Showing posts from September, 2020

Why Authoritarian Governments Hate Small Farms

Authoritarian governments have a tendency to limit or even collapse the food supply. At first that doesn't appear to make sense. People get angry and desperate when the food supply is limited, especially when their kids start starving. That's often when the king, queen, pharaoh, president, emperor, or empress is overthrown and killed. History demonstrates that over and over again. Yet, authoritarian governments keep doing it. It's a contradiction I've been thinking about for years. And when you think about it long enough and hard enough, it makes complete sense.

Imagine there's a nice family living in a house with a yard. They decide to plant a few things. The things grow. They eat them, the food is good. They have a few extra things. They give some to a neighbor. The neighbor likes them too. The family needs a shed built. The neighbor is a carpenter. They trade. Everything is good. What's missing? The government.

From a civilian's perspective this seems li…

Three Deathbed Realizations

There are certain situations that approach the limit of what it is possible for us to experience as human beings.

In December of 2015 I was laying in a hotel bed in Mombasa, Kenya. I had been poisoned. Then I had my money coerced from me at the beach on the Indian Ocean. Somewhere along the way I had picked up an unknown bacteria that was destroying my entire digestive system. Things weren't going that great.

The philosopher Karl Jaspers came up with the modern concept of the limit situation. He talked about four things that can bring it about when taken to extreme levels: fright, guilt, finality, and suffering. The thing is, these all go together.

I was going in and out of consciousness. My ability to walk, or even to stand, had left me. I had been vomiting. I remember rolling over and vomiting off the side of the bunk bed I was in, and seeing blood in the vomit. I thought, "That's not good." It's not the only place that blood had been coming out of.

I think I p…

Vera and the Disappearing Squirrel

The stories we consume affect how we view everything.

With a nine-year-old girl in the world today, the movie 'Frozen' has a good chance of coming up.

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Once upon a time in the kingdom of Arendelle lived a King, a Queen, and the Princesses Elsa and Anna.
On a stormy Tuesday they decided to play a game. But the window wouldn't fully close in their room.
They wanted to play with snowballs.
Elsa had magic in her hands, she could make snow or ice because of her magic hands.
Just as Elsa was going to make a pile of snow in the room the window slammed open with a loud Bang! In jumped a squirrel that looked very cold. He turned around and shut the window.
"Elsa," said Anna "what a big storm! Please close the window. It is so scary!"
"Do not worry Anna!" said Elsa.
The squirrel looked at Anna and said, "Hey, I already shut the window. You have no idea how cold it is out there."
"A talking squirrel?" said Anna with inter…

Vera and the Girl Who Became a Mermaid

Transformation is a common theme in literature. Sometimes we transform and then enter a new world, at other times we enter a new world and then transform. Sometimes, it's both.

Mermaids are interesting creatures that I've never looked deeply into. That idea of an entire underwater world is intriguing though. I remember scuba diving at the bottom of a lake and thinking, 'If it was logistically possible, it would be cool to live down here.' In ancient Greece mermaids were sirens that seduced and devoured men, in comic books they are heroes, in Harry Potter they are intelligent monsters. No matter how they are portrayed, mermaids have always been enchanting to the minds of humans.

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Night on a lake can be dark. With clouds blotting out the stars above, the sky looks black, and the water below looks black. Angie sat alone, in a little boat, surrounded by darkness.
Then she heard a big splash and she saw a tail. She thought that this tail belonged to a fish. But…

Vera and the Raccoon that Caught a Fairy

Fun, funny, and serious can often go together. One can change to the other in a split second. That happens in life, and sometimes it happens while you're writing.

Pay attention near the end when Vera changed this to a serious story. I was a little surprised, but it was good.

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In a forest lived a girl with a dog. The dog was clever.
Next to the girl and the dog lived a raccoon. The raccoon was clever too.
The raccoon helped the girl and the dog eat. The girl's name was Gigi, and the dog's name was Bim.
"Would you like some more grapes?" asked Rocko the raccoon, holding out a handful of grapes toward Gigi.
"Yes, please!" said Gigi, and she made that sound, of being satisfied with food, and wanting more too.
Bim walked away from the table in the woods to a tree. He curled up in the soft grass, and was soon asleep in the mid-afternoon shade.
"He is so tired!" said Gigi, "he needed a nap!" and she smiled.
But Rocko wasn't…

Vera and the Talking Dog in the Forest of Many-Colored Trees

I've put some of the stories that Vera and I have written together up on my blog over the last few months. She likes it. You can see that in the ending of this one.

I like fairy tales. They are allegories, meaning they are full of hidden meanings. But that idea can grow into something more. Myths, legends, and epic fantasy tales abound both now and throughout history. This reminds me of that.

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"Why?" said Devan, looking at the trees surrounding him, "Why would they make all of the trees different colors?"
"I do not know?" said Allie.
Devan thought for a moment, bringing his hand up to his mouth, in the way that he did. "I think," he began, but then trailed off. Still staring at the trees.
"Let's go home!" said Allie.
"But where is home?" replied Devan, without a moment's hesitation. He turned and looked at her, in a serious way, but with a slight smirk. "Do you remember which trees we passed to g…

Vera and the Animal Garden Story

Dialogue is fun. It's the original uniquely human interaction, talking. And, humans love to bestow that gift upon animals in stories.

