I Demand! but not really…

“I think a man with a helmet defending his country would make more money than a man with a helmet defending a football.”

I happened upon this quote/meme on Facebook during the week following Memorial Day. It may have been on Memorial Day. I can’t be sure, though.  It is pretty simplistic, as memes tend to be, but in this case, it points out something clearly obvious.  Maybe not clearly obvious, or obvious at all given that the idea was presented in the first place.

Of course, agreeing with the message of the meme, I decided to share it.  I thought it would get a good reception from so many friends that unabashedly support our men and women in uniform.  It has received two “likes” so far out of some 246 friends that may have seen it.  Now, I know that not everyone has seen it, and honestly some friends just pass by my posts because we do not agree on anything, but this one was for them.  This is something that, without a shadow of a doubt, we can all agree on.  But, like I said, they probably didn’t see it.

One of my friends commented on it, pointing out the infallible dictation of the law of supply and demand (I added the “infallible” and its emphasis).

In a previous post, I ended by saying “Need vs. Want is complicated!” This is where my mind goes when the issue of supply and demand shows its head, and even though I know it is an invaluable tool that shows the price, and fluctuations of price, in terms of supply versus demand, and those fluctuations, I still cannot help but think it is an imperfect idea.

I mean, people talk all the time about how ridiculous it is that athletes, show business entertainers, and others make so much more than military service members, firemen, police officers, teachers, and other service roles.  Yet, nothing about the purported problem changes unless one of those that brings in the big bucks refuses,or takes a voluntary reduction of, pay.

Why is that exactly?

This is where the law of supply and demand rears its ugly, unforgiving head and shows us the cold, hard, and indisputable truth:

Actions speak louder than words.

Every time we choose to spend money on a given form of entertainment, be it a sporting event, a movie, a play, a musical, a concert, what have you, we influence its demand and the demand for that given product or service rises.  With enough choices in favor of the same product, the demand for it rises and affects supply in a negative way, and the cost goes up as the demand outgrows the supply and the supply cannot keep up with the demand. Increased value is attributed to the sought after product, and the cost is paid by those that demand it, and it is paid willingly.

In essence, we vote for, and decide the, value of a product or service with every dollar we spend, so each dollar, or cent, is a ballot that determines what is deemed most important to the holder of it.

There are some things that supply and demand cannot illustrate accurately for us, however.  As I said, people talk about how ridiculous it is that entertainers, athletes, and the like make so much more than uniformed service members.  This seems to make things tricky because the market, and its law of supply and demand, does not dictate the value attributed to military service members or any government expense.  The people, directly or indirectly, decide the issue themselves.

Practically, as laid out by our government’s foundation proclaims, “We the People” are the voice that influences the actions and words given out by the government, and as such, the government carries out the people’s will.  As much as people complain about the government, and that it ignores the will of the people, data and observation show that the reality is that it listens to the people, and listens well.

Every two years elections are held to reshape the government as the people see fit.  One branch of Congress is chosen completely, and one-third of the other is elected.  Each legislator is eligible for re-election at the end of their respective term of office with no limit as to how many terms they may hold.  So, theoretically, Congress can remain constant forever (hold on to that thought).

Every four years, an executive is chosen.  There is a maximum of two terms that a given individual may hold for this office, so a maximum of eight years is the term for a constant manner of executive leadership.  Every four years, theoretically, the executive can be changed, and every eight years it has to change should it not change in the first four years, according to the Constitution.

There are arguments for and against the structure of elections, terms of office, and limits of those terms, but those are issues for another time and another post.

The issue here is that people presumably wish for better treatment and pay for those serving in the military and for those who have served.  Yet, this issue is never fully resolved. Ever.  For decades, I have observed people wanting more in terms of pay and treatment for active duty, reserve, and veteran members of the military.  And for decades,I have observed the government not responding to the pleas of the people with actual policy changes, but only with sound bites and campaign promises.  Service members are paid beans next to those performing related tasks and jobs in the private sector, and veterans…well an observation of the VA tells their story.

But here is the rub.

The House of Representatives is re-elected an average of 90% of the time.  The rate of incumbency in the Senate is a little less at an average of about 80% or so.

Given that, how do people expect treatment of service members and veterans to change when we willingly (there is that word again) refuse to change the branch that dictates how service members are paid and treated by the government?

Perhaps government is not so different from the market and supply and demand.  Both are swayed by public opinion. Demand of both are dictated by choices the people make, and people make those choices based on the wants and needs they experience.  Choices are made consciously and willingly. The only difference is that one is decided by the ballot and how it is filled out, and the other is decided by the dollar and how it is spent.

