February 28, 2007

Another Evening Walk on the Beach

I am so fortunate! I am truly blessed because at 87 I am still capable of walks on the beach. My mind has not failed - neither have any of the senses - though the mind does play more tricks than it use to. However, that might be a diatribe for another entry. All of this verbiage is by way of preamble to a description of another walk on the beach. I especially like to go down to the beach at Juno just before sunset. The air is cool, the pink and lavender evening light spotlights waves as they break against the sand, and the eastern sky above the Atlantic glows with variations of intensity based on atmospheric conditions at the time.

After walking a short distance, I stand or sit at water’s edge and shoot picture after picture, trying to capture the perfect moment, a visual surfer of the waves. Of course, I understand that I can’t steal the moment, which I think is one of the reasons people take photographs. Instead, each moment is like the particles of sand on the beach, a moment strewn upon the shores of time, different than, yet the same as the other random grains of sand, each a gift to the individual who walks there. It has been suggested by some philosophers that the universe has no purpose, that all of space and time is an accident. If this is true, it becomes the responsibility of each thinking human being to make purpose as we walk on our beach. I believe that should we do so, we will discover God and our own reason for being.

As an artist, I also believe that part of my purpose on this earth is to present that which I discover to others who tread upon the infinite grains of sand on this beach called life. At the same time, I am not my artistic talent because like the random grains of sand, it is an accident. Should I present that which I see to others, they will perceive that which they understand and not necessarily my vision of this world. Never the less, should two or more of us try to realize completely what it means to be human, we will be able to share some part of the vision. Perhaps we might learn and grow in understanding of the beach upon which we walk.

If we should all do so, there would be no hate, no evangelical Christians, just Christians, there would be no war in Iraq, and there would never be another nine-eleven.

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February 24, 2007

Bush Plan Working in Iraq

Yes. I am tempted to hope that such a headline will exist, even though it would turn Bush’s ratings up from the abyss into which they have fallen, even though his presidency would be rescued from failure, even though the Democratic Party would suffer another loss in the 2008 elections. The Bush Presidency would not go down in history as the terminus of the United States ascendancy on the world stage. That headline would mark the beginning of the end for the civil war in Iraq that is tearing the country apart and killing thousands of its citizens.

Unfortunately that headline would also mean that the neoconservative philosophy that brought about the Iraq invasion would be justified, and the United States would embark on a spree of preemptive strikes designed to win “the war against terror,” and justified by a string of Republican hawkish presidents. Ultimately these wars would lead to the over-extension of, and finally to the economic collapse of the republic. I also know beyond the shadow of a doubt that the evangelical “end times” religious belief system that sustains millions of American’s in this evil war including President Bush himself would gain millions of more converts mired in a religion that encourages hate and divisiveness instead of the actual pluralistic unification of mankind through religious practices that recognize all of the teachings of God present on earth, Siddhartha Gotama, Mohammed, and Jesus Christ, among others.

Instead, the end of the Bush presidency will hopefully mark the time to begin working with the other nations of the world to end international terrorism through diplomatic cooperation rather than a unilateral preemptive terror of our own. Instead, working toward the end of the war in Iraq with the other nations of the world will hopefully mark the return to a Christian belief system in the United States based on the actual teachings of Jesus Christ rather than the self-serving institutionalized evangelical church practices seized by the small-minded charismatic leaders of those institutions.

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February 20, 2007

God Inside

I’ve been searching for and have finally found a copy of The Gospel of Mary Magdalene at a used bookstore here in North Palm Beach. This Gnostic gospel with commentary by Jean-Yves LeLoup, and translated to English by Joseph Rowe is mostly commentary as Mary’s Gospel is missing 10 of 19 pages, and Leloup’s text with an additional forward by Jacob Needleman is 176 pages.

Mary’s partial Gospel is one of the books the fledgling Catholic Church decided to delete from the accepted canon in the 4th century AD, and is at the same time one of the earliest gospels to be written. Of course the big boys in the Church were trying to corner Jesus for themselves and leave the feminine out of it, so Mary got dumped. That’s putting it crudely perhaps, but honestly. Be that as it may, I’m enjoying the book tremendously, and I find it uplifting. I’ve always felt that the Gnostic approach to God as being deeply rooted inside all of us to be a difficult comfort because it suggests that God is not just far away out there in the universe, but that if we are willing to carefully sift down through and analyze the complex structures inside our own person we will find God. The Gospel of Mary Magdalene has reinforced that belief.

