And, you never have to apologize…

January 26, 2016

“To err on the side of kindness is seldom an error.”  (Liz Armbruster), as seen some time ago on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

In place of “kindness”, one could also use the words “honesty” or “modesty” or “openness” or any number of words that all boil down to the same thing – doing what is right.

whining childHow many times after an event or encounter have you had to say to yourself, “Oh crap, I shouldn’t have said that or I shouldn’t have done that?” You erred on the other side of kindness and you know it. So, now you have to figure out a way to apologize and make it right.

Errors that lead to having to apologize are often committed in haste – a knee-jerk reaction, quick retort or quip – or without thinking – an off-hand remark or a casual and unintended snub. So, perhaps the first thing that you should resolve to do, in order to err on the side of kindness, is to stop before you act, react or reply. Just that momentary pause, before you respond to the situation at hand, may give you just enough time to catch yourself before you lash back in response to a treat or perceived hurt. You might be surprised how fast your restraint can kick in, if you give it a calm personchance. Perhaps that’s where some yoga training could come in handy.

Doing nothing in response to an event seldom causes the damage that responding inappropriately to something that was really nothing. Of course there are events that demand a response in order to save yourself or someone else from some harm and doing nothing in those instances could also be bad. It is just as bad to later be down on yourself because you didn’t step in and do something to stop or right a wrong.

kindness quoteSo, err on the side of kindness and take action in defense of what is right and you will seldom have to apologize later. You might also find later that you are quite proud of yourself; as well you should be, you did what was right and that is never an error.

Be kind out there today…

Attention is a two way street…

January 25, 2016

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “You learn something every day if you pay attention.” (Ray LeBlond) A study by Microsoft (Op Ed in the NYT) shows that the average attention span is 8 seconds, down from 12 in 2000. It’s now shorter than that of a goldfish. Perhaps that’s the reason for the flash-ads. It’s a fast-paced world out there, like it or not. Messages continually bombard us…a look, a word inserted in a sentence, something not said. Today, be alert for the 8 second message. 😉 Jack

Unless you read really fast, that 8-second attention span would have gotten you through about four sentences in Jack’s post above. No wonder Twitter is so popular; it’s messages match our attention spans. In business we used to create and practice what we called our talking-2elevator pitch. That was a short message that could be delivered in the span of time that someone might spend with you on an elevator while going to work. Usually these were timed to be delivered in 15-20 seconds (maybe a little longer for a skyscraper elevator ride), and they were supposed to contain enough content to quickly get across compelling information about yourself or your product so as to elicit the response of the other party being interested enough to what to know more. It was an interesting challenge.

I would imagine that the great essayists of the founding father’s day would have made Samuel Adamsgreat bloggers, but lousy Tweeters. It would have been frustrating for them to try to squeeze their great ideas and arguments into a Tweet; however, I also suspect that they would have found a way to use and adopt the technology, as did those in most of the recent areas of citizen unrest and uprisings. Perhaps Paul Revere’s ride to Lexington would have been unnecessary if he could have just been able to Tweet that the British were coming by land.

But, I digress; knowing that those of you with short attention spans stopped reading two paragraphs ago. Fort those still reading, I might add to LeBlond’s little saying that you have to do more than just pay attention; you have to do something with what you have heard or seen. You need to figure out what it means and assimilate it into your current knowledge store. Not everything is actionable, nor does it need to be; however, anything that you take the time to pay attention to should at least be something that you learn from or which reinforces knowledge that you may already have.

There is another little saying that I’ve had lying around for some time, just waiting for the opportune time to use it. It seems somehow appropriate for this post :
“If you want me to be a good listener, give me something good to listen to.” (Unknown)

Perhaps the reason that we tune out so much of what we hear and see so quickly is that sobored much of it has become meaningless and not worthy of attention. That too may be laid at the doorstep of modern social media, where the location of a person or what they had for breakfast passes for “content”.

