Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Essence of a Snowball

What is a snowball? I pondered today as I looked at the mounds of snow piled on every street corner. Could I describe a snowball to someone who has never experienced one before?

I began to define to myself the essence of the snowball: A spherical mass of compacted and cooled water particles... No, too scientific. It is a cluster of unique and individual snowflakes that combined together create a winter fighting weapon--bwap! I got you!

Monday, February 26, 2007

Spiritual Space and Architecture

In the summer of 1999, I experienced the full effect of architecture on physical, mental and spiritual notions. Made possible by a restored kiva on the property of Kelly Place, a bed and breakfast near Mesa Verde National Park, I became even more aware of the intricate relationship between the physical and the spiritual.

This Sunday's homily at mass was about spending more spiritual time in our lives. Recently, I have been doing a little research on prayer gardens and labyrinths, and specifically about the labyrinth at the Chartres Cathedral in France.

http://www.greatdreams.com/sacred/triple-doors.htm (scroll down to Chartres)

Several websites have led me to wonder about the extreme thought put into architecture and buildings in the past. Many experts believe that these buildings were built to honor God or gods, take your pick. As I ponder this, I realize that this type of powerful architecture is more of an outer expression of an inner spiritual movement, if you will. Could it be a reflection of the internal dwelling of God?

Being born into a world pre-established with external buildings, institutions and societies, it is easy for us to think that the world is material, and that buildings are material. We know it exists in a physical sense, and we tend to assume that these external things are only external in nature and existence. We continue the assumption that these external existences have no foundation internally, exist solely in the physical realm and have no relation to the internal spirituality.

What about those truly inspirational buildings, places, and spaces that invoke a sense of amazement and wonder of something much more significant and ethereal than our own humanity? What about the spaces that transform our our thinking, our perception and our conscience to an entirely different realm?

A building, regardless how elaborate in form and function, effectively changes the physical space around it. It displaces air and molecules around it, and makes a footprint in the ground, interacting with all physical elements that surround it. The design of the building has a direct effect on how each physical element reacts to the building's imposition on that element.

I have believed for several years that undefined energies can be created within an architectural design, as physical elements react to the existence of this object in space. It is an extension of several trains of thought: The art thought that people are drawn to tension in an art piece (note the David sculpture and the twisting position of the torso among the tension points); and the concept of tension in design and construction of a building.

With this thinking, I began to be drawn to spaces that seemed to have this tension. A tension point in architecture could be defined as the location where two or more building materials are attached together with pressing force in its architectural design. (I'm sure there is a bona fide architect out there that knows the actual term for this. I, however, am not a bona fide architect.)
I noticed that ghost hunters would invariably sense the presence of ghosts in these same building tension point areas, as stairways and doorways are physical stress and tension points in a building. I noticed that in historical architecture altars and sacred places of distinction were located directly under these major architectural tension points in a building. Coincidence? I think not.

It is the outer expression of an inner spirit.

I look at new churches recently built and see a grave lack of major tension points in its building. Is this a reflection of the lack of spiritual energy within today's architect? Is it the denial of healthy and appealing tension in our external world because we don't want that tension and stress, and that feeling in society of don't offend anybody tolerance? (I digress.)

Yes, it is an outer expression of an inner spirit. A spirit created and designed before the first building ever stood. A spirit existing before the first stroke of pigment touched a cave wall. A spirit of succession that dwells in those who continue to use it to light the torch of their souls.

This same spirit beckons us to light our torches and see beauty and intricate simplicity.

Romans 10:8
But what does it say? The word is near you, on your lips and in your heart (that is, the word of faith which we preach)...

Psalm 91: 1-2
He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High, who abides in the shadow of the Almighty, will say to the LORD, "My refuge and my fortress; my God, in whom I trust."

Luke 4:1
And Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan, and was led by the Spirit...

This was Jesus' 40 days and nights of temptation by the devil. Not even the Son of God had smooth sailing on earth. There is tension and stress. It is in this tension and stress that we see the work of God. As it is so for those who feel the tension and stress in architecture.

