Tag Archives: chickens

Love, Weather, and Mindfulness

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Sunrise

I recently saw a local production of the rock musical, Hair, which was a Broadway hit in 1968.  I first saw it in the early 1970s, performed by a travelling troupe in a “Broadway at Duke” series.  I liked it so much then that I bought the album, but I didn’t remember that the show was about a “tribe” of hippies whose leader, Claude, was considering burning his draft card in protest against the Vietnam war.

They use the word “love” a lot in Hair, and on this viewing, the opening song, “Aquarius” brought tears to my eyes.:  “When the moon is in the seventh house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars, then peace will guide the planet, and love will steer the stars.  This is the dawning of the age of Aquarius . . .”

It reminded me I have the moon in the seventh house and Jupiter aligned with Mars.  I didn’t know that in the 1970s, but peace and love are guiding principles of my life, although no one would suspect it, not even me, sometimes.

At the end of Hair, the protagonist, Claude, after deciding not to burn his draft card, gets drafted, goes to Vietnam, and gets killed.  I commented to friends afterwards that we have come no closer to peace and love since the 1960s and 1970s, when kids our age were so idealistic.  We as a generation have become jaded.  The death of our hopes may have been predicted by Claude’s death in Vietnam.  But the Age of Aquarius is just beginning, and astrological ages last 2000-2500 years, so there’s still time for peace and love to evolve.

A few days later, in Barnes & Noble, I encountered a cute black man at the condiments bar.  I was complaining about the hot weather. He said something about cold, and I said I prefer cold to hot.  He said it’s “God’s weather.”  Later I thought “How quaint,” but at the time, I replied rain and breeze are God’s weather, too.

Yes, it’s all God’s weather, even climate change.  As I’ve become more attuned to the infinite and subtle variations, moment-to-moment in the “climate” of my environment, I’ve come to appreciate how useless weather predictions are.  A 90-degree day can feel hotter if the sun is intense, the air humid and still, or even if there’s machine noise or mosquitoes.  All increase levels of discomfort.

I avoid thinking in terms of God, but it’s convenient for encompassing ideas of totality.  All-That-Is, Seth’s (of the Jane Roberts’ series) name, carries less baggage, and Westerners don’t understand the Oriental concept of qi.  For me, this totality equates to the energy of universal love, pervasive love, all-inclusive love—an Aquarian concept–but “love” is another baggage-loaded term.

According to Seth, to some Native American traditions, and to the mystically inclined, the weather responds to human thought and will.  In order to hone my climate-changing skills, I figure, my intent must be clear and considerate of all who are affected by it.  To pray for rain, as former Georgia governor Sonny Perdue did, could cause flash floods in the mountains.  To ask for weather that makes everyone more comfortable implies rain without telling “God’s weather” how to achieve it.  Cloud cover, breeze, rain, nightfall—all these make everyone more comfortable.

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Along these lines, I looked at a special issue of Time on “Mindfulness” and noticed this is the cover subject of National Geographic, too.  There is so much attention given to this lately that I find it amusing, in a smugly cynical way.  It smacks of “Agenda” from the urbanites, who are suddenly praising the benefits of office plants to relieve stress.

There were multiple references to “we all,” who feel stressed by competing demands on attention and how TV news is depressing, but “The Agenda” doesn’t suggest turning off the TV.  No.  Even Psychiatric News, which expresses concern about loneliness, suicide, and the overuse of social media, only calls for increased funding for treatment.

I also read some of the National Geographic issue on mindfulness.  The entire issue was apparently written by some life coach type who fills it with mindfulness rules, or guidelines that structure every minute of the day, from wake-up until bed.  While some of the ideas are good, the slant was one of goals and performance.  The practical value of hugging (releases oxytocin, the emotion hormone, we are told), gratitude, volunteering in the community, eye contact and presence were stressed. It impressed me in one specific way when it recommended being grateful.  Awareness of gratitude implies appreciating the things that go right and shifts focus away from worries and cares.

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Animals are mindfulness gurus, but nothing I read mentioned that.  While “The Agenda” wants to sell mindfulness through teachers, courses, methods, books, videos, and apps, I think about all the ways it can be incorporated into daily routine.  Brushing teeth with the non-dominant hand comes to mind.  This is reminiscent of Carlos Casteneda’s Yaqui Indian mentor, don Juan, who recommended putting on the other shoe first, to make a conscious variation in a daily habit.

Seth of the Jane Roberts series recommends bringing mind back to the body, even for just a few seconds, to generate a sense of safety.  It’s a way of grounding oneself in the moment in space and time.  I’ve found that sitting at stop lights can provide opportunities for taking deep breaths and consciously relaxing tight body parts.  It seems driving has become more stressful over the years, with traffic heavier and more impatient.  Mindfulness is watching the chickens, or the clouds, or opening my senses while shutting off thought, which is easier said than done.

