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cairn of my heart. [d.r. thursday]

stacking stones – from david’s children’s book Play To Play

like a 1960s romper room book, if you turn my notebook upside down and open it from the back you will find a list. it is a list of projects, stacking up. this list is unlike my other lists, unlike the cleaning-the-basement and attic and closets list, unlike the practical bill-paying list, unlike the job-application list. this is a list of creative projects, things either already started or on the plate of my heart, waiting to be addressed, waiting to begin. it is not unlike a beautiful stack of stones, a cairn of my heart.

and so every now and then i turn over this old yellow college-ruled spiral with craig sharpie-printed on the front, a leftover from some school year. i flip it to its cardboard back and open it like those backward books and add something to my growing stack. unique rocks, with no detailed explanations…they make me dream. they are the play to play.

yesterday at OT i mentioned our smack-dab cartoon. my OT was surprised. apparently, drawing and publishing a cartoon in any format is unusual. when i told her it was one of a few cartoons we have done together, j asked me to describe it. i told her that it was about being smack in the middle of middle age and, since she is, i showed her last saturday’s smack-dab. she laughed aloud – a lot – and said, “so you don’t just go to the grocery store together?” that made me laugh aloud since it seems the cairn of our life together is the stacked stones of these projects we do, holding hands and jumping, in creation, on trails, and, yes, in the grocery store too.

it is with some certainty that i know i will awake with new ideas, that blowing my hair dry – for some reason a time of great creative juju – will bring new stones to stack, fresh energy to explore.

it was in one of those moments i came up with starting a ukulele band where i was employed. i had, on a whim, purchased a tiny black soprano ukulele while visiting with dearest friends in nashville, indiana. i started messing around with it and, one morning while standing in the bathroom in front of the long mirror blowing my hair dry with thoughts swirling in my mind, realized that everyone should (and could) play the ukulele and that there could not be a more perfect addition to the music program i was directing. when i offered ukulele packages for sale through pacetti’s, the local music shop, and announced a rehearsal starting date, i suspected that maybe 3 or 4, or maybe even 6 would sell. all told, we sold over 60. our band gathered each week and in the summer met first in the local lakefront park and later, for years, on our back patio, more sheltered from the wind that would blow our music here and there. it was joy – total joy – watching people who had never played any instrument pick up their brightly colored ukuleles, learn chords and songs and play and sing in community. amazing stuff.

a couple days ago facebook brought up one of those memory photos that show up as you first open the site – this one from three years ago. it was a photo from ukes on the summer patio that someone had taken and posted of me. in the middle of the patio, perched on a stool in front of a music stand loaded with music and clipped with clothespins, ukulele in hand, i was in full laughter. for this was a cairn. and, judging by the laughter that always surrounded us in those rehearsals and others, it was a cairn for others as well. i re-posted it and felt wistful. grief is like that.

just as backpacking seems to bring ardor to our trail-pal-on-video-who-we-have-never-met joey coconato, these projects-following-the-cairns bring us a sense of who we are, what we are. there are times that the flame of a project wanes, the idea conks, just the thought of it makes us laugh till we are snorting. but those other times – the times we can see the cairn clearly, we head to it, it keeps us on track – those are the times that we are playing to play, that we are being true to who we are.

*****

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“hide, snooze, unfollow.” [merely-a-thought monday]

the zoom meeting facilitator asked us to state a few things as we introduced ourselves: our name, our race and gender identification, what we would want our superpower to be, were we to have one.

the first woman who stated her name et al said, “i would want my superpower to be able to read people’s minds.”

i shuddered. why on earth, in the social-media-middle of seeing every single thing people are thinking and doing and opining and touting and boasting and ego-stroking and proselytizing and whining about, every place they have gone, are going, will go, every squat-thrust, deep-knee-bend, downward dog they have ever managed, every hair on the bodies of their sweet furry pets, every ingredient in every recipe for every meal, every factoid about every little atom of their lives, would you want to read people’s minds?

the others laughed and added their thoughts about this woman’s desire, but when it was my turn to respond to her superpower-wish, i said, “as an empath, i would like to NOT be able to read people’s minds.” good grief. enough already.