So, pay attention and be a good listener to day and maybe you’ll learn something; but, also be attentive to what you contribute and make it something that someone else will find worthy of listening to and from which that too will learn. Be interested in others and be interesting for others to meet. Attention is a two way street. Have a great week ahead!

Where is your happy place? Do you remember how to get there?

January 20, 2016

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this little piece of advice – “You gotta go to that happy place in your mind and remember–everything’s gonna be all right.”  (Daniel Schetter)  Daniel is that man who continues to surf the waves of Lake Superior all winter long, even with ice on his whiskers.  He believes that cold is all in the mind; so, when he’s surfing the Great Lakes in freezing weather he heads to his happy place and isn’t cold anymore (at least in his mind). He did admit to suffering bouts of hypothermia, but he was still happy.

I read that story in the paper recently, too. I had a tough time imagining being able to get to a place that was happy and warm while surfing in the Great Lakes in winter with ice on my face; but the advice applies well to everyday life. We all face adversities or situations single momthat are not of our own making. How we react to them and our ability to go to our happy place in times of stress or pain determines how well we make it through those times.

The basis for many of the meditative-based religions or beliefs of the world is the concept of being able to get to that happy place and control our bodies and our reactions to things through our minds. It is also a tenet of hypnosis that we have the ability to block out pain with our minds. I’ve been hypnotized at a dentist’s office once and it did work to block the pain of his work on my teeth. I certainly believe that practices like yoga and meditation work to relieve tension and stress.

listening toi musicA key thing that both yoga and meditation focus upon is helping you find a way back to your happy place, so that you can let go of the stress and let your body’s natural ability to heal itself make you well again. Of course there are lots of other things involved, but being able to get to that happy place is central to both. It is also a key to a happy and healthy life, whether you practice those disciplines or not.

So where is your happy place and do you remember how to get there? As children it was easy to get to that place, usually through play. As we matured and “learned” to be adults, we wandered away (or were pulled away) from that place and found it harder and harder to get back to it. We were taught not to waste our time in idle thoughts of happiness, but to “keep our noses to the grindstone”,” be serious” and “get it done”. There was no time allotted for seeking to return to your happy place. Some turn to alcohol or drugs in the false belief that getting a buzz on or getting high is equivalent to getting to their happy place. Both are false and actually add to the stress that they were trying to find relief for in the first place.

How do find you way back to your happy place? You might try yoga or mediation classes ormeditation even seek out a good hypnotherapist. Talk with the instructor/therapist and let them know that you are there to try to recapture the ability to put aside the day’s stresses and get to that place that gives you peace. They will understand. Then, focus upon the process that they take you through to relax and let go and begin your search for that happy place that is still there, somewhere in the deep recesses of your mind. You knew it as a child and you can find it again. When you do find it; you will know that “everything’s gonna be alright”.

For some people, their happy place is a spiritual place, a place that they reach through prayer. They can start each day with a prayer and that means that they start in their happy place, before the day even gets underway. The nice thing for them is that they can pray anywhere and anytime, without even being noticed. It’s all done in their minds, as is the journey to their happy place. For some of these people it is possible to live all day long in their happy place. You know that you have met people like that, because you cannot figure smiling womanout why they always seem so calm and happy. They are at peace with God and themselves and that is a happy place to be, indeed.

An interesting by-product of making the effort to get to your happy place in times of stress is that it tends to stop whatever was going on in you r mind, because you are focusing on trying to find that place of peace. Just making the effort is a big help in coping with the day-to-day stresses of life. Sometimes we don’t have time to make the full journey back and sometimes we may not be in situations or settings where going through our whole routine (perhaps with eyes closed or in a yoga position of some sort) is possible. In those times, just the mental pause that starts the process may be enough to relieve the pressure.

You can make a mental note to go all the way there when you get home, but for the moment, just realize that you have loosened the grip of stress or panic and can go on with what you need to do in a more relaxed and confident manner. You know that your happy happinessplace is out there waiting for you and you know that you can get back to it when you want to – and that’s a good thing …a happy thing.

