Category Archives: Responsibility

Eyes Wide Shut

(The puzzle pieces do not match the picture on the puzzle box)


How long will you labor over misunderstandings, confusion, and mess before you pause?  How long will you question and ponder the reasons before you slow down and step back?  How long before you stop planning and strategizing before you hault?

Be still. Close your eyes. Listen. Then stop listening.  Shut out the noise.  Put your hands down.  Breathe.  What do you smell? 

Does it smell good?  Or is it bull…?

Open your eyes.  Move about.  Stop.  Look around.  Breathe.  Is it the same?

When your position changes, but your perspective does not…STOP.  

How many times will you restrategize before you surrender?  This energy that we consume fighting a fight in a sea of complacency…

Who are we fighting for?  Are we fighting collectively?  Or are we fighting alone?

Breathe. 

 
Are we missing some of the pieces to the puzzle? Are we forcing pieces to fit despite the fact that the puzzle will never be complete.  Will we be satisfied with a partial result?  

Are our objectives aligned?   Are we fighting for the same thing?  Are we fighting each other?  Are we controlling access to some of the puzzle pieces?  Would you do that?  Why?

We are struggling daily with forces that we perceive as negative.  The change-makers will make change.  But what will they change?  Will they change their position?  Will they change their approach?  Or will they change their minds? 


There are answers.  We just don’t know the questions yet.  

We have someone fighting us right now.  They think they know why.  So do we.  But we are wrong.  We are all wrong.  

There’s another way.  Close your eyes.  Be still…

Suspend the Rules

We deal in the “what if’s”

when recognizing how fortunate we are

We convince ourselves that there’s a single point

in our own personal history that our life changed

(for the better or for the worst)

 

But let’s suspend the rules

Let’s release…

Let’s offer the responsibility up to a force greater than our own.

Things happen!

 

We convince ourselves that things happen for a reason.

As intellectuals, we accept the premise of cause and effect.

Things happen…

 

…and we convince ourselves that we can take measures to prevent

…things from happening.

 

Be humbled.  Accept that we don’t know!

 

Not knowing IS ignorance,

But ignorance doesn’t need to be blissful.

 

The bliss comes from not caring.

But the bliss can come from gaining knowledge.

The bliss can come from the release.

 

The release of defeat.

The release of deceit.

The release of something sweet.

The receipt of…

Knowledge

 

…the knowledge that comes from wisdom

…the wisdom that comes from an awareness

…and the awareness that what we know to

be true…

 

…is WRONG.

 

Suspend your beliefs.

Slowly close your eyes.

Sweeping Indictments

Tomorrow is just another Tuesday, but for the registered voters in New Jersey, California, New Mexico, Montanna, North Dakota, and South Dakota it is Election Day. You can tell who the democrats are by their level of enthusiasm. This is an anticlimactic time for the conservatives because their hero has already won by default. Even those who dislike the fact that Trump will be the republican candidate have long since quieted down.  

Who would have thought (even a year ago), that our nation would be at such a political impass? One thing is for certain. Regardless of how uniformed the voting public may be, everyone knows that the American standard is about to change.  Even the unregistered, non-citizens, and underage residents of our nation long to be a part of the conversation.  This will be an election year like no other.  EVERYone will have an opinion–and most of them will stink.  

There’s going to be a lot of shit-slinging.  And when the fight is over, we will all be covered.  

This is a time to watch the signs.  The decline of a nation (or even a civilization) will not be a sudden occurrence.  We watched it decline began hundreds of years ago. It is the rate by which we exchange information that makes this an interesting time to be involved.  

Social unrest, moral decay, hypocracy, economic injustice has reached intolerable levels.  This is not the time to be in power.  There will be no “sudden shift” like the politicos are forcasting. However, this will mark the end of an era. 

The ideas of obsconding to foreign lands were revisited when very few countries opened their borders to Syrian refugees.  They were being terrorized in their home land by extremist.  And still they received little empathy.  You think American defectors stand a chance in the eyes of the United Nations?  

Suddenly places like Russia and Western Europe seem mildly appealing. It’s time to start traveling–before U.S. passports become valueless.  It may time to visit the places that Bernie references (like Finland).   It’s not such a grand idea however to make reservations in places like Isreal or China.  The close proximity to Iraq and Afganistan does not make Americans any more welcome. The changing faces of American money (alone) is enough to be indicted for Western arrogance. It’s simply not a good look. 

Our entire political system has attention deficit disorder. Politics creeps their way into religious sanctuaries as pastors struggle to refrain from interjecting their personal beliefs. 

