Blog # 80     THE PICKLE PROBLEM      (Redux Blog # 21)

Our nation’s founders, echoing the philosophies of the English philosophers, Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart Mill, prized free speech and the spontaneous exchange of ideas. The profound belief was that good and useful ideas would drive out useless ones. President Thomas Jefferson believed that a successful democracy requires a literate and informed community of citizens, assisting the government by the free exchange of divergent and creative ideas.

Unhappily, an objective observer on the scene would, in this respect, be hard pressed to avoid a depressed feeling of true disappointment. In Blog # 21, we noted the tragic death of civic amity, the friendly and respectful exchange of well- intentioned opinions, divergent or otherwise. The decline in the proffering of new and creative ideas has unfortunately kept pace with the apparent, exponential decline in such civic amity. This invaluable and productive element in our modern society has alarmingly gone the way of the dodo bird and the wooly mammoth.

A diffident and unhealthy attraction of individuals for others of like mind and similar belief systems has arisen, coupled with a militant rejection and  isolation of others of differing inclination. Such non-productive, sometimes, destructive, tendency may have its source in low personal esteem and the consequent need for acceptance by others as well as the avoidance of perceived uncomfortable and threatening confrontation with others of differing outlook.

Such inclination to avoid other, possibly opposing opinion, in safe concert with others of concurring views, in addition to being unhealthy, individually and societally, promotes insularity and division; it endangers the very traditions of independence and creative thought which constructively made America unique in history.

Those whose personal insecurity thus triumphs over intellectual honesty and creative spontaneity may become vulnerable to the demagogic appeal of disreputable would-be leaders who, history shows, seek to profit from such disunity and divisiveness. It is our spontaneous opinion that this phenomenon has recently seen the rise of such a dangerous personality to the high position of candidate of one of the two parties for the Presidency of the United States.

Our natural, innate inclination to the  encouragement of healthy and vigorous exchange has degenerated to such degree that, strategically, the sole prudently safe course of action is the assiduous adherence, even if insincere, to some popular credo, or else, useless neutrality. In the current context, where differing views are viewed as militant attacks, rather than fair points, deserving of consideration, the converse between third parties can be seen as disappointingly sad or hilarious. Here is an illustrative example of such dynamics: A to B;

A:  “In my personal opinion, these pickles are too sour!

B, under the pressure of the new context applicable to conversation, has the almost insurmountable task of evaluating the context and intention of the declaration by A, and needs time to consider his options, and the relevant possibilities. Was the use of the introductory phrase, “In my opinion…” made as a modest, unassuming observation and consequently, binding on no one and therefore non-controversial?  Was it evidence of a strong feeling, couched in insincerely courteous language? Was it a cautious statement, “In my opinion,” meant to detract from the assertion of factual certainty in order to avert controversy? Could it be a falsely modest and acidic statement of incontrovertible dogma? Who can decide?? B certainly has good reason to be discomfited and does well not to reply until, at the very least, he has sufficient time to consult a reliable member of his insular group who usually” knows” the answers.

It may be a societally useful idea to distribute baseball caps in such various colors, as appropriate to the identification of individuals with particular beliefs and inclinations, in order to insure peace and the absence of strife.

The severe and costly damage to free and spontaneous speech has indeed kept pace with the disappointing decline in civic amity.




The iconic expression, “You only live once” has been deservedly relegated to the status of “cliché” by reason of its very popular use; nevertheless, it is a most significant exhortation. That “once” references one’s sole opportunity to attain a satisfying and fruitful life experience or, alternatively, to squander it. The admonition of “only going around once” also should not be ignored or disrespected.

In Blog # 9, we proposed that one’s feelings of success, self-worth, peace and satisfaction are solely internal conclusions; that an individual’s external successes in the accumulation of assets and the achieved adulation of the crowd, are of an ephemeral nature and soon morph into passing irrelevancy in the search for the attainment of long-term feelings of self- worth and ultimate satisfaction.(Blog# 36). In fact, it may be said that the man’s search for the specific impediments to his self-realization may be more challenging than the Victorian period’s notable search by Mr. Livingston for Mr. Stanley in the “dark continent.”

