Today I celebrate the nonconformist. The one who thumbs their nose at convention. The one who doesn’t follow the crowd. The one who blazes their own trail and never looks back. It is this sort of person who creates innovation and brings new ideas to life. Without the nonconformist the world would be a boring place indeed.
It is understandable to want to blend into the background. It is safe there. Away from attention and possible controversy, judgement or dislike. I’ve spent most of my life in the shadows hiding from the light. But that is a lonely existence hiding away behind a wall and not showing your true face to the world. You not only deprive yourself of the world, you deprive the world of yourself.
Don’t do this! Stand out and be proud for being yourself. As my friend and mentor Dr Seuss once proclaimed;
“Today you are You, that is truer than true. There is no one alive who is Youer than You.”
I often liken the world to a garden and people to flowers in that garden. Through diversity in nature we find strength and resilience. This reminds me of the Potato famine in Ireland in the 1840’s. One in eight Irish people died of starvation during this horrible famine. It was a lack of genetic variation in Irish potatoes that contributed to its severity when blight wiped out the potato crop in which the people’s diet was so dependent on. This devastated Ireland’s population and economy. Evolutionary theory tells us that relying on a mono-culture is a recipe for disaster.
When we are all the same, we as a people stagnate. New ideas are not formed and our garden of humanity is in danger of being wiped out when the inevitable crisis occurs and no new solutions can be found. I don’t think our culture encourages diversity of thought as much as it should. People are led to believe the fallacy that in order to get along we must conform to rigid social norms that leads to a group vs group mentality which in turn leads to exclusion, misunderstandings and unfortunately, at times…violence. They say that birds of a feather flock together and I see this time and time again.
Everyone has their own song to sing and each one is different and beautiful. We must learn to respect the songs of others and see the loveliness in our diversity. We must also see how valuable we all are to each other and know that everyone can contribute; not just those whose personal philosophies align with our own. Lastly we must learn to recognize our own wonderful uniqueness and not be ashamed to show it to the world. The more people that do this, the more such differences will become acceptable. So if you already haven’t done so–find your own unique and beautiful song. Sing it loud and sing it proud.
Have a wonderful day!
Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.
– Apple, “Think Different” campaign
“The saving of our world from pending doom will come, not through the complacent adjustment of the conforming majority, but through the creative maladjustment of a nonconforming minority.”
Most of my life I have taken the easy way. I convinced myself that the path of least resistance is always better. I attempted to justify my inaction to myself with excuses and feel-good sayings but in actuality I was letting my fears take over my life. This is no way to live. Where has this gotten me? Nowhere. Fate let me drift along. At times I would be lucky and float into good fortune. I believed that just being good in my heart was enough. I meant well but I never stood for anything. I let others take the wheel. I lied to myself and have learned the hard way that the easy way is not always the best way. In many cases the easy way will lead you downstream into a false sense of reality and sooner or later you are left high and dry.
I have learned that what is truly worthwhile is rarely easy and that anything worth anything takes hard work and perseverance. Most success stories are about people who never gave up; people who had fallen time and time again but always got back up. It hurts to fall and sometimes it hurts even more to struggle to one’s feet. History is full of stories of inspirational people who succeed beyond all odds and it was perseverance and plain old-fashioned hard work more than anything that was the cause of their success.
Many never try because they are afraid of failure. This is the easy way. Thomas Edison didn’t take the easy route. Once called “addled” by his teacher, Edison only had three months of formal education. This self-taught man called “The Wizard of Menlo Park” went on to hold 1,093 US patents in his name; Including a stock ticker, a mechanical vote recorder, a battery for an electric car, electrical power, recorded music and motion pictures. His most famous invention; the first commercially practical incandescent light took 10,000 tries to perfect.
This river we call life is tough and it is not fair. As someone with Asperger’s I have struggled with this one; the supreme unfairness of life. Nelson Mandela the anti-apartheid revolutionary who served as President of South Africa from 1994 to 1999 could teach us about the unfairness of life. He certainly did not take the easy way. As a lawyer and leader he fought his own government’s policy of apartheid and because of that in 1962 he was arrested, convicted of sabotage and conspiracy to overthrow the government. He was sentenced to life imprisonment. This great leader served 27 years in prison and was finally released in 1990 after an international campaign lobbied on his behalf.
