Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Big Picture

The bottom line is we are singularly culpable for ultimately what happens to us. Even though we may believe that either God or government will protect us from the woes of this world, if we don’t do something proactively to dictate our path there are other forces that will be more than happy to do so for you.

As an example if you don’t do anything to stop gravity from doing its thing, something will be caught in its force. If you don’t want an object to fall or be moved by the force of gravity you simply need to do something to secure the object against what gravity does automatically.

There are many things in life that happens. For instance if you do not pay your rent chances are you will be kicked out of your dwelling. Neither God nor government will usually keep that from happening.

Mind you I am not getting into religious philosophy or ideology regarding faith verses works, but merely addressing the reality that most of us face in our day-to-day lives. No matter if you are a person of faith or not, you still have to face the circumstances and/or situations that are presented to you. How you deal with them is usually based upon how you were taught or otherwise trained to deal with such matters.

What is the big picture?

As an example let us look at life as a huge fish bowl. Everyone you see and everything you know to exist is in this huge fishbowl. Not matter how hard you try or how desperately you would like to see things otherwise you cannot change what already exist before you. You are, and everything else is, in the fish bowl of life.

We might like or unlike it, agree or disagree with it, or have opinions about what we perceive it to be, but the one thing we cannot change or control is what IS already. This is in essence the big picture. It IS what it IS. You simply have to deal with what IS. On the other hand acknowledging and dealing with the isness of things is the best way to change them.

Just as I have my thoughts, ideology, philosophy, beliefs, behaviors, likes or dislikes, I also realize that others equally have such things that they consider just as important to them as I consider mine. It is with a spirit of willingness to allow others to be themselves just as much as I wish to be who and what I am that makes it all manageable.

A willingness to work with someone, to try to understand their viewpoint, or just lend an ear to listen to what others consider important to them is where a field of opportunity can be accessed. This does not mean that you should agree with others, but that you are willing to respect them as they decide to represent themselves, even if it opposes everything that you stand for.

When ones sees an opportunity to take the high road they should take advantage of what is exposed otherwise it is just another missed opportunity to achieve the greater good.

If you were to notice a weakness in me and weren’t afraid to share what you perceived with me, that might have been a possible opportunity for me to grow should that criticism or perception prove to be substantiated. But if you did not share it with me it would be my possible loss.

Since we are all in this fishbowl of life, ala “the big picture,” learning how to get along with others can be a key in developing opportunities to negotiate or otherwise come to an agreement of sorts, even if it is merely an agreement to respectfully disagree with each other. Taking the high road on matters make the entire fishbowl better.

This spirit of willingness is often overlooked when people with very firm stances refuses to even listen to the other side. Even countries and governments find it hard to open windows of opportunities to find safe ground to agree to disagree with each other. It is usually their way or no way…what does that possibly gain?

When anyone totally disrespects another without due recourse or an attempt to at least try to understand another’s right to be themselves that simply says that one party thinks they have the right to be or do what the other party does not have the same right to do or be.

In reality only the Maker or One that is responsible for the creation of the fish bowl has the right or ability to totally change what is in the fishbowl. The rest of us are mere players just as are the many different fish that swim in this huge ocean of life.

For those of you that wish to disrespect the humanity of others, I only say to you, “Do unto them as you would want them to do unto you.” If you wouldn’t want someone to treat you in a certain way, then do not treat anyone in a manner of which you would not want to be treated yourself.

Once we learn to at least give each other human respect and human decency perhaps we may learn to gain more positive ground in this fishbowl… in this ocean of life. That is how you learn to deal with the big picture. You have to be able to see it before you can deal with it.

Monday, September 5, 2011

The State of the People

When you look across this great red, white and blue nation of ours there isn’t just one thing that you are seeing, but a multitude of things. Looking at the people of America you aren’t seeing just one face, but a multitude of faces of all descriptions. As you judge at the state of people you’re not judging by one set of issues, but by a multitude of issues from people with completely diverse situations and circumstances.

It appears that we’re looking for general cures to the problems that Americans are facing. If the “fixers” are only working on the issues of their constituents then more than likely they won’t be addressing the problems of a diverse nation. Somehow the “fixers” will need to find a way to see the people as they are and not how they categorize us.

You can’t make all the people happy all the time. You can’t solve all the problems plaguing the various sects of people with a single brushstroke. You must pick a set of problems and fix them one at a time until you methodically go through the entire list. By achieving this the people will see results coming down the assembly line.

