Tuesday, December 22, 2015

People, Places, Experiences and Things

One hears a lot of criticism about how materialistic our society has become. How we care too much for "things" and not enough about people.

I suppose there is some truth in that. Especially, it seems, at this time of the year when one sees and hears about people being run off their feet shopping, becoming curt with one-another (or worse), losing sight, perhaps, of the quiet joys that the Christmas holiday once was said to have brought --that of  sharing with friends and family just a few simple gifts, along with much kindness, warmth and encouragement.

But where does the "balance" people often speak of between "people" and "things" reside? Is it to be found in a single way of viewing life? And what about the other joys that are to be found?

Some people, for instance, love to travel. -To experience new things, new places. Yet others (such as myself) generally find greater pleasure in quiet, largely solitary repose; in travels of the mind and spirit more than that of the physical self.

When my generation began maturing enough to finally let go of its youthful idealism it largely for a time latched onto a philosophy expressed in the bumper-sticker worthy statement "He who dies with the most toys wins." The emphasis there and then was totally on owning things.

A generation or two later saw that slogan replaced with another, equally bumper sticker worthy one: That each person should create a "bucket list" of all the places they want to see, and all the things they want to experience, and then check 'em off thinking that if everything is "checked" before they die they will have lived a rich, rewarding, worthwhile and happy, life.

Is one of the above ideas more worthy than the other? Or is there yet some other, perhaps similar, idea waiting in the wings that, when discovered and espoused, will finally be found to be the formulaic answer to true universal happiness?

My answer, based on experience, reading and observation, is no and no. -That the idea of there being one, right, "balance" for every one of us between the material, the experiential and the communal -- or even for any one of us at all times -- is simply incorrect. The greater truth is that life is a journey with many possible roads, some "right" for one, another "right" for another, and maybe both or neither right for any one one person at any one particular time.

I have traveled some, although not as widely as have others. I have been to Europe three times -- and none as a "get on and off the bus" tourist. No. On two of those multi-week trips I spent my time there, in several countries, with friends who knew the local cultures. My third European trip was a working vacation, in Italy, when I was writing and imaging for Ducati.

All were wonderful experiences. But none -- for me -- provided joy equal to what I have found sitting in my own library with a really good book, or in my music room with a guitar in my hand. Or even slowly strolling about my own property quietly with a camera.

I can also say that no money I have ever spent was spent as "well" (if hours of satisfaction and joy are used as the measuring stick) as that I have spent on cameras, on musical instruments, on stereo and video equipment, or for that matter, for a good many years, on Ducati motorcycles.

But isn't my saying the above evidence of me putting too much focus on things? Does it not suggest that I am -- gasp! -- a materialist?

Frankly I do not think such questions, bottom line, amount to anything.  No, to me the more important question is simply this: Have my choices made me, and others I care about, happier? Have they added joy and satisfaction to my/our lives?

A pile of unused "toys" left upon my passing will not have done so. Nor will my having put check marks on some once eagerly made list. .

"Things," "experiences," "friends and family,""creativity," the world of "ideas" - all of these are what make up life and living. And is it not that -- "living"  in the broadest possible sense -- what life is really all about?

Monday, December 21, 2015

An FYI to the RNC

Dear Republican National Committee,

I am no longer so naive as to think that my thoughts matter enough to you to actually be read and thought about, but am sending them anyway, perhaps out of my own  (apparently out-of-date) sense of duty and obligation.

I am a long term Republican approaching my 70th year. I've contributed to the Party, and more often to individual candidates, in every election cycle for as long as I can remember. Not large amounts, but for a person of my means, significant. "Out of my want, not my surplus" in Biblical terms.  In short, I shall do so no more.  The Ryan "Omnibus" bill compromise was for me the last straw. Truly, and I expect, permanently.

Do you know how many there are such as I?  Do you care?  Does Trump's outlandish "success" teach you nothing?

Every election for years it has been the same. Promises that "this year it will be different." But it never is.  Now I will no longer be looking to the Republican Party. I no longer believe we share a common interest in preserving what I value, and  what this country as a whole once valued.

Obama. Hillary. You have folded over and over to them -- and, I suppose, to what you perceive as your own interests.  Not my interests.  Not others like me -- hard working, involved, dedicated to traditional American values such as individual liberty, family, faith -- all those quaint but now apparently to you meaningless notions.

