Recycling

Sarcastically, a character in a British television show we just watched, said, “I guess you think recycling is a novel idea.”  In other words, you must have been living your life in a bunker if you don’t know about recycling.

Around for decades, officially, my mom famously employed her version of recycling since at least the sixties.  She re-used margarine tubs which the family hopefully deposited in a recycling bin somewhere when she passed, leaving dozens if not hundreds of them stored in a basement cupboard. She also sorted trash into burnable paperboard from landfill-bound other garbage.

Not everybody likes recycling.  Some folks prefer to pop everything used into the garbage, and that’s that.

Recycling isn’t just about stuff.    I mean, we recycle ideas all the time.  Memory itself is the epitome of recycling.  You recall something from the past and redesign it for use in the present.

The word-symbol, recycling pops up frequently enough in my dreams to seem, recurring.  Recurring dreams are really unresolved subconscious material trying softly to come out into the light.

What is recycling?  It’s essentially resurrecting something used, potentially destined for the trash bin, and using it again.  Most recycling is also repurposing, or finding a new purpose for that used thing.

Commercial recycling of aluminum cans (think soda, beer, energy drinks, or some cat food cans) make new aluminum cans, rain gutters, or window frames.  Plastic bottles (water, milk, laundry soap, etc.) can become buckets, outdoor play sets and lumber, new bottles, stadium seats, frisbees and other containers.

Glass bottles can become new jars, bottles, or fiberglass.  Steel/tin cans have become car or bike parts, appliances, new cans, or rebar.

Cardboard transforms into paperboard, the stuff your dry laundry soap, pasta, and cereal packages are made of, and in which other boxed items are sold.  Office paper and junk mail can become facial tissue, paper towels, toilet tissue, new computer paper or notebook paper.

So, what have you resurrected from the throw-away pile in your mind, to repurpose in 2022?  Perhaps you’ve buried it deep in the landfill of your subconscious.  How about experimenting with bringing it up into the compost pile, and plant some flowers or a tree into its new, rich, fertile soil.

Something Else

Ideas usually come to me when I’m doing “something else,” or supposed to be doing something else, like sleeping.  Some of my more fruitful notions materialize in dreams.

Thoughts which become my columns come to me in the wee hours of the night when my desktop computer is asleep, like I should be.  So, the notes section of my cell phone is vastly overused, including its microphone.  It’s a wonder my notes icon doesn’t make the ding, ding, ding noise that signals an overload, that other mechanized items are apt to do.

I also resort to my notes to record thoughts when I’m jogging or hiking outdoors.  Ideas come when they come, at the most random times and they can flee, like a butterfly if I don’t get them recorded somewhere.  Little can frustrate a writer more than an idea, a really good one, that flew the coop.

I might be jogging to music and I’ve got the timer on for my workout, and I don’t believe I can also use my notes to record the ideas that seek my attention at that inopportune time.  I panic just a little and certainly lose my jogging-Zen, thinking, “hurry up before that thought goes the way of 8-track tapes.”

I might be gift wrapping a present when I suddenly think of an alternative way to make that soup, we were thinking of trying.  I was recently paying bills online when I came up with a time saving idea for packaging my homemade cookie gifts.

Ideas for reducing stress in my jaw come when I’m mindful that I’m clenching again.  That reminds me….  To be reminded of something is to rememorate or to be caused to remember.  Somewhere in our mental storehouses we experienced something that we now randomly recall, triggered by “something else” similar that we’d experienced before.

When we’re doing something else, we frequently get reminded of other related things.  Speaking of other – that’s what else means.  Else shares its origins with the words alien, alibi, and alter – otherness.

I don’t recall from what scenario we heard the expression, “what else ya got,” but we usually say this as ventriloquists for our cats when one of them turns up his nose at the food offering given to him or when a new recipe doesn’t pan out.  “Anything other than that, please.”

Alternatives.  Either we have an alternative or we feel our liberty is limited.  Surely there’s something other than this.  If given a choice, I’ll take the other one.

What else?  It’s probably not just men, or all men, but my experience with one man suggests that with the television, he prefers to know what else is on.  Rarely settled with what’s on, he wants to know his options for what else might be on.  “Can’t we just watch this,” she pleads.

