Saturday, January 2, 2016

MMXVI


Be at war with your vices, at peace with your neighbors, and let every new year find you a better man.  BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

What's in a number? Every twelve months the calender rolls over and a fresh canvas of time is laid out for us to pen another year. Many of us use this as a catapult to make positive changes in our lives. More often than not these changes are short lived or never realized. We are most certainly creatures of habit, changing our ways is more than just "doing what's right", more often than not, it's breaking comfortable habits, practicing discipline, and resisting temptation. Most of the things that make us healthier, physically and mentally, are more difficult and less tasty than enjoyable alternatives. You often hear about the results of hard work, be it getting in shape, executing a project, or climbing the so-called corporate ladder. "Hard work" is synonymous with "not fun".

The greatest balance one can achieve is a fusion between effort and enjoyment. 


For too long we've lived under the pretext that you work all week and play on the weekends. We punch a clock and become the property of our employer. We labor against our better judgement, working in a position of mental strain in order to put food on our table. The fortunate few have discovered a way out, a way to earn an income for what they're most inclined to do. It seems the key is to figure out exactly what it is we're most inclined to do. What gives us the most satisfaction in our lives and how could that be applied to an employment opportunity. What skills to we possess that could be honed and channeled into a gainful occupation?

Though it sounds simple, this proposition is deceptively difficult. I've been aware of this way forward for many years, yet thus far, I've failed to convert into such a line. Like so many, my interests are varied and vast, but the older I get, the easier it is to narrow them down. The more exposure to different people and experiences, the better I understand myself and my place in this world. It becomes less about knowing answers and more about understanding the questions.

Identifying areas in need of improvement is halfway to finding their solution.

My proposal at the beginning of this new year, is for each of us take inventory of our lives, jobs, relationships, and inner depths. Define which elements are positive and in need of endorsement, and which are negative, and in need of tending to. Rather than setting lofty, unrealistic goals for ourselves, we should decide where we'd like to be a year from now, and generate a list of actions that might get us there from here. At the same time, work to define your interests and what makes you different from everyone else. What efforts bring you the greatest satisfaction?

Once you've a clear understanding of yourself and your personal destination, match that with your definition of an ideal occupation. Once you know who you are, you are equipped for the journey that lies before you.

Envision the peak of Mount Olympus, set your course, and enjoy the trip.

And now we welcome the new year. Full of things that have never been.  RANIER MARIA RILKE

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

KNOWLEDGE OF SELF


“Ninety percent of the world's woe comes from people not knowing themselves, their abilities, their frailties, and even their real virtues. Most of us go almost all the way through life as complete strangers to ourselves.” SYDNEY J HARRIS

They say there are two seasons in Chicago, construction season, and Winter. I witness construction season first hand as this is also "ride to work season" for me personally. I've seen buildings vacated, demolished, and carted away in trucks. Foundations excavated and re-poured, steel frames erected, buildings constructed around them. Essentially the exchange of one aged structure with a new one in it's place. Streets go through the same process of renewal. One week a stretch of concrete is scraped and removed, hot black asphalt laid down in its place. Just as I begin to enjoy this smooth new surface under my tires, a thirty foot hole is dug in the middle of another road just down the way. A city in a constant state of repair and upgrade.

Successful, progressive human lives go through a similar process when people are intent on improving themselves and living a healthy life. The food and drink we consume is the foundation for our physical well being. Our training and exercise build physical strength and endurance in our muscular, vascular, and respiratory systems. The media we ingest; books and articles read, films and television watched, Internet content browsed, all contribute to the structure of our minds. Relationships we hold with family, friends, co-workers all shape our experience and interaction with the world. Our knowledge, beliefs, actions, abilities, and compassion compose our inner framework. Our bodies are the exterior structure.

The older we get, the better we understand ourselves. With each passing day we should have a clearer picture of the unique traits that make us, us. From a very early age we begin to form tastes and opinions. Our cultural surroundings, family and friends have a large influence on what we think and how we feel. Early on, it occurred to me that popular opinion frequently, even more often than not, was off-base or incorrect. Something felt wrong for such dynamic, multi-dimensional beings to be corralled into a uniformed, linear line of thinking. Since my earliest memories, it was important for me to "think outside the box". It was clear that most people had a diet of "low hanging fruit", preferring to chose from what's right in front of them, and from what everyone else is doing.

I think my early enthusiasm and attraction to film came not only from sheer entertainment, but also how it was a subject not taught in school. Such a hugely influential medium almost absent in our education. The same existed with music, outside of radio and television, finding your own sound required research, exploring record stores and liner notes. Before the Internet, sports, outside your local market, also took some effort to get the whole picture. Growing up in an American League market, naturally I was drawn to National League baseball early on. The public library was the only true resource outside of magazine subscriptions to keep up with what was happening outside of Boston.

These factors combined to build a foundation of me, my interests, and my ambition.

Next week I take on a new position at a new property, only my second job since moving to Chicago six years ago. Though moving to an advanced position at a vastly superior hotel, I still won't be "max realizing" my potential. Although I take great pride in my work, I'm not yet truly yielding the impact I am destined to. As long as I can remember, my tastes and opinions have influenced my friends and contemporaries. The movies and music I enjoy, the sports figures and teams I follow, my photography, illustrations, use of language, and philosophy have long left an impression. My passion, research, and knowledge have increased exponentially since studying film all those years ago in Boston. I know myself better today than I did yesterday, and my future creative endeavors remain an unwritten script. I will continue to push my creative efforts while trusting each of you are taking similar steps towards becoming the most unique, authentic, and expressive individuals you can be. I've been taking inventory of my abilities and experience lately while generating a list of talented and inspirational friends with similar constructive interests. I very much look forward to the future, and my creative collaborations with them.

And by them, I mean you.

“Knowing others is intelligence; knowing yourself is true wisdom. Mastering others is strength; mastering yourself is true power. If you realize that you have enough, you are truly rich.” LAO TZU

Saturday, January 31, 2015

PROGRESSION


Without continual growth and progress, such words as improvement, achievement, and success have no meaning.  BENJAMIN FRANKLIN

My hair is thick, and it grows rather quick.  I understand it comes from my grandmother on my mothers side, Irish-American from Aroostook County Maine.  I was born with a full head of dark brown hair, which incidentally all fell out in my first few months on earth.  Of course it all grew back, with a vengeance.  During my formative years, my parents would get me a haircut about once a month at Haircutters LTD on DW Highway in Merrimack.  Inspired by the likes of Scottie Pippen, Kendall Gill, Chris Mullen and other superstars of the NBA, I was likely the first white male in New Hampshire to have his hair cut with the assistance of a styling tool called "The Flat-Topper".  This was essentially a large hair-pick with a tubular spirit level between the comb and the handle.  With a little guidance, "Kim" got my style down pat, and would freshen me up once a month.  In a time before I would entertain using hair gel or other styling products, the thickness of my hair combined with the speed of growth created somewhat of a fuzzy, straight-haired "afro" a few weeks after each cut. Towards the end of middle school, like many of us, I became increasingly more image conscious. 

During the summer of 1994, as I prepared to enter high school, I bought my first pair of hair clippers, and shaved my head.


