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.
With each step, the gallon of water in his hand seemed to grow heavier. In the other, he had a large plastic bag. It was heavy and cutting into his palm, but it was worth it; the bag was filled with cans of food, given to him by a generous family at a gas station a few miles back. Like a Christmas present, he didn’t want to open it until he found a place to relax, where he could savor this special moment. This unopened bag gave him something to look forward to, which was a rare feeling these days.
Ahead, dark clouds were gathering and on the radio at the gas station, he had heard there was a chance of rain. Experience had taught him that with the rain, cold weather would soon follow and that he needed to find an overpass quickly. He liked overpasses as there was usually a flat spot near the top where he could be dry, warm and stay hidden from the prying eyes of others. Unfortunately, there were none in sight and as the radio predicted, it was beginning to rain.
Between his old heavy backpack, the gallon of water and the plastic bag, each step along the litter covered highway was difficult and growing harder as the mud was beginning to cover his worn shoes and seep inside, filling the gaps between his toes, which were making a squishing sound with each step.
Once, while walking, he had found a five dollar bill and to this day, he had trouble keeping his eyes looking ahead as he was afraid that he might step over a twenty or something. This had become an obsession for him and he found that occasionally he would become so focused that he would wander onto the highway, looking up at the last second as a car came speeding by.
At night, he dreamed of finding a lost wallet full of cash. He pictured himself in a hotel room, soaking in a warm bathtub full of white suds with bubbles floating in the air. Then he would lay on the bed wrapped in the soft blankets, warm and safe, where he would drift off to sleep; no longer afraid of being harmed by others who may discover his hiding place and take from him his precious food and the last of his possessions. He could finally breathe and be at peace, if only just for a night.
It was starting to rain harder now and he wished for some kind of shelter, anything. He was looking forward to eating soon, as through the plastic, he could see a can with a picture of pasta covered in a delicious red sauce. One of his favorites, heated or not. But not yet, he had to keep going.
He always walked against traffic, afraid of being hit from behind by a distracted driver, who was digging around in the floorboard for a misplaced diamond ring or something. Occasionally, he would look into the drivers eyes as they approached. They all had somewhere to be; someone waiting for them. He would smile and occasionally wave, but most would just look away, pretending not to see him.
The rain was running down his neck, giving him chills as it spread across his back. Lightning was filling the skies, beautiful but deadly as he was the tallest object in sight. He outstretched his arm, daring the storm to find him, secretly praying that it would.
To his dismay, it was now the middle of the night and he had still found no shelter. The rain had passed and as expected, the temperature was falling. He was in the middle of nowhere. He finally accepted that it was just going to be a long, cold night and the pasta would have to wait for the sunrise.
It was too dark to look for money now and he was able to hold his head up as he walked. He liked the break. Staring at the ground constantly made his neck ache. With an old blanket over his shoulder and a faster pace, he found he was able to keep somewhat warm and decided to push on, searching for the lights of the next town. He hoped that maybe things would be better there, that maybe something good would happen. Maybe.
During my childhood, the playground bully was a staple; usually ruling recess with an iron fist. While I went to great lengths to avoid his and at times her attention, some days it was my turn in the barrel and that was the accepted reality of the times.
The bully’s of my youth were usually larger, meaner and more comfortable with confrontation than I was at the time. Their reputation usually preceded them with anecdotal stories which were relayed from student to student and thus the bully became larger than life. That was the playground. That was life. We survived and moved on.
As I look back, I realized that the bully’s of my childhood and the people who confronted those bully’s, taught me volumes about existing in the real world beyond the playground.
1. Size Matters: You don’t run your mouth to someone twice your size and expect to walk away unscathed.
2. I learned very early to think strategically: To get from A to B required a plan of action in order to avoid a confrontation, especially when I knew they were looking for me.
3. You learn to think quickly and measure your words: Every utterance had the potential to either provoke or calm the situation.
4. You learned diplomacy and the ability to reason your way out of trouble: I learned the importance of “engage brain before mouth”. I also learned how to reason with the bully, which rarely worked but was worth trying.
5. I learned team work: When the bully would go too far and it became time to end his reign, I learned early that by joining with others and confronting the bully, he would ultimately cave and run.
6. I learned to respect bravery: Every once in a while, someone would say “no” and square off with the bully. Win or lose, I admired the one who was brave enough to say “no more”. Their singular action usually started a chain reaction, in which a group formed and drove the bully away.
7. I learned compassion: I also learned why they were a bully. Their home life was a struggle and they were generally unhappy and acting out. I also learned that most bully’s would rather have friends than enemies.
8. I learned to choose a side: Either you were part of the bully’s circle or you weren’t. I learned the value of compromising with those who disagree. Everyone has their own problems, wants and desires and you learned, to whatever degree, how far you were willing to tolerate their position . The bully affected us all: either you were with him, which made life easier, or you were against him. Either way, you chose.
9 I learned to adapt and to cope: The playground was your world now. It’s not like you can just leave, so you learned to make it work.
10. You learned who you DIDN’T want to be like in life: In the presence of a bully, who you are, is defined relatively quickly. I wanted to be the one who “stood up”.
I remember two pivotal events in my life that formed a core belief that I still live by to this day.
