Land Of The Free

vcxa8286Almost seventy years ago George Orwell published his futuristic dystopian novel, “1984”. The main character, Winston Smith, works in the Ministry of Truth where he rewrites history according to the Party’s platform. Winston is a citizen who is overwhelming frustrated by the totalitarian control of the government over its citizens. Everyone is watched on tv screens by a sinister looking image known as Big Brother. Everything you do, where you go, and with whom you speak is monitored. You are not permitted to rebel in thought or action. You are not allowed any individual expression of any kind. Even sex is forbidden. This is the way 1984 was envisioned in the mind of Orwell back in 1948.

Thirty-five years ago in 1984 Apple Computer ran an add for the Macintosh.

We will bury them in their own confusion. We will prevail.

The Big Brother informs his catatonic audience before he is destroyed by the hammer of freedom and his victims are released from his spell. It was Apple’s coming out party and they were ready to break the grip Microsoft held on the technology industry. “1984 won’t be like ‘1984’”, the ad said.

More recently I read with much disappointment the text of President Obama’s 2014 speech on National Security. In the aftermath of the revelations brought to light by Edward Snowden, a hero in my book, I saw a man frozen by his own fear to be the individual he was during his election campaigns. He seemed controlled by what former President Clinton called, “the government underneath the government.” Clinton never gave this organization a name but it sounds to me like “Big Brother” might fit.

Obama was afraid to make a decision that would alter the status quo in any way. Instead, he left the important decisions like where to store the data to a constipated Congress that couldn’t pass shit after a ton of Exlax to do his job and to make the tough choices.

Present Obama justifies our nation’s surveillance of citizens, allies, and enemies because “they do the same” to their citizens, allies, enemies and yes they even spy on the United States. That way of thinking did not even work when I was a kid. I can hear my mother now.

Just because so and so jumps into the river does not mean you have to.

After the intelligence failures leading up to 9/11, I understand how the nation might not want to be caught off guard again. However, what civil liberties are being exchanged for that mistake by our intelligence services and does each and every American and world citizen have to pay for it with the loss of our privacy and personal freedoms?

I also reject the premise of taking one point in history, 9/11, and using that example to inject fear into the citizens of a nation and world. There ought to be a statue of limitations on how long an act of war can be use by governments to control the populace and destroy their personal freedoms one by one.

Remember the Alamo!

The Cold War may be over but the enemies are still the same, fear and ignorance. The government is using both against the once free citizens of this nation.

No one under constant surveillance is ever free.

When a subject is observed, he behaves differently. His behavior conforms to how he is expected to behave and for such he receives either a reward or a punishment. His worse fear is no longer death. His fear of the government becomes greater than whatever it was the government was protecting him from. His worse fear is now Room 101 in which he learns the government knows everything about him, even his dreams.

So ask yourself, “Do you feel free in America today?

Time As A Point Of Reference

C3482B64-09B3-4437-ADE0-89DDA7D214FAToday I took a walk on the beach outside my home. The tide was just beginning to come in so I walked in the wet part of the sands and made footprints going in different directions. I was a child creating a map of confusion as some of my prints pointed that way and others pointed this way. Some toward the sea, others toward the land, and some even toward the sky. When I reached the end of my morning sojourn, I turned around and headed back, retracing my steps.

I was thinking about the early explorers and how they were able to navigate uncharted seas when the stars in the sky no longer matched the stars with which they were familiar. When the big dipper and the North star were no longer points of reference, what did they use as a guide? Was it courage which fueled their quest? Did they not fear falling off the end of the world? They could always turn around and retrace their steps the way I was doing, I reckoned.

I no sooner had this thought when an unannounced wave came upon me. I was caught off guard. I was surprised. I froze, not from the temperature of the water for it was warm, but from its suddenness. In that moment, a second maybe three, maybe more, I do not know. Time stopped. All movement stopped. The constant roar of the sea stopped. There was silence. I stood there in the footprints of my unmoving feet and saw the trail they had made only minutes before covered by the sea. I did not have to look behind me. I knew those footprints were covered also. Without past or future where was I. Without the familiar, without the known, and unable to retrace my steps, where was I? I was in the present moment, locked in place for however long that moment lasted. Then the sea moved again. I could feel the sand slipping from beneath my feet and took a step forward.

