Lessons From Mr.
By: Karen J.
you remember in the “Karate Kid” when Mr. Miyagi had Daniel
stand on that stump for hours practicing the Crane? Besides
being a set-up for the kick that took out his opponent at the
end of the movie, this was a way for Daniel to learn balance.
He also did a seemingly endless series of chores, like paint
fences and wax cars, designed to train his muscles --- “wax on,
wax off”. Ann-Marie talks about the
importance of muscle memory, as it relates to fitness, all the
Co-Publisher, On the
a pretty small apartment. How silly do you suppose I would
look practicing the Crane out on my second floor balcony?
Hmmm…..perhaps I’d rather not have anyone’s response to
am definitely feeling the need for some balance. To me, it
seems like the world is tilting out of control and I think
this muscle memory concept has a lot to do with it. Our
responses to each other have become so conditioned that we
don’t even have to think. We simply react. It’s
more like fencing. Thrust! Parry! We’ve
lost the inclination, if not the ability, to communicate
with each other. Instead of sincere, genuine discussion and
exchange of ideas, conversation has become nothing more than
know what the worst part of all of this is? I’d like to say
that it’s Republican obstructionists in Congress who are
preventing people from getting the medical attention that
they currently can’t access. Or the relentless crusading of
the religious right as they travel state to state,
attempting to undo any progress made by the GLBT community.
Or the racism of our ancestors that seemingly won’t die as
evidenced in the vitriolic outpouring of simply awful
rhetoric and slogans at rallies all over the country.
that’s what I would like to say. And don’t get me
wrong, everything I listed is a serious issue that needs to
be addressed, but I’m afraid the answer to my question is
just a wee bit closer to home.
other day, I was sitting in this small insurance office
trying to wade through all of the forms required to transfer
my car insurance to South Carolina and to obtain some sort
of health insurance before my COBRA period lapses. Ugh! I
hate everything about insurance. But I liked the folks at
this agency. I was there for quite awhile and was really
enjoying talking with them. Then I glanced at this notice on
one of their bulletin boards and I recognized an annoying
post that had circulated online about Democrats being
responsible for all of the ills of society. Yikes! I was
practically bonding with Republicans! And, in a heartbeat,
my entire opinion of them changed. Instead of being open to
learning who they were, I, all of a sudden, knew everything
I needed to know and that was “are we done,
give myself a smidgen of credit, this reaction happened in a
micro-second and I caught myself. I like to think that I’m a
fairly decent person and that I try not to be judgmental.
But I have to tell you, my conditioned response was
immediate, and it got me to thinking about muscle memory.
Isn’t brainwashing pretty much the same thing? Being fed the
same doctrines over and over until they feel like truth?
Throw in peer pressure and crowd mentality and its not that
hard to see why our world is tilting in the direction it is.
finished Dan Brown’s new book, The Lost Symbol. Not
to worry, I won’t give away the plot (weak as it is). But
one of the things that it talks about is the power of our
thoughts. Not just as presented by philosophers and
theologians, but by scientists and cutting-edge research. I
find all of that incredibly fascinating and could talk about
it for far longer than you would probably wish to listen,
but what grabbed my attention is how this applies to the
deepening schism in our nation and the
listen to one side or the other make the same arguments over
and over, extolling the evils of the other side, we start to
accept what is said as fact. Especially because we tend to
only listen to one side. We, in turn, repeat it. It grows
and snowballs. Pretty soon it takes on a life of its own and
huge numbers of people are thinking the same thoughts. The
more energy put into thought the more effect it has. This
can be a good thing if large numbers of people are focused
on something like world peace or saving the planet. But when
it’s directed against something --- or someone --- it
becomes something else entirely. Add to that the fact that a
tremendous amount of what is being put out there is
contrived and manipulative, consciously designed to play on
people’s fears and vulnerabilities and it becomes very
Wilde said, “Most people are other people. Their thoughts
are someone else's opinions, their lives a mimicry, their
passions a quotation.”
long ago, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was basically ridiculed
for drawing parallels between the rhetoric being used to
vilify President Obama today and what was being said in the
70’s right before the assassination of Harvey Milk and San
Francisco Mayor George Moscone. Just this week, New York
Times columnist, Thomas Friedman, compared the current
campaign by the far right wing, intent on destroying the
legitimacy of Obama’s presidency, to the attacks on Israeli
Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s character right before he was
Friedman went on to write, “What kind
of madness is it that someone would create a poll on
Facebook asking respondents, ‘Should Obama be killed?’ The
choices were: ‘No, Maybe, Yes, and Yes if he cuts my health
It is a
kind of madness --- the kind that comes from group thought
making the very same action acceptable one day and
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown recently
made a posthumous apology for what happened to Alan
Turing. He was the British mathematician who broke the
code generated by the German Enigma machines during World
War II. This very likely changed the course of history.
