Monthly Archives: April, 2018

Addicted to Writing

For the majority of my life I have said that I enjoyed writing.

 

I was afforded the opportunity to write, at times prolifically, during my career at SIU.    Prior to SIU I enjoyed writing, first for school and university writing assignments and during that time some church related, scribe, endeavors.

My friend, Margo, who is a prolific writer and who has published several books, inspired me when we visited her and Jeff, in Nice, France, in 2014.  I witnessed her dedication to her craft and her proficiency in the discipline…and I returned home to begin writing several times per week…and now almost daily.

Writing is cathartic for me and the days when I do not engage in the activity…something is missing.

Many have asked me if others enjoy my work…and I answer, usually, that I do not know…but I enjoy it immensely!

I was reading the candid thoughts of a university leader, yesterday, and was amazed at his forthrightness.  It is not important whether or not I agreed with everything that he said but it was refreshing to read the thoughts of a leader, of some position, that was not afraid to speak his ‘truth’ as he saw it.

 

I am a believer that nothing gets done in leadership if the leader is not willing to tell those that he, or she, wants to follow them, their honest and real assessment of situations and needs and who can explain a vision to move forward for the group or organization.

I had the privilege of interacting and working closely with several university leaders during my 32 year career at Southern Illinois University.  Those that spoke to me as an equal and who respected my intelligence…were ‘golden’ in my opinion.

Those leaders who addressed me in with pithy obfuscations and patent untruths…offended my dignity…and I told them so.

All too often faux leaders work to separate the people, that they are charged to lead, into groups and subsequently label them, accordingly, as to their importance to them.

These leaders, sometimes creatively and other times with a blunderbuss, attempt to placate the groups that they deem nonessential with simplistic stories and fables that are neither true or honest and that are an offense to those that are listening to them.

I watched the conclusion of the popular television series, Homeland, last evening, the female actor that was portraying the president of the United States gave…what I would call one of the most insightful assessments of the current state of our nation.

She mentioned that democracies do not die with a bang…but with a whimper.  She spoke of the extreme divisions that our country is beset by…both racial and political and religious and ethnic.

I was listening to NPR this afternoon and the speaker mentioned that race has been proven, scientifically, to be irrelevant to the human condition.  In other words race or skin color has little to no relevance to any separation in human beings.

We are all members of the same human family.

‘We are all in the same boat in a stormy sea, and we owe each other a terrible loyalty.’   G.K. Chesterton

 

We not only are alike and have a functioning brain that can assess truth from lies….we also have a inherent desire to be engaged in helping to find solutions to the terrible divisions that exist in our nation and our world.

Leaders who engage us as intelligent and thinking human beings will find that they have an army of willing soldiers who have just been waiting for someone to ask…their opinion.

Those who choose to lie, obviously, to us will find their tenure marked my manic rants and chaos surrounding them.

 

Life Dreams

Please enjoy another great Blog from my son Jonathon Brooks.

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Yesterday a friend of mine asked me about my life goals. I feel like my life is complete and I’m content with the way things are. So when she asked me the question I didn’t have much of an answer. However, now I think I’ll write about ten things that I’d like to experience in my lifetime. These could be called life dreams. Perhaps I’ll chase some of them and perhaps some of them will chase me. Here I go.

10. I’d like to be paid for my writing. A five dollar check for a short story sold would be like solid gold to me. I’ve been published before but I’ve yet to be paid for my work. It would be highly cool to go from an amateur writer to professional.

9. I’d like to read 2,000 books. I’m currently at 556 read. After one book is finished I immediately…

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Who Is My Neighbor?

Have you ever stopped to consider why the human family is so tribal and clannish?

This insular feeling not only applies to closed groups of people but also to; churches and governments and countries.

I have known people who are determined and assured that if you are not a member of their particular church or faith group…that you are lost and the God is not particularly interested in you.

So, the Creator of the human family…only created a few examples that were not rejects?

The ultimate and omnipotent master of all time and space…could not get it right in his human creation…and thus only ‘calls’ certain people…and the rest can forget any hope of redemption?

Now, this division is not only inherent in many christian denominations and groups but also is often thought to be truth by, inclusive christians, who include all of their christian brothers and sisters…but not those muslims…or jews…or hindus…or buddhists.

Of late, our government has chosen to align itself with nationalism or ‘american first’ policies and exclaim that we are going to take care of americans before we reach out to other countries.

‘James Shaw Jr., the hero of the April 22 Waffle House shooting, has launched a campaign on a crowdfunding site to raise money for the victims of the deadly attack in a Nashville suburb.’     ABC News

Mr. Shaw grabbed the extremely hot barrel of an AR-15 from a shooter, severely burning his hands, and saving many lives.

