Saturday, September 19, 2009

Question Number Five

I am kicked back on a lazy Saturday afternoon having spent most of the morning and early afternoon running assorted errands. I’m watch a classic movie – “Captain Ron”. We were expecting a heat wave to start today but it looks like the Weather Channel has adjusted their forecast and pulled it down by about ten degrees, which means it will hot, but bearable. T.R. and I were talking about Captain Ron yesterday and that put me in the mood to watch it, so I have it fired up on the DVD. I may slip out and catch something in the theatre a little later in the day, but I haven’t made that decision yet.

So, here is Question Number Five:

What is the one thing you’d most like to change about the world?

Well, I certainly don’t kid myself into thinking I am wise enough to re-order the world according to my wishes. I am sure the law of unintended consequences would rise up and take a big old bite out of my butt if I tried that. With that caveat, let me answer the question.

I am torn between an increase in compassion and an increase in communication. I think an increase in honest communication would be a major step in the right direction to resolving a lot of the intractable problems we seem to have in the world. If we could truly speak what is in our hearts, unafraid of miscommunication and manipulation.

In general, as humans, we communicate by telling stories. It is one of the methods in which we come to understand the world that we inhabit. We tell stories and depending on how effective we are at story telling we set the context, we exchange information and emotion, and we come to a better understanding of each other. If we are not particularly good at telling those stories (and there are many reasons why we are not) we often simply fail to understand each other. Much of the difficulties in life arise from the fundamental failure.

So, if there is one thing I could change it would be a change to make us all better story-tellers.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Question Number Four

When it's all said and done, will you have said more than you've done.

Oh, at least as I see it, I have definitely done far more than I have said at this point in my life and I assume that trend will continue. I've told a lot of stories about the things I have done in my life, but I would guess I have probably covered 1/10th of them in all the years I've been writing and talking. Often times I simply don't share things for a variety of reasons, so I don't talk about them.

For your amusement here is a summary of list of why I don't talk about things.

First, my formative work experiences were as a cop - during that time frame I learned to simply not talk about my life at work, it wasn't relevant for the most part and you really didn't want to share with your fellow cops the really stupid, amusing, illegal or unethical things you were doing. I also did not share all of the things I did at work in my personal life because they were either irrelevant (how many drunk wrestling stories do people want to hear?), confidential (as in ongoing criminal investigations or prosecutions), and horrific (the gruesome and heartbreaking details of some of things I saw and did).

From there, my formative work experiences have always involved a great deal of confidentiality, either in the terms of cleared work (I'm sorry, I could tell you about that but then I would have to kill you), or personnel confidentiality (no, I really should not tell you about the worker I fired because they were wandering around the office drunk and naked over the weekend), or business confidential.

Outside of the work, I grew up in a big family in a small town where everyone knew everyone else's business and it always kind of irritated me, so I learned to just simply not participate.

Then, there is a huge amount of power and wisdom available in a simple act - when you are in a crowd, listen, listen, listen, and keep listening. People tell the most astounding stories - if you are just paying attention. So, when I am in social groups I tend to just listen - a lot.

So, when it comes to the end of the line, I suspect I will have continued to do far more than I have ever said even with blogging and participating in online social media and being a pretty voracious e-mail author.

Photography: Rod in Hot Tub

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Monday, September 14, 2009

Question Number Three

I had decided to call today the first official day of fall in this part of California. We had an unseasonably early rain storm last night and so when I awoke this morning it felt like fall. That feeling lingered through the day. Work was productive but both low energy and low key. The evening was nice, a hearty baked potato soup and a sandwich, then a lazy evening playing on the computer and listening to music, followed by good conversation with T.R. Let me dive right into Question Number Three:

If life is so short, why do we do so many things we don’t like and like so many things we don’t do?

Personally speaking, I don’t do many things I don’t like. It was a long journey to get the point where I can say that and it is a journey that I am still on. In the early nineties I was totally burnt out on many things and fortune conspired to give me an opportunity to take a rambling road trip of multiple destinations and multiple months and in that trip to contemplate, well, pretty much everything. Out of that trip came three simple decisions that have been guideposts for the rest of my life. One of those decisions was this – I would never again do anything I didn’t want to do. I’ve abided by that to a great extent. The few times I have not, I have regretted it.

Now, the second part of the question is a little tougher. For me the answer is this – there are only so many hours in a day, so many days in a week, so many weeks in a month and so many months in a year. The spirit may be willing and unlimited, but the world is limited, limited in resources, limited in time. As Ovid said – “Tempus Edax Rerum” – time devours all things. The limitations I feel are largely structural and mechanical limitations. For example, I may want to go to Las Vegas – but it takes a certain amount of time and consumes a certain amount of resources to do so, so I lay that up against my other choices, which are often equal in value to me, and I choose to do those things that bring me more happiness within the constraints of my resources.

