Bobbing Around Volume 21 Number 9

Unconditional love is not compatible with a hell. The very concepts of reward and punishment imply CONDITIONAL love.
If You Have Lost a Loved One, Bob Rich’s work in progress.


The total mass of plastics now exceeds the total mass of all living mammals.
Persson et al.


We can teach crows to pick up cigarette butts but we can’t teach people not to throw them on the ground.
Tomas Thernström

Bobbing Around

Volume Twenty-one, Number Nine,
March, 2022

Bob Rich’s rave

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* From me to you
Interview of a new grandson
I featured on a fun, unusual podcast
Time machine needed

 

  New content Posts during February
RESPONSES Lauren Persons
Patricia Harrison
JQ Rose
 
ENVIRONMENT Holidays put a hole in the environment YOU can micro plastic
Scientist rebellion!
GOOD NEWS   Amazon rainforest protected in Ecuador
POLITICS   The second American civil war
Putin claims Ukraine to be Nazi. Here are the facts.
INSPIRATION Deaf ain’t stupid A dying lady’s wisdom
I have chosen to make the last words of my dear friend, Esther Simons, as a guest post, so they stay permanently accessible.
Only 23, but his dying words show his enlightenment
The Church of Stop Shopping
PSYCHOLOGY Perfecting public speaking The power of NOW: the chapter on mindfulness from my book-to-be on grief.
Your body is only a space suit for surviving on this planet: dealing with a horrific last memory of a beloved person.
Self-forgiveness
First aid for grief and other all-consuming worries
DEEPER ISSUES Freedom vs. responsibility Aussie bird brains trick scientists
Now is the need for equanimity: how I cope with the war in Ukraine.
HEALTH   Why I am being super-careful
WRITING   The opening scene of Maraglindi
February, 2022 Round Robin topic: the perfect protagonist
ANNOUNCEMENTS   I am a Blue Million author!
New grandson interviews me.
REVIEWS Hit and Run, reviewed by D. M. Langdon
Legacy of Laughter by Mary Kay Morrison
Before the Alamo, by Florence Weinberg
The Choice, by Florence Weinberg
Maraglindi: Guardian spirit reviewed by D.M. Langdon
POETRY Over winter, Over COVID, by Lauren Persons
Samhainic Verse, by Laurie Corzett
 


From me to you

Interview of a new grandson
I featured on a fun, unusual podcast
Time machine needed

 

Interview of a new grandson

Maison Collawn interviewed me on his podcast, and impressed me with his spiritual maturity. He is “just a kid” with unusual ways of having fun, but also, he has dedicated his life to being of benefit.

You can read his answers to a few questions, and, like me, you may learn a few things new to you.


I featured on a fun, unusual podcast

The first odd thing is the name of my hosts: Hermes and Theron. There is a reason: this podcast is a venture by American servicemen for American servicemen, so, by maintaining their anonymity, they can say what they want on any subject.

They are two decent, thoughtful young men who were pleased to (barely) fit into the age group to be my grandchildren.

You can hear our conversation here, but let me warn you. When Hermes sent me the link, I checked it out, intending to listen to the first few minutes to assess sound quality. Instead, I found it so interesting that I listened to the end.

We covered trivial subjects like the meaning of life and why you are on earth, explored the concept of reincarnation, and how to cope with living in an insane world, but all this was set in a framework of fun.

If the guest was someone else, I’d highly recommend that you listen. Given it’s me, you are forbidden. Who knows, it may change some aspects of how you see the world!


Time machine needed

Usually, I assemble Bobbing Around a few days before the end of the month, then schedule it for the first day of the next one. My apologies: today is the 3rd of March, and here it is.

