Saturday, February 19, 2011

Day 51: Education or Indoctrination?

IndoctrinationBasicila of San Marco, Venice, Italy, February 2011,
Nikon D5000, 35mm focal length equiv. 60mm, exposure 1/33 sec @ f5.3, ISO 1600, no flash, exposure bias -1/3
 © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

This is a very captivating painting right at the entrance to San Marco's Basilica in Venice.  A young child being taught about his lord, Jesus Christ.  And certainly it represents a story retold around the world, with differing messages depending on the faith.

Is this religious education fundamentally different from that taught in the Madrasahs in Pakistan or Afghanistan?  Certainly the tenants of the faith differ, but is the approach fundamentally different?

Is one child's religious education another's indoctrination?  Can those words be used interchangeably, and is that OK with you?

Personally, this is an area I struggle with.  Young minds are so impressionable.  They can be shaped and sculpted to believe anything their authority figures teach.  And later "deprogamming" those beliefs can take enormous effort.  

And what determines whether the child attends Sunday school, Hebrew school, or a Madrasah?  Plain and simple -- geography (by and large).  Is that the right basis for which creed is accepted as truth?

This gives me reason for great pause, and is something to reflect upon I think.

  • Donation:  To our server at breakfast in our hotel.  Tips are not expected, but it seemed the appropriate thing to do.  And he seemed happy ;-)
  • Exercise:  One last day roaming the back allies and canals of Venice (TBD mins).  Just Carol and me -- very lovely.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Day 50: Work it!

Work it!Venice, Italy, February 2011,
Nikon D5000, 35mm focal length equiv. 45mm, exposure 1/30 sec @ f4.5, ISO 200, no flash
 © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Now there is an intent gondolier.  He's focused, giving maximum effort, eyes fixed on his destination.

How about you?  When you have an objective to achieve, are you similarly dedicated?

I'm not saying this is how one should go through life continuously -- it would take away from relaxing, being open to new possibilities, and listening to one's heart.

But this isn't an either/or proposition.  Once you have decided upon your objective, then it becomes time to excel.  So work it!

  • Donation:  to a local group raising money to help drug addicts get and stay clean.  The woman soliciting my donation said she had been clean for 2-years and was now a "good girl".  To me, that cause was worth some euros.
  • Exercise:  Wandering Venice with some friends from the US.  While we didn't cover so much distance (too many shopping and photo stops), we were on our feet all day (300 mins)

Day 49: What mask(s) are you wearing?

The many masks of VeniceVenice, Italy, February 2011,
Nikon D5000, 35mm focal length equiv. 30mm, exposure 1/60 sec @ f4, ISO 200, no flash, exposure bias -1/3
 © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]
Everyone wears them.  Masks ... expected by our work, our friends, our family, even society in general.

But it can add to your internal angst to have to keep putting them on and taking them off.  By doing so, you are not really being true to yourself, or perhaps better, letting yourself find your true abiding nature.

Who are you when you are not playing a role for someone else?  It can be a life-long inquiry.

But as you incrementally identify and then remove the masks that are incongruent with your true nature, you will feel yourself climb the gentle slope of inner peace and tranquility.

You will become authentic, genuine, and sincere.

So ask yourself today ... what mask are you wearing, and why?  And then try removing it and watch your behavior change.

What is your mask?Venice, Italy, February 2011,
Nikon D5000, 35mm focal length equiv. 57mm, exposure 1/160 sec @ f6.3, ISO 200, no flash
 © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

  • Donation:  To many churches in Venice (appears more business than religion)
  • Exercise:  TBD

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Day 48: Tourists in Europe

Raining in Prague, painting in a tourist shop, Prague, Czech Republic, December 2010,
Panasonic DMC-ZS7, 35mm focal length equiv. 137mm, Exposure 1/5 sec @ f4.5, ISO 400, no flash
 © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

Today we are tourists again, heading this time to Venice for the long weekend and meeting up with some friends from the U.S.

