Center of the Universe

Thousands of years ago, most people on this planet considered the Earth to be the center of the universe. The sun, moon and stars revolved around our stationary position in space. We were the all important existence. As religions developed, they readily adopted this theory, because it afforded their god(s) more implied power.

You may believe, as I did, that this theory existed without questioning until about 500 years ago. Not so. As far back as the 9th century BCE, there was a Hindu text written by an Indian philosopher named Yajnavalkya which stated, “The sun strings these worlds – the earth, the planets, the atmosphere – to himself on a thread.” Not only did this thinker understand the solar system, he also seems to have had a rudimentary understanding of gravitational pull. Unfortunately, he did not attract a lot of followers.

In 200 BCE there was a Greek astronomer named Aristarchus who maintained that the Earth rotated on its axis and orbited around the Sun. His theory was met with fierce resistance. People just don’t want to be told that what they believe is not true. Even the great thinkers and teachers such as Plato, Aristotle, and Ptolemy remained staunch in their belief that the Earth was the center of the universe.


Fast forward to 1543 AD when Copernicus finally published his findings that the Earth was just another planet circling the Sun. Out of fear of the Church, he waited until he was on his death bed to publish his works. Galileo was not quite so smart, when he published  “The Dialogue Concerning the Two Chief World Systems.” He was promptly arrested, convicted of heresy, and spent the rest of his life in prison. Then along came Sir Isaac Newton and Edmund Haley, whose works solidified the scientific facts.


Now we know that, not only is the Earth not the center of our solar system, we also know our solar system is not the center of our galaxy, and our galaxy is not the center of the universe. We are way off center.

So why is it, with all this knowledge and fact, some people still think they are the center of the universe. You know the people of whom I speak.

  1. The person who parks their grocery cart in the middle of the isle, completely oblivious to other shoppers.
  2. The family that brings their small children to a nice restaurant and lets them play as if they are at McDonalds, simply because they want a nice meal.
  3. The lady or man who wears way too much perfume or after-shave into a closed space.
  4. The person who zips in front of you in traffic or cuts in front of you in line, believing they and their time are more important than you and yours.
  5. The person who enters a public place talking loudly on his/her phone, as if all of us want to hear their whole conversation.
  6. The person who arrives at the cashier totally unprepared to finalize the transaction, while 14 people wait behind them in line.
  7. The person for whom you opened a door, who goes through the door wihtout saying “Thank You,” because they just “deserved” such treatment.

Feel free to add your own favorites in your comment.

I am reminded of one of my favorite poems by John Donne – “No Man Is An Island.” If you don’t know it look it up. It is worth reading.





Posted in Social Behavior | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

You Don’t Know Jack!

That title is not meant to be derogatory in nature, it just seemed like an easy way to segue into this topic of how well we know each other. I am intrigued with the idea that there are several levels we experience as we “get to know” each other.


Unless you are a recluse, you see people every day. Some of them you may see often in places you frequent. Suppose you go to Starbucks frequently (I go almost every day). You probably see several people who also go frequently. You know these people by appearance. You have made certain observations about these people. Approximate age, gender, height, weight, hair color (or lack of hair), attire, and ethnicity have been established in your mind, and from that list of characteristics, you have formed an opinion.


One day you walk up to one of these people, (probably one for whom you have a favorable opinion) and you introduce yourself. Through this brief encounter, you will learn the identity of that person – “name, rank, and serial number.” Even though you know a name, you don’t actually know this person. You have, however, built on your original opinion.


The next time you see this person, you feel a little more comfortable in asking a few questions in order to start filling in the blanks. “Where do you live?” “Are you married?” “Do you have children?” “What does your husband/wife do?” Now you have some facts and can begin to develop a more comprehensive picture in your mind of who this person really is, but you know you have only begun to scratch the surface.


The day finally comes when you sit down at the same table (still in the Starbucks scenario) and have a cup of coffee or a frappuccino together. You talk about all sorts of things happening in your life. The two of you share information about problems at work or home, tough decisions being faced, traumas or catastrophes, likes and dislikes, and positive, happy events. You may even hear about some health issues this person is facing. This information gives you a little more knowledge about what is influencing and shaping this person’s life.


If you are a good listener, and have established yourself as a person who is worthy of this person’s trust, he/she may share with you the emotions resulting from some of these events. You may hear about heartbreak, elation, fear, love, hate, and anger. All of this helps you understand why this person is who he/she is. However, you still “don’t know Jack (or Jill).”

