Have you ever had a specific locale take on mythic proportions? Our family has had the lovely opportunity to visit Watercolor and Seaside, Florida on several occasions over the past, nearly, 10 years. There is not only a different climatic feel to Florida, but also a slower and calmer pace to life. The pastel colors of Watercolor are a serene visual to the, frozen, eyeballs of we northerners. Seaside and Watercolor are so close geographically that it is difficult to know when you have left one and entered the other. There are a lot of walkers and joggers out and about along with many people on bicycles. You can tell the natives from the visitors from the frozen tundra. The Floridians are wearing bright colors that match the surrounding architecture, while the snowbirds are dressed in the drab browns and blacks and grays of the wearers, usual, winter surroundings. Happy people smile at you as they wave from their golf carts. It is easy to believe that you have entered an alternate universe where the normal cares and concerns of life have evaporated.
Sundog Books is a favorite stop of mine. It is an independent bookstore. One of the primary elements that I enjoy about Sundog, is the staff that work there are, supremely, into books. When I asked for a recommendation regarding mysteries…no less than four people assisted me. When one of my assistants had not read a book that I was thinking about…the, kind, person who was helping me called out to one of her colleagues, who had read the book that I was inquiring about, to help me. They made the books that I purchased, come alive, to me!
MJ was in search of a Tilley Hat. She had been admiring the one that I had purchased, in Maine, this past spring. Next door to Wine World…is a little shop called, Florida Outfitters. I knew that they carried Tilley Hats, because I had searched for one that would fit me for the past nine years. The manager of the shop was animated with joy when she inquired as to whether he had a Tilley Hat that would fit her. He not only assured her that he did…but subsequently produced the selfsame hat! She was overjoyed. Not only was there a hat for MJ…but there was one that fit me that was a different color and style than the one that I had discovered in Boothbay, Maine. Now we have matching hats!
Wine World has an almost mythic status for Ron and I. My friend and I have been enjoying the blessings of the grape and the wisdom of deep discussion for nearly 10 years…al fresco. Many of the world’s problems have been solved by us, as well as detailed colloquies concerning the meaning of life and the opportunities of retirement. At our visit, two Fridays ago, Ron and MJ and I enjoyed some wonderful Merlot. We were not able to partake of their delicious and diverse cheeses, due to a remodeling project that they were undergoing.
Our journey to the peaceful and beautiful Florida hamlets of Seaside and Watercolor were what fond memories are made of.
We have returned from a trip to Florida. What a wonderful time we had with Ron and Ira Kaye. It had been 3 years since we had sojourned to the land of endless ocean and delicious seafood. Jonathon asked me what my favorite part of visiting Florida was…and I answered, looking at the ocean. The majestic mystery of ocean watching is ever compelling.
‘In 2010, 123.3 million people, or 39% of the nations population lived in counties directly on the shoreline. This population is expected to increase by 8% from 2010 to 2020.’ National Ocean Service
As I marvel at the ever changing appearance of the waters I am reminded of the timeless nature of God and creation. The ocean is the physical embodiment of peace.
Sunday, we were in search of a unique breakfast, and we settled on McGuire’s Irish Pub of Destin. Our imaginations were captured by the fact that they had a brunch. I noticed that they served steak omelet, comprised of 6 eggs. Have you ever had a 6 egg omelet? Neither had I! The steak was Filet Mignon. Now, the 6 egg omelet was huge…but there was also an Irish Coffee to accompany it. Finally, there was a basket of beignets for the table…all for $12!
As I contemplated the beauty and grandeur of my surroundings I reflected on the blessings of life…and its fragility. Every day is a gift that should not be wasted or ignored. The ocean has observed innumerable humans stand before it….generations who played their part on the stage of life…and who believed that the problems that they faced were insurmountable.
Happiness and contentment and peace of mind, is contained in the realization that each of us awakened in a beautiful dream…and it is our decision…what to make of it.
‘Heres a little song I wrote
You might want to sing it note for note
Don’t worry, be happy
In every life we have some trouble
But when you worry you make it double
Don’t worry, be happy
Don’t worry, be happy now’
‘Ain’t got no place to lay your head
Somebody came and took your bed
Don’t worry, be happy
The landlord say your rent is late
He may have to litigate
Don’t worry, be happy’
‘Don’t worry, be happy
Ain’t got no cash, ain’t got no style
Ain’t got no gal to make you smile
Don’t worry, be happy
Cause when you worry your face will frown
And that will bring everybody down
So don’t worry, be happy’
‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ by Bobby McFerrin
I was tempted to title this blog the, First Tuesday of The New Decade, but I like the message of, ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy,’ better. For whatever reason…I have always been a worrier. If there is not a clear and present danger to occupy my worry genes…I search for something to fill the gap. My grandmother, Askew, often remarked that worry was just like a rocking chair…you rock and rock and do not get anywhere. My mother described herself as a worry wart. I do not know exactly what that is…but it does not sound good.