In the restored kiva near Mesa Verde, I felt an odd sense as I descended down the small hole in the earth on a hand-hewn ladder, not knowing what space this ladder was leading me into. It was a bit of fear and trepidation, also wonder and anticipation of exploration. I began to see a series of huge log beams radiating out from the center that held up the earth. I set my feet on the ground. I felt a sense of being safe and secure in this underground sanctuary.

I looked around in awe that a people so many years ago could build such a secluded, secure place. I sat down on the earthened bench and felt a calm come over me. I felt a need to reflect on my inner spirit, as if the external space was capturing and focusing my spiritual energies. I sat for a moment or two within the silence of the kiva. It felt peaceful and spiritually nurturing.

I heard a hum in my ear. A perfectly tuned hum that did not waver. I stood up and walked around the space to see if it would change or disappear. It stayed constant. My husband, who accompanied me into the kiva, stood on the other side of the circular kiva. I asked if he heard the hum. Although he had not initially noticed the hum, he confirmed that the hum seemed to be external and not something I was just hearing in my head. It was as if the structure of the kiva emitted this perfect audible and stable frequency.

These historic architects knew the power of the structure and its manipulative abilities on our environments. I cannot fathom how these ancient builders attained such knowledge, unless it was their own spiritual journeys that led them to understand the physical and spiritual nature that surrounds us.

I believe we all are architects of our physical, mental and spiritual realms. Our physical, mental and spiritual realms do not exist separately. We all have the internal spirit with us, to guide us, and to use the stress and tension before us to be used for good. We are challenged in our journey to stop, listen, and sense that spirit. And we are encouraged to bring that internal spirit into our world, and share that spirit so others can find it and experience the constant, conforting, and unchanging hum of that same spirit.

Whoever you are, if you seek to fathom the good in these doors
Then marvel not at the gold or the cost, but find the aim of the artist.
This noble art has a hidden light that can lift the mind in an inward way
It warms the heart, to turn from daily concern to heaven within,
And opens the door to truth in each of us.
Such art can show how the spirit within can be found in this world:
The dull mind rises to truth through material things,
And seeing this light escapes its former submersion.
--Abbot Suger of St Denis

Tuesday, February 20, 2007

Finding the Future of Schools in the Past

The past couple of months the local radio station 94.1 FM KEMB-LP (streaming on the web at emmetsburg.biz) has focused on the book They Opened the Door, And Let My Future In by alocal author Helen Phalen Augustine about teachers' experiences in a one-room schoolhouse. Listening to these stories have made me think about the current system of teaching and learning in community and private schools, and how so many kids seem to get lost in the scheme.

It seems our schools are turning backwards in effective teaching. Each teacher has a specific and special way they teach and every child has a specific and special way they learn. Our current elementary school system pegs all kids of one age into the same classroom, with one teacher, regardless of the teacher's teaching style and regardless of the student's learning style. In this system, each year a child can either excel with the teacher or struggle.

Imagine if, instead of having grades with specific aged kids, classrooms were like a one-room schoolhouse of the future with one classroom that has a teacher whose specific teaching style works well with kids who can't sit still and listen for long periods of time and learn best in hands-on situations, and another classroom with a teacher and students who work best sitting, listening and doing work at a desk.

Each classroom has students ranging in ages from 6 to 11 years of age (first through sixth grades). Advanced kids still learn the same subjects as the younger, less advanced kids with more advanced projects, assignments and experiments. The advanced and older kids also work as peer teachers to help the younger kids learn the subjects. These kids learn social and communication skills, along with teamwork in a group of varied skills, talents, and ages. Skills that are so vital to their future learning and working careers. Skills that are lacking in the current teaching and learning environments we call K-12 school.

Love Thy Enemy?!

Sunday's homily at our church was on the gospel lesson of "loving your enemy" and our priest made me think a bit more on this concept. He asked how many of us go around saying "I have no enemies"? How many of us go around and say we get along with so and so, and if there's any issues with them that we do not confront it and just go on with life? How many of us deny the existence of our enemies because we think we are doing the right thing then?

