Refuse, reuse, and reduce plastic!

Back in the day, supermarkets didn’t sell bottled water.

Most of us got our water directly from the tap.

Water just wasn’t something people thought about buying from the grocery, anyway.

Those were the days, my friend, when milkmen (no women that I can recall) delivered fresh milk daily or every other day to those milk boxes — now sold as “antiques” and “collectibles” — next to our front doors. Similarly, Louie Armet delivered a case of seltzer water (carbonated or “tonic” water) to our house weekly. Soft drinks (soda or pop, depending where you lived) were sold in groceries. But that’s before we became health-conscious and learned that soda was bad for us, while, for the most part, milk and water were good.

Nonetheless, most beverages came either in glass containers (jars and bottles) or metal cans.

You paid a deposit on them at the check out and many a youngster earned extra cents (sense?) foraging, gathering, and returning this glass and aluminum in exchange for the deposits.

I don’t know when — exactly — it happened that plastic became the packaging of our lives … but I do vividly remember the black and white “Plastics Make It Possible” television commercials in which plastic was heralded as the scientific “miracle” that would improve our lives.

Think about it: just try to go an hour without touching something plastic.

Greenpeace partnered with Protecting Kaho’olawe ‘Ohana (PKO) and Kaho’olawe Island Reserve Commission (KIRC) to do a beach cleanup and brand audit at Kanapou beach on Kaho’olawe Island, Hawaii. Trash washed up on the beach.

The stuff is everywhere: from our toilet seats to the electronic devices we constantly use (sometimes, it’s safe to ass-u-me, while likely sitting on said toilet seat) are made of plastic. In fact, try as we might, there’s not much in our day-to-day lives that doesn’t contain plastic.

“I just want to say one word to you. Just one word … Plastics.”

Remember that line from The Graduate?

More recently, however, plastic has begun to bother me in its excess.

If these words weren’t about a former boss, they could aptly apply to plastic: “Some is good; more is better; too much is just enough.¨

Maybe for the producers, vendors, and plastic distributors, but definitely not for us and our world.

Why must water be sold in single-use plastic bottles? And those plastic bottles then wrapped in layers of plastic? And, again, as we check out, those plastics inside of plastic put in plastic bags?Why is there so much hard plastic packaging around razors, cds and dvds, tooth brushes and floss? Almost everything that now hangs from retail store shelves?

It’s bad enough trying to remove it to begin with … but, time and again, I cut myself and end up bleeding from the plastic shards.

But, I’m being self-centered here. There are communal and global reasons why we need to reduce our dependence on disposable plastic. Primarily because they’re not disposable!

Plastic, undoubtedly, has revolutionized society, introducing a huge amount of convenience and affordability, and allowing for the development of things like computers, cell phones and many modern medical devices.

But our obsession with it also comes at a steep cost. Although originally hailed as a miraculous innovation that could reduce a rapidly industrializing society’s reliance on scarce natural resources, plastic has also created a monumental environmental mess. Worldwide, more that 400 million tons of the stuff are churned out annually, generating a huge amount of waste of which less than 10 percent is recycled. The rest either ends up in landfills, where it will take an average of 500 years to decompose, or in waterways and oceans. 

A study by a scientific working group at UC Santa Barbara’s National Center for Ecological Analysis and Synthesis (NCEAS), concluded that every year, eight million metric tons of plastic end up in our oceans. What is more concerning is that, according to the study, the cumulative input for 2025 would be nearly 20 times the eight million metric tons estimation.

One of the most concerning problems that our oceans are facing nowadays – if not the most important – is plastic pollution. Plastics are the cause of increasing ocean pollution, which in turn affects marine life and, consequently, humans as well.

Did you know:

  • Plastic causes many adverse effects in wildlife because chemicals include reproductive abnormalities and behavioral effects.
  • All sea turtle species, 45% of all species of marine mammals, and 21% of all species of sea birds have been affected by marine debris.
  • Plastics can absorb toxins from surrounding seawater, such as pesticides and those in the class of chemicals known as Persistent Organic Pollutants (POPs). They can also release harmful components.
  • Plastics can be ingested by many organisms. This can cause damage to their health.
  • The main cause for the increase in plastic production is the rise of plastic packaging.
  • The drilling of oil and processing into plastic releases harmful gas emissions into the environment including carbon monoxide, hydrogen sulfide, ozone, benzene, and methane (a greenhouse gas that causes a greater warming effect than carbon dioxide) according to the Plastic Pollution Coalition.
  • The Environmental Protection Agency or EPA estimated that five ounces of carbon dioxide are emitted for every ounce of Polyethylene Terephthalate produced (also known as PET – the plastic most commonly used to make water bottles).

