SYW: On Belief, Morality, and the Order of Nature

I always look forward to Mondays, when Melanie issues a new set of questions for Share Your World. Her questions this week are quite thought-provoking, so I’d better get started!

QUESTIONS

What do you believe but cannot prove?
The existence of God. God is seen differently by people; there may be almost as many ideas of God as there are believers. For me, God is within each individual and in nature. God is a force rather than an actual being. But I do believe in the power of prayer, so I guess sometimes I believe – when it’s convenient – that God does “listen” to prayers and perhaps helps things happen (or not). It is a comfort to me, at least, and it also is a comfort to others to know that people are praying on their behalf. In fact, there have been scientific studies of the power of prayer, and what was concluded is that knowing that a community of people who care about you bolsters your will to get better (or improve whatever the situation is). People are saying that they support you and are concerned about your suffering. It can actually motivate people to fight harder against a disease like cancer.

Do animals have morals?   Exclude human beings from the equation please. 
Why exclude humans? Are we any more moral than animals? Sometimes I think not!

Anyway, I don’t believe animals have morals, not really, although some do have compassion. Having morals requires one to be able to imagine different scenarios and outcomes, and to be able to judge others’ actions. I am not convinced animals can do that. However, there is much about animals – particularly the most intelligent ones – that we don’t know. Dolphins have been observed helping people in trouble. Elephants also help each other when one is in distress. Whales use a complex system of sounds to communicate with each other. I always marvel at the natural world, because animals have developed adaptations to all kinds of environments and situations. But I don’t think that they can imagine the future or alternate situations. Possibly chimpanzees or gorillas, but only in a limited capacity.

People often pose the question of what makes humans different from other animals. It is our brain’s capacity to reason, analyze, synthesize, and imagine. Unfortunately, these capacities do not necessarily lead to better behavior than an animal might display. We make choices, often the wrong ones, which affect not only our own lives, but also the lives of others, including animals.

Is there inherent order in nature or is it all chaos and chance?
I believe there is inherent order, but we do not understand it completely. Science is constantly revising its hypotheses about the universe/natural world, as new discoveries are made. There is an order, but we have yet to really know that order. I read an article recently about scientists at Fermilab discovering erratic behavior by the tiny particles called muons. They have observed the muons deviating from whatever it is they do, which can alter scientific theories about how the universe works. It’s amazing that this tiny particle, whose existence has only been known for a few decades, can influence so much of scientific theory that was believed to be based on solid evidence.

Where is your least favorite place in the world?
Somewhere that I’ve never been. Someplace cold and desolate. I probably will never visit places such as Antarctica or Greenland; I have heard that Antarctica, at least, is well worth a trip, and I would love to see the penguins. But I cannot imagine living through months of darkness and frigid cold day after day. Alaska is beautiful but I wouldn’t want to live there. So my “least favorite place” might be different depending on whether that place is my least favorite place to visit or least favorite place to live.

There is one place that I don’t think I would even want to visit – it’s the only place in the world that I can think of – and that is North Korea.


GRATITUDE SECTION (Participation Always Optional)

Feel free to share something about the seasons that makes you smile!

I am capable of smiling during any season, but I will focus on the current season of spring. I love flowers and they make me smile. Here is a poem I wrote several years ago about my garden, which is mostly about the flowers of spring.

HAIKU: THE GARDEN
4/26/14

Snow drops rise early
to cheer the winter weary:
delicate white orbs.

Crocuses give hope
when purple flowers appear –
spring will arrive soon.

Yellow daffodils
herald the coming of spring
with their bright trumpets.

Tulip leaves unfold,
hiding their buds until May
brings colorful blooms.

The lilac bush makes
fragrantly scented flowers
in lavender clusters.

The rose bush’s thorns
keep gardeners at bay for
red blossoms in June.

Aromatic herbs
spice up the gardener’s meals;
worthy of wild growth!

Gardeners’ reward
is the harvest of summer:
Beauty, fragrance, food.


Speaking of fragrance, lilacs are in bloom everywhere here! They are beautiful and smell heavenly!

SYW: Haircuts, Flowers & Weird Stuff

Melanie’s thrown me for a loop this week! But I’ll take a stab at her weird questions in this week’s Share Your World! (Thanks for the challenge of thinking “outside the box!”)

