“Voices” of the Middle East

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If “Dysfunction knows no boundaries” , as I quoted in my last post, dysfunction is alive and well, and self-sustaining in the Middle East.

I was recently speaking with a friend about the current situation between Gaza and Israel, and cited a facebook post I’d seen where Jon Stewart was asking where the Gazans should go, as their borders are locked up by Egypt and Israel, and all that’s left is the sea. My knowledge of that part of the world is limited, so I began to research, beginning with geography and maps of the region, showing the locations for the Palestinians and the Israelis.

jews_stealing_palestineThe maps tell a very graphic and dramatic story of what some people would call a ‘land grab’. And just looking at the maps alone, it is evident that Israel has been pushing itself into Palestinian territories that existed long before the ‘nation’ of Israel was set forth following World War II.

Some people see the Israelis as aggressors toward the Palestinians, while others feel that Israel needs to protect itself from terrorism. In the larger picture, however, in my view, the story is one of displacement, pride, retribution, and hypocrisy. And pain. Lots of pain.

From “Googling” maps I found a web site that delineates the history of the Israeli nation and the policies that the United States created in dealing with the Middle East and Israel, specifically, since 1947. In her recently published book, Against Our Better Judgment: The Hidden History of How the U. S. was Used to Create Israel, former freelance journalist Alison Weir describes her journey in uncovering stories that the mainline media gave/give no attention to. You can read about her at http://alisonweir.org/welcome/

She writes, “Like many American policies, U. S. Middle East policies are driven by a special interest lobby. However, the Israel Lobby, as it is called today in the U.S. (1), consists of vastly more than what most people envision in the ‘lobby’.” And, “Components of it, both individuals and groups, have worked underground, secretly and even illegally throughout its history, as documented by scholars and participants.

Wikipedia offers the following definition of the Israel Lobby:
The Israel lobby (at times called the Zionist lobby or sometimes the Jewish lobby) is the diverse coalition of those who, as individuals and as groups, seek to influence the foreign policy of the United States in support of Zionism, Israel or the specific policies of its government.[1] The lobby consists of Jewish-American secular and religious groups. The most famous and visible group within the Israel lobby is the American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC). AIPAC and other groups within the Israel lobby influence American public policy in a variety of ways such as through education, responding to criticism of Israel, and putting forth arguments in support of Israel. The Israel lobby is known for its success in encouraging U.S. lawmakers to support the policies that it supports.

The history of the Israel Lobby goes back to the 19th Century, when Christian Restorationism became of interest to the public. The idea was to restore the Jews to the land of Israel, where they could be converted to Christianity. Another effort of Christian Restoration was to persuade President Benjamin Harrison to pressure the Ottoman sultan to deliver Palestine to the Jews. By 1914 American Zionism began to grow as Jewish Zionism. For more information visit http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Israel_lobby_in_the_United_States

Ms. Weir created the web site “If Americans Knew” to place her knowledge into public and social awareness. There is much information there, some of it from early in 2001. She writes a blog http://www.ifamericansknew.org

As a slight aside…When I was writing my post on “Captive Children and Boundaries” my mind went back to a song I learned to the words written by Emma Lazarus. Lines from her poem The New Colossus appear on a plaque placed on the pedestal of the Statue of Liberty.

Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed to me
I lift my lamp beside the golden shore.

Emma Lazarus was a Jewish writer, who later in her life became interested in her ancestry and began to support efforts to aid indigent Jewish refugees. She is considered to be an activist as a forerunner of the Zionist movement. She argued for the creation of a Jewish homeland well before the term ‘Zionism’ was coined.

I was going to use the poem as a mirror to U. S. citizens, asking “Do we mean it?” And then I wondered if it was really only meant for the suffering Jewish people in Lazarus’ heart.

The impasses between these two warring entities – the Palestinians and Israel – will only lead to more suffering, homelessness and death…most likely for  the Palestinians. And when they are all dead, they will be in the ground, the ground the Israelis covet.

