Carbon copy

Sometimes it feels that all we are doing is copying each other. We copy style, ideas, and ways to think. We copy so much that we’ve copied our whole lives.

We have copied for our entire lives.
We have copied our lives, entirely.

Nothing is original about our lives when we copy.

After a while we have copied each other so much that we stop being anything at all. Have you ever seen a Xerox copy of a copy of a copy? After a while it stops looking like anything at all. It starts looking like a big mess. There are dots everywhere that weren’t there before.

White people in Western culture have started to think that they need to be Native American or Indian or Chinese or Tibetan. They don’t like their own culture and so they try and emulate another culture. They do this with clothing, with art, with music, with food. Perhaps they think they are showing respect to the other culture by adopting it.

I know, I’ve done this.

Meanwhile the other cultures are trying to emulate Western culture. They dress like us, watch our TV shows and movies, and have even started to try to look like us. Asian girls are getting plastic surgery on their eyes to look more Western and less Asian. There are products in India and Thailand to bleach the skin so they are more white.

We are trying to be them, and they are trying to be us. At what point are we going to meet in the middle? Then we won’t be anything at all.

Perhaps it is best if each person finds her own path. Stop trying to create it from someone else. Stop even trying to make it from your own culture.

Perhaps we need to stop faking it
so we can make it.

We need to start making it so that we are actually ourselves for a change.

Look at plastic surgery in general. What does “normal” look like anymore? Too tall? Too short? Too fat? Too skinny? Boobs too big/small? Butt too big/small? Eyes are too blue/brown/green?

You can “fix” that. But it isn’t a fix. It is a fake. You aren’t broken.

Eventually we will all have homogenized ourselves into one big mess of nothing.

Be yourself. Don’t copy anybody.


There is an advantage in being disadvantaged.

Remember the story of the tortoise and the hare? The tortoise won because he kept going. The hare thought he had it made, so he didn’t try.

I see so many American parents not take the time to shape their children. They let them read or watch whatever they want, and it never is educational. They don’t take the time to work with them.

Then there are the foreign parents. They are getting educational materials for their children, even the toddlers. Their kids are expected to learn, and learn they do.

The problem? “We’re number one!”

We aren’t. We are number one in complacency and in blaming other people for our problems. We may not be number one in unplanned pregnancies, but we are far higher than any other developed nation. Our ratio of spending for military versus education is ridiculous. We may be number one in that.

This is not something to be proud of.

We think we are the best, so we don’t try. We don’t educate ourselves or our children in any real way. We teach them to pass tests, not to think.

Being second means you try harder. Being first means you rest on your laurels. Or pound your chest.

Learned helplessness – victimhood and the Siren song.

Learned helplessness is a terrible thing.

Thinking you are a victim makes you so.

Blaming others for your sad state of affairs keeps you trapped there.

Whether you think you can, or you think you can’t, you are right.

I knew a lady who once complained that there was a roach in her house. She was concerned about how filthy and dirty they are. She said that she was so upset about it that she had to have a smoke. I told her that the cigarette would cause her far more damage to her health than the roach. She got very angry with me and then told me that my saying that made her have to smoke even more.

It has to be terrible to live your life like a puppet.

I did not make her smoke. I did not force her to do anything. That was her choice.

Look at the Nazis. They said they had to commit all those atrocities because otherwise they would be killed. But it is better to die clean than live dirty. They made their choice.

To smoke is to commit an atrocity against yourself.

I knew a guy who weighed over 500 pounds. He said that he couldn’t help it. Everybody in his family was that large. If everybody in his family was as inactive as him, it makes sense. He even had a free membership to the Y and spent his whole time either drinking coffee or floating around in the pool. There were many opportunities for him to get healthy and he chose to not take them. He ate terribly, he refused to exercise. He acted as if he had no choice in the matter. That too was his choice.

It is all about choices. Sometimes people make bad choices. Then there are repercussions. It isn’t fate. It isn’t being unlucky. It is a direct correlation to an action or inaction.

You reap what you sow. If you don’t sow anything, you don’t reap anything. Simple.

I knew a guy who said that he wanted to quit smoking. And then he took another puff of his cigarette. If you want to quit smoking, quit smoking. Really. You are the one buying the cigarettes, lighting them, and bringing them up to your mouth and inhaling. These are all conscious acts. It is all something you are doing. It isn’t something that happens to you. It is your choice.