QUESTIONS: 

What would be the worst “buy one get one free” sale of all time?
Mastectomies.

Have you ever gotten a really bad haircut?  Do share!
Not “really bad” but let me just say…radical. I’ve had my hair long (a little past my shoulders) since I moved to this senior community a year and a half ago, and I was sick of having to wear a ponytail whenever I exercised (or afterward) when I get all sweaty on my neck. I usually have my hair cut before going on a trip, but since that didn’t happen last year, my hair just got longer. So I finally decided I would get a short haircut. I’ve had them often enough before and usually am pleased with them while they last. I figured it would be my Easter haircut.

I couldn’t go to my usual salon, where I knew some of the stylists, because it closed about 6 months ago with a change in management. Since I had a gift card for that chain, I went to another one, closer to where I live now, but that I’ve never been to before. I thought I could show the stylist a picture of me with short hair from my Facebook photos, but when I looked for them, only a few showed up. I looked in my cellphone camera archives – nothing. So I showed her a photo of another friend of mine with short hair! (Later I realized that – duh – I had my purse in my lap, and always have paper & pens in there, and I draw pretty well, so I could have drawn it but I didn’t think of it then.)

I always have to take my glasses off during a haircut because they get in the way, and I didn’t think anything was amiss until I heard the buzz of a razor being used ON MY NECK! By then it was too late, and now I have hair shorter than I have ever had in my life that I can remember. At first, my head felt cold – the weather was still chilly in late March, and I had to go around wearing scarves over my head. And every time I look in the mirror, I look like a boy! Now it’s starting to grow out a little bit and I’m used to it, so I just smile and say “thank you” when people compliment me (which almost everyone has done).

Here are before and after pictures…

Me about a year ago, which is about how my hair was last month when I got it cut.
A selfie I took the day I got my haircut – this is the “nicer” of the two selfies I took, because I’m smiling.

The best thing about my haircut is now I can wear my earrings again!

Isn’t Disney Land and Disney World (and all the variants) just a people trap operated by a mouse?
Allegorically, yes. They are definitely people traps!

What if Batman got bitten by a vampire?   What would happen? 
The vampire would get Covid-19 due to the exchange of body fluids, since the virus originated in bats.

What do you want your final words to be if you could choose?
I’ve done everything I wanted to do in my life and I’m satisfied. I love you all!

GRATITUDE SECTION (as always optional)

Please feel free to share some gratitude! 
I’m grateful for spring flowers. These photos were all taken within the last two days.

Bright April: Springtime Is Here!

Becky is back with her month of squares – hurray!! The theme this month is bright.

For me, the first sure sign of spring are the early flowers – especially the daffodils! This bright daffodil has bloomed with a few others on the east side of my house! I have to remember to go see them, because I can’t see them from a window and when I leave my house and walk on the sidewalk, there are trees that obscure my view. Now that I’m taking a shortcut returning from the fitness center, I walk around the community garden and come out on that side of my house, so I am delighted to be greeted with these heralds of spring!

This is also my submission for Cee’s FOTD 4/2/21 and for Floral Friday.

SYW: Knowing Tangerines & Potato Chips, and other Musings

Melanie asks some profound questions this week for Share Your World!

QUESTIONS: 

What is knowledge?
Google’s online dictionary has two definitions for knowledge (definitions are from Oxford Languages):
1. facts, information, and skills acquired by a person through experience or education; the theoretical or practical understanding of a subject.
2. awareness or familiarity gained by experience of a fact or situation.

Being smart is not the same as knowledge, but “street smarts,” for example, is a type of knowledge from definition #2. However, I usually think of definition #1 when thinking about what knowledge is.

How do you define consciousness (self awareness)?
Consciousness is being cognizant of your surroundings, who you are, and what you are doing. It’s also possible to be conscious without an awareness of one’s surroundings, such as the things you do without thinking – your mind is elsewhere. Often when we drive, we do it so automatically that we don’t think about it as we are doing it – but an unusual situation on the road will usually bring us back to that awareness. (If not – and this happens often enough – likely one will get into an accident.) It is difficult to be aware all the time – this is called “mindfulness,” distinct from consciousness in that we are constantly aware of our senses in the present.