It's one of the best reasons to work and live in Europe ... to be tourists, but not only on vacation.  That requires so much planning, and you are so dependent on the weather, peak travel season, etc.  I, for one, like to be some hybrid of tourist and local ... maybe that's a 'tourcal'.

Normally we would drive, even down to Venice, Italy (about 10 hours with stops), since we have Frito with us.  But this time we have a wonderful couple recommended by our vet taking care of Frito.  It is sort of a trial run to see how things go, so we (both) are comfortable for the long home visit trip planned to Hawaii next month.

So instead of driving, we decided to catch a flight (which is only an hour or so).  It will cost more, but we'll also have more time to see Venice, and to just relax.  Sounds good for this 'tourcal'.  

All work and no play is not a good approach to the work/life balance.  I hope to begin to even the score ;-)  I hope you all enjoy your long weekend as well.

  • Donation:  to Animal Rescue League of NH, to help adopt pets
  • Exercise:  Walking around Venice, just following our noses (210 mins) 

Day 47: Stack 'em high

Stack 'em highTel Aviv, Israel, January 2011,
Nikon D5000, 35mm focal length equiv. 82mm, exposure 1/4 sec @ f5.6, ISO 900, no flash
 © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

We were out walking around the beach area in Tel Aviv when we snapped this shot of the moon flanked by some high rise hotel or apartments.

Then just a little bit farther, in a park area left undeveloped, look at the little fellow we found.  That's a hedgehog ... in Tel Aviv, Israel of all places!

And it reminds me that we really do need to be careful not to overdevelop our land.  As the Native Americans would ask, how will our development strategy affect the next seven generations?  Is our approach really sustainable?

If we cannot answer 'yes', we need to look long and hard at our development policies.  There are plenty of good examples of how to do it -- right here where we live in Germany.  Houses built closer together, but vast open fields and forests with trails nearby.  Community shopping that can be within walking or biking distance, as well as access to public transportation.

So go-ahead.  If you must add rooms or apartments, stack 'em high.  But retain some open space for the critters and we humans, who need to maintain that bond with nature, for our good health, sanity, and enjoyment.

The Peace of Wild Things -- by Wendell Berry  
When despair for the world grows in me 
and I wake in the night at the least sound 
in fear of what my life and children’s lives may be, 
I go and lie down where the wood drake 
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. 

I come into the peace of wild things 
who do not tax their lives with forethought 
of grief. I come into the presence of still water. 
And I feel above me the day-blind stars 
waiting with their light. For a time 
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.

  • Donation:  Donation to Green Sangha to ban single use plastic bags.  Please check out the fun video on the topic.
  • Exercise: Walking on Patch Barracks (15 mins)

    Tuesday, February 15, 2011

    Day 46: The Spirit Conquers

    Bouquet in the Rain, placed at the Indian Memorial, Den Haag, Netherlands, February 2011,
    Panasonic DMC-ZS7, 35mm focal length equiv. 25mm, Exposure 1/30 sec @ f3.3, ISO 100, no flash
     © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

    This is a beautiful bouquet of flowers, that was placed at a memorial to Dutch citizens and soldiers that lost their lives in Japanese prison camps during WWII, in what was then the Dutch East Indies.

     It had rained the previous day, and was still quite foggy, giving everything an eerie backdrop.  The sculpture itself is rather eerie; have a look:

    The Spirit Conquers, Indian Memorial, Den Haag, Netherlands, February 2011,
    Panasonic DMC-ZS7, 35mm focal length equiv. 25mm, Exposure 1/30 sec @ f3.3, ISO 100, no flash
     © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

    The title of the sculpture, "De Geest Overwint" translates to "The Spirit Conquers", which I think is such a powerful phrase.

    When faced with such adversity, it is the power of the spirit that will bring you solace.  It will guide how you respond to such extreme conditions, and ultimately, define who you are.

    May our spirits lead us, instead, to treat our fellow brothers and sisters with charity and grace in the years to come.