No, I haven’t yet gone senile. Rather, my excuse is that I feel like I have 17 juggling balls in the air. I am

  • interacting with several beta readers for the first volume of my Doom Healer series before sending it off for the next round of rejections.
  • working on If You Have Lost a Loved One: How to cope with grief. It’s come together really well so far, and now has enough content to be of solace and help to the all too many people beset by tragedy. So, if you or someone you know needs help with grief, please contact me.
  • adding to REAL Human Nature, which is the other writing project that has taken me over. It is a short story collection focusing on the best in human nature. In the past month, I’ve written several stories, each aimed at a particular contest, or a particular purpose like as discussion for one of my online sessions on positive psychology. You can read one of the stories here (it’s only 1500 words long). Total length of the book so far is nearly 20,000 words, and I am aiming for 50,000.
  • That’s some of the juggling balls inside my computer. In the illusory world outside it, I am very active campaigning for the Australian Greens in the coming Federal elections. For example, I hijacked myself to take over convening an important committee.

I have no doubt few of my friends have noticed the delay, but I apologise anyway. Why not?


Responses

 

Lauren Persons

As always, I appreciate your blog.

Tomorrow is Groundhog Day. How appropriate. Lately, I have felt a bit like Bill Murray, waking up to relive the day over and over again. Add to that, the heavens conspired to dump several inches of snow here with temperatures in the teens, and our politics are mired in something much worse than snow!

I am fortunate to have two grandsons who make me laugh and remind me what it is like to play in the snow. What I have noticed lately is that young people, those in their late 20s and early 30s, are having a hard time. Former students have written to say that by this time in their lives they expected to have a better career, a steady relationship and even children. Instead, they are dealing with COVID, jobs, isolation and finances. I have purchased your book, “From Depression to Contentment,” a couple times just in the last couple months to send it along to a former student. Good health and gratitude,

Lauren Persons

I “met” Lauren when I reviewed her lovely book for children who have lost a loved one, Lost but Found. This is how she describes herself:

My business card should read, “Jack of all trades, and master of none.” Yet, in playing many roles as actress, director, waitress, teacher, wife, caretaker, mother, grandmother, I am a better writer as well as a more compassionate person.


Patricia Harrison

Dear Bob,

Congratulations on the excellent interview on A Blue Million Books. I enjoyed how you answered the interviewer’s well-thought-out questions with humour and clarity. You have had/are having a wonderfully full and obviously happy life. Keep it up! The picture is charming.

I admit to a feeling of ennui, if not fed-upness at times. I think it’s a combination of the COVID restrictions and the weather. We had a wonderful autumn and one little flurry of snow before New Year. Since then we’ve had snow galore, and it’s falling now from a grey sky. My deck is covered by more than two feet of the white stuff, and two mourning doves are huddled on a branch of my bare crab-apple tree, wondering what the heck happened. They should have stayed down south until their usual April fly-up. And the temp has been well below zero for three weeks or more.

There, how’s that for complaining?

However, I’m still healthy and able to get around somewhat, my house is sturdy and warm, our church is opening again after long months of zooming, and we are soon starting games and different events at the Centre. Everyone masked, of course. I’ve been editing and re-editing the thirteen chapters of my book, but I can’t get going with it. I’m tempted to go back to writing my Regencies. They are such fun to write, though my publisher has retired and I need to find another.

Ah, the plough is out on the road. Such a huge creature! Only a few inches are on my driveway (a quite wide double one) but the plough used to clear it does it in two sweeps. Then the back has a rear-end loader to push the driveway snow out of the way. Takes less than two minutes, and they’re very prompt to get it cleared. The piles along the roadway are three to five feet high. Haven’t seen so much snow for years.

We are having trouble from the anti-vaxxers. Hordes of trucks and supporters have clogged Ottawa streets and border crossings to the US for over a week now. One guy was even waving a US confederate flag. Toronto police handled their protest quickly and neatly, but those in Ottawa, Our Nation’s Capital. seem totally helpless. The economy is suffering: produce or emergency vehicles can’t get through, people are stopped from shopping or getting to work or anywhere else. Although some persons can’t tolerate the vaccine, those who can and yet refuse to get it, are stubborn, if not stupid, selfish, and uncaring.

Again, I’ve rambled on. Must stop or you won’t ever have the time to read the whole thing.

Take care.

Patricia

Patricia is, I believe, even older than I am, but as you can read, is vigorous and lively. She has been one of my supports for years. She lives in Canada, and you can find the Regency books she mentioned here.