Who would Jesus vote for?  Clearly not the same candidate as Muhammad.  The social climate is no longer discrete.  Americans have become very vocal about their distastes and personal dogmas.  Feelings are getting hurt as everyone is openly professing their biases (and constitutional right to be a bigot).  Entitlement is at an all time high, but determination to thrive is at an all time low.  Who wants to be responsible for a nation of gluttons and theives?   For surely if this is the case, the Donald has already won.  

Why didn’t Bernie run for president in the 80s?  Was Carter so bad that the Democratic Party lost the confidence of the majority.  Where was the civil rights movement in the 70s?  Were the hippies too hung over on the gonja, or did they have a severe case of dance fever?  It seems that once we got some semblance of  what we wanted, we became complacent.  The yuppies and the buppies (Black Upwardly-Mobile Professionals) had enough easy access to timeshares, BMW’s, real estate, and education that the struggle dissipated. 

Now the struggle is real, and there are no more heros.  The private interest has gotten very clever in rallying public support. The mules keep hoping to get fed off of the excess wealth that was carved away from the American infrastructure.  The public didn’t even see it coming.  The few that did were deemed fanatics, socialist, and “liberals.”   

Conspiracies are real when they are FACT. Zealots warn of “the machine” just as the Panthers warned of “the man” but the status quo was acceptable to society as a whole. 

Tomorrow is Election Day and the fate of America is not sealed. In fact, the republicans who don’t vote tomorrow are also living on borrowed time.  How quickly can you change your party affiliation?  Quicker than you can sell your home and run away. That’s for sure!

Don’t give up, America!  We created this problem, but it’s not too late to fix it. We can take responsibility.  We can right the wrongs if only we recognize what we’ve allowed this to happen.  This IS your land.  This IS my land (too).  Let’s not run for the border; because no other nation wants to be contaminated either. 

Vote!

“Smile, You Look Too Serious”


Do I look too serious?  I can smile. I usually do.  For a long time I was considered the life of the party, the class clown, or “Mr.Social!”  As the center of attention, I can entertain or take a stand.  

To be honest, I’ve grown tired of entertaining. My smile entices, but my humor provokes.  I want to do more.  I CAN do more.  I am more than a clown.  I never resented the tomfoolery as long as I was the one orchestrating it, but there comes a time to  do more.  I need to stimulate the mind   There’s a time to awaken the spirit.  We are on the cusp of a revolution.  

Every generation experiences a turning point.  Whether it be political, religious, socio-economical, or even musical, how we confront change or challenge norms defines us.  Like my hair, I can not allow my grimace to define me. 

Watch me!

We are a nation that has smiled through injustices too long.  We’ve accepted the status quo so long that our stripped liberties leave us naked but still luke warm.  By the time we get cold enough to demand a restoration of our rights, it will be too late.  We won’t be placated any longer. We will demand heat!   We will start a fire.  We will burn it down!!

Am I mis-speaking?  Is this not what happened in Ferguson.  Is this not what happened to MOVE in Philadelphia 30 years ago?  Watts??  L.A. Riots in 92?  There’s not enough tainted water in Flint to keep souls from burning.  

Tension is high!  My smile could bring some relief, or it could mask a larger problem.  We’ve been wearing masks too long. They’ve smiled in our faces, and then stabbed us in the back. Who, you ask?  The ones we’ve trusted.  Our leaders, our clergy, our families…   Not deliberately, of course.  Accidentally, for sure!

They too are sheep leading, and being led.  Who will you follow?  And will you be smiling while you wait to be nudged at the slaughterhouse?

Too serious?  I don’t think so.  Not serious enough!  I’ll smile in the morning, 

when the dealing is done.

Words Hurt


Sticks and stones?  Nah!  Words hurt.  Do you remember the last time someone hit you with a stick?  Probably not. It’s barely a memory and the injury has long since healed itself.  But that’s just it. Our body heals. Our mind…not so much.  
There’s two kinds of doctors: medical doctors (M.D.) and doctors of philosophy (Ph.D). We tend not to think too much of the latter because we put a greater importance on our physical health than on our mental health.  

When we get sick, we make an appointment to see a physician.  It isn’t until we can not pinpoint the physical ailment that we consider  an alternative remedy.  Some of us will turn to holistic remedies before we decide to sit in a psychologist’s chair.  Others may seek counsel from clergy or the comfort of a prayer group.  