    • Donation:  To Carl D. (via Carlo), who is washing dishes to raise money for the Pine Street Inn, whose mission is to end homelessness, in Boston Mass
    • Exercise:  Walking at NATO HQ on Ramstein AB (15 mins)

    Sunday, February 13, 2011

    Day 45: Happy Valentine's Day

    Love in the AlpsSchwarzsee along Lötschentaler Höhenweg, Switzerland, July 2010,
    Nikon D5000, 35mm focal length equiv. 27mm, Exposure 1/320 sec @ f9.0, ISO 200, no flash
    © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

    Happy Valentine's Day to everyone, and especially to my valentine.

    What's that?  Can't be sure to whom I am referring based on the picture above?

    Well, fair enough.  Let me remove any ambiguity with this little movie below.

    You bring out my inner hippee, Carol.  Hee, hee.  Love ya!

    • Donation:  to Kitchen Gardeners to promote kitchen gardening, home-cooking, and sustainable local food systems
    • Exercise:  Short run to check out my new FiveFingers Vibrams, 3.4 mi (30 mins), which by the way worked great!

    Day 44: Scaling the wall

    Scaling the Wall, Garden of the Gods, Colorado Springs, CO, November 2007,
    Canon PowerShot SD870 IS, focal length 17.3mm, Exposure 1/40 sec @ f5.8, ISO 200, no flash, 
     © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

    So how big is that proverbial wall that you need to scale?  Does it seem impossible?

    If it seems so, then it probably is.  You really need to believe you can achieve your goal to be able to navigate all of the obstacles that you find in your way.

    But if this is something that you really want.  And if you can visualize yourself reaching your goal.  Then I doubt there are any barriers that you cannot overcome or circumnavigate.

    Or maybe you have another ally on your side: fate.  Have a read of this heart-warming story in anticipation of Valentine's day.  

    (Oh, and by the way, if you want other uplifting stories to find your inbox, consider subscribing to their daily newsletter.)

    • Donation:  to Friends of the Amherst Library, in my home town
    • Exercise:  Short walk with Frito and Carol (30 mins)

    Saturday, February 12, 2011

    Day 43: Ingenious

    Seeds on the Wind, Amherst, NH, November 2007,
    Canon PowerShot SD870 IS, 35mm equiv. focal length 27.8mm, Exposure 1/125 sec @ f8, ISO 80, no flash, 
     © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

    Nature surely is ingenious.  Take a look at that seed delivery mechanism -- wow, what a design.  The next breath of air that comes this way will carry those milkweed seeds far and wide.  Which is cool, because the milkweed is the plant where monarch butterflies undergo their metamorphasis.

    Now with this being such a good design, you might think nature would patent it, mass produce it, and make it as cheap and efficient as possible ;-)  But even better, nature just loves diversity.  Why take the risk that you end up with an evolutionary dead end.  So there are seeds that cling to animals.  Seed that are tasty to eat (but aren't digested), and so get the added benefit of, um, fertilizer wherever they are dropped.  And so on, and so on.

    It is really mind boggling how vast, how elegant, how diverse, and how fascinating our world has become through the universal principle of evolution.

    Oh, and here's something pretty ingenious too.  It's a human invention, and sure, it is primitive, but it certainly is clever.  Check out the short video of the man-made creatures that their Dutch creator hope will once day live on the beaches in the Netherlands.

    • Donation:  to Azada Bagirova via a Kiva loan to assist in creating her own business
    • Exercise:  Nice walk with Frito and Carol (45 mins)

    Thursday, February 10, 2011

    Day 42: Who says the party's over?

    The Party's Over, Amherst, NH, New Year's Day 2008,
    Nikon D40, 35mm focal length equiv. 54mm, Exposure 1/60 sec @ f4.5, ISO 200, with flash, exposure bias -2/3,
     © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

    The party's over.  The friends are gone, the uneaten food has been put away, the dishes washed, and even all those drinking glasses have been cleaned.  Yes, we had some eclectic drinkers that night.

