Friday, December 10, 2010


Last week was not one of our easiest. My wife spent 3 ½ days in the hospital after undergoing abdominal surgery. She’s home and on the road to recovery and things look good. Meantime, I’m here to tell you that it’s impossible to get any rest in the hospital. Between nurses checking vital signs, bringing medication and just checking up on you, food service employees carrying trays of something they call “food,” and the basic discomfort that comes with having surgery, sleep is a precious and ephemeral thing. We pursue it, but never quite capture it. I know this because I, too, spent three nights in the hospital, sleeping on the recliner beside Linda's bed.

During our time as clients of our local health care facility, I became a ghost. That is, I had the opportunity to move through the halls of the hospital regularly enough that I became part of the landscape. No one paid any attention to me as I went for coffee or visited the vending machines or the dining room for carry-out swill. It made for an interesting opportunity for observation.

As I looked at all the people who drifted through the halls and rooms of the hospital, I began to wonder about their stories. No one was here because they wanted to be. I could see on the faces of people in the waiting areas that they were tired and worried and perhaps fearful of whatever news they might receive. Some looked anxious, some looked resigned, and some looked like they didn’t know what they should be feeling. They were just numb.

Pain is the great equalizer. No matter who we are, when we are sick or injured we’re suddenly on the same plane with everyone else. Whatever it is that hurts, it hurts the same if we’re the CEO or the janitor. The same is true for those who are in the waiting rooms and sitting at bedsides. We all have pain. We all have scars. Some are physical. Many are emotional and spiritual.

Most of the time, we don’t want to allow our scars to show. We’re not as shy about the physical scars. In the immortal film “The Replacements,” the mortal Keanu Reeves once said: “Pain fades, chicks dig scars, glory lasts forever.” Physical scars can sometimes become strange badges of honor. The scars on our psyche and our soul are somehow different. They are much more intimate and it hurts to reveal them or even discuss them. We often prefer to keep them covered and in the dark, where it’s harder to heal and where we can look at them when we’re alone.

Have you ever had someone bump you or give you a playful slap and hit a sore place or half-healed wound they didn’t know was there? Until they hear our shout of pain or see our contorted face, they had no idea that we had been hurt. The same is true for our souls. We nurse old wounds and injuries, holding them close. Then someone unintentionally lands a blow directly on that partially healed, still inflamed spot and we experience the pain anew as if it were the first time. If only they had known, they would have touched us differently.

I wish we were able to be more open about our need to heal. Allowing those we love and trust to see the wounds that we carry around inside might actually facilitate our becoming whole again. Becoming vulnerable is the first step toward being fully healed. I’ve never been able to do that. It’s a character flaw, I guess. Sometimes I treat my pain as if it were a precious possession: “It’s mine,” says some personal demon, “and I refuse to share it with anyone else. If I do that, I’ll appear weak. I’ll loose control of my situation.” As if I was ever strong. As if I ever had control.

Once and for all, here’s the truth: We all hurt. We’ve all been wounded and we all carry the scars of personal failure, of being caught in circumstances we can’t control and of being betrayed by someone we trusted. It’s time we all admitted that and allowed someone else to see it. Yes, that will cause pain as well, but it will be the pain of necessary medicine, not the pain of silent suffering. 

Can we do it? Probably. Let's hope so. Can I do it? Possibly. I hope so. We’ll see.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010


It’s Thanksgiving week. Mostly that’s a good thing. I enjoy the time away from the office spent with family. I really enjoy Thanksgiving dinner with turkey, dressing, green bean casserole and pumpkin pie and then, later, turkey sandwiches. What’s not to love about that?

It’s not all good feelings and good times, though. This week we noted the 2nd anniversary of a sad event in our lives. Two years ago, we lost our dog, Molly. Molly was a beautiful border collie/Labrador mix with deep, expressive brown eyes that gave you a glimpse of the wonderful heart inside. She was what our vet calls a "dumpster dog." That is, she was unwanted and abandoned as a small puppy. We met her, fell in love and adopted her into our family. Molly was 13 years old when she died and had suffered with Addison’s disease for about 10 years. She almost died at least three times before that day in 2008.

