Wednesday, September 20, 2017

In the Eye of a Hurricane

I was once in the Eye of a Hurricane -- much excitement.

By the spring of 1964, I had spent two years at the University of Minnesota, majoring in mathematics, vacillating between becoming an architect or a mining engineer, trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life.

That summer, I read a magazine article about computers and how there would soon be a huge demand for experts in this new field. It sounded exotic and potentially lucrative.

Being an impetuous young adventurer, I decided to become a computer programmer.

On August 10, my 20th birthday, I stuffed my belongings into the trunk of my 1953 Chevy and headed for Florida early the following morning, where I intended to enroll in Miami-Dade Junior College in Miami, one of the three top-rated computer schools in the country at the time.

Four days later, I arrived in Miami and checked into a cheap motel near campus. It was hot, humid and raining. As far as I could tell, I was the only person in Miami wearing socks.

The same day I arrived, a weather disturbance classified as a tropical cyclone moved off the eastern African coast.

After catching up on my sleep, I went to the college campus the next day and registered for fall semester.

The weather disturbance soon reached hurricane force in the Atlantic and was named Cleo.

There was a pool hall across the street from campus with a lunch counter that soon became my unofficial headquarters. I had spent much of my youth in pool halls and felt right at home there.

On August 22, Hurricane Cleo slammed into the French West Indies, causing 14 deaths and much damage.

I eventually found a cheap place to rent near campus. It had a bedroom, kitchen and bathroom. It also had cockroaches the size of sewer rats and enough beefy spiders to make a horror movie.

On the morning of August 24, Hurricane Cleo passed south of the Dominican Republic, killing seven people.

Later that same day, it veered into Haiti where damage was considerable and 192 people perished.

Two days later, I was hanging out in the pool hall, wondering why the place was so deserted.

On August 27, the eye of Hurricane Cleo moved onto Key Biscayne. The owner of the pool hall began chasing out customers and preparing for some sort of onslaught.

That’s when I first learned about Hurricane Cleo.

Dominic, the owner of the pool hall, invited me to join his family and a few guests at his house, a block from the pool hall, for a hurricane party.

It sounded better than waiting it out with cockroaches and spiders so I accepted.

Classified as a category-four hurricane, Cleo had sustained winds of 135 mph, with gusts up to 160 mph. It hit Miami at full throttle.

At around midnight, I watched a large garbage can blow down the street and never hit the ground.

About 1:00 am, the exterior wall of the TV station collapsed during a live broadcast of weather conditions.

A few minutes later, the electricity went out in all of Miami.

Not too long thereafter, there was a sudden dead silence. The wind had abruptly stopped and it was no longer raining.

Dominic handed me a flashlight and announced that he and I were going to check on the pool hall.

When we got outside, the entire area was flooded with knee-deep water.

I followed Dominic to the pool hall, which had about a foot of water inside. It smelled like rotting fish but everything else looked okay.

On the way back to the house, Dominic told me to hurry -- we were in the eye of the hurricane and it was about to kick in again.

I was simply a young wanderer from the far north where the lakes have loons and winter temperatures are prefixed with minus signs. I knew nothing about hurricanes or the eye that came with it.

Dominic also told me to watch out for snakes -- another news flash that got my attention.

It's amazing how quickly you can move when you're knee deep in snake-filled water in the dark, in the eerily silent eye of a moving hurricane.

We made it back inside the house just as Hurricane Cleo hit again with full force.

The closer to the eye, the stronger the winds. And we were on the very edge of the eye just then, with the fierce wind now blowing in the opposite direction as before.

While everyone else eventually went to sleep, I spent the rest of the night waiting for the roof to cave in.

Hurricane Cleo (category-four) caused $125 million in damage in the Miami metropolitan area.

It continued along the eastern coast, mostly out at sea, until it fizzled out on September 4 east of Newfoundland.

Only three disturbances to reach landfall as a category-five hurricane, the most intense category, have ever been recorded in the USA.

  • 1935 – Labor Day Hurricane in the Florida Keys
  • 1969 – Hurricane Camille in Mississippi
  • 1992 – Hurricane Andrew in Dade County, Florida

Other category-five disturbances recorded in recent history include the Japanese tsunami of 2011 and Charlie Sheen, but that’s another story.

Quote for the Day – "Perfect weather for today's game -- not a breath of air." Curt Gowdy

Bret Burquest is the author of 12 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a couple of dogs and an imaginary girlfriend named Tequila Mockingbird.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Summer of Love

This year, 2017, is the 50th anniversary of the Summer of Love.

