Author Archive: bjaybrooks

Speak For Yourself

It is another cloudy day as I watch my backyard pond. Currently no rain is falling…but it could any minute. I was in a meeting with our wonderful church music director, this morning, and I and the other four people in the group all agreed that Carlyn is not only a consummate professional…but she has a wonderful spirit…she is a gifted teacher…and inspirational to those whom she leads and mentors.

When I was the assistant superintendent of Building Services I often had to speak on behalf of the superintendent. This was an uncomfortable position for me and I was relieved to no longer have to be someone’s mouthpiece when I became the superintendent…some time later. When someone speaks or plans for me without asking my opinion…I wonder where they received their information. There is a liberty in saying what your true opinion is…even if there is no one in the room that agrees with you.

A derivation of the great author, George Orwell’s Newspeak, is a current political party that simply denies demonstrated reality in the herculean effort to curry favor with their titular leader. It is painful to watch! I always enjoyed speaking with my friend, Bart, who was nearly 90 at the time of a conversation that we were having. Bart told me that he had resigned a leadership position at church rather than be marginalized. I mentioned that although he had encouraged me to do the same…I wondered if I did not…still…have lessons to learn? He mentioned that my comment had merit…but that he had learned those lessons 70 years ago.

We all want to go along and get along. It is intrinsic to our human nature to desire to be a part of the group. We want to be agreeable…we want to be a valued member of the team. However, at critical times in life you must be willing and able to take a stand for what you believe…to say this much and no more… To speak your sincere convictions is a lonely proposition. The Lone Wolf…is alone for a reason… But, as the saying goes, ‘To thine own self be true.’

Is There Rental Space In Your Head?

It is a lovely partly cloudy day in Little Egypt. Many days in Southern Illinois…are overcast…with a light rain falling. The walking was easy on Campus today. The solitude of the Break…suited my mood. We are back from a week in Florida…for old folks. My primary enjoyment came from watching the ever changing horizons of the mysterious ocean and it’s endless waves. We experienced some lovely cuisine and the gulf shrimp is…as Ron says…to die for! MJ and Aaron played endless rounds of cards with Ron and Ira Kaye…and the sound of their laughter warmed my heart. It was a treat to get away after over a year of lock-down caused by the Pandemic. The freedom that being fully vaccinated affords is astounding. While at Miramar Beach we discussed how far back in our lives that we could remember. Some said Junior High while others said 6 or 7 years old….I said that I could recall events that transpired when I was 2 years old. I actually remember things that happened before I was 2…but I did not want to sound like I was bragging.

On our trip to Creal Springs, Illinois this past Saturday, my friend, Jeff, mentioned that he did not allow things that distressed him to take up residency in his head… There is some significant wisdom in this idea. How often have you found yourself allowing unpleasant people and disturbing events to enjoy large estates in your brain? The first thing when you wake up in the morning…they are there….the last thing you see at night is your dysfunctional neighbor walking their dog in your yard…and the dog making a massive poop in your azaleas. Or you awaken in the middle of the night and there is your naughty neighbor sitting on the side of your bed with a toothy smile and asking if you have been thinking about them…

As a child I knew that life was short. I soon found out that everyone had an opinion and a suggestion and their own prescription for how I should live my life. Many advisors are so busy engaging in directing the lives of others that they have little time to consider their own. I mentioned, in a recent blog, that the author, Joan Didion, said that certain faith communities seemed to have congregations that were seeking someone to tell them what they should do. Jeff recounted that it seemed to him that many folks were looking for someone to lead them. I once had a friend who admitted that she did not like to make her own decisions and wanted someone to instruct her as to what she should do.

Letting out large portions of grey matter… real estate… can result in unhappiness and confusion. The property manager of your thoughts and life direction may be running from pillar to post attempting to ascertain if it is the owners whishes that he is supposed to fulfill…or the many renters and those holding long term leases…in you head…

A Loss Of Talent

We arrived in Florida a few days earlier than we usually do. The weather was pleasant and somewhat cooler than usual. One day, last week it was chilly…my kind of temperatures. We journeyed to our regular spots…including the Donut Hole at 6:00 A:M:. Ron told us that to get a seat without waiting we would have to leave their condo, at Miramar Beach, at 5:45 A:M:. But we were like doubting Thomas of the Bible…and we would not believe until we saw for ourselves. So, we arrived at 10:00 A:M: and saw a line snaking outside and around the building. Thus we arose and we’re on our way at 5:45 the next morning and enjoyed almost an empty restaurant.

I was pondering how much talent that I lost when I was a manager/administrator when I failed to mentor young people and develop them before it was too late. In my large organization more than one young staff person left our department and I felt personally responsible for the departure. These were people that for whatever reason I had not realized had been marginalized by their peers and thus felt unnecessary to the organization or, perhaps, unwanted. These folks were not necessarily mad… or had a bone to pick…but rather moved on to other interests due to the apparent lack of a company vision that had them firmly affixed in it’s working matters. Often by the time that they were brought to my attention…they had already decided to go somewhere where they were needed and where their skill sets were appreciated.