Over the years, we spent more money than I want to tally in veterinarian bills and medication. Life with Molly was sometimes difficult. There was the time that we had to force feed her with a syringe because she couldn’t eat. I remember having to give her special baths for a skin condition that cropped up a month or so after we adopted her.

Then there was the time she had to wear one of those lampshades for dogs that keep them from aggravating some injury. She didn’t know what to do with it. It was clear, so she couldn’t see it very well and continually bumped into walls and door frames, at which time she’d just stand there looking confused or look at us for an explanation. It was hard not to laugh. Then I made the mistake of giving her a piece of banana. It was done with the best of intentions. I felt sorry for her for having to wear the lampshade and look silly. And she really loved bananas. So I gave her a bite. Before she could swallow, Molly was suddenly seized with the need to sneeze. Violently. Bang! Banana lampshade!

For all the difficulties and occasional silliness, Molly was loving, intelligent and loyal. She was a friend. A best friend. She was always glad to see us. If a family member was absent, Molly always watched the door, knowing that things weren’t right unless we were all together. She loved walks until the Addison’s manifested. She loved to share your snacks and she loved her squeaky, spiky ball. She loved us. No matter how bad I felt about the day or about my life, Molly was there to tell me that things couldn’t be that bad if you have a dog that loves you.

She was right.

See you at the Rainbow Bridge, girl.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Introvert's Lament

I’ve been reading the blog of my dear friend, Micheal. He has the marvelous gift of telling stories about people and places that resonate with something inside each one of us. He’s also one of the most transparent people I know. That’s a gift that’s difficult to use. When we’re transparent, others are free to accept us, reject us or ignore us. It takes courage to be real.

I wish that I was able to be that way a lot more than I am. I have a difficult time allowing others to see what is going on inside my head and heart. That’s basically because I am, in Jungian terms, a true introvert. It’s what I am and, as Edie Brickell once sang, "What I am is what I am.” It’s not something that’s going to change, so I have to live with it. So do my friends and family and anyone else I encounter.

This introversion stuff causes frustration to some because, unless I know and trust you, I’m not likely to let you see all of who I am. Trust takes time and not everyone has time to give. Those who don’t have time for investment in folks like me just take what they see at face value and go on. That’s their right but I wonder what would happen if they gave me a little more time.

I’m not the only one with this particular personality gift. I say gift because I believe that we are each gifted to see the world and to relate to people in a certain way. What we and others choose to make of that gift is what makes the world what it is. Perhaps the world would be much better than it is if we actually encouraged people to be the best of who they really are instead of requiring them to be the best of what we think they should be.

I’ve seen good people become bitter or burned out because they weren’t allowed, either by their jobs or their families, to become fully the persons they were created to be. They lost faith in themselves, the world and God without ever having the chance to come to full faith in the first place. I hate that. I hate it for them and I hate it for the rest of us, who will never have the chance to know them as truly joyful people living their lives and gifts to the fullest.

Where are you and I in all this? What do we tend to do with the people who move into and out of lives?  I hope that we see the treasure they really are instead of projecting onto them the personality or set of values we think they should have. Unfortunately, that’s the state of American society these days. We’re the culture that says, “If you’re not like me, they you’re against me. You should want to do what I do, say what I say, look like I look and think what I think.” Today the norm is “Conform or be Cast Out.”

I guess we all conform to some extent, but we all have to decide where to draw the line. How far are we willing to go before we dig in and refuse to compromise who we are any further? Only you can decide where that is for you. Wherever it is, I wish you the courage to find that place and stand firm. You are who you are and that’s good enough.

Why am I using this blog to tell you all this? Because I’m am an introvert and having this type of conversation doesn’t always come easy. Conversely, it’s the conversation I need to have. Talk about being conflicted!

In the words of Rodney Dangerfield, “It ain’t easy being me.”

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Thin Places and Holy Faces

I was talking with a friend the other day. She mentioned that it was time for her to seek some answers to some of the questions that life tends to throw at us and is planning to take a few days and go someplace where she’ll have the opportunity to think, to get in touch with herself and to see the world from a different perspective.

