Where are the Aliens?

I read an article yesterday about aliens, and the possibility of alien life. It included information about a theory called the “Fermi Paradox” named after Italian physicist Enrico Fermi. It basically states that if the Universe is full of life…then where are the aliens?

I thought it was a pretty good question. Our planet and solar system are fairly new in terms of the age of the universe. Fermi figured it would take a dedicated Imperial civilization “only” about 10 million years, given decent rocket technology, to conquer an entire galaxy. Why then, aren’t there joints like the interstellar bar in Star Wars all over the place. There are a lot of explanations, one of which is: we are the only ones home. We’re the whole ball of wax, the ball game. Wouldn’t that be something?

If we were the only advanced civilization in the known Universe, wouldn’t it be incumbent on us, wouldn’t it be our sole imperative, to reach out to the stars and populate this empty Universe?

Is it the purpose for which we will can even were created, if we were created? And even if we weren’t, shouldn’t we be obsessed with doing it?

Isn’t it a shame that we Earthlings are trapped by our own biases and prejudices here on our own planet. Isn’t it shameful, with so many Earth like planets having been discovered out there in the last few years, that we’ve barely even explored our own moon, and just scratched the surface of our other planets?

Hopefully in the coming decades as AI becomes more prevalent we will find someway to “boldly go where no man has gone before”.

Gratitude is better than Money

I’ve had dreams. No, perhaps it would be better to call them ambitions. I’ve had ambitions. A lot of them were selfish, self centered and wrong. I had ambitions to be a rich and famous songwriter. I had ambitions to be a plant manager, with many people reporting to me. Self importance ruled my productive years. Self absorption ruined them.

You know what I really should have done? I should have tried to make people happy. That’s it. I should have helped more people.

If I’m honest, I guess it’s incorrect of me to say I was totally selfish. That first paragraph is a harsher judgment on myself than the judgment of people I have worked with, and who worked for me. I’m pretty sure I was actually better thought of than I realized. One incident stands out in my mind.

I had a pretty big group of ladies who worked for me back in the eighties. Whenever I would demo a new song I had written I would let them listen to the results. Of course they said they liked them, heck I was their boss, after all. Right before one of the ladies retired I made her a cassette tape of all my music. She said she really wanted one. Years later I got a call from another of the ladies who was related to her. It seems she had a stroke and was bed bound. She had worn out her tape and wanted another one. I made another one, found out where she lived, and went to her house.

Her husband met me at the door and warned me her condition wasn’t good. Her stroke had been severe, and she couldn’t move and could barely speak. I spent some time with her. It wasn’t good. She was agitated and depressed, discouraged with her life. She had been that way for several years. She was ready to die, she said. She was happy to have a new tape though. It perked her up a little.

I got a call from her husband a few weeks later telling me she had passed away. The last thing she listened to before she slipped into a coma was that tape of me singing. I didn’t know what to say.

I think back on that now and consider my ambition a success. Not for the reason which I had wanted, but for that one person who needed it, all the time and effort was worth it.

I’ve changed a lot in the years since then. I still wish I had made a better effort at helping people, at making them happy. Maybe I actually did more than I knew, but was just too busy being busy to notice. Damn, I wish I had taken the time to notice. All you kids out there take an old man’s advice and pay attention. Gratitude is a hell of a lot better than money sometimes.

The Fall of one Raindrop

One raindrop falls, and then another….then many, many more. All separate individual entities, until they hit the ground and unite into a stream, run into the creeks…into the rivers, and finally to the ocean.

So are we…like raindrops. Living our lives from cloud to ground. Uniting in the end, and flowing into the Universe.

….and wherever we end up together, and make no mistake it will be together, but wherever it is, there will be great joy. There will be music, and there will be dancing.

There will be forgiveness, and there will be reconciliation.

Couldn’t we begin with a little of it now while we are on our way from the heavens to the earth, and beyond?

It would make life easier.

Thoughts from 2017

I went into heart surgery on December 21, 2010 with the attitude that if I didn’t ever wake up…..it was ok. But, I got a reprieve. I had good surgeons, a wonderful caregiver in my sweet wife, and in about a years time I felt better….both physically and mentally. I continued to have some rhythm problems right up until this day, but I was better.

