Easier But Vulnerable

Going through old stuff typically brings back memories.  Sometimes there are surprises.  Over time I have thrown away several audio tapes which didn’t have any value to me anymore.  I have enough stuff so I really don’t want to keep that which is not worth keeping.

To my surprise, I found a tape with a man speaking.  It was a very different style and for quite some time I couldn’t figure out where it had come from.  About half way through I realized it was me based on some references to Delray Beach.

Then I figured that it must have been around 1991 which is close to the time when I wasn’t watching any TV.  At some point I must have figured that it would be a good idea to start a tape.  It was also about this time that I was in IBM Showbiz Club plays and needed to practice speaking for longer times.  

In this case I spoke for an hour and a half on the tape.  I wrote over the first side of the tape but the second half is still intact.  It’s weird to listen to since so many things have changed since then.  However, certain messages came through.

This small clip reveals an insight into our drive for simplicity.

1991 Simpler but Vulnerable

The point is that the desire for making things easier also leads to depending (and being vulnerable) on the things which make it easier.  It comes back to the ancient phrase where a slave becomes a master.  This aspect of our lives becomes more and more true as the technology and energy needed to live our lives expands.

Initially I was considering putting the whole 45 minutes up here but have since decided that it is better to focus on the interesting bits.


Humboldt One Last Time

Humboldt Diamond House
Humboldt Diamond House

This last June and July, there was an opportunity to return to America for a conference and a family holiday.  During that time, we travelled yet again to Humboldt, Minnesota.  We went there to see my Mom who was planning to stay up there for about a month.  We stayed for ten days and got a chance to capture some new memories, perhaps for the last time.

Grandma Diamond passed away in February and the house has been empty since then.  The idea was that in June, Mom would return to start the process of sorting and packing everything.  Eventually, the house will be listed on the market.  Until then, the process of preparing for a new owner will continue.

It’s sad really.  It’s something that happens all the time but somehow is always more immediate when it happens to you.  It is tempting to leave things as they are.  It seems a bit disrespectful to disrupt the work of a lifetime.  However, like all generations before, it has to be done.  There is a need to treat it much more organically and split up possessions to family members for the sake of future generations.  It is much more like nature to reclaim than to preserve.

On one of the first days there, I sat at the dining room table and looked around.  Slowly, I became sad as I realized that Grandma had built this great environment but could no longer enjoy it.  It was almost like part of her still lived in the house but the most important part was missing.

We went to the graveyard later to see where she was buried.  She was in a newer section of the Hallock cemetery but still had a temporary marker.  Apparently this is the custom for the first few months.  It made it that much more strong that she was really gone.  It has been hard to accept that she is no longer here.

Somehow I knew that only by visiting Humboldt would I finally realize that she had gone.  It gets easier each time I think about her life and wonderful she really was.

We were lucky enough to see Grandpa Diamond at the nursing home in Hallock.  He was in great spirits and was much more talkative than usual.  At first he didn’t recognize me but it didn’t take long to realize who I was.  He noticed my beard and mustache and said “Whiskers”.  Apparently he was never a big fan of facial hair and perhaps he was gently teasing me.  Ever since his stroke in 2003, he has had a great deal of difficulty communicating.  He tends to talk with his eyes and smiles.  Grandpa seems happy with where he is and loves receiving visitors.  He even got a chance to attend the Kittson county fair.  He’s a great man, even now.  When I first saw him again, it was really hard not to feel sad.  He had really enjoyed talking with people and he never wanted to end up in this situation.  Things have changed so much but he has re-adjusted.  It is just hard since I would love to have him as he was so that we could talk again.  As I might have explained before, he was always such a strong positive influence on my life.  He was certainly a role model.  Sometimes I wish I could be a bit more like he was, even now.  I don’t know honestly how he did it.