Jesus said, "love your enemy." It is difficult to love our enemies and do as Jesus commands in the scripture if our enemy doesn't exist in our minds. Jesus did not command us to change our enemies into our friends. In life we will have enemies, and we cannot change our enemies into our friends. They will be our enemies, and we have to accept that. Not change it.

"You have heard that it was said, 'YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR and hate your enemy.'
"But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven; for He causes His sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous.
"For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same?
"If you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same?"
(Matthew 5:43-47)

In effect, to change our relationship with our enemies to think they are friends is to change our view of our enemy just in our own mind. It seems this type of conversion is not what Jesus had in mind. No, the more I consider these thoughts the more I believe that I have been fooling myself in many situations and in the end becoming a victim because I had changed the relationship with an enemy in my mind to a friend and making myself more vulnerable to them.

Enemies are enemies, and likely will not make a conversion to a friend, regardless how kind and courteous we are to them. And we should not beat ourselves up because they have not given any kindness in return, because it is not love that is the issue. It is the lack of love in our enemies that created them, and until they decide to truly accept it and share it, they will not have it.

We must be constantly at guard with our enemies, even if they show gestures of friendship. That is the point we are most vulnerable and the point where their enemy colors can shine. I, myself, have learned this the hard way. I now know that when I spot an enemy in my midst that I love my enemy, and accept them as my enemy.

The final word: An enemy is not a friend. Ever. Love your enemy.

Teeth Are Bones, Right?

If teeth are bones, and bones that are broken or chipped can heal themselves, then why do we treat teeth like they cannot heal themselves, too?

Are there certain conditions that will allow a tooth to heal itself? My logical thinkings says that there must be a way that human teeth can heal themselves if placed in the right conditions, just like other bones in our bodies.

I know that there will come a day, when someone who knows teeth much better than I do, that when your dentist finds a cavity or a chipped tooth, they will use a special cast to allow the tooth to heal itself. This will revolutionize the dental industry from a destructive, drilling and filling surgically invasive business to a healing and dental wellbeing business.

People will then consider going to the dentist a part of a good day!

What's happening now? Well, I typed in "tooth cast heal dentist" in google and got this website:

PI Dental Center

I was encouraged to read this piece from a dental center, thinking maybe they are cutting edge. However, the article doesn't mention that teeth could heal just like bones in the right environment. That should have been an indicator to the fact that they are cutting edge in the same old, same old dentistry of drill, cut and fill. Just using more screws and prettier plates.

Let's take these "tooth implants" to the next, more temporary level! Tooth Casts that allow the tooth to heal on its own in an environment that promotes healing. A Tooth Cast that can be removed once the tooth has healed and repaired itself. Anyone in the dental industry ready to research and do something revolutionary for the human mouth?

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Iraq: Dr. USA's Cancer Patient

We leave, we all win! Everyone is a winner! We win because we have helped Iraq to come to grips with freedom. We win because our kids come home. Iraq wins because they are now truly independent (in as much as we let them be independent) and can decide themselves what is best for Iraq--and who knows, maybe having three new nations spring forth from a previously corrupted united Iraq might be the best for the region and for the world--we all win! Iraq wins because now USA is off their back. I'd like to see a win-win situation come out of this, and the only way that can happen, IMHO, is to get out of Iraq-now! We can spin this for a win for everyone, I know we can, regardless of the situation we leave.

I think that our leaders are having a hard time seeing the glass as half full, and can't bring themselves to seeing that when we leave Iraq that the glass will be completely full in time.

Let's look at Iraq like battling a tumor that we think could be cancer. Sometimes you have to stop fighting the tumor, especially if you have extracted the tumor already, and let the patient heal on his own. (Have we even tested to see if the tumor was in fact cancerous, and if it has spread? What? It wasn't originally cancer? And the chemo treatments have actually spurred benign cells to become malignant? Oh, for shame!) Too much chemotherapy, and you'll kill the patient, cell by cell. So, let's stop the chemo treatments, and see how our patient responds. Give them some healing support medicine, but just stop the chemo!!