Speaking up for the truth is seldom the easy way and the Reverend Martin Niemoller certainly did not take the easy way. This one-time Nazi turned his back on the Fascist Movement in 1933 and organized the Pastor’s Emergency League to protect Lutheran pastors from the police. In 1934, he was one of the leading organizers at the Barmen Synod, which produced the theological basis for the Confessing Church, which despite its persecution became an enduring symbol of German resistance to Hitler. In 1937 he was arrested for treason and spent the rest of of WW II in concentration camps, narrowly escaping execution. After the war, Niemoller emerged from prison to preach pacifism and reconciliation. He won acclaim and awards and died in 1984 at the ripe old age of 92. He was probably best known for the following:
When the Nazis came for the communists, I did not speak out; As I was not a communist.
When they locked up the social democrats, I did not speak out; I was not a social democrat.
When they came for the trade unionists, I did not speak out; As I was not a trade unionist.
When they came for the Jews, I did not speak out; As I was not a Jew.
When they came for me, there was no one left to speak out.
Inspiring words that still inspire today. It takes courage to swim upstream; to go one’s own way. It takes strength of will and determination to stand up for what you believe. This may entail rising up against the tide of popular opinion. This could be a lonely task; standing up for your convictions but soon enough others will join you. It just takes one to start. I recall the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes, it only took one small child to stand up and speak the truth. There are many truths and everyone has their own. Sing you song loud and proud, and don’t be surprised if a whole chorus of voices join in.
Thanks for listening,
“If the road is easy, you’re likely going the wrong way.” ― Terry Goodkind
I have mentioned my neighbor Mrs Wheatgrass in the past and have whimsically called her my nemesis. This was probably due to the fact that my plans included this being temporary. I have always wanted to win her over. I am a big believer in “turning the other cheek.” And that everyone can be “killed with kindness.” This is something I have preached about and I really do believe it but let me tell you; Mrs. Wheatgrass is one tough nut to crack.
She and her family moved in next door about seven years ago. It was late August just before the onset of another school year. My son and I were taking a walk around the neighborhood. We were engaged in some sort of conversation when we spied a moving van in front of the beige house next door. My son was excited. He wondered if the new people moving in would have a son his age. We saw a blonde woman in brown shorts exit the front door and we immediately went up to her. We introduced ourselves and welcomed her to the neighborhood. My son who was about 10 or 11 at the time, had been working on his handshake and extended his hand. She asked him what grade he was going into. When he told her, she looked at him doubtfully and then me. She informed us in no uncertain terms that as an educator she knew he must be a year younger. “I can vouch for him, I’m his Mom” I said half joking. She seemed to doubt me too. I thought this strange at the time. My son was a little upset. His fragile preteen pride was damaged somewhat but I saw it as a teachable moment.
“Maybe this is all a misunderstanding” I told him. “She she could have misspoke or we could have misheard her.” I advised that we should give her the benefit of the doubt and so we did.
Whenever I saw my new neighbor I would smile warmly and say hello. She seemed about my age. She had a friendly husband and a sweet little daughter who was a baby at the time. I thought we could become friends. Most of the people in my neighborhood at the time were elderly and I was looking forward getting to know her.
She seemed wary of me and I just chalked it up to shyness. I am shy myself. It has been a lifelong handicap that I fight to this day. So I kept it up. I would smile and wave. I would say hello and try to engage her in small talk but to no avail. MM joked that she was afraid of me. I could be coming on too strong. I tend to overcompensate for my shyness by being “over friendly’ so I backed off. I would smile and say hello but that was it.
Time passes as it does. She added to her family with another cute daughter. I would hear them in their backyard whenever I would be working outside. Back then I was able to spend more time on my yard and I have to say it looked nice. Green, well-manicured and full of colorful flowers. I was working this time in the front yard, carefully weeding around our newly planted Yoshino Cherry tree when Mrs Wheatgrass approached me.
A-ha! Obviously my friendly vibes were winning her over, I thought. “How can you stand that?” She asked and gestured to our crazy neighbor who was parked in front of his house blaring his radio and yelling “Yeah!” over and over. I laughed. I agreed it wasn’t easy putting up with him but at least his taste in music was good. “Aren’t you going to call the police?” she asked. I said no. I told her that I liked his music and frankly that was not a good reason to call the police. She said that he scared her. I told her that he was loud but harmless. “Just try to ignore him” I replied. I said the wrong thing I suppose and she walked off in a huff.