Words are loud and empty.  Actions, and decisions based on those actions, are louder and have actual substance. If we continue to make the same choices but demand a different outcome, what does that say about us?

 

A Response

This is in response to this post by Holistic Wayfarer…

Upon viewing the list included in her post, I decided to focus on two topics within the list:  my relationship with my sweetheart and the relational boundaries I draw.  That seemed like a good place to start, and the two are somewhat related, so why not knock out two birds with one stone.

First off, I am an intensely private person.  Funny, huh?  Especially since I keep a blog.  I try to avoid anything too private when it comes to my writing here, only focusing on things that I believe many of us have in common.  That said, it still remains that I am intensely private.  I have a difficult, no, extremely difficult time letting people into my life.  This affects those topics listed above.

In short, I have walls…high, strong, and impenetrable walls set up to protect me.  What do they protect me from?  Or, what do they protect?  I’ve had these for a long time, as long as I can remember.  When I think about it, it isn’t just my protection that the walls serve, but also I do not like to have others close to me doting on my problems or worrying about me.  So, it is also about protecting them. It probably hurts a lot more than it helps, keeping these walls up, especially concerning my relationship with my sweetheart.  I do try to open up the gate and let her in, but it is pretty hard to do a lot of the time, and I well understand just how frustrating that can be for her.

I guess the truth is that I am afraid of how others perceive me.  I could say concerned, but it is really fear much more than concern.  I don’t much care for negative feedback or being criticized at all.  Who does? I prefer to be welcomed rather than shunned, liked rather than disliked, or loved rather than hated.

Is it better to be loved as the person I want others to see, or to be loved, or hated, for being the person I really am?  This is the question that my walls protect me from.  In truth, I do not even know if tearing down my walls will bring hatred or negativity my way.  Questions, sure, and a lack of understanding are possible, but hate?  It is out there. That much is sure, but let’s ask the question again.

Is it better to be loved as the person I want others to see, or to be loved as the person I am?

I think that is a much better question and focuses more on the feelings I feel and want to experience.

Though love is the most important emotion, and strongest, there is something to be said for respect.  You cannot have love without respect, but you can have respect without love.  So…

Is it better to be respected as the person I willingly show to others, or to be respected for the person I am?

It’s a good question.  To earn respect of another is a pretty fantastic feeling, but is that respect deserving when it is given without seeing the whole picture?  but, this is off the topic and may be better dealt with at another time.

Back to topic…

I am afraid of how others perceive me which brought me to the question asked above. We know what the answer is.  In the short run the first part seems like an obvious choice because, well, in the short run things tend to come and go.  However, in the long run, the latter must be true, otherwise the lies and deceit (intentional or intended with malice or not, it does not matter) will take their toll on the one hiding who they are, and, possibly, what they do.  Fruitful relationships cannot be built upon this and be expected to last and will ultimately fail.

I guess that is a long winded way of saying that, in terms of the topics stated at the beginning, without fear, things would look very different.  My relationships would be much stronger and infinitely more meaningful, thus contributing more positively to my life and happiness in it.  More or less, fear is crippling, and serves little positive function when it comes to relationships between people.

Siesta Key, My Desk, My Coffee, and Back

It’s been a crazy week, so there has not been much time for writing or even to think of something about which to write. We’re just going to go with a true free writing session and see where the fingers and mind take us.

One great thing that has happened this week is that my wife and I have ironed out our vacation plans. We are going back to where we spent our honeymoon last August. The super cheesy part is that we will be there to celebrate our first anniversary. It was all my idea. I swear.  We will be heading to Siesta Key, a small barrier island right off the coast of Sarasota, Florida. If you have never been, I highly recommend it. The name of the island gives a pretty good idea about what it has to offer. Siestas abound, and if you know me, you know I love siestas. Siestas on the beach, as long as there is an umbrella that will move with the celestial movement of the sun in order to protect my fair skin from the beams of cancer that radiate from it, siestas in the condo, siestas on the lanai, siestas anywhere I can lay my head and feel pure serenity. Needless to say, I am excited.

Also, also! my new writer’s desk arrived this week, and my wife, being the ever so crafty and assembly inclined woman she is, put it together for me while I was at work on Wednesday night. I was pretty stoked about buying it, was stoked when I bought it, and was stoked when it showed up. I am still stoked about it. The surface is four feet by a little over two feet, and is unfinished which I love. For a long time I was a top of the lap or a tv dinner stand laptop user, but now I have a desk and I must say that desks, especially those that offer room, lots of room with no clutter, are the way to go. When I was in college and it was research time, which seemed like all the time, I would stake my claim on the biggest table in the library I could find and go to work finding books, printing journal articles and dissecting them all in marathon, caffeine induced, sessions. And there was room to organize and stack everything in its proper place. Ahhh, I miss those days. Maybe my new desk will allow me to recapture those moments along with a cup of my sublime weekend coffee.