You would think the dialogue of a nine-year-old would be simplified in a story. But it's surprisingly realistic.

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In a garden lived a dog. Her name was Bibbi. She had neighbors, a cat named Tom and a dog named Mark.
On a late Tuesday evening Bibbi was feeling bored. She decided to do something exciting.
But when she thought about what to do, someone knocked on the door. The doors opened, and Bibbi saw Tom, Jerry, and Mark.
Bibbi had never had visitors before, and she was excited. She said, "Well, this is rather serendipitous, as I was just thinking of something fun to do."
"Bibbi,"said Tom "we have new neighbors."
"It is a snail!" said Mark with big eyes.
"Umm," said Bibbi as her face contorted into a mildly confused look, "do snails do anything?"
"Snails are slow, but…

Vera and the Flying Turtle

Stories are kind of like waking dreams. That's especially true when you get into fantasy.

Vera has the imagination of an intellectually engaged nine-year-old. I think I keep pace with her well when we're alternating turns in writing. We, of course, go over punctuation, grammar, spelling, syntax, etc. But, the writing quickly transcends those technical skills. And then meaning starts to emerge as a primary focus. We often discover things we did not know that we know in the process of writing.

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In a land far away there lived a turtle. She liked eating butterflies, but they were so hard to catch. She looked like a rock, so the butterflies would think that she was a stone. They would land on her, and she would eat them. On a Tuesday evening she was having a casual conversation with a bird, and mentioned that it was annoying to have to wait so long to get a butterfly. The bird recommended that she should grow wings, and then just fly to catch the butterflies. "Wha…

Vera and the Ice Horse

Reading and writing stories is an amazing experience. Experiencing what a kid does when continuing a story idea is often quite surprising.

The natural symbology that emerges is revealing, not only of the individual, but also of humanity. That's what the psychologist Carl Jung was talking about with his idea of archetypes. These universal images built into the biology of all people. For instance, notice the transformations that my nine-year-old Russian student Vera put into the end of this little story that we created by alternating turns writing.

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Once upon a time, in a land far away, there lived a horse that could walk on water.
Her name was Vera, and she was 5 years old.
One day, Vera decided to walk across the river, to get to the other side.
But, on this day for some reason, she dove into the water and saw an octopus!
Vera had never been under the water before, and wasn't sure how she had gotten there.
She was afraid of the octopus, and ran back to the shore.

Meditation in Chinese Schools and Beyond

One of the best parts about teaching is learning. I've had students from a multitude of cultures, different countries, different languages, different religions, different ages, different socio-economic levels. And I try to learn as much as I can.

I have an unusually intense connection with meditation because I use it to deal with the chronic pain from my spinal deformities. I studied with an Ishaya monk for a year before my brainstem issues emerged. But still, there's nothing quite like unceasing physical pain to drive learning. I've read dozens of books on meditation, and my personal experiments have the added benefit of my physical pain as a feedback mechanism.

A few months ago I was talking with my student Carrie. She's in high school in China, and we started going through how they do meditation at the different age levels in school. It's different in different schools. I have some students in China who've never done meditation. But, in her schools they alwa…

Nice People - What does it mean?

My default perspective of people is that they're nice. That doesn't particularly hold true if you compare things to history, or other cultures, or even all of my own experience. I've had my life threatened many times, I've been shot at, had someone try to stab me, been successfully poisoned in Africa, have had money stolen, been lied to and betrayed, been lied about, and I've been conned a few times. I've largely ignored this contradiction because I didn't know how to reconcile it. But, the last 16 months have held it in my awareness so consistently that I need to confront my ideas about the niceness of people. Today is a good example.

I decided to go for a walk at Lake Harbor Park to clear my head. It's been a drizzly day, which I like. With an overcast sky blocking out the sun, the park wasn't too busy, which I also like. I took a trail that isn't the most popular. You walk up a small incline of sand, and then turn down a narrow ravine with tr…

Fighting Local Government Corruption - Part 19 of ?

Life is full of choices. Sometimes it's hard to know which choice is correct. Still, a path must be chosen. In Dalton Township, the choice is clear.

Everyone is asking themselves, "What do I want to see happen in Dalton Township?" Here's what I think needs to happen.

Real Choice

We won! We have a real election happening this year. That hasn't happened in Dalton in a long time. Elections are one of the most important checks and balances in politics. A balance of power, and checks upon that power, are essential to protecting and defending individual rights. In Dalton, that will start with a choice by the people about who will be in office. Making that choice available is a civic duty. A burden that must be carried by a willing volunteer. Sixteen months ago I said that there would be a choice in this election. And there is.

Restore Checks and Balances

Make transparency and the Open Meetings Act a priority by broadcasting and recording meetings. Before you can speak, y…

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