I realized while reading that these authors are at least a generation younger than I am, immersed in child rearing, work and other commitments, and don’t have the luxury of laziness.  But people my age and older, too, are imbued with the work ethic, which never retires.  Even I have a compelling need to “be productive,” to “make good use of time,” to “accomplish.”  Even when I’m lying on the lawn watching chickens, I’m “being mindful.”  Mindful is an ant crawling on my arm.  Mindful is anything that makes me uncomfortable.

 

 

CDC/FDA Boundary Creep

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The Center for Disease Prevention (CDC) is raising national alarms about salmonella in backyard flocks of chickens.  It advises a washing hands every time you touch your chickens, and not keeping them in your house or around food.  The CDC goes beyond reasonable with some of its other recommendations, suggesting the bureaucrats who wrote the guidelines know nothing about keeping live chickens.  Salmonellosis is generally a self-limited case of diarrhea that lasts from four to seven days without complications, except in special cases.  Pig ears that are used as dog chew toys are also suspected.

This flies all over me, because the CDC meanwhile is advertising measles vaccines for children, within the same Yahoo article.  The CDC website at https://www.cdc.gov/salmonella/backyardpoultry-05-19/index.html gives the CDC’s version of the salmonella story.

I know something about chickens, having kept them for over 11 years, and I know something about salmonella, having gone to medical school, where I learned it is rampant in the environment.  My medical texts say there are over 1000 strains of salmonella.  It says “salmonellosis” is caused by inadequately cooked food, especially meat, poultry, and eggs.  Fruits and vegetables which are fertilized with animal manure are also implicated.  What the medical texts say that the government agencies don’t tell you, is that processed food is also a source, because the bacteria survives drying.  Incidentally, a dried taco seasoning distributed by Walmart and others has recently been recalled because it is suspected of containing salmonella-contaminated cumin, a spice.

I’ve also been tracking the FDA and its food scares since the E. coli in the spinach scare in 2006.  E. coli usually is considered “normal flora,” in the human gut and aids in digestion.  It only becomes pathological when natural barriers break down.  Antibiotic therapy, which is widely used, not only in human but in animal diseases and as a preventative, wipes out bacteria indiscriminately, but it never completely eliminates the pathogens, giving rise to antibiotic-resistant strains that then proliferate, with nothing able to curb them.  That’s why hospital germs are the most dangerous of all.  Methacillin-resistant Staphlococcus aureus (MRSA) is a universally recognized strain of Staph aureus that requires extreme measures to control, and it can be fatal.

Meanwhile, the CDC is busy promoting the measles vaccine, as a new “epidemic” of measles is sweeping he world, with pockets of outbreaks, we are told, among un-vaccinated children.  The controversy over vaccines comes in tandem with the explosion of patented, prescription vaccines for everything from flu to Zika virus, but the controversy is political, not medical or scientific.  While the medical or scientific institutions take pro-or-con stands, there is little in the news or from “educated” sources giving both pros and cons, and few (maybe none) who understand or want to understand the larger picture.  Or, it may be too early to tell what the ramifications are.

We are all caught in context, and predictions abound, but the past gives more information because we have a sense of the outcomes.  The bubonic plague, which wiped out a third of Europe in the 1340s and 1350s, was blamed on God’s wrath and witchcraft back then, but was later discovered to be carried by fleas on the rats that infested the cities and ships.  We still have rats and fleas, but we don’t hear much about bubonic plague anymore, partly because sanitation and nutrition have improved and partly because centuries if exposure have produced varying degrees of resistance.  Even HIV, which was identified in 1983, has evolved from carrying a quick death sentence to becoming more of a chronic disease.  While the advances of modern medicine have contributed to the long-term survival of HIV and AIDS patients, it’s also possible that the disease itself goes through cycles of infectivity and potency.

The media publishes federal agency press releases as though they are news stories, without question, investigation, or suspicion that they are anything less than gospel.  But federal agencies like the CDC and FDA are increasingly guilty of “boundary creep” by taking on more and greater advocacy roles for patented vaccines and other drugs, or alternatively, against small, independent food producers.  In the years I’ve been monitoring the FDA, it has initiated food scares over spinach, peanuts, eggs, cantaloupes, poultry, and pet foods, to name a few, yet while the scares make national news, precipitate food recalls, and have forced some companies into bankruptcy, the scares generally are hyped-up bluster over limited illness and almost no mortality.