One of the many highlights enjoyed at Merrimack High School is the freedom to wear a hat if one so chooses.  Baseball hats were the style then just as much as they are today.  Though I only fully shaved my head that one time, a page had been turned.  There would be no more concerns about an afro-puff look as haircuts had become abundant and free of charge.  I had time to develop a style and technique with the ability to "cover up" with a cap at school.  Still inspired by the NBA, I began to develop a fade technique.  In order to see the sides and back of my head I knew I'd need a proper mirror setup.  I went to Home Depot and bought a box of 12" x 12" mirrors and a roll of duct tape.  I taped the edges of 3 mirrors then attached them, protecting the edges and creating a flexible 3-way mirror with 360 degree views of my scalp. 


Starting at age 14, I'd cut my hair almost every week.  It's an interesting process learning the contours of your skull and all of the directions in which your hair grows.  At the same time, you have a close inspection of your face.  I'm sure many girls around this age get a similar experience when they begin to use makeup, but I imagine there is a small percentage of us males who have a similar familiarity with our faces.  I had a close-up view as facial hair began to grow in as I progressed through high school.  After college, I reduced my cuts to about once every two weeks.  Exposure to the California sun also expedited the formation of wrinkle lines, mainly around the eyes and on my forehead.  Fifteen years of cuts before I noticed my first gray hair.  I was at Wrigley Field just a few years back when my young nephew pointed out that I had 3 colors of hair in my beard.  The brown and gray had been identified but the sunlight in the northside ballpark highlighted the red, which I also inherited from my grandmother.


I remember around this same time my friend Kevin telling me how his girlfriend would pull them out whenever she found one sprouted from his head.  Only during the past year or two have I noticed a significant increase in the number of grey and white colored hairs on my head, and in my beard.  These days, I wait approximately 3 weeks between cuts, the light-colored hairs are more visible as they grow in length.  More than ever I've been reflecting on the 20 plus years I've been looking so closely at myself . . .


Where I've been, what I've done, people I've known, where I'm going . .


Who I am.


I am a good distance from where I thought I'd be when I began cutting my own hair two decades ago, yet I feel each gray hair tells a story.  So many miles, so many adventures, so many friends, so many discoveries.  Our appearance along with our expressions tell a great deal to those able to read them.  Life is for all of us a journey of highs and lows, ebbs and flows.  We have control of our outlook and are the spark required to ignite action and change.


Look into you own eyes.  Reflect on who you are, and where you've been.  Explore you mind's eye, unearth your potential, meditate on your future, your position, your location . .


Hair turns gray.


Become what you think about.  

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.  GEORGE BERNARD SHAW

Sunday, May 25, 2014

TRANSIENT

It's only when we truly know and understand that we have a limited time on earth - and that we have no way of knowing when our time is up, we will then begin to live each day to the fullest, as if it was the only one we had.  ELISABETH KLUBER-ROSS

The temporary nature of our time on this planet has been in the front of my mind of late.  It seems like almost once a week, someone of some importance to me or to someone I value is lost.  More and more often, celebrities of personal significance are passing also.  As I continue my cinema self-education through watching and reading, I find myself fascinated with the lives and times of the industries greatest artists of days gone by.  I often feel saddened by my affection for these creative individuals whose light has extinguished.  So many I hoped to speak with, perhaps even work with, no longer possible.

"The older I get the more things I gotta leave behind, that's life." 

These words have resonated with me since I first heard them spoken by Rocky Balboa in 2006.  There is no denying the truth in the former champion’s words.  Whether you're 9 or 90, with each passing year, you are faced with loss.  From a beloved security blanket or teddy bear, to your closest friends and family members.  From the house you grew up in, to your shoes and undergarments with holes worn through.  We spend much of our compassion and focus much of our love on those things no longer accessible.

At the same time, we are always collecting new things.  We can easily replace our old worn out clothes and shoes with new ones.  Through time and transition we may move away from our friends and colleagues, collecting new ones in our new surroundings.  We even add family members through marriage, and sadly, sometimes subtract them in divorce.  

As each and every cell in us and all living things will eventually die, new cells are in constant development to replace them during that lifespan.  Leaves fall from the trees in autumn; bud, and are reborn in the spring.  Grass turns brown and gray in winter, and grows back green and lush in the summer.

Life in the animal kingdom works differently than that of the plant kingdom.

When life power exits a body, no one truly knows what happens to that energy.  It's been contemplated and defined by countless systems of belief since the dawn of man, but there's no true way to track the metamorphosis of a living soul.  Does it jump into another life form in its earliest phase via "reincarnation"?  Does it transfer to an eternal dimension commonly known as "the afterlife"?  Perhaps as it slips from the body, your soul enters the earth and adds to the collective life energy of the planet, a sort of metaphysical fertilization.      

I believe this pondering is the main source of grief when someone is lost.  Most of us can eventually find a way to cope with the absence of that person from our own lives; the major challenge is the concept of where they've gone, and if we'll ever "meet again".  

These unexpected passing’s that effect our lives are a constant reminder of the insecure nature of life on earth.  With an average lifespan of less than 80 years, life is indeed fleeting.  We are here for a while and then we're gone.

Habits and decisions we make have a huge impact on our earthly time lines.  Many will argue that "you only live once" and you might as well enjoy yourself as best you can while you're here.  Others strive to live as long as humanly possible via diet and exercise routines.
  
Yet there is no sure fire way to seal your fate.  

All things are temporary, including life itself.  Our b0dies will carry our souls for a short period of time in the vast expanse of human history.  What happens next remains a mystery.

So live as if you'll die tomorrow, live as if you'll live forever, live as if your earthy impact will resonate after you're gone, live as if you're auditioning for the next phase, live and enjoy the ride.

LIVE.   


When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light, for your life, for your strength. Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living. If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.  TECUMSEH

Thursday, January 9, 2014

HUMAN ENGINE


Iron rusts from disuse; stagnant water loses its purity and in cold weather becomes frozen; even so does inaction sap the vigor of the mind.  LEONARDO da VINCI

The wind chill factor plummeted the air temperature to an icy 40 degrees below zero on Monday in Chicago.  As far as I remember, when I walked to the theater and back, I was exposed to the lowest temperatures I've ever experienced.  The local meteorologists have attributed this weather to a "Polar Vortex" which blanketed much of the Midwest, and is heading northeast.  

Cold came earlier this year than the 4 winters since our move from the west coast.  I determined late last year that 20 degrees was my personal threshold when it came to riding my bike to work.  Below 20 degrees, regardless of glove and sock layering, my immobile fingers and toes inevitably feel the freeze before the 8 mile journey is up.  It's been a month since I've been on the bike, and at negative 40, I imagine we've reached the frozen peak.

Again and again we've explored the invaluable lessons and wonders of nature.  At times we feel powerless as victims of natural circumstance.  Fortunately we have the luxury of air conditioning in the hot months, fireplaces, and heating systems in the cold ones.  We dress down in Summer, and bundle up in winter.  Some question my tolerance of cold, wondering how I can stand riding in such low temperatures and wind.   Some of the same people wonder how I might think or act outside of popular opinion and action.  

They're really one in the same. 

The overwhelming majority prefer to think and act within "the limits" to which they are confined.  Ordering from a menu of set dining options, as if it were impossible to incorporate other ingredients plainly visible on the menu.  Choosing television programs, movies, and books from the new release section, when countless classic stories and photo-plays are readily available at your fingertips.  It's almost like a race to see who can achieve ultimate parody, who can see all the movies everyone says they should see, read all the fiction everyone has recommended, and watch all the same shows as everyone they have regular contact with.  

