Wednesday, July 22, 2009

They Just Don't ...

Time once again for Mama Kat's Writer's Challenge. This week the prompts are:
1.) They just don't make (fill in the blank) like they used to!
(inspired by Roxanne)

2.) If you had the time and money...what charity would you help raise awareness for?
(inspired by here to enter her raffle)

3.) What are YOU giddy about?
(inspired by Heather)

4.)What's on YOUR little kids list?
(inspired by Ashley)

5.)Describe what brought you closer to your faith.
(inspired by Emily)

My responses:

#1 - They just don't make summers like they used to.

I can remember when summer lasted forever and featured all sorts of new and exciting things to do. It went on so long that you thought it would never end. And even though you had a vague concept of just how far away tomorrow was, it seemed like forever. If an adult told you "Not today, maybe we can go tomorrow.", you just knew that tomorrow would never come. If the fishing trip was "next Friday", that was so far in the future that you couldn't bear to wait, even if it was Thursday already.

Then there were the timeless pleasures. Awesome events like sneaking off to a shady spot with a new book from the library and reading it straight through from cover to cover without interruption.  (That was why you snuck off to the shade of a tree away from the house - because otherwise you might get tagged for chores if someone spotted you.) You spent the afternoon lost in vivid imagery as your imagination caught fire with each word your devoured.  You remember that timeless feeling when each glance at the sky featured whole new armies of knights and dragons and aliens and machines and spaceships and ...

Maybe it's not summer that has changed, but our grownup lives. I would love to go back to those endless summers of youth, those times when it seemed that the world could never move fast enough to fit our dreams and ambitions. Those times when little pleasures meant so much.

#2 - I find this to be a hard question because there are clearly so many good charities to support and so many needs to be met. Let me begin by dividing the charities into two classes: those that respond to unforseen need and hazard and those designed to handle specific diseases and their effects. In the first class I place groups like the Red Cross and Salvation Army, etc. In the second group I place groups like the American Cancer Society and the March of Dimes, etc.

I think that if I had time and money, I would spend it encouraging basic research so that we might have a hope of solving *all* the problems and curing *all* the ills. So I'd give some amount to the Salvation Army since they seem to me to be the most effective of the first class of charities. But the bulk of my money and time would go to support of fundamental research. It makes so much more sense to me to support fundamental research that may be applicable to thousands of diseases as opposed to squandering our efforts across the myriad of causes, trying to address each one individually, turning each into a popularity contest for funding (and hopefully results). Not to mention, the track record of issue specific efforts has been pretty spotty in the last couple of centuries. Emotionally it is certainly more satisfying to give to the cause that pulls the most heart strings. But realistically, basic science and research wins everytime. So I'd have to go with supporting basic research in general since I am not a fan of the disease-of-the-day causes,

#3 - Nothing. Call it a symptom of getting older, but I don't find myself giddy over many things. Of course given that I am a famed curmudgeon, it might just be that I am not prone to giddiness.

#4 - Since I have no little kids anymore, I going to assume you meant what is on my own inner kid list. I.e. the toys for grown boys that I would like. The problem is that the toy I'd really like still hasn't been made. I suspect it will be another decade or so before it arrives.

What is it you ask? Well picture a box the size of your cell phone with the computing power of a massive server farm, a holographic pop up display as large as you want, full surround projective sound, with direct voice command input. It would function as communications device, computing device, calendar, datebook, movie shower (in real 3d), etc. When one of those hits the market, I hope it hits a toy store near me. Oh, and I almost forgot - it should have a battery life measured in weeks or months under continuous usage.

 #5 - My faith is a bit eclectic to start with. I am a Methodist with a touch of rationalist and even a skosh of secular humanist thrown in. So I don't necessarily think that the things that bring me closer to my faith will have much meaning to others. If I had to chose one thing that builds my faith, it would be the diversity of the world. Just the fact that life itself is so chaotic and random seems to me to be a sign of something interesting going on.

