The Puzzle of Our Existence

In the beginning, the world, as we know it, was created. It doesn’t really matter how, it just was.

And, in the beginning, like a puzzle, the first edge was formed. For the sake of argument, let’s say that time moves in a line from left to right, so it was the left edge.

The rest of the puzzle’s pieces didn’t exist yet, only the first row. But like any puzzle, each piece was in search of the next piece to fill its unique void.

The rules were simple. Two factors dictated the creation of the next piece; Humanity and it’s desires/needs and something bigger; God, Mother Nature, whatever. The second just made sure that the first didn’t destroy the world or itself; that it survived.

Now here’s the deal. Each new piece is not random. The piece before it created the space that only that particular new piece would fit. The prior piece is looking for a solution to what it perceives as a problem and in theory, the new piece solves the problem.

A modern example: Polio is ravaging the world. The desire of its citizens is to end the disease. This piece of the puzzle will only allow one other particular piece to fit; the cure.  Enter Dr. Jonas Salk, the matching piece. He was the right person, at the right time and he was a perfect fit.

A Historic example: What happens when humanity becomes too dense in a confined area? Starvation, unsanitary conditions, war. The World has a problem and needs a solution. The matching piece; the solution, if you will, is usually something horrible that quickly “thins the herd” returning the affected area to levels that are sustainable. The European plague of the 1600’s comes to mind.

The point is, what we receive is usually what we asked for. We just didn’t think it would be so painful.

A tragic example: In 1919, Germany “accepted” the Treaty of Versailles. This once proud country was now on its knees. An economic depression ensued, and its citizens were starving, miserable and searching, desperately, for a solution. They remembered, fondly, the heady days of a great and powerful Germany and they wanted it back.

In 1923-1924, the missing piece of their puzzle wrote a book, and in that book, he addressed the problem and then he offered a solution. His name was Adolf Hitler and we know how that turned out. He was the right person, in the right place, at the right time and it ended in disaster.

The moral of the story: Be careful what you wish for as you may just get it.

What I’m suggesting here is that when enough people perceive that something is a problem, they create a space where only a particular and unique solution will fit. Adolf Hitler, in any other time, would have been “laughed off the stage,” but at that particular and unique time, his piece attached perfectly to the piece before it.

Moses, Jesus, Muhammad, Lincoln or Franklin Roosevelt, in any other time, may have never succeeded and been just another unknown name. But they were known, they did rise above, and they were the desired piece of the puzzle for the time and place in which they existed.

Each time we add to our linear puzzle, we must accept the results of the outcome. We, the prior pieces, formed the design of the next piece, insisting that it align with our desires and once found, we provided the opportunity for it to thrive.

Fast forward to 2016. Hillary Clinton could not have won the election. Actually, she really never even stood a chance.

The business of Politics had become synonymous with the words: Status quo, Corruption, Gridlock and Dishonesty. The cries for change were at fever pitch and it was inevitable that the next piece of the puzzle would be someone “different.” That is not to say “better,” just “different.”

Enter, Donald Trump: “The everything else but a politician,” piece.

History will judge President Trump as it judges us all. Bickering over whether he should remain in office is a waste of time and energy. The reality is that he is the President, it is his time, it is his place and we, the People, did create this particular and unique void in which his piece fit perfectly.

Humanity really should be much more careful about what it desires. As each day passes, we are actively creating the environment for the next missing piece of our puzzle to thrive; either good or bad.

 

We choose not who will be good and who will be evil; we choose only to open the door and let them in. It is then that they take root and choose the path that they’ll follow. It is also then that we yield to them our fate.

Michael McCown

 

A man is but the product of his thoughts. What he thinks, he becomes.

Mahatma Gandhi

The Point of the Highland Thistle

“The Point of The Highland Thistle”

At the Vernal Equinox, the Scottish Highlands have always yielded before their Dark and Mercurial Sky, who once again is forced to endure Lady Spring’s conspicuous and gaudy arrival.

As She approached, the curmudgeonly Sky, turned and peered into the distance, greeting her only with silence.

Lady Spring, irritated by the tepid reception and the Sky’s obvious lack of deference, gazed disapprovingly upon the Highlands and its dull and dreary pallor.

“The only signs of life are these prickly Scottish thistles that rise from the snow,” she said, while she tugged at her robe which had become entangled in it’s thorny stalk and was refusing to yield. Frustrated, she removed the robe and tugged as hard as she could, pulling the whole plant from the soil, whose sudden release caused her to fall backward onto the ground; her robe now completely covered in thorns. “I’ll banish them too!” she shrieked as she stood up, angrily casting the robe aside.

With great pomp and flair, she twirled her hands in the air and ordered the darkened clouds and unruly winds to cease their wintry assault, casting them out into the open seas. She then summoned the Sun who failed to reply. She jumped in the air, loudly repeating her demand and this time the Sun responded and began moving sunlight towards the land. Cold, she reached for her thistle-covered robe, mumbling about ridding the Highlands of this prickly nuisance.