Source for maps: http://whatreallyhappened.com/WRHARTICLES/mapstellstory.html

Captive Children and Boundaries

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With recent media attention to the wave of children fleeing their home countries to enter the U. S., I’d like to offer a  perspective that does not make the situation a crisis or catastrophe.

In psychological terms a healthy human has healthy boundaries. One knows who to let in, and who not to let in. One doesn’t invade others’ boundaries, or let themselves be invaded. I heard someone in a 12-Step Program say once, “Dysfunction knows no boundaries”. This is true not only on an individual basis, but also in a collective framework.

illegal-immigrant-children-Getty-Images-Omar-TorresThe United States, as a “collective” has invaded other countries and has allowed others to over-run its own boundaries. It has developed policies to control, manipulate, and punish, while giving aid to others – for accomplishing what agenda? The United States is “reaping” what it has “sown” with the recently noticed (by the media) influx of immigrants to its borders, including thousands of children. It should be evident to the U. S. Government that policies need to be changed to bring health back to the United States. And I’m not talking about the President. I’m talking about the decades and Congresses that have created this problem.

So now, what to do to about the problems the country is facing with all the people who have either fled possible death, or who desire a better life here? Blame is not the answer. Taking responsibility is the answer.

Tonight on “Arizona Spotlight”, a weekly broadcast on NPR for southern Arizona, there was a segment on the children who are in our region languishing in detention centers because they came to the U. S. illegally. 1) They are traumatized by their difficult, harrowing, and dangerous journey 2) Therefore they may need treatment for their psychological difficulties because of what they have suffered to get here. 3) The clergy wants to provide comfort and aid to their wounded souls through counseling.

I’m going to be a bit hard-nosed about this, even though I was a social worker for many years, providing child protective services, and still carry a soft place within myself for children. There have been many complaints across the country, especially where there’s been a great influx of illegal entry into the U. S., concerning the Federal Law and its lack of implementation by the Federal authorities. In this current instance, the Federal authorities have had to act, without adequate preparation for the numbers of humans they have to now contend with.

My view is that it is the Federal authorities who are responsible for providing adequate care for these children, without the interference of outside “looky-loos” and “do-gooders”. Yes, these children are traumatized, much of which they carried with them to the U.S. because of the situations in their own countries. Yes, they’ve been through hell, and deserve humane and compassionate treatment. And in my view, yes, if they wouldn’t be killed, they need to be returned to their homes in their own country.

Part of the U.S. responsibility in correcting its psyche is to acknowledge the poor policy decisions that created much of the consequences now being visited on the country. And part of its responsibility is to do its best to respond to the conditions it has created. Not everyone who comes for aid is legitimate. And there are limits to how much, and how quickly assimilation is possible for these newcomers from across the border. It took a long time to get to this point, and it will take a long time to correct things. Like turning a big ship around in a small harbor, one small correction at a time.

In the radio broadcast a psychologist stated concern for these children’s psychological health, describing what they may be up against – whether their experience is just a chapter in their life, or it is the whole book of their life, and how their experience will affect them in their maturity. Traumatized children will always carry the trauma – some will act it out, and some will heal. How does the U.S. want to deal with the possible consequences if these children and families (about one-third of the immigrants being held are families) are assimilated into the population?

The conditions these kids are in right now may not be ideal, but they are safer than they were when they were traveling. They are suffering, no doubt about it. They didn’t know what they were getting into. They are depressed, angry, grieving. Safety and comfort, humane and compassionate treatment – that is what is required. Bonding is not required.

The governments whose citizens these immigrants are from need to step up to the plate in assisting these children. Of course, these governments either don’t have the resources, or are too corrupt to really provide true assistance. Does Mexico, for instance, have a responsibility to turn them back, and create harmonious relations with its neighbors? How many children crossing Mexico’s border have been detained and deported from Mexico?

Sometimes the compassionate thing to do, when your boundaries are being pushed is to say, “No, thank you.” The U.S. has not done that well. It has said, “Come to the land of plenty”, “Live your dream here”. And sometimes when they come they find that there is no water in the desert.

And the other countries – are they thumbing their noses at the U. S. and saying, “This is the price you pay for what you have done”?

