My reverence and gratitude

 

We owe gratitude and service to these marvelous people.

We owe gratitude and service to these marvelous people.

Yvette and I watched the 4th of July parade in Huntington Beach, California, as we have for many years. This year’s parade touched me deeply. This photograph shows wounded veterans presenting themselves with pride and courage. The crowd stood, applauded, and shouted cheers of encouragement. May we send people into harm’s way with great reluctance, and may we express our gratitude to those who have served us at their great expense.

God bless.

Are you a man or are you a boy?

Guest Post by Alan Landry

Alan

Alan Landry

What does it mean to be a man?  What is a man?  What is a boy? What is the difference?

These questions are the center of the argument. Are you a man or are you a boy? I don’t care how old or how young you are. I have known old boys and young men.

So what is the difference? It lies in the perspective you choose. Here are some thoughts I would like to share with you as you think about the messages across this blog space.

The journey from boyhood to manhood

We are born to our mothers and we grow to meet our future, each of us a unique creation along a unique journey.  Somewhere along the way we make the decision to embrace mature adult behavior, or not. We become responsible for our decisions, or not.

We accept that for every action we choose, there are consequences. And we accept that we, not “they”, are responsible for our behaviors. We realize that there are consequences to what we do, and do not do, and we accept them without complaint. Or so it is supposed to be.

We all know others, children and adults, who spend their days reflecting on what a rotten hand they have been given, blaming everything and everybody for the failures they repeatedly experience. Their lives hang on the phrase “If only I had the luck that ______ has.” If luck is truly the intersection of preparation with opportunity, these poor souls are very unlucky, being both unprepared and unable to see opportunity when it strikes.

In short, they never grew up, and without intervention, they likely never will. Life, quite simply, owes them. These people are “takers” in the language of “Ismael,” a wonderful book written by Daniel Quinn several years ago. Others we know seem unfazed by whatever life throws at them, good and bad. They never lose perspective, and moreover, they never lose hope or faith that life is purposeful and intentional.

These people lift others up, often simply by smiling, or choosing to engage in a conversation. In Quinn’s language, they are “givers.” Obviously, if your life perspective tends toward the “taker,” the rest of this post is not likely to make much sense to you. I write for the givers of the world upon whom the burden of fulfillment and purpose largely rests.

Authenticity – what it means to be whole

My life journey has convinced me that each of us is a special creation of God, however you might define that. We are unique in mind, body and spirit. No two of us are exactly alike, and that is both comforting and challenging when we figure out what really means. Over the years, I heard a lot of people talk about integrity. The more I thought about it, I came to believe that the essence of real integrity is being whole in each of the parts of our being—whole in mind, whole in body, and whole in spirit. It follows, then, that to be authentic is to be true to that wholeness, to live our lives aligned in the unique purpose that gives value to the unique creation each of us represents. This is what purpose is all about.

I came to believe that the essence of real integrity is being whole in each of the parts of our being—whole in mind, whole in body, and whole in spirit.

Knowing beyond all knowledge that each of us has a specialness is when most of us learn that the very thing that makes us special, our uniqueness, is what sets us apart from that elusive thing called the norm. Growing up is about growing away from the norm and accepting the genuine beauty in every creation, acknowledging that there is NO normal, NO average, only unique.

What’s most important in life

I have watched the death of my brother, my parents, and several other loved ones. At the end of their days, they did not care about how much money they had, what their job title was, what parking spot they had, or how many people knew them. As a brilliant army chaplain once told me, people on their death bed only care about three things:

  • Their relationship with their God
  • Their relationship with their family and friends
  • Their relationship with themselves

I have thought about this for decades, through the prism of the deaths of those that I loved, and I have come to believe that these three things define richness in life above all else. If true, the real measure of a man (or a woman for that matter) is in how they breathe life into each of these areas. This is not about judgment; it’s just about perspective.So I will close with these thoughts:

  • Whole person concept: each of us is a composite of mind, body and spirit. Feed each in equal measure.
  • Dignity and respect for all:  all life is precious and God-given. None of us has the right to judge, and when we do so, we open ourselves to the same. There is no real perfection in life other than God, so we all fall short of the ideal. Get over yourself.
  • Being responsible.  For every act you commit, there is consequence. Own it. It really is that simple.  This is what being an adult requires.
  • The words we say: words have the power to lift, to elevate, to empower… or to devastate, to diminish, and to humiliate.  This is about choice and discernment.  It is also about tone, volume and non-verbals. If you don’t get it, ask the person closest to you to explain.
  • Actions talk loudest:  At the end of the day, talk if you will, but know that to the rest of the world, you are not what you say.  You are what you do. Plain and simple.

This, more than anything else, defines the real difference between man and boy. These five simple concepts define the core differences between men and boys, between growing up or growing down.  And at the end of life, following these five simple areas will make the difference between peace and unrest, comfort and unease, and richness or poverty.  Spend your days wisely.  It is now, and always has been, a matter of choice.

