Have you ever felt like Sisyphus of Greek mythology who, ‘was made to role a huge boulder up a steep hill. The maddening nature of the punishment was reserved for King Sisyphus due to his hubristic belief that his cleverness surpassed that of Zeus himself.’ Wikipedia
Much of the daily work of humanity is maintenance and up-keep. In the housekeeping industry we learned that no matter how immaculate we left the campus buildings…the next day they would require our services again!
The Grounds staff at SIUC does an outstanding job…but if they took a month off…the University would need several billy goats!
We purchased a new home in 2001 and I thought there goes our house maintenance worries for the foreseeable future! Now we do one maintenance project and two more are waiting in the wings!
Our democracy and our government and our way of life, in the United States, is likened to taking care of our school or our home or our church…it requires constant diligence and remodeling and maintenance to keep it in good working order.
Humans must fulfill the mandates of the Constitution and the Bill of Rights and the Declaration of Independence…they do not self-maintain! Though we faithfully quote the Constitution, that there are three equal branches of government…that does not happen magically…it requires blood and sweat and tears!
Everywhere you go you will see life among the ruins of peoples dreams and hopes and desires. To live a life that rises above the reality of entropy requires work and a serious dedication to striving for the good and better and best!
Many of us give up just before we are about to achieve a breakthrough!
‘When things go wrong, as they sometimes will’
‘when the road that you are trudging seems all uphill;’
‘when funds are low and debts are high,’
‘and you want to smile, but you sit and sigh;’
‘when care is pressing you down a bit,’
‘rest, if you must, but don’t you quit!
‘Life is queer with its twists and turns,’
‘As everyone of us sometimes learns,’
‘And many a fellow turns about’
‘When he might have won had he stuck it out.’
‘Don’t give up though the pace seems slow -‘
‘You may succeed with another blow.’
‘Often the goal is nearer than’
‘It seems to a faint and faltering man;’
”Often the struggler has given up’
‘When he might have captured the victor’s cup;’
‘And he learned too late when the night came down,’
‘How close he was to the golden crown.’
‘Success is failure turned inside out -‘
‘The silver tint in the clouds of doubt,’
‘And you never can tell how close you are,’
‘It might be near when it seems afar;’
‘So stick to the fight when you are hardest hit -‘
‘It’s when things seem worst that you must not quit.’
Edgar A. Guest
I was watching the final episode of the limited television series on HBO, Years and Years, which traced the happenings in the Lyons’ family in the United Kingdom from the point of a nuclear bomb being detonated on a Chinese island until 2034. It is an excellent dramatic program looking at what might happen after such an awful event, in the near future, after the happening.
The grandmother of the family comments at a family event at the conclusion of the series that, paraphrasing her words, that this century had been a hard one….look what had happened in 12.000 days! She went on to reflect on her feelings on New Year’s Eve of 1999 and how she thought that we have made it…the west had done alright for its self…and then the clowns started rolling out!
Well, we are in our 20th year…when you count the year 2000. I remember sitting in my little home in Elkville, Illinois and watching ABC newscaster Peter Jennings ring in the new century.
Then there was Bush versus Gore and we had doubts as to the integrity of our presidential election?
Then came 9/11…and we saw planes piloted by madmen fly into both of the World Trade Center buildings in New York city as well as the Pentagon and the loss of life that we experienced on our soil was unprecedented!
We have been at war in Afghanistan since 2001 the longest war in or history!
‘United States military casualties in the in the War in Afghanistan. As of July 27, 2018, there have been 2,372 U.S. military deaths in the War in Afghanistan. 20,320 American service-members have also been wounded in action during the war.’ Wikipedia
The War in Iraq lasted from 2003 – 2009 with the re-involvement in 2014.
‘As of June 29, 2016 according to the U.S. Department of Defense casualty website, there were 4,240 total deaths (including both killed in action and non-hostile) and 31,952 wounded in action as a result of the Iraq War.’ Wikipedia
A junior Senator from Illinois, Barrack Obama, was elected president of the United States. Whether you liked him or not the election of the first African American to the presidency was unprecedented! During the eight years of his presidency there was not one scandal laid at his doorstep!
