Category Archives: writing

How many more generations will it take?

For humans to stop harming each other.

  • 25 generations ago (500 years), Europe started plundering other continents.  The Spanish ransacked Peru, Mexico most of Central America and the Caribbean. They laid waste to the Inca and Aztec cultures and robbed them of their wealth. The British, Portuguese, Dutch, and Italians were doing the same in other lands.
  • 25 generations ago, in most of Europe, people were routinely killed by torture, limbs pulled apart, beheaded, or hung. Tens of thousands of women were burned at the stake in witch trials. Thousands were executed during what is known as The Spanish Inquisition.
  • 12 generations ago, the founders of the USA wrote the Declaration of Independence. In it are the words we often point to: We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,…..  Except that all men excluded Native Americans, Blacks, Women, and white men without property. All men in our Declaration of Independence referred to white men who owned property.
  • 10 generations ago, the French invented the guillotine, for a humane way of killing thousands. They stopped using this method 2 generations ago.
  • 10 generations ago, American Indians were thought to be savages. Blacks were slaves. Many poor whites were indentured servants, and women were second-class citizens.
  • During the last 20 generations, the US systematically annihilated most of the Native American Indians — all in the name of civilization.
  • 8 generations ago in the USA, we killed three-quarters of a million fellow citizens to abolish slavery. 
  • Only 4 generations ago, the Germans executed millions in the name of racial superiority, and
    • Japanese wiped out millions during what is called the Asian holocaust
    • Mao starved tens of million Chinese to death in his Great Leap Forward
    • The Khmer Rouge murdered millions of Cambodians in an effort to create a master race
    • The US dropped atom bombs on Japan, killing 10’s of thousands in order to save lives and end WWII in the west.
  • During the last 2 generations, there have been brutal and extensive genocides in Armenia, Rwanda, Bosnia, East Timor, Darfur, Myanmar, and others throughout Asia, Africa, Europe, South, and Central America.

In our current generation, one-fifth of the world’s population lives with a social cast system.  Yet there is outrage in the US when races and sexual preferences are not treated perfectly equally.

There is no justification for our barbarous past, except that it was the nature of our past.  But it may help to understand how long it takes deep-rooted prejudices, passed down through generations, to evaporate. Recent studies indicate that behavioral genetics may have something to do with this influence.  One perspective might be that we’ve come a long way in a dozen generations.

Nevertheless, it certainly seems intelligent that we keep trying to convince ourselves, through concerted civil discourse or even hard-wire adjustments, that harming each other, in any way, is not in our species’ best interest. The question is, how many more generations will it take?

At the show

I feel like I’m falling apart,
repercussions from life’s incidents
causing constant stress,

My mouth, neck and throat, speaking a language
I don’t understand.

When I’m smacked upside the head.

“Who do you think you are?
You, who can think, and talk, and operate independently.”

Startled I reply,

I am me. I’m supposed to be fully-functioning, in perfect physical health, not subjected to such discomfort.

Who are you?

I am slapped again.

“I am life and you are in the show.
When I let you in there were no guarantees.

Your small discomforts the price of admission.

So don’t fret, your performance will be over soon.
And the show will go on.

Best you enjoy your scenes,
contribute to making them better, if you can.

Focus on me, life as it is.
Sure, try and improve me,
but without but expectations.

And be glad you were given a part.”

Retirement part 2

April 13, 2019

It must have been sometime during the 3rd organic coffee colonic, on the paradise-like island of Koh Pha Gnan in southern Thailand, that the idea of retirement hit me.  Again.

It was my birthday, and I was three days into a nine-day detox retreat. My sister Susan reminded me, by text, of something our mother told us when we were kids: your birthday is not about celebrating your age, but rather your birth. 

Birth, I mused, and the cycle of life was indeed worth celebrating every step of the way.

So why  was the idea of retirement nagging me?  Did it mean to cease being productive?  True, it’s been about a year since I’ve done anything measurably productive. But then again, the last year hasn’t been without appreciable change.

