Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Yes, Indeed!!

Yesterday’s topic was a little out of the way, even for me. On the other hand, this is what being a “free mind” is about. No topic is forbidden and there is no editor to bug this writer… How ’bout that for freedom of choice?

As a friend said to me last night on the phone… “That’s a deep topic, honey…” Yes, indeed! There are many ramifications to the concept of “renaissance” and what its connotation(s) is(are) … Warning:  What follows may … or not … be related.  Don't say I did not warn you ...

We have become awfully busy within our worlds, often forgetting there are myriads of parallel and congruent worlds out there; worlds with which we constantly interact. No, nothing “paranormal” or mystical, much simpler than this. Each one of the people with whom we come into contact, is a world unto him/herself. We wander in and out of those worlds (as they do ours), more often than not without even realizing that particular biosphere is actually inhabited by another human being and mind.

I wonder if you, who are reading this, can actually recollect those people with whom you have interacted over the last 5 days. That’s right … only 5 days. I bet you will remember those few who had a special meaning or who had a noticeable impact on your life, regardless of the reason. Yet, if you really think back, there are probably many others with whom you came into contact and who have been totally wiped from your memory banks.

There are human beings who are actually quite capable of remembering every person and of having made some sort of an impact on most lives they touch. No, not Mother Theresa… individuals like her come one in a million… Those to whom I refer are regular, every day folk… like you and I. And I do not mean they make a sizeable impact always. Sometimes just being able to bring a quick smile to a person’s face; or to be able to lighten a load (mental/emotional) for a fleeting moment … perhaps it is by making that person feel a little better about him/herself for an instant… Those are the impacts that will be remembered by the recipients, as well as by the givers.

There is really nothing that will make someone feel better than sharing whatever earthly wealth is available to him or her with someone who is in need. Sometimes this is not material wealth, but the wealth of time and caring which, when all is said and done, is the most important gift we can share with another person.  We have come to culturally accept that money takes the place of everything else in life. Those who do not blindly share this financial obsession are looked down on, as if they belonged to another world.

Sometimes we (as in the “Royal We”) make a guilt driven internal commitment to help others in need. Yet, as we go out into the streets and actually come across someone who obviously fits this description, the first impulse is to cross the street, to get away. Mentally, we tell ourselves that we “give at the church” or office; let “them” handle it … they are better equipped to do it ... In all this process, what we are really saying is… “I don’t want to get involved … that takes time and effort

All too many times, when our own children look to us for guidance, the automatic reaction is to open the wallet and bring out the pacifiers in the form of dollar bills or credit cards and all the meaningless things these can purchase. More often than not, the only thing our children are looking to get is some attention and time … tempered by a little love. Is this so hard to give? Has our time, as parents and/or adults, become so incredibly precious that we can’t even dole out some of it to those who are to become our most important legacy in this life? I think not; perhaps this is more a statement that mirrors how incredibly selfish we have allowed ourselves to become.

Think through to your own childhood. Perhaps the electronic gadgetries were in their infancy or not even available, and their becoming the babysitters of choice was still a sad alternative in the future. Remember a hug from your parents or grandparents? A word of advise? An endearment?  A shared homework?  A walk around the block?  A stern look to let you know you were in the wrong?  A smile and a kiss to let you know you were in the right?  These make up the kind of wealth that can never be bought; but it is the wealth that, when shared, brings the most joy to the receiver and to the giver.

Share your time, your mind and yourself with those who are in need and, especially, with your growing children. The yield on this investment will be far more than any material returns you may be able to get anywhere.

Be Well … Be Back!!

Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs). If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar. 

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

A Renaissance (Wo)Man…

The Renaissance Epoch, as a period of “rebirth”, has been acknowledged for a few centuries … This conceptual term comes from an era when art, creativity, imagination and the overall being of the human state and mind were a primary issue.

It was a time when life was renewed; it was exciting … and learning of new issues was a priority.  The term “Renaissance Man” or Woman, for that matter, has a number of connotations, all having to do with creativity, intellect and accomplishments at different levels and in different fields. We think of Leonardo Da Vinci and his paintings come to mind. Yet to me, it was his incredible creative genius, his ability to push his mind into the realm of the “What If?” and come up with detailed renditions of gizmos which would not be feasible or possible for centuries yet. Among Da Vinci’s concepts: the helicopter; the battle tank, the double hull for ships, the possibility of harnessing solar power, anatomic discoveries, a rudimentary calculator…  and many others which escape my not so creative mind at this time.

