Fate, Chance, and Choices

Blackbird singing in the dead of night
Take these broken wings and learn to fly
All your life
You were only waiting for this moment to arise.

Blackbird by John Lennon & Paul McCartney

(Some thoughts on life and nature. Brought to you by the sacrifice of others we remember this Memorial Day)

A tiny baby blackbird, apparently fallen from its nest, drew my attention the other day. One of the adult birds, male or female I could not tell but I assumed it was the mother, attended to the little guy on the ground. I couldn’t tell if it was a scolding or an encouragement to stay brave, so I continued to watch.

Nature and Life

The adult flew off, leaving the little guy hopping and fluttering on the ground, unable to fly and pleading for its mother to return.

Often the drama of nature is right before our eyes. It is not where you look but when. I just happened to look at the moment this drama unfolded.

My first instinct was to do something. Return it to the nest, care for it until it could fly. My wife and daughter often tease me about my need to help. They say I am a boy scout. In many ways, they are correct. Something inside me compels me to do something, even when I am uncertain of what to do.

Like the case of a bird fallen from a nest and the reality of nature.

I struggled with the choice but decided I should let fate and nature take its course. The stark reality of life, and its ultimate logic, is if you can’t fend for yourself, you perish. Nature is not cruel, it is not heartless; it is agnostic to survival.

Some live, some die.

But I was still troubled by not doing anything to help a fellow living creature.

Perhaps it is not that nature is indifferent about life, about who or what lives or dies. Perhaps nature knows life is a continuity of existence that goes on forever. Whether we have self-determination—free will—to live our lives or whether it is all pre-destination, in the end, doesn’t really matter. Life preceded us, and life will continue after us.

As it would for this little guy.

In this case, the boy scout won out, and I captured the little guy, returning him to his nest. For the rest of the day, the two adults took turns calling to the little one who answered back but clung firmly to a branch just outside the nest.

If he chose not to fly, or could not, he would perish, and other living creatures would feed off his body. If he flew off, he might live a long life. I will probably never know if my interceding extended his life for just a moment or if he is now enjoying the freedom of flight.

If someday hence, I come out to find evidence of a bird’s excretions on my windshield, I’ll take it as a sign that while his life may or may not have continued, life does.

I hope the little guy gets to leave his mark on many windshields and flies long and far under a warm summer sky.

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In Every Moment Lies Opportunity

“The pessimist complains about the wind; the optimist expects it to change; the realist adjusts the sails.”

William Arthur Ward

We have before us one of those moments in history where we face a great upheaval. Often such times are defined by war, ours results from evolution—a mutated virus.

Now in such times we have a choice. We can bemoan the social distancing and shelter-in-place measures necessary to limit the spread of the virus, or we can look for the opportunities within. Wailing and gnashing of teeth about how difficult this is does little to salve our discontent. Crying about the unfairness is a waste of effort. Ignoring the measures out of a selfish sense of inverted priorities is to threaten family, friends, and the whole of the nation.

As a wise woman was fond of saying, “Life’s not Fair.”  That wise woman was my mother and I know, were she alive today, if confronted with someone complaining about the situation would tell them to “get over it and stop acting like a two-year-old.”

Instead of focusing on what you can’t do, focus on the fact you have an opportunity—and the time — to do things that often get left aside in our 7X24 connected world.

Write a letter to a friend, relative, or perhaps a person in the service serving their country in a far-off place unable to be here with their family.

Read a book. Read a book to someone, even if they are far away, put Facetime or some other modern form of communication to a good use.

Take a class on-line.

Visit a zoo thru the wonders of webcams.

Go for a walk (if you can do so without coming closer the 6 feet from others)

Write that great American Novel everyone seems to want to do.

Listen to music. Really listen to music, not as background to your day, but to recapture the essence of why music “has charms to soothe the savage breast.” I find in moments of difficulties listening to the music of my youth is a tonic for the soul.

Write a song, write a poem, list the things you will do when the world recovers. And then do them when the opportunity arises.

Sit outside and look for shapes in the clouds.

Write a diary of these moments so, decades from now, you can remember the things you did and how you overcame any tendency to whine and complain.

Free your mind. Now is the time to awaken or reawaken the magic of imagination, of all things in this universe, it has no limit.

Stay well, stay in, stay safe.  This too shall pass.

An Inconvenient Truth

inconvenient [in-kuhn-veen-yuhnt]
not easily accessible or at hand.
Inopportune; untimely
not suiting one's needs or purposes.