JQ Rose

What an amazing interview. I know you are an environmentalist, but I had no idea of your profound body of work…not sure how sci-fi stories fit in with all the non-fiction pieces!! Fiction is indeed more fun to write, but I admire your desire to help people through your writing. You are a great role model for us grandparents who look old and wrinkled but are still young and vibrant on the inside. Congratulations on your new release!

JQ Rose has interviewed me on her blog, and we have reviewed each other’s books. She is often kind enough to comment on my posts, always with wisdom and humour. She is also a talented writer.


Environment


 

Holidays put a hole in the environment

You will enjoy this tongue-in-the cheek article by Jeff Kart in Treehugger. It pokes fun at seven “holidays” basically designed to have you convert some of your money into waste.

As my friends know, I fully agree, and apply the same logic to birthdays, Christmas, and every other inducement to be a good little consumer.


Inspiration


 

Deaf ain’t stupid

Please read and be inspired by Denis Meuthen’s story. He was born profoundly deaf, and the world wanted to classify him as handicapped. His parents disagreed, and taught him to lipread. He is now a scientist, and in this article sets out the difficulties (and triumphs) of a deaf person in a hearing world. His recommendations are for academia, but apply to all of us, and not only in relation to the specifics of deafness.


Psychology

 

Perfecting public speaking

When you ask people to make up lists of fears, public speaking comes up ahead of even dying. A dear friend is considering whether to train as a teacher, but the thought of standing in front of a class turns her into jelly.

Here is my advice:

The best way to develop public speaking skills is Toastmasters. Almost everyone joins because they dread public speaking, and are confident and competent at it within a year. Toastmasters don’t know that they are group therapy for social anxiety. You can read one of my speeches, on this point.

Only, membership of Toastmasters is quite expensive. You can look on it as a training course.

But here are a few tricks.

1. Say a sentence while looking one person in the eyes. You are speaking to this person only. There is no one else.

Then pick a different person, sitting well away. If they have chairs in rows, the first one may have been front left. The second will be middle of the room, right. And so on. Each statement made to just one person, but skipping around.

2. At first, stand in front of a group (class, or oral examiners, or job interview panel, or the jury in court, whatever), and say, “Look, I am terrified of public speaking.” Watch their faces. Most will react with instant sympathy and compassion. Then it will be easy.

3. Start with a joke. Here is a good one:

One day, I was walking down the stair (looking at person 1)
When I met a man who wasn’t there (to person 2 well separated from person 1)
He wasn’t there again today (to person 3)
I wish to hell he’d go away! (to person 4). Stop for laughter.

My friends, public speaking terrifies me. I am that man who wasn’t there — I wish!

The audience will eat out of your hands.


Deeper Issues

 

Freedom vs. responsibility

There has been an explosion of public protests in the name of FREEDOM, so I thought it important to examine the concept. My tool for looking at any such issue is Emmanuel Kant’s “principle of universalisability:” what would the world be like if everyone acted this way?

A world where people are required to do as they are told, and have no freedom, is a dictatorship, or even slavery. It takes a blink to rule out this as a preference.

But a world where no one needs to obey any rules, where there are no restrictions or responsibilities, is equally repulsive. It is one of chaos and anarchy, where might is right and fear rules. Imagine if you could not walk down the street without risking being robbed, enslaved or murdered.

Unlimited freedom from rules would very quickly revert to dictatorship and slavery.

We can apply Kant’s test at increasing levels of sophistication.

There needs to be a collection of commonly agreed restrictions on behaviour. These are laws, and every working society has them. We accept without thought that this “social contract” makes life possible. So, the question is, where do we draw the line between freedom and responsibility?

Societies throughout history, and around the world today, form a continuum from liberty to autocracy. Each person can apply the principle of universalisability to examine a preferred level of freedom to apply to everyone.

How do we apply this to lockdowns, vaccine mandates, and other public health measures applied to the pandemic?

A good measure is the probability of causing harm to others.

I know of a number of unvaccinated people, some vigorous young adults, who have died of COVID. I don’t know of anyone who has died of social distancing, wearing masks, or self-isolation when there is a chance of having been infected.

If I want to go rock-climbing, I risk a fall, with injury or death. If I make a mistake, I could endanger a climbing partner, who is there voluntarily, knowing the risks.