When we talk about a modern “renaissance person” we usually refer to someone who can juggle a few tasks and ideas and, for the most part, make the juggle work. This description falls far short of what the original concept was. In fact, if we had a real “renaissance person” today, what would be the areas of interest? Mind you, these are only my ideas and they are based on what we already know …

What is there to invent? Space travel, the all time favorite, is already a “been there, done that” issue. True, we have yet to actually send anyone beyond our most immediate neighbor, but the concepts and the basis for future travel in space are laid out. We are just waiting for the technology to catch up. Remember the early days of Start Trek? They brought us to the furthest galaxies … as we suppose them to be, Klingons and all.

Back in 1968, there wasn’t a single individual on this planet who was close enough to a radio or a TV set, who was not glued to the same, following events as the first astronauts landed on the moon. Today, the only time we even pay attention to a lunar mission is when there are problems. Did you know that today’s average smart phone has about 100 times the computing power the lunar lander had back in ’68? Scary, isn’t it? To think that the lives of those men were entrusted to a computer with less power than the telephone that often drops the calls you are making…

What else can the modern renaissance wo/man look into? Computers? We are now looking at machines that actually may be able to think many times faster (the many times multiplier goes into the three+ zeroes category, just don’t want to make you feel totally inadequate!!) than the human brain; computers are now such an integral part of our lives that even those of us in the “vanguard” (sounds a lot better than older, no?) generation would find that our lives would become much more complicated if we did not have them. The first “personal” computer I had was a TI/Radio Shack box, with an attached driver and keyboard. No internal hard drive or some such. And this was less than 30 years ago …

So where else can our R-Man go? The body? Maybe … this is a frontier which still defies total investigation … no, not areas such as kidneys, liver, heart, etc… These we pretty much know how they work… Let’s talk about that other organ, the one in a hard case, the one that serves as a lifetime pilot to the rest of the mechanicals. I refer to the brain and, more to the point, the anima which generates the reasoning that controls the actual emissions of the electrical commands which move us. Oh … All right!!  I do not profess to have the knowledge to actually write about this concept but … you are still reading, aren’t you? ...

Indeed, I believe this is an area where a true renaissance wo/man of today can make a name … do we know what that “anima” (for lack of a better working name) is? Do we call it a “Spirit”?  Do we call it a “Soul”?  What would you call it?  It reasons, it is cognizant, it is intuitive, it falls prey to moods and changes of emotions … It loves and it hates; it can analyze and understand the concept of right and wrong; it can make a decision based on this understanding. I do not think we have the actual means to measure it really; we just look at an output that we call the “IQ” and make assumptions based on this. Computers may still take a while (I hope!!) to catch up to the point of being able to achieve accomplishments in these areas and several other intangible areas of our humanness that we really do not know yet.

Indeed, there are not many areas of the physical realms we have not put our hands unto, or where we have not laid the grounds to do so, as soon as technologies available allow this. This leaves those areas we may call “ethereal”… “mystical” … “Spiritual”.  Do we have a guidebook? No, we do not… We do have, however, thousands upon thousands of psychologists and psychiatrists who have been desperately trying to make a dent in these roads … without much true success.

As I sit here, my brain’s synapsis(ses?) are sending directed charges everywhere; first looking  to remember whatever fragmented knowledge I may have about this topic; then thinking about it and putting the results into some order and finally, sending the right messages to other parts of the body so that the fingers hit the right keys on the board… (I have to look into this particular connection … I think it needs a little cleaning!!) Yeah … there is much to be learned in this area yet. My humble belief is that the “anima” and the organic brain are working in synergy, where the end result of the combined ability is much more than the individual sum of the ability of both parts.  One cannot work well without the other. Yet, we can see how the damaged physical brain of one S. Hawkins can be literally forced to function with very limited connections available. What moves this mind? What allows him to project his thoughts, ideas and such? Yes, there is a marvelous electronic component to his communication but, the persona that is this incredible mind still has to learn to function within the restraints. And make them work.

What makes some people face issues and come out ahead while others who face the same issues fall down? The physical brain is the same, basically … what makes the difference? What is that intangible we at times call “character”? … I told you I had not many answers, just more questions.

Think about these issues, it is actually fun to do so; often in these ramblings my constant battle call is “use your mind”;  “don’t let it go to waste” … do not allow your children to become so dependent on electronic stimuli that they lose the concept of improving their mind, of having the initiative to do so. It is akin to a drug that takes the place of their will and of their cognitive process. This would be a horrible legacy to leave them. 

