Where In the World Have You Been? A Man Cold is Where!

It’s been a while. But I can explain. I got sick with this reoccurring crud that I get. It started, oh, about three weeks ago. I’ve shaken it now but it kept me laid up for a bit. I didn’t have the energy or will to write. I barely had the will to go on living. It was a man cold! And man colds are extremely painful and dangerous for us men folk.

It was touch and go around here for many days. I didn’t think I was going to pull through but my wife ensured me I was fine. I’ve discovered that when I’m on my death bed, which happens about four times a year, my wife likes to give tough love and strong words of encouragement to motivate me to go on living. For example, she likes to ignore my complaints or my cries for help. She’s like a mamma bird. I can’t imagine a mamma bird finding the task of dumping her nest so that her babies learn to fly, as something she looks forward to. But she does it because she loves them. I think that is why my wife ignores me when I’m sick. She loves me.

Another thing. Every one of our thermometers is worthless. I demanded my wife go and buy some new ones that actually work. I know my body and my body told me I was running a 112-degree fever. The thermometer, being broken and all, consistently showed I was running a temperature between 97 and 98 degrees. Don’t trust thermometers. They only work on babies. Throw them away and trust what your body and mind is telling you. If your body and mind is telling you are running fever, trust what it says and add two degrees on top for good measure.

Additionally, the sickness traveled south starting from my head, to my throat and lungs and finally down to my lower back. I was dumbfounded as to how my back came into this. But I’m certain it was from being sick, as our bodies tend to react accordingly. My wife said she was certain it was the result from me lying in the bed and on the couch for several days. I consider that a coincidence more than anything.

At any rate, you can judge for yourself that I pulled through. I am thankful for that.

Can You Supersize Me?

Nothing is so important to a man as his own state, nothing is so formidable to him as eternity; and thus it is not natural that there should be men indifferent to the loss of their existence…

– Blaise Pascal Pensées

“Where ever you go, there you are.” Not the most eloquent words ever written but truth has little regard for dressed up trappings. Truth likes to get to the point. If you find out you don’t like Truth’s company, you shouldn’t have gone a’knockin.

Truth will tell you pointed things such as this: “Son, don’t look at me for an explanation. In life if you’re gonna be dumb, you gotta be tough.”

I suspect Truth is stately in appearance, wise, and speaks in careful and measured sentences. He probably has a hint of sadness around the eyes. I can imagine the burden of always being right may be a little troubling for anyone.

I’m amused and admittedly captivated by our options in today’s world. We have engineered a society built on expediency, upgrades, and change. Everyone is in search for something but after interpreting our societal calamities, it seems we rarely find anything. That doesn’t stop many of us from pursuing chance in the hopes it becomes reality, however. Of course, when we fail in doing so, or rather when reality does its thing, some of us become despondent and feel cheated.

It was us who tried to cheat, though. We tried to uncreate what has already been given to us based from our own potential and good chance, and then tried to recreate a new reality for ourselves. It is a phenomenon that is as perplexing as it is widespread. More importantly, Reality never stands for this nonsense from mortal men.

This isn’t to say we are lost or doomed. We’ve only forgotten the wonderful examples that came before us, and ignore the ones who are here. This country, and mankind in a larger context, is full of self-made men. Do you know their secret? I’ll tell you. They didn’t go off in search of a contrived reality. They understood their true nature and developed their talents. They didn’t need to change reality or attempt to cheat fate, they became their actual being, a fully mature representation of their external self.

They understood the rules. They let time and effort play to the development of their talents. As result they came as close to winning as anyone else who ever lived. I say “close” because there are no known survivors in the game of life. But that’s best left for another post.

Why the Urge to Read?