One of the outcomes of my eclectic faith is that I believe it is good to explore all faiths and integrate the larger whole. To that end I often talk to clergy of various faiths and ask hypothetical questions. One of the answers I got from a clergyman who is now bishop made a great impression on me. The question I asked this man was "How will you react if when you die and get to heaven it isn't the God of your religion sitting on the throne?" So if you were a Christian cleric, what if it was Buddha sitting on the throne. And the answer he gave? "Since I'd arrived at a heaven, I would assume the gist of my version had been correct. Then I'd point out that all the worlds great religions are basically the same. We all have a moral code for living a meaningful life, we all value human life as being precious to our creator, and we all teach the treating of our fellow man with kindness and respect." I thought that was one of the best possible answers to the question. I'm still waiting to pose a similar question to an imam. The answer should be illuminating.


  1. I love all your blog posts, I just never have the time to comment on everyone but since you are the first, I am commenting!

  2. Dan,
    Since I'm among the chronically unemployed, I have summers off. As an adult, it's not at all like it was during childhood. Now I find myself counting the days until school starts, so I get my real "vacation" when The Boy goes back to the classroom.

    And I love your description about sneaking off to read. During the school year, I used to make up "book report assignments" so I could read and get out of chores.

  3. Don't know why, but I always just take on one of the prompts. Good for you to take them all on.

    I tend to find myself more eclectic as well. I too am a Methodist, but with Zen tendencies, so I usually view the world as a whole and try to figure out how it works.

  4. I agree with you take on summer ... it was an endless pleasure vacation when I was a kid. I'm trying to make it so for my son...but I can't tell if he is feeling the magic. But he tells me he doesn't want to grow up and be a big person because they don't have as much fun so I think he is getting it!

  5. Ahhhh summer. Lately it's been more work than enjoyment for me. I feel like I'm referring a WWF tournament. LOL

  6. It was not long ago that I told a friend how summers lasted forever when we were young. We didn't have the time element in our lives. Now, things move so quickly and time seems to click a little faster, even as we watch the clock or try not to. This is the second time I've read about the Writer's Challenge. Will have to check it out. Thanks for the link.

  7. Your response to Prompt #1 is nothing short of brilliant. How I miss feeling that way! It seemed like time was slow and now time passes so quickly it makes me dizzy.

  8. Hello Dan, I'm new to the prompts and I thought I'd check you out!

    I have to agree here with the summers... I am currently unemployed and a stay at home wife, soon to be a full time stay at home mom. Even when you have nothing to do regularly, like working, the complete joy is gone from finding a shady spot and reading a good book. Perhaps it's that the books are more real life (no spaceships or babysitters club) or perhaps it's because I personally always drift off and start thinking of the grocery list, or laundry to be folded. Ahh, to go back to simple summers would be grand! Great post.

  9. You are so right about summer. I always anticipate great things in spring and can't wait. . .then it's a crazy chaotic blur with a distinct lack of carefree fun in the end. I don't even think my kids have the kind of fun I had. I just want to yell, "Jeez-- go outside already and have FUN! Enough with the electronics!"

  10. Yay for grown-up toys. And I agree, summer just isn't the same. Is it society? Is it with age? Or is it just the way life is? I remember summers feeling impossibly long too. But I think it was meant to be because by the end of summer, we looked forward to the start of school. Now that there is no beginning or end to work, the seasons just fly by and blur.

  11. I don't know Dan, I'd say you get pretty giddy about your colorful Hawaiian shirts!

    And yes indeedy, summers are nothing like what they used to be. Those were the days of glory!

  12. I always hated those darn Country Time Lemonade commercials that would say "Only 20 more days of summer left". I hated those things. Why are you trying to rush summer! Now it seems like no sooner school lets out and it's time to send them back.

    Maybe it's because for me summer isn't fun and games and sleeping in anymore. Maybe it's because now that I'm a "grown up" it's just another day in another month that just happens to be warmer.

  13. Wow! What an array of answers from you today!! When I was little my parents would take us to a lake where we'd spend the whole day. Man...those were the days.

    No way am I doing that with my kids...they'd be whining the entire time.

    I remember back in the day when kids weren't so whiny. There was a time...wasn't there??

  14. All encompassing and very great answers this week.

    I love how you wrote about summer. Weren't they magical days when we were young. I hope Kaishon and Naji are having a summer full of magical days like that. Sometimes I get so caught up in work that I forget that these days need to be magical for the kids.


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