I get that. Whether or not we admit it to anyone, ourselves included, we all need to find some time and some space that will allow us to become reacquainted with ourselves all over again.  If we are fortunate, we become reacquainted with something more – something beyond ourselves. A few years ago (more or less) I was doing some reading on the spirituality of the Celtic people. It’s a fascinating study and I have so much more to learn. One wonderful concept that I encountered, though, is something called The Thin Place.
What in the world is The Thin Place? Sounds like a code name for Nutrisystem, but that’s not it. The Thin Place has been around for a very long time. Celtic Christians in the areas of Ireland, Scotland and Wales more than a thousand years ago expressed their faith in ways that are a bit unfamiliar to most of us. Unfamiliar they may be, still they call to a deep and abiding need inside many of us – the need for something more in our lives, something more than the kind of superficial spirituality and lukewarm commitment that often characterize what passes for faith today.

In the Celtic worldview, there were places where this world and the realm of the spiritual come close together. George McLeod said: “It is a thin place where only tissue paper separates the material from the spiritual.”  The Rev. Mel Schlacter of Trinity Episcopal Church in Iowa City does a good job of explaining the concept. He says this: “In Celtic thought, a so-called Thin Place was a transition zone: where earth meets sky on a mountaintop; where land meets ocean at the coast, or better yet on an island; where the wilderness meets domestic land as at the edge of a moor, or where things beneath the earth come to the surface at a holy well. Thin Places carried power. They were places of encounter with the Divine.” Sounds a lot like a Moses and the burning bush event!

I found a brief but beautiful account of a person’s seeking of a Thin Place by a woman named Mary Wolf. She says that “… it may be that there are some places, like some chords in music, that evoke something spiritual in people, as the smell of burning leaves can bring back childhood to many of us; and that some places have more of that power than others.”

Wolf goes on to say something particularly thought provoking. She says that maybe we can work on becoming ourselves the thinnest places we can manage to be. “Not in the sense of meagerness, as fashion models are thin…but thin in the sense of transparency; being as full as we can of the love of God and leaking it like crazy.” She likens it to having a highly permeable spiritual membrane.

The problem is that because of our own nature, we often take only a sip of the living water when we really want to gulp. We each have our areas of indifference or cruelty, being sometimes spiteful and self-serving. We don’t love the First Love nearly as often or as well as we should or as we would like.

Thin Places are places of calling. They offer us the gift of grace and become lodged deep in our inmost self. Being in the Thin Place, or being Thin Place People gives us a taste of what Love is supposed to be. After that, nothing is really the same ever again.
When is the last time we’ve been to a Thin Place? When is the last time we became one? Neither one just happens. We have to seek out the kind of thinness and transparency that allows us to encounter and then to exude the presence of God. When others look at us they see the presence of the Holy in our faces. That’s really what it’s all about when we put away all the bureaucratic structure and release our baggage of material constraints, emotional armor and self-centeredness.
One final quote from Schlacter: “Thin Places are the destinations of pilgrimage, and the journey can be just as well through the heart as over land and sea.”

After all is said and done, the Thin Place is where we need to go and who we need to be.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Take Me Out To The Black...

Don’t laugh, OK? When I was little, I wanted to be an astronaut. I thought it would be incredibly cool to go rocketing off into space – to see the earth from above, watch the moon as it dwindled in my rear view mirror and explore the stars that filled the night sky. Of course, I was curious about the science part of it, about how a starship would work and why the moon only shows one side of her face to the earth, things like that. The truth is, though, that I always thought there was something immensely beautiful about the universe and I wanted to be closer, to see it more clearly. I wanted to see the rings around far away planets, the colors of the nebulae, the infinite variety of worlds that weren’t my own.

The universe is fantastically big and we’re incredibly small. Still, it seemed to me that there were mysteries that we were meant to explore and beauty we were meant to embrace. If not, what was curiosity for? So, I wanted to head out and see what might be waiting for me. The TV show Firefly, (perhaps the greatest sci-fi show of all time), called it going “into the black.”  Neil Young once said, “And once you're gone, you can never come back, when you're out of the blue and into the black.” If I ever made it, would I ever make it back? I really didn’t care. It seemed better to me to make the journey than to never leave home.