On Dr. Martin Luther King’s Birthday, in 2001 I was enjoying our limited internet functionality at my desk that was placed in a corner of our crowded living room. I was watching a clip from the movie Fargo and it stopped often to buffer! Suddenly I heard a knock on our door..and it was 11: P:M:…and there were two Jackson County Sheriff Deputies to tell me that my Step-father, Earl, had been rushed to Deaconess hospital in Evansville, Indiana after an apparent heart attack. I immediately telephoned my mom, who suffered from Alzheimers disease, and told her that we were on our way. Three days later Earl passed away and mom came to live with us in our four room house.
Two months after mom coming to live with us we moved to Carbondale in order to have enough room to keep her. The stress of having to sell two homes and negotiating the purchase of a new home in Carbondale while caring for my dear mom, who could not be left alone, was a bitter/sweet introduction to the new century!
We have a presidential election coming up next year…2020! It is universally agreed that the Russians and their leader, Vladimir Putin, actively interfered with our last presidential election and all 17 Intelligence Agencies assure us that Russia has every intention to do it again!
Mary Jane and I have been retired since the end of 2010 and February of 2011. Our time has been lovely in many ways…including much joyful travel and four trips to Europe. It has also been challenging with health concerns and the vagaries of getting older.
With the complete agreement of the intelligence experts as to Russia’s involvement and their success in influencing our presidential elections…Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell blocked a measure in the Senate to beef up our security at the ballot box for the up-coming elections?
President Trump told reporters in a joint news conference with Russian president Putin that although his head of Intelligence, Dan Coats, had told him that he believed that Russia was involved in interference in our presidential elections….that when we asked Putin…he assured him that he was not interfering and Trump added that his assertion was very powerful and strong! He went on to comment that he did not know why Russia would be involved.
Director Coats is being replaced by a Republican partisan firebrand that supports many if not all of the president’s conspiracy theories!
Our world is more uneasy and nervous and afraid that I have ever witnessed! For much of my life we spoke of Democrats and Republicans and Moderates and understood that each agreed on many fundamental principles of governing. I considered myself a Republican for many years! But now…it is ‘Thunder-dome!’
Nativism and xenophobia and prejudice and bias and misogyny…are either praised or at the least…no one who understands the wrong in these actions…has the political will…or the, ‘balls’ to speak out against evil!
When money and position and power and place is the be all and end all of existence on our planet…woe unto us! When politicians speak nationally and, in reality, are speaking to an audience of one, our government can equate itself to the last days of the Roman Empire!
In the fictional TV show, Years and Years, immigrants in the United Kingdom were, ‘Disappeared,’ into camps where they were left to die.
The nuclear bombing of he Chinese island was, according to the writers of the telecast, done by president Trump during his last day in office.
I wonder what our country will look like in 2034?
Photos of Years and Years courtesy of Google.
So, late Sunday night the Chicago Harley Davidson arrived in Beulah Heights in the little town of El Dorado. Billy Bump had been riding for over 300 miles between his mon and dad and his butt was sore and he was cold.
There was grandma Erskine at the door and Bema alongside her saying, ‘Is that Jane and Junior…where is little Billy at…I hope that he did not fall off of the motorcycle?’
After a few pleasantries, and a cold mug of milk, Billy’s grandma made him bed on the living room couch with Narky eyeing him from an upholstered chair that abutted the makeshift bed. Billy remembered the days when they visited grandma Erskine that she called her little rat terrier, Nugett, but suddenly he had been transformed into Narky!
Photo by Gilberto Reyes on Pexels.com
Now Narky was a mean little shit! He did not like Billy one…
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Do you ever feel not good enough? Are the times that you are certain that you are not up to the task? Have you ever arrived at a crossroads in your life and you know that you have forgotten the map and the GPS?
I recall, vividly, the many times that I have been called on to speak publicly. Not only did I not feel up to the task I was certain that I would be an abject failure! Now this was not because that I had not prepared. In fact I have never spoken publicly that I did not prepare ad nauseum. Yet, the fear of public speaking, which is said to be a greater fear that people have…than death, gripped my soul and produced not only butterflies in my stomach but butterflies with the flu!
Yet after the first few words a strange calmness takes over my wretched being. All of a sudden I feel that I have prepared and this is the big show….and that I am doing the best that I know how…and I know that God will assist me.
In another life I preached or assisted in 25 – 30 funerals. Talk about preparation…I read the Biblical texts so many times that I probably could have quoted them without the aid of the Bible. I ran through the scriptures in my mind and I practiced my delivery. Yet when the moment came to utter the words…I thought that I might be dieing!
