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The Unexamined/Unlived life

… especially if the life was never truly lived

If life was only a dreary existence in a tedious job, bereft of passion and imagination… Would it really be worth living?

And yet..

Here I am.

Re-begin the Beguine

A lesson in failure and just how much misery one is willing to accept and tolerate. The fact that I never followed through on this post is testament to the amount of failure I am willing to endure. I never really understood the phrase, “you can lead a horse to water but you can’t make him drink” until now. The horse has to want it. And until you want it you won’t do it, and you won’t want it until it becomes priority. Quite the commentary on my priorities isn’t it?


I have been loath to write this particular blog as it highlights the fact that I failed the first time.

One thing about life is that it’s always in flux, always changing, never really settled. Sometimes I feel that life is a series of attempts at nailing Jell-O to the wall. Case in point, my battle with the bulge.  7 years ago (8 now) almost to the day I started a fitness routine and I was very motivated. I worked very hard at it and I’d lost almost 80 lbs but… I then I ended up losing the battle, I lost my motivation.. I lost my will… I lost. And in losing I gained everything bad back and then some.

7 years ago I started off at 322 lbs, it was bad… really bad, I had let myself go and I really didn’t realize in how bad of shape I was. I vowed that I would never let myself go there again… It’s amazing how well we lie to ourselves.  We tell ourselves we will, or we won’t do something and then turn around and do the very thing that we vowed we wouldn’t.  Today, I weigh in at 342.5 lbs.

Somewhere along the journey I fell into self-sabotage. I remember reading about self-sabotage, somebody said that self sabotage takes place because there’s some some conflict, some issue in our lives that is causing us pain or suffering and we know that we should do something about it but we don’t therefore we react at a subconscious level, sabotaging ourselves in other areas of our life. An intriguing idea to be sure. But, no matter why,  I had begun a serious campaign of self-sabotage against my efforts to lose weight and get in shape. It killed my motivation and eventually, as with most things in my life, I quit… again.

I’m not saying this to necessarily beat myself up over it, it’s just stating facts.

So, why do we do the things that we do? I believe that we act out of either a great desire to make a change, or fear, or we just become so miserable that we I have no other option. I would like to think that I am acting out of a deep desire to become healthy and and get in shape, but the reality is this time around it’s the misery Factor. I have become so miserable in my own body that I’ve got to do something.

The thing about losing weight and getting in shape is that it’s never done. It’s a doing that will never be done because when you stop doing then you’re done.

Islands

John Donne said “No man is an island.”
I submit we have become just that, individual islands.
We are not self sustaining islands but islands nonetheless. More and more we insulate and isolate ourselves. The more we detach from others, the more we see others as a threat at worst, an inconvenience at least. The farther we draw away the easier it becomes to shut others out. It’s a spiral.
It’s a designed spiral.

The less we are around people the easier it is to dehumanize them. Once we start down that path we are lost. And I fear that in America these days we are a long way down that path already.

As Sparks Fly Upward

There are many truths that we take for granted each day but we still rely on them to remain true. We rely on the sun breaking the Eastern horizon every morning and bringing us light for a new day. We rely on gravity to keep us grounded but not so excessively that we are not able to move around. We rely on our senses to tell us something is hot, cold, wet, sharp, painful, sweet or sour, odorless or putrid. We trust when we feel “heat” something may burn us. When we feel rain, we know we are going to get wet.

 

There are other truths that we recognize regarding our feelings and emotions. Love, hate, indifference, foreboding, happiness, Joy, and justice. These are the intangibles that we call intuition, gut feeling, or our inner voice. We know something is wrong but we don’t know why. We sense someone is insincere but we can’t put our finger on it. We connect with someone almost immediately and we call it chemistry. Each of these are real and true even if we can’t give a tangible reason of proof.

 

Some of these intangibles are the anchors in life. Love, beauty, Faith, justice, hope and friendship: these are defining factors in our lives. I would even say they are life-sustaining. Life can become very dark for us all some times, and at times it can become totally blackened. Wars, depression, death, destruction, natural disasters, all of these try the human soul and spirit. I have often said that such times and circumstances bring out the true character in each of us. As the song goes, “I see your true colors shining through.”

 

The bullys will bully still. The takers will be takers with a vengeance. The fearful will cower and jump at every shadow. The manipulators will make full use of the opportunity to gain advantage for themselves. The haters will hate even more and look for someone to blame. But…

 

…But, there will always be those who find the light and shine it all around them for others so that it isn’t quite so dark. The giver’s, the helpers, the peacemakers; for in these we see love, beauty, faith, justice, hope, and friendship. Truth and light that we can rely on in our darkest hours. 

The Power of Touch

The power of human touch

I never thought that I would see the day we were under a pandemic. My generation has been the one that has made movies about pandemics, written scores of books, produced hundreds of TV shows about outbreaks, zombies and Contagion, martial law and post-apocalyptic worlds never realizing that we would be the ones who would actually live through it.

This has been a real wake up for most people. All the things that we took for granted, things that we did just out of automated response, we can no longer do. Places we can no longer go, things that (in order to keep from inadvertently spreading the virus to others) now we can no longer participate in.