In January of 1967, a "Be-In" took place in Golden Gate Park in San Francisco.

"If you're going to San Francisco,...
be sure to wear some flowers in your hair...
If you're going to San Francisco,...
summertime will be a love-in there."
(Song lyrics by The Mamas and The Papas in May of 1967)

A counterculture of long-haired rebellious youth, called hippies, was emerging in the Haight-Ashbury district and the news media loved it. During spring break, college students began pouring into the San Francisco Bay Area.

Soon, an estimated 100,000 young people from around the world had flocked to the scene to frolic in a spontaneous free-for-all.

On June 1, 1967, four mop-haired lads from Liverpool, England, who called themselves The Beatles, released their latest album, "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band."

It became a certified Gold album on the first day of its release -- it was also the unofficial start of what was about to become the Summer of Love.

"All you need is love." John Lennon

On June 16, a three-day International Pop Music Festival opened in Monterey, south of San Francisco. It was the world's first major rock festival. Over 200,000 people attended the event. Some of the 32 performers and groups included:

  • Janis Joplin
  • Jimi Hendrix
  • The Mamas and the Papas
  • Canned Heat
  • The Grateful Dead
  • Jefferson Airplane
  • Otis Redding
  • Lou Rawls
  • Simon and Garfunkel
  • Johnny Rivers
  • Buffalo Springfield
  • Quicksilver Messenger Service
  • Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  • Country Joe and the Fish
  • Moby Grape
  • Booker T and the MGs
  • The Byrds
  • The Who
  • The Association
  • Eric Burton and the Animals
  • others

And if you don't know who most of those folks are, I pity you. There's some great music in this crowd.

Elsewhere in the world, it was anything but a summer of love that year. During the summer of 1967, the Vietnam Conflict was going strong.

I was in a U.S. Army uniform in Atlanta at the time, doing my best to maintain my sanity as a draftee until I could become a civilian once again.

On June 5, The Six-Day War erupted.

Israel, fearing an imminent attack, struck Egyptian military targets. Jordan, Syria and Iraq soon entered the conflict. Israel annexed Arab East Jerusalem, captured the Golan Heights (from Syria), the Gaza Strip, the West Bank (from Jordan) and the Sinai (from Egypt).

It ended in six days.

In the middle of the Six Day War, Israel attacked the USS Liberty, a U.S. Navy ship stationed in the Mediterranean Sea, killing 34 and wounding 171 crewmen. Apparently, Israel mistook it for an Egyptian vessel.

Commander William L. McGonagle was awarded the Medal of Honor for remaining on the bridge and keeping the ship afloat for 17 hours despite multiple wounds.

Israel apologized and paid $12 million in compensation.

On July 6, the Biafran War erupted in eastern Nigeria in Africa. It stemmed from rebellion against ethnic cleansing (mass murder) by government forces and would last more than two years, claiming some 600,000 lives.

Race riots were a popular sport that summer.

  • June 2 -- Boston, Mass.
  • June 11 -- Tampa, Fla.
  • June 27 -- Buffalo, NY (14 shot, 200 arrested)
  • July 12 -- Newark, NJ (27 killed, 1,500 injured)
  • July 17 -- Cairo, Ill.
  • July 19 -- Durham, NC
  • July 20 -- Memphis, Tenn.
  • July 23 -- Detroit, Mich. (40 dead, 2,000 injured)
  • July 24 -- Cambridge, Md.
  • July 30 -- Milwaukee, Wis. (4 killed).

On July 29, 134 servicemen were killed on the USS Forrestal in the Gulf of Tonkin off the coast of Vietnam.

On July 30, Gen. William Westmoreland declared we were winning in Vietnam but needed more troops.

On August 3, President Lyndon Johnson authorized 45,000 more troops to be sent to Vietnam.

The hippies in San Francisco weren't particularly concerned with problems elsewhere. It was their summer of love.

But the fun soon ended. Overcrowding, crime, homelessness and drug problems overwhelmed the quickly deteriorating Haight-Ashbury neighborhood. Most of the students returned home to resume college studies.

On October 7, those remaining in the Bay Area held a mock "Death to the Hippie" funeral.

The Summer of Love was over.

For me, the Summer of Love was in 1968. I became a civilian again and kissed the ground when I got home.

