Posted on Leave a comment

I’ve Got A Towel in My Pants & I’m Not Afraid to Use It!

Getting old can bring with it wisdom, an ability to deal with difficult circumstances and a greater appreciation of the the value of human life.

It can also bring with it a lot of ‘uh-oh’ moments that hopefully are not captured by someone with a YouTube account and a large following.

I had one of those moments this week. Rather than hide it and hope nobody finds out, I figured I’d share. Laughing feels good.

I was at the oncologist laying on my back while a machine beamed radiation into my body in an effort to kill the cancer. I had to pull down my shorts to expose the area from my stomach to about half of my private parts. The technicians and nurses lay a towel across the area for which I am grateful. I feel a little vulnerable with people in the room, staring at intimate portions of my ageing anatomy despite understanding that it is necessary.

It goes fast, and everyone is kind. They know me by name. We talk a little before and after about common things. Still I pull my pants up as quickly as I can while trying to hide my discomfort. I’m sure they know but we tacitly agree it didn’t happen.

I am relieved and stop by Albertson’s to pick up some groceries on my way home. I look down and see a white square hanging from the left leg of my shorts. I assume it is my long underwear – the elastic is a bit worn. I look around to make sure there are no witnesses and pull up on the waistband but instead of disappearing up my short’s leg the square is now a rectangle. Confused I decide the white fabric waving like a parley flag from my leg must be a broken pocket. I stick my hand in my pocket, intent on pulling up the torn edge so it is out of view, but the pocket is intact.

And then it dawns on me.

In my haste to pull up my pants after my treatment I pushed the towel that covered me INTO MY SHORTS! Well what could I do? I now had about a foot of white towel hanging from my leg. I proceeded to pull and roll it as quickly as I could and stuck the resultant melon-sized bundle in the trash can. I didn’t look up but definitely heard snickering as I headed down the aisle to get some yogurt.

The next day when I went for another dose of radiation I confessed to inadvertently stealing a towel and when I told the story we all had a good laugh.

Posted on Leave a comment

The Porch

Photo by Lisa Fotios on Pexels.com

You sit in the twilight of a life
that is yet in the late afternoon.

The darkness you fear …
is but a shadow
cast by late summer clouds.

The wheeling ravens
you imagine …
Only brittle leaves
blowing in a steady breeze.

Do not depart
the pleasant porch
sooner than you must.

The falling sun
will paint the sky
in colors
unseen at midday.

From my account on Wattpad about 2019.
Posted on Leave a comment

Better Men Than I

Photo by Adam Grabek on Pexels.com

Better men than I now stand
with backs to gauzy veil
then step to mount
the feathered bridge
that arches o’er the dale

their feet once anchored by this clay
swift climb to lambent clouds
with shoulders wrapped in mystery
bright stars upon their brows

they shed the dust of mortal life
it drifts behind like snow
til joyously they stand at last
‘fore gates thrown open wide

by hands of those who went before
to welcome them inside

From my account on Wattpad about 2018.
Posted on Leave a comment

Winter’s Trail

Photo by Mau00ebl BALLAND on Pexels.com

When last you walk on winter’s trail,
and reach the highest snowy pass,
to stare beyond the veil of ice
at hidden valley’s wonder

You’ll have some time to turn your head
and read a tale of slips and falls
rime brightened and inked
on frosty Gaia’s landscape.

A life thus spied, from airy height
is given form by distance,
joys and regrets, once estranged
now bound like storied pages.

No single footprint writes the verse
that tells the traveler’s legend,
each choice, each deed
a word inscribed, to infamy or glory.

I hope that when you reach that place,
you’ll smile at what was written,
turn your heel, pick up the pace
and to far mountain hasten.

From my account on Wattpad a few years ago.
Posted on Leave a comment

GIGO & Your Brain

Photo by Eric W. on Pexels.com

I’m not sure if it was binge-watching season 4 of Stranger Things but I found myself thinking about the craziness of the world again and decided to pen a few more words.

I am convinced that we are victims of our own brains.

This is something I touched on here in an earlier post. We spend our lives gathering data, learning about the world, learning from other people, and building a model of reality. This unique view of reality becomes the lens we use to see the world. We are not reacting to the world so much as reacting to the model of the world we have in our heads.  I’ve heard this described as the ‘predictive brain.’

