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?”


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.

The Reality Show in Today’s Culture

It seems to me that American TV enthusiasts are obsessed with reality shows.  Whatever topic you are interested in there is a “reality show” that explores that.  There are cooking, decorating, teenage pregnancy, fashion, travel, endurance, and talent reality shows.  Some of them are so contrived that they are beyond belief. Reality television frequently portrays a modified and highly influenced form of reality, utilizing sensationalism to attract viewers and so to generate advertising profit. Retrieved April 2009. Participants are often placed in exotic locations or abnormal situations, and are sometimes coached to act in specific scripted ways by off-screen “story editors” or “segment producers,” with the portrayal of events and speech manipulated and contrived to create an illusion of reality through editing and other post-production techniques. Retrieved April 28, 2009

Flipping through the channels, I shake my head at most of them.  However, “American Idol” has caught my attention.  It is fascinating to see people with absolutely no talent make fools of themselves on national TV.  But soon you see someone that appeals to you and you are drawn in and are rooting for them. The program aims to discover the best singer in the country where the winner is determined by the viewers. Through telephone and SMS text voting, viewers have chosen as winners Kelly Clarkson, Ruben Studdard, Fantasia Barrino, Carrie Underwood, Taylor Hicks, Jordin Sparks, David Cook, Kris Allen, and Lee DeWyze (listed in chronological order).The show was described by rival TV executives as “the most impactful show in the history of television. “For Fox’s Rivals, ‘American Idol’ Remains a ‘Schoolyard Bully'”. The New York Times.

I think that part of the appeal is that the average viewer can have an active part in the selection of a star.  Whenever they hear a song on the radio by a winner they think the performer’s success is due in some small part to the viewer’s action.

So although I am not a reality show fan, I will make an exception for “American Idol”. One of my favorite “Idol” stars is Carrie Underwood.   Her journey took her from a small farm in Oklahoma to world-wide fame.  Here is a link to one of my favorite Underwood songs—Mama’s song. .  This song honors a daughter’s appreciation for her mom.


In honor of March, Go Green!

GREEN Bay Packers, GREEN energy, GREEN autos, GO GREEN!

I’m awash in green. Everywhere I turn I hear about green.  What does it all mean?  In Ancient Egypt the god Osiris who was a symbol of resurrection and immortality had green skin. A person who can grow plants is said to have a green thumb. In today’s popular culture, the color green often represents the environment and environmental concerns.  The pressure to “go green” is overwhelming.  Ads on TV and in print stress “greenness”, even Congress are legislating “green” laws.

According to Planet Green Discovery “The truth is that everything single thing we do every day has an impact on the planet — good or bad. The good news is that as an individual you have the power to control most of your choices and, therefore, the impact you create: from where you live to what you buy, eat, and use to light your home to where and how you vacation, to how you shop or vote, you can have global impact.  Did you know that 25 percent of Western pharmaceuticals are derived from flora that comes from the Amazon rainforest? And that less than one percent of these tropical trees and plants have been tested by scientists? These numbers suggest that we all have a large (and growing) personal stake in the health and vitality of places far and near. In addition to protecting biodiversity (and inspiring medicine), rainforests are also excellent carbon sinks. Bottom line: It benefits everyone on the planet to help keep our wild spaces alive and growing.”

Like all big projects we need to understand the total picture, and then we can break it down into smaller segments, and be able to do our part to prolong our resources.  No one of us can save the whole world, but by all of us helping out a bit we can make a difference.  I found some interesting things to consider. Which is greener, a commercial car wash or DIY? The answer: Go with the pros. Commercial car washes require an average of about 45 gallons of water per car, whereas home washers typically use between 80 and 140 gallons, according to the trade group International Carwash Association.   And here I thought I was indulging in a luxury and all the time I was saving the planet.

I also found that even simple things make a difference such as using a manual can opener. Electric can openers require more resources to build, and take up more space in landfills than old-fashioned models. Typical 175-watt brands use .01 to .18 kWh per month, for an energy cost of about one cent. That doesn’t sound like much, but if every person in America used one, that would be 36 to 648 million kWh of power, costing us $36 million.

This next thing is a bit gross.  Clean the World is a non-profit organization that combats preventable disease in developing countries by gathering used soap, sanitizing it and redistributing it in other parts of the world. When it’s recycled, used soap is kept out of the groundwater and helps stop the spread of disease.  Clean The World works with hotels to get most of its soaps, but it accepts donations from individuals as well.

To learn more go to:

I’m Entitled—Your Entitled

One of the problems with this popular culture is that so many Americans have a sense of entitlement.  Gone are the days when rewards were the result of hard work.  This sense of entitlement based ethics means that we feel that we have a right to things—a nice home, a well paying job, new car and an easy life.  We see no reason that they shouldn’t be given to us, just by being–we are entitled.  We are a culture of complainers.  How has this come about?  We used to be a country that believed in the dignity of the common man.  People used to set goals and work hard to achieve their dreams.