Whatever you want to be, you have to do. If you want to be healthy, you have to do the things that healthy people do. You have to eat healthy food. You have to eat a reasonable amount of it. You have to exercise daily. You have to get enough sleep.

You can’t wish it into being. You have to do it.

To get jealous of someone who has something you don’t is to paint yourself as a victim. It is in fact why you don’t have what they do – because you have given your power away. You have said that you can’t do it. You have chosen that.

You will either find a way or find an excuse.

Look at what you can do and do it.

I used to be obese. I used to smoke pot daily. I used to smoke clove cigarettes. I wallowed in my helplessness.

I remember one time I decided to at least slow down on my pot smoking. I put the supplies in a plastic bag and sealed it with rubber bands. I put it up in my closet. I had to get a chair to pull it down. It took me quite a bit of time to get to it.

Then I’d climb up there and pull it all apart, and smoke anyway. All along I felt helpless, in the thrall of my desire for that drug. I’d feel guilty and upset and angry at myself. But I’d seal it up again, and it would slow me down a little. That step alone was a step towards getting free.

No change happens immediately. It is all made of little steps.

I even moved two hours away from the person I bought pot from so that it would be harder for me to smoke. I had to drive a long way to get pot. I did that on purpose, to make it harder for myself. That too was a step.

Lao Tzu says that the journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step. And then there is another step. And another. You just have to keep walking towards your goal, one step at a time.

I remember one time I was making a rosary. I worked on it a little. Then I put it aside. A lot of time went by and I didn’t work on it. But then when I came back to it I realized that all the work I had done was still there. It hadn’t lost anything. So I added to it.

Positive actions towards a goal are the same.

You don’t abuse drugs, or food, or sex, or whatever. You abuse yourself. You are insulting your soul. You are abusing the gift that God has given you.

Look at Ulysses. He wanted to hear the sound of the Sirens. He knew that hearing it might drive him insane. He told his men to put wax in their ears so they would be safe, and to tie him to the mast so he couldn’t jump into the sea and drown.

Our addictions are like the Siren song. They draw us away from our rational selves. When we are sober, when we are free of the pull, we have the chance to make a decision to make it harder on ourselves to succumb.

My putting the supply of pot further away from myself was my lashing myself to the mast. It slowed me down and made me think. Ideally, yes, I would have thrown it away. At times I did that too, and I just bought more. At that time, I thought I could control it. Just like Ulysses, I wanted to hear that Siren song, just not succumb to it. It is a dangerous game.

Jesus says in Matthew 5:29-30 (ESV)
29 If your right eye causes you to sin, tear it out and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body be thrown into hell. 30 And if your right hand causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away. For it is better that you lose one of your members than that your whole body go into hell.

Sometimes we have to make hard choices in order to get healthy.

It is hard to be addicted, but it is still a conscious choice. The addiction is like nothing else. It consumes you. Ideally, it is better to not start. I don’t think anybody will ever tell you that smoking cigarettes, doing drugs, and eating junk food is good for you. We all delude ourselves when we think we can do these things and not get hurt. But if we do succumb, and fall into that pit, there is a way out.

It is step, by step, by step.

But first you have to stop being a victim.

I knew a guy who abused prescription drugs. They weren’t even his drugs. It wasn’t an accident. He didn’t develop an addiction from taking a prescription drug that was for him. He voluntarily and soberly took the first pill or four. He wasn’t an addict when he started.

He knew the risks. He thought it couldn’t happen to him. He thought he was special.

He ended up going to rehab twice. His wife left him. His brother started abusing drugs along with him. His father got sick from all the stress. And then he actually had the nerve to say “Why does all this bad stuff keep happening to us?” and “Why does God hate us so much?”

This passive attitude was the reason he was in that mess. He was the cause of all that mess, not God.

We are the cause of our own problems – not others. We are the solution too, not others.

Survey – the questions are all wrong.

My afternoon was interrupted by a survey call a week ago. I informed the guy that I’m on a “no call list” but he told me that my opinions matter, so I went through with it. In a way I wish I hadn’t. I learned that my opinions only matter if they fit in the boxes he had to tick off his survey.

He said that the survey would only take a few minutes. When it was over, half an hour was gone. Perhaps he was lying about it taking a short time just to get me to do it. Perhaps it took so long because the questions were all wrong.

The survey was about reducing America’s dependence on foreign oil. The choices were using more ethanol or fracking.

I of course am opposed to fracking, for numerous reasons. It poisons the water supply, it harvests yet another non-renewable resource (natural gas), and the product itself is dangerous and hard to transport. Natural gas isn’t the answer, and in order to use it for our cars we’d all have to buy new ones. You can’t get more wasteful than that. What would we do with all the old ones that won’t work anymore?