Oh yes!

The weekend!

It is nearly here, and I have no plans. Ahhhhhhh, it’s a wonderful feeling. So when asked what I am doing, the response is likely to be “nothing” or “I don’t know…something,” and That. Is. Fabulous. Maybe I’ll go for a walk. Maybe I’ll hole up with my new desk and write. Maybe I’ll watch a movie. Two things are definite, and two things only. I will have coffee from my French press, and I will be practicing making the perfect cappuccino with my espresso maker. Oh yeah! My espresso maker! I now have my own area of the kitchen that is solely mine. Mine! It does not have a name yet, but it is the little countertop by the sink that has my weekday automatic coffee maker, my French press, and my espresso maker on it.

You could say that I am an addict. Actually, you should probably say that. I am an addict.  When I went back to school in my late twenties, I discovered the indispensible value of coffee. Coffee to wake me in the morning. Coffee to get me to lunch time. Coffee to perk me up in the afternoon. Coffee to accompany through the evening hours studying or writing papers or doing research. And coffee to push me through the deep, dark hours of night to meet assignment deadlines. I embraced it. I came to love it, and still do. Although, now I try to keep my coffee intake between the hours when I wake up until lunch time. After lunch, no more coffee, and that is okay. As I have matured in my coffee love, I have come to know good coffee, and life just keeps getting better. My wife’s sister sent us some coffee from Italy, Lavazza Crema e Gusto, at Christmas time. Not long after, we bought a French press, and coffee heaven has been in our midsts since on the weekends because good coffee takes time and time in abundance is something I do not possess in the morning during the work week.

Needless to say, our French press and our Lavazza will be making the trip with us to Siesta Key, along with my immersion blender to foam my milk. Heaven in a cup in our siesta filled heaven that is to come. Life is good. If only I could take my desk…

My wife will likely have something to say about that, and speaking of my wife and remembering that she is the boss, I have yet to ask her what the plans are for the weekend. I’m hoping she feels about it the same way I do.

He Was Right

“Of course, there is a portion of reading quite indispensable to a wise man. History and exact science he must learn by laborious reading. Colleges, in the like manner, have their indispensable office,–to teach elements. But they can only higher serve us, when they aim not to drill, but to create; when they gather from far every ray of various genius to their hospitable halls, and, by the concentrated fires, set the hearts of their youth on flame. Thought and knowledge are natures in which apparatus and pretension avail nothing. Gowns, and pecuniary foundations, though of towns of gold, can never countervail the least sentence or syllable of wit. Forget this, and our American colleges will recede in their public importance, whilst they grow rich every year.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson, The American Scholar

I read this a couple of weeks ago and it has just stayed with me.  The words were first spoken by Emerson in 1837 during an address to the Phi Beta Kappa Society in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Now, I am not an expert when it comes to higher learning or the institutions of such, other than to say that I have a Bachelor’s Degree and aspire to even higher education.  Yet, when I think of my alma mater in terms of this quote, along with the incredible sense of urgency by politicians to get students enrolled into math and science programs with endless government subsidized loans, my eyes open and I see that few heed the warning Emerson gave nearly 200 years ago.

Consider also the meteoric rise of for-profit colleges and trade institutions and the point is even further illustrated.

Truth is that colleges and universities are becoming training centers rather than institutions of higher learning, and, as one that sees the importance of the arts and humanities, also math and the sciences, and how that combination gives a well-rounded education, that is troubling.

The traditional subjects, the arts, humanities, mathematics, and sciences teach one to probe more deeply, to ask questions and seek answers, to innovate in order to find solutions.  They promote thought beyond simple rote memorization, which is incredibly boring and less than stimulating to the mind.  There is always a question to be asked and answered, and there is always an answer seeking to be found.  To know the right question to ask is to take the first step in discovering what is being sought.  Other materials have failed to ask it and without the question, there can be no answer.  With answers still waiting for their questions to be asked, there is more knowledge to acquire, and with more knowledge to acquire, there is a continued need for education, rather than indoctrination or job training.  With more time spent indoctrinating students with “proven” techniques, models, and ideas, there is less time spent engaging creative areas and then a lack of true ingenuity creeps in and sets the ground for little to no innovation. With less encouragement for innovative thought or creativity, there is a loss of newly acquired knowledge, leaving education stale and, overall, unrewarding.

