on Life

No job is worth a life, yet in the USA more and more jobs demand precisely that.  Indeed, to me it seems likely many countries that have embraced capitalism as the basis of their social system make similar demands of their citizens.

Are these harsh words?  I don’t think they are, but they will certainly be unpopular.  Why?  Well, something that fascinates me is how fanatical capitalists are about the merits of their chosen system.  Sadly, that fanaticism reminds me of religious dogma.  Have you ever noticed how religiously indoctrinated people are incapable of questioning the most rudimentary inconsistencies of their religion?  Furthermore, they seem incapable of differentiating questions about the fundamental basis of their beliefs from attacks upon their deity and themselves.  Unfortunately, dogma is that powerful.

In the USA capitalism has become the most prevalent dogma.

Do you doubt me?  Let me illustrate my point by invoking a single word.  Socialism.  Socialism is bad, right?  Why?  Because it isn’t capitalism?  That is dogma – you’re not allowed to even consider alternatives.   When you have difficulty thinking about alternatives without feeling you’re somehow betraying your fundamental beliefs, you have been indoctrinated by dogma .  {I’m going to revisit this topic in future posts, count on that.)

But, for now, let me get back to the opening assertion in this post

I wonder how many lives have been shattered by the demands of unreasonable employers? I wonder how many people have sacrificed their families and/or their relationships for their jobs?  I suspect the number is vastly higher than is morally acceptable.

Am I making this stuff up?  Unfortunately I am not, I’m speaking from personal experience gathered over the last two decades.  Twenty years spent watching in horror as the quality of the life of everyone I know degrades.  It has been particularly bad recently.  How bad?  Well, in the twelve weeks preceding Thanksgiving, my hands down favorite holiday, I was home for seven days.  Total.  To be clear, that wasn’t a week of ease spent at home, that was a total of seven days spread out over several bits.  But it gets worse.  In the two weeks preceding Thanksgiving I worked 162.5 hours.  I didn’t have a choice my principals could let me live with, I had to do it.  And no – I didn’t do it for the overtime, I did it because my conscience would not let me let the customer down.

My job did that to me, but I will never let it do so again.

So I guess I’ll have to get a new job that allows me to live…  It is long past time.

Please don’t think I’m looking for your sympathy, I’m not. You don’t know me, and I don’t know you, but I do know that many of you have your own horror stories about what work has done to you or those you love.  So no, I’m not looking for your sympathy – I’m looking for your understanding.  Sadly, I suspect understanding might be even harder for you to grant.

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on Doing Well

There is so much happiness to be found through the presence of our children.  I’m a fortunate man to have been been blessed with four such sources of wonder.

Blessed…

Blessed is such a difficult concept to comprehend.  If we are blessed, who are we blessed by?  Life is a gift.  I know that beyond any doubt, however I have no knowledge as to its source.  Life isn’t a gift from some all powerful entity, I know that as well – for many reasons I won’t raise now as this post isn’t about dogma.  {Perhaps another time, or perhaps I’ve already touched on it elsewhere in my posted thoughts.}

So, if we aren’t blessed by some divine entity, then by what are we blessed?

By our children…

They are each unique.  They are each wonderful.  They are each frustrating in how they are capable of so much more than their efforts or their insecurities indicate.  Some children take a lot longer to realize how their own actions shape them for the future.  As their parents it is very difficult not to fall into the traps set by a system in which the social hierarchy is based on monetary wealth and inherited acclaim.

We desperately want our children to do well, but in the context of current times doing well doesn’t mean “do good things“, it means “make a lot of money“.  What a sad state of affairs that two of the most prevalent meanings of “do well” are so mutually exclusive.

I hope your children do well, by themselves and also by others.  I hope they seek and find happiness, and in their quest they bring happiness to others.  I hope they experience compassion, and freely grant it to others.  I hope they feel your love, and learn to love well.

After all, aren’t happiness, compassion and love the source of themselves?

Here’s a final chain of thought to take away.  This isn’t a chain to bind, it is a chain to help set you free.

Our children are the only things we truly create, for without us they could not be.  Our most profound blessings are our children.  We create our own blessings.

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on Tricks, with Time

The most fundamental reward of love given, is how often love is returned.