Your view through that lens may be accurate or distorted. It can guide you to do worthwhile work and help you to lead a happy life or drag you down a rabbit hole of conspiracy theories, fear, and rage. For the most part, the system has worked well for ‘normal’ people. And by normal, I mean people whose view of reality is good enough to be able to allow them to function in the world.

I’m not a neuroscientist or a psychologist so this is just my sense of things. But when I look at what is going on in the world it fits. Our brains have evolved over considerable time to function as they do. They help us to make sense of the world. To establish order. We make assumptions as to how the world works and when something violates those assumptions, we feel threatened and disoriented. Our understanding of the world may be shaken or even shattered. At this point, our brains may shift into a problem-solving or crisis mode as we try to find our footing or fend off a real or imagined threat.

There is more to unpack here but getting back to why I think we are victims of our own brains.

We live in a time when we are flooded by data. There are facts, alternate facts, information, and disinformation. We are exposed to charismatic and manipulative personalities whose views may appeal to us in ways we don’t understand, so much so that we adopt their views into our own models. Companies, political groups, lobbyists, and other powerful entities may hire psychologists who understand the way our brains work so that they can move us in a desired direction. Governments have long understood the power of ‘spin’ and use it to deflect blame, to hide the truth, sugar coat or demonize ideas. Hostile foreign governments are actively engaged in disinformation campaigns designed to mislead or to use the rifts in our societies to weaken us.

Our brains are absorbing all this data and trying to make sense of it. There is an old concept in computer programming known as GIGO – garbage in, garbage out. Our brain is a computer and, in this context, GIGO tells us that no matter how good you are at processing data, and how magnificent a model of reality you think you have, if the data is flawed, the output will be flawed.

There are a few things we can do to safeguard our minds and root out or correct errors.  The first step is the hardest and that is accepting the possibility that we are not necessarily right about everything. Then we need to reduce the barrage of data we are exposed to by limiting the amount of news and social media we consume.

Next, take a fresh look at your sources of information – are you blindly accepting information as true because it matches what you already believe (confirmation bias)? Or because you have been convinced that you are in imminent danger and some ‘evil’ group or individual is attempting to destroy your world (fear bias)? What is the basis of this belief? Do you have proof or is it hearsay, gossip, or a conspiracy theory popularized on a forum?

Don’t put anything into your brain unless you can verify it isn’t garbage. If in doubt, set it aside. Ask critical questions such as how likely it is that users on a forum or your friend Joe, discovered some massive government conspiracy by reading posts on that forum? Do the people making the assertion have an agenda? What is it about the statement that leads you to believe it is true? How valid is your reasoning?

Try to find a quiet place and let go of all the noise and chaos. Ponder, pray, meditate, play calming music. Take a walk in a beautiful natural setting. Do whatever you can to get to a place in your own mind where you aren’t driven by fear, or manipulation or your own biases.

Listen to people you disagree with. Try to understand where they are coming from. Ask questions without judgment. Be respectful. Consider the things you believe to be true, especially the ones that burden you, or anger you or cause you to be afraid.

No matter how clear the water in a river is, it can be difficult to see the bottom when the surface is agitated. Finding a quiet space in the midst of a chaotic world allows clarity. So go ahead, step down from Defcon 1 and take a breath. Go outside and enjoy the beauty of the world. Spend time with the family. Watch a funny movie.

 

Posted on Leave a comment

The Battle Nobody Wins

people arguing
Image Credit: Wallpaper Cave

If you think what I’m about to say is about you, it isn’t. I am speaking in general terms about the craziness in the world as I see it. We live in a time where posting an opinion on social media easily draws the ire of people who have become increasingly hostile over real and imagined offenses. Often the real offenses are magnified so much that something that should have been a conversation seeking a solution instead attracts swarms of e-warriors ready to do battle to the death. Nothing but total humiliation and destruction of our opponent will satisfy us. It feels like we are in a video game where people vie to score points against the cartoonish figures we create and label. We are good and right, and they are evil and wrong. Listening to people is too much work; instead we create our boxes and trim the people we disagree with until they fit in the box we have already prepared our arguments against. That’s what I hear when people say “the left” and “the right” and of course those who aren’t ‘left enough” or “right enough” are traitors.