it has been my experience that hiding, snoozing and unfollowing are the only ways to survive some of the ugliness in social media. now, i don’t readily hide, snooze or unfollow. after all, i do want to see other thoughts on issues, different perspectives about topics where i disagree or which i haven’t given much time. but when things get ugly, and people are over-the-top, a “hide” or “unfollow” or “snooze” are good ways to save yourself a few moments of W-T-F!-exhaustion. i try to remember that these “friends” are often people i haven’t seen in many decades and will likely never see again in ‘real life’. nevertheless, i still linger in astounded feelings of betrayal.

so when i passed this post canoeing down the FB river, i laughed at the use of the term “power-user”. perhaps this person would have listed their superpower as “button-clicker”. for with that mere button-click there is self-preservation. with that mere button-click there is silence. with that mere button-click there is unity. eliminate all those who annoy you or disagree with you and you have utopia. or do you?

it would seem a pretty bland world that way. the woven threads of the country would flatten out, the tapestry no longer ripe with diverse ideas, no longer a myriad of textures, no longer heterogeneous. soporific uniformity would cover the land. and the fire beneath the melting pot would cease to burn.

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they laughed. [k.s. friday]

they laughed.

two people in a facebook thread LAUGHED (with the convenient use of laughing emojis) at a post i wrote responding to someone’s perception that there wasn’t a lot of peace and love going on in my town and to a comment about kenosha and what “BLM and rioters have done to beautiful cities” and that “denying that it exists [wouldn’t] make it go away.” i was sincere and fervently hopeful, while recognizing realities:

“here, with a house full of smoke from the fires, within hearing distance of the militia shots in the street. we could hear the blasts of tear gas, the yelling and chanting. we had a visceral front seat. but we also see many, many, many people coming together to try to address a long-standing (forever) problem of this nation. denying systemic racism exists will not make it go away. it is incredibly sad that conversation has to be aggressive and pointed, rather than generative and mindfully intentional. cities can be rebuilt, but lives are lost forever. i don’t want to live in a city that looks beautiful and is ugly underneath.”

and they laughed. LAUGHED. i had to step away to catch my breath before i could respond. what is becoming of human decency these days?

yes. kenosha painted boarded-up windows and painted over graffiti of negative messaging. yes. because, connectivity and love are the beginning. and reminders of those can only help. each positive message – in a city boarded up and burned and looted – reminds us of the most basic of emotions: LOVE. each positive message reminds us – as we walk about in this raw wound – that we are incomplete, we are flawed and we have much work to do. we need listen to each other, without overtalking. we need speak, without animosity. we need respect, without exception. we need conversation. we need connection. each positive message reminds us that hope exists, even in the tiniest brush of paint on wooden board.

this is a time of division, to be sure. day after day i am confronted with this reality and with peoples’ brazen attempts to undermine relationship with rhetoric and falsehoods, misplaced loyalties and inaccurate assumptions, and, worse yet, words of aggressive animosity and actual hatred. i wonder what the fallout will be. will the silken gossamer threads of connection sustain? will empathy fall by the wayside? will love of humanity – in all its shapes and sizes, genders, races, ethnicities, socioeconomic positions, religious affiliations – all its anythings – prevail?

“we live between the act of awakening and the act of surrender.” (john o’donohue) the question is always, every single day, how will we live? how will we spend that time? who will we be?

realizing the vast array of wise words that would also be appropriate alongside photographs we’ve taken in kenosha, i chose to post these words of dr. martin luther king jr., “darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that.” and i added this in answer to derisive comments about protestors:

“one of the foremost protestors in this land was dr. martin luther king jr. the thousands of people who walked in peaceful protest here, even drove and marched right by our house, were walking in that spirit. there have been rioters and looters in each city of unrest. they are spurred on by the vitriol and angry words of the current president, who seems to revel in discord and chaos. the fact is, the vast majority of people who are protesting in this nation are protesting in peace. just like in kenosha. this nation needs equality – the only way to get there is to listen to those who speak, listen to those who protest. their words count.”

and then, in a fine example of what conversation has defaulted to, i was called a “cupcake”, a “snowflake” and “infantile”. wow. i beg your pardon.

and they laughed? how dare they.