The Sky, who was watching in awe at the folly of her performance, found himself unable to resist and mocked Lady Spring, “Once again you appear in the Highlands, uninvited, and wave your arms about, looking ridiculous. You arrogantly presume that you rule this realm and in furtherance of your silliness, you insist on repainting the Highland’s serene and wintry landscape with your whimsical palette of color.”

Lady Spring replied, “And once again, you, dear Sky, ridicule me and stand in my way. The Seasons have grown weary of quarreling with you and wish an end to your child-like petulance. You seem to forget that you are only a simple vessel that contains the desire of each Season, so remember your place and do step aside.”

The Sun, noticing that the clouds had fled, finally arrived, and at the direction of Lady Spring shone upon the Highland’s frozen landscape awakening the frost-covered grasses and seeds, who were most eager to rise from the soil and bring forth their brilliance of color.

The Sky, now vexed, summoned back the darkened clouds and unruly winds, who gladly yielded to his call and furiously spread vast blankets of snow and ice; spitefully covering the landscape and Lady Spring with the most colorless shades of gray and white.

The Clouds; roguish and detesting Celestial order, barred the Sun’s radiance by stubbornly cleaving to one another. The Sun was then forced to shine upon the soil elsewhere; thus, denying the Highlands their warm and rejuvenating light and further frustrating Lady Springs’ most ardent attempts at painting the countryside in colors so vibrant and bright.

The Highland Sky, whose patience had long since waned, furiously spoke to Lady Spring. “A vessel indeed!” he snarled, “Remember this day, for like the Great Highland Thistle, I will never give yield to you or any other!”

Lady Spring, fearing further wrath from the tempestuous Sky, wisely fled the Highlands and sought refuge within the vast expanse of the Heavens. The Seasons of Summer, Fall and Winter were watching and quickly agreed that they would have nothing further to do with the harsh Scottish Highlands, leaving its fate in the hands of its maddened Sky.

The Sky was pleased that all was well and right again. For the Highland realm tolerates only the heartiest of souls and will mercilessly drive away all who are less worthy.

The Sky then motioned for the clouds and the winds to abate, graciously allowing the Sun’s rays to return and shine upon the land, melting the snow and bringing pleasant weather and tall green grasses to the Scottish Highlands.

A Look in Life’s Rear View Mirror

Another year, another birthday. I’m not a “birthday” kinda guy. I don’t like the attention and would prefer that it passed quietly and unnoticed. This year I was feeling extra-curmudgeonly and spent the day avoiding most everyone, which is almost impossible, because I have the most wonderful family in the world and they know right where to find me. I usually get through the day by reflecting on the past and thinking of what I can do to improve things going forward.

Despite my shortfalls, I know that I’m truly loved by my family. I spent the afternoon examining the details of our past and how amazing it has been. I thought about my little “quirks” as I poured through a lifetime of saved pictures. My life is wonderful because my family is wonderful. Our biggest blessing? A gloriously twisted sense of humor and the ability to laugh at ourselves. When we get together, decorum, manners and sanity, all get left at the door.

After looking through the pictures, I’m left with one thought; Who AM I and what the hell have I done to the kids…🤔

Me spending some quiet time with my favorite Slippers

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…and then there was that one Halloween

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And that awesome sale on cold weather gear

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Apparently, I’m told I know way too much about chickens…

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at least I’m setting a good example for the Grandkids…

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We like to pick a theme for Thanksgiving, maybe Pilgrims or …

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Thugs?

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Last Thanksgiving we all made shirts with Fruit loop patches…

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and oddly, needles terrify me, seriously

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I also cry like a little girl at weddings, ok, my daughter’s weddings…

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My Grandmother, Sister and Nephew came over for a visit. A Christmas card in the making…

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and then there was Austria. I just couldn’t get the Sound of Music out of my head

I am the luckiest guy in the world to be a part of this glorious troupe. Something strange happens to normal people when they cross our threshold. They smile and then head for the kitchen.

 

 

Think being a Parent is hard, wait until you’re a Grandparent.

What is the hardest job in the world? The answer is, of course, subjective. At the end of the day though, I thought that being a parent ultimately topped the list.  I was wrong. Becoming a parent, requires only that you participate in the act of procreation and nine-ish months later, you’re a parent. Don’t confuse the word “parent” with the word “Mom” or “Dad”. There is a difference and it’s huge. When you’re called Mom or Dad, savor the moment, it conveys love and a bond that means everything. It is the key to your heart.

So what’s the hardest job in the world? Without a doubt, it’s being a Grandparent. Sounds silly doesn’t it? What makes it so hard? Before I answer that, let’s make a few very broad assumptions about just being a parent.