Photo source – “illegal-immigrant-children-Getty-Images-Omar-Torres” – found at http://www.alipac.us/f12/seeking-housing-immigrant-children-feds-show-up-inspect-fully-booked-resort-305257/

The Call

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Do you hear it?

How does one choose the organization, business, group, church, or educational system to support or the political leader to be one’s representative? So often voters choose their leaders by various criteria that have nothing to do with how well a person will serve the public. Electing a leader for an organization, community, town, city council, state congressional district or senate, who actually reflects their constituents, requires that voters practice discernment, patience, and a willingness to be open-minded.

earThe choice, the decision, is not a popularity contest. It’s not a beauty contest. It’s not a call to support all memes about taxes, gun control, women’s rights, gay rights, health care, foreign policy, climate change, religion, or any other issue you can think of that is placed before you simply because they sound logical to you.

It isn’t about giving loyalty to a cause or a person, jumping on the band wagon, because it seems trendy, or it seems like it will get you something your ego or image desires. Too often ‘causes’ are only masks for something else. How does one assess which groups or leaders to follow or support? The old “bait and switch” is still alive and well, when it comes to choosing products, services, or any kind of relationship. It is wise to be discerning.

The call is to think and do research, digging deeply, to find the truth that underlies these topics. It’s a call to support human rights, not the Right or the Left ideas of what that means. It’s a call to cull out of your own life, experience, understanding, your true values. Not the values of your parents, teachers, friends, children, clerics, or leaders, schools, organizations, religions, or others.

The call is here to redirect your attention and put your support, energy, and resources (i.e., money) in what you truly value for yourself and your loved ones (including your neighbors and community). It’s a call to be FOR something – a call to end wars against anything you can name such as women, Christians, gays, etc.

With clarity, and focus, and love, be FOR something. The more the focus is on being against something, the ‘evil’ that is the focus will grow. Grow the good stuff. Grow those things you are FOR. It isn’t about being blind to the things that hurt you or others. It’s about knowing about them and still going after what you find that is good, nurturing, and supportive of your life.

It’s a call to stop taking a victim stance about your life and your situation, and to stop blaming something or someone else for what’s happening. With the latest decisions of the Supreme Court of the United States (shortened to its acronym SCOTUS), whether you agree or disagree, find the place within yourself that allows and leads you to be FOR something. Do your homework, and support those who provide services and products with real integrity. Stop listening to the partisan BS and declare your independence!  Be all ears and come November, VOTE!

Note: I began writing this weeks ago, and had it just about finalized just before the Hobby Lobby SCOTUS decision. I didn’t realize how timely it would be for me to post now.)

Blog Hop – “Ah Has Spoken!”

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My friend and life’s co-conspirator, Jackie, er Jacqualine Marie, has invited me to a Blog Hop. This is the first one I’ve ever been invited to, and I wonder what the heck I am doing here. The initiator of this Blog Hop asked us bloggers to answer some questions about our blogging. Please visit the talented artists and writers who have participated in this Blog Hop, and offer your own voice to the Creative Spirit – Tammy Vitale Beth DeSombre,  Mo Davies , Margie Goodchild, and Jackie Baxman.

speech-bubblesSo to answer the question of what I’m doing here, well, it’s an opportunity to write – to write about something close to me. Myself. I write stories of my life’s journey. Isn’t that what we do when we write, really? Something even fictional comes from something personal to the writer. And we do like to be seen for who we are, even if only through the words we plunk down on a page, or a photograph or recording of our creative artistic endeavors.

The other day I listened to an audio on Memoir Writing. That’s what I think I’m working on, only it’s in bits and pieces right now, not organized yet. The participants in the audio suggested that when one writes a memoir, which is not the whole story of ones’ life, there is a life question that the writer is trying to answer. I hadn’t thought of that before, but it strikes a chord with me. Some of my story is the work of  The Traveling Alchemist. Wow, alchemy. That’s what growth and maturity is all about in my book of life. Refining the crap of my life into a golden tapestry. Growing a beautiful life from the detritus of a difficult beginning.