As is frequently the case in our society, that which is most easily accessible, is rarely the best available.  Most prefer  directions in navigation rather than exploration of the world around them.  Most would rather take cues from society than contribute their own discoveries and sense of self.  They would rather avoid nature than be immersed in it.

I was cued to write this in the face of so much puzzlement over my willingness to ride in sub-freezing temperatures at the end of the year.  While I am far from a fitness guru or professional athlete, it's obvious that physical action generates heat and energy to a body in motion.  To a large extent, we need not rely exclusively on outside forces to keep warm in cold surroundings.  Each of us is a self-sustaining power plant of flesh and blood.

Each of us is a living, breathing, "Human Engine". 

Not only do we possess a miraculous physical form in our body, but also an infinitely powerful heart-based emotional force, and equally powerful mind-based intellectual capacity.  Though physical results are only externally visible with the body, the same effort and exercise is required of the heart and mind to build strength in both.  Conformity and imitation build nothing, and generally promote weakness.  Staying "in-line", doing as others do, make you more of a part, than a whole.  

We each face countless decisions in our lives, and have access to an infinite number of choices.  7+ billion independent human engines on this planet, all of free thought, most of free will . .  

Why strive to be anything other than ONE in 7,000,000,000?       

In the depth of winter I finally learned that there was in me an invincible summer.  ALBERT CAMUS

Thursday, September 5, 2013

THE FUNDRAISER


There is no failure except in no longer trying. There is no defeat except from within, no really insurmountable barrier save our own inherent weakness of purpose.  KIN HUBBARD

Money.

What's your first thought when you read that word? Gut reaction is too complex, give it ten seconds and you can flush it out. Money is a symbol of value, a means to an end, paper to exchange for work, wealth to exchange for materials, services, and comforts.

Our collective response to calamity is to contribute money. These days it's as simple as sending a text message or making a PayPal transaction. At the same time, all just causes are in search of donations; Hunger, 
land devastation, poverty, equal rights, clean water, and every known sickness that plagues mankind. The message as I understand it is simple, the more money directed at a problem, the more time, energy, materials, and manpower are dedicated to its eradication. 

Money solves problems.

Baseball is our national pastime, and the only major professional sports league without a cap to regulate the maximum amount spent on players. There are 162 regular season games that span half the calendar year, all televised. On special days throughout the season, the league showcases alternate uniforms, or bright colored accessories to promote awareness of specific afflictions, at the same time encouraging donations towards a cure.

For the time being, baseball has no spending limit. Payrolls have been bolstered to new heights by long term television contracts; players receive yearly contracts larger than any other athletes in America. As always in a Capitalist system, players are paid in proportion to the money they generate. The demand for baseball is such that those responsible for keeping viewership up receive lion's share of the profits, and this makes sense.

Ballplayers are just one group at the top of the pyramid exerting major influence over the masses, while commanding some of the greatest personal fortunes in world history. Humans will always pay for entertainment, indeed it is priority for many. Ironically, most of those generating top dollar in their field of entertainment are doing exactly what they love to do. Big-budget Hollywood filmmaking is another huge example of this. We've all seen telethons and fundraisers hosted by celebrities aiming to bring relief to people in need, but have we embraced the true potential of this method?

Baseball players, like all athletes, are signed to mega-contracts based on past performance on the ball field. The team brass can only keep fingers crossed that prolific statistical numbers of a players past continue through their new contract. This means a man can bring in more than $20 million a year regardless of his production. Moreover, a player can get injured, unable to play at all and still bring in a salary large enough to feed a nation. This year, between 2 players the Anaheim Angels are spending more than a combined $50 million; 1st basemen Albert Pujols, and outfielder Josh Hamilton. This total's more than the entire payrolls of the Miami Marlins and Houston Astros combined. Pujols season was cut short by injury, and Hamilton's second season in Anaheim is just as unimpressive as his first, yet he's one of the highest paid athletes in the world. This example is not to single these players out, simply another strong example of the imbalance of this system.

Millions of dollars spent, very little return.

This situation clearly exposes the misappropriation of funds in our society, at the same time, perhaps brings into focus the greatest fundraising concept of all time.

Most anyone in our society would tell you, no matter how much money we earn, we make enough to live on. Even if a ballplayer desires a lavish life with many luxuries, he can still afford to sacrifice most of his salary towards the common good. Never mind telethons, pink bats, pink gloves, and car dealerships pledging $500 for every home team home run hit. If capital actually has the ability to generate a cure, put your money where your mouth is and show the world what a true fundraiser looks like. If every player in baseball alone, from those making league minimum to those earning $20+ million annually, were to donate half of their salaries, the yield would be incredible. The result would be one of two things, both problems and sickness would begin to dissolve, or the cyclical system of endless donation drives would be exposed for what it truly is.

Talking trillions is usually reserved for costs like our defense budget or national deficit. Imagine a news report revealing a donation totaling more than a trillion dollars. If the major news outlets were allowed to spread such news, if such staggering donations were permitted by the powers that be, the fabric of fundraising would be boosted across the globe. Imagine the trend formed from such an offering, a challenge and benchmark to be met and exceeded by the mega-corporations of this planet. The thoughtless and selfish would be exposed for their non-participation. The men and women composing the corporations of the so-called 1% would be observed on a level playing field and forced to at least acknowledge the global trend. As society starts to understand exactly what type of transformation is taking place, corporate non-involvement in the program would result in either reduced revenue or changes in policy.

Successful new trends in business promote changes across the field. If the people are wise enough to embrace such a healing development, the demand for such corporate action will rise accordingly. Over time, the more charitable a corporation, the greater its profits would become.

Can huge amounts of money truly solve the problems of the world? If so, the solution seems self-evident.

Several trillion dollars should do the trick.

Money is only a tool. It will take you wherever you wish, but it will not replace you as the driver.  AYN RAND

Friday, May 17, 2013

WHITE MOUNTAIN STATE


The two-toned tune of the Eastern Phoebe pierces the fog from the woods surrounding the house through my bedroom window. The lawn glistens with morning dew and perhaps some rain that fell last night while I slept. Sweatpants on, down the stairs, through the dining room, around the corner into the "mud room." To my surprise Emma is also just waking. I walk in to witness a ceremonial full-bodied, four legged stretch immediately followed by an emphatic yawn. She rises slowly and begins a relaxed tail wag, no doubt looking forward to our walk. She draws her ears back in anticipation as I take the leash from the closet.

We walk down the driveway, across the street into the woods. To this day I do not know what purpose or service that path served in the years it was formed. A 15 foot wide trail leading from the street a half mile through the woods to a brook. Several trails have branched off since recreational snowmobiles were introduced to the region. I veer off onto one of the branches while Emma sniffs each and every element as if she's investigating a crime scene, all the curious seasonal smells found in the woods of New Hampshire. The brook is coated with a thin layer of yellow pollen, water partially held in place by a small beaver dam. Our oddly unique state flower, The Pink Lady Slipper, found sporadically throughout the woods. There is almost complete silence walking alongside the brook, just the crackle of twigs and leaves under our feet, and the sound of the birds in the trees as bright clear sun shines through us and onto the brooks clearing.

A few years from now, I will have been away from the Granite State as long as I lived there. The more time passes, the stronger the connection I've found over the past decade and a half. I've always looked forward to my return visits with anticipation towards achieving a greater knowledge and connection to where I spent my first 18 years on Earth. I've always placed emphasis on a persons upbringing and habitat of origin. From natural landscapes to urban organization, surroundings have a huge effect on formulation of self. Since my earliest memories I've had a connection with the woods of Merrimack.