In contrast, if I get infected with a transmissible disease and refuse to take precautions, I will certainly infect others, who will infect others even before realising they have been infected. That’s the way successful disease organisms work.

From this, I think it is clear that anyone who rails against measures to contain a pandemic (other than vaccination) is wrong.

With vaccination, it is a question of their protective power vs. the risk of harmful side-effects. I know intelligent, thoughtful people, including my son, who have examined the evidence and decided that the risks outweigh the benefits. However, on my reading it is very much the other way.

Still, this is an area where honest disagreements are possible and legitimate. So, my personal answer is that anyone who believes that vaccination causes too high a risk of serious side-effects should be exempt from it — but then MUST use every other measure to minimise the risk of infection, and even more effort to avoid infecting others if they do catch COVID (remembering there is a symptom-free period during which a person is infectious).

Comments and discussion welcome.


Reviews

 

Hit and Run, reviewed by D. M. Langdon

Hit and Run by Dr Bob Rich is a very engaging book about intergenerational disadvantage, trauma and abuse and a lovely story of redemption and the power of love and forgiveness, with much life wisdom between the pages! Words of wisdom such as, for example: “Hate begets hate, vengeance only leads to vengeance, violence feeds on itself. Only love can stop the endless cycle. Only love can turn hate into love.” (pg.32), really jump off the pages.

There were believable characters and flowing, realistic dialogue, with the story moving along at a good pace. Interesting themes of reincarnation, paranormal connections, cross-generational mentoring, and the harsh lessons of life and the importance of community were woven throughout.

I enjoyed this book and highly recommend it.


Legacy of Laughter by Mary Kay Morrison


Given the title and the cover illustration, I expected something funny kids would laugh over, to be read by grandma, but this is not so. Rather, Legacy of Laughter is a serious work based on science, and follows two others on the positive uses of humor by the author. You might think of it as an instruction manual for grandparents-in-waiting, then new grandparents, and expanding as the grandbabies grow into teenagers.

As such, it is immensely useful for this target audience.

Yes, humor is covered, but more as a tool you are shown how to use than something that’ll make you roar with laughter. And it is one part of a toolkit that would fill a workshop, organized in a logical and easy-to-follow manner.

Full of photos, delightful kids’ drawings and quotes, it is an enjoyable read.

If you are looking for a present for a child, this is not it. But the adults in the child’s life—most definitely, yes.


Before the Alamo, by Florence Weinberg

I have read all of Florence Weinberg’s previous novels. Like them, “Before the Alamo” presents me with unforgettable characters, some based on real-life historical people; brings a time and place to vivid life; and induces me to read more. I know Florence is in her 80s, but I hope she keeps writing lots more books of historical fiction.

Two women dominate this book: Maria, who is a full-blooded Indian adopted by a white man who sexually abuses her, then sells her into slavery, and her daughter, Emilia. Both are wonderful, admirable people who can teach you about how to handle adversity.

Florence’s books always have memorable quotable quotes. One from here: when little girl Emilia faces racial discrimination for the first time, she points out that “A white horse is no better than a brown one.”

“Remember The Alamo” is a historical catchcry that has justified discrimination, divisiveness and hate. Here, in a superbly researched book is the real story.


The Choice, by Florence Weinberg

This historical novel is set in the tumultuous times of 16th century France, when Catholics and Protestants battled each other, both with words and with weapons. It is the (I think fictional) memoir of Jean de Sponde, a real historical figure who was responsible for the ascension of the King of Navarre to the French Throne.

The story is full of drama: spying and intrigue, battles and roadside attacks, multiple reverses of fortune. And all of this account is based on accurate historical research.

The language reads exactly like an English translation of real medieval French, so may take a little for a modern reader to get used to, but the effort is worth it.

As well as action and adventure, “The Choice” contains tracts of deep, thought-provoking philosophy and religious arguments, which a student of history like I am will find fascinating, although I suspect it is not for the average person more at home with TV shows and news of our day.