What am I working on/writing? – Ultimately I’m working on putting ‘the story of me’ into a comprehensive form, including facets from the genealogical records for my family that are pertinent to that story. I keep a journal, but not daily. I make notes and write about things on my mind, and phrases I like, quotes from things I’ve read; I sometimes make drawings of ideas. And I have lots of little pieces of paper with things written that I find from time-to-time to add to my collection of ideas. It’s all good for the process. Right now I’m not writing so much, as I feel I’m more in that process. When the Muse speaks, however, I’m listening, and absolutely MUST put the words to the page, and publish. I do know I need to be more disciplined about writing more often. Time goes on, and I know I might not…tomorrow is not guaranteed.

How does my work/writing differ from others of its genre? – Lots of writers write about their life, their experiences, their insights. I’m not sure how my writing is different, except to say that as no two people see things the same way, I have my own perspective on things, my own view. I can provide to someone else something they haven’t seen or considered before. I know I’m cut from a different cloth from most people – I think of myself as continually waking up, and I know myself to be unusual in certain ways, although in a crowd I don’t think anyone would really notice. I like to know the ‘truth’ – and I offer my knowing to others. Uncovering lies we live and tell ourselves and each other – that’s what I like to write about. And that’s why I created Views From the Edge.

Why do I write what I do? – I believe in personal freedom and personal responsibility. As an older person of the female gender, I have seen and experienced the inequality that our society continues to generate regarding women and children. I have a voice that took a long time for me to find, and I intend to use it. And if my voice is heard by even one person who feels empowered by it, I have been successful.

While I generally avoid mentioning  the deep struggles I’ve experienced, preferring to offer an overview of something that is in my consciousness, I will delineate those struggles in my life story. They are part of the questions I ask, and the answers for which I seek.

I experiment with my life. For a long time I wasn’t aware that I do this. My life is about trial and error, what works and what doesn’t work. This is true on a personal level, and also how I perceive how the world works. Through my voice I can offer wisdom about things in our society that don’t work, and offer suggestions for how they might work better.

How does my writing process work? – I experience my process as an ebb and flow. The ebb can last a long time, and then when the flow comes, it’s immediate. Sometimes when the world presses my anger button, the one that responds to ‘power over others’, I experience a rush of passion that I must give voice to. Sometimes I let it seethe, gathering energy like a volcano, before spewing forth what lies within me. And sometimes I mull ideas, philosophies, differing viewpoints, to come up with answers to my questions. I have seen myself sit on the fence, not wanting to choose, and often seeing both sides of things so that it’s difficult to ‘pick one’. Writing offers me the chance to clarify my values and to see things about myself and my life that I didn’t know were there. Just the exercise of writing something, anything, takes me to my inner self. And sometimes the words have a mind of their own. I begin to write, and the thoughts go in a different direction from what I intended. I’ve noticed that about drawing or painting, also. What I have in mind is not what comes out! But what comes out is the thing that wanted to speak.

If you are old enough you might remember Mammy Yokum from the comic strip L’il Abner by Al Capp. “ Her authority was unquestioned, and her characteristic phrase, “Ah has spoken! “, signaled the end of all further discussion.” (Wikipedia)

Well, let it be known that when I complete a blog post, “Ah has spoken!”

mammyalb

From Wikipedia: Mammy Yokum: Born Pansy Hunks, Mammy was the scrawny, highly principled “sassiety” leader and bare knuckle “champeen” of the town of Dogpatch. She married the inconsequential Pappy Yokum in 1902; they produced two strapping sons twice their own size. Mammy dominated the Yokum clan through the force of her personality, and dominated everyone else with her fearsome right uppercut, (sometimes known as her “Goodnight, Irene” punch) which helped her uphold law, order and decency- as she saw them. She was consistently the toughest character throughout Li’l Abner. A superhuman dynamo, Mammy did all the household chores – and provided her charges with no less than 8 meals a day of “po’k chops” and “tarnips”, (as well as local Dogpatch delicacies like “candied catfish eyeballs” and “trashbean soup”).

Mayday! Mayday! Mayday!

