Friday, December 28, 2012

The Long Process


6 years ago I was informed that there were signs that cancer had invaded my prostate … And how are you?

I am not sure as to why I am writing about this now; perhaps the Christmas Season, the memories that always come around at this time of the year, the issues that permeate our daily lives and make it sometimes easier, sometimes harder to get through the day to day routine.

That not-soon-to-be-forgotten announcement set my life into a spin which threatened to change it totally. Yet, in the long run, the events and thought processes which have come about have actually changed me as a person and as a thinking entity.  And although I have not really taken a general survey so to speak… I think for the better.

-“I think it’s time for you to take out some insurance” said my wife one morning. As things stood, the old policy I had was terminated when our family’s economy had come crashing down a few years before. “Losing the shirt off our backs” fell short as a description of that plunge.

But, after 35+ years in the life insurance business, I well knew that what she was saying made sense. So the process was started with the application and the medical exam… the fact that I was already over 60 required me to take a full medical exam, something I had not done in a too long while… and something which most likely, saved my life.

It usually takes about two weeks for the life insurance company to answer after all the docs and exams are in, so our lives went on visiting clients and potential clients… telling them how lives can change from one moment to another… little dreaming how much these words would come to rule my life.

As days went by without an answer, I almost forgot about the pending life policy… One morning I asked my wife (also an agent at the same agency, and my agent to boot) “Hey… what’s going on with the policy? – It has been a while” and she answered… “I’ll make a call and find out”

I assume the call was made… next morning, as we arrived at the office my wife was called in to the manager’s office. Sometime later she came out and was somewhat somber… after a few years’ marriage there are little signs that are easily identifiable… or not? She asked me to come to the manager’s office with her, since he had to talk to both of us.

-“Hi” said Juan, our manager.  –“Come on in… There are some things I want to discuss with you”.  He said this with also a somewhat somber look on his face.  

Hmmm… I remember asking myself… “What’s goin’ on here?”

-“You have been declined by the company for your insurance…”

You have to understand I know these life company processes like the back of my hand. Wrote the book for a couple of companies… I know a company makes money on sales, not on declining clients. Usually, when there is a health issue, there are as many as 25 levels of ratings which can be applied, depending on the severity of the offending issue…

But… an outright decline?

The obvious question popped up… WHY???

-“Sweetheart” said my wife to me… your exams came back and they show one of the values as higher than normal. –“So?” answered I… I think the answer I already suspected, for all the somberness and unusual manner in which I was being told these news, whatever they were. At the manager’s office with my wife and a friend present as well.

_”These results seem to indicate the possibility of cancer in the prostate” said my wife… as this was said, we all fell into a silent void. What came to my mind at this point? I honestly don’t remember …

-“What do I do now?”…  I remember asking as a way to make some noise...

-“We have to confirm the diagnosis; sometimes these tests are not right”.

-“So, let’s do it… How do I go about it?”

We set up an appointment with an oncologist and went to the test. This was a test which took pieces of my prostate and the results came back to confirm the initial diagnosis… 65% of my gland was invaded by the cancer cells…

Since that day over five years ago, I have spoken with many folk who have undergone or who are undergoing treatment for cancer. There seems to be a common and underlying thought trend with all who have successfully undergone treatment:  There is no room for negativism or for depression… Yes, the physical aspects of the treatment and the reaction of the body to these treatments are very important; but so are the psychological underpinnings.

What next? … I had no funds and no insurance… but a lot of pure, unadulterated faith.

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 otherboxp@yahoo.com
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “otracaja.blogspot.com”Bienvenidos!!!

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Christmas… With a Heavy Heart…and Hope


It was the original intent of this particular entry to be on a light note…  But I took too long to sit down and write it…  things happened.

How can anyone explain, from any possible point of view, what happened at a Connecticut school this past week? I cannot. I think about it and I think about why or how this could happen; How could it be possible? How could a mind be so sick that retribution for an nonexistent  but perceived wrong, can be taken from these innocent children and their teachers? Beyond this… how can an otherwise intelligent person, a teacher herself, could possibly have assault weapons in a home where she knew there was an unbalanced mind?  Even further… how could she be permitted to purchase weapons which, in essence, belong in the hands of Police SWAT teams and army assault units? Having been able to buy these took her life, along with the lives of another 27 people (including her son’s life, the assailant).

Much has been said about the school teachers who did their best, in vain, to fight back. Those teachers who tried to –with some success, thankfully- shield their charges while giving up their own lives in doing so. There is human silver of the purest kind somewhere in this lining; it is just too damn difficult to visualize and focus on it at this time.

Yet, Christmas is coming to us; it is a time of renewed promise of life, of loving and of hope. This time we rejoice in these promises in the midst of questions and despair; in the midst of the kind of fear and impotence which could easily shut the mind… and open the door to frustration and to reneging on what the message is.

