Catch All Replies

Life does imitate art sometimes and, as such, there are real instances of not being able to know which came first…it’s the chicken or the egg sort of thing.

For example, did the catch all answer line, “It’s complicated” originate with a bunch of real people actually saying it in conversations or did a bunch of people start saying it in real life after they’d heard it used countless times on TV and in movies?

There’s no way of knowing.

It does seem, though, to be a favorite answer to the tougher questions in life these days. A sign of our times, I suspect, yet not necessarily a bad one. (more on that in a moment)

Fifteen or twenty years ago, one of the more popular catch replies was, “It’s hard to explain.” For men in particular, the use of the reply seemed to buy them sympathy and a little time… while indicating a touch of willing sensitivity. Powerful stuff. This line fell into disuse when a single word counter reply (uttered with a hint of sarcasm) was perfected: “Try”. Superphrase had met its kryptonite.

Another utterance had an equally good run after that. I’m referring to that catch all response: “It depends”. With a suggestion of broad mindedness and a hint of wisdom, this response, when spoken with sincerity, generally ended an inquiry with a form of agreement in lieu of an answer…”I suppose it does”. The wishy-washiness of the reply, through its overuse, eventually became clear. It was impossible to rely upon someone or to really get to know them when their main response to life’s questions was, actually, nebulous…rather undependable even though predictable.

The catchiness of these responses aside, I sense that they reflect definite stages of our collective and growing awareness.

It is hard to put into words the deeper and more significant aspects of our thoughts, feelings and experiences. This realization is a vast step forward from the stock answers many of us were raised with: “Because I said so”…”Because that’s the way I was taught to deal with things”…”It’s none of your business”…”I don’t want to talk about it now or ever”. So, there is a truth beneath the phrase and an even deeper truth in the developed reply, we still have to try, even though it may be hard. The quality of our lives and our relationships improve when we do.

Sometimes life, answers and the most loving response does depend. The recognition of context and circumstance is a vast leap forward from black and white thinking, from the strictly literal approach to ethical situations that judges some choices as completely right and the rest totally wrong, and from culturalcentric perspectives that demonize and dehumanize all others. How we view things and people does depend upon many factors that we have only begun to acknowledge. The more we acknowledge them, however, the better our decisions become.

As it turns out, it is complicated. The interrelatedness and interconnectedness of all of life is being explored and exposed constantly. It’s no longer a surprise. It is expected. Nothing exists in a vacuum. Nothing happens in isolation. We now know that those relations and connections must exist and finding them has become the new direction of our research and our understandings. This includes within ourselves. We are part of and belong in an integrated and interactive system of entities and energies. Our very own bodies are a prime example of those complex exchanges and cooperation. Layer after layer, level after level, we are amazed and astounded at the intricate beauty and harmony of the processes involved. As we shift from our arrogant opinion of ourselves as ‘most important’ in the scheme of life towards the appreciation and acceptance of how necessary and healthy it is for us to simply be equal and valued, we live more peacefully and act more maturely.

Now, I’m not saying that these replies can’t still be used by people to evade, obscure and excuse the real reason for the lack of honest and clear communication.

I am saying that underneath all of that foolishness, I sense a slow growing but collective awareness.

Can you sense my smile?



Cleverness and Wisdom

You can encounter clever people anywhere, in any profession, sometimes every day. There are hours of and hours of clever videos that you can watch on the internet. Cleverness seems to like to stand out, to draw attention to itself, to be on display (or on YouTube) and to be acknowledged, if not applauded.

Wise people, though, seem to be camouflaged. They blend in. Wisdom is mostly understated and uses a quiet observation, a subtle suggestion, a soft reminder.

Cleverness can mask itself as wisdom. Cleverness can surprise, delight, entertain and intrigue…as can wisdom.

Cleverness, however, grows old and stale quickly whereas wisdom only ripens and deepens with time. Cleverness is situational specific and often times a once and done event. Reusing a cleverness isn’t clever anymore. It’s only repetition. Wisdom, on the other hand, is often timelessly refreshing.

The goal of cleverness bears no resemblance to the goal of wisdom.

Cleverness looks to impress and, in doing so, usually aims to convince others towards a course of action or beliefs. There’s the clever sales pitch or commercial, or a clever solution to a problem, or a clever preacher, rabbi or imam working with their respective Good Word, or a clever come back that drops mic and ends that line of conversation. We all can appreciate cleverness in the moment.

