Monthly Archives: January 2009

Responsibility Takes a Vacation

Okay, class, so what did we learn about the Wall Street greed merchants? That they have to be monitored. That the concept of a free market doesn’t work so well when people are out for themselves, which, in a way, we all are. We need to be supervised, so we don’t throw the whole blasted world into turmoil trying to get what we want.

This is kind of a familiar scenario, isn’t it? The “Not In My Backyard” people, the “I’ll get mine” people, the “If it’s legal…” people, the “I’ll sue you for that” people, and the worst of all (in my never-humble opinion): “If I can, I will.”

Well. Just because we can does not mean we should.

Case in point: The woman who just gave birth to eight kids. She now has fourteen children under the age of 8. Guess who’s paying for 8 critical infants in neonatal care? That’s right. You and me. Even if she has insurance, our rates will go up because of this.

Because there is nobody watching this particular type of heinous greed. Putting checks on our oh-so-valuable reproductive rights is a very unpopular, Hitler-esque concept. Do you think this mother and her husband can afford to attend to the needs of fourteen children without the help of the state? I don’t. Even if they pull it off with donations for now, what about later?

What doctor authorized the implantation of eight embryos to a woman with six children? He should be arrested for this crime, even though it is not yet on the books. And then we should put it on the books.

Overpopulation is killing us. It is stretching our resources to the breaking point, ruining wildlife habitat, and heating up our planet.

I say it’s time to regulate the ridiculous fertility business. Perhaps if those who were unable to have children didn’t have children, population would stabilize. Infertility could very well be nature’s way of saying we’ve had enough babies for now. 

I remember Zero Population Growth whose rallying cry was for each pair of people to have two children, just enough to replace themselves. Well, Wall Street has shown us that we won’t do that. If we wait for the socially-conscious to do the right thing there, we’ll all drown in our own effluent.  The socially conscious among us will have two children and those who don’t neuter their pit bulls and live with tires in their front yards will breed indiscriminately.

We can’t count on ourselves to do the right thing.

Isn’t that a shame?


Filed under politics, Social Consciousness

The Afterlife vs. the Afterdeath

I just finished reading a most remarkable book, Stiff: The Curious Lives of Human Cadavers.


Being somewhat ghoulish by nature, once I heard about the existence of this book, I couldn’t wait to read what this hilariously funny author had discovered in her research about bodies donated for medical and other research.

I was amazed.

First, I was astonished to discover how researchers treat their cadavers with tremendous respect, even if they’re subjecting them to a t-bone car crash to find out what happens to the brain when it is rattled from a side impact (this research led to side-impact airbags, by the way). Medical students are even more reverent about the cadavers they are privileged to study. Some even name them. These students know that they would never be able to learn some of this stuff by watching a video, so every cadaver helps immeasurably to educate a new medical student.

The body of knowledge that a selfless donor adds to medicine, safety, forensics… it’s quite amazing. I had no idea. And fewer and fewer people are donating their remains to research.

My husband is not crazy about the idea of me donating my body to research, but I’m filling out the forms today, and he’ll have to get used to the idea. As a cancer survivor, I can’t donate organs like kidneys, heart, corneas, bone marrow, etc.  But if someone can learn something by using this tissue after I’m finished with it, before reducing it to ash, I think this is a good thing.

We spend a lot of time talking and thinking about where our souls or identites or personalities go after death, but we hardly give a thought to whether we waste our remains or put them to good use.

Please give it some thought.


Filed under Cancer, college, Death, Dying

The Sublime Tension

Men and Women. Will we ever understand each other?

I say: No.

I believe this tension of difference is the attraction, and also the frustration. 

This male/female tension has been the stuff of literature, movies, sitcoms and countless cups of coffee and tear-stained napkins throughout the centuries.

But what’s the purpose?

Why couldn’t we just have a meeting of the minds, understand each other and be done with it? We could save so much time, just get on with living our lives conflict-free and easy.

Alas. The self/selfless tension is like the animal/spiritual tension. We’re drawn to one, yet grounded in the other. It takes work to move beyond the one and gain the rewards of the other.