I think back to that time now and I regret not being more sympathetic. I admit I was a bit put off. If she was so concerned why didn’t she call the cops herself? Why ask me?
I wrote about this exchange at the time and that is when I actively set out to kill her with kindness. I will win her over I thought. Maybe her life isn’t so rosy. Maybe she needs to feel understood.
One day about three years ago during the onset of the “great recession” I was again walking in the neighborhood, this time with MM when we saw her out walking too. This was surprising since we had never seen her do this before. She approached us with a worried face. MM asked her what was wrong. She told us she had just lost her job. We said how sorry we were. She thanked us and wisely mentioned it could be a blessing in disguise because now she’d be able to spend more time at home with her daughters. Tragedy has the capability of bringing out the best in people. I thought of Mrs Wheatgrass and her two adorable daughters and how they would benefit from being able to spend more time together.
But there it was, Monday morning and like always there they were at seven a.m. like clockwork, lunch pails in their tiny hands waiting by the van door to be let in. Daycare again, but why? I thought it was almost like she was still working. She would dutifully take her daughters off to daycare and then return home and stay inside until it was time to pick them up.
I knew it was none of my business, but my heart ached for those little girls and for Mrs Wheatgrass. Being a parent I know all too well how fast children grow. Every moment is precious. How could she just send them off like that when she didn’t have to?
I suppose it is not my place to judge I thought…and I remembered a quote…
“Never judge others. You both know good and well how unexpected events can change who a person is. Always keep that in mind. You never know what someone else is experiencing within their own life.”
― Colleen Hoover
More time passed and Mrs W and I had many more interactions. I’ve gone over them in my mind, trying to figure out where I went wrong. What could I have done differently? Maybe it was the times I weeded the side yard we both share, maybe it was when I didn’t have the time and stopped the weeding. It could be that that I worked at home. She did snidely call me retired from time to time.
It was as if we had this undeclared competition between us with the yards. I would be out working in mine. This was my hobby. I enjoy it. I love plants, this makes me happy. I am not trying to outdo anyone. Every time she’d see me out in the front yard she’d send her husband out to work on theirs. He didn’t seem to be enjoying himself. I sort of felt bad. It was as if it was my fault he had to dig up dandelions. What can I do? I thought and just kept on keeping on… it is what it is…or at least it was what it was…
…until our home business started to wither and slow down to a crawl and I returned to the workforce. This changed things at home, inside and out. Our well manicured lawn turned brown and the backyard went wild. I am not proud of this but again, it is what it is. My weeks are full and my weekends are even fuller. My beloved hobby took a backseat to the more pressing matters of day to day life.
It was a sunny Saturday a few weeks ago. The Wheatgrasses had just removed a mature tree from their side, a tree that provided shade for much of our yard. Big branches fell down on our side and onto our tomato plants. MM asked the men cutting down the tree if they could please remove the branches when they were done. The men were very nice about it and cheerfully did as MM asked, obviously this did not sit well with Mrs W because when MM came in from the yard he had just had a heated exchange with her and was visibly upset.
“She said our fence is rotten, our yard is an overgrown mess and there is ivy growing everywhere.” She yelled at me and said we better do something about it.” I hardly ever see MM like this. His face was red and he was shaking. I admit our mutual fence is weathered-looking but it is sturdy and frankly we don’t have the money for a new one.
“I’ll talk to her” I said and went over to see her. I knew that if I explained the situation she would understand. It was if she was waiting for me. Before I could get within two feet of her she smirked and said in a condescending tone “You’re upset about the tree aren’t you?” Before I could answer she yelled to the workmen who were taking a break on her lawn. “I bet you get this all the time!” I could tell from the looks on their faces they wanted nothing to do with the whole thing. I instantly felt sorry for them…and me.
“I would have liked some warning about the tree. It’s removal did change the whole micro-climate of the backyard. I will have to move some plants but I know it was an old tree and it needed to be done. No, it’s not that…”
She cut me off before I could finish….”I don’t have time for this.” she said and looked to her van parked in the driveway.
At this point I admit that I was getting angry. I am very protective of the people I love. She had upset MM and now she was working on upsetting me. I am a small person and it takes a lot to get me going but once I do I am like a mighty lion and my roar can move mountains….