Each one of us has lived through difficult moments in our lives and through times which have threatened to end any kind of hope we might have. We live through these moments; we, like the Phoenix Bird of legend, manage to rise once and again and to continue forward, looking for that reward whose presence is reminded to us every year at this time. Yes, I know this promise is an everyday issue, not just a Christmas promise, but it is in this season when it becomes a living symbol, one which allows us to focus on that message and to, once again and above all that may be evil, take it, assume it, love it and live it.

I hope that whatever lessons there may be in this event will not go to waste. I hope that we don’t, as we tend to, overreact into such extremes that any possible answers get lost in interminable debates. Only in achieving those answers, might that silver lining be allowed to come through and to remain as a living symbol of what can be good in a wasteland of misdirected human emotion.  What was and should never be allowed to be again.

Let's lovingly remember those who left us and let’s spend time with those who haven't; let's share who we are with love and blessings and let's look forward to a brighter, better and beautiful year when we can fully become who we are meant to be and help those who are still trying to do so.

Most of all... let's remember that Christmas is about Christ and what that most beautiful gift of life means, not about things to get... 

Merry Christmas to my friends... enjoy it in peace and with love.
 

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 otherboxp@yahoo.com
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “otracaja.blogspot.com”Bienvenidos!!!
  • A new blog… once a week or thereabouts… “policoment.blogspot.com”… a view on current politics from both sides of the fence… serious and irreverent but transparent (can I use this word in politics???)

Friday, November 16, 2012

From The (not so) Friendly Skies…


Having finally posted, during a flight hiatus, what was written some 5-6 days ago, I come to reflect on today’s traveling habits. Other than finding connectivity.

Yes… years ago I was, like so many others were and still are today, a Sky Warrior… this meant that my travels would keep me in airplanes, airports and home-away-from-home hotels at least 60-70 % of my time.  Those were days when travel meant getting away from all immediate surroundings without a trace, if that is what you wanted to do. Distances were real and communication, although good for the times, was very limited in comparison with what is available today for the common traveler, let alone a business one.

It was impossible not to compare, all throughout this trip, travel as was then (80’s into the late 90’s… OMG!!!! ... That is last century time!!!), with travel as is now.  There is no need to talk about ticket price; this has gone up considerably but, in basic inflationary calculations, the increases are truly within reasonable parameters.

Measurable changes begin at the counter if there is more than one bag to take as baggage. Back then, you really had to carry the kitchen sink to generate an extra charge. Today… after the first bag, there can be an additional charge of up to $45 per bag… Forget taking the extra clothes… You know... those you take just in case you are invited to the royal wedding…  or have to appear at a dinner reception for a movie star…  Yeah... right!! The good side of this is that it will reduce your hotel tipping costs.

Remember the peanuts we all complained about?  Well… now they are called “Spiced Nuts” and you gotta fork over $5.00 to have the pleasure of their company…  A chocolate chip cookie?  Hmmm! That’ll be $3.29 please… all credit cards accepted… All sandwiches run about $9-11 and they are truly undersized but then, right on the menu it says “light and fresh snacks”… and they mean this… literally.

The demeanor of the flight attendants has changed also. Theirs is a harsh lot, especially those who traverse the national skies back and forth with very little rest time available. They seem to be overly tired, often dressed in somewhat wrinkled uniforms and do not always necessarily believe in that ditty about flying friendly skies. Yes, I know this is a motto of a major carrier, but it does not mean the attendants of the other carriers should not be prone to communicate with a smile…

On my way back from Central America I was talking with a fellow traveler… he, who also did the bulk of his travel back around the same time as I, told me he was taken aback by the subtle and the not so subtle changes in his experience. Gone is the extra smile or the extra service along with the ubiquitous peanuts… in fact, all food freebies are gone. Of course, you can upgrade to business but then, the food plate will cost you a pretty good amount… Gone is the spanking clean cabin environment; it seems cleaning is done in a hurry now, just to get the bird back up in the skies … Gone are the attendants who would often take turns roaming the cabin and asking: “Is there anything else you need?... now they just come around the second time in order to pick up the empty coke cans or water glasses… excuse me, plastic cups.

For all intents and purposes the job of the flight attendant, a plum and exciting job for a young man or woman back when, has become an glamour-less, tiring, demanding and underpaid version of its old self. And it shows in their demeanor. Most of them are good people handling an increasingly stressful job but not all can manage these changes… Too bad… for them and for us.

Up are the delays due to maintenance issues, not a good sign. Two out of my four legs on this particular trip were delayed due to such ditties. Yes, the airline in question rewarded my almost 4 hour patience (as if I could walk away at a stopover location…) with a mileage gift. I rather leave on time.

These are general gripes; it is still exciting to be able to board a flying contraption that will take you to another destination, to discover anew those places and, especially, those longtime –and longtime not seen-  friends who make a difference in one’s life.

For now… we have been told we are approaching our own city and I can see from up here that huge lighted arrow pointing the way to the landing strip… THIS WAY!!! It seems to scream up into the night sky… This way and welcome  home…

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 otherboxp@yahoo.com
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “otracaja.blogspot.com”Bienvenidos!!!
  • A new blog… once a week or thereabouts… “policoment.blogspot.com”… a view on current politics from both sides of the fence… serious and irreverent but transparent (can I use this word in politics???)