We would submit that happiness and satisfaction in life are exemplified by one’s sense of inner peace and general feelings of satisfaction, his sense of capability and recollection of past accomplishments, and his recognition of attained self-enhancement and prospects for even further growth.

If the impediment to such happiness is specific and identifiable, it may for such reasons, be somewhat tolerable, albeit difficult to ameliorate; examples are the death of a loved person, failure in business or the fact of an unhappy marriage; all of a troubling but of a rationally digestible nature.

Where the source of unhappiness is not attributable to an identified cause, the challenge is more profound and more difficult for the individual to tolerate and certainly to ameliorate. Augmenting the problem is the fact that one’s own inquiry into the source is limited by his personal subjectivity and traditional defenses, including the fear of change. A husband who always complains in public about his wife’s terrible cooking may be, in fact, motivated by his unhappiness in marriage, the solution to which would necessarily entail pain and feared change. However, discovery and recognition of the actual source of unhappiness is an essential revelation in any realistic attempt to attain happiness and satisfaction with life.

In this writing, we specifically exclude the entire subject of medical causes of unhappiness such as clinical depression and similar illnesses, usually addressed by medicine and talk therapy by professionals.

A memorable and illustrative example of the subject occurred during a walk with a female friend of long standing acquaintance, some years ago. This old friend of the family, an educated and sophisticated person, spoke, consistent with previous conversations, of her enduring unhappiness with her life. I asked her, after some time,” If we had a pad and pencil, could you list the things that you feel  are wrong or what it would take to make you happy, even if the items on the list were not unattainable?” After some thought, her answer was, a reluctant “No.”

The foregoing is a real-life example of existing, persistent unhappiness caused by an undiscernible source. It should be said that we emphatically do not accept the oft- heard facile proposition that some people do not possess the potential capacity or “talent” for happiness. Such assertion is probably made by folks who have become fatigued with the many numerous attestations of unhappiness by the individual. The challenge, in the individual case may be daunting, but not impossible of accomplishment.

Constant brooding and repetitive rumination never prove to be successful in this endeavor; the only known, really successful rumination on this planet, is that performed by cows who, happy with their lot in life, repeatedly chew the same cud.

As we have maintained in earlier writings, the unconscious mind, or psyche, is not man’s devoted friend. Its transmission of atavistic and alarming warnings  of danger may be understandable during the birth process, as the baby passes from the safety of the womb to an unprotected and uncertain environment; unfortunately, for us all, the persistent continuance of such alarms  seem to provide useless  and irrational  warnings and is significantly responsible for  limitations in the mature individual’s fullest  potential for growth and  development.

The purported assertion that all mentally and physically healthy people possess such self-detachment and objective insight as to enable them to find “Stanley in their personal “dark continent” may be unduly and misleadingly optimistic. At times, some direction and objectivity by a skilled and experienced counselor may be relevant.

In the long and meandering road trip of life, one should not be too shy to ask advice as to directions, as necessary.







In the prevalent industrial setting, a question may well be posed as to the proper status of “leisure time” or “time off” in the accepted hierarchy of societal values. With the goal of more efficient and ever-increasing production of profitable goods and services as our “work ethic,” some may well, to this day, anachronistically view leisure time as a useless interruption of mandatory activity and progress.

History has demonstrated that sole dedication and obeisance to the god of profit has always led to the diminution in worth of individual human life; the latter is then demoted to the status of a mere pawn on the chess board of profitable and efficient manufacture. Such impetus led to the rise of urban centers as venues for large manufacturing activity and to the consequent destination for people seeking needed employment.

The advent of the “Industrial Revolution” in 19th Century England evidenced a remorseless decline in the worth of the individual and his shameful reduction to the role of a natural resource, to be mercilessly exploited in the sweatshop or factory. Such degradation and heartless cruelty is well illustrated in the brilliant and socially critical novels of Charles Dickens.

In Victorian days debtors and failures in business were sentenced to the dreaded workhouse, often along with their family {See “Little Dorrit” by Charles Dickens). Modern day people who currently use a treadmill for exercise should know that a sentence of a pauper in the 18th Century to the dreaded “treadmill” meant his certain death from unending and merciless torture making power for industry.