‘The 29-year old AT&T worker and father of a 4-year old girl recounted to ABC News how he hid behind a door near the Waffle House’s bathroom as he eyed the alleged suspect,, Travis Reinking, who was reloading his weapon.’

‘That’s when Shaw said he sprang into action.  He wrestled the shooter’s AR-15 rifle away from him, throwing it over a counter and forcing the man to flee.’   ABC News

As of yet…our president has not acknowledged Mr. Shaw’s act of heroism.

Mr. Shaw is an African American.

Elder, Jim Calloway, spoke this morning in our church service.  He gave remarks on his experiences with Marion Medical Mission in digging wells in Malawi in Africa.  Jim noted that the people of Malawi were so friendly and inviting and socially aware of the challenges of their country.

Jim spoke of the dignity of those that he met and interacted with during his Mission Trips to Africa.  He went on to speak of his reconciliation of thought regarding traveling to a far away land to help impoverished people when there are homeless and poverty stricken people in our community.  He said that when he spoke of his conundrum to another member of our church…the member asked him, ‘what does it matter who you help?’

‘When in Africa, volunteers are paired up and sent out to the most remote villages with a member of our African staff.  The off-road, four drive trucks are loaded with parts to complete the wells.  Many of the wells are past the point of truck allowance; volunteers must then walk the remaining distance to a well site.  Once they arrive, a member of our African staff works to install the pump as the volunteers talk with villagers and record data for the well.’   Marion Medical Mission

When, many, of our current political leaders tell us that they believe that America First is the right philosophy…ask them what American that they see outside their windows and at their churches and in their social groups and member of their friends and family?

 

 

 

 

The Southern Illinois University Great Cardboard Boat Regatta

IMG_9849‘The Great Cardboard Boat Regatta returns to Campus Lake this spring with SIU holding a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the grand opening of Becker Pavilion on April 28.’

‘The boat regatta is a race where adults and children make life-sized boats out of cardboard and sail them on campus lake.’   Daily Egyptian

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‘The 45th annual Great Cardboard Boat Regatta is returning to Campus Lake at Southern Illinois University Carbondale for 2018.’

‘The regatta originated at SIU in 1974 as a freshman art and design class project for the late Richard Archer’s classes.  It went on to become an annual event, replicated all around the world and viewed by an estimated half-millions plus visitors.’   Daily Egyptian

IMG_9845Today is a big day on the Campus of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale.  The Annual Cardboard Boat Regatta has retuned to Campus Lake, after the work that was accomplished to remove toxic algae by, first draining the Lake, and then dredging it from the shore and lake bottom.

Campus Lake is a senic area on the campus of SIU that is frequented by many walkers and outdoor enthusiast who utilize the walking path that encircles the Lake.

There are many diverse examples of wildlife, including: birds and turtles and deer and ducks.

 

 

SIU Carbondale is noted among universities throughout the country for it’s natural setting and environment.  There are two rustic woods on Campus…replete with wildlife.

IMG_9846SIU is truly a unique and special institution of higher education.

Former University President Delyte Morris had trees shipped to SIU from all over the world to enable our students to have a a resplendent natural laboratory in which to learn.

 

 

Students who attend our school are recipients of, somewhat, of a removal from the the frenetic hustle and bustle that has become an ever present part of our lives.

At SIU they have a welcoming environment of nature that calms the mind and focuses the emotions to facilitate immersion in their chosen discipline.

And…it is fun to be a part of Southern Illinois University at Carbondale!

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Note: Boat Regatta Photos are courtesy of SIU and Elizabeth Cheek.

 

The Journey

I traveled, recently, with several people that are as old as me and many who were older and some much younger.

 

 

One gentleman spoke of his career in the financial services industry and how he had to travel across the country for his job and the stresses that ensued from his position’s high demands.

He went on to mention that upon his retirement he thought he would take some additional course work in his career field but that his wife had admonished him that he should take university courses that would lead to a college degree.  So, this is what he was doing and even on the Caribbean Cruise, utilizing the ship’s, what he called ‘spotty’ internet, to facilitate his studies.

He had cycled in France and enjoyed the experience very much.

He had a Jaguar that he enjoyed driving.

 

 

Lizbe, was from South Africa and her husband was from Romania.  They worked with Park West Gallery and travelled around the world, on Cruise Ships, Auctioning Fine Art.

One dinner, on the cruise, we sat by two women from South Carolina…and one was an enthusiastic sports fan.  When asked about her team she became loud enough for all to hear as she expounded on their merits and the opposing teams…demerits.

Another woman that was sitting nearby said that she and her husband had cruised 29 times…and I, meekly, mentioned that we had cruised a handful of times in comparison to them.

