A novel idea: being polite

Recently, I read a short editorial in my local newspaper. It was talking about the late Senator Bob Dole, who died and how polite he was. His body laid in state at the United States Capitol Rotunda. The editorial talked about the politeness of politicians during the old days. You know, the 1980s. As an example, it mentioned how Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill, two political warriors from opposite sides of the aisle who would have drinks together at the end of the day.

I remember those days when politicians would do battle in efforts to support the legislative priorities of their political party, while simultaneously demonstrating respect for their opponents. Personal attacks were rare. It was the ideas that suffered the assaults from the opposing party.

And now we find ourselves at the point where civility has all but disappeared from the political landscape. I have chosen not to point a finger in the direction of any political party, but to say the days of Ronald Reagan and Tip O’Neill would be a welcomed addition to the political arena right about now. Personal assaults from one member of our congressional house to another is nothing but a waste of breath. It certainly is as far as I’m concerned; however, politicians are, as a group, a shrewd bunch of characters. They know what plays to their constituency. They’re aware of the vitriol that populates Twitter and other social media outlets. They have an accurate pulse reading of what angers and pleases the folks who can keep them in office or vote them out the next go-round.

And then there are folks like me who would prefer civilized debate of the issues. We’d love to see a show of concern about issues that affect the least among us. We understand lobbying and special interests, but aren’t our interests special, too? Although we don’t have dollars in the amount corporate America has to throw into the mix, our families and communities need legislative attention to live the best we can. Yet, we see our elected representatives drawing lines in the sand continually, doing battle in a manner that mirrors a barroom brawl. Often, our interests are lost in the struggles, as seen on the 24/7 news cycle.

I would love to see the 535 members of the United States Congress (currently 435 in the house and 100 in the senate) work together, civilly, and purposely, without demonstrating any doubt that they are representing the interests of all American citizens.   I don’t think that is too much to ask.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

            A representation of us?

Two representatives of the life force that contribute to the population of the universe meet and you’re conceived. You develop in a comfortable, dark sanctuary for several months. There, with divinely engineered precision, you become the canvas onto which a lifetime of experiences will be imprinted. Although this process has occurred over millennia, yours is unique because it’s yours.

Your introduction to the world is often met with celebration, sometimes not. The quality of your introduction is dependent upon a mixture of social, economic, political, familial, and spiritual factors waiting to greet you. These factors represent the complete picture of all that will influence your life from that point on. Now, they mean nothing to you; however, you’ll navigate through life either unincumbered by them or damaged because of them.

During the early years of your formation outside, you are soaking in experiences that titillate all your senses. Because you can’t provide audible feedback, no one can accurately assess how well you’re doing. It’s as if someone left a recording device on to indiscriminately take note of all you hear, see, feel, taste and smell. Amazingly, your internal black box teaches you the language of your environment with little effort on your part. At some point before your first seventy-two cycles around the sun, you are communicating ideas to others around you. Your curiosity for knowledge drives you too seek out understanding about all you experience. This exercise is encouraged by those who have experienced far more cycles than you.

Depending on the environment into which you are deposited, you began an institutional process of education or one that is home bond. It’s during this process, which will last for decades in some instances, that you slowly become molded into a model that will be socially acceptable. That innate curiosity you exhibited just a few years ago is being redirected into a direction where you will be less disruptive, less of a maverick. Unintentionally, you began to develop a comparative sense of yourself against others; a sense of wanting to belong to the herd; a sense of failure vs. laboratorial experimentation. This goes on for some twelve years, provided your advancement is without any hitch. All the while those around you are feeding the message that you should express yourself, be all that you can be. You’ll understand the mixed messages at some point, and the sailing will be easier.

At some point, you’ll develop an interest in some vocation you plan to use to carry you through the bulk of your life’s journey. This decision will require you to experience another period of institutional pedagogy. Later, you’ll have a better understanding of all you see and a smidgen of insight into grasping things you cannot. The age-old question why am I here? may yet be not be fully answered; however, you’re not bouncing about like a buoy without a tether.

You’ll be drawn to be the universe’s tool to introducing others to this plain. You’ll provide guidance and protection for one or more slates awaiting their personal experience of being imprinted with innumerable bits of information that they will use to navigate their tiny portion of the cosmos.

As you comfortably sit in a gliding position, comfortable with yourself, and having escaped maladies that would have caused your cerebral functions to misfire, you think to yourself: I think I’m beginning to understand this thing called life. But, just as your understanding is beginning to unfold like never, your time is up. It’s as if the universe requires you to move, to make space for someone else. The universe, however, is expert at recycling. You’ll be aware of your repurposing on the other side. Don’t you think so?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

The now normal

Recently, I sat in on a zoom meeting where one of the participants used the term now normal several times. She made the point that we’re in a time when we can forget about how things were last year, whatever we’re doing now and how we’re doing it is normal. I got the distinct impression from listening to her that we do whatever we have to, during now, to get things done. I would say it’s all about adaptation; the uniquely human form that throws caution to the wind. History shows we’re good at trying to bend things to our whim when circumstances dictate.