Mindfulness takes a lot of training in self-control to keep one’s mind from wandering. I would like to be more mindful – appreciating the sensations, for example, in eating a tangerine: how it looks and smells, the sensation in my fingers as I peel it, and then really noticing it when it’s ready to eat: each section has little sacs in which the juiciness resides; there is some stringy residue of the peel still clinging to the outside. Smell it, taste it, be aware of how wonderful it is to eat a tangerine. We don’t do this enough. I tend to eat without even thinking about it, and then when I’m done (I eat too fast), I look at my empty plate and realize I didn’t have an appreciation for what I ate. The food is gone and I ate it without awareness.

So often consciousness involves one part of the brain paying attention to one’s surroundings as the person goes about doing routines automatically, while another part of the brain is distracted – thinking about something else altogether. Mindfulness, existing in and appreciating the present, is a richer experience than consciousness, I believe.

Is it possible to prove that other people besides yourself have consciousness?
Of course – they are conscious if they are engaging in the world around them, whether they are being mindful of it or not; it’s still consciousness. If you ask your partner, say, if he is asleep, and he answers “yes,” then he is probably lying. Sleep is our brain’s rest from consciousness. But are dreams simply a different level of consciousness?

Would you be able to tell if time had been altered in some way?
You mean, like a time warp? Yes, if I got into a blue English phonebox called the Tardis, and emerged from it in medieval Europe, or in a futuristic world, I would definitely be able to tell time had been altered!

We alter time twice each year, when we go on and off Daylight Savings Time. (Personally, I’d like to stay on DST all year.) It is then that I realize that time is an artificial construct that we impose on our world to establish order, a conformity that everyone in society lives with. Time is, of course, related to the cycles of the moon, the rotating and orbiting of Earth around the sun. Either it is light or it is dark. We behave differently and have different expectations of ourselves and others at night than during the day. Some people say they have trouble adjusting to going on and off DST, but I think, really? It’s just an hour, and during that hour – or missed hour – we are usually sleeping anyway. It is noticeable, sure, when we are used to leaving for work in early daylight, but suddenly, it’s dark out when we leave our house at 7:00 a.m. That’s a drag – and I’m very glad I’m retired and no longer have to worry about it!

Another time when we notice time changes is when we get into an airplane and fly halfway across the world. Our bodies continue on the time zone we were in when we got on the airplane, and yet when we get to our destination, it is a completely different time of the day. We may be tired, because back home the night was just beginning, but where we are now, everyone is very much awake and going about their daytime activities. In 2022, we are going to Australia and New Zealand, so we will cross the International Date Line and – presto! – although 12 hours have gone by, it’s the next day over there!! And we gain that day back when we return: It was Tuesday when we departed Auckland, and now we get to live most of Tuesday again at home on the other side of the world!

Do you like potato chips (they’re called ‘crisps’ in Europe I believe)?
Four “profound” questions that require real thought, and now you ask whether I like potato chips?? How mundane!! Yes, I do like them, but I try to avoid eating them, because like the commercial says, “so good, you can’t eat just one!” I make allowances on special occasions (noshing at a party, for example) or when I have only a small portion of chips on my plate and cannot eat any more!

GRATITUDE SECTION (always optional)

On this side of the world it’s coming into Springtime.   Celebrate Spring by sharing an image or anecdote that shares “Spring”!   Alternatively, it’s coming into Autumn on the other side of the world.  Please do the same for Autumn!   Thanks! 

Daffodils, the heralds of spring, are blooming everywhere!

Daffodils alongside the east wall of my house
Daffodils blooming along the fence separating our old house and the neighbor’s. Those weren’t there two years ago, when we moved, but I’m glad the new neighbors decided to plant these lovely flowers!

Loving S Words

Catch-up time for Paula’s February Month of Love challenge!

And what do you know?? All my loves for this post start with the letter S, which is the subject of /Lens-Artists Photo Challenge!

Feb. 23: I love…sunsets (and sunrises, although I’m hardly ever awake for those! 🙂 ).