Thursday, November 15, 2012

A Natural High.


Well… it’s natural that if I am on a plane… I am high off the ground… Or not?

(NOTE) As this was written on my way out, it is now some 5 days old. After I arrived at my destination, it turned out that more often than not my internet connection was simply, not available… So, I sit at the airport back in the States, and post it…  More on my uptake on this trip by the weekend…
 
It has been a while since yours truly had boarded a flying machine. Years ago these contraptions had sort of become a second home to me, as I flew all over creation in different pursuits… receiving my mail and notices at the different flyer clubs conveniently located, thanks to the friendly airline folk, at the very furthest end of whatever airport you might happen to find yourself in.

In preparation for this particular sojourn, I came to learn that all that was done back then via the friendly travel agent (any of these left???), I can now quickly do from my computer, just showing up at the airport with boarding pass in hand, still dripping ink from my home printer. Hmmm… how nice… no lines and no waiting at the curb.  That is, until you come to the friendly faces at the security counters. After a semi strip-down and after taking off every bit that was not attached to my body via a skin cell, I posed for what I presume is the (in)famous full body shot… There is definitely no privacy left in this world…

“BEEP … BEEP” went the metal bar…   This, of course brought me to the attention of a couple of somewhat burly (not sure whether from muscle or fat…) guards who came to stand behind the one who quietly asked…

- “Are you carrying anything else Sir?”
 BE
 I certainly must have presented a frightening sight to them…

- “Yes…” said I, with a deadpan look on my face… “A metal hip … and not just any metal… pure titanium … deadly stuff…”

No smiles… what a bunch of sour grapes… I guess the security guard profile identifies smiling as a “no-no”.

I proceeded to show them the little card from my doctor, certifying me as a bona fide titanium-hipped-individual and the two guards who had acted as possible back ups in this potentially lethal confrontation made a face and went back to wherever they had been hiding before… I guess to be ready to come out again at the smallest “And what else are you carrying Sir?” question uttered by the gate guard…

After this I was able to put back on all the different pieces which had been taken off before the inspection and go on to the waiting area, where I joined the rest of my fellow travelers in finding a spot and setting up my very own “on-the-go” office… complete with computer, telephone and portable “wi-fi” connector. Ready to tackle the world… or, at least the latest mails…

It is fascinating to see the interminable array of connectors, laptops, wires, telephones and paraphernalia we all carry in our bags now. Everyone is in a veritable “find-your-spot-and-set-up-your-office” mode… Used to be that a comfortable seat and a place near the boarding gate was the important thing to worry about… today, the prize possession at any airport waiting area is the seat closest to an available electrical outlet… when you can find one… these are worth money.

Well… after letting my loved ones know that I was on the plane and it actually seemed that at least this leg would be completed within the expected time, my phone went into the “safe airplane mode” and, eventually, after I realized this meant I could not really use it.. to the “off” mode, I settled to write this as a way to pass the time and to enjoy my flight… coke in hand… about the only thing they now pass (other than water) without having to reach for the wallet… Not even peanuts??? My, my… times are tough for everyone…

I’ll set my on-the-go-office again and post this from my next stop… and then, depending on what connectivity my travels bring (new goal for traveling folk… find connectivity…) I may be able to write some more during this week… If not… I’ll “see” you when I get back…

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 otherboxp@yahoo.com
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “otracaja.blogspot.com”Bienvenidos!!!
  • A new blog… once a week or thereabouts… “policoment.blogspot.com”… a view on current politics from both sides of the fence… serious and irreverent but transparent (can I use this word in politics???)  …  follow us @policomment

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Mind Over What Matters.


Where the Mind is, there is the Treasure” ... Agnostic Gospel of Mary.

It has been a while since the last entry was posted. I have to admit that my time has been taken by several issues; the few moments when I may have been able to sit and write, were few and far between. And, as you know, I may sit at the computer, but the thinking cap may not necessarily be on…

Then, in one of Dan Brown’s books (he of “The Da Vinci Code”), the above quote caught my attention. It is truly amazing that it really only takes a small spark to light a fire. This particular spark comes after much thinking and much reflection over the last few years. In my last entry, much was made about how coming here began a road to physical healing through long treatments, surgeries, and much caring follow up; how this helped this older and sometimes tired body to come back into the realm of the living.

Yet, I am fully aware and convinced that the body is but a shell meant to house a higher being, a spiritual one which is our essence; our “being” and I am not trying to be redundant. We cry, we laugh until we cry, we rejoice and we descend into sadness, sometimes falling into the precipice of depression. We try and when we fail, we try again… we choose whether to give up or not... These and all others alike, are expressions of the mind which uses the physical body to accomplish what it wants to achieve. Not my thoughts only; many of today’s philosophers are taking a cue from those of early ages predecesors and look at the mind as a “divine” vessel. In all versions of The Word we are told constantly that “we are like gods” and that our body and mind make up “The Temple”; we are, in our spiritual sense, each a small part of a larger being who shows Himself through us.