Poetry

 

Over winter, Over COVID, by Lauren Persons

            What worn-out,
            over used,
            hackneyed simile,
            maudlin metaphor can I craft?
            Life is…
            a walk into a biting wind,
            after an all-night snow.
            17 degrees—feels like 7 degrees.
            Who knows how I feel?
            I stomp down on my boots to get them
            to hug my playing-hard-to-get feet.
            I pull my coat and hat and gloves on.
            That is, if I can find them all at the same time.
            I used to wear hats well—
            my mother was a hat model, after all.
            The mirror reflects a moment and says,
            “Really? Could’ve fooled me.”
            Enough. I am ready.
            For what?
            I slog through a drift to make it to the sidewalk.
            The cold pinches my cheeks like some sadistic Babka.
            I walk on to find this damn metaphor for life.
            With resolve, I plow through to an almost-clear path,
            Chunks of snow crawl over the top of my boots
            And sink down deep, smothering sole and soul.
            I press on. I tug my hat down over my ears
            Again.
            I remind myself–form over fashion.
            I walk, I trudge.
            No Dance of the Sugar Plum Fairy.
            My feet are splayed for balance.
            Baby steps, baby steps.
            I make my way through the mounds.
            Despite myself, I am taken in
            transformed.
            A glittered hush.
            A squirrel bounds across my path
            In one effortless leap is overhead.
            The telephone wires are staves
            where puffed birds perch.
            Every good boy does fine
            to create an aerial aria.
            I am merely a walk-on to dress the stage
            Amid other players, I share the scene.
            A sharp wind dusts snow from shivering trees.
            Grateful, they give us a standing ovation as the
            Ivory grand drape falls.


Samhainic Verse, by Laurie Corzett

            Caught up in my Demeter role
            I brought winter to my grieving soul.
            Numbing ice, concealing snow,
            No nurturing soil for seed to sow.
            Longing to sleep in dreamless haze,
            Aching for peace from ravaging rage,
            I ask to serve, to give to others’ lives
            what I am bereft of.
            But the gods in their wisdom,
            send me to fools,
            wicked, nasty fools who mock me
            knowing not my sorrow, knowing not what I disguise.
            Hiding behind hysterically blinded eyes,
            I prepare for my journey deep below.

            Others have travelled this path before me
            and lived to tell the tale,
            strengthened by their devotion
            to their stolen loves.
            In a bubble of my own clouded atmosphere,
            I shall fear no evil.
            Blood coagulates around my heart
            allowing no feeling
            but deadening pain.
            My lips are bound.
            My tearducts desiccated by vacuum.
            Thus am I prepared.
            I am not prepared at all
            for what I may find.
            But neither do I care.
            This is all about desperation.
            This is all about emotion so intense
            that I am beyond response;
            there is nothing left to feel.
            Step by step
            I descend.

            Something about a veil.
            But more like
            a brick wall —
            there may be explosives
            hidden behind that solid image.
            It seems unyielding.
            There are glimmers,
            minor crumblings.
            At times the bricks seem to shift.
            Unexplained.
            If I let myself,
            if I am very quiet,
            molecules move silently,
            disarming resistence,
            there will appear a stair
            to my senses of solid granite,
            wet with the drip of
            melting ice.

            Treacherous.
            A misstep could kill me,
            falling all the way,
            breaking stair by stair.
            I must take care.
            Make careful measure:
            What is the true worth
            of what I might find?

            My weight is unsteady.
            Gaping below —
            a colorless vortex,
            a lake of emptiness
            sucking in all sensation.
            It is enormous, all-consuming.
            My salvation.
            I leap.
            Overwhelmed,
            I am sucked in and through,
            breathlessly,
            silently,
            alone in the Universe
            of silent, inexorable,
            intensity.
            Pulled into an event horizon
            a singularity
            another, nether realm.

            Every act
            Every thought
            Every dream
            Every wish
            Everyone I’d lost
            at every stage of
            our shared experience.
            Every sin.
            Here they live,
            each acting out it’s own story
            in a cavernous space,
            of encapsulated diaramas.
            I don’t sense my body
            — only a vague weight
            of uncertain dimensions.
            It is time released —
            all happening at once eternally.
            No choice but to let it wash over me,
            wave after chaotic, metaphoric wave.
            Sound/light/fragrance/taste/touch/emotion
            craftily embodied in exquisite, endless pain.

