What are we chasing?

Warning: This posting includes some preaching!

It’s the holiday season, a time for celebrations, decorations and sharing good times. It is also the time for BUYING! That new Lexus you’ve always wanted is just a seventy-two month contract away. With just one click of a button, Amazon will deliver unbridled joy with delivery-free shipping. Duluth Trading Company can assure your “boys” will be snug and comfortable in their underwear.

I say to hell with the quote – “Moderation in everything, every thing in moderation.” Let’s stick with – “He who dies with the most toys wins.”

We remember that President George Bush told us one of the ways to counter the effects of the 911 attack was to go shopping. And it seems we took him up on that idea. We have taken that idea up in spades. Especially now that it’s soon to be Christmas.

We now have Black Friday,, Spend,Spend, Spend Saturday,,Shop till you drop Sunday,,More shit to buy Monday,,Trunk full of new junk Tuesday,,Wish I had more time to shop Wednesday and Thank God the stores stay open late Thursday.

Gandhi once said “The world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” I wonder how he would look at 2019 America?

In 2008, Alex Rodriguez signed a ten year contract with the New York Yankees for $275 million dollars. If you need that written out, it’s $275,000,000.00. That works out to only $75,342.47 per day. I can see why he needed to make a commercial that sells Planters peanuts. It’s hard to get buy on $75,000. a day.

We love to hate Jeff Bezos and his $110 billion net worth, yet we buy mega-millions lottery tickets and dream of what we’ll buy when we win the $500 million lottery.

Confession time! I’m guilty too. I may dream of living in a Thoreau style one room cabin in the woods, growing my green beans and squash; but I wouldn’t mind diving there in a new red Porsche Boxster. I also admit to owning more shirts than any five men could wear out in ten years. The question is why?

I’m reminded of a client I once saw in my counseling practice. He owned (as I recall) a 1956 Corvette and a 1965 Corvette. He lived in a beautiful home with his wife and children. He and his brother owned six successful sporting goods stores in two states. I asked him one day, when was it going to be enough. Nearly twenty years later, I still remember his answer – “I don’t know, but not yet.”

So now I end this tirade. What are we chasing? When will it be enough? I’ve lived far more years than I have in front of me. (I’m doubting I’ll live to be 142 years old). If I imagine lying on my death bed, I doubt that I will be saying – “I wish I had bought another shirt.” I hope I’m not saying – “It would have been better to earn more money than to enjoy my family, the beauty of nature and the joy of friendships.”

When I’m hiking in the desert and see a Red Tailed hawk fly, it brings a joy I can hardly imagine. When I talk to my grandson or granddaughter, it gives me grater hope for the future than any number in a bank account. When I count my blessings, they are about people I love, nature that brings me wonder and friends that make me smile and laugh.

“To have enough is perfection.” Marty Rubin

Go Well, David

I never saw my father dance

11-25-2019

Maybe it was the loss of his young wife. Genita was the love of his life. Maybe it was the drunk driver that took away his health, his ability to walk without crutches and left him with years of relentless pain. Perhaps it occurred before that. Maybe he never danced because he had seen the horror of what man is capable of doing in war. Eighteen is too young to go to war. But then again, is there any age appropriate for killing and dying. He never spoke about, so I’m not sure.

I do remember hearing him sing, I think it was singing, it wasn’t very good whatever it was. But that didn’t matter to me, it seemed that he was happy when he sang. I think he’d been happy before my mother died. The few pictures I have of them show smiles. He was dashing in his dress uniform, a marine, one of the proud few. He coached my Little League baseball team, and we won a lot of games. I still don’t know how he did it. He just had a knack for getting kids to do their best.

My dad loved my grandmother. Annie was her name; my mother’s mother. My dad used to take her a beer when we would visit. If I try hard enough, I can see them both in my mind’s eye, sitting, talking and laughing. He trusted my grandmother enough to let me live with her for two years. I know why he did, she was the most gentle, kind and loving human who ever lived. That’s not bias, that’s simply fact. She died at one hundred and three and I miss her still.