I am a believer in the concepts behind Noetic Sciences. They tell us that we, within our mind, have the power to control our life, environment and our well being. I think you are also a believer … In fact, the posting that has received the largest number of “hits” in the 3 or so years this blog has existed, was precisely the one about Noetic Sciences. Why am I so convinced? In retrospect, I have witnessed its working(s). I have come to realize, in bearing such witness, that the amount of power that our mind actually harbors is much, much greater than anything we can envision at this time.

I am not an expert, sorry to say. Yes, my readings and some experiences have taken me there; they have opened my eyes to some, perhaps a minuscule part, of what it may be available to those with the time and the determination to learn and to expand. Yet, that very little amount of exposure I have lived has allowed me to view myself, my life and my recent ailments (physical as well as personal) from a very different perspective than I might have otherwise.

It has also allowed me to go back in time and to experience anew many of those moments which were key moments in my life and which shaped me for times to come. In fact, several postings have come about from these meanderings. And no, they were not just “memory trips”… they were actual “re-enactments” of moments which had been relegated to that dust filled bin in the recesses of said mind. Moments which were examined from a very different perspective than the one I may have had at the time they actually came to pass. It is fascinating!!

Well, the long and the short of it is that as different thoughts and ideas come together, I hope to continue to grow and what’s more, to begin to understand that which was just beyond my mental grasp before. These developing concepts and understandings have been an incredible help to me in these past years that were at times difficult but which have become a door that brought me to a new road to travel. A road that seems to be far more stable and  wider than the one on which I seemed to be running blindly before.

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 otherboxp@yahoo.com
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “otracaja.blogspot.com”Bienvenidos!!!
  • New Blog!! Once a week as the crow flies… or thereabouts…  “politicoment.blogspot.com”   A sometimes irreverent view of things political… Come and join!!

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Going to Ground in the Blue Ridge Mountains


Ensconced at the northwest corner of North Carolina and much like an overexposed backbone, there lays the Blue Ridge Mountains …

There are quasi mystical stories which have been handed down many generations in these(those?) parts. They are all about the people and the harsh but beautiful environment in which they lived and the way this lifestyle has shaped untold generations of hardy mountain men and women.

Beautiful Blue... 
On the one side there is the Tennessee land… the land of music and good ol’ Tennessee Bourbon Whiskey… Mr. J. Daniels’ legacy, I believe… On this side is North Carolina with the city of Asheville sitting at the junction corner, much like a guardian of the ways into this general domain… Then, to the north(East) of this corner, lays the sprawl which is West Virginia. This particular area is one of the last bastions, in many ways, of what life was for the mountain families of yore. Full of simplicity and hard work… all wrapped in a heavy shawl of spiritual beliefs. The natural scenery provided by the Blue Ridge Mountains is a beautiful frame within which this part of the world can be seen… and truly enjoyed.

However, all of the above is not what this entry is about. I just happen to really enjoy the beauty of these mountains and of this particular area. But these ramblings are not about those great and colorful people but about what it is I have seen in this part of the country, what it has meant to me and why. Perhaps too much information, more than what you may want to find out… but then, what is a personal blog if not … well … personal.
Grandfather Mountain, Asheville.

Late in 2007, as mentioned already in one or more of these entries (after a while it becomes difficult to keep track of all of them) I was given the eye popping news that my body was hosting a number of unwanted visitors in the form of viruses and things strange, which gave life to a cancer in my prostate. As a man then in my early 60’s, it was well within my knowledge and understanding that I was open to many possible illnesses and maladies which had never really crossed my path before. Including this one but since the sum total number of days I had spent in a hospital along the prior 60 years, probably did not go above 20, these possibilities did not cross my mind as probabilities.

After I was told, I went into a deep personal funk… and this lasted for some time. Yet, in all of this, it never crossed my mind that there was a possibility that I would die. That concept simply didn’t exist for me. Yes, I know we all will at some point or another but, in truth, I hope my point of eternal entry –so to speak- is yet somewhat removed.  Too many things yet to do and all that… My personal life had also suffered a setback and I was not happy at all with the goings on… In the end, it was my brother who came to my rescue, inviting me to come to these parts and share a home with his family.

I have to digress for a moment… I am not a good family man, in the biblical and traditional sense. The chance to experience this kind of people union as a growing young man simply wasn't there… Yes, I do love my children with all my heart and suffer because my communication with the two younger ladies has been restricted due to a disagreement (hmmm… is a divorce considered a disagreement?) between their parents. So, when it came time to share a home with two adults and three plus one children (the son of a good friend of my brother was already there, being sheltered as well by these two good people) it was a major adjustment for me. It was interesting to experience, from the outside, the kinetics of a marriage which has issues but where both people work at them, each giving in a little bit to meet somewhere around the midsection which, in my brother’s case, is a good sized territory.