Time Magazine named Turing as one of the “100 Most
Important People of the 20th Century” for his role in the
creation of the computer. But rather than honor Alan
Turing, the British government convicted him of “gross
indecency for having a homosexual relationship”. In 1952,
the year after I was born, the punishment in
England for being gay was either
prison or chemical castration. Turing chose castration
but then committed suicide less than two years later.
Very powerful, the effect of mass
consciousness. What was considered acceptable in the
beginning of my lifetime has changed. We haven’t changed.
A gay person today is pretty much the same as back in
1952. But group thought has changed. And, today, with
instant communication, constant media bombardment, shifts
in collective thought are taking place at an
unprecedented speed. Is this a good thing?
Sometimes. Sometimes not so good.
It’s good when the momentum has shifted toward
mutual respect and equality. We’re seeing that everyday
with regard to overall acceptance of the GLBT community.
But in other ways, mass acceptance of over-the-top speech
and behavior has hit an all-time low. We see it in the
lengths advertisers will go to hawk their products, what
attorneys will do to win for their clients, what drug
makers will claim to get us to use their newest
concoctions and, the most blatant of all, what
politicians and pundits will do for power.
Americans, we are so enamored of our right to free speech
that we sometimes lose sight of the fact that just because
we can say something that doesn’t mean that we should. Our
words and are thoughts have power, and we are responsible
for what they create. We may not feel like there’s much we
can do to stop the swift boaters and Rush Limbaughs, but we
can monitor our own thoughts and behaviors. We can recognize
when our response is to a label and generalization rather
than to an individual or what is actually being said. We can
stop allowing ourselves to be force-fed the same party lines
day after day. And we can make it clear to those in our
lives that we are no longer going to participate in this
living in California in 1978. I remember the candlelight
vigil on the steps of City Hall. The irony of that tragic
event was that Dan White’s bullet made a martyr out of
Harvey Milk and significantly advanced gay
But, at what
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On the Gay
You've heard a lot
about health care these past weeks, but I bet you haven't
heard this. I was listening to an interview of Michael
Pollan, author of The Omnivore's Dilemma, and when
asked if he had any thoughts about the health care system,
he quickly responded by saying he had one thing to
propose. "We should pass one law," he said. "We
should make it the law that insurance companies must insure
What a fabulous idea! Think about it. Currently, if
you change jobs, and change insurance companies, but you had
recently been diagnosed with Type II diabetes, your new
insurance company won't have anything to do with you. But
if they were forced to take over the expense of caring for you,
I bet they would suddenly become very interested in preventing
what is a very preventable disease.
Because if you look at it, right now, we reward people for
destructive behavior. The deal is, smoke cigarettes, eat
horribly, stop moving, and in 15 or 20 years, when the sludge
and muck in your body brings on its premature decline, doctors
and insurance companies will work hand-in-hand to put you on
what I call life-support for the next 20 or 30 years, including
prescription meds, surgery, parts replacement, and whatever
else science comes up with, until you die.
And who pays for that? We do. That's the theory of
insurance. Spread that risk out as thinly as
possible. Problem is, these drugs and treatments and
surgeries are extremely expensive and show no signs of becoming
more affordable. They do not follow the law of supply and
demand. In this country, the demand increases by double
digits each year--and so does the cost.
But if we change this one thing--no more exclusions--everything
shifts. The repercussions just don't stop. Type II
diabetes and much heart disease and many, if not most, cancers
Imagine if we were being asked by our doctors--dare I say
prescribed?--to exercise and move our bodies? And get
massages? And find physical strength and balance?
