Thursday, October 30, 2014

Passing the torch

Some of us are growing closer to our 60's and seeing the end of our careers as we have known them. Younger, brighter, faster, smarter people are rising behind us. How do we navigate our way in this new land?
We have a unique opportunity to become their mentors and champions. The greatest thing we have to offer is our hindsight. They are rising. We can help them rise a little farther.
I am thrilled today to see the rising stars around me having opportunities that I only hoped to have a decade or more ago. What can I offer? I can be their champion. I can herald them forward and ensure they have the connections they need to move forward and upward. I can caution them and tell them about the mistakes I made in hopes that they can avoid those same mistakes. I can give them greater historical reference than I had. I can try to help position them for greater success.
I have put my heart and soul into many endeavors, then watched them flounder in my absence.  This time, I want to leave a group of talented people behind who will achieve more than I ever dreamed. I want to see them 10 years or 20 years from now and be WOW'ed by their success and achievements. I want to feel I left them well positioned to soar.
Maybe - just maybe - this time I get it right. And if I have truly gotten it right, they will do the same 20 years from now. If each of those people can sponsor and champion an equal number of people and those people sponsor and champion an equal number of people....
In my remaining years, my deepest desire is to leave something that grows and thrives and serves the community well. If I have learned one great lesson, it is not about what we can do ourselves but more about what we can inspire others to continue. Our best gift is to pass a brightly burning torch that can be passed again growing brighter.

Jeepers version of Cat and Mouse

Lately Jeepers must be feeling bored and has developed a new game. In this new game, I am the cat trying to catch the mouse and he is the mouse. If he is in the house, he dashes to escape to the outside. If I am outside going in, he dashes to enter before I close the door (not realizing he is around to dash the door.)
He likes to tease me when he is outside - coming just so close and being quite chatty - but evading me if I try to capture him. The other night I tried to get him in for the night and he ran into the garage so I closed the door and chased him around in the garage. All the while he is making little cat sounds that can be interpreted as - "Ha - catch me if you can." I finally gave up and left him in the garage for the night. At least, I thought, he was safe. And in the morning, he was quite happy to run straight into the house.
Now there may be another explanation for his behavior. He is very observant of the routines of Tobey and Molly Mutt Paws. He's even developed a taste for dog food which Tobey is having a difficult time understanding when Jeepers takes over his dish at dinner time. He watches as they go out each time and seems to want to follow along. He may be expressing dismay that they have a privilege he has not enjoyed. Oddly, when he escapes, he even returns to the same whistle I use to call the dogs.
I'll keep analyzing and try to determine what's going on. For now, I'm feeling like the cat having a hard time catching the mouse. Not real good at this game and he is.

Monday, October 20, 2014

Understanding requires context

One of the most troubling things in this world - particularly in the US - is the lack of civility. We seem to be polarized and driven by extremism. We don't know how to really talk to one another about difficult issues. Too often we resort to name calling. Let's try to be civil.
It's not just a problem on the right or on the left. It's becoming a cultural problem. On both sides of the isle I see people calling one another idiots for expressing a viewpoint. While I may radically disagree with a person's perspective, I pray to learn to be civil in my response to it. It is not easy.
There are so many sources for information and so many variations of media coming at us every day. Many have learned that they need to evoke an emotional response to get our attention. They seek to push our buttons - "Can you believe..." It's a sound bite... a headline... with no context. Far too often we bite. We respond and look no further. We react and make no effort to understand the opposing viewpoint.
This is why we get no where. This is why we fail to solve big issues. We are shouters and have lost our ears.
While we may be able to provide a headline for events of our lives, the headline is not the whole story. There will be 20 other people who were part of or witness to that story who have 20 different points of view. Some will be quite similar and some will be radically different. It's about perspective and a greater context that somehow ties into the whole.
We must build compassion for - capacity for - an ear for - the opposing view. Not a shut down response or a "you're an idiot" response but an honest review of the logic behind the argument.
It may be totally illogical to us. It may be based on crazy assumptions. But if we fail to listen and carefully, civilly break the logic and assumptions down into their parts, all we will do is call one another idiots.
Often we face huge projects that appear to be overwhelming. If we break those projects into parts and tackle the tasks one by one, they become manageable. The individual parts are the context.
The next time you see a headline, don't react until you gain some perspective on the context. We can only truly make a difference if we begin to understand one another. Understanding requires context.

Sunday, October 19, 2014

Just see us...

Some months ago someone I deeply respect asked to interview me about the "gay community" for a college class.  While I wanted to help and agreed, I felt I had little to offer.  He was searching to understand and define something that I could not myself define. I reached into my past and sought to describe times I felt part of a distinct community that included many gay and lesbian people but we were not distinctly separate and different. I'm not sure what he walked away with. I never heard how his "study" went and do not know who else he may have interviewed.
Today a friend posted this comedic view of a family trying to understand a "gay wedding" and it wakened my senses.

One day we will stop saying "gay wedding". It will just be a wedding.

