50

Today I am fifty and I honestly didn't think I was going to make it this far so I hope it's not unacceptably self-indulgent to post an essay.

Frankly, I did not think I'd see thirty. Fifty is a little dizzying. I've been abused, neglected, raped, hit by cars, shot at, homeless, grew up in Florida ffs, endured a longer list of wordier traumas, plus a couple deadly serious health conditions have run at me and almost got me. Things in general are super dark right now, but I was fortunate enough to be able to spend yesterday making myself a festive celebratory cake and I am feeling fifty like a victory lap despite all the stress and unrest.

Possibly only of interest to me and my fellow theory dorks, I still don't have that thing people refer to as "a belief system", despite almost all of my fifty years spent seeking, feeling, reading, thinking, searching for something like a belief system. As a little kid I read everything I could get my little hands on from old religious texts to new age manifestos -- I was a little kid in the 1970s, so those were everywhere -- and I'd completely devoured the "weird and unexplained phenomena" sections of the school and local libraries by age ten. For years I actively tried to catch one religion after another but I appear to have some kind of natural immunity and none of them ever took past the "ok so now I have another question" point.

In college in my mid-20s I took as much philosophy as would fit in my schedule even though it wasn't my major, and while it was legit academically challenging and occasionally gave me that feeling like the Gravitron ride at the fair where you spin until the floor drops out from beneath your feet and then you stick to the wall and giggle with your friends about how weird that looks and feels, it was ultimately a very positive experience. It was this massive banquet of ideas, and I sampled as much as I could before my whole adventure in disabling health conditions took over my life. After that my limits were serious and I couldn't just push them anymore, I had to learn respect. Ultimately I've done a lot of that "take what you can use and leave the rest" behavior that's often recommended in various kinds of 12-step group meetings.

There's almost a straight line from Plato's cave analogy to some bits of standup comedy by the late great Bill Hicks, the common theme being that what humans perceive with our basic five senses is a small sliver of the overall reality in which we are having this human experience, and furthermore that it is possible to expand that perception beyond that limited initial range. Why it is that so many people who consider themselves rational and scientific find this idea so threatening is the fuck beyond me. We can't see radio waves or microbes or into the infrared range but no scientist or rationalist denies all that exists. It shouldn't be so controversial but a lot of people act like science is finished rather than: a) still in its infancy; and b) a constantly ongoing process to help understand a consantly changing context. I can only sort-of guess that the unknown deeply freaks those people out. At fifty, I am still madly passionately deeply in love with entertaining all the questions, and whether they are answerable or not is immaterial to me. It turns out I like to swim around in the open ocean of possibilities.

So through all the thinking and the churching and the rainbow gatherings and the reading so many pages of so many books, especially so many pages of Hegel and Kant holy mother of wordy motherfuckers, none of that ever added up to a belief system. There are so many things for which my best answer is "I don't know...and neither do you." At the half-century mark, probably as close as I get to a belief system is rejecting other belief systems.

It's not like I don't believe anything; it's just very loosey-goosey and unsystematized -- if I were to lay it all out, I could never get it published in academia (or what used to be academia in the World That Was) anywhere besides maybe poetry, lol. (Not dissing poetry, I love it, it may be my favorite language.) There's at least a spoonful of Spinoza in the mashup of what I believe, in the sense that rather than rejecting a concept of divinity/"god"/creative infinite consciousness as not-existing I sort-of find it in everything everywhere allthetime, and I try my best not to anthropomorphize it. There's a sizeable dash of Taoism mixed in too, along with something like the not particularly well articulated old surfer wisdom that the same kinds of skills that make you a good surfer in the physical plane where the ocean moves also make you a good surfer in the metaphysical plane where the consciousness moves.

Practice, practice, practice.
Become confident, never cocky.
Take turns; take nothing else.
You are small and temporary.
Every wave you get to ride is a unique gift, appreciate them all for what they are.
Be kind to other surfers and all the creatures of the sea; beware of the ones who would eat you and be smarter and faster than they are.
Breathe.

Since we are mostly an aged bunch here, lol, I invite you all to share your favorite bits of life-acquired wisdom, along with the stories behind them, if you like. Wishing you all a very happy Tuesday.

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Dawn's Meta's picture

Do emojis screw things up? Anyway I'll try to copy without the cute stuff....
Happy birthday Rev Jane (Birthday Cake)
It seems like it has been a bumpy but sometimes rewarding ride. I hope you have your health and strength.

I too have had since my forties some severe health problems. They have come and gone and come again. Mostly I must say, due to the shitty toxins we live with in our food, air and water. Living next to a Pear orchard about did me in.

Twenty years on after extreme exposure to mold and unvented gas exhaust, I'm fighting again. But working on it. Striving to have cocktails. Yup, that's my goal.