So, take a moment before you start each day and try to get back to your happy place, so that you carry a fresh memory of it in your mind throughout the day. Then, when stress or turmoil hits it won’t be that guard to see your way back to it for a quick refreshing dose of happiness.

Have a great and happy rest of the week.

The streets still echo with his steps…

January 18, 2016

“When you are right you cannot be too radical.  When you are wrong you cannot be too conservative.”  (MLK Jr) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

MLK image over DOwntown MIlfordOn this Martin Luther King day, America and the world are still struggling with many wrongs that need righting, many injustices that beg for justice and many old prejudices that seem to refuse to die. People still take to the streets, as they did in King’s day seeking redress of the wrongs, although many times not as peacefully as he would have liked. Too often there is still a lack of recognition between the right and wrong positions in many of the areas that still cause division and pain. There is too much of a mentality of “them vs. us”; rather than searching for a solution that involves “we”.

The struggles that Dr. King lead, that were so clearly defined along racial lines, have expanded to embrace other groups who are discriminated against because of their differences; not only differences of appearance, but differences in lifestyles. Other groups have added their ethnicity to the discrimination issue fight and a growing issue concerning religious beliefs has begun to creep into the conversation. And, the streets that Dr. King marched upon have not fallen silent. To this day we have people of color marching in the streets caring signs that say “black lives matter”; and new groups marching with them with signs that say “all lives matter.”

In a perversion of Dr. King’s thought, some of the most wrong in America do call themselves Conservatives and seek to justify their discriminatory actions my proclaimingopinionated their righteousness in their “defense of American Family values.” Apparently they think it is OK to discriminate so long as they also proclaim themselves to be evangelicals who are mounting a Bible-based defense of American life as they define it. What’s that old saying about two wrongs not making a right? That’s apparently not in their Bible.

Dr. King might be proud of some of the progress that has been made in the struggles that he led; but he also would surely recognize the unleveled playing fields that still exist. The people that he led can ride the buses and eat in the restaurants now, but the same factions that he was fighting back then still own the buses and the restaurants – and almost everything else. There are laws that allow for redress of wrongs; but also many laws or loopholes that protect those who commit the wrongs, especially at the economic level.

Jim Crow may have put away his guns and called off his dogs, but he did not give up control; he just found a less obvious and violent way to exert it – thru economics and rich man poor manpolitical power. He also found new adversaries to try to hold in check – those who were different from him in almost any way. For quite some time this new strategy worked well by employing tactics such as direct political contributions, Political Action Committees and gerrymandering to maintain political power. That political power allowed the structuring of laws that stripped away what power the masses has accumulated through the tort process or via organized labor. Rather rapidly, in terms of history, those in power amassed most of the wealth of the country, too. Now the top 1% of the world’s people control 99% of the wealth of the entire world, and with that wealth they can buy all of the power that they need to maintain their positions.

I’m not sure if Dr. King would have wanted to lead the coming class wars against this oligarchy, but I think he would have seen it coming and understood that it is both necessary and a noble struggle; one in which it will be impossible to be too radical. The “Occupy Movement” was more of a baby step than a real opening salvo in this war. Historyrich snob is full of instances of the people eventually getting fed up with existing on the crumbs that fall off the tables of the rich rulers and rising up against them.

Those will not be echoes of Dr. King’s marches or distant drums that you will hear but the pounding of millions of feet on the streets of the world and they will all be carrying the same sign that reads – “our lives matter”. The 1% cannot buy enough politicians or arm enough police to hold back this movement. Did someone on Wall Street
say “let them eat cake?”

Wouldn’t it be a hoot…

January 17, 2016

The silly season is upon us all again as the Presidential Primary Season approaches. I think
it would be an absolute hoot if Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders were selected as their party’s candidates. Can you image the fun of seeing in the debate the
biggest, conservative billionaire blowhard vs. the avowed Socialist, whose motto is “Have the courage to take on the billionaire class”? What a hoot that would be, if only it weren’t such a sad commentary on the state of political affairs in America.