Take for example the handshake. It’s a simple gesture, yet it’s one of the most powerful things in the universe: a human touch. Because of quarantine, or social distancing if you will, we can no longer shake hands, we can no longer hug and for those of us who are tactile oriented it hurts. There is something about human touch that has a power of its own… it’s healing, it’s human.

The hug: the hug is two human bodies in close proximity to one another exchanging energy and life. Hugs are healing, they’re restorative, they are life-giving. Yet here we are unable to get within six feet of one another in order to share the experience of being human for the time being.

Then there’s dancing: dancing is one of the most social activities known to man. It’s a time where we celebrate life. We celebrate with one another, we celebrate with movement, with companionship and socialization. Dancing is a time where we connect in a cultural setting that allows us to be more than we normally are, to participate in life through movement and music. Even the scriptures (contrary to Baptist doctrine) tells us that dancing fills the soul of mankind and is a form of worship…”And David danced before the Lord with all his might, wearing a priestly garment. So David and all the people of Israel brought up the Ark of the Lord with shouts of joy and the blowing of rams’ horns.”

And finally the kiss: whether it’s on the cheek or on the lips the kiss is one of the ultimate shared human experiences. Kiss is one of the most intimate expressions of feeling between two people, especially lip kissing. It’s that proximity of face-to-face interaction completely invading another person’s space and you allowing them into yours. Specifically, they have allowed you into theirs at such an incredibly intimate level, that is so close, it conveys more than just casual acquaintance it says they have given you access to their being at a VIP level.

So, here we are, living in days where we have become islands in and of ourselves by necessity. Doing so in order that we don’t infect one another. Hoping and praying that soon we’ll once again be able to reach out and touch one another in these meaningful ways. Hoping to restore that human contact, that human interaction, which means so much to us … as humans.

Will We Ever Learn?

So I’m wondering if we will learn from all this.
That no life is any more… Or any less than the next.
That sanctity of life applies to all…
Or it applies to none.
If we mourn the entertainer more than the homeless, if we care more about the million dollar athlete than the frontline care givers….
Then we are hypocrites of the worst order.

I pray we learn the lesson as a people.
I pray that our sudden desire to protect all life doesn’t dwindle after our fear of the unknown is passed and we begin to imagine that we have death under our control again.

The Little Houses

As a young child growing up in the 60s there were things that excited me.
The drive-in theaters, car hops, Christmas (yes Ebeneezer Grinch was excited by Christmas as a child), Easter, July 4th, Thanksgiving (in fact all the holidays), my birthdays, School, summer vacation , Vacation Bible School, Ice Cream trucks, Baseball games at Ernie Shore Field, The Dixie Classic Fair, and just riding in the car with my family, while perched on the “hump,” elbows on the back of the front seat, and watching the world go by through the front windshield.  (back before the government found the revenue stream in  mandatory seat-belt laws)  Times were simpler and there was still a little wonder and awe left in the world.

This was back in the day before the lawyers and licensing fees killed using nationally recognized characters in local advertising runs.  You can see a nod to that in the movie, “A Christmas Story” where the “Wonderful World of OZ” characters get in a tiff with Mickey Mouse and Disney Characters in the Parade.   In the 60s you could see plenty of it in local advertising. It was a tit-for-tat where the local guy got some recognition from using a nationally known character and the parent company got free publicity for their characters which they re-released every eight or nine years.   Which brings us to the item at hand.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs was re-released in 1967.  I was 4 years old at the time and I don’t remember if I saw it at the Drive-in or the indoor theater.  But it was about that time that the houses, and plywood cut-outs of Snow White and the Dwarfs showed up in a clearing at the corner of Silas Creek Pkwy and Reynolda Rd. I remember I would get so excited to see them when we drove out that way.  Eventually  it became a yearly Christmas tradition for our family to go drive by and see the little houses decked out for Christmas.  There was a Blue house, a Yellow house, I believe a Red on and a Green one?? or maybe one of them was white?  Any-who, it was a landmark in Winston-Salem in the late 60s – early 70s.

This past fall I caught a glimpse of  them one day when driving down Reynolda Road and told myself I needed to stop in and document what I could before they were torn down or completely rotted away. Today I made it a point to stop and go take some pics.  I parked over in Reynolda Village and crossed Reynolda Road at one of the busiest times of the day but it didn’t matter,  I was on a mission to visit a piece of my childhood 46 years after the fact.

 

It was surreal as I stood there looking at the little houses that had so fascinated me as a little boy.  As I took photos the memories of those drive by encounters with the houses and  characters I had seen as a child kept flooding my memories. Now, here I was visiting them for the first time almost a half century later.  I was a bit shocked, and excited to see one lone character still keeping guard over the little buildings, a Christmas choir boy.  It was as if live wire was laid across my memories recharging them and given them new life.  There he was, just as I remembered the Christmas scene from so long ago.  I did not disturb him.  I merely captured him for posterity.