The major national problem we’re facing is joblessness. Various groups of Americans are suffering, some more than others. For example the least educated statistically have fewer chances of finding jobs than those with better job training skills.

The segments of our population with the least education proportionately include more Black and Brown faces. Looking even further you will find a correlation between the cities and towns with the highest unemployment rates and those without higher education. The potential solutions need to address both the root of the problems and where they are most saturated?

Understanding the lack of education to be part of the problem we need to come up programs that hire the unemployed to teach those who need employment. If high-tech jobs are most available then we need to hire trained technicians to train those uneducated in technology. This would attack the problems with their solutions.

The billions of dollars we spend protecting the world from itself in foreign nations could be spent hiring our citizens to train the uneducated and unskilled in this nation. In this manner we would be putting our unemployed back to work while training to get work.

We also need to invest in rebuilding our infrastructure. Our roadways, bridges, underground pipelines and gas pipes are out of date and corroded. The money we’re spending on wars can be spent on rebuilding and saving this nation.

The war budget alone could hire hundreds of thousands of citizens. Steps such as this need to be done as part of a long-range strategy where we are investing into the future of this nation for many generations to come.

We need to concentrate on moving this country forward. We can no longer be the caretakers of the world as this nation sinks into destruction and doom. In order for us to be of any assistance for anyone we must first be in a position to do so. In other words we must be a strong nation before we are able to help other weak nations.

The state of the people is not good but the state of those entrusted to lead us is just as bad. We need to look at rebuilding the system that is in place. What we’re currently doing no longer works. If we keep doing what we did in order to get here we will only dig deeper into the hole we lie.

Our elected officials need to stop pointing the finger of blame at each other, but instead start look at the root causes of our problems, unless of course their finger-pointing is itself part of the problem. Unless they learn to work together in a bipartisan spirit we will continue to spiral downward in the League of Nations.

Again, the state of the people is not good, but the cures to the issues we face are not insurmountable. We only need those in positions of leadership to look at the real problems and issues and stop pointing fingers at each other.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Entitlements - I am entitled

The prevailing thought in America, if not in the entire world, is “I am right and you are wrong.” “I am being inequitably treated and you are not taking care of me.” “They are the problem and the place of which to hang the blame.” “In essence it is about ‘me’ and ‘they’ are the problem, with everything!”

Here is the "real" truth. Most of us are part of the problem yet only a few are offering real solutions. Most of us want things to work in our favor relative to our gains over whatever others may want or so desperately need. Realistically far too few would put the needs of others above their personal needs and desires. These are normal human responses.

Until we feel the need to go outside our selfish ambitions we will not be overly willing to address the needs of others. Until we accept the fact that if we are not being the solution we are essentially someone’s problem. Most people do not think in these terms. This is what is called the sense of entitlement: You deserve it in spite of anything or reason.

In the field of politics this sense of entitlement has grown far past what is offered to those whom may be suffering, regardless of the reasons why. We have grown into a “me-generation.” We see others with things that we would like to have so we want them for ourselves and feel quite frankly, entitled to have them.

The bottom line is that not all the people will ever have all the things they want or need. Not all are even worthy or earned the right to have things just because they want them. At a point this has to be accepted as a fact of life. In order that one might adjust this feeling of entitlement to a feeling of “can do,” they must be willing to “take the ball and run with it.”

If you want something bad enough don’t wait on a handout. Instead do all you can in order to make that desire happen by the energies you are willing to exert. Rather than waiting and blaming others use your available energies to push your own cart forward.

You become the horse that is pulling your cart rather than waiting on a horse to appear out of nowhere and pull your cart. The chance of this gift-horse coming out of nowhere and working on your behalf is very slim.

If you want to be in control over your fate then take on the personal responsibility. Do the work and reap your own results. Once you do so then you know who is to blame when things are not going well. You also know who to fire or replace if things are not going well. When you are the boss is when true entitlement comes into play. You earn it!

Yes you can blame the President, your political leaders, your mom and dad, your school teachers, your lack of education or opportunity; or you can step up to the plate and take personal responsibility whereby you know who is in charge. It’s your choice!

Saturday, August 6, 2011


How do you handle it when even you knew that you made an obvious mistake? If you were man enough you would step up to the plate and take full responsibility. That may be easy to do in theory, but it would depend upon the mistake and who may know about it.