As has been explained before, Humboldt is not the hotbed of activity.  In fact, the town is slowly dieing.  It is somewhere around 50 people now compared to the 120 of my youth.  Slowly but surely, the houses are being torn down and buried.  Every time I have gone back, a few more houses are missing.  There is very little indication of it growing bigger again.  Northcote is not even counted as a town and it only has three houses still in operation at where the town used to be.  Hallock is still continuing but is not as strong as it once was.  Some form of hidden consolidation is taking place.  Most people prefer to live in bigger towns or cities.  More opportunities and things to do.  Most of my relatives in the area have scattered.  Very few have stayed close to Humboldt.  Really only my one Uncle and Aunt have stayed in Humboldt this whole time.  Another Uncle and Aunt are in Hallock with some cousins families residing in Lancaster.  There really isn’t enough work on the farm to justify the family staying close by.  Most of us are not farmers anyways.  Last I heard, it only takes about one farmer to keep one hundred people fed.  I suspect it is actually much higher than this.  It is probably something like one in five hundred.  This is keeping in mind that America exports a great deal of grain.  The point is that by using the latest machinery and technology (fertilizer and pest control), it does not take hardly any people.  Add to this the ability to process centrally with trucks and trains, very few people are needed.  It largely becomes an excercise in managing capital and energy.  It helps to have a big farm with experience.  Too small means that it is very hard to stay afloat.

Anyways, I always ponder why the town is shrinking.  The bottom line answer is that people just don’t stay because there is nothing there to do besides farming.  There is some hope working for the elevator or even the bus factory and potentially for customs but these job choices are fairly limited and in high demand.  Most likely people would work from Hallock or Pembina instead.  It really doesn’t look good for Humboldt in the long run.

Nature returns near Hallock
Nature returns near Hallock

We tried to find my Great Grandparents house on my Grandma’s side.  I couldn’t remember exactly where it was.  This one looked like it might be but now I’m pretty sure it wasn’t.  It does not really matter.  There are a number of houses being reclaimed by nature.  This one is fairly recent one.  The house still looks livable except for the fact that it is overgrown.  From the driveway you can tell that people still stop by but that it is not a common occurance.  Knowing that this used to be a family farm house can be a bit disturbing.  Perhaps that is the price of progress.  Without change, we would still be living a much simpler life.  We like things complicated as contrasted later in the trip when we drove through several Amish communities in Indiana, Ohio, and Pennsylvania.

Sunset in Humboldt
Sunset in Humboldt

I was incredibly nostalgic when we visited Humboldt.  Without limits, I wanted to soak up what it was and what it is.  It is a hidden refuge, a placid timekeeper, a stabilize force.  It is my roots.  I did what I could.  I took more than 100 pictures in and around the house and tried my best to remember what it meant to be in Humboldt.  Hopefully that will be enough.

Now that my Grandparents are no longer in Humboldt and the house will potentially soon be gone, there is much less of a reason to go there.  There is still some family nearby.  However, things are not quite the same.  Another factor is remoteness.  If you are going to Humboldt, there really is not anything thing else on the way unless you are going to Canada.

Hallock Parade - 125 Years
Hallock Parade - 125 Years

On a lighter note, we were there for Hallock’s 125th birthday.  This happened at the same time as the fair and they had perhaps the longest parade I’ve ever seen a small town have.  The kids really enjoyed the show and loved people tossing out candies even more.  It is quite a novelty to chase down the goodies, hopefully not in front of the next parade participant.

Memories… store them up.  Consume them the rest of your life.  They get better with age.

The Funeral Service

There are some things you never expect or want to happen.  When talking about loved ones, this includes many different things.  You want to protect them and you also want to spend lots of time with them.  As a kid, you just take everything for granted.  One year is a very long time.  Kids just don’t think of endings.  It takes lots of growing up to reach that understanding.

Adults take a different approach.  They tend to take things for granted even though they know things end.  It is typically that when it is too late that we appreciate how unique and special that person was.

I was in a slightly different category.  I appreciated my Grandmother very much but due to the huge distance between us I didn’t see her very often or for very long.  The last time was in 2005 for a few days.

