The Secret Life Of…..

March 14, 2014

For those of you who have read some of the classics of the past I”m sure you will finish this post title with “Walter Mitty”.  I think all of us at one level or another live our own Walter Mitty lives in our minds.  There are those missed opportunities where we could have made fundamentally different choices that might have radically changed who we are.  Regrettably most of us cower during those times and then can only live that alternate choice in the depths of our minds. I am certainly one such person.

Here I am getting toward the end of my sixth decade on this earth so my days forward are much less than my days behind. My body continues to degrade on a seemingly daily basis which makes me realize that there will be many unrealized dreams. I don’t want to fall into a state of melancholy here so I will now divert the focus of this post onto the Thurber short story instead of my own.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was a short story written by James Thurber in 1939. It was made into a movie in 1947 and was recently re-made late last year. Here is the basic plot of the story as described by Wikipedia.

2014-03-08_10-35-21The short story deals with a vague and mild-mannered man who drives into Waterbury, Connecticut, with his wife for their regular weekly shopping and his wife’s visit to the beauty parlor. During this time he has five heroic daydream episodes. The first is as a pilot of a U.S. Navy flying boat in a storm, then he is a magnificent surgeon performing a one-of-a-kind surgery, then as a deadly assassin testifying in a courtroom, and then as a Royal Air Force pilot volunteering for a daring, secret suicide mission to bomb an ammunition dump. As the story ends, Mitty imagines himself facing a firing squad, “inscrutable to the last.” Each of the fantasies is inspired by some detail of Mitty’s mundane surroundings.

I don’t remember when I read the story or saw the movie but I am sure that it was in my early childhood. I have been a dreamer all my life so the story enthralled me. During those rather boring grade school and high school days I was often a dreamer rather than a listener. I could have probably made my dreaming into a life mission but of course that is also a Walter Mitty dream for me.

I never went on to try to find any other stories by Thurber. Maybe I will do that now or at least I will re-read the original story.  But I definitely will watch the new re-make as soon as it is available with captions. If any of you young people out that think I have anything worth saying I will advise you to seriously look at your current passions in life and to try to do something to make them happen instead of just end up dreaming about them when you are an old guy like me. :) Don’t settle for the mundane…

Savoring vs. Seizing….

March 13, 2014

As we age we become more aware of who we are, and we have more time to enjoy the smaller, ordinary things that fill our days.

2014-03-12_09-05-42These words or something like them fill a myriad of books about living a fulfilling retirement. But on some level this seems to me to be a cop-out of not trying to do something to live out remaining dreams. It is just easier to say we enjoy the simple things now than it is to get off our butts and fully live the life we have left. Is “carpe diem” just an unfulfilled dream when we get older?

Some studies find that we get happier as we get older while others contend that we don’t. It is true that I am happier now than I probably have been in all my previous life, and yes I do enjoy to some degree the simple things. But maybe that has actually been forced upon me more than being a voluntary thing.  I have a wife who is totally content with her computer games, TV, and naps. Nothing else seems to be of much interest to her now days. She would gladly live out her life totally in that mode. She just can’t understand why I want to do more.

I do enjoy the simple things in life but I still have unfulfilled dreams…

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Half of American adults ages 18 to 33 are self-described political independents, according to a survey out Friday, but at the same time half of these so-called millennials are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, the highest share for any age group over the last decade.

In addition, young adults tend to be single and churchless — turning away from their predecessors’ proclivity for religion and marriage, according the Pew Research Center survey. Almost two-thirds don’t classify themselves as “a religious person.” And when it comes to tying the knot: Only about 1 in 4 millennials is married. Almost half of baby boomers were married at that age….

Only 36 percent of the millennials said the phrase “a religious person” described them very well, compared with 52 percent of the Gen Xers, 55 percent of the baby boomers and 61 percent of the Silent Generation. And they’re significantly less religious than their immediately predecessors, the Gen Xers. When they were the same age, almost half of the Gen Xers — 47 percent — identified themselves as religious.

SOURCE: Many millennials are skipping church, marriage and political affiliations, study finds | The Rundown | PBS NewsHour | PBS.

Let’s face it, America is changing. As the title of the graphic above says people are becoming unmoored from entrenched institutions.  In many cases I think that is a good thing. Those between 18 -33 years old are more independent thinkers than any generation in the past. They are for the most part pragmatists. I kind of think much of that is due to the proliferation of information available because of the Internet.

I can remember in my youth having to spend hours in the library card stack trying to find information for a school essay. I took my writing as seriously then as I do today so research was the name of the game. Now just about any question you can ask has answers almost immediately via an Internet search. If it is a political question you don’t just get a party line Republican/Democrat answer anymore but also a myriad of other possible explanations including even this blog. The information age will radically change our nation in the coming years.