As I worked on my vast inventory of photos this weekend, I grouped them together by year. 2011…Eli and Rue came to our families. 2012, possibly the year I felt best since my youth. We took trips…our trip of a lifetime to Gettysburg, Washington, Mt. Vernon, Jamestown…and on to Tybee. I still remember my awe at finally getting to go to our nation’s heart.

Trips to the beach with the family….especially when we all went together. How very tender and special that was to me. A cruise…I’d never been on one, and it was lovely!

All the years were special. I went on all the way through 2015. I used Shutterfly’s app, and it’s wonderful.

There were many firsts. First birthdays for Eli, Rue, and then a bit later EVK. (And 2nd, and thirds, and so forth) Christmases celebrated. Thanksgivings thanked. Halloweens tricked and treated with so much fun! Fireworks at the Browns homestead.

Proms and graduations…Auttie’s and Chelsea’s. Wonderful days of walks around town, with the sunrises and sunsets, and the everyday goings on. The demise of the old Park Ave apartments, the changing nature and demographics of the city itself.

So, so many special moments flashed past my eyes in that pictorial history of my life. Wonderful moments. Precious memories. Six and a half years of grace and time borrowed from medical science. I wish I could share with you the feeling in my heart, because if I could there would be peace. There would be love and compassion for all.

There are still memories I want to make, but my body reminds me that for the good times there is payback. When feeling unwell stretches from days into weeks…and months, it takes a toll on the spirit and will of even the hardiest, of which I never claimed to be. Again, I’m depending on good old medical science, luck and grace to lift me back to an even keel again. Looks like next month, with tests and such coming up, maybe a solution will be found. I hope so.

Til then, I’ll keep on plodding forward and hope Paula can put up with cranky, bad feeling me. I haven’t done a whole lot on FB for the past few weeks….at least not much “new” so now you know the reason why. I’m not going into detail about me…because in the end it’ll probably just be something minor.

Have a great Sunday everyone.

You Can’t Take it with You

I realize more and more every day that when I leave this existence that there will be nothing which goes with me.

The only thing, or things I will have to my “credit” will be those memories I leave behind. I always wonder why I didn’t try to make more of them when I could, when I was younger.

We worry, worry, worry about the workaday world, and it’s understandable. There are bills to pay, kids to raise and everyday crises that keep us awake at night. But we all know by now that “life is what happens while we’re making other plans”

I find solace in the fact that nowadays I can capture a memory as quick as a wink with my camera. I am keeping careful track of these photographic memories, and I hope that in the future my children and grandchildren will be able to look at them, and maybe have it trigger a pleasant memory.

I wish I had more photos of my parents and grandparents from my childhood, because my memory is often like a soupy fog. The ones I do have are more precious than gold to me, although I guess sometimes you wouldn’t know it from the way I store them. What we have now is certainly one boon of technology.

In All Things be Grateful

“In all things be grateful.”
I find that is a very sensible philosophy, don’t you?

Be grateful for this life, be grateful for each moment because as soon as one ticks, the next one is upon you…and soon our allotted moments here have ended.

I certainly realize I’ve been a little more sensitive to those ticks of the clock lately. Who wouldn’t be!?

After all, when I think back really far….

I can remember a time without even a television. Without air conditioners. I remember a time when walking from my house on eighth street to the triangle shopping center was an everyday thing. I remember Coke in bottles, with the city where it was bottled on the bottom.

I remember using cloth diapers on my kids, and then rewashing them and using them again. I remember the train coming into town at midnight, bringing a load of coal to fire the boilers at the mill, every night…

I remember writing all my school work with a pencil and lined paper from a wire back notebook. I remember when almost everything we ate came from our garden, even in the winter…with canned soup mix, and frozen veggies.

I remember having only three pairs of jeans for school, and five shirts…and one pair of dress pants and a white shirt for Sunday. I remember spending all afternoon on some weekends listening to vinyl records on a little flip top record player.

I remember fishing in the river with a big old ball of earth worms for bait. I remember when the creek running into that river was a rainbow color of dyes…

I remember so much more. It’s funny how these memories always seem good, and happy…but that wasn’t always the case. When we old people long for those “good old days” our memory tends to be very selective.

