Category Archives: Think About It

Meditation on a Chinese Lantern

I’ve placed a vase of vibrant dried Chinese Lanterns on the table where I work each day. I stare at them as I’m pondering and writing the next whatever it is I’m writing. They remind me that the world is simple and beautiful and impermanent.

The Chinese Lantern is proof that the world doesn’t completely suck.

But the world sure isn’t feeling that way these days. We all know there are those who would say that if I were “any kinda self-respectin’ Amurican”, I’d meditate on an American Lantern and that my love for the Chinese Lantern is what’s wrong with this country. They may even spit on me for meditating at all, deeming it suspicious behavior from “one a’ them Eastern forin countries.” Sounds ridiculous, right?

Yet, over on the other end of the spectrum, I could just as easily be accused of possessing all the sensitivity of a woodblock for calling the lanterns Chinese rather than some other label conjured three minutes earlier on Instagram. “Shame on you for being so utterly unaware!” they might sneer with the same vitriol as the Chinese Lantern hater.

Meanwhile, somewhere else on the spectrum, the woodblock contingency is busy taking issue with the unfounded accusation of lacking sensitivity. And it goes on and on ad nauseum.

Things have gotten seriously out of hand. And honestly, I’m having a hard time with it.

I genuinely believe everyone is struggling with this right now. Even if they refuse to acknowledge or even recognize it. Humans are social creatures. Introverts and extroverts alike. We’re at our best when we come together and collaborate in a productive way. Wisdom seems to dictate a crucial need for meaningful discourse and REAL listening to one another now before we reach a point of no return. But the vast majority of the time, this isn’t happening. Not that I’m seeing, at least. And I’m glancing at my own reflection in the mirror while I say this. Yep. Guilty as charged.

Now, if I’m unwilling to temporarily put aside my beliefs and concepts for the welfare of humankind and the planet, what right do I have to expect it of everyone else? None. As much as I don’t want to admit it, if I’m motivated in any way by fear, anger, and (yeah, I’ll say it) hatred, then I’m a part of the problem. As long as see the others as the enemy, there can’t be peace. And that sucks.

As they say, “the truth will set you free. But first it’ll piss you off.” Looks like I still have a lot of work to do here. Seems like something to meditate on today…

Support Your Local Library, Dammit

Of the many great inventions and ideas ascribed to Ben Franklin, I’m putting libraries at the top. You’re welcome to disagree. You may be far more struck by that whole kite with lightning thing. (Yes, the pun was painfully obvious.) Or perhaps you’re into bondage. Which has nothing to with Ben Franklin. So I’m not sure why you’re bringing it up.

At any rate, ask yourself this – when is the last time you went to the library? Okay, so you got me on a technicality. You probably haven’t been to an actual library since at least March, what with most of them being shuttered. Pandemic and all. But if you haven’t frequented a library or even taken advantage of its services since before this “new regular” began, then you might not even know what you’re missing. 

First of all, there are orgies. LOTS of them. Okay, not really. But your public library is home to an impressive collection of informational and inspiring tomes that may include the likes of Wuthering Heights, the works of Shakespeare, Catch-22, and The Illustrated Guide to Drawing Pelicans. Volumes one AND two. That’s right. There’s no skimping at the library. And they’re kind enough to just let you borrow any books you want! All you need is a library card, some spats, a top hat, and a monocle. No, wait. You only need those last three if you want to be Mr. Peanut. So just a library card.

If books aren’t exactly your thing, believe me, I understand. When I was growing up in the 1970s, there was a huge literacy campaign that insisted upon the chirpy tagline Reading Is FUNdamental. Because I was a phenomenally slow reader, I thought reading was fundamentally stupid. I don’t feel that way now, of course. It’s not that I’m any faster at reading. I just don’t have to write book reports anymore so I don’t really have to pay attention.

But that’s my story. You may despise reading with a vitriol normally reserved for hate groups. While that seems an extreme reaction to such a peaceful and important skill, who am I to judge? I’ll tell you who’s not judging though. That’s right. The library. They’ve made it possible for people to download music, movies, audio books, and other forms of entertainment right onto their laptops, phones, or other devices. And for folks who’ve recently managed to step into the 1990s, there are sections with CDs and DVDs available for check out too. It’s universally agreed upon that you can never see Sister Act too many times.