For just as long, I've been fascinated with and drawn to the city. Sparked from family trips into Boston for baseball games, Quincy Market, museums, Newbury Street etc. Stoked by trips into Manchester when Dad worked some Saturdays; I'd stroll up and down Elm Street, marveling the tallest building in the state towering 20 stories above Manchester at 259 feet. I knew I'd go to college in either Boston or New York, ended up in Boston. Four years completely immersed in the urban scape; brownstones, skyscrapers, parks, the esplanade, neighborhoods, history.

On to Los Angeles for 7, then Chicago the past 4.

It's been 2 years since I've been home. Only once before have I been away for longer.

I'll be back on Friday.

Over the next 2 weeks I will cover more miles on more roads, view more mountains, lakes, rivers, parks, cities and towns from more angles than ever before. My natural sensors will be on high alert as we select a proper location for our wedding next summer.  I very much look forward to seeing some of you, reminiscing on the past and looking toward the future.

No matter how long it's been, no matter where I go, the granite state will always remain home in my heart . . . long live the old man of the mountain.

"Men hang out their signs indicative of their respective trades; shoe makers hang out a gigantic shoe; jewelers a monster watch, and the dentist hangs out a gold tooth; but up in the Mountains of New Hampshire, God Almighty has hung out a sign to show that there He makes men." DANIEL WEBSTER

Monday, March 18, 2013

FULL INTEGRATION


Remember when going to a ballgame meant skipping the commercials endured while taking in the game via television or radio?  Remember when sweet trailers and posters for upcoming movies were the only advertising found at the theater?  We use to be able to "get away" to these places and others, able to remove ourselves from the "day to day".  While going to games and movies remain a few of my favorite activities, the money spent no longer pays for freedom from pesky commercial advertising.

We've identified the connection between professional sports and the US military in the past.  Though budget cuts may have ended "fly overs" for the foreseeable future, we have to expect continued, likely enhanced, use of wounded veterans of war in professional sports.  Honored for their sacrifice before the start of the game, throwing out the first pitch, flipping a coin on the 50 yard line, bearing the flag during The Star Spangled Banner, saying "gentlemen, start your engines."

Lets be clear on a point before moving forward.  Few respect the talents, efforts, technology, and power of the US armed services more than I do.  Few acknowledge the sacrifices made, understand the value of lost life, or respect the bravery of men and woman in combat more clearly than I do.  At the same time, I am among the very few are willing to dig deep and recognize the misuse and exploitation of these brave men and women, a member of the select few belonging to the un-silent minority willing to call a spade a spade and speak the truth about power misused and abused.   

As has been well established over the chronicles, the same corporate interests that run our government/military also own the mass media.  It should come as no surprise that Hollywood has once again romanticized American military activity, however this time, they've gone too far.  Since the attack on Pearl Harbor, film and television have been painting technicolor pictures to recount the toils of war.  From inserted just cause to exaggerated tales of heroism and valor, history has quite literally been re-told and re-sold as a big-budget blockbuster.

Many of us, including the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, found The Hurt Locker to be one of the great war films of all time.  In addition to collecting the Oscar for Best Picture, Kathryn Bigelow was awarded the Academy Award for Best Director.  Along with its technical and artistic merit as a film, it also served as one of the most accurate representations of our current conflict in the Middle East.  These elements combined to create the perfect platform for what was to come; telling the story of the events surrounding the death of Osama bin Laden.

Lets keep the framework simple.  The story of the mission was crafted and broadcasted in unison by the aforementioned architects.  Bin Laden shot dead in a CIA led operation by an elite Navy SEAL team, 1 round in the head, 2 in the chest.  Body taken to Afghanistan for identification, wrapped and dropped into the North Arabian Sea because no country would "accept his remains".  The President watched live on television via satellite.

This is the story that will soon appear in history books and encyclopedias.

Unquestioned.

Like clockwork, within 18 months, Zero Dark Thirty is produced, directed by Kathryn Bigelow, and nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture.  If the ramifications are not big enough, just prior to the announcement of Best Picture at this years ceremony, on the screen above the stage appears our nations First Lady.  Mrs. Obama delivering a message of congratulations to all the nominees and the Hollywood community in general.  The military has cooperated with Hollywood for years, providing aircraft, watercraft, hovercraft, tanks, trucks, weapons of all kinds, even servicemen and women in bit parts and as extras.  But never before has a feature film been so meticulously crafted by the CIA with such a resounding endorsement from the Hollywood community.

A precursor that should have foreshadowed this films arrival was another titled Act of Valor.  You may have noticed how television commercials for joining the military and those for combat video games like Call of Duty are almost indiscernible.  From music, to camera moves, to weapons and vehicles, it's tough to tell which is which until the end.  When I first saw the trailer for Act of Valor is when the theme of this entry was conceived.  I didn't know if it was another annoying movie theater TV commercial, an ad for joining an armed service, a video game, or a reality show.  Turned out is was none of the above.  It was a new breed, a feature film starring actual members of US Special Forces in a story "inspired by true events".

Full integration.

I watched Battleship for the first time on HBO a few weeks back.  Director Peter Berg is a good filmmaker who makes entertaining movies (though I think he wants to be Michael Bay).  It seems Berg, like Gary Sinise, is a huge supporter of our military, and more importantly, our veterans.  Though based on the board game from Hasbro, Battleship was largely an advertisement for the US Navy.  Army is also represented as the film takes place on Oahu, home to a base from each of Americas armed forces. 

Shortly into the film we meet angry Lieutenant Colonel Mick Canales, portrayed by Colonel Gregory D. Gadson.  It turns out in real life Col. Gadson is actually a highly decorated combat veteran, having served in Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm, Operation Joint Forge, Operation Enduring Freedom, and Operation Iraqi Freedom.  In May of 2007 he lost both legs and badly injured his right arm in a rode side blast in Baghdad.  He was retuning from a memorial service for 2 men in his brigade when the incident occurred.  The image of "Mick Canales" begrudgingly walking on his prosthetic legs is enough to stir the emotions of most viewers.  His frustration feels genuine, he even says "I lost my fight when I lost my legs."  As a viewer, I was already upset thinking about the price he paid and to what end.  My deep concern was that the general population would perceive his loss as "for a good cause" such as "protecting our freedom."  Things take a turn for the worse in the film when one of many aliens threatening civilian safety is within reach of Col. Canales.  He looks to the woman on his left and says "I got this," then precedes to charge one of the aliens, wrapping it up in a bear hug, striking it with a few head shots, grabbing it by its head, pulling towards his mechanical knee crushing its face shield exposing it to dangerous UV radiation.  From here the Colonial proceeds to pummel the alien with his fists, pugilist style, ultimately, effectively kicking the aliens ass.  So in this case, it seems Lt. Col. Canales has the advantage, perhaps his new legs are better than the old.

Message?

If you get cut in half on Uncle Sam's behalf, he's got new legs for you to stand on.  Keep your trust in him.  Prepare to go back out and fight for him with those new legs.  Continue to serve your fellow man and follow your nations interests without a second thought.  You witnessed it live at your favorite sporting event, you heard it in 6.1 surround sound on your car stereo, you got the message in the palm of your hand on your smartphone, you saw it on the big screen at the theater, and you saw it at home on your HD TV in 1080p.  

You've been fully integrated.

