• Jill Hance Bakke

Changing Times

I was born in 1936, at a time when the Great Depression caused by the 1929 stock market crash and the Dust Bowl were still deeply impacting people’s lives. The banks followed the market’s crash. Unable to cover all the of their depositors’ funds, they closed their doors. People were financially destitute. The domino effect continued. Workplaces closed and workers had no paychecks. Unemployment insurance didn’t exist until 1935 when it became part of the Social Security Act.

Life has always had tumultuous times. There are no guarantees except change. Even before 1929 we see a long list of calamitous events, but I won’t go back to when the Revolutionary and Civil Wars were involved in. Let’s began wirh 1914 when WWI began and run through a quick timeline of turmoil in the USA. It might help those who feel so put upon and lost in the current Covid-19 situation.

The United States did not enter WW1 until 1917. It immediately established a draft to increase the number of our armed forces involved in the conflict. However, our involvement was short, ending in 1918 when a settlement was negotiated. But 1918 was not a peaceful year, the Spanish Flu pandemic swept across the globe and created over 650,000 estimated deaths in the United States alone. When we recovered from the Spanish Flu pandemic, we were faced with the internal conflict over women’s rights that had been simmering and finally burst into the open. This resulted in the 1920 passing of the 19th amendment which allowed women the right to vote.

The decade of 1920 continued to be a time of drastic culture changes. Some called it “a decade of dissipation, jazz bands, raccoon coats, and bathtub gin.” One description of the era was that “The decade witnessed a titanic struggle between an old and a new America. Immigration, race, alcohol, evolution, gender politics, and sexual morality all became major cultural battlefields during the 1920s. “Wets” battled “drys,” religious modernists battled religious fundamentalists, and urban ethnics battled the Ku Klux Klan. (http://www.digitalhistory.uh.edu/)

I don’t remember any of those events, but I have seen photos and read of the challenges that had to be faced, challenges far more demanding and crueler than the times we have been going through.

Then came the 1929 stock market crash that changed everything and the Dust Bowl or the Dirty 30s. The Dust Bowl devastated the ecology and agricultures of America and Canada. The Dust storms lasted only a decade, but the long-term economic effect hung on. Our country, still reeling from trauma of those events, entered the 1940s only to be shortly faces with entry into WWII after the Pearl Harbor attack in 1942. My personal recollections start with these events.

During WWII everything seemed to be rationed and supplies were limited. Shoes were rationed to one pair a year; gas and specific foods including meat were part of that rationing. I recall my grandparents hung hams in the cool room to age. We didn’t have real butter. We used a white concoction that looked like lard. The package contained a yellow-orange capsule to mix in to make us to think it was butter. It was named oleomargarine or oleo.

The government placed restrictions that made some people unhappy back than just as they have now. I lived on the East Coast, and we had to cover our windows at night with black shades and paint our car lights black so German submarines couldn’t see us as easily and make us a target. I was too young for fear then, and my family never exhibited any fear. But I do recall my grandfather leaning into the radio every night to listen to the eleven o’clock news before heading to bed.

Although WWII ended in 1945, it wasn’t until the 1950s that our lives began to bloom again. And some of the things we now take for granted didn’t come until decades after WWII ended. Medicaid and Medicare weren’t established until 1965. I mention these things only to give you a contrast to what we are facing with Covid-19. And to stress that there have always been BIG challenges and that it takes time to recover.

We’ve come a long way from those earlier periods in many areas. We have better health care and more resilient banking and stock market systems. We have felt the elation of putting a man on the moon and space explorations. Methods of communication have improved, but they also give us conflicting information. We don’t know who to believe half of the time. Our great unknowns are not like the ones people faced earlier. Even during the Cold War (1947-1991), Korean and Vietnam Wars, as well as events like Kennedy’s assassination, and the Bay of Pigs, we took life pretty much for granted. We felt we could change jobs, move into a new home, and get out of debt. Now because we have lost our roots in the soil of life, we think the world is ending.

Despite our problems, we live in an exciting time today. Yes. We do. And sometimes it is also scary because we can’t see the end, how it will affect us or our children. We are taking apart old systems that do not work, systems of how we treat others of a different race, religion, or who exist with a different sexual norm. We are being forced to look at our medical, educational, judicial, political and other systems. We are beginning to look at personal choices, what is important to us, what we need versus what we want. We are considering how to honor nature instead of raping it and are beginning to l search for inventions and ways to make these changes happen.

We question our religious beliefs and some people wonder how god could let this virus loose on us. Why isn’t he saving us? We pray and we tremble in fear. We don’t know how to handle it all. We act without conscious awareness, and thoughtless, which results in horrible actions occuring like riots that injure the innocent.

Some fear the end of the world. And, yes, it is the end of the world as we have known it. A new world is emerging and the thoughts of each of us will be the new world’s creator. But there is a warning here. Our thoughts are based upon our beliefs. We have to become open minded to embrace a new world. For some that will be impossible because it takes courage and deep searching which challenges our programmed beliefs. But those of us who are able can create a world that is hopefully filled with acceptance of one another, care for one another, peace, and equality. A world with honest politicians and businesses.

Quantum physics has shown us a lot about how things are created, how the universe reacts to our thoughts, and ways we manifest. To reach the goal for a better world, there is a series of steps that you need to remember. Your beliefs create your thoughts. Your thoughts create your emotions, which in turn produces hormones which affect your health—either creating disease or harmony in your body. This combination of belief to thought to hormones also leads to action, which affects those around you for better or worse. AND here is the big thing: those thoughts also affect the universe we live in. The universe we live in is created by the collective thoughts of all of us.