Be well!!   Be Back!!!

Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs). If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar. 

Monday, November 28, 2011

One Morning in Venezuela.

Truly, there is no rhyme or reason or previous intention for this entry. It has come to the front because a friend asked me earlier if I had heard from another common friend in Venezuela

… The answer is no; I have not. Unfortunately, there has been no news from this person in over 10 years. However, the uptake of this mini conversation is that it brought me around to thinking (nothing new here, right?) about Venezuela and a difficult morning spent there on February 4th, 1992 mainly because it indirectly involved the person about whom I was being asked.

Hotel Row in La Guaira...
Would you come to the seminar?
 Starting in 1981, my trips to Venezuela became a steady staple of my business life. Giving seminars to different groups of managers and corporate types, my name became fairly well known within the life insurance world in this country. Especially since most of our seminars were held at the Macuto Sheraton in the area of La Guaira, by the beach (This area was hard hit by massive mudslides several years ago, and the reconstruction has been lagging). We would hold and average of 4 seminars per month during 3 months of the year over there, and these were very popular amongst the sales managers … I would like to think because of the content of the presentations and the wisdom and experience acquired … perhaps the locale influenced the attendance just a little bit… well, some … OK, we marketed the hell out of the hotel, the pool, the beach and the Miss Venezuela pageant which “coincided” with our main May seminars ... Happy now?

 In any event, my visits to Venezuela would start in Caracas, with a 3-4 day sweep of all member companies; these individual visits were designed to meet with management, discuss their marketing issues and identify those areas management would like to see reinforced within the seminar(s). The visits also helped us resell the Association and remind them that the dues were payable twice a year, thank you. These would usually take the better part of the first week, starting on a Monday, and going through Thursday afternoon. Then, I would be taken to the seminar hotel, where I would spend some off time and some preparing time for the upcoming week long seminar(s).

Teatro (Theater) Teresa Carreno
Many friends were made in Venezuela, especially among the management cadre at several of these companies and usually, I would have dinner at the home of a couple of these folk during my stays. This made for a good visit and a good way to get to know them, opening the doors to future relationships. It wasn't all business though; there were some sound relationships formed which still last through this day, especially through the good graces of FaceBook.

One Tuesday morning, after barely getting out of bed due to a late arrival the night before, I went out of the hotel by the side door in order to get the metro train. As I was going out, it was noted that what would normally be a major, bustling avenue (Mexico) at this time of the morning, was unusually quiet; no cars and very few pedestrians. As my little feet took me around the back of the hotel building into the park, where the metro entrance was, a second observation was made: the metro gates were closed and there was a “no service” sign posted. This was Tuesday, right about 8:30am, a time when throngs of Caraqueños would normally be running around, trying to get to work. It started to dawn on me that things were not happening on a “business as usual” basis … This was not a holiday; these were usually checked and noted at my office during trip planning time, precisely to avoid this kind of thing. Something strange was definitely going on…

Hilton Hotel ... not shabby...
 It is said that not knowing is tantamount to not seeing or feeling. This was very true this particular morning. I set out to walk about 10 blocks, which is what separated me from the company I was to visit this morning and during the rest of my 3 day stay; with every block passed, coming a little bit closer to the central part of Caracas, the absence of people and of movement in general was a bit unnerving … considering this part of the city was nothing if not busy during regular business hours, for many companies and banks had either their main offices or major offices in this area. Finally, I made it to the building of Seguros Universal, which was my goal that morning.

 When in order to let me in a guard unlocked a door (after giving me a “twice over”) that would normally be open to the public at this hour, I knew something was definitely “off center”.  I asked for Diego, giving his full name and title. The guard said to me “With what’s going on, not too many people came in today”… “What’s going on?” I innocently asked… “We had an intento de Golpe de Estado –coup d’etat’attempt- last night”… “Let me see if Diego is in…” he added, going off to the internal communications console and leaving me standing there somewhat lost in thought ... at least it seemed I was lost in thought and not totally dumbfounded.  Which was the true status of my mind at the moment.

Parque del Este, one of
several green areas in the city
 Luckily Diego, one of those friends mentioned at the beginning, was in that morning.  He said to me when he came downstairs, as he was giving me a welcome hug, Latin style… “We had no telephone at home this morning and just I knew you were going to come in today… That is the main reason I came” … Then he added … “Now let’s go home; you are coming with me”. On the way home, Diego filled me in. Seems that, during the early hours, then Lieutenant H. Chavez (nothing like a Presidency to be able to give yourself an immediate whopper of a promotion to Commandant) had come in with some 5 armored companies in order to take over the Presidential Palace. The loyalist guard was able to effectively cut off his communication to the rest of the insurgents, and thereby rendered him useless (a status many still believe he is in) and forcing him to give up.