Monday, February 11, 2013

FRESH


Action and reaction, ebb and flow, trial and error, change.  This is the rhythm of living.  Out of our over-confidence, fear; out of our fear, clearer vision, fresh hope.  And out of hope, progress.  BRUCE BARTON

Finally the crunch of ice, snow, and slush under my boots as I walk to the train.  Dozens of unique footprints pattern the sidewalk from the morning commute.  The mixed frozen precipitation of the past four days has ceased and the temperature has remained low enough to preserve a canvas of white across the city.  The scene has resembled a Christmas card of late, a welcomed site, bolstering faith in natures four season balance which seems less and less predictable as the years go by.  As far as I'm concerned, snow is a part of life.  Though I'm many years removed from active winter sporting, the element is essential in my concept of a year.  I very much appreciate warm climates, but the variety of seasons is what makes each special.  What kind of life would be with no rain to counterbalance the dry seasons?  

Variety is vital in our lives, it enables growth. 

The older I get the more I appreciate new experiences,  the more I value exposure to original people, original music, film, art, thinking.  The patterns of the masses become more predictable as the follow the follower mentality continues to spread.  The internet and its social tentacles have streamlined popular thought and opinion into the simplest and fastest feed in history.  Word literally cannot travel faster than it does today.  Each member of the first world has a supercomputer in their pocket or handbag.  Every typed word, every site visited, all content explored now quantifiable should it be of interest to anyone for commercial or political reasons.  All thoughts and interests now calculated to absolutely understand the consumer/citizen.

How refreshing it is to meet people of unique and original taste, people who value the subtle differences found on the road less traveled.  Whether you ski or not, you must acknowledge the special circumstances required to generate snow.  You must appreciate what a rare occurrence it is, out of 365 days it might snow 20-30 times in a region known for it.  

Things rare are special.

When you hear about an up and coming athlete referred to as "a special talent" it means they have more than outstanding fundamentals.  A human being is born with characteristics different than every other person who has ever lived.  From appearance to fingerprints to motor skills, we are blessed with tools unique from everyone we will ever meet.  Only through the passage of time, exploring ourselves and our interests, do we discover who we are and what we're best equipped to do.  If you spend your time trying to be something or someone you're not, you'll end up being no one at all.  Take the gifts and skills you were blessed with and do something with them, big or small.  Make an impression, be yourself, present a fresh perspective.

They say no two snowflakes are alike.  
The same goes for us.  

Forget all you know about yourself; forget all you have ever thought about yourself; we are going to start as if we knew nothing.  It rained last night heavily; and now the skies are beginning to clear; it is a new fresh day. Let us start on our journey together with all the remembrance of yesterday left behind - and begin to understand ourselves for the first time.  JIDDU KRISHNAMURTI 

Saturday, November 10, 2012

MOMENTUM

Most of life is routine - dull and grubby, but routine is the momentum that keeps a man going. If you wait for inspiration you'll be standing on the corner after the parade is a mile down the street.  BEN NICHOLAS

It's the 4th quarter and the clock is counting down on the year of our lord two thousand twelve. Leaves continue to fall, temperatures continue to drop. Another season of our pastime concludes, the gridiron is packed, and roundball is back. The holidays approach, the New Year will be here before you know it.

2013 is coming.

The year is like an analog clock, each month represented by a number on its face. As our routines are organized by the yearly calendar, emotional momentum builds towards year’s end. Consideration of family and friends around Thanksgiving and Christmas, the end of one year and dawn of a new one, humanity steps to the forefront.

I've come down hard on the state of the average man's position since the beginning of these Chronicles. I've wanted more for him the same as myself. I've looked to mend broken methods and form new, more constructive ones. I've hoped to strengthen our resolve and belief in our unlimited human potential.


The great majority have found stride in their work and relationships, though to varying degrees of content. Like most of us, at times I grow frustrated with the routine that has us all caught up. As much as I'd love to rise above this rat race, we all must do what we have to. The trick, as we all know, is to focus on the highlights of the journey. The holidays make this easier for us, bring it into clearer focus. The agents of commerce do their best to put a price tag and material value on this period, but the older we get, the easier it is to compartmentalize this unfortunate attachment, and focus instead on the happy traditions and holiday elements of years gone by.

Not everyone is born into this world with the capacity to create or build, and that's fine. All of us should, however, posses the means to define our tastes. For example, the inability to design an automobile or skyscraper should not prevent you from admiring that craft as executed by others. Just because you cannot play the piano does not keep you from appreciating the symphony. The problem we face as a society is that too few who can create have the ability to get paid for it, and that those who appreciate others work seldom are able to make it part of their occupation. In short, we generally are not able to get paid for what we are most suited to do. More often than not, we work in fields that originally have nothing to do with our nature, only after molding our minds and routines do we claim a career. We are programmed from an early age that upon graduation, we are to "pick" a profession.

"What are you going to be when you grow up?"

Historically, society dictates that we are born to fall in line. We are given information and then tested on how well it's been ingrained, how much we remember. The US history taught, polished of many flaws and much of its controversy, provides a good framework for what once was and can be again. Though the truly lasting lessons learned in school are largely those associated with problem solving, how to work with numbers, order of operations, proper use of language, physical science and all the systems of our natural world. Yet all the while, our minds are geared towards choosing our own fate by way of occupation. While some instructors will look to your strengths and encourage you to follow your creative dreams, the overall theme is what can you do that will absolutely make money, what role you will play in the tested fields.

Only through absolute maturity, which many will never achieve, do we recognize the useless purpose to which much of our efforts serve. As tough as it may come to digest, when all jobs are broken down to their basic elements, more often than not an employee can be replaced by automation. The simple fact is that most work exists principally to continue what we know as "the economy". Even now I work in a position in which the majority would prefer to circumnavigate altogether with the assistance of the internet. And though many of my friends hold well paying positions, I would be hard-pressed to find one of them who feels a genuine sense of achievement at the end of each work day.


There is no easy solution for this situation, only a necessary gut-check on the theme. We will to continue to generate funds in which to survive and plan for the future while playing our perpetual roles in this global capitalist system. All I ask is we continue to more clearly define ourselves as unique individuals and attempt to sharpen focus on what truly drives us, what entertains us, and what inspires us. Recognize your strengths, what separates you from the crowd; acknowledge your independence and imagine making a living exploiting you best traits and tastes. Think of a world where each day we take another step towards achieving our potential, becoming who we were meant to be.

When I grow up, I'm going to be me.


The world is wide, and I will not waste my life in friction when it could be turned into momentum.  FRANCES WILLARD

Monday, September 24, 2012

POWER OUTAGE

It has become appallingly obvious that our technology has exceeded our humanity.  ALBERT EINSTEIN

Think back four years to the months leading up to our last Presidential election. The Smog Chronicles had yet to begin, but those who knew me understood my position. This was the peak of Obamamania. Under George W. Bush our nation had endured eight long years of war and recession, dishonesty and corruption, almost everyone seemed eager to turn the page and move forward.

The United States had been introduced to its potential savior four years prior at the Democratic National Convention where Senator John Kerry accepted his party’s nomination. This was our first sign that the artificial, reality show nature of American politics was in full swing. Dangled in our view like the mechanical bunny in front of the Greyhounds at the dog track, was America's best "hope" of electing it's first black president.