Speaking of alternatives, ever since the reign of Queen Victoria in England, commencing in the early 19th century, the advent of polite society initiated the replacement of vulgar “four-letter words” with polite ones.  This trend spread over the pond to the united colonies, and here we are.

Everybody knows the words that politeness has wrought and most of them are of the four-letter variety, in English.  One of the most prolific is, heck, for h-e-double hockey sticks; gosh for the Jewish preferred G-d; darn, for the jammed up run of water, with another m added for good measure.   Used mostly in the U.K., arse is a four-letter word replacing the crasser three-letter word it is substituted for.  Go figure.

Then there’s the words shoot or sugar for the French, merde, but these are not four-letter words, so we came up with the four-letter word, crap, because polite substitutes should at least resemble the masked cuss word, for emphasis as an exclamation of indignation.  However, some folks in polite society believe that the word crap is just as crass and impolite as the word it is intended to replace.

Cuss itself is probably another word for swear, which is not just considered impolite but ungodly as well.  So, I’m thinking that cussing is like telling white lies, they’re both on a continuum from bad to worse, as words of exclamation go.

But at least most impolite words and their replacements stick with one syllable, whether the word contains three, four, or five letters.  This, supposedly stays in effect for the emotional emphasis these words demand; although there are the full sentence substitutes such as, “gosh darn it to heck,” “not by a darned sight,” “just for the heck of it,” “we had a heck of a good time,” “what the heck?” and “you’re doing a heck of a job.”

No worries, newspapers and most other print media remain firmly ensconced in polite society’s norms and will replace any questionable impolite words with the other word, expletive.  I’ve tested this policy, my natural sarcasm overwhelming my polite facade in just one instance. Most people will quickly fill in the expletive-blank, because we all know the banned words.

Words for excretory functions, do not rise to the level of profanity, even though potty language is considered by most to be impolite.  Thus, the comedy of the Shrek movies offends only a minority.

Something else about our English language use of impolite words and their substitutes is that nearly all of them begin and end with hard consonants, making them closed syllables.  Apparently, this is for emphasis; that’s why we use them. 

Oh, and “something else,” what kind of four-letter word is work, word, love, loss, heap, more, best, sale, home, salt…?

Is Everything OK?

I discovered a fun fact while doing a bit of research for this column.  One of the most far-reaching expressions in the English language is, OK Even though its origins go back to 1839, its ubiquitous use rival’s today’s text-friendly, LOL (laugh out loud).

“OK” was first used in a Boston Morning Post article as a joke, making fun of misspelling “all correct,” as “all korrect,” then abbreviating it.  The expression was inched up the popularity scale in “Old Kinderhook,” Martin Van Buren’s reelection campaign of 1840.

The word Jeep is a similarly abbreviated misspelling, for a military vehicle known as a “general purpose vehicle,” GP/Jeep. The Humvee was HMMWV or “high-mobility multi-purpose wheeled vehicle.”

“OK” made it into the Slang Dictionary of Vulgar Words in 1864.  OK, and its meaning as everything being all correct or alright, figured prominently in the 1967 Thomas Harris book, “I’m OK, You’re OK,” the most popular self-help guide ever penned.

Don’t we often say, “It’s OK,” when it’s clearly not.  For example, I tell myself it’s okay that I wasted all kinds of ingredients on a failed recipe experiment.  But it’s not.  I’m honestly kind of bummed that that recipe failed and I wasted a ton of money on ingredients, not to mention my energy.  I hate waste.

If somebody screws you over in some interaction, what do you say when they half-heartedly say they’re sorry?  You say, “it’s OK.”  But is it really all, correct?  No, by golly, it’s not OK.

And when someone asks, “are you OK,” usually we feel an obligation to say, “yes.”  I mean, how ungracious to say, “no, I’m not OK.”  And the former question might just be a passing conversation filler not unlike, “how ya doin,” not a genuine inquiry as to your emotional or physical well-being.

