Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Great Secret...

The great secret to achieving serenity is the realization that we did not create the universe we live in.  The problems that are new to us today, existed before we knew about them- and we were "just fine" then.

So anyway, the only thing that has changed is now we are given a choice whether or not to let this information alter our state of mind.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010


  Even though it's two years old now, there is a video clip from CBS news I stumbled across, and can't resist writing about. It's a news interview in which actor Matt Damon speaks about the potential of Sarah Palin becoming president of the United States if she were to be sworn in as vice president:

  What is my favorite part of that whole clip? Mr. Damon's incredulity at the shockingly irresponsible decision making and apathy demonstrated by the American voting public. The fact that the ignorant (ie- to willfully ignore) nature of our society in such matters is the part that left him speechless, literally just shaking his head at one point. I don't like his point simply because of any political party lines or ideological differences-- I like it simply because rational, critical thinking in politics is such a rare thing these days.

  Seeing someone objectively call out important thoughts about our nation's leaders which we should all at least consider, is so refreshing I could barely remain seated in my chair. (I tend to pace back and forth when I get really excited about something.) The whole interview, I was just waiting for him to reach out and tap on the lens of the camera, and say: "Hello people, is this thing on? Are you listening?"

  Okay, so it's no revelation that as individuals and as a nation, we clearly stand to benefit from more educated, objective analysis in our decision making processes. This of course applies to every social and political level of our society. Yes, that means you and it means me too. It includes the millions of people of the good old state in which I live, whose political decision making process seems all too often to consist roughly of: "Well, I think that one guy said something about family values in one of their speeches, I guess he would make a good representative."

Some years ago I had a personal encounter with the phenomenon of people choosing to ignore significant problems come voting day. Warning: the following contains a substantial amount of sarcasm. If you are easily offended, proceed at your own risk.  ;-)

  It was 2004, and George W. Bush was up for re-election. By that time, the choice was a bit of a forgone conclusion for me since I was already unable to accept that a man who does not properly pronounce a noticeable portion of the English language, had been elected as the most powerful leader in the country. So after all the trouble Bush got us into during his first term, not to mention that I had a brother in the marines who was stationed in Iraq whom I wanted to see again someday-- I was ready for someone else to be president.

  I had also been engaging in the pesky habit of reading the news past the front page; this was a gateway to other nasty behaviors like critical thinking, asking hard questions, and fact-checking. Finally, I headed down the treacherous path of ...wait for it... developing an informed opinion, independent of social pressure or previous political bias. (Gasp!)

  Therefore, I voted for the other guy. I use the term "other guy" in tribute to the fact that every time I have found myself standing in a voting booth, I have not been particularly pleased as punch with the options laid out before me. The phrase "lesser of two evils" definitely comes to mind. So I definitely had some issues with Kerry, but we have an "election" based system which realistically only gives you two options to choose from at the end of the day. So I at least knew for certain that I did not want Bush executing any more of his "brilliant strategery" like lying about weapons of mass destruction, essentially telling the United Nations to bend to "our" will or go to hell, and last but not least: vaporizing our constitutional rights in the name of anti-terrorism, faster than you can say "I-guess-the-founding-fathers-gave-their-lives-to-write-and-ratify-that-document-and-the-ideas-it-represents-for-nothing". Looks like the joke is on you president Washington- you would understand how unnecessary your life's work was if you lived in a time when controlling the right oil fields can make you millions of dollars overnight because your family just happens to be in the oil business.

  So anyway... fast forward about a month, the 2004 presidential election is history. My wife and I are at a party with some friends, and conversation turns to the outcome of the election. So I listen politely as each person voiced their opinions on the most recent result of our hallowed democratic process. When it came my turn, I said: "well, I am pretty bummed that W got re-elected, I voted for Kerry..." I was literally unable to complete my sentence before being interrupted by audible gasps and exclamations of disbelief. Have you ever been stared at by a group of people as if you had just proclaimed your undying passion for punching babies? Back that off a hair, and those are the kind of looks I was getting.

  In all fairness, I can't help but see their point though- where do I get off using my brain all on my own without worrying about what other people are going to think? To have the audacity of not voting republican in a republican state, and surrounded primarily by members of a certain church whose membership is predominately republican to boot. Which by the way, is officially known as the "double-decker social suicide". I have not had any memorable political or religious conversations with any of those friends since that occasion. I suppose striking out with your friends over religion and politics in one fell blow is pretty much game over.

  But hey, so there are people who would have been happy with Dot Warner as the president of the United States of America (should father time come calling to Mr. McCain unexpectedly)... so what? They have every right to enjoy the pretty white "fairy dust" falling slowly from the sky at their next family barbecue- courtesy of the Commander in Chief who thought that pushing the big red button labeled: "cruise missile" meant she would be vacationing that summer on a big boat with all you can eat dinners.

  I heard the entertainment on those ships can be pretty cool, and I am a Michael BublĂ© fan after all. I'm not much of a shuffleboard guy though.  ;-)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

The Distance Drug

In a world where it is impossible to be anywhere without touching something, we as people have a funny addiction to creating space around us, whether real or imagined. From the time we are small children we begin building our own private fortresses of perceived  protection. It's no shock really, the world is a harsh place. Coping skills (or the lack thereof) determine what our life experiences ultimately distill into, and distance seems to be a popular way to go about it. So what are the most common forms of using distance as a coping tool?

  Some of us build castles of passive protection- featuring a carefully crafted moat. This moat contains a magical substance which instantly turns into the favorite beverage of the beholder, yet remains nearly impossible to swim across.

  Some seek aggressive absence- insured by pompous parapets lined with rows of contentious cannons, ready to fire off a variety of heart-seeking munitions.

  Yet others manage to combine the two, forming a passive-aggressive labyrinth where only the bravest of adventurers dare navigate. The paths through such a daunting dichotomy are often lined with pleasant sights and sounds, but chances are: all the doors are locked. What is kept behind these doors is anyone's guess. The visitor who ventures past the initial niceties far enough to have the opportunity of knocking on one of the inner doors is pretty brave just for getting to that point. But knock long enough to illicit a response from within, and you may be met with anything from your favorite meal and a back rub, to a World Cup caliber kick in the shins.

  Additionally, something worth noting is the order of execution in which the passive and aggressive methods are combined. The most commonly observed is the passive trait being the default mode of operation, with the aggressive manifesting in various unexpected and intricate forms (often driven by the subconscious mind, despite the best efforts of the individual). Now on the other hand, seeing the aggressive behavior manifest primarily, and passive traits follow, throws an interesting spin on things.

  It would not be hard for those who know me personally to furnish examples of me exhibiting passive-aggressive behavior. (Yes... admittedly, I fall into this category.) However, I would point out that for me the process usually flows the other way around- starting out assertive, and ending up rather passive. For example: I have no problem speaking my mind, often to a fault. But if the encounter goes south, I often tend to avoid that person or situation thereafter as a means of avoiding "uncomfortable conflict" which has supplanted the healthy intellectual debate I prefer.

  All of us have come in contact with one or more of these forms of distance at one time or another, whether we knew it or not. One thing is for sure though- regardless of the method or the means, we humans have an obvious need to feel something that this "distance" creates ...or at least simulates.

So which flavor of the "distance drug" is your favorite?  ;)


Welcome to my blog!
  Not that anyone is reading this yet- but I will start simply by saying "hello" in advance, to anyone who may happen to read the random musings that I place here. I hope to share some interesting thoughts from time to time, and look forward to discussing them with those who care to comment.

So anyway...