But I’m opposed to ethanol too. The more land we use to grow corn for ethanol is less land we use to grow food for people. Empty stomachs rate higher than empty gas tanks.

At one point he said as part of the survey that the corn used for ethanol wasn’t the same kind of corn used to feed people – and that it was also used to feed cattle. I had even more problems with that. Cows aren’t meant to eat corn. They develop E-coli in their guts when they eat that. It isn’t how they are designed. They are meant to eat grass. But then, that isn’t even the point. Again, there is a distraction there. The more meat we eat, the more unhealthy we are. Skip the whole issue about feeding corn to cows. Skip the cows entirely.

See my frustration? No matter what he said, it was wrong.

So, what about ethanol? It isn’t oil. We would reduce our “dependence on foreign oil” and “become more independent” as he said. Ethanol isn’t an efficient fuel. For many older model cars, just using it voids the warranty. It is a cheap filler.

So from my perspective, he was asking the wrong questions. Really, if we want to become less dependent on foreign countries by our need for oil, we need to stop using up so much energy.

My husband takes the train or the bus to work. Mass transit is more efficient. It is better to use one vehicle to take forty people to work than forty vehicles. When the weather is nice he takes his bike. As for me, I bought the house close to work. It is a short drive. Not only am I saving fuel, but time.

Both of us fill up our gas tanks only once a month. It isn’t everything. Everything would be not using gasoline at all. Because of how American neighborhoods are laid out, that is nearly impossible. The grocery store is too far away to bike to and get everything. We drive as little as possible, being mindful of combining errands and catching rides with friends if we are going to the same events.

It is something, and something counts. We are reducing our use.

Better than that, we as a culture need to start using renewable resources. Solar. Wind. Water. Oil and natural gas will be used up. Probably not in our lifetime, but does that matter? We need to think about future generations. What are we leaving our children, and their children? An empty husk of a planet? We had the party and left them the mess to clean up.

The guy administering the survey was just reading off the script. I had a hard time with them because they weren’t the right questions. If the choice is get more oil or go for more ethanol or go with fracking, it is still wrong. I argued with the questions in my frustration. There simply wasn’t a way to answer the questions the way he was asking them. I could tell he was trying to shoehorn me. I kept questioning. I kept getting frustrated.

I doubt I woke him up. I doubt he was even listening to what I was saying, because I wasn’t really answering his questions. The call “was being monitored for quality assurance purposes”, but even then I doubt I was able to wake the monitor up and make him think. I’m pretty sure they think I’m another quack who just doesn’t understand the questions. The problem is that I understand them too well.

I’m pretty sure my answers are being tabulated and calibrated and measured and made to fit whatever theory they had before they even started calling people. Surveys don’t prove anything. If you know what you are doing, they can mean anything you want them to.

I wish I’d not even talked to him. I feel like I wasted my time. I feel like my personal space was invaded for half an hour. To let someone talk mindlessly at you on the phone is just as invasive as letting them in your house. It is all space.

Irish day

I don’t understand how St. Patrick’s Day has gotten equated with getting drunk. But then again, to be fair, every holiday in America is equated with that.

Cinco de Mayo and St. Patrick ’s Day are both ethnic holidays where people who aren’t even of that ethnicity get roaringly drunk. People who don’t even know anything about the culture before they start to drink get so bombed that they don’t even know anything about their own culture by the time they are done. But it isn’t just these holidays. New Year’s, Fourth of July, Labor Day, Memorial Day – you name it, if there is a holiday, Americans are drinking to it.

Perhaps we collectively have a holiday problem. Perhaps we are just so wound up from our jobs and our families and our lives that we have to escape, at least mentally, every time there is a holiday. Perhaps we need to create lives that don’t need to be escaped from. This doesn’t mean we need to get a better paying job or a bigger house or more friends. This means we need to start appreciating what we have now.

I’m reminded of the story in Exodus, of the Israelites escaping from Egypt. They were slaves in Egypt, but now they are free. They are grumbling to Moses about how they don’t have any food in the desert. They say they were better off in Egypt, that at least they had meat. Right now they have almost nothing, just this crazy manna that shows up every morning. It isn’t what they want. It is filling, and it provides energy, but it is boring. They complain, and Moses complains to God. God thinks they are ungrateful and sends enough quail that they are up to their knees in the birds. They gorge on the quail and get very sick. They never ask for meat again. It doesn’t mean that they don’t ask for anything else – but on that, they’ve learned their lesson.