Anyways, my DH and I have done some of those belief.net questionnaires, and always turn out Pagan. Spirituality in nature, music, a dog.

I was raised a real Franciscan Catholic, with school and all. But somehow once I hit my early twenties, I realized I had an internal compass and value system and didn't need the church thing unless I needed community (UCC) or to sing the best ever in my late sixties. French Roman Catholic. But it is a community choir, so we sing everything from Bach to Bernstein. And some written by our chef de cœur. In a limestone church with fabulous acoustics it is transporting to be part of the music making.

My dad when I asked why he quit going to church when the last of us were out of the house said, he did it for us. Then he pointed to the trees we were working under and said 'this is my church'. No truer words.

Thanks for sharing your day, and many blessings upon you and all you treasure. (Rose bud and Heart)

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A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit. Allegedly Greek, but more possibly fairly modern quote.

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@Dawn's Meta

Sympathies for your struggles and congratulations for your ongoing victories. Your choir sounds lovely. As I get older I appreciate more how essential it is to do things that bring you joy, for no other reason than the joy. Like a kind of metaphysical soul food.

My dad when I asked why he quit going to church when the last of us were out of the house said, he did it for us. Then he pointed to the trees we were working under and said 'this is my church'. No truer words.

Beautiful. I always did like the idea of a nature church. Or a beer church, heh. Thanks very much for the birthday wishes, and best wishes to you on acheiving your cocktail goals! Smile

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Lookout's picture

Congrats on the 50 years of life (you youngster).

No big words of wisdom to offer. Never bought into any religion and luckily it wasn't pushed on me by my family as many have suffered through. I believe in nature, and using its patterns and energy in my life.

My friend Tina Liza Jones wrote this birthday celebration song...
Here's John's version...

So cut the cake and let's eat some more!

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“Until justice rolls down like water and righteousness like a mighty stream.”

@Lookout

Appreciate the good wishes very much, and the song too. Never heard it before but it was some mighty fine fiddlin. I'm looking forward to the cake -- we were lucky enough to happen into half a box of fresh peaches recently so I made some peach curd and put a layer of that in there, yum. All the best to you as well!

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RantingRooster's picture

Drinks

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"Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance;" - Thomas Paine, Common Sense

@RantingRooster

Thanks muchly, Rooster, and may fate or chance or highly intelligent aliensquids or whatever might run the universe drop a nice surprise into your lap soon.

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RantingRooster's picture

@Reverend Jane Ignatowski I'll take it by golly.

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"Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance;" - Thomas Paine, Common Sense

RantingRooster's picture

@Reverend Jane Ignatowski I landed a video job on the 9th and 10th of July taping some LaCross games. Finally some work with decent pay. (God it's going to be hot like an oven though)

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"Men who look upon themselves born to reign, and others to obey, soon grow insolent; selected from the rest of mankind their minds are early poisoned by importance;" - Thomas Paine, Common Sense

@RantingRooster

Birthday wishes are fn magic!

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Anja Geitz's picture

“the common theme being that what humans perceive with our basic five senses is a small sliver of the overall reality in which we are having this human experience, and furthermore that it is possible to expand that perception beyond that limited initial range. Why it is that so many people who consider themselves rational and scientific find this idea so threatening is the fuck beyond me.“

I think there is so much we still don’t know. So much further we have to go as a society and as evolved human beings, that I can’t believe this is where we stop. I had a conversation with a few co-workers the other day where the topic of “super-powers“ came up. Heard some funny and interesting things from the young people I work with as they took turns naming the superpower they’d like to have. But when it came to my turn, I’m afraid I was not funny or very interesting because the only super power I really wanted to have was to be able to guide people in their actions with a deep empathy for others.

I’ve been a searcher too, Rev. Jane. Flirted with Christianity but had some real problems with who gets into “heaven” and who does not. Just didn’t make sense to me how the Dalai Lama, whose life mission is for the world to gain peace and understanding, wasn’t going to get into heaven because he didn’t believe in Jesus Christ, but a predatory pedophile who repents and believes does. Then I stumbled on the Buddhist philosophy explaining the iniquities of life and that made much more sense to me. I still have questions, but the practice itself has brought me such healing from what was an abusive childhood that I stuck with it. In a serendipitous twist of events, the chanting and the meditation actually led me into learning about neuro-plasticity and how cognitive behavioral techniques worked in relation to my bi-polar II diagnosis. This in turn enabled me to keep my highs and lows as close to the middle as I could without medication. Funny how life’s turns get you to where you are.

As far as your belief system. I think you do have one. And one that I think suits your very unique life. It’s one you built all by yourself. Taking the wisdom of many philosophies and molding it into your own.