What can we — you and me — do about all this plastic pollution?

The solutions are simple and can be applied by everyone, everywhere.

The best way we can all help is to reduce new litter entering the environment. This may sound naïve, but it is a fact. To do that, there are three Rs that can remind us to do this:

  • Reduce: Choose products with less packaging, or shops where you can refill your own container.
  • Reuse: Use reusable products.
  • Recycle: Separate items that can be recycled (i.e. plastic, paper, cardboard).

Short of lobbying for government intervention in plastic packaging, there’s lots we can do to reduce our individual plastic pollution footprint: Have three receptacles in your kitchen–one for recycling, one for compost and one for trash. Collect all your plastic trash for one week just to see how much you actually use. It may make you think twice about how much plastic you buy. Stop buying single use plastic bottles and fill a reusable bottle, instead. Notice how things are packaged and opt for items packaged in cardboard vs. plastic whenever possible, for example laundry detergent. Minimize your use of plastic bags. Keep reusable bags handy. Use a thermos for your morning cup of coffee and bring it with you to your local coffee shop. Don’t buy disposable razors. Swap out or minimize all those plastic food storage containers you’ve collected over the years, especially those without lids or bottoms. Use glass or metal containers. Buy from bulk bins. This doesn’t mean buying in bulk. Bring your own reusable cloth containers or bags. Stop using disposable plastic plates. Donate plastic household items or decor you don’t love or are no longer using. Don’t just throw them out.

Don’t just throw them out!

Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Mother Nature’s Teardrops

I’m depressed …

Because of this relentless, obstinate, continuous rain.

Today marks the tenth consecutive day that rain – mist, fog, drizzle, downpours – is omnipresent across the Iberia peninsula … hovering intransigent, dismal, and unmoving.

The damp is everywhere, manifest in mold and mildew seeping through our walls. Swollen doorknobs and jambs pregnant with moisture protrude, disabling the opening and closure of doors, even as legs and arms broken decades ago remind us that they’re still hurting. Walls without windows to open (even in this weather) are wet. Clothing refuses to dry; umbrellas become the rite of passage.

Anyone who believes that the rain in Spain “stays mainly in the plain” obviously hasn’t been here in a while. Including the weather forecasters: wrong, wrong, wrong, wrong, day after day! The rain is everywhere, crossing closed borders between Portugal and Spain.

Alas, whether vestige or herald, brief glimmers of sunlight hardly hint of days filled with cheery sunshine and overall brightness.

Perhaps it’s a government conspiracy, forcing us to stay inside, alone with our families, as the sun flees from new, more contagious variants of the virus?

More probably, it’s just the weather, whither here or there. After all, doesn’t everyone complain about the weather? Everywhere? It’s far better than complaining about people or politics! I’m beginning to feel sorry for the cows and sheep in the meadows, with nowhere to run or hide from these bloody torrential buckets and lingering, lackluster leftovers that won’t lift. With heavy heart, I hurt for those who are ailing (physically, mentally, or emotionally).

And me?

I just want to curl up and wait for it all to end: Covid. Unreasonable politics. Fearsome fulcrums of flooding, earthquakes, foolhardiness the world over.

But I can’t; I’m a pastor. It’s my responsibility to minister, lifting the downtrodden with words which belay belief. Not today, though. Instead, I will count my blessings:

• I have a roof (in fact, several) over my head.

• For a 72-year-old, I enjoy relatively good health.

• I love and am loved.

• There’s food in our fridge and freezer, even if we can’t go out to eat. In the pantry, there’s food for our furry family, too.

• We can stay busy – even entertained – at home. There are people to talk to, messages to share, films to watch, books to read, writing to ponder, floors and furniture to clean, food to be prepared, repairs to be made, problems to be fixed, dogs to fed and walked.

Which brings us outside as toys, yet again, of the weather.

Let’s think of Mother Nature crying, shedding tears for how we have hurt her. Let’s be grateful for all that we have, instead of what we’re wanting. Let’s appreciate the beauty cast even in the gray. Let’s hope, once again, that tomorrow will be better. Let’s promise to do one thing – whatever – to make it a bit brighter.

A wise man once said, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted,” to which he added, “Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the earth.”

Days of drizzle, countless clouds, nightfalls of rain.

Blessed be!

Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Protesting the Status (Quo)

Across the United States – in Portland, Oregon; Seattle, Washington; Kenosha, Wisconsin; Louisville, Kentucky; Baltimore, Maryland; New York City and Rochester, NY; Minneapolis, MN; Philadelphia, PA; California, Colorado, and elsewhere nationwide – people are protesting, calling for fairness, equality, and justice.

