6 Degrees Sampler

6 Degrees Sampler
Reading 6 Degrees & finding connections!

6 Degrees has always been about looking for connections in everyday lives. Whether it is in films and popular culture, news items and current topics, food and health issues or looking for things to boost your mood and just brighten up your day! All of these topics can find connections with the fast-paced life we lead when we stop and look for them.

Here are some samples of favorites from past blog posts, from books and essays from the 6 Degrees Writer. Here’s hoping that you will find connections too!

My Grandmother's Shakespeare
Book of Short Stories and essays from the 6 Degrees Writer

My Grandmother’s Shakespeare

For years after her death, my grandfather kept her house the way it had always been during their years together. He lived alone amid her scratched recordings of opera plus two modest bookcases that held books of art, classic literature, and the prized Shakespeare collection. I was always curious about the books, but they were shelved in the room where my grandfather rocked as he sat sentinel with his wine and his TV. It was not until he died and the house was finally shut down and made ready for sale that the books were given to me, and for the first time, I really met my grandmother face to face. Even though I knew her modest collection was symbolic of a forgotten era, she suddenly came alive to me there amid those small, penned notes in the margins of Shakespeare’s dusty, tattered, leather-bound masterpieces.

For me, those books held a fascinating appeal. They begged questions I longed to ask of her. What was she like, my grandmother? What did she think about? Did she immerse herself in the classical world of Shakespeare to forget about her life? Did she ever draw parallels in the Shakespearean classics with the characters she knew and lived with?

I think she did. I believe that she would have needed to find a bolt-hole—a refuge from the drudgery of keeping house for four children and the uncertainty and pain of life with an alcoholic husband. Men or women imprisoned by life must find an outlet for their souls. That need for an outlet is part of an enduring and inescapable truth in human existence. We are not made up of flesh and liquid merely to exist here. We are meant for greater things.

We are souls in need of creative expression and immortal salvation. There are ways and ways to find salvation, and if my grandmother’s notes are correct, Shakespeare appears to be one of them.

I believe we are simpatico, my grandmother and I, and we share a bond that can never be broken. We are both part of the fragile lineage of humans who need to live outside ourselves for a time in a place where there are no boundaries, countries, races, genders, or meaningless platitudes. That place exists in a world apart. The creative mind invents this new world of art for all dreamers, lovers, and explorers. My grandmother’s Shakespeare taught me that boundaries are limitless in this brave new world. It is where the mind leads us when we are forced at times to work in a colorless void or to live in solitude. If my quest has taught me anything, it is the simple truth that our minds are windows to our souls. My grandmother’s Shakespeare has shown me that the only way true freedom is found in this world is when we open our hearts and find the courage to follow our dreams.

Florida Beach Cottages

An Excerpt from “My Grandmother’s Shakespeare”

The oddest thing about the beach cottages is that some of the old ones are still there. They still exist at the seaside as you drive down the beach and look at high-rises that float above the horizon. As you are driving by, the impersonal landscapes and gated areas tend to make you feel very small and insignificant, especially when you think about the number of people sandwiched into an average condominium at the beach.

But the beach cottage was unique and individual and existed as a stand alone that was your very own beach getaway.  It was created to be unique and accessible.  The cottages were not like the indifferent cookie cutter condo sets that you now see littered down the highway just as far as the untrained eye can see.

The beach cottage was a place where it was hot and there was sand and grime.  The grittiness of the sand was felt beneath your feet and you never cared about being too clean while staying at the cottage.  It was meant for you to crunch in sand as you walked and ate and slept and read.

The weird thing was that no one seemed to mind the fact that there was the crunch of sand in your sandwiches as you stayed at the cottage. Perhaps because the food was something that you could not get at a fast food joint, but instead was fixed as you stayed right there on the beach.

You would make your sandwich while the overhead fan blew everything about and the jalousie windows were open and they conspired to announce to all and sundry what you were fixing.  You came to stay on the beach when you went to the beach in those days.

Now when we go, we look out a window from an air conditioned view. Air conditioning has changed the landscape.  It has changed the fabric of our lives and it has changed us.  Not always for the better, I might add.