About this salmonella outbreak that has killed two people and hospitalized over 122 in multiple states so far, any discriminating reader, especially one with a medical background, might naturally question how the CDC arrived at this reported chain of events.  How did they know the salmonella outbreak was “caused” by chickens or pig ears?  How do they know the hospitalized cases are even the result of salmonella toxicity?  The processes involved to isolate a pathogen are time, labor, and financially intensive.  Most cases of infectious disease are treated with broad-spectrum antibiotics.  Salmonella is so widespread in the environment that anyone with low resistance—as from poor nutrition, bad sanitation, antibiotic use (which reduces normal, protective flora), or pre-existing illness–might be susceptible.

If the CDC is truly interested in public health, it might do more to educate the public about the broader aspects of health, instead of pushing the panic button over speculative claims and unverified reports.

In my eleven years of hugging and kissing my chickens—they are very affectionate—I have developed some health problems, but salmonella has never been one of them.  I have minor scars on both arms from being scratched, but the worst is the deformed left wrist, which I broke when I fell chasing the fox that was chasing my Squire.

When I picked Squire up with my dangling left wrist, it was the sweetest, most healing hug I’ve ever experienced.  I didn’t stop to clean the mud off my arm, and neither the “health care professional” who wrapped it, nor the one who set it in a cast, bothered to clean it , either.

This is the institutionalized version of “health care” today.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Where There Is Love . . .

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Above:  Chicks Toozie and Speckles dirt bathing, January, 2012

I re-read The Four Agreements, (Don Miguel Ruiz, 1997) over the weekend.  This is one of many spiritual/self-help/philosophy books that I enjoy reading from time to time.  They remind me that all is not what it seems.

The Four Agreements is short and seemingly simple, yet it reinforces concepts I’ve read in other places, albeit in different words.  Ruiz begins by claiming we all live in dream worlds, both individual and planetary dreams.  He relates this to the Indian (Hindu, Buddhist, and others) concept of “maya,” or “illusion.”  He says our planetary dream is a nightmare based on fear.

The remainder of the book describes “four agreements” a person can make to break the grip of fear and create a heaven instead of hell on earth.  These are, “Be impeccable in your word; Don’t take anything personally; Don’t make assumptions; and Always do your best.”

Ruiz cites the “nagual,” which is defined as a person in MesoAmerican culture who is a ‘sorcerer,” who can change shapes.  It also refers to the great unknown, beyond words or description.  Carlos Castaneda also made reference to the “nagual” in the person of his Yaqui Indian mentor in his series of books about don Juan and his teachings. (

Having read widely and extensively about spiritual teachings over the centuries and across cultures, I find a commonality that affirms we are all spiritual beings, although the paths to understanding may be different.  The Tao of Physics (Fritjof Capra, 1975) relates Oriental mystical tradition to modern quantum physics.  Here, time and space are perceived as relative and subservient to the cosmic “qi,” or essence of everything.  Seth, in the Jane Roberts series of channeled books, corroborates this idea and goes beyond it, saying we are limited only by our beliefs.  He emphasizes we create our own realities and that “the point of power is in the present.”

All seem to agree that we change the world by changing ourselves and our personal beliefs.

Ruiz’ claim that the world is ruled by fear struck home.  As I grow older and experience personal health problems, I’ve had to confront head-on a belief system that humbles and challenges me.  It tempts me to give in to fear.  It comes from outside but it also results from beliefs I took on, maybe by osmosis, or by conditioning, as Ruiz asserts.  Everything from advertising, which exploits fear and insecurity to sell products, to media, which uses fear to promote sensationalist agendas, to religion, which uses fear to subdue believers, is based on the notion that this is, and always will be, a world of suffering.

Is it, and must it be that way, I ask myself.  The answer from my inner core and from all the spiritual guidance books I read, is an emphatic “no.”  We can choose to be happy, as Ruiz most recently affirmed.

I watched a red-winged blackbird bathing in the watering dish outside my window yesterday.  As he splashed around, flinging sparkling droplets in a wide arc, I had to smile and admire him for his ability to find such ecstasy in this simple act.  It’s easy for a technologically-gifted human to provide that opportunity, and it makes me happy to see him enjoy it.

I get similar gratification from watching my chickens take their dirt baths.  They roll and loll in the dirt, creating little nest-shaped holes in the ground.

How hard can happiness be, I wondered, when we have no fear?

I’ve heard it said that “Where there is love, there is no fear.”  Google attributes this to John 4:18 in the Bible, specifically “There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear.  For fear has to do with punishment . . . .”  I suspect this is not solely a Christian insight, as Ruiz also relates fear to punishment.

Then, I decided, once again, that it all comes down to love.  Even hate and fear are love turned upside down.

How to apply this understanding in a practical way remains a challenge for the “warrior” in the spiritual realm.