Mainly, they’re peacefully protesting systemic inequalities: racism, economic injustice, government inaction or overreach, lock-ups and lock-downs.

They can’t pay their rent or mortgages, forced to choose between putting food on the table or medicine in the mouths of their loved ones. They’re agonizing over the toll Coronavirus is taking personally and professionally. And they are unleashing their anger and frustrations on others.

Between April and May 1st this year, protests against government-imposed lockdowns in response to the Covid-19 pandemic led to demonstrations in more than half of the “United” States. Shortly thereafter, on June 6th, half a million people turned out in nearly 550 places across the USA for Black Lives Matter protests.

Mass shootings hit a record high last year (2019), violent hate crimes are on the rise, and police brutality continues, prompting increased polarization and protests.

Police – local, state, the National Guard and even the Border Control – are called in, often exacerbating the problems. Violence follows and incites more violence, as hateful White House rhetoric spurs outcries against what the president calls his “law-and-order” platform. The result, however, has been increased antagonism and turf-minding. Apart from verbal incriminations, weapons include gunfire and bullets, tear gas and other chemicals, buildings burned, blazing tempers and imported vigiliantes, vehicles battered and overturned. Lately, more than 104 separate vehicles have been plowing through crowds and injuring protestors.

The bottom line is that people – often neighbors, long-time friends, even family and churches – are taking sides and triggering showdowns, sometimes violently, against each other and the powers-that-be. You’re either with me or against me, depending on who you are voting for.

American citizens are trying to prevent other American citizens from voting. Not just trying to intimidate them into not voting, but physically trying to prevent them from doing so!

It increasingly feels like America is reaching a boiling point, more raging bonfire than flash in the pan. Already beset by a national recession and a deadly pandemic now surpassing 200,000 deaths, this week has stoked new fires, including a Supreme Court battle to fill the Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s seat, Trump refusing to promise a peaceful transfer of power, mass protests after police officers faced no charges in the death of Breonna Taylor, and the swirling of literal fire tornadoes out West, while hurricane after hurricane pulverize our Gulf Coast . As American anger heats up, it’s incumbent that we bring a fresh lens to its origins and the core beliefs it threatens to topple, along with ways we can work together to douse the flames.

“Enough!” people are pleading, if not demanding. “Fix the problems!”

Trouble is, just as the financial gap between the haves and have-nots is widening, so, too, is the economic crisis. Many of the problems are difficult (if not impossible) to fix, because they’re so deeply rooted and systemic, driven by centuries of loot and looters, masters and slaves, carpetbaggers and indentured servants, inbred privilege and attitudes, government for the people becoming self-serving government, plebians and plutocrats, myriad moguls for whom more and much more are never, ever, enough.

Financial necessity has forced suburban populations to head for inner city food banks and health care clinics … creating a foggy, finite understanding of the implications inherent to why Black Lives Matter.

According to the Institute for Policy Studies, U.S. billionaires gained $565 billion additional dollars since March 18th. At the same time, surging unemployment has reached levels not seen since the Great Depression.

Experts say the top 10% of households own more than 84% of stocks … so a rising market helps people who already are among the wealthiest in the nation. Analysts attribute this widening wealth gap to the stock market, while meager consumers suffer the effects at their local groceries and supermarkets.

If we have never seen such economic instability since the Great Depression, we haven’t seen such social distancing since the Civil War. Or climate change and pollution so quickly creating environmental consequences and our planet’s ability to sustain life.

How can we look at what’s happening before our very eyes and not realize that we’re leading up to an even more deadly Civil War, if not already in the midst of one?

Worse, the riots are occurring all over the world.

At least sixteen countries — ranging from the UK and France to Australia, Brazil, Japan, Kenya, and South Africa — have seen major demonstrations over police violence against Black or minority populations and related issues, such as systemic racism and the legacies of colonial empires. In France and South Africa in particular, the pandemic has served to crystallize the problem of police brutality: authorities enforcing lockdown regulations have used force disproportionately against Black citizens.

But new protests are also breaking out for reasons other than police violence and racism. Some are rooted in how governments have responded to the pandemic. Among them, Brazil and Israel stand out. Ecuador, which faces one of the highest per-capita death rates from COVID-19 among developing nations, recently saw thousands protest the government’s decision to close some state-owned companies and cut public sector salaries, in an effort to close a gaping $12 billion budget deficit.