The beach cottage did have units of conditioned air, but they didn’t control our lives. There were usually one or two wall units small enough to fit in the windows.  They rattled like mad and one could switch them on or off at will.  We controlled the units then, but automatic air can control us at a constant rate now. Oh, we talk a good game and everyone will admit to loving the air-conditioned way of life.  But we are the ones that are “conditioned”—not the air—and that’s a sad fact.

I have an uncle who used to swear he hated air-conditioning.  I didn’t know what he meant and couldn’t possibly fathom anyone hating a/c, but now that I am older, I know what he meant. I, too, would love to be able to say I hate air-conditioning.  But I am as much a slave as are we all to that unit that blows through our lives and controls and conditions our every waking moment.

We have seen the enemy and it is us.  We are doing this to ourselves when we live in the splendid isolation of the bubble.  We are all losing bits and pieces of our lives when we live indoors to the extent that we do now. The a/c and the confining nature of our surroundings have changed us into something other than primal man.  What then do you suppose will evolve from all this cozy nesting that we are doing?

Bears hibernate in winter and come out for the spring air.  But we simply cocoon our lives away.  Video games, I suppose, are going to be our legacy.  But in a different era, beach cottages were open to the elements of earth and wind and sun and water.  Something happened along the way, but at one time we could return to nature by the seashore.

The truth is sad that we cannot go home again.  At least, not back to the simpler lives that we lived when we were young.  Now every portion of our lives is lived in the fast lane. Everything is accelerated and sped up to the extent that no one is ever alone and one is always isolated at the same time. How did that happen?

How did we begin to live in such a bubble of isolation? We seem trapped in the room that Stanley Kubrick isolates his spaceman in at the end of 2001.  Our lives seem to parallel a movie where we hurtle through space and time in an exciting vortex of events that all converge on one single point of remembrance to find us back in an isolated room that is completely quiet and devoid of life and filled with antiseptic white colors.  That has become the existence of “future man” if we are not careful. Perhaps, like Scrooge, we may avoid such a fate if we learn to live outside the ever-expanding vortex of isolation that cocoons us.

Recent trips to the beach are reminiscent of growing up and loving the beach condo-not a bungalow-that my family owned for many years. Although it wasn’t satisfactory in every way, it served its purpose and was a throwback to the past as it was built in the fifties. So in some ways its very nature was that of a simple and un-fussy old-time beach bungalow. The down sides were many. We couldn’t bring our dogs along—no dogs allowed—and you had to travel downstairs to sink your toes in the sand.

But there was the view. And there were rushing waves at night as you sat on the enclosed balcony. And there was a pool and lots of privacy and exclusivity from the run of the mill machinations involved in parking your steaming car and carrying loads of debris to run up to a sandy spot on the beach and park yourself for hours on end. This was far superior. And there were the long walks in the sand. We were located next to a strip of houses where wealthy residents dwelled in big beach houses. This meant that for long stretches of the year, no crowds of people resided there and large pockets of tourists were not forcing you to run the gauntlet through the crowds on the beach. It was exclusive in that respect.

Now we are going to the beach less and less. There is not even a beach condo, and my last trip found me bumped to a Penthouse suite for reason of faulty plumbing in the lesser room with a view. So we were sent up high to gaze down amidst the clouds and an occasional bird as it floated past. And the sunsets were as beautiful and the people were like small dolls. And oddly, you could still feel connected by the music that floated up on a wave of beer and reggae as you sat and looked out at night on the old familiar views of sea and lights turning on.

But we are too remote and removed in this place. It seemed too high up and there were too many people on the beach as you walked amongst the crowds. So there is no satisfaction in a return trip to the sea. The sea is for gazing and for reflection. It is not for crowds, nor is it for far removed ocean views high up above the clouds. There is less pleasure mixed with some satisfaction from gazing so far down onto the beach.  Is this where we will be? Looking down on creation from the world of Metropolis, so far removed in the bubble where there are two classes of people in the world?

Someone recently predicted that we will live in a world where only wealthy elites will be able to have the privilege of ownership of houses. The rest of us will rent, I suppose. There is this thought. The ownership class of elites will be comprised of those owning houses as opposed to homes, and the rest of the world will be lesser for that.