Commencing in  the 20th Century, especially during  the presidency of Franklin D. Roosevelt, a more humane era evolved (and is still evolving) with respect to the compassionate recognition of the laborer as an individual citizen by  limiting the work week and work day and also providing  other socially responsible programs of assistance to him and his family.

A salutary result was the creation of leisure time, permitting the laborer to engage in beneficial family time and affording him the opportunity for self-realization .The great philosopher Socrates stated that leisure time was necessary for man to get to know himself and to think. Leisure time is, In addition to being humane from the perspective of meaningful existence, arguably a human right. One does wonder, by the way, how many folks, other than Mr. Socrates, had the benefit of leisure time in his day.

Healthy perspective tells us that work is the means to an acceptable life, not an end in itself.  Individuals possessing sufficient inner resources can use such free time to seek enlightenment, personal growth and an enhanced life. Those not so disposed may see free time as “goofing off” and, sadly, miss the opportunity for the happy achievement of self- realization and personal fulfillment.

In the big picture, man’s self- awareness and potential for significant growth and enhanced understanding, to this writer, is no less than an evolutionary extension of our developed innate capabilities. This needs to be the guiding criteria in our choices in the judicious use of leisure time. Both child and adult need to have sufficient meaningful interaction; the healthy sharing of thoughts and experiences are moments offering untold benefit. So much more than “goofing off” and thereby missing life’s potential for enjoyment and growth.

There is infinite and unlimited room in our lives for self- enhancement and personal growth. Leisure time, affording each person the elective opportunity to be himself at his happiest best, if wisely and judiciously employed, has the potential for profound, rewarding experiences; let’s construe a “leisure ethic” and resolutely and gratefully adhere to it.




The salutary effects of my regular exercise program are only matched in value by my subsequent attendance at the regular locker room colloquium, participated in (I am told) by mature, educated adults. Yet, after many years of being trapped within earshot of these exchanges, occurring in the 7A.M. locker room, in the interest of aesthetic and intellectual accuracy, I am obliged to file these erudite dialogues under the category, “stool culture”. One is fully confident that if so informed, these educated know- nothings would solemnly accept the fact that the Emperor of The Holy Roman Empire, next succeeding Constantine, was Gluteus Maximus.

Consistent with such experience, a conversation was overheard which proceeded in this fashion, question, “How was Prague?” Answer: Aw, it was a bore, nothing to do.”  Vraiment! Really! Prague! Nothing to do? Astounding, especially since it was Prague.

In Prague’s Old City alone, there is the medieval astrological clock, several striking Gothic and Medieval Churches and Castles, the sculpture- adorned bridge over the historically important Charles River, the oldest Synagogue in Europe, architecture of every style, Gothic, Rococo, Baroque, New Renaissance, Neo-Gothic, Cubist, Neo-Classical and even, Ultra- Modern.

Prague was a strategic site during the Thirty Year’s War featuring successive defenestration’s, is famous for its classical music history,  has underground restaurants and cafes, concert halls, so very much to intrigue the tourist. We were especially entertained at the anachronistic sight of modern, well dressed Europeans going to work in buildings of ancient vintage.

One is confidently assured that our disappointed tourist did take notice at least, that Prague is the venue of some of the world’s best beer.

But, to the point, our subject is not Prague, as such; yet the quoted comment relating to that destination was not only astounding, but also most illustrative of the point we wish to make.

When one arrives at the airport and then boards his plane, he is entering into a “twilight zone” of sorts, leaving behind all that is familiar, his three cats and a great many assumptions and folkways. The destination seems exotic at first, which perception is somewhat mitigated following the completion of unpacking in the designated hotel room. The important benefit of the excursion is now up to the tourist. At least some rudimentary knowledge of the place visited, its history, geography, culture, is a vital requirement to the achievement of a successful and satisfying tour. If the destination, for example, were Prague, is the intended tourist aware of the division of Czechoslovakia into two independent countries, The Czech Republic and Slovenia, of the term “Velvet Revolution,” with the name. Vaclav Havel?