I wonder why it takes us so long to learn lessons like this?  Such are the lessons of life, simple lessons some seem destined never to learn at all.  Sadly I think this lack of learning of life’s most fundamental lessons is more widespread now than it ever has been before.

Why? Because of tricks played with time…

First, we are tricked into thinking we have no time.  Then we’re tricked into selling what little time we do have, for inadequate reward.  Then, because of the inadequate rewards granted by the second trick, we’re tricked again into taking precious time from those we love and literally giving still more of it to corporations that simply do not care.  We’re tricked into leading such ridiculously “busy” lives we find we lack time to think about the things that really matter.

Those things we’re tricked into believing we don’t have time to think about aren’t really things at all… they’re people, and living beings, and life, and love, and liberty, and happiness, and truth, and so much more.  They’re the essential things that make life worth living.  Unfortunately not one of them is something which the money we get in inadequate exchange for our precious time will ever allow us to buy.

Everyone should know the true reward of love given is love returned.  If you’re reading my blog, or my books, or my tweets you already know that without needing anyone to tell you.  You know beyond any doubt that love’s reward is love’s return.

Now I ask you this question.  What is the reward of money?

The answer is simple – the reward of money exchanged, is things.

Too bad those tangible things we receive in exchange for money aren’t any of the things that make life worth living.  Why?  Because only love buys those.

Perhaps the skeptics might gleefully ask, “But what is the reward of money retained?”  I have an answer for that as well.  It is a hoard. Now there’s a fascinating word – hoard.  Look it up to refresh or fix its meaning in your mind – I think you’ll find hoards are generally rather selfish things. {Generally…}

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on Intuition

We spend years learning to suppress our instincts, then more years teaching our children to suppress theirs. Why do we do things we regret?

Many scientists say we have “intuitions” all the time, however since they are usually wrong and we don’t like admitting we’re wrong even to ourselves, we forget them. They believe that only occasionally are our intuitions proven correct, therefore when that happens we tend to remember and emphasize them.

I say nonsense.

I don’t have intuitions often, but when I do I am always very very aware of them, and they are virtually never wrong. Indeed, I think they are never wrong, though sometimes I cannot know whether they would prove true as I listen to my gut and either get out whatever situation invoked them, or entirely avoid whatever it was that raised the hackles on the back of my neck. Unfortunately I sometimes ignore my intuition, which is when regret comes into play.  In an attempt to understand what caused them, I also tend to analyze them afterwards. Seldom do I find definitive answers.

What do you think? Is intuition arcane nonsense we are better served without, or do we have senses other than the scientifically defined five?

Personally, I’m inclined toward the latter.  Oh, and yes – I did use the plural, “senses“, not the singular “sixth“.

We like to simplify things because doing so lends itself to easy understanding. But things are seldom as simple as we make them seem…

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on Nature’s Lessons

It has always fascinated me how nurturing little girls are. Playing at being mothers is a skill nobody teaches them, they simply have it. Then they lose that skill about age ten or eleven, or shortly before puberty, and take a dozen years to get it back. Nature is a strange, mysterious, wonderful thing. It teaches us skills we don’t know we have, lets us forget them, to eventually relearn them anew. I wonder if, when the second lesson comes, we learn it as well as nature taught us first time around?

As for men? Well I’m fifty-six and only {re-}learning to be nurturing now. That lesson feels familiar, somehow.

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on Ill-Will

I recently learnt someone I truly despised had died. Many thoughts ran through my mind at this news, not least of which was how we should bear the deceased no ill-will.

Ill-will…

Hatred is an emotion that grasps us in a cruel, yet clever grip. It convinces us we are righteous, that it matters, and that we should embrace and sustain it. It twists us until we think that something so wrong as hatred, is somehow something right. Hatred breeds, with the foremost of its offspring being intolerance and spite. Hatred hides in plain sight, wearing its many guises well. Yet once we recognize it those clever concealments soon fall away. You’ll find hatred and its progeny everywhere, from sporting events to religious teachings to political rallies to virulent atheism and most places between.

Ill-will is everywhere, though it serves nobody well.