Grandma (Helen Diamond) had cancer and her illness only lasted a few months.  It came quickly and she was able to be at home until the very end.  It was exactly the way she wanted it.

All her kids were with her in Humboldt.  Mom had been up there for a few weeks before taking care of her.  It was very difficult for everyone to handle what was happening.

The day I found out that Grandma had died was so rough.  Its a feeling like the floor isn’t there anymore.  The thoughts of memories with her and how much she had been a part of my life just overwhelmed me.  The part that seemed to hurt the most is that there was not going to be any more memories.

After she had died I spoke with my sister.  She reminded me how patient and tolerant Grandma had been.  The grandchildren used to run around her house making lots of noise and doing silly things like throwing items down the laundry chute.  She didn’t yell at us unless we were really out of line.  She spoiled us and always had time to listen to our stories.  Looking back, she was a perfect grandmother.  It wasn’t that I thought anything bad but as a kid I just didn’t notice how good she was.

Another amazing thing Grandma always did is make us feel at home.  As my sister mentioned, Humboldt always felt so safe and comfortable.  It was always like coming back to a familiar place where everything stayed about the same.  Also being that the town was so small, your arrival was a bit of a novelty and most likely everyone already knew you were coming anyways.

I’ve included a copy of the funeral service notice.  Mom sent it to me after the service was over.  You can click on it to actually read what it says.

Time heals all things, even the feeling like something is missing.  However long it takes, there will always be the memories of time spent.  The hardest thing to realize is that the separation is temporary.  For who can say what happens when we die?  Many people think they know but you don’t know until you’ve done it.  It is very difficult to do this and report back.  The point is that anything could happen after the end.  You just have to wait until that times comes for you to know.

Helen Diamond\'s Funeral Service

Eckhart Tolle aligns with Oprah for New Earth

This was surprising news. It does not seem that these two people would be compatible. However, it has happened and they have conspired to produce a weekly class on the Internet.

Eckhart is a spiritual teacher who has written books such as “The Power of Now” and “A New Earth”. I’ve read this books and would classify them as some of the most direct spiritual messages I’ve read. I’ve read others like Anthony DeMello and Richard Bach but Eckhart is more direct.

A New Earth – Oprah Book Club web site

Just tonight I’ve been reading the transcript of the first class. Very interesting discussion that reflects on chapter one. It is taking longer than expected to get through it. You might prefer to watch the video instead which is also there.

If you are willing to align with the class time, you can actually participate with Oprah and Eckhart and ask questions over Skype. During the first class Oprah took several calls.

It’s worth reading if you like spiritual stuff and are actually more interesting in creating a better life (the life you were meant to live). It spells out the intent of the next phase of human existence. The age of ego is coming to a close one way or another. Let’s just hope we get there in time.

Fictional World

Occasionally, I write fiction.  I openly admit that I am not very good at it but I have fun just the same.  Usually the fictional writing reflects thoughts and theories about how the world works.

This particular story is fairly recent.  I wrote it as an email to my friend Steve Joyce.  It is inspired from the idea of dreamtime.

Here it is:

Eons ago, a child was left alone.  This child knew nothing and yet was expected to live on its own.  With nothing to guide him, he began to make his own choices.  It was important to live so he found food.  It was important to sleep so he made a simple bed.  The child knew nothing but he learned.

Some of his choices were wrong but he just shrugged them off and tried again.  There was no one to tell him he was wrong anyhow so he really didn’t mind making mistakes.

Time passed and he learned he could dream.  Not only could he dream, but he could day dream with the most amazing clarity and inspiration.  Soon his dreams consumed his waking and his sleeping hours with full absorbtion.

In his mind, he made things.  Many things were inspired from what he knew but many things were new as well.  He created in his mind a world.  In this world he lived as we live.  He would see and do as if he was actually of that world.  It was freedom and he did not feel alone.  His mind was all he needed and he could create whatever he wanted.