Let’s keep our wits about us and put this in perspective. The reality of this pandemic is a serious, but manageable health risk. There are uncertainties, but this can be mitigated with simple common sense. Let’s leave the politics of blame until after the entire story is told.

Most of the effort will be little more than an inconvenience. Yet the reaction by many, from hoarding like it’s Armageddon to wailing and whining because they cancel sports events, underscores just how selfish a society we’ve become.

There will be many who will bear the brunt of the real burden, i.e. hourly workers, waitstaff, etc. those who most people never give a second thought to. For them it will be more than an inconvenience, but for the overwhelming majority of us that is what it will be.

An inconvenience.

There’s a meme making the rounds which says it best…

“Your Grandparents were asked to go to war, you’re being asked to stay home and sit on your couch. Calm down, Sweetpea!”

The virus is here. There is little we can do about that. But there are simple steps everyone can take to do their part and prevent the virus from spreading.

It may involve a whole two weeks of staying home. That’s a far cry from years away from home, without the instant communication of today’s world, fighting a war.

Sometimes circumstances require Americans to come together as a nation, now is one of them. Don’t just think of your own well-being, but consider the well-being of the nation.

That is American greatness, and that is how we will weather this storm.

Stay home, read (here is a convenient link for some Exceptional books to read (https://www.amazon.com/Joe-Broadmeadow/e/B00OWPE9GU.)

This too shall pass.

A Rising Tide

Hope for America

The hope of America lies not in her great history or in the resiliency of her people, but in the ability of our system of government to survive regardless of the level of quality in our leadership. The founding fathers understood this more than anything else; if you rely on just the good nature of most people you will leave a way for those with evil intent to thrive.

America is like a pristine beach; warmed by the sun with a gentle surf changing the shore in subtle but continuous ways.  Men such as Mr. Trump come along and build intricate sand castles that mesmerize those who cannot see their vulnerability.  They become enamored of the spectacle, ignoring the fundamental flaw in the foundation.

When the storm arrives, as it will, such structures last but a moment in the face of the onrushing waves. Yet the shore, with just the millions of grains of sand bound by a common purpose, not only survives but over time erases the remains of the turbulence.

We are now facing the storm of rising mistrust in America by the rest of the world. By the disdain of former allies abandoned by ill-considered policies based on a self-aggrandizing charlatan and his sycophantic minions. By opposing governments feeding the ego of the President to interfere in our elections with his consent. By the constancy of American resolve to bear any burden abandoned in the face of challenges we once welcomed.

The sand castle that is the Trump administration will not withstand the coming storm, a storm of outrage and disgust by the American people who see their country roiled in the minefields of racism, injustice, virtual foreign invasion, and nationalism.  The storm will sweep away the sand castle and the shores of America will bask in the sun of a powerful but considerate, wealthy but generous, and vigilant yet hopeful nation once again.

Just a Dog…

(A repost from 2 years ago.  People die all the time and I rarely think of them, but Max I remember quite often with a smile and a tear)

He was just a dog…

His official AKC registered name is Maximus Gluteus but we knew him as Max.

He died the other day, taken all too soon in an unexpected way. He seemed as full of life on his last day as when we first saw him a mere nine years ago.

Max arrived at the cargo facility at Logan airport from his birth state of Kansas. Wrapped in a kennel big enough for a Pitbull, he looked like an undersized rat.

We had found him online and brought him to be a companion for our other Yorkie, Ralph.

He exceeded all expectations becoming not just a companion to Ralph, but a true member of the family.

This memorial is not meant to be sad, although the sadness has enveloped us since he passed away, but to celebrate all he gave of his life to brighten ours.

He was just a dog…

He brought a joy of living to wherever he was. His life was full of experiences and fun.

He traveled on planes, becoming a Florida dog for a time

He climbed hills in Connecticut and mountains in New Hampshire

He chased seagulls on the beach, squirrels in the backyard, and hunted any creature that dare invade HIS home. Make no mistake, wherever he lived was his home.

He had a sense of humor.

A door accidentally left open gave him the chance the snatch an onion from the closet. Eating what he wanted and leaving the rest for my daughter to find when she returned from work.

Several days later, he pretended there was something in the same closet. Scratching and pawing at the door. My daughter opened it, expecting to find a mouse. Max dashed in, grabbed another onion and hightailed it under a table, out of reach. Enjoying his snack.