Marilyn Monroe and Ulysses

During the 1950s, the pioneering photojournalist Eve Arnold took a series of portraits of Marilyn Monroe. The now iconic photos generally present Monroe as a larger-than-life celebrity and sex symbol. Except for one. In 1955, Arnold photographed Monroe reading a worn copy of James Joyce’s modernist classic, Ulysses. It’s still debated whether this was simply an attempt to recast her image (she often played the “dumb blonde” character in her ’50s films), or whether she actually had a pensive side. (Her personal library, catalogued at the time of her death, suggests the latter.)

To learn, of course. Knowledge and ideas have been preserved and shared for centuries from books. Books also gives an escape to life, to explore and discover new worlds, and old lives outside of our own.

Life is sometimes hard to navigate and the never ceasing strain in an attempt to, leaves one exhausted with reality. Just as our minds crave stimulation and  a sense of accomplishment, they also need an escape.

If you want to learn about a person, look to their hobbies. If you want to learn about the individuality of a person, look at their bookcase.

Reading is far more than a function between the eyes and brain.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McRae, 1915

Did I Ever Tell You I Met Donald Rumsfeld?

I did. That’s  me standing there with him. I don’t really look like that. I have a normal face in real life. I met him at a party through an author I know. I met some other folks you’ve seen on TV but meeting Mr. Rumsfeld stood out our for a couple of reasons. I’ll share with you why I said that.

First, the old cliche never judge a book by its cover (or the character of a person according to someone else) applies here. I expected a much different man. I wish I could elaborate more what I mean by that but I’m failing to come up with an explanation. I just expected something different. Perhaps more along the lines of my idea of him based on what I read and was told. You know, authoritative, distant, maybe even a little cold. The technocrat Washington lifer.

Well, he thoroughly upset those assumptions. The person I met was very sweet, small, warm and a friendly elderly gentlemen. He was so happy to make my acquaintance and to know a little about me. I told him I served under him when he was Sec. of Defense and shared briefly with him a little about my military career. He took my hand and clasped it in both of his and told me thank you. “I’m glad you made it home safely. I asked a lot of you and others like you. ” He sounded and acted just like a proud grandfather.

There were a few other nice exchanges but none of which come to my mind. I asked for a picture and he was more than willing to do it. Later in the evening I tracked him down to say good bye. He demanded to see the picture. After he was satisfied with the quality, he gave me back my camera. I honestly think if the picture wasn’t good enough, he would have taken another one with me.

I’m pretty good at judging people. I know when I’m meeting the real you or not. I’m certain I met Donald Rumsfeld that night.

What Will You Be Doing on Tuesday, November 6th?

Well tomorrow is the big day. It’s my birthday! Nah, just kidding. Tomorrow is Election Day and we’ll all, well probably half of us, will head to the polls and vote for a new king.

The loser will thank everyone for their support and then tell them to support the man he’s spent a year telling the truth about. The winner will do the same thing.

Neither candidate took it personal but they made sure the voters did. They needed your fear, hatred, and suspicion of the other side.

So after tomorrow the ads will come down and we can stop being skeptical of strangers we meet. The impulse to rear end the car in front of you with all those bumper stickers will not be so strong. Maybe you’ll re-friend your conservative or liberal friend on Facebook.

The kings can stop pretending they know what’s going on. One will go home and the other to the White House. You and I will be convinced we actually had the power to change an outcome. Perhaps even change the course of our country. The winner will tell you so and thank you profusely.

He’ll make us feel like we hired him, vetted him, and appointed him for the job. Really, though, he hired us to get him there. We just weren’t aware of it.

These words are amusing, and, yet, cleansing for me. I would never utter these words outside my little cabin. I’m a political man as I mentioned in my About Me page. I know all the polls and can tell you with a high degree of probability how each state will fall. I can give you anecdotal evidence that polls don’t necessarily project. Yes, I have a dog in this hunt too. I have a high level of confidence my dog will win this race.

I wish it mattered in the end though. Since it doesn’t, I might as well take the opportunity to be honest about it all.

