Via Lucis Photography

There are sights impossible to forget: the first glimpse of your child, or the look on the face of a your beloved at a moment of perfect happiness. My first sight of Vézelay was such a moment of perfection for me, a small medieval town clustered on a steep hill with a single narrow road winding its way to the top of the rise where stands the Basilica of Mary Magdalene. It must have always been this impressive, especially to the pilgrim throngs wending their way to the church. During the Middle Ages, this basilica was the starting point for one of the four main routes from France to Santiago de Compostella. So famous were the relics of Mary Magdalene enshrined here that the church was the site of its own pilgrimage and the monks who brought the relics from Provence were celebrated.

On Easter Sunday 1146, on the great…

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Readin’ Ridin’ and Other Stuff

More Reflections on a Misspent Youth

I grew up on a farm about seven miles from the little town of Lake Placid, Florida which, at that time, probably had a population of about a thousand — tops.  My brother, 13 years older, had 14 people in his graduating class, so that will give you a rough idea.  The place hadn’t grown much by the time I came along.

The school bus used to pick me up about 7:00 AM.  I was one of the lucky kids.  The bus began its loop of about 40 miles at oh-dark-thirty, picking up some bleary-eyed kids from the outlying cattle ranches as early as 5:00, and depositing them home at about the same time.  We had kids who rode their horses out to the “hard road,” unsaddled and put them in a paddock, then saddled up and rode home when they were dropped off from school.  They still had ranch chores to do, then homework, then bed until whatever time they got up to do it all over again.

I was luckier, in that I had only about a 30-minute ride to school, with a few stops along the way.  Like all kids I had trouble getting out of bed and on my way, and as often as not had to run for the bus, stopped at the end of our 75-yard clay road and tooting its horn.  I hated riding the bus, because I hated just about every kid on it, but that’s a story for another time.

At school we lived for recess.  A few of us kids (who would have been called “geeks” today) would gather in a beaten up old clump of Brazilian pepper that grew alongside the school building.  Back then the peppers were fairly new, and were considered landscaping plants rather than the scourge they are today.

Those were pre-Apollo days, and we would play at being space pilots and so forth, as outlined by the “space operas” we listened to on Saturday morning radio: Tom Corbett – Space Cadet, Space Patrol, Flash Gordon and, for those few kids who actually had a TV, Captain Video.  These sources of information were supplemented by comic books of the same names, plus some others.  We didn’t learn a lot of science from them, but we got some powerful ideas and ambitions — some of us — that some even more or less realized later in life.

We had to use our imaginations.  We didn’t have too much in the way of props.  Playground equipment was limited to massive swings, see-saws and a sort of kid-powered merry-go–round.  The games that centered on those appliances mostly involved fun, until a bigger kid decided to find out if he could push you so high on the swing or so fast on the merry-go-round that you would fall off, or “buck” you off the seesaw by slamming his end on the ground with his superior weight.  Thus, the shrubbery.  This broken branch would be the throttle, that one the steering lever, another would fire the ray gun, missles or whatever.

Because we exercised our imaginations in those ways, falling into the world of books was a natural next step.  All of us geeks were readers.  The school library was off limits to little kids, and we had to make do.  I used to read the family’s Encyclopedia Americana for amusement, when I ran out of comic books or other fiction that I could understand.

My father, a self- taught horticulturist who was instrumental in developing the Caladium industry that still drives the local economy today, was heavy on books but light on fiction. What he had ran to the likes of Ernest Thompson Seton (boys’ outdoor stories), an autographed copy of Song of the South (Br’er Rabbit and his gang), and lots of books about plants and animals.  I read ‘em all, along with the occasional paperback novel if I could swipe one from my Uncle Al, who lived next door.  The reading was varied, but sometimes a bit dry.  The most wonderful day of my life was entering the sixth grade and finding that I had access to a library at last.

I pity non-readers.  People who don’t read for pleasure, I mean.  They never know the delight of building pictures of infinite variety in their own heads, unneedful of TV, magazines and their distractions.  Give a reader a book — about almost anything — and once into its hypnotic grasp they will almost literally be transported to another world, an amalgam of the author’s and their own imaginations.