Also, I will take a moment to disagree with the entire premise of this question – that life is short. As a matter of faith I believe that we are each possessed with an immortal soul that passes through this incredible journey for eternity. We have all the time in the universe. The experience of life is specific and local, but that life occurs within the framework of the quantum universe where all manner of strange and mysterious things can and do occur. I may not make it to Las Vegas because of the specific and local objects and events. But, in the big scope of things, that really doesn’t matter – I am sure that I will go out and have an equally wondrous time. The mystery and the wonder of the universe are everywhere. Everywhere.

Sunday, September 13, 2009

Question Number Two

Let me write a bit about the day before I slip into the question. I am sitting in the living room watching the VMA awards on MTV and the heavy sound of a California Rain is filling the air. I am not sure how long the rain is going to last, but I love the sound of it. It was mostly a lazy and easy day. I had lunch with Tom at L & L Hawaiian BBQ in Campbell, then drifted a bit doing some incidental shopping. I followed that with a quiet afternoon at home and a quick bite of dinner. I had an egg white scramble with sliced tomato over at Holder’s. It was good and I was sincerely tempted by the chocolate cake in the display case, but that would have defeated the purpose of the egg white omelet. A quiet evening at home, some time online, a conversation with my dear T.R., then a second wind when the rain started to fall, so I thought I would write for a spell.

Question Number Two: Which Is Worse, Failing Or Never Trying?

Oh no question there at all for me. Never trying is far worse. Kipling, in his iconic poem “If” says:

“If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same…”

That pretty much sums it up for my point of view as well. Failure and success are two sides of the same coin and the coin is “trying”. Be engaged. Take risks. Succeed. Fail. Know the twin imposters and know their value. But always try. Always give it your best effort, whatever that effort might be. I have failed in the past and I have succeeded in the past and both of them, well, they simply are what they are. I am sure that in the future I will fail again – and again – and again. Hopefully, each time, I will simply get up and try again.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Question Number One

I came across a link the other day that was to a web site that listed “50 Questions That Will Free Your Mind”. I have no idea if they actually will free your mind, but I thought that I would work my way through the entire list as a set of writing prompts. This is Question Number One:

1. How old would you be if you didn’t know how old you are?

I am forty-nine years old. If I did not know how old I was I would suspect I was in my late thirties or early forties. I had a wealth of experience – thirty one years since I was eighteen – and I feel that wealth of experience. I feel it in the sense that I have perspective on things. I feel it in the sense that I know the value of things (their true value in the greater cosmological and philosophical sense). I think that, without knowing my age, I would still have the sense of my age.

I had an experience late last year that was revelatory. I was talking with a friend of mine and we were discussing retirement. At the time, I had roughly twenty years until retirement (nineteen now, if I retire at my approved social security age). I sat there and thought about the journey of the last twenty years and I was rocked back on my heels thinking that I had – twenty more years ahead of me. I thought about all of the physical journeys I had taken, all of the psychological journeys, all of the emotional journeys, and I thought that I get to do all of that over again. It will be different events, different incidents and accidents, but it will be in substance another twenty year journey. That is pretty awe inspiring I think. At least it awoke in me a sense of awe.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Sharing: Henry Miller Quote

"The aim of life is to live, and to live means to be aware, joyously, drunkenly, serenely, divinely aware." -Henry Miller

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Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Poetry: Lost Minutes

There is a place off 11th Street
Downtown a little cul-de-sac without
A proper name and without a proper name well
It's not really there unless you
Take the time to look for it and time
Curls up there all those minutes where
We are paused awaiting other minutes
Waiting for the bus, waiting for the
Light to turn green, waiting for the
Waitress to bring us our pancakes, waiting
For the bored barrista to wrestle the steamer
Into submission, waiting for the dentist to find us, waiting
For the cop to turn off behind us, waiting
Well all those minutes waiting
They curl up there, in that cul-de-sac
off 11th street, downtown minutes
I swing by every now and then, gather
Them up, slip them into my pocket, program
Them into my Blackberry, stash
A few in the glove box of the old
Cadillac, hide some under the sofa cushions, they
Come in handy, all those lost minutes, though
I confess I mostly spend them to slow
The tamaleros down, so I can skip
Cooking and cleaning and instead, sit
On the porch with my fresh tamales and Jarrito's manadarin orange, those
Lost minutes seem to enjoy that, almost
As much as I do