One day something strange happened.  Something very troubling.  One of his creations talked back to him.  This creation was a person which he had been following much like many other people he had watched.  What disturbed him was that this dream figure was acting very different from how he had imagined.

This dream woman challenged this creation.  This woman saw the weaknesses and flaws and called them to the front.  The boy was hurt and angry that any dream of his, under his control, would every fight back.  He lashed out and accused the woman of not knowing what she was talking about.  The woman received this advice and replied that he was wrong.  The child, yelling out in anger said “How dare you challenge me.  Just who do you think you are?”

The answer came back, in slow calm tones “We are your parents.  We have come back for you.”

“Why did you ever leave me?”

“We never left you… We just wanted you to learn for yourself.”

The boy is overcome with emotion and confusion.  He has been caught playing god with a world that has become real.  His parents want him to understand.  So, they send him into the world he has created to live among that which has been created.  They know that he needs to see what he has done.

The boy descends fully into this world.  He is now an active participant in what happens.  His parents are still there watching but they are not interfering. They are hoping the boy will do the right things.

The boy is still confused, but he is learning.  That which you create is not always meant to be under your control.  All that exists has a sum of zero and infinity at the same time.  There is no point in trying to force imbalance for a world that will balance itself.

Finally, the boy is not alone.  He is finally beginning to understand the meaning of his life.  As he grows, he feels the life inside of him burning like a fire.  Slowly, he is beginning to radiate like the sun.  He is becoming the healer he was always meant to be.  And, the first person he needs to heal is himself.  The rest will be easy.

Grandma Diamond

Grandma Diamond

My Grandma, Helen Diamond, has passed away. It happened on February 12, 2008 at around 7:30pm. My Mom was there and she called me about two hours after it happened.

It was a very sad day. This is the closest person I have lost ever. I am still having a hard time believing that she is gone.

Last year it was found that she had cancer. They performed an operation later last year and removed a large mass. Things were looking better until the news came after Christmas that the cancer had returned and that it was too spread out through the organs to defeat with any treatment. Grandma accepted this and decided not to perform any more tests or treatments. Instead, she would stay at home for as long as she could with the help of family.

Surprisingly, things progressed very quickly and by this last Tuesday she could not hold on any more. Over the last few weeks things were obviously getting worse and it is fortunate that she got her wish to stay home till the very end.

The hardest things to accept is that someone that was always there is not there anymore. She meant so much to all the grandkids. She spoiled us rotten and always had the time to talk. Grandma could often be spotted at the dining room table with a cup of coffee either chatting with visitors or listening to the radio. I remember that Grandma and Grandpa used to listen to Paul Harvey around lunch time. The dining room table was covered in a thin sheet of plastic so that any spills could be stopped. A pot of coffee was always nearby.

Grandma would cook so much food for the family. My weakness was cookies and Grandma would always be sure to cook lots before I showed up. She would fill the glass canisters and then proceed to fill containers in the freezer. I would eat them as fast as I could and this was pretty fast as a teenager. One time I must have eaten around 50 cookies in the period of an hour or two. She would always just wander off and bring back some more from the freezer. Or, she would start a new batch. She was famous for many different types of cookies but one of my favourites was the thin oatmeal cookies. Oh, they were so good. She must have appreciated having a grandchild that loved her cooking so much.

Grandma was very active in the community. She was always doing things related to church. I remember being in women’s groups like Topps and others as well. She loved talking on the phone and knew much of what was going on in Kittson county. A local newspaper would call to see what the Humboldt news was. One time she told them about Debra and I were coming to visit for the summer and the paper actually printed this. I was surprised but apparently having visitors was fairly big news at the time.

There are so many memories of Grandma based on us spending so much time in Minnesota when we were growing up. We used to spend heaps of time camping at Lake Bronson. If I remember correctly, we started with a tent and then later graduated to a caravan(camper). Grandma loved taking trips out to the lake. Sometimes Grandpa would have time to join her.