This year’s silly season is the most silly and vicious that I have ever witnessed and has disagreement2certainly exposed the carnage that rabid partisanship has wrecked upon both parties. The huge philosophical divide between the parties and the lack of interest in any compromise has left the entire middle of the political spectrum abandoned and ripe for a third party effort. Unfortunately, the only way that anyone can mount a campaign effort for President these days is to first acquire a billion dollars or more.

Imagine the ridiculous scene it would be to have these two populist politicians even trying to debate. One can only imagine the biting satirical thrusts of Sanders on the income inequity issue that has become his hallmark cause and the animated and bombastic tirades (sans any need for fact or logic) that Trump would launch in retort. Perhaps Sanders attack on the greedy heart of capitalism would even cause the Donald to forget for the moment his plan to block any further middle-eastern immigration and put those already here from the middle-east under surveillance.  To further expose the intolerance and bigotry of Trump (and the Republican party) Sanders could choose as his Vice-Presidential running mate a member of the GLBT community who was born in America of naturalized, but foreign-born parents and who espouses a woman’s right to choose and tougher gun control laws. Trump would be so flummoxed that he would likely be unable to get a single sane word out.

We hear every political pundit saying that Sanders has no chance to be the Democratic nominee and few pundits had given Trump a chance to even get as far as he has, so far. Interestingly enough, many so-called political experts are now starting to hedge on Trump’s chances and even Sanders has surprised many in the latest round of polls. Strange things can happen when the system gets skewed so far off center, as it is right now.

I don’t like to watch political debates, since they are little more than strings of campaign debaterssound bites and personal attacks along the candidates; however, I did recently watch the reruns of the last republican “debate”. It was obvious that the closer to the center of the stage a candidate was placed measured not only his current polling strength, but also his adherence to the tea party conservative line. The only candidates who made statements that seemed to both thoughtful and reasonable in a political environment that is begging for compromise were the politicians relegated to the far ends of the stage. Of course they spent most of the evening off camera.

The decline in civility that has accompanied the ideological split in Washington is also on display during the debates for both parties. Watching the debates, one comes away with the impression that is essentially a contest between a bunch of scum-bags and your choice is which scum-bag you decide to hold your nose and vote for in the primaries. If one believes all of the rhetoric, none of the candidates is trustworthy, none will end up doing what they say that they will do and the country is in grave danger if any of them are elected. Both parties and their stalwarts claim that the other side has run the country into the ground, are providing morally corrupt leadership and will lead to the end of America as we know it if their candidate is elected.

One is reminded, of course that this has always been the case in American politics. From the PhillyMagazine web site comes this (edited for this post) – It all began in 1796, when Alexander Hamilton attacked Thomas Jefferson on the pages in Gazette of the United States, a federalist paper in Philadelphia. Hamilton claimed that Jefferson was having a love affair with one of his slaves (which, of course, turned out to be true). Hamilton went on to call Jefferson a coward. In that same election, Supporters of John Adams also claimed that Jefferson’s election would result in a civil war, that he would free the slaves, and that he was an atheist. As for his supporters, they were “cut-throats who walk in rags and sleep amid filth and vermin.” The language has changed a bit but the vitriol has remained.  To read more about Americas history of mudslinging Presidential Campaigns click here.

In the case of our current Presidential campaign one can take offense at the statements being made within or between parties or treat it like the political circus that it is and enjoydumb and dumber it.  At least it is somewhat like a modern TV comedy, filled with ridiculous characters sparing with each other with words rather than swords. Like a TV show, or a movie, it requires that you suspend your disbelief for a period and just enjoy it, laugh along and don’t think about the horrible consequences of any of these clowns actually get elected. It’s only a hoot if you don’t stop to cry.