As a parent, you get to call the shots, you make the rules, they live where you live and do what you say. Also, within reason, you’re allowed to download your values, thoughts, beliefs and baggage into their little hard-drives and get a tax deduction for each of them at the same time. You are also, most likely, the most influential person in their life which can either be good or bad.

Being a parent is tough, but the biggest challenge begins when they grow up and start their own family. It’s here that your parental role, which you have spent the last 18-ish years getting used to, changes drastically. You go from “essential” to “as needed”. Your work is now done and it’s time to sit back, relax and watch your children raise their children the same way you raised them; I mean they learned from watching you, right? …Wrong.

Basically, your career as a parent just went under a microscope. You expect them to do “this” and they do “that”. When you bring it up, they politely point out how they are going to do some things “differently”, and with that, you’re completely crushed. Now, you are officially a Grand Parent with a whole new set of rules and rule #1; you are no longer in charge and that’s that.

If that alone didn’t make it hard enough, how about this:

1. Being a Grandparent is totally voluntary: You actually have to want to participate. You get what you give. You have to be there and be involved and if you sit at home waiting to be included, good luck.

2. Your unsolicited opinions about this or that really don’t seem to matter anymore. Go ahead and point out their parenting flaws and tell them what you would have done differently; then duck and find cover. You’ve just crossed the line.

3. It requires travel, wherever. Your children will probably move away. They don’t come to you, you go to them. They’re  busy building their life and raising a family. Never show up unannounced and learn to read between the lines. You didn’t like it when your parents did it to you and they won’t either.

4. Your schedule will “suddenly” begin to look a lot like theirs. Get used to it. You will begin checking with them first before making plans.

5. You will now start second guessing everything. Was I a good parent? If I do “this” will I be in trouble? My God, what do they think of me, the way I parented and why does this feeling hurt so much? I should have done things differently, I should have been…

6. You will stare in amazement as they deal with parenting issues, making incredibly hard decisions and all without your valuable input, yet they still have great results. Never underestimate your children or their capacity to face challenges and prevail.

7. If you’re smart, you’ll check with them on the rules they’ve made for their children. If you’re really smart, you’ll actually follow them. I’m struggling with just being smart.

8. You’re still their Mom and Dad. Show your love by supporting their decisions and respecting the goals they’ve set for the children. You can love and spoil the Grandkids, just know where the line is. As a Grandparent, it’s your job to “tap-dance” right up to the edge.

9. Learn to be a good source for solicited advice and ideas, be non-judgmental and your home, a place of peace for the family. Love your Grandchildren more than life itself. They represent the best of your children, who represent the best of you.

10. The bond between a Grandparent and a Grandchild is a truly wonderful thing. To see such joy spring forth from your beloved child is what makes life worth living. But, if something goes horribly wrong and you are blessed to continue raising these precious grandchildren, raise them as your children would have wanted. Show them the passion, desires and beliefs of their parents. Instill in them a sense of “family” and belonging; When they look into your eyes, make sure they always see the reflections of their Mom and Dad and show them that they are never alone, that they belong to a large loving Family with a sense of continuity, shared history and memories of the loved and lost.

Being a Grandparent warms my soul as in the eyes of my Grandchildren, I see the reflection of my children, who I absolutely adore. We are thrilled to welcome each new addition to our family and have never been happier. August can’t get here soon enough, as we will be welcoming our fourth Grandchild. He will be surrounded by his wonderful parents and a large supportive family, who will be bursting at the seams with love and affection. Our bags are already packed and I can’t wait.

 

 

 

Dear Humanity, It’s the Pedal on the Right…

Sometimes, I’m absolutely amazed that we’re not extinct. We really should be. We certainly didn’t get this far in human evolution because of our superior intellect. Most likely, it was just pure dumb luck; think, Forrest Gump.

Whether you believe in the theory of Creationism or Evolution, really isn’t important for this argument. What does matter, is that we agree that we’ve been living here for a long, long time. I’d like to think that after this long, we would’ve learned SOMETHING about getting along with each other. Getting along should be ingrained in us. It should be easy. It’s a “core” thing.

What’s a core behavior? So, you’re walking down a trail and you come face to face with a bear. No one has to tell you that this is a problem. You won’t find yourself thinking, “I wonder if this bear would mind if I scratched its tummy” or “let’s poke at it with this stick”; you just knew you were in danger and “fight or flight” kicked in. You also knew that the odds were bad and that most likely, you were going to be the largest part of the next crap the bear was going to take. Either way, you just knew. We also know not to blindly stick our arm into a deep dark hole or eat 3 day old roadkill. Again, somehow, you just know that this is not a good idea. It’s critical knowledge that’s been passed down thru life experience and recorded deep within our genes.

