Monthly Archives: January 2013

Everyone Seems So Afraid

Perhaps not “everyone”, but certainly many of the people I personally or virtually know.  Fear infests the headlines I read on news websites and manifests in personal conversation. It greets me when I open Facebook and follows me to parties. People fear the government, corporations, the other political party, and faiths different from their own. They fear immigrants and natives, cops and robbers. They fear guns and those who might take them away. They fear the loss of freedom or its manifestation in others. They fear the uncertainty of the future and the sins of the past.  They fear the lack of belief in God or the practice of belief in God. They fear things changing or things staying forever the same. Fear has become so prevalent that, in my opinion, many don’t even see it as fear anymore. It is the elephant in the room that we all carefully ignore even as we walk between its legs on the way to the kitchen.

Some will immediately say “I am not afraid!” Watch carefully though, and we see this is seldom the case. The “unafraid” person will commence hyperbolic statements about some  danger, or call those they don’t understand demeaning names, and these are clear signs of an abiding fear. So, in the interests of transparency, I will tell you I am afraid. Not of the democrats or republicans. Not of the Mexicans or the gun nuts or the gun grabbers. Not of the Muslims or the Christians or the Jews. Not of the UN or the government or the Illuminati. People will always be people and there will always be imperfections and abuses and even outright crimes. There will always be differences of opinion and judgment and culture and faith. Something will always need to be changed.

No, I’m afraid that I will give in to the fear that seems to be devouring us. Give in as in “surrender”. Stop fighting it. Allow my life to be enveloped and consumed by what appears to me to be a creeping paranoia that corrupts most attempts at problem solving or even basic relationship. I am afraid that I will not be strong enough to be kind when it is most needed but least appealing, to be gentle when being harsh gets the applause. I’m afraid of being afraid.

A great paradox (or perhaps “irony” is a better term) about fear is that which we fear doesn’t have to become real to enslave us. The mere threat can be enough. The person who fears the beast without can unwittingly allow the beast to settle within as they expend precious time and energy trying to ensure that the beast without never never gains power over them. But if the beast controls my thoughts and emotions, the beast controls me–even if the actual beast fails or doesn’t even exist! Fear serves me well when it helps me fight or flee when attacked by a bear. I serve fear when I see a man-eating bear behind every tree, or even in every bear.

There is also another reality. My fear might just come to pass, despite my furious efforts (in fact, I think it quite possible our fears can feed their own fruition). The tyrant might gain the throne. I might lose my rights, my freedom, my health, my relationship, or even my life. The last one is actually one I can guarantee. What then? What if our greatest fear comes to pass? Don’t get me wrong. I desire freedom and rights and health and a great marriage as much as the next man. I would love to live to one-hundred and die exhausted in my bed with my boots on, just home from climbing some mountain, my gorgeous wife at my side. But what if I get none of that? Do the greatest lives triumph only in flourishing circumstances? If I can only flourish in victory, is that flourishing at all? That seems to make me slave of what happens, not master of it.

No, the great lives bloom in whatever comes their way, and often their power is seen not in victory but in defeat. There’s a word for that. Transcendence. Life above our circumstances while living graciously in them. Life above fear. Life above. Life that says things like “Father forgive” in the midst of brutality and barbarism. Oh that such would scream from our headlines and social media. What might this world become then?

Categories: Mind, Spirit | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

Farewell, Dear Beyonce

I would like to use my humble blog to say farewell to a fine feathered friend. Beyonce was one of my lovely hens that comb the yard and nearby hillsides on a daily basis, scratching and pecking for whatever culinary treasures the Earth chooses to provide. I give them a bit of feed and some water and a safe place to roost at night and they return the favor with eggs and a spiritual peace that just seems to settle around their presence. Nothing lowers the blood pressure like sipping wine on the porch and watching “the girls”, or even listening in and occasionally joining their clucking conversations.

But alas! Beloved Beyonce is no more! She left us last Thursday for those fair, feathered realms beyond the sky, where chickens may peck and scratch without fear of silent death from above. You see, I and my family were not the only observers of my girls and their wandering. A hunter was watching. A beautiful bird in his own right. A bird shaped toward a very different life than that lived by my domesticated jungle fowl. A bird free and fierce and wild. A bird that must kill to sustain itself.

While I miss my bird, I believe that she died a good death. She died so another might live. This happens around us all the time, both literally and symbolically. One life is traded for another in the constantly shifting life that abides on our planetary home. I bear the Coopers hawk who took her no ill will, though I will seek to discourage such foraging on his part. I can’t blame a hawk for its hawkishness, though I can try to limit its success.

And come spring, I will get some new chicks–perhaps even another black austrolorp or two. I will raise them from peeps then turn them into the flock to peck and scratch to their hearts content. Perhaps they will live to a ripe old age before resting with their ancestors. Or perhaps they will feed another wild creature. But my life will be the better for having shared theirs for a bit, so they have my thanks already. As does Beyonce, her hunter, and all the other living things that make this world a constant miracle.

Categories: Miscellany, Nature, Outdoors | Tags: , , , | 2 Comments

“You Sir, Are A Runner”

There is challenging yourself, and there is being stupid. Sometimes, I fail in discerning the two. Today though, I can proudly say I showed a bit of wisdom for once. I challenged myself but managed to say “No thanks!” when the opportunity for stupidity came along.