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shh. [two artists tuesday]

SHH

wow. thirteen minutes.

in a matter of thirteen minutes yesterday all 650 of my blogposts were wiped off of facebook.   it seems someone, in the matter of thirteen minutes, marked five of my blogs as SPAM and this must have triggered the facebook “community standards” filter which POOF eliminated everything.  over two and a half years of writing.  at merely an hour to an hour and a half each, that is well over a month of writing, 24 hours a day.  vanished off of the facebook platform.  because someone had a beef.  i would call that cowardice.

cowardice (noun):  a lack of bravery.

all because, i am guessing, someone disagreed with me for some reason and could not bring themselves to have an adult discussion about it. instead, this person chose a different approach, a way to end up censoring my words.  cowardice.

i am not paid to write.  i do not receive any money for writing.  my catalogue of blogposts was written from my heart, from an honest and well-intended place.  i am more than happy to entertain any dialogue about any topic, as long as it remains respectful and kind.  i am more than happy to have a conversation.  i do not take kindly to being censored.  i do not take kindly to being a target.  i do not take kindly to being on the receiving end of someone’s spinelessness, their secret malintent and inability to give voice, whatever their reason.  rendering me voiceless on facebook is mean-spirited and appalling.  and seemingly deliberate.  it does beg a couple obvious questions.

truth be told, facebook is making me tired.  scrolling through a myriad of temper tantrums and boasting-posts to find wee bits of news about beloved family and friends is disconcerting.  trying to use my own 200% copyrighted music on facebook and having facebook block it claiming copyright violations is beyond frustrating.  watching facebook allow misinformation and foul language to prevail on the platform is disappointing.  scouring facebook for ways to communicate with an actual person or to find avenues for correcting their errors is pointless.  it’s tiresome.  but those wee bits keep me going back – seeking a few more pictures to drink in of people i-love-but-cannot-see-right-now or reading viewpoints that give me food for thought, lead me to ask questions, make me learn.

during this time that FB, impossible to contact, figures out i am not ill-intended nor do i post SPAM, i would ask you a favor:  if you have found any post of mine to be thought-provoking or encouraging or reassuring in some way and have enjoyed reading, please “follow” this blog.  you can “follow” it on this post or later go to our website www.kerrianddavid.com/the-melange to find the link to this blogsite.  wordpress will send you an email each day with my 5 day-a-week blog. you can certainly choose to read or not read each day and, at any time, you can choose to “unfollow” the blog.  just as it is your decision whether or not to read my post on facebook each day, i would like to think you still have the option.  subscribing gives you that.  hopefully, FB will allow and restore my written work soon.

in the meanwhile, just as no one should be hushed in the expression of thoughts about living life, i am dedicated to continue sharing my own in a variety of ways.

shh????  i don’t think so.

and your thoughts?

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“voter freud” [flawed wednesday]

voter freud

my sweet momma taught me to use a dictionary when i was very young.  “look it up,” she would tell me.  the dictionary held an esteemed place in our house.  if i didn’t know what ‘it’ meant or how ‘it’ was spelled, i knew where to go.  i developed a love for dictionaries, thesauruses, all manners of the tools of research.

now, it seems dictionaries have lost their status and spellcheck has become a way of life for those too lazy to ‘look it up’.  spellcheck has a few obvious limitations; context, usage and intent presenting the biggest challenges.  if only spellcheck and auto-correct could reach out of the device screen and (gently) slap the person committing the spellingcrime, life’s communications could be better understood.  punctuation joins the game of laziness and, i must say, punctuation makes a difference.  consider “i’m sorry i love you” or “i’m sorry.  i love you.”  there is a marked difference.

so when people, who never graced me, the nerdy-look-it-up-type, with even one word in high school but who have ‘friended’ me on facebook, post multiple nonsensical, poorly articulated and division-inciting arguments using the term “voter Freud”, it raises the hair on the back of my neck.  i want to post back “look it up!” but i refrain.  borrowing leonard pitts’ words, there seems to be a “matchless capacity for mental mediocrity” in the united states these days.

i suspect if this not-really-a-friend-just-a-friend-on-facebook was standing across from me (mind you, at least six feet across) she would be screaming at me in a loud raucous voice.  i wonder if she would call it – this thing she has taken from fox news and run full speed with, never looking to see if she had a spotter or even a bottle of water in her full-out sprint to falsificationland – “voter Freud” in person.  or would she actually say “voter fraud” in her zeal to make me a believer of her layered cake of conspiracies.