We had dinner, the last night of the cruise, with a group of people where when everyone was seated the lights were turned down low and a multi-media video presentation began on the plate in front of you.  The Petit Chef began by boating up to your plate from the river, that had been the table, and exiting the boat to harpoon first one lobster and then another…and then to subsequently drag the, captured creatures, to your plate.  When the lights were raised…your lobster entree was in front of you.

We laughed heartily at the antics of the Petit Chef and his herculean work in preparing each of our courses.

At the shop in Bonaire where we purchased a hat for Mary Jane.  The kind lady that sold it to us was inquisitive as to what it was like to cruise and did the ship bob up and down a lot.

Being on a cruise is a bit like being a member of the human family on our beloved planet, earth.  We are so diverse and yet so much alike.

 

 

A smile almost always begets a smile.

Kindness and concern for another human being…causes kindness and concern to return to you.

Listening and listening and listening…and absorbing what you are hearing is a panacea to the person who is speaking to you.  Often when you hear how much a person is liked and respected by others…it is because that person is a good listener.

I have made it a practice, for many years, to mention a strength of each person that I encounter…to them.  I always mention something that I truly mean and that has impressed me about the person that I am speaking with.

We are spiritual beings in earthly bodies.

 

 

‘We are all just walking each other home.’   Ram Dass

 

Bill Cosby

I was a fan of the television show, I Spy, since it’s beginning on NBC in 1965.  The character of Alexander ‘Scotty’ Scott, portrayed by Bill Cosby, was a cool character and Cosby played him to perfection.  ‘Their work involved chasing villains, spies, and beautiful women.’   Wikipedia

There were few African Americans in leading roles and Cosby’s expertise in acting was a role model for many, including me…and I am not African American.

I listened to his comedy, vinyl records, and his portrayal of Noah talking to God…was priceless.

I purchased his books on Fatherhood…and I read them.

The Cosby Show was the most beautiful example of an upper middle class African American family…and it was number one.  It illustrated so clearly that the stereotypical roles that had been assigned to the African American Community were so false and demeaning and just plain stupidity that was fostered from learned bias.

Bill Cosby made Jello sound delicious!

His comedy was void of profanity and it was tremendously funny.

These facts of his performance career can not be changed…but hidden beneath them was a sexual predator and a serial rapist who used his good name and dignified position and power and influence to permanently mark and, often, destroy the lives of women who had nothing but confidence in him.

When I first heard the accusations against him…I had to sit with the information for days…thinking about how this could possibly be the same man that I had admired since my childhood.

The cascading fall of one of my heroes and role models…took sometime to absorb.

But, the unmitigated suffering that he caused to at least 60 women…is a wrong that can not be measured…and today justice was…finally served.

I applaud the women that came forward and faced their attacker…after so many years.

Their courage is inspiring and uplifting and to be emulated.

I think that we must separate the acting that exemplified a positive role model for not only the African American Community…but for us all…from the hidden real man that hurt so many women…and who, until recently, were treated as less than human.

I heard a newscaster remark today that Mr. Cosby walked, haltingly and relying on both the strong arm of his spokesman and a cane, into the courtroom…but after the verdict he exited much more quickly and without the aid of the cane.

Until today…we have been the victim…of an excellent actor.

 

The Unparalleled Beauty and Value of SIU

Although I have been retired from Southern Illinois University for the past 7 years and four months…I think about my University…daily.

My career at SIU opened up the infinite possibilities of life to me and the kaleidoscope of beauty that is the diversity of the human family.

IMG_9775IMG_9756SIU-Carbondale is the Flagship Campus of the Southern Illinois University System and the historical meaning of that fact can not be lost for political expediency.

The loss of the ‘Second Jewel in the Crown’ of higher education in Illinois should not come at the behest of poor management and state government that has abdicated it’s responsibility to the people of Illinois.

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Former University President, Delyte Morris began, as an outgrowth of the tremendous expansion of SIU-Carbondale, a satellite campus in Edwardsville, Illinois.  IMG_9752

SIU-C is a Carnegie II institution with a plethora of PhD programs.

When we compare SIU Edwardsville with SIU Carbondale…it is similar to comparing apples and oranges.

The infrastructure, both academically and physically, is at the Flagship Campus…SIU-C.

The Vision of Southern Illinois University was birthed in Carbondale, Illinois…almost 150 years ago at Southern Illinois Normal University.

The strength of our academic programs and the unparalleled dedication of the faculty and staff and students of our great school can not be obfuscated by the blindness of past leaders.

To dismantle the Southern Illinois University System is to destroy the core of who we are and our strength going forward.

The Morris dream of having a major University in the middle of the cornfields and coal mines of deep Southern Illinois is a majestic one and an inspiration and a loadstone among higher education institutions.