As I watched the young folks that perform the herculean chore of taking the beach chairs and umbrellas from their storage shed and shoulder two of the heavy chairs on each shoulder and then trot out to the water to place the set-ups near the breaking waves…I considered that these intelligent and motivated young people had a clear vision of their place in the organization and were inspired as to their value to its success…

We in our churches bemoan how few young people come to us and even fewer stay. Perhaps we should examine how we can assure them of their importance to our faith communities and the value that they bring to us…

A Florida Respite

We have returned from a lovely week at Miramar Beach in Florida. My friends, Ron and Ira Kaye are such gracious hosts. I never tire of the majestic beauty of the ocean. The peace and serenity that it exudes is a balm for the soul. My friend, Jane, says in regard to photos of the Gulf, ‘I see God, eternity, grace, peace and love. What a wonderful God he is!’ I agree.

Sitting and watching the Gulf…for hours on end has taught me how little that I am and how big God is. There is a question that has offend been asked…if you retire from your career or resign a volunteer position…it is similar to putting your fist into a full pail of water and then withdrawing it to discover that there is no hole where your hand had been… So many of the worries and troubled sleepless nights that we spend are regarding self made concerns that have little or no relevance to our ongoing happiness. The beauty and simplicity of ocean waves are like the hands on God’s clock…

A Servant Leader

Leadership has intrigued me all of my life. Although I have worked with many leaders…it is as rare as hen’s teeth to find a servant leader. I mentioned to our Pastor, Kerry, that he was a servant leader. Many times a person who gets the opportunity to lead a group of people…seems to need a larger hat due the expansion of their head. We in the United States see servant leaders so seldom that we have almost forgotten what they look like.

Often the qualities of leadership and fidelity to truth are fungible to the grifters who hold leadership positions. Truth is treated as a situational commodity. As long as the truth does not affect the leaders bottom line…they attest to it…they cry…’Me Too!’ But, as soon as the factual truth does not comport with the popular lie…it is no longer worth protecting or standing with…if it affects the paycheck. We proclaim that if we had been in Nazi Germany we would have stood up to Hitler and placed our life on the line for the protection of our fellow human beings. When in the sunshine of our current time we see people who tell the truth…expunged…to make room for a leader who will lie…not for the sake of democracy or political party…but for political expediency.

‘The philosopher Diogenes was eating bread and lentils for supper. He was seen by the philosopher Aristippus who lived comfortably by flattering the king. Said Aristippus, ‘If you would learn to be subservient to the king you would not have to live on lentils.’ ‘Diogenes replied: ‘Learn to live on lentils and you will not have to be subservient to the king.’ -370 BC

‘We rise by lifting others.’ Robert Ingersoll

Embrace Who You Are — The Jazz Man

Cool and rainy today. MJ and I made a sojourn to Aldi’s this morning…to obtain some magnificent low prices. Our lost Gander was greeted today by a couple of his compatriots and they bawled at each other as if they had not seen each other in a month of Sundays. Our goose has become a […]

Embrace Who You Are — The Jazz Man

Motivation Monday

How is you motivation today? Are you excited to be alive and in the land of the living with all of the hopes and dreams that are ahead. It is sunny and warm in Southern Illinois with storms in the forecast. Much as our daily lives are…first sunny and then stormy and with snow and ice on occasion. I was thinking how important tradition is for our daily lives. It is the framework that we hang our life upon.

Our Pandemic has disrupted our traditions and in turn it has over turned the tables of our lives and chased out the money changers from our temple. Regular life in the Pandemic has been anything but regular…it has in fact been irregular. I cannot think of another world wide halting of traditional life for over a year…and the end is not yet upon us. Indeed our return to normal…will be a return to a new normal.

Holidays are in our future again…both the established ones and the vacation ones. Our ephemeral mortality has always been a concrete reality…now we understand that fact more than ever before. Each day is as if you are at the Louvre Museum, admiring the Mona Lisa, or the Musee d’ Orsay admiring the magnificent works of Vincent Van Gogh. Often we are eating the finest steak and searching of some cheap hamburger.

Joan Didion is an insightful author. She wrote of interviewing a pastor who told her that he was going to move his church from California…although they had just arrived there…to Murfreesboro, Tennessee…because God had told him that their California location was in danger of an earthquake. When Joan asked one of the congregants if she was aware that seismologist had said that their location was overdo an earthquake…she answered that they knew about earthquakes because the Bible spoke of earthquakes. Didion goes on to observe that this denomination seemed to rely on what their pastor told them that the Bible said for them to do, and that they relied little if any on science or the news or academic facts.