This dramatic season of change requires that many our current social institutions must change or go the way of the dinosaur.  The “truths” of yesterday are no longer the truths of today. This change creates opportunities for some and death for others. It should not be a surprise that conservative politics of anti-this and anti-that is quickly losing favor.  The political party that presents answers instead of grid-lock will find favor. It is heartening to see that the demise of the radical right-wing of politics is on the horizon.

By the same token religious institutions that focus on God’s love rather than his Old Testament wrath will flourish. Those that successfully meld science and spirituality will be those who continue to exist in the coming years. In my mind the movement known as the emergent church is just such an institution. It focuses on core beliefs and  action rather than ancient beliefs and outdated customs.

When the younger generations eventually drag the power away from those entrenched in the “old ways”, there will be some exciting times in our country. For those who are getting ready to jump on the comments wagon, no this is not a black/white thing. Many of the truths that we call morality will not be overthrown. But those based on fear, intimidation, and outdated traditions will get their due demise and that is as it should be.

THIS JUST IN… Louisiana Judge orders Glenn Ford to be released after 30 years on death row. Glenn is African American convicted by an all-white jury, and lost 30 years of his life and was nearly executed for a crime he did not do. Huge news, hopefully moving us one step closer to abolition of the death penalty.

2014-03-12_11-13-53Louisiana Judge Ramona Emanuel ordered Glenn Ford to be “unconditionally released from the custody of the Louisiana Department of Corrections.” (KTAL NBC News, Mar. 11, 2014). Glenn Ford, who has spent 30 years on Louisiana’s death row is likely to be freed soon, after prosecutors filed motions to vacate his conviction and sentence. Prosecutors said they recently received “credible evidence” that Ford “was neither present at, nor a participant in, the robbery and murder” of which he was convicted in 1984. Ford, who has always maintained his innocence, was tried and sentenced to death by an all-white jury. One of the witnesses against him said at trial that police had helped her make up her story.

Source: HUGE NEWS: Glenn Ford released after 30 years on Death Row | Shane Claiborne | Red Letter Christians.

I am pro-life in all its forms so this is indeed good news for me. That is why I am against abortion, for gun control, against war, and yes against capital punishment. Can you image spending thirty years on death row for something you didn’t do!!  I’m absolutely certain Mr. Ford was not the first, nor will be the last to suffer such a fate.  I hope he can have a semblance of a normal life now. But, sadly history shows us that is not likely. I am also happy to see that maybe Louisiana might be moving away from their “lock em up and throw away the key” mentality….

PlannerNow that I set my own schedule I have found that sometimes not setting a schedule is the best option. Up until my retirement I was the epitome of a planner. When I started my professional work life in 1970 I used to fill out a weekly 3 x 5 card with everything I needed to accomplish that week. When desktop computers came in the 1980s I switched to it for my weekly schedule.  I put my six-inch pile of cards in a drawer and proudly kept them for twenty years. I was a planner and proud of it.

When I retired in 2000 that habit carried over into my private life.  Part of the reason for that is all those retirement gurus out there that said if you don’t plan you will likely not do much of anything but be a couch potato. I took them to heart. But slowly over the intervening years I weaned myself off the need to schedule ahead of time what I would be doing. It has only been the last three years or so that I grudgingly gave up the weekly list. I am still a planner but not anything to the degree I was in my younger years.

One area were I have found planning just didn’t work is in my creativity. It just seems that I can’t say ahead of time that I will create this or that at this or that time.  My creativity comes in flashes instead of schedule minutes.  I seem to always get my creative work done before noon. I’m sure this has been mostly true throughout my life but I simply refused to accept that fact. Much of my creativity is now spent on producing about a thousand posts a year on my  blogs.  Sometimes I can sit and write a dozen posts in a morning. But some times nothing comes to mind. It seems I simply can’t schedule when I will be creative in this arena.

From my studies in this area I have seen this to be true for others besides me. I know there are famous writers who say they must sit and write for “x” number of hours each day.  But I kind of imagine that the most productive hours come and go without plans. What makes one person more creative than the next and what makes one period of time more creative than the next?  What makes one person an accomplished artist and another not even able to draw a stick figure? What makes one person good with words and another unable to even write an understandable note? I don’t know…

The Unwanted Other…

March 11, 2014

In my opinion, those concerned with justice must lead the fight to re-humanize those we have considered criminal. Rather than looking at individuals as the unwanted other we must begin to learn their stories and connect with them as people again. We must aggressively seek to eradicate the incarceration of our young people and provide services rather than prisons.

Though once outlawed, at the beginning of the twentieth century, private corporations once again can own and operate prisons for profit. The juvenile justice system is the feeder for these privately owned adult prisons, if we are going to dismantle this injustice—profitable imprisonment—we must choke out its feeder system. Once these children enter the system it is almost impossible to get out because it is profitable for those who have the greatest influence on lawmakers. 

SOURCE: Prisons “Overwhelmingly Filled With People of Color”: Just or Unjust? | Margot Starbuck | Red Letter Christians.

