Picnic in the park...

Did you know that roughly 12% of us Americans now earn over $100,000 per year? And that in spite of this growing affluence, roughly 40% of us admit to being bored with our lives and feeling tremendously overworked. (Of course the 40% is probably not of the 12% who are living like the rich and famous... but I digress.)

I find these statistics, which came to me courtesy of a "tourism marketing" report, quite  amazing. The most major point of amazement to me was that so many of us seem to derive so little enjoyment from our lives.

Seven out of ten of us feel terribly stressed, 41% feel harried by never having enough time, and an untold number of parents live everyday with a pervasive sense of guilt that they are not giving adequate attention to their children.

With 31% of us having children under the age of 18 living at home, this is quite a kettle of fish we've gotten ourselves into.

On the bright side, however, as a result of these feelings some of our habits are changing. We are leaning away from whirlwind intensity; craving casual relaxation, peaceful moments and the opportunity to derive some sort of meaningful pleasure from life.

The importance of family is playing a big role in our decision making process. For example, 33% of parents now regularly take leisure trips with their children and multi-generation vacations now account for 74% of all leisure travel in the United States.

Seventy-four percent. Wow. That's some kind of landslide.  

Personally I see these new trends as good things, encouraging me to continue vesting my creative wherewithal in the collaborative manifestation of that elusive thing we call "the future" while holding dear the eternal hope that "Everyday, in every way, we are -- all of us -- getting better and better."

Yet I understand that numbers, trends and statistics are -- of themselves -- completely meaningless and totally inert. Any set of figures may be tabulated, calculated, manipulated and interpreted to conclusively prove just about anything you want, and where you put the final decimal point hinges greatly on your beginning point of view. So I've been investing a lot of time lately looking at where I'm coming from and extrapolating my perspective from there to that intangible n'th degree.

Where this mind-walk is taking me now, in context of the statistics referenced above, is toward an imagined future wherein all people are actively engaged in deriving primary satisfaction from their respective home life, playfully sharing huge quantities of quality time with their children, parents, extended families and friends, moving steadily forward with the manufacture of healthy, happy, prosperous communities and increasingly higher expectations, enjoying the wondrous fruits of being alive.

Of course in order for this to be made a manifest reality, we do have a few wrinkles to iron out. For starters, it would be good if every family was earning $100,000 per year...

But if, as the statisticians report, "time is the new currency," then we are all finally on a level playing field. All that remains, in order for us to collectively "win this one for the Gipper" is to invent a strategy and implement a plan.

In the interest of being one cog in this particular wheel of progress, all of us here at Gozarks are hereby extending a very special invitation to you. On April 20, 2002, we're planning a family-style, picnic in the park. A "happy birthday party" for all us Gozarkians. We envision it as a spectacular yet sublimely simple event, designed exclusively with egalitarian good will in mind.

And I know that April 20 probably isn't your personal birthday, but what the heck... It's somebody's birthday! And besides, we'll gladly pretend!!!

As part of the festivities, we'll be sponsoring a "Hobo Stew Cook-off" and also have a few other nifty ideas in store. But mainly, we'll just be doing our level best to co-create a friendly spot of happy earth and a few magical moments that culminate in sensations of "Gee, that was really fun!"

Sincerely, we all hope you'll join us. We love to schmooze, nosh, laugh, dance, play and relax.  So please, have a look at the campground where this day in the park will happen, mark Saturday, April 20, on your calendar and check back here for updates about all the warm-fuzzy neat stuff that's to come!!!

The Wages of Peace...

A lot of you probably are not going to like what I have to say this time around, but who knows? I could be wrong. I was wrong, once. I believe that was back in 1973 or ‘74. So it’s probably about time. And besides, I’m going to say it anyway. Just as soon, that is, as I figure out how to fit it into words.

Enron is an icon of it, but to my mind this current debacle is only the tip of an insane iceberg that has for years laid waste to the quality of our conglomerated lives. In the biggest sense, “it” is an elusive yet ever present influence that swells daily through a tide of social subtleties. It is the resident agent of every commercial action, has been integrated alongside the guiding principles of education and is a merged component of our self-governing social justice system. Yet it defies a name.

Human craving is the gusto backing it, but this natural effervescence has been distorted by it and transmitted to actions reeking of greed. And our own publicly patented brand of Orwellian doublespeak – which is the rudimentary language of it -- pulls the wool about it over our very own eyes.

Laced with such intoxicating and highly addictive adjectives as wealth, position, power, security and control, it concocts a deadly liturgy which – sadly – all of us seem eager to imbibe.

It is The Great American Dream, convoluted.

It is the Pledge of Allegiance, turned downside up, and inside out.

And it is abolished only by those spaces of time when one really looks closely at the motivators, processes, and procedures being implemented throughout nearly every nuance of “routine daily life” and the words “strangeness,” “incongruity,”  “inappropriateness,” and “absurd” echo throughout that sanctuary we call “peace of mind.”

The force of which I speak  – and it is a very real “force” every bit as mystifying as electricity -- is an aggregate. A “compounded energy” that of itself is neither good nor bad, but simply exists by virtue of the fact that we generate it as a side-effect of living, breathing, and doing whatever it is that we do.

As a society, we generate this raw energy naturally at a magnitude which is greater than the sum of its parts. Yet at the same time, as the originators of it, we have absolute authority over how it is to be used.

Whether we are achieving, grieving, or aspiring we have the ever present choice, obviously and immediately in our hands, to “do the right thing” or be complacent: Lazy and willing to accept a tidal wave of inherent contradictions as "unavoidable" and a somehow “natural and predictable" part of civilized life.