Eventually, my wife decided to come up and join me in these parts. I think being sick of life in Miami then was a more defining issue in her coming here, than the need of my company. I understood, my own life in Miami had become a burden difficult to bear... Not the fault of Miami itself, although this has become a sprawling, crazy like environment. The true fault rested on not well thought out decisions made along the way (along with non-decisions) which created a very difficult setting in which to go on.

Carolinas Med Center... "home away from home in 2009" 
There had been an elusive quest for peace… be it of life or of mind, as it were, and it was found in these parts. Or at least the promise of it. Of course, the cancer shadow was hanging over my bedposts as I tried to fall asleep every night but I knew this would be conquered, as it eventually was. I became a very grateful example for cancer awareness… with my own inner phosphorescent glow included… (only kidding… I think…) My hip, which had reduced me to a very painful limping, leg dragging half gait, was also corrected through surgery. Since there were two other minor surgeries to go along with the preceding issues, I considered that -a good aging wine comes to mind- 2009 was a very good year. 

While still convalescing from all the “friendly” attacks it had received, my body was on its way to redemption. As can be had after 65 years of taking a beating…

My mind… well, this is a story all of its own…

I am going to play coy and simply say… “to be continued”…

 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 otherboxp@yahoo.com
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “otracaja.blogspot.com”Bienvenidos!!!

Saturday, October 13, 2012

I Have a Dream…


Sometimes having a dream is a good thing.  Sometimes, it becomes a nightmare. 
There is one saying that is constantly heard from the very first time one arrives of the shores of this grand country.  And that is that we “all come here to live our dream”.

I, along with many thousands of others, had a dream; I had a dream in which I saw my family together, in which those people with whom I had spent the first growing years of my life would all be able to see each other as always we did, to hold each other, to nurture each other, to be there in time of need.

When we come to a new country, we are all affected by the drastic changes to our lives. From those who come here via first air class ticket to those who cross the Rio Grande inside the bed of a truck, or those desperate folk who cross the straits floating on an inner tube or even trying to accomplish the impossible feat of swimming it, we all hope to be able to look to the future and the possibility that perhaps some day, we will be able to recreate that familial feeling that somehow disappeared as soon as the idea of crossing over became a reality.

There are no people exceptions when it comes to having this wish; it is pretty universal. We who are at a given time trying hard to accept and adapt may acknowledge it or not; we may think we should not dwell on these thoughts and may keep them hidden and private… I know I did for a long time… but in doing so we enter into a denial lifestyle. We react to these feelings as we go along and often they will impact the life we develop while here. Perhaps thinking that we will at some point go back “home”, we do not fully embrace the opportunities that come our way during those first years… usually the most difficult years to survive in a strange (to us then) environment. We fail to see through this self imposed exile within an exile and recognize that we are now in our new home.

As years go by, as I remember this unfolding story, individuals begin to recognize those facts of their new life as lasting; we each begin to accept that, perhaps, we should really define our thoughts and define our actions as it befits the structuring of a new life and a new environment. Many of us, in this difficult process, have had the help of patient folk who saw through this anguish and understood. Others were not so lucky. These have had to fight through that inner field of discomfort and antagonist feelings to, in the end, come to -at best- an uneasy truce.

I have a dream… that some day we can be one again, that we can be truly a part of a group that welcomes one without looking at how he/she looks or thinks… that we can share our thoughts and act on them while respecting the other person’s.

I have a dream… that we come to understand that amassing money and things are not a realistic end… you really and truly cannot take it with you… And while here, one is so besotted with the pursuit of riches that these are never enjoyed. These are material means to ends; instruments and tools to be used in order to yes, live well ourselves, but also to help others with lesser opportunities to study, work and get ahead in order to have themselves a better life if they so choose to do.

I have a dream… that peace among us is a possibility; that political zealots of all stripes will cease to inflame those who follow them and who themselves cannot or will not look beyond what is being said into what truly is… so that we might be able to coexist and pursue our own thoughts in the freedom to do so.

I have a dream… that we, as human beings, can go on to the next level of existence; a level which will allow us to explore our own potential, that which resides in our minds and which has yet to be reasonably utilized. What wonderful frontiers could we explore if we actually set our minds to these pursuits? We can only guess… and dream.

Perhaps these dreams are foolish; perhaps unreal and difficult to accept in our limited perception of what, who and why we are or may be. But not beyond a possibility and, as long as this is so, I will hold on to 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 otherboxp@yahoo.com
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “otracaja.blogspot.com”Bienvenidos!!!
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs).  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/theotherbox If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

The Art of Thinking.


Is this an art form which is being lost in today’s electronic world?

We get up in  the morning to the sound of whatever noise we chose to put on the “I-Droid” phone which, last night just before we went to sleep, reminded us about what we had to do this morning. Of course, after it beeped and squawked to let us know that a rainstorm was on its way (which never came).