Citizens in Iraq have resumed protests over corruption, high unemployment, and the violent repression of protesters, with demonstrators in central and southern Iraq clamoring for the removal of governors who they deem to be corrupt. In Mali, tens of thousands have demanded the resignation of President Ibrahim Boubacar amid persistent intercommunal violence compounded by economic stagnation, a dearth of political reforms, and widespread government corruption. Saudia Arabian women have protested for fewer restrictions on their rights, even as Syrians protest the killing machine of their country’s leader and the Lebanese protest the lack of responsible leadership from their do-nothing government. The separatist movements provoke perennial protests in Spain, even as the second massive shutdown in its capital and biggest city because of Covid-19 stoke the fires of discontent.

Protests, by far the largest and most persistent in Belarus since independence from the Soviet Union in 1991, began Aug. 9th after an election that officials said gave President Alexander Lukashenko a sixth term in office. Opponents and poll workers say the results, in which Lukashenko was tallied with 80% support, were manipulated.

In some countries, governments have capitalized on the chaos of the pandemic to persecute critics, criminalize dissent, ban public demonstrations, and further concentrate political power. Consider China and Russia, for example.

How can society achieve the consensus it needs to function if everyone regards rivals as “Nazis,” “traitors” or “enemies of the people”?

“Trump, the torchbearer, has at times fueled racial tensions and stomped on his perceived enemies, citizens and institutions alike,” writes Nick Fouriezos, senior politics reporter for OZY, an international media and entertainment company launched in September 2013 by former CNN and MSNBC news anchor, journalist, and businessman Carlos Watson and Goldman Sachs alumnus Samir Rao. Ozy describes its mission as to help curious people see a broader and a bolder world.

“Some have become radicalized by the president’s behavior, meeting fire with fire — from erecting guillotines to accosting Senators to defending violent looters as collecting what society owes them,” Fouriezos continues. “Meanwhile, the American Fringes have continually hijacked the discourse, worming their ideas into some of America’s most revered institutions. The loss of civility playing out on the national stage has had ripple effects, reflected in an apparent uptick in nastiness nationwide, with ordinary citizens bickering over face masks in stores, trolling each other on social media and facing off over campaign signs next door. In a multiethnic, multicultural and increasingly crowded democracy, respecting commonality while acknowledging differences has been the surest way of moving forward — but it has become a casualty of rising American anger.”

If political tensions are bringing the USA to the brink of a second Civil War, is what’s happening around the globe a harbinger of something bigger?

Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail.

Stay tuned …

Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Screeds and Other Confessionals

For the religious-oriented, a “creed” is, basically, a statement of faith. Partly rote and ritual, it serves as a public – not private – reminder and catechism of what we’re supposed to believe.

Among the earliest creeds is that of the Israelites. Known as the “Sh’ma,” it’s based on the words found in Deuteronomy 6:4, “Hear: O Israel, the Lord is our God, the Lord alone (is one).”

Later, as the early church was to become the official religion of the Roman empire, the powers that be insisted that the beliefs inherent to that religion be uniform, consistent, and universal. Following discussion, disputes, and compromise, the Council of Nicea (AD 325) reached consensus with its “Nicean Creed,” one of the most popular statements of faith still recited by those in many churches.

Variations on the theme include “The Apostles’ Creed,” “The Chalcedonian Creed,” the “Brief Statement of Faith,” etc.

The “Shahada” (witness) expresses the very heart of the Islamic creed: “There is no god but Allah, and Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

By their very nature, creeds tend to be exemplary, unifying, and didactic … intending to be all things to all (religious) people.

Personally, I have a difficult time mouthing the words to any such creed. Why? For one, I don’t necessarily accept and believe everything purported to be true in them. For another, I believe that so-called creeds should be more personal and edifying to each of us individually.

Over the years, I created my own personal “creed” comprising statements about the faith that I verily believe. Here are the words:

I believe there’s more than our limited, finite, human existence can grasp.

I believe in the Spirit, “God,” the Creator of all.

I believe each of us is a purposeful strand of the Divine DNA.

I believe we have been miraculously engendered with eternity and its memories in our hearts and our minds.

I believe in the wisdom and martyrdom of the man called Jesus, whom history has named the Messiah.

•  I believe in a peace that transcends understanding which results when people come together to care and share with others.

I believe in inclusion not exclusion, compassion not judgment.

I believe many paths can lead to communion with our Creator.

I believe in equality and equilibrium, in the ultimate balance.

I believe in infinite love which, indeed, can “conquer” all hurts and evils, bringing us together and closer to the perfect paradigm.

This creed of mine is a patchwork quilt which has come together over many years.

And it continues to evolve.

Whether “right” or “wrong” doesn’t matter … because it’s what I (personally) believe.

