How to improve your life and save the world.
Thursday, October 29, 2009
I have a happier version of reincarnation. The myth that I enjoy most is that this life is a virtual reality, that i (as I know myself here in this life) am a character in a kind of video game that I (as I imagine myself outside of life) am playing. i don’t know how the game works, of course. It may be that I can program the game before getting into it or I may be able to manipulate it as i go through life, or My friends outside life can mess around with my life-game. In this notion, as with any game we play here in this life we get better at it the more we play it. That notion fits well with the Hindu belief that they can get off the reincarnation loop by being good. In my notion I can get off any time but as long as the game is challenging, I’d probably want to keep coming back to play it better. Would I want to come back if life sucked or was painful? Sure. The pain and suffering within life is not felt outside of life anymore than the player of a video game feels pain or suffering of the characters in the game being played.
Tuesday, October 20, 2009
Those of us who remember the 50s do so with fondness. It wasn’t all “Life with Father”, “Leave it to Beaver” and “Ozzy and Harriet” but it was a time when most mothers concentrated on the most important jobs like raising a family and managing a household. She was able to do that because one income supported the American Dream. Why did employers pay better then? One answer might be that there was little incentive to make gobs of money as the highest tax bracket was 91%. In 1954 income below $75,000 (today’s dollars) was taxed at 20%. Someone earning $1 million (today’s dollars) was in the 62% tax bracket. Anyone earning over $7.5 million paid 91% of every dollar over that amount in taxes.
Consider the fights between millionaire sports stars and millionaire sports team owners over multimillion dollar contracts. They are fighting over figures because in actual money it is too much for any individual to spend reasonably. I would put a cap on individual income. If you make over $2 million a year, you have to either give it away or give it to the IRS. Now the choice is either to make less than $2 million or to give it away which is a good motive, rather than greed, for making money. The sports stars will be easier to negotiate with. The team owners will either be generous to charities or, more likely, they will pay their employees more and charge less for tickets.
The 1954 tax brackets were essentially the same from 1951 through 1963. Want to guess what years the highest tax bracket was lowest? Other than the first three years of income tax in the
One more question in this quiz. When was the second lowest? It was, thanks to President Reagan, 1988-90 and has remained low ushering in the Great Recession.
I’m not talking about wealth redistribution. I’m talking about people making more money than they know what to do with and in the process bringing down a society that would be much better off if families could pursue the American Dream on the income of one wage-earner. I’m really just talking about family values as opposed to greed rules.
Wednesday, October 14, 2009
There is anecdotal evidence. I have some myself. Driving my 96 year old mother home from one of her last stays in the hospital she told me of an experience she had that was something more than a dream. She told of being in this wonderful place and all her friends were there. She positively glowed when she related the story. She was describing a place that she had been taught to believe was where she would go when she died. Skeptic though I may be, the way she told the story, the way she looked and the condition of her mind the rest of the time force me to believe she, at the very least, had a powerful dream. She did not make up the story to try to convince me there is a life after death.
In the hospital a few months later, on her deathbed, we had an encounter that absolutely could not have been under her control. That morning I had found her unconscious. The ambulance took her to the hospital. I sat with her much of the day holding her hand, talking to her, but got no response. The doctor and I conferred and agreed that nothing should be done to try to revive her. He told me she might hang on for a week but it would probably not be longer than a day. He had reason to hedge his bet as she had already lived four times as long as he said she would 16 years before.
That evening my daughter and I went to visit her. I expected to find her as I had left her but she shocked me by opening her eyes, looking at me and demanding, “Where am I?!” I was flabbergasted. How had she revived? Should I call the doctor and have an IV attached?
“Where am I?” she repeated with incredible strength..
“In the hospital.”
” How did I get here?”
“You were unconscious when I came in this morning and…”
“How did I get here?”
“I called the ambulance.” She just kept getting more frustrated and angry. To use one of her pet phrases she was mad as a wet hen and nothing I said was answering her questions. She gave up trying to get an answer and Caitlin had an opportunity to express her love for her grandmother and to say good-by.
What was that all about? While driving home I came to the conclusion that she was not asking about the events of the day. The “here” she was asking about was not the hospital. I believe that she had been in that other place glowing in her surroundings when she was suddenly yanked back to this world; perhaps to allow her granddaughter one last time to express her love. How did she get here indeed? Was it a dream that she was rudely pulled away from or another world? If another world, she still didn’t know who was pulling the strings or how.