Wisdom looks to expose and to invite others towards a truth. We rarely appreciate the voice of wisdom from others or from within our self. Wisdom often makes us uncomfortable, partly because it calls for us to have enough courage to heed it and partly because wisdom prompts us in counterintuitive ways, away from our initial knee jerk reaction, away from what we’ve tried before unsuccessfully.

We would gladly be thought of as clever. To be thought of as wise is almost embarrassing. At best, one seems boring. At worst, pretentious.

When you tell someone that they’re clever, there’s a twinkle of satisfaction in their eyes and smile of recognition towards you…that you were bright enough to notice what they just said or did.

When you tell someone that they’re wise, there’s a slight shrug of their shoulders and a gentle shaking of their head from side to side along with a heart felt sigh and disclaimer.

A person can practice being clever, although for some, it’s seems to be more of a innate talent such as dancing, doing math or having a good sense of direction. But learning to be clever isn’t really learning much about life or yourself.

That is the realm of wisdom.

And by the way…

Some believe that we are born spiritually awake and aware, and that the experience of being human lulls us asleep.

Some believe that we have come here with an understanding and agreement beforehand with certain other souls, but that we wouldn’t remember it with any degree of clarity, merely have a strong sense of it whenever we met those other people.

Some believe that by taking on a corporal self (a body) we automatically lapse into a spiritual amnesia of sorts, completely forgetting where we were before we were here, in order for the human experience to feel utterly real…and that our challenge as spiritual entities is to break through that illusion of separateness from one another and to awaken ourselves to what is true, the One of it all.

Whether any or all of these are true is not for me to say, what is clear to me, however, is that the vast majority of people are still living with their eyes squeezed shut, wandering through life, bumping into and breaking things.

And, yes, there are skillions of other people who are believing in a myriad of other things besides the three I started with, but none of them seem the happier. They may feel superior because of their particular beliefs but not the happier for them. Living in the constant judgment of others is terribly tedious and exhausting. It’s a heavy burden that no one has asked them to carry, but carry it they will, complaining all the while.

And for the record, zealots are a glum lot. Few in number and perpetually misunderstood and unappreciated, it’s a thankless job. If they do not die young for the cause that they’re too young to possibly understand, then they die old, bitter and disillusioned by their misplaced fervor. A lose-lose situation if ever there was one.

For myself, when I sensed how much of my life was spent sleep walking, I ached for something more and couldn’t even tell you what that was. But when I did catch a glimpse it, when something in a situation struck a deeper chord, it always felt strange and familiar, both and at the same time. Like I was remembering…

And as I continued to practice noticing myself, to awakening and becoming more aware, it became easier to recognize and appreciate those people who were aware and awake in their lives as well. Most often, with a simple nod and quiet smile, people who are awake in their present moment are saying hello to one another, acknowledging and appreciating the joy of being here.

Nothing fancy required. Yet the heart warms.

I’m so grateful people loved me enough to show me how to open my eyes.





If not now, when? (Zen proverb)

Survivalists have a 100% failure rate.

As such, the term itself, ‘survivalist’, is completely misleading.

The very best that they could claim to be are prolongists. Their goal is to be among the last humans standing after whatever calamity they’ve imagined…and they imagine lots of them. If they live one more day, one more month, one more year than most, they will have won in their mind’s eye. Then they die too. Some strategy.

In the meanwhile, pre-calamity, they live in constant wariness, in perpetual preparation for newly developing threats, focused into a fictional future and overlooking whatever goodness is surrounding them today. Like a said, some strategy.

When I pointed this out to a friend who was considering adopting an ‘end of days’ attitude towards the current situation in the world, I was given the hairy eye ball. Apparently, I am unaware of the headlong plunge we have taken into the abyss. There are an estimated 3.7 million “preppers” in the US today (an alternate top 1% to the economic elite). They hold their own rallies and conventions. They are deadly serious.

They put their money where their fear is. The food, guns/ammunition, clothing and sheltering expenses that are needed to support this ‘life’ style choice run into the billions of dollars collectively. It’s a thriving segment of the economy with many enterprising individuals and large corporations catering to every whim and nuance.

Perhaps I am missing something.


But I don’t seriously believe that.

There have been people predicting the ‘end of the world’ for as long as there’s been a language and a world to deal with. Yet, the world is still here.

What I do believe is that we are continually plunging into the unknown and the unknowable. This is an element of our human condition. This has been true for every person and civilization that has come before us. There are no crystal balls, no way of knowing for certain…but listening to the voices that are spouting fear does have a way of becoming a self-fulfilling prophecy. The more we look at the world through fear colored glasses, the more fear we see.