I was reading an article earlier today at Salon.com, the title of which is “Congratulations, Class of 2014:  You’re Totally Screwed.”  It states that the average student loan borrower that completes an undergraduate degree owes an average of $33,000 (I feel your pain. I still owe $23,000 on mine). Among other things, I highly recommend the piece and sharing it far and wide.  One sentence that stood out to me, “Actually, the opposite is closer to the truth:  college costs more and more even as it gets objectively worse and worse.”  I think there is probably some truth to that, in terms that previous generations’ educational experiences were a better bang for the buck. The article goes on to talk about the perils and troubles experienced by adjunct faculty that are hired by universities in order to cut costs for tenure-tracked positions.  Perhaps I am incredibly naive and maybe a bit utopian in my thoughts, but I believe education to be an endeavor that should not seek profit and growth for profit’s and growth’s sake, but to further the search for knowledge.  Not every worthwhile pursuit needs profit and infinite growth.  How large does a school need to be in order to maintain a healthy bottom-line which is being fed constantly by tuition costs that rise steadily and continuously?

Back to my alma-mater…

It is a public university, a part of the state university system.  I remember visiting the school and loving the campus. It was beautiful and not overly huge. If you humped it, you could get from one end to the other in about 15 minutes. Classes averaged about 20-25 students (my senior level classes and some of my junior level classes were less than 10) excluding freshman/general education courses and introductory classes, but even then I think my largest class was probably 100 students or so.

I’m not sure what the class size is now, but I know the school continues to grow. Every year that I lived in the area, about 15 years (I dropped out for a while and went to work.  I went back later once I got my shit together.), there was a construction project going on somewhere.  A new science building for the chemistry, physics and astronomy departments.  An addition to the old science building that houses the biology, geology, geography, and anthropology departments. A new dormitory or two or three.  A new cafeteria.  Two new parking decks on campus.  A new library (thank god.  The old one SUCKED). The renovation of the old library into a classroom building that contains the history and political science departments (where I was when I was not in the new library). A refurbished football stadium with expanded seating and press/spectator boxes. New athletic facilities for the baseball, basketball, softball, and tennis programs.  A new arena known as the Convocation Center. A new student recreation facility. And a revamped student union and student bookstore. When I left, the school was breaking ground on a new facility for the school of education. There are others, I am sure, but these stick out in my mind.

I love my school. I loved attending it, and I love the area. I am convinced that there is not a better place on earth. It is heaven. There are things that put a damper on the experience, though, and every one is due to growth of the university. The endless construction projects create havoc on the campus and are unsightly, taking away from the beauty of everything else surround it.  With growth, there are more people. Holy crap, more people and traffic. The traffic. Oh god, the traffic. It used to be only on football Saturdays that one avoided getting in a car unless you absolutely had to. Now, it truly is every day, especially during the academic year. It’s awful and you can damn well count on having a stroke or a coronary everytime you get behind the wheel and on the road.

I don’t know the total cost for all of these projects and the others that have surely sprouted up since I left the area a few years ago, but I do know how much tuition increased from my inaugural semester until my final semester as a full-time student some years later.  Over 300% just for classes, not including any price hikes for campus room and board or books and materials for class.

I’m just spitballing here, but what if the school spent more time, money, and energy showing what the faculty actually do in their classrooms and laboratories rather than shaping up the buildings that house them, it would get a more effective and efficient use for every dollar spent.  If schools are seeking students whose wish is to attend a university with stellar athletic facilities and shiny new buildings without a thought or care about what they will actually be learning or doing, then institutions of higher learning are most definitely missing the point.

Emerson was right and we can’t even see it, and that saddens me.

It’s Only Natural

After a long, long day, I returned home from work last night to something.  Something quite amazing.  On the sidewalk, not far from the door to my apartment, was a snake constricting a small songbird.  I did not witness the snake taking the bird into its coils, but watched as it continued to squeeze the life out of it.  My wife, of course, went out of her mind when I told her about it, but we both knew better than to interfere with it.  So, I continued to watch the scene unfold before me.

I will give you the scene in detail in a moment, but this morning I had a thought that I wanted to share with all of you…well, really a couple of thoughts…

We have a tendency to romanticize nature, basking in its splendor and beauty.  We photograph sunrises and sunsets.  We watch as deer or rabbits cavort in fields and backyards.  We attempt to bring a little nature inside with us by the use of aquariums or terrariums.  Often, the calmness of nature, the sweet melodies of songbirds at sunrise, the endless and gentle bubbling of a nearby brook or stream, the repetitive rhythm of the tide on the seashore, or the evening serenade of chirping crickets and bellowing frogs, brings us peace and serenity.  With all of that, we tend to forget how vicious nature can be, and how quickly the serene can become terrorizing, just as it did last night for the unfortunate songbird and its mate.

