Spending our genius

I published this post in February 2014. The parade photo is from the 2015 4th of July parade in Huntington Beach, California. We are still guilty of theft. I am reminded of this every time I see a beggar on a median strip.

Peace

Peace

Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.

This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000 population. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter with a half-million bushels of wheat. 

We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. . . . This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron.—President Dwight Eisenhower, 1953

We were given the answer more than 60 years ago by a man who understood war. He was well respected, and trusted, and could get an audience with anyone he wanted to see. I am especially struck by his reference to spending our genius. We squander genius in this nation in our schools, workplaces, and in the rigid dogma of many of our churches. All three types of organizations are convinced that questions are irrelevant because they already have all the answers.

We seem to disregard the costs of spending our genius on the wrong things. My Facebook newsfeed contains a lot of silliness. Maybe that is what Facebook is supposed to do. It still makes me wonder how it might be more useful.

plane relicTelevision consists almost entirely of silliness. How much creative genius is misdirected to support this fluff? Most business managers consider creativity to be a digression from the “real” work employees are paid to do.

What would happen if we put our mental resources, including imagination, to work doing useful things such as establishing peace and order in the world? Might we eliminate homelessness? Could we generate companies like Apple at a faster rate than we do now? Could we find a way to make friends with quarrelsome nations? Could we end our own quarreling?

I have great faith in genius. If you do, I encourage you to speak up on the subject, and to express your own genius. Women are currently far ahead of us men in this regard.

My special thanks to Eve Marie Ross who posted the Eisenhower quote on Facebook yesterday, and it became my inspiration for this post.

Intersections

A guest post by Alan Landry

Alan Landry

Alan Landry

Do you believe in coincidence?  I think I did when I was much younger.  Over time, I began to see an elegant pattern unfold, especially regarding intersections with other people whom I did not previously know.  I am now 63 years young, and with each passing year, I marvel more and more about the blessings and enrichment I have received just by taking that one, simple step into the unknown and bringing yet another person into the sphere of my life and of those I love. 

There is a wonderful book called “The Medici Effect” written a few years ago by Frans Johannson.  The book was all about innovation, and about how we increase the possibility of innovation by stepping into intersections we are presented with, whether coincidence or not.  I believe each intersection is a unique and special invitation for personal growth, an opportunity to overcome personal barriers (really anything getting in the way of opening a dialogue with another person we do not know – he calls them associative barriers) and seeing what magic lies on the other side of the intersection. 

As I reflect on my life, I think about the richness of my networks – family, friends, colleagues, mentors, mentees, connections on social media – and the possibilities that they turned into realities.  Every day we are confronted with opportunities to change the world, not in necessarily big ways, but in small ways that matter none-the-less. One of life’s most intriguing mysteries to me is how each of us is making a difference in someone else’s life all the time, and most of the time we are unaware that we are doing it.  Every now and then, something happens to remind us that we matter deeply to each other.  This is grace in action. 

A call, a note, an email, a letter, really, any kind of communication that arrives unexpected, and in it, there is some deeply moving remark about how something you did or said touched another person’s life in a meaningful way.  Each such reminder represents a “yes,” a time when you intentionally opened yourself to know another person and to share who you are with that person.  To get to that point, you had to make a conscious decision to make an introduction and to commit to some level of intersection with that other person.  You overcame your barriers – your fears, your lack of time, your lack of trust, your weariness, your need for personal space among a host of other excuses – to become available to another person and make their life matter to yours and yours to that person. 

Do you believe in coincidence?  I think I did when I was much younger.  Over time, I began to see an elegant pattern unfold, especially regarding intersections with other people whom I did not previously know.

There are times with these intersection opportunities are dramatic – when we are presented with life-changing connections and the choice is ours to enter into the connection or to walk away.  How do you measure lost opportunities?  I don’t know, but I do know that when I step into an intersection, I know inside my heart that it is going to be important and that I cannot step away.  I am not always right about that 6th sense, but more often than not the intersection becomes a meaningful and valuable part of my life. 