So I am gone.  Republican candidates' election flyers will follow those of the Democrats (and the AARP) into the trash. I will from here on in concentrate on my own personal interests. The things that matter to me and that pay some dividend for expended energy. Books. History. Science. The arts.

Gone. Completely, Forever.

Got it?

  * * * * *

The above thoughts were submitted to the Republican National Committee on Saturday, Dec 19th. As expected there was no response.

The above was also submitted, with permission to publish, to a widely-read national political web journal. There it was read, not only by the journal's Founder and Editor-in-Chief, but by several others of its editorial staff. A lively discussion ensued.

In the end it was decided that it would be better not to publish it, for if such a viewpoint were encouraged, and was to become common place, the election of Hillary Clinton would be assured, and along with it all the damage to our Republic that would/will by course follow.

The journal's editors were not wrong.

Alas (sigh), neither am I.

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

Trump and 'Roughing People Up'

I suppose I was as "shocked" as anyone when Donald Trump's comment about someone deserving to be roughed up aired. But then I thought about it and even apart from the fact that I know one cannot trust the reports to be accurate as to what was done and by whom, another thought came to mind: That we as a society have come to accept the rudeness such as seen at the Dartmouth library as "acceptable." No, not meaning just polite (few would think, much less say, that), but "acceptable" in the sense that we simply accept it going on and do nothing.
"Roughing up" could mean -- as some have suggested -- a modern Kristallnacht where Nazi brown shirts attacked Jews and Jewish businesses. But the silencing of the these rude, in your face "protesters" hardly means that.
I asked myself how I'd react if I were in a university library and such went on? Or eating brunch at a nice restaurant? Not, I trust (and hope!) violently. But oh boy would I favor someone shutting such people up and evicting them. Yet no one does. Indeed they get apologies, cover ups -- whatever will make them appear to be the innocents they most surely are not.
Trump is not that sort. And although I am anything but a supporter, am I not at least on some level glad?
Vigilantes happen when proper authority does not enforce the law. That is where we are today. And more, the powers that be on every level seem to reinforce such lawless conduct. Apologizing university heads. Pols who turn their eyes away. Media twisting accounts of what is happening. Gutless. Lawless.
That is what got us here. Trump is simply reading the market and doing what he knows will 'clinch the deal.'
No, I do not "support" him in this. But I can see it for what it is. And know where the real blame lies.

Friday, November 6, 2015

Why I Have Come To Support Dr. Ben Carson for the Presidency

From the first time I heard Dr. Carson speak (at President Obama's "National Prayer Breakfast") I, like so many others, took note.  Not that his name was unfamiliar to me. No. A career spent working with some of the nation's top pediatric physicians at Boston Children's Hospital had assured that. But still, to have heard him speak on the occasion of the Prayer Breakfast with such honesty and clarity -- to his then and there being willing to take up themes that some, he knew, would likely find offensive -- of that I just had to take note.

Despite this, when others mentioned with excitement the idea of Dr. Carson running for the Presidency I have to say that I did not quickly join them. Only slowly have I come around -- turned around really -- and only now has he come to fully have my support.  Why?

I believe the United States is in crisis. Indeed I am of the view that the whole Western World is in crisis. That human progress over hate and ignorance and poverty -- including the poverty of fresh ideas -- is in crisis. That we have lost faith in so much! In freedom. In equality. In the liberal ideals -- the very way of thinking -- that led to emancipation from so much of the evil that makes up human history

We need things to change radically. We need to rebuild trust, not only in those ideals, but also in the institutions our forefathers built to support them.

What is needed to accomplish this is not, IMO, so much a "strong leader," but an inspiring and capable one. Not a man or woman who will vanquish everything and everyone that stands before them, but one who will stand with We The People in supporting the ideals upon which continuing human progress depends.

Light, throughout history, has conquered darkness. Knowledge, throughout history, has conquered ignorance. Good, throughout history,  has conquered evil.  If, and only if, it has been expressed and acted upon with boldness and consistency. Without fear. Without compromise.

Those are the very qualities Dr. Ben Carson has brought to this debate. Not just with words, but with deeds. With a lifetime of experience. Of thoughtfulness. Of hard work. Of clarity. And of no less importance, of goodness.

Dr. Carson is, I truly think, what America needs. For our own sake. And for the sake of our children.

Wednesday, September 16, 2015

The Parable of the Mouse Hole

The Parable of the Mouse Hole

Once upon a time there was a family. A hard working, well behaved family, who moved into a nice apartment in a good, if not wealthy, part of town.