I was a bit older when my dad married my stepmother. She was a saint. She had to be to put up with my dad at that point. She stood beside him for endless hours a day; trying to make a small cafe work. After his sixteen-hour days, he would drink. Orange Vodka. Nasty shit. But Dorothy stood by him. My dad was proud of me when I told him I was ordered to go to war. Unlike his, mine was a war I didn’t believe in. He welcomed me home when I returned, and he was still proud of me.

I think it was sometime in October when I got the call. Liver cancer, not much could be done. I visited and we stayed up all night talking. The next day we went to the funeral home and he picked out the casket he wanted. He put a sign in the yard to sell all the junk he’d collected. A sickness sale he called it. We said goodbye after a nice Christmas together. I knew, and he knew it was our last goodbye. The hospice nurse said I would feel like an orphan when he died. She was right. Later I went to the little town in New Mexico and helped bury my father. I was given the flag that covered his casket.

A few months later, in the Spring, I got a message from my dad. It came in a warm wind that rustled the baby aspen leaves. He wanted me not to worry and to know that he was all right. It’s said that we die three times. When our body dies, when our soul leaves our body and when the last person forgets us. My father was not the kind of man that the masses will remember. My sons remember him, and they’ll probably be the last. Of course, I remember him. If asked to tell a lesson he taught me, I’d fail, I don’t remember a single lesson, and yet he taught me many lessons. I don’t know if he was a Democrat or a Republican. I don’t know if he believed in God or didn’t. I don’t know how the ravages of war affected him. My dad was not one to talk about himself. Yet he taught me what little I know about being a man.

I don’t know if he and my mother ever danced. I hope they did. I never saw my father dance. I wish I had.

Where were you when you made your decision?

10-25-2019

In his book We Are The Weather, Jonathan Safran Foer writes about his family facing the onslaught of Nazi Germany marching on Poland. He speaks of those who refused to leave the country and as a result, thousands died. He quotes Raymond Aron who was asked whether he knew what was happening at the time. He answered: “I knew , but I didn’t believe it, and because I didn’t believe it, I didn’t know.” On the surface, it sounds something like a riddle. Jan Karski, a 28 year old Catholic embarked on a mission to travel from Poland to America to inform world leaders of what the Germans were perpetrating. He had a meeting with Supreme Court Justice Felix Frankfurter ( A Jew) and reported the atrocities in Poland. After hearing the report, Frankfurter said the following: “I didn’t say the young man was lying. I said I am unable to believe him. My mind, my heart, are made in such a way that I cannot accept it.”

This is the way Foer begins his book regarding climate change. His contention is there are some issues that we know to be true and yet we cannot accept them. It is hard for a rational mind to not believe the 97% of the world’s most credible scientific minds that climate change is real and caused by mankind. Yet, we cannot accept it. One might argue that yes they do believe it and yes they do accept it. Foer then asks, what changes, what actions have you taken to back up both your belief and your acceptance.

Later in the book the author describes the cure for polio. He uses this explanation to suggest that there is a reason for individual action as well as proof of an outcome. President Roosevelt was instrumental in the development of a polio vaccine. He helped form the organization that became the March of Dimes. One recipient of that funding was Dr. Jonas Salk. He and his family were the first humans to test his vaccine, next came a clinical trial of nearly two million people. Elvis Presley was photographed getting his shot to promote vaccination. Soon polio was completely eradicated. Foer describes this medical success came about as a result of top-down publicity campaigns and grassroots advocacy. Without the efforts of all, it would not have happened. He ends the chapter with these words – “Who cured polio? No one did. Everyone did.”

So to the point of this writing. If I fall within the lifespan statistics for a male in the United States, I can expect to live about 8 to 10 more years. Sometime between 2027 and 2029. My two sons can expect 30 to 40 more years of life. Sometime between 2049 and 2059. The lives of my two grandchildren should extend somewhere between 2085 and 2089. The best information of the climate scientists suggests without massive worldwide changes, our planet will see the following, long before these years: 143 million people may become climate migrants. Armed conflict will increase by 40 % because of climate change. 400 million people will suffer from water scarcity. Half of all animal species will face extinction. Crops yields will be reduced by 6 to 18 %. Global GDP per capital will drop by an estimated 13%. That is only the beginning of of the list.