Leloup has used translations of the original Coptic/Semitic and ancient Greek, in his translation to French. Thus, when I read Mary’s Gospel in the English translation, I am reading it through at least 4 separate translations, as I do with the accepted canonical texts of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John. However, Leloup’s explanation of Greek terms sheds light on both Mary’s Gospel and the canon as well. For instance, Leloup translates the Greek in Mary, p8, line 23 as “Walk Forth!” He then goes on to explain that these words are the same in the Greek and its underlying Semitic terms as the language in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5) which have been translated as “Blessed are you” instead. Leloup’s translation makes the Beatitudes active instead of passive. Instead of “Blessed are the Peacemakers,” we have, “Walk forth peacemakers, for you shall be called the children of God.” In Leloup’s translation Jesus does more than passively bless those who make peace. Rather, Jesus exhorts us to actively make peace in the world. Neither are the meek merely blessed, but they are called to walk forth into the world and inherit it. According to this translation, Jesus tells us to actively participate in our lives and the world around us.

At the same time Leloup claims that Mary’s Jesus asks us to reexamine the world through his eyes, and not those of the society around us, because the world in and of itself does not have meaning. Society makes meaning. Each of us makes meaning during our diurnal existence. And, each of us has the choice to accept the meaning we are given by those around us, or to look inside, find “the Teacher,” and return to the original creation. At that point, and only then, will we be able to walk forth, make peace, and inherit the earth.

As a thinking self-activated Christian I found Leloup’s translation and commentary comforting, but at the same time, I wondered how much of his interpretation was colored by a postmodern layer – that individual interpretation of the text is more important than the originator’s intent - in addition to the Gnostic percept that subjective introspection allows us to find God inside the self. That is the problem with being the kind of Christian that I am - the harder I look, the more questions I have. At the same time, it also means that Jesus lives and evolves in my thoughts daily.

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February 17, 2007

Clouds at Sunset

I took one of my walks to the Intracoastal the other evening, before this current cool weather started (38 degrees Fahrenheit this morning). The sunset was magnificent with huge puffed up and ragged cumulous clouds everywhere. I got some great pictures.

It never ceases to amaze me that the sun sets over an hour later here than in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Sunset the other evening was about 6:03. I called Ruth from the dock at the marina, and she said that it had been dark there for an hour. She also said that it was in the upper teens with snow falling, and she gave me a lot of grief for “bragging” about the eighty-degree weather I was enjoying at the time.

Here’s a picture from that evening.

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February 14, 2007

Another slam against the “Save our homes exemption” and high Palm Beach County property taxes

Killing the Golden Goose

I was so pleased to read the Palm Beach Post, Tuesday, February 13, 2007. A front-page article by George Bennett titled “Property owners sound off” stated that taxpayers are demanding a complete revision of the tax system here. One person attending the meeting in Palm Beach County said that his taxes are “ like another mortgage…” As I’ve stated in the past, my own taxes on the condominium here have almost doubled this year, and will do the same again next year. Having just moved here I am unable to homestead until then. Property-owners that have homesteads dating back to the nineties are able to maintain relatively low taxes while new businesses, snowbirds, small business, small investors, renters, those with vacation homes, and families hoping to move here are hit with extremely high property taxes. Mine will approach $9,000.00 next year when I will finally be able to slow them to an annual 3% rise by homesteading my property. It has become so expensive to maintain a home here that people have begun to sell their properties and leave South Florida. Even the rich find themselves caught in the vise. For example, a vacation property valued at 15 million dollars will be taxed at about $270,000 dollars per year. Any intelligent person of wealth would find such unacceptable. After all, there are other tropical options. The Mayan Riviera is a short air flight away, and property is relatively reasonable compared to South Florida, though the Mexican government is also learning how to tax property owners at inappropriate levels. My financial advisor said, “It’s as though the state and county want to kill the golden goose.”