Life is much like public speaking. We are summoned to do many things that are out of our comfort zone and our expertise to that date. When I was hired as a Building Service Worker I at Southern Illinois University in Carbondale my wife told me that God had told her that there would be a day that I would be in charge of the department. As Sara did when the angel told her that she would bear a son at her advance age…I laughed! My carer goals at the time of my hiring were to be a professional BSWI…and to perhaps attain the position of Building Custodian which was a crew leader. To intimate that any further level of responsibility would be bestowed on me was incredible in my mind and the subject of fairy tales!
When I became the assistant superintendent of Building Services, over 30 years ago…I was 29 years old and feared that I was not qualified for the massive level of responsibility that had been given to me. But, I was confident in how I wanted my colleagues to be treated. I had a bedrock understanding that I wanted to be different that what I had witnessed in my experiences interacting with managers and administrators and leaders of organizations. I was confident in my plan to treat others as I wanted to be treated! I wanted those who worked with me to be comfortable and secure and happy! I desired that they understood that I was not going to hurt them but rather that I was going to help them advance in their carers and to have a satisfying experience working for SIUC.
I had unwavering faith that a successful manager leads by being a member of the team that cares about every member. I understood that I had always wanted a boss that took an interest in me and for whom I was not more that a face in the crowd!
Once you have prepared and know that you are working hard to succeed…take hold of what God has given you to do!
Calm confidence is not arrogant or self important but rather an understanding that presidents of the United States and chancellors of Universities and ministers with thousands in the congregations…all learn on the job!
Billy Bump loved Mrs. Bramlet! His Speech teacher had an active interest in him since the day that he signed up for her class. Mrs. Bramlet was from Tennessee and she love to regale the class with stories of her youth! She often told the story of her first day at college where the advisor, snidely, commented the he had never seen a student from Tennessee with shoes on her feet. Betty’s retort was that she explained the the shoes that she was wearing was the first pair of summer shoes that she had ever worn. She went on to explain that the shoes were for the purpose of making a good first impression!
Betty was a large woman with a personality that far eclipsed her physical size. She was a kind person and she was extremely supportive of Billy! She loved his speeches…especially his impromptu ones. Billy was the…
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As I sat in our church service this morning I reflected on the fact that we are more alike than we are different. Politicians and media and, sadly, churches endeavor to separate the members of the human family. We all love our children…we all seek love and acceptance…and we are all mortal and have a limited engagement on this planet!
I have witnessed faith communities that portray their god as hating all of the same people that they hate. All to often religious doctrine and dogma is claustrophobic and suffocating! We are taught that God likes people that are like us! We are taught that God approves of people that our minister approves of! We are taught that if you do not understand the mystical mysteries of Jesus Christ…that you are dammed to the fires of Hell!
Is this hypothesis really true? Did the Jewish Jesus really have in mind as his select followers. only, people from the Bible Belt?
When Jesus said, ‘Come unto me, all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ that he was speaking, exclusively, of white anglo saxon people?
Every time that I observe people I notice that they are a whole lot like me. We have many of the same struggles and challenges and joys!
During my career at the Southern Illinois University at Carbondale I was struck with the similarities between myself and the international students that I was around and worked with. I saw how much they loved their families and their God and desired a better life for their children!
I witnessed the the perfect paradigm for peaceful living on the Earth in recognizing the perfect value of all of the members of the human family.
‘Your greatness is not what you have but what you give.’ Don’t Forget to Breath
I have witnessed the ugliness of racism and the marginalization of bias and the hatred of xenophobia!
To regularly and systematically repudiate and denegrate and demean the homes and towns and cities and countries of African Americans or Africans is is a shanda and a shame and a rebuke to the principles on which our country was founded!
I have heard the backroom sneers and low comments regarding African Americans. I have witnessed prejudice towards a dignified and proud people and it sickened me! I have watched abject ignorance touted as wisdom and intelligence and God’s law…when it was putrid and vile and disgusting and the furthest possible from the principles of Christ!
When will political leaders stand up and cry out against the vile cynicism and blatant racism of their colleague and stand on the principle of representing the people that sent them to Washington D.C…..rather than the principle of political expediency and the winning of the next election?
Premier Kruscheve of The Soviet Union told America that he would capture us without firing a shot! We are well on the way, and perhaps are already there, when our president jokes and laughs with his buddy Putin and tells him to not interfere with the elections of the U.S…..while Vladimir Putin….laughs!