And, maybe there's a more effective treatment for our patient than total inhiliation.

Condemnation and Surge Protection

The Iowa Senate condemns Bush's troop surge in Iraq recently. Proponents of condemnation generally say this war has gone beyond its original paramenters of disabling weapons of mass destruction as no WMDs were found, and the evil dictator Saddam Hussein has been eliminated. The surge is overkill for something that has long been deemed "mission accomplished."

Dissenters claim that anti-war rhetoric is causing poor morale among the ranks in Iraq, and gives psychological ammunition to the terrorists and insurgents. Is there a study that proves that this anti-war rhetoric is the cause of troops' poor morale? If so, I think those findings need to be referenced. Otherwise, these legslators assume this is the case, and we all know what assuming does. (Makes an ASS out of U and ME.)

What is the ideal situation in Iraq? Of course, the best thing that could happen is that the Iraqis get over their deathly loathing of others, start getting along, and work together to show the USA and the world that they are solid, organized and a stable nation.

It is a nice gesture for the Iowa Senate to think clearly about this war and send a message condemning Bush's troop surge in Iraq. However, this message falls short of the need to change the way we think about this war in Iraq.

That won't happen until we in the USA stop thinking that "we" need to win this war. I don't know how many times I need to stress this before it sticks with an intelligent someone in the media, but this elusive victory is not our (USA's) victory. STOP saying that we must win this Iraq war. This victory in Iraq is for Iraq (unless there's a very hidden agenda to take over this country that I don't know about). We all need to stop thinking about a USA victory in Iraq and start considering this as Iraq's victory. Until this happens, there is no way troops will leave and there will be no end to this war.

The Republicans have put their spin on this war to unofficially declare it as imperative US dominance in Iraq, and now pointing fingers at Iran, all in pursuit of this "war on terror." Deflectors of this disjointed pursuit of the war on terror are deemed as undermining these efforts. But, what are these efforts? Our goal might be to eliminate terrorists, but what are we really doing? Our "war on terror" seems to be creating more terrorists as we invade countries on false precepts, completely destroy their infrastructure, and leave these regions void of any sense of civilation. Inhabitants or "insurgents" are fighting because their lives have been turned upside down and they have seen the destruction and murders. They feel this is the only way to regain their country again.

Those who think these actions are inhuman and wrong need to create a counterspin to the "war on terror" and change the way our country's citizens and look at this war. Working around and challenging the Republican spin only helps to promote this Republican "war on terror" spin. Creating and promoting a completely different counterspin that Americans can embrace will help change the course of international relations and turn the tide on senseless conflicts.

Sure, we can plead to stop the troop surge, and we can ask to send the troops home, but this is weak strategy. When Keith Olbermann reminds us how many days we have been at war since proclaiming "mission accomplished" we should not just listen and agree, but we need to counterspin that message to the country. Our mission apparently was accomplished, so why are we still there?

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Headlines and Metaphors...

North Korea's Yummy Omelet
Watch out Denny's and Perkins, I've heard North Korea's cookin' up an omelet, and they say it's da bomb! Apparently for Condi Rice, the international language of peace is now Metaphor. The metaphor Rice referenced here is the old adage, "I don't count my chickens until they hatch." I just want to say, this is an egg I would rather see scrambled with some cheddar, onion, ham, --and no mushroom cloud!

Not to be outdone, peace talks in the holy city of Mecca have brought the two political factions in Palestine together in governing the war ravaged area. Our good friend, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia was the king pin instrumental in bringing Hamas and Fatahs to make amends. They have decided that the Palestinian parliament majority Hamas will have their delegate Ismail Haniyeh reappointed as prime minister, and Mahmoud Abbas, Fatah's leader, will continue to be president. For some people, they may be wondering: Will this stop the fighting in Gaza? Me? I'm wondering: Who's the head of the henhouse here? Is it the President, or the Prime Minister? Regardless who gets to be the rooster and the hen, I'm sure they'll be serving it up overeasy. Hey, where's the bacon?