The tiniest troubles can pose the biggest threats to our well-being.  For example, I can climb up onto and over a boulder in the woods with little problem.  I can step onto or over a jutting rock, no problem.  But when my foot pounces upon an acorn or the tiniest piece of gravel, ouch.

Our minds and senses constantly scan the environment, checking against memory, for potential threats.  I’m surmising that’s probably why we notice the negative, the bad things that happen, first, and remember them longest, because they’re potential threats, triggering a physical flight or fight response.  Our minds and emotions try to resolve the resulting agitation by trying to “fix it.”

Don’t we just tend to focus on the little foxes and the negative things?  We can have all manner of wonderful things come down the pike toward us, but one negative nonce enters our life and it ruins our day.

Thank God for Facebook, where we post all the glorious stuff in our lives, our best selfies, encouragement, and prayers.  Meanwhile, we keep the disappointments, failures and cuss words to ourselves and quickly delete the photo-duds.

But we quickly dismiss the good things and positivity because they don’t threaten our well-being.  Speaking of well-being, let’s talk about not being OK. 

A year or so ago a certain royal couple, who left their job across the pond and immigrated to her home country, America, attempted, with their celebrity, to de-stigmatize mental illness.  You see, I thought mental illness was out of the closet years ago.

I’ve been wrong before.  Perhaps mental illness is still not on the table for open discussion in 2021.

Anxiety disorders, depression, substance addiction, bipolar disorder and obsessive-compulsive disorder are several mental illnesses which come to mind as prolific in the world today.  One in five people will experience a psychiatric illness, each year. 

These disorders exist on a continuum from what the typical guy calls a normal reaction to a stressful world, to the incapacitating disruption of one’s life.  So, if someone asks you if you’re OK, maybe answer gently but honestly and receive a little help from a friend, as the Beatles sang, you’ll “get by with a little help from your friends.”

In a recent dream I was ticking off a list of one bubble-like, temporary obstacle after another, until I finished the list.  Lo and behold, another list popped up.

Does life imitate art, or is it the other way around?  In creative works of fiction, whether cinematic or written, there is no story plot without at least one obstacle or problem to be overcome. 

The logic would follow that without obstacles, we “have no life” or story with which to enhance the world. How does the narrative of your life give meaning to the lives of others?

We need not feel singled out that we have a problem to overcome or an obstacle in our way.  It’s one of the universals of life, so it seems.

The uniqueness we have as individuals is not that we face obstacles, because we all have to tackle problems.  Our uniqueness lies in what attitude, resources, assistance, and spirit we have stored in the bank of our souls to deal with said obstacles.

Even the games that we play, for fun, for challenge, or for competition, involve beating one obstacle over another until we finish – win or lose.  The satisfaction comes from overcoming one challenge after another and coming out on the other end, alive and kicking.

I want to leave you, in my last column of the year, with the expression, “it’s OK.”  You’ve done it.  You made it through another difficult year and whether you feel it or not, if you did your best, then it’s “all korrect,” everything is OK.

Traditions

It’s what we’re used to.  Traditions are probably rarely based on absolute truth, but thrive on what we’ve “always done.”

For better or worse, we hand down from one generation to the next, our habits, rituals, beliefs, and information.  Don’t ask me why certain of these things pass down to our children and others don’t stick. Thus, you can’t blame everything on mom and dad, but some stuff descends like a thud.

My husband and I have been known to exclaim in astonishment upon observing our adult child, “Oh my goodness, she got a dose of that from you and a dose from me.  The poor child hasn’t got a chance.”  And, nothing touches this mom’s heart more than to see my grown daughter imitating something good that I’ve passed on to her. “You’re just like your father,” can be a blessing or a curse, hopefully a blessing.

We all want to live on in terms of a legacy, after we’re gone from this realm.  We’d like to transmit something good of ourselves to the generations.  That’s why we make traditions.

For example, Christmas.  The facts are that if your reason for the season is the birth of Jesus, you’ve got the date wrong.  But who cares?  Christmas traditions bring happiness in a world that has much to be unhappy about.

Happy birthday Jesus, anyway.  We’ve often included birthday cake on Christmas, just because of something akin to tradition.