If you want to really drive me crazy, make a reference to "gay life style". Picture the sketch above with people asking about how gay people live. We are not singing "gay hymns". I don't have a gay dog. I don't walk on a gay street. I don't shop at gay stores. I don't spend gay money.
I realize now in talking to my friend we both missed the whole point. Yes, I have experienced and still experience places and times where I feel more accepted and free to be me but I do not live in a separate community. My gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender friends are not living in an alternative community.
Back in the '80s I heard a story about an establishment in Franklin with a new manager. The new manager heard that lesbians liked to hang out there and they expressed concern. The worker opened the cash register and asked, "Can you pick out the lesbian money?'
Like everyone else we are part of a work community, a religious community, a volunteer community, a family community. We are a living, breathing, contributing part of many communities. There is no separate and subversive group that drives some commonalty in any way that divides us from humanity at large. We are more the same than we are different. And we are as different from one another as we are the same.
We do not seek to destroy freedom of religion. We seek the choice of inclusion. We do not seek to destroy freedom of speech. We seek the freedom to speak. We do not seek to destroy. We seek the right to build with you. We do not live separate from you. We are your sisters - your brothers - your family - your co-workers.
Just see us.
Judge us by "the content of our character" - how we love not the gender of whom we love.

Monday, October 13, 2014

That simple. That pure.

Where there is love, there is god. That's all. That simple. That pure.
Not a mystical far off unattainable being.
That's all. That simple. That pure.
Love is God. God is Love.
That's all. That simple. That pure.
Not a system of right or wrong or sin and salvation.
Love. That's all. That simple. That pure.
Call it peace. Call it harmony.
Call it acceptance. Call it submission.
It is love. It is god.
That's all. That simple. That pure.
No judgement. No need. No suffering.
That's all. That simple. That pure.
That pure. That simple. That's all.
Walk in it. Bask in it. Accept it.
Be in awe of it.
That's all.

Monday, October 6, 2014

The Bogeyman isn't there.....

Today the Supreme Court did something very significant by deciding NOT to do something. For those not following the march toward marriage equality, this may be confusing.
The Supreme Court decided not to review cases decided by Federal Appeals Courts and in deciding not to review these cases, the stays on the decisions are now lifted. 
From USA today...
"Federal appeals courts already had struck down bans against gay marriage in five states — Indiana, Oklahoma, Utah, Virginia and Wisconsin — and those rulings will be allowed to stand. Colorado, Kansas, North Carolina, South Carolina, West Virginia and Wyoming are in the same judicial circuits, so they must abide by those appeals court rulings, too. Nineteen other states and the District of Columbia already permit same-sex marriage."
These same federal courts have jurisdiction over multiple states so while their ruling may have applied specifically to a ban in a particular case and a particular state, bans in other states are implicated. In refusing to review the cases, the Supreme Court seems to say that there was no legal issue or procedural error that justified their intervention. In all, the states impacted total 30 by present rulings that the Supreme Court has chosen not to review.
District court rulings in other regions are pending. Some presume that these are conservative courts and will rule against marriage equality.  But others, and I am one, feel that the justices will review the cases on merit. Other conservative districts have ruled against marriage bans based on merit and constitutional grounds. Now, the Supreme Court has made a statement. They found no reason to intervene based on legal issues or procedural issues. What legal ground could another district find that the others have not explored? What procedural issue could be discovered that no other has found? provides up to date information on what is happening.
Basically as I see it, the argument against marriage equality is that there is a bogeyman under the bed that certain people are sure God sees and certain God following people see under the bed. But once described and once scrutinized, the bogeyman disappears to all but the most imaginative God creative engineers.
I hope people stop imagining the bogeyman. He ain't there folks.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

"I'm nobody. Who are you?"

"I'm nobody. Who are you?" This was graffiti on a wall many years ago. Very profound, don't you think?
Within the billions of people on earth today, the billions upon billions who lived before and will live after us, we are tiny specks of sand. And yet we can become self absorbed and believe the world revolves around US. We get caught up in the drama of our lives. Sometimes we think we are insignificant and sometimes we think we are giants. The things happening around us can skew our realities - or what we think is reality.
I recall watching Phil Donahue at the peak of his career interviewing Kate Hepburn who had no idea who he was. She didn't watch TV. You could sense a great awkwardness as he felt very in tune with her and her work yet she had no sense of connection to him. He was just another guy asking her questions. He was not used to someone having no sense of him as a person or celebrity. He seemed very charmed by her but I wonder if he had ever interviewed a well known celebrity who did not know a thing about him. How did he feel? It was a wonderful interview but I still remember the imbalance.
We feel that imbalance at many times throughout our lives. It is the source of that awkwardness we feel in meeting someone new. A minute before we met them, we were nobody to them. We may well be nobody after meeting them. They were nobody to us and may be after meeting them.
At the end of our lives, we will likely ask - Did I make a difference? Did I matter? Did I do enough?
As I ponder that, I can become self absorbed for a moment. The answer is in me. If I begin to name all the people who influenced me, the list grows long. I have served well if I can be remembered in the same light as I remember them. I can also count the not so nice people who actually inspired me and influenced me to be better. They count too. And so, the not so nice and the nice, have inspired and influenced me.
I want to be remembered in the nice category but it's likely some will have been motivated and inspired when I was not so nice. They all motivated and inspired me, quite likely, in the ways they were motivated and inspired by many others. Then, it's logical to assume, so shall I.
I would rather error on the side of humility. "I'm nobody," but believe strongly that all of us are actually somebody. I believe in the butterfly effect as noted in Wikipedia "in which a small change at one place in a deterministic nonlinear system can result in large differences in a later state."
Yes, we are small specks of sand. But that small speck of sand, in just the right place, at the right moment in time, can change the course of many things.
Maybe even "I'm somebody. Who are you?" Let's be specks that do something that just might be magic in the end.