Monday, November 25, 2013

The Next Revolution

Last weekend I drove to Virginia to pick up my mom who had been staying with my aunt for the week following my uncle's death.  I had been looking forward to crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel but did not realize that my GPS chose a different route which took me passed Washington DC rather than via the Delaware/Maryland shore area.

Still, it made me think about the wondrous engineering feats that were built in the past 100 years.  The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, the Hoover Dam, the Empire State Building, and the Panama Canal, among others, demonstrate the incredible achievements that can be accomplished when man combines his intellect with a vision for a better world.

As my trip to Virginia was solo, I let my mind wander.  I imagine it was the next logical step after the industrial revolution that specific man-made wonders would be conceived and created.  One might say, it was indicative of man conquering the limits of his physical world, a process that had begun with his mastering of fire. 

And, perhaps it is a stretch, but I began thinking that once human kind triumphed over the physical restraints of life, it might also follow that a social revolution might occur.  It seems to me that the social changes of the recent past that have resulted in more equal treatment of women, African Americans, and the gay-lesbian community are the direct result of a social revolution that has inspired man to actually apply those awesome words ''all men are created equal".  I imagine that in another fifty years, race relations will have improved even further, and the gay citizens of America will be able to marry the person they love. 

Don't get me wrong, I am not saying that I think the physical revolution that has enabled man to cross large bodies of water in their car, plant flags and bring home rocks from the moon, and communicate instantly with anyone, anywhere, has necessarily run its course, or is over.  I would hope that further technological triumphs will continue to free humans from certain physical dangers while opening up the world to grander discoveries.  Nor do I believe in the least that the social revolution that has opened our eyes and hearts to truly treating everyone as they would want to be treated is complete.  But I do think the cycle for each of these revolutions is closer to the end than the beginning.

Which leads me to wonder what the next revolution will entail.  In a previous blog, I published a story about the next greatest generation.  This generation perceived the threat to America, and tackled  it head on, despite the fact that the threat was defined as concepts that had previously helped create the myth and greatness of America. 

In that story, I briefly mention that the generation in question was posthumously known as a very spiritual generation.   Not religious with its connotation of dogma, rules, use of the fear of death to promote goodness, and assignment of "evil" to those with differing beliefs.  True spirituality that transcends those biases and discriminations (and fears) that promote tribalism, whether it be in the form of nationalism, race, gender, or sexual orientation. 

A spiritual revolution is coming, in fact, in my opinion, has begun.  Its signs are hard to discern, but they are there.  I see the signs in disparate places, revealed by a variety of events, and displayed in the actions and words of a multitude of people.

I hope to provide some specific details about this revolution in the near future.

In the meantime, just a reminder that if you have a Kindle, my initial attempt at publishing is available to download.  From the Kindle search menu, you can find it by searching by author, Joe Pugnetti, or title, Short Stories and Wurdsfromtheburbs.

   

   

      

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Death

First, a shameless plug.

I finally uploaded a collection of my stories and most "hit" blogs, accessible on the Amazon Kindle network.  If you have a Kindle and are interested in purchasing this literary effort, just search by author for Joe Pugnetti, or by title for "Short Stories and wurdsfromtheburbs".  It is priced to sell at 99 cents!!

Regular readers of my blog know that I read two monthly magazines, Smithsonian and National Geographic.  Not as well known is that I also subscribe to the Lapham's Quarterly.  It is a compilation magazine which devotes each edition to just one topic.  This month, the topic is Death.  (If you are interested in info on the magazine, here is a link).

http://www.laphamsquarterly.org/

So, of course, with Death already on my mind since the passing of my father late last year, the passing of my uncle in the summer, and the most recent passing of another uncle this past weekend, I have dived right into this edition.

Already, I have read poems and stories, both fiction and non-fiction, which span man's perception of death from the curious who look upon dying as the last and ultimate experience of life to the famous Dylan Thomas poem in which he exhorts us to "rage against the dying of the light". 

For me, I have considered death from multiple viewpoints during my lifetime.  Death to be used as a revenge against those who say they love me but don't show it, death as a backdrop for stories that attempt to teach a lesson about the brevity of life, death of loved ones which releases me from responsibilities, death as a harbinger of the truth of one's real mark on life which is measured by the accumulation of joy and happiness as opposed to material gain, the fear of death because I have not said all that I want or should have said, the longing for death to discover if my conclusions about life were on or off the mark.

My recent brushes with death, also inspire me to reevaluate the need for religion.  Well, not religion per se, but the comfort that certain beliefs about death can provide those left behind.  I generally laugh at the phrase, non-practicing blank, where the blank is filled in with the religion in which one is raised.  In my case, a non-practicing Catholic.  I am amused by this phrase because practicing is generally meant to infer that the person does not go to mass, or follow all of the tenets of the particular religion.  I would prefer that non-practicing refer to those people who claim a religion, yet do not practice the spirit of that religion; act in a non-Christian way, for example.  I actually like to think that I am a practicing Catholic in the way I treat others, in the following of the teachings of Christ, as opposed to the rules of the Church. 

But I digress.  What I meant to say is that with the passing of their husbands, my dear mother and aunt personify the spirit of their religion in their acceptance of death.  They are practicing their religion via mass, etc, but also live their lives as Christ taught.  Yes, they are deeply saddened by the loss of their respective mates, over 50 years in both cases, but they truly believe that their departed spouses are now with God in heaven, no longer suffering the pains of earthly life.  They truly believe in that basic tenet, that our mortal lives are a precursor to everlasting life with the creator.  It doesn't matter if it is true or not, it is real for them, and so they are comforted by that belief.  It makes me wonder if those who grieve so publicly and profoundly, especially those who claim a serious tie to any religion, really understand that their perception and reaction to death might be gauged by those looking in from the outside as an indication that their religion is not doing right by them, or that their perceived belief in that religion does not run very deep.

For me, I no longer think of my dad every day, as I did for many months after his passing.  But when I do, my eyes still fill with tears, wondering if I was a good son, wondering if he left this world with the same love for me that he felt when he fist looked upon me at birth.  I sob with the thought that I gave him grief as all children do, did not always respect his efforts to support his family both materially and emotionally.  I miss his smile and booming voice.  I see him in his glory at work, which I was lucky enough to experience as a child and young adult.  And, I wonder if my eventual passing will evoke the same emotion in those in my life now.

One of my favorite movies about death is Woody Allen's Love and Death.  His angst about this oh so serious subject permeates his movies, but none more so than this film.  If I were to compile a list of five people I would most like to have dinner with, Woody would most certainly be on this list.  Which makes me think that I might like to have just one more dinner with my dad.  Which makes me think that perhaps, I should be more appreciative of the meals I take with those in my life now.  And, not just the meals, but every waking experience I have with my children, my wife, my friends.

Which brings me to the counter culture philosophy of Ram Dass as expressed in his book Be Here Now.  I suppose it was considered "counter-culture" or the philosophy of the hippies, because the establishment saw the philosophy as justification for free sex and drug use.  And perhaps it did produce those activities, but what about its emphasis on the spiritual nature of our lives, the rejection of material possessions as the yardstick of a successful life, the idea that each individual moment should be lived to its fullest?

Perhaps, in the end, the comfort of a religious belief that allows the acceptance of death as the beginning of a new life, along with the perception that this life is more than just the accumulation of wealth, all filtered by the knowledge that each and every person we encounter, each and every day is the sum of our lives, and that in appreciating and loving those moments and those people is the best way to experience life, we are able, not only to fear death less, but to also live life more.