‘Speak in such a way that others love to listen to you. Listen in such a way that others love to speak to you.’ Anonymous

‘It takes the exact same amount of Time and Energy to imagine Wonderful things as it does to Worry, and the results are incredibly different.’ Zen to Zany

Learn To Lead A Small Life

Drizzle is the watchword of the day in Little Egypt. Jonathon and I traveled about engaged in the exercise of taking care of errands and to purchase Mother’s Day Cards…and a large Godzilla figure with an wonderfully articulated tail. In other words an eclectic day with Electric Larry. A Beagle dog just bawled as if he had discovered his prey and our lone Gander began to answer in a mournful goose cry… In my younger years I was determined to achieve all I could in my career and t traveled to every local that was within my budget…and to own every book that I could procure. I was always in a race with the clock and my means and my strength. I could not work enough hours nor travel sufficiently to ensure that MJ and Aaron and Jonathon had a good life and a well rounded experience. My University experience at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale caused me to be like the little kitten who was blind…until his eyes were opened.

As the years have ticked by I have learned that contentment is often found in a small life. The trek to discover a few things that you love being involved in is an epiphany. Doing a multitude of things as a Juggler at the Circus is a stressful calling. Focusing on a handful of adventures and being immersed in them…is delightful. Jesus taught the magnificence of the small life. The religious scholars of his day were amazed at the simplicity of his message. ‘This is my commandment, that ye love one another; even as I have loved you. John 15:12. KJV.

Confusion is the watchword for our world. Millions of voices cry for low or no taxes… in order that their riches can grow into mega-riches. Millions of others cry for bread and a roof over their head. We in the United States feel that the Pandemic is as good as over and are planing our spring and summer and fall holidays. Three hundred thousand people a day are dying of Covid 19 in India.

As children we sought approval of our parents. Once we entered school we wanted to please our peers. In the workplace, what our colleagues think about us is essential to our feeling of self worth. For the boss or the person in power to notice us and approve of our efforts is paramount to our assimilation into our colleague group. Yet, so often we are living our lives for the tacit approval of others. When we do not receive that approval we are discouraged and depressed.

In the event that you are meek and mild and do not want to offend your peers…they will outline your life for you…they may tell you what recreational activities that you like and where you want to go on holiday. When you set out on your journey of higher education…you may have a major that is not near what you wanted to study…but you were persuaded to do so by your parents and others.

Small life is a happy life. Someone once said that you should keep your accounts on your thumbnail. March to the beat of your own drummer…it is the sweetest music that you will ever hear…

TGIF — The Jazz Man

I sent my friend the acronym, TGIF, meaning Thank God It’s Friday. Although I have been retired for over 10 years…I have not forgotten the significance of the blessed last day of the work week. I not only have not forgotten it, I vividly recall the lighter mood in the office and the workplace and […]

TGIF — The Jazz Man

Better Days Ahead

I was just admiring our gigantic tree that is just beyond the Writing Porch. I write without my glasses as I no doubt need bifocals. I noticed that the tree looked resplendent and it has gotten wider during the winter. Then I put my glasses on and observed the brilliant orange bags that the dreaded bag worm lives in. I then remembered living in our little church when I was 17 years old. The pastor exhorted me to listen for the toilets when I passed by the rest rooms to ensure that the flush mechanism had not stuck and thus the water was continually running in the vain endeavor to fill the tank. To this day I can hear a toilet running…from a long way off. I also have been trained by life to see the good things that are afar off or just rounding the distant corner. We are going to have a meeting at our church next week. My colleague asked me if I had received my shots…and I in turn asked another participant in the meeting if they had received their shots. We laughed both times as it reminded us of assuring others that we would meet while walking our dogs…that they had all of their shots.

Joan Didion is a fascinating author. I am listening to her book, The White Album, which is a compilation of her essays regarding the 1960’s and 70’s. At one point she mentioned her diagnosis with a serious illness and then being struck with the knowledge that what happened to others could happen to her…and that she had a new normal. I am impressed with our President’s efforts to create a government plan that has not happened since Franklin D. Roosevelts New Deal. I voted for President Reagan…twice…and yet it is painfully obvious that trickle down economics has not worked. There is such an evil divide in our country between those who have…and those how have not. While some of us live in comfort and ease and wonder when it is safe to return to the theatre and to travel to Europe…others wonder where their next meal is coming from and if they can find a roof to cover their head…for the night…

Friends are sometimes difficult to find. When I began my life in the Christian Community I decided that I wanted everyone in the church to be my friend. Subsequently I carried that vision in to the work place. When I disagreed with what someone was saying, unless it was gossip about another, I simply listened politely and continued with my day. I worked hard…harder than what was expected of me…I did not want anyone to feel that I was the golden term of we Baby Boomers, a Goldbrick. In the workplace the boss and the manager and the administrator are, first, looking for one primary character trait. Leadership is seeking someone who will not cause them trouble… When I was meeting with Chancellor Walter Wendler on a monthly basis I told him that if I had a concern or a constructive criticism…I would always talk about it in private with just he and I privy to the conversation. I went on to say that if he did anything for the civil service community…I would shout it from the mountain top. Chancellor Wendler did more for civil service staff than any Campus leader during my career.

Florida is on the horizon for the Brooks clan. Life is returning to normal…as long as our ears are attuned to the toilet running…

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