To me, St. Patrick’s Day is about celebrating the persistence of the heart of Celtic life amidst adversity. The Irish suffered greatly at home and in America a century ago. They were the “immigrant problem” of the time. To be Irish is to endure despite hardship, and to keep your Self intact amidst a culture that wants you to assimilate.

This is something that transcends culture and ethnicity. For all of us who are staying true to your inner Being and not yielding to a culture that tells you to buy more, be mindless, to not care – you are Irish, regardless of your ethnicity.

St. Patrick’s Day isn’t a drinking holiday. It is a holiday about persistence and endurance. It is an Exodus story. It is about finding a safe place to be. Let us remember everything we have gone through to get where we are. Let us not make “here” another “there” that has to be escaped from.

Chain link life

What all forms of cancer are caused by something as simple as a virus? Scientists have already found that some forms of cancer are. What if that is the answer to all of it? What if, years from now, you can get a shot to prevent cancer the same way you can get a shot to prevent chickenpox? What if it really is that simple and we’ve been making it too hard?

But until scientists figure that out, we have to take care of ourselves.

I think there is nothing inevitable about family history. Sure, my Mom died of lung cancer and her Mom died of a heart attack. But both of them smoked cigarettes and neither of them exercised.

Illness is just looking for an opportunity to get in. Whatever your genetic history, it is like a chain link fence. Some of the links are weak. Wherever they are weak results in whatever disease your family tends to develop.

Cancer, diabetes, high blood pressure – all of these are robbers trying to break into your defenses. All of them are looking for a way to sneak in and steal your most valuable possession – your health, or even your life. It is literally a life and death struggle, and if they win, you lose.

So you have to strengthen the gates. You have to do what is in your power to not let them in. You won’t live forever. That is impossible. But you can do quite a bit to make the life that you have pleasant. You might even be able to lengthen your life.

Now I have no desire to live to be a hundred years old if it means I have to eat all my food pureed and I’m in a wheelchair. But I will do whatever I can to live well. Length of life isn’t as important to me as quality.

I knew a guy who weighed over five hundred pounds. He said that being overweight was common in his family. Of course, he said “heavy” and not “morbidly obese” which he was. Of course, being obese runs in his family the same way that inactivity and eating high fat, high salt food runs in his family. Being massively unfit isn’t something that had to happen. He thought that because everyone in his family was immense, that was his destiny. If they all exercised and ate well and were still obese, then yes, there’s a problem there. But that wasn’t the case.

The thing that really drove me up the wall is that he had a free YMCA membership because of his insurance plan – which was paid for by the state – translation, my tax dollars. He didn’t use it to exercise. He didn’t use it to get healthy. He drank the free coffee, hung out and used the free wireless, and then floated in the pool. He didn’t swim in the pool. He didn’t take the exercise classes in the pool – or anywhere else. He used the pool the same way that Baron Harkonnen in “Dune” used his suspensor belt. He floated in it to get relief from the crushing weight of his body. While he was floating in the deep end his joints didn’t hurt and he could breathe better.

Being in the pool is the best place if you are obese. But then it is up to you as to what you do with your time there.

I tried to show him exercises I’d learned in water aerobics classes. He could have moved while in the pool and gotten stronger and healthier. He ignored me and told me his tale of woe, that he was essentially doomed to be huge.

What if I used the fact that heart problems and lung cancer run in my family as an excuse to not exercise and eat poorly, and to continue smoking? It is going to happen anyway – why fight it?

This is so backwards. Yet, this is so common. I feel that blaming others for our own self-imposed problems has become the new “American way”.

We all have to start thinking differently, and we all have to wake up. The level of obesity in America is off the charts. Children are developing “adult” diseases are shockingly young ages. The fact that there are a number of diabetes magazines now is disturbing. It isn’t a lifestyle. It is a disease.

We don’t have to worry about another country invading us. We are doing it to ourselves. We have met the enemy – and he is us.

This isn’t about crash diets and fitting into skinny jeans. This is about being healthy and strong. This is about being able to walk around the block without getting out of breath (for starters). This is about having enough energy to really enjoy life, rather than just endure it.

It isn’t to be found in “five hour energy” drinks and a super grande mocha latte. In fact, if you live healthy, you don’t need caffeine and sugar at all. Really. If you get enough sleep and you eat well and get moderate exercise, you don’t need the boost of caffeine and sugar to keep you going.