Knowing this I backed off. I could see it was going nowhere. I said we’d talk later and I went back inside. MM was worried…I told him that she had no power to make us pay for a new fence…I jokingly referred to one of my favorite lines from one of my favorite movies The Wizard of Oz…when Glinda The Good Witch says to the The Wicked one…
“You have no power here! Begone, before somebody drops a house on you, too!”
A couple of days went by. I asked my son if he could help by cleaning up the ivy next to the fence. As he was working he overheard Mrs. Wheatgrass talking in a nasty tone to someone in her backyard. “They’re having their long-haired son doing it now.”
That was it! He was hurt, MM was hurt and I’d had it! The lion was ready to roar when Glinda took over and asked?
I had my answer. I simmered down and thought for a while…
Why does this bother me, I ask myself? So what if she doesn’t like me or never did? So what if she is prejudiced against my family? Is it this rejection or is it something deeper? Is it a rejection not just of me but my ideals. I set out for her to like me, when she didn’t I tried to win her over. I thought surely she’d like me after she found out how nice I am, but she didn’t. There is a lesson here…
I ran across the following quotes which fit the bill…
“About all you can do in life is be who you are. Some people will love you for you. Most will love you for what you can do for them, and some won’t like you at all.”
~Rita Mae Brown
“Some people believe holding on and hanging in there are signs of great strength. However, there are times when it takes much more strength to know when to let go and then do it.”
I’m taking a page from Glinda, Ann and Rita, putting on my Ruby slippers and going for a walk around the neighborhood, It may not be Kansas but it’s pretty nice here too….after all there’s no place like home…
There are people who love to complain. These people find the worst in everything. To them the glass is not half empty, it’s completely empty. I’m sure you’ve met a few of these bewildered ones in your travels through life. It can be difficult to be in a sunny mood around them. It’s as if they are standing under a perpetual rain cloud and being in close contact with them is like being drenched in a deluge. It’s no surprise these naysayers are making themselves unhealthy. Negative thinking causes changes in neurotransmitters in the brain and impacts heart health, the immune system and digestion, as well as a person’s overall risk of mortality.
Its dangerous and frankly damn unpleasant to be around such people. They are toxic and the poison they spread is just that…poison.
“We’re in the money, the skies are sunny; old man depression, you are through, you done us wrong!” ~Al Dubin
On the other hand there are a precious few, the ones who are the polar opposite of those poor negative souls. These wonderful ones see each day as a brand new start and every struggle as an opportunity. These people see that same glass as completely full and these people are happy to share the contents.
These are a rare breed indeed, they spread their magic wherever they go and to be in their presence is to be walking on sunshine. I don’t have to tell you the world need more of these shining stars. They light our way, give hope and inspire us to do better, be better. They encourage us to shine just as brightly as they do. Think of them as true miracleworkers and unlike the empty glass rain cloud people, these sunny supernovas are healthier and live longer and they like their counterparts spread their attitude to whomever they come in contact with. These people increase the health and well-being of those around them because positive thoughts and happiness is good for your health. Think of positivity as an immunization shot against poor health. Optimistic people have lower levels of depression, a greater resistance to illnesses; from the common cold to cardiovascular diseases and even cancer. Positivity gives one better coping skills during the inevitable times of stress and hardships that come our way now and then. Positivity increases our lifespan on the whole and life, simply put, is better.
It is with these thoughts in mind that I set out today, vowing to become more like a sunny bright spot instead of a torrential rain cloud, not just for me but for everyone else who crosses my path….and my challenge to you my friends (you knew I was heading for this didn’t you?) is to not only embrace this sunny philosophy, as you probably doanyway, but to fill the glasses of those who are on perpetual empty. Although they don’t know it, they need this and we as a society desperately do. Just imagine if this sort of thing would catch on…positivity is catchy…it’s downright infectious and it feels oh so good!
My cup runneth over…wishing you a splendid day from the sunny side of the street…
“How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.”
“The way to know life is to love many things.” ~Vincent Van Gogh
To say this man was misunderstood is an understatement. To say there were probably many reasons for that, again, is an understatement. To associate this great artist with the phenomena of color is quite obvious. Vincent lived and breathed color and he is this month’s colorful person.