Grandma and Grandpa used to love the Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The would watch it until they fell asleep. I always didn’t know whether to wake them up or just let them sleep there. Even when they went to bed they would watch TV until they fell asleep.

They had a sunroom built as an extension to the house. The room had a clear ceiling so that it would let in the sunlight. This is perfect for a winter’s day when you want the sun but not the cold. In the later years, Grandma would spend time here.

Grandma was 85 when she passed away. She has many family and friends that are going to miss her. She lived long enough to see many grandchildren get married and have children of their own. The oldest great-grandchild is now a teenager.

There are so many things I’m going to miss about Grandma. I just remembered how she used to insist on giving great big grandma hugs. As a kid I would sometimes find this unusual. Now, I just wish she wasn’t gone and could give another hug.

The hardest thing is that our relationship is over. Its an ending I never wanted.

However, being over for her means that she does not have cancer any more. It also means that she does not have to suffer any longer. She has moved on. She now has peace. I can respect that.

Follow The Leader

Until recently, I never realized the full power of any communications medium. Usually, I take things like TV for granted. In my life, it has always been there. Except for a brief period of about a year in 1990, I have always watched it.

TV would have been first popular in the early 1950’s so it would not be until about then that the first pure TV consumers would have been born.

Before that, it was radio. Before that, it was newspapers. Before that, books? And before that, word of mouth?

The latest form is the Internet. Even though the Internet has existed since the late 60s, it was not until around 1993 that it met widespread adoption with the introduction of the first web browsers. The true Internet generation (born in the early 90’s) has not fully matured yet. This unique group of people are going to use the Internet in ways that cannot be easily imagined now.

The power of information is also the power of who controls it. Thoughts are formed centrally and dispersed for consumption by the masses. It is all so easy. All you need to do is watch.

It hit me recently that even the most casual TV watching can be damaging to independent thought. I experienced this in full during 1990 and the initial Gulf war. People at work would tell me about the video game like nature of bombs being dropped. Some people would feed off this stuff until late at night. It was new to reveal so much about the videos of the fighter/bombers. Somehow it became okay to show destruction through the cameras from afar.

Anyways, at the time, it seemed fairly obvious that the media was selling a military story. The price of admission was following the story.

Being isolated from TV at the time, I started to think differently. I wasn’t exposed to the thoughts directly and it made a big difference to how I looked at the situation. I would never have expected that this would make such a change.

The drive to sell a story for the sake of revenue creates a need for “thought leadership”. What this really means is that someone wants to do the thinking for you. The power comes from lack of resistance and the willingness to spend time and money on continuing the story forward.

It comes out that most people are happy to be sheep as long as everyone else is sheep as well. Leaders, who sometimes act as wolves, hide in the flock and consume what they want.

Flock mindset

Secrets are largely the weapon of choice for information segregation. These secrets are seen as the defense against independent thinking. Secrets are really invested in for the sake of intelligence. Follow any agency around in earnest and find yourself the target of an agency that will do anything to protect its secrets.

This makes it sound like some kind of conspiracy theory. So untrue. It is just the realization that independent people are just independent thinkers. Either they are leaders themselves (with potentially no audience) or they have just disconnected from the world at large.

Everyone likes someone else to take the first step. Taking the risk of taking the first step wrong can often stop most people. What is little known is that these steps into the unknown are often taken with the same trepidation as the other people that don’t take any steps first. The only people that can take steps on their path without fear are the ones that don’t need leaders and don’t even care if anyone follows.

Personally, it all kind of makes me feel sick. It’s like the whole human earth is contaminated by the mirror neuron thinking which gives but also takes. Sickness runs deep within humanity and the pursuit to purify the soul only leads to more sickness. It gives cause to understanding that all desire only leads to more desire.

The hardest thing to do is to stop following.

The leader in front of you is not you.

The leader in you is the one you need to pay attention to.

Follow your own leader.