It isn’t natural to have to put stimulants in your body just to live a normal life. If you have to have caffeine and sugar just to get through your day you are doing something wrong. It is a sign that you are shortchanging yourself somewhere.

Get moving. Get enough sleep. Drop the fried food. Eat more vegetables. Quit smoking. Drink water. Stop drinking sodas.

And every time you whine about having to take on or give up something for your health, get over it. You are acting like a child. Every time you think you’ll “cheat” and not do something that you know is good for you, the only person you are screwing over is yourself.

How dumb is that?

The bad part is that when we get older, we don’t have parents to tell us how to live in a good way and to make us fly right. The really bad part is that many of us didn’t have good parents to start off with, and we have to parent ourselves.

Your life is your choice. Choose wisely.

Car. (prevention is cheaper than cure)

Prevention is cheaper than cure.

We all know what is necessary to get healthy. Yet so few of us do it. What is the impetus that causes some people to take matters in their own hands and be active about their health?

Fear of disease motivates some, but for some that causes a return to old ways. They are worried about their health, but the only tool they have for dealing with worry is bad for them. So they eat the wrong things or smoke or drink. The reason for their ill health is from too much of bad things, and too little of good things. The things that they use for comfort are the very things that are causing the problem that they need comfort about. It is a horrible cycle.

Then some people have spent so much time being miserable that they are afraid of change. They would rather continue to be miserable than try something new.

Change is scary.

If you are walking on a road with no cars on it, you don’t realize that you need to move over to the side of the road. You’ve never seen a car. You might have heard stories about cars, and about how dangerous they are, but you’ve never seen one yourself, so you don’t know for sure.

They won’t run you down, certainly.

So then you walk along a little further. You see a person on the side of the road. She’s been hit pretty badly before, but she’s limping along. She’s got a cane, and she’s still walking.

She tells you about the car that hit her. She got away with just a broken leg.

You may think, boy, she is unlucky, but that won’t happen to me.

Then you walk a little further, and you see someone who is in a wheelchair. He tells you about the car that hit him. Maybe you start to think there might be something to this car thing that you should take seriously – but you still haven’t seen one yet.

Then you walk a little further, and you start to see someone on the side of the road. He’s dead. And you look ahead, and you see more and more people who are hobbling, and in wheelchairs, or dead.

Way up ahead you see people who are OK. They are not only walking, but they are running. They are enjoying this road. They are on the side, out of the path of the cars. They decided to take the warnings seriously.

You can’t get off this road. But you can stay out of the way of the cars.

The cars are cancer. Diabetes. Heart disease. They are coming. They are big, and they hit hard.

Our society suffers from way too many preventable diseases. We are number one, alright, in obesity. We eat too much, and too much of the wrong thing. We gorge ourselves on doughnuts out of our desperation. We drown our sorrows with our friend Jack.

We were sold the image of the Marlboro Man, all tough and rugged. He didn’t look so tough in the cancer ward, hooked up to oxygen and chemo drugs. He died, telling people that they needed to know how dangerous cigarettes are.

A car is coming. Get out of the way.

You know what is necessary. We know all the don’ts.

Don’t smoke, don’t eat too much meat (if at all), don’t eat fried foods. Drop caffeine and processed sugar. Avoid alcohol and drugs.

But what do you do? Those are things we use to comfort ourselves. We self-medicate with food.

Learn anger management. Breathe deeply and consciously. Take yoga. Go for a walk. Take up a hobby. Journal. Practice compassion and forgiveness – towards yourself and others. Eat vegetables. Have a rainbow on your plate. Get enough sleep. Make time to spend with friends.

This stuff that is stuck in your head has to get out somehow. There are safe ways to get it out.

Perspective is important.

There is a story about a person walking towards a town. He sees another man walking away from the town and asks him about it. He says it is terrible. The people are mean, the houses are small, and the food is bland. He walks on a little further. He sees another man walking away from the town and asks him the same question. The man says that the people are nice and the food is amazing. It is the same town.

This can be a wonderful journey or a terrible one. The choice is yours.

The car is coming. Choose wisely. You aren’t special, and you aren’t lucky. It will hit you if you aren’t mindful. Be mindful. Don’t wake up 10 years from now and wonder how you got so sick and out of shape. Take the time now.

It isn’t easy. It is OK to take baby steps first. Ease towards the side. Start walking a little. Start eating better. Nobody changes overnight. But head that way.


Get out of the way.