# # # # #

Is Something Missing in Your Life?

Perhaps it’s a nagging void that needs to be filled with sense of purpose or promise. Maybe it’s the opportunity to share common, spiritual ground with others.Or, the greater good whose spirit calls us together.

Without a prescribed religious service or liturgy, we have no creeds, confessions, or collections … no pulpits, pews, or processionals … no altar calls, prosperity preaching, damnation-orientation, celestial choirs, books that we worship, or “holier-than-thou” critics.

Instead, we’re a home-based, nondenominational online congregation that’s spiritual rather than religious, organic over organizational, personal beyond institutional, here-and-now oriented … instead of hereafter.

We gather online to consider and celebrate the sacred journeys of our lives. All are welcomed, appreciated, and affirmed … no matter where in the world you are located!

Whether you’ve attended church (but feel alienated), or if you’d enjoy meeting other wayfarers seeking this type of progressive spiritual experience, please join us and other progressive people of faith.

Join us on Facebook at:
http://www.facebook.com/groups/FaithCommunityOnline

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Sermon: Beauty and the Beast

In his book The Orthodox Heretic and Other Impossible Tales, Peter Rollins tell us that, “Religious writing is usually designed to make the truth of faith clear, concise, and palatable. Parables subvert this appraoch. In the parable, truth is not expressed via some dutsy theological discourse that seeks to educate us, but rather it arises as a lyrical dis-ourse that would inspire and transform us. In light of this, the enclosed parables do not seek to change our minds but rather to change our hearts.”

Here is “The Invisible Prophet,” one of my favorite topsy-turvy parables told by Rollins:

It is said that when God sent one of the greatest prophets to earth, the devil was so terrified that people would heed her message that he hatched a plan to ensure that it would never be heard. He decided to conceal her message as best he could. He looked far and wide for a hiding place that would be so impenetrable, so concealed, that no one would ever hear it. After a long and difficult search, the devil finally found the perfect hiding place: he concealed the prophet’s message in beauty.

When the prophet finally began her ministry, people would gather around to witness her legendary beauty and elegance. She moved with extraordinary grace, and when she opened her mouth the words sounded as if they had been carefully crafted by some divine poet and sung by a choir of angels.

When she spoke, the crowds would reverently murmur, “Isn’t she beautiful?” “How elegantly she moves,” “What grace and splendor she has,” and “What majestic poetry she crafts.” The great painters would sketch her form, and the poets used her as a muse. The critics would delight themselves in her carefully crafted words, and the sculptors would turn to their marble.

Her message was a difficult one, telling of an impending tragedy that would befall the earth if the people did not learn to love the planet, to live simply, to turn from selfishness and embrace humility. She proclaimed that whole cities would be leveled if people did not learn to love once more without limit, without return, and without borders.

Though celebrated as poetry, the prophet’s cries of condemnation were not heard. Her beauty and elegance eclipsed her message, until both she and her words disappeared entirely beneath her voice and form.

So it was that the people moved towards their destruction with dancing and celebration, with eyes that could not see and ears that could not hear. Focused on her bountiful beauty, the wisdom within remained hidden through the ages.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

The “New Normal”?

Repeatedly, I’ve heard these words (^^^) used to describe the way we’re living now—especially the uncommon behavior(s) we’ve adapted to and adopted.

Trouble is, they’re neither new nor normal.

Despots, disasters, and debacles have a long history of turning our “standard operating procedures” into inappropriate behavior and questionable conduct.

It hit me the other day when I saw almost everyone in our immediate vicinity, as well as images beamed from across the globe, wearing facial masks–which is a good thing!

Except for those who refuse to wear them.

Because, like so many other matters, masks have become political statements of which side you’re on. Basically, it boils down to “You’re not the boss of me; you can’t tell me what to do” vs. “Please, people: it’s not about you, it’s about public health and the greater good.”

Yeah, right. Try convincing conspiracy theorists that their preferred sources of news and information are either confused, conflicted, or callously (and covertly) compromised in spreading their own versions of reality for certain reasons, ends, and purposes.

And all those alternative visions are producing a feeding frenzy for the media, where each and every tidbit is taken and shaken as utterly imperative “Breaking News!”

The media feasts on food for its fodder.

Enter Donald Trump, the most unpresidential president imaginable. What he gets away with – what he says and how he says it – is bone-chilling, along with the rest of the characters in his lackluster, blockbuster cast. Besides the vast number who’ve been told, “You’re fired!” many (if not more) have left – resigned — of their own accord to escape the lunacy. Let’s not forget the enablers, too: domestic politicians and money snatchers, complicity conspiring with international intrigue imperiling our democracy, fragile as it is. Or the terrorists, insiders and out, with little regard or respect whatsoever for our sanctuaries.