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plane-crash-300x336Now is the month of Maying, when merry lads are playing! Fa la la la la!
Each with his bonny lass, a-dancing on the grass, fa la la la la!

The Spring, clad all in gladness, doth laugh at Winter’s sadness! Fa la la la la!
And to the bagpipes’ sound, the nymphs tread out the ground! Fa la la la la!

Fie! Then why sit we musing, youth’s sweet delight refusing? Fa la la la la!
Say, dainty nymphs and speak! Shall we play barley break? Fa la la la la!

Years ago, when my children were young I felt highly stressed by the onslaught of all the ‘end of year’ events that a parent just HAD to attend to show support of his/her child – all the end of year school programs, concerts, recitals, church confirmations, Mother’s Day, graduations – all in the month of May. I hated to see the month arrive!

And in May 2014 I find I’m once again distressed, but in a different way. This month has been designated in several ways as ‘special’. Did you know May is National Mental Health Month, Military Appreciation Month, several food appreciation months, several health awareness months, and even National Masturbation Month?

This month a young man with mental illness and hatred for women killed his roommates and several others, before killing himself. The arguments about the ‘why’ are divergent. Is the mental health of an individual the problem? Guns? Social media, where one can join a misogynistic group that objectifies women? What about free speech? Does “anything” go?

In May we have a large focus on our military – those who died in wars, and those who have served, keeping their life, but maybe not a body part. We hail them as heroes, but do we really know what is happening in their lives – their physical and mental health, their financial hardships, their access to weapons, their problems with relationships?

It’s quite a juxtaposition of possible awarenesses. Where do we focus? On the “maying”, the end of winter and hopes of new life and new love, where all is sweet and sexy? Or on the devastation that comes when our society is so out of balance about its values?

In a metaphorical way, our society is crying “Mayday, Mayday, Mayday!” We are in distress. Our ship might feel like it is going down, and we are going with it. The term Mayday comes from the French, “venez m’aidez” – Come help me.

We do need help – and who will come? Who will be our savior? We should not look to others for our help, not to the government nor to God. We need to look at ourselves, and take responsibility for our lives. We need to wake up to the fact that there is no one who is coming to take our consequences of bad judgment away from us, either on a personal or collective level. We are fractured – we created that ourselves. Remember Humpty Dumpty? All the kings horses and all the kings men couldn’t put Humpty Dumpty together again. It is up to us to solve the problems, with compassion and respect for ourselves and others, and pull ourselves together. It’s time to stop the blame game. As Pogo said, “We have met the enemy and they are us.”

Now Is the Month of Maying
Lyrics by Sir Thomas Morley

Rewards From the Past – A Social Worker’s Story

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Mother and childcroppedThe other day my neighbor and her seven-year old son were visiting in my house. During our conversation my neighbor revealed that she had been adopted, after being placed in foster care in Pima County when she was seven years old. She is now 26, a single mother who, to my delight, could offer a positive outlook toward her traumatic experience.

She said that between the ages of five and seven she’d been sexually abused, and that her mother had been a drug abuser. She said she felt that it was a neighbor who had reported the abuse, and when the police came to remove her and her sisters, it was very chaotic.

I’ve been there; I’ve been the one to be required to remove children from their homes, and try to assuage their fears and tears as they are ‘ripped’ from the only parents they’ve known, even though they are incapable of parenting. It is heart-breaking. You know the children can’t stay, and you know that a foster home may not be the greatest alternative, but is the only one available.

I’ve been the one to offer mandated services to try to get the children back home, offer support and supervision to ensure the safety and stability of the home.  I’ve been the one to file the papers in court asking that parental rights be terminated for the purpose of adoption so the children can be placed in a new, stable, permanent, loving home.

My neighbor was adopted by her new parents when she was eight years old.  She loves her Mom and Dad. She said her abusers were convicted of sexual abuse and sent to prison, and that she testified in court against them.  Very gutsy young girl, and now young woman.

When I see how my neighbor cares for her child, and how her child engages so freely with me, I feel a sense of pride that I know that one child grew through the foster care system to be the good mother that she is. It could have had a much worse result.