Note: Photos of Putin are courtesy of Google.
School had began, once again, in the little town of El Dorado, Illinois. During the last days of August and the first few of September the classrooms were hot and the days dragged by as if they were suspended in slow motion. Tommy was especially sleepy and required nudging several times per day. Daryl had began the third grade in the Southern Illinois town and he had a distinct English accent. He was an outgoing friendly person with a razor sharp brain and the ability to communicate his ideas at a level that Billy Bump had not witnessed for his age group.
Another friendly classmate was Jeff who’s parents owned a hardware store in town. He walked up to Billy one day and announced that he wanted to be friends. Billy had not experienced such an open and genuine desire to be friends on a regular basis, was very pleased…
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As I look back over my career of over 32 years at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale I can say without reservation that I enjoyed almost every day of my time there.
When I began in October of 1978 I was hired under the job title of Building Service Worker I…which is a janitor. I immediately doubled my pay and for the first time in my working life I had benefits. It was difficult for me to get my mind around the newfound fact that if I became ill that I could take a paid sick day! Until I took one…I thought that the University might be pulling my leg.
I was so happy to discover that my supervisor and my foreman were both nice people and that if I did my work they were very pleased. In fact the leadership of Building Services were for the most part easy to work for and they reflected the calm and considerate demeanor of their superintendent, George O’Hara, who I never saw loose his temper or even display a hint of anger.
To Mr. O’Hara I was Jay Bradley and I thought that was just fine. Early in my service to SIUC I began to be encouraged by the night supervisor, Harold Young, and many of the foreman to take the Building Custodian exam to attempt to have my name on the test register for temporary upgrade purposes as well as to be in line for future promotions.
I recall never being nervous or apprehensive or in fear of being harassed by a overbearing supervisor. I accomplished my work and did not goof off and management praised my efforts and encouraged me to begin climbing the promotional ladder.
I experienced much of the same understanding leadership when I became a Building Custodian, which is a crew leader, in 1980. Although the supervisory work was demanding I understood that if I continued to work hard and treat my colleagues fairly and with genuine concern for them as human beings…I would have a satisfying experience as a member of the housekeeping team.
Later in the management portion of my career I found what it was like to be treated shabbily and to be made fun of and belittled for working hard…and I subsequently almost left the University. It was disheartening and disillusioning to be made the ‘goat’ or the butt of jokes or the victim of a hidden agenda that is not in the University’s handbook or a copy being made available for my education.
‘A sign you have a positive workplace culture is laughter. Just listen to how much laughter there is where you work. Laughter is a very good sign of positivity. You can work hard and still laugh and enjoy your workday more.’ Sam Glenn
An old saying that I heard a minister say 45 years ago is an excellent way to live your life in the workplace; ‘Be friendly but not familiar and be good but not gullible.’
The more honest and open and accessible that leadership and management are the more content and peaceful and joyful the staff will be that works with them.
I learned early in my management career that micromanaging is not my style. We all respond in a positive manner when we are allowed discretional flexibility in our operational procedures to accomplish the end goal that our supervisor has laid out for us.
Simply put…if you want your colleagues to conduct themselves as professionals…you must treat them as professionals! For instance; you may be a manager with many people that you are responsible for and you enter a building to find your Building Service Worker sitting in the hall and it is not break. Now the paramount question should be how many times have you observed this member of your staff working hard and often through their prescribed break periods? The question is do you want an automaton or do you want a skilled technician?
A manager or leader that is confident in their abilities and their vision for success subsequently treats all whom they encounter with a graciousness and civility that is contagious to the entire department!
We live in an anxious world. It seems that the loudest voices or the most theatrical performance by our politicians or religious leaders are the ones that we gravitate towards. All to often when we listen closely to what the person is saying there is no substance to their verbal salad!
Politicians, of both political parties, are adept at fiery rhetoric and sparking strong emotional responses from their listeners. But, when you look back on their speeches and attempt to find the ‘concrete’ proposals within them…you are left empty handed.
I grew up in the 1960’s. I watched Walter Cronkite on CBS Nightly News each evening, yes I enjoyed the news even as a youngster, and the program lasted fifteen minutes. The news was not flashy. The news was not a panel discussions of what the meaning of it was. The news was straightforward and succinct and the purpose of it was to not achieve high ratings on the Neilson Scale. The purpose of it was to inform the viewer.