Not long after taking office we saw our newly elected Commander in Chief transition from "yes we can" to "thought we could". It soon rang clear to those of sound mind that we'd once again been taken for a ride. One of our principles is awareness of the holographic nature of US government. The fact that in elections you are essentially presented two choices, frequently out of the blue, neither of which you helped place on the ballot. From these two choices you voice your opinion and receive a feeling of satisfaction from "helping elect" the nation's next leader. Once there is a change in the executive branch, we discover the same problems persist, we pick up right where we left off.

In reality, a vote could be compared to the effect of a person putting their all against a mountain in attempt to move it. For generations we've been disillusioned into believing we live in a true democracy. Our reality has been prescribed since the earliest stage of printed media. Agencies responsible for reporting the news are run by the same ones being reported on. Imagine yourself a popular musician performing a concert then receiving the task of reviewing your own performance, thereby influencing your own record sales. How can you expect a corporate owned media to give honest unbiased coverage of a government owned by the same corporations?

It doesn't add up.

Have we gotten so hypnotized by our digital baby rattles that reality has become less familiar than fiction? It seems as though wireless internet connections have become the new umbilical cords, living in an age where we've never been further removed from our mothers. While our technology enables us to be better informed and closer in-touch, it seems to be yielding something else entirely. Have you noticed how our latest political pawns like Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan resemble virtual or artificial humans? Have you noticed how Americans are almost without feeling towards this upcoming election? I believe it's the combination of unconsciously recognizing the futility of believing in actual change combined with electronically infused pacification. Something along the lines of "I don't care who sits in the oval office as long as it doesn't interrupt my wireless digital freedom."

My grandfather used to say "everyone born after 1950 came out of the womb like this" (arm bent at the elbow, hand in a "C" as if holding a drink). He had an excellent point, one we'll cover another time. I submit that it seems these same people came out with their necks at an angle, other arm bent at the elbow with hand clasped (around a phone) in front of their chests.

What are we evolving into?

I've gone on and on for years about the importance of our connection to nature and how we're drifting from it. I've mentioned time and again how most everything we need to truly understand is available to us in our natural world. As time progresses, I see us growing less and less human. The more individualized we become, the greater we rely on digital communications, the weaker we become as a species. Only when this technology is used for organization or spreading the good word to a large audience can we lean back towards the righteous path. Our grip on reality will continue to slip until we awaken and begin to re-identify with what once defined us as us.



Men have become tools of their tools.  HENRY DAVID THOREAU

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

THE RAIN

Thank God for the rain which has helped wash away the garbage and the trash off the sidewalks . . . someday a real rain will come and wash all this scum off the streets. TAXI DRIVER 1976


Weather is likely the most user friendly topic of conversation on planet earth. According to this age old discussion, there is a generally agreed upon air temperature and climate. If the temp falls in the preferred 15 degree window and there are no significant clouds in the sky, people will comment on how nice the weather is. Temperatures above or below this scale, any natural weather elements or wind will generate discontent.  

Water composes 75% of your brain, 83% of your blood, 22% of your bones, and 75% of your muscles. Most humans love oceans, lakes, rivers, waterfalls, hot showers, cool swimming pools, and hot tubs.  But when rain comes, the collective population cowers and complains in unison. We want the trees, plants, grass, and flowers to grow; we want clean air and fresh water; yet regardless of how many years in our species' existence, without fail, we continue to gripe about rainfall. Our planet depends on the water cycle just as people and other animals depend on drinking water. The rain must fall yet we don't want it.  We want life to flourish but resist what is necessary to facilitate it. It's like the person who wants to be rich but refuses to put in the necessary work, or the person who wants to be ripped but won't sacrifice the necessary hours in the gym.    

Cook county and the midwest at large are currently experiencing serious drought conditions. Irrigation, sprinklers, and hoses have served as lifelines for our abundant parks and gardens. Temperatures have hovered around 90 for weeks; rain of more than a few inches has fallen only half a dozen times this year. This entry was inspired by an unexpected spring shower a few weeks back. As the rain began, people began to cower and run for cover, shielding themselves with whatever they could find. I instantly recognized how rain compares to truth. 

Rain can be unwelcome, cold, and unexpected. It's different and far less frequent than clear skies. It forces you to step more cautiously and drive slower. It can interrupt plans and force you to make new ones. It has you think and interpret your situation differently; reevaluate circumstance. Like truth, rain can spoil your preconceived notions of the world around you.

But it cannot hurt you.  

Rain, like truth, nurtures, promotes growth and good health. Both are required for clear vision and a strong life force. I've written before about the satisfaction gained by appropriate outfitting to combat frozen elements, naturally I feel the same when it comes to fluid elements. Waterproof footwear, water resistant outerwear, ballcaps, rimmed hats, hoods, and umbrellas serve as excellent protection from wet socks, clothing, hair, et al. We live in an age where synthetic materials are so advanced, there is no excuse not to properly shield from dreaded precipitation. The key is not to avoid being affected by rain, but to appreciate its value while walking between the rain drops.  

The same goes for truth.

We must not drown in the bleakness of the world stage, but be aware of it. Our common sense is our greatest guide though many forces work daily to divert it. We must reach inside for our guiding light and work towards the healing necessary in our lives and in our world.  Let the rain fall all around you, watch as it brings fourth fresh new life while washing away corruption and decay from generations of imbalance. Bring fourth a true rain to purify our understanding and create a clean, life-rich canvas so that future generations might enjoy what we know can be.

That someday will be.

I am a being of Heaven and Earth, of thunder and lightning, of rain and wind, of the galaxies.  EDEN AHBEZ

Monday, February 27, 2012

BALANCE

Life is the result of the struggle between dynamic opposites.
Form & Chaos, Substance & Oblivion, Light & Dark,
and all the infinite variations of Yin & Yang.
When the pendulum swings in favor of one,
it will eventually swing in favor of it's opposite.
Thus the balance of the universe is maintained.

FIST OF THE NORTH STAR / JERU THE DAMAJA

For years I would meditate on six noble virtues: strength, health, patience, knowledge, peace, and ultimately, enlightenment. I practiced this prayer as frequently as possible, always accompanied by my Kata, breathing out over the Pacific or Lake Michigan. In my opinion these are the most important virtues in a human life. However, around a year ago, when I was feeling particularly off-centered, realizing what I had been in search of came over me like a blanket of warm sunlight.

Balance.

Though "Enlightenment" (the continued search for meaning in the world around us) remains a critical pursuit, I realized that day the rest of what I was truly seeking was optimum balance.

One of the amazing systems of nature is the built-in navigation mechanism of animals. From birds to insects to mammals, all maintain particular patterns with the changing of seasons. Whether flying south, burrowing deep underground, or migrating in search of food or water, something deep inside guides these creatures to sustainable surroundings nearly without fail. In the past we've covered how much human society stands to learn from natural cycles and systems, how simple observation of the living planet is our best guide for an enduring culture. However, a major inspiration for this entry is the interpretation and reaction of said creatures to unorthodox seasonal patterns, this season and year of great transition in particular.

Chicago is currently experiencing one of the mildest winters in its history. We received our fourth accumulation of snow last week and like the first three it amounted to about two inches and remained on the ground approximately
 72 hours before melting away. The season leading up to this latest accumulation was generating a state of confusion in animals visible in Chicago, and for at least one of its human inhabitants.