Don’t worry about it…

January 15, 2016

“There are two kinds of worries—those you can do something about and those you can’t.  Don’t spend any time on the latter.”  (Duke Ellington)

panicI’ve written here a few time about wasting time and energy on worrying about stuff, rather than coming up to fix things that you can do something about. The secret to success in Ellington’s little quote is figuring out the difference between those things that you can do something about and those that you can’t. Unfortunately this is not an easy skill to develop r to consistently apply in our everyday lives. The result is that we spend too much time worrying about things that we can’t change, impact or fix.

worriesLet’s face it, there are many problems in the world around us that are worrisome, but which we can do little about. World hunger, wars, diseases, income and wealth inequities come to mind, as do a number of other very large and very widespread problems that we sometime worry about. Some find a solution to their worries by jumping into some cause or movement that is focused upon these bigger problems and that’s not a bad thing, if you can let go of your personal worry and focus on the group mission.

There are also big issues that may be too big for any one individual to solve, but which at least lend themselves to some individual efforts that may have impact. Bullying, for
bully.pnginstance, while too wide spread of an issue to be solved by one person, is such that the actions of each individual are helpful and additive towards resolving the problem. If one takes the attitude and approach that the end of bullying begins with me, then there may be one less action or statement or display that reinforces the practice. The foundation of change is to stop the old way and then go forward from that fresh beginning. Stopping bullying when you see it or standing up for those being bullied removes one more worry from your plate, because you could do something about that and you did.

Many of our worries are really based upon fears with the biggest contributors being fear of
failure and fear of rejection. Some of us spend so much time worrying about failure that weask for dance never even try the thing at which we are worried about failing. In our personal relations, our worries (fears) about possibly being rejected keep us in our seats instead of asking the girl or guy of our dreams for a dance or a date. Those, too, are worries that we can do something about.

You must confront those fears and overcome them. What is the worst that could happen – that he/she says NO? Would you still be alive? Would there still be hope that someday in the future that answer could change? The answers are yes, so don’t spend all of yoOh crapur time worrying about the consequences of an action that you are to frozen by fear to even take. Go for it! Do it! It won’t kill you and maybe you’ll even get the answer that you hoped for and not the one that you are spending all of your time worrying about. If you want to worry about something, worry about where you’ll go on the date or whether or not you can dance if you get the chance. It least those are things that you can do something about.

So, back to our initial topic from the quote; I think it’s important in life to develop at least some ability to sort out the things that you are worrying about into those two classes – things that you can do something abort and things that you can’t. Once sorted you may find comfort in the little prayer that I’ve referenced many time here before for those things that you now realize that you can’t do something about. Just lay them in God’s hands by praying, “Not my will but thy will be done.” Then let those things go and go on to working on the things that you can do something about. You’ll worry less and get more done that way.

Have a great, worry-free weekend!

It’s just a boo-boo; you’ll live…

January 14, 2016

“Failure is a bruise, not a tattoo.”  (John Sinclair) – as seen recently on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I really like that little saying because it is such an appropriate way to think about the failures and setbacks in our lives. The analogy holds up to a good deal of thought, too. Usually the event that causes a bruise involves something that causes pain first – a bump or a fall or running into something. It hurts at that instance and then your body may turn the site of the bump it into a bruise. The bruise still hurts, if you poke at it; but over time it heals and goes away. Of course, if the incident was traumatic enough to have broken or cut the skin, you may also end up with a scar instead of just a bruise. Scars are more like tattoos: they stay with you for a long time, but they, too, fade away over time. Some failures in life may leave scars, too.

Remember when you were little and fell off your bike or ran into the door while trying to mother with childrun away playing tag. It hurt; but, your mom kissed it and told you it was just a boo-boo and that you’d be OK – you’d live. Life’s failure are much the same, only mom isn’t there anymore. If you’re lucky you have a life partner who can kiss you and tell you that it’s just a boo-boo and that you’ll live. That failure is just a bruise (primarily to your ego) it’s not a tattoo. It may take a while for the bruise to heal and for you to forget about it, but it will heal eventually and you will forget and move on with life.