I fear that we are losing that, even we readers, in these days of the internet and easy gratification of imagination.  I know that much of the time when I am surfing the Web I get caught up in the frenzy of one more click, of wondering what’s around the next corner, so to speak, instead of enjoying what is in front of me.  The search for variety, for something new, for something to relieve momentary boredom or disinterest, tends to draw us away from the details that we might absorb and find useful later.  I believe that is dangerous.  So much of our thought is unconsciously derived from the things that we see and read that shallowness is leading us to the sound bite/sight bite kind of culture that creates folks with less understanding than they know, and opinions that are not backed up by knowledge, but instead by opinion.

A dangerous condition indeed, in these days of mass manipulation of the media and of peoples belief systems.  Combined with the failure of our schools to educate today’s students in even the rudiments of government, create circumstances where our freedom has become a sitting duck for those who would have it otherwise.

But the education rant is for another day.

The Morning After — Helios Remembered

She was 22, beautiful, and had already felt more of life’s hard knocks than she deserved.

He was two weeks old, and not exactly beautiful.  But she thought so.

Everyone told her it was no use, that he was too young, but she fed him with an eye-dropper every few hours for weeks.  She took a chance, and gave him a chance — and her love.  And he gave her his.

They both made it.

Continue reading

If y’ try sometimes, y’ just might find…

I’ve had an interesting life experience over the past few years that I’d like to share with you.

As longtime readers will recall, my wife and I helped start a drug and alcohol treatment center back in 2001 – and that was, indeed, a spacey odyssey. (I’m sorry; that just forced its way out.)

For the first few months it was Michele, me, two therapists, an office manager and about ten clients. Over the next couple of years that changed (despite an embezzlement problem we won’t go into), into a thrice larger and quite successful operation. Continue reading

Tolerance

I’ve recently been involved in a dialogue with some Evangelical Christian folks. The results have been interesting.

As is often the case, the encounters began with an approach in an attempt to “save” me. This sort of thing used to really bother me. Eventually I came to realize that, unlike some lesser species (such as TV evangelists), most Evangelicals–those worthy of the name–are simply trying to do me a favor. They believe in their hearts that my soul is doomed, and they want to help. Viewed that way, it’s hard to remain insulted or angry. Annoyed is a different matter.

Buddhists don’t proselytize, and most of us accept the idea that it is wrong to attack someone’s belief system. When one takes the risk of dismantling the structure that supports another emotionally, it is cruelty of the highest order to have nothing the person will be able to digest as a replacement. Effective conversions occur over long periods, gently, and it is not my business to make them happen.

My usual response to such advances is to decline as politely as possible under the circumstances, and to do so firmly enough that it sticks. Given the desire to treat others with lovingkindness, that can be a tricky process. Continue reading

Far As I’m Concerned, You Should ALL Be Ashamed Of Yourselves

I truly do not understand why the followers of the Prophet are so thin-skinned.

Nor do I understand why they claim to be a religion of peace. They are no more so than are the Christians. Regardless of what the Prophet and Jesus may (or may not) have written or said, there is little in the behavior of either group, either recently or historically, that would confirm that they are anything but warlike in the extreme. (We won’t even talk about the Jews.) Muslims civilized northern Africa, parts of the Middle East and the Iberian Peninsula at sword’s point. The followers of the Prince of Peace chased them out of Spain, attempted to evict them from the Holy Land by force, and generally raised hell throughout the northern part of the Muslim countries for hundreds of years.

On other fronts, Christians saved the souls of the Indios of the Americas and, in a genocide just as effective as that of the Nazis — if rather less-publicized, the winners having indeed written the history books — stole roughly 1/3 the land area of the planet from its previous tenants. Several million of those saved souls were released to their maker during that period of spreading God’s Word. The British duplicated the spread of their peaceful religion throughout the far east, Australia, and the Indian sub-continent, with lesser empires assisting in Africa and parts of South and Central America. Islam spread its way throughout much of Asia and the rest of the globe in the same way, but with its spread facilitated even more by the depredations of the hated Christians. Continue reading

Let’s Knock Off the P.C. B.S.

I started off as a middle-of-the-road Republican, and switched to the Democratic party in the Gingrich era because I couldn’t stand the embarrassment any longer. Since then I’ve swung even farther left, as my common sense has slowly beaten the redneck into submission. I’d now call myself liberal-progressive, if I thought I needed a label.

Attempting compassion and lovingkindness as a way of life does that to people, even hard-headed old ex-cops. Nonetheless, I’ve reached the conclusion that it’s time to get over this p.c. crap about ascribing the best possible attributes to the adherents of essentially violent religious beliefs. It has never been true of Christians, of Jews, of Hindus — and certainly not of Islam. Continue reading