Talk about thickening plots …

Isn’t it weird that stock markets are soaring to their highest levels ever, when 30 million Americans aren’t working and can’t buy food for their families or pay for the roofs over their heads? Yeah, I know: they’re betting that the future will be better by far than the past. How many people are still collecting – or applying for –unemployment paychecks? Or scratching subsistence from food banks and the largesse of others? How is it that so few have so much, while so many have so little? Why is it that some people hate immigrants (who pay taxes), but not billionaires who don’t? Isn’t that, too, riddling the new normal?

When did it become about keeping folks out of the USA, rather than welcoming them in? “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” speaks not about the rich or the elite, but the wretched, despised, and despairing. Children separated, yanked, from their families and kept in cages like captive animals. Rather than bulding walls, we should be opening doors and creating sanctuaries.

Atlas shrugs and havoc reigns.

Has there always been so much selfishness and hatred blowing in the wind? Or, are we yet a generous and good-hearted people?

We’re used to political party put before principles. Now, however, we have angry pretenders preceding both parties and principles. Follow the leader, you know, no matter how crazy.

It’s happened before … when times weren’t “normal.”

If it isn’t politics and protests, then there’s the weather. Crazy, climate change weather with uncontainable fires, scorching heat, flash-flooding rainfalls, the Everglades drying up as the Amazon burns, earthquakes, more frequent hurricanes, monsoons, typhoons, tsunamis.

Our increasingly endangered wildlife bespeaks species disappearing while they’re hunted for personal pleasue and stolen for keepsakes. Meanwhile, we continue to dump toxic waste into waters already bloated by plastics and packaging.

Which is why some fault our overindulgences, lack of care to protect the environment, and continuing dependency – guns for gas – on non-renewable energy sources as the biggest and baddest “new normal” of all … except, of course, for the pandemic.

Corona virus. Covid-19. But not the “China” virus.

“COVID-19 has me obsessed with how close to death I am, at tables set up in the street, in roaring traffic, with only a flimsy plywood partition between me and a brutal, bloody finish,” posts an articulate friend online. “I just don’t sit in the avenues, only the cross streets; it’s safer …” Yeah, let’s hear it again for the new normal!

It’s not normal – neither new nor usual – for contradictory information to be flying around, with statistics and sound bites. Whether it is what it is or isn’t lacks definitive answers or a common denominator. That’s senseless and stupid. Not to mention confusing (I just did!).

Like sending children to school in the midst of this crisis. Or hanging out in bars. Or not nationally mandating mask-wearing and social-distancing. Or participating in round-em-up rallies. And who’s going to take the vaccine (when it’s available) and who’s not, after all?

“One pill makes you larger, and one pill makes you small …”

Nor is it normal for artificial intelligence, like Facebook, to know more about our personal lives than we, ourselves, do. Not only are the so-called “social” media collecting every last lick of our digital DNA, but they’re using the data to determine what we do and where we go from here … selling our most intimate “psychographics” to any and all bidders.

Endless squinting at tiny mobile screens when people gather, close enough to look deeply into each other’s eyes and share elbow-kisses. But they prefer immersion in their digital devices over face-to-face contact. It may not be new, but it sure ain’t normal.

There are some who contend we’re actually living in the realized visions of Animal Farm, Brave New World, The Handmaid’s Tale, Fahrenheit 451, Lord of the Flies. Whatever. To me, it feels like we’ve either stepped through the looking glass, down the rabbit’s hole, where Cheshire cats and “Off with their heads!” are the norm … or that we’re inhabiting Twilight Zone nightmares from which we can’t shake off the sandman’s dust.

Insanity.

But only if we truly accept this as “normal.”

Let’s face it: totally abnormal is what it is, instead.

Please don’t cry for me, America … or Portugal and Spain, for that matter. Let’s wail for our world and work together to fix it, returning us to a real sense and semblance of normal.

Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Sunday Sermon: The Cracked Pot

Reminiscent of the parable about the sower of seeds, the focus in this story is on the water and the vessel rather than the seeds. We learn that, to be fertile, not only must the ground be good and prepared to receive the seeds, but it needs to be nurtured and cultivated, as well. No matter our cracks, faults, or flaws, we all can produce beautiful “flowers” and bountiful “crops.”

“An elderly Chinese man had two large pots, each hung on the ends of a pole which he carried across his neck.

“One of the pots had a crack in it while the other pot was perfect and always delivered a full portion of water. At the end of the long walk from the stream to the house, the cracked pot arrived only half full.