The now normal may be the reality; however, accepting that reality doesn’t make life any easier. Case in point, while pushing my grocery cart through the supermarket yesterday, a total stranger interrupted my agonizing experience of looking at the now normal prices on the shelves. He said with seemingly much disgust that,” These prices are ridiculous!” He said he’d seen a report on the news indicating that we’re going to be seeing fewer items on the shelves, while simultaneously seeing prices rise. I told him that I certainly felt his pain, and that prices are rising weekly. He respectfully corrected me by saying that prices are rising daily, at least it seemed that way.

I majored in sociology, with a minor in history for my undergraduate degree. Economics were a part of my studies. I must admit, I never fully comprehended the principles presented in those studies. For example, why doesn’t the humungous industrial complex prepare for those global rainy days like the ones the pandemic has presented? Common sense should tell us that production could be interrupted at any given time, affecting supply chains, and offering fewer finished products to the consumer. Remember the supply shortage of paper products we had to deal with early into the pandemic? I’m sure you’re more astute at understanding all of this than I, so forgive my ignorance.

We’re entering the third year of the pandemic, and there have been innumerable changes to occur in terms of how we do business, how we worship, how we live from one day to the next. Our ability to keep up attempts to squeeze the best life we can out of whatever comes our way continues. This penchant for keeping on keeping on reminds me of the Borg. Excuse my science fiction metaphor. Please, let me explain. The Borg are a cybernetic group of creatures who are part of the Star Trek franchise. They improve their race by acquiring other beings from different worlds, implanting them with technologies to increase their physical abilities, and making them part of a larger singularly operating group. Whenever a Borg is attacked, it automatically goes into a mode which allows it to adapt, preventing, for example, the beam of subatomic particles shot from a phaser weapon to harm them. In other words, they go with the flow, as most of us have done over the last two years. To keep a Borg down, your weapon must continually rotate frequencies, preventing the Borg from adapting. That sounds like the covid-19 virus, rotating from one variant to the next, trying to take us out.

Normality is continually changing. You’re changing to keep up because you must survive and thrive. It doesn’t make it any less stressful, does it?

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

And so, 2021 is about over

I just looked at the time on my laptop. We’re seven hours and thirty-four minutes away from the start of the new year. If there’s one-point 2021 has driven home very strongly for me it’s that I’m an exceedingly small grain of sand in an ocean of 7.8 billion people (according to U.S. Census Bureau). Far be it from me to think that anything revolves around me.

Sometimes I think blogging is one of the most self-absorbed activities in which anyone could be involved. However, when I start thinking that way, I remind myself that the human experience is universal and that when I write, I’m often, if not all the time expressing thoughts, experiences, stories that tens of thousands on our planet find familiar. My followers far from the shores of the United States have convinced me of that. My reading their musings convince me even further. We’re all cut from the same cloth, and each of us has been blessed to display individual designs.

And so, 2021 is about over, and I’ll keep blogging. I still have a lot of our stories to tell.

I’m old and blessed, an African born in the United States.

Note: I wrote this on New Year’s Eve. I had it tucked away on my laptop…forget to post it.

Just be yourself: That’s more than enough

I just finished reading an article in my daily newspaper, the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette. It was titled Anchor criticized for being “very Asian.”An anchor with a Saint Louis, Missouri tv station had wrapped up a report she was doing about food people eat to celebrate New Year’s Day, by saying that she ate dumpling soup like many Koreans do. The reporter is of Korean ancestry, raised by white parents.

The reporter’s comment rubbed a good, upstanding American the wrong way. The offended person left a message expressing her discontent by saying a white anchor would have been fired if they had made a comment about what white people eat on New Year’s Day. I’m trying to restrain myself from saying something uncouth, but I must be honest. That’s got to be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. The comment was in no way derogatory to anyone. It was inline with the content of the reporter’s intent, getting her viewers thinking about the diversity of foods people might consume during the holiday season.

The newspaper article goes on to say that the reporter had reconnected with her Korean family in 1998 and has incorporated Korean culture into her life since then. I for one, think that’s wonderful. Although the article makes no mention of the love shared between the reporter and her white parents, I’m sure it’s powerful. My oldest child isn’t of another ethnicity, but she is adopted. We’ve always celebrated her very existence and the fact that she’s a part of our family. Heck, she even looks like us. I’ve always felt that an adopted child is blessed in ways that only the child can appreciate. Someone has assumed the honor of loving them and providing them a comfortable space in the universe, which otherwise might not have happened. (Please excuse the meandering thoughts about adoption. I just had to get them out.)

The reporter was being herself and demonstrating a celebratory attitude that she is proud of who she is and happy about it. How dare a troll rain on her parade.