Then there’s the magazine section – quite possibly the most important section of the library. Not to channel my inner 80-year-old, but have you seen how much a single magazine issue costs these days? I’m sorry, but I’m not comfortable paying $10 for a rag that will ultimately become fodder for homemade collage greeting cards. Instead, I go to the library, borrow a few of their issues, then buy myself something pretty (like a nice bottle of wine) with all of the money I saved. Some days, just for fun, I’ll gather an armful of Vegetarian Times and Guns and Ammo, just to mess with the librarian at the check-out.   

Speaking of librarians, they’re another awesome perk of your local library. Think what you want about librarians. No, seriously. Go ahead. You don’t need my permission.

A stunning interpretation.

I guess all that I’m really trying to say is that libraries are awesome. Eventually they’ll open again and even if there aren’t orgies, they will resume being hubs for book clubs, yoga classes, internet access, community meetings, or any other number of gatherings that strengthen our social collective. They are also a safe haven for the homeless. 

Furthermore, right now, when we’re so limited in what we can do and where we can go, there’s this amazing and FREE resource for entertainment, motivation, learning, inspiration, and dreaming right here in our community. So take advantage of it.

Because, honestly, a pelican drawing is a terrible thing to waste. 

Three Possibly Great Ideas for Children’s Stories

Welcome, everyone.

It’s the day after the 2020 election here in the United States and as is par for the course with EVERYTHING this year, nobody has any clue what’s forthcoming. Surely nothing as trivial as a mighty flood or locust invasion. Come on. Be serious. We’re in the big leagues now. 

I will say that it is a feat beyond measure for me to wrap my head around the fact that a large swath of the American population is at peace with having a narcissistic hate monger at the wheel of their bus. 

Now, to be fair, I’ve been in the company of more than a few hateful bus drivers hell bent on getting up on two wheels right out of the stop while I’m walking back to my seat. The difference is, their busses aren’t metaphorical. And I sure as hell wouldn’t choose any of them to usher me through four years of public transportation… which, incidentally, is very much what this last presidency has felt like. Four interminable years of perpetually riding on public transportation. 

Whatever. 

Truth is, I don’t wish to further occupy my mind with such drivel. So today, I decided instead to engage my mind with more creative endeavors. As such, I’ve come up with some potential ideas for children’s stories. After all, those little rapscallions are our future. 

Right now, three of those ideas are in the lead. So join me on this special journey through my imagination to escape the uncertainty of the election. You won’t need anything except maybe galoshes, some cash, and a some hanging chads. Just in case. 

1. Blankets for Billy

Young Billy lives with his mother, father, and little sister, Casey. Billy has the perfect family. His father tucks him in every night and his mother reads him wonderful stories about beautiful falling leaves and canaries in trees. He even has the perfect relationship with Casey – whom he never teases by pulling her hair, telling her she was adopted, or making up false stories about their parents dying. The family’s love is all-consuming and abiding – despite the fact that they are terribly poor and live in a refrigerator box. In an alley. In Anchorage, Alaska. One day just before Christmas, a great big jolly man comes to the front door of the refrigerator box and gives each member of the family a brand new blanket. Billy and Casey, in their sweet innocence, are certain the man is Santa in street clothes. The man is actually a developer who wants to get rid of Billy’s family though. And when they all die one month later from smallpox (from the blankets), “street-clothes Santa” rejoices. The end. 

(Note: If it isn’t apparent, there is a clear parallel in this story to how the colonists treated the Native Americans way back in the olden days. It’s obvious that this story could be tremendously valuable in teaching children about American history, capitalism, and viruses – as well as how truly interchangeable they all are.)

2. Why Plants Are Green

The basic premise is – “Because of chlorophyll. Duh.” 

(Note: I admittedly haven’t fleshed this one out yet. It could be part of a more comprehensive scientific series for challenged learners. But I think we can all agree there’s something really promising here.)

3. The Golden Leaf

Note the beautiful plumage.

In this whimsical tale, a small and beautiful child – let’s make her an orphan – is taken with the beauty of one single golden leaf as it drifts from a tall branch to the earth. She watches it as it bobs and floats as if guided by the most gossamer thread. The leaf is a work of art – absolutely symmetrical and shimmering gold against the impossibly blue sky. The little girl waves at the leaf and smiles. It is perfect. And perfectly sharp and jagged; slashing the throat of a yellow canary perched on a branch and putting an abrupt end to its song. But this delights the little girl. She has not only gained a valuable weapon for safely maneuvering the dark halls of the orphanage, but will have something besides gruel for dinner. She rejoices. The end…

Yes, okay. These may be a tad dark. But hey, I tried.

Keep the hope, y’all.