As a person ages and experiences life and death transitions, the question of richness becomes inevitable.  What is it to be rich?  Like most of my peers, I like nice things.  I love our beautiful house and our comfortable life style.  I am a sucker for vintage audio (vinyl records and the wonderful machines that play them!), my garage toys, good wine, good food and the ability to see our four kids, their spouses and our 10 grand babies.  Over the past three years, we lost my dad, my mom, and two brothers-in-law.  We also saw the birth of four of those precious little ones and the safe return of our two sons from overseas deployments. 

I think a lot about the concept of legacy – simply put, what of importance will be left behind after I am gone – and I think it is bound to the intersections in my life that I chose to enter into.  These are the riches of my life that cannot be measured, the people who care, not only about me but also about what I believe in and those that I love.  Is there anything more important?  I don’t think so.

So the message of this post is one of hope and mercy and grace.  Today, you touched someone else’s life.  You were offered an opportunity to enter into an intersection whether it was a chance greeting, to engage in a simple conversation, to smile, to simply say thank you to a care or service provider, to talk to a person you just met at the store or at work, or to take a deeper step with a person you already know to get to know them better and to help them through a crisis or challenge.  What matters is that you did it.  You did not have to. 

There is no scorekeeper (at least not visible!), no real tangible reward for your time and energy, only your personal satisfaction.  But at each intersection, we each have the chance of increasing our personal wealth in perhaps the most meaningful way of all – the wealth that comes from someone who honestly cares about you and your life.  That is all the wealth I need at the end of my days.  The rest is vapor.  And to those like my friend Daniel Wilson who spends his days creating and sharing new intersections, I salute for the wealth you bring to this world.

But it’s not real

selfI came across a reference to a book titled The Unreality Industry, the Deliberate Manufacturing of Falsehood and What it is Doing to our Lives. One of the authors is Warren Bennis, a man I respect highly from my studies in leadership. It was published in 1989. Hardly anyone remembers 1989.

I paid one cent for the book, and $3.99 for postage.

I remember his fine book, On Becoming a Leader. I read it many times. It too was first published in 1989.

Falsehood is now our way of life. Reality is considered a tramp, and not worthy of our attention. We watch television commercials for Froot Loops and other things of that ilk. We have no objection now to Froot Loops, and its companion products.

The U.S. is indeed on a collision course with reality. And reality may be losing if it has not done so already.—Mitroff and Bennis, 1989

She models under the name Chaotic Pefection

She models under the name Chaotic Perfection

The reason the world is so crazy is simply that people prefer that to ordinary reality. Ordinary reality has a reputation for being dull.

We have become adversarial with creativity and originality. I seek comfort among ladies who pose for photographs. They provoke my imagination, and they delight me with their willingness to make a statement. This is Allicia, one of my favorite models.

On the back cover of the book is a statement by Daniel Schorr of National Public Radio. He said:

A timely and important book and may help to pull us back from the brink of our national plunge into fantasy.

It did not, but let’s not give up all hope yet. The silent treatment this blog receives suggests to me that readers are churning through Facebook posts in an effort to be provoked and entertained.

I occasionally see “news” broadcasts on television. They consist primarily of banter, and in the time remaining they focus on stories that are intended to provoke emotions, especially anger, outrage, and pity. They have little to do with news per se.

They are about titillation, a romp in the unreal. I welcome your thoughts.

On mastery

Prayer dogI have a tiny little book that fits in a shirt pocket. It contains the teachings of Paramahansa Yogananda. The title is Living Fearlessly, Bringing Out Your Inner Soul Strength. Pages 12 and 13 are among my favorites. I marked this paragraph with my yellow highlighter:

There is always a way out of your trouble; and if you take the time to think clearly, to think how to get rid of the cause of your anxiety instead of just worrying about it, you become a master.

The teachers tell us to Smile at Fear. Chögyam Trungpa used the phrase as a book title. Like the other teachers he says it is counter productive to view the world as a battleground. He wrote: “Furthermore, you should not develop the idea of being on a battlefield, because this just solidifies the problems.”

He assures us that, in spite of appearances, our problems are not really trying to destroy us. He urges us to be friendly toward them. I need to remind myself of that throughout the day. He tells us, as all the teachers do, that love is always the solution to our problems.

Mastery, as I understand the concept, is a state of balance. Struggle falls away, and things apparently fall into place with little effort on our part. That is what I am seeking.

