On pitching in

car wash

I photographed these wonderful ladies washing cars to make money to donate to support counseling for people who have lost relatives to suicide.

We all know what’s gonna hit the fan. Climate change. Quakes. Stuff like that.

This post is about how we could get better at pitching in and working together. I studied the subject in school—a lot of school. I took many courses with fancy names.

We need a better understanding of pitching in, men especially. We have been taught systematically for years to not pitch in. If we help a classmate with their assignment it’s called cheating. If we do the equivalent at work it is considered neglecting our own responsibilities and challenging the org chart. If we advocate helping people on the community level we stir up all kinds of criticism and conflict that we are soft on loafers and no-goods.

There is also a thread of macho thinking that tends to isolate men from each other. It’s an “I can handle it” bravado that is well worth a closer look to determine if it serves us or blocks us.

Dee Felix

Dee Felix is a wonderful guide to pitching in.

So this little post is about what we could do to make our ability to pitch in more robust and ready. We do well to start by examining our assumptions as I touched on already. This works best if we do it at a gathering of men who are willing to share their various points of view. In the old days this would have been done around a campfire. We don’t really have an equivalent setting these days.

Another key step is to pay attention to how much more active women are in this area than men. That is a subject to ponder and reflect on. What can we learn from that? Each of us will notice different things.

Men would benefit by noticing the example they set for young people. What do you do, or avoid doing?

Once men understand their own point of view and behavior movement is possible. This means building some infrastructure. This blog is part of my infrastructure. I am also known to ladies like Dee Felix who know that I will support their efforts with my photographic services, and with this blog.

Men, in my experience, are notoriously shy about speaking up about their experiences and intentions. We have made it taboo to use our experience and knowledge to teach. The result is a failure to form communities, and perhaps even a complete lack of knowledge about how to do it.

Severe tests await us. We would do well to build our strength now.










On Easter

I was done a great disservice in childhood by Christians of various flavors. I have since forgiven them, but I share this memory with those who choose to continue reading.

Water bearer

Most of the heroes I know are women. It could just be a coincidence.

In childhood I lived among people my uncle referred to as Bible thumpers. That was a good description. Fear of being judged harshly and sent to Hell trumped all human thought and judgment. God was presented to me as a fearsome being, easily offended, and harsh and final in his decisions. I did a lot over the years to neutralize those awful impressions on my young mind. I could not reconcile the notion of Hell with the gentle teachings of the Sermon on the Mount.

I clung to the four gospels, Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John as a refuge from the coldness I saw in the messages relatives were giving me.

I find myself now in a different place, after a great deal of hard work. Did Jesus rise from the tomb? I leave that question to others to decide. What I notice here and now is living people who are doing the equivalent, in what we now call real time.

A lady by the name of Jessica, who has had a double mastectomy as part of her cancer treatment, asked me to photograph her throughout the remainder of her medical treatment and physical reconstruction. We had our first shoot today. She is a lovely human being. She describes herself as a hugger. I am too. We hugged on meeting and again when we adjourned. Her courage is a tonic for me.

I have also created enough photographs of Melissa to publish a book, actually now in its second edition. Melissa walks with difficulty due to cerebral palsy. I wanted to show her how appealing she is, so we have done four photo shoots including a delightful bubble bath sequence that is totally gorgeous.

I don’t know that I may name names yet, but a good friend who is not married just adopted a child. Since she is single she went to the Marshall Islands for her new son because they allow adoptions by single parents. Her courage and valor amaze me.

These people I mention in this post define courage as I understand it. The muddled messages I received in childhood only filled me with fear, and they were not given to me as an act of courage but rather out of defensiveness. I have moved ahead in understanding, and now I find myself meeting and becoming friends with these truly courageous people who really understand renewal and courage.

The moral of this story, as far as I’m concerned, is that the learning we need stands before us and around us here and now. God stands before us and is huggable.




Free advice

ProfesaurusMy Facebook newsfeed contains a large amount of advice. Some of it makes me shiver, so I decided to assemble my own top ten list of suggestions on how to live. They are in no particular order. Comments are welcome.

  1. Happiness is over rated. Instead, cultivate your own experience of being genuine, and let that lead you where it will.
  2. As much as possible, avoid people who cause harm, and this includes all forms of bullying and manipulation. Your absence will teach them more than your presence can.
  3. Tell at least one person a day how he or she inspires you. Take some time with this. Nobody I know receives enough appreciation.
  4. When you procrastinate look deeply into what is happening instead of merely blaming yourself. Procrastination does not indicate a flaw. There is more to it than that. Find out what it is.
  5. Look the reality of earthquakes, global warming, and hurricanes squarely in the face, and then go on with your day knowing that large forces are at work in this world.
  6. Define your gift or talent as clearly and enthusiastically as you can, no matter what form it takes, and show it great respect. Yes, you have at least one.
  7. Look for the larger context in every area of life that matters to you. You are part of something that is profound and rich with meaning.
  8. Tell stories, patiently. And invite others to do the same. It supports rule #7.
  9. Get inspired daily. This video inspires me. The most inspiring things are often associated with sadness. See rule #1.
  10. Being different is often portrayed as a bad thing. If people do that to you see rule #2.