Silly, right? After all, look at me now. Who is more earthbound than me? I have a family and work a job. I have a mortgage, a dog, and people keep trying to give me credit cards. I’m being harassed by political calls wanting me to vote for someone or other. I’m not young anymore. Somewhere, life took a right turn into everyday living. Not for me the exploration of the unknown. There are no galaxy clusters or red giants in my future. I’ll never see firsthand the more than 200 blue stars in Galaxy M33 or even go to Mars.

Where’s my immense universe of light and color? Where is the infinite variety of worlds? Where is my great adventure? I’ve pondered over those questions for a long time. It really doesn’t seem fair of life to tease me with the knowledge that there is something out there and not let me reach for it. As I think about it now, maybe I’m finding the beginnings of an answer. As big as the universe is – the one that begins where our planet’s atmosphere ends – there may be an even bigger one that is much closer.

Recently, I’ve begun to consider the relationships in my life. I am beginning to see them a little differently than I used to. Where there were once people, now I've begun to see complete worlds of personality and possibility in human form. There are thoughts, ideas and emotions that swirl in the minds and hearts of each one of them. There is more to see and more to experience than I could have imagined. The textures and colors of the universe are alive in those unique individuals that I call family and friends. I have only begun to explore their depth and complexity. To understand and appreciate them is the work of a lifetime.

Not everyone you meet is a beautiful galaxy or nebula of course. Some are inhospitable worlds. I’ve met a few gas giants over the years, but we won’t go there. The point is your universe and mine are made up of the infinite interweaving of human relationships in which we really can hear the music of the spheres. We can be gallant explorers without leaving terra firma. We need simply to open our hearts and minds to the wonder and mystery bound up in the persons with whom we share our lives. Welcome to Spaceship Earth!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Are We Living In The Crucible?

As a music/theater double major, my daughter, Bekah, gets to be all artsy and stuff. She has trod the boards of several theaters, playing everything from comedy to tragedy. Many of us have children who have aspired to be actors at one time or another. It's cute when they're little. When they're teenagers, it's a pain to drive them to all the drama practices for the school play. When they get older, you begin to wonder how they'll make a living. After than, you begin to worry that they will be finishing all their business conversations with "Would you like fries with that?"

Still, Bekah continues to amaze me with her persistence. She works hard at her craft and she's been in numerous productions. Here's the kicker: She's good. Really. Yes, I'm her dad and I'm supposed to think that, but others think that too. After all, would they put her in all those plays if she wasn't? I even liked her as the lead in High School Musical 2!

The latest item on Bekah's resume is the character of Rebecca Nurse in the Georgia Southern University theater production of The Crucible. The Crucible is Arthur Miller's play about the Salem Witch Trials. At least, it's about the trials on a surface level. The play takes place in Salem in the year 1692 and deals with the hysteria that accompanies accusations made primarily by a group of teenage girls and some adults with questionable motives that some people were "consorting with the devil." Rebecca Nurse is the saintly grandmother figure of the town. She is a nurturer and a comforter to the sick and troubled is the speaker of wisdom.

The play was written in 1953 and is an allegory of McCarthyism. Miller was called to testify before the House Un-American Activities Committee and was convicted of contempt of Congress for refusing to identify people who were at gatherings he attended. People's lives were ruined by Joe McCarthy and his ilk. Some committed suicide, seeing no other escape from careers and lives that were irreparably damaged by simply being at a party or a meeting in which the subject of communism came up. People made political hay out of the "red scare."

My question is this: Are we living a a crucible today? All I see on TV these days are political ads that do their best to link one politician or another to some national figure that is unpopular with certain segments of our population. If you can brand someone with a label, truth becomes irrelevant (if truth can be found at all). No one talks about the real truths that we need to deal with because they are so busy making up accusations.

Sadly, the religious world of today is in not much better shape than the world of 1692 Salem. The same use of labels, the same acrimonious, sanctimonious speech is part of the everyday landscape. Some Christians make it very hard to be Christian. Are we in a crucible? Some would say that we are. I would agree.

