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Archive for August, 2014


The other side of "Paradise": Homeless man in a San Ignacio park in BZ

The other side of “Paradise”: Homeless man in a San Ignacio park in BZ

“Why treat that common nobody on the ground as if he is somebody? I shouldn’t judge poor peasants, men or women, by their surface appearance, nor by their apparent mental capacities. And this is hard to do, since very frequently they scarcely seem to have the semblance or the intelligence of reasonable beings, so gross and offensive are they. But, turn the coin, and you will see by the light of the faith that the Son of God, Whose will it was to be poor, is represented to us by these people.”

— ST. Vincent

    *St. Vincent de Paul (24 April 1581 – 27 September 1660) was a priest of the Catholic Church who dedicated himself to serving the poor. He is venerated as a saint in the Catholic Church and the Anglican Communion. De Paul was renowned for his compassion, humility, and generosity and is known as the “Great Apostle of Charity.”

St Vincent de Paul

St Vincent de Paul

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In a reflection on beauty and happiness in Atlantic Magazine, writer and historian Cody C. Delistraty, a writer I like a lot, calls attention to another writer I like, Alain de Botton, and deBotton’s wonderful take on McDonald’s and Westminster Cathedral.

And wouldn’t you know there’s a soul-deadening McDonalds “Restaurant”–if any quickie food joint can legitimately be called a restaurant–across the street from the great cathedral.

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Delistraty writes:

    In The Architecture of Happiness, Alain de Botton weighs the feeling of walking into an “ugly” McDonalds in the Westminster area of London compared to the feeling of entering the “beautiful” Westminster Cathedral across the street. He says that because of the harsh lighting, the plastic furniture, and the cacophonous color scheme (all those bright yellows and reds), one tends to feel immediately “anxious” in the McDonalds.

    What one feels in the Westminster Cathedral, however, is a calmness brought on by a series of architectural and artistic decisions: the muted colors (greys and bleak reds), the romantic yellow lighting that bursts out onto Victoria Street, the intricate mosaics, and the vaulted ceilings. Although the Westminster Cathedral has the same principle elements of architecture as the McDonald’s—windows, doors, floors, ceilings, and seats—the cathedral helps people to relax and reflect, where the fast food restaurant causes one to feel stressed and hurried.

    It seems part of humans’ appreciation of beauty is because it is able to conjure the feelings we tend to associate with happiness: calmness, a connection to history or the divine, wealth, time for reflection and appreciation, and, perhaps surprisingly, hope.

Click here for more of Delistraty’s stuff.

And here for more on de Botton.

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"Big Rock," the remote and spectacular waterfall and swimming hole where I broke my ankle. Can't wait to get back someday.

“Big Rock,” the remote and spectacular waterfall and swimming hole where I broke my ankle. Can’t wait to get back someday.

So two Fridays ago I had nothing to do on a hot afternoon and nature called, and I don’t mean the way nature calls when you have a full bladder.

Nature called me up to Mountain Pine Ridge, to my favorite place on earth, which is “Big Rock Falls,” one of the most interesting of the many spectacular waterfalls in Belize.

Getting to Big Rock requires a steep climb down a somewhat treacherous trail and I’ve made the climb up and down it a number of times, without incident or accident, by carefully watching every step I take, and taking every step consciously slow.

I was able to climb back to my truck and stopped off for a brewskie at the appropriately named "Malfunction Junction," where my friend Jim sells cold cerveza. He also iced down my swelling ankle.

I was able to climb back to my truck and stopped off for a brewskie at the appropriately named “Malfunction Junction,” where my friend Jim sells cold cerveza. He also iced down my swelling ankle.

On the aforementioned afternoon, however, I lost my Zen-like focus, briefly neglected to take it slow and slipped down, twisting my leg beneath my hindquarters, pretzel-like, before sliding down the steep and narrow trail a good 10 feet.

I have a right ankle broken in two places to show for this Friday afternoon outing.

Next time nature calls, I might just go to the bathroom and stay home.

But I probably won’t. I will be grounded at home for a number of weeks, but you can’t keep a good man down.

You can’t even keep a man like me down.

Great swimming holes down from the waterfall at Big Rock, one of my favorite places on earth.

Great swimming holes down from the waterfall at Big Rock, one of my favorite places on earth.

Then again, I think I’ll stay away from waterfalls and take up something safe, like . . . . this:

 

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“As one of my patients told me, ‘If I could give up my right arm–literally, have it amputated–to escape the pain of depression forever, I would take that deal in a heartbeat.'”

–Stephen Ilardi, Ph.D., in The Depression Cure

In March, veterans' groups planted almost 2,000 flags on the National Mall trying to call attention to the number of suicides by vets.

In March, veterans’ groups planted almost 2,000 flags on the National Mall trying to call attention to the number of suicides by vets.

Robin Williams was such a national treasure, who gave so many people around the world so much joy and pleasure (including U.S. troops and troubled vets), that maybe some of the ripple effects of his tragic end will be positive effects:

— Maybe it will heighten awareness once and for all about the severity of mental-health issues including severe depression and addiction too.

Maybe such awareness will go a long and much-needed way in removing the lingering stigmas associated with depression and related issues. As enlightened as we are in these times about physical illnesses and diseases, many people are still stuck in attitudes and beliefs about one step removed from the Dark Ages when it comes to mental and emotional issues.

— Maybe the national conversation about Robin’s tragedy will include discussion and a much-needed look at what we’re going to do as a nation about the suicide rate among veterans–22 vets kill themselves every day in America.