Sometime after we have a cup of coffee from our automatic coffee grinder-maker, the early morning routine starts with the check up of the mail and assorted messaging services; with the push of a few buttons in our “I-Droid-Tablet-Portable” we go through whatever messages come to our several e-mail addresses and get to see those each service decides are important enough for us to read… the others have gone into that great virtual garbage can on the screen… err, sorry, desktop.  It seems that advertising materials by the truckload are the only things that come now via the “snail-mail”… no wonder the USPS is defaulting on the second payment of their debt…

As we get in the car and turn the engine on, the GPS comes alive and shows us the best way to go wherever it is we are going. Doesn't matter that it has been the same for quite sometime now; if the GPS doesn't come on, we seem to be at a loss. Along the way, the car’s computer reminds us that tune-up time is near, to check the lights and the water level and, oh yeah… that it’s time to change the oil. Once most of us are at work, our respective computers light up, welcoming us to our work station and letting us know what it is we have to accomplish today. The display even gives us ideas as to how to best do it…

Towards lunch time a little buzzer goes off to let us know the amount of calories we should not surpass and what to drink… and not to drink at lunch. Every so often, throughout the day, the calendar app pops on to whatever screen is in front of us (just did on mine… hmmm…) in order to tell us what we did and didn't do…  At times we pet the virtual dog or cat (they don’t really need to be walked or cleaning after, you know…) without even thinking about it and move on to whatever the next task is that has been brought forward by our electronic valet.

And so the day, and the days, go. One task after another which follows one electronic reminder after another; we are surrounded by gadgets which have come to rule more and more of our lives. Issues and things which we might have given thinking time to before, are now relegated to second class citizenship.

I know I am somewhat old fashioned about certain things in life; I believe in stopping and smelling the roses (real ones, not virtual ones) along the byways of life; in looking at a beautiful sunset or sunrise in pure enjoyment and to rejoice in watching other folk go about their lives and even talking with them about the small, nonsensical things that make up our relatively simple lives. I believe in thinking and looking at life from a very human, non-electronic perspective.

Thinking is indeed an art, and it has to be practiced on a regular basis. We have to exercise those physical cells in our brain which, when conjoined with that very little known and less understood aspect which we call “mind” produce some beautiful streams of consciousness we might call “thoughts”. 

Our brain and our mind are our own computer that we carry from the moment we are born; the brain is the hardware and the mind may be called the software memory which allows us to utilize that hardware.  As the memory in our electronic computers may be increased by adding “chips”, that software memory in our minds can indeed be increased by adding knowledge and practiced thinking.

My fear is that as we develop the store bought electronic brains functions, we may allow these to more and more think for us; to make our decisions and to define what and who we are and what and who we may become. The question begs... Is this what we as human beings should want to happen?

I know my mind is at times foolish and that it will err in decisions made. I also know that it is far from perfection and from being able to make split second moves and choices. I realize that modern computers, given the right codes will always act faster than I possibly could, in my best day.

On the other hand, I know that when I join my mind and brain with those other factors known to man (and woman) and which we call emotion, empathy and heart, the results far outweigh anything a computer may decide in its best sequencing day.

After all… I’m only human.

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 otherboxp@yahoo.com
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “otracaja.blogspot.com”Bienvenidos!!!
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs).  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/theotherbox If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Coming of Age in The Carolinas.


Today, it had been my decision to write about something banal and non-confrontational… 

Here it was a beautiful day, sunny and warm but not hot… full of light and happy thoughts. So I sit here at the keyboard and try to think about how to start this particular piece…  Well … Fat Chance!!!

As I open FB to see what the postings are and what my known universe folks are getting around to doing, I see that several FB friends have posted their views against anything “Republican”… They are very adamant in taking the attitude that as far as they are concerned, if it comes from their man it is saintly word. However, if it comes from the other side, no matter what it is, must be the lying devil in disguise.

Well… I cannot agree with this, so I posted something not very flattering (but easily documented) about their man and, sure enough, there were immediate messages coming back. Several inquiring about the posting but others, however, trying to browbeat me into taking it down because… HOW COULD YOU??? Well, the answer is… EASILY!!! Seems that my Democratic (the party, not the concept) friends accept my views when they are in agreement with theirs… This is not a real democratic (the concept, not the party) approach.

I deal daily with many folk who are part of that great mass of people who have no papers. They work harder perhaps because of this lack of documents, and they look to the possibility of having their daily nightmare come to an end. So, of course, many do favor the current president because of the recently signed “Dream Act”. Others because the guy speaks “pretty” and talks a great talk. Others yet, because they have been convinced of the aforementioned concept that all that deals with “the other guy” is nothing but a big lie and that, if elected, he will round up 35 million people and deport them. This message seems to be the workhorse that is being used by one side to scare those in the middle about the other side.

To whoever few listen to me I keep paraphrasing what another candidate of yore used to say… “it’s the economy… it’s the economy”.  Most everyone will agree that things are tough, that jobs are scarce, that the economy is not in a good cycle; that, no matter what this government has said it has tried to do, it has not been able to kick-start it.

