Thursday, November 29, 2012
Chicago River into Lake Michigan, Chicago, IL
The voices of Zen philosophy reach back into human thought for over 6,000 years. Those voices don’t erode my present views, but enhance them, especially the meditative thoughts of our place in the universe. I like the view that our lives are like streams that become rivers moving with ever increasing pace and acquired knowledge as we grow and eventually merge into a universal sea of consciousness.
We are the gateway through which the path of our lives is charted. Our personal job description is to build our character that will determine how well we negotiate the path and transcend this mortal life. The only way to make sense of change is to believe that I can benefit from it and I can bring some good out of it by staying in the presence of the conscious creator of the universe. Neither joy nor stress is contained in things or situations in this life. But how our mind responds to them can result in one or the other. When you can keep your head about you when all around are losing theirs and remain positive in the face of adversity, then you have attained joy in life that will sustain you. Being accepting of my present circumstance, but always seeking growth and challenges in order to adapt to the new normal, is a river that will provide smoother sailing.
And we can never sail on the same river twice, for by then both the river and we have changed once again.
Monday, November 19, 2012
Early morning temperatures this Thanksgiving week hover around the freezing mark heralding the onset of winter. Free falling leaves have been spiraling down for weeks as the life sustaining sap is withdrawn back into the core of the trees. All of nature is bracing for the fallow season of freezing weather and cold north winds. And yet, as I gazed up into the naked branches of a clump birch this morning, there are still a handful of leaves that tenaciously cling to the branches. These spirits of the forest know that the race is won by those who strive in the face of adversity; those who spend themselves in a worthy cause; those who exert the greatest enthusiasm; those who know the triumph of high achievement and at least if they fail, know that if they have given life their best shot they will never be with those timid souls who will never know neither victory or defeat. They’re hanging in there and hanging on!
I love the quotation from Calvin Coolidge that I kept with me all through my professional business career. Our 30th president stated that “Nothing in the world can take the place of perseverance. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful men with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent”. It’s been said that skid row is full of talented, educated, intellectuals who lacked the prime asset of perseverance. Persistence is a great equalizer when it is applied with more grit and determination than your competitor or oppressor. Don’t give up when you have something left to give. Nothing is really finished until you quit trying. Jimmy Valvano said it best during his 1993 ESPY speech as he fought the good fight against cancer when he left us with the admonition, “Don’t give up…Don’t ever give up”!
Tuesday, November 13, 2012
I was casually driving in the climate controlled comfort of my car's leather cabin this morning while listening to a remastered version of The Beatles Abbey Road which I had downloaded onto the hard disc drive of the audio system. A mid-November cold front preceded by a cold rain riding a north wind was pushing its way into the Carolinas, reminding all who ventured out today that the holidays were once again knocking at our doorstep. Passing vehicles stirred rapid successions of mini-whirlwinds of leaf devils, like the dust devils that swirl over freshly plowed farm fields. They gathered in great bands and rapidly joined together in powerful wind gusts to race down the street and along banked gutters. The very high spirited among them raced onto the freeway, attempting to outrun the speeding vehicles in a scene reminiscent of the running of the bulls.
As I rolled past the edge of a local college campus, I caught the eye of a young man huddled on the street corner apparently waiting to cross over to his Spartan off campus apartment. He was wearing typical campus attire with a dark hoodie over blue jeans. He seemed isolated and a bit uneasy as the reality of a raw cold wind penetrated the exposed core of his body and the survival instinct of his psyche.
That brief glance shook me out of my complacency and the Beatles music whisked me away back to my simplistic roots of college days in the 1960’s. My father had died of cancer during my sophomore year and I had laid out during the fall semester to earn enough money to continue my education. I sold my customized Ford and eventually lived back at home to obtain a degree. I had worked as a construction laborer and welder on an industrial building expansion project. Just as we removed the immense north doors of the large building to reposition them onto the new expansion, a similar cold front hit the area with scattered sleet riding on north winds that stung your exposed face. We had to finish the job, so we worked out in the elements for twenty minutes and then sought shelter and warmth inside for twenty minutes until the building was secured. I made considerably less money on that job than I currently earn in retirement. But it was enough.
Those kinds of early experiences can define a life. The challenges became a crucible to harden my resilience and move ahead. I eventually also learned that I never stood alone as long as I asked my heavenly Father to stand with me. And here I am today, silently passing by another young man standing alone on the corner, full of promise and hope for the future as he shivers in the elements. I wish him all the best including the presence of his heavenly Father to sustain him, north winds to keep his attention focused and enough hard times to strengthen his resolve.