Every single day and every single situation involves and creates something we have never encountered before, specifically, this moment. And while certain situations or persons may seem similar to something or someone from the past, no two situations or persons will be identical…not even the same two people in the same situation will have the same conversation…moods change, perspectives shift, behaviors modify. It is a fact of life.

We are forging a new national character in response to our changing conditions. The  immediacy of the information available to us through our current technologies is no longer allowing us to pretend, to hide or to delay facing these conditions. We are being bombarded and shocked regularly into reevaluating our attitudes and responses towards one another.

This isn’t about blaming someone else or ‘the system’.

This is about taking responsibility and choosing how we will participate in changing those things that we now see have been broken for so long.

If we rise to this challenge, we will thrive.

If we retreat from it, what good would it do to survive a tad longer?

Upcoming Podcast Info

I have been invited to do a podcast interview on this coming Saturday, June 25, 2016, beginning at noon.

This will be a live interview, if the technology cooperates. By agreement, there are no scripted questions or answers in advance. We’re both going to wing it.

Steve Thompson will be conducting the interview and you can check out his website at the address above or go to his twitter account @puremotivemedia.

I hope you have the opportunity to listen in.


I’m just saying…

There are countries that are currently and seriously considering establishing an economic system that provides a base income for all of its citizens. Sometimes this is referred to as a UBI (universal base income). Its proponents are intelligent, reasonable people willing to consider improving the current methods of implementing the shared social responsibility we all feel towards each other. Wow.

The advocates of this system aren’t wing nuts or radicals. They’ve reviewed the current status quo, discussed possible ways of either improving the system in the future or changing it altogether, looked closely at the numbers and concluded that, at the very least, it was time to propose an entirely new approach to their social contract with one another.

I’m just saying…we here, in America, have nearly come to blows over the idea of universal health care. A UBI? Unthinkable…unimaginable…preposterous…un-American…end of discussion.

Such a system would completely undermine the dysfunctional, bloated bureaucratic labyrinth we’ve pieced together in hodge podge fashion to waste our resources in the direction of those who have missed the gravy train. Of course, there are a great many of us who would like to see this system changed or significantly altered. Some would even like these programs eliminated and with nothing in their place.

Quite expectedly, this presents a bit of a quandary in the US. We have long prided ourselves as a nation of peoples created equal, who pull together and take care of one another. That’s the theory. That’s one of our founding principles.

And we do. In an emergency, in a crises, in this country, strangers rally to help strangers all the time. It’s not just neighbors helping neighbors.

But it’s the day in and day out needs of the troubled, the less fortunate or the economic nonconformist that we sometimes harden our hearts towards.

Still, anyone with a degree of humanity intact will continue to genuinely want to help the hungry, the sick and the less fortunately born. It’s heart warming. It’s reaffirming. Yet, most would prefer to do it in a fair and respectful way. Most would like to level the economic and social playing field by eliminating the poor’s need to choose between shelterless starving or the ‘loser’ stigma of living on governmental handouts.

If you’ve ever had to stand in those lines and go through that process and live like that for a while, you’ll understand how it feels. It’s unintentionally but inescapably demeaning. It creates a second class of citizen who is ripe for exploitation and abuse.

I’m just saying…most of us have had enough of our experiences with the DMV or the Post Office to be able to imagine how it might feel like to stand in such a line for food, rent or medical care. It’s demoralizing. It’s depersonalizing. It’s nearly dehumanizing. We become a case number. We become a case. We become a number. We become a…”Next”.

It’s natural to feel a sense of shame, of self-loathing and some general, unspecific anger in and at the situation. But these are only the initial feelings. After a while, these feelings morph into much more destructive impulses.

So I’m saying…if you treat a person as ‘less than’ long enough, they either start to believe it and act accordingly with a sense of entitlement or they decide to find ways to behave that ‘prove’ or ‘demonstrate’ otherwise. Not all those ways are constructive. That’s as mildly as I can put it.

The first referendum on a UBI was recently put to a vote. It was defeated soundly. Its proponents expected the proposal to lose but they have begun a discussion that is far from finished.

I encourage all of us to join in this discussion. Our collective path forward requires bold new approaches that enhance equality rather than diminish it.