We finally arrived at Diego's house, where I spent the next 40 hours or so, until the air cleared up and we were able to return to work, at least for one day … and, of course, until the international flights resumed. So, you see… this chain of thoughts is what usually happens in my mind when a person or issue from the past is brought up… but you knew this, right?

Los Roques, a national park
not far from from Caracas
 Funny thing … when I came back to my office the following Monday, there seemed to be almost no knowledge of what had been going on the previous week in Venezuela… their reaction was surprise and concern and I thought … a little late for concern … kind of made you feel somewhat insecure and like being alone out there, or not? Of course, this was my gut reaction at the moment, but I knew these people would move heaven and earth if they thought or knew I was in danger.

Traveling internationally has defined advantages; not boring, meeting different people always, cultural awakenings at every stop and better (much!!) plane service; on the other hand, one does get exposed to these socio-political commotions every once in a while. Still, all in all … If I am going to get stranded during a trip, I always said this would be much more enjoyable if it happened in Rio, Buenos Aires, Madrid or Singapore, than if it happened in Cucamonga … wherever that is…

Be Well… Be Back!!!

Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs). If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar. 

Friday, November 25, 2011

Black Friday… Dark Day Indeed!

Yes, it has become the day which starts the Christmas gift buying frenzy in our society and marks the possible financial survival of several shops and chains…

… but it has become much more than this. It is now a microcosm of what our society is and what it has become. And further unbecoming.  The sight of thousands of people waiting in line and, in too many instances, hitting each other, pushing and punching their way into a store as the doors are opened for this event, is a sight to be forgotten. Makes a solid case for being the script of a horror movie … “The Crazy, Maddened Multitude Roars” … “Watch as thousands compete for a few offerings of our marketing gurus; Blood!! … Sweat!! … (No, I will not say tears; that was too good a band to malign here!) Only the hardiest survive, taking home the golden fleece …

The Throngs get ready ... set...
 It seems that material offerings have become the end all at the foot of the modern “I Want It” religion’s altar.  We are a society created by marketers and have embraced all their concepts totally into our hearts… Our children are supposed to learn from us, mirroring what we do and do not do. Yet, as I watch this uncontrolled “Black Friday” frenzy (from as “afar” as possible; usually on TV and now on YouTube) of adults who crazily enough have some children tagging along, my mind goes into a questioning frenzy of its own.

Why? Do we really need that latest “thingamabooby” so badly that we are willing to totally degrade ourselves in order to get it?  Are we teaching the right concepts to our children by behaving as a bunch of frenzied, salivating morons, leaving whatever dignity we may have behind in order to get the latest prized piece of plastic offering? Yes, economic times are bad and whatever we may be able to save in our purchases is a welcome respite.  But I think and believe that we have to start by defining that which is necessary from what is a “want”, and then look at what we are willing to give up, beyond money, to get it.

 In a “related” topic, we are supposed to be teaching our children as they grow into adulthood the behaviors that will help them become better human beings … right?   Somehow, I do not believe these examples will go a long way into helping the upcoming generation understand simple concepts as dignity, patience, acceptance that sometimes what we want is not worth denigrating ourselves just to get it and, much less, beating someone else into the ground … And we all know that all words which we may utter, say or –foolishly- scream to our children, will be totally silenced by the behavior examples we, as parents, set.

I know … Black Fridays will go on and the throngs will continue to fight, coliseum style, against the lions of want, frustration, despair and anger, anytime one of these events takes place. The thought of being the first in line, to be able to have that gizmo before someone else does; the idea of having more than your neighbor and that your child has more than the neighbor’s child has become tantamount of success in our society at large.

Do we say ... Enough?
 What do we give up in exchange? Not much, it would seem if we listen to those who advocate these marathons of buying frenzy. Perhaps to their eyes and wallets, the financial end justifies the means. Losing face, showing our children that they can, literally stomp on someone else at any time in order to get an unimportant item (no, our child will not really die if he/she does not get the latest whatever to replace the almost latest whatever they already have), the idea that we can freely behave as an unthinking mob in the throes of a feeding frenzy… The values we exemplify when we behave in this manner are all incredibly negative. Win at any cost, regardless of damage done to others, is not a value which will create the future men and women with whom I want to share my life. Or my children’s life.

