29 April 2009

Fresh

I've just read about a book, "Fresh" by Susanne Freidberg. She also posts at the NY Times Freakonomics blog.


Just what is "fresh"? What does Prof. Freidberg sense contemporary culture means by the word fresh? How is that meaning applied by marketers keen to use it, keen to sell it? There was a time in my lifetime when this question would never have been asked. Why do we need to ask it now?


My Grandpa Savage produced eggs, strawberries, veggies, apples, and more on his family farm. He manned a roadside stand. He sold fresh. An income stream depended on it and his customers knew they were purchasing fresh. In other words folks knew that Mr. Savage's tended hens that lay the eggs he sold and he tended trees that produced the apples he sold. He was known by some as "the eggman." Grandpa Savage was authentic and unspun. When asked by my father "When was the best time to prune the orchard trees?" Grandpa Savage replied, "When the shears are sharp."


When it comes to food I think fresh is a vitality. It's a taste, odor, and color that is retained in the foods preparation, its eating, and our perception of its nutritional value. This quality feels authentic. Fresh is not rotten. We still know what rotten is, but it's getting harder to sense and identify. Fresh is getter even harder to sense and identify because so much rides on the maintenance of fresh foods for sale. As we travel further from the origin of our food chain we travel closer to the premeditation of our spin. As a result fresh is now a cultural idea in our culture of mass consumption.


Ms. Freidberg says the appeal of the word fresh,
lies in the anxieties and dilemmas borne of industrial capitalism and the culture of mass consumption. This culture promotes novelty and nostalgia, obsolescence and shelflife, indulgence and discipline. It surround us with great abundance, but not with much that feels authentic or healthful. It leaves many people yearning to connect to nature and community but too busy to spend much time in either. Above all, it's a culture that encourages us to consume both as often as possible and in ever better more enlightened ways. . . . Of all the qualities we seek in food, freshness best satisfies all these modern appetites.
Look at the coolpix image of shimp at the top of the page. We ate some two times, 3 lbs total, on St. George Island, FL. It was caught the day we ate it. Look at the color vitality. It tasted as good as the color looks.

We live in a culture of extraordinary abundance that is quite real. Our culture of mass communication and industrial big-agra capitalism surrounds us with grandiose notions of our abundance. Simultaneously we corrode our natural ability to recognize what is authentic and healthful. As a result I sense there is much that does not feel fresh. What does the word "fresh" in Fresh Market mean? How many of the foods sold actually are fresh? How are the foods in the Whole Foods market whole? What does "whole" mean?

Marketing and ads tell us what we need or don't have. As a result deflecting attention from what we do have. I remind myself of rebuking my whining child. "Stop looking at what you don't have and start looking at what you do have!"


We like fresh. We want fresh. In fresh I hope to connect to nature, to health, and to a larger community. We are too busy to spend much time in nature or community. We spend little time with nature. Nature becomes the weather channel. Nature is no longer our food chain and in the chain fresh is corroded.

24 April 2009

Saint George Island ~ Leisure


Leisure is thankful, being thankful, the abundant resources in our lives when many lose or have never known it. Leisure is how do we do thankful.

We're heading down through flat western Georgia peanut, walnut, pecan country, below the southern Appalachian mountain chain terminus to the gulf. It's breezy warm day cool night and all sound of high and low water tides whipped to surf by wind curling breaking out into bu-gurgling foaming sound down to fizz, again and again, into crushed shell sand shore.

Leisure is watching nothing seeing everything. Leisure is surf breaking listening. Leisure is on the beach until I get itchy, walking until I feel I've walked enough, turning over to return where I began. Leisure is reading. Leisure is eating fresh . . . shrimp. Leisure is shelling with my honey pie. Leisure is a cold one. Leisure is hot, hot, and hot! Leisure is feeling skin burn covering up feeling skin tan. Leisure is old days gone to memory.

Leisure is the leatherback sea turtle flippers digging laying eggs watching return home for the first time, probably my only time.

Leisure is seeing the dying retriever with unseeing eyes lying in surf washing over for last time owner lays hands on tells her story. Leisure is listening. Leisure is the ear of my heart. Leisure is walking under round surf cast lines or stepping on the whole unbroken sand dollar. Leisure is finding a tiny seahorse washed ashore placing on concrete a week watching ants leaving the luminescent skeleton.
Leisure is while being in health. Leisure is feeling sun hearing wind seeing surf tasting shrimp swimming in gulfs’ ocean. Leisure is the long gentle arc of light blue dark blue horizon line so big so wide so unbroken ~ but by morning shrimp boats or afternoon jets ~ that scares the afar friend but comforts me.