The Coincidence Cavalry Is Riding At Our Heels

I’ve been thinking about the value of things lately. Most things we consider valuable is the value we give it or the belief in those who set it for us. We value our cars, homes, appliances and all the comforts that come with modernity. We do after all rely on these things everyday. In this sense, I suppose they are valuable and worth obtaining. However, at what point do we begin to depend so much on them that they become an absolute necessity? Instead of contributing to our life as designed, when do they start controlling it?

Just observe the ipad and iphone crazes or when the latest sneakers come out. People will camp outside of stores just so they can be the 400th person in the door. I read a story a year or two ago about a South Korean kid, or maybe he was from Japan, who sold his kidney so he would have the money for the latest playstation. I’ve read stories since the financial collapse where men blew their brains out because they lost their investments and 401K. Some even killed their family before doing it.

Have we become nothing more than the sum of our gadgets, gizmos, appliances, and checking accounts? How can a nation with so much, want more? The latest version. New and improved. Bigger, faster, better. We are on a constant quest to get more stuff.

Those poor people in the northeast lost their stuff. Now they just want to be warm, fed, and secure. Undoubtedly some have lost all hope and perhaps abandoned life. Their identity and livelihood came from their possessions. Others are thankful to be alive. Thankful that yesterday has passed. Thankful they are one day closer to recovering and getting on with their lives. Thankful that heart of theirs is still ticking.

It’s written in the book of Luke “for where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

I don’t know much about the future but I know one day the Coincidence Cavalry will catchup to me. They’ll come to collect. My party, my easy life, will be interrupted.

It’ll go about like this.

CC: You’ve been living well.

Me: Yes I have, thank you. Worked hard for it, too. This life thing isn’t so hard.

CC: Hard? Life is nothing but coincidences running wild inside a timeframe. And you’ve been borrowing a lot of that time. That’s why we’re here.

Me: I’m sorry?

CC: We’re the Coincidence Cavalry. See our uniforms. We’re here to collect.

Me: But there must be some mistake. I’m one of the good guys.

CC: Good, bad, or indifferent, all share the same fate. It’s already been determined. Did you really think this stuff was yours forever?

Me: I don’t know if I can handle what is about to happen to me.

CC: Not our concern. You’re just a name on our list. But let us ask you this: What were you before you had all this stuff?

Me: I don’t know…I guess I was me. You know, the same person as I am now.

CC: Ah. There it is. It’s not like you always had this stuff then.

Me: No.

CC: Then what’s so different now?

*I write these words from my Mac notebook, using super high speed internet while checking the stats of my NFL fantasy team (losing).

I Recommend Boxing for Anyone

There are only a few things I love more than my personal down time. I’ll use it to read a book or surf the web for a source I need. I’m constantly researching and absorbing figures, facts, dates and outcomes. I may not particularly need any of them at the time but once they are locked inside my brain, there’s usually no escape. It’s a good place to be should I ever need them.

I’m not big on logic puzzles or crossword puzzles. I don’t consider any of that worth my time. I’m just not interested in that stuff. My mind stays active in other ways. I am a topic/subject thinker. I start there then work my way inward to the nuances of something. In other words, I like to start off with a very general concept, perhaps a question, and then categorically assemble my case. Naturally, this approach leads me deeper into research, compiling data, and delivering that data as a finished product. The only way the product can come about, though, is to write.

People who are scared of writing don’t understand the process behind writing. Writing is really the last step in research. Yes, you read that correctly. Writing is proof of your knowledge, claims, and conclusions. It’s necessary only because of that. But only you can present those things, no one else can do it like you. And the only way to do it is to get to know your subject first. Learn all you can. In other words, get really comfortable about your subject to the point where you can promptly deliver a summation about it while folding your laundry or driving your car down the road.

When you can do that, you’re there. All that’s left is to start putting those thoughts into words. You’ll notice writing becomes a lot easier, much less of a task. Additionally, that’s how you develop your own voice. Consider the importance of that when you are writing about something that’s been written about for a hundred years.

