* Dear Pagan bloggers, writers, and tweeters: Now please go through what you just wrote and replace the word “faith” with the word “religion” every time that you can. Thank you; you have just practiced good framing.
* I’ve long agreed with Muriel Rukeyser that the world is made of stories, not of atoms. And I agree with the axiom that there are really only two stories in the world: (1) a stranger comes to town and (2) someone goes on a journey. And those are really the same story told from different viewpoints. I often find a startling commonality between the stories of vastly different cultures. Strega Nonna and Taliesien: same story. Here’s the grieving goddess, hidden away, and drawn from her grief by an irreverant old woman doing a bawdy dance. Isis in Egypt, Demeter in Greece, Amaterasu in Japan. And if Jung was even close to correct about archetypes, it stands to reason that most cultures will have a story about, for instance, the king disguised as a beggar. But a new study says that:
If folk tales simply spread by diffusion, like ink blots in paper, one would expect to see smooth gradients in these variations as a function of distance. Instead, researchers found that language differences between cultures create significant barriers to that diffusion.
These barriers are stronger than those for the exchange of genes — a message that might be crudely expressed as: “I’ll sleep with you, but I prefer my stories to yours.”
What do you think? What stories keep showing up for you?
We need an across the board increase in Social Security retirement benefits of 20% or more. We need it to happen right now, even if that means raising taxes on high incomes or removing the salary cap in Social Security taxes.
Over the past few decades, employees fortunate enough to have employer-based retirement benefits have been shifted from defined benefit plans to defined contribution plans. We are now seeing the results of that grand experiment, and they are frightening. Recent and near-retirees, the first major cohort of the 401(k) era, do not have nearly enough in retirement savings to even come close to maintaining their current lifestyles.
Frankly, that’s an optimistic way of putting it. Let me be alarmist for a moment, because the fact is the numbers are truly alarming. We should be worried that large numbers of people nearing retirement will be unable to keep their homes or continue to pay their rent.
According to the Center for Retirement Research at Boston College, the median household retirement account balance in 2010 for workers between the ages of 55-64 was just $120,000. For people expecting to retire at around age 65, and to live for another 15 years or more, this will provide for only a trivial supplement to Social Security benefits.
And that’s for people who actually have a retirement account of some kind. A third of households do not. For these people, their sole retirement income, aside from potential aid from friends and family, comes from Social Security, for which the current average monthly benefit is $1,230.
* I cannot tell you how happy it makes me that Richard Blanco, the poet who wrote the poem for President Obama’s Inauguration, is on the local planning board of his small town in Maine. We need more poets on planning boards!!! I think Wendell Berry would approve. Here’s Blanco, talking about poetry:
I always say poetry is the only job in the world that when someone says, “You made me cry,” you say, “Thank you.” To be genuinely moved by the poem is the most incredible honor. … I always say the poem is a mirror; both the poet and the reader are standing and looking at [it]— that sense of how they can connect emotionally to their own lives, which is where the crying, or the being moved, comes in. That would be a great compliment if someone said, “You made me cry.”
* Speaking of stories, here’s one of my favorites for late winter:
Every culture has a similar story, I think. (OK, the Scandanavian elves are, I admit, more prone to existential riddles. It’s all those long dark nights.)
Picture (and recipe) found here.