He never cared much for toys, unlike Ralph who hoarded them. Max did take delight occasionally taking one of Ralph’s toys and running away with it. He would find a place in the sun, put the toy down at his paws, and dare Ralph to try to take it back.

Made Ralph crazy.

Max had his faults. He had no social skills with other dogs. He would attack anything. It was more fury and show then teeth but it could be embarrassing.

This also showed he had no fear. He was a five-pound bundle of fur, barely the size of a rabbit, with the heart of a lion.

If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I can picture Max as a lion. Poised on rock, mane flying in the breeze, roaring to scare everything around him.

Max would love that.

He was just a dog…whose passing made me cry. Yet knowing him, laughing at him, or just holding and petting him made every tear worth it.

I will miss him as long as I live. The sadness of his passing will fade, his memory and joy for life will not.

He was just a dog…Max

 

The Tradition of St. Nick: Thoughts on a Christmas Eve

(Through the wonders of technology, on this first day of December 2017, I repost this blog from last year, all while absorbing the sun on an Aruban Beach.  Thoughts of Christmas to warm your hearts, if not your other parts)

IMG_0059

On September 21, 1897, the editor of New York’s Sun captured the spirit of Christmas with these words,

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus…”

Seven words with an unanticipated longevity to the truth they proclaimed. The answer to a question from an 8-year-old girl.

This 8-year-old girl, facing life’s reality, sort reassurance from the authority of a newspaper. Imagine the quandary facing that editor, tell the truth or chip away at innocence?

He demonstrated great wisdom. He told the truth. A truth that holds to this day.

“Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus…”

This is a spirit different than religious traditions. It is a non-denominational phenomenon crossing cultural boundaries and containing a powerful message.

It is easy to lose hope in this world. One begins to wonder if evolution has slowed when it comes to the humanness of humankind.

Or given up on us entirely.

Despite this I say, now more than ever, yes there is a Santa Claus. Even among those who hold no such traditions. The spirit lives in the commonality of our being human.

All we need is a willingness to give for the sake of giving. To seek our happiness by making others happy.

We can share the experience of watching the wonder in the eyes of a small child. See the spark of the spirit come alive and grow within them. Embrace the comfort of old friendships, the warmth of family, or just the companionship of a good dog (but never a cat.)

We all yearn to make others happy and feel the satisfaction of bringing joy to those we love. Or those we are yet to meet.

We can find solace in those same words; Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.

It is within us all. All we need do is open our minds.

So, no matter where your tradition comes from. Be it a generous caring man of a different era, proclaimed a Saint, and turned into the legend of Santa Claus. Or a celebration of another tradition with equal import to your memories. Whatever you celebrate, in this Christmas season and from here on, I wish for you;

To have no regrets except for things you didn’t do.

To never to be afraid of failing at anything, except failing to try.

To remember the past, but waste no time on it.

To look forward to the future, but understand you cannot control it.

To hold onto hope, no matter what.

To embrace your moments in this life, once past they can never be reclaimed.

To find what fills your heart with smiles and have it grow, like the Grinch’s, three sizes this day.

To find that childlike spirit long buried by the cares of the real world.

To let the shackles of growing up fall away.

To dance like Snoopy to the music of Schroeder.

To understand, like Linus, it is the spirit that matters.

To know there is always tomorrow for dreams to come true. Even on your last day on this earth, the dreams of those we leave behind live on.

To work for a future of a world filled with laughter.

To understand it is through our differences we share the commonality of being human.

To be a child again, if but for one moment. To hear the far-off sounds of jingling bells. To see a faint red light of a magical reindeer approaching in the cold winter sky. To feel the excitement at the footsteps of a jolly old man on the roof of your memories.

The best part of the Spirit of Christmas is it is within our power to keep it well all the rest of our days.

886707_10151795370048031_640391184_oHappy Christmas to all and to all a lifetime of good nights.

 

Is President Trump Channeling the Ghost of Huey Long?

Many rational people across the globe are trying to understand the Trump phenomenon. His manner and affectations offer little in the way of encouragement. Unless one believes building a wall and destroying years of social progress a good thing.

I recently came across a challenging book called,

Achieving Our Country: Leftist Thought in Twentieth-Century America

Author: Richard Rorty

Publisher Harvard University Press

1998

The book is not an easy read. In 1998, Rorty predicted the rise of an American strong man. He wrote,

“One thing that is very likely to happen is that the gains made in the past forty years by black and brown Americans, and by homosexuals, will be wiped out.

