Friday, January 18, 2013

Begin Within -- Writer's Poke #396

Is it possible that you have everything you need right inside of you?

Some of us might have special talents, and some us of might have developed our skills more than others. For a moment, though, set your talents and skills aside. Those skills and talents aren’t “you.” They may be a part of what others (or even yourself) use to define you, but they are not your essence. 

If that’s the case, then the question remains: what are you? You are a human being with needs and desires, and yes, you are an individual with skills and talents. But even more than that, you are a powerful force in the universe.

When I started writing, I didn’t mean to sound all “New Age,” but at least for a moment, stop and consider what it would mean if you yourself are the key to your own success. What would it mean if you are the one that can make a difference, and maybe make a difference for not only yourself, but for everyone around you – friends, family members, strangers, you name it. Are you willing to accept the role? Are you willing to make a positive difference?

The Dalai Lama states that compassion is the most important inner value human beings possess, and from it springs “the inner qualities of kindness, patience, tolerance, forgiveness, and generosity.” Do you agree with this view? Do you see any weaknesses in an approach to living that promotes being compassionate, say, above being selfish or greedy? If not, how might you be able to begin developing the compassion that is already within you?

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.” – Dalai Lama

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Borrowed Time -- Writer's Poke #395

A belief in the afterlife may or may not be natural. Like most parents, I’m sure, I’ve heard my young daughter talk about death, and she indicates no thrill at the prospect of dying. And the sign of a healthy mental state, after all, almost requires us to privilege life over death. Anyone who even talks about her own death is viewed as exhibiting a warning sign. 

Should it likewise be considered a “warning sign” when people refuse to believe in an afterlife? If we our programmed to believe in one, then not believing may suggest that something is wrong with our programing. Or, if the belief in an afterlife is based on one’s cultural values, then perhaps not believing in the afterlife is a reject of those values. Perhaps, then, such an individual or, perhaps even the culture needs some fixing, not the belief or disbelief in the afterlife itself.

Whether or not an afterlife exists, one thing seems certain. Our lives on earth – at least in our current bodies and with our current states of experience – are incredibly short. As short as they are, they still seem long enough for many to look forward to a new world or a new plane of existence. At times, it almost seems like people are willing to put whatever time they have now on hold, as they wait for the real experience to begin at some later date. Some, it seems, treat this experience like waiting at the airport – not their real experience, but one they will put up with to get to where they are really going. Or so they imagine.

If you have an extra fifteen minutes, how do you generally use it? How many extra fifteen minute opportunities do you think the average person has over the course of a lifetime?

“There is no heaven or afterlife for broken-down computers; that is a fairy story for people afraid of the dark.” – Stephen Hawking

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Cat-astrophe in China -- Writer's Poke #394

A semi carrying a payload of hundreds of cats crashed on a Chinese highway. These cats, worth a dollar or two a piece, were on their way to the slaughterhouse. Because, even though it’s taboo to eat cats in China, millions of cats end up being served for human consumption annually. This certainly brings a whole new meaning to “eating Chinese,” doesn’t it?

In the U.S., most of us are pretty boring when it comes to the meat we will eat. Most of us stick to chicken and beef and pork. Maybe a few of us restrict our pork intake for religious reasons, and a few of us don’t eat meat at all for personal or ethical reasons. But for those of us that do eat meat, the idea of eating cat probably never crosses our minds. When is the last time you thought, “Man, I’d really like some barbeque cat for dinner tonight?”

What we consider proper to eat is, at least to a great extent, a matter of tradition and culture. Is there anything wrong with eating cats? Although the cats might not like it, there is not anything “wrong” from the meat-eaters’ point of view. After all, cats are meat, and if we are meat-eaters, why shouldn’t we eat a cat now and then?

And who knows? Cat might be very tasty. How do we know if we never try a sample? After all, don’t we tell our kids, “Try it, you might like it”?

Would you be willing to at least try a sample of cat-meat stew? Why or why not?

“I love cats” – Dick Van Patten

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Tricked into Paying Attention -- Writer's Poke #393

A Civil War rages on in Syria. Meanwhile, over the weekend, the Golden Globes (sponsors by the Hollywood foreign press) rolled out the red carpet to celebrate the hard work of American actors and actresses, who, for the most part, tell fictional stories for a living.

On my facebook feed, The Onion posted this headline: “The 6 Best Dresses at the Golden Globes.” So, yes, I clicked on it, only to find, without any explanation whatsoever, six pictures from the war in Syria. The caption to each picture was apparently real, but taken from a red carpet picture.

The juxtaposition of the images and the captions was, well, quite effective. 

I’m not sure how The Onion got its name, but when I think of an onion, I think of something which is multi-layered -- something that tastes good on hamburgers. I also think of something which makes you cry when you cut into it, and makes your breath stink when you eat it.

All in all, a perfect name for a satirical paper.

If you’re like most Americans, over the past couple of days, you probably at least noticed some of the dresses worn by Hollywood’s top females. But when was the last time you took notice of the images coming out of Syria? Why do we have to be tricked into pay attention?

What makes satire (The Onion, The Daily Show, The Colbert Report, etc.,) so effective? Why are Americans apparently willing to get “real news” from satirical sources, but are not willing to pay attention to “serious news” from traditional sources?

“In times like these it is difficult not to write satire.” – Juvenal 

p.s. Just this morning, I read that a bomb hit a school in Syria while students were taking final exams, killing eighty. Should we feel comfortable in America celebrating and watching movies while parts of the world burn?