Private Information

There is still another part of this person.  There is private information that may or may not be shared with very close friends, or even spouses. Information that may be extremely hurtful or embarrassing. Information that, when shared, can alter the person’s life completely. This is a part of this person you probably will never know.

Real Self

Now, we will take an abrupt turn inward, toward knowing ourselves. Inside all of us is the person we really are. Call it our soul, our spirit, our real self, our conscience, or any number of other terms. We probably don’t yet know who this person is, but we want to. This is the person who shows up in our dreams and sends us messages every night. The more we listen to this person, the more we will learn about ourselves.

Think about it. Do you know Jack?

Posted in Introspection | Tagged , , , , , , | 4 Comments

The Nature of God or The God of Nature

The day after Christmas, a very large, powerful tornado touched down in some suburbs south and east of Dallas. As usual, there was no lack of videos, photos, and news coverage of the destruction and devastation created by this enormous storm. My usual response to these events is one of removed sympathy. I regret the loss experienced by the victims, but have no real connection .

However, this last disaster was different. The day after the storm, an acquaintance of ours posted on Facebook that her home had been destroyed. Fortunately, she and her husband and two dogs had  “hunkered down” in the bedroom closet, and had all survived with no injuries. Suddenly, this was more personal. She is a wonderful, creative person that we both admire.


So, the inevitable question arose. “Why do bad things happen to good people?” Or more to the point, “Why does God let this sort of thing happen?”

Why, indeed?

Since the beginning of known history, natural disasters have been happening. As far back as can be determined, there have been tornadoes, droughts, hurricanes, earthquakes, lightning strikes, floods, tsunamis, blizzards, cyclones, volcano eruptions and even meteors colliding with the Earth, just to mention a few. Each of these events brought its own level of destruction and devastation to the victims.

volcano                                       tsunami

earthquake                         meteor

Let me stop here and point out the fact that the Earth is a living, breathing organism, and as such, is constantly evolving, adapting, and reacting to forces and conditions exerted upon it. Of course, some of these conditions are man-made. As with any living organism, it is also dying.


Until very recently in our history, humans did not have any understanding of how or why these natural events happened. This lack of understanding caused great fear and confusion. As the brain of our species developed the ability to reason and question, we began trying to create ways to avoid and/or survive disasters. At some point in our development, we acknowledged there were forces and powers beyond our control and understanding.

Thus, gods were created. If there were powers creating these disasters, we had to find a way to appease them. In very ancient times, there were gods responsible for all aspects of existence. In some cultures, they still exist. Sacrifices were invented, priests were empowered, festivals were held, images were carved, and temples were built. Every culture had its own set of gods. Finally, the vast number of gods became so burdensome to some cultures, they decided to have only one god to encompass all their fears.

india                        thor

celtic god                                                 sumerian

Since we now know what causes these disastrous events, why do we still revert to very ancient thought processes. Somehow the knowledge of the “God of Nature” has not abated our need for appeasement, and blame.

Bottom line: These events are natural, random, ongoing, and uncontrollable. They are not “caused” or “allowed” by any one. They just happen. And that, my friends, is my opinion of the “God of Nature.”


Posted in Natural World | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Christmas Gift

Although I truly believe that giving at anytime is a good thing, I guess there are certain occasions that are more “giving oriented” than others. Birthdays, Valentines day, anniversaries, graduations, weddings, etc. This time of year the occasion, of course, is Christmas. I have to admit my gift giving load is very light compared to other folks – I only have one person to consider – my wife, Regina. Even though that may seem like a light load, believe me, it is a daunting responsibility.

I will apologize in advance for tooting my own horn, but this year my gift to Regina was sort of awesome. (Yes, she has already received it).

But first, some background.

For several years, Regina has been interested in doing tapestry weaving. She has taken classes from several different artists, both in their studio and on-line, and has done some very nice work. This past year, she applied to the American Tapestry Alliance to be accepted into their mentoring program. Not only was she accepted, but she was assigned to a mentor for whom she had already developed a deep admiration.

As she worked with this mentor, it became more and more apparent she would benefit from using a different type of loom for her work – a vertical rather than horizontal oriented loom. She searched and found the type of loom she wanted, only to discover they are no longer being built. Even the web-site that supposedly had some for sale, became a virtual dead-end.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, I had contacted her mentor to request assistance in determining some gift I could give her that would make her tapestry work easier or more productive.