So while i never really got to see how the placements I made turned out, I can know that probably some of them were also positive.  Through my neighbor I can see that what I did so many years ago was not in vain, although I was not personally engaged in her story.

I feel grateful for this gift – this knowledge that a young child did grow to adulthood, not without scars, but with perception, and grace, through a system that is sometimes so maligned when the public learns of a negative consequence. I’m glad to know that what I did was a good thing in the world.  When you are in the middle of it, there are many things happening at once, and doubts do creep in about whether you are doing the right thing.  I always tried to do the right thing…and I know I did more times than not.

Saying the Truth

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shoutcroppedI recently made a journey, a kind of quest, for a new beginning in personal relationships. As I traveled I listened to Tracy Chapman’s album, “New Beginnings”, within which is the song, “Tell It Like It Is”.
In today’s world, where cheating and lying seem prolific, this song is a reminder that we can only grow when we tell the truth about our lives, even if only to ourselves. We’ve heard that “the truth will set you free”.  When we stop hiding the secrets of our lives, and look honestly, without turning away, we will free ourselves from self-induced limitation.
Say it, say it, say it, tell it like it is
Say it, say it, say it, tell it like it is
What breaks your heart, what keeps you awake at night
What makes you want to break down and cry
But say you’ll never turn your bark
Say you’ll never harden to the world
Say you’ll never try to still the rhythms in your breast
Say you’ll never look at the evil among us and try to forget
Say you’ll tell it like it is
Say it, say it, say it
So everyone can hear
What breaks your heart, what keeps you awake at night
How your anger and grief make you want to cry out, and
Tell it like it is
But say you’ll never close your eyes
Or pretend that it’s a rosy world
Say you’ll never try to paint what is rotten with a sugarcoat
Say you’ll talk about the horrors you’ve seen and the torment you know
And tell it like it is
Say it, say it, say it
So no one can forget
Say it, say it, say it
Tell it like it is
What breaks your heart, what keeps you awake at night
What makes your want to break the ties that silence and bind
And tell it like it is
Say you’ll never cover your ears and close your mouth
And live in a silent world
Say you’ll only run as far or as fast as you need to be secure
Say that then you’ll tell the truth when a lie could cross your lips
And tell it like it is
Say it, say it, say it
Say it, say it, say it
Say it, say it, say it

Free to Be…Nude

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file0001820526865Yesterday I made my very first visit to a nudist resort. I’ve wanted to do that since I lived in Denver in 1999, but never got the nerve to go by myself as a single woman.

When I retired in 2004 and my then partner and I began traveling full-time in our travel trailer, we joined the American Association for Nude Recreation as a couple, intending to venture to various nudist resorts while traveling. However, my partner passed away a couple of years later, and we’d never been to even one.

I spent several years traveling solo and sometimes visiting hot springs where I could soak au naturel. And still I didn’t try visiting any nudist resorts. There must have been something in my mind holding me back – a kind of stigma, perhaps. As the world seems to still be set up for couples, somehow it didn’t feel right to go to such a place and be the ‘odd man (or woman) out’, so to speak.

Yet yesterday, after overcoming the initial feeling of vulnerability, I began to feel quite comfortable with being with over 100 people who also had no clothes on. When one is naked with others much of the judgment, comparison, and inauthenticity drop away. Yes, there were mostly couples; yet there were both single men and women of various ages, and a few youngsters.

When I checked in I was given a brief tour of the resort and some guidelines, one of which was ‘no glass containers’.  Well, I’d come prepared with some water and some ginger beer, which came in bottles. A member of the resort/club suggested that I ask for a cup from some folks at the outdoor bar.  Seeing that there was a stack of plastic cups on a table also containing snacks, I walked over and asked if I might have one of their cups.  And I also mentioned that this was my first time at a nudist resort.

Well, as it turned out, I’d stepped right into the space of another local club that doesn’t have its own resort, but has activities at club members’ homes and other private places. I was introduced to several members and given information about how I might participate in the club’s activities, and even join at some point.  And they willingly let me have a cup for my bottled beverage!