One of the principle reasons I left the southwest for this great metropolis was a return to a 4 season set. A return to what my mind and body had been conditioned to understand as "normal" from growing up in a similar climate in New England. While climate change is undeniable, though it's causes are not clearly defined, the way in which different areas are affected at different times are unpredictable. No longer can you expect "X" amount of rain, snowfall, or sunshine in a particular season. After nearly 8 years of living without a "traditional" winter, I had prepared for the elements. As it turned out, I had over-prepared, I assumed, made the mistake of expecting, even depending on regular snowfall. I allowed my balance to pend on unpredictable natural events when I should have been focusing on personal balance, separate from the world around me.

Winter is one of the great settings on Earth. It provides a beautiful, clean white contrast to the other bright colorful seasons. It causes inhabitants to practice greater consideration regarding outdoor activities due to low temperatures and frozen elements. It generally yields greater appreciation for our warm homes and the people in which we choose to spend our time. It helps bring balance to some who have relied upon it since earliest memories.



But it is not guaranteed. 
There is no promise of winter.

Just as I was beginning to steam at this seasons lack of weather, I was fortunate enough to recognize the error of my ways. Snow came to Chicago, and the following day I went to see The Gray. A real-life mild winter storm in Illinois followed by a film depicting a life and death struggle against the rugged conditions of Alaska. I was reminded of the raw human connection to our planet. Reminded that our best mode is one prepared for all weather in any season.

The man who can endure the sweltering heat of summer and embrace the deep freeze of winter; the man who can appreciate the value of spring rain and recognize the beauty of ice . .

Is a man properly balanced.

One day a man was watching a professional football game on television. His five year old son kept bothering him so he took a page of the Sunday paper with a full page airline add on it with a picture of the world; the planet earth seen from space, he tore the page up into a dozen pieces and gave them to his son and he said: 'Here put this back together with some cellophane tape and show daddy how smart you are'. Then he went back to watching his football game. Within a surprisingly short time, the youngster had put the picture back together. 'Hey that's amazing', the father said, 'how did you put that together so quickly?'. And the little boy said: 'There was a picture of a man on the other side. I just put the man back together and then the world was all together'. The youngster was no doubt surprised by the warm hug he received from his father. 'That's right son, when the man's all together, his world's all together too.' EARL NIGHTINGALE

Thursday, November 10, 2011

MOMENTUM SHIFT

Times of great calamity and confusion have been productive for the greatest minds. The purest ore is produced from the hottest furnace. The brightest thunderbolt is elicited from the darkest storm.   CC COLTON

It seems many people around the planet are unhappy with the actions and policies of the global financial system. The corporatocracy has successfully controlled the system for nearly 100 years, only mildly challenged by an idealistic audience over this period. The argument has to do with loans, fees, and other extractions from honest citizen's bank accounts while owners mismanage their "assets" and are rewarded with tens of billions of dollars in "bailouts" by their respective "governments" (World Bank, International Monetary Fund, and Federal Reserve Bank).

They are commonly known as the 99%, although the greedy and fraudulent upper class actually represents about one tenth of one percent.

The argument is simple and just.

America represents 5% of the world's population and consumes 24% of its energy. Roughly one third of the planet's people lack access to clean water . .

Life on Earth is out of balance, yet there is hope.

There is no telling what long-term impact this movement will have, nor how long it will last. It's too early to decipher its actual size based on television and internet coverage. There have been no changes in economic policy as of yet, but the movement has been verbally acknowledged by members of the government. No doubt this uprising will be spun in all sorts of different directions during the upcoming election.

Regardless of the long-term impact of this movement, there are clear signs of unity among people around the world. Believe it or not, some media outlets are actually covering the protests objectively. As unlikely as it sounds, it seems a mainstream news outlet is actually broadcasting unfiltered reality. Do not confuse this with a blind subscription to ANY individual information source, only that from a handful of observations it seems Dylan Ratigan of MSNBC is providing a stream of common sense. In the past on the same network, there were instances when Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow had impressed me with rants of different intensities blasting BOTH sides for their willfully damaging incompetence. Ratigan is a new breed. In a media consisting of clowns from the left like Bill Maher and Anderson Cooper, and jokers from the right like Glenn Beck and Sean Hannity, MSNBC is the first national network I've seen placing shared blame on the corporate owned, equally ineffective American political parties.

The movement, with its many faces and ambitions, combined with breakthrough media coverage is the momentum shift. Of course we're not pretending all news outlets will now follow suit and begin telling it like it is; far from it. We're not saying "the lion sleeps no more" and the population has all at once become aware of the criminal nature of its leadership. What we're saying is that there have been a few signs of hope in a public arena. Decades have rolled by like a freight train leaving little room for questioning or detailed scrutiny by the people. Now, thanks in large part to the internet, pockets of enlightened citizens have begun joining forces to combat the injustices enacted by their leaders. Finally, retired members of our economic/intelligence apparatus and Armed Forces are coming out of the shadows to expose long kept secrets, ending years of guilt-ridden silence.

All those willing and able to tune into intuition and inner voices currently recognize early signs of a great shift on this planet. A shift that transcends politics and economics, goes beyond personal relationships and family heritage. There is a new era visible on the horizon destined to rise from the chaos of our current lifestyle and direction. The sound minds and righteous hearts are out there as far as the eye can see . .

The tide is turning worldwide.

How will we respond to this critical calling?

Four things support the world: the learning of the wise, the justice of the great, the prayers of the good, and the valor of the brave.  MUHAMMAD

Monday, October 31, 2011

THE CONNECTION

Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it. BUDDAH

Last weekend, I attended a gathering at a friend of a friend's house in New England. With all the happenings in our nation, my personal life, and the world at large, my mind was wide open . .

I walked out onto the deck and noticed a German Shepard crouching near a picnic table in the backyard. I'd already met a jubilant young mutt in the house, but this one was silent and cautious. As I approached to make the animal's acquaintance, I sensed fear. My first thought was that she was a rescue or had been abused. I extended one hand, then the other, she kept her eyes on me as she sniffed each individually. After determining I could be trusted, she moved in and allowed me to scratch her back and under her collar. It's important to note that dogs and other pets will be in your debt if you scratch these two inaccessible places. I walked back up the steps to the deck and asked my friend what he knew of the dog. He informed me that "Carmen" was an expert trained guard dog imported from Deutschland several years prior. I looked back out at her and recognized she was studying our every move, crouched to avoid attracting any attention, poised to attack without hesitation if necessary.

Since my earliest memories I've had a close connection with animals, dogs in particular. Before reading about "dark matter," or the space between all things, I was brought closer to nature by forming a kinship with canine. Relationships of back and forth, give and take, with an animal unable to communicate through the English language was a tremendous life lesson, though I didn't know it at the time. I've written of this unspoken connection before, and how it translates to human interaction. For a lifetime I've been able to get a sense of a person's attitude and intentions upon initial contact simply by opening my awareness to the micro-nuances and invisible energy shared between living things. In time it has matured into an awareness allowing me to decipher between reality and fiction in many arenas.

The weekend leading up to this encounter was crucial on several fronts. I had been observing and getting to know a number of new people, friends and family of one of my best friends. The most important connection, the inspiration for this entry, was a six-year-old boy named Keegan. I brought over the Aerobie Skylighter I had given to my friend as a house warming gift, and asked Keegan if he wanted to play catch. We threw back and forth a few dozen times under Carmen's watchful eye, before she finally snapped and engaged. She'd race over and pick up the disc anytime it hit the ground, releasing it upon my request. On the other end, when Keegan couldn't handle a throw and Carmen would scoop in, he would plead and whine for her to drop it. I explained how all he needed to do was to say her name with authority and she would release the disc. I explained how he was the boss and that Carmen was aware of this fact. It wasn't his size, age, or depth of his voice that alerted Carmen of her role; it was the projection of his energy. It was a great feeling watching Keegan's discovery of this inner power over his dog.