Then came the e-mail from her mentor, who asked, “Would you be interested in building a vertical loom for Regina? My partner Don has built several, and has the original plans for the exact loom in which she is interested.” WOULD I? YES! YES! YES!

Actually the original plans were in Canada, where they had been living, but they were in Mexico at the time. No problem. Don would send me drawings and measurements and instructions.

Scan                                Scan 1

As you may know, I am a woodturner and am not real comfortable with “flat work”, but have some equipment in my shop that can be used for that type of woodwork.  A wonderful by-product of this project was the necessary purchase of two additional power tools for my shop – a planer and a belt sander.

IMG_0190                                     IMG_0189

So, I went to the hardwood lumber yard to purchase some hard maple. This stuff is really hard, but necessarily so for such a project.

I love this place. Tons of wood.

I love this place. Tons of wood.

I planed, cut, sanded, finished and assembled according to Don’s drawings and instructions. Some of the steps were easy, some were a real challenge, but I love a good challenge. There were a bunch of questions and answers e-mailed back and forth. Some steps I had to work out at three o’clock in the morning as I lay awake in bed, but what the heck, it had to get done.

Parts being dried after oil finish

Parts being dried after oil finish

IMG_0188                                               IMG_0192

The result. A vertical floor loom for tapestry weaving. Thanks Don and Elaine. Merry Christmas, Regina.

Loom being set up for warping

Loom being set up for warping




Posted in Learning | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

Columbus Day – The Ultimate Insult

When I was a kid in elementary school, I was required to memorize a poem about Christopher Columbus. I’m sure a lot of you learned the same poem. In case you have forgotten, it starts like this:

In fourteen hundred ninety-two
Columbus sailed the ocean blue.

He had three ships and left from Spain;
He sailed through sunshine, wind, and rain.

The poem goes on to describe the hardships and triumphs of the voyage, and ends with a couplet I had forgotten:

The first American? No, not quite.
But Columbus was brave, and he was bright.


For years I believed that Christopher Columbus discovered America. The truth, however, is that Columbus never even set foot on the North American continent. He actually landed first in the Bahamas, and on subsequent journeys landed on various other islands of the Caribbean, and finally landed on the South American Continent.


There is proof that the first European to come to the North American Continent was a Viking named Leif Erikson. It is believed that he landed on the continent 500 years before Columbus missed it. By the way, did you know that there is actually a Leif Erikson day that is proclaimed by the President each year on October 9?  Me neither.

My dictionary defines discover as 1: to make known or visible 2: to obtain sight or knowledge of for the first time. Since Lief was here earlier, millions of indigenous people had already been here for more than 10,000 years, and Christopher Columbus was never here, it is probably not accurate to say Christopher Columbus “discovered” America.

What is accurate to say, is that Christopher Columbus introduced slave trade between the New World and Europe, killed thousands of indigenous people, and allowed his men to rape and plunder freely. And for that, we honor him each year with a federal holiday, and teach our children about an event that never happened.


The federal holiday in question was established by President Franklin Roosevelt in 1934, after intense lobbying of the Knights of Columbus, a Catholic fraternal organization, and New York City Italian leader Generoso Pope. Anyone else see the connection here? I’ll give you a hint – Columbus was an Italian Catholic. Yes, he was working for the Spanish King and Queen, but he was born Italian.

So, on Monday, October 12, 2015 the Federal Government will be closed, banks will be closed, no mail will be delivered, many schools will be closed and there will be hundreds of Columbus Day Sales, so that we can pay tribute to this false hero.

What is wrong with us?




Posted in Holidays | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Being Inside the Music

Music is a very important part of my life. I like to think of myself as a musician. Not necessarily an outstanding musician, but a musician nevertheless. My earliest memory of music in my life is being a member of the “largest booster band in the country.” That designation was the invention of the director of said group, Aunt What-Ever-Her-Name-Was.

For those of you who are unfamiliar with the term “Booster Band,” allow me to enlighten you. This band consisted of a group of kids ages 4 to 6, who played various musical instruments (mostly percussive) and sang cute little songs about God and Jesus. The band I was a member of was formed and nurtured in the First Baptist Church in Garrison, Texas, of which my father was Pastor.