Editor’s note

I met Alan when I worked for Raytheon. I invited him to write a post for this blog about the path to manhood because he is a clear thinker, an idealist, and he has the courage to speak. Too few men, in my opinion, share their experience with young men. Alan is an exception. I am especially impressed with his statement that self-reliant men “never lose hope or faith that life is purposeful and intentional.” Amen.

Bond. James Bond.

Stormy has taken the place of Ursula for me. We must change with the times.

Stormy has taken the place of Bond Girls for me. We must change with the times.

According to Wikipedia the James Bond films are the third highest grossing series in history.

I was totally committed to Mr. Bond from the start. I drove a Studebaker Lark in high school. Bond, played in those days by Sean Connery, travelled in grander style. He did everything better than I did, or so I thought.

He indulged in glamor and in silliness. He wanted his martinis shaken, not stirred. In every film there was a “Bond Girl.” Ursula Andress played that role for him. It’s hard to believe she is 79 years old now. Every film put Bond in a tight spot, and he escaped it.

I had no real life heroes in those days. I do now. You good people know who you are.

Noticing who we admire informs us of our ambitions, tastes, hopes, and fears. I am no longer drawn to the sort of adventures typical of secret agents. I now prefer buddhist nuns such as Pema Chödrön and other teachers such as Chögyam Trungpa. I prefer Bill Moyers, Robert Bly, and Neil deGrasse Tyson. Age can do that.

“Shaken, not stirred” is a catchphrase of Ian Fleming’s fictional British Secret Service agent James Bond and describes his preference for the preparation of his martini cocktails. The phrase first appears in the novel Diamonds Are Forever (1956), though Bond himself does not actually say it until Dr. No (1958), where his exact words are “shaken and not stirred”.

A glance at any newspaper reminds us of the troubles in this world. In Turkey they aim water cannons at people who march in support of gays. Doctors and other educated people are fleeing from Greece in droves.

We would benefit from examining our choice of heroes.

Old stuff

Have you ever dialed a phone number?

Have you ever dialed a phone number?

One of the things about getting older is the amount of evolution and change you have witnessed. I was reflecting on that and it turned into this post.

The pay phone you see here is mine. It is connected, and it works. I’ve put many dimes into phones like this one.

I have typed on manual typewriters.

Cars once had curb finders, little metallic whiskers that informed the driver when the car was near the curb. Cars also had little windows mounted on a pivot. The windows were called wind wings. And cars had chrome, the more the better. Many cars had two windshields with a metal strip between them. The V8 engine was a status symbol in its early days.

There are two wooden tennis rackets hanging in my garage.

caddyMy friend Richard reminded me about pagers. When they chirped at you it was time to find a pay phone to call the person who paged you.

There were no answering machines, and some people, my grandmother included, had a party line for her phone. You could not make a call out if someone you shared with was on the phone. Each member of the party had an assigned ring tone.

Then there was the age of vinyl records. That lasted a long time.

We had a milk man when I was young. He delivered milk to our house. Usually mothers were home during the day, and they took the dairy products in before they spoiled.

Christy Heddwyn

Christy Heddwyn

There were paper boys when I was young. The paper boy (all were guys as I recall) collected cash once a month.

We had three television channels in those days, and all three were black and white.

Roller skates attached to your street shoes. The connection was tightened with a skate key.

Robert Mitchell and I remember people who referred to refrigerators as ice boxes. We had to turn them off at intervals to let the ice in the freezer unit melt. Frost-free was a relatively late invention.

My grandmother had a washing machine with two rollers that were used to squeeze out the excess water before the clothes were hung outside to dry.

I remember strolling onto airplanes without removing my shoes, or being scanned. Wow. We lived dangerously—cars did not have seat belts. Gas had lead in it.

I remember when we thought the temperature was a function of Nature, not man. We also thought chain-smoking was a good reason to buy cigarettes by the carton. People were allowed to smoke almost anywhere. “Winston tastes good, like a cigarette should,” was an advertising slogan. Some people commented that “like” should be replaced by “as.”

Breakfast cereals came in basic flavors, and they were good for us.

Any nostalgia buffs out there are welcome to add to this list.

My next post will be number 500

MarcusI aspire to be helpful. I do not know if this blog serves that goal. I am greeted mostly with silence, and particularly from men. And I have 500 posts because I erased a few hundred earlier posts.

The most common theme for my posts is to criticize men and their lack of commitment to justice because I consider it the defining characteristic of this decade.

The Republican presidential aspirants and several of the justices in the Supreme Court serve as examples of why I do this. The generalized male submissiveness to employers and other authority figures contributes to my disappointment with males.

In Iron John, a Book About Men, Robert Bly describes the hole in the male psyche. It comes from not knowing what the father does, or what he values. Bly writes, “When the son does not see his father’s workplace, or what he produces, does he imagine his father to be a hero, a fighter for good, a saint, or a white knight?”

I speak from experience. My dad worked in an office and hated his work. He came home and drank a lot.