The Christmas tree was traditionally a fir tree, a “paradise tree” commemorating the religious feast day of Adam & Eve, on December 24th, in Germany.  This reminds me of a silly quirk of our times and technology.  When I text using the word “for,” more often than not, it materializes as fir.  Auto-correct thinks, uncannily that I’m obsessed with the fir tree.  Just to be clear, I am not.

We have entertained the gamut of Christmas tree traditions.  We used to get freshly cut evergreens or cut them ourselves.  Then, when our daughter was born in New Mexico, we bought a potted black pine tree for her first Christmas and subsequently planted it in the southeast corner of our property here in Pennsylvania where it guarded our home for many years.  For the last decade or more we have used an artificial tree, recycled from year to year but still managing to beautify our home for the holiday season.

The last few years, as we age, we threaten to relieve our holiday of the Christmas tree tradition, but as traditions go, our offspring will not allow that tradition to wane.  And, honestly it wouldn’t be “the same,” without that tree.

Should you suffer from short term memory loss, what you’re used to, what you’ve always done, keeping things the same, and how you think about things, becomes even more important than for others who just dislike change.  Traditions keep us going, putting one foot in front of another, through the seasons.

Something like body memory or pop-up memories can take over when mental memory fails, as long as nothing changes.  Woo-hoo, good luck with that.

What would we do without lights at Christmas time?  In the darkness of winter, Christmas lights illumine our way, brighten our countenance and lighten our burdens.

I think it was Prince Albert, the German spouse of England’s Queen Victoria who popularized the Christmas tree with candles illuminating it. Can you imagine candles on an evergreen tree?

I’m sorry if you don’t appreciate the Chevy Chase movie, Christmas Vacation, but I can’t move on until I mention two things from that film.  First, the vision of candles on a Christmas tree, reminds me of Uncle Lewis absentmindedly lighting his cigar next to the Christmas tree, wiping it out along with the cat, his toupee and the chair.  Second, Clark thanked his dad for passing down via tradition, “everything I know about outdoor illumination.” 

Christmas candles and the tradition of gift-giving are both symbolic of Christ as the light of the world, and his birth as the ultimate gift to humankindPurposeful or not, when we light the darkness at Christmas time and give gifts to one another, we’re imitating the Light of the World.

Stockings are hung after the tradition of Saint Nicholas, who as the story goes, after dark threw three bags of gold through an open window, to bless a family with a much-needed dowry, with one landing in a stocking.   And, the tradition stuck, as many of them do. 

Traditionally we had Christmas ham for our Christmas day meal.  I like ham.  Everybody else in the family tolerates it, for me, I think.  So, this year I’m starting a new tradition, “Greek for Christmas.”  We’re having Greek meatloaf, Spanakopita (the kids say mine is better than theirs in Athens or the islands), and salad scattered with feta and such.

Known for mix and match in my fashion, I’ll do the same for our Christmas meal and each element will be traditional somewhere.  The gingerbread, aka Jesus’ birthday cake, topped with a choice of raisin or lemon sauce is traditional at Christmas partly because it was thought a long time ago in England, my ancestral home, to be sacred and only allowed at Christmas or Easter.  Also, ginger calms the stomach which let’s face it, is way overtaxed throughout the holidays.

Happy traditions and Merry Christmas.

It’s Pay Day Somewhere

You’ve heard the joke shared when someone wants an adult beverage early in the day, “well, it’s five o’clock somewhere.”  My theme of this column is loosely based on that joke.

Someone, somewhere is paying for or being paid for something.  Let’s explore that idea of payment a little bit.

In our business, we casually but regularly use the concept of cost-benefit ratio.  Asking the question, “Is it worth the cost to do thus and such” is our oft-used measure of what goods and/or services to buy, how much to spend, and when to cut back, because the cost is too “dear.”

The word “dear” in this sense is something I had heard growing up, to mean, expensive.  As it turns out, the way we used to open a personal letter to someone, with Dear so-and-so, is related to this old-fashioned usage as something or someone precious, held in high regard, beloved, important, of high value or worth much in our estimation.

As to payment, it is often wondered, are we paid for what we’re worth?  Do you feel shorted on pay day?