To what extent ??
 Please think before you do… your behavior is a true guideline for (your) children. There will be times when we as adults “misbehave” but usually these come as a result of a moment of frustration, a negative issue which was unexpected or a bad moment in general … we all fall prey to any of these … but usually these moments are not a planned issue. When this happens this is the message we pass on solidly: plan how you can do a bad deed to another in order to get ahead; in order to just get what you want … anything goes!!  Regardless of the economic impact; the intrinsic impact in our persona and that of our children who eventually look to this behavior as a norm is, as the card commercial tells us, “priceless” beyond any measure.

Happy Black Friday!!   Be Well … Be Back!!!

Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs). If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar. 

Thursday, November 24, 2011

THANKSGIVING … One Day or Every Day?

We are called to say thanks for our bounty on this special day but…

Should we not wake up every day and be thankful for all we have, whether a lot or a little? (in our minds our lot is usually not enough, anyway). At a very early age, I remember that my grandfather used to tell me a little story which we all know in one version or another…

“There was this man who always complained because his shoes were a little old and tight and he had no money to buy new shoes … then one day he saw a man who had no legs, and understood that small issues were just that: insignificant”.

We tend to make a regular pastime of complaining. Sort of a national game; about the weather, the time, the clothes, the car being older, the cost of living, la tia (auntie) Cachita who came and didn’t leave…. You name it, we complain.

Turn it around … make a daily game of saying thanks for what you do have. Take stock of your life and the bounty will be far more than you think. Start by the fact that you are alive, that you have one more day to enjoy … one more opportunity to right some wrongs in your life… Do it!!! Don’t waste the moment, for we do not know when or how the clock will stop.

Learn to say I Love you… Stop dreaming and use this dream as your base to start a new reality; do those things which are important to you and to those around you. Stop complaining and start lauding; let those who do right know they are good people; tell someone he or she is doing great… and they will…

Life is a beautiful gift; it would be a shame to spend it keying in on the negative issues rather than the positive ones. Make it your way of life to say THANK YOU, every day, a few times a day… good things will come from your good attitude; then, looking at the better side of life will become a habit. You and those around you will be the better for it.

Happy Thanksgiving … Today, and every day of your life!!!

Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs). If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar. 

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

“Churching” and the Holidays...

This time of the year, just before what is known as the “High” Holiday season begins, we all go through a cleansing process. In doing so, we mentally empty the negative contents of the inner vessel and ready it up for the upcoming year… to be filled again.

It has been said that guilt is the mightiest weapon the Catholic Church has at its disposal; to those born into Catholic families, it is generationally taught from the cradle and it perpetuates itself throughout their lives. This becomes especially so amongst the poorer folks in the developing societies who look to the church as a saving body, for they have not much more to hang their hats on in this lifetime. The biggest fear instilled is that if the tenets are not followed very closely, their selves will be considered outside the church and, therefore, unable to reunite with the spirit of The Father upon their death(s).

I am a believer; have been so by choice for many years now. Yes, my early training was within the Catholic Church and its school system(s). There was a falling out for a while and then I chose to believe in Our Father and to be guided by The Son, Jesus.  There is nothing that cannot be achieved within their mandate and will. My personal issue with the overall Church including the Catholic Church, is that its provenance is man; yes, the founding tenets may have been taken from the Word and Scripture, but as they (different churches) have developed over the centuries the instinct for survival has taken over, and by now have become self sustaining entities. Too far gone into the pomp and too far gone from the circumstance(s).

The rituals used by the Catholic church especially, have remained static in a changing world; for some, this seemingly eternal continuity is good but, for a growing majority, this is not so good. Too many men in robes have taken to the rituals by rote, forgetting to infuse the needed dose of spiritual strength and message that is so important. Others, a minority it seems, have and follow a true call to disseminate The Word with love and zeal, in a much more direct manner. I hope this group will prevail and become a much needed majority in times to come. From time to time I do go to a catholic church and feel very much at ease within the hallowed walls… a personal communion just between The Father and I, a somewhat wayward son…

And no, I do not think the Christian churches are free of sin (guilt?)… During this long personal process of adaptation and acceptance, there have been many highs and many lows. The road itself was one which taxed the mind, the heart and the spirit. In the end, several concepts were formed in my mind and heart. During my travels I have met and freely discussed theology and religion with scholars of different faiths, but my primary body of knowledge continues to remain within the Christian community of churches and derivatives…