We all have a God-given right to be ourselves in as much of a positive way as possible. I have no idea what the troll was thinking or why she was offended. Her comments marked just one in innumerable sad days when someone hasn’t the heart to vicariously experience someone else’s joy.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Operating in our place is best

Have you ever given thought to how wonderfully built things are in their natural state? When we look at what’s now called the United States, we see a network of rivers, streams, forests, mountains that is in place to nourish the land. Every piece has its place. Amazingly, some pieces were created to ramble and roam, for example, the Mississippi river. It journeys from the northern tip of the country to the point where it drains into the Gulf of Mexico. Even though it encroaches on the territories of other geographical pieces, it does so as if it were invited to do so to bring its nourishment to those areas. The river’s trek from north to south is by no means an intrusion at any point along its carved path.

All pieces, all parts of nature have their place, a place divinely appointed for them. These pieces bring balance to the whole, a natural balance. Then there’s humankind. Humankind steps onto a stage of perfect balance and tries with its presumed intelligence, superiority to shift the natural balance, seeking a new balance designed to satisfy our needs and desires.

The recent climate change conference in Glasgow on 31 October through 12 November, where far too little was accomplished is evidence that we haven’t been operating in our place. I want to be clear. I do believe the earth and all her resources are here for us to harvest in our quest to improve the quality of life on the planet; however, we should be doing so in concert with nature. If we look back at the 20th Century, we see more technological advances than at any century prior. There was also more damage to our global environment than at any point in history. Oftentimes, we think climate change is a recent phenomenon, raising its ugly head during the last century, but climate change was one of the factors that contributed to the fall of the Roman, according to: Dr. Kyle Harper, Vox: Six ways climate change and disease helped topple the Roman Empire, November 4, 2017. Rome as it trapsed around the world, adding territory and citizens to boot, operated outside of its place. I suppose there’s no such thing as harmonious colonization. Look at the mess the Europeans and American left on the African continent over a four-hundred-year period.

Operating in our place doesn’t mean that we can’t go into another neighborhood, another state, another country, another continent. The challenge for us (humankind) is can we do so like the Mississippi River before we engineered it to meet our needs. Can we gently go into a place, not like a steamroller, and operate under a win-win scenario, getting and giving while ensuring that all things are left in balance. Shouldn’t our place be to epitomize good stewardship, not create disaster that wreaks havoc on all that we touch?

We’re all blessed to be living during a time when the world has gotten much smaller. As soon as I post this blog, it will be available for anyone who wants to read it, anywhere in the world. We are now in the infant stages of stretching our hands into space with visions of colonizing Mars sooner than most of us can fathom. Technology has given us an enormous increase in our quality of life, but at what cost to the generations that are already here to receive its inheritance.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.

Spending more time in my head

I can recall a time when I was more interested in receiving than giving.  The prospect of getting things for Christmas, things as reward for a good deed, things for the variety of holidays that capitalism seems to have established to feed itself. In retrospect, I started to move away from that failed formula for fulfillment during my years in college. The latest gadget, the most stylish attire started to become less of a driving force for enhancing my sense of self-worth. Mind you, I didn’t become a died-in-the wool minimalist, but I did start to realize that dissipating all my cash on things that only had value for a season, in the eyes of others, was a complete waste of time.

The internal motivation that persuaded me to be less of a consumer in college manifested itself in my childhood. Being poor had its privileges, for me anyway. Not having more than I needed freed me from devoting ridiculous amounts of time taking care of stuff. Stuff, you know, clothing, shoes and other accoutrements that adorn the outside, but add no value to the real persona. I can remember when I was as young as ten years old, I used to regularly make time to be by myself. At that age, I discovered the benefits of spending time in my head. Of course, I had no idea that I was meditating, or getting close to it anyway.

Spending time in our heads is a good place to be. It’s there that we connect with things that are waiting to greet us, to commune with us, to assist us in understanding our position in relation to what we encounter in life. If you’re a spiritual person, haven’t you had some of your best experiences alone, in the quiet focusing absent the noise the world produces? Although you might enjoy corporate worship, don’t you have a stronger connection with your universal spirit while you’re spending time in your head? It’s in our heads that we solve problems, design plans for success, have conversations that can’t be had in any other venue.

The last two years have presented unprecedented challenges for people worldwide. Covid-19 and its off springs (Delta and Omicron) have frightened us, confused us, left us dangling in the wind. There’s information overload in the media. Each day numbers are reported about new cases, numbers of hospitalizations, numbers of dead. Oftentimes, these reports take on the quality of all the other noise that permeates the atmosphere. I must spend time in my head to maintain my sanity. With all the talk about normalcy being absent around the world, I’ve found that keeping my mental and emotional self in balance is the kind of normalcy that’s more important than any other barometric reading. I must spend time working in my head. I venture to say that even folk, who seek the services of a counselor, discover that such professionals are coaching them on how to spend quality time in their heads.

I didn’t make a New Year’s resolution for 2022. I discovered years ago that these never work; I’ll just spend more time in my head, the place where reality is formed.

I’m old and blessed…hope you will be too.