Regular readers of this blog (I believe there are four poor souls in that category) know that yesterday I started running again. It isn’t really a New Year’s resolution but just part of trying to practice what I preach. Taking care of the body is a large part of holistic living, and holistic living goes a long way toward health and happiness. So yesterday I put on my running shoes and shook the rust off with an easy jog of a couple of miles. It felt fantastic. Seriously. My endorphins kicked in quickly and it literally improved my mood and energy level the entire day.

That was yesterday. Starting a regimen of any sort is the easy part. The challenge is keeping the motivation going. It’s surprising how many times we start something and it lasts all of one day. So, in its own way, the second day is a first day in its own right, and just as important as the actual first day. The good news is I did it. I ran the second day as well. And I even challenged myself a little bit–I added a small amount of distance and I invited my daughter along.

Now, you need to know my daughter is a very talented runner. She finished third in the West Virginia state championship 10k race a year-and-a-half ago and she had never even run that far in her life before the day we ran the race. So the plan was she would match my pace until we got within about a half-mile of finishing and then she could stretch it out from that point if she chose to.

To her credit, she made it almost a mile of the 2.5 miles that we ran before she just couldn’t hold back any more. She started to stretch her legs a bit and soon she was twenty yards ahead, then thirty, then fifty, etc. This is when stupidity came knocking at the door in the form of my ego. Being left in one’s daughter’s dust is not something easy for a man about to turn fifty. You literally see your youth running away from you in the form of black nylon and pink Saucony running shoes.

So my ego piped up–“Come on boys! We can catch her!” Now my ego is a rather charming fellow at times, so my conscious mind and my body huddled for a quick consultation. Fortunately, they saw that the better part of valor was honestly just admitting that trying to catch her was a fool’s errand and resisted the temptation in beautiful style, informing the ego that chasing a nineteen-year-old in top shape was just plain silly. But my ego wasn’t done. “What’s wrong–you like the taste of that dust old man?” Now insults can be difficult to take from anyone, but when your ego is actually baiting itself, you’ve moved into new, and somewhat surreal, psychological territory. But once again, conscious mind and body stood together and resisted the urge. My ego must be getting a bit old itself, since it grumbled its way back into the deeper recesses of my mind and I’m sure is skulking there still. But it didn’t put up too much fight. Common sense prevailed and now I will live to run another day (which I’m not sure would have been the case if I had actually tried to catch Carly).

The run ended nicely. Carly finished about four minutes before I did and was waiting in my parent’s driveway when I cruised in. High-fives and stretching followed–as well as those wonderful endorphins that make me question why I ever quit running in the first place. Wait a minute–I didn’t quit. I just took a break for a while. But I ran today and I can look in the mirror and say “You sir, are a runner!” Even my ego is satisfied with that.

Categories: Body, Mind, Spirit | Tags: , , | 3 Comments

What If?

A happy new year. We wish it upon others and hope for it ourselves. We hope for health and relative prosperity. We hope for peace. We hope. That’s what the astronomical trick of a new year inspires–hope!

The turning of the page from one year to the next gives us all a brief pause to think “What if?” What if I ate a more healthy diet this coming year? What if I quit this job I don’t really like? What if I start exercising? What if I worked a little less and played a little more? What if I actually wrote that book I’ve been dreaming of for years? What if I went on that dream vacation? What if?

The brief pause will indeed be brief. New Years Day has the same number of hours as any other, and our life as it has been lived will come knocking at the door in just a moment. Do we answer? Do we awaken today with hope for positive change, but find ourselves slip sliding inexorably back into old patterns? The sad answer is–probably. The vast majority of our hoped-for changes never come to pass. Most resolutions remain resolutions, often visiting us again at this same time next year, but never never staying to become permanent residents. If change were easy, well, it wouldn’t be so hard!

It’s an interesting phenomenon of human reality–this tendency to desire things but never act in a manner as to achieve them or receive them. Sometimes we even act in an exactly opposite manner–actively thwarting the things we say we desire. Religions will speak of sin and slavery, psychology will delve into the subconscious foundations of why we do what we do. There can be value in either approach, or vanity. Some of us seem to stumble into the answer and make the changes, but then we often won’t be able to explain it. Or we will be able to explain it but our explanation will make no sense to others. They won’t be at a place to receive it and our explanation will sound like a foreign language to them.

Well…if I had THE answer myself I’d probably be writing that book I’ve always dreamed of writing and celebrating in the financial aftermath by going on that vacation I have always dreamed of! I don’t have THE answer. I’m not sure anyone does, but paradoxically I suspect that everyone does. I suspect there is a key inside us all that will unlock the way to those hopes and dreams. I’m fairly confident that key is not identical for every person, since we are so different. Still, I suspect that that it is quite similar because when you start looking into people’s hopes and dreams they tend to be quite similar down at their foundations.

I’m very tempted at this point to give you a short list of helpful hints that will lead you into a glorious new year. Very tempted. But I’m not gonna do that. The Seven Habits of Highly Successful People has already been done–a thousand times with a thousand titles by a thousand authors.  Instead, I’m going to share this little goal I have. I want to run a half-marathon this year. Now, I’m gonna step away from the keyboard and go put on my running shoes.

Happy New Year friends! Hope. Dream. Do.

Categories: Mind, Spirit | Tags: , | 2 Comments

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