Maybe in times such as this all one can do is take that first step again and again. Whenever it is needed. We make each moment the present moment without holding on to any points of reference. No breadcrumb trails, no familiar stars or footprints in the sand to guide us back home. No past, no future, no time, just now.

I don’t know how things happen or why but I have come to trust that things happen for a reason, although often it takes a while for that reason to be known. When I returned to my cabin and changed into some dry clothing, I picked up my battery operated cassette radio to see what time it was. I am not a big fan of clocks so this is the only clock I have other than the time on my computer. It has managed to keep perfect time for over twenty years. Today the liquid crystal display had some of its display missing so that an eight looked like a six in the last digit of the minutes. No problem. I can live with that. A few hours later the entire display was gone. I replaced the batteries but there was no change. Time had stopped again. At least as recorded by this clock.

In truth it did not matter. I have no place to be and no particular time to be there of I did. Checking the time was more a habit than a necessity. I do wonder if the two experiences of time are related and if the sea and the dead clock were trying to remind me that this moment, right now, is all I have?

Rollo Del Tomebamba XII

One of the activities I engage in everyday when possible is a walk along the Tomebamba River near my home in Cuenca, Ecuador. During this walking meditation my mind wonders along with that of the river. I love the sound of water. When the river is high, it blocks out the sounds of the city and my mind transcends to other worlds while my feet remain firmly in contact with the cobblestoned path. This path for a little while becomes a Yellow Brick Road into my own thoughts and life.

d6ad4d51-30a4-4ae6-a93a-f2c61125a3f6Parque Paradiso – A Photographic Journey

Just by turning right when exiting the front door of my new flat rather than my usual left, I found a whole new world along the Rio Tomebamba. A bit beyond the part of Cuenca where the Iron workers lived and established their guild is Parque Paradiso, a beautiful span of green and waters.

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Iglesia de El Vergel is the first landmark I see strolling the walkway.

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Symbol of the Iron Workers’ Guild.

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The cobble stoned walkway of my previous river walks gives way to a dirt path leading to the park.

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Through the cooling groves and soothing smell of eucalyptus trees. 

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I remind myself to breathe deeply through here and enjoy the clean scented air.

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There is an above ground walkway to protect the habitat of the various frog species leading to the picnic and open areas.

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And there is a lake.

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Or continue along the path to the meeting of rivers. The Rio Yanuncay on the right feeds into and becomes part of The Rio Tomebamba. A beautiful paradise for all to share.

Random thoughts and experiences while I walk and live to The Roll of the Tomebamba.

I Will Write All Day

C3482B64-09B3-4437-ADE0-89DDA7D214FAI will write all day, today, not try to squeeze
creativity between a this or a that,
between nowhere and somewhere to be.
My imagination will stretch with the
bright morning shadows
creeping slowly
across the green shimmering leaves.
I will see a flower and create a dedication,
dive into a juicy, ripe papaya and a sonnet will appear.
A sestina with my morning cup of tea.
A long essay with my afternoon meal.
A haiku will tell of the coconuts’ fall from the sky,
with a drum role to match the syncopated rain.
A love poem will greet the setting sun and
I will meet the weariness of the evening sky
with a bedtime verse, close my eyes and go to sleep.
Tomorrow, I will write all day, again,
of this wondrous, glorious experience, my life.

The Road To Ecuador

vcxa8286I never made it to Vilcabamba. When the shuttle stopped in Loja, the voice in my head, my guide through life, said, “Get off here.” I did and the moment I walked through the town entrance, I fell in love with the city. I was under the castle’s spell. While walking from one end to the other, I decided to say here for the night rather than continue on to Vilcabamba. Another great thing about travel, changing plans in midstream when where you are, feels like the place you need to be.

I followed the streets according to my interest in the names and saw two men working outside a hotel. I asked about a room for the night. After a brief conversation, I asked the owner, if he knew of any apartments for rent in town. He showed me two of his in the final phase of completion on the top of the hotel. He offered for me to stay in one for the same price as the hotel room. I was concerned about the noise from the disco and took him up on his offer as a trial run for a possible future rental. When the music woke me around midnight, I thought of the wonderful times I had dancing with a group from the school on Friday and the salsa lessons I took at the school during the week. Any apartment in the area would still be affected by the sound as music was all over town. In my head, I danced myself back to sleep.