Throughout this period (several years’ worth) I attended services in several places and with groups representing several denominations. The process of enchantment and subsequent disenchantment was similar in most cases. At first, reception was akin that which the prodigal son must have been given upon his return; then, as time and familiarity came to pass, some issues were common to all these congregations:

  • Their individual (as a congregation)proximity to Jesus and The Father is much closer than any other church or congregation’s, therefore,
  • Your (my) salvation is dependent on continued attendance to their services, not another Pastor’s services or church…
  • Apparently each congregation has the direct ear of The Father; in actuality, this is true, but not in the sense in which they profess it to be;
  • If you want to be saved you have to only go there and, lastly,
  • You will share your moneys with the church. Beyond your means if necessary.
Sharing is truly a religious experience. As opposed to just giving, sharing is passing on to someone else part of what you have even, and especially, when what you are giving is not from an excess, but is a part of what you need. Within all churches, the giving of Alms and tithes is an intrinsic part of the teaching. These are needed; the priests and/or pastors do have expenses, usually there is a mortgage and in the  pastors cases, these also have families to support; there are precious few other means for economic survival. Then there are the projects within the community which need to be supported. All well and good.

However, when the pulpit is utilized to coerce folk who have little to begin with, into giving everything they have even when to the detriment of their own and their families’ basic needs, then I believe the given power is being vastly misused. Unfortunately, this happens all too often. I participated in congregations where misinformed "helpers" made fun of other churches as being foolish and useless, while having their congregation do exactly the same as those others were doing; where the pastor threw guilt like a divine ray of vengeance into the congregants, doing his utmost to take all they had in their pockets. I believe this is utterly wrong. In fact, several pastors have in recent years run afoul of their congregations and the law, due to misuse of funds; this misdeed has been explained as a “need” to help them maintain a standard of living which is much loftier than any one of the congregants’, sometimes into the realm of millionaires. Is this the right use of available funds? I think not.

Tomorrow is Thanksgiving Day; a traditional feast in the US; one which symbolizes the advent of winter and which celebrates an abundant summer and fall harvest. We give thanks for all we may have; we give thanks for the wealth, especially the spiritual wealth … and yes, also the financial wellbeing we may be fortunate to have earned.

Most of us will go into a church or another; others will celebrate at home, with a special prayer of thanks; I will be included in this last bunch. If you know someone who is alone, call or visit if possible ... just to say Have a Happy Day!!!  Truly assess what your life is and has been, recognize all the good that has been given you and also what those most difficult moments have allowed you to learn and to grow.  Be thankful for all the times gone and for the times to come; have the inner faith to accept that each one of us is the son/daughter of Our Father, in His image, no matter what religion you profess … these, in the end, all teach pretty much the same ideas and tenets. Trust in yourself to be unique and don’t surrender your mind and spirit to man… or woman, for that matter… these are very special and unique assets we have been entrusted to put to good use, do not so easily give them up.


Be Well … Be Thankful!!! … Be Back!!!

Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs). If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Early Memories?

It has been said by the folks who actually study these things, that early memories are a part of our lives, often hidden in the background, like a lurking feline waiting for the right moment to pounce on the unsuspecting victim … any one of us.

The reality, at least for me, is that some of these early memories made enough of an imprint to have stayed with me throughout my life. In fact, some of them (from about age 5 on) have made it to these posts as narratives.  I suppose there is a message to be analyzed in there, somewhere between the lines. Sometimes I wonder, when wandering into these bits of the past, as to whether some of these memories so vividly remembered are machinations of a fast working mind, or real.

They are a gift...
to be cared for...
 As the old question goes … If a tree falls in a forest and no one hears it… Is there sound? So, if these are remembered as memories … are they not so? When we go back as far as we can in our life and try to bring back some of those moments we can usually do so or, at least, partially conjure up the imagery. The earlier we go, the more diffuse these should be, right? In defining early childhood, according to some of the more learned folk, we talk about the period starting at year 1 and going through year 5.

According to the same folks, the early cognitive development is the one concerned with the ways in which infants/children acquire and develop the ability to use mental capabilities like problem solving, memory and language. According to Piaget, this development goes through a set of stages from infancy into adulthood. Others differ and tell us that the process of development is continuous and that it is much too complex to put into “stages”. On the physical plane, vision is slower than hearing in developing; also present from very early on are touch, smell and taste. Language is perhaps the slowest developer in this process. It involves far too many working parts that need to be coordinated.