What do you want the new world to look and feel like? I mentioned some of what I wanted it to feel like. Here is what I want it to look like. I want the woods, waters, and all of nature respected, not raped and pillaged. We have the ability to replace many fossil fuels at this stage of our development. We have recognized the healing value of nature, but continually ignore it. I want people to build houses that fit their needs, not their egos, in order to provide space for everyone to grow and flourish. More green spaces in cities. Less pollution.

Yes, such desires are idealistic, possibly unattainable. But even small steps in that direction are valuable, wise, and worth the effort.

We are called to be part of this change. Start on your own doorstep. Nothing is small and inconsequential. Everything in our life has a message for us. And appreciation is something anyone can use to bring about change. Begin with uncluttering, giving away or selling what is no longer needed, and rearranging the rest. It is difficult to make big changes when our space or our life is a mess, so I usually tackle my own clutter first. Its improvement leads me to another step.

For example, I began by changing my office around. I replaced my computer desk with a big table, which I already owned, and placed the table and chair to look out the sliding glass door. The view from my desk now looks out into my backyard. The first thing I noticed was the breeze visiting me with cooling, fresh air through the screen door and then how the trees danced when the wind blew through them. Bringing in the soft breezes made me want to bring more of the outdoors close. One thing led to another.

I’d been feeding the birds over the past two years without giving the act much thought. In fact, I’d never been especially enamored by birds. In the winter, however, I’d sit at the dining room table with my first cup of coffee every morning and laugh at the actions of the blue jays and magpies as they squabbled over who got the peanuts. Come spring I’d sit outside and feel the breeze rustle my hair and the sun warm my face. In summer, however, we often ate on the deck and the seeds on the floor and chairs was not appealing. I did my usual, I stopped feeding the birds. Naturally, the birds stopped coming. Occasionally I’d hear one singing, and I realized I wanted to hear their trills more. I missed them.

The solution was simple enough. I bought a $39 swivel-arm rod that attached to the railing. I could then fill the feeder with ease and push it back where the seeds fell onto the ground instead of the deck. Then the magic appeared. I could sit at my desk, look out the tall narrow window to my left and see the birds and their antics as they fed. The different colored little birds lined up for the two perches and their jostling was enjoyable. But the big blue jay and his contortions while sitting on the tiny perch to get the seed out of the small feeder made me laugh.

My small step helped nature and gave me joy, and I began to look for other places to make my lot a refuge for the creatures that lived on our earth. I saw the home of a woodpecker among my trees. Found bees living in one of my old birdhouses, and discovered they loved the blossoms on a yellow shrub I had planted by my garage. You may consider these as little, inconsequential things. But I have discovered nothing in life is little or inconsequential. Everything we do has ramifications and affects others. And everything begins with our beliefs. My belief was nature had spirit and value of its own.

Not all thoughts that are created by our beliefs will lead to action, but regardless they will lead to change. Small steps by a number of people produced bigger results. Sometimes we will know what we want but not how to create it. Picturing the desired end result eventually brings the event into fruition. There is a warning in this though. Remember the old phrase our parents use to tell us, “Be careful what you wish for. You just might get it.”

The universe is neutral. It gives us what the collective thoughts of people want whether for good or bad. I am plagiarizing in the following example, as I can’t recall where I read it:

A specific town wanted industry so they would have jobs, and one specific man wanted a substantial income and power. Eventually a mill was built. The people were happy with their jobs and wages and the man with his profit. Then the other side of the coin began to show. People started getting sick with cancer and lung issues. The water was found to be polluted by the mill and the air quality had deteriorated.

It would have been wiser for people to be aware of their thoughts and let their focus be on a balanced and happy life that supported their needs and lifestyle.

As to the proverbial Garden of Eden, I believe it still exists and is available to us. God didn’t eject us. We ejected God. When our thoughts and wants turn only to our self, and we lack compassion, acceptance, gratitude, and love for all — not just those who are like us, who worship like us, feel like us, look like us — God is missing. But it isn’t by his choice. Now I use the term God here because that is one of the most common names we call whatever it is that created and ultimately governs us. Personally, I call him the Great Mystery. God actually has a thousand names: Allah, Jehovah, Creator, Supreme Being, Yahweh, Aba, First Cause, Ar-Rahman, etc. But there is only One, One from which we are all birthed. One which birthed our Earth and all her children, Earth’s siblings, the universes and their cosmos. We are all brothers and sisters and all One, like the cells in our bodies form one. We need to look at life with new eyes, new wonder, new love.

Mother Teresa’s words offer us a place to start, “I want you to be concerned about your next-door neighbor. Do you know your next-door neighbor?” Desmond Tutu said, “Do your little bit of good where you are; it’s those little bits of good put together that overwhelm the world.” And I love John Wooden’s statement, “Little things make big things happen.” All of us can do the little things. The Garden exists. It is in our midst. Do whatever is before you in kindness, consideration, gratitude, and love. How can we hate our neighbor, when our creator loves each and every one of us. Nothing is too small or inconsequential. We don’t have to rush off to some place or spend a lot of money. Create beauty where you can. Be kind to your fellowman. Grow some plants in your gardens for the butterflies and bees. Use less plastic. Open your heart and your eyes. Challenge your beliefs. And smile.

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