My thoughts. Thanks for your time.

If weather forecasters spoke English

If the people who write about climate change expressed themselves in plain language we would all be frightened. NASA paid for a climate study and sent out an announcement that said researchers have “uncovered evidence that can trace the amplification of the dipole to human influences.”


Imagine that this is melting Arctic ice that will result in droughts in farm country.

Amplification of the dipole might be part of the daily conversation in your house, but it is not in mine. If you spend the time to learn what a dipole is, it still tells you very little about what the sentence means or whether you need to carry an umbrella.

I am able to understand the headline about the study, however. It reads: Bombshell: Study Ties Epic California Drought, ‘Frigid East’ To Manmade Climate Change. I like the use of “bombshell” here.

How do we contribute to climate change? They have a fancy word for that too: anthropogenicWhen we pour tons of pollution into the atmosphere it is an anthropogenic event. It simply means people did it. It did not happen by itself.

Dr. Joe Romm’s post on the study, “Bombshell: Study Ties Epic California Drought, ‘Frigid East’ To Manmade Climate Change”, has this quote by climate scientist Michael Mann on the new research:

We know that human-caused climate change has played a hand in the increases in many types of extreme weather impacting the U.S., including the more pronounced heat waves and droughts of recent summers, more devastating hurricanes and superstorms, and more widespread and intense wildfires.

This latest paper adds to the weight of evidence that climate change may be impacting weather in the U.S. in a more subtle way, altering the configuration of the jet stream in a way that disrupts patterns of rainfall and drought, in this case creating an unusually strong atmospheric “ridge” that pushed the jet stream to the north this winter along the west coast, yielding record drought in California, flooding in Washington State, and abnormal warmth in Alaska. The recent IPCC assessment downplays these sorts of connections, making it very conservative in its assessment of risk, and reminding us that uncertainty in the science seems to be cutting against us, not for us. It is a reason for action rather than inaction. (Emphasis added)

The IPCC, by the way, is the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. In my post yesterday I quoted the phrase calculated unresponsiveness. It might have some relevance here.

So when Arctic ice melts California gets less rain—except in those years when the rains are extreme due to other fluctuations high in the sky described in terms we cannot understand, and de-emphasized by the IPCC. Regardless of the debates and confusion, the effects are real to farmers.

Any comments? Especially from readers who have young children who are going to grow up in this new environment?

How men became so dull


Adela Arceo at The Domes with Arizona Photo Events.

Adela Arceo at The Domes with Arizona Photo Events. She is never dull.

Many of my female Facebook friends have adopted pseudonyms. Some of them use words such as Riot and Chaos. I know of a Morticia. I have yet to see Lilly Munster in the group. And I’m not counting the instances of simply altering real names for the sake of privacy as my friend Emyrald does. I have a good friend who goes by Reenie.

I wonder if this is part of a larger trend to fill the void in public spirit left by men who have become apathetic and docile.

I would like young men to have a sense of what has changed that makes the world different for you than it was for men 60 or 80 years ago.

Television has been ridiculing fathers for decades and men sit and take it. Schools demand conformity, obedience, and competition among students without regard for the destructive effects on learning. Robert Reich noted today on Facebook that Stanford University remains small so it can be elite. That’s the spirit of teaching?

Teachers tell us we can get good grades as long as we behave. Fathers tolerate so much abuse at work from unskilled and unhappy bosses that they project a kind of hollowness when they return home. They fail as role models as warriors and hunters because they cannot see those qualities in themselves.

Three generations of men used to live in the same house. They talked, told tales, gave advice, and modeled that elusive thing called masculinity. Now grandpa lives in Florida and visits once in a great while.

We don’t value leadership in general. A huge and priceless literature gathers dust on the shelves. We motivate by rules, not by spirit and enthusiasm.

My point is that if leaders are to deal effectively with motivation, they are going to have to be on familiar terms with that side of our nature. If they are, they will understand that even in the most apathetic, the most materialistic, or the most unimaginative members of a group there is something waiting to be awakened, wanting to be awakened.—John W. Gardner, On Leadership

Women, especially young women, most likely feel the vacuum left by docile men who will do anything for a buck, or perhaps for a roll in the hay, and whose knowledge of being a hunter is limited to altering their physical appearance with ink and hair. The women I know want to bring some force and power into play even if they have to fill in for the men.

Sammiey Huntingon has one of my all time favorite tattoos.

Sammiey shows a tattoo, and a lot of spirit.

I watched a fellow who might have been 40 years old begging for money on a median strip recently. A few days ago I paid a young lady a small cash advance on her next modeling session with me. I volunteered it. In contrast, I couldn’t get past the male beggar fast enough. The beggar’s sign said anything helps. He was dreaming. Nothing he prescribes for himself is going to help.

I also wonder if the increased number of tattoos women are wearing is related to a desire to make bold statements. We are in need of a tremendous increase in boldness, and based on what I see it will not be coming from the men around us. One of the common criticisms we offer to women who get tattoos is that they will regret them later in life. My friend Richard Ruthsatz, by pure “coincidence”, sent me a link to this website that shows people with some age and their tattoos. It has been viewed more than a million times.