Personally, I believe a spiritual sense will bring about more healing than any of the above;  but that’s because when we pray, we release. The stress on our flesh and our souls is often too much to bare.  A simple but thorough release of all worries and stressors will be met with miraculous results.  

But what of the sticks and stones?  “He who is without sin, should cast the first stone…”  And yet we are encircled by stone throwers daily.  When we find ourselves in the center of that circle receiving all those blows, it’s hard to drop to our knees and await a hedge of protection.  Heck no!  We fire those stones right back; and with impeccable aim.  


Metaphors aside for a moment, real stones damage the flesh.  Healing is required.  That healing comes from physicians and the medical establishment.  Unlike with bullets or blunt objects, no tourniquet or bandages are required.  Sticks sometimes pierce, but they are not spears.  A wack with a stick bruises!  Again, no ambulance or emergency medical services will be called. 
“Sticks and stones may break our bones, but [words] will never hurt me!”  

Nonsense!

Why do we teach this to our children?  It’s an age-old tradition that we all recall from our childhood.  The bully teases.  The child responds.   Sometimes with this unwitty chant;  other times with a cry for help, we just want it to stop.  

In second grade, I grew tired of the teasing.  I can’t recall what caused the harassment.  It could have been because I looked different.  It may have been because of where I lived.  Either way, no one deserves that type of treatment.  My parents behaved like it was a part of growing up.  To this day, I can’t quite determine whether my folks were entertained by my growing pains or whether they wanted me to become stronger and wiser.  Instead, what I learned was far less pleasant.  

I came home from school whining that the kids at school were mean to me.  My mother offered a solution.  She didn’t ask what caused it, or what remedies I’d already attempted to stop the bullying.  To her, it was irrelevant.  She didn’t ask who or where.  It just needed to stop.  

Mom said, “I want you to get the biggest stick you can find and find the biggest kid you can spot on the playground.”

“Now you take that stick and beat his ass with it!  And you be sure to do it in front of ALL the other kids!”

“You beat his ASS!”

It didn’t make a whole lot of sense to me, especially since it wasn’t THAT kid who was bullying me.  But I would do what I was told.  After all, momma knows best, right?

Wrong!

I found that big stick. I found that big kid.  I made sure I had an audience, and I swung that stick at that kid!

I’d like to tell you that I became an instant hero amidst all my watching peers.  I’d like to  reveille in the 15 minutes of fame…that I liberated all the school-ground-kids from the throws of tyrany.  I’d like to, but I can’t.  Nope.

It didn’t happen that way at ALL!  When I spotted that kid, I walked right up to him. Swinging and muttering, I was just a sight. Whew!  I was going to do THIS!  He saw me coming.  He was surprised, but not worried.  When I got within three feet of him, I swung aiming for his shoulder. He stopped me mid swing.  He caught that big stick. He grasped it from my sweaty hands.  He took that stick and beat MY ASS with it!

I came home bruised. Both my body and my ego hurt.  No one got in trouble.  No ambulance was called and no physician was sought.  I was still stunned. I was almost afraid to approach my mother. But I needed comfort.  


Here’s what she said:

“What happened to you?!?”

“I did what you said.  I got the stick, and I found the biggest kid…”

“Hmmm…I should have taught you how to fight first, huh?”

Warm tears rolled down my face. My eyes burned, and I was no longer reviling in the pain from the blunt force trauma.  My trauma was internal.  I hurt. I was confused. I was angry.  

Those words hurt.  The smiling lips they leapt from exacerbated my torn ego.  Comfort in my mother’s arms I did not find.  Nor was there any respite on the playground the following day.  

My hurt was emotional.  My physical pain had already subsided. My pride was restored when I learned to coexist with my peers, but avoid my tormentors.  
Plenty of lessons are learned in our formative years. Each of us could tell a story.  The biggest hurt in our lives didn’t come from a bullies swing though.  The biggest hurt came from betrayal–the words spewed from someone we thought had honored us.  


Even the malicious acts that occur contrary to our personal and emotional safety hurt.  Why?  Because we thought we were safe.  We’d convinced ourselves that we would not be in harms way.  

It’s when our belief system is rocked–that’s when we hurt.  And that’s the kind of hurt for which a medical doctor can not prescribe a cure.  Even a physchiatrist can not truly heal that trauma.  Monsignor Vitty BoomBox  can’t pray me back to righteousness.  

Words hurt.  Even the good ones; like LOVE.  Words that represent the greatest joy can bring forth the biggest pain.  It’s these types of words that dwell so deep in our heart, not even our brain can make sense of it.  Words that connect the brain, heart, and soul–these are the most dangerous of all.  