Jocular contempt for women will come back into fashion. … All the sadism which the academic Left has tried to make unaccept­able to its students will come flooding back. All the resent­ment which badly educated Americans feel about having their manners dictated to them by college graduates will find an outlet. …

After my imagined strongman takes charge, he will quickly betray the expectations of his supporters, make his peace with the international super-rich. … People will wonder why there was so little resistance to his evitable rise. Where, they will ask, was the American Left?

Why was it only rightists like [Pat] Buchanan who spoke to the workers about the consequences of globalization? Why could not the Left channel the mounting rage of the newly dispossessed?”

The words seem almost prophetic. In looking for similar pieces, I came across a novel by Sinclair Lewis called, It Can’t Happen Here.

One of the novel’s characters is Berzelius “Buzz” Windip, a politician who defeats FDR for the presidency. His campaign is based on fomenting fear and promising drastic economic and social reforms all to the backdrop of Patriotism and “traditional” values.

Things change after the election. He imposes a plutocratic totalitarian regime through a paramilitary force. The plot focuses on journalist Doremus Jessup’s opposition to the regime and his part in a liberal rebellion.

Critics connected the novel to Louisiana politician Huey Long who was preparing for a run for the presidency in 1936. Long was assassinated in 1935 just prior to the novel’s publication.

A time when America was resisting entanglement in the European turmoil leading to World War II.

History unveils the difficult decisions facing FDR. Americans were fearful of events in Europe. Such fears offered a politician such as the one in Lewis’s novel an opportunity to arise.

The fear of immigrants and refugees was powerful then and mirrored in our own time.

One of the little talked about aspects of the “Greatest Generation” is the rampant anti-Semitism that permeated American society. Once we entered the war, FDR had to balance the perceptions. He could not let our entry into the conflict appear to be a war to save the Jews.

There is much to be proud of in this country. The bravery and courage of the military, the resilience of Americans to bear any burden, and our past stands against injustice, yet we sometimes overlook the truths of history.

There will come a time when future generations take the measure of our actions. It would appear now that courage and determination to do the difficult and face down the enemy is sorely lacking.

As we face a new wave of innocent refugees, America must look them in the eye and choose. We can offer a beacon of hope with welcoming arms or the cold bayonet of fear.

Perhaps Americans need to step away from their insular iWorld and read a bit. It could be iOpening.

Santa’s Other List: Thoughts for the Twelve Days of Christmas

Most of us are familiar with the famous lists kept by Santa Claus. As children, we strive to be on the nice list.

As the hormones of puberty arise, we respond to our new-found sexuality. We live in hope that those we find attractive are on the naughty list. There is an irresistible draw to stray a bit.

Through parental intervention, shit luck, positive pregnancy tests, emergency room visits, or one too many rides in the back seat of a police car, most return from the dark side.

Or do we?

I think there is a third list.

The Numb List.

We become numb to the spirit that is Christmas.

We become numb to wonder, excitement, and hope.

We become numb to life in exchange for living.

When we are most suited to understand opportunity in our lives, we settle for becoming numb to the world.

We ignore injustices inflicted on others, if it has no effect on us.

We ignore the growing gap of the haves and the have nots, if we see ourselves content with our life.

We take offense at those who would cause us harm, yet stand idly by as others face harm.

We immerse ourselves in our iPhones, iPads, and iWorlds. Substituting email, tweets, and texts for human interaction.

Think about it. When was the last time you had a conversation with a friend? One that didn’t involve emoticons or videos of dogs riding on the backs of elephants?

I think the “I” in idevices stands for idiots. Or worse, impotent.

We’ve become “useful idiots” to our devices. They have made us impotent to making a difference in the world.

We are all on the numb list.

Numb to feeling any real emotion for our fellow humans.

Numb to the spirit of Christmas, or any other myriad traditions, that once were so important to us all.

Numb to being human beings, in a vast universe, open to unimaginable possibilities.

We are on the precipice of an unprecedented change in this country. We need to pay attention, lest we lose everything to ignorance and blustering intolerance.

Now is not the time to be numb. Now is not the time to be nice.

Now is the time for reclaiming hope. Yet, I fear it will go unheeded. The numb list is a comfortable place to be for most.

If that is the case, I prefer to rejoin the naughty list. Make noise in the presence of things that are wrong in the world.

Laugh with the sinners, not cry with the saints. At least they lived a life, not tolerated an existence.