Back to the person who recently died…

How strange to bear another ill-will right up until the time of their demise, then feel our hatred morph into pity.

Pity strikes me as a far better emotion than its inverse, from which it sometimes springs. Indeed pity might be kin to compassion, an emotion I hold in high esteem.

Ill-will takes too much energy to hold as tight as we do. Compassion takes no energy at all, indeed it gives it back.  Release ill-will, and embrace compassion. I think you’ll be relieved when you do. I know I am.

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on Matters

Everything I write, is written because it matters. This is true for my books, poems, blog posts, texts, tweets, beliefs, and emails. It all matters to me, the question is what matters to you?

Do truth, integrity, compassion, understanding, and love matter to you as much as they do to me? Or are those just arcane concepts people wrap with words, but not with thoughts?

An interesting idea that receives a great deal of attention in literature is the concept of doing wrong for the right reasons. I like interesting concepts because they allow me to weigh them in the balance scales within my mind. I wonder if you have similar scales within yours? You know, those two opposing voices that argue the merits of everything you encounter? Those voices are your inner scale of justice, and they aren’t blind.

Doing wrong for the right reasons… Is it okay to do something morally repugnant if the end result seems attractive?  Is it okay to do something wrong to get something right? Is it okay to be a little bad to ensure something good?  Let us investigate this by considering three examples.

Scenarios

  1. You haven’t studied, it is crunch time, and you’re about to fail your final exams. If you fail, your parents will have to pay money they don’t have for you to redo the semester or you’ll have to drop out and take a minimum wage job.  Is it okay to cheat?
  2. Military Intelligence has caught a suspected terrorist, they believe a brutal attack is imminent, but the suspect isn’t talking. Is it okay to torture the suspect?
  3. You know your boss is a liar who has been defrauding the company with something he shrugs off as “creative accounting”, but he promised you a raise if you remain silent, and without the raise you can’t afford to pay your rent. Is it okay to keep quiet?

Conclusions

  1. It isn’t okay to cheat.
  2. It isn’t okay to torture anyone, for any reason, ever.

Yes, those little voices in our head can come up with some pretty convincing arguments to justify something we know is wrong.  Indeed, we are able to justify almost anything. However the thing about justifications is that if a matter is truly just, there is never a need to justify it.

Oh, and lest you think I forgot the conclusion to the third scenario, I didn’t. In actuality that third scenario is the purpose of this entire post.

It is not okay to keep quiet when you know someone is a liar, a cheater, a thief and worse. Donald Trump is a liar, that isn’t an opinion it is an irrefutable fact. He has  cheated countless people by refusing to pay them. He claims to be billionaire who, by his own admission, does not pay Federal tax.  Your silence in the upcoming election is not okay. Your failure to vote in order to ensure this repugnant lying bigot is kept out of the highest office in the United States is not okay – no matter how you try and justify it to yourself.

So you’re a dedicated, lifelong Republican?  Who cares? Conformity is the ultimate abdication of personal responsibility.  Just. Don’t. Do. It.

 

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on Abuse

Love is a powerful thing.

Indeed, it is powerful enough to overcome abuse.

I struggle with that. I don’t understand how anyone can love someone who deliberately injures them, either emotionally or physically. For me this is one of those things it is incredibly difficult to grasp.

It is also one of those things in which we tend to blame the victims by saying or thinking they choose to remain in an abusive relationship when they should move on. I wonder if they realize they have a choice? If they don’t realize they do, then I’m inclined to think they don’t. If they think they have no choice and we blame them for remaining, instead of showing them they do, then I wonder if we’re adding to their abuse?

I think we are.

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on Busy

We live in a busy world full of things we simply must do.

But must we?

I smile as I write that.  Things are not people, they are just things and things don’t care whether they get done or not.  On the other hand people do care.  Yes, many of the things we do, we do for others, but perhaps the others we do them for might prefer the time we spend doing those things be spent on them.

A parents work is never done…

You know, I think the world would be a much worse place if parents ever began to feel they have done enough for their children.  However that “enough” relates to giving our children the skills to succeed and the love to feel secure.  It doesn’t mean we give them the clothes off our backs because they lack the ability to get their own once they are grown. That said, we most likely will anyway…

Some things should change, and some things should not.