When one enjoys the nude lifestyle it seems that a desire arises for decorating the body in ways other than clothing, as well. There were several people with all-over body tattoos. And there was body jewelry, not only on the young, but also on older folks. I saw a woman my age with studded nipples and a man my age with a lock on his privates. And, to be honest, ever since I had gall bladder surgery last year, I’ve thought about getting my own navel ring! People, just being people, without clothes on…

When I was in the pool for the annual Guinness Book of Records Skinny Dip I met a single woman about my age who was with a group of nudists from Phoenix. They like the Tucson venue so much more than their ‘home’ resort, so they drove the distance to participate. This woman and I hit it off and we had a lot of things in common. I hope we will connect in the future.

The human body is fascinating, and so much ‘falls away’ when everyone is undressed. And I mean everything! Gravity does take its toll on the body – from saggy boobs to baggy scrotums! It was fun for me to observe just how different and beautiful we all are. Some tan, some white as snow from having no sun for years. It is easy to not be self-conscious in such a setting.

And one more thing. I’ve been wanting and seeking a male friend, partner, accomplice, ‘partner in crime’, companion to share my life with. So far none has shown up. So I continue to do the things I want to do even if I have no one to do it with. How can I have an adventure if I don’t step out to have it, even if I’d like to be going on it with someone I care about, and who cares about me? It’s risky. As a co-worker said many years ago, “No guts, no glory.” I find out so much about myself when I take that step!

Architect on the Edge – Paolo Soleri

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This morning (June 1) I’m sitting in the café of the world renown “Urban Laboratory”, designed and envisioned by the Italian-born architect Paolo Soleri, who died last month at the age of 93. After a restful night spent in one of the guestrooms, with the moon peeking through the narrow opening in th238croppede curtain, so I could see it from my bed, I came for a continental breakfast that is included with my room.

When I was a freshman architecture student I heard of this architect Soleri, whose designs were always avant garde. His vision was to infuse what we now know as ‘sustainable’ ideas into architecture and community planning. He was way ahead of the times. This array of structures known as Arcosanti comprise a working community, where the vision is always under construction. It was begun in the 1970s in the high desert of Arizona about 60 miles north of Phoenix.

Anyone can Google the name of this place and its designer to learn all the fascinating details about the philosophy and construction principles. I’m more interested in describing the ambiance, livability features, and the people who ‘inhabit’ the place.

331Arcosanti is built on the edge – the edge of a mesa that overlooks a ravine and another mesa. It faces south to take in the sunlight in the winter. There are overhangs that shade the rooms in the summer. There is no air conditioning. From my room on the lower level there is a rise of a couple of hundred feet to the dining area. Everything is ‘stacked’, much like pueblo architecture, and it takes effort to climb from the lowest level to the upper one.

Outside my room, which is in a line of several guestrooms, is a walkway, from which the hill ‘falls away’ where terraces are being built to house plants to be covered by a greenhouse. This is the focus of the current construction on the site. Because all the work is done by a few on-site residents and workshop participants it’s a slow evolution into the final creation.  

256croppedMy room was simple, concrete walls, floors and ceiling with a tile shower/toilet area, separate from the sink, which was in an alcove. I was fortunate to have a private bath as other guestrooms share bath facilities. The bed was a comfortable double with simple wool blankets for those cool (cold) nights. I was so pleased to be able to sleep in a bed after nine nights camping in the back of my vehicle! There was one floor lamp and a desk and chair. The closet was functional, made of simple materials. And the art was on the ceiling. What else could one need?

Dinner was well-rounded, mostly vegan in nature. Soup, pasta salad, fish, two veggies, and green salad, with drink – all for $7.50. Most of the faces at dinner, either eating or working, were young, college age. These young people were dressed and ‘coiffed’ in counter culture expressions, including one young man who apparently liked the look of Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies, with eye liner. There were dreadlocks and probably an average of one tattoo per person – some having none, some having more. Several of these young adults are in an entertainment troupe and they are scheduled to perform later this month. 