Now, our good days are tomorrow…and the day after.

Be grateful for what you have. Be grateful for your life and the good day ahead of you.

Most days it is more than enough to see us through.

Our Inner Voice

There is that voice which is there all time in my head. He has been there ever since I can remember. He was the one who told me back in the fall of 1953 when I was almost 4 years old to ride my tricycle down the front steps on my house. A busted forehead and several stitches later the voice told me we would never, ever do that again.
He sings constantly to me, in any style. I can have a country song by Johnny Cash followed by Imagine Dragons singing “Demons” At times he scares me with my personal demons, but at other times he soothes me with sweet poetry. He will be with me until my last breath.
I have read a lot about this… “Inner voice” our internal narrator, our personal monologue which I think….at least from conversations which I have had with others… I think we all have going on constantly in our head. I know all about my guy. I know what to expect from him most of the time. He comes up with some weird things, some good things, and some thoughts which are verbalized which I would never consciously say to another human being. He says some very rude and vulgar things. He also comes up with some tender and moving soliloquies. I hear him just as if he were another person speaking to me. It is never like an invisible or hidden voice, but always speaking directly to me just as another person would. I don’t know how other people hear their inner selves, I really do not know if everyone even has an internal voice.
I’ve heard some people say that our internal voice comes from the way our parents and those around us speak to us as babies and early toddlers. I’m not so sure I accept that theory. I just cannot hear my parents or any other relatives I knew as a baby or child in my monologue. I also can’t accept that people like John Wayne Gacy , or Jeffrey Dahmer had normal inner voices which came from their early associations. I would have really, truly have hated to be inside their head, listening to what was being said. I think their voice must have been riddled with hallucinations, or nightmares.
On the opposite end of the spectrum I would have loved to have heard some of what Leonardo da Vinci, or Albert Einstein had to say to themselves…maybe. I can imagine their inner voices having a sort of discourse, bouncing ideas off of their own walls in order to make discoveries of new things. One cannot imagine what might be going on in the mind of the genius.
Jiminy Cricket would have called our inner voice our “conscience” In Zen, they would think of it as “Nen nen ju shin ki” which means something like “Thought following thought.” I personally think of it as my heart.
Whenever my inner voice speaks to me of any deep emotions it always comes from the heart. I have never had a headache from something bad happening, but always have the feeling come welling up from the center of my chest. My tears start in my heart.
When my voice tells me to be happy, I have never had my head spin. My joy starts in my heart, and radiates out into the rest of my body.
My inner voice comes from my heart and tells me the things no one else would or could tell me. I’d sure hate to lose him because he’s my oldest and closest companion.

BEING ORDINARY

It’s funny how when you are little, you never think that when you grow up you are going to be “ordinary”

Because I am a child of the 50’s and 60’s, most of the hero’s which I had to look up to, and want to grow up to be like were of an unattainable nature. I tied a towel around my neck when I was four and imagined I could fly like my hero “Superman” on TV. I ended up with a badly sprained ankle from jumping off the front porch.

Then there was the time, I got a Hoppalong Cassidy outfit, guns and all for Christmas. I ended up burning my thumb on the caps that went into the cap guns. Later on, one of them popped wrong, and flew up onto my eyebrow and burned it. Right up until today I still have a little scar on that eyebrow.

Once after watching Dragnet, I got on my tricycle and pretended I was chasing some bad guys and ended up riding down the front brick steps on the porch (dang that porch and me….why did my Mom let me play out there by myself?) and busted open my forehead. 10 or 12 stitches and I still have that scar too.

All those hero’s were not ordinary though.

Lately I wonder if I shouldn’t have tried to be like Flash Gordon. It might have been fun to be an astronaut. Of course I am deathly afraid of flying, but I think that being in a rocket and then being in outer space wouldn’t be as scary as going up in a jet.

I just get tired of being ordinary. I am so ordinary that people who are shorter still feel like they can look over me. When I am in line at Wally World the check out girl looks at me and then tells the person behind me “next!” I know how Rodney Dangerfield feels, when he says he don’t get “no respect” As a matter of fact, I tried to call him once and tell him that I really respected his act and his secretary told me he didn’t take calls from nobodies. What about that?