By way of explanation, the “Save our homes exemption” was voted in place in 1992, and permanent homeowners taxes were frozen at ninety-two levels, while all other categories were allowed to rise. However, since that time anyone who moves to a new home in order to upgrade their home within the state and/or Palm Beach County is immediately assessed at the most recent, highest levels caused by profligate state and county spending which has also caused taxes on many homesteaded properties to soar as well as the other categories mentioned above. Marinas in Palm Beach County are taxed at an especially high rate because the local assessor bases his assessment value on the highest potential level of use, which does not take into consideration that the county has a basic three-month season, January though March. The real problem here is county and state government officials, both appointees, and elected officials who have pork barreled the gold coast into insolvency. I will not go so far as to say that crooked officials are in on the take as well, but I have my suspicions.

An organ for over-sight of budgets gone wild, and prosecution of individuals who are using tax funds inappropriately must be developed. I have already described on two separate occasions (January 14, 2007 and December 14, 2006) one County program designed to entrap gay men that has instead entrapped many married bisexual and heterosexual men. I have no idea the cost of the program, but it claims to have entrapped 12,000 men, and I suspect the cost is in the millions of dollars per year.

The County Property Appraiser, Gary Nikolits is accused of assessing property values based on the highest potential value of the property, thus, for example, a commercial lot that now has three small businesses located on it is valued as if it had a 25 story luxury high rise condominium complex instead. A recent Palm Beach Post article demonstrated how the mayor of West Palm Beach accepts gifts from developers who will create these properties of highest potential. She has not been prosecuted. County spending has increased by 80% between 2001 and 2006, and I’m sure has continued to rise during 2007. Instead, escalation must not be allowed to continue. However, spending must also be scaled back to something approximating 2001 levels, and if officials like Mr. Nikolits and the mayor are unable to be part of that change, they must go!

Happy Valentines Day!

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February 11, 2007

Ageism and Love

Adam called last night and in a paternalistic tone said, “I want to talk to you about Peter.” At first I thought I was telepathic, and had somehow communicated my desire over the nearly twelve hundred-mile distance between Woodbury, New Jersey and Juno Beach, Florida.

“H-m-m-m-m, 'telepathetic' is more like it, Isaac.”

However, Adam had read my Wednesday journal entry on the Internet. At first our talk was a replay of my conversation with my alter ego as recorded in that Journal entry, and there’s no need to repeat it. Never the less, Adam threatened to fly down and haul me back to the algid northern states to cool me down. It has been in the mid teens at night and upper twenties during the day in Woodbury, New Jersey lately, compared to WPB highs in the low to mid seventies and lows between sixty-one and sixty-six.

“Grandpa, I think you are demonstrating symptoms of chronic brain syndrome, or dementia.”

“I am not!”

“How else do you explain yourself?"

“Just because I’m old doesn’t mean that I don’t have feelings toward others, and that my sexual body parts have gone dormant, atrophied, and fallen off.”

“Of course not! But, there’s such a thing as maturity. That should have something to do with the behavior of an octogenarian.”

“What behavior? I have done nothing. I have not acted on my feelings, and I don’t intend to. Unlike Jimmy Carter, I don’t feel as though I have sinned in my heart. I feel that the verb, to sin, requires an inappropriate act or set of actions. The act(s) being absent, one has not sinned. In fact, feelings of love toward others, however inappropriate can motivate one to right actions. It is a choice we all make, and astronaut Lisa Nowack simply made the wrong choices. Of course, her situation may not have been “simple” to her, complicated, as it must have been with familial expectations, the presence of husband and two daughters, the apparent desired lover, Ofelein, and the other woman. I wonder how much of her apparent murderous breakdown was precipitated by the fact that, as difficult as her life must have been, she always came out on top, achieving everything she always wanted. Under such circumstances, it might be possible to internalize the idea that one is capable of achieving all goals through hard work and perseverance. After all, isn’t that part of our American belief system, certainly part of the Republican credo. I hear it often enough, the idea that there is no excuse for failure in the United States, that anything is possible if one is willing to go after success. That is part of the reasoning behind, removing special opportunities for blacks, Latinos, women, and placing LGBT people in a second class of citizenship. After all, evangelicals know that lesbians and gay men, bisexuals and transgendered people just have to click their ruby “slippered” heels together, pray to God to make them straight, and, “POOF”, instantaneously they are back in Kansas.