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on Tough Love

I recently posted this thought on Twitter.

I wonder why we encourage our children to toughness, not tenderness?

In loving relationships between adults practicing “tough love” will quickly end such relationships.  With that thought in mind I’m tempted to ask the question “Why is being tough toward our children acceptable?

I’m tempted to ask, but instead I’ll explain why I think we tend toward being tough on our children.

Because we love them and we want them to be successful?

It sounds so simple, doesn’t it? We think showing our children a hard hand or heart will somehow strengthen them and prepare them for a hard world. But will it? Or will it merely show them how to harden their own hearts?

The older I get the more I change my view toward the later way of thinking. After the physical necessities of life, the things our children most need from us are love, compassion, and understanding. Perhaps not in that order, but definitely all three of those difficult to define, intangible, yet absolutely crucial emotional elements.

How does “tough love” fit into any of those elements?

Should we teach our children discipline? In some ways we must. However, must is not necessarily the same as should.

The ways in which we must, and should, teach our children discipline are in regard to the physical necessities of life. We must teach them not to be greedy, not only because greed is immoral, but also because greed is unhealthy. If evil has a more accurate name, that name is greed.

On the emotional scale, we must teach our children to be cautious. We must teach them to be wary. We must teach them to listen to their instincts. We must teach them to always question, most especially the things they are told they may not question.

And then there is the question of when we should teach our children discipline in the matters of love, compassion, and understanding. I’m sure if I wrack my brain I can contrive some circumstance in which we should discipline our children to not love, to not be compassionate, or to not be understanding. Perhaps I could, however I suspect those circumstances would be precisely as I’ve already described them – contrived.

Perhaps instead of teaching our children discipline in the emotional elements of life we should teach them to be indiscriminate in the depth of those emotional constructs?

Unfortunately, in this shallow world where material possessions have assumed paramount importance I don’t know how to begin that lesson. How can I, in good conscience, teach my children to be generous toward those who exhibit greed? I cannot, however I can teach them to not take more than their share, and I try to do that every day.

Perhaps the essence of tough love is teaching our children to deny themselves the material desires so many mistake for needs?

Perhaps… is such a good word.

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on Moments, Misspent

Reflecting on how we spend our lives has brought me to the conclusion we are no longer spending time wisely.

Life is a purse full of coin we’re granted at birth, but the coins aren’t cash, they’re moments and we have no idea how many we get.  Our purse can and will run out, all too often when we least expect it. Nothing we do replenishes our purse, so we should spend our moments wisely.

We don’t…

We reach into the purse of our life, take out the coins and squander them on things that ultimately don’t matter. Work won’t remember us, while those we love and who love us in return will. Yet we spend our most precious and productive moments on work and have so few left to give the ones we love.

Why do you work?  To secure the daily needs of your loved ones, or to secure your legacy? There is a problem if it is the latter, that problem is the same one I mentioned in a previous paragraph. Your loved ones will remember you with love, your legacy might make your name remembered but it will never love you.

Perhaps the most important thing we should do with our time is constantly re-evaluate how we spend it?  When you do, please remember time isn’t an investment capable of earning the most precious things any of us have – our moments.

~ Time ~
~
When there aren’t enough hours in
the days.
When work takes our time and fritters
it away.
When we no longer have moments left
for play.
Hours spent, for what?
To let us give to work
all the energy we’ve got?
Hours stolen from living,
in payment for a chance
at life.
~

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on Trust

I believe that when we look for signs we find them. If we’re taught to look for evil, we will find traces of it everywhere. If we’re taught to look for beauty, then that is what we’ll find.

Are there people out there who have no place in humanity? Absolutely. But when we teach our children to be suspicious and afraid that is exactly what they’ll be. I don’t think that serves them well. We shouldn’t tell them to trust every stranger, but neither should we tell them every stranger is an axe murderer who should be treated as such until they are no longer a stranger.

Statistically, the worst crimes against children are committed by closely related family members, not by strangers.  Yet we don’t teach them to be suspicious of their relatives.  Nope, we actually instruct them to obey such people.  Is that a smart thing to do? Am I saying we should teach our kids to welcome strangers with open arms, and look on every relative with suspicion because that is what the statistics clearly indicate is the safest path?

