….and so we fight.

The plague had thus afflicted many with a stench of vile filth.

And the world keeps spinning.  Round and round it goes. The stars still shine their light from billions of miles away and the sun still warms this planet.  In nature, the order of events still moves on without regard to the chaos that humanity continues to bestow upon civilization.  Therein is the effect of man on all that surrounds him.  Kind of makes you want to throw up, some days!

I had the opportunity the other day to sit outside and listen.  My mind filtered out as much as it could related to humans.  I pushed out the sounds of cars and airplanes.  Ignored the drone of lawnmowers and chain saws.  Blanked out the chatter of children and their parents throughout the neighborhood.  What I really did was to focus all my attention on the nature.  As much as I could, that is.  It was a tranquil moment! The visions of trees and the vastness of the blue skies.  The feel of grass and soil below me.  It was wonderful, and it all seemed…normal. 

What I discovered was that there sure was a lot of nothing.  Nothing, in the sense of peace and quiet.  I found that, though nature was all around me, there was a sense of craving that was occurring, a craving to be in that ‘world’.  As much as mankind has injected his will and way throughout planet Earth, the other inhabitants were still alive and well and doing just fine!  I was really enjoying their company for the moment.  It was a mini-vacation from the ‘plague’.  The ‘plague’ is a sickness that has been spreading like a wildfire throughout humankind.  It has been discovered that it destroys the brain by tearing out the common sensory lobe and then starts to dissolve the emotional cortex.  All that remains is an uncaring, no-conscience, zombie-like thing that seeks to inflict misery on whoever and whatever is around.

What made me really dwell about this were some of the events in recent weeks.  You see, I’m a news junkie.  I find myself searching for updates to the happenings that go on, not only local, but nationally and internationally.  A story breaks out here and I need to know.  Not just what the media filters to us, but the whole picture.  Don’t give me a nugget and tell me I’m content!  Facts, figures, pictures, summaries….I want to know it all!  Junkie! But recent reports of people pistol-whipping elderly women for their purses, thugs shooting at police indiscriminately, violent home invasion on a family with young children, and an elderly man shot by a thug as he walked into his own home, I’m finding that there is such a thing as ‘too much’.

With all of that coursing through my cranium, I’m finding there are some adverse physical and emotional effects from the worldly feed, as well.  I’ve heard the phrase before: information overload.  And it seems to be overloading with sadness, despondency, pain, suffering, violence, and destruction.  The sickest part is that you don’t have to go international or even national to be filled with this negativity.  It’s in your back yard.  It’s down the street.  It is permeating throughout what was once called civilization.  Uncivilization. The plague.

So what’s the solution? Sorry to disappoint, but I don’t have one. Like a seeping cloud of vileness, this uncivilization is moving throughout the lands, decimating good things, tearing away the very fabric of decency that could, and should, be our humanity.  You and I could sit for days upon days and point the finger at this and that and never really hit the source because there isn’t just one source.  This is an evolution of allowances that have continued to bloom into the destruction of decent folk.  In the past, when people would do nothing but commit horrible acts upon others without remorse, we called them a scourge upon society.  But nowadays, there seems to be an acceptance to such violent behavior. Amazing how someone can commit such atrocities, but because we have to be concerned about their ‘feelings’, we have to go soft on them.  Thus, the plague is back on the streets in no time, doing what it does best: destroying.

Uncivilization.  It’s funny how we can look back at each generation in our little worlds and think that those before us were so “uncool”.  Our parents thought our manners and actions were barbaric.  Their parents thought they were out of control.  Their parent’s parent’s thought their kids were the end of civilization itself.  No one point to blame, because it’s been an evolution of degradation.  I believe the term used in the past has been ‘the decline of western civilization’.  But somewhere, somehow this has to come to a stop.  And I sure hope that it hits the brakes before our blue earth looks like some postapocalyptic scene from a science fiction movie.   