Early this year, GV and I permanently moved out of NYC, our home for 17 years.  We had our household goods packed into a small, 16-foot container awaiting our next destination as we split to Asia for a few months.

We traded cold and noisy NYC for equally crowded and hot Bangkok (as a base) where we scheduled several back-to-back getaways in hopes of perspective widening.

Following a couple of weeks choking on Bangkok’s not-so-pristine air, and a week on a relatively secluded Indonesian beach, we kicked-off our quasi-metaphysical journey by scheduling a 12-day silent meditation retreat at a southern Thailand monastery.  We wanted to see if we could pinprick the murky world of enlightenment. One hundred and twenty-five other foreigners were doing the same thing at the same place and time. And it was damn hard. (The silence wasn’t hard, nor was it hard sleeping on a concrete slab with a wooden pillow. It wasn’t hard waking up daily at 4 am, and it wasn’t hard eating two vegetarian meals within five hours and fasting 19 hours per day.  It wasn’t hard sleeping with giant spiders or the occasional snake. The hard part was indeed trying to meditate 11 hours daily. But I guess that was the point. Time slowed to a standstill as I cheered forward each day.)

After a one-week interlude back in Bangkok, doing everything we dreamed of doing while on the silent retreat, we headed to China for a two-week moving meditation course, located outside Guilin. In a small, but popular local village, we dove into the principles of Tai Chi and Qigong at a traditional Tai Chi school. My head spun, realizing how much of a time investment it would be to (pretend to) master even the basics.

The third two-week stint took us to this resort called The Sanctuary, in southern Thailand, an island accessible only by boat, where we were participating in a nine-day detox fast.

As I lay on the enema table in a blissful, tropical environment with a tube in my ass, the reminder to celebrate birth, and the gift of life, poked me in the abdomen, while the notion of retirement kept pestering me.

If retirement meant being non-productive, i.e., not working, then I wanted no part of it. There was evidence of plenty (westerners) who had retired to this island and many like it. Indeed, we were thinking of making our new home in a retirement mecca known as Palm Springs, CA. On the outside, retired life seemed like a luxury.  But how could I do so little, for any longer than a blip of time?

Sure, retirement may be a relief if it means not having to slog eight hours a day to pay rent.  But there’s got to be more of a productive purpose to our entire arc of life.

I felt profoundly grateful for these rich and rewarding retreats. I was, after all, celebrating birth, wasn’t I?

So as the coffee-filled tube was finishing its job, I vowed that I’d find a new purpose. Retirement, while a worthy and even enviably phase of life, didn’t seem to be calling my name. With that thought, I abruptly yanked out the hose, vowing to soldier into a new realm of productivity — anything except retirement.


Experience of gold

I’ve been so free,
          For years,…just me,
Turning down many invitations,
          Those tempting me into relations.
Unwilling to sacrifice the freedom I selfishly behold.

Suddenly,…who is she?
          What could this feeling be?
I saw something in her eyes,
          Her face, her smile, each time a surprise
Wanting to capture,…to have,…to hold.

For the first time ready to share,
          A part of me I didn’t know was there,
Something kept telling me she was the one,
          A constant urge to give here everything,…the sun,
Willing to be true to her if I could be so bold.

But she always stayed far enough away,
          Confusing the direction, keeping me at bay,
Wondering how to control the passion,
          Caught in the grips of a strong attraction,
Sensing we were both of the same mold.

A compulsion had bloomed which was amply fed,
          Obscuring the path on which I was led,
Melting every time I felt her near,
          Uncertainly sure I could see things clear,
Suppressing the thought that I’d ever fold.

I started to question my lack of discipline,
          Thinking I’m crazy for this situation I’m in,
Was I deliberately not looking at the obvious?
          That she has her own agenda,….not this,
Unwilling to accept that the allure would grow old.

So many times I wanted to quit,
          Succumbing to a weakness I wouldn’t admit,
Blindly bending in any direction,
          Yearning for the next emotional erection,
Feeling the temperature warm-cold, warm-cold.