(Let that sink in–our veterans are killing themselves in astounding numbers in a military-related epidemic that nobody really wants to address.)

— Maybe the national conversation will include some talk about how to deal with all the addicts and mentally-ill people without homes on our streets.

Maybe we’ll stop criminalizing homelessness with draconian city ordinances and deal with the undertows (i.e., mental illness, addiction, etc.).

— Maybe we’ll drop some of the judgmentalism, biases and ignorance that are heaped upon people with mental-health issues, since it’s judgmentalism and bias and ignorance that aggravate the problems and deter people who desperately need help from seeking the help.

Mentally ill, suicidal and addicted people live in additional darkness of shame and even lower self-esteem that people with heart disease and diabetes and physical illnesses don’t have to cope with.

— We can only hope that the horror of such a gifted and talented icon’s suicide will jolt us into facing realities that we recoil from and try so hard to ignore, so that we can bring such realities out in the open, examine them, discuss them and figure out ways to deal them.

Maybe this will be just the wake-up call we have always so desperately needed as a nation when it comes to mental illness.

But then again, considering our short little span of national attention–driven by the latest hype in the latest news cycle–we’re a nation that’s not very good at dealing with unpleasantries for long.

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Mike Love, not to be confused with the Mike Love of Beach Boys fame, is a most inventive and talented musician.

Astounding talent.

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P1020321

Your Quotable Quote of the Day:

    “If Jesus could rise from the dead, we can at least rise from our bed, get off our couches and pews, and respond to the Lord’s resurrection life within us, joining Jesus in what he’s up to in the world.”

    — From “The Jesus Manifesto” of Len Sweet and Frank Viola

bw-old-hands-on-bible

Your Thought for the Day:

So what might Jesus be up to in the world today, a world so broken and violent (as always) and in such desperate need (as always) of the healing powers of God’s love, grace and tender mercies?

As desperate and hopeless as it all seems, Jesus is “up to something” as close by as our own families (where terribly bitter family wars sometimes break out) and circles of loved ones, and as far as the most distant and horrendous of places on earth.

Jesus is up to something in the cheerful church nursery and in the NICU unit at the nearest children’s hospital; in the casual confines of a Starbucks and the bloodiest streets in Chicago; in the church’s choir loft (where bitter church wars sometimes break out at choir practices) and in the funeral home where the carpets are drenched in tears.

Pettiness and pestilence, petty conflicts and violent breakdowns where so mind-boggling much is at stake are always abounding.

So the thought for the day comes down to this:

    Since Jesus rose from the dead to go to work in the world, what are we doing to join him–to respond to the Lord’s resurrection life within us?

P1020813

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An American evangelist's pickup truck here in San Ignacio

An American evangelist’s pickup truck here in San Ignacio

Near the beach at Hopkins Village

Near the beach at Hopkins Village

It's called "Belize Time"

It’s called “Belize Time”

lil buddies

lil buddies

Buddies forever

Buddies forever

Your typical makeshift traffic sign.

Your typical makeshift traffic sign.

Another bush farmer ...

Another bush farmer …

This wild grass in BZ makes good feed for horses and other livestock. He's chopping the top seed stalks off to plant at his farm.

This wild grass in BZ makes good feed for horses and other livestock. He’s chopping the top seed stalks off to plant at his farm.

Town Council member Shary Medina, who teaches English at a high school, made her second run for mayor of San Ignacio/Santa Elena with a massive campaign--and lost to another veteran male council rep. The twin towns aren't ready for a feminist mayor.

Town Council member Shary Medina, who teaches English at a high school, made her second run for mayor of San Ignacio/Santa Elena with a massive campaign–and lost to another veteran male council rep. The twin towns aren’t ready for a feminist mayor.

Shary Medina's big campaign parade entering town at the "low bridge" entrance into town. He male opponent ran a low-key campaign and won largely because of his 17 years on the town council and his longtime record of buy votes. In Belize, if you need a new roof, some concrete and dirt to build a house on your property--whatever, your elected leaders are there for you at election time. I got a new paved street to replace one of the worst streets in town during an election last year, because people threatened to vote for the incumbent's opponent.

Shary Medina’s big campaign parade entering town at the “low bridge” entrance into town. He male opponent ran a low-key campaign and won largely because of his 17 years on the town council and his longtime record of buy votes. In Belize, if you need a new roof, some concrete and dirt to build a house on your property–whatever, your elected leaders are there for you at election time. I got a new paved street to replace one of the worst streets in town during an election last year, because people threatened to vote for the incumbent’s opponent.

Delicious torrtia they are.

Delicious torrtia they are.

Pupusas, a native El Salvador dish popular throughout Central America. It's corn meal pancakes stuffed with meat, cheese and beans or some combination thereof, then fried. I get some at market every Saturday and try to eat reasonably healthy meals the rest of the day to offset the damage.

Pupusas, a native El Salvador dish popular throughout Central America. It’s corn meal pancakes stuffed with meat, cheese and beans or some combination thereof, then fried. I get some at market every Saturday and try to eat reasonably healthy meals the rest of the day to offset the damage.

Ever see a kid that didn't like to blow bubbles? Bubbles are a huge seller at market.

Ever see a kid that didn’t like to blow bubbles? Bubbles are a huge seller at market.

Girls just wanna have fun.

Girls just wanna have fun.

Boys just wanna bang di drums all day.

Boys just wanna bang di drums all day.

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