Vincent Van Gogh, a man never appreciated in his lifetime is one of the most well-known artists today. His work has inspired many and his story is certainly sad and compelling. He was one of history’s tragic figures. He gave so much and got so little in return. I must admit that I have a soft spot in my heart for this man, this person who saw beyond reality, who shared his profound soul with his beautiful art and lost his mind in the process.
“I wish they would only take me as I am.” Vincent Van Gogh
In essence he was lonely. To him probably the loneliest person in the world. I can certainly identify with the feeling. Vincent was misunderstood and alone in an unforgiving and harsh world. I can understand being totally consumed and compelled by one’s art to devote oneself so fully to it….only to be ignored. Vincent wanted to share his beauty with the world and in his lifetime the only person who truly cared about him was his brother Theo. It was Theo who supported Vincent monetarily and enabled Vincent to keep painting.
Ever since I first beheld a Van Gogh I have been entranced with these genuine masterpieces. His paintings embrace the soul of color. They inspire me and I cannot get enough of their imperfect beauty.
Vincent Van Gogh made the world a better place, a lovelier place. Perhaps it was his suffering which enhanced his vision. His devotion to his craft was more than apparent in his work.
It is through this story of Vincent Van Gogh that has allowed me to realise just how fleeting life can be and how beauty and talent can endure beyond the life of the artist. It is due to his story, this wild man of color that I have learned not to be so judgemental. Who knows what hidden talent and beauty lies behind the eyes of any random stranger I may encounter. Everyone has something wonderful about them. It is the norms of society that at times does not fully appreciate this, but I try to. For Vincent’s sake and for mine.
“One may have a blazing hearth in one’s soul and yet no one ever came to sit by it. Passers-by see only a wisp of smoke from the chimney and continue on their way.” ~Vincent Van Gogh
I am starting a new monthly feature similar to Fresh Quotes. I will be publishing this right in the middle of each month and I thought The Ides of March would be the perfect time to introduce it. I am calling it A Colorful Person for now. If I come up with a better name, which I hope I will, I will change it. Ideas anyone? Every month I will feature a different person. Someone who has made the world a bit more colorful. Someone who I personally admire. Some of these people will be quite obvious, others not so much. Every one of them will be people who have shaped my thinking and helped make me the me I am today. (So you’ll know who to blame. haha)
This month’s Colorful Person is Andy Rooney; the cranky old guy who was a fixture on the TV show 60 Minutes for what seemed like 60 years. He passed away at the end of 2011 at the ripe old age of 92 and I miss him terribly especially on Sunday evenings.
He was at heart a writer who said what he meant and he meant what he said. I started watching his stories on 60 minutes as a child and I continued watching until his last in October of 2011. He was an influence on me as a writer and as a person. He was the cranky Grandfather I never had. He had tons of common sense and I’d like to share some of his plain talk wisdom with you today.
…..and so, Here’s Andy…
“If dogs could talk it would take a lot of the fun out of owning one.”
“I’ve learned …. That opportunities are never lost; someone will take the ones you miss.”
“People will generally accept facts as truth only if the facts agree with what they already believe.”
“I’ve learned that no matter how serious your life requires you to be, everyone needs a friend to act goofy with.”
“Did you ever hear one of those corny, positive messages on someone’s answering machine? ‘Hi, it’s a great day and I’m out enjoying it right now. I hope you are too. The thought for the day is share the love. Beep.’ ‘Uh, yeah, this is the VD clinic… speaking of being positive, your test is back. Stop sharing the love.” ♦
“Yes, we praise women over 40 for a multitude of reasons. Unfortunately, it’s not reciprocal. For every stunning, smart, well-coiffed, hot woman over 40, there is a bald, paunchy relic in yellow pants making a fool of himself with some 22-year old waitress. Ladies, I apologize. For all those men who say, “Why buy the cow when you can get the milk for free?”, here’s an update for you. Nowadays 80% of women are against marriage. Why? Because women realize it’s not worth buying an entire pig just to get a little sausage!”
“The best classroom in the world is at the feet of an elderly person.”
“Writers don’t often say anything that readers don’t already know, unless its a news story. A writer’s greatest pleasure is revealing to people things they knew but did not know they knew. Or did not realize everyone else knew, too. This produces a warm sense of fellow feeling and is the best a writer can do.”