Foreign Language Break Throughs

I read a book which had as its premise that the game of golf was much more than a game, that it was a metaphor for life…that when played with the proper mindset, all of life’s lessons and challenges could be found, practiced and mastered on the links. I read the entire book, which was neither long nor difficult, because a friend had enthusiastically recommended it. He said that its perspectives had a huge impact on his life in a Jonathan Livingston Seagull kind of way. His reference to this ancient text published in 1970 caught my attention. I was curious as to what he had found so personally helpful and profound.

Just so you know, Richard Bach’s book in 1970 was as popular in its day as was the book published in 2007 entitled The Shack written by William P. Young. Both books ignited lively conversations in unexpected places. The conversations have since died down. The spark was there but the wood was too wet to catch the fire.

Anyway, the book on golfing did not move me. While its life lesson concepts were familiar, their applications to golf, for me, were a real stretch. I’ve yet to meet a golfer who had more of an interest in improving themselves as a person than they had in improving their  score. I don’t make this statement hypothetically.

I actually went out and played golf with friends, acquaintances and strangers with the golf book in my back pocket. I played twice a week for three months at public and private courses. I would pull out the book and ask people if they had read or heard about it. No one had. Not discouraged and because they were golfers, I would give my listener(s) a brief synopsis with the belief that it would start a conversation and invite some interest. It did not. In my attempts to engage and generate more substantive dialogue, I went so far as to talk about and connect specific shot situations with the learning opportunities the book stated would apply.

The glances between the other golfers and the looks I received directly were crystal clear. I was speaking a foreign language, one that they had no interest in learning and that I was far from being inviting. I was annoying.

That was my own breakthrough realization. The lessons about life, the truths about ourselves, can be found anywhere and applied everywhere. We do, however, have to want them. We do have to be willing to seek them, to be open to them and to ACT on them once we have recognized them. Our lessons do not jump out and force us to learn. They wait for us to notice them, to bend towards them and to pick them up for us to use again along our way.

Oh, and about my friend who first mentioned the book that got this all started.

What I discovered/realized was that my friend played golf frequently and had grabbed onto a book that provided him with some deeper underpinnings for wearing silly clothes and taking six hour chunks of a day, four to five times a week, away from everything else.

He’d learned that about himself after years of failing to improve his game.


Breaking News

In physics, it’s believed that energy or mass can neither be created nor destroyed.  (Necessarily, this begs the question of where then did all energy or mass come from originally, but what the heck. Let’s just work with what we’ve got.)

I believe the same thing can be said about truth, that is to say, that it can neither be created nor destroyed. The truth simply is what it is. That’s one of the main reasons that we’re so attracted to the truth…one of its primary appeals…what we love about it, in fact. The truth lasts. It will always come out. Our love of the truth will frequently put us in the hot seat but it will also set us free. Free to make a courageous choice. Free to contribute to what will endure in us.

Lies fall apart. Inevitably. What is false will crumble, sometimes quickly…sometimes slowly, but crumble it will. What’s left is the truth.

Lies take a great deal of energy to maintain. Once we’ve lied, we must be quite careful, almost vigilant, as to how we act and what we say when we are anywhere near the subject of our lie. Our tone of voice, our facial expressions will betray us just as quickly as a slip of the tongue. We become improvisational actors around our lie, compounding its complexity in our efforts to keep it propped up. We usually put on quite a show. And it’s exhausting.

The truth, however, stands for itself. Once we have spoken honestly as to how we felt or how something appeared to us or what something meant to us or what we did, we are free to leave it alone. It will never change. We spoke our truth. We are free to keep moving about our day, our life.

This is not to say that our truth will be well received, especially by those who aren’t seeking it. The truth requires courage…both in its speaking and in its hearing. It is, however, the only way to build anything (a relationship, a business, a government) that will be healthy and that will last.

So, here’s the kicker; it’s not that we don’t know this.

This is not breaking news. What is breaking news, literally today’s breaking news, is the leak of 2.6 terabytes of data from the firm Mossack Fonseca. These documents are reported to pull back the curtains on the shady and possibly illegal practices of various wealthy and powerful people across continents. Lots of truth.

It has taken courage to bring this into the public domain. Reputations and lives may be at risk.

Will we, the readers and listeners of this truth, have the courage to hear it? Will we have the courage to not turn away and pretend that this is simply some isolated incident or some sensationalizing journalism?

We were all raised with the metaphor and the understanding about the ‘tip of the iceberg’, how the main bulk of the problem still lies beneath whatever we struck that happened to be on the surface. That is the truth.

This is not a call to arms. This is a call to awareness. This is an attempt to speak to the truth amongst ourselves and to encourage one another to not be afraid. Only when we honestly look at the problem will the solution have a chance to emerge. It’s not in or from just one of us. It’s with and from all of us.