    But who say's the party has to be over?  Who says one has to save parties for New Year's Eve, or birthdays, or even just weekends?

    Why must it be party and non-party?  Why can't it be all one big continuous party?

    I don't mean some drunken-frathouse weeklong-banger.  I mean seeing life as the party.  With all the anticipation, the friendliness, the sociality, the camaraderie, and with enjoyment, all the time, that might otherwise be relegated to those special occasions.

    You say the "rest" of your life -- that work-a-day world -- doesn't fit the definition of a party?  Well perhaps that's the thing you need to examine.  What is it you fear about finding work, or making your current work situation, something you enjoy enough that you can consider it to meet the criteria of your life's party?  

    I read this blog post called "The Great Fear".  It's a well-written wake-up call to those who have too much inertia, or too many reasons stopping them from being the life of their own party.  But in that blog, I particularly enjoyed this quote about "My Greater Fear":
    "For me, I have what I will call, for lack of a better term, My Greater Fear. It is that I will live a perfectly unexceptional existence with this exceptional chance I have been given. My Greater Fear is that I will rot beneath a matrix of fluorescent lights staring at the carpeted walls of a cubicle, or that I will wake knowing exactly what I will be doing every minute of every day for the rest of my waking life, or that I will wait until I am old and enfeebled to give myself permission to live."
    Yowsa!  That does indeed sound like the greater fear.  So come on.  Make your life the party you want to crash, and then go crash it!  We only have one ticket for this merry-go-round.  So make the most of it.

    • Donation:  to the site of this blog post, the Path Less Pedaled.
    • Exercise:  Walking around Einsiedlerhof, Germany on my work trip (15 mins).

    Wednesday, February 09, 2011

    Day 41: Black and blue

    Black and Blue, Disney World, Orlando, FL,  March 2008,
    Nikon D40, 35mm focal length equiv. 46mm, Exposure 1/125 sec @ f4.5, ISO 200, no flash, exposure bias -2/3,
    post-processed in iPhoto, © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

    Well, I've pretty much recovered from my running accident in Tel Aviv.  Cuts have healed and bruises are gone.  The human body is truly a thing of wonder.

    So let's re-interpret "black and blue" to a different meaning -- in this case, the play of light on the geodesic dome at Disney World.  I just love the "texture" of that dome, and how the light turns all different shades depending on the angle of the reflective surface.

    How many surfaces do you expose?  Will you react differently to the same information coming at you, depending perhaps, on your mood?  Or the situation?  Or what you had for breakfast?

    Just goes to show, like the light from above, a thing is neither good nor bad, except in how we view it.  That judgment lies entirely within us.  And it is our choice on what color we will see.  If you don't like what you are seeing, try putting a different "face" forward to the world.

    "There is nothing either good or bad, but thinking makes it so." -- Shakespeare, Hamlet

    • Donation:  Australia Red Cross, for clean water, as being raised by this amazing endurance athelete, running from the North Pole to the South Pole in less than a year (which means the equivalent of two marathons per day, every day -- ouch!)
    • Exercise:  TBD

    Day 40: Having a snack

    Snacking, Amherst, NH, February 2008,
    Nikon D40, 35mm focal length equiv. 300mm, Exposure 1/80 sec @ f5.6, ISO 200, no flash, exposure bias -1/3
    © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

    Last night I was bad.  Actually, I guess it began during the day, yesterday.  I had already eaten lunch (soy yogurt), but while I was out walking on the base, I went by a BK van, and suddenly had the urge for some greasy french fries.  I thought, well, at least I got that out of my system.

    Then last night, after a yummy asian stir-fry and side salad (thank you, thank you, Carol), I still had the munchies.  And so, down went the chocolate mints.  Which after shocking my system with sweet, that I almost never eat now, I followed up with a chaser of salty potato chips ... and then finished off the bag.  

    I don't know what the heck was going on.  And no, there was no alcohol involved (which I previously thought was the root cause of any of my willpower lapses).