this is not just about lazy writing.  this seems an indicator of a bigger problem.  it’s the metaphoric tip of the iceberg.  i’m not just kvetching about spelling and punctuation, much as i wish that were the whole problem.  it’s an imploring plea to ask questions.  in today’s deep-fake world, a reminder to not make quick assumptions.  to not jump onto a band wagon stoked with tear gas, rubber bullets and flash bangs to quell those speaking out, enable dictatorial nationalism, silence what needs to be said.

in this pandemic-laden-chaos-wreaked-leaderless-divisive country of ours i would encourage research.  i would encourage fact-checking.  i would encourage dictionaries.  i would encourage more listening and less reactionism.  i would hope that each of us would understand that every word we utter, every word we write matters, every attitude, every nuance.  we are not in a world of one; we each affect and effect the next.  over and over.

and i don’t know.  last time i checked, john glenn high school in elwood, new york – more than four decades ago – had pretty high standards in english class, in sciences, in history, in math, not the least learning of which was how to use deductive reasoning.  i, for one, was paying attention.  because it mattered.  “voter Freud?”  indeed.  it still matters.

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from jumpstart to coda. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

so much random learning

my favorite snapchat filter makes my face round and my eyes huge, adds giant john-denver-glasses and changes my voice.   and i love it!  using a filter makes short-selfie-movie-making less about how you look and more about how you could look:  with big eyes or ears or as a unicorn or years younger or years older or with different hair or as the opposite gender.  my niece wendy and i use it as a constant communication device; we are free to be as weird as we want to be or as funny or as playful.

when this filter disappeared temporarily – the one with big eyes and glasses and a voice octaves above my normal voice – i panicked.  making a video for wendy as just me was not nearly as enticing and i sadly thought i’d have to resort to simply texting again.  i wondered if i should write a letter to snapchat, but fear those at snapchat don’t read letters.  how antiquated.  alas, even without a letter of reproach from me, it reappeared and all is well again in snapchatland.

technology is throwing us all for a loop…well, those of us who were not born with it in our very veins.  we are videoconferencing for work, google-chatting for play, creating audio and video files to fill in gaps where people can’t be, using photoshop to create slides for iMovies or iPhoto videos, layering audio files on music software, creating youtube channels and pic collages, learning how to change wav files into mp3s into m4v’s, messaging people via text, email, facebook, instagram, pushing our little cellphones to their outer limits (or is it us we are pushing to outer limits?)

we are immersed and treading water.

so much learning.  oy, such a steep curve.  all in the name of staying in touch in these virtual times.  you can’t touch people but these laptops and ipads and cellphones are reeling from overuse.  (or is it my born-in-1959-middle-aged-brain?)

but for those of us with analog veins, coffee is still coffee.  and i am ever grateful for that.  it’s a necessary tool in this virtual world.  every day these days needs a bit of a jumpstart.

and as frank k. says, “that apothic.  it’s such a drinkable wine!”  yes, frank.  another necessary tool – the coda of the day these days.

jumpstart to coda.  and in-between, we tread, virtual wave after virtual wave.

 

read DAVID’s thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

 

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this morning. [k.s. friday]

that morning someday 1

i unfriended someone today.  i was so shocked at his response to the vital importance of continuing to social distance in this global pandemic i found it reprehensible.  his crass “everyone will die eventually” was deeply disturbing.  he actually used the term ‘survival of the fittest’.  i, in browsing for how my family and friends are doing, found no peace in his words, only a shortfall of empathy.  i shudder to think of anyone who read or who will read these callous words who has been ill, has had a loved one ill, who has lost a life in their circle of life, who has been deemed unemployed, who has missed paying their rent and who stands in line for food, who is frightened.  anyone with a heart.

i’ve unfriended a few people along the way these last few years.  this hasn’t been because i merely disagree with them.  i am open to disagreeing with you if you are open to discussion.  but these have been folks who have been closed.  closed to facts, to truth, to research, to conversation.  closed.  to me, it feels as if their hearts are closed.

