10 wise people

mechanicI have always been drawn to wisdom. This post celebrates 10 people who rewarded me with theirs. This is not a ranked list. It simply honors good people and the effects they have had on me.

  1. Captain Kangaroo. His real name was Bob Keeshan. The show ran on television for 29 years. One of the recurring characters on the show was Mr. Green Jeans. It perhaps inspired the Muppets with its cast of puppets.
  2. Edward R. Murrow. He presented wonderful feature stories in a news and interview format in days of black and white television, and he smoked during the broadcasts. He had a wonderful rich voice, and he projected splendid confidence.
  3. Charles Kuralt, Sunday Morning. If I could have chosen an uncle it would have been him. Delicious. Profound. Approachable.
  4. Joseph Campbell. My favorite book is a compilation of his insights by Diane K. Osbon. He says doors will open in solid walls once we accept that we are worthy of that.
  5. Brené Brown. She has posted wonderful TED Talks. Her message is especially dear to me since I was essentially told as a child that I was damaged goods.
  6. Jill Bolte Taylor, a brain scientist, had a blood vessel explode in her head. She wrote about the experience in My Stroke of Insight, A Brain Scientist’s Personal Journey. Profound and informative. And let me say, inspiring. Check out her TED Talk.
  7. Care of the Soul, A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life by Thomas Moore. He is a member of a gang that includes Robert Bly and James Hillman. Sacredness in everyday life. That appeals to me.
  8. The Courage to Teach, Exploring the Inner Landscape of a Teacher’s Life, by Parker J. Palmer. If I could choose to do anything my first choice would be to teach. This blog is a crutch for that.
  9. Wherever You Go There You Are, by Jon Kabat-Zinn. He has written other books as wonderful as this one. He also wrote Full Catastrophe Living. That describes my experience.
  10. And finally, I offer you Servant Leadership, by Robert Greenleaf. It addresses what I think is our greatest shared need today.

Do you have a few favorites you would like to share?


On being real

I was born real. You were too.

I was born real. You were too.

The intent of this blog is to draw attention to people who encourage us to be real. I often thank Daniel Plumer, a reader of this blog, and a friend, for his reminders to me to be real. You provide a service to me, sir.

Today I watched Cameron Russell’s TED Talk on the subject of being real. It is, for my money, as good as it gets. Scroll down to Looks aren’t everything. Believe me, I’m a model.

Being real is an endangered species these days. That endangerment goes back a long way, but I want to suggest from my perspective as an old guy that it’s getting worse.

I am very fond of photographing ladies. I encourage them to wait for their smile. Do not hunt for it, or fake it. I suggest that they invite the poses to emerge without effort. Enjoy the experience. My notion of photographing people is to enjoy and to discover. Don’t imitate other people. Enjoy being who you are.

As a nation and as a society we would do well to show more courage in our advocacy of being real. My opinion, anyway. I welcome comments.

Why we choose failure

Rosie the Riveter

Or maybe we can’t any more.

If you think civilization as we know it is a success this post is not for you.

Our attempts at civilization are a massive failure, and we are collectively committed to continuing that failure. We will have poverty, war, racial antagonism, and various injustices based on a variety of sexual issues for a very long time. This is a lifetime interest of mine. I even studied it in college.

My long study has been devoted to understanding why we collectively prefer failure to success. It is tied to our desire to be scolded. We were taught that scolding is good for us. We have an enormous prison population due to our attraction to scolding people.

According to a 2014 Human Rights Watch report, “tough-on-crime” laws adopted since the 1980s, have filled U.S. prisons with mostly nonviolent offenders.[14] This policy failed to rehabilitate prisoners and many were worse on release than before incarceration. Rehabilitation programs for offenders can be more cost effective than prison.—Wikipedia

Being in charge seems to be the American dream, no matter the cost.

One of the most popular TED Talks features Dan Pink answering this question. When you go to TED scroll down for the link to his video. The title is The Puzzle of Motivation. It’s a subject we poorly understand.

He is not the first, and explaining our preference for failure has been done brilliantly many, many times. The reason so few people care is that they do not want to succeed, and guidance is simply more clutter in an already disturbing world.

Dan Pink provides a recipe for success. It can be expressed in three words: autonomy, mastery, and purpose.

Let’s look at autonomy. We are taught that we need a boss. For some people their deepest desire is to be a boss. Bosses inhibit progress and success. They want to demonstrate their power to limit our contributions and expressions of value. As a culture we support their desire.

When he uses the word mastery he means being really good at something. We are confined in a world that wants us to be really good at obedience, not the thing that calls to us, that stirs our imagination.

His third concept is purpose. We are told to ignore our authentic purpose, and to be obedient and typical. That cancels the real passion that moves us to be genuine.

Mr. Pink calls this a lazy, dangerous ideology.

The reason we prefer failure to success is that it creates the appearance that we are acceptable and worthy. Approval, and the desire to be considered average and typical, runs our lives.

We celebrate rock stars and movie stars as a vicarious experience, a fantasy of who we might have been, should we have chosen to be real and reckless.

Your thoughts?

Luke 16:20 has a message for us

angelMy experience with panhandlers on median strips is consistent. Well, I am selective about them. That is probably a display of hypocrisy and fear on my part. Those I share with always offer me a “God bless” and a thank you.

My most recent encounter resulted in my inviting the lady to lunch. She was very charming and optimistic in spite of her depleted circumstances. I wrote about the encounter in this blog.

There has been some discussion about using the law to deal with people asking for handouts, to send them into hiding. I mostly see them on the median strips of busy streets. Some citizens want these people to be scolded with the authority of law.