So what shall we do? Will we believe the facts but not accept them? Will we simply choose to accept that climate change is “A hoax perpetrated by China.” Say, “What can I do, I’m only one person?”

A good friend of mine says that he always tries to “be responsible for his side of the sidewalk.” By that he means, he does his part. And like the cure of polio, saving this planet will only be accomplished if each of us decides to do our part.

I wonder if our children will ask us, “Where were you when you made your decision?”

“Men Argue. Nature acts.” Voltaire

Go well. David

Great ?

Make America Great Again

What Makes America Great

Great Compassion

Great Wealth

Great Diversity

Great Trust

Great Lies

Great Foes

Great Allies

Keep America Great

Is America Great

Great Truth

Great Democracy

Great Monarchy

Great Future

Great Disaster

Great Legacy

“There is no greatness where there is no simplicity, goodness and truth.” Leo Tolstoy

Who and what shall we be?

Go well, David

The Need for Beauty

10-8-2019

We have news blaring at us twenty-four hours a day. 24 hours – 1440 minutes – 86,400 seconds every day – NEWS. I am not sure about others, but there are times (growing more often every day) when I need to see and hear something beautiful. Some days it is the magnificent and effortless soaring of a turkey vulture. A bird with the looks that only a mother could love, has the graceful flight of an angel. To see him or her fly is to see an animal in it’s perfect glory. Riding the thermals ever higher, it is a sight to behold.

And then there is music. I’m not sure one could do any better than to sit quietly and hear the penetrating rhythms of Domenico Scarlatti’s Sonata K322 played on guitar. If that is not to your taste, try Van Morrison’s Into the Mystic, or an old Hank Williams rendition of Hey Good Lookin‘. It really doesn’t matter your choice in music, what’s important is that we stop and exchange the sounds of loud motorcycles, yelling neighbors and the blaring horns of irritated drivers for the wonder of music. Music can, and does take us all around the planet. You can meet the genius of Mozart, Freddie Mercury or colorful Mexican Mariachis with the push of a button.

What’s in your backyard, or the home across the street, or the desert path two miles from your front door? Do yourself a favor, stop and focus on the structure of the next flower you see. Look at its petals, the tiny center and color. Does it smell good. Is it soft? As you look at it, is it possible to frown? Here in Tucson we see magnificent blooming cactus flowers. Bold reds, bright yellows and creamy white blossoms are on full display much of the year. The smallest flowers (some call weeds) can grow and thrive in the hardest, most rocky desert soil. Could you do that? What grows near you?

What about books? What is the last great book you have read? Did you fall in love with a character? Did the author have you so spellbound you couldn’t put the book down until the last two words were – The End? How many people have you told that you loved Educated, or maybe it was The Grapes of Wrath or was it the latest Harry Potter book? Would you rather have dinner with Emily Dickinson, John O’Donohue or Barbara Kingsolver? Perhaps you prefer poetry, science fiction, or something so clever and funny it makes you linger in the bathtub (my favorite reading spot) until you finish the next chapter. Take a trip anywhere in the world, its just a short trip to your library.

How often do you go and spend time outdoors? When was the last scarlet sunset that took away your breath? When were you last up early enough to see the sun come up over the mountains or across the ocean? When was the last time you walked into the desert, mountains, plains, woods or canyon and listened as the silence of nothing grew louder and louder? Treat yourself soon if your answer was, “I don’t remember.” Say hello to a spiny lizard, a small bunny hopping to get away from you, or bumblebee as it goes about it’s business. Pick a wild flower and give it to someone you love. Thank whatever you believe in for the moment you have solely for yourself. It’s yours alone, just for that brief moment.

Find whatever is beautiful for you. Enjoy that beauty and then do it again and again and again.

“Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.” Confucius

Go Well, David

A sweet, strong smell of truth

9-19-2019

I had just finished a short biography of John Steinbeck and was tired and sleepy. It didn’t take me long to fall asleep and seemed only moments until I felt the soft tapping on my shoulder. “Wake up, let’s talk.” I looked up, bleary eyed and looked into the face of an older and tired looking man. I instantly recognized his sensitive blue eyes and neatly trimmed mustache. “John? John Steinbeck?”