If you had an affair, even if you knew it was a bad mistake, perhaps you wouldn’t be as forthcoming with your spouse about taking responsibility for your error in judgment. You would hope that incident would somehow get swept under the rug of secrecy.

If you had too much to drink and was the designated driver for the evening perhaps your pride would need to take a back seat to the safety of the people who would be taking a huge risk by riding with you while driving intoxicated.

What if you and your mate had a disagreement about something and it ended up that you were dead wrong and she was right? Would you step up to the plate and admit that you were wrong? That would be the most decent thing to do.

What if you made an investment in something that turned out to be a scam and you lost a substantial amount of money that could have greatly assisted the family, would you step up to the plate and take the responsibility?

Even though your pride seems to be very important to you there are times when integrity, honor, and the well-being of others should count for substantially more. This has a lot to do with the kind of person you are from the core of your being.

If you were a deceitful person from your core you would do deceitful things and hope to get away with your wrongful deeds. If honesty means nothing to you then that is why you would cheat on the one you love and hope to get away with it.

If the well-being of your family is worth taking wild risks at their expense then you don’t really care as much about them as you do about your personal ambitions.

If you are rotten from the core then that is why you would make rotten decisions and operate in ways that strokes your pride and ego over others. Although it is one thing to be this kind of person, but another to be as so while living in denial. Others could be harmed because of your denial to take responsibility.

We all make mistakes; that is part of being human. We can usually recover from making bad or poor decisions when we step up and take responsibility for our actions. On the other hand if you repeat poor decision often that is not a casual stumble, but more of a personality trait.

If you don’t attempt to correct your common problems eventually that sort of behavior becomes your core self. It becomes who you are just as your personality is who you are.

Most young men make more than their share of bad decisions. Some do so willingly out of spite or being mischievous while others because wisdom has not yet set in to do its job. It is said that God protects babies and fools. Well thanks to a forgiving God, and people as well that many of us are still living and recovering from the wild days of our youth.

If you are still a young man just know that there is still hope for you because each day you wake up you have a new opportunity to set a new slate. The person you were yesterday is not necessarily the one that you have to be on a new day, and certainly not the one you need be tomorrow.

Nearly all men began to mature in their mid-to-late thirties: even more by their forties and fifties. If per chance you are still acting foolishly by your fifties then you really have a problem because by then your ways are fairly set. “Ain’t nothing like an old fool!”

If you happen to fall into that category there is still hope, not for you, but for those of whom you may be in contact. The hope is that you will dismiss yourself from them so they would not need to rely upon you, one proven to be highly unreliable.

It is one thing to take yourself down in the gutter, but why take others down with you? Spare your loved ones and allow them a chance to have a decent life without you being an albatross around their neck.

If you really want to be a “real man” check yourself in and get some psychological help so one day you might be able to reconnect with your loved ones and become someone that they can eventually rely upon. But until that day comes, if it comes, stay as far away from them as possible so you don’t take them down in the tullies with you.

Remember, it is one thing to make a few mistakes, but when those become your usual ways they are no longer mistakes, but instead a personality trait. If you were rotten at the core I would expect you to be a cheater, a liar, a thief, and all around bad person. “Real men” don’t behave in that sort of manner.

If you ever make a mistake and know it right away at least admit it to yourself and take full responsibility for your actions so you can at least learn from your faults. Eventually it would be nice if you were to put the welfare of your loved ones over your selfish desires.

Friday, August 5, 2011

What's up with government and leadership?

Judging by what’s going on in my town of Altadena, and even further out into the city, state, and across the entire nation, it appears that people have a very low opinions of those in leadership positions. Could it be that our form of government is no longer working as it was intended?

Nationally and even internationally, it appears that people are revolting against “the status quo” forms of government. Much of this may be because the world is facing very trying financial times. The world’s economy is sick and suffering greatly. Naturally those who are in charge of leadership are blamed for the problems we’re facing.

Take a look at the U.S. government. We are a democracy, which supposedly give the people a large say in how we are governed. But is that really true? Do “the people” actually participate in setting the laws, rules, and boundaries whereby they are governed? Apparently not! If so there would not be this much unrest.

If you had looked ahead in time from the period of the 1960s and 70s you wouldn’t have imagined how little people would be paying attention and getting involved in how they are governed in current times. Back then people rebelled against poor government to the point that the regime that was in control would be ousted if they did a poor job.

However today we are looking at more of a “me generation.” People are not as concerned about society, the public, or even the nation as much as they are about their individual gains. “What’s in it for ME.”

