Pattern of our Lives

Observing our popular culture has been like looking through a kaleidoscope.  All the separate little parts are intertwining to make a reflected image that changes with just the slightest bit of movement. It is a picture that is in constant flux.  On the other side of the world we see the wars in the Middle East affect our economy—higher fuel prices, higher commodity prices forcing us to adjust our way of life to accommodate increased costs; but they also let us by means of social networking and smart phones glimpse into countries that lack our freedoms; they make us more aware of diverse religions and ways of life.  The recent earthquakes, tsunami and nuclear disaster in Japan devastated their land and economy, but we saw the people rebound with resilience and determination.  That far away disaster gave us the chance to show our generous nature; and with the knowledge that disaster can change our lives in an instant, it also made us examine our values. We were challenged to think, analyze and learn tolerance.  We observed how consumerism has become a tool in our modern culture, used both for our good—offering us an easier way of life, but also luring us into schemes developed by advertisers for the sole purpose of making a profit.  We examined the idea that a trip to Disneyland was a pilgrimage, and a visit to the mall was a safe family experience. As we turned the kaleidoscope we saw our core values reflected in how we view women, treat each other and set great store by winning.  There are some dark designs revealing insecurity, conceit or manipulation.   Others are motifs showing strength, kindness and empathy. We compared how many experiences of previous generations are the same now but with a different twist. We saw how technology and the media enrich but also how they complicate our lives.  We examined the family and how our lifestyle is affecting relationships and concluded that the principles that we teach our children will have little effect if they aren’t reinforced by the pattern of our own lives.  This kaleidoscope that is our popular culture is ever changing into new and unexplained patterns.  What we were yesterday merges with what we are today and what we will become tomorrow, each different but connected by a thread that weaves unseen in the midst of our lives connecting us with each other and making our individual experiences part of the whole picture of our current culture.  It is an ever changing picture—sometimes bright, reflecting our goodness; but sometimes dark with glimpses of our greed and selfishness.  I suspect that future generations will look at our culture like a tour group studying a painting by Van Gough.  Some will see beauty, some will see uniqueness, some will appreciate the innovation, but some will just shake their heads and ask, “What were they thinking?”

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Where Did it Go?

It seems that everything on the news lately is about the government’s budget or lack of one.  I am amazed at how Washington justifies spending.  When it comes to property management, the federal government likes to purchase and hoard a lot of real estate.  Uncle Sam owns more real property than any other entity in America: 900,000 buildings and structures covering 3.38 billion square feet.  The Office of Management  and Budget estimates that “55,000 properties are underutilized or entirely vacant, costing taxpayers $1.66 billion to maintain each year. That is probably too much stuff to cram into an hour-long “Hoarders” episode, but it should still be brought to the public’s attention.”

Today, Citizens against Government Waste (CAGW) bestowed upon Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) the March “Porker of the Month” Award for his absurd belief that a federally-funded Cowboy Poetry Festival in Elko, Nevada (pop. 17,000) constitutes essential government spending.
The Freeman repost listed these budget items: “Without authorization, for instance, the feds spent $19.6 million annually on the International Fund for Ireland. Sounds like a noble cause, but the money went for projects like pony-trekking centers and golf videos. Congressional budget-cutters spared the $440,000 spent annually to have attendants push buttons on the fully automated Capitol Hill elevators used by Representatives and Senators. Last year, the National Endowment for the Humanities spent $4.2 million to conduct a nebulous “National Conversation on Pluralism and Identity.” Obviously, talk radio wasn’t considered good enough. The Pentagon and Central Intelligence Agency channeled some $11 million to psychics who might provide special insights about various foreign threats. This was the disappointing “Stargate” program.”

Reading these reports makes me sick and angry.  We are all supposed to be tightening our belts and making sacrifices in order to get our country back on a sound fiscal foundation.  Because of rising gasoline prices, I ride my motorcycle to work.  I use coupons to help defray the rising cost of groceries, and I pay my bills on time to avoid interest charges.  Is it too much to ask of our legislators that they get serious about our national debt?  I think that because it is so astronomically large, and they don’t have a vested interest in reducing the debt, there is no incentive to do it.  Everyone in Congress should have to live like a normal middle income American for a month—trying to find ways to cut back as costs rise, and then maybe they would get it.