These two songbirds made the support beams beneath the second floor landing of my apartment building their home.  They could be seen huddled together at night after a busy day or in the morning, early, before the day began.  They could be heard singing sweetly as songbirds do.  In a word, they were adorable.

Then, last night, as one lost its life to its hungry predator, the other was shrieking harsh and panicked tones.  I could hear the panic it must have felt.  I do not know if birds experience fear as we do, but last night it experienced something dreadful and truly awful.  Once it realized there was no hope for its mate, the lone bird became quiet and, in my mind, sorrowful.

After the snake ate its prey, I brushed it away with a broom, attempting to bring my wife some level of comfort.  I’m still not entirely sure that worked, though.

The next morning, I woke early, I mean early for work.  3:30am early.  Yeah…early!!  Usually, when I’m up and out that early, I can look up into the woodwork of the landing above and see my two melodious friends.  It was not to be this morning.  I took a few more steps and saw my lonesome friend tucked snuggly into the corner, on the steps going up to the second floor and against the side of the building.  It happened to be the same step from which it watched its mate disappear into the coils and then mouth of its reptilian predator.

At that moment, the romanticization of nature set in and I felt a profound sense of sadness.  I felt a little sadness last night, but this morning, seeing that little bird huddled in the corner, in solitude as if placed in time-out, I just could not imagine the sorrow that I was sure it felt.

I don’t even know if birds feel sorrow or love, but I’m pretty sure I saw love last night.  I saw something tragic and beautiful at the same time.  Beautiful because the bird did all it could do to free its mate from its captor.  The anger and panic in the bird’s tone was present.  There was fear as well and desperation, but there was nothing the bird could do.  Eventually, the sense of desperation visibly and audibly became a sense of despair as the bird came to know that there was no way to save its friend.  The moment the bird came to that realization was powerful and instantaneous.  One moment it was screaming loudly, beating its wings furiously, and jumping here and there in sheer panic.  The next moment…nothing.  A mournful, almost pleading series of gentle chirps, no beating wings, and no jumping…just watching as it realized that there was nothing to do.  Its friend was dead.

Neither of those two birds knew that Wednesday morning would be their last morning together.  They had no idea that one of their lives was going to end that night.  I imagine that they went about their day as usual.  Chirping a little here.  Flying over there and then chirping a little more.  Eating a few bugs, perhaps a worm or two.  Such is a bird’s life.  No doubt they keep their eyes open for predators, for not even a songbird can be naive enough to think that dangers do not exist. I guess the hard part is knowing from where they might come.

In a previous post I stated, “People will not know what happens next, as much as we pride ourselves in believing we do know,” and it’s true.  100% true.  When something does not go in the way in which we expect, panic certainly sets in at least until the unpredicted situation is realized and a solution or a conclusion is reached.

Nature shows us again and again that as predictable as we think the world is, there are no guarantees.  Just take a tally of how often the weather man is spot on with his daily forecast.  Human ingenuity, logic, and reason can be used to explain so many things.  There is one thing, however, that they will never explain, and that is the natural element of surprise.  I admit it.  I don’t handle surprises very well.  Especially the bad ones.  I often times do not make lemonade when life hands me lemons.  I would prefer to throw the lemons back at wherever they came from.  I do not like to roll with the punches.  I don’t even like getting punched.  I would much prefer that the punching just stop as quickly as possible.  There are a ton of these I could go through, but I won’t.  I’m thinking you probably understand what I’m saying.  I hope so anyway.

Knowing all of this, however, I am still going to do my best to live life and not allow the fear of the unknown stop me. Regardless of what danger may lurk around any corner, it’s best to just keep on keepin’ on.  The world would be a pretty boring place otherwise.

 

 

 

A Principled Solution

Regardless of what I may think or say, I am not always right. I think those are some of the most difficult words to say. I’m usually right, anyway. Well…sometimes I’m right. My wife will give me that much.

And those times when I am right, I thoroughly enjoy. Being right is one of life’s great pleasures. It does not matter why I am right or what I am right about but just the fact that I am right brings loads of happiness and delight my way.

Sometimes I am wrong, but that’s done on purpose. It’s good to spread the right around from time to time. You know…just give ’em a taste, get ’em hooked, and they’ll come back wanting more.

Being right is addictive. It is to me anyway. I may have a problem, but that is for another post. I spend my life looking for the right answers, and it seems like a neverending quest. Searching, searching, searching everywhere. Looking for the elusive right answer that will solve a given problem. Looking for the solution that will come without a conflicting response or opinion. I look for these and when I cannot find them, I try desperately to develop them in my mind. When that does not work, I go to like-minded souls that will reassure me that the course I wish to take is the right one and will not faulter. I check my beliefs and my unshakable bedrock of principles against the issue that needs addressing. It is in those things, those places and recesses of my mind I find solace. I find comfort and reassurance. Yet, the issue remains unresolved.