And our insurance covered it? We'd all RUN to a fitness
facility. We would be out meeting people we don't
ordinarily see. Our social fabric would expand and
strengthen. Entire wellness industries would
thrive. Children would be taught to make good
choices. We'd have alert bus drivers and pilots, air
traffic controllers, construction workers, teachers.
People would function on all cylinders.
And that's only half of the equation. We'd also have to
clean up our food supply, because nutrition is crucial to good
health. That would require lots of fresh fruit and
vegetables, picked when ripe, processed and transported
minimally--which means a return to smaller farms and local
eating--a movement that's already begun. Of course, that
doesn't work everywhere, but for as much as it does, it adds up
to a profound impact on our diets. And our soils.
If we return to smaller, more diversified farms we don't need
to use the chemicals on our crops and animals that end up in
our water supply and our ocean sea life, and us. The Dead
Zone in the Gulf of Mexico, today the size of Rhode Island,
might actually rebound.
I could go on, but I think you get the idea.
One small change. One enormous impact. Like so many
things I've written about this year. I think this is the
best health care plan out there.
What do you think?
One At a
Fit in a Year - Week
On the Gay
I was walking the trail behind my house
yesterday, and saw the same 40-foot tree dangling along a
tiny cliff beside the walkway. Half the soil is missing
beneath it, yet it hangs on. And each time I walk by, I’m
reminded of all the tiny grains of soil shifting under
the tree’s weight, one at a time, and I know one day, the
last one will move, and the tree will fall. A tiny
change: an enormous impact.
Wouldn’t it be great if by making small
changes, we had an enormous impact on our
Well, we can.
We are the same way. We can make very small
changes which seem insignificant by themselves, but will
eventually rock our world.
We can practice replacement therapy: the
practice of replacing one habit with another.
Some two thirds of our cancers develop as the
direct result of environmental factors: like poor diet
and lack of exercise–things we can change. We can decide
to move more. Or change the quality of the food we intend
to eat for the next 30 or 40 or 60
If we eat the food which is as full of life as
possible, most like its raw state (though not necessarily
raw, just pure), we give our bodies the benefit of all
the micronutrients necessary for healthy cells, and none
of the foreign matter.
Do we have to throw out our entire pantry and
begin from scratch? No. We simply need to start replacing
processed foods with whole foods. One at a time. When you
run out of your favorite snack food, replace it with a
more wholesome one. Even if it’s still corn chips, for
example–find the corn chips which are made very simply of
corn, non-hydrogenated oil, and salt. If you can find
organic ingredients, even better.
Choosing organic foods makes your impact even
larger. First, your own cells will not have to deal with
any foreign substances. Second, the planet will not have
to deal with foreign substances, like excessive nitrogen
or pesticides. Third, you will be supporting farmers who
practice clean farming. Fourth, you or someone you don’t
know, will not suffer the consequences of ground-water
pollution from chemically managed farm run-off, which
occurs every time it rains, or fields flood. Fifth, you
will keep the food chain and the earth more pure by
rejecting genetically modified grains which are developed
specifically to endure more pesticide
All that from a bag of corn
And gradually, over the course of perhaps six
months, you will have completely emptied and replaced
your pantry, one item at a time. But you’ll barely notice
the doing of it.
To move more, do we need to run out and join a
gym? No. We simply need to move more.
What’s the easiest, cheapest way to add
movement to our lives? Consider replacing one television
show with a walk. Yes, take a walk! Even better, grab a
friend and take a walk. Walk around your neighborhood. Or
drive to a large store–Home Depot, Walmart, a mall–leave
your money home–and just walk. Not walk/walk/stop. I mean
walk, at a comfortable pace, for as long as you can. If
it’s 5 minutes the first time you walk, stay with that
the first week.
Aim for 6-minute sessions the next week you
walk, and so on, until you’re walking about 30-45 minutes
per session. Be really picky about the television you
watch and replace any shows that don’t make the cut with
What will this do? Burn calories. Work your
heart. Move your limbs. Grow your brain. Cultivate a
friendship. Make you feel better.
In 6 months, you could be exercising–er, I mean
walking–5 nights a week!
Imagine that: healthy, wholesome food and
plenty of exercise in 6 months by making very small
changes, one at a time.
And if we can replace one habit with another,
painlessly, we’ll never be limited by ideas