It has been my experience that most of the things that I have worried about have never occurred. While, issues that were never on my radar…present themselves as problems. There is a wise saying, ‘Don’t sweat the small stuff…and everything is small stuff!’
The more that I am able to climb over the walls of my pre-conceived notions and the false constructs of fictional ideas that I have accepted as fact…the happier I am!
There is another good admonishment that reminds us, ‘We would not be so concerned what people were thinking of us if we realized how little that they think of us at all.’
MJ and I were talking, the other day, and we marveled at the miracle of living to old age in a body that is, by all accounts, very frail.
One day…we found ourselves as a member of the human race and our home was a planet called earth. There were smiling faces peering down at us…and we thought…who are those funny creatures? It was not long before, those same smiling creatures called mom and dad, were cajoling us to take our first step…and we wondered why…when it was so much nicer being carried?
We began the first grade and the teacher asked who in the class knew how to write their name, and I raised my hand and proudly proclaimed that I knew how. Upon walking up to the chalk board and making some diverse marks…the teacher said, quietly, that I could return to my seat and that she would teach me how to write my name. I wondered how something that seemed so simple…could be complex.
Life is full of helpers, as Mr. Rodgers told us, and there is always someone close-by that will assist us in times of trouble. When MJ had her spinal surgery I was overwhelmed by the support that our fellow congregants at First Presbyterian in Carbondale, Illinois gave us. They brought many meals to us and checked on our welfare on a regular basis. I felt like I was a member of a large family.
During my years as a manager of the Building Service department at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…I wanted my colleagues to feel that they were members of a family that cared about them and who would help them to succeed.
I recall, just after I had begun working at SIUC in October of 1978…my 1963 Ford Fairlane would not start. I had not been employed for more than a week…and I knew no one. When I told my former that I needed to use the office telephone to call my wife to come and get me…and gentleman named, Ray Phoenix, said that he would drive me home. To drive me home he had to travel several miles out of his way…and I knew that I had become a member of a family that would help me when I was in need.
I was worried as to whether or not that I was performing my janitorial functions completely in the General Accounting building, Thalman Hall, and so I inquired of the Associate Director of General Accounting, Hugh Blaney. I asked him if he was satisfied with my work performance and prefaced my question with the caveat that I understood that my efforts were not as important as the rest of the occupants of the building. Mr. Blaney told me that my work was the most important in the building…because if I did not do my job properly…no one else could do their job. He went on to explain that I was doing a wonderful job and ended by purchasing me a Coca Cola.
We are all fellow travelers on a blue spinning orb in he middle of a very large galaxy. We did not purchase a ticket for the ride….So enjoy the complimentary excitement and thrill!
I had not thought about it until I heard it on television this morning, this is the first Monday of our new decade. I actually like the sound of the words, new decade. When you think about it, we mortals do not get a plethora of, new decades? I have, at the beginning of this year, lived in 8 decades. A nice accomplishment for a 62 year old!
I was back to walking our campus today. It was very quiet due to it being winter break. I walked through the Student Center and observed two students, a female and male, excitedly playing with what appeared to be a full body video game. They were bobbing and weaving and dancing about, impervious to the world about them, and they were getting wonderful exercise.
I listened as Jonathon and I were enjoying lunch, to a young man in a wheel chair and his caretaker. Their verbal exchange revealed that they were friends and enjoyed each others company. There was no lesser than and greater than…there was no healthy/disabled dynamic between them. They spoke as what they were, equals.
I reflected on the excitement and joy that can be experienced at Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale…if you want to access it. I remembered when everything about SIUC was a mystery to me and was intriguing and different from what I had experienced. I noticed that the staff at Building Services, of which I was a new member, wore, at least, three different uniforms. I was introduced to my, Custodian, and I ruminated on what my job duties would be…as I thought that I had been hired as a custodian? An African American gentleman entered the building that I was cleaning and announced that he was may boss and was I Brooks or Brandon! He was smoking an aromatic cigar and the smoke encircled his head like a wreath. Later that evening…my Custodian came over and asked me how I was doing and I told him that I had completed the cleaning assignment that he had given me and he responded by asking me if I had been upstairs yet? I said that I had not and he laughed and told me that the upstairs was my job also…
There is a newness to life each day that we live. Whether it be our first day on the job or our first home…or the realization that there is a job for us to do and a purpose for our existence.
So often we sell ourselves short. We believe the story of our lives that others have attempted to write for us. Perhaps we do possess the education or the verbal skills or the writing skills to succeed…so we have been told. We see others who for all empirical purposes seem to be rather ordinary and it is not apparent that they have angels wings or super powers?
The reality is that all accomplishments and successes and battles won and victories…are secured by humans…that are just like us. There is no reason that you cannot be a success in your career and your life!