There are things that can tattoo you for life and I suppose that they might be called failures; although most of them are called crimes. Having a criminal record, especially for the more heinous crimes definitely act like tattoos on those who commitment. The record follows them around and some crimes involving sex or children or both result in those tattoos being registered in databases that all in the public can see. The exceptions usually involve juvenile offenders whose youthful criminal records are expunged when they turn 21. It’s sort of like having that tattoo removed through laser surgery.

Other things that we experience may causes bruises in our lives. The loss of a loved one, remorsefulrejection by someone that we hoped would be a loved one, loss of a job, divorce and more can all cause bruises. All of those bruises heal over time, though some require quite a bit longer than others.

There is a corollary saying that also rings true – “Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger.” You may not think that the healing of that latest life bruise will make you stronger; but, you will learn something from it, you will know better the next time and you may be able to avoid getting bruised again by the same thing or person. If you develop the ability to look at life’s failures and setbacks as temporary bruises, it will make life much less stressful or depressing when you have those failures.

If you don’t have a loved one to turn to for a kiss and the reassurance that everything will be OK – that you’ll live; turn to the One who is always there for every boo-boo in life, the One who will never judge you or abandon you; the One to whom you can and will turn to even in the final moment of your life – embrace God and let Him kiss your boo-boo and make it better. In fact, even if your mom is still there, or you do have a loved one that you share your life with; taking your boo-boos and bruises to God in prayer will speed the healing. As you get older you may get a bit cynical about the medicinal impact of mom’s kisses, but you should never lose faith in the healing power of God.

If you must get a tattoo, get a small cross tattooed somewhere where you can look at it when yo need to. Then, in those times when something has just happened that you know is going to leave a bruise WWJDor maybe even a scar; you can look at that tattoo and say out loud, “this is the only thing that is permanent in my life.” That will start the healing process. If you really don’t want a tattoo, get one of those bracelets that have WWJD engraved or printed on them and wear that; because what Jesus would do is kiss your boo-boo and make it better.

It’s just a boo-boo: you’ll live and you’ll be stronger for it. Have a great day.

Don’t try to explain it, just believe…

January 13, 2016

Every now and then I get off on an ego trip and think that I should try to tackle some really weighty topic here, like religion. I started down that rat hole recently.  One theme that I biblehad in mind was to write about the various books or spiritual writings that underpin the religions of the world. The Bible was the one that I am most familiar with and I knew the names of a few others from some of the religions that I at least know exist.

So, off I went on the Internet, making various Google inquiries to try to see what might be out there to read for some research. What a dumb idea! Within 5 minutes it became world religious symbolsapparent that the topic and the approach that I was taking are both overwhelming. Just looking at the so-called “major” religions of the world yielded more than 55; most of them having various books or writings which provide the foundation for the beliefs and practices of the believers in those religions.

The list if spiritual writings would have numbered in the hundreds and the list spanned everything from complete books to some ancient stone tablets and even included some fairly modern essays. That brought to mind the thought that a new religion might be based upon beliefs found on the writings in modern communications media, such as blog posts. I suppose that would be possible; although, I think a religion based upon Tweets would be too light weight to survive the test of time.

This definition of religions from the BBC web site that I found to be most interesting, mainly because it is generic and inclusive enough that it can be applied to all 55 of the world’s major religions:

Religion can be explained as a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs.

It was interesting that in almost every case the original religions have undergone numerous splits into factions, each with a different take on the practice of the religion or different interpretation of the same supporting materials and beliefs. It does not take one long to see the hand of man in all of the world’s religions or to recognize the influence of the human ego in the editing and presentation of the various religious scripts and books that exist. Since most claim to be divinely guided, it must have kept God busy, or at least amused for some time, as each new translation or interpretation required His “divine guidance”.

Of similar interest is the art that accompanies the writings for many religions. Again the ego of man is center stage with depictions of the major figures within the religion looking amazingly like modern men of whatever region the artworks for that religion is based within. The exceptions seem to be the far eastern religions where many of the “Gods” of the religions are certainly depicted as looking anything but human. Maybe that’s where the “superhuman agency” aspect is applied.