Right now, our country’s debt has gone up by 65% (and counting daily) in just 3.5 years (from 10.1Trillion in 2008 to over 16.3Trillion – as off yesterday) and those who are receiving government help now number just under 50 million folk. Up 100% from the end of the year 2008. That accounting line increase alone represents roughly between 750M and 1Billion in additional yearly expenses. Those numbers, courtesy of the studied (non-partisan) folk who are supposed to know about these issues. And the expenses keep piling on.

What will happen if this trend continues for an additional 4 years? Shudder Me Timbers!!! We will be mortgaging the future of the next 4-6 generations… that is, if our country’s economy survives the savage attack. Today, for reasons which really have no valid explanation, the US$ is considered to be still the reserve currency of the economic world. For this reason alone, the Mint is able to continue to print additional dollar bills and use them to, nominally, pay the debt and maintain a usable supply moving around. If some other currency happens to be treated as a favored currency, our $$$$ will devalue faster than a shipment of air conditioners in the middle of a northern Alaska winter storm.

About 45 years ago, yours truly burst into the labor force, fresh out of the Army. Then, I secured what was considered a very good job which paid $7,500 per year, starting salary. My wife then made another 8-10,000 per year. With our combined income of about $17,000 per year, we bought and paid for fairly nice living quarters, had two cars, ate reasonably well, were able to take our vacations, go out and even could “dress for success”. We came into our marriage with a “pre-existing” daughter and then had our own. Yet, we were able to cover expenses and do it all with that income. And this was being done in an area of the country which was considered “expensive”. The North East corridor of NY/CT. 

Today, just 2.5 generations later, in order to do all that in a similar family and in the same area, the overall household income has to be in a $65,000 to $75,000 range. That is 4-5 times the amount. To those who say that inflation is not for the US… think again!!! And when we see that the national debt clock (no, not really a “Republican” concept) spins faster than my car’s engine at 60mph, I am left to wonder why not many more see this as a real concern.

Marketing… we have touched this in the past, in more than one posting. Tell people something enough times, and they will believe it. The average person is being told constantly that other –more easily identifiable- issues are the true core of the problem… not to worry about the economy. Unfortunately, many do not look beyond these “news” and assume them to be the full picture.

So… even when their food basket gets smaller and more expensive every week and the gas costs more and more… and with it so does everything else, the response seems to be easily summed up as … “What, Me Worry?” the favorite line of Alfred E. Newman… the face and voice of “Mad Magazine” of the 60’s and 70’s…

Happy Hunting!! … or fishing… or… whatever we are supposed to be doing in this beautiful, sunny, calm and happy day…

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 otherboxp@yahoo.com
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “otracaja.blogspot.com”Bienvenidos!!!
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs).  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/theotherbox If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Fall of the Usher in the House.


Not a tale of incest and inbreeding… but almost.

There was once this usher who moved into a beautiful big house. He had been entrusted to do so by many of those who stayed outside. This house was no ordinary house, but a very special one, sitting atop a hill and presenting a commanding sight for anyone to see. Those without looked upon it and the usher inside for their well being and guidance. Those within, looked upon those on the outside as sheep to be herded and guided for, after all, theirs was the Usher in the House.

In the beginning, the Usher would walk around the halls and rooms and exclaim out loud, for all to hear… “We must clean out all the stuff the people before left strewn about” and the cheers would come, from within and without.

Much movement and much to do, many figurines came and went … and Usher would say “My… how many things are yet to be sorted out” … still the cheers would come from within and from without.

As time went on, mysterious ongoing(s) signaled the beginning of a new reign… it said, to all who would listen… “Hear ye, hear ye… this is the new order, this is the new command… you must obey or from enjoyment you will abstain”. And many of the sheep were happy to oblige, for their lot was to follow… not to express concerns about the morrow…

Yet there were some who did question, who did in discord reply… “This is not what we wanted, this is not what we expected… you, Usher in the House, must answer this cry”… “Why?” And the Usher and his band only answered: “yours is not to ask, but to follow my dictate… otherwise and enemy you will be… and not a friend of Usher The Great!”

Whenever a discordant cry was heard, the anointed band of public criers would all, in unison, publish their views… of course all in agreement with that great big house son… “all of you who question Him, just because He has not complied, are a mistake making… to obstruct his path, don’t even try” This public ranting would go on and on with many, just like a rabid dog, frothing at the mouth and well playing the part of a truth clog. “Anyone who questions is wrong; anyone who dares say the contrary… will be in the square (paper) crucified” actually, freedom be dammed… all in all, quite scary.

Now comes the time for many of this band to be called on to make sense of their misadventures, for this time spent by Usher in The House has been a continuum of errors, ranting and truth bashing terror. But, sadly for them, reality check is upon their reign, those of us who have looked beyond the prose on the non-results obtained, can only writhe in pain.

So, it’s up to the little folk, many of whom happily welcomed Usher when He first came to the fore… But after this time of calculated misdirection… they want no more!! Oh, how they want to return to a better time… when they could go about their business without a blinding guiding light always on… especially when the not wanted road is the one being shown.

So, this is the story of the Fall of the Usher in the House… yet to be, I’m sure. That is, I hope. However, predicting the future is only for seers and fools, being both sort of a tool… useful, but useless at the same time. However, our country needs this to happen, for things to be fine.