“Now, there’s one thing you might have noticed I don’t complain about: politicians. Everybody complains about politicians. Everybody says they suck. Well, where do people think these politicians come from? They don’t fall out of the sky. They don’t pass through a membrane from another reality. They come from American parents and American families, American homes, American schools, American churches, American businesses and American universities, and they are elected by American citizens. This is the best we can do folks. This is what we have to offer. “—George Carlin

Bly says demons move into the empty space. “The demons, invisible but talkative, move into that empty place—demons of suspicion.”

I know young men who are totally lost and beyond rescue. They are living with their invisible demons. They are bound into service to them.

We have a condition we call post traumatic stress disorder, PTSD. It is the result of being betrayed by men who keep themselves safe while sending others into harm’s way to commit crimes on people they have never met. Think Vietnam, and Iraq.

It is common practice to send young men into pain and suffering to make a buck for the company. The problem, as I see it, is that the young men submit.

Talk to me, please.

Twenty minutes of wisdom with Bill Moyers and Neill Gabler.

Points of view

An interpretation of dinner, and how to present it.

An interpretation of dinner, and how to present it.

The recent Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage across the nation provided us with a vivid example of disagreement.

Justice Scalia was particularly harsh in his written dissents.

It came at a time when I am reading David Bohm’s book about how our thoughts deceive us. The book is Thought as a System.

The level of anger among the justices makes it clear to me that some of them are deceived. Bohm points out that our thoughts are necessarily very inferior substitutes for the real thing, whatever that thing might be

Rather than getting so caught in the drama of who did what to whom, we could simply recognize that we’re all worked up and stop fueling our emotions with our stories.—Pema Chödrön

Screen Shot 2014-12-16 at 4.55.43 PM

This can also be interpreted as dinner.

We are tempted to treat our thoughts with more respect than they deserve given the fact that they are crude symbols of the things they are meant to represent.

Take dinner, as a simple example. What does it mean? What does dinner look like? What qualities does the food itself possess? Is there an element of ritual involved? Who is invited to attend? Who is unwelcome?

If we have such an enormous range in interpretations of dinner how much more variation is possible in defining justice, fairness, and kindness?

Our varying interpretations can lead us to be combative, and the justices demonstrated that for us. Mr. Bohm provides the remedy for that behavior in his wonderful book On Dialogue. He explains how to share one’s point of view in order to enhance understanding rather than to win or dominate.

I have said before that introducing young people to the principles of dialogue would be of much greater benefit to all of us than teaching them algebra. It might even improve things on the Supreme Court over time.

On self-improvement

Melissa's art piece

Painting by Melissa Hardiman.

I have binged on self-improvement for many years. I have learned a few things from that experience that I share in this post.

You might think if everything I’ve learned in my life will fit in a single blog post this guy must not know much. If you think that, you are right. I have learned very little, but I think quality makes up for quantity. You can decide for yourself if you choose to read this.

One fundamental point is that we do not have a way to measure our progress in a meaningful way. We tend to accept what we think stands before us and around us at face value as if it has some authority As the Bible says in Corinthians, we see through a glass darkly.

We cannot judge our circumstances because we have no standard to use for comparison. We do not even see clearly what stands before us. It is mostly smoke and mirrors. Our thoughts produce a foggy maze. For more on this please refer to David Bohm’s work, especially Thought as a System.

The next point is related to the previous one. We are already doing everything we can. Finding fault with our performance, or apparent status, simply distracts us from heeding our current intentions. It is a detour. We are tempted to search for safety, and to judge ourselves by how much safety we think we have. Helen Keller said, “Avoiding danger is no safer in the long run than outright exposure. Life is either a daring adventure, or nothing.” The daily news reminds us that there is no safe haven.

Many people seek money and recognition as safe harbors. With any thought at all we recognize how illusory that safety really is.

I have learned that what matters is to pay attention to what is happening now. Most of us, including me, are quite delusional. I am still ruled by experiences from my childhood many decades ago. I think of them often, and I feel vulnerable to them even though the players in these memories died long ago. The imprints can be quite durable. David Bohm, and others, point out how our thoughts serve as a fog machine. Yoga, done right, helps us clear the fog.

The real challenge, Charlotte Joko Beck reminds us in her book, Nothing Special, is to pay attention. She says, “Awareness is our life when we are not doing something else.” She adds, “We should not try to be aware; we’re always aware unless we’re caught in our self-centered things. That’s the point of labeling our thoughts.” The teachers say that our deliberate efforts are just another attempt to escape. The real challenge is to simply pay attention.

The key to relationships with other people—and all life forms—is to recognize our kinship with them. We are taught to rate and rank people, and to compare ourselves with them. The Supreme Court recently declared, by a tiny margin of 5 to 4, that we may not officially condemn people who are gay or lesbian. We can only do it unofficially.

kinship: a sharing of characteristics or origins

Kinship, I think, is the greatest failure of the human race at the present time. We search for ways to be different, and to disqualify people and other creatures that we can appear to dominate. We do everything we can to “excel” rather than bond and share.

What I have learned is this. The only way to be “better” is to pay closer attention. Paying attention reveals to us our connections with life. Our connections with life inspire us to love and to bond. That, as I understand it, is the “meaning” of life. Life does not need a meaning. It speaks for itself.