Poetry: The Barest Recital

It is the barest recital of incidents
Little more that a list of events
Interwoven with a description of accidents
It is the narrative of a life writ small
Take the grandest sweep of passion
Take the profoundest kiss of the mysterious
Take the dazzling omniscient perspective
Reduce it down to a simple formula
One short line for each item of significance
It is the barest recital of incidents
But in the white spaces between the lines
It is a minimalist tapestry of power and glory

Poetry: Midnight Metronome

She would sit at the table her brow furrowed three fingers
Sliding back and forth the metronomic caress of intellect
In the silence of the late evening I could hear the rasp of her
Fingerprints on her forehead a soft wisp-wisp-wisp
I imagined she was massaging law school into her skin
I would make myself as small as I could drawing
On a piece of white paper with a blue graphite pencil
The skritch-skritch-skritch of the pencil counter-tempo with
That soft wisp-wisp-wisp of her fingerprints slowly wearing off
Some nights to amuse myself I would riff off her intellectual absorption
Filling the silence with wisp-skritch-skritch-wisp-skritch-wisp-skritch-skritch
I was never able to successfully reconcile the wisp and the skritch as
Law school split her in half one half the fierce intellect the other
Half that willowy brown-skinned woman who slept naked on her
Waterbed with the heat turned to a low boil even in August so that
Her skin burned when I touched it and so her fingerprints melted off
And she became someone I loved but simply did not know
In sweet irony I sometimes catch myself softly rubbing
Counter-tempo on the midnight metronome wisp-wisp-wisp

Poetry: Haiku - Crows

Harsh and brilliant sun
Burning through morning fog
Crows wearing sunglasses
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Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Photos: Five From The Weekend

I just updated my Flickr with a set of five incidental photos from the weekend. I have more to come, but these are the ones I uploaded tonight. Enjoy!

Daily Life: Summers End Approaching

Well, I had an excellent Labor Day weekend. The weather was beautiful and I spent the weekend focusing on being in the moment as best I could. All in all it was a pretty successful effort.

Saturday I went up to the Highland Games in Pleasanton, CA. I love that festival. It is definitely one of my favorites. In a quick summary:

I had breakfast. I listened to Isla St. Claire. I went to the opening ceremonies (the USMC Band and the 1st Scots Regiment band). I listened to the Browne Sisters and George Cavanaugh. I listened to Wicked Tinkers. I listened to 1916. I listened to Tempest. I snacked. I wandered. I snacked some more. I saw the Birds of Prey exhibit. I looked at all the beautiful Morgans. I watched the sheep dog trials. I stared at the Highland cows. (Cute little buggers). I took a lot of photographs. I visited with Pierre and Helen and Tony.

Sunday, I slept in until seven AM! That is late for me, being an early riser. I had a cup of coffee. I twittered. I googled. I went to the San Jose Tapestry Arts festival. I had lunch at The Loft downtown. I wandered home. I read. I watched TV. I had a great conversion with my beloved T.R.

Monday was a hugely lazy day. I ran a few incidental errands. I had dinner with Tony. Other than that, I spent most of the day just reading, listening to music (I was on an opera kick Monday), and napping. I am getting quite good at napping. It is a skill.

Today at work was relatively quiet (I kind of expected that with it being a short week). I weaved through the day, stopped for sushi on the way home. For there, I had some Sheer Bliss Dark Chocolate Ice Cream and watched "Warehouse 13" and "Ghosthunters" on the DVR. (Ghosthunters is running as I type this.)

Life is at it's best when it is simple, uncomplicated, and enjoyable. Those three words would describe the weekend in a nutshell. I am working a short week this week, all of three days - I had Monday off (Labor Day) and I have Friday off (regular 9/80 off). T.R. is traveling, so we are going to weave our way in and out of talking as the week unfolds, but I am confident we'll be able to find the time.

All told, it has been a great couple of days and I am looking forward to the last few weeks of summer. It has been a great, externally focused, summer.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Poetry: Chain Haiku - The River

Little White River
is slicing through Grass Mountain
tumbling and sandy

As a child we swam
in those warm shallow waters
beneath cottonwoods

All of my cousins
in our gym trunks and blue jeans
like slick brown otters

Lanky teenagers
we played at life and love
next to the river

Years later a cop
would park on the bridge above
mourning for strangers

Memories tumble
in that whispering river
that graced my youth

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Daily Life: Killing Bugs

Overheard today in the office:

"There is a little bug that keeps bothering me. When I try to kill it, it disappears."


"Well. If you tried to kill me I'd disappear too."
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