Glad you were born 50 years ago today Rev. Jane Ignatowski. Hope your birthday finds you surrounded by people who love and appreciate how very special you are.

*edited for typo

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

@Anja Geitz

Anja, thanks so much for such a heartfelt comment and of course the birthday wishes are well received.

In a similar serendipitous turn of events, during my study of philosophy I ran into the subfield of neurophilosophy, which was where and how I got hip to that whole plasticity concept. Very interesting, and very cool that you were able to use it to help ease your symptoms. Been interested in brain science ever since, and glad to see the healthcare end of the field exploring the benefits of substances like psilocybin, which can help treat both depression and anxiety, along with aiding in exploring consciousness.

If civilization holds together maybe someday we can spend our very old age enjoying the marvels of a new enlightment period.

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Anja Geitz's picture

@Reverend Jane Ignatowski

If civilization holds together maybe someday we can spend our very old age enjoying the marvels of a new enlightment period

.

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There is always Music amongst the trees in the Garden, but our hearts must be very quiet to hear it. ~ Minnie Aumonier

@Anja Geitz

Eternal optimism.

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janis b's picture

@Reverend Jane Ignatowski

in a philosophical way, the results can be as, or more, edifying than science and academia. In light of that, it’s amazing how long it’s taken science and academia to formally explore and support the power of the mind in its potential, regarding ‘choice’. I think the flexibility of the mind, and the multiple choices it has in response to a conflict or complication, is obvious if we pay attention.

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@janis b

Studying various theories of power (what it is, how it moves, how to try to move it in different directions) in college was a large part of how I wound up a political junkie. Like all people who value compassion, ethics, and community, as a youngster I wanted to find some line of work where I could help people, and make good changes in the way the world worked, and so my main agenda at school was about how best to be a helper. Philosophy wasn't supposed to be that, it was supposed to be a self-indulgence, but it lit my consciousness on fire, I had no idea how fascinating it was until I dove into the deep end of it. After I got my head around power, politics finally made sense. Depressing sense, lol, but sense.

Thanks for your comments and birthday wishes, Janis, I always enjoy your takes on ideas. And your pictures. Smile

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ggersh's picture

Staying healthy is numero uno, dos, tres, to achieving everything else.

As Thomas Paine said

I do not believe in the creed professed by the Jewish church, by the Roman church, by the Greek church, by the Turkish church, by the Protestant church, nor by any church that I know of. My own mind is my own church. All national institutions of churches, whether Jewish, Christian or Turkish, appear to me no other than human inventions, set up to terrify and enslave mankind, and monopolize power and profit.

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this time it's different

empty suit on Kapernick

"“Kapernick needs to think about the pain he’s causing military families."

@ggersh

Staying healthy is numero uno, dos, tres, to achieving everything else.

Haha well unfortunately the ship has already sailed on that for me, but I do like that quote from Paine, thanks very much. Smile

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snoopydawg's picture

Congrats on making it to 50 with all that you have been through. My birthday wish for you that it is smooth sailing from now on. You definitely deserve it. Thanks for sharing your day with us.

I love this:

Practice, practice, practice.
Become confident, never cocky.
Take turns; take nothing else.
You are small and temporary.
Every wave you get to ride is a unique gift, appreciate them all for what they are.
Be kind to other surfers and all the creatures of the sea; beware of the ones who would eat you and be smarter and faster than they are.
Breathe.

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"It seems to me that the problem is that group party interests, in this case, are placed above the interests of the entire society and the interests of people,"

@snoopydawg

I know that you know about hard times, and I appreciate so much how you've turned your experiences into such stunning photographic art, pure love for dawgs, and being a powerhouse political commenter in such turbulent times. Thanks so much for that amazingly kind birthday wish and the lovely quote.

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snoopydawg's picture

@Reverend Jane Ignatowski

Every year I turn one older after 17 was a gift because things could have turned out much differently when I crashed my motorcycle. I either could have died or gone into a permanent vegetative state. Even when I was suffering through years of pain before and after my facial reconstruction I didn't complain. When people asked how I could handle the pain I was in I would say that I was just grateful that I was here to experience it. And I was. Still am even though this is the year I qualify for social security. Good grief it's hard to imagine I am at the milestone.

And I think because of that gift I developed a love for nature which reflects in my photography and how I see the world. I see the same landscape day after day, but I still seeing something new each day. The way the light hits on a tree or a bush. Or seeing a knot on a tree one day that I didn't see the day before. The other day I sat in a place I had never sat before and was amazed at how beautiful and peaceful it was.