Demographics aside, it has become a global thing.  People groups aside, it has become a social stain.  Religious groups aside, it has become the bias.  Ethnicity aside, it has become separation.  It doesn’t matter who or what anymore, what matters is that it is.  It is a violation inherent in the system.  Can we tune out?  Are we allowed to turn our back on the seemingly senseless disregard for people and property?  No! We cannot!  Just because it is all around, we can still pick up the pieces and continue the good fight.  We may not impact the whole world, but we can impact our little world.  There is too much at stake here and anarchy running rampant is not an option.  We fight at the local levels.  We fight against the liars and cheats. We fight against evil that is now accepted. We fight against the all these things that are rotting our moral flesh.  We fight against the plague. We fight!

And so I listen all around and try to isolate the tranquility of nature.  I try to focus on serenity that will sooth a weary soul, worn out from the information overload.  I know that it is out there.  If, but for a moment in time, we can find some peace.  Because we cannot bury our head in the sand, we seek some solace from the uncivilization that surrounds.  Just a moment of refuge.  I know the plague is spreading.  I’ll be there in a minute…have to re-energize for the next round.

...and desolation remained, lest man stand to push back

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Arrested Development

My son is a hardened criminal.  Arrested in the commission of a heinous crime just the other morning.  Another vile perpetrator off our city streets.  We can rest easy tonight.

In the bustling city of St. Paul, Minnesota, the crowds of people are rushing to and fro, starting the day early in the morning.  Sidewalks fill with commuters coming into the city, destined for their places of employment, others are merely on one of many stops en route through the city via buses.  On this ordinary day, during a typical morning, one young man had exited his first bus and was walking the one city block to catch his next bus to get to his final destination.  But during the course of that short walk, he was approached by another young man who had asked him for a cigarette. Without breaking stride, he reached into his pocket and produced one and handed it over. Then, without deeper thought, continued on his way until…..

A police officer that witnessed the transaction summoned him back to the scene of the crime.

The officer and the other half of the criminal duo stood waiting.  Unbeknownst to my son was the fact that this cigarette requester was a minor!  He gave a minor a regulated substance. Provided this underage person with tobacco products!   Now, under the circumstances, I could understand the law is the law and justice must be dealt swiftly.  How else can the perpetrators learn their lesson, if not by showing them the error of their ways and stop their wayward path to becoming a boil on the buttocks of society?  Issue that ticket, give a stern warning, and move on. Simple, but not.

We don’t know if this is part of a major crime ring.  This could be the tip of the iceberg in something bigger.  Sure, from the outside it appears that some passerby bummed a cigarette from an unsuspecting commuter in the big city, but let’s not draw any conclusions. This just may be the fringes of a large crime family operation!  Maybe the beginnings of a drug cartel!

But who are we kidding. As I said before, it was a passerby asking for a smoke from one of thousands of commuters. Yes, a ticketing offense. The part that has me wondering is why this small act warranted an actual trip to the jail house for the two ‘actors’ in the event. Are you really going to pull an officer off the streets during the morning rush hour in down town just to haul in these two collaborators of crime?  Two, who got nothing more than the ticket that could have been written right there on the street!  I sure hope they did a full and proper investigation here. Maybe run the fingerprints through the system, have CSI analyze the clothing, recreate the crime with multi-dimensional computer imaging, and have the district attorney interview everyone on the streets.

Come on common sense! There isn’t more to this act that needs pointing out.

I think about how various government levels are under deep scrutiny to tighten the budget belts, cut spending, and operate with less. In fact, the police chief of St. Paul stated, not too long ago, that they are trimming 2.2 million dollars from their budget.

Okay. Good to know that they are eliminating waste. But common sense would show you that writing a ticket and getting back to fighting drugs, gangs, robbers, and prostitution is a much better use of the tax funds your department receives. Trim the waste, not the sense.  Don’t get me wrong, now.  I am a huge supporter of our peace officers and all involved in fighting crime.  I actually wish they had more investigators, officers, and better equipment so they can do their jobs more efficiently and safely.  I understand what they face out on the streets everyday and think that the criminal justice system needs to get tougher.  But, let’s measure some reality in with our system here.  The officer wasn’t dealing with punk gang members.  In fact, my son was texting while riding in the back of the squad car on his way to jail!  He had his phone and pocket contents still with him! Even in the holding cell, he still had his phone.