Because of this people in government routinely get away with very poor political decisions, at least until it hits individuals squarely in their pockets. Who cares about the poor, the needy, the helpless, the starving, and the hungry as long as it is not “me” doing the suffering? This is more of the attitude of the common people.

Think about it! If you are not currently in default with your mortgage or behind in paying most of your credit bills, or going hungry at night, just how much can you relate to those who are currently suffering?

If crime is not prevalent in your neighborhood, but instead across town how concerned are you about the crime reports? If things aren’t directly affecting you, just how much worry do you give the situation? Think about it!

We’re living in a “me generation.” Somehow we’ve lost part of the brotherhood that connected us as people. Perhaps this is due in part because current technology allows us to be more independent than in times past.

Currently we can connect to world affairs almost instantaneously concerning things that could alter our prosperity. Rather than going through intermediaries we can access information ourselves and thereby take care of our situations, with no “middle man.”

Since we’re learning to trust in our resources more than we trust in institutional resources we no longer rely upon them. This would include people in government of which we already have a very low opinion… for very good reasons.

There was a day when politicians were considered to be dirty, but we couldn’t prove it so people had to go along with their programs. However in this day everything is more transparent. It is not that leaders prefer it this way, but that current technology makes it possible for us to see things clearly as they are happening.

Where in the recent past political dirt (backdoor politics) was done in the dark, today it is done right out in the light of the media. This technological curve happened so relatively fast that people did not learn how to make the proper adjustments before their dirt was fully exposed to the public. Hence too many government officials were exposed, (caught literally with their pants down) thereby painting a bad picture of people in leadership.

Rather than ordinarily trusting in government and leadership, as was the case in the past, the “new ordinary” is to mistrust them. In fact it would be more rare to find an honest trustworthy politician these days than it would be to find a crooked one, at least by public consensus.

This is why we are becoming more of a “me generation.” We’d rather not trust the idiots we see almost daily in the media making fools of themselves.

While it’s good that we take responsibility for our actions we must be careful not to get overly involved in the “me generation.” Yes, self-preservation is a good thing, but our personal gain at the expense of others is not usually a win/win equation.

If we are to grow as a society we must make sure we do it together, not as one person at the expense of others. We need to tell the people we elected in government that this is not their show, but our lives they are abusing. In addition we need to let them know this by using the only real power we have, and that is in our right to vote them out in the next free elections.

Remember our government officials are elected or otherwise hired to do their jobs by the people and it is for the people that they should be serving. When they do a poor job we must let them know by firing them.

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Our Squawk Boxes are getting louder

There was a time when we only heard chatter from those closest to us, primarily the ones in our inner circle. This could have included the people that you are in contact with at home, work, or play.

Back during the 1920’s, thirties, forties, and beyond the radio, started penetrating into one’s personal chatter space. If you had access to the radio the chatter increased beyond just one’s inner circle. You were able to hear chatter from a much wider area.

Before I get too deep into this article I need to explain what a “squawk box” is for those of you who may not be familiar with this term.

What Does Squawk Box Mean? An intercom speaker often used on brokers' trading desks in investment banks and stock brokerages. A squawk box allows a firm's analysts and traders to communicate with the firm's brokers.

We have expanded this definition to mean the inner-voice that sounds off in your head. It was limited to certain types of chatter for a while, but now I dare say the limit has been increased almost infinitely.

After the radio came another pervasive protrusion into our chatter space, which was the television. Contrary to what you might think, the television was not invented by a single inventor but instead by many people working together or alone over many years.

Henry and Faraday’s work with electromagnetism jumpstarted the era of electronic communication way back in 1831 and it has been developed and evolved ever since, although it was not until the 1900's when the term television was first used and further into the 1920’s and 30’s before it was put into full gear. Needless to say this form of intrusion into our minds and heads made the squawk even much louder.

Long before we had the television we had the telephone. Its history was just as confusing because so many inventors worked on this concept from back in the 1840 as part of the attempt to explore electronic communication. Alexander Bell and Thomas Watson may be best known for the ones that commercially brought the phone to the market.

By the middle of the 20th Century and afterward most of these electromagnetic forms of communication devices were common in the average household. At this stage our chatterboxes is literally filled from numerous sources. With time we are becoming so addicted to this connection that it is like we are tied to it as an umbilical chord.

