Tag Archives: world

Dark World

Darkness cannot drive out darkness;
only light can do that.
Hate cannot drive out hate;
only love can do that.
– Martin Luther King, Jr.

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Spring moss pushing through the leaves

Changing World

“To paraphrase several sages: Nobody can think and hit someone at the same time.”
―Susan Sontag

When I was a teenager, I heard my grandparents say over and over again that “things were better back then”. I swore I would never say it. But you know, that’s how it feels right now. Wow, the world has changed. It is not just the technology, staring at a phone 24/7, hours on a computer but it is a lot of things. We are disconnected in a way that I don’t remember in the past. Or maybe that isn’t what I mean.
I sense a current of frustration and dissatisfaction and fear that seems to make people tunnel into themselves or act out in aggressive ways. The lady in the store who shouted at me because I asked her where the end of the line was – one small example. But there are other things. Bigger things. The shootings, the beatings, the bombings. We seem to take them all in stride. Just one more sad post on Facebook, one more sad report in the news. What difference does it make to us individually in the end if a mother and father will never hold their child in their arms again? But there is something under all of this, an increase in the violence in the world. An increase in the use of “force” to achieve what we want, or to release our anger or to make us whole?

When a politician says, as one here in Germany recently did, that the refugees trying to reach the country need to be kept back from the borders even if that means that they need to be shot at. Some people are outraged, it is discussed in the media for 5 minutes and then it disappears. But there is something behind that and there are people – a lot of people – who believe that the politician was right. Violence is ok if you think you can justify it. You can see that on the streets, you can feel it in how people look at each other. The anger is building.

The violence seems to be everywhere. I can hardly watch “action” movies anymore. The level of violence has become so high that I don’t make it through the first 10 minutes. I admit to be a game freak but most of them I don’t play. It is only about killing the other guy. When video games started, people used to talk about how the violence would affect the children playing them. Does anybody talk about it now? Now that there are shootings in schools, or offices about once a week?

Nobody talks about the violence. Not really. It has become a part of every day. We are numb to it. When a politician suggests that his supporters will “riot” if he isn’t elected. Hardly a peep. That scares me. What is this for a world when it is suggested that voters will be bludgeoned into voting “the right way” and nobody says a word. I watched a video of a politician running for president where demonstrators hijacked the stage. The candidate and the other people on stage tried to find a solution to satisfy everyone but were cowed by the intense anger from the screaming young women. I was shocked. I felt catapulted back into the demos of the 60s. The violence was scary then too but it felt to me like there was a purpose that people were “fighting” for. It doesn’t feel like that now. Now it feels like they fight to fight. Is that because I am old? Have I become my grandparents and don’t understand where the world is today?

It seems to me that there is a lack of respect for the connection that makes us human, the connection that we have with all living things. It distress me to hear about suicide bombers. It distresses me to hear about violent acts against people. It distresses me to hear of young kids torturing animals, cats or dogs or whatever, just for fun. It seems to me that it is all happening more often. Is that only a result of the 24 hour news?

Or are we losing any connection to anything except the fantasy world presented through the miracle of electronics? Somehow to me, things were better “back then”.

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The white queen next to the green.

First Green

Shall I not have intelligence with the earth?
Am I not partly leaves and vegetable mould myself.
– Henry David Thoreau

It is spargel season in Germany. Spargel (pronounced “sh-pahr-gel”) is a white asparagus that is actually grown underground, one of the reasons it is white and not green. It has to be dug up by hand, cut off with a special tool and the rest of the plant reburied. The skin is thicker than on green asparagus and it has to be peeled off like peeling potatoes. Spargel has a light, special taste and the Germans have hundreds of ways of preparing it – soup, salad, whatever – but the most common is just peeled, boiled and usually served with hollabdaise sauce, boiled potatoes and thinly sliced cooked or cured ham. I had never eaten spargel until I had lived here over a year and friends prepared it for me. It was weird to me eating a meal where everything was white (they didn’t serve ham) but it was delicious and I was hooked! Interestingly, Spargel is one of those things that doesn’t grow all year round. The season usually starts about middle April and ends the end of June. The start of the season is usually a media event and June 24th is usually the day they celebrate the end of Spargel season.

I like that things aren’t always available. It used to be that there were lots of things you couldn’t get all of the time, only the special times when they were ripe: Blueberries in June, peaches and corn on the cob in August, pumpkins in the fall. Nowadays you can get almost anything almost all of the time. Apparently kiwis and such grow somewhere on the planet all year round. I remember not being able to find cranberries in Germany for Christmas baking. I had to order them online. Now they are in every store. Apparently the transportation methods – deep freezing and the like – have made it all possible to have fruits and vegetable from all over the world.

Somehow that makes life a little less interesting. Well, not really that but it dulls us to some of the joys of life. When I can eat peaches all year round – even if they don’t taste so much anymore like peaches – I will never know what it is like to bite into a full ripe fresh peach on a hot summer day, having the juice drizzle down my chin. Oh well.

And most vegetables and some fruit have been so hybridized that they don’t resemble or taste like they used to be. In an attempt to make fresh produce survive the long transport routes that they now have to go on, they have sacrificed taste and texture. Romaine lettuce used to be light and easy to tear. Now I need a really sharp knife. And has anyone tried to cut a tomato these days? Impossible.

At any rate, we will enjoy our 3.5 lbs of spargel we will eat this year (that is apparently the average intake of spargel by every German). And blueberries in my breakfast every morning are also nice. I guess I have thought of being more mindful to only eat what is in season. I have even thought of only eating what is available here in the area. But then I see those mangos and can almost taste that peppery flavor and somehow they end up on my grocery cart. Well, there is always next time!

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Brave New World of Language

Grammar Granny

If the English language made any sense, lackadaisical would have something to do with a shortage of flowers. – Doug Larson

I have a theory that the English language is changing. Well, I am probably not the only one but I have a theory why. Actually I think there are several reasons.

As a native English speaker speaking 70% of the time in a foreign language, I have found that once you get fluent enough to be generally understood, it isn’t easy to keep learning or correcting yourself. Most people get to a certain level of fluency and then stop learning. On top of that, it seems to me that the people who teach foreign languages – this was certainly true in the States when I was studying – are not native speakers of the language and there are subtleties of expression or pronunciation that just don’t get corrected. For example the English “V” is often taught here in Germany as equivalent to the English”W”, which gives us “wampires” and other such creatures.

Where it becomes most alarming to me is listening to non-native English speaking diplomats speak in English. They will be running along, mostly with abominable pronunciation and grammatical inaccuracies and false analogies and wrong use of metaphors and it doesn’t seem to bother anybody! In fact, clips of their speeches are replayed on television as if these people really know what they are talking about. I sit there and think, “what is he/she trying to say?” Out of that gobbledygook, I can hardly hear a sensible sentence. When other people who are non-native English speakers hear these people on television, they probably think that speaking like that is absolutely ok and they can do it, too.

On sharing networks like Facebook, incorrect grammar is rampant. Just this morning I saw “a song… that last a lifetime”. The teacher that really taught me grammar, Mr. Nichols – who impressed on us the idea of the “gentlemanly C” (you work as hard as you can and you still end up only getting a C) – would probably roll over in his grade. I suppose a lot of people just rely on spell check and figure it is ok.

In the movie “Cloud Atlas” they have the characters speak a kind of patois in approximately the year 2510 (100 years after the Fall). Guess what guys, it is already here!

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