When you don’t listen you don’t have to think. You make the people who disagree with your view fit in the box, then take your collection of rocks off the shelf and cast them at the enemy.

This seems like madness to me.

Posted on Leave a comment

How We Think


Despite what we think, we don’t usually react to the world around us. The ‘real world’. We react to the unique model of the world we have in our heads. Our experiences help build that model, as do any ideas and dogmas we adopt. We program our brains and then our brains react to events through that programming. This is the reason why people of different political persuasions can look at the same world and see it so differently, and why some believe in wild conspiracy theories that cannot withstand careful examination. We are, each of us, a world unto ourselves. There are some benefits to thinking as we do. We can process things faster without having to minutely analyze each bit of information in realtime. But it is critically important that we take care to evaluate ideas, especially those that appeal to our emotions, before accepting them, and if others have ideas which conflict with our own, we should listen and evaluate them to determine if we need to update our model.

Posted on Leave a comment

Well that’s a bummer…

It’s something we all know is coming but not usually when or how. Despite that we aren’t always ready for the words.

Today I found out I have prostate cancer. I recognized it was a possibility when my PSA numbers jumped from my previous routine test, and then the follow up test 4 weeks later showed the numbers jumped again.

I had a needle biopsy soon after and today got the call. “You’ve got cancer.”

The doctor explained the possible treatments and so far I’m leaning towards the radiation. I took some time at work, made a list of things that are supposed to have anti-cancer properties and placed an order on Amazon. I don’t expect a miracle cure but want to fortify my cells to resist Ukrainian style.

I’m not too scared right now but acutely aware off what this means. Time is running out. It is always running out but now I can hear the clock ticking.

My main concern is my wife. How will she handle it? We don’t have a bunch of money. We still rent and she won’t be able to afford the rent on her own. My term life insurance expires in two months so unless I die quick she won’t be getting anything from that avenue.

I need to live as long as I can, and I’ll burn the candle at both ends to set aside whatever I can for my family before I go.

I won’t pray for a miracle. My life is no more valuable than those Ukrainian children and their families who were senselessly killed this week -or of any other of my fellow humans who have gone before. We all walk this path from the moment we are born. I will pray for strength to endure. To last as long as I can for the sake of those I love. Hopefully I have enough time to do some good.

Of course I hope that my treatment works but I learned early that life is an uncertain road. It is rife with twists and turns and sudden drops but also with moments of surprising joy and light.

I hope you take that time to tell the people in your life that they matter. Love them while they are living. Tears of regret shed after they are gone serve no one but yourself.

That’s all for now. Let’s see how it goes.

Posted on Leave a comment

Where do we go from here?

Photo by Katie Godowski on Pexels.com

The last few years have been mad ones. Our interactions with each other, our national and international politics, COVID-19, Ukraine – and there is a load of other stuff tightly packed in and around those few. The world seems to be sliding off the rails. I hear John Noble voicing Denethor echoing in my head, “Abandon your posts! Flee! Flee for your lives!”

But where can we go?

We are all sailing through space, on a little glob of earth. On the surface of that glob are a few drops of water and the tiniest sliver of miraculous life.  The world is full of puffed up and angry people who imagine themselves giants when in reality we are all less than amoebas on the cosmic slide that holds the speck that is our Earth.

We should be working together to solve the great challenges of mankind. Each country has knowledge and resources that could fix problems elsewhere in the world. Instead we hoard our wealth and fight to gain power over each other.

Photo by samer daboul on Pexels.com
I speak of the human race as a whole. This may not apply to you. You may be outraged, hurt or even offended by my words. That is not my intent. The truth is that I am talking to myself on this blog to see if it is any better than screaming into the wind.

There are good people on this earth but the ignorant are louder and their words and actions are contagion.

If we don’t do something differently then one day we’ll be gone. Every one of us gone. No more spring time, or Mardi Gras. No more concerts, Marvel movies, good food or babies. No more of anything. Good, bad, famous, unknown, rich, poor, black, white, tall, short, talented…. none of it will matter.

What a terrible waste that would be.