UPDATE

The body of Don Phillips of Fairfield Bay, Arkansas, who went missing the evening of January 23, has been found.
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FSBO

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Election Improvement Commission to host public meetings in each of Arkansas' congressional districts. Click for details.

 

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Then, when this malevolent undercurrent coagulates and whirlpools, as it did with Enron and (dare I say it out loud?) as it did on 9.11, sucking all the joy and innocence from our collective wherewithal, we seem to blind ourselves to this profoundly causative underpinning of reality… vigorously oblivious to the fact that ALL of us and the actions we take (or don’t take) in the course of our daily lives are the factual root of the mess.

Now in saying this I want you to remember that I said, right up front, you were probably not going to like what I had to say today. And I don’t blame you. It can be distasteful to introspect about the profound. Severe scrutiny tends to reveal the cracks in our otherwise stunning (though arbitrarily self-serving) image, magnifying tiny imperfections  that none of us really want to notice or think about because intuitively we know that in so doing we shall be motivated to change.

And change seems to not come easily for us as an aggregate. At least this is what we tell ourselves... although there is factual evidence that change actually happens instantly and spontaneously. And, for good or evil, the reality we “believe in” is the reality we convene.

Add to this the fact that all of us in some way, shape or form, derive fundamental life essentials, personal benefits and even marvelous creature comforts as by-products of our collective conventional thinking. Unacknowledged, unexamined and unchecked, this “energy” keeps the elementary status quo in place.

The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and unimaginable atrocity becomes routine. Daily we experience and observe a vast array of injustices and indignations, but we placate ourselves with the old wives' tale that we are powerless to change these things. Yet in the act of reaffirming that belief the deceptively beautiful mythology of self-eradication by willful contradiction is imbued by us (collectively) to be a reckonable toll.

(Note: For a detailed explanation of what the above means, please send a 10 lb. sack of $50s to Christine Weiss, c/o this e-zine, or simply get out a dictionary and do some in-depth thinking for your self.)

In the interest of channeling this gargantuan human resource in a steadfastly beneficent direction, I am challenging each and every one of you (including myself) to take up the gauntlet and diligently apply “thinking” to every aspect of “the givens” that bind together the fabric of our intricately interwoven lives.

I challenge you to ask yourself: “Do my most deeply held ideologies about integrity, respect and honorable conduct match the casual affectations of my daily actions? Do I commonly do things delegated to me as a “required” part of my livelihood that would incense me if they were done to me by someone else? Is every tiny grain of sand on the beach that I call my homefront polished to perfection? Or maybe, is there a pile of dog-poop somewhere waiting for me to clean it up?"

I challenge us to do this because I am a selfish person, craving strongly to experience a simple picnic in the park, joyfully enraptured by the play of my children, secure in the knowledge that the world and all the peoples in it are cared for in all the most vital ways, contentedly basking in the wages of peace.

And the thing is, there is no way for me or anyone else to get this until we find a way to share it with everyone.

Let is snow, let it snow, let it snow.....

To view a Special Collection of "Ozark Snow" photos, please click here.


The Ozarks were turned into a winter wonderland spectacular this morning (Feb. 6, 2002). About a block from our home, the Middle Fork of the Little Red River put on sparkling attire.


Shalom, Adam, Shawna and Josh and their big sister Patty (the photographer) all certainly enjoyed it.

Bring it on!!!

Things here are wonderful at the moment. Flowing along rather smoothly, like a pleasant canoeing trip. But of course there are always those predictable little unpredictabilities that seem to surface from nowhere and tend to throw you for a loop.

Most recently, for example, we had a rather unsettling disagreement to ride-out with a workman who had somehow latched on to the completely inappropriate idea that he could, on Tuesday, quote me a firm price of $1300 to finish the job he was hired to do and then, on Thursday (having done nothing more than we'd mutually agreed) hand me a bill for $2000.

My, my, my. I mean, that just was NOT going to happen. And, sadly, he had his mind set on the spurious notion that he could bully his way into a bogus bonus at my family's financial expense. Amazingly, he found absolutely nothing wrong with this unprofessional ideology and went to great lengths to assert his claim. Thus there were a few “un-wonderful” moments.

Thankfully, however, reason and patience won out. It took a few days, but ultimately we came to a place of similar enlightenment. And, since I was tremendously pleased with the quality of his work, we have agreed that he will do work for me again.

Predictable unpredictabilities. Such is life. Rainy today and sunny tomorrow. Moderate
breezes in between.  And what has occurred to me lately is that to ever actually get to experience that place in life where things genuinely do feel “wonderful” for long glowing moments of time, there is an essential skill prerequisite. And that skill is best defined as “taking it in stride.”

But consider that in order to “take (something) in stride” it is essential for one to “have a stride” to begin with. A “stride.” A measured, steady, comfortable pace. A practiced (and to some degree perfected) means of self-directed motivation which compels the grounding of each step, firmly placed, one after another, in rhythm to the beat of some inaudible drum.

It has taken me all of my 52 years to groom and exercise my stride, making it as comfortable as possible for me while at the same time doing my best to harmonize my pace with those I work with, call friends and love. And, by my own measure, my stride is nowhere near perfect. But every day it gets a little closer to being what I think it ought to become.

So I keep on truckin’. Wishing, hoping and dreaming about harvesting more and more long and pleasurable magic moments of wonderfulness. Celebrating and basking in their glory when they arrive. And confident that by simply adhering to my chosen course of action when I am faced with life’s predictable unpredictabilities I will find myself empowered to (politely) say “Bring it on!!!” and that in so doing the outcome for everyone involved will be “for the good.”

Anyway, that’s where my head is at this moment. How are things by you?

Christine Weiss
editor@gozarks.com

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