I watched Robert Muller III testify before the House Judiciary Committee and the House Intelligence Committee. Director Muller was not flashy nor given to histrionics but rather presented a taciturn and sober presence and testimony before the two august bodies. Criticism ensued that he seemed to be ineffective or not dynamic or that he did not present the bombshell or revelation that would cause the citizenry of our country to rise up and demand that the House of Representative begin impeachment proceedings of the president.
It has been my experience of almost 62 years that life is not successfully lived by awaiting the next thrill or tickle down your spine. I watched a Netflix documentary entitled the Charisma of Adolf Hitler. Although I have read extensively regarding Hitler and watched numerous movies and documentaries concerning his life and the devastating destruction that he wrought on the world…I have never seen quite so interesting a piece on the charisma dynamic that existed between him and the people of Germany. The insightful study illustrated that charisma is a two party connection in that Hitler said the right things to touch the emotions and minds and hearts of the German populous!
To be a Christian is a daily walk attempting to follow Christ’s teachings. It is not about snappy music or becoming wealthy if you follow Jesus’ teachings. Christianity, certainly is not an elitist doctrine of faith! I have witnessed ministers manipulate their congregations to enrich themselves and their families. I have seen ministers who are control freaks! These wolves in sheep clothing will tell their congregations that God is speaking to them directly and that in turn the parishioners must listen to them since they are ‘God’s Man!’
The reality of a a life following Jesus is much more sedate and simple and satisfying. It is a life where the poor and the needy and the immigrant and the stranger is of paramount importance. It is a life of being a servant to all. It can be, dare I say it, a life of suffering and danger and deprivation in the pursuit of helping the poor among us.
Life brings us sunshine and storms. The quiet peace of faith and a reliance on the principles of truth… that can easily be determined if we will research the lies that we are being told and discover that the best arbiter of what is wrong and what is right is not someone in politics or religion or popular culture telling us what to think…but our own eyes and ears and brains and a secure belief that God will talk to all members of his creation…if we will simply listen.
‘So many books, so little time.’ Frank Zappa
‘A room without books is like a body without a soul.’ Marcus Tulles Cicero
‘Good friends, good books, and a sleepy conscience: this it the ideal life.’ Mark Twain
‘Fairy tales are more than true: not because they tell us that dragons exist, but because they tell us that dragons can be beaten.’ Neil Gaiman, Coraline
‘I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.’ Jorge Luis Borges
‘Never trust anyone who has not brought a book with them.’ Lemony Snicket, Horseradish
‘There is no friend as loyal as a book.’ Ernest Hemingway
‘What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it. That doesn’t happen much, though.’ J.D. Salinger, The Catcher in the Rye.
Jonathan and I were shopping at Honest Abe’s book shelves this morning at Morris Library. We found, to our great delight, two Phillip K. Dick novels and subsequently purchased them for fifty cents each. I have not done a hard count of the books that we own but I am certain that it runs in the hundreds!
I have loved books…all of my life! Through the vehicle of books you can travel to anywhere that the authors imagination will take you. This includes any country on the face to the earth and any planet in the cosmos! Books have introduced me to people and cultures and times and places that I had never dreamed of.
I read Across Five Aprils by Irene Hunt when I was in the sixth grade and I was transported to the time of the civil war. I read Sherlock Holmes and wanted to be the brilliant detective. Of course there was Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson or The Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad and the Call of the Wild by Jack London. Dracula by Bram Stoker and Frankenstein by Mary Shelly captivated my young mind!
Recently I have read; Siege: Trump Under Fire by Michael Wolff and the Muller Report as well as The Plot Against America by Phillip Roth and Leadership by Doris Kearns Goodwin.
Books have always caused me to feel secure and safe and surrounded by wisdom! I like the feel of books and the look of books and collecting books!
As a young man I began reading the Bible. I was mesmerized by both the Old and New Testaments! I so enjoy the Bible that I began collecting Bibles and have several today.
Life is insecure and iffy and a freight train…or a rainbow may be awaiting you around the next bend in the road! Books are solid and there for you in the both the good times and the bad! They do not vacillate or pander to popular interests or religious and political whims of the moment!
Books provide solace and a balm in a, sometimes, frightening world. The more that we read history and literature and philosophy and government and poetry and physics and the Bible…the more we understand God’s creation and our part in it!