Putin Eggs on the Frypan
The US and Europe are scrambling international security with their unilateral policies, according to Russian President Vladimir Putin. Mixing it up at an international security conference, Putin suggested that the US-led "unipolar world" has brought worldwide instability, insecurity, and has pushed countries to seek weapons of mass destruction. Unipolar world? Really?? Now I've heard all the hype about the polar swap in 2012, but this unipolar world intrigues me. Globally, that would really stir things up. Heck, we may not know where the compass points, but I bet I'd still like a little cheese in my scrambled eggs.

Iraq's Sunny Side Cafe
The new commander for the US Forces in Iraq is calling for 'cooperation' between American and Iraqi forces in that conflict. Gee, that sounds familiar. Hmm. Oh, yes. I remember my kindergarten teacher using that big word. Maybe our plan for peace in Iraq is this. Yes, all I really need to know I learned in kindergarten. Now there's a policy for international relations! And that's serving it sunny side up!

Tek Jansen: Egg Beater
I think we need to enlist an experienced warrior for this battle of the eggs: Tek Jansen! It seems that there's been a krono-rift in the space time continuum that has caused this outbreak of eggs-traordinary portions. Hmm... Could it be, Condi Rice is Tek Jansen's biggest fan?

Do I have egg on my face, or what?! I've heard it's great for the pores.

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Headlines In My View

Unity -- That's the Ticket?
You may see something odd on the ballot November 2008--the "Unity" ticket. A grassroots push has begun to get a mixed presidential ticket in '08 with actor Sam Waterston leading the crusade. Waterston made his case for a bipartisan presidential ticket first on Tuesday's Hardball. Actor, lawyer and financial advisor, that is Waterston. Now, a political advocate? Apparently, Waterston needed to expand and broaden his resume. And, what's with the bipartisan ticket? Who'd be in their right mind to mix the lion with the lamb? I'm sure there'll be two people with enough balls to come forward and... Huh? You don't think there's anyone willing to do that? Okay, okay. So, the ultimate question will then arise, at some point, I'm sure--Who wears the pants? Someone is going to have to wear the pants. Someone is going to have the buck stop with them. Which one? Republican? Or Democrat? Now, there's bipartisan bickering at its finest! I'd like to see that one!! Where do I sign up? (www.unity08.com)

Harvest for the World
Well, maybe the world is an exaggeration, but sometimes it takes a village to fuel the nation. As President Bush talks aggressively about pushing for renewable fuels, the heartland of America responds. Broin Company's Voyager Ethanol Plant in Emmetsburg, Iowa plans to expand its ethanol producing capacity by using the cornstalks and leaves to produce 125 million gallons of fuel per year. Pretty soon, we'll see people trying to squeeze ethanol out of grass clippings from their lawn. Imagine that!

Global Warming--My A$$!
This morning I came into work and it was -8 degrees F! I now believe that the F stands for f'ng cold!! I thought it has to be colder in Iceland, what with the name and all. But, NOOOOooooo! They're forecasting in Iceland between Zero and 15 degrees C--You know what that converts to in F'ng degrees? That's 32 to 59 degrees F! It may be Iceland Warming, but I sure as heck ain't calling it "Global Warming"!

UnBEARable Valentine's
"Oh, it is soo adorable! *squeee squeee* It's soo much bigger than I thought! *I know.* I could just kiss it and kiss it. Oh, *reading the card* 'I sent you this love bandit to steal your heart, because you've stolen mine. Love, Jim'* squeee squeee*" No! NO! NOOOOO! Fake O's for a stuffed teddy bear? Phuuleeeease! I am repulsed by the thought that any woman can get swept away by a teddy bear. How does a woman respond to this? "Oh, Jim, let me do your sensuous bandit teddy bear, since you apparently have no balls to steal my heart yourself!"