A fairly consistent, but somewhat troubling, theme that runs through most of these religions is that the adherents truly believe that their God is the only true God and that they are the onlydisagreement2 ones who “get it.” They are “the chosen ones”, so to speak. That serves to provide the underlying justification for much of the “them vs. us” mentality that is presently associated in the modern world with religions, at least in some places. Very few of the religions of the world actually recognize the other religions and most look with pity or disdain on those who do not believe as they do. The docks of human history are apparently filled with those who missed the boat on the one and only true religion when it sailed.

Of course there is always the possibility that all of the world’s religions are “true” and that the names that various religions have associated with the “superhuman agency” that they believe in all point to the same enigmatic entity. Since man has appointed himself the author, editor, keeper and interpreter of his own religious texts and books, he has essentially documented his religions in ways that made sense to him in whatever place and time he began to believe. The creators and keepers of the written materials stifle all argument within the community of believers, as I said earlier, by claiming that the words that were written and the edits that were later made were all “divinely guided.”  How convenient for them.

The further down this rat hole that I went the more it became clear that this is a topic that defies logic or clear explanation, and is a topic that is not to be tackled within the confines of a blog post. That was OK, because it brought me back to the beginning and the realization that religion is something that really cannot be explained, but must just be believed. We make personal choices in our lives about which religion to affiliate with and what and how much to believe, as well as which of the rituals to observe. That also serves to differentiate religions from faith, since faith has no requirements for dogma or ritual observances. Each can exist without the other

The practice of our faith, through religion fills a very real need in our lives and the ability alone at sunsetto set aside logic and just believe allows us to accept that which we cannot explain. As Ralph Waldo Emerson put it – “All I have seen teaches me to trust the Creator for all I have not seen.”  The fact that moral codes have been created around those beliefs also provides a needed part of a civilized social structure. We need religion in our lives because without it there is a vexing void in our understanding of the world and what is happening around us. Religions help us define the boundaries in life, beyond which you do not need to understand, just believe.

So, I’m not going to spend any more time trying to explain religion, I’m just going to go back to believing. However, maybe I’ll spend a little time praying for all of the unfortunate people who missed the boat on in my religion. Maybe they just don’t get it.

Saying goodbye to Ziggy Stardust, Major Tom and the Thin White Duke…

January 12, 2016

All of the press coverage of the death of David Bowie got me to thinking about the era’s that he spanned in my life. While many may have only known his later works, I was at least around during all of his performing years and witness to the various transformations that he made as a performer.

Young David BowieBowie was apparently classified originally as a folk and blues singer when he started in the mid-1960’s. He quickly morphed into what might be called an early version of fusion in the 1970’s during which he explored the combinations of a wide variety of emerging trends and sounds in his albums. That set the stage for the emergence of his Ziggy Stardust persona at the end of the 1970’s and into the 1980’s. Never one to stand pat with a character for too long, he then morphed through a number of new stage personas. There is a definitive web presentation of the 12 stages of Bowie’s stage life to be found at –

Some of Bowie’s most creative work occurred in the 1970’s as he explored the fusion of Ziggy Stardustvarious music styles, some of which were just emerging at the time. Bowie himself was transitioning and maturing in his musical style. Near the end of that era he created the Ziggy Stardust persona and his career took off at a whole new level. Here are some of his works from the 1970’s –

The 1980’s were commercially successful for Bowie but his work during that era is considered to be of vary uneven quality. A compilation album of his best work from the era was releast late in the 1980’s –

later bowieScott Parker did a good review of Bowie’s work during the 1990’s, an era when he tried to get back to his roots, with mixed success. Bowie was also an Internet pioneer and in 1998 launched Bowienet in an early attempt to reach out directly to his fans – a precursor to where the music industry ended up going. During this era Bowie took on the persona of the Thin White Duke and played in or collaborated with several bands. He also experimented with new sounds that presaged the alternative rock sound. Rolling stone has 20 of the songs of that era that, as they put it, only hardcore fans might know –

There is a great deal of information about David Bowies life and performing career at the UK WikiPedia site – It’s an interesting read and will probably give you a new appreciation for the longevity and influence that Bowie had in the music industry.

