Sunday, 28 September 2008

Wise Words

After a week of getting bogged down with a huge variety of reports on US and UK remedies for the catastrophic global financial situation - and feeling no nearer to understanding it - I turned to my journal where over many years I've recorded scraps of wisdom from different writers.

Jenni Diski hit me first. Her description of certain tabloid newspapers reflected my feelings on the topic as well as when watching the news...."a kind of despair that grows like creeping paralysis over the will".

And then, on the same page, some uplifting words on a common theme:

Albert Camus "The evil that is in the world almost always comes from ignorance, and good intentions may do as much harm as malevolence if they lack understanding"

Marie Curie Nothing in life is to be feared. It is only to be understood.

Anton Checkhov Man will become better when you show him what he is like.

So, it's back to the drawing board if I'm to get out of this "creeping paralysis", discuss and debate and try and reach a better understanding.

I wonder if other people have "wise words" to comfort themselves when their energy is low.

Here is a lovely Sanskrit poem I've visited frequently over the last 15 years.....

Look to this day, for it is life;
The very life of life.
In its brief course lie all the truths and realities of existence -
The joy of growth;
The splendour of action;
The glory of power.

For yesterday is but a memory
And tomorrow is only a vision.
But today, well lived, makes every yesterday a memory of happiness
And every tomorrow a vision of hope.

Look well, therefore, to this day.

Sunday, 21 September 2008

U.S. Expenditure

My head is stuffed with facts and figures about the collapse of some of the biggest financial institutions and the bail-out figures to be paid out - $85 billion to AIG. Yes, 85 million million.

Compare this with the cost to the U.S. of fighting the Iraq war, as the widget counter on the bottom right of this blog will show. I got into all of this because of an article by Noam Chomsky in July this year. To do it justice, I am copying and pasting the whole thing.

So sorry. Cannot seem to paste this so it remains intact - right hand margin cut off. To read the whole article click on the link, at the bottom of the page.

Well, their voices should matter.....think of the billions of taxpayers' money going on this war. And think of the good that money could do for health care, affordable housing, education, pensions and care for elderly and disabled people.

Check out the dollar counter widget......the mind boggles. To put it in £ sterling

U.S. expenditure £2,000 per second
U.K. expenditure £31 per second

Saturday, 20 September 2008

The Spanish Language

What a beautiful language and, as with any other, it’s the putting together of the verbs, adjectives and nouns in the right order and not constructing sentences literally that is the key to fluency. After 5 years here I still have difficulty and I was urged to spare a thought recently in an article about Spanish emigrants who went to Switzerland in the 1950s to 1970s who still have problems with the German language.

More than two million Spaniards emigrated during that time; many went to Basel, Switzerland, fleeing from a backward, impoverished country. Of those who decided to stay, their average age is now 69 and have formed the Arco Iris Association and conducted a survey among themselves. 336 Spanish residents participated and about half the men and three-quarters of the women say they have never managed to learn the German language well.

I find this an odd statistic because in my experience here, it is the women who work the hardest at learning the language. Couples start classes together, then the majority of the men give up and leave the talking to the women. Was it ever different? Women seem to work harder at keeping up contact with family and friends; they send the birthday and seasonal cards and, generally, keep the whole social scene humming along.

Am I right or am I being sexist.

Thursday, 18 September 2008

U.S. Politics

I haven't got around to including my links on this new blog but one of my favourites which addresses issues of aging is Time Goes By.

There's always lively discussion , contributions from a geriatrician and great stories on a sister site. Ronnie, the webmistress, tirelessly provides information on the upcoming American elections and invites contributions from readers, which are published on a Sunday. It's all made fascinating reading, albeit a little scary and, to be honest , fills me with despair and frustration.

I've noticed from following the reports in the Guardian, that many of the commentators on articles are from the USA. Some are full of righteous indignation that anyone outside of the USA has the temerity to criticise or comment on how the elections are being handled. But here's one that caught my eye apropos a recent speech by Sarah Palin.

Interesting post from Craigslist in Sacramento.

I'm a little confused. Let me see if I have this straight.....

* If you grow up in Hawaii, raised by your grandparents, you're 'exotic', 'different', even 'elitist'

* Grow up in Alaska eating mooseburgers, a quintessential American story.

* If your middle name means "handsome" or "good looking" in Arabic you're a radical, unpatriotic Muslim.