I know... this prose is poor and badly written... A bard I am not, a writer of soft lines perhaps; a witty repartee maybe comes about once in a thousand incursions but, the truth is that by sad circumstances I am smitten and driven to try, to bring about a change, to see the errors corrected and the future thus improved. Otherwise... well, as from the mouths of babes the truth shall come, I foresee a bleak and sadness filled tome. 

But giving up is not a choice for, you see... this is my home.


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 otherboxp@yahoo.com
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “otracaja.blogspot.com”Bienvenidos!!!
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs).  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/theotherbox If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar.

Friday, September 21, 2012

Birthday Week… Some Thoughts.


After the initial phase of early life, birthdays take on a somewhat different meaning.

This week brought me to the beginning of my 67th year on this earth of ours. Sometimes the accounting method for this kind of thing is questionable… is it FIFO (first in-first out) or LIFO (last in-first out)? … In any event, many years have passed since that glorious morning when in a room at the Spanish Community Hospital in Cienfuegos, Cuba, (Building #4) there came into the world… Ta-Daaaa! … Yours truly.

The fateful day, as well as the time and place of its happening, as well as all that surrounds this magnificent event that is “birth” has a bearing on the life of each person. Or so tell us those who deal with numbers, zodiacs and lives. I know I have, somewhere in my bag, one such write out which was sent to me some years ago, by someone who was trying to get me to sign up for a continuing service … or some such. No, I did no sign up, but did keep the chart write out. Thank you.

I have read it a couple of times… well, OK… maybe a few more times… it is actually quite extensive and divided into several sub-segments. I will admit that some of the things this chart spells out do make sense, when reading them while sitting in the house of Jupiter and looking out to the windows of the house of Mars… or is it looking at the backyard of the Moon’s dark side? Anyway, and all kidding aside, some do make some sense but, then, there are so may issues which are discussed in a general manner here, that some would have to come close to events which have actually happened and to traits developed over the years.

I am supposed to be introspective, well ordered and “neat” … all because I am a Virgo. Then, I have a “Libra” ascendency which means … well, something else altogether. So, in the end, I am confused. But, no fear… for a mere $39.99 all will be made clear in the end.

The business of divining and such is indeed a good business. Actually, all that deals with the spiritual side of life, since we don’t really know much about it, becomes a good business for those who can convince someone else that they are actually in touch with that little understood side of our existence. What better than being told we are on the right path? … That our future (it seems to be always “the future”, huh?) will bring all we have desired and worked for? … And, of course, that a “certain” (never a specific here either…) someone who has been hovering around us will come into our lives and take care of all our problems …

There was a time (years back!) when I actually would sit with a deck of cards and someone on the other side of the table, and “read” their cards. No, never collected a penny for this…. more the fool I. The right mood would be set and then the cards would be spread on the table, cut and dealt. I had read up on the art of doing this and would “interpret” what the figures seemed to say to me… What was amazing was the readiness with which those who would sit on the other side of the small table were willing to believe everything said.

What scared me off in the end was the fact that some of the interpretations came extremely close to the real life version of events and that some of the “predictions”… actually came to pass. I wasn’t ready to handle this, especially when this was all done as a joke and a pastime. In my definition of life’s priorities, when it comes to business… I do want to know what is going to happen and how it can be controlled to my benefit. But when it comes to life… then I am not so sure that I want to know what is in store for me… much less, someone else.

As mentioned in different posts along the way, having had a close encounter with the real possibility of my own death through a bout with cancer, and having encountered and met death through the loss of a child -a living memory made more poignant by the fact his birthday would have always been the day following mine (I actually considered him a “birthday” present)- change the perspective that dictates how I now look at life.

Much of what was important before, has truly become less so… and many of those things which were at one time present but perhaps less important on a day to day basis, especially those dealing with the inner self, have become much dearer to me. The search for peace and understanding at the core mind level has indeed become a priority factor in my present life.

Why is it that it takes events of this magnitude to open our eyes to this ongoing need? I do not have an answer; perhaps it is the shock of coming face to face with what, heretofore, was only a known, but surreal  concept. This type of encounter reminds us that we do indeed have to look inside and analyze what it is that makes one “tick” … what will help us go on to the next level of understanding; and then know there are further roads to travel and to explore.

This post has been in the making for some 3 days… I am not sure that I am comfortable with the results but, it will be put out there for you to read… maybe it will make more sense to you than to me…
  
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 otherboxp@yahoo.com
  • “La Otra Caja de Pandora”… The Spanish language Blog… “otracaja.blogspot.com”Bienvenidos!!!
  • Remember:  We are “On Air” every Sunday night at 6:30pm EST (GT –5hrs).  http://www.blogtalkradio.com/theotherbox If the link does not work, please just copy and paste to your address bar.

From Wally’s Pond… Again…

This will become entry #400 for this blog. It started late 2009; a means to pass convalescencing time from my cancer treatment and the firs...