Is it worth it to pay that much for that item?  For what it’s worth, I have opinions about having to pay the going prices in today’s market.  Is the price too high, for you?

Is the cost too high?  Is it worth it?  What’s it worth to you?  Is there a discernible equivalent value, worthiness?

Have you ever done something wrong and now someone wronged implies, “you’ll pay?” This pronouncement is their promise to correct you by making you suffer.  Their plan is to take something from you in repayment.

“If I do this thing, will I pay the price later?”  “I think this may cost me.”  In other words, will I suffer the consequences of my actions, or get away with it this time?

Then there’s payback which means exactly what it says, one has to pay back what we owe to whomever we owe it.  This kind of payback may or may not include interest on what we borrowed.  Interest can be tricky, as it can be a fair trade or it can be loan-sharking.  Either way, however, we usually agreed to the terms.

But, more often than not, payback is a form of revenge, even though it’s under the guise of reaping what we sow.  If it’s a person exacting the payback, it’s usually revenge, or the Hebrew bible’s “an eye for an eye” which in its original intent and language, was not payback but an effort to make an injured party whole.  As in, if your eye has been taken, I’ll give to you my eye so that you may be made whole.  But, we the people in our need to be right and to get what’s ours, not to mention living in a world of sin, made the “eye for an eye” scripture all about revenge.

Sometimes, if we do something hateful, dirty, cruel, or unkind to someone, we may almost immediately reap what we sowed.  If alert, we might recognize our wrongdoing and think, “well that was God’s payback.”

Maybe I could avoid payback if I “pay it forward.”  Why not?  Instead of paying back a person who did a kindness to you, you pass it on to another person.  Theoretically, they pass it on to another, and so on.  Thus, a pattern of kindness is generated.

Have you ever been dirt poor, or better yet, hit pay dirt? The former, “rock bottom” is the dirtiest of dirt.  The latter, sort of ground up rock containing bits of gold, could be said to be similar to the Beverly Hillbilliesblack gold; and yeah, me neither.

I have eaten a Payday candy bar.  But I don’t recommend them, on pay day or anytime, if you have a peanut allergy or dentures, for that matter.  It happened to be payday at the Hollywood Candy Company in Minneapolis, Minnesota when the caramel covered peanut nougat bar was first produced in 1932.  Since it was, duh, payday, someone suggested the name, and inventor Frank “Marty” Martoccio agreed.

I’m looking forward to payday.  So, if you feel so inclined to pay me back for anything I’ve done, in the “what goes around comes around,” way, could it please be for something kind or loving or benevolent that I’ve done?  Please forgive me if you’ve got something else in mind for payback, on payday. 

 

In Defense of Life

This column could be considered part deux of my previous, Basic Human RightsThe right to life being the focus of this segment.

In today’s day and age, post 1973s Roe v. Wade decision, the right to life usually centers on the legal right to have an abortion.  I will not argue this matter.  Rather, I would like to elaborate upon the reasons why we argue any matter.

I’m putting out a theory that the whole raison d’etre for argument, activism, lobbying, and a whole host of cultural movements, surrounds the right to life and/or liberty.  In order to live, we require food, shelter, and air to breathe.

As to food, a number of social organizations exist for the sole purpose of making sure people have food to sustain their bodies.  Food banks, sponsored by churches, come to mind, as we see these throughout our rural landscape.  Then there are the well-known organizations such as Feed the Children, The Hunger Project, Feeding America, City Harvest, Bread for the World Institute, and Action Against Hunger-USA.

From breast-feeding in public, or even labeling it breast-feeding as opposed to chest-feeding, or demanding that every mother breast-feeds, this is probably the first food-oriented argument in the evolution and development of life.  Well, I guess one could argue that the first argument of this sort involves the pregnant woman, gestating a human inside of her, who could be criticized or even tormented for what SHE eats, as she is gestating another human.  It has been done.