It is the first Monday of the new decade. Each day is the first day of the rest of our lives. Stop…and pay attention to your environment…take a long time to look at your surroundings…and you will see things that you have never seen before. The life that each of us has been given…is full of newness and infinite possibilities that awake anew with each morning.
Do not allow someone else to write your story. Take the authorship of it seriously. How you present yourself is part of your narrative. Present yourself with confidence and humility and a servant/leaders heart!
We just saw Star War: The Rise of Skywalker. I have been attending the Star Wars movies with Aaron and Jonathon for a long time. It has been a holiday tradition for the past several years. The first Star Wars movie came out in 1977. I graduated from Eldorado High School in 1975. I did not see my first Star Wars movie until the latter 1980s. One thing that I learned, quickly, is that my sons enjoyed not only the movie but the action figures that accompanied it. There was a 12 inch figurine of a Storm Trooper in their bedroom, when they were quite young, and when I asked what role that the action figure played in the story….They told me that the Storm Trooper was similar to a Private in the Army and that many of them are destroyed during the movie.
I, simply, like anything that my boys and I can do together! I often wonder how MJ and I became so lucky o have such fine men…for our sons. The first Star Wars happened before either of them were born…and it continues to this day.
It is another unseasonably warm day for winter, in our neck of the woods. It is 54 degrees on January the 5th. I have been watching an engrossing movie on Netflix called, The Messiah. It is the story of a young man who is of Jewish and Muslim lineage, first, leading a group of Syrians to the border of Israel. Subsequently after being jailed in Israel, he vanished from the cell and appears in, Dilly, Texas, where it appears that he stops a tornado from destroying a church. As the young man speaks to his captors and interrogators he has a an emotionally moving effect on them by telling them, private, information regarding their innermost thoughts and feelings. As his following continues to grown in the little Texas town of Dilly…he asks the minister of the church to lead them wherever he believed that God is telling them to go….And they end up on Washington D.C.
So, the thought provoking series presents the central question…is the young man the Messiah or is he a cult leader or a magician and a charlatan? Throughout the 10 episodes he, appears, to do Christ like feats…while his history and, other of his actions…seem very human and mundane.
What I enjoyed about the first season is the similarities that I saw between the Christ of the Bible and the young man depicted in the Netflix presentation. Often, Jesus did not perform his miracles among many people and the broadcasting of them was by word of mouth or pen to parchment…the Bible. Much of Christ’s accomplishments are delivered to us by oral history that has been written down. Many characters of the Bible felt the personal magnetism of Christ as they interacted with him on a one on one basis. Choice is paramount in the human condition and the following of the Messiah.
God is talking to everyone!
So, in a world of Star Wars and Messiah…we reach for the Cosmos! We seek something that is beyond our concrete earthy identity. There is meaning and purpose and mission…beyond the physical reality of what we can see, hear, taste and touch…the fifth dimension is what intrigues us and compels we spiritual creatures, contained in earthly bodies…to seek the reason for our existence.
In a world that is heating up from global warming. In a land that is on fire! In a land that adheres to the despotic fever dreams of an ill leader, in the land of the free and the home of the brave…are we fighting for the right as God gives us the right…or are are we fighting for our own narrow and myopic idea of life…as a member of the human family?
‘Your mission…should you choose to accept it…’
When we Baby Boomers were young, there was a television show called, Mission Impossible, that was about a secret spy organization that worked internationally. The actor, Peter Graves, who lead the team of suave and sophisticated government agents, would listen to a, reel to reel tape recording of the mission of the group…should they choose to accept it, and the tapes would self destroy in a matter of seconds after the message had been heard. We even remember when Leonard Nimoy, Spock, was one of the spies on the show. Of course current audiences are familiar with Mission Impossible due to the multi-million dollar movie franchise, staring Tom Cruise.
Photo by Daria Shevtsova on Pexels.com
‘When things go wrong, as they sometimes will,’
‘When the road you’re trudging seems all uphill,’
‘When the funds are low and the debts are high,’
‘And you want to smile, but you have to…
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The Christmas tree is back in the Christmas Closet. Almost all of the candy and fudge and holiday sundries are eaten. Our town still has its Christmas decorations up, but then again it is only January 2nd. Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale returned to work today. I remember returning from 33 Christmas holidays. I was always a bit pumped from the residual holiday cheer, and a bit apprehensive as to what surprises the New Year would bring. Often Budget concerns seemed to be paramount in January, for the University. The beginning of the calendar year marked the half way point of SIU’s fiscal year. This was a crucial time, especially if Spring Semester enrollment was down. Also, financial reversals such as the Sate calling back a portion of the, already appropriated, budget for the remainder of the fiscal year. SIUC, even in its diminished position, still is the economic engine that drives the Southern Illinois region.