People change.

Needs change.

Wants change.

Situations change.

Seasons change.

The weather changes.

Minds change.

With changes, questions change and answers change. As much as we would like to believe that the world is black and white and is set in stone; it surely is not. Rather the world is fluid. It is always changing and shifting, both figuratively and literally, and perhaps in the most minute ways. Those that wish to survive in it must learn to grow and adapt to the changes that are coming and that will come.

With the immense challenge that comes with keeping up with a changing world, there is a need to come to grips with the uncertainty that is sure to accompany those changes that will arise. More gray will be thrown into a world that is already muddled with many shades of gray between the already indistinguishable black and white. Undoubtedly, panic will ensue with some of the changes that perceivably threaten the status quo. People will not know what happens next, as much as we pride ourselves in believing we do know. Tempers will rise. Defensive mindsets will take over. Comfort will be sought within groups of like-minded people. Instead of built, bridges will be burned.

We see it all the time in politics and government, but this happens in the everyday as well. Bridges must be built and maintained between contesting ideas in order to promote meaningful solutions that each holder of a given idea believes to be correct. It is here, in these bridges, that the real work of problem solving is done. It takes hard work, a lot of communicating, and a little humility to find satisfying and agreeable solutions that will alleviate the problems that accompany a change that requires action or an obstacle to overcome.

However, we allow individual egos to get in the way (See the opening paragraph). Egos and the individual’s perception of need taints the process and clouds the issue that needs to be addressed. It is easy to see this everywhere. Just turn on the television. There are an endless number of voices and views which pander to individual wants, needs, and egos. They provide us a zone of comfort and an area of certainty within a truly uncertain world. Within them, we know our point of view is safe and right. It is easier to stay within those walls than it is to come out and experience another point of view, or at the very least, entertain one. Yet, in order to see the whole picture and find a solution to it, it is necessary to put egos on hold and allow “the better angels of our nature” to shine forth and show the way to meaningful solutions to issues that come with the changing world. Add to that time and patience and reflection, and we can accomplish anything.

I will be the first to admit that I am not the most patient person. I find it difficult to maintain a patient attitude, especially when there is a problem. Often, I will make my point of view known with little regard toward those who disagree with my position. Eventually, I will listen to an opposing idea, and after immediately dismissing it, I will take time to contemplate or even consider the prospect. It may not be right, but there is planted the seed of a possibility, the chance that an idea can be built which incorporates the better parts of competing views; and then, that idea, or multiple ideas, may be better on the whole than the original competing propositions.

It seems to me that this is the only way to bring about any meaningful change that has a chance of lasting. What most people are afraid of, I think, is the idea that they may come to empathize or sympathize with an idea or principle that is opposite to what they believe. They do not want to consider that, though their idea is right, there may be a better idea wandering in the fray. For many, to empathize, sympathize, or otherwise identify with a diametrically opposed position means to cast doubt on one’s own position or principles. If such is the case, then perhaps that position  or those principles require change, and there is nothing wrong with that.

It takes a strong character to be willing to look at one’s self, and what one believes, and see that a change is necessary. It happens to the best of us, even me, and will continue to happen. We learn new things through experience, and life is just that…a series of experiences. What we do with what we learn speaks volumes about the people we are and that which we want to be.

And maybe, just maybe, through learning by way of experience, we can adopt better principles upon which to lay stronger, more worthwhile, and sturdy foundations.

Guilty Pleasure

Since about Saturday night I have been feeling a little guilty, here’s the story…

I don’t remember what year it was, but when I went back to school to finally get my undergraduate degree, I got a laptop computer, an HP to be specific. I had a desktop, but the laptop seemed a more useful tool to use for writing papers and doing research and what have you. I carried that sucker everywhere and if I could find a table on which to work, I would stake my claim and get to work. It processed more than its fair share of papers and presentations, and downloaded a lot more than its fair share of research articles. It was a beast.

Sadly, after I graduated, my technological companion only made it about a year and a half before the motherboard crapped out on it. It was going to cost more to repair the motherboard than was originally paid for the computer. It was a sad, sad, sad day. I still have it. It still works…sort of. I can plug a monitor into it, but its laptoppiness is gone. Its portability is no more. I should probably get rid of it, but we are friends and I don’t like casting friends aside.

At the time I was working a job that paid peanuts, so the funds were not readily available to purchase a new techno-friend. I began doing some thinking and research on the next computer I would buy. After a lot of looking around, I settled on an ipad. This is one of the best purchases I have ever made. Like all purchases, there are some things that I wish were different, but my ipad and I have been together since 2011 and neither of us have looked back. It is super duper portable and it does not get much more user friendly, especially when it comes to the technologically inept, like me.

