Dale Says

May 26, 2009

Whirling Dervishes

Filed under: Travel — Dale @ 1:56 pm

During our recent trip to Turkey we were fortunate to see the Whirling Dervishes in the old Caravanserai of Sarihan in Cappadocia.  The building itself was built in the 13th century and originally served as a roadside inn where travelers on the Silk Road could rest and recover from the day’s journey.  It is now a cultural center where travelers gather to witness historical reinactments of this fascinating section of Turkey.
The Whirling Dervishes are a religious sect of the Islamic faith, called Sema, that have been around for hundreds of years.  They are located throughout the Middle East, and consist of young men who attempt to achieve spiritual connection with God.  They believe that the fundamental condition of our existence is to revolve, since everything in life revolves – from the planets around the sun, to electrons, protons, and neutrons within the atoms that make-up our basic structure.
The Sema ceremony consists of music, recitation of passages from the Qur’an, and a “dance” in which the performers turn in circles, rotating on their own axis and also moving in orbit. The performers are dressed in white, including long white skirts that flair as they twirl.  Their right hands are turned up (toward heaven), and their left hands are down turned (toward earth). One foot remains on the ground, and the other crosses it and propels the dancer around. The rising and falling of the right foot is kept constant by the inner rhythmic repetition of the name of “Allah-Al-lah, Al-lah…” 
Participants whirl steadily for around 10 minutes, then stop, rotate to the next position in the orbit, then start again.  Somehow, they do not lose their balance, or their position.    
The ceremony ends with a reading from the Qur’an. The dervishes complete their time together with the greeting of peace and then quietly depart.
This is a stiring ceremony, and the participants are very sincere.  We felt privileged to have witnessed it. 

May 13, 2009

On my birthday 2009

Filed under: On My Birthday — Dale @ 4:50 pm

On my birthday I’m 58 years old.  I started the day in Chicago, where I attended and spoke at the annual SCIP conference, and ended it at home in San Francisco.  It was an excellent birthday and a fitting end to an eventful year.

My life was coasting along smoothly through the spring and summer.  I was enjoying our cozy San Francisco home, my life with Patty, and my second career as a freelance writer.  We had three fabulous trips to Croatia, the Grand Canyon, and New Zealand, and we were enjoying the wonderful city we live in, hanging out with our friends and family, and spending time with my parents in Nebraska and friends in Oklahoma.  I was writing travel and human interest articles and doing consulting work in the financial services industry.

I was also closely following the historic U.S. presidential primary race between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton, which was in a virtual dead heat through most of the spring and summer.  I watched Obama eke out a narrow victory, then engage in three decisive debates with John McCain, the Republican candidate.  Their running mates (Joe Biden and Sarah Palin) also campaigned and debated and it looked like it was going to be a close election.

Then in the fall the wheels came off the U.S. economy.  Mortgage foreclosures, over-extended consumers and financial institutions, and reckless investments all came to a head in October and November and the U.S. stock market crashed, losing 50% of its value.  Consumer spending came to a halt.  The U.S. government intervened, a $700 billion stimulus bill was pushed through Congress, and several huge financial institutions were closed, sold, or merged into other large, wobbly banks.  Gone in a matter of a few weeks were household name institutions like Goldman Sachs, Merrill Lynch, Washington Mutual, and Wachovia.  The surviving organizations weren’t in much better shape, so the government began infusing massive amounts of money into them, to cover bad debts and encourage them to loan money to businesses and individuals.  For awhile, it appeared we might have another depression.  Instead, after the dust settled, it looks like we’re facing the worst recession since the 1930s.

My savings were cut in half in six weeks, my consulting work dried up, and I spent the holidays looking for work.

Barack Obama was elected in November and he immediately began putting together a massive economic stimulus plan, which he pushed through Congress shortly after he was inaugerated — in a wonderful, historic ceremony in January.

My cousin Terri told me about a group of freelance writers who were developing online training courses for hospitals and she invited me to join the effort, which I did in January.  I’ve been working pretty much full time for them since.

My father died in November, following a long-term struggle with Parkinsons.  His death, while not a surprise, was difficult.  I was shaken by the finalness of it and have had several occasions since when I wanted to tell him something, but am caught by his absence.  He led a good, full life and he is an example to me in many ways.  My mother is adjusting to Dad’s absence.  It’s hard for her, of course, after being with him constantly for 60 years, and I’m proud of the way all of my siblings are helping her.  I plan to continue to go to Chappell several times each year to spend time with her.

At this stage of my life I feel I’m on the brink – between youth and middle age, between becoming a successful writer and a retiree, and between just getting by and being fulfilled.  There are many complex and difficult challenges facing me, and I know that the way I deal with them will decide to a great extent how successful and happy I will be.

The San Francisco Chronicle this morning had a large advertising sticker plastered across its front page — partially obscurring the banner and lead news story.  The symbolism was significant, as U.S. newspapers are struggling, as they continue to have fewer advertisers and readers.  Readership is down across the U.S. as more people get their news online, and businesses are cutting their advertising budgets and shifting much of their remaining business to online sources, such as Craig’slist, which are siphoning off consumer advertising and switching it to the Internet.  By this time next year there might not be a printed newspaper in San Francisco and many other major U.S. cities.

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan continue to drain the U.S. of much-needed money and young men and women, and the wars are dividing the U.S.  Obama intends to withdraw all U.S. military from Iraq, but unfortunately they will be sent to Afghanistan.  The situation in Iraq seems to be a little more stable, but that’s small comfort after more than six years of war and the deaths of more than 100,000 Iraqis and 4,000 U.S. service men and women.

Technology still rules and the profound switch to online and wireless applications continues, despite the weak economy.  Communication, financial transactions, research, and social networking are now done mostly through the Internet.  Every day, new technology and applications appear to make things easier and faster, and everyone (especially the young) are embracing it.  Texting and social networking (through services like Facebook and Twitter) are used widely to locate others, communicate, campaign, purchase, and date.

“Green” is big and environmental awareness is popular.  Saving water, electricity, paper, etc. has become important and politicians, advitisers, etc. are quickly jumping on the “green” bandwagon. 

Consumer spending and corporate excesses are down.  Everyone is tightening their belts and preparing for what looks to be a lengthy economic downturn.  Many consumers have postphoned vacations, major purchases, and retirements.  The U.S. and other developed countries have encountered a major setback, and they are pulling in their horns and preparing for a major slow period.  Some countries, including the U.S., are projecting major budget deficits, which could have serious effects on future generations.

What started off as a great year ended as a somewhat troubling year.  Still, things are generally good, and my future is bright.  I will continue onward and will maintain a positive outlook.  Life at 58 is good.      

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