No, I am not!

Instead I think we must tell our children to listen to their gut instincts very carefully.  If their gut tells them something is not as it should be, then they should listen to it and get out of there. Fast.  Get away first, then tell someone who has already proven they are completely trustworthy, and worry about hurting the feeling of the one who raised the hair on the back of their necks later.  But few of us do that.  Nope, we teach our children the opposite.  We teach them that they should NOT listen to their gut, to obey authority, to trust their relatives, and to distrust everyone else. We teach them a recipe for disaster, and tell them it’s is recipe for cake.

These are just my thoughts.  They may seem substantially different from yours, at first glance. But in order to resolve such differences, we’d have to have many long discussions, only one would simply never do.  And were we to have the opportunity for said discussions, we’d likely find we have much common ground – no matter how strange we seem to each other at first.  Who knows, we might even learn to respect and trust each other.  At the very least we’d no longer be strangers, we’d realize the sharpest axes we wield are words, and those would be very good realizations.

Trust is deserving when it has been earned, not when it has been demanded or instructed.  Perhaps that lesson would benefit the children of everyone everywhere.

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on Silence

Life is constant contradiction.  We’re told we should “Speak the truth and shame the devil“, we’re also told to “Bite our tongue“.  When we speak out against something that strikes us as questionable, we often incur the wrath of those who disagree.  This makes us immediately regret the decision to talk instead of biting our tongue.  Regret is painful, and since pain is a powerful teacher we quickly learn to choose silence even though our silence is a lie.

I believe the choice of silence is a big mistake. Why?  Because we’re choosing long term internal pain over over the pain of a short term external rebuke.  When I bite my tongue and manage to stop myself saying what I really think about something, I suffer through a drawn out internal dialogue in which I question my integrity, my resolve, and my courage.  Self-doubt is a pretty terrible thing because the one person we absolutely have to live with, is ourself.

Those are the thoughts that prompted this tweet…

Silence is the easiest lie of all. When you don’t speak the truth as you see it, what you’re doing is “silenting a lie”
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Soul Tutor

Our soul is our ultimate tutor. All we need do is listen to its murmurs, for that is when its lessons freely flow.

~ soul tutor ~
~
in how to understand, and be more understanding,
in how to accept, and be more accepting,
in how to cry, and feel the relief of release,
of how to long, and love longer,
of passion, and how to be tenderly passionate,
of life, and for whom to live it,
of love, and how to love better…
~

What lessons does your soul teach, and who is its most ardent student?

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Unravellings

The following is an essay written some months back by my youngest daughter, Julia. The assignment involved writing a creative “Dear John Letter”. I’ve had to wait till now to post it as it was still to be graded.

Why are we, as parents, so proud of the accomplishments of our progeny? Perhaps because those accomplishments are worthy of pride?  I hope you’re as proud of your children as I am of mine.

Julia’s Essay

To my Dear Nasty Old Dad Sweater,

                In my heart I wish it did not need to be, but our relationship needs to end. We have had a great run and so many amazing memories: the time we first met, it was Christmas and your wool seemed so fleecy and your colors so stupendously vibrant. In those days it seemed you were the only sweater for me, we were the perfect mix.

                I believe that when a relationship is no longer satisfactory to both parties it is best that it end. In this relation I believe I deserve to be comfortable, twee, and warm. At first I believed I would have all of these things with you, but soon after we became comfortable with each other you lost the fleecy feel I loved so dearly and became coarse and unrefined. Your colors began to fade and the lovely green I once loved became garish and hard to face. The warmth you once offered left me behind in a cold wind.

                I have tried my very hardest to stop this from happening, truly.  When you first lost your soft feel I tended you with fabric softener and tried giving you new dryer sheets, but it was to no avail for you remained course. When your once delightful colors turned garish I tried pairing you with a dark pair of jeans or boots, but your color remained horrendous. It is not your fault our summer turned to a winter cold and unbearable, but even with a long undershirt you did nothing to keep me warm.

                So despite my efforts to save the relationship I have held so dear, I must leave you. It is here that we part.

                Goodbye, my Dear Nasty Old Dad Sweater.

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