I type on it quite a bit even though the virtual keyboard and I are mortal enemies. I surf the web, check email, read articles, blog posts, and columns on it. I write blog posts and emails on it. I watch videos, listen to music, play games, and look at pictures on it. It is a useful machine, and has been a faithful friend for going on three years now.

However, the decision has been made by my wife and I that it is time for me to get it in gear and go back to school for even higher education. Now, even though I have my faithful friend of three years, I have used my trusty ipad to do more research on a new, more powerful friend.

Actually, I have known since before I bought my ipad what computer I wanted to buy next, but the expense was just too much so I felt it necessary to just wait and the time would eventually come when I could afford it. Patience. There was a lot of reading and a lot of thinking done during that time. I don’t do any gaming, so I don’t need a super fast PC. I read and write and take pictures and look at pictures. I watch videos. I do like storage space because I prefer to save everything. I wanted something that was going to be user friendly and would not crap out, because I am horrible with technology and not afraid to admit it.

After three long, arduous, computerless years, the time finally arrived. My wife sent me a text on Friday telling me that we would go after we got off of work and buy my computer. I knew exactly what I wanted, so we went into the store and went straight to a salesperson and I told him why I was there.  He went and got someone that would be better at helping me out, so I told her what I wanted. She  did not try to talk me into a different machine. She did try and upsell some coverage plans…warranties and what have you. One of which I bought. She also saved me $200, because, yes, I still carry my student ID in my wallet.

After swiping the magic debit card and signing for the charges, I received my computer, and went straight away to get it set up which was a breeze. I mean…a breeze. We got home and I played with it some, checking out some of the ins and outs…did a little typing on the keyboard, and it was heaven.

That was Friday.

The next day, Saturday, went along much like a well needed lazy day does. I had my delicious weekend coffee. I piddled with my new friend for a while off and on all day. Did a little housework and piddled some more. Then I laid down in the bed.

That is when it hit me. As I laid in the bed looking up at the ceiling in the dark, the thought crossed my mind that my new friend cost more than what was paid for my first car. It cost more than what some people pay for a car. It may not be a great car, but it’s a CAR.

So, the guilt hit me a little…not enough to take my new friend back, but a little, and it’s still there…not enough for me to take it back, but a little.

It is a wonderful machine and I hope that my Macbook Pro and I enjoy many years of typing, processing, researching, and net searching ahead.

Happy Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day.  Earlier this week, I posted about being grateful and taking things for granted. This is a big one for me.

There is a lot I could say about my mom, but I won’t here, other than to say that I don’t know many people that are as strong, or stronger, thoughtful, or caring as she is.

Sorry, dad, but this one is about mom.  It’s her day…

I’ll just say this…

When I grow up, I want to be at least a little bit like my mom.

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Hurry Along

I’ve had a difficult time getting the creative juices flowing this week, and my mind has been a bit more muddled than usual for some reason. So, I’m hoping this little free writing session will help me out a little.

It’s been a long week. Work is a little busier as the calendar lurches on toward the summer months, and the summer heat is coming right along with it. I am not ready for that! See…I’m one of those weird southerners that prefer  cooler weather. Spring time weather is about as warm as I want to feel. 65 to 75 degrees works just fine for me. Anything over 80 better have a stiff breeze coming with it, otherwise misery ensues. Why does summer have to hurry along so quickly?

Hey, there’s a topic. Hurrying. Let’s run with it and see where it takes us…

Do you ever just stop and think? And when you stop and think do you ever wonder why it is we are always in such a hurry? I say “we” as if you are in just as big a hurry as I am. Are you? I read a pithy meme on facebook sometime back that said something like “when did staying busy become such a glorified trait?”  I agree wholeheartedly with that statement.

But it isn’t just being busy, it’s being in a hurry. Everything is a hurry nowadays. I find it sad, ironic, and a bit humorous that everyone pines for days gone by when life was perceivably easier and things moved more slowly. Yet, the same people that wax philosophical about those long, lost days move nonstop from sunrise, or before, to sunset, or beyond, and rarely slow down long enough to see the world that is around them.

Admiittedly, I can be the world’s worst about being in a hurry. When something has to be done, I need it done immediately. If it does not get done, then I stew over it and stew over it until it gets done, so I prefer to get it done and out of the way. When I have to get somewhere, I am in a hurry to get there in order to keep from being late.  Lack of punctuality is probably my biggest pet peeve. I consider it incredibly rude to be tardy, me or anyone else.