What do we do about it? We do what my daughter and her character, Rebecca Nurse, did. Speak the truth. Respect people. Refuse to be drawn into baseless and useless accusations. Stand firm on the side of humanity and compassion. Rebecca Nurse paid the price for her steadfastness. She was hanged for her refusal to confess to a lie. The human piranhas are out there and they're coming for us. They'll take us unless together we refuse to allow them the opportunity.

Bekah, you were typecast when they put you in that role. There is no better blend of steadfastness, compassion and common sense to be found. Keep being true so the rest of us can see the truth.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

In Pursuit of the Wild Goose

Those who know me are aware of my interest in things Celtic and Irish. Some wonder why I, a Southern-born American guy, would be so interested in things both ancient and new from that culture across the sea. It could be the implied family connection. According to a history that mentions my family, we are "of Irish descent." Also (and here's something most of you didn't know) the original family name of Arthur Wellesley, the Duke of Wellington who beat Napoleon at Waterloo, was actually Wesley. That's right - don't mess with us! We beat Napoleon!

Whether or not there is an actual family connection (and I confess that I have no proof), I was already captured by the Celtic culture before I even knew of the Wesley/Wellesley thing. It all started with the music. If you want to get to me at a basic, elemental level, it happens with music. Music is the doorway to the house of my soul. I can't remember exactly where I first heard music that was Celtic in nature and inspired by the landscape, history and people of the Celtic world. I just know that when I heard it, I felt like I was coming home.

As I started to read about things that reflected Celtic culture, I came across the spirituality of the Celtic peoples and in particular that of the Celtic Christians. Who knew that there was a whole way looking at life and God that was not bound up in so many of the ways and walls of the traditional western Church? I could go on about the presence of God in his creation. I could talk about what it means for each of us to be truly made in the image of God (and perhaps I will do just that in a future blog). I could talk about the idea that there is no real division between "sacred" and secular" when all of life and love and living are sacred. There is so much in the Celtic expression of Christianity that is rich and alive!

Instead of that, I want to go on a wild goose chase. The Celtic Christians had a unique image of the Holy Spirit as a wild goose. They didn't think of the Spirit of God as a dove. Sacrilege? No. We all use images that are meaningful to us in the reality in which we live. To the Celtic believers, the wild goose was an image that carried deep meaning. The goose was not a calm and gentle creature. The goose was wild and free, a creature of wind and sky. In the same way, the Spirit of God is not capable of being domesticated, though so many of us try to do just that. We'd love for God to descend, but only when we call him. We'd like for him to go where and when we send him. God comes and goes where and when he wishes, and we don't send him anywhere. He beckons us to follow the wings of the wild goose on the wind and discover places we've never been.

I've always regretted the fact that I can't fly. I've always wanted to soar under my own power over the earth and into the deep sky. A childhood wish? Perhaps, but I'm OK with being childlike on occasion. Sadly, it's just not going to happen - not in that way. For each of us, though, the power of flight exists. It's a spiritual flight, not a literal one, but it's real nonetheless. To fly, we have to be willing to follow the path of the wild goose into places unknown and places dangerous. The journey of the wild goose is not for the faint of heart. It's for those of us who want to experience the wildness of the Holy - to fly into the Wild Blue Yonder supported upon the wings of God.

Monday, September 27, 2010

It's OK - We're With the Band

This weekend was a big one for me. First of all, there was a football game. The Eagles of Georgia Southern University defeated that mythical bird, the Phoenix of Elon University. It was a well-deserved, soundly administered beating and it was enjoyed by the home crowd immensely.

Secondly, there was a reunion of a number of us who were part of the Baptist Student Union at Georgia Southern so many years ago. A number of us from the "glory days" of BSU spent some time catching up with one another. Some of us had not met since graduation, a day nearly lost in the mists of time. We told each other that we hadn't changed (of course we have) and how good it was to see each other (it really was).