If anyone has ever read “Gift from the Sea,” you will understand first of all the beautiful writing. The second impression is one of isolation of class and wealth and beauty. A woman with time on her hands can contemplate the many days it takes to unwind on vacation at the beach. The gift of the sea is the chance to unwind.

One of our society’s ways of unwinding these days is through meditation. In moments of time that stretched out days and weeks for Anne Morrow Lindbergh, they now become just seconds and hours stolen away in our world. The modern world often doesn’t translate to the beach life.  But then, we are so far away from our past that time sometimes turns a circle in our modern minds and we are back to childhood. In fact it’s only a moment away, and there one can picture the type of life that has slipped away from us.  In our instantaneous world of electronic gizmo’s and Jing Tinglers and Flu Floopers and all the other imagined things we propose to need so badly, we cannot fathom the life Lindbergh led for weeks on end. She sat and wrote and contemplated, perhaps her navel or other things, but she allowed herself to simply exist. That luxury is not afforded us.

We can’t live without our things and yet we can’t live in the same old way when we use all our “things.” A young girl I knew scrambled frantically for her cell phone in the car one day the same way our dog roots for its bone. The cell phone had slipped through a crack in the seat, and she was pathetically desperate to recover her life-line. We are hunter-gatherers, and we are hunting and gathering the wrong things. That is the result of the modern age of information. Almost all of us are armed for intelligent conversation and yet hardly any of that is on display. It is all going to be information stored away and available at our fingertips, yet none of it is ever questioned or needed.

We need to begin asking the right questions. Take for example, Watson, the super computer that played his heart out on Jeopardy.  Let’s ask Watson this:  Is mankind capable of continued existence on this planet? For how much longer are we going to be able to subsist and what is out future going to be like? Are we ever going to be happy?

What is the meaning of life? Were we sent here to help each other and to advance in science and technology to the point where we don’t need each other? What about God? How do we find our true selves and how do we advance our existence to a higher plane?

How can we truly learn to love one another? To be continued for another space and time, I think he will say. And then we may decide it’s time to return to the sea.


What I Like About You

The things I love about alcoholics and drug addicts, and all who fall into the category of substance-abusers is this; their honesty is humbling to me. They are at times laid bare in their pain and their purely beautiful naked souls are exposed for the world to see.

And there am I, a pathetic creature of habits and deeds, so tied to my fears and love of habitual societal norms, plus the comforts of home, that I begin to despise my own lack of innate trust and childlike innocence. It’s that loss of perception where you cocoon yourself and mask all your innermost thoughts and feelings that makes you feel smugly superior owing to your sense of control. It’s that control that covers all the elements of your life.

The irony? All those elements of your life are mostly out of your control. Nothing but manifest destiny lies before us, and we need to tell ourselves daily lies to subsist. It’s that daily lie that Horace Greeley made us believe. It says that if we work hard enough and play by the rules we shall overcome. It’s pure B.S. as are most of the other cynical lies we live and die by.

What I like about addicts is that they are stripped bare of the lies and the artifice at times. At times their lives are laid raw and open for all of us to see. They expose themselves for a time and the world may see them for what they are. They are childlike creatures.

I know they are many other things. They are selfish and shallow, unthinking and uncaring. They focus purely on the thrill of the moment, and not on the long-term consequences. But they are childlike and trusting liars all. They live by the Code of Addicts, which has no code. It’s all for one and one for one only.

We see ourselves as superior beings, but in the light of day, our judgments will be measured by the same jury of one. We are all stripped bare of the lies we tell ourselves and of the artifice of our lives. These things that are self-evident will hold true. We must forgive the addicts among us. For they are part of the society that bred and raised them. We must own up and accept their sins and failings. They are always with us and they walk among us now. We are them and they are us. They are our friends and lovers, our children and parents. Their failings are our own.

At the end of our lives, our souls are laid open with all our lies exposed. That is why we can never judge the addicted and tormented souls that walk amongst us. We can look in the mirror each day and decide to keep it in or to let it go. In the end, the decision will be out of our hands. We must let go of the rage and terror and frustration we feel and learn to simply hate the sin and love the sinner.

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