Some may ask how I could not believe in a life after death after that personal experience. First, I don’t disbelieve in a life after death any more strongly than I believe in such a possibility. I can say I’m an agnostic which means I don’t know but I go a little farther than that. I don’t care. That’s not to say that I’m not curious. I find the possibility interesting and worth thinking about. But the philosophical things that are most important to me are those that guide and inform my life. Life is the period between birth and death. There is a tremendous amount of information to be dealt with in that reality. There are tremendous rewards within life.
Am I not comforted by thinking that my mother is in a nice place, a place that made her glow when she thought about it and that made her angry to be pulled away? Not really.
That may, undoubtedly does, seem cold to some. I can’t speak for others feelings. I don’t deny them their beliefs nor do I care to diminish them in any way. It may be simply that I am less feeling than some. Or it may be that I feel my relationship with my mother was whole, complete. We had no outstanding issues. I didn’t feel I owed her anything or that she owed me anything. She is gone from my life and my life goes on. She does not visit my thoughts very much at all. She is part of my history but I am living here in the present and she is not part of the present.
A possibility other than my relationship with my mother is my relationship with myself. I am at peace with myself in a way that is entirely different than before what I feel comfortable calling my rebirth. That took place about 15 years ago (I’d have to look at my writing to figure out exactly when.). It was nothing so remarkable as an epiphany. No one but me saw any difference but the change to me was dramatic. I think I lost fear though I have not been tested and really don’t care to be.
This life is so marvelous I simply can’t see any point in spending much time envisioning another life that may be better--or may be worse if you believe in a heaven and a hell. If the soul’s fate is determined by the kind of life led by the mind and body and the determination is made by the creator, the giver of life, than how better to receive an afterlife reward than to live this life, this gift, to the fullest? What better way to live it than in ways that bring joy and take pleasure? How could one be more thankful of a gift than to use it well?
Was my mother’s soul recalled briefly or did she awaken from a dream? To what purpose and why at that exact moment? Some may say it was to make me a believer. That is their reality. Since I believe it’s all about me my answer is that the experience was given me for me to contemplate which clearly I have done. Since you are reading this it may have all been so you could read about it and have it affect you however it may.
Wednesday, October 7, 2009
I think you might enjoy some of the other links there.
Certainly health and happiness are symbiotically linked. Obviously it is easier to be happy when we are healthy but studies have shown that happiness actually promotes health. It gets even better. Even a mirthless smile will make you feel better. Try it. Laughing out loud, so scientists say, actually kills germs.
In my book How to Improve Your Life and Save the World I reveal that having attained a measure of fame and fortune, I came to the realization that they were not goals that worked for me. I decided I should be pursuing happiness as directly as possible so I started investigating what made me happy and what made me unhappy. Tuning in the news daily was not making me happy so I stopped. That was simple. Getting angry at bad drivers I encountered made me very unhappy. It took awhile but I eventually learned to accept them rather than trying to fix them.
Learning acceptance (an ongoing job) has brought me much happiness and its sidekick, health.
Friday, October 2, 2009
My mother fell in the middle of the night, broke her wrist and, in the dark, alone, spent the rest of the night on the floor. She had cared for her mother and more than anything in the world she didn’t want to be a burden on her son and daughter-in-law. She finally convinced herself that she could be a help transporting her school-age grandchildren to places they needed to be. We moved her into a second floor apartment six miles from us.
Unfortunately Josh and Caitlin didn’t like riding with Grammy. Apparently she had scared them once or twice. My mother wondered why she wasn’t used more and finally I had to tell her the kids didn’t want to ride with her. She thought I was lying. She kept the car as a symbol of her independence until her last year though it sat unmoved for a couple of years.
Each year got more difficult though she worked very hard to keep from being a burden. She would do mind exercises like writing down all the presidents, states and state capitals. She went to the hairdresser every other week. I was the chauffer when she couldn’t drive anymore. I shopped for her once a week and visited her any day no one else was scheduled—Meals on Wheels, visiting nurse, etc. I took her to doctor appointments.
She did a magnificent job of taking care of herself—feeding herself, going to the bathroom on her own, taking her medications (she measured the water she drank to make sure she took as much as the doctor told her to)—yet it was difficult for me. The time commitment, the wishing I didn’t have to do some of the things I had to do, and watching her deteriorate, watching her bubble of awareness shrink to interest in nothing but what she had to do to get through each day.
My job was in many ways much easier than Barbara’s. I don’t have advice for those who are going through this other than to say you are not alone. It will seem that way at times and those who have not been through it may think they understand but they don’t. You may feel it necessary to suppress some feelings, may even feel like a bad person for having them. Read Barbara’s piece. I think it will help.