This whole extravaganza was the brainchild of my friend, Dedra, or Dee as she is known to some. Dee has become the driving force and Fearless Leader of our small but intrepid band of rag-tag rebels. No, wait a minute - that's Star Wars or Battlestar Galactica. Dee is the power source for that small group of shady characters who refuse to be controlled by some faceless power structure - no wait, that's Firefly. Anyway, Dee is the one who puts it all together for those of us who need putting together.

In the midst of all the scheduling and planning and the preparation of copious amounts of food, it might have been easy to loose sight of what this was all about. It wasn't about the ball game. To say that is near sacrilege to some, but it's true nonetheless. It wasn't about the food either, delicious as it was. It was about friendship reaffirmed. Those of us who hadn't seen one another in decades shook hands or embraced, smiling or laughing out loud at the opportunity to see each other again.

We met at the BCM building on campus. There were a lot of current students in and out during the afternoon and most of them looked at us wondering who these old-looking, young-acting people could possibly be. Every time one of them looked my way, I was tempted to say, "It's OK - we're with the band." That's a magical phrase that is supposed to get you into places that you're not usually allowed. It means that you have a good reason for being there and that without you, whatever happens won't happen as it should. It means that you're important to what's going on.

Each of those persons who came through the door to reconnect with one another is important. Each is a complex set of dreams, ideas and emotions. When these individuals come together, the result is a unique music of the soul. The harmony of relationship is incredible! Some of us provide the melody, some provide the vocal interpretation while others create a rhythm to which it all takes place. It's love, laughter, faith and hope and it's wonderful.

My friend, Island Mike, and I talked about dragging out the guitars and doing music together again. It would be the launching of the "Reclaiming the Dream" tour. As Island Mike put it, "We're coming to shove our dream down your throats!" He meant it in a good way. I think. Whichever way he meant it, wherever we go our response to the curious and questioning looks will be:

"It's OK - we are the band."

Friday, September 17, 2010

There's a Reason for Everything - Just Not Always a Good One

I hear it a lot. Whenever something happens that most of us would consider unfortunate, bad or even tragic, someone is sure to say, "That's OK - it's all good." Or perhaps they will get even more Christian and philosophical and say, "Everything happens for a reason."

I'm not one of those who subscribe blindly to the theory that everything that happens is ultimately the will of God. Not that I don't believe in God or don't believe that he has a purpose. I just don't always see how some things fit into that purpose.

I know, I know - someone out there is saying that I have only a human perspective and that I can't see a God-sized picture with my human eyes or grasp an infinite purpose with a finite mind. Well, that's true. However, there's more to it than that. To say that everything that occurs is ultimately the will of God is to make each of us part of some divine puppet show. If that's true, we have no will of our own and therefore the choices we make are really not our choices - they are the choices of God, predetermined and ordained for us.

Maybe I'm naive, but I really think that God has other things to do than to plan out our every move and choice for the day. I mean, think about it. Let's say that God wants us to be healthy. Therefore, it was his choice that I eat the mini-wheats for breakfast this morning instead of the doughnut that I wanted. So, whose responsibility is the bacon cheeseburger that I'll eat for lunch? If it's God's, then he is contradicting his own purpose. If it's my choice, it's not a particularly good one and I'll pay the price for it somewhere down the line.

I do think that God has a purpose for his creation. Part of the way it seems to work is that you and I have been given a lot of freedom within that purpose to be creative, caring and active. The other side of that hypothesis is that we also have the opportunity to be selfish and destructive. Most of us, if we're being honest, have had moments on both sides of the supposition. We've all been caring and creative in our own way. We've also had moments of selfishness. Is all that predetermined for us? There are good people who would say that it is. I disagree.

Without personal freedom, there would be no meaning to the choices we make. Any consequences for moral or criminal failings would be arbitrary at best (and if there are no consequences then that too is predetermined - I guess that's how some people get away with the things they do). The bottom line is that we each make choices. These choices govern us and our relationships with others. Often we are affected by the choices of others, for better or worse. Is that always what God wants for us? No. Is there always a reason for it? Often there is, but sometimes that reason is bad or petty or selfish.

When you get right down to it the choices that set the course for our lives (both our choices and those of others) are only half of the question. The other half of the question is this: How do you and I live with and through the choices we make and that are made for us? I haven't found any magic wand or incantations to make it better.