“It is a hazardous situation in that drivers are worried about hitting somebody because people are stepping off the median to get money or food,” said neighbor Nicole Brule-Fisher.—KVOA

If you are homeless in Tucson you are considered offensive, apparently by the majority of citizens. Homeless people, they conclude, are clearly doing something wrong and are shunning responsibility. They are refusing the jobs that await them. They also, some say, might want to use your money to buy drugs. The lady I had lunch with wants to buy a chocolate cake to celebrate her son’s birthday.

I have a master’s degree from a respected university, some modest talents, and an email address. Currying favor with employers is not all that easy. I speak from experience.

Alan Kaye said he attended Thursday night’s meeting because he said he’s fed up with the homeless making a mess of his community, specifically the intersection of Ina and La Cholla.—Tucson News Now

She gave me some sob story about running out of gas on the way to her home in the east valley from visiting a sick relative in California. Said “I just need $5-$10 to get gas to make it home”. I only had a $20 and a $10 and gave her the $10.—City Data

Tucson citizens are a wild mix. We have the “snow birds” who come here to escape Minnesota winters. We have some employees and retirees of big companies like Raytheon. We have a huge number of people living in shacks cooled through our hot summers with window air conditioners. Which of these people are most inclined to offer mercy?

We don’t know.

As of 2015, there were about 565,000 homeless people living in the United States on any given night. It’s estimated that women comprise a little under 40% of that population. But that number may shift. Women and families are the fastest growing segment of the homeless population, with 85% of homeless families headed by single women.Mashable

The number of homeless people, by coincidence, is more or less equal to the population of Tucson.

I am not a big Bible advocate, but I will refer readers to the passage in Luke 16:20 about the rich man who scorned Lazarus, a beggar. The rich man ends up in Hell and asks an angel to warn his five brothers of the price of greed and arrogance. The angel replies, “If they hear not Moses and the prophets, neither will they be persuaded, through one rose from the dead.”


Unstable air

Stable air.

Stable air.

I am fascinated by the weather reports on the storms afflicting the center of the country. And possibly the east coast, according to recent reports.

I am intrigued by the terms they use. Unstable air. Squall line. Supercell. And something called Cap.

Cap: A layer of relatively warm air aloft, usually several thousand feet above the ground, which suppresses or delays the development of thunderstorms. Air parcels rising into this layer become cooler than the surrounding air, which inhibits their ability to rise further and produce thunderstorms. As such, the cap often prevents or delays thunderstorm development even in the presence of extreme instability. However, if the cap is removed or weakened, then explosive thunderstorm development can occur.

The cap is an important ingredient in most severe thunderstorm episodes, as it serves to separate warm, moist air below and cooler, drier air above. With the cap in place, air below it can continue to warm and/or moisten, thus increasing the amount of potential instability. Or, air above it can cool, which also increases potential instability. But without a cap, either process (warming/moistening at low levels or cooling aloft) results in a faster release of available instability – often before instability levels become large enough to support severe weather development.—Wikipedia

My favorite is unstable air. I marvel at air being unstable. This has meaning to people who predict the weather. I have no understanding of the concept. I did not study weather at school. I breathe air, and have once sailed through it in a hot air balloon.

Unstable air is one of the more entertaining mysteries in my opinion.

Your thoughts?


On understanding misfortune

Harvey Milk was assassinated for being gay. What did the shooter fear?

Harvey Milk was assassinated for being gay. What did the shooter fear?

I am hypnotized by the Weather Channel, and the predictions they are broadcasting about the coming hail, lightning, and tornados that will devastate so many people.

They have recently expanded their estimates of the duration of the troubles that arrive tomorrow. These storms bring us shared misfortune. The misfortune applies even if we are not in the line of direct fire. We all suffer misfortune from events of this magnitude. I feel pain through the people of Ecuador and their recent earthquake that devastated that impoverished state. I was stunned by the hardships in Houston caused by the floods.

Today I listened to a National Public Radio feature on Nepal, and their earthquake a year ago, and the paralysis of government that prevents any meaningful recovery efforts. Nobody can fix the Middle East. Tucson cannot fix its own homeless problem, or the massive number of little shacks with shabby landscaping that personifies the desperation and hopelessness of the people who live with it.

I label some of my circumstances an expression of misfortune. How dare I do that? How absurd I am.

The Earth is a churning ball of misfortune. Yet we have flowers, sunrises, and puppy dogs, but we also have tornados, diseases, and fast food. I think the central issue for us humans is to honor misfortune by enquiring into it. And when needed, embracing it.

Sean Penn played Harvey Milk in the movie. Milk was shot by a man trying to relieve his own sense of misfortune. It is important that we learn how to work with misfortune. One misfortune, or the perception of it, often brings another.

Your thoughts?


Lunch with the homeless lady

Rosie the Riveter

Rosie the Riveter

On my drive home from photographing two friends who are celebrating their wedding engagement I noticed a woman working a median strip near my house.

Her cardboard sign announced her homeless condition.

The logistics of the intersection made it prudent to park, and to approach her on foot. I gave her my customary five-dollar offering.

A brief conversation convinced me that she was not stoned or crazy, and when I asked she told me she had not eaten. It was 3:30 p.m. I invited her to lunch, and she accepted.

We walked to a nearby restaurant that is a bit pricey for my tastes, but I was, hopefully, creating some karma. I need all the good karma I can get. She loved her milkshake. It was topped with whipped cream. She did not leave a drop of it.

She was consistently cheerful and optimistic during our conversation. One of her current goals is to buy her son a birthday cake. He likes chocolate. Anything chocolate. She has three children.

The only physical marker that she might be homeless was dirty fingernails. She also needed help from a good dentist.

The world is screwed up, and many of us work for the people who make it that way. We do it in a mad quest for personal safety. There is no safety in a screwed up world. Each of us, you and I, have to take a stand for kindness and justice.