16 April 2009

Sign of the Times

I'm fortunate, at the age of 58, to have the resources to begin to do work I've never done before. It's a paradigm shift for me. I call the work 1Man / 1Mower. It's yard work. I enjoy it, people pay $$$$ in return for my labor, I get exercise, I work outdoors, and I'm learning new stuff. So it's a positive personal 5-Star paradigm shift.

I've been letting my grass grow, waiting, so to mow it high. Yesterday a young woman came to our front door asking,
"Can I mow your grass please?"
"I'm so sorry. I do it myself. I've been out of work now for 15 months."
"Yeah," she said bewildered, "these are crazy times."
"I know; I'm so sorry." And she walked on.

Oh dear, now I'm sorry, I should've said, "Sure!"

15 April 2009

Regina caeli laetare

I had some work at the Knoxville Botanical Garden & Arboretum. I blew leaves and weeded. I worked with Tonya. We were maintaining a garden bed that's to be redesigned and replanted. It was the day after Easter Sunday.
After a bit all I could hear was the Regina caeli latare, by the Venetian, Antonio Lotti (1667 - 1740), which the choir at St. James Episcopal, Knoxville, TN., performed for our Easter service as a communion anthem.
In the midst of the blower's drone, up into my mind pops the opening lyric and music (base) drowning out the drone. This is very pleasant, and I feel quite happy singing out loud!
Here's a link to what the music sorta sounds like, click on "listen preview" to the mid and very right of the page. The link isn't for double choir, nor is it antiphonal, where our choir was split in two placed in separate parts of the nave calling and responding as we sang to one another with the congregation seated between. We sang the Latin lyric; below is Latin and an English translation.

Regina caeli laetare, alleluia:
Quia quem meruisti portare, alleluia:
Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia:
Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.

V. Gaude et lætare Virgo Maria, alleluia.
R. Quia surrexit Dominus vere, alleluia

Queen of Heaven, rejoice, alleluia.
For He whom thou wast worthy to bear, alleluia.
Hath risen, as He said, alleluia.
Pray for us to God, alleluia.

V. Rejoice and be glad, O Virgin Mary, alleluia.
R. For the Lord hath truly risen, alleluia.

Easter; it's a season and lasts 56 days.

09 April 2009

Checklist for Lent ~ Question Eight


Finally, and most importantly, what is your relationship with Christ? What is your relationship with prayer? With scripture? With worship and the sacraments? With the reality of your own sin?
Wow, question 8 packs a wallop. And they’re 6 little wallops.
Well, I’m a sinner, no question. I miss the mark more than I hit it. I've often failed to do what I ought to have done. I’ve often done what I ought not to have done. Good Lord forgive me.
And Jesus Christ is my lord and savior. I’ve been, I am still, and I will be born again. All that I was, all that I am, and all that I will be is the life I have in, by, and through my Lord Jesus Christ. Thanks be to God.
I know this because I know I take intentional steps and actions to live a life that endeavors to be consistent with my religious beliefs as found in the baptismal covenant of the Episcopal Church. Am I perfect? No. Am I observant? Yes. Do my actions and observance reflect my beliefs? Yes. Am I always successful? No. I’m human, thank God.
As for my relationship with prayer, scripture, worship and sacraments? Well . . . if observant religious life were my life-time baseball batting average it’d be `bout .285 to .310. I pray, often daily and anyplace that suits; it’s usually at night; it’s usually brief; it’s usually a thanksgiving and a hope. I read and reflect, sometimes with scripture! I worship weekly; I don’t feel badly if I miss. I glean spiritual insight into the meaning of religious and secular life as it reflects God in world when I regularly attend service. I observe and respect the sacraments. I believe in so doing I’m blessed. I don’t do as prayer as I’d like to think I might. I probably do more than most lay folks, but who knows. I pray priests do more than I. I know monastics do much more than I.
Monks live inside a campus dei; living is ordered in a balanced manner to reflect God in the monk, in the community, in the world. I like the Benedictine Way. It’s a balance of prayer, scripture, worship and liturgy, sacraments, work, learning, and reflection. I’m not a monastic but such an order of weaves a personal relationship with prayer, scripture, worship, sacraments, learning, reflection, music, and work into an order of living. The monastic model gently transforms a person into a disciple.
I tell my wife, if she dies before I do, I’ll never remarry but retreat to monastery. It’ll never happen I’m a viejo. The monastic living model is a blessing beyond monastic walls. Monastic steps are concrete steps one can take, make, and do.
I know there is more I could do to reflect God in the order of my life and see God’s reflect God in the lives of others. I know there’s more.