I remember when my own children were born and then started to venture into through these initial development stages. We surrounded them with all kinds of visual and sound stimuli; they would clearly react to and recognize those which they preferred, over others. As they became older (into the 4-7 age bracket) these preferred items would still elicit a response. Afterwards, the response gradually became less pronounced, until it eventually pretty much disappeared. Apparently at this time, the brain begins to explore the systematic “management” of those symbols which they can relate to specific, concrete objects …

Simple Things make Happy Moments
This is becoming too much for my addled brain to absorb … I will have to consult Cheito on this stuff …

Where I am going with all of this? Early memories are imprinted in our brain; they do exist and they form a base for our later development. Likes and dislikes which we cannot seem to explain as older children and as adults, may well be based on these subliminal memory banks. Yeah, I know … Psychiatrists have been making a regular mint on this issue alone. But all studies seem to point in this direction. My personal interest (besides being just plain curious) is that I do have some very strong and definite moments which have been recorded in my mind, like a DVD which was burnt and is there, to be replayed any time I wish.

The earliest memory I have, and which was disputed by many in my own family … that is … until the one person who could validate it, albeit reluctantly, did so is as follows:  (as I write it here, I am copying from my etched mental image, with a corresponding sound bit attached to it)

I was about 18-20 months old, and was in my room, in the first house where I lived with my mom, dad, and newly born sister; standing inside my crib, literally hanging over the end and peering over to the right, where the front of the house was. As a note: Old inner city houses in Cuba were built on a long axis; as you walked in, the front of the house was composed of an entry hall, a formal sitting room (“Para la visita” – for company), an informal sitting room for the family and then, like ducks in a row, the 3-4 bedrooms, followed by the dining room, bathroom and the kitchen. This last would normally be separated from the bathroom by an independent room, usually taken over by the accumulated junk.

Special people are
always remembered
 Anyway, I was hanging over the end of my crib looking over, when my father walked over and took me in his arms, lifting me from my little prison. Looking straight into my eyes, he said “hasta pronto hijo, regreso el Sábado” –“until soon my son, I’ll be back on Saturday” … then he put me back down and went to my mom and, kissing her, said pretty much the same. Then he left. I was almost nineteen years old next time I saw him.

I do not remember any other details from the inside of that house nor of our relatively short lived stay there, except going across the street to play with my childhood friend Quique. Later on, as I grew from infancy into the ripe old age of 8 or so, I began to ask about those last few minutes prior to my father’s disappearance. No one would acknowledge this little last exchange… “Esas son cosas de niño” … “Qué imaginación tienes!” my grandmother would answer … “those are children’s ramblings … what an imagination!”.  Well, this child never gave up easily (thank God; a trait handed down from my grandfather) and I kept insisting in the truth of my memory and of my story. I was vindicated at about twelve years of age, when my mother finally gave in and admitted that, indeed, that is exactly what my father had said that afternoon and what his actions had been (I also remember it was after lunch, that is why I was taking a nap in my crib…). She could never explain to herself or to me, nor could I to myself, how it is that this particular memory was so exquisitely embedded in my brain… much less how someone who was still not talking much at the time, could remember the exact words/sentences said.

They are indeed the future...
 Often, when we are around young children, the assumption is that they are too little to understand; too young to discern whether we are talking, discussing or fighting. However, in a like manner to our household pets, our children are very much in tune to our shifting moods and respond to them accordingly. Their brains, at that age, are nothing but thirsty sponges, ready to absorb whatever is thrown its way … even if only to be stored for later use. It is our job as parents or, as AInC (Adults in Charge), to make sure that at least the majority of what gets there is usable in a positive, building block kind of way. If you have a child or grandchild, make sure to make good memories for him/her; of difficult moments make memories of growth, persistence and survival ... these are the building blocks which will create character, and which later in life will help open seemingly closed doors and,  when they remain closed, as some no doubt will, these blocks and memories will help deal with the issue in a positive manner, not in a potentially destructive way.

Be Well … Be Back!!!

Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT-5hrs). If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar. 

Monday, November 21, 2011

An Open Letter From Cuba...

We live in a society where complaints are common. Often because there is something we want and we cannot get it right then and there…

Then something happens which brings focus on what we do have and how lucky we are, in general terms, to have it. Yesterday an email came to me. It was from my aunt, who lives in Florida and had the title … “Life in Cuba”. I thought for sure this was another one of those chain letters common within the Cuban community, depicting how much better life was before the current government came to power (which it was, by the way). But, on opening the mail (it was from my aunt, after all…) the content jumped at me.