“How does that follow,” you say?

It follows because according to evangelical thought, lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered people make a choice concerning their sexuality - it is not God given – though in actuality, science seems to be demonstrating that it is. However, the rest of the Christian world knows the evangelical position on science as well – that real science is best regarded as immoral, so invent shoddy unscientific theory and place it in opposition to the actual hard work of scientific theoreticians. Ah, well, I seem to have gone off on a tangent.

Be that as it may, I have pursued no inappropriate behavior, and that is what I said to Adam on the telephone last evening. I may be befuddled, and confused by my feelings, but I am behaving in a way that suits my advanced age, though I must say that my feelings demonstrate the fact that senior citizens are perfectly capable of sexual lust, no matter what the popular ideas are that are circulated within the sick and unrealistic culture in which we live.

“Ageist is the word you’re looking for, Isaac.”

“Ageist doesn’t begin to carry the sense of resentment I feel toward our popular notions about anyone over the age of 30, much less those of us who are actually achieving advanced years.”

“You’re over reacting now.”

“No, I’m not. But I shall have to contain and live with my feelings, as painful as they may be!”

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February 07, 2007

Love Isn’t Dirty

So, there’s this old man who wants to have sex with his best hunky young friend. I finally admitted it to myself – my subconscious won – and I am horny as hell.


“Why, it’s Peter of course.”

“Isaac, you can’t.”

“I know, it sounds totally evil.”

“It is!”

“It’s just that he’s so sweet, considerate, and smart, and handsome, and built – he’s my physical ideal, slender and muscular, nice basket - and ye gods, I wish I were 50 years younger!”

“So, put it back in your pants where it belongs, and perhaps your feelings will motivate you to be a good friend to the young man.”

As we’ve discussed before, I do talk to myself, especially if I’m upset about something. I answer too, which according to the old saw makes me loony as any resident in the booby hatch – just a crazy old man (C.O.M.).

“I’d say that 'Dirty Old Man' is closer to it Isaac. Pederasty, here We come.”

“He’s in his twenties. He’s not a child, and love isn’t dirty. In fact, I wonder how much of our negative perception of pederasty isn’t based on a Twenty-first century Western culture ageist orientation – that is, life before thirty is glorious - life after thirty just a descent into pathetically wrinkled dementia. ”

By way of explanation - Peter came over last evening for one of our marathon conversations about the universe, art, sex, love, and politics. We talked into the wee hours of the morning. On his way out, he turned and hugged me at the door, and I was so overwhelmed that I almost fell to the floor. I was unable to utter a word to his “goodnight, Isaac.” After closing the door absentmindedly, I performed my usual sleepy-time ablutions, went to bed and tossed and turned all night. I finally wept myself to sleep at about 4:00 A.M.

I’m such a silly old fart! I can’t tell Peter about my feelings because I will risk loosing my best friend here in Florida. I thought I might call Adam and talk to him about it, but I can’t because my being in love with Peter is so absurd, stupid, and ridiculous (Too many descriptors – so shoot me!).

What is there to do?

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February 03, 2007

U. S. Should Leave Iraq!

Am I the only voice, crying in the wilderness?

I have been against the Iraq War since President Bush and his Neoconservative buddies first mentioned the possibility of invading the country. Whether Hussein had weapons of mass destruction or not wasn’t the issue in my mind. Instead, I worried about the morality of the United States making a preemptive invasion of any country. Yes, the 9/11/2001 attack on the World Trade Center was abhorrent and evil. It did not, however, make moral an invasion of a foreign country based on the assertion that it had ties to Al Qaeda. Such an invasion was and is immoral. To my mind, it smacks of “an eye for an eye” anachronistic Pentateuch world view, and I thought that the United States would achieve nothing but the reputation of the fat schoolyard bullyboy by pursuing a preemptive invasion of Iraq.

Time has proven me right. And, I am saying, "I told you so!"