* Name your kids Willow, Trig and Track, you're a maverick.

* Graduate from Harvard law School and you are unstable.

* Attend 5 different small colleges before graduating, you're well grounded.

* If you spend 3 years as a community organizer, become the first black President of the Harvard Law Review, create a voter registration drive that registers 150,000 new voters, spend 12 years as a Constitutional Law professor, spend 8 years as a State Senator representing a district with more than 750,000 people, become chairman of the state Senate's Health and Human Services committee, spend 4 years in the United States Senate representing a state of 13 million people while serving on the Foreign Affairs, Environment and Public Works and Veteran's Affairs committees, you don't have any real experience.

* If your total resume is: local weather girl, 4 years on the city council and 6 years as the mayor of a town with fewer than 9,000 people where you raised sales taxes and which you left with a newly created debt, 20 months as the governor of a state with only 650,000 people, then you're qualified to be a heartbeat away from the presidency behind a 72 year-old cancer survivor with high blood pressure who takes Ambien to sleep at night.

* If you have been married to the same woman for 19 years while raising 2 beautiful daughters, all within Protestant churches, you're not a real Christian.

* If you cheated on your first wife a number of times and finally with a rich heiress, and left your disfigured wife and married the heiress the next month, you ARE a good Christian.

* If you advocate responsible, age appropriate sex education, including the proper use of birth control, you are eroding the fiber of society.

* If, while governor, you staunchly push abstinence only, with no other option in sex education in your state's school system while your unwed teen daughter ends up pregnant, you're very responsible.

* If your wife is a Harvard graduate lawyer who gave up a position in a prestigious law firm to work for the betterment of her inner city community, then gave that up to raise a family, your family's values are not America's family values.

* If your husband is nicknamed "First Dude," with at least one DWI conviction and no college education, who didn't register to vote until age 25 and once was a member of a group that advocated the secession of Alaska from the USA, your family is extremely admirable and ALWAYS puts 'country first'...

OK, much clearer now.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Cadiz Air Show

We should have been there at 9 to park and get a good spot. Loaded up with picnic, blanket and beach umbrella it was more like mid-day when we arrived and it was mayhem in Cadiz.....people, cars everywhere. Not an inch of space to spare.

Cruising down the side road of the Causeway, hoping someone had got fed up, gone home and left us a space, we got further and further away from the action. Ah but..... we found parking near an almost deserted beach and with our binoculars were able to catch a Catalina-type flying boat used as a firefighter, the Mirage and F11 jets and, to end the show, the Spanish equivalent of the Red Arrows, streaming red and yellow smoke trails. All in all a good few hours and I solved the mystery of why there are hordes streaming to the beach every day: there's always a lovely breeze down there to cool them off.

Saturday, 13 September 2008

A new direction.

I’ve wound up my gardening blog and am over here to let my thoughts be given free rein on any topic that takes my fancy. Not for nothing is it called Everything and Nothing and that the url means “my foot in my mouth” (my partner’s suggestion - I wonder what he’s trying to tell me!)

Let me kick off with a lovely observation from Kate here. I’ve been thinking and reading a lot about aging recently and I think her metaphor provides a nice link between my old blog and the new.

gracefully aging

While admiring the Pulsatilla vulgaris this spring, I began thinking of how the life of a flower from bud to seedpod loosely parallels our lives. When we are young and in full bloom, we turn our faces to the sun and bask in our youthful beauty and exuberance. It is a time of unlimited possibilities and much exploration. Our petals are shiny and bright. We are filled with youthful optimism and yearn to reach higher and experience as much as we can.

And then, as time goes on, we gain more knowledge and a deeper wisdom about life. We have cycled through our early adulthood and have reached middle age. We have learned much about life and love and know the meaning of loss. We know, too, what is really of value and what we cherish.

It is a time of a different sort of beauty- more of a radiant, inner one. Even though we are exhorted to try and maintain youthful appearances and banish any outward signs of aging, there is a dignity nonetheless in allowing ourselves to enjoy the skin that we're in.

Just as with the Pulsatilla, the seedpods are not as flashy as the flowers, but they still have an allure. There is a mystery to them. They are occupied with other things beyond passing fads and pleasing others. Sometimes these are hard lessons to learn.

Thank you once again Kate for allowing me to use this.