Then, there’s the argument about the kind of food we eat.  There are advocates and dissenters for every kind of diet known or semi-known to humankind.  There is the Keto diet or similar Atkins diet or Mediterranean diet; the Vegan diet and the Vegetarian diet, the Carnivores diet, the Balanced diet or Pyramid diet, and the “take a pill and don’t exercise or diet, diet.”  So, theoretically, there is someone out there ready to pounce on every morsel you put into your mouth, or don’t put into your mouth.  Not just the plumpest of the plump are the target of social activism, but the thinnest of the thin out there, suffer from criticism too, “you’ve lost too much weight, are you healthy?” or “are you anorexic?”

Social movements focusing on food such as farm-to-table, organic, home-grown, restaurant, or grocery store food, all have taken their place in the annals of food history, and remain on the table.  There is preserved food in the form of canned food, dried food, and frozen food, and there remains, fresh food.

It doesn’t matter to me which food you select to sustain your life, but you can bet it matters to somebody out there and they’re watching you.  There is surely a group who would defend your right to eat what you want and a group against your eating the way you’ve selected.  Oh, and we shouldn’t forget the all-important groups who make sure you can eat.

As to shelter, most of us take for granted that we have a roof over our heads.  In fact, just having celebrated Thanksgiving, many a meme on Facebook, Thanksgiving greeting card, or general prayer of thanks, acknowledges that roof over our heads.  We’re generally grateful for a place to live.

For those struggling with housing in our rural communities, there are Housing Authorities, Community Services, and Homeless Assistance and Energy Assistance groups who will help.  Nationally there is a Coalition for the Homeless and the National Alliance to End Homelessness.

Remember, your shelter and my shelter may be two very different concepts of shelter.  I know and love some Realtors, one in particular, and it is their job to find you the ultimate in shelter.  Here, I’m talking about buying a house, estate, property, home, or making an investment.  But there are rentals out there which supply housing to millions who choose not to own, or cannot own their shelter.

But we all have neighbors, whether we own or rent our shelter.  “Love thy neighbor.”

This brings me to the third right, the air we breathe We have to “share the air” with all the rest of humankind.  We supposedly were taught to share when we first toddled on this earth.  But sometimes you wouldn’t know it.

From “quit smoking” campaigns to a gazillion-and-one conservation, earth-friendly, environmental, green, scientific organizations, there is a multitude of defenders of the air and ground through which we live our lives.  Is it really a surprise to anyone that we don’t all agree about how to protect the precious resource of the air that we breathe? 

“Sometimes, all I need is the air that I breathe…. And to love you…. All I need is the air that I breathe….”  This is from a 1974 song performed by The Hollies, written by Louis and Edward.  This song reminded me that perhaps we could, rather than defending life, live life in spite of all of our differing opinions about how it “should be lived.”

I fed the cat around 6:45 a.m. and when I looked out at the slightly south, eastern sky, I was amazed.  I would have to struggle to recall a more beautiful natural sight.  I stumbled to throw on a sweatshirt, boots, coat and headband, in order to traverse a hill across from my house, in an attempt to photographically capture this sight.

My fleeting thoughts as I saw that magnificent sunrise went from: “red in the morning, sailor’s warning,” to, “oh that’s not red clouds, that’s the sunrise!” to “I think my phone weather app forecast a cloudy day; to “maybe I’d better get dressed and go out on the deck to get a pic of this before the clouds overtake it.”  Then I quickly decided I’d get a better shot from up the hill.

Don’t you know I missed it?  In hindsight I could have just snapped the pic through the window, in spite of it including the neighbor’s houses.  My new motto might have to become – “gobble up the good, while you bide for the best or you’ll miss the most.”

Because of that sunrise, I almost titled this column, In Spite of the Clouds, hoping to engender optimism in the face of negativity all around us.  In spite of the clouds…In spite of their criticism…. In spite of the arguments… In spite of your defenses…… Don’t Forget the Beauty in Life.

Basic Human Rights

To assuage the pain of a friend, most of us at one time or another, have said something like, “you have every right to feel that way.”  You’re supporting your friend’s moral or just claim, to feel or behave a certain way.

Pretty much daily, we hear some sort of hoopla about rights.  And, it’s usually pretty self-centered hoopla.  The most important rights are “my rights.”  Juggling the rights of everybody is a circus act that we haven’t quite clowned out of since the Bill of them was enacted as Amendments to the U.S. Constitution in 1791.