So, while looking for a hotel room, I found an apartment on the edge of El Centro. It is on the top floor of a four story disco/bar (The Mills) which is opened on Friday and Saturday nights. From the outside it looks like a modern version of the Taj Mahal and would not have grabbed my interest at all, visually, as a place to live. Rather over done for my taste, modern and trendy, but as fate would have it, I saw the inside first. Otherwise I would not have stopped.

One of my favorite poets, Charles Bukowski, recommends all writers live above a bar. The more rough and tumble the better. So, it appears this is my chosen fate. Now I have a place to land when I return. From the roof top, I have a 360 degree view of the city and the mountains. Climbing the eighty stairs to my apartment a few times a day will keep me in shape. Legs don’t fail me now.

This morning I visited the various open markets in town. Fruits, familiar and unknown, filled the makeshift stalls. Salted fish piled high. Beans of every size and variation one might imagine. I stopped in the main square and listened to the Marine Band Concert, saw men and women on horseback parade around the town and kids playing jump rope and using a loading ramp as a sliding board. This is a town of happy people. I am happy here. This is where I am supposed to be, and for now at least, Loja is home.

Rollo Del Tomebamba XI

One of the activities I engage in everyday when possible is a walk along the Tomebamba River near my home in Cuenca, Ecuador. During this walking meditation my mind wonders along with that of the river. I love the sound of water. When the river is high, it blocks out the sounds of the city and my mind transcends to other worlds while my feet remain firmly in contact with the cobblestoned path. This path for a little while becomes a Yellow Brick Road into my own thoughts and life.

d6ad4d51-30a4-4ae6-a93a-f2c61125a3f6Fitting In

I never have and most likely never will. I am much a loner and follow no man or god other than myself. But I tried. O’boy did I try. I tried in high school. It was my high potential inner city ghetto youth phase. In college it was my Black student revolutionary phase. I tried with the corporate world. My white shirt and tie, Mr IBM phase. I tried to be a part of the institution of marriage. My get married, buy a home I can’t afford, have a baby to please the wife, and get divorced. What I refer to as my socialization into “normal” society phase. 

What I learned from trying to fit in is that I don’t, but it took me a long time to let go of trying and accept my freedom and choice to not have to fit in. Not with any group. Not with any state. Not with any nation. 

The only group I consider myself a part of is the human race. I am a human life form living on a planet third from the sun. I still don’t fit in, even here, but everywhere, I am learning becomes my home, at least for a while. Maybe I am an alien! Wow! That would explain a lot of things…

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Laundry day on the river.

Random thoughts while I walk and live to The Roll of the Tomebamba.

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Rollo Del Tomebamba X

One of the activities I engage in everyday when possible is a walk along the Tomebamba River near my home in Cuenca, Ecuador. During this walking meditation my mind wonders along with that of the river. I love the sound of water. When the river is high, it blocks out the sounds of the city and my mind transcends to other worlds while my feet remain firmly in contact with the cobblestoned path. This path for a little while becomes a Yellow Brick Road into my own thoughts and life.

d6ad4d51-30a4-4ae6-a93a-f2c61125a3f6A Transitional Man

This morning I turned right outside my front door instead of left. The left or west part of the river has been my main walking path for the last two years. It helped me to heal and regain my strength following a heart attack and has always provided a sense of comfort when I needed it most.

I realize that like the river I am always in transition. My life is always moving along. It never seems to stay put for more than a short span of time, a few seconds to the universe. Only in meditation does my life remain almost completely still. I recently turned seventy-one and know that life’s greatest transition is approaching. I face it with the experience and knowledge of a life well lived.

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Another equally important transition also took place this month. I moved from Cuenca Suites to a one bedroom, one and a half bathroom flat. Think With Heart. I must have known I would be moving last November because I started buying small pieces of furniture. In my mind I decided I would be out of the hotel by April 30th. There was a good deal of resistance placed before me, a test from the universe, but I am here. The transition has taken place. I feel less burdened with responsibility along with a greater freedom in my life.

A smaller move physically than my last two, but equally as important to my personal growth. I have reclaimed my own time. What a gift to give to one’s self. No matter what the cost.

My welcoming…

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Random thoughts while I walk and live to The Roll of the Tomebamba.

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