The first occurred when I was about 10 years old during a Boy Scout meeting at a park. We were surrounded by eucalyptus trees when we heard the sound of a boy screaming for help. We spotted a large tree house and saw older boys hitting him with belts. I was stunned at the cruelty. My next door neighbor, Renée, immediately went to the tree, climbed it and the older boys began suffering her wrath and were jumping out of the tree in all directions, running for their lives. She then returned with the greatful boy who was without a shirt and covered with welts. She was my hero. We all just stood there with our mouths open, including the other adults; she didn’t fail to act, she took charge.
The next event occurred two years later in junior high school. I was wearing a religious shirt that said “Only He can prevent eternal fire” with a picture of Smoky the Bear on the front. I really liked that shirt but an older kid, who enjoyed picking on 7th graders, didn’t. He grabbed my collar and stretched it almost to the point of tearing the shirt. I was furious and attacked him. At 5’ 6” and maybe 120 lbs, I was no real threat but I did everything but chew his ear off and he actually fled never to bother me again.
Those two events changed me forever; I learned to never underestimate the sheer awesome will and power of a Parent in defense of a child, whether it’s her’s or not. I also learned to never, ever tolerate a bully. You either step-up or you sit down and shut up. Dante reserved the anteroom of hell for those who can’t decide which.
The Playgrounds of my youth were a microcosm of the outside world. After high school, I felt generally ready and prepared for the harsh realities of adult life.
In an bizarre way, we owe a twisted debt of gratitude to the school bully. Unintentionally, they contributed to the overall social development of the students they encountered. Sadly, I do recognize, however, that while some were able to overcome the bully’s existence, others, tragically were not and took their own lives.
Bully’s are a reality of life. They cannot be legislated away nor can they be ignored. I feel our best course is to explore the reason why children become bully’s and try and effect a change on that level.
About 5 years ago, I was watching one of the TV news channels, when this bitter sounding man began speaking about world conflict. He was providing critical analysis about the way in which America was influencing the world politically, and he didn’t seem very happy about the way it was currently being conducted. I remember being surprised at how quickly I developed a dislike for him. He was antagonistic, argumentative and seemed itching for a fight with whomever would give him the opportunity. I also remember that I didn’t like his mustache, it made him look “dated” and old, but it did seem to complete his overall persona as a grouchy old curmudgeon.
Over the following years, I would see him return to the news channels, usually as a guest commentator giving his personal views on the world situation, and without exception, he would scare the hell out of me each time. Ultimately, I concluded that he was the harbinger of World War III and that I was very thankful he was only a commentator and had no “real” power or authority. I remember thinking to myself, “Thank God this guy is not in charge of anything, he’d land us in the middle of a war”. “This guy’s” name is John Robert Bolton and he was America’s ambassador to the United Nations under George W. Bush.
And so it went until last week when President Trump made the same John R. Bolton the National Security Advisor-designate, effective April 9th, 2018. This is about as real as it gets and to me, this is a problem. Barring a brief moment of sanity by President Trump, John Bolton will begin scaring me to death on a daily basis on April 9th.
It’s a fine thing to be bold and resolute in your convictions, provided you temper that passion with patience and a desire for peace. I have observed neither quality in Mr. Bolton. For that matter, I don’t see those qualities in President Trump either.
President Trump (who I voted for) is acting like a petulant child as he conducts America’s business; hiring and firing as if our government was his personal TV game show. His behavior, while initially tolerable, has become grotesque. This unorthodox political experiment has created a monster of sorts.
Electing Donald Trump and taking a break from the “usual politics” initially sounded like a worthwhile endeavor. Unfortunately, it has been disappointing and is quickly becoming intolerable. I’m afraid that our attempt to breathe “new life” into an antiquated and dying political system has resulted in a Frankensteinian outcome that we neither expected nor desired. I, for one, will not make the same mistake twice.
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.
“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.'”
It’s early in the morning and I’d like to turn on the TV. Ultimately though, that would lead to the national news and their dreaded panels or the local news where I would learn whose tractor flipped over or how the local chess team did. Other than that, it’s commercials about erectile dysfunction, Flo selling insurance or someone reminding me of how I should be feeling about an issue, which is frustrating and annoying. Keeping an opinion to yourself, is apparently a “cop out” in today’s world.
I get it though, we are in trouble. As a society, we’ve actually ground to a halt; paralyzed. The media, the people, the politicians; it’s either “this way or that”. Compromising, which used to be an act of meeting in the middle, is now seen as “giving in”; failing to get your way or “selling out” your cause. We are inundated daily with opinions and being forced to choose a side; and that side had better agree with the “popular” position or you will suffer certain backlash from their group. Well today, I’ll be Nero while Rome burns. If me not engaging in this mess matters that much, then burn baby, burn, we’ll rebuild again tomorrow.
I don’t feel like turning on the TV or fighting with those who disagree with whatever position I have or don’t have and I definitely don’t care whether the chess team won or lost. Today, I don’t want to hear your opinion and tomorrow’s not looking too good either. However, erectile dysfunction is something to ponder, as I am getting older, so I might need to watch that commercial again.
No, I think I’ll just read a good book this morning and watch the sunrise. We’re still allowed to do that, right?
It’s winter, it’s cold and I can’t Travel. Things could get darker…