I can only depend on love, hope and second chances. I choose to believe that all three are possible.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

My Life Is Stalled In Committee

I paused the other day to take stock of my life. That is, I tried to take stock of my life. When I looked, my life wasn't there. It had been there that morning. If not that morning, I distinctly remember experiencing my life one afternoon last month. At the least, I'm sure it was around here sometime last spring.

I immediately began a search which would leave no stone unturned and no question unasked (except of course, "If you were in a car traveling the speed of light and you turned on the headlights, would it make a difference?". There is no real answer to that one and the valuable energy you waste searching for one could be spent doing something constructive, like fantasy football or searching for an honest politician).

Back to the search for my life. As I said, my life wasn't there. I was immediately suspicious. After all, it isn't something I would just misplace. I'm too used to picking it up whenever I need it. The only conclusion could be larceny. Some nefarious thief or greedy bureaucrat had made off with my life! The question is: WHY? It's not like they would instantly become popular, good-looking and successful. For that it would be necessary to steal George Clooney's life.

Suddenly, I remembered the last time I had experienced my life as I had come to know it. It was just before the committee meeting. It doesn't matter which committee. They are all the same in one respect. Nearly every committee gathering I have been a part of has done its best to sap every bit of creative energy and positive self-image I could muster.

You've been there. Maybe it was the budget committee or the decoration committee or the Committee for the Responsible Treatment of Self-Important Bureaucrats. Whatever it was, you were ignored, condescended to or openly opposed for having the audacity to propose a bold, creative idea that would have resolved all relevant issues in one fell swoop. After all, we've never done that before - therefore it just won't work.

Doesn't it make your jaw clench tighter than a Republican's wallet at a PBS fundraiser? I had always thought that the function of a committee was to bring into play a degree of creativity and energy impossible for a single person. Instead, the average committee seems compelled to find the lowest common denominator and sink to it with the speed of a televangelist asking for an offering. The result is not innovation, problem solving or a better way of life. It is, instead, just More Of The Same. Same discussion, same boredom, same "let's adjourn and go get barbecue."

Committees are bizarre animals. It seems that our society cannot function without them. Whenever we don't know what to do or when we do know what to do and don't want to do it, we form a committee. It's a great way to act responsibly without actually doing any work. The problem is that many of these committees feel that they have been granted divine right to rule over the rest of us. If they only realized that they would not exist without our consent, things might change. I might even get my life back. That may not be much to you, but its all I have. Perhaps we could form a special blue-ribbon fact finding committee to study the matter and report back at the next meeting.

That is, if we haven't all lost interest by then.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

When Worlds Collide

I've recently had the wonderful experience of reconnecting with some friends from college. It has been years (decades, really) since some of us have been together. Before the fateful day of that rendezvous on Tybee Island, I wondered how it would be and whether we would still feel as close as we did "back in the day."

I needn't have worried. It was a day and evening of laughter, tears, hugs and some kind of magical confluence of spirits that allowed us to seemingly pick up where we had left off so long ago. I hadn't realized how thirsty I'd been for this kind of connection until I tasted it once again after so long. It's good to love people.

And now, suddenly a new reality has reared its head. It happened unexpectedly, when I was feeling all nice and mellow over re-establishing connections and lines of communication. You see, I live a lot of my life in a compartmentalized fashion. It keeps me sane (or as close to it as I'll ever get). I have my World of Work (WOW for short). WOW is the place in which I function as an administrator, counselor, minister, public speaker and cleaner of toilets ( my WOW is nothing if not diverse). I also have my Home Base or HB (you get the pattern I'm establishing here?). My HB is where I can try to relax, to connect with my wife, release some of the tensions of the day and, hopefully, be less defined by a job description. My HB also has a dog, which creates a whole new sub-world that we won't go into here.

My reconnection with the friends I loved in college is another sub-world of HB - they were (and are again) a blessing of living a life without specific job requirements. All they ask of me is that I be who I am and if that person is going through changes or a time of rediscovery, that's fine with them. That's part of the beauty of the relationships. We take care of each other. We take care of each other because we're friends - and because we have some really good dirt on each other. There are things that are uniquely OURS. To understand them, you had to be there.