At this stage in life, it would take winning the BIG lottery to keep from being ordinary. I am certain that if I won 250 million dollars I would have lots of new friends, and plenty of relatives I never met. I think I would tell them to bug off. Maybe not though….maybe I could be just a teeny bit generous. That phrase just doesn’t fit does it? If you’re generous, it’s not teeny…not to the person you are giving to. That five bucks you gave the guy who was down on his luck one time a long time ago, may have entirely changed his life. It does happen…. occasionally.

How does a person change from being ordinary to being something special? Write an award wining novel? Save the life of some kid who fell down a well somewhere? Find a cure for cancer, or at least invent a safe cigarette. Hmm….I don’t know about that one.

I guess the world is really just filled with ordinary people though isn’t it? Even the ones who think they are extraordinary have it wrong sometimes. They put their underwear on the same way everyone else does, and it still gets in a wad sometimes like everyone else’s does.

Why, I bet even the President of the USA has to do ordinary things sometimes. Like go to the bathroom and stuff. I bet even the prettiest actress in Hollywood still has boogers from time to time. So in a way, even special people are ordinary aren’t they? And sometimes on a magical day every great now and then, ordinary people do extraordinary things. They don’t make a big fuss about it, they just do it. And it does make a difference in some person’s life. It just does.

Even when you’re ordinary, most of the time you still have people who love you. That makes you special. I’d rather be ordinary and have people who love me….then be Superman and be alone….

I’m not tying a towel around my neck and jumping off the porch again though. Sprained ankles are no fun.

Liberation of the Mind

When I was a young man my beliefs were different, mainly because my knowledge was self limited. Even a college if something an instructor said didn’t match what I had in my head as being “right” I just never let it sink in.

I was a know it all, who had ingrained dogma pumped into me. My values were shaped by the low number of years I’d lived. I was not “sticking up for what was right”. I was play acting life as I knew it.

I credit my wife for beginning my change. She taught me that women should be respected, and that their opinions counted. She quickly let me know that marriage is a shared endeavor, not a case of “this is the woman’s job, and this is the mans. By the time my first son arrived, we’d been through a good “practice run” with my daughter and were pretty much out of the bad fighting stage. Over the years I have taken on a big part of her love for animals, and have relied on her to tell me when I’m generally totally wrong about things.

I went on in my working career to be a supervisor in QA, which was pretty much populated by women….except of course by the supervisor. I always treated everyone of them with respect, and deferred to their knowledge in many cases. For over twenty years I had women working for me in various jobs and never, ever had a complaint of a harassing nature. There are a couple of FB friends on here who worked with me during that time, who can back me up on that point. I treated women thee same as I did the occasional man who worked for me. I very much regret not trying to go above and beyond to get a higher wage for them, but I just went with the flow of what the company paid. Wages weren’t bad, but the men were paid more per hour in the areas in which they worked. I always made sure that they each got good Christmas presents from me, and I always made them free copies of the song demos I recorded.

There was one lady who was an inspector for me, who really liked country music. I had given her a full CD of songs while we were working together. I got a call from a man about five years after that business had been sold out to a large carpet company. “I’m ——-‘s husband,” He said “She had a stroke two years ago and can’t speak well. She wore out the CD you gave her and desperately wants another copy. I tracked you down through another old worker from the plant”.

I made another copy, and took it too her house in Armuchee. I spoke with her as best I could for an hour while I was there, about good old times at the plant, how hard the work was. She was almost paralyzed totally, but she thanked me very much for the CD. “You were the best boss we ever had” she said.

I wept as I drove home. The truth is, she’d been one of my least favorite workers. Always griping, but getting her work done. But she had liked me more than I had liked her. I never knew. I had always treated her the same, so she never knew either.

