New Literary Journal Online “Hitchlit”

I’ve got a short non-fiction story entitled “Killing Karma” published in a new Online Literary Journal called Hitchlit Review.  Check out all the great stories and poetry.  It’s worth a read.

https://hitchlit.org/

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Litigation – Oh My

After losing my brother to cancer, I’ve been offline for a while and on my return I’m going a bit off the normal subject to try and get back into the swing.

I read today that a Los Angeles man sued Krispy Kreme Company for falsely advertising the ingredients of blue berries and maple syrup in their doughnuts.  He is asking five million dollars.   It turns out they use those little fake blueberries and artificial maple flavoring, as I suspect, do most other doughnut makers.  I do know for sure that the instant blueberry muffin mixes use those same fake blueberries.  Dumb Question: Could this gentleman possibly have received five million dollars of damage from eating these already unhealthy doughnuts?  The amount of butter and sugar alone should be enough to stop anyone.

That’s not the real point though.  The real point is that I believe all the crazy litigation in the name of making money leads to less and less self-responsibility.  It leads to the goal of making one’s own problems someone else’s.

THE LAWYERS DON’T HELP.  A quick internet search on frivolous law suits will blow any working man’s mind.  In particular, I’m always entertained by the late night attorney’s advertisements asking if someone ever took this drug, or had this or that surgery.  If so call 1-800———.   I’m waiting for an advertisement that says “Have you been to a Doctor’s office this year?  If so call 1-800——— because you may be entitled to a lawsuit.”

WORSE YET, when someone is injured on public property, for example slips on ice, the city gets sued because some clod couldn’t be responsible for his own safety in walking.  Needless to say this leads to people intentionally falling and sustaining irreversible psychological damage to the point that they deserve no less than a few million dollars.

HOW ABOUT THIS?  How about making people responsible for their own choices?  In Japan they have very little crime, and probably not only because they don’t have guns.  What they have is incentive for families to teach self-responsibility.  This one simple example demonstrates the vast difference in Japan and the USA, and in my mind, displays part of the reason that we have so many people that don’t accept responsibility, but try to pass it off onto someone else.

In Japan, if you commit suicide by jumping in front of a Train, Rail Companies charge your family a fee.  Japan Rail in fact routinely charges families of suicide victims more than US $2 million, a financially devastating sum of money for most; although it is unclear whether any families can actually pay such a high bill.

The purpose is to reinforce how the suicide victim should not have created a burden for others and to reinforce the legitimacy of the shared cultural space of the commute.

Taken from:  https://www.reddit.com/r/todayilearned/comments/1khj2n/til_in_japan_if_you_commit_suicide_by_jumping_in/

YES, this is true and can be verified via many sources.

Why is this interesting?  My guess is that in the U.S., the family would be suing the local train or subway company for not creating barriers to stop someone from harming him/herself.  The family and some hungry attorney would see it as an opportunity to extract money from what they perceive to be a source of unlimited funds, rather than feel they should pay for the burden they created on society, and those whose lives were disrupted by their family member.

Imagine if our society encouraged each of us to teach our family members that they must be responsible for their own actions.  Perhaps then we would see less frivolous litigation.  In the end, when a company loses a multi-million dollar lawsuit, costs go up, more regulations are created, and more opportunities for lawsuits exist.  Is this really an efficient way to run a society?

ON PRIDE

Have you ever had a friend tell you they are proud of you, or tell you that you should be proud of yourself or your accomplishments?  On the few occasions it’s occurred with me it always throws me off.  It seems like something a parent should say to a child, or something you should say to someone that you feel may have low self-esteem.  Tell them you’re proud of them―make them feel good.

This happened to me recently and I really had to think about what they were saying because my first response was something like this.  “What the hell do you mean you’re proud of me?  You think I need a compliment or something?”

Sometimes I have to point my finger at myself and realize it’s me that has the problem.  Why should I be the only one that’s proud of my accomplishments?  It may go much deeper.  I think being proud, or having pride is an odd concept that gets intermingled with self-esteem.  Often those who appear the proudest of themselves are using it as a cover for their own low self-esteem.

So how does one find healthy pride?  Not being an expert on this I have concluded that healthy pride has more to do with self-honesty than anything else.  Few of us are capable of carrying out a self-assessment in an honest manner.  Not because we don’t want to, but because we can only use the tools we have and those include all the self-protective mechanisms we’ve spent years working on.

