Saturday, October 10, 2009

A Different Kind of "Call of Nature"

Combine a tropical climate, unregulated sewage systems, and the rainy season, and you can receive some rather unexpected surprises in your living space. Nearly every evening we receive a hard rain that cools this steamy country and floods the streets, which causes the storm drains to back up temporarily. After each storm, a deafening chorus of several frog species dominates the night sounds.

A few days ago as Kat lifted the toilet lid, a rather large frog was found splashing about the bowl. The ensuing shriek (it was not from the desperate amphibian) drew the dog in for a look, and together she and Kat watched the creature in fascination before it was scooped out and released into the comparatively safer environs of our fish pond.

Having a frog in one's toilet begs the question: What else is down there? I've never been completely sure of which outgoing pipe is actually connected to the sewer, and perhaps it's because I don't really want to know. With the knowledge that rather large cat-eating monitor lizards inhabit the lake a block away and have been seen crawling out of the sewers, I now take a precautionary second look before being seated. I've read too many Stephen King stories.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Turning 60

I made it to 60. A few thousand years ago, I would be considered ancient. At least the tribal young would seek me out for advice. To tell the truth, I really don't feel any different than I did at 30 or 40. Could be age delusion, I realize. Well, 60 is no longer considered ancient, and there are no lines of people waiting to hear my pearls of wisdom. But, Kat did ask me what I've learned in my six decades on this planet. At first, I didn't think I had anything earth-shaking to share, but after a few days, the question kept tapping on my mind, so here it is, for whatever it is worth.

  • This planet is incredible. Experiencing the awesome wonders of nature is a spiritual journey for me. One doesn't have to travel to exotic locations to appreciate the exquisite interactions of the variety of organisms; just take a look around!
  • We work too hard. In light of my first observation, we spend far too much of our waking hours unable to appreciate life in the fullest. Whoever decided that people must spend so much time at work must have been the recipient of the fruits of working people's labor. I've thought about it quite a lot. We definitely need more time to enjoy life, our friends and family, the wonders of Earth, and to rest; to do what makes us happy. And although my career has been fulfilling in many ways, it has not allowed me (or my students, come to think of it) enough time to just have fun.
  • Teaching is not only an honorable profession, it is not easy. Not everyone can do it, and in some cases, there are some teachers who can't do it very well. But bless 'em for trying. Most professionals that deal with people do it one person at a time, and they wouldn't last long in a classroom full of teenagers. Would I do it again if I had to do it all over again? Absolutely not! But it was the culmination of choices I made, and I am continually learning, usually from my students.
  • There are an awful lot of hypocrites in the world. Always have been, probably always will be. I blame a lot of it on religion. It amazes me how many people I've met who are so self-righteous and who say one thing but do another.
  • Science doesn't have all the answers, but what it does have should be paid attention to. If scientists have built up evidence for something over years of painstaking empirical research, then we have to accept it. For anyone who has any doubt about the truth of such overwhelming evidence for things like climate change or evolution, they either aren't willing to take a good look, or they have simply decided to ignore it if it clashes with their personal belief systems. You can't have it both ways: If you accept medical advice built on research, then accept the rest of scientific findings. And, by the way, a scientific theory is not a guess, as in our everyday use of the word. It is an explanation for a phenomenon that has solid evidence to back it up, and has not yet been proven wrong.
  • There are too many people in the world. Not only are there not enough resources to go around, we aren't using them wisely. People need to stop having so many babies. It isn't necessary. Adopt! There are lots of kids who need a home. My experience is that an adopted child is every bit as loved as a biological one.
  • The two most damaging ideas we hold are: 1. That we need so much "stuff." We don't. Simplifying one's life brings greater harmony to each of us and to the planet; and 2. That we can't do without credit. Credit cards are big business's way of keeping us beholden to them. Get rid of them if you can, and return to a simpler way of life.
  • I love Kat's aspiration, written during her high school years when most of her peers were writing about making a lot of money. She said, "I want to be able to tell a story, and have someone to tell it to." Those are words that a 60 year old should say, and I wish I had, but I don't mind borrowing, because it is a great message. So, let's build those stories, and share them!
There you have it. Tune in when I'm 70 and see if I've learned anything new.