Same with love of dawgs and all animals. After the accident I couldn't fish anymore because what right did I have to take its life and remove it from its family? Even catch and release was out because the fishhooks hurt their mouths. And dawgs...well how can one not love dawgs? Mine have always given me such unconditional love and joy and laughter. But I like cats too. I don't have one now because there are too many dawgs in my neighborhood that run loose. House cat? Boring. Poodles though? Don't ask. Smile

being a powerhouse political commenter

Ha I won't bore you with the details on how hard I worked on this. I still have problems, but mostly in the AMs which usually shows up with grammar or being coherent. Lol. Seriously I do that when I reread some of my comments. Or read them and not remember writing them.

We all have our hills to climb though don't we? It's great to know someone has your back when you stumble. I have yours anytime you need it.

What was your best memory from your day? Spill all the details....or not.

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"It seems to me that the problem is that group party interests, in this case, are placed above the interests of the entire society and the interests of people,"

@snoopydawg

It's impossible to say how much I appreciate your commenting. It's obvious that a lot of work and thought goes into it and I admire the effort as well as the skill you've developed. You have such an interesting perspective on all kinds of things.

The other day I sat in a place I had never sat before and was amazed at how beautiful and peaceful it was.

I can dig that. My health problems keep me inside more than I'd like now but as a younger person I did a lot of mountain climbing, forest wandering, surfing and swimming in the ocean, and the feeling of it stays with me. I get out whenever I can to refresh it; it's never really enough.

Social security (disability since age 29) was a godsend for me, I seriously don't know how I'd have gotten along without it. I'm not sure I'd have had access to cancer treatment without Medicare. I hope the enrollment process goes/has gone smoothly for you and helps to bring additional security to your situation as well.

We all have our hills to climb though don't we? It's great to know someone has your back when you stumble. I have yours anytime you need it.

You are so very kind, thank you so much, and I know I lurk around here more than actively comment in many threads so I probably feel more like a vase on the table than another friendly voice but backatcha anyhow.

What was your best memory from your day? Spill all the details....or not.

I had a quiet day at home, homemade cake, homemade ice cream, streamed a couple shows, chilled out with my housemate, my cats, and with you guys...it was so nice and I'm aware that it's an enormous privilege right now, but it's a story that lacks any juicy details, lol.

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you have learned much in your 50 cycles
thanks for sharing!

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@QMS

So a hearty thank you for that. Smile Meanwhile I also want to thank you for an earlier comment you made about food in an open thread somewhere which inspired me to try to recreate my late great-grandmother's pierogi recipe this summer. If I manage to nail it, I'll post some pictures and a recipe in a food thread down the road, I think just about everybody loves pierogies.

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@Reverend Jane Ignatowski

My plumber neighbor in Stuart, FL had a polish mama that made the most mouth melting little dumplings. Simple with cheese or potato fillings. Yumm! May give it a go myself.
Happy birthday!!!

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Granma's picture

I wish you many joyful surprises in your next years.

My learned truth is trust your gut, or more nicely phrased, your intuition.

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@Granma

without solid advice and good wishes from Granma! Wink Trusting my gut has come hard for me, I'm a notorious second-guesser, but I appreciate the reminder and I'll keep practicing. Thanks and many happy returns to you as well.

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Granma's picture

@Reverend Jane Ignatowski

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I appreciate everyone's kind comments and wishes and updoots today, you all helped me turn a quarantine milestone birthday into a nice celebratory occasion. I'm offline in a few for cake, ice cream, a little herb and a movie before bed. Catch y'all on the flip side, thanks again.

Smile

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janis b's picture

I’m glad you introduced yourself. It is inspiring to read about your strongly receptive and affectionate self. I can imagine that, that part of you creates a perfect balance to the pain you endure. I hope the future brings you continuing joy to soften any pain, and encourage your exploration.

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enhydra lutris's picture

Wonderful essay. I too never (was) expected to see 30, 40, 50, etc and am now seriously your senior.

I might note that you have explained your belief system, for such it is, quite well. Wink

I just stumbled across some odd bits of wisdom from an odd source quoted elsewhere:

“We either make ourselves miserable, or make ourselves happy. The amount of work is the same.”

--Carlos Castaneda; from the teachings of Don Juan

also

“The aim is to balance the terror of being alive with the wonder of being alive.”

—Carlos Castaneda; from the teachings of Don Juan

some Koan can be endlessly morphed into new ones, so I will remind you that you already know that searching for a belief system is like riding an ox in search of the ox. Happy (late) birthday.

be well and have a good one.

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That, in its essence, is fascism--ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power. -- Franklin D. Roosevelt --

@enhydra lutris

Enhydra lutris, thanks so much for the good wishes and the Castenada quotes -- how'd you know they'd fit so well? You must have ridden this ox before... Wink

"Here is a test to find whether your mission in life is finished -- if you're alive, it isn't."
--Richard Bach

Hearty congratulations to you on beating the odds! It is wonderful to have you around, I love your comments and the super interesting way your mind works.

All the best to you too.

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