Perhaps, pride is a humble acceptance of those talents that others have identified in us, and that we personally know come from our true selves and not some manufactured identity or mask we create so that others will believe something about us that is not true.

Unfortunately, that narrows the field of those with true pride.  We live in a world of people who strive to emulate identities they have found on the internet, or in movies, or perhaps their favorite rock band―A world where many people define their own happiness on whether a team of professional athletes on a sports team wins or loses―a world where few have identified who they personally are, but strive to be something they are not.  Are these people being honest with themselves—about who they are?  Or are they hiding their true selves by pretending to be something they are not?

I realize this is an uncomfortable thought but the reason I’m bringing it up is because I believe in order to create literature, art, or music, beyond simply crafting it, 100% self-honesty is required.  True art will be the result of self-honesty, and pride will be a non-evasive by-product of knowing that one has produced that art, regardless of whether anyone recognizes it or not.  The ultimate compliment comes when someone is proud of being associated with what your self-honesty has produced.  You too will know when that compliment is an honest one, or simply someone blowing smoke because they feel they have something to gain from you.

I suggest looking deep into your upbringing, all the good, the bad, the dysfunction, the pain, and the happiness and find that true self.  I know this is not easy for me, but it is something I’ve committed to strive for.  Forget about someone else’s successes, failures, and experiences and find your own. Then you will produce your best work and be proud of it.  So will those around you.

Land of Opportunity

yoni1

Though my Spanish wasn’t bad, the snapping of the scissors next to my ear mixed with the four ladies clucking in Spanish left me in a solitary mindset.  The second closest whittled away on a teenager, working closer and closer to his scalp until with the last layer she used an electric shaver to expose whitewalls and a short cropped top that resembled a putting green.  On the opposite side, an elderly gentleman leaned back as a young Hispanic female shaped his tumbleweed eyebrows.  Nearby, a heavy set señora laid out what appeared to be well traveled bracelets, necklaces and jewelry on a shortened ledge with all the optimism of a flea mart Queen.  Her spilling cleavage distracted my eye as she bent forward, and she seemed to sense it as she held the position longer than I would have expected, then flashed a smile.

Lefty’s barber shop had long since been abandoned by Lefty himself and replaced to serve the ever growing immigrant population.  I spoke a few words in Spanish to my stylist who told me she’d been in the United States for twenty years but hadn’t really learned English as she had been at home with her children for the early years, and later the population didn’t require it.

I thought back to Yoni Rodriguez, a student who came to my Physical Therapy clinic as a volunteer.  It was most interesting to see the art he had composed while in high school (attached sketch).  It was derived out of street art and I could sense the pain of poverty as well as the hopes for a better life. Yoni said his interest in art came as a child while watching his older cousins practicing their graffiti with spray cans on plywood in the back yard, though he didn’t have an answer as to why he chose to avoid the local gang scene.  It soon became clear that his ambition and drive would take him far, and I found myself encouraging him to continue with college and work towards a higher level.  He is currently succeeding in his pre-med classes.

I thought back on my own childhood of working in the asparagus field, something I began at eleven years old and continued seasonally through my high school years.  It wasn’t done for fun, but rather, as a means to enjoy a more fruitful life.  Yoni explained that his parents had arrived in the country from Mexico searching for a better life, but he was born here.  He laughed when he told me that he only recently realized that his social security had been collecting funds since shortly after his birth as a result of his uncles using it since he was an infant.  Yoni was highly motivated to improve his life, and for some reason this struck a chord in me as my own son had dropped out of college several times and was living with his mother at twenty-five.  Perhaps it’s my generation, or just me, but when I was young I couldn’t wait to get out of the house and earn my own living.

I didn’t have much time for drugs, and couldn’t have imagined the idea of dropping out of school if someone was paying for it.  Instead, I remember taking out student loans and trying to find my direction as my primary purpose was to obtain a degree where I could secure sustenance above the level of a restaurant dish busser and one free meal a day (one of my college jobs).  Driven by the need, will, and desire to survive it seems, yields the motivation to create a better future.  It’s no surprise that Yoni doesn’t have time for drugs and minimal leisure time as he works towards his medical degree.

While our society spends a lot of time worrying about marijuana legalization, and our right to get high, we are seeing more foreign students enter science, engineering, and the medical field where we have a shortage of workers.  It’s interesting as well that those underprivileged in our own country are drawn to these fields as much or more than the more affluent.