*All of the above quotes are credited to Andy Rooney
Andy Rooney was born on January 14, 1919, in Albany, New York. During WWII, he wrote for the Army’s Stars and Stripes newspaper and was one of the first American journalists to visit and write about the German concentration camps. Rooney joined the staff of CBS’ 60 Minutes in 1968 and began his iconic “A Few Minutes With Andy Rooney” segment in 1978. Rooney’s final 60 Minutes essay aired in October, 2011. He died a month later at age 92.
I’ve been asked to provide some advice to a young couple expecting their first child, a girl, in a few months. I am honored to receive such a request and I thought I’d share my reply with you.
The light of your life
Parenthood changes you in ways you’d never imagine. You are one person one minute, probably sure of yourself and your place in the world with your own wants and desires. This is all you’ve had to worry about before: yourself. Then suddenly, it is not just you anymore and in that flash of an instant your whole world and the way you view things is altered. From the first moment you hold that tiny fragile body in your arms and look into those big trusting eyes you will never be the same.
When I was a new parent, I scoured endless parenting books and I received tons of solicited and unsolicited advice. I couldn’t get enough. I was never so unsure of myself and never so scared and so careful. This tiny life was depending on me and I swore I’d never this child down.
“Nobody can give you wiser advice than yourself.”
~Marcus Tullius Cicero~
The very first thing I learned and I think it was the most important: this resonates to this day. Trust yourself. You know more than you think. You have instincts and you will know your child more than anyone. This will trump anything and whatever anyone will tell you.
As a mom to two teens, one who recently entered adulthood and is about to graduate from high school, I feel a certain pride of accomplishment that both of them still talk to me after all this. They trust me and I trust them. I suppose that is because I never lost sight of the fact that they are human beings with feelings just as valid as anyone else. I think some parents lose sight of this obvious fact.
No one is perfect
Never forget how you felt when you were a child. Bring this to the table when you deal with yours. She is her own person and will never quite be what you will expect. The only thing that you can expect is to be surprised…and you will be surprised. No one is perfect, your child not be and don’t expect it..no one is perfect.
As your child ages and her understanding increases share yourself. She will be curious and will want to know about you. Don’t set up your past life as one of perfection. She will feel that she’ll never quite live up to your legend and this will carry over. She will feel inadequate in some way and will never think she measures up in your eyes or hers..
Your child will value your opinion of them more than anyone else’s. Her self-esteem will be intricately tied up with that. Remember this. You as her parent will be the most important person in her life, especially in the first years when you will be her whole world.
Another piece of advice I have is to listen. Parents are full of opinions and talk and discipline, all this is vitally important but if your child doesn’t think you will listen and give her a fair shake, she will stop talking to you and once that trust is gone, it is almost impossible to get back.
Say what you mean and mean what you say.
Always follow up on any consequences you may give. Make no exceptions on this. Your child will always be testing you and pushing the limits. This is inevitable, don’t hold this against her. It is not personal, it is only human nature because she is only human….allow her to see your humanity as well. Your child will learn love and compassion from you. Lead by example not just by words. Kids notice more than you think they will and they have excellent memories.
I’d say the most important thing is love. You can never love your child too much. Time passes so quickly, spend time together…you will never get this time back. Savor every moment.
So as you two embark on this journey. Hold on for the ride of your lives…no matter what difficulties you may encounter; because I won’t sugar coat this, honestly; parenthood is tough. It will be the hardest thing you’ll ever do and it will test you and try you…but nothing will ever be as rewarding…or as worthwhile.
The world is a runaway train about to jump the tracks and head straight into a deep dark abyss. There are over six billion souls on board. People from all walks of life; men, women, children. The good, the bad, the ugly and the beautiful. People who have it all and those who have nothing. We are all on this runaway train together; whether we asked to be here or not, here we are. And you my friend are at the controls. You didn’t ask for this…you shout to no one in particular: “I don’t want this, what did I do to deserve this? Your desperate shouting falls on deaf ears but all eyes are on you…what do you do? Just what do YOU do?
This is a nightmare scenario my imagination just cooked up. Of course you are not at the controls and I’m sorry that I put you on the spot like that.
You are probably in the comfort of your cozy home reading this on your computer or electronic device as I am while writing this. The world, although disjointed is still relatively intact. Odds are we are alright. It is those other people that are in trouble. We have nice families and friends, a warm house and full stomach.