 

These days, I find myself reminiscing more and more.  I have more days behind me than I do ahead and my mind seeks refuge from the  storms of modernity.  I know I can’t go back but I find comfort in the past… my past.  Times were just a bad, but our response to them was different.  I wasn’t old enough at the time to  understand Viet Nam, the Civil Rights movement, and the sexual revolution.  I only knew my family and the good times we shared in taking a simple drive every so often to view and to share in the  art of someone’s handiwork, who had created a visual fantasy that a small boy found joy in seeing… and an old man enjoyed finally meeting face to face.

Politics

Tonight I did something I’ve never done before on social media, I lost it and went off on a rant. I’m so tired of the selective memory and selective outrage from everyone about everything.  And I’m afraid that is what the social engineers are hoping for in order to further divide and tear down our society.   I fear the damage is already done and we are on the edge of the collapse of American culture.

For years we have been pitted against one another, black on white on brown on red on yellow … male v female, old v young, haves v have-nots, Republicans v Democrats, Atheists v Christian, Muslim v Christian,   everyone v Christian.  Christian v Christian.  You name it, if you can put a label on it then they are against someone or someone is against them.  And we just sat back and let it happen. We as a people were more worried about our comfort, our ease or our entertainment, our statuses, our … mundane crap.  We let it happen to us.

Edward Bernays pegged it right in his book “Propaganda“:
The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country.
      We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of. This is a logical result of the way in which our democratic society is organized. Vast numbers of human beings must cooperate in this manner if they are to live together as a smoothly functioning society.

That’s hard to hear but one only need look at our society these days.   Social media has already been caught experimenting with the social media networks so it is not some conspiracy theory or theoretical fantasy. We have all fallen victim of our own personal biases and with the ubiquitous tool of social media we want to proselytize as many other to our way of thinking as we possibly can.  Of course each of us believe that we are in the right and that we are the open minded ones… therefore we cannot be wrong.

I feel it may be time to leave social media for an extended sabbatical.  I can see that I have been affected by the constant barrage of social network activism from both sides.

The war is upon us.

We have met the enemy

…and he is us.

 

You can’t go home

It was like going back in time, that’s only the 2nd time I’ve been back there in 38 years.  The memories were so thick I couldn’t process it all, I was overwhelmed. Standing there on the soil that had shaped so much of my childhood.   I could hear the sounds of days gone by, smell the hot dogs cooking at the snack bar, hear the banter on the fields, feel my cleats digging in at the plate, the pitch, the swing, the ring of my favorite old red, aluminum bat as it made contact,  the feel of it, knowing I got all of that one as I head down the line towards first.  So many Saturdays were spent on those fields. I got choked up seeing they honored my old coach, Bob Dalton, by naming the complex after him.

So many memories both good and bad flood my head.  The feelings that accompany those memories are coming at me to fast to process.   I stand there under the now giant oak trees and remember they were only saplings back then.   My dad stood along the fence over there and…  I have to leave before I start crying.  Everyone knows there’s no crying in baseball.  phillips-bridgeIt’s all I can do to choke back the memories, and the emotions that accompany them.

To my son, I apologize for being so damned selfish, and disguising it as righteous holier-than-thou religious bullshit in not allowing you to have the memories I have from playing baseball. I hope you can forgive such a selfish old man.

A Crap Load of Epiphanies

Ever have an epiphany?
I just did, I had a freaking crap storm of them.
It just dawned on me that in my youth I never expected to live to see my 35th Birthday so I never planned on anything after that. Nothing.
Zip, ziltch, nada.
No financial plan, no career plan, no retirement plan. Just work until I die… so, according to my original calculations I should have not made it to 35. Then my adjusted calculations said I’d never make 45 since my dad died at 44. Yeah, that came and went as well. The final calculations begin this year when I hit 54, the same as as my Grandfather when he died. (and please, nobody give me the whole “it’s in God’s hands” spiel. I know it as well as anyone because I’m still freaking here)
Yep, here I am. Here I am…indeed.
Funny how life doesn’t go according to plan eh?
Epiphany #2 is this: If things are never going to change.. why waste the effort in attempting to make a change? (and please spare me the the self-help, self actualizing crap about, “Only YOU can prevent forest fires” philosophy. Nope, don’t believe that any longer either.)
Time is not on my side, there is more behind me now than there is in front of me, and all the best is in the rear view. There may be some good days here and there in what’s ahead but, it will be neither quantity nor quality and that’s just the facts. That’s not pity talking, it is reality. And that was Epiphany #3.

So, here’s to the days ahead. I know not what they bring. I’ll face them one at a time, and make the most of what is left, with what I have left. A job (yeah ,yeah, yeah… I’m thankful for it… but I hate it) that sucks the joy out of me. A neglected body that will probably never recover from the damage done to this point. And an attitude (and PLEASE don’t lecture me about attitude and how I can change it! I’ve lived with it this long so I’m f-ing comfortable with it.) I tried to reprogram for the past four years and I’m just tired of trying. Life’s too short to eat crab legs… too much effort and not enough reward. Just do what is comfortable and hope for the best.

And that’s it for now.  I’m just weary, bone freaking weary.