Several years later, I spent a few weeks roaming around San Francisco -- fabulous city.

I even caught Janis Joplin playing a gig in a church basement during some sort of fund raising event. She sent enough electricity through the place to light the Fisherman's Warf and the Golden Gate Bridge.

"Oh Lord, won't you buy me a Mercedes Benz." Janis Joplin

But my inclination for a reclusive lifestyle eventually sent me back on the road.

Love is the only sane answer to human existence -- it's not so much gazing into each other's eyes, but looking together in the same direction.

It's the art of persistence and endless forgiveness. To find someone who will love you for no reason is the ultimate bliss. It's when the happiness of another becomes essential to your own happiness.

I have plenty of love these days -- I have three wonderful dogs and a couple of imaginary girlfriends, named Tequila Mockingbird and Trixie "Boom Boom" O'Toole, who are always there when needed.

Quote for the Day – "To fear love is to fear life." Bertrand Russell

Bret Burquest is the author of 12 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains, in the Land of Ark, where all the beautiful people live and time stands still.

Saturday, July 1, 2017

The Quest for Bliss

I posted a blog piece in January 2017 titled "The Founding Fathers on Religion" about how our country was founded on the principle of religious freedom rather than being set up as a Christian nation.

It wasn't long before I received a rancorous response from a man who insisted that the USA was indeed a Christian nation and that Christ is who he said he was and what he said: "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the father, but through me." He ended his lengthy diatribe by informing me that he would pray for my eternal soul.

I really didn't want to start a debate about religion. It's difficult to write anything about this subject without causing animosity from various directions.

However, there's a big difference between believing in a divine "heavenly" Spirit and the practice of an organized religion. One does not need to be affiliated with a specific organized religion to be a moral, righteous person.

The very 1st sentence in my Founding Father's piece reads -- "The Founding Fathers of our country were primarily made up of Deists and Unitarians who believed in unalienable Rights being endowed by a Creator."

Yes, the Founding Fathers believed in a divine Spirit, but they also believed all individuals were entitled to their own version of a higher realm in the universe & beyond.

And when the man added (John 14:6), "I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life.  No one comes to the father but through me." it seemed like a subtle form of bigoted superiority. In other words, the only path to a heavenly realm was his path, a belief and worship of Jesus Christ.

Therefore, if you are a Buddhist or Hindu or Muslim or agnostic or atheist or Native American or a newly born child or Gnostic or Bahai or Judaism or Jainism or Sikhism or Taoism or Australian Aboriginal or Shinto, etc., etc., or any human being who passed away prior to the birth of Jesus, you cannot ascend to a higher realm because you do not worship Jesus Christ.

Somehow that seems unfair and untrue. Too many people worship the messenger and ignore the message.

Christians are led to believe that Jesus was the one and only son of God. However, there were many others before him who were conceivably of the same mold.

Mithras was a Persian & Greco-Roman God. The religion of Mithraism preceded Christianity by approximately 600 years. Mithras of Persia (Iran) was born of a virgin in a cave on December 25. His birth was attended by shepherds. He was considered to be a master and a teacher. He traveled with 12 companions, performed miracles, and promised immortality to those who believed in him. Upon his death, he was buried in a tomb and rose again after three days.

Attis of Phrygia (1250 BC) was a Phrygo-Roman and Asia Minor God. Attis was born on the winter solstice (near December 25) of a virgin mother (Virgin Nana). He was considered "the only begotten son" and upon his death was considered to be "the savior slain for the salvation of mankind." His cult had a sacrificial meal where "his body as bread was eaten by his worshippers." He was crucified on a tree and descended into the underworld. After 3 days, he was resurrected just after the spring solstice (near Easter time).

Dionysus, also known as Bacchus (1500 BC), was a Mycenean Greek God. Dionysus was born during the winter solstice (near December 25) of a virgin mother and placed in a manger. He was considered to be the son of the heavenly Father and was referred to as the ram or lamb or the "King of Kings" or the "only begotten Son." He was a travelling teacher who performed miracles, including turning water into wine. He was crucified on a tree. After 3 days, he arose from the dead and ascended into heaven just after the spring solstice (near Easter time).

Many others followed the same divine path prior to the time of Jesus, including Osiris in Egypt, Adonis in Syria, etc.