Now he wasn’t in for very long.  Took his ticket and left the jail a free man.  Even more fortunate for him was that he still got to work on time, he just had to find a ride.   The overall event has a touch of comedy to it.

But, as I told my wayward son…keep up that perceived criminal mindset and activities, and before you know it, you are on America’s Most Wanted! Don’t worry, folks….I’ll keep my eye on him.

The Ever-Mystical Sock Vortex

A deep part of humanity is the passion to know, to understand the how’s and why’s of the universe around us. Therein lays the problem. You see, this passion can oftentimes create more havoc than solution, and will, if the technically challenged are left unsupervised and with tools. 
My dear friend became a victim of an overzealous desire to solve one of life’s great mysteries, and perhaps a mystery that is best left unknown. The Ever-Mystical Sock Vortex!

His crusade began one Saturday morning with the simple task of getting dressed. The jeans and t-shirt combination were as usual. Socks and shoes would round out the basics and then off to the store for groceries.  The process halted at the sock drawer. One sock here, nothing matching there, missing partner somewhere. The investigation continued in the laundry hamper. 

Clothing pulled from the deep basket, piece by piece.  Piles grew as he continued the search.  “Why don’t any of the socks have a match?” He questioned under breath.  His wife called out from the kitchen with a what?

“Nothing”, he muttered. “I’m looking for a match to some of my socks”, he said as he raised his volume so she knew he was paying attention.  All the way down to the bottom of the basket, and nothing. How could this be? Where did the other half of all these socks go? Is this some sort of prank?

He walked out to the kitchen looking as a sleuth investigating a crime scene and looked at his wife quizzically.  “My socks”, he muttered. “Where is the other half of all my socks?”  She glanced up from here newspaper and shrugged both shoulders while trying to convey her best puzzled look.  “I dunno.”

The dryer. That must be it, he thought. That’s the place they say the socks disappear from.

He stepped through the kitchen and into the laundry room. A simple area with a washing machine, that dryer next to it, and various cleaning solutions lining a shelving unit next to the machines.  He opened the dryer door and glanced inside the drum. Reaching in, he felt around the tub hoping for a handful of socks to just magically to appear, ending his quest. Nothing. No socks within and nothing on the right or left of the outside. 

His mind became filled with cartoon images showing the intricacies of the dryer’s operations. Ok, he thought, the vent hose that comes out of the back of the machine goes to the hole in the wall and out of the house. Yes, that’s it! Outside! The dryer has pulled the socks through the drum, through the vent, and out of the house and into a pile in the backyard! That’s where they went!

Grabbing a pair of sandals on the way to the back door, he shuffled to the backyard. Finding the exit port for the dryer, he studied the ground around.  Nothing.  Nothing but leaves, grass, and dirt. He peered into the vent hole, squinting in deep study. “This is ridiculous!” He muttered.

Back inside, he knew what needed to be done. Grabbing his tool box, he understood that the best way to solve a mystery is to dismantle the cause of the mystery! Time to take the dryer apart!  This, of course was met with some stern warnings and skeptical verbiage from his wife!  She tried to explain the rational to him, but knew that this issue would not rest until he had satisfied his own quest.

“I’m gonna go to the store. You do whatever it is you think you have to do.” She stated with authority. “But, by the time I get back, this whole mess better be cleared up and that dryer in full functioning capacity!” And, with that, she passed through the front door, head shaking slowly side to side. 

He peered down at the magical box and grabbed the screwdriver.

Later in the afternoon, my dear friend’s wife arrived back at their house with an arm full of groceries and a sunken heart.  There, from laundry room and into the kitchen, lay the remnants of a once operational dryer.  The machine that worked great was now in pieces and strewn around the floor.   He glanced her way while holding a box with wires in his hand.  “Nothing,” was all he could muster.