“For a full two years this went on daily, with the man bringing home only one and a half pots of water.

“Of course, the perfect pot was proud of its accomplishments. But the poor cracked pot was ashamed of its own imperfection, and miserable that it could only do half of what it had been made to do. After 2 years of what it perceived to be bitter failure, it spoke to the man one day by the stream.

“I am ashamed of myself, because this crack in my side causes water to leak out all the way back to your house.”

“The old man smiled, “Did you notice that there are flowers on your side of the path, but not on the other pot’s side? That’s because I have always known about your flaw, so I planted flower seeds on your side of the path, and every day while we walk back, you water them. For two years I have been able to pick these beautiful flowers to decorate the table. Without you being just the way you are, there would not be this beauty to grace the house.”

“Each of us has our own unique flaw(s). But it’s the cracks and flaws we each have that make our lives together so interesting and rewarding. You’ve just got to take each person for what they are and look for the good in them.

“So, to all of my crackpot friends, have a great day and remember to smell the flowers on your side of the path!”

*******************************************************************************************

Without a prescribed religious service or liturgy, People of Faith Online Congregation has no creeds, confessions, or collections … no pulpits, pews, or processionals … no altar calls, prosperity preaching, damnation-orientation, celestial choirs, books that we worship, or “holier-than-thou” critics.

Instead, we’re a home-based, nondenominational online congregation that’s spiritual rather than religious, organic over organizational, personal beyond institutional, here-and-now oriented instead of hereafter.

From Portugal and Spain, we gather online to consider and celebrate the sacred journeys of our lives. All are welcomed, appreciated, and affirmed … no matter where in the world you are located!

Whether you’ve attended church (but feel alienated), or if you’d enjoy meeting other wayfarers seeking this type of progressive spiritual experience, please join us and other progressive people of faith. Here’s the link to our group on Facebook:

www.facebook.com/groups/FaithCommunityOnline

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

What Do You Call It?

The Portuguese have a word for it.

English really doesn’t.

You can’t define it; to truly understand its meaning, you’ve got to experience it.

It’s different than depression, distress, disillusionment, discouragement, despair. It’s wistful and wishing for the way things were … and ought to be … but aren’t anymore.

Although “melancholy” probably is its closest cousin in English, it’s much more than that: a longing, yearning, aching void.

It’s the heart swelling up and crying out inside. It’s a lump in the throat … anxiety attacks … a feeling of foreboding … brooding … bleeding internally … unable to heal the hurt.

It’s a slow burn about the utter unfairness of it all … coupled with an irresolute resolve to go on and make it through yet another day–despite the turmoil, trespasses, and travails along the way.

It’s caring so much and coping so continuously that we’re overwhelmed and exhausted, unable to do much more than sigh as we watch the world go by(e).

It’s abject and deject, anguish and agony, feeling victimized and caught up in an elusive web of betrayal beyond our control.

It’s something for which, elsewhere at another time, they’d prescribe mind-numbing drugs, psychotherapy sessions, and therapeutic confinement.

It’s sort of like the Yiddish word “Rachmones,” whose translations – mercy, compassion, empathy, understanding – don’t come close to what we actually feel when recognizing the trait in a kindred spirit: Namaste.

It’s a voice heard in Ramah, weeping and great mourning, Rachel weeping for her children and refusing to be comforted, because they are no more.

It’s hiding in Anne Frank’s attic, knowing full well what the future holds.

Yet, it is part of the song and dance that are our lives.

The Portuguese sensitize these doldrums and call them “Saudade.”

For me, it’s a dark cloud hovering over us as I await what’s beyond … looking away and staying inside without precious connection to others … hoping it will pass sometime soon.

I feel like a psalmist, pleading with the Almighty to allow me to be joyful, yet unable to understand how and why we’ve become such drained and divided fragments of our fabric.

Then I remember that verse: “ … weeping may remain for a night, but joy comes in the morning.”

So be it.

Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Sermon: WWJD About the LGBT

Driving across town, I passed a corner church near my credit union. A banner on the side of its lawn had “WWJD About the LGBT?” printed on it, inviting all to come and hear the pastor preach.

Curious, I listened to what he had to say.

To sum up his message: Christians should be on the same team–especially those attending his church. All humanity sins and has been separated from God, except for Jesus (who IS God and who wrote the Bible). Don’t doubt that the Bible speaks the authoritative voice of belief. And, while some of the clobber passages in Leviticus no longer apply anymore since Jesus dismissed them, other verses (Old Testament and New) refer to eternal “lifestyle laws” like alcoholism, gambling, promiscuity, men laying with men and/or women with women.