But why?  What is the point?  What good does it do us, in the long run, to stay busy or in a hurry?

Personally, I feel much better when I am able to slow down and relax.  Sure, there is satisfaction after being busy and completing a task, but there is just something about being able to sit, take a deep breath, and just look around at the world in which I live. I feel calm and collected. Then at some point, it begins all over again.  A task presents itself and needs to be accomplished as quickly as possible, usually to be followed by another one. Instead of enjoying life, it becomes a contest.  Get the task done in the appropriate amount of time, and I win!

But…win what?

What is the prize?

I previously posted about a list of things that we are supposed to do as we develop and our minds and bodies mature, but it seems like I forgot to add one…

Apparently, we are supposed to stay busy.  I don’t know where that rule is written down, or any of the rules for that matter; but in order to be a good and decent person, we have to keep busy.  We always have to be doing something “productive.”

It does feel good and satisfying to complete a task.  The harder and more demanding the task, the better it feels when it comes to fruition.  However, that pleasure does not come until I take a moment to slow down and reflect on what I did and how I did it.  Why did I take on the task, though?  And beyond its completion, is the task or the results of the task going to give me satisfaction? And how long is that satisfaction going to last?

All good questions I think, and I bet the answers are just as good. Of course, every task that I perform serves a very important purpose, brings immense satisfaction, and that satisfaction lasts ’til infinity and beyond.  It’s true.  Every bit of it.

Now my body is telling me that I better hurry up and get the coffee going so I can relax and enjoy it once it is done!

Have a great weekend!

 

This Needs a Title…

I don’t really know what made me think of it. I was in my car on the way to work and being grateful just popped into my noggin.

My brain does weird things. Don’t ask.

So, I thought about being grateful and, of course, what came up are the things for which I am grateful. There were a lot when I really got down to thinking about it. Then I got into the whole taking things for granted issue in my head. I do this a lot, too. I take things for granted. Lots of things. Then again, don’t we all?

The short version of things for which I am grateful goes like this…

Life.

I am grateful for life. Pretty short, eh? And it’s easy. Think of something in your life that does not bring pleasure, make the day better, make the day-to-day easier, make life worth living, or teach you in one way or another to live life, differently if needs be. All of that adds up to life. If you are not thankful for it, get rid of it. It isn’t worth having, doing, or suffering through.

I try to tell myself these things, and my self does not always listen, but sometimes it does, and my life is the better for it.

Then there are those things that I take for granted. Like I said, this is a big list. Pretty much it goes like this…

What do I take for granted?

Life.

Not always, but a lot of the time.  Other issues that seem important and life altering at the time tend to take precedent and demand immediate attention and action of some kind.

After taking a little time to consider what I am thankful for and what I take for granted, I have come to a conclusion.

For me anyway, those things which I am typically most thankful for are things that I want. Those things which I take the most for granted are those things that I need.

Now I could go into a long, drawn out debacle concerning those things I want and those things I need, but I won’t. I know what I need and know what I want…I think.  Here’s the thing, though. When I don’t get the things that I need, I feel off. Things don’t feel right. I might feel depressed. I’ll probably feel anger, and probably have a sense of despair. I don’t feel these often, but when I do, I feel it all down to my bones.

When I don’t get what I want, I tend to whine about it in that moment I want it…no…that moment that I think I need it. The situation in which the thing I want is needed passes, and the pissiness goes away. Sure, I will mull it over and wish for it should the desire arise again, but it just toddles off like a passing fancy. Usually anyway.

I have been thinking a lot about this over the last little while…weeks, months, years..a little while anyway. I’ve written countless pages about it in one of my little journal books, trying to understand it and cope with it. I know there are a LOT of books out there that will claim to tell people what they need and what they want, but how does some author or specialist that has never met me, spoken with me, or even seen me know what it is that I need or want? How do they know what makes me happy? How do they know what makes me sad? How do they know what angers me or depresses me?

There are some good general rules, I suppose, but each of us is different. We each experience life differently and have different experiences that add to the lives we live. I will not assume what makes you happy, but I am continually learning what makes me happy, and what makes my life worth living. I know this, writing, is one of those things. Sharing my thoughts with others makes me happy. It is something I need. It is even better when I find people that agree with me, though it does not happen as often as I like. That is something I want.

Needs and wants are pretty closely linked. They seem to be anyhow…to me, and with a world full of seemingly infinite possibilities to fulfill any number of wants and desires, it is easy to lose focus on what is really important.

I know I feel better when my needs are met, and for that I am most grateful. I am thankful for those wants that I have acquired as well; but it’s those things I need that I receive that bring the greatest joy and greatest sense of fulfillment to my life, and that is what’s important.