One wonders why these students seem so driven, so smart, and why we are not attracting more of our own youth to excel academically in these fields.  I look back at my own life and question whether or not working since I was eleven just taught me to expect to work, or whether the lack of funds taught me to work.  I guess it doesn’t really matter.  I value a life of productivity and am thankful to now be able to mentor others and give back to society.  Perhaps Bill Gates and Warren Buffett are better examples of how reaching a point well past survival mode allows more giving and how the classic American Dream can generate overall good for society, but if each of us sees to it that we are giving more than we are taking from society the world might be a better place.  This seems to hold true for those who will serve best by first securing their own place in society as well as for those from a more privileged class.

Kids—Feel free to lambaste me.

Art reproduced with permission of Yoni Rodriguez

You and I

As we follow the arrow of time, you and I share something.  We write, not only to touch the world with our thoughts, but to feel the spirit of those who read our words.  While Jung called it the Collective Unconscious, some call it Quantum Consciousness; some see it as a spiritual gift.  Regardless of the term, our souls are interconnected.

For you who read my blogs, my curiosity as to your creations motivates me to read your stories.  And the beauty of these stories, and photos, and thoughts, stimulate memories, and emotions, such that I feel I’ve known you before.  In some cases, I have been close to you, though unknowingly at the time, and in other cases, I was near your energy before you were born.  Nonetheless, I sense the verve of your soul as we trade our written word, art, and emotions. 

Yes, it’s true we are not being profiled by Enquirer magazine; we are not on the red carpet, but then, that’s not why we write.   You and I only know about each other; we are the soul seekers. We seek to know the passions of another, we seek to share our depths, and out of our collective unconscious we create new souls in our fiction and express them in our art, and share them in our literature.  We live in a transcendent plane that few understand, and we do not understand why they cannot share our visions as they rush through their lives.

As technology evolves and the internet allows global thought sharing, we become one in the world.  Today I stopped by one of my fellow blogger’s site, Alex Markovich.  I perused his stories, took in his art, and my mind was taken back forty years when I was a high school exchange student in Sweden.  This was the time of the “Cold War”, and The Soviet Union was behind the “Iron Curtain.”  I went on a two week student tour through Finland into what we called “Russia.”  We forfeited our passports at the border and were told not to go outside the city limits of the two cities we visited, Moscow, and St Petersburg, or Leningrad as it was then. 

In those two weeks, at 18 years old, I learned that the people, the smiles, the artists, and the salt of the earth are the same everywhere and it changed my future.  It’s no secret in today’s world that you and I have this curiosity about other cultures, lives, hopes, and dreams, but forty years ago our access to one another was limited.  Today, we blog, we publish, and we share globally.   It’s a beautiful journey, and I am thankful to each of you who share your journey; I am thankful when you take a moment and allow me to share mine. 

In a fiercely political world with upheaval, fighting, and global power plays we must continue to seek one another, and promote the higher plane of existence that the human experience deserves.  It’s we who share the beauty that surrounds us who must fill and spill our cups of energy onto the world to draw the human collective unconscious to our appreciation of this gift of life.  And you and I will share the peace we create.

Life Priorities

No, this is not a political post, it’s about life.

I live on the West Coast in Washington State.  Every Presidential election, it seems the winner is announced before my State’s votes are even counted.  It may just be me, but with age I become more indifferent about the elections.  Today, I look at the lineup and wonder what our world has come to.

After every election, I wait for things to be better, but it seems that in the end, other than seeing my taxes go up for one reason or another, the world goes on, both sides attack the other, and my life is about the same.  The Democrats try to convince the world that the Republicans are idiots, and the Republicans try to convince the world that the Democrats are stealing their liberties.  Each cycle, it seems that what used to be considered a form of civil service creates more wealth for politicians, and the rich Republicans and the rich Democrats get richer, or make someone else richer, somehow using us to do it.

Most of us are putting forth labor so they can reach their goal of going from average Joe to rich politician.  Still, we continue to listen to their ideals and allow them to manipulate how we choose or keep friends.  We debate the issues with emotion, argue with fervor, and promote those ideals we have been manipulated to identify with.  In the end, it’s often wealth and lobbying that influences what comes out of the politicians mouths, regardless of the party, with the end goal of influencing our thoughts.