            Is there a voice here?
            Is there a way to make it talk
            in reasonable tones?
            Is there a way to unravel the senses,
            to frame neat packets of sense
            and talk with them reasonably?
            Is there a rationale within which
            to deal with the feelings,
            to put them in place,
            rational and calm and dignified?
            Is it too much to ask?
            And of whom?
            There is no guide, no authority,
            none but me, infinitely mirrored.
            What will become of all these “I”s
            staring at me, demanding
            retribution, stark, cold justice
            Just Ice and Cold and bitter, stinging snow
            to wrap my frozen soul in hope of sleep
            while Nazgul track my dreams.

            The innocent must bear the sacrifice.
            Power too dangerous to the wise
            and power-enabled,
            that would overtake their skills,
            turn them to evil purpose,
            may be safely given to innocent hands, destroying
            only the sacrificial lamb.
            The wise, in their compassion,
            may suffer unhealing wounds
            of painful knowledge;
            but the innocent are destroyed,
            pitted inside out by corrosion,
            unable to fight,
            unable to understand.
            I am not wise, nor innocent.
            I look into the battalion of
            mirrored images
            and am left just short of
            destruction,
            picking at scabs,
            unwilling to heal
            my agony of remorse
            and betrayal.
            I didn’t know,
            couldn’t know,
            no one told me.
            They said:
            “Do what you are told.
            It will all be alright in the end.”
            But whose end, right for whom?

            What is the treasure I have come here seeking?
            That sweet, sparkling child,
            who played upon the hillside,
            picking flowers
            to weave into our hair —
            I didn’t mean to leave her unprotected.
            I left her in the care of trusted friends
            while I went off to earn our daily bread.
            The screaming
            in my heart
            as she was taken,
            the shattering reverberations,
            I’d never known such pain.
            It stopped me in my tracks,
            overcame my senses,
            never leaves me, never lessens,
            though in time, like anything, I guess
            recedes into background noise
            that I may hear my orders,
            do as duty demands.

            But, duty to what demands?
            The gods,
            my very brethren,
            I realize, have betrayed me.
            Cut to my womanly core
            to drink my blood in bacchanalia.
            The mirror images smile grotesquely.
            I am sickened,
            brought to my humbled knees,
            not in obeisance.
            I have not the strength nor will
            to stand.
            Perhaps I shall dwell here in hell,
            unmoving,
            unresponsive,
            bleeding out,
            pale and ashen.
            Serving them no more.
            No bread upon the table.
            Just Ice and snow.


About Bobbing Around

If you received a copy of Bobbing Around and don’t want a repeat, it’s simple. Drop me a line and I’ll drop you from my list.

You may know someone who would enjoy reading my rave. Bobbing Around is being archived at http://mudsmith.net/bobbing.html, or you can forward a copy to your friend. However, you are NOT ALLOWED to pass on parts of the newsletter, without express permission of the article’s author and the Editor (hey, the second one is me.)

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Contributions are welcome, although I reserve the right to decline anything, or to request changes before acceptance. Welcome are:

  • Announcements, but note that publication date is neither fixed nor guaranteed;
  • Brags of achievements that may be of general interest, for example publication of your book;
  • Poems or very short stories and essays that fit the philosophy and style of Bobbing Around;
  • Above all, responses to items in past issues. I will not reject or censor such comments, even if I disagree with them.

Submission Guidelines

It is a FALSE RUMOUR that you need to buy one of my books before your submission is accepted. Not that I cry when someone does so.

Above all, contributions should be brief. I may shorten them if necessary.

Content should be non-discriminatory, polite and relevant. Announcements should be 100 to 200 words, shorter if possible. Book reviews, essays and stories should be at the very most 500 words, poems up to 30 lines.

Author bios should be about 50 words, and if possible include a web address.

About Dr Bob Rich

I am a professional grandfather. My main motivation is to transform society to create a sustainable world in which my grandchildren and their grandchildren in perpetuity can have a life, and a life worth living. This means reversing environmental idiocy that's now threatening us with extinction, and replacing culture of greed and conflict with one of compassion and cooperation.
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