Every morning the kids went off to school well fed upon a breakfast of cereal and milk - a breakfast the mother had lovingly set before them. Then mom and dad each got busy with their respective responsibilities, working hard always with a mind focused on the well being of the family as a whole, and the future of the children in particular.

This went on for some years as the children grew. But all was not right. The neighborhood itself started to go down hill. Land owners -- including this family's landlord -- seemed to stop caring. Paint started to peel, roofs to leak, lawn and gardens to become overcome, first with weeds, than with trash.

Mom and dad soldiered on. The kids did too, but all was not as it was. Dad, who had held one steady job for years suddenly found himself jobless. He quickly sought another but could find nothing that paid as well as the old one.  Mom, too, started looking for work outside the home. This was needed to make ends meet.

Getting to school safely started to become difficult for the children, and the atmosphere in the classroom -- once a place of quiet, serious, teaching -- changed to one of noise and strife. Homework became mere exercises, and the children sensing this, and with minds focused elsewhere, started to do less well in their studies.

Still, month in, month out, the family soldiered on.  Then IT HAPPENED. It wouldn't seem like much to an outsider. -Nothing worthy of a headline. But for this family this little event -- caused by a few little mice -- changed everything.

Mom had gotten used to the peeling paint, the chipped sink and the dripping faucet. But one morning when she went to the cabinet to get the children's cereal she found the box had been chewed through by some mice, and the cereal was spread out on the cabinet shelf mixed with chewed cardboard and mouse droppings.

That morning the children went to school with no breakfast. And the next. And the next.

Complaints about the mouse infestation started to spread throughout the building. The landlord promised change but the change never came.  Families who could move away did. Others, with nowhere else to go, suffered in silence.

With family breakfast no longer part of their lives the children each started going off on their own. Mom and dad started to lose hope too, and conversation slowly ceased. Where once there had been a hard working happy family -- a household filled with joy, hope and promise -- now there was only sullen quiet and sometimes anger; a family adrift. Just one more among many such families in a neighborhood that suddenly saw itself with no future.

The landlord himself rarely showed except, of course, when rent was late. He himself had long ago moved elsewhere.

Then one day there was a knock on the door. Standing there was a bold and brash man in a bright suit jacket. "I'm going to make this neighborhood great again" he proclaimed.  And when invited in he looked around and told the people that he would NEVER live like this. He was a rich and powerful man. And that if they'd support him in his attempt to take over the building and the neighborhood all would again be wonderful.

"But what do you plan to do?" asked the husband. The man in the bright suit jacket gestured broadly, walked across the room, and pointed to a hole in the baseboard. "Close this in!" he proclaimed. "Then the apartment will be sound again!" "Are not mice eating the food? Your food. Food you worked for. Food that should be feeding your children!"  "Yes" said mom and dad, thankful that finally someone was going to make things right again. "That is where and when everything started going badly" they thought to themselves, "with the intrusion of those mice!" It was all suddenly so clear!

And so a campaign started and more and more people got behind it. "Make the neighborhood great again!" "Chase away the mice!" "Fill in the mouse holes!"  For the first time in years the family, and many of their neighbors, had become believers.

How does our parable end?

We don't know yet.  But the mice will be going. That he promises.

Published by American Thinker

Thursday, July 2, 2015

Laws Are For the Lawless

Some thoughts on the Obama Admin's new overtime law.

Here's a surprise for some no doubt... I'm with Obama here. To me the problem with unions, union rules and government meddling with business, is that the unions lost their focus on supporting the general workforce and focused instead on simply helping themselves.

The forty hour week -- the assuring that working people should be able to have a life for themselves and their families -- is a great good. That law had to mandate this was and is a shame, but ending sweatshops and crushing work demands sadly DID require intervention.

Today many employers have looked for and found loopholes to allow them to demand long hours far beyond the forty hour week. Calling a mid-level worker a "manager" or worse, a "management trainee" has simply become a way to take advantage of workers -- making them give the employer what amounts to unpaid time, often doing things that are a far cry from "management."

Should the government have to intervene? No. But businesses have  brought this upon themselves. (Those who have practiced no such abuse will see little if any change in their labor costs.)

The argument that this will "cost" workers hours seems to me bunk.  What it will "cost" them is UNPAID hours - a price that I expect most are more than willing to pay.

Don't like regulations?  Then regulate yourselves! Law is, as the old proverb says, for the "lawless."