Today, I’m sitting in my brother’s home as he and his family face the effects of a Terminal Brain Tumor.  He can no longer make it to the restroom alone and his wife needs help because she can only do so much.  His children, one in college, and one out in the work force are home for the weekend to help.  Life, not on hold, but coming to an end.  Priorities now straight, and somehow Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, neither of which has anything to offer the world in my opinion become trivial background noise, a place I hope they remain every day.

A terminal diagnosis does wonders for understanding priorities in life, and it turns out that most of them are not out in the world trying to fix world problems.  In fact, for those who have families that they love, and families that love them, priorities might all be right at home.   Such a diagnosis is fodder for consideration that, while we have our armchair debates about the world’s problems, most of us never resolve our own issues.  On the rare occasion that we are given a terminal diagnosis we might have the chance.

Today, I would appeal to each one of you to cast aside your political discussions, turn towards your family, childhood friends, and for a minute realize that civilizations, the world, capitalism, socialism, and great societies have been running their cycles for thousands of years, and individuals have minimal to no effect on the course a society takes from start until collapse once the wheels are set in motion.  If your political debates and discussions make you feel you’re having an influence, continue on, but a deeper perspective may help you focus on the areas where you can have an influence.  An interesting book, “The Lessons of History”, Will & Ariel Durant, summarizes these cycles of civilization in a short concise manner.

Don’t wait for your terminal diagnosis, or for that of one close to you to find your priorities and where you can make life meaningful.  First, take a close look at the presidential candidates and ask yourself if they’re worthy of much of your time or thoughts.  Second, realize that today’s the day to take care of those close to you without the influence of any institution.  Do it from your own heart in your own way.

Empathy Beyond the Ego

­­Looking within to find empathy offers a different perspective so I’m going to throw it out.  While many over-achievers want to be empathetic, and some feel they are, it may be a false empathy in many cases.  They are focused on themselves, and the need for personal satisfaction is wh­­­at drives their achievements.  Achievements tend to be self-indulgent in nature.  Achievers often have difficulty finding empathy until they reach a point of satisfaction with their own accomplishments.  Unfortunately, this may be an ego driven empathy, self-satisfying empathy―one more accomplishment to add to the list.  Granted, doing good works help the receivers regardless of the motivation.

Is it possible that empathy can be another method of self-satisfaction for some?  i.e., I am helping others therefore I feel good about myself to the point that empathy becomes a narcissistic endeavor?­­  

Our consciousness is what gives us a sense of self―really the ONLY thing that gives us a sense of self.   For each one of us, the universe, the empathetic subjects, and everything else we perceive live only in one place.  That place is our consciousness…. Without consciousness, they do not exist for us.  What does this mean?  It means, that everything we sense as the outer world is really within us―within our perception.  Once we realize that our achievements are not something that we personally accomplished, but, also required consciousness, other lives, and the universe, we can no longer separate ourselves.  Thus, they are an accomplishment of the universe.  Our consciousness manifests this reality for us.  We are not separate from the universe; our perceptions are the universe as we know it. 

Once one understands this, it becomes clear that the true feeling of empathy is an integral part of self-love and it comes without effort to those who have this characteristic.  Empathy becomes intuitive rather than learned, and is no longer an object we seek; it’s a part of us.  True empathy is not born out of guilt, or feeling sorry for someone in need, nor is it found in feeling guilty about having more than others.  True love is not attainable without empathy, both for oneself and those one perceives as others.  Likewise, true empathy is not attainable to those lacking self-love, and I submit that lack of self-love is a motivator for many over-achievers.  Many are seeking self-love through their achievements and carrying out good works for them is based on false empathy as they seek self-love.

This took me many years to understand.  Early in my life I thought I would find it (self-love) through education so I­ collected degrees.  Not surprisingly, the degrees brought me no closer to understanding any of this.  I loved nature and climbed mountains and worked as a Physical Therapist.  I thought I was empathetic because I was helping people, but just like climbing mountains, it was motivated by my own need to achieve and had little to do with empathy.  Sadly for me, a substantial amount of over-achieving was necessary before I realized it would not bring wisdom, empathy, self-love, or anything of importance. 

Perhaps accepting that the only true asset we have is our consciousness and that our ego is an obstacle is all we need to understand to offer more to the world we perceive as outside of us.