But doing so does have its rewards. One is that we’re forced to hone our creativity in communications to minimize misunderstandings. Stimulating creativity is a good thing.

Another is the benefit of a well-rounded banquet of experiences, because without that yin/yang tension, we would fall into complacency. Complacency is a good treat now and then, but not as a steady diet.

Perhaps the most important is because when we commit to someone of the opposite sex, we’re really committing to better ourselves, to learn to rise above the pettiness, to sincerely endeavor to understand rather than to be understood. Relationships are rife with pettiness and misunderstandings. And yet, that tension of attraction endures.

It’s a mystery.

It is, perhaps, THE mystery.

I love a good mystery.

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Filed under connections, family, Marriage, relationships, Spirituality

Well. Wasn’t that something?

I admit I wept when Chief Justice Roberts said, “Congratulations, Mr. President.”

The entire event, from start to finish, filled me with such a sense of pride to be an American. As Aretha Franklin sang, I thought about all the bloody and bloodless coups that have taken place all over the world, throughout history, throwing governments and their people into turmoil. We have our own turmoil, it’s true, but that isn’t part of it. That “peaceful transfer of power” that the talking heads continually refer to should never be taken for granted, not by any of us, not for one moment.

And now I chuckle as every moment of the new administration is watched over. His first dance with the first lady. His first official signature. His first cabinet meeting. The girls’ first sleepover. It reminds me of new parents watching their baby. Its first yawn. Its first smile. Its first step. 

Very sweet.

But I’m ready for some meat now. The festivities are important, but let’s get down to business. I think Obama is a guy who tolerates the pomp and circumstance well because he understands how important pageantry sometimes is, but I think he is just as eager to get to work.

Let’s all wish him well, give him the benefit of the doubt, and leave him alone for the next 100 days, and let him do what he said he would.


Filed under Goodness, peace, politics, Possibilities

The Year of Tao

Last year I named my year “Hesed,” the Hebrew word for lovingkindness. Upon reflection, I believe I made good progress in that area. I want to be less cynical, more forgiving, and I think I am, at least a touch.

This year I’ve dubbed “The Year of Tao.” I’m studying Taoism in school, and am amazed, amused and delighted by it, especially the part where the books tell you that this is one “religion” (I don’t think of it as a religion) which you cannot study by observing it. You have to be Taoist. You have to do Taoism. Only then can you understand it.

So I’ve got a translation of the Tao Te Ching on my nightstand, and am reading every night. Some of it makes no sense, and I’m not sure if that is the product of this translation, the aggregate of 2500 years of translations, or concepts too advanced for my poor brain.

Several years ago, I wrote an essay called “Living in the Slipstream,” and it was all about cruising with life rather than trying to swim across the current and banging on the rocks. Little did I know then that I was talking about Taoism.

So 2009 is the Year of the Tao.

This is a good thing, naming the year. It gives life a modicum of generalized focus, if you know what I mean.


Filed under goals, Social Consciousness, years

I Love a Good Ghost Story!

And we’ll be writing them, May 8,9, and 10 at the haunted Siltcoos Station, on the mysterious and foggy Oregon Coast.

This will be the 19th annual Ghost Story Weekend, where thirteen of us gather together and write a ghost story in 24 hours. Fast, urgent and scary. Or hilarious. Or sentimental. Doesn’t matter, as long as it’s ghostly. Then we read them in the haunted boathouse on Saturday night, breaking only once for dessert and a bathroom break, which we have to find by flashlight.

Registration for this spring term class will be through Lane Community College, Eugene, Oregon.

So while this is a little commercial for my favorite weekend of the year, I also have something to say about the benefit of writing a short story in 24 hours: You can do it. We call can, and the more we do it, the better we get at it. In the eighteen years I’ve been teaching this course, nobody has failed to write their story (first draft, of course), and some regulars write two. It’s all a matter of training.

So come join us! We always have a really good time.

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Filed under Ghost Story Weekend, Short Stories

The Year in Review

Happy New Year, everybody.

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Filed under years