The words above, of which I am certainly aligned, is where I have a radical departure from many of my more conservative friends. Most of them simply want to lock ‘em up and throw away the key.  It reality they seem to get their way much more often than I do.  Once a young person, especially one of color,  is labeled a misfit they are for the most part doomed to a future of incarceration. The juvenile justice system is indeed a feeder for a profitable imprisonment.

I’m sure there are multiple reasons why people of color make up a very disproportionate share of the overall prison population in this country. Far too many to be addressed in a single post. But it seems the most obvious place is when they are youths. Many times the families are just too entrenched into their state of despair to give much encouragement to their kids. We need to start when they are very young to keep them out of the system.   They need to be shown very early that education is their path to a better times.

For the last twenty-five years or so I have been an antagonist of our sports agenda here in this country. It seems that just too many kids, especially those of color, see their future as a professional athlete. That is a very lucrative path for those that accomplish it but for every one of those there are a thousand more who will never gain any income for their sport of choice. Many kids spend ALL their energy and time trying to be a super kicker, passer, hitter, or whatever to the exclusion of everything else especially their educations.  As a result of this I simply see our sports fanaticism in this country as a net liability. It is simply something we would be much better off without.

I have probably seen more than my share of felons and for the most part all those guys are caring individuals who got lost in our society in one way or another.  Since there are currently three people unemployed for every job that comes up  they struggle for months to even get a chance at any employment. Once you are deemed a felon most doors simply close in our society.

We need to make it a bigger priority to prevent that from happening….

 

Any Similarities???

March 10, 2014

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I can’t help it. I’m dabbing my toes into the political arena here. When I saw the picture on the left recently I was immediately struck by how similar these two guys appear. Except for one having a little more hair than the other they could be brothers.  And the effect they have on the country is almost identical. They both use fear as their prime motivator. They both are extreme narcissists who care very little for the good of their country. They seek personal attention above ABSOLUTELY everything else. They are two peas in the same pod. Now if only we could dispose of the one like we did the other the country would be better off….

During Doctor Visits….

March 10, 2014

NotepadThat second set of ears belongs to Sharon Wolozin, who takes notes the old-fashioned way – with pen and paper – and then reads some of the main points aloud to confirm them with the doctor. If the patient forgets a question she told Wolozin she planned to ask, Wolozin will remind her. But she is not an advocate and has no medical training.

“We don’t get between the doctor and the patient,” said Wolozin. Her role is only to create an accurate record of what happened at the appointment that she gives to Couturier, who can then share it with her children or others.

SOURCE: Note-takers volunteer to help the elderly during doctor visits | Updates | PBS NewsHour | PBS.

One of the many times I thank God for a hearing wife is when I have a doctor’s appointment. To say it very bluntly at the start of this post, I haven’t come across many doctors who have the patience or understanding to effectively communicate with someone who is deaf. So, my wife goes to 95% of my doctor’s visits with me to tell me everything the doctor says. The other 5% are what this post is about.

On the occasions where I must go to a doctor on my own I struggle to get the doctor to understand that I am not a hearing person.  If I ask him to write things down what comes out is usually just a few words. Something like “you need surgery”. Almost never a reason given until I emphatically press it. Now don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying that doctors are without empathy for their patients. What I am saying is that they just don’t seem to have an understanding of it from the patient’s end, especially a deaf patient.

I have been going to the same primary care physician for almost fourteen years now and when I go without my wife the same thing used to occur.  Like most doctors he only very reluctantly wrote limited things down for me to read. Fortunately we finally worked out a method of communications. Jessie, who is one of the more friendly nurses in the office, now is in the room taking thorough notes for me to read.  When the doctor is talking too fast she slows him down so she can get it just right. Problem solved, that is at least for one of my many doctors.

Doctors and other medical personnel, like many others who deal with the general public, just don’t have the training to be sensitive to  a hearing impaired persons needs. Some do much better than most.  When someone gets obviously upset because I am apparently not following an order to lay this way or that. I now have a speech worked out. I tell them.

What if you were were in a hospital in Germany where no one spoke English. Would you be able to understand their instructions? If not you can imagine what I am going through right now.

This often times get them to finally realize that just repeating the same thing again doesn’t do any good.

Muzzling God….

March 9, 2014

Time and again, those who opposed Jesus would quote Scripture. They would remind him of the Sabbath law, the requirement to fast, the provision for divorce, and the penalty for adultery. Jesus seemed unimpressed with a person’s ability to quote Scripture. His interest was in a person’s ability to hear God’s voice. He said, “He who belongs to God hears what God says” (John 8:47). To limit the word of God to the written word is to muzzle God.

Gulley, Philip; Mulholland, James (2009-03-17). If Grace Is True: Why God Will Save Every Person

2014-02-25_09-41-58No slick lawyers, or income tax experts can get you out of a national sales tax. It’s so much on the dollar on every luxury you buy. Then, if you live in luxury, the poor fellow knows you are paying for it and he will even encourage you to buy more so it will help out the government.  — Will Rogers November 2, 1924