Somewhere at sea
The wires are unfortunately visible, but I like this sunset against Chicago’s skyscrapers.
I took this on a walk a few days ago – it’s not quite sunset, but the sun is low in the sky, casting shadows from the tree.
Sunset from an airplane
Sunset in Tanzania

Feb. 24: I love…spring! I already included summer as one of my loves, but the spring is special too, because it is the season of hope and anticipation. The cycle of life begins, emerging from winter snow and cold, producing new life in flora and fauna. Last spring, I took photos of my daffodils on the side of my house in March, from shoots to blooms.

Fruit trees bloom.
And my garden was newly planted.

Feb. 25: I love…singing. I never had good manual dexterity to play an instrument but I’ve always loved to sing. When I was a young adult and needed a spiritual outlet, I turned to singing by joining a community choir. After moving to Des Plaines, I joined the choir at First Congregational Church and still participate in that! It’s rather hard during the pandemic to do group singing, but we use Zoom and a music software called Upbeat to practice and then record the pieces we sing. So I’d like to end with a song about singing (with a virtual choir that may also use Upbeat software!):

LAPC: Spring Sprang

“The deep roots never doubt spring will come.” -Marty Rubin

The beauty of spring is watching the first plants pushing up above ground, and seeing the early flowers bloom.

Budding hyacinth in April

Daffodils emerge
Gentle breezes caress me
The sound of birdsong.

And tulips!

What a strange thing! to be alive, beneath cherry blossoms. – Kobayashi Issa

After the pandemic arrived and we were on lockdown, one of our joys was watching the swans, and the expectation of cygnets. I wrote this haiku dedicated to the swans:

Cob* fluffs up his wings
To threaten the geese on shore
And protect his mate.

Swimming by the shore
Swans gliding, white against blue
Wag their tail feathers.

Male swan makes a nest
Lined with some sticks, grass and leaves
Mate will lay eggs soon.

*”Cob” is a male swan.

And then she began to lay her eggs…a total of five by mid-April.

A pair of Canada geese swim with their goslings in May. (The swans lost their eggs in a violent spring storm!)

Meanwhile, the warm weather brings people out walking, with their dogs, and stopping to chat.

The cute doggie on the left is my favorite dog here – his name is Bodhi!

And when were walking, we listened to the sounds of nature…including the pecking of a woodpecker.

Lens-Artists Photo Challenge #105: Spring

SYW: Magic, Bad Smells, Bad Bosses, & Voting

A new week, a new set of questions in Melanie’s Share Your World!

Questions:

In your opinion, what’s the closest thing to real magic?
When the first flowers of spring appear after a long winter.

Where is the worst smelling place you’ve been?
The basement of our former house. It was an old house and prone to plumbing problems. The worst was when sewage would back up into the laundry sink or the shower (there was a shower in the basement).

What are some things that you’ve heard in your own life, which sounded like compliments but were actually insults?
I had two really horrible principals during my teaching career who often said insinuating things, to me or to others. One of them actually sabotaged my ability to get another job after he decided I couldn’t handle a classroom, because he had spent the school year doing everything he could to keep me from being successful. After he told me my contract wouldn’t be renewed, I asked if he would support me in another type of teaching job in the district and he said, “Well, you can apply…” I had many interviews that summer at various school districts and several offers, all of which were withdrawn after they talked to him. Finally, at the beginning of September, I was desperate and applied for a job as a teacher’s assistant (which means about 1/10 of the pay I’d received as a teacher). I was hired and the principal was very pleased with my former principal’s recommendation: “He said this would be a very good fit for you!”

What incredibly common thing have you never done?
Watched Game of Thrones.


Gratitude Section (Optional, as always)

I’m grateful for all the people who vote in the U.S. and for all the volunteers who register new voters and help people overcome the obstacles that Republicans create to keep people from voting. Hopefully, there will be a record turnout in November’s election. If there is, the Democrats will win and Trump will be history.

FOTD: Pear Blossoms

There are lots of different kinds of flowering trees, and this looked to me like a dogwood or maybe apple blossoms. I looked it up with the Plant Snap app on my phone and found out it is a pear tree! It is a young tree so I don’t think it will yield pears yet, but the blossoms are pretty!
20200422_123657 pear blossoms
Zooming out:
20200422_123722 pear
FOTD: 4/25/20