“Let’s talk. Look I know you think you know something about me. But you don’t. I haven’t quite figured it out myself out , much less you doing it. And you need to do something.” He waited as I knuckled the sleep out of my eyes. “First of all, take me down from the pedestal, I didn’t ask to be put there and I don’t want to be there, it’s both boring and tiring. Second, stop trying to think you want to be me, start being who you are.”

“But I want to be a better writer.” My words sounded pathetic even to me.

“So you’re going to whine about it or are you going to do something about it?”

“I’m not sure how.”

He looked across the dark bedroom and out at the darkness of the sky. “You want some magic formula, you want some quick action pill? Maybe you want God to reach down and fill you with the magic. How about you get off your tired ass and go about doing the work of getting better.”

“But I remember what you once wrote about wanting to be better. What did you do to get better, to become John Steinbeck?”

Again another look of disgust. “I was always John Steinbeck. I just had to trust myself.” He paused and then added, “and I worked my ass off to be better.”

Then he was gone. I was alone in my dark bedroom. I turned on the lamp, picked up the biography I’d just finished and reread the last two pages. He had written about the development of American Literature and compared some of our great authors to the ancient greats. I got to the line that had stopped me cold. The message of his writing was clear. He compared our countries greats to other greats and concluded – “… like them, it has the sweet, strong smell of truth.” And then I knew the answer.

The Nobel Committee said this about Steinbeck’s writing, and why he won the Prize for Literature. – “For his realistic and imaginative writings, combining as they do sympathetic humour and keen social perception.”

Words once written by John Steinbeck regarding his self-doubts. “Wish to God I could learn to write as I would like to write. I fall so damn short every time. But I’ll keep plugging and damn it – one day I’ll maybe turn up something.”

Go Well, David

Tara and Hound Dog Taylor

9-03-2019

If you do only one thing for yourself this month, let if be reading Educated by Tara Westover. It is a wonder filled book written by a lady that was raised in Southeast Idaho by a survivalist family. Tara’s father, a man possessed by his faith, mental illness and unyielding fear and hatred of the government. Her brother brutal and abusive. Home schooling consisted of helping her mother concoct healing oils and working in her father’s scrap business. No birth certificate was issued as an effort by her family to never allow the government to know of her existence.

Tara was born at home and never attended school until she was seventeen years old. Destined to live the same isolated life as her parents, she decided she wanted something different. Her break from her solitary and abusive life came after self-study and admission to Brigham Young University. After graduating from BYU, Tara went to Trinity College, Cambridge where she earned a MPihil, then on to Harvard University as a visiting fellow and back to Cambridge to earn her PhD in 2014.

Although Tara’s march through a world class education is impressive, her real story is her ability find the courage and means to resist a predestined life. This young woman fought against all obstacles to become not only a scholar, but more importantly a strong, independent and healthy human. Her story is an amazing example of a human beings ability to overcome almost any difficulty to become what they wish to be.

It’s a beautiful book, please read it.

Hound Dog Taylor was born in Natchez, Mississippi on April 12, 1915 and died December 17, 1075. A true Blues Man who played boogie like no other. He said this about his music – “When I die they’ll say he couldn’t play shit, but he sure made it sound good.” That was the Hound Dog. He always played cheap Japanese guitars, his records are rough, raw and rowdy. But how they make you smile.

Hound dog was not your usual man. He was born with six fingers on each hand (known as polydactyly). The extra digits were rudimentary nubbins and could not be moved. One night, while drunk, he cut off the extra digit on his right hand using a straight razor. That incident doesn’t suggest the joy his music brings to me. When I’m down, one song by the Dog can raise me up. As he said as an introduction to one of his songs – “Me and BB King used to drive tractors down in Enola, but come every Saturday night, we used to have some fun, brother!” I’ve never been to Enola, and I never heard Hound Dog play live, but when I hear his music, I have some fun, brother.

Do yourself two favors, read Educated and listen to Hound Dog Taylor.

“Through perseverance many people win success out of what seemed destined to be certain failure.” Benjamin Disraeli

Go well, David