Here is where the check-engine light of my aforementioned reality starts blinking. One day, my college-age daughter became "Facebook Friends" with two of my own college friends from the Tybee experience. Who knew that Facebook was so cross-generational? It was then that I realized that she was a step closer to hearing stories and finding out things that she never knew about her father that she really doesn't need to know.

You see, when you're a dad (which is better than being a just a father), the last and maybe best chance you have of being a hero is in the eyes and heart of your daughter. Years ago, when she was a Little Princess, Bekah and one of her friends came to me with a toy that had broken. It wasn't really broken; it just needed to be re-assembled a bit. I performed said re-assembly and they went happily on their way, but not before I heard her confide to her companion, "My daddy can fix anything!" Anyone who knows me knows that this is profoundly untrue. I have great problems fixing any number of things. But for one brief, glorious moment I was the hero who saved the day.

Now my worlds are about to collide. Friends I've had for decades and the child I raised are about to become more than stories to one another - they will become real, living persons with relationships. Worse yet, they might start telling one another stories about me! I don't know if my highly compartmentalized, emotionally precarious state of mind can take it. For all my trying, there's nothing I can do to stop relationships from being complete organic messes. Who knows where it will all end?!

There's nothing that can be done about it now. All I can do is hope that my friends don't corrupt my daughter for life and that my daughter won't tell my friends about my many faux pas of dadhood. Well, maybe there is a little more that can be done. I can hope that all these folks see in one another what I see in them - love, hope and friendship. That's what makes it great to have friends and to have family.

To have them all in one place might be a good thing after all.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Islands In The Stream - Of Consciousness

I want to live on an island. I realize that this makes me less than unique. There are millions of people, mostly in places like Buffalo, NY and Siberia, that have a similar desire. I think, though, that we have different reasons for wanting to be in the same place. They want to go where it's warm (thanks, Jimmy Buffett, for that line). If you lived in Buffalo or Siberia, so would you. For me, there is more to think about.

I've got no problem with warm climates. I do enjoy mild temperatures and balmy breezes. I strongly dislike high humidity, however. That poses problems, but I'm sure I can work around them somehow. At any rate, it's not just the weather that makes me fantasize about living on a piece land surrounded by water. It's something about a lifestyle.

My friend, Micheal, lives on an island. We were friends in college and graduate school and I grew to love Mike for his sense of humor and his willingness to shake up the status quo. I also loved the honesty with which he approached his relationships. After grad school, we lost contact for a lot of years until the miracle of Facebook got us together again. Mike has a unique perspective on life – he always has. Living on an island has enhanced his perspective until it's almost like something from a song. I read his blog every day in which he often shares snapshots of life on the island with its colorful characters and relaxed way of life, and I think “Why can't I live like that?” After all, what's wrong with wanting things to slow down just a little so that I can see the colors and feel the textures of life? In answer to my own question: Nothing – there's not a thing wrong with that. The problem is that our day-to-day lives don't lend themselves to that kind of relaxed approach. Usually it's going from one meeting to the next, running this or that errand, meeting this person's or that person's expectations. You just get tired of it.

That's where the island comes in. In the island of my fantasies, you can come and go when you want or need to. Life moves at a speed with which I can keep pace. People know your name and give you time and space to be the person who goes with that name. Maybe that's what I'm really looking for – space to be the person I am or want to be. Or maybe the space to discover who that man is.
Oh, and there's the ocean. The ocean carries a special fascination for me. I've never been a “beach person.” For me, beaches have always been crowded places where the sand sticks to your sun screen and I have to wear clothes that I don't look good in. Well, that's been my experience in the past. Perhaps the beach in my stream of consciousness is different. Maybe it's not crowded and there is space for me to walk alone and think or walk with that one special person while we talk about life or the color of the water under the sunset. The ocean is powerful. It's beautiful. It was here long before I got here and it will be here long after I'm gone. That's as close as eternity as we can get here on earth.

At any rate, the island calls. Now I'm wondering how I should answer.