And Yet a Silver Lining…

The last thing to come out of the box was hope. It flew away.”
Kurt Vonnegut, Timequake

flagFirst, let me do what my obligation as an American citizen compels me to do, offer my congratulations to President-elect Trump. While I did not vote for you, I accept the will of the people in selecting you as the 45th President.

I wish you well in your time in office. I hope you will recognize the obligation of trust America has placed in your hands to preserve this republic.

In every event, no matter how it may be perceived, there are both negatives and positives. In the case of this election, perhaps President-elect Trump will demonstrate to the American people where the true power of government resides, with Congress.

Despite years of trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, even with a Republican majority, Congress failed because enough members worked against it. That majority is one seat less today with another leaning Democrat.

Congress sets the budget. Congress controls the purse strings.

This may serve as a blunt, even dangerous, education for America with an inexperienced President wielding his limited powers against the vast experience of career politicians.

The repudiation of the establishment Mr. Trump touts as illustrating the frustration of Americans with this system did not carry to Congress. The overwhelming majority of incumbents were re-elected.

Perhaps, we will seize this time to impose term limits on all elected offices. Experience is important, entrenchment is counter-productive.

This was an election which offered two choices, jump off a cliff and take your chances on a survivable landing or stand your ground against a stampeding heartless carnivore who shows no remorse to those who stand in her way.

One aside, this campaign talked about character as a quality critical to a President. Yet, Ms. Clinton chose to go against a well-established tradition in this country. She declined to give a concession speech. I wonder, had the results been different, if she would ignore such a choice by Mr. Trump.

Neither were good choices. How this story ends remains to be seen.  That this country will persevere is unquestioned. What we will look like as a country in 4 years is the question.

Congratulations, Mr. Trump, take care of our country.

 

America’s Long Walk on a Short Pier

The America I know, the one that once served as a bright shining beacon to the world, is changing. Our headlong panic rush to insulate, rather than defend, ourselves from those that would do us harm is disheartening.

Talk of building walls, denying entry based on religion or origin, craving a national policy of carpet bombing without regard to innocents is not a solution. It is the easy way out. That is not America.

We are on a very long walk on a short pier.305880-pier

America was once the country who built piers to welcome those who seek the American dream. We stood greeting those looking for a better life. Yet now, because it is so easy to focus on those who misuse our welcome, we are throwing it all away.

When did we become so afraid of standing up for what is right, that we are willing to bury our head in the sand?

We bought into this ‘I’m being bullied nonsense’ and cry to our mommies. I know this may offend some people but you don’t run from bullies, or try to legislate them out of existence. You stand up to them.

It’s the only way to solve the problem. Time to recapture our pride and dignity.

Now, we are faced with a Presidential election. The campaign is a bunch of meaningless drivel, hurled by both sides, that offers no real solution, no intelligent analysis of the problem, and no real hope for change.

We are better than that. We deserve better than that. And yet, most of us just follow along like blind sheep lured by the aroma of fresh feed right into the slaughter house.

Instead of doing the hard work of identifying those who would misuse welfare, we punish the entire program.

Instead of doing the difficult task of bringing the fight to the enemy, we embrace politicians with no idea of the rules of engagement who see carpet bombing as a solution to end a philosophy. Innocent casualties be damned.

Instead of making the effort to understand the complex problems facing us, we engage in screaming matches that do nothing.

Instead of focusing on the logjam that is Congress, we scream and yell about useless Congressional hearings and speeches that capitalize on our ignorance.

Instead of embracing education, we dilute the standards then blame teachers for the results. Johnny can’t read and we do not care.

But there is still time.

There is time to remember that Congress holds the purse strings of America, not the President, and understand who holds the purse strings of Congress.

There is time to return to an America where holding public office meant doing public service not keeping it for life.

There is time, but it, like the end of the pier, is growing short.

I have noticed a troubling trend among the tattooed generation of Americans. I am noticing more and more individuals sporting a barcode tattoo on the back of their necks.

If we are not vigilant. If we do not wean ourselves away from chasing Pokémon. If we do not think instead of remaining mindlessly enslaved to our cell phones.

If we do not realize that we have stopped adding to the pier that is the American dream but continue to walk at our current pace, we will find ourselves at the end.

Those sporting this barcode tattoo may be a foreshadow of the American future.

Where once each new generation represented an addition to the treasure of America, our people, they may be reduced to nothing but inventory from a failed dream.

Think before we walk into oblivion.