Odds are tomorrow we will go off to work or school or somewhere; perhaps to meet someone for coffee or to walk the dog or go shopping or to a show. The world will still be here when we get home back to our nice warm beds. The world has always been here as long as we’ve been alive and for the most part, for most of us, life has been pretty good….
…and so I get back to the runaway train part….haha lulled you into a false sense of security. I bet you thought I might have forgotten about the train and that scary abyss…
Well here we are and it’s like we are on the train and there is no one at the controls at all. We are all passengers; our fates dangling precariously. Most of us just want to get along and make it through to our destination, even enjoy the ride a bit, but there is a disturbance…a fight has broken out…
We are a world divided. As polarized as ever. Each side is 100% convinced they are 100% in the right. Pick an issue; any issue, no matter how multi-layered and complex it is and you will get the two sides and each will explain in vivid detail how incredibly wrong the other side is.
I don’t have to tell you, my esteemed and learned friends, how both sides can be wrong: no one can be 100% right on anything. We all know the world is made up of a myriad of colors, shades and hues. Nothing is all black or all white.
I myself have been guilty of this thinking in the past, actually not so long ago. As many of you have surmised; I come in on the left side politically, to call myself a liberal is not far off the mark and I see nothing wrong with being one. However I am a person who tries to see outside of the neat little boxes that society tends to shove us into.
That being said, there have been times upon hearing a remark coming from “the other side” that I became a wee bit incredulous even to the point of anger. I am not proud of this, but this I do freely admit. I have somewhat of a temper about what I feel passionate about, but there is one thing I try not to be and that is a hypocrite, so I admit here to you and everyone else that in the past I have been angered by some of the things, the other side has put forth. I don’t have to go into what nor do I want to. Most of you have heard some of this stuff and can fill in the blanks. What I am writing here is not to promote my cause or beliefs when it comes to these very hot button issues that we liberals and conservatives are fighting tooth and nail over. This is not at all what I am addressing today.
The point I am attempting to address is the polarization: the fight-fight-fight till you drop attitude and how it’s not getting anyone anywhere.
Taking governments, corporations and special interest groups out of it, while we are at it lets take the media out too–The “liberal media”, Fox news and what have you. Lets just address people here. Your average citizen. I am mostly talking about Americans here because being one, I feel I can speak for Americans…but on second thought…maybe I am speaking for us all, because I am a citizen of the world as well as you are…
We are in a state of decay. I think most of us can agree with that and I think most of us can agree that we are divided and that most of us care….care about our communities, our fellow citizens, for the world at large and most importantly I’d say that most of us care deeply about our families and ourselves.
The world is a confusing and scary place; hey….another thing we can agree on. Again this is overwhelming and most would agree on that too.
This proves my point and here is my point in a nutshell: we can agree on something. We can find common ground and this is where we can start. Next comes the listening. As I’ve mentioned no one can be 100% right about everything, at the very least we can agree to disagree and then move to what we agree on. There is too much at stake to just shut our eyes and ears to everything that the other side has to say….and while I’m at it….this Us vs. Them thing…this sets us up for failure.
We humans have this tribal mentality, it’s hardwired into us genetically. This need to belong to a group, but somewhere along the line, a long time ago, we humans decided that in order to belong to a group this group must exclude others. We have trained ourselves to search for differences instead of looking for commonalities.This has led to much heartache, death and destruction. I don’t have to tell you this. I don’t know if we can ever get over it, honestly…but I do know that we should try because there is a lot at stake, in fact there is everything at stake. This tribal tendency goes far beyond our local politics, this enters into every fight, skirmish and war we have ever been involved in…..perhaps this is irrevocable human nature and what I am suggesting here borders on the impossible…
For the most part there has always been war. Some would say this built-in aggression has been essential to our survival as a species and I would tend to agree. Out of the many humanoids who lived on the planet, only Homo sapiens have endured and that is probably no accident. We are a product of evolution and humans are capable of great change and growth and we as a species can learn. I believe we can learn to, at the very least, try to find common ground and listen to each other. We share this beautifully wonderful and diverse planet. We are neighbors and we are on board this runaway train together. We have a vested interest in getting along….
So maybe next time you hear someone; a co-worker, an acquaintance who lives down the hall, the man at the bus stop, the woman at the grocery store, even your “cranky” Uncle Pete or anyone for that matter who disagrees with your beliefs. No matter how vocal that person is, or angry or whatever…even if what they say sounds 100% insane to you. Remember that no one is 100% correct on anything and we can all learn something from everyone…so open your mind and your heart. Show some compassion (even if they have none themselves) and listen….please.