Let me tell you something else that’s good for the mind – getting punched in your head. Boxing delivers the goods in so many ways. If you want to box, you have to be disciplined. I mean it, no half measures. You need to train at least four days out of the week. Work on footwork, hand speed, combinations, endurance drills and conditioning. (The last two are essential, and, unfortunately, the most grueling). This is a lot like research. You are studying the movements, strategies, and fundamentals of the game. You are becoming an expert, so to speak. Much like having a library or internet access, you’ll need to find a gym to do all these things properly though.

In addition, you have to be mentally focused during each workout. The kind of training boxers go through requires constant movement with very little rest in between sessions. It’s very tiring and painful. If you are not mentally prepared before hand, it will make a quitter out of you. Moreover, you’ll train a notch below everyone else and too many of those kind of training sessions, you’ll fight a notch below everyone else, too. Trust me, you don’t ever want to fight a notch below the other person.

Don’t worry about the hardships and aches and pains. The body craves this. It desires nothing more than to be pushed and challenged. You’ll drop weight, lose fat, but your muscles will become lean and strong. The body knows what it must do to answer the challenges you are presenting it. It only asks for you to move out of its way so it can.

The mind will catch up slowly and when it finally does, you’ve turned your final corner. Seemingly it will happen over night. Both your mind and body will be in sync and you’ll be faster, stronger, and more explosive than ever before. At this point, the two can go for hours. Trust me. As for actually fighting or sparring someone, it’s much like writing. It’s the proof of all your dedication, training and conditioning. But it’s necessary if you wish to make your claims and deliver your final product.

The key to success is understanding the process. And as you can see, that goes for any two subjects.

There’s Always Time For Stargazing

I don’t know exactly where I am going. Maybe I’ll go west of here to see the fall colors and some mountains. I’m not yet sure if I’ll rent an RV, pack up the family, and drive to a good park with the perfect scenery for a few nights. I may just find a cabin and reserve it. Either way, I’m headed out of here. I’ll take a few books with me I’ve been meaning to read. Maybe I’ll get around to reading them and maybe I won’t. It won’t hurt my feelings if I don’t get a chance to. That will mean there were other things worth seeing and doing.

I sometimes compare nature to a close family member. You can go months without seeing them. Sure you miss them but at the same time you know they are still there, and one day you’ll meet up again. It’s when you do finally meet up again, however, is that when you realize just how much you have missed. And then at other times, the longer you stay a way the easier it becomes.

I miss the stars. I remember growing up, I could look up at almost any time during the night and see a sky full of stars. They were so bright it was hard to imagine it could actually be nighttime. I guess naturally since I like stars, I should like shooting stars. I do. Catching a glimpse of one excites me. I can remember the last time I saw one. I was at my best friend’s house who still lives in the same town we grew up. It was 2006 (I know because I was getting deployed) and we were in his backyard talking as we usually do when I go home to visit. I was pointing out a few constellations (I’m pretty sure he didn’t care) and then we were treated with two of them, one after the other. The last one split clean in two.

I looked over at him, winked, and said, “I knew we were going to see a shooting star. That’s why I had us looking up.” I was telling him the truth.

I don’t remember what he said in response. Probably something along the lines of, “did you?”

My friend, by the way, has the same first name as me. We’ve been best friends since Kindergarten.

At any rate, here it isn’t quite like that. My son received a little telescope for Christmas last year. I took him outside to show him how to use it. We spotted a couple of stars, but only a couple. Being they were very close together, I tried to focus in on them thinking our chances better, but the surrounding lights were too bright. Our attempt at capturing the moon was only slightly better. The artificial lights on the ground were too bright to allow in the light from above.

I guess it would be fair to mention the telescope we were using wasn’t something you would find at an observatory. Still, I expected a little more. Doesn’t matter now. Being five and all, he broke it a few weeks later.