 

 

Freedom, Democracy, and Capitalism

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Tuesday, March 21, 2017—I’m a proponent of free market capitalism, in that I believe in free things, especially if they can be exchanged for money that helps pay the bills.  Chicken feathers are free, sort of, if you don’t count the cost of feeding and housing the chickens.  Chickens molt on a regular basis, and if their feathers are clean, they can be used in a variety of ways.

I wore this hat, with a Speckles feather, on a “bad hair day” last week, getting smiles and compliments everywhere I went.  At first, I didn’t understand why these strangers were smiling.  Once I caught on, I bragged about how Speckles is alive and well, clean and healthy, and produced this feather of his own free will.

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Pictured here is the same hat with a Squire feather, while the producer stands on his soapbox.  The mason jar contains yellow roses brought by dinner guests and wisteria blooms from the vine I’m training to block summer sun through the window (also free).  The other jar holds saved feathers from previous molts.

My little enterprise, which will never go public, has already produced two sales, the first to my banker, who bought feathers scattered in a plastic sleeve protector.  The second was a trade of a small bag of Squire feathers for a large carafe of saki.  A few more feathers are on sale at a local consignment shop.

Squire tolerates, if he doesn’t necessarily like, going visiting in the cat carrier.  My banker and bank staff fell in love with him.  Speckles might like visiting, too, but so far hasn’t had the opportunity.

My version of capitalism makes use of the wealth between my ears to create value from things other people take for granted.  Those who buy their chickens plucked and cut into pieces can’t be expected to appreciate the beauty of the feathers—individually and collectively—until they see them in different contexts.

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Those who disparage capitalism seem to refer to “corporate capitalism,” which exploits human capital to form a “corporate body” amalgam in economic slavery to the bottom line.  Here we have such monsters as “corporate welfare,” “supercapitalism,” the “global economy,” and eco-rape.  Corporate capitalism has a long history of emphasizing short-term profits over long-term costs.  Local, and now world-wide, environmental pollution, general vitality-depletion on the planet, and a world at war (or perpetually on the verge of it) are only a few of the long term costs generated by an industrial age gone bananas

And, by the way, the bananas, especially the popular Cavendish banana, are at risk, too.  I grow another variety of banana and had a bumper crop last year, despite two major hurricanes.  Another free market capitalist product, courtesy of freedom, democracy, and capitalism.

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The following comments come from my journal, ten years ago this month:

POWER ABUSE
Friday, March 2, 2007 – People who are raised or trained by power abusers don’t learn how to use power wisely.  Entrenched power abuse, as in the military or medicine, is considered normal for those in the systems.  The greatest ambition of the low man on the totem pole is to go from masochist to sadist, where he imagines he will respect himself more than he respects his bosses.

FREEDOM  AND RESPONSIBILITY
Saturday, March 3, 2007 – Right makes might.  It isn’t the other way around.    Self-sufficiency breeds freedom.  Taking responsibility for one’s own choices requires the willingness to accept and deal with consequences.  Criminals are soon entrapped in their own crimes, even if others never see.  A guilty man lives with his guilt and must face it, eventually.  His guilt lurks in the shadows, waiting for opportunities to right the wrong.  He can choose to restore balance consciously before he re-establishes it unconsciously through fear.
Thus did Adam learn the hard way that he couldn’t hide from God or his own guilty conscience.

HUMAN CAPITAL
Saturday, March 3, 2007 – Human capital is the most undervalued capital of all.  The social engineering messages—through laws, conventions, politics, media, entertainment and advertising–exploit this presumed advantage to everyone’s detriment.  Productivity increases when people enjoy their work enough to create a pleasant work environment.  This should be leadership’s top priority.  Pressure to perform, to grind an endless supply of boring and more boring, saps creativity, initiative, and ultimately, the economy.
When people wake up and realize we all bleed the same red blood, and the best way to live is to let live, we will begin to recognize the value of using our minds to work for instead of against us.  There is no mystique to psychiatry except self-knowledge.  My  life is my creation and no one can live it but me.  The best way to live it is to love it, in its many-faceted faces.
There is plenty of work to be done.  We have too many unproductive people, who want nothing more than to be fitted to the right job for them, and to earn enough money to support basic necessities and a few amenities.  More important, people need to be appreciated as human beings with human dignity and allowed the time and space to enjoy the fruits of their labors.
Everyone has a role to play.  A society that appreciates its human capital appreciates in value.  By fitting the job to the individual, rather than the other way around, everyone wins at relatively little cost to others.
Human capital is the only viable capital.  All other capital is derived from human desire and effort.  Once we place our values where they truly belong, with each individual, we can have a truly free, capitalistic, democracy.