On June 19, in the year 325 A.D., the Roman Emperor, Constantine, summoned 318 bishops from the Empire to his lake house in Nicea, Turkey, and presided over this ecumenical council, known as the Council of Nicea. There had been much controversy concerning the divinity of Jesus and Constantine wanted to settle the issue. He proposed that "Jesus and God were of the same substance." After much debate, a compromise was reached, acknowledging Constantine's position. They debated as to which items were to be included in a book of sacred writings, the Holy Bible, and which ones were to be forbidden. They also agreed that Easter would be held after the first full moon on (or after) the vernal equinox (when the sun passes over the Earth's equator), thereby making Easter a movable day that would never again coincide with the Jewish holiday of the Passover.

Mary (mother of Jesus) had 6 children -- it wasn't until 70 AD that the Gospel of Luke first introduced the concept of Mary having a virgin birth, many decades after the death of Jesus.

There were no direct witnesses to the resurrection of Jesus. Yet, there are six different accounts of the resurrection in the New Testament, recorded between 20 and 70 years after the event -- one account of it in each of the four Gospels, one in the book of Acts and one in Paul's first letter to the Corinthians

James and Thomas (both were apostles) were siblings of Jesus.

In the letters of James in the New Testament, there is no mention of a virgin birth or the resurrection.

In the Gospel of Thomas, there is no mention of a virgin birth or the resurrection.

In the Acts of Thomas, the brother of Jesus is on record as performing more "miracles" than Jesus, including raising people from the dead.

Jesus in Psalm 82 -- "I have said, ye are gods."

Jesus in John 12:14 -- "You will all do the works I have been doing, and they will do even greater things than these will you do."

Perhaps Jesus Christ was conveying a message that we all have the ability to become one with a divine spirit in a higher realm and thereby make the world a better place.

Buddhists and Hindus recognize the existence of non-physical realms and various states of existence.

Muhammad encountered an angel named Gabriel who revealed the entire text of the Koran to Muhammad.

Joseph Smith encountered an angel named Moroni who gave him the text of the Book of Mormon on golden tablets that vanished into thin air.

Certain Native Americans believe in a Great Spirit in the Sky and a visitation by sky-beings who guided them.

Perhaps we each individually reside in a divine spiritual realm that conforms with our own individual truths.

Perhaps we occasionally depart from our divine spiritual realm to incarnate (reincarnate) onto a carnal existence (such as Planet Earth) where we are confronted with pain, suffering, greed and injustice, in order to learn lessons, such as tolerance, forgiveness and love, to cleanse our eternal soul.

Everyone believes their way is the correct way.

Perhaps it's all correct and it's our mission in life to find the proper righteous path for our individual soul.

Far too much blood has been spilled over differences in religious concepts and affiliations, which are often deeply imbedded within our psyche based on our upbringing or geographic location.

We are all one -- it's time for the human race to follow the great truth about treating others as we wish to be treated.

With age comes wisdom -- I've had many experiences in my life where it has become manifestly evident that there exists higher realms of reality beyond our dimension of earthly life.

Spiritual growth and evolution is a continual individual process.

If you are a moral, honorable, noble, virtuous person, you are on a righteous path of atonement.

When we become one with the universe and beyond, we become divine souls in the community of divine souls.

  • Religion is the belief in someone else's experience.
  • Spirituality is having your own experience.

"It is not necessary to believe in God to be a good person. In a way, the traditional God is outdated. One can be spiritual but not religious. It is not necessary to go to church and give money -- for many, nature can be a church. Some of the best people in history did not believe in God, while some of the worst deeds were done in His name." Pope Francis

The quest for bliss is an eternal struggle. Human beings yearn for harmony, prosperity, happiness and fulfillment.

Unfortunately, there are a multitude of variations among the human race as to what constitutes human bliss, including insisting everyone think as they do.

Every minute on Planet Earth, 100 people will die and 240 people will be born.

This continual population expansion is problematic. Wars are manufactured by covert global elitists who profit from bloody conflict in an attempt to curtail population growth and create a world that conforms to their vision of bliss.

Demanding conformity to your concept of wonderfulness by attempting to change the world, when you cannot even change yourself, is an exercise in futility.

The quest for bliss ends when you realize it was already within you, simply waiting to be freed from the fear of what you fear the most, which is fear.

Follow your heart and trust your soul -- it knows the way.

Quote for the Day – "Love all, trust a few, do wrong to none." Shakespeare

Bret Burquest is the author of 12 books. He lives in the Ozark Mountains with a few dogs and where Heaven on Earth is a state of mind.