me as a comfy drying pad and place to sleep. She turns around a time or two, purring, then crams herself under my chin, her back to my neck, stretching her front legs and chin out over my shoulder, then falls asleep. Eats right into my productivity, that it does, but I don't mind. A sleepy, purring cat is a treasure beyond price. The trust it shows, and the love, are heartwarming.

Funny thing about Marigold. Once my former partner moved out at the end of February this year, she very quickly started hanging out around home. She was born and raised here, but as soon as she was an adult, she would take off for days at a time. I suspected that she had another home somewhere, though she is also an excellent huntress and has brought home rats beyond number--sometimes quite big ones--which she kills and neatly eats. Good cat. (Rodents are a bit of a problem in this city.)

So she is quite capable of caring for herself. And she clearly doesn't mind any kind of weather--at least, the kind of weather we have here, which admittedly is not that severe. Her fur is plush and dense, and keeps even the heaviest rain from penetrating to the skin. Since we saw so little of her, I figured she just didn't like us very much.

Turns out I was partially right, except there was only one person she didn't like, and he is now gone. So now she spends much more of her time around home, even sitting on my lap or snuggling with me in bed, which she never used to do. Since she is also my most psychic and aware cat, it makes me wonder what it was that she sensed or knew that I did not. No matter now, as the point is moot, but I am very glad she has decided to be more a member of the family. She is a beautiful and loving cat, very much her own being, very much one who chooses to stay with us.

Which leads me to another, more serious subject: PETA, the People for Ethical Treatment of Animals.

PETA and Pets

I am totally for treating all life with loving honor and respect. I have a hard time causing harm to anything, though sometimes life requires it. (The very microbes that invade my body, bent on perpetuating their own lives at my expense, are swiftly dispatched--that's a fancy word for "killed"--by my immune system.)

However, I also believe that all living things are intelligent to some degree and that they therefore make their own choices, and that is where I diverge from the beliefs of some members of PETA.

I received email some years ago from a member of PETA who told me that my keeping cats was cruel, and that PETA does not believe in keeping animals of any sort, including pets, because pets are prisoners who have no choice but to be our slaves. By her standards, I should not keep or condone the keeping of pets, and should "let" all my cats free. (I had to laugh at that. One day, perhaps, my cats may let me free.)

I would like to think that this is not PETA's official stance, but instead is just representative of the beliefs of some members. (Though I have heard this stance taken by other members of PETA as well.) I do understand that people who believe that sort of thing truly think they are speaking on behalf of and in the interest of the animals, but I respectfully disagree, since I have different core beliefs about animals--heck, about all of life.

My cats choose to stay with me--I do not confine them to the house, though I know there are some who disagree with this choice, as well, and claim that allowing my cats to come and go at their own will is likewise cruel, because of all the dangers they face. Yet again, we return to my belief that my animals are intelligent and aware. If one dies, it is, just as with humans, because it chose to die. Keeping a cat indoors would only make it miserable and unhappy, and more a prisoner than a respected and beloved companion.

Mind you, I think PETA is doing a great service for animals and humans everywhere in documenting and fighting animal abuses and the use of animals for testing and "scientific" purposes, and in exposing so-called "environmental" organizations for their poor attitudes toward animals.

However, if someone wants to take my cats away, thinking that he or she is able to treat my cats more kindly than I, then that person is overlooking the fact that my cats and I know and love each other in all our idiosyncratic glory, and it would be cruel beyond speaking to remove them from their home and "release" them into the wild somewhere to fend for themselves. Anyone with that idea will remove my cats from my house over my empty .45.

I will continue this thought in a post on self-defense at a later time.

December 12, 2002

A God Joke

Three scientists were talking to God. They were saying, "Hey, God, we don't need you anymore; we can make Man ourselves."

God said, "Oh, really?"

And one of the scientists replied, "Yeah! Now that we've broken the genetic code, we can do anything. As a matter of fact, why don't we have a contest as to who can make a man faster? You versus us. What do you say?"

God, amused, said, "Sure."

So the scientist went back to his friends and said, "We're going to have a contest with God to see who can make a man faster: Him or us."

His friends were all excited and agreed that this was a good plan. So the first scientist went out and scooped up a big pile of dirt. Instantly, a bolt of lightning struck the ground near the man, making him drop the pile of dirt.

Looking up at God, startled, he said "What was that for?"

And God said, "Make your own dirt!"

December 10, 2002

History of the English Alphabet

For some, the history of the English alphabet may sound a bit dry. However, for those of us who enjoy feeling connected with history, it can shed light on how much has changed and how much has not.

I've found a pretty neat site that is examining the history of each letter of the English alphabet that provides some tantalizing glimpses into our history and has given me some insight into the importance of the Egyptians and the Phoenicians that I did not previously have. Check it out!