Her face said enough, but her raging mind wasn’t done yet.  He looked down and with a defeated gasp said “I just don’t understand where the socks go.” 

Before she could let loose with both barrels of infuriation, the last semblance of calm allowed her to utter a piece of rational thinking.  “Did you ever stop to think that maybe the socks disappeared before they get to the dryer?”

With that, he looked at the washing machine with revelation in his eyes and reached for the screwdriver.

Time Stand Still

Yesterday was a good day. A short day-trip to a scenic and nostalgic little town was a refreshing and memory created.  Any time you have an opportunity to enjoy a of nature and eclectic people, you will often walk away with a new outlook on your own personal life.  The part that nature plays in self-reflection is, and has always been, quite understandable.  Historically proven, humans communing with nature will give a sense of beauty, peace, and an inward calm.  Standing next to a river with the trees rustling under the direction of the wind.  Sunlight glittering through the fall foliage, dancing off the moving waters. The gentle sounds of birds calling to one another. The autumn colors filling the visual senses with awe and wonderment.  Tranquility settles in and the callousness of the week begins to fade into a warming of rejuvenation.

Enter people.  This little town that I visited is not only a historic town nestled next to the river, but has become a mecca of antique shops, art studios, themed bars and restaurants, and unique shops.  Add to this the problem of ‘one way in, one way out’ through town, and you have the makings of absolute calamity.  Cars and motorcycles lined up as far as the eyes can see to the north and to the south.  Impatient drivers darting through freshly turned red lights in hopes of further advancing their position.  Pedestrians milling on sidewalks, blocking everything and everyone.  Now, let’s add to this congestion of people and vehicles with a festival!  Sure, it’s time for a celebration of the fall harvest, so let’s figure out a way to bring more people into an already cramped area!

I will admit, that I have always been a fan of people watching. I attend the Minnesota State Fair every year for two things: Pronto Pups and people!  Let’s face it, the displays are the same, the food is the same, the rides are the same, and the animals all seem the same to me. (Disclaimer: Yes, I know that they are different! Settle down)!  I go to that fair for my favorite food on a stick and to see the masses that gather.  You can learn a great deal about society and who we are by watching large groups of people who gather together at events such as this.  You have representatives from every race, creed, and status.  They all come with one mind, to have fun!

Now, on my trip there was a smaller, but just as significant gathering of people from all walks of life.  But on this particular day I wasn’t enlightened about some of life’s curiosities by the people around me.  It was from a visit to an antique store at the edge of town.  This particular store was different from many of the other stores simply because it was housed within an old building that had stood on that spot since the early settlers came in.  The multi-level building still contained the wood that framed the structure, formed the floors, and some of the stonework that created walls separating rooms.  An old building containing antiquities.  Fitting!

I have been in many antique stores before this visit, but on this day was when observation gave way to realization.  Wandering through the many aisles and nooks, glancing at the various knickknacks, furniture, clothing, oddities, and memorabilia,  things started to  scream at me in volumes.  “I remember that.”  “I had one of those.” “It seems like yesterday that I was using that very same thing.”

Really? The very objects that have been relegated to an antique store are the very things that I used, played with, and owned!  Is this some cosmic joke? Is there some message being sent to me from the universe? Are you trying to tell me something?  Now, hold on one minute here!  I’m NOT that old!  Someone get me a dictionary and the Universal Antiquities Law book…..I have some research to do!

First off, I had better make sure I understand the definition of the word:

1.  of or belonging to the past; not modern; outdated

2.  dating from a period long ago: antique furniture.