for what is the importance of the next morning if what you care most about in the world is copious amounts of money or holdings?  my sweet poppo used to say, “you can’t take it with you.”  what is the importance of the next morning if you will throw others under the bus to elevate yourself?  my sweet momma used to say, “be kind.  be kind.  be kind.”  what is the importance of the next morning if everything is measured by black and white, an excel sheet of differences, all listed and highlighted.  my big brother used to play his guitar and sing, “there’s a new world coming…”  what is the importance of the next morning if you only measure yourself against others, their net worth, their houses, their jobs, their wardrobe, their vehicles, their exotic trips, their success?  in high school i recited these words from desiderata, “if you compare yourself with others, you may become vain or bitter, for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.”

instead, what about that morning someday?  the one that presents you with the challenge of a lifetime, the one you have worked on honing your whole life.  the challenge to accept who you are.  the challenge to stand up straight in your integrity, to freely and generously love, to do your work, to look out into the world with open eyes.  the challenge to not compare yourself, to believe in the betterment of humanity, to be kind, and to know that you can’t take any of it with you.  the challenge to surround yourself with goodness and live now.  this morning.  tomorrow morning.  the next morning.  heart open.

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the cameras. [not-so-flawed wednesday]

cameras

1977.  graduation.  yashica fx-2.  my most-prized possession and my constant companion was the 35mm single lens reflex camera my momma and dad gave me when i graduated from high school.  it went everywhere with me and i made every reason to be out and about with it, capturing sunrises, sunsets, beaches, state parks, roadtrips, lighthouses, birds and other wildlife, my nieces and nephew.  i loved this camera and still have it, although i haven’t used it in years.  i learned about f-stops and aperture openings, film speed and depth of field – all with this camera.

somewhere along the way, automatic cameras began to reign supreme and i joined the ranks with a minolta that made taking pictures of My Girl and My Boy easier, faster, somewhat brainless.  as they were little and moments passed in lightning speed, this camera made moment-seizing more possible, although one still had to wait till the film was developed to see if you were successful.  sometimes it was the blurry photo, the funny face, the i-wasn’t-trying-to-get-that-picture photograph that are the prizes.  they are the ones we couldn’t erase, delete, photoshop, filter.  they were what they were.

i remember roll after roll, walking in to rode’s camera shop and taking advantage of their double-print deal, always sending photographs to grandparents, family and friends who were afar.  having sorted through every one of the prints in recent years, i can honestly say that i have literally thousands of photographs of my children when they were growing up.  perhaps this is the reason they roll their eyes at me now when i want to take pictures of them?

i can’t help but think of what i might have captured on film had digital cameras or cellphones with the exquisite-cameras-of-today been around back then.  video without having a gigantic vcr camcorder on your shoulder or even a smaller, still cumbersome 8mm camera, instant photos that you can preview and take over, every photo or image or video ‘fixable’, ‘changeable’, ‘alterable’.

i have to say i am a little envious of the ability of parents today who are able to document their children, their travels, their, well, every move, not to even begin to mention selfies, and instantly facebook-post it, email it, text it, snapchat it, instagram it, tweet it, snapfish or shutterfly-book-it, sharing it with the world.  it’s so simple.  their documentation will be so much more complete, the phone-camera a constant companion with no real added burden of weight or case or extra lenses or film or a flash.  the rise and ease of amazing technology.

it was with a sense of uh-oh-we-really-are-getting-olderrrrr that we happened upon the display of cameras and movie cameras in the antique shoppe.  i wanted to pick each one up, look through the viewfinder, compose a photo or two.  i was instantly transported back to crabmeadow beach with susan, climbing the fence to snag a few sunrise pictures.  i was in the boat with crunch, cruising long island sound lighthouse to lighthouse.  i was on the floor with my babies, catching their moments.

there was something magical about waiting for that old film to develop.  something that made it sometimes easier to put the camera, the device, away.  something that made it paramount to memorize -for your very own mind’s eye- the most precious of events, the most intimate details, the agonizingly briefest purity of a perfect moment in time.