But it's time I let this dream alone,
          And try to understand what I’ve been shown,
Conceding that the trail is too elusive,
          The entrance too guarded, exclusive,
Hoping I’ll listen to what I’ve been told.

I’ve been captured by my own liberty,
          Unprepared for what the next curve would do to me,
The desire building from my imagination,
          A delusion of its own creation,
Alas, an experience I’ll treasure more than gold.

Freddie Spaghetti 
April 9, 1995

What inspires

What inspires
     fills the soul
makes us who we are.

And the wonderful (aspect)
      of humankind
      is our ability
                     to acquire
          in our mind's eye
   the agility
          the opposite of fragility
                    to decide.

  We only need to recognize
     out of desire
               ......not on a high wire.
Freddie Spaghetti    
Medellin, CO  February 10, 2006


Las semillas

Hay unas semillas creciendo
     Y hay otras muriendo
Hay unas que durarán largo tiempo
     Y otras que vivirán solo para el momento.
Hay unas semillas que serán unas flores
     Y otras que no tendrán colores
Hay unas con buena alimentación
     Y otras clamando atención
Hay unas que saben la dirección hacia arriba
     Y otras completamente perdidas.
Así estamos, en el mismo jardín
     Luchando para existir
Sin saber, cuando vamos a partir.
Freddie Spaghetti, March 11, 2007

Time off

It will make a dandy post topic, time off.  And I promise a talking point on this subject soon.  

Unfortunately, this week’s title is due to catching unwanted downtime, along with a tad of unpreparedness.  There is no good excuse for not doing something you’ve committed to do.  So if you check this blog with any frequency, then I’m honored and thankful.  And I also apologize for skipping a week, due to time off.

P.S. I’ve started wearing a tie while writing posts, invested in a new hairstyle, and had 30+ years of wrinkles removed from my forehead.

The Hacking of the American Mind — a review

Some may know the author from his book, Fat Chance, or one of his many youtube presentations about the compelling dangers from the dramatically increased sugar consumption in our diets.  In his new book The Hacking of the American Mind, Dr. Lustig takes a different tack exposing not only the complications of sugar and why we want more of it but also our appetite to stimulate the biochemical receptors that give us pleasure.  More specifically, the book is about the science behind pleasure and happiness, how most of us confuse the two, and how government and business knowingly blur the difference between them at our expense.

In January, I wrote a post entitled Accumulating Pleasure Moments.  At the time, I was treading the hazy space of fusion between pleasure and happiness without realizing the difference.  Pleasure, I deduced, could be the opposite of pain.

It could be a pleasure spending a day, or days, lounging on a beach. Or is that happiness?

Dr. Lustig goes into great detail to explain the chemical differences between the neural pathways that pleasure and happiness take.  Pleasure, it seems, evoked by a dopamine response, can fool us if we are not careful.  One of the downsides of constantly seeking pleasure, he says, are addictions, which in turn decreases our happiness quotient.

I’m not sure I agree with the author’s point that pleasure moments last for one hour then they are gone.  I was recently upgraded to first-class on a trans-pacific trip. The resulting pleasure lasted well over 16 hours.  Then again, perhaps I was interpreting the delight of the flight incorrectly.  Now I know to be cautious least the anticipation of an upgrade happens too frequently or I could become addicted.

In narrating, Lustig has a somewhat peculiar way of emphasizing prepositions at times, especially “the.”  But his passion for the subject is evident, and the net effect of his reading the book is a plus.  It was also reassuring to hear that even he has fallen prey to the grips of pleasure, i.e., coffee (daily) and ice cream (on rare occasions).  In fairness, he explains, pleasure isn’t all bad, and at times, even intersects with happiness (contentment).  But given that the dopamine effects of pleasure are so powerful, it behooves us to recognize its intoxicating influence, both physically and emotionally.

In short, I found the book highly informative and well worth the read, or listen, for anyone seeking to reap the benefits of pleasure and happiness by managing them so that the former does not dampen the latter.

Meanwhile, when I make it from point A to point B on my new commuter cruising skateboard without landing on my ass, I’ll be satisfied to be pleasantly content.