The term “entitlement” refers to a notion or belief that one (or oneself) is deserving of some particular reward or benefit.  Marci Hamilton wrote “This is the Age of Entitlement. I do not mean entitlement only in the belief that one is entitled to a government handout. I also mean entitlement in the simpler sense of the sense of the belief that one deserves to get exactly what one wants – regardless of the law and despite the public good. Four examples drawn from recent legal controversies illustrate this point. In each, the law made clear what the right thing to do was. But in each, the culprit insisted on doing something else – something they insisted that, illegal or not, they were entitled to do” She goes on to site court cases pertaining to Entitlement to Free Music, Entitlement to have Religious belief to Dominate a Courthouse, Entitlement to Special Treatment for Religious Institutions, and The Catholic Church’s Entitlement to Preserve its Power and Prestige.. Marci A. Hamilton is the Paul R. Verkuil Chair in Public Law at Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law, Yeshiva U

America is becoming a narcissistic society.  Many expect preferential treatment because they think they are special.  They expect their government to be their mommy.  Look at the chart below.  I can’t verify its accuracy, but it speaks to how the government is encouraging Americans to expect to be taken care of.

Is there a solution to reverse this trend that stifles the human spirit?  I think that the solution lies in instilling the belief of personal responsibility, government fiscal responsibility and moral values.  This needs to be taught at home, school and religious facility.  We must lead our children by example.  When they see us turn our back on the hand outs, only then will they learn that entitlement ethics are wrong.



In past generations, meals were taken at the kitchen or dining room table.  Meal time the family gathered together ate and interacted with each other.  Although most families probably weren’t like the Cleavers on “Leave it to Beaver” this idea did represent American culture.  Now the kitchen table has found other uses, in my case to fold laundry or clip coupons.  Meal time has changed.  In our popular culture, where television is a staple many meals are eaten in the living room while watching a favorite show or because the parent works, a quick detour through McDonalds provides supper.

Is this current trend good?  What does reseach say about this?  According to recent surveys, less than half of the families in the United States actually sit down to a meal on a regular basis. Yet, studies report that family meals are strongly related to the development of adolescent mental health and stability. A Harvard Medical School study found “that there are nutritional, as well as social, emotional and academic advantages that occur in children when families share meals together.

Why are family mealtimes important?

  • A sense of belonging and mutual trust is fostered when adults and children eat together and enjoy each other’s company.
  • Family meals provide opportunities for adults to model table manners and nutritious food choices.
  • Eating together encourages adult-child communication skills such as listening patiently to each other and expressing one’s opinion in a respectful manner.
  • Mealtimes provide a setting for moral and intellectual discussion where family values are shared.
  • Since children thrive on routines, family meals foster a sense of security and stability.
  • When children help with meals, they learn skills such as shopping, setting the table, preparing food, serving food, and cleaning up.
  • Family meals can foster family traditions and enhance cultural heritages”.

So I guess I better get that laundry put away and dust off the dishes.

Hope and Healing

Last night a new television series began.  OWN (Opray Winfrey Network) aired the first program of “Our America” hosted by Lisa Ling.  The show’s preview states that it will take an in-depth look at some controversial issues in today’s United States.  Lisa immerses herself in the lives of people she meets, providing accounts of experiences and insight on contentious issues.  The purpose of the series is to challenge viewers to understand different views and question what they think is true.   The first episode dealt with “faith healers”.

Lisa stated that 50% of Americans believe in miracles.  Faith healing is the fastest growing movement in America.  The program was centered on Morning Star Ministries and one of its evangelists–Todd Bentley.  Mr. Bentley has a controversial past which he freely admits, but he says that because of it he is able to heal.  The Ministry has a university where young people study to become healers.  Most of those interviewed had suffered mental and physical abuse and believed that the ministry gave them hope, and they were chosen to be healers.  Participants in the conference paid about $600. The program followed the story of Steve, a paraplegic with brain injury.  He firmly believed that we would be able to walk out of the conference.  His doctor was interviewed and he stated that the medical world had nothing further to offer Steve, but that he did believe in miracles, and that hope was good.  He said that without hope he had seen patients die.  Mr. Bentley preached about the power of God but said that doubt could prevent healing.  Unfortunately, Steve wasn’t able to walk out of the conference, but he stated that “it just wasn’t me time”.  His faith remained strong.  Ling concluded the program with the thought that she had seen lives that had been changed and believed that faith empowered.

Reader comments were about equally divided between those who believe and those who don’t.      Here are a few examples:

rhonda1951: Amazing choice of venue! I am a believer in MIIRACLES because I had lumps disappear from my breast during a worship service years ago. On the other side, my husband had an incurable disease, TN, the suicide disease, and we prayed and believed for his healing for 12 difficult years. His symptoms left, not supernaturally, but through a doctor practicing science.

anneliese66 : I believe that the mind is a very powerful part of ourselves. Whatever we put OUR mind to.. anything is possible. I am not sure that God has anything to do with it. Why then does God allow all the horrible things that happen in this world? I believe in the power of our minds and ourselves.

Uni: TO THOSE WHO DONT BELIEVE IN MIRACLES: First of all people like erikcorona do not believe in miracles because you are not a Christian, and you therefore do not understand that God calls people into different ministries

erikcorona:  I didn’t say I don’t believe in miracles. I stated that I don’t believe God uses “faith healers” to regrow limbs or heal people of any illnesses. Benny Hinn is a con-artist who has been exposed several times by investigative news reports by Inside Edition, Dateline NBC, and 60 Minutes.

Of all the comments I read, this last one sums up a very good reason for watching this program.

missyreads : I have my DVR set to watch this show I am looking at OWN to help me with my level of tolerance. Everyone has this thing and different levels of understanding right and wrong. My right or wrong might not be yours and I might not understand your behavior but tolerance must be present and I’m looking to magnify mine. Laverne

This program provided a look at a segment of popular culture that ignites much debate.  It gave an inside glimpse of actual healing meetings, but left it up to the viewer to make their own conclusions.