It turned out to be a forwarded letter, written anonymously, from a 26 year old living in Cuba. A member of the newer generation which, thanks be to Our Lord, has begun to question the long standing status quo in the island. Censorship is a common issue in Cuba, where true internet access is denied the average person but, some of these last manage to once in a while get on the net and send some communication(s), as was this case.

The letter was translated with only one comment inserted, and this to explain a term of common usage in today’s Cuba.  It says:

I was born in Cuba, but a foreigner has more rights than I here; I am free, but I cannot talk about what I want, or express my dreams.

I live in a democracy, but throughout my life I have only known one (political) party, one viewpoint, one government. I can vote in elections, but there is only one candidate.

A One Table Paladar
My education was free, but I had to work as a volunteer in the back country schools so I would not be thrown out of the free schools; my education was free but I had no choice in what I could study. I have a university degree but I work in a “paladar” (Note: private, semi clandestine mini restaurants catering mainly to foreigners, a way to earn some badly needed “hard” currency); officially these do not exist nor can they be advertised because they will be closed by authorities.

Officially we have nothing because of the American blockade, but for the tourists and foreigners the blockade does not exist; for them, there is everything. My mother used to tell me that before this government, when there was little to eat, they would eat flour … by the way … What is flour? 

My health care is free but at the clinic there are no medicines and the doctor who is supposed to take care of us in this area is too busy driving a taxi; the nurse is making do as a prostitute and, as this keeps her awake all night, we cannot call on her during the day
I have a TV, but there are only two channels and we see the same face on both. I have an electric fan, but often we have no electricity. I like to bathe, but often there is no water in my neighborhood.

No see ... No talk...
 When I have a toothbrush, there is no toothpaste; when I have toothpaste there is no toothbrush … I have a pencil but no paper and, when I have pencil and paper, I then remember that I cannot freely write what I think.

They say that you only live once … obviously, whoever wrote this was not in Cuba. Here, you don’t live life … you observe it. “

For those of us who still have relatives living in Cuba, this letter (and others like it) reflects the reality of the country. It is a reality which to us is a bad fantasy; sometimes difficult to understand and accept because we, even though are aware of the situation, live and work in a society where the concepts of censorship of speech or of the written word, of not being able to obtain goods according to our ability, or not being able to define the course we want to navigate are foreign ideas to our minds.

A Young Lady Looking to Survive
We get up every morning and, usually, focus on what is lacking. Often, without taking a second look to see the riches that we do have; it is this last which can bring a degree of inner satisfaction and of knowing that there have been achievements in our lives worth being aware of and, yes, proud of as well. It is the first which makes us feel unfulfilled and lacking. Take the time to really assess your life; not your personal possessions but your inner core, your self. What you “have” as material things can be here today and gone tomorrow … believe me when I tell you that I personally know whereof I speak on this issue. There is very little comfort in crying over that which is no longer in our possession; there is much comfort in understanding that the ability to maintain a positive self and to be able to go on, no matter what happens, is our most precious commodity.

Only when there is a chance to have an inside look into other people’s lives, especially when considered to be less fortunate than us, is that we might take that second look … don’t just do this to compare “who is better off”, but to truly understand the fact that we must be thankful for our wellbeing and for our ability to help someone else … then, go ahead and do it; you will feel the grace which comes from sharing what you have.

There is a blog which is written from within Cuba. If you ask me … how can this get by the censorship? I will tell you this lady takes daily risks in doing what she does; she has been already imprisoned and physically beaten in order to frighten her. That inner core we spoke of before? It keeps her doing what she understands to be her obligation: to keep a daily log-like blog of what she sees around her and to try and let the world at large know. Go ahead; go into her blog page at  you will be surprised by what you read. Her name is Yoany Sanchez and I consider her to be a true, valiant Cuban; someone who cares about her country and is not afraid to report from within on what happens, regardless of the repercussions to herself. People around the world have given of their time to translate this blog, so you can read it in several languages.

We’ll take up the usual tomorrow … once in a while a different tack is also important…

Be well … Be Back!!!

Final Notes:
  • Pray for those who are fighting an illness which may take them away from their loved ones… Every request is heard, and counts!!
  • Follow us on Twitter … @RJAsPandora
  • Any comments please send to
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs). If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar. 

Doña América and other memories.

I know she has already been mentioned somewhen along this line of sometimes unhinged memories as they relate to moments of my life , but y...