The Declaration of Independence states in its preamble, that every American was equally created to proceed in life armed with some basic, inalienable human rights.  No one has the right to deny another human being, the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

As to life, we have laws against murder.  No one has the right to murder another human being, no matter the reasons for doing so.

The difference between murder and killing is not just a matter of semantics.  Bible study showed me years ago, that the commandment is literally, “thou shalt not murder.”  A distinction is made for righteous killing, as in battle, war, or defense.

Hunting wild animals, such as deer, elk, small game, etc. is licensed in our state and most if not all others, to my knowledge.  This is lawful killing, licensed by the states for the purposes of sport, culling of herds, etc.  You and I may or may not like this kind of killing, but it is not murder and is not against the law if done according to the rules.

The second human right, codified into law in this union, is liberty.  Liberty can be a tricky subject.  It basically means, freedomThe tricky part is determining if one person’s freedom impinges on another individual’s freedom?  Amendment IX in James Madison’s Bill of Rights alludes to this.  This document specifically addresses individual rights which are to be protected from overwhelming government power.  That’s when courts of law or its officers sometimes have to get involved.  Then, oh my.

Schools in the state of Pennsylvania allow for vaccine exemptions based on parents’ religious (along with 43 other states and Washington DC) and philosophical beliefs (along with 14 other states).  I wonder why mask mandates don’t fall into this part of the law.  Some parents are adamant that such mandates impinge on their right to liberty, and unhappy campers that they are, they undoubtedly believe the mandates not only restrict their liberty but also deny their pursuit of happiness.

It has been argued that the COVID vaccine, or vax is a different animal than all the other childhood vaccines and preventive vaccines intended to protect seniors.  Are you sure?  Was polio a public health emergency?  How about measles, mumps, diphtheria, flu, or chicken pox/shingles?

For decades, many folks have taken advantage of the exemption in the school law mentioned above, but those exemptions are being challenged in today’s vax arguments.  This is not new.  There have always been individuals who oppose cookie-cutter public health mandates.

Opponents as well as proponents of mask and vax mandates are exercising their right to choose.  Being told by government mandate that we must do or not do something impinges on our liberty and arguably our pursuit of happiness as well.  This is the very definition of a powerful government attempting to control individual rights which are protected under Amendment IX.  So, it’s a battle of one set of rights against another set of rights.  It is yet to be seen which army will win.

The third human right outlined in the Declaration, is not addressed legally in the Constitution.  The pursuit of happiness.

Research has shown that happiness is most often attained through experiences, not the accumulation of stuff.   That new expensive sofa may bring some temporary satisfaction that could be felt as happiness, but very soon it is just a place to sit your bottom when watching TV or conversing with a guest.

If the stuff you purchase, leads to an experience lived, such as a new car that takes you places that lead to memories, then you may just be a clam, living in “happy as…”  Your vehicle may enable your experience of getting from one place to another a happy or an unhappy one.

It is my theory that most people weigh their choices according to a rudimentary scale known in business as a risk-benefit ratio.  Does the cost of a new outfit sync up with the amount of pleasure wearing it has brought, and the experience lived while wearing it?

So, whether you believe in masks, vaccines, or you don’t, I believe we can agree that we are, in this nation, stuck in a pattern of polarity.  In what is essentially a two-party political system, no one has come forward in recent years who appeals to either party’s central core, let alone the central core of both parties, or the middle ground in the nation.

I wonder if at the next go around, we might bring forward a candidate who would appeal to the broad spectrum of us in the middle as well as spilling over to the right and to the left.  I think, for what it’s worth, that the vast majority of Americans are in that broad swath in the middle, given a moderate, intelligent leader.

We’ve been forced to settle for ideologues from either the far right or far left, keeping us embroiled in constant battle.  I wonder, could this be the “reason for the season?”

Now, as to basic human rights, what’s with the rise in the cost of a baguette in France? Supply chain crisis and labor constraints be damned, folks have a right to be bummed when the best bread in the world is costing more than ever!