Just when you think our space was filled beyond what we need to keep in touch with each other now we have the ability to reach worldwide and connect with almost unlimited resources. That means that our squawk boxes are getting louder than we have the space in our brains to disseminate easily. What’s next? How about a V-chip directly into your brain?

You ready for this!

Sunday, June 26, 2011

The Joy of Grandparenthood

During the summer months is probably the best season for grandparents to enjoy their grandchildren. Whether for a short or long visit, these memories are indelibly etched in both the children and the adults.

If you are fortunate to live in the same general area of your extended family members it is probably a more frequent occasion. However, in this era it seems that extended families are spreading out geographically further and further for various reasons.

The really neat thing about grandchildren is how you may enjoy them fully, even to the point of burning your energy out of your tank because you know the time is only temporary. After a while they get to go back home with their parents. Because of this you may be a little more liberal with nearly everything than you were with your own children, their parents.

Recently I had a chance to keep my grandchildren for an extended stay. With my wife (Grammy) at work and my daughter back in her home packing for a move, I (Pa-Paw) was the one left most of the day with 2 little sweet grand daughters for over a week.

As a writer I am used to having my quiet space in order to develop the essays I write. Now as a columnist I have to come up with my weekly article on a specific date and turn it in to my editor.

Needless to say my grand daughters will have nothing to do with my deadlines. They want me 24-7. When their motor is running mine has to be on as well. Since they are six and four years old, theirs is running from the time they wake up until well past the time I normally turn down in the early evening these days.

Just a few weeks back I was doing hard manual labor working on improvement projects around the house. For homeowners this never seems to end. I did about 4our weeks of projects that demanded so much of my time and energies. At the end of each day I just passed out with the television watching over me.

As I have aged I find my body does not match my mental capacity, or so I thought. In other words the things that I used to do quite easily are suddenly much more difficult for me. This older body seems to tire and wear out much faster than it did, seemingly just a short while back. This is what aging does to us humans.

I just had a rude awakening about the new limitations of my aging body. Every bone and muscle was sore from the constant hard work trying to do all of my projects, which included pouring several bags of hand-mixed cement in a wheel barrrow, hours of painting, hauling dirt to the garden, and cleaning out around the home.

I thought I had figured out the new limits of this older body until I spent the entire week with my two grand daughters. I love them more than life itself, but it appears that I had also forgotten how much energy it takes to spend over ten hours a day with children that age.

You have to have your brain in full attention mode all the while and you have to constantly plan things to do all that time. You have to settle disputes ever so often, fix meals and snacks nearly every two hours, go to the park, go to Mac Ds,’ explain things that you don’t really know (make up stuff) and a few more surprises that you didn’t plan. With children you never quite know what to expect.

I thought I was tired at the end of a full working day around the home, but at the end of the day with my two grandchildren I was ready to go back to the physical manual labor. My sweet two grand daughters wore me out in ways that I didn’t realize could be worn out.

I remember raising our daughter (Mr. Mom) when she was a child as my wife continued to work full time. Somehow I managed to raise her as the primary home-based parent because that is just how things worked out.

What I forgot was the fact that I was nearly 20 years younger then and I had sufficient energy to do what was necessary to keep up with a young child, plus it was only one child back then.

One little girl, twenty years younger, compared to two little girls and this body twenty years older. Now I know why God made us fruitful while we were young and less fruitful when we are older. You earn the right to be grand parents. You can enjoy them fully when they visit but after a while they go back home with their parents so you can recuperate.

Don’t get me wrong, I love my wife, my family, my kids, and my lovely grandkids, but now I can really respect what the generation before me did. Before I was a parent I did not know what they sacrificed and what their role really meant. When I became a parent I learned full well what my parents went through.

Before I was a grand parent I did not know what my parents had gone through as usually we sent our daughter for an extended visit over the summer vacation. Although my mother never complained, I am sure when that summer was over she relished a quiet home and a long, hot bath for a few months afterward.

What a joy it is to be a grandparent. When your grandchildren can come and visit for a short while you can just love every piece of them as you give their parents a break from the kid(s).

Now my mother and mother-in-law are in their 80s. They are the great-grandmothers. They have paid their dues. They can sit back, relax, and look down the line at the many generations under them knowing what all are going through as they smile and sip on their nice cool lemonade in their comfortable rocking chair. One day that will be me.

Life just constantly unfolds just as a rose bud opens its pedals revealing what comes next.

What a joy it is to be a grandparent, but now I look forward to being a great-grandparent and watching what all the newer generations go through as I smile with wisdom.