In an earlier blog we have observed that a collateral benefit can be derived from travel. It is the discernment of practiced folkways and cultural behaviors of our own, as well as, as expected, the cultures visited. Observing folks eating exclusively with chop sticks may cause us to take particular notice of the fact that we ourselves dine with knife and fork. The slight bow of the Japanese citizen at a first introduction followed by deeper bows at subsequent meetings or on significant occasions is analogous to our introductory handshake and thereafter our subsequent employment of hearty vocabulary. The Hispanic omission to pronounce the “h” in Hola can be contrasted with the resounding pronunciation of the letter “h” in Hello. We might take note of the fact that the French have not yet invented the letter H.

Of especial importance is the experiencing of other points of view and differing belief systems. This serves to enhance our objectivity and Insight and sometimes tests our assumptions.

One needs some background information to derive meaningful benefit from the travel experience. What would have been our judgment of an oil painting in which sunflowers alone fill the entire canvas, if we did not previously know it was painted by Vincent Van Gogh?

The Eleventh Commandment directs the tourist to be sure to pack some knowledge in his suitcase, in addition to the socks and toothbrush.


Blog # 76 “The Bud,” Pt.2 (Ref. Blog#13), “The Birth of Julsie”



Upon a silent cue from Nature,
The green bud holders relent and
Out ‘scapes a magical bloom-
Not roseate or petal shaped, but with
Golden– red, gossamer curls, all
In orbit about an ever-sparkling base.
Stem and bloom now nodding
In the warm, gentle breeze-
Like a free-floating downy feather.

In the floral fragrance, flutters,
Our old friend, the pretty butterfly-
Calling down, between flickering antennae
To the ascending lady bug,
(Both by now senior citizens)
“Why do you tarry?” “Why so slow?”
To which the breathless bug replied,
It’s harder this time, there’s a new shoot.



Blog # 75 BITTER HARVEST, Blog #3 Redux

The only predictably accurate estimate of the future state of the Middle East would entail the shameful continuance of war and horrific bloodshed. Religious zealots, who seem to sprout up, like harmful weeds in the garden, foment and act as catalytic agents for holy war have, for many centuries, fanned the flames of hatred for apparently receptive audiences.

Recently, even those American citizens, usually given to non-enlightened, reductive solutions, have eschewed their usual military stance (“boots on the ground”) for the universally apparent reason that the only predictable outcome thereof would be the tragic loss of life and waste of treasury.

The totalitarian intolerance of alternate belief, propagated by such religious zealots, has become a seemingly permanent blemish on man’s historical record. It would virtually take a firm of efficient accountants to tally up the shameful number of contemporary lethal conflicts caused by religious intolerance, from Europe to Africa, Middle East to Asia, as well as elsewhere throughout the world.

It has become fashionable for right-thinking members of society to espouse the strategy of fighting evil ideology with the offer of better ideas; a commendable strategy respecting which no one has to date suggested any proposed ideas nor the logistics of their delivery.

One suggestion, contained in one of our earlier blogs, is to widely and effectively disseminate the apparent fact that the enormous number of refugees, desperately fleeing for their lives, from Syria and Iraq gives the lie to the propaganda of ISIS that it is building a Muslim paradise on Earth.

Recently in a T.V. interview by Charlie Rose, Tom Friedman, arguably the most brilliant, incisive and knowledgeable commentator on the subject of Political Science and world affairs, appeared to express significant frustration with the known fact that the 7th Century dispute as to whether the successor to the Prophet Mohammad is to be selected by vote or familial succession, is the underlying basis of the multi-centuries hatred and bloody war between the Shia and the Sunni Moslem people.

Yet the simple and too deadly cause is not (with profuse apologies to Tom Friedman) such things as the referenced debate. (See Blog #3)

As recounted in Blog#3, each individual acquires his culture and belief system by the mere accident of birth (as opposed to some expressed prenatal philosophical preference). The seeds for all religious and other conflicts are sown by the well-meaning parent with those traditional lessons on “we” and “they.” Once that destructive seed has germinated in the fertile soil of the child the stage is then effectively set for a bitter harvest of myth-making, evangelism and, ultimately, lethal conflict.

Ethnic and cultural differences ought to be intelligently and sensitively revealed in a worldly diverse context of “us” (mankind). The alternative future has been, sadly and consistently demonstrated by the hateful Shia-Sunni tragedy (which is not systemically founded on the specific dispute cited).      -p.