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The climb from my room to the dining level was quite something. After walking around in the Grand Canyon my feet were plenty sore, and my knees were aching. I took my time and let the whole experience and environment sink in as I approached. It felt a little like a pilgrimage. The views and the plants and trees provided a sense of rest and relaxation. It was very peaceful.

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Mr. Soleri had a vision, but he did not consider himself a visionary. In fact, he hated to be called that. Doubtless he struggled to bring his dream to fruition, as it’s been over 40 years since Arcosanti was begun, and its construction has been so slow. Soleri walked his talk. He never made a lot of money as an architect; he never really engaged in the typical architectural practice, instead relying on the sale of his clay and bronze wind bells to fund much of his work. Even today Arcosanti’s funds rely primarily on the sale of the bells and tourism.

291Fired clay bell manufacture area

338Bronze bell foundry

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Arcosanti offers workshops for those who want to learn about construction, the techniques for making the bells, and who wish to offer their skills to add another small part to the whole. Several of the staff have lived on site for many years, and others who wish to do so may inquire. Arcosanti is a human urban experimental environment in community living that places ideas needed today into practice.  For some it may seem a bit counter-culture and futuristic. I guess you could say that. For more information, http://arcosanti.org/

277Amphitheater where cultural events happen

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Mental Health for Children

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2554I don’t really like posting on both of my blogs on the same day. I don’t want to bore my readers who read both of them. But as I’m getting ready to travel and may not have another chance for a while, I’ve decided to go ahead.

This week my attention has been drawn to the issue of children’s mental health. First there was a post on my facebook feed about why children in France don’t have ADHD.

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/suffer-the-children/201203/why-french-kids-dont-have-adhd

http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/suffer-the-children/201209/why-french-kids-don-t-have-adhd-part-2

These articles in Psychology Today make the point that French children are raised in different ways that help them have self-control, and that remove them from some of the technological distractions that many children in the United States are allowed within their developmental environments.

Then there was the reporting of the publishing of the new DSM-5, the bible of psychiatry and psychology in the United States (at a list price of $199). There has been some discussion about this new publication being about the money – the money that psychiatrists and psychologists will earn in diagnosing and treating children (and adults) for the new trending mental disorders, not to mention that they will pay $149, and more, for each copy they order. With more mental disorders listed in this volume, there will be more ways to diagnose some behavior that might be the least odd, or disruptive.

http://www.dsm5.org/about/pages/dsmvoverview.aspx

And then there was my wondering whether Human Design has anything to say about children and their psychology. I’ve not studied “Rave Psychology”, which would address this, but it seems to me that if we can accept that each human being has a design with a purpose, our current scientists may need to look at ‘anomaly’ children with a different perspective.

What if there is nothing ‘wrong’ with our children who have these anomalies that we just don’t understand? What if educators and psychologists could reframe their reference points for ‘normal’? Yes, it’s hard to have a child or two or three in a classroom who is ‘different’, whose needs require something not in the status quo setting. Perhaps shifting the status quo would work better. But, no, that can’t be done – there are rules, guidelines, curriculum requirements and standards that have to be followed.

Anyone who really knows me knows that I am one for eliminating the status quo if it isn’t working. Yes, change is usually a challenge, and not fun. But what if we could look at it as fun, something creative, maybe even ‘off the wall’, or ‘at the edge’? What if we looked at these children not as ‘difficult’, a ‘challenge’, defective, or ‘weird’, but as gifted in ways that are not what we expect?

I’m skeptical. I’m skeptical whether the new disorders are really disorders or just a part of our human evolution with its idosychrases that we just don’t recognize or understand. I’m concerned that children who receive a diagnosis still get ‘labeled’ and become stigmatized as another form of abuse. I’m concerned that the psychiatric community supports, through its behavior, the status quo of mental health treatment and education.

We still have much to learn about child development, the brain and neurology, and psychological and cultural influences on conditioning behavior. Before a diagnosis is made perhaps it would be important to ask other questions that haven’t been asked so far. I have always believed that a person’s behavior comes from somewhere, for some reason. Finding the reason, the real reason, would be helpful, before a diagnosis and medication are offered to subdue ‘symptoms’.