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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frosting and connection.

network connections

cupcakes.

and frosting.

i would talk to my piano students about practicing.  i drew a comparison of the time they spent, the way they allocated their time to cupcakes and frosting.   i would start by saying let’s talk about practicing, whereupon most of my sweet students would roll their eyes, a common reaction to the word ‘practice’.  i would suddenly switch topics to cupcakes and they would happily skip down that path, thinking they were avoiding the ‘practice’ chat.  we would talk about our favorite cupcakes and the very best frosting that could possibly earn the top spot on those treats.  and once we discerned that very-important-information, i would pose a question:

let’s say you have a small cup of frosting.   delicious, fluffy, sweet-as-can-be frosting.  it’s just a small cup – like the tiny sippy cups you drank from as a baby.  and you have a choice.  you can either frost one cupcake with that sippy-cup-full or you can frost all 24 of the cupcakes that are waiting on the counter from the oven.  which will you do?

my students, all brilliant cupcake-lovers and bright lights in the world, would sit and ponder for a second and then reply that they would frost the one cupcake.  otherwise, they would explain, the frosting would be so thin that you would barely know it is there, you would barely taste it, and it would be like there was no frosting at all.   and besides, if they got to eat the one cupcake, they wanted the one rich with frosting.  who can argue with that?

contrary to their belief that the ‘practice’ talk was over, i would clutch and shift gears back to the piano.  “if you have a little bit of time to practice and pieces of music that might be difficult to play, would it be better to hurry through every piece spending a few moments on each OR would it be better to spend that little bit of time on one or two?” i would ask (in student-age-appropriate language).   invariably they would frost one cupcake.

i believe the same applies to connection.  with the advent of the vast array of social media choices, we have applied an ultra-thin layer of frosting to our connections.  we have thinned out the time we truly spend on relationship – pure individual relationships.  we have, oddly, chosen to spend easily-addicted quantities of time and emotional energy on social media “relationships” with people we do not know rather than being in real touch with the people closest to us.  we expect those people to learn of things on outlets and from posts instead of simply telling them, picking up a phone and calling or texting them.

we are not connected to a network.  we are connected to a network.  both of these are true.

the question for me, one that i must look at as well,  is – how much time are we spending on that network, on individual people we love and care about?  is there any frosting at all?

read DAVID’S thoughts this NOT-SO-FLAWED WEDNESDAY

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it’s a strangely narcissistic world. [merely-a-thought monday]

narcissistic world copy

when i was in perhaps fourth grade i went to sleepaway camp.  camp koinonia was upstate ny and my bestfriendintheworld susan went as well.  we slept in bunkbeds in cabins that had screens as windows, ate in the big cabin that was the cafeteria, took hikes, swam in the lake, did craft projects and played kickball.  on one of our hikes in the woods we passed a tepee.  i wanted a full picture of this tepee so i stepped behind a big pine tree and parted the branches so i could take an artsy picture.  one more step back and i would be able to capture the whole thing in the frame of my pocket instamatic camera.  one more step….

i fell backwards off the side of the 30′ cliff that was behind that pine tree.  i was intensely lucky though, for at the bottom of my fall was a very large pile of pine boughs.  they softened my plummet down.

it is lately that we have seen more and more accidents that happen when people are not photographing a thing but, instead, are photographing themselves.  selfies are the preferred modus operandi for instagram, snapchat, facebook, your own camera stream of memories.  but people are falling and, tragically, they are perishing in their fall.  just to get a photograph.  the ever-important picture-of-self-to-post is heart-wrenchingly disastrous. maybe there is another way?  maybe it’s not that important?  or perhaps, if it really is that important, you could have eye contact with another person and ask that person to please take a picture?

there was a story recently that made me shake my head in utter amazement.  residents of a town in russia were flocking to a toxic artificial lake which had turned turquoise because of chemicals from a coal-generated power station.  they are hiring photographers, staging photo shoots, getting IN this water that is – knowingly- ridiculously harmful to the skin, all because it and its turquoise hue will make a good picture.  it’s a dumping ground!  what are they thinking??  i stood there, after reading the story aloud to d, shook my head and said, “it’s a strangely narcissistic world, isn’t it?”

i worry.  and, beyond a selfie-craze, i hope that there is a sharp turn away from the dominant narcissism that seems widely accepted these days.  if the point of all this – the world – was about any single one of us, i suspect there would be only ONE of us.  instead, i believe that the point of all this – the world – is about ALL of us.  it’s not just one, at any cost.  it’s all.  i’m hoping the cost of that – ALL of us remembering that it IS – indeed – all of us – doesn’t destroy us.  it’s a toxic lake.  we need to see it for what it is.

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