The teachers insist that we already possess the necessary traits and qualities to be masters. We are told to let our illusions fall away. This is accomplished, they tell us, by giving up our negative attitudes toward them, and by cultivating love for all beings.

…first of all you have to see that your problems are not really trying to destroy you.—Chögyam Trungpa

David Bohm told us there is a collective consciousness. We can ponder the possibilities of that power turning friendly and kind. It would certainly change the world.

Confidence, beauty, and poise

Denise

Denise

I attended another photo shoot today with Corinne and her Arizona Photo Events group. I am approaching the two dozen mark with these events.

Today I photographed Denise, whose photo you see here. She told me up front that she had never modeled in a situation like we were in, and she was nervous. I assured her she had nothing to fear.

The photo at the top of this post is one of many of her that I awarded my top rating of five stars.

My first suggestion to models is that they avoid searching for a smile. It is my job to make the photo shoot sufficiently pleasant that they smile spontaneously. And they do.

Smiles are fun, but I am at least as interested in mood, challenge, the appearance of flirting, strength, and wit. You can’t keep a good smile down. This next photo is MaryLu. She likes to smile, and does it easily. I have photographed her several times, and it is a charming experience.

The location was Reid Park, here in sunny Tucson.

MaryLu

MaryLu

Do most men give a damn?

mechanic

For the most part workable solutions remain on the shelf.

I quoted Jimmy Carter on Facebook. In a TED Talk he said, “In general, men don’t give a damn.” The talk is about the world-wide abuses against women.

My post attracted a handful of comments. They were a mixed bag of challenges, agreement, and the inevitable humor.

The reason I agree with the former president is the persistence of the serious problems we face in this nation and world-wide. Men leave workable solutions on the shelf. Many times the intention is to not put their own privileges at risk.

My goal with this blog is to provoke thoughtful conversation by bringing readers the best content I can find. My saying is, I’m not particularly smart, but I bring you people who are.

The quiet that surrounds this blog makes me think of it as a private journal more than a document available on the internet.

Alan Landry, who has written two wonderful guest posts for this blog, expressed his respect for the war fighters who have put themselves at risk for this nation. Mr. Carter made the point that we have been at war with 25 countries since the end of World War Two. I thank and honor the people who put themselves at risk. However, I challenge the people who remained silent on the issue of warmongering itself. We did not need to fight 25 nations.

I note the inconsistencies in our value system that are allowed to continue. It’s illegal to accept money in exchange for sex unless you are producing a pornographic video. In that case it is legal to provide sex for money. Men tolerate this arrangement because it benefits them.

The great urgency that I see is that we need to promote open conversation about what matters to us. What does giving a damn involve? It is not that we must agree, but we would do well to reveal our assumptions to others. This is how understanding and a sense of community happen.

I have quoted Tom Peters in this blog when he commented that people liked to buy his books, but they were less interested in reading them. Putting on a display of interest is not the same as actually doing something.

I welcome your comments.

Transitions

Parade is overIn general we are stingy with ceremonies in this land of ours.

Birthday greetings are posted to Facebook. We rarely gather around an open fire, beat the drums, and chant.

We have largely given up rituals. A ritual is a solemn ceremony consisting of a series of actions performed according to a prescribed order.

The older a person gets the more transitions he or she has experienced. I think the omission of rituals has a cumulative effect that is experienced, in my case anyway, as a sort of emptiness.

fairy wings

Fairy wings on a sunny day

Rituals enable other people to acknowledge our transitions. There is some comfort in this. Even if the transition itself is scary, or unpleasant in some other way, the companionship can be deeply reassuring.

I have an audio recording of a conference with the title Men and the Life of Desire. The event was led by Robert Bly, Michael Meade, and James Hillman. Listening to it is a grounding experience. Michael Meade handles the drumming. Robert Bly inserts poetry. James Hillman brings his sonorous voice to bear on the mood and atmosphere. The combination is powerful.

Men these days do not acknowledge desire. Instead, they report to the office and suffer in silence. That might be what caused the end of ritual. We just surrendered our spirit to convention and predictability.

As time goes by we become increasingly aware that our time on this planet is limited. We watch babies grow up and graduate college. We see people marry, and have children. If we pay any attention at all we notice the relative absence of meaningful rituals to affirm the significance of these events.

We neglect imagination in general, men especially. What is the price we pay for that?