3.  in the tradition, fashion, or style of an earlier period; old-fashioned; antiquated.
Well, that seems pretty generic to me.  After all, you buy a cell phone now days and within a few months it is ‘outdated’.  But, you won’t find your ‘old’ smart phone sitting on a shelf in the antique store.  I’ll check with my highly classified, you-will-never-find-it, enigma book: Universal Antiquities Law.   According to section 3, paragraph 2.5, sub-paragraph 15, it clearly states that ‘items cannot be displayed as antiques or historical pieces, until such a time as this author has determined, so as not to make said author feel aged or become worrisome with self-reflection…”, etc, etc, etc….  Seems pretty clear to me that this was not consulted prior to putting out some of the items.  I could go on about the very specific details listed in the Book, but I won’t bore you with all the legalisms.  Let’s just say that there has been a coordinated violation of my self-directed rights as a citizen!
Be this as it may, I know that there are many who are “more experienced” in years that myself.  I find myself in a mix of older and younger folks around me everyday.  It’s just when you get to that point in your life when realizations begin to settle in.  When you can sit in a bar and see people ordering a drink that look like they are barely 15, yet are legal to drink.  When newscasters come on the television and you wonder if they just left high school.  You find yourself bringing up a reference to a television show from years past and the people around you look puzzled because they weren’t born yet.  I’m sure that many of you have experienced these moments, and many others.  That is when you chuckle with them, but walk away thinking to yourself: where has the time gone?
If you want to take a trip down memory lane, you might find that it isn’t too far from you.  It might be something as simple as a visit to your local antique store.  But, before you do, prepare yourself for some reality.  Some may find the reality is harsh and startling, some might find it to be a pleasant experience.  Whatever your reality is when taking that trip into the past, just remember that your past has brought you to this present.  Times may have changed, but we were the forgers of that change. We took the rotary telephone and turned it into the cellular. We took the phonograph and turned it into the MP3. And, we fortunately discarded the leisure suits!
Time moves forward and events and items slip into the past.  Reflect, remember, and smile!  Someday soon, that smart phone in your pocket is going to stir memories in your grandchildren when they visit the antique store!

Where’s the peace?

Spend several days lying in a miserable state due to sinus congestion and pounding headaches and you will certainly have time to reflect on many things! Despite the intense misery that keeps itself at the forefront of your attention, there seems to be ample time for thoughts to travel around almost every avenue of life.  You can’t drown it out with television because that was turned off,  in part to sad daytime programming and partly because the drone of re-runs seem to cause the pain and suffering to increase. Sleep only amplifies the potential for deeper thinking. At that point, you have only to give up and give in. Reflection time!

So what are the random topics that whirl around the brain, much like the spinning wheel from a game show? Round and round and round it goes. Where it stops? Nobody knows!  And, since most of my thinking seems to border on the edge of “weird random”, I often roll my eyes at some of the strange things that crop up!  How does an electron microscope work? Maybe I should learn how to play a mandolin.  I wonder if I can draw cartoon characters?  Here’s another great idea for a novel!  What would be a great business to operate from home?  How do they create computer models for weather?  Why are there so many different religions? 

All topics, all the time! So, in keeping with the swelling of the brain due to a fever, I decide to tackle the simplest topic first.  The one that millions of learned researchers, scholars, educators, scientists, and arm-chair solutionists (myself included) have spent centuries trying to solve, resolve, and determine what is and what isn’t!  The topic that has divided more people than anything else. Why is there so many different religions? Simple!

Dare, you say, to address such a topic as this? To potentially offend or blaspheme someone’s sacred holdings?  No, don’t worry…..I’m not planning on upsetting the apple cart! That would be too easy to do! All you have to do for that is to simply turn on the television, open a paper or magazine, or just talk with someone at work or home.  It’s obvious to even the under-educated (or those who really could care less) that this is a very personal topic.  Just for the record, I have no issues with people’s belief system. You want to pray or worship an ant hill, go for it. You want to take a day off each week to burn candles and chant things to burnt toast, more power to you! That’s the beauty of America….you can! (And, many do!)

What I don’t get is the aspect that folks profess their “religion” as a peaceful one. I, for one, am a huge fan of peace!  Love one another, and all that stuff,  is great! So….where’s the peace? 