“If you are LGBT, I want you to come to this church!” the pastor urged at the tail end of his sixty minutes. “I want you to get to know us! I want you to come week after week! I want you to get to know the Bible and Jesus! I want you to feel at home and welcomed here, not judged!”

Hmmmmmmm …..

“BUT,” the pastor emphasized, “you can’t be a member of this church. We’ll ask you not to take communion or to participate with us financially. These are things we do as Christians here, as the church … but that doesn’t mean we hate you!”

Yeah, I’d sure feel comfortable at that church. (Not!)

Worship of the mean, old, imaginary, monster God in the sky that millions have feared for millennia hasn’t produced the best life experience or society possible on earth … or even close to it.

I suspect we can do better.

As can God!

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.

Channeling Andy Rooney: Breaking Bad for the Greater Good

I’m going to get some flak-back on this post … because I believe that good manners are preferable to bad.

Common courtesy and proper protocols transcend cultures and/or countries. No matter where you are or what language you speak, correct conduct is always appropriate and appreciated.

Why, then, do some people ignore “etiquette,” alienating, antagonizing, or offending others? Is it deliberate or incidental?



As a child, weren’t you taught to cover your mouth when you cough and your nose when you sneeze—especially in public?

Queuing at the supermarket or grocery store, I am shocked by how many people cough or sneeze without covering their faces while standing over food. And by people who work in restaurants, where they cough or sneeze – without covering up – when dispensing beverages or handling food!

It’s a matter of respecting personal places and private spaces.

Whether breaking into line out of turn, cutting someone off on the road, denying right of way to pedestrians at cross walks, or invading those sacrosanct spaces immediately surrounding us, it’s self-serving behavior rather than observing conventions for the greater good.

Some people shower or bathe regularly. Others don’t. Some brush their teeth and practice good personal hygiene. Others don’t. Some people apply deodorant. Others don’t. Some smoke. Others don’t. Some people douse themselves in perfume or cologne. Others don’t.

Whether you do or don’t is your choice. But, please, be considerate of mine.

The same can be said of our pets: If you have dogs and cats, especially, please pick up after them and dispose of their waste. Simply opening the door to let pets roam the streets, do their business outside, and then return home is irresponsible. Your home may be clean, but who wants to step in feces … or have our dogs contaminated by it? Sickening to see and worse to smell, it’s a public health hazard.

Driving aggressively, carelessly, and/or inconsiderately also violates the rules of acceptable behavior. Recklessly speeding down the narrow streets of our villages – especially with a cigarette in one hand and cell phone in the other – makes it harder to stop and control a vehicle if/when something unexpected or unforeseen should be presented. On the other hand, we’ve been taught to drive in the right lane and use the left only for passing. So, why stay in the left lane driving 60 kms/h in a 90 kms/h zone? I’m told there’s no specific law here against tailgating (despite all the warning signs); but please stay off my butt. Planning to exit the roundabout or roadway? Again, you need to be where you belong … rather than drifting across in front of us and nearly causing an accident. That little lever (usually) attached to the left side of your steering wheel? It’s called a directional signal for a purpose: to alert others of the direction you’ll be taking or changing. Use it! And, granted that some parking spaces are smaller or tighter than others—even in public shopping centers. But, that doesn’t give anyone the right to park haphazardly … taking up two or more spots, leaving none for others.

Courtesy extends beyond these spaces, streets, and roadways. It also includes online behavior. Just because you’re virtually anonymous doesn’t entitle you to act aggressively, ugly, snarky and/or petulant. What pleasure do some people derive from being so snooty, anyway?

Finally, here’s a nod to professional responsibility: If you want my business, practice good public relations. Return phone calls or reply to my emails promptly. Show up when you say you will. Charge me what we’ve agreed to. I’ll be appreciative and likely to do repeat business with you, as well as to refer others to your products and services.

Finding fault is distasteful.

Yet being selfish, indignant, and malicious has become increasingly in vogue and accepted … especially when spotlighted daily by the revolting conduct and shameful language of our leaders.

Nonetheless, antagonism and rudeness never are really successful. Except when it comes to breeding. They poison a healthy environment and turn prevailing positive attitudes hostile and rotten.

So, let’s do what we can to make this world better for all!

Shared here are personal observations, experiences, and happenstance that actually occurred to us as we moved from the USA to begin a new life in Portugal and Spain. Collected and compiled in EXPAT: Leaving the USA for Good, the book is available in hardcover, paperback, and eBook editions from Amazon and most online booksellers.

Processing…
Success! You're on the list.