Next on my musical journey was a music class in elementary school, where I learned to play the tonette, a small plastic version of a recorder. The natural progression from there was clarinet, and eventually bass clarinet, played in junior high and high school. From there came college, singing in the choir, and eventually becoming a high school choir director.

I have performed in several musical comedies, and have sung professionally, but never achieved real professional status as a singer. And now I am learning to play the banjo. My musical tastes are totally eclectic – from Gregorian Chant to Mozart to Bluegrass. I love them all.

When I drive in my truck, my music is always playing. When I am working in my shop, I have ear plugs connected to my i-pod. I cannot imagine my life without music. Some may say I play my music too loudly, but that’s how I like it. I like to become a part of the music. I want the music to engulf me. As Plato said, “Music and rhythm find their way into the secret places of the soul.”

But enough about me. The thing that thrills me most about music is watching performers become a part of the music they are playing or singing. Itzhak Perlman, Yo-Yo Ma, Barbara Streisand, Roy Clark, Andrea Bocelli are a few of those performers who live inside the music.

Last weekend, I was fortunate enough to be able to participate in a Banjo Camp in Dahlonega, Georgia. Regina gave this opportunity to me for my birthday. (Yes, I am very blessed). The organizer of the camp, Geoff Howald, lives in Atlanta, but owns a small cabin outside of Dahlonega, in the foothills of the Appalachians. As you might imagine, the setting was beautiful, and the weather was even better.

There were five students and three instructors.  At the end of each evening jam session, the instructors would treat us with an impromptu concert. Each of the instructors could play multiple instruments, including guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, bass, and dobro, which they have been playing for 40+ years.

As I sat in awe the last night, it dawned on me that as these musicians played, they were no longer in this realm. They had transcended into the music itself. As their fingers moved at unbelievable speed on the strings, they were totally unaware of the surroundings of reality. They were literally inside the music. It was a moving experience.








Posted in Music | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Poems & Prayers & Promises

As is my habit, I was listening to music from my i-pod this morning while I was doing my weekly yard work of mowing, edging and trimming. I had selected a group of songs by John Denver (his birth name was Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr.).  I can remember seeing him in concert during the 70’s when he was at his peak as a performer. I liked his music then, and I still do.

Incidentally, I just discovered during my research that he attended Texas Tech at the same time I was there. He was just a year younger than I. Of course, I didn’t know him. He was in the engineering department, and I don’t even know where that was. Nor was he anywhere close to being famous in 1962.

Anyway, where was I? Oh yeah, I was listening to songs such as “Grandma’s Feather Bed” which is a nostalgic song about visiting relatives and sleeping in the giant feather bed that used the down from “forty-‘leven geese” and a “whole bolt of cloth for to tick.”

Then there was “Rocky Mountain High” which was inspired by the Perseid meteor shower, as observed from his home in Aspen, Colorado. (When he changed his name, he actually borrowed the name of the Colorado city by the same name.)

But the song that rang my blog post bell was “Poems, Prayers, and Promises” written in 1971. The lyrics talk about reflection on life past, present, and future. The chorus talks about sitting around the fire at the end of the day with his wife and some friends, where they “talk of poems and prayers and promises and things that we believe in. How sweet it is to love someone, how right it is to care. How long it’s been since yesterday, and what about tomorrow. And what about our dreams and all the memories we share.”


We don’t do that very often, do we? We text and tweet and e-mail, using half words and symbols instead of real words. No wonder we have spelling problems. Most kids, and some adults, don’t know the difference between your and you’re, because they use “ur” for both. We may even Skype, but sitting down with a friend or family member just to talk about stuff, seems to be a thing of the past. I’m not sure the younger generation has ever experienced the joy of real, face-to-face communication.

We have lost the skill of listening, because electronic communication doesn’t require any listening, and without listening, there is no communication. One of my favorite quotes about communication comes from George Bernard Shaw. He said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

Have you gone into a store lately where a young person is behind the counter, requested a certain list of items, only to have it repeated back to you totally wrong? Frustrating, isn’t it? They don’t know how to listen.

Luckily for me, Regina and I do have actual conversations. I obviously need to work harder on my listening skills, but practice is important. Road trips are especially fun for us, not only because we get to have a Starbucks along the way, but also because we spend a lot of time talking about stuff. If you haven’t tried it lately, I highly recommend it.



Posted in Communication | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 8 Comments