The same could be said for many families personal budgets. Christmas is a time of giving…but sometimes we give beyond our means. When this happens, during the splendor and majesty of the holiday season, we believe that if we can purchase just one more present or enjoy one more party…or take the Christmas Cruise that we have desired for so long…all will be well and we will be happy…and our joy will be at its zenith. I recall the opulent 80’s. As I stood in the queues at the, thriving, malls in St. Louis, Missouri or in Carbondale, Illinois…I watched, sadly, person after person attempt to pay for their items with as many as 5 or 6 credit cards…before finding one that was not denied. In fact it occurred to me that the retail economy was being fueled by debt. I had a colleague that would say, every Christmas Season, that he was still paying off, ‘Christmas 1980’…if the current Christmas was 1990.
So, life has returned to the normal that we understood before the holidays. Regular, and normal, and to be expected…is good. I have found that the optimum times that I have been able to excel or improve have been devoid of the extremes of debt, or of actions that were spawned by emotion rather than rationality. As the manager/administrator of the housekeeping department at SIUC I sought to follow the clear road of success that my predecessors had trail-blazed…long before my arrival. Positive change is incremental. Watching positive change taking place is not dissimilar to watching a year progress. Looking out of my loft window as I write this piece, I see rain and a basic gray sky. It looks like January 2, 2020. It has the appearance of nothing happening. But, that would be a mistaken assumption. Everything that we are and everything that we know is in transition. I am morphing…as I am writing. The question is do we want to take the fork in the road that leads to improvement or do we prefer the road that leads to the same results that we have obtained throughout our life?
Every now and then we get a little spark of the divine! For a short time we see more clearly what our opportunities are, and what God’s purpose for us is. But then we get tired…and we become stressed…and anger or sadness or guilt or grief…steps in and we take a detour. Illness wrests our attention away.
But, today it is January 2, 2020…and it can be a good year…accompanied by challenges.
Are you busy planting, cabbages?
A new decade has arrived. I have been retired for 9 years. It seems like yesterday. I remember my boss, Plant and Service Operations Director, Phil Gatton, saying the most complimentary things about me…and my thinking that I would like to meet the person that he was talking about. I had a sketch of a speech, prepared in my mind, to give…but…when Phil finished speaking, it dawned on me that my career was over. For over 32 years I had lived Southern Illinois University @ Carbondale. With my best efforts to stifle the waterworks…I could not help shedding a few tears at the imminent change in my life. I had thought about the University on my holidays and weekends and when I was sick. I had been witness to the Campus at its best…and at its worst. Retirement had seemed like a pipe-dream…and unattainable! Then, like watching an approaching train…
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So, what kind of year have you had in 2019? Many of my friends have had difficult years. There has been a lot of illness…or else I notice illness more since I have gotten older? I have friends that have been, not only disappointed but disillusioned by reversals in their careers. I have friends…who have lost loved ones…and they felt, so very alone…during this holiday season.
The political climate in the United States is more divisive and destructive than I have witnessed during my 62 years on this earth. Beloved family and friends have parted ways because of political disagreements. Secular political parties have been equivocated with; God’s chosen…or abject sinners.
Denominational churches are loosing members…across the board. We are in the midst of a change in how we understand church and God’s plan going forward.
We humans are extremely susceptible to cultish devotion. Just as the Israelites demanded of Aaron that he fashion for them a god that they could worship, in the wilderness, when Moses was on Mount Horib receiving the Ten Commandments…for 40 days. We seek a man or woman to lead us and to show us the way. This type of faith has a basic flaw in that it takes the relationship of the individual to God…away…and replaces it with a fallible human being.
At the conclusion of a terrible storm…is a rainbow.
I watched a movie, last evening, called, Anesthesia. The movie illustrated the futility of focusing on the, standard model, of success. The model would be to receive a good education and get a well paying job and obtain all of the physical accoutrements that accompany a upper middle class life style…only to discover the hollowness of the fulfillment of the ladder of success. I notice, when MJ and I are enjoying a meal in a restaurant, that many families are, all, peering at their smart phones, until the food is delivered…where they then eat.
Loneliness is a predominate condition of the human family. We seek our social interaction though media, and we ignore or are afraid of human, one on one, contact. The happiest people that I have met, are those people who have relied on their friends and family, and their ever expanding social circle, to ground them in the ultimate meaning of life.
The opportunities ahead of us are endless. If you want to write a book, write it. If you want to loose weight, loose it. If you want to be more fulfilled…talk to others…help others….read and reflect. Each day is a miracle in microcosm….our greats gift we, often, fritter away as if it is meaningless…TIME!
We have been handed a precious treasure…something that is far greater than; money, or fame, or position, or power….LIFE!
As Clarance, the angel, in the movie, It’s A Wonderful Life, told George Bailey, ‘You really had a wonderful life, George.’