Words can drop us to our knees.  Words evoke understanding (or misunderstanding). They cause pain.  Every now and then they heal.  But ignoring the words is no easier than avoiding the pain.  

Sadly, I can find enough words through writing or speaking, through joy or anger, to undo the pain or that will birth pleasure.  At some point those words,  stringed together in the right order will manifest a plan of action.  It is the actions that may create change.  

But regardless of how we act, it’s the words the cause fear or reduce anxiety.  A pill can ease the pain, but the pain is mental.  It’s emotional. It’s spiritual.  And it will return.  

Do you remember the pain?  Use your words, but choose them carefully. 

Words

Bartering Death for Life

Last will and testaments are designed to determine who will inherit a legacy (financial or otherwise) after death.  Often its contents are secret–revealed by an actuary.  Alas, the disappointment that follows the revelation that there is nothing to be had.  It’s fantastic though when someone is named in a will that might have otherwise been overlooked.

But what happens when the living use their will to manipulate a future that is uncertain?

When my father was alive, he made a statement to my mother. He was not at all worried about what would happen after death. He said, “if you die before me, I’ll have all your things thrown into a dumpster!”  He didn’t want to be bothered with the remnants of anyone else’s remains. It hurt my mom to hear this.  And when he pre-deceased her, it took years to sift through his personal belongings.  An eventual house fire finished off the job, and now we sift through the ashes (and the boxes of personal effects that survived the disaster).

The only will he left was one that was surely crafted with the help of a spouse, rather than legal counsel.  But it didn’t matter, because all he left us was a loan.  Not alone, but a LOAN.  Bills!

Fire insurance converted that debt into assets.  The last will and testament that once existed is irrelevant after years of recovery and acceptance of things we can not control.  His legacy lives on in spirit.  The circumstances that precipitated his death have been forgiven. We don’t stress over the recovery.  We miss him and reminisce about the the way he carried himself, his thoughts, and the impact he had on us.


He once told me, “death is a part of life, son…the end part.” He’d chuckle, but I would snare in the inappropriateness of it all.  He said if you ever want to know how much I love you, take a look at my will, and then he’d gesture to where in the house he kept all of his important documents.  I never had the desire to check.  It was irrelevant.  I didn’t realize then how much HE would be missed once he was gone.  No life insurance claim can compensate for that. There’s no grave to visit–no ashes to hold.  Only a memory and a whisper.  “If dad were still here…”

But his widow has survived.  All that was his was replaced with what is she has earned. Sweat and tears, a new legacy is born. Everything has changed but the address.  Photo reproductions line the coffee table as we look back, laugh, and cry.

Talks of a new last will and testament recur occasionally.  “How will we divide all of this?” Who will get the house?  Who will manage the affairs.  Who will liquidate the assets and pay off the debt.  Whoever volunteers is certainly entitled to a little something for their troubles.  I felt better about it when I was convinced that it was all trash.

But their are pictures…and memories.  Heirlooms and keepsakes aren’t replaceable, but the don’t have value to anyone but family.  I am reluctant engage in the plans because I don’t want any of it.  I resent that these talks elude to entitlements, requirements, obligations, and guilt.  I don’t want to behave differently because there is a reward on the other side of death.  I’d rather not.  I decline.

There is a guilt in not wanting be bothered.  And the grandchildren hear things that equate to spoils and unearned riches.  Is it fair to them to not consider their well being?  Are they not entitled to a hand-me-down or a piece of a legacy?

For some, a legacy is inherited.  It could be something as simple as a surname.  For others it’s a dynasty.  For us, it is neither.  It’s a burden…and an empty promise.  Good will and favor now will translate into an inheritance 10 years (or 30 years) from now. That’s a long time to pledge allegiance to an otherwise healthy matriarch.

If I had a choice, I’d give up any supposed riches for a nice cup of coffee and a non-judgmental conversation that is not disguised as a lecture. I long for genuine advice and fellowship. I choose life over death.

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As I evolve, death still seems so far off.  With no will of my own, I can only hope that my own children will not sacrifice their character for a few cold bank notes.  I procrastinate the inevitable.  I hope that I will not fall to manipulating their loyalty in exchange for insincere elder care and a power-of-attorney.

I choose the living.  I will not barter a lifetime of wealth (and eventual death) in exchange for appreciation while I am alive.  I can not take it with me, but only my namesake will be my legacy.  The rest can be thrown away.

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