I’m not going to sit here and list out specific religions or faiths or whatever you want to call it.  That is not what this topic is about.  So, please stop clinching your teeth, lower your raised fist, and take a slow, deep breath!  There….better? Let’s continue….

Throughout the history of humanity, written or unwritten, we bipeds have had a hankering for looking to a higher power.  Whether evidence shows it or not, there has always been a draw to something greater than self.  Any culture, any region, any people…all have figured that there has to be something bigger, better, stronger, running the whole show. And if you look at any of the religions in the world today, you will note similar groundwork.  Something or someone is higher than we are and is either the goal or the direction for which we need to travel.  Simple enough.  Each “grouping”, as I shall call it, has created its own doctrine and methodology for which to unify the masses under.  The groups build upon this until they reach the pinnacle of formality.

Enter into the dawning of the new ages.  Formal, semi-formal, loosely based, fundamental, off-shoot, even radical, all seem to be labels added to the various names given to each grouping.  But deeper still is the inherent belief that one’s personal doctrines are of peace.  Let’s take a look at what peace really means. For simplicity sake, I will utilize the definitions that are fitting with what we are talking about.  Essentially, peace is harmony in personal relations; freedom from disquieting or oppressive thoughts or emotions; a state of tranquility or quiet.  Should be a calm and serene state to be in.  If you are a part of peace, you would think that those around you would not feel threatened or worried. You would think…..

Let’s be real.  We are human and humans tend to believe that their personal way is the best. It’s seems to be the natural inclination within. So, what do the humans do with that? They decide that the neighbors need to do what they do.  But, when the neighbors don’t want to be in that grouping….well, here it goes:  The party of the first part insists that the party of the second part take part in the party. The party of the second part declines and the party of the first part becomes upset and forces the party of the second part to comply. The party of the second part pushes back and thus begins the party where everyone ends up crying!

But, wait! There’s more! Now some of the members of the party of the first part decide that the party of the second part had some good ideas too, but the conflicts with the party of the first part’s thinking, so, they leave the party of the first part, take with them some from the party of the second part and now create a party of the third part!  Confused? You should be. By now, this process had multiplied so many times that all that remains is a million parties!  Add this to the fact that the groupings continue to divide (like those biology thingys that creep people out), and next thing you know it is spread out like a virus!  Of course, the bigger your party is, the more “soldiers” you have to help “assimilate” other parties into your own (or, just squash the smaller parties).

Either way you look at it, most of the party pushers are really nothing more than militants pushing their agendas and ideas onto others. Gangs, anyone?  Last I checked, this wasn’t “peace”. 

Now before anyone gets too high and mighty in the britches, understand that this covers the vast multitude of every religious order.  Take a hard look at history.  Historians have all understood and agree that the rise of any religious group has been fraught with violence and conquest.  And let’s make one thing perfectly clear here so that no one walks away thinking that they are exempt:  This Still Happens Today!  Yes, everywhere, everyone, in every way.  No exceptions.  So, again I ask…..where’s the peace?

As I mentioned in the beginning, I’m all for people looking to higher powers, dedicating themselves to a life of devotion, and even walking a path that may not be clearly understood to the majority, but don’t….please don’t tell me that “all is filled with peace and harmony”!  Every religion is scarred with the history of violence and it continues today.  Take a look outside your realm, understand your origins, and see what is happening in the world.  It amazes me that folks watch the nightly news, point and say “those people”, or “that group is…”!  Stop and smell the coffee! Those people and that group is no different from your people and your group!

I close with this simple line from a complicated individual in history: if your slate is clean, then you can throw stones.

Still Alive!

Just want to let you all know that I am still active, alive, and working to bringing you more ramblings, commentaries, murmurings, and a host of other things including a new short story.
The short will be a mix of humor and fiction, yet still holding true to the theme of it all…..Common Sense!
I appreciate your patience and, most of all, willingness to read the smatterings of sense I am trying to make common!