The world needs leaders, the world needs compassion, the world needs you and I… and even cranky Uncle Pete.
Thanks for listening,
“Peace cannot be kept by force; it can only be achieved by understanding.” ~Albert Einstein~
“Let my thoughts come to you, when I am gone, like the afterglow of sunset at the margin of starry silence.”
The first time I read the words of this great poet I knew I had found a kindred spirit. Never before or since have I identified so much with another person’s words. The fact that this man was born and passed many years before me and came from a completely different and unknown culture from me mattered not.
His words show a deep and profound connection to nature and spirituality: a connection that I have always instinctively felt for as long as I can remember. My upbringing as a lapsed Catholic couldn’t be further from this, but it is this very sentiment I have felt most deeply.
Tagore seemed to have an understanding of the world and a profound love for the smallest of the small lives mixed with a delightful childlike whimsy that has intrigued me. In my ignorance I thought I was the only one who felt that way and now that I know he lived I don’t feel so alone in my feelings.
As a typical American in that regard, I have not been exposed to or do I know much of other cultures, especially non-Christian ones. I consider this a deficit and I have recently been dipping my toe into the deep waters of the beautiful art and literature of wonderful India. I have been drawn to what I consider a wildly exotic and ancient culture that impresses me greatly.
Rabindranath Tagore in my opinion is the perfect first teacher. I have discovered his works not very long ago and I can’t seem to get enough. What follows are some of my favorite quotes by this amazing poet and fascinating individual.
“Clouds come floating into my life, no longer to carry rain or usher storm, but to add color to my sunset sky.”
“If you cry because the sun has gone out of your life, your tears will prevent you from seeing the stars.”
“Faith is the bird that feels the light and sings when the dawn is still dark.”
“Reach high, for stars lie hidden in you. Dream deep, for every dream precedes the goal.”
“By plucking her petals you do not gather the beauty of the flower.”
“Let your life lightly dance on the edges of time like dew on the tip of a leaf.”
“The same stream of life that runs through my veins night and day runs through the world and dances in rhythmic measures. It is the same life that shoots in joy through the dust of the earth in numberless blades of grass and breaks into tumultuous waves of leaves and flowers.”
“Perhaps the crescent moon smiles in doubt at being told that it is a fragment awaiting perfection.”
“Let us not pray to be sheltered from dangers but to be fearless when facing them.”
♦ ALL QUOTES BY RABINDRANATH TAGORE ♦
Tagore was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1913 “because of his profoundly sensitive, fresh and beautiful verse, by which, with consummate skill, he has made his poetic thought, expressed in his own English words, a part of the literature of the West.”
“My role in society, or any artist’s or poet’s role, is to try and express what we all feel. Not to tell people how to feel. Not as a preacher, not as a leader, but as a reflection of us all.”
I remember the first time I heard “I am the Walrus, I mean really heard it. Something inside of me just clicked. I was impressed more by what the song didn’t say and how it went about saying what it didn’t say than what it actually said.
I was inspired that day by the words of Mr. Lennon and I continue to be.
Beyond writing songs with beautiful and eloquent melodies, John had a lot to say and he never minced words. He was a bit of a rebel who suffered from low self-esteem. He was unconventional and opinionated. He wasn’t perfect nor would he want to be.
He was truly an original and although he was with us for such a short time, he added so much to the world while he was here.
Today, October 9th would have been his 72nd birthday.
There will never be another John Lennon.
HAPPY BIRTHDAY JOHN!
“We’ve got this gift of love, but love is like a precious plant. You can’t just accept it and leave it in the cupboard or just think it’s going to get on by itself. You’ve got to keep watering it. You’ve got to really look after it and nurture it.”
“The most beautiful people we have known are those who have known defeat, known suffering, known struggle, known loss, and have found their way out of the depths. These persons have an appreciation, a sensitivity, and an understanding of life that fills them with compassion, gentleness, and a deep loving concern. Beautiful people do not just happen.” ― Elisabeth Kübler-Ross
Click on the Earth for “Imagine” video
“Imagine all the people living life in peace. You may say I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one. I hope someday you’ll join us, and the world will be as one.”