Mr. Gardner wrote eloquently of men who just stand in the way: “Too timid to lead, too vain to follow, his game was turf defense. He was a master of the hidden move and the small betrayal.” He adds that this fellow was an expert in calculated unresponsiveness. There is a lot of that going around. I think the phrase calculated unresponsiveness is a fitting motto for the current condition of manhood.

I had a long breakfast this morning with a friend who needed to talk. A married male she knows made physical advances to her. She rejected him, and he became angry, and rude in other ways. She placed some blame on herself for allowing him to think it might be appropriate to move on her in this way. I offered her my point of view, that the man is responsible for his own behavior when he hears the word no.

I know many men for whom I have profound respect. What I miss in their behavior is that they do not speak out, and I mean speaking out in a way that teaches.

My dad had a phrase to describe bad trouble: “Going to hell in a hand basket.”  I think that is a good description of what is happening in the world today.

So guys, that’s my take on what you are up against. I would be very pleased to hear any disagreements from men or women.



In the days of the draft any man could be called upon to demonstrate his courage. Not so these days.



Jennifer Senior on parenting

My family of origin was profoundly messed up. An alcoholic father, an uncle in prison, my brother’s suicide, a weak and docile grandfather, and chronic financial instability.

When I gained some independence I began a major study designed to (hopefully) accomplish the following:

  • Enable me to manage my emotional woundedness
  • Provide me with a perspective that would enable me to avoid repeating their errors and sins
  • Teach me to manage my profound sense of shame
  • Provide a compass that could help me find and recognize “normal”
  • Make a clear distinction between masculinity and the activities males in my family used as substitutes: drinking, chain smoking, fist fights, and sexual promiscuity
  • Discover what powerful women looked like, and how their value systems were different from mom’s
  • Learn to recognize the behaviors I had invented to keep my shame secret from people at school and elsewhere
  • Release the false bonds I had imposed on my personality in order to support my need for secrecy

I recently discovered Jennifer Senior. She gave a profound TED Talk that is extraordinarily valuable, and deliciously wonderful.

My research in books, workshops, counseling, and other avenues of study has resulted in a knowledge in this field that is far above average. I have also watched the decline of parenting skills over the last 50 years. I will let Robert Bly explain it. He does so much better than I do.

During the nineteenth century, grandfathers and uncles lived in the house, and older men mingled a great deal. Through hunting parties, in the work that men did together in farms and cottages, and through local sports, older men spent much time with younger men and brought knowledge of male spirit and soul to them.

The old men initiators, by contrast, conveyed to boys some assurance that is invisible and nonverbal; it helped the boys to see their genuine face or being.

On being seriously weird

MaskI want to be serious about being weird. I’ll get to that point after a slight digression.

I have expressed my condolences to the F word previously in this blog. It will not be allowed to rest in peace. The torment will continue as the word is inserted randomly into Facebook posts and elsewhere.

We lost awesome long ago. Its root meaning is admiration blended with fear. Jumping out of an airplane wearing a parachute is awesome, at least for a beginner. Tonight’s dessert is not awesome.

Epic once referred to the scale or magnitude of an adventure, something so big it forced us to question our own pettiness.

Another word that frequently gets sand thrown in its face is weird. For many people it has vague associations with evil, or at least with being an unfortunate distortion of what is true. Other people associate the word with independence of thought and action, and to them it is a badge of courage.

I suspect that most people who use the word alternate between these vague interpretations.

We cannot really afford to lose the word weird because so many other words in its general category are declining in vigor.

For example, the word myth has retained its validity in the textbook sense, but it means nothing to people emotionally. We no longer see ourselves as players in one or more myths. Instead we say we got a bad deal, or we think we need to make some trivial improvement such as not letting dirty dishes sit in the sink so we will be worthy of that which we seek.

Community has little meaning. The whole collection of words related to fate and destiny have been diluted by promotional people who want us to think that a positive attitude and a broad grin will enable us to be rich and popular like them.  They want us to think that unseen forces are an invention of desperate minds.

The dictionary more or less dodges the challenge of defining weird. The closest it comes is to say that weird means different from what I am accustomed to in a way that triggers discomfort in me.

Here are a few things that I consider to be weird using that definition: Titan missiles, Froot Loops, most television programs, high school, all advertisements on television, magazines that profit from publishing advice intended to shrink the reader’s self-confidence, invading other nations, and pornography.

As I mentioned recently in this blog meditation triggers discomfort in me. It brings my awareness to the chaotic churning mental and emotional residue inside me, and the recollections I find there are definitely weird. This does not mean I turn away from meditation.

Men have no path left to access their inner hero, and no way to talk about wanting to do so. Chocolate pudding is now awesome. A night on the town is now epic.

In the search for their own magnificence some people practice downward facing dog at the yoga studio. That will not be sufficient.

I believe we need to know what weird means in the context of our own experience. We also need to decide if epic and awesome have any real meaning for us.