Throughout our very long history, inevitably, some idiot would do something like I mentioned above, then we would all start to cringe, but refuse to look away, and it would usually end very badly for the person; proving that the odd “gut-feeling” we had, was probably worth paying attention to. It also proves that we like drama. Don’t think I’m right? OK, next car crash, don’t watch as you drive on by.

For the sake of argument, let’s just say that humanity, in some form, has been wandering the earth for 15,000 years. In that time span does anyone really think that someone today could make a mistake that hasn’t been made at least a thousand times already? I’m speaking in a general way; a core mistake. Obviously, playing “chicken” with a hand grenade wasn’t possible 2000 years ago, but tempting the Fates was, and stupid is stupid no matter what year it is.

Pain and Death are great Teachers and we’ve been in their class for eons. You would think that there wouldn’t be any mistakes left to make, that prior generations would have warned us, that our “gut” would have warned us. We’ll they did, it does and we still don’t appear to have learned a thing; nothing. It’s hard to believe that we are capable of the horrible things we do to ourselves and to each other. Maybe we just don’t “get it” or we are simply unable or unwilling to “learn”.

To be fair, lets define the word: Learn:
“To gain or acquire knowledge of or skill in (something) by study, experience, or being taught”

Let’s check the boxes; It appears that we’ve acquired knowledge, we’ve studied, we’ve had experience AND that the prior generations HAVE “passed it on”.

Clearly, I’m missing something here. With all of the wars, cruelty, self-destruction and hate around us today, how exactly, have we evolved since the biblical times of Genesis or the days of the Cro-Magnon Man? Maybe if someone would have just written it all down so that we would have a guidebook, or maybe a list of suggestions, say 10 or so, on things we should or shouldn’t do, to get along with each other and then passed it down…

Bottom line. Our ancestors have shown us what has worked and what hasn’t. We live in the shadow of so much history, yet we ignore it’s lessons. Our language is full of clichés and idioms that try to warn us; Once bitten, twice shy, Those that do not remember the past are doomed to repeat it (Santayana), War is Hell, Cruelty is contagious in uncivilized communities (Jacobs) and We as Human beings, have the capacity for extreme cruelty (Nyong’o).

I’m beginning to think that we just exist day-to-day. We are not growing, learning or evolving as a species. Humanity is like a bunch of monkeys trying to drive a car: Their all in turning the wheel and honking the horn, fighting over how to make it go, but none can agree on anything, so they just fight amongst themselves and go absolutely nowhere.

So, please, remind me again, how have we survived this long? Oh, that’s right; pure dumb luck.

 

The Twilight Muse

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 Unbound, the Muse joyfully dances and frolics in the sleeping mind of the dreamer, casting aside all thoughts of fear and doubt, she puts forth the glorious possibilities of human existence, painting their dreams with a colorful palette of emotion and light.

Emerging at twilight, she adores the night’s skies as the waxing moon releases her from earthly bonds and with chains cast aside, she is free to explore, to create, to wander the resting minds of all she encounters.

While the Artist paints, the dreamer dreams, who, while lost in the warmth of her inspiration and feeling of absolute joy, still catches a glimpse of life’s infinite potential in each delicate stroke of the master’s brush.

Her canvas complete, she tries in vain to gently awaken from slumber all who desire to remember her canvas before the darkness yields to the chaos of the morning’s light.

For the Muse knows that all dreams do flee as the rising Sun, ever so jealous, chases them away from the depths of the dreamer; Their intimate encounter lost to the stars, forever.

Again, she whispers to the dreamer, pleading that he arise as she is anxious to peer deep into his eyes, hoping he remembers with lasting joy, all that She has shared.

Sadly, the dreamer resists, wanting only to delay the morning’s looming chaos, seeking refuge beneath the warmth and comfort of the sheets, which protect the dreamer from reality as a warrior’s shield protects the warrior from harm. Her memory fades, the painting is lost; all that remains, hidden deep within the cluttered human mind, now lost to consciousness.

The waning Moon watches the folly unfold and like a shepherd tending his flock, summons home the Muse as the Moon must now yield the night’s slumber to the rising sun. The Muse now weary, lays down her palette, envious of all who dream; a desired gift denied, as a Muse can have no Muse. The Moon, in love, watches her from afar and with gentle voice begs she seek solace and allow her weary soul the respite so earned.

As she closes her eyes, wrapped is a blanket of stars, the Moon whispers in her ear, “O’ sweet Muse, joyous peace has eluded your soul for far too long.” The waning Moon smiles as she finally sleeps,  and with the tenderest of love, sends a Muse to joyfully dance and frolic within her dreams.

.

 

A Man Falls Into a Hole…

“This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out.
“A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey you. Can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.
“Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I’m down in this hole can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on
“Then a friend walks by, ‘Hey, Joe, it’s me can you help me out?’ And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, ‘Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.’ The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.'”

Aaron Sorkin