I also assert that the only correct course today, nearly 4 years after the invasion is to leave Iraq. Yes, leave, immediately if not sooner. By staying we compound the original error. Even if President Bush had invaded with 200,000 troops and managed to secure a permanent victory and peace in Iraq, the only correct course would have been to leave immediately. Having botched the entire operation, there is no alternative but to leave because the longer we stay the more dangerous the civil war between the Shiah and Sunni becomes.

To those who say that we would leave a power vacuum in the Middle East, I say, what power vacuum? We seem to have created a power vacuum. If we leave, the players there might just be able to correct the situation. I might add that by staying, we are spending our hard earned capital on a mistaken enterprise, and that it threatens to break the treasury. Instead, we need to focus on actual/real problems around the world. Problems like North Korea, Iran, and global warming.

“A-hah,” you say. “But, Iran is part of the problem with Iraq!”

To which, I reply. “No, a destabilized Iraq is part of the problem for Iran, and we might be able to help, if we were willing to talk to Iran, rather than ignore her and/or threaten her.”

I also wonder what might be wrong with going to the United Nations? Is it so terrible to say, “We made a mistake?” Would it be wrong to ask the nations of the world for help to correct the problems we have created? I guess that would be up to another president since this one is unable to understand that he has created a huge mess in the first place.

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February 01, 2007

Improved Health and Butterfly World


It’s been so pleasant and cool lately! I took advantage of the upper 60’s F, Canadian high pressure weather system yesterday and drove down to Broward County to see Butterfly World. It was the first big excursion out on my own since I had pneumonia, and I was a bit apprehensive since it has taken a long time and a lot of regular exercise to get my strength back. However, I had no problem with negotiating any of the driving and only a bit of difficulty with the walking that the trip entailed. In fact, I wasn’t terribly tired when I returned home, and I’ve decided I can start pushing myself harder in my walking, and exercise routine.

Other than the New Age music playing at top volume outside, I found Butterfly World to be fascinating, and I spent 3 hours wandering through the various aviaries. Each has a double (sort of air-lock) between it and the outside world. There are overlapping plastic strips hanging down, and signs that direct one to close the inside door before opening the outside door – all precautions to prevent the beautiful creatures from escaping into the natural habitat of South Florida. H-m-m-m-m-m - oxymoron that, as there’s not much of a natural habitat left here. It’s all concrete and buildings, planned gardens, road grid, giant trash heaps fifty to one-hundred-feet high that cover many acres, and other infrastructure with little left of the original flora and fauna. Be that as it may, the aviaries at Butterfly World were recreations of tropical rain forests complete with misty grottos and over 80 species of butterflies flashing their brilliant yellow, orange, red, blue, and green spotted stained-glass-like wings everywhere. One large neon blue and black fellow landed on my shoulder and stayed for over a minute and I became the center of attention as camera-bearing people descended on me from every direction. The fairy-tail environment created by these magnificent creatures was peaceful beyond belief. I sat down on a bench in one corner and rested there, incredulity filling my entire being as I allowed the aura of peace to descend and fill me like an empty vessel. I wish I were a great poet, or composer, so I could describe for you, dear Journal, the ecstasy that owned my soul and spirit.

After sitting for fifteen minutes, or more - I’m not sure how long I sat transfixed - I gradually pulled together the scattered parts of myself that were flying with the magnificent creatures around me. I got up and walked the jungle paths still floating, not completely of this earth. I stopped to read some of the signs, and discovered that many of these ethereal creatures lived no more that six days, the most long-lived, eleven.

Something shattered, like crystals, into a thousand small pieces – joy trampled to powdery sand beneath my feet – beaches – cumulous filled sky reflecting sunset pink and salmon oranges, hung above the aqua and green ocean and filled my heart - then, joyous revelation!

I too am like those magnificent creatures and my short cycle of days is almost gone. Soon I shall return to God. And yes, I shall return despite the evangelical belief to the contrary - I shall spread my rainbow wings, and he/she will open the gates and the light will fill me with the peace I knew yesterday, and I will dwell in God’s aviary until I am bid to return.

Peace, love, and grace to us all, and may God forgive us our smallness of spirit.

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