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‘Loving Vincent’

‘The life and controversial death of Vincent van Gogh told by his paintings and by the characters that inhabit them.  The intrigue unfolds through interviews with the characters closest to Vincent and though dramatic reconstructions of the events leading up to his death.  Loving Vincent features 120 of Vincent van Gogh’s greatest paintings.  The plot, drawn from the 800 letters written by the painter himself, leads us to the significant people and events in the time prior to his unexpected death.  Every shot is painted just as Vincent himself painted.’   Break Thru Films (2017)

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This was, simply, a beautiful film.  To see the great artist’s paintings, come alive, on screen was a delight!

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‘Vincent Willem van Gogh was a Dutch Post-impressionist painter who is among the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art, in just over a decade he created about 2,100 artworks, including around 860 oil paintings.’   Wikipedia

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For the past twenty years I have been an art admirer.  I am quite sure that my appreciation for Vincent van Gogh…started me on the road to enjoying fine art.

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The film centers around Vincent’s relationship with Dr. Gachet, who took care of Vincent during the last days of his life.  Vincent died of a gun shot wound to his abdomen, that he said was self inflicted, although people that encountered him during the last days of his life said that he was emotionally stable and of good humor.

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Vincent van Gogh suffered from mental illness.  At the end of his life he was said to have been despondent over the money that his brother, Theo, had spent on him and his pursuit of art.

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Vincent van Gogh sold one painting during his lifetime.  It was the Red Vineyard for 400 francs or about $2000 in 2017.

The portrait of Dr. Gachet sold for $82.5 million dollars.

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Family and Similarities and Tatoos

Saturday…when we made the historic decision to get, for some of us, our first tattoo…I noticed the huge grin on Aaron’s face.  When I asked him if he ever thought that the ‘old man’ would get a tattoo…he said, no.

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The discovery of my, long lost siblings, and the relationship that we have developed with, Brock and Marcy and their wonderful children, Jeb and Jaime, has enriched our lives.

I overheard Aaron telling his uncle Brock that he seemed like his brother.  One thing is for certain…when we talk of Uncle Brock and Aunt Marcy or their cousins, Jeb and Jaime, they light up and, immediately are in for whatever adventures are about to ensue.

What is so humorous about Saturday or as we like to refer to it ‘Tattoo Day’ is that Aaron and Jonathon have heard me say, on more than one occasion, that I would never get a tattoo.

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Suddenly, when the idea of obtaining an initial B for Brock and I…was proposed… and we were ‘in like Flynn!’

I have heard it said that happiness is a state of mind…but it is much easier to engage in that wonderful state when you are with your loved ones who care about you…just because that ‘you are you.’  When there is nothing to prove and no hidden agenda the reality of who you are can be exhibited without fear.

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When you take the political affiliations away and the religion or lack thereof and you remove all pantomime and mimicry of others…and decide to just be yourself and connect with others who are themselves…it is the epitome of love and friendship and family.

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So often we have a fear of revealing who we are.  Thus, we craft our thoughts and speech to fit the mold of a church or faith community.  Or, we are afraid to speak up when we see someone being treated unfairly.  We have a desire to be a part of the majority and often fear being the lone voice, even if it is of reason and sanity and social justice, and we do not want to be singled out.

Have you ever tried to please someone and conform to their requirements and later discovered that no matter how hard you worked at the program…you never made the grade?

It is exhausting trying to ‘ape’ or mimic or transform into someone that you are not.

 

The most interesting people are the genuine articles.  People who are comfortable in their own skin and who trust their judgments of right and wrong and who accept others for ‘the content of their character’ and not for the way that they dress or the education that they possess or the car that they drive or the home that they live in.

 

I am listening to former FBI Director’ James Comey’s book, A Higher Loyalty, Truth, Lies, and Leadership, and it has been an eye opener.

The former Director did things that I did not agree with when he was with the FBI.  However, as I listen to the audible account of his book, he was and is a leader who endeavored to make decisions on the facts and to follow the old adage, ‘to thine own-self be true.’

Mr. Comey succeeded in having enemies in both the Republican and Democratic Camps.  Some have said that he went to far in announcing his decision in the case of Secretary Clinton’s emails.

Other’s say that Comey made a terrible mis-judgment, and has lied about, our current President.

I see a leader who wanted to do the right thing without respect to political party.  The President uses him as his own personal piñata now that the former FBI Director is telling the truth of his meetings with him…but he praised him when he re-opened the email investigation just prior to election day.

You can’t have it both ways.

I spoke out in favor of a fired Chancellor of Southern Illinois University, twenty years ago, and had my job threatened and the jobs of my staff, the custodians.