After Carmen's relentless pursuit of the flying disc got old, we brought her into the house. While up on the porch, people kept coming and going through the screen door. Naturally, some would pass through without sliding the door shut behind them. Keegan walked up to the doorway and slammed it shut. "I don't know why you people keep leaving this door open. We have an indoor cat that will escape if she gets the chance!" followed by a deep expressive sigh.

This young man had the greatest natural advantage of anyone at the party due to the simple fact that he's had less time on Earth than the rest. His media exposure has been so short, the shaping and manipulation of his mind so limited. His focus remains on what matters here and now. Surely the amount of information he's exposed to through technology dwarfs that of all preceding generations; perhaps dwarfing all preceding generations combined. Yet with such a short conscious time in this life, he remains tuned to nature and the reality that surrounds him. Social status, material goods, local, national, and world "news events" have not yet reached him. His mind is ripe and ready for information when offered by a trusted source, hungry for a greater understanding of how things work. What a world this would be if all children around this age were enlightened with the greatest, most valuable information at this "seed-time" for learning. If the children were made aware of their role in nature, the importance of balance, and how it can be achieved and maintained, they would be more than equipped to face all of the challenges afflicting mankind.

A second lesson was sparked from the interaction between Carmen and Keegan; it came to me in a flash. Carmen was born into this world on German soil two or three years ago. From her first days she was separated from her litter, from her mother, and trained by professionals for a very specific purpose. She is an excellent learner; a programmed animal. She is born from nature and therefore possesses ancient qualities of the heart, having the ability to show affection and loyalty.

She represents the system.

The brilliant, glowing, flying disc, gliding back and fourth across the yard represents liberty and justice. It is the honest, good-intentioned government by and for the people, built on progress, peace, and prosperity.

Keegan represents each of us.

The ultimate decision maker, unaware of his own strengths and abilities. The one with power to affect all human choices. The person who will inherit the Earth.  The boss. 

When the young boy (boss) tells the dog (system) to release what does not belong to her (all the marbles), she listens and obeys. We are responsible for our ruling class; if we no longer elect our leadership, it's our duty to find a way to reconstruct what we call democracy.  If we've lost confidence in our economic system, we have to design and implement a better one.  If we demand that corrupt leaders stand down we must prepare ourselves to fill their positions.

We are constantly reminded of how balance is established and maintained simply by watching the cycles of nature.  From weather, to vegetation, to animals; natural life cycles are constantly at work, wide open for our observation.  These cycles are designed for one purpose: survival.  They have no ego, no vanity, no government, no money, no media, no technology, no distractions, and no excuses.  Our bond with nature is the greatest connection we have.  The less we recognise it, the further we separate ourselves from our living planet, the less chance we have for survival.  Nature does not care if we remain and thrive, or consume ourselves into extinction.  Mankind's impact on Earth has not been a positive one.  Extreme weather conditions are our only competition in disrupting the cycle of life on our planet. 

We must embrace our responsibility and respect the simple laws of natural order.  We have all the tools required; we must find the wisdom to use them.  The fate of the world depends on it.     

Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures & the whole of nature in its beauty. ALBERT EINSTEIN

Friday, September 2, 2011

CONDOR AND EAGLE

Nearly every culture I know prophesies that in the late 1990's we entered a period of remarkable transition. At monasteries in the Himalayas, ceremonial sites in Indonesia, and indigenous reservations in North America, from the depths of the Amazon to the peaks of the Andes, and into the ancient Mayan cities of Central America, I have heard that ours is a special moment in human history, and that each of us was born at this time because we have a mission to accomplish.

The titles and the words of the prophecies differ slightly. They tell variously of a New Age, the Third Millennium, the Age of Aquarius, the Beginning of the Fifth Sun, or the end of old calendars and the commencement of new ones. Despite the varying terminologies, however, they have a great deal in common, and "The Prophecy of the Condor and Eagle" is typical. It states that back in the mists of history, human societies divided and took different paths: that of the condor (representing the heart, intuitive and mystical) and that of the eagle (representing the brain, rational and material). In the 1490's, the prophesy said, the two paths would converge and the eagle would drive the condor to the verge of extinction. Then, five hundred years later, in the 1990's a new epoch would begin, one in which the condor and the eagle will have the opportunity to reunite and fly together in the same sky, along the same path. If the condor and eagle accept this opportunity, they will create a most remarkable offspring, unlike any seen before.

"The Prophecy of the Condor and Eagle" can be taken at many levels — the standard interpretation is that it foretells the sharing of indigenous knowledge with the technologies of science, the balancing of yin and yang, and the bridging of northern and southern cultures. However, most powerful is the message it offers about consciousness; it says that we have entered a time when we can benefit from the many diverse ways of seeing ourselves and the world, and that we can use these as a springboard to higher levels of awareness. As human beings we can truly wake up and evolve into a more conscious species.
  JOHN PERKINS

Chicago's Green Festival was held at McCormick Place in the south side four months back. I rode 3 miles along the coast through a heavy mist in a light rain jacket to get there. It cost only $5 to get in due to my eco-friendly mode of transport. I was there to meet John Perkins.

Before telling the story of the condor and eagle, he spoke of how some indigenous cultures from North America believe that each of us are born into this world with a specific purpose, or "legend". They say we are born into certain surroundings among particular people and circumstances exactly when and where intended. We are born to spend our lives working towards the achievement of whichever specific purpose we were brought here to perform.

What a clear and uncanny perspective. How contrary to so much of what we've been led to believe in western culture. By now you're well aware that thinking is not taught, and far from encouraged in our society. Assimilation is the norm. Pick an established field based first on its expected paying salary, then on its interest to you, and fall in line. What if instead we were convinced of our unlimited potential at an early age, that those who blaze their own paths rather than following crowds have historically made greater progress and led more fulfilling lives? Quite simply, positive changes would emerge and the planet would begin to mature as a whole. They've always said one should decide what he or she loves most; then find a way to make money doing it. But how many of us actually do this? How many of us earn a living and feel rewarded with our labor at the end of the day? How many of us have jobs that truly make a difference? (other than numbers on the bank statements of those at the top of the pyramid) The answer is simply not many.

Somewhere along the line, emphasis went from progress to profit. We lost our way when materials began to take precedence over ideals. The outside became more important than the inside. The goal has become to acquire and amass; human achievement has become essentially a bi-product of our efforts.

The unification of the condor and the eagle is coming.

The choices we're offered are unacceptable. Left versus right is an invalid contest. The system is broken. Our decisions and actions must soon be based upon common sense and the common good. What works best in one nation need be what works best for the entire planet. A time is coming where fake politics and the economic shell game will be a matter of life and death.

Balance is what's required. Balance between light and dark, masculine and feminine, left and right, mind and heart.

The prophesy must come to pass; all other outcomes lead to failure.


Each time we choose a new way to deal with the challenges of life, our solution contributes to the diversity of human will that ensures our survival. As one of us pioneers a new creative solution to the seemingly small challenges of our individual lives, we become a living bridge for the next person who finds himself or herself faced with the same challenge, and the next, and so on. Each time one of us faces the condition that others have faced in the past, we have more options from our collective response to draw from. Relatively few individuals may create possibilities that become choices for the whole.  GREGG BRADEN