I never had much use for gay people when I was young. I thought they were all just perverts. That’s because I had never known one. When Paula and I moved back home, I started buying plants for our yard from these two guys who owned a nursery. I thought they were just business partners, but over the months I found they were also partners. This was still back in the mid seventies, so their relationship was still very frowned upon as a general thing. They didn’t have any friends, so we started inviting them over to our house for meals and card games. They loved playing with our daughter and our dog. They were intelligent, well spoken and well educated. They were out to bother nobody else, they just wanted to live their lives. We had the over for quite a few years, and we always had good times. One year, I noticed their relationship starting to crumble. Pressure was being applied by one of the guys family to quit the relationship. He gave in to his family, and the other partner moved back to Chattanooga. The one who stayed behind is an “old bachelor”

I never considered gay people to be abnormal or abominations anymore after that. I purposely opened myself up to knowing more gay and lesbian people, and the more of them I knew, the more I understood that they were as they were because it’s the way they were made. Many people still won’t agree with me. I don’t really care though. I do not see how we cannot be a society which is compassionate enough to just “live and let live”

Now we come to today.

Over the past several years I have had a Facebook friend who is transgender. I know that for sure now, although I have long suspected it. Over the past several months I have witnessed the hell he is having to go through….yes he, now she has had to go through to do something that could not help but be done. It was not a choice, but an imperative that had to be done in order that this individual could be complete. In order that she could be who she was born to be. I read as relationships crumbled, as extreme loss was suffered in those relationships. I cried as I thought, how I had been born with a brain wired to match my body, but that’s not always the case. That’s not always the case.

There was a man on America’s Got Talent who sang today. H was born in a female body, but always identified as a boy. He was tormented, bullied, beaten and abused. But I watched as he sang beautifully today on that show as a fully transitioned man and I openly wept. Oh, the things he has had to go through that I never had to. The things that my gay friends have suffered from family and peers that I’ve never had to experience. The travails of being a woman in a man’s world I have gotten a pass on because of my luck in chromosome placement.

Some will read this long piece, and think I’m dead wrong and disagree. Some will read, and as usual just won’t comment. Some will give it a like, some will just scroll on by as soon as they realize the subject matter. I don’t care, this is my opinion and mine alone. This the chronicle of my needed change, which didn’t come as soon as it should have. My shame along with a tiny bit of retribution. Take it however you want, or not at all.

After that song today, which my seven month old granddaughter stood and watched in rapt attention without so much as a twitch, it had to be written. It just had to.

Music

I just realized today that without music, my life would have been very bleak. I came to that conclusion as I was taking baby Evie to her Mommy.

I have my own songs on my phone, and the little kids seem to like them. Eli always wants me to play them when we are out riding together. “I want to hear you sing Papa” he says. And he listens and is soothed, and often slips off to sleep.

I played some other music for Evie first, and she didn’t pay much attention. When I put one of my songs on and started singing, she perked up and started going “ahh..ahh…ahh..” in a cadence that could only have been singing. Six months old tomorrow, and singing. Recognizing my voice, and realizing that it is something more than just talking. Something magical. All my children and grandchildren are the same way. If this was a gift I had even a small part in giving them, then my life has been worthwhile.

My Dad played the radio and sang along for me when I was a baby. I could sing “Jambalaya” when I was three. “Your Cheating Heart” and “Crazy” I helped my Grandpa lead singing at Church when I was four. Music has often been my salve, my joy, my love and my rescue from insanity. My perfect retreat from the world, even as I was in the midst of chaos. It is a complex mathematical equation reduced to auditory simplicity that almost any human can understand and enjoy.

My voice is going now. Years of use, medical and health problems have reduced it to a very unreliable instrument. Yet I am not angry or bitter. I have music in my mind and in my psyche every waking moment, and besides I am one of the best whistlers you have ever heard.

I don’t know what I would have done without music. Without it’s ability to transcend time through past songs, I could never remember certain periods of my life. The music pricks my consciousness, and transports me back, and I remember. The pleasant, the painful, the loving and the tears. Every new song I hear over the years melds itself to the events and people who are present in that time. It’s a biographical, chronological and auditory history built into my brain.

I hope if the day comes when I cannot ask for things I might want, that whoever is taking care of my final times will crank up the oldies from the sixties on a music machine…or perhaps by then the little ones will be old enough to come and sing me a tune. I’d even take “The Hot Dog song” I actually probably be pleased to hear it.