Before leaving Bowie had a long battle with cancer and had time to reflect on death and the afterlife, which are themes in his last album – Blackstar – which was released right before his death. The Lazarus track is considered to be his parting gift to his fans and to reflect how he was approaching his eminent death.

Whether you were a David Bowie fan or not, his influence was and will be felt on the music industry from some time to come. He was an innovator as well as a performer and led the way on several musical tends. He will be missed, but he will also be remembered.

No single way is always the right way…

January 11, 2016

“6+3=9, but so does 5+4.  The way you do things is not always the only way.  Respect other people’s way of thinking.”  (Facebook Posting) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog today.

Also in the news in today’s Oakland Press was a story about Oakland County Executive L. Brooks Patterson stating that he is in favor of theexclusion constitutional amendment to the Michigan Constitution that would protect the GLBT community from discrimination. Patterson is a well-known Republican conservative, but has also recognized the ugliness and hate that comes with discrimination. He is basically saying – respect other people’s way of living.

My wife often has to admonish me when I say something or do something that corrects or questions her way of thinking or doing things. She has her own way of doing things and it is often not the way that I would do it; so, that makes it “not the right way” in my mind (at least until I’m reminded to think more about it.) In addition to asking me to mind my own business, she is gently (sometimes not so much) telling me to – respect other people’s way of living.

I am reminded of the many stories in the Bible of the pharisees and priests who were aghast at the things that Jesus did, both in the temples and in Jesus in templegeneral. Our modern day pharisees are the moralizing, so-called Christian evangelicals who seem to spend more time criticizing the lives of others than putting their own lives in order. Like the high priests and pharisees of old, these modern day pharisees are sure that they occupy the moral high-ground and that their way is the only right way to live. And like those hypocrites of old, they try to take actions to correct or discriminate against those who choose to live differently. In modern times this holier-than-thou group uses political power to try to legitimize their discrimination through laws (or lack of laws) aimed at those who are “different.” They wrap themselves in a false morality that does not – respect other people’s way of living.

This same group of modern day pharisees is at the core of the current movement to also discriminate against those who practice religions different from theirs: since, obviously, their religion is the only correct one. They completely miss the irony that this country was founded by opinionatedpeople who were immigrants escaping religious persecution due to the fact they the religion that they practiced at the time was different from the prevailing religion in England and Europe. It is convenient also to forget about the threat that their immigration to America posed to the Native Americans who were already here. They essentially took the country from those who owned it at the time. Imagine if the Native Americans had enacted a law stopping the flow of these refugees from religious persecution from entering America because they posed a threat. Maybe that would have solved everything. The early settlers obviously did not – respect other people’s way of living.

I suspect that if we all focused upon doing a better job of being ourselves, instead of focusing upon the lives of others, we would all be in a better
place. Instead of spending time working about what negative impact people who choose to live in GLBT lives will have on us or being concerned about people who practice a religion that is different from ours; perhaps we should spend more time living our lives such that they will have a positive impact on those that we meet. Maybe if we are all kinder, more compassionate, more caring and more helpful to others; they will act the same to diversityus in return, no matter what lifestyle they choose to live. In the end, wouldn’t that make the whole world a better place in which to live? It would, because it would be a place in which we all would – respect other people’s way of living

The reality is that the only person that we really have control over is ourselves and many of us haven’t been doing that great of a job with thatbridgiing gaps responsibility, much less worrying about how others live. We need to focus less on others and more on doing the right things ourselves to make sure that we aren’t becoming modern day pharisees and discriminating against those with lives that are different from ours. So, as we begin a new week maybe, before we leave the house today we can resolve to – respect other people’s way of living.