    So anyways, I'm feeling a little cruddy this morning.  I think the best antidote for my night of binging is to run into work.  So that's the plan anyways.  Oh yeah, and getting back on the healthy eating bandwagon.

    I will say it was interesting to watch these cravings develop, and most importantly, to recognize that I'm not getting any satisfaction from allowing myself to indulge.  

    So how is your snacking going?  Just stay away from my bird feeder, OK?

    • Donation:  to Growing Home, a company providing job training through non-profit organic farming.
    • Exercise:  Yeah, OK, so the running plan turned into the biking plan which turned into the walking plan (15 mins).  Lazy or busy?  Both are probably true.

    Monday, February 07, 2011

    Day 39: The Quiet God

    Golden backlight, Amherst, NH, March 2008,
    Nikon D40, 35mm focal length equiv. 300mm, Exposure 1/1250 sec @ f5.6, ISO 200, no flash, exposure bias -2/3,
    post processed in iPhoto © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

    I just found this quote in my inbox, and thought it was too good not to share.  See what you think:

    There are those who search God in the quiet places -- no churches, no public displays of piety, no dramatic or flamboyant rituals.
    They may be found standing in humble awe before a sunset, or weeping quietly at the beauty of a Bach concerto, or filled with an overflowing of pure love at the sight of an infant in the arms of its mother.
    You may meet them visiting the elderly, comforting the lonely, feeding the hungry, and caring for the sick.
    The greatest among them may give away what they own in the name of compassion and goodness, while never once uttering the word “God” out loud. Or they may do no more than offer a smile or a hand to someone in need, or quietly bow their heads at a moment of beauty that passes through their lives, and say a simple prayer of gratitude to the spirit that has created us all.
    They are the lovers of the quiet God, the believers in the small graces of ordinary life.
    Theirs is not the grand way, the way of the mystic or the preacher or the zealot or the saint. Some would say that theirs is not a way at all. All they know for certain is that life has beauty and a joy that transcends all the darkness that surrounds us, that something ineffable lives beyond the ordinary affairs of the day, and that without this mystery our lives would not be worth living.
    I honor those who search for the quiet God, who seek the spirit in the small moments of our everyday life. It is a celebration of the ordinary, a reminder that when all else is stripped away, a life lived with love is enough.
    -- Believers in Small Graces, by Kent Nerbern

    • Donation: to The Tibet Fund, via Groupon (which may result in a coupon for a subsequent donation to another charity -- we'll see)
    • Exercise: Brisk walk on base (30 mins)

    Day 38: Dealing with change

    Impermanence, Los Angeles, CA, April 2008,
    Canon PowerShot SD870 IS, focal length 4.6mm, Exposure 1/60 sec @ f2.8, ISO 200, with flash, 
     © Steven Crisp [Click on the photo to enlarge]

    Pretty wild how following the fall of the government of Tunisia, many other Arab governments have similarly come under fire (e.g., Egypt, Jordan, Yemen).  The power of revolution is pretty amazing.

    It seems this graffiti artist was making a similar point.  Disenfranchised by the current establishment, he no doubt wants to see radical change.

    How does that make you feel?  Does it raise your fear level?  Tug at your intrinsic need for security and stability?  I suspect so -- that is only natural.  Most of us, after all, are "playing the game" of life, and so we want to know the rule book.  But here's the thing ...

    He's right -- one day this will all come down.  This is simply the Buddhist notion of impermanence -- nothing is permanent (not to mention physics).  My suggestion is to reflect on the nature of impermanence, and how best to not get caught up in the perception that everything will remain as it is now.  Change is inevitable, and ultimately the essential characteristic of the universe.  It is also inherent and necessary for evolution.

    So go ahead.  Build those sandcastles.  But do so with the light heart and non-attachment of a child.  And check out this older post for a little more insight.

    • Donation:  Randy Pausch memorial fund at Carnegie Mellon Univeristy
    • Exercise:  Ride my bike to work (30 mins); run home (60 mins)