08 April 2009

Checklist for Lent ~ Question Seven

What is your relationship with what you believe to be your purpose in life?

I've been putting an answer off to this question. I could go on, blah, blah, blah, and the answer feels difficult . . . as if from a deep place inside me. And to go inside, takes a deep breath, a sort of summoning, and insight.

I'm reminded of when I begin to exercise. I always just have to begin and overcome my inertia. It's this beginning that's hardest for me; it's my stumble block and it's the biggest and hardest to overcome. Once I start I roll and I can just do. After some work, when I'm fatigued and thirsty and hot and sweaty and feel clammy, then I know I'll have another stumble block and a choice.

And the choice is soon upon me. My choice is not just the physical choice of the effort I must ask of my body. I know I can make the effort, unless I'm just flat-out fatigued, and on empty, and must rest. It's the mental effort, the mental leap into the symbiosis of my mind/body that is tempting me to stop. Often I know I can dig deeper and persevere and labor through the superficial distractions upon me taking me away from the labor in the effort of my exercise. Or, I can choose to stop and stay in my shallows. It's my mental choice to go into and be in the deeper mental and physical water. Most times . . . not always . . . when this work is done, I'm tired and refreshed!

Now I'm not sure I can say what my purpose in life is. I do know it was to be a Daddy; that is what I've worked for. As a young man I was unconscious of it. As a mature man I know it. Now, at this point, at 58-ish years, maybe it's still to be a Daddy, but since my children are adults now, well, I'm uncertain. I'm wondering and wandering.

I once heard it said, Give a man a mission and get out of his way.
Please God . . . what is my purpose now?

07 April 2009

BoA's 9.9% Fixed Interest Rate: Dust in the Wind

Dust in the wind.
All we are is dust in the wind.

Don't hang on, nothing lasts forever but the earth and sky.
It slips away and all your money won't another minute buy.

"Dust in the Wind" is a fine tune by Kansas centered on the biblical notion that we come from dust and we all will return to dust. You may see & listen to the YouTube video here.

The Bank of America (BoA) is the bank behind my American Automobile Association (AAA) Financial Services credit card. BoA informed me yesterday by mail they were revoking my 9.9% fixed interest credit card rate to replace it with a 15.9% variable interest credit card rate.  Their letter stated I could choose to "opt out" of their revoking their fixed rate.

Huh?

I've just finished reading a delightful little 67 page book called On Bullshit. The author Harry G. Frankfurt gives a focused and tightly reasoned elucidation of what "bullshit" is and means. I highly recommend it. The notion I could "opt out" of BoA's revocation of their 9.9% fixed interest credit card rate to me seemed to me to be bullshit.

I called BoA to voice my concern. And to politely inform the BoA customer service representative (csr) I'd revoke my loyalty to my prudent, responsible, timely, and careful, use of their extension of credit to me and take out a credit card with a higher variable interest rate with a local private bank that hadn't received "support," leaving unspoken my insinuation the BoA was receiving support from the U. S. taxpayer for their imprudent, irresponsible, untimely, and reckless extension of credit to their imprudent corporate customers.

I then gave a brief account of my recent story; being unemployed for the last 16 months, living hand to mouth from income from folks who've been willing to pay me for my service and labor, labor far different from what I'd been educated and trained for, paying my private bills on time, only recently including my use of their fixed 9.9% credit card interest rate, using my private resources to pay my private creditors, all without feeding from a public trough.

The BoA csr ignored my passive aggressive insinuation.  The csr assured me it was not a personal decision, i.e. it was not a decision targeting me. Hmmmm. (As if I'd thought they'd target me, as if I'd thought I'd find comfort in the fact their rate increase was going to millions of others just like me. No, some marketing whiz-kid  "quant," who's never served as a csr in their financial career, made this up months ago. The csr told me "this was all new to them too." What?  This is all new to them? 

I was then truly surprised. The BoA csr actually responded as a person to what she heard me saying. This is good business. And, she said, she'd found a "window" that would permit the bank to reduce their announced credit card variable interest rate increase to 12.9%.

I thanked her. We politely and cordially ended our conversation.

I might still go to Home Federal Bank.