We know we’ve been silent for too long.








Many of the people I have worked with have grievances and emotional hurts that are the results of situations that can be understood simply as, ‘They just weren’t treated fairly’.

They felt wronged. They felt neglected. They felt slighted, that someone else was treated more favorably for no good or obvious reason. Or they felt misled or deceived outright. They’re hurt. They’re angry and feeling quite justified about it.

This sense of fairness, of cosmic justice or a final judgment wherein we all will get what we truly deserve, is a prime element in the concept of karma, in most religions’ version of an afterlife and certainly, in theory, in our criminal justice system.

We expect and want things to be fair. Still, we have to acknowledge, that from the beginning of time, stuff happens in life that simply doesn’t seem fair. A tree falls on this person and not the person standing next to them. A tornado hits this house and not the one 20 feet away. The examples are too many to list. Infants die of SIDS, preventable diseases and starvation. What can ever be fair about that?

More than a few have turned away from any notion of karma or of final fairness because of the sheer unpredictability of life. Fairness is a fairy tale to them. With cynicism and disgust, they proclaim that life is absurd and that it has no meaning. I have always found this to be a cover for their deepest pains and their indescribable loss.

Life has meaning. We each give it its meaning. We are in an interactive environment. If we tell ourselves or decide for ourselves that life is pointless and absurd, then that’s how life will behave. We will find all the evidence we need to support our conclusion. We will indeed find what we are seeking. If, however, we tell ourselves that we matter and we decide for ourselves that we will strive to make a difference, then we will indeed matter and we will indeed make a difference. That’s what is so ultimately fair. We have an integral role to play in the fulfillment and purpose we experience.

Nelson Mandela was not the first person to be wrongly imprisoned nor was he the only one. He may not even be the best example of a person’s not giving in to despair under difficult and unfair treatment but he certainly is a widely known one. Every day in this world, people are making choices that bring out the best in themselves and inspire those around them. These are not famous people. These are the meek that shall inherit this earth. They choose to try, they struggle and falter and some even perish, but they take responsibility for the course they have chosen. These are the ones with the ready smile and the helpful hand. They never wonder if they’re being fair when they smile or when they pitch in to help. They don’t assess if the person deserves it. They are acting true to themselves and they wouldn’t have it any other way.

We all know such persons. And we are all glad that we do.

I think that’s quite fair.




I’m no Einstein

Poor Albert Einstein. At the ripe old age of 26, he published several theories that redirected the field of physics and set it on a new course. His approach was groundbreaking and considered brilliant. Even to this day, people still pay homage to his intelligence. Many people assumed his mathematical and theoretical brilliance would be transferable to all areas of life. They asked his opinion on every subject imaginable and he gave it. In some areas, he was quirky. In others, he was mistaken. And in some, he was insightful enough. But in most regards, Albert’s life in general, his opinions and his personal behavioral choices, fell well within the range of ‘normal’. He was very human. Living up to one’s own reputation can be a burden. Albert was not frequently described, in any account of him that I’ve read, as happy.

Still, it must have been hard to become the standard against which all other human intelligences would be measured. I never met the man but I’ve been compared with him many times in my life. Not once favorably, by the way. But I never took offense at this, any more than I would have taken offense at someone pointing out to me that I was no Michelangelo in my sketch book or no Bernstein in my musical abilities or Baryshnikov on the dance floor. I have never tried to be like somebody else. It seemed like a full time job simply trying to be myself…even attempting to discover whatever that might mean took a long time.

I mention all of this because we live in a culture and a time that has placed a great deal of emphasis upon comparing things and people. We may not know what the absolute value of anything might be (the absolute truth about anything or if something is absolutely beautiful to all people for all time or if this is the absolutely best piece of pizza ever) but we are definitely sure that this is more truthful than that, or that this looks more beautiful than that, or that this one tastes way better than that one. This is where Albert comes in again. We’ve become marginally accustomed to the theory of relativity and practice it now with regards to truth, beauty and pizza quality. In fact, we practice it almost constantly. There’s a whole spectrum of valuations we make in our lives that are ‘relative’, i.e. how we perceive things will depend upon whether we’re riding on the train or standing on the train station platform. (I pray you’re familiar with that example as it has been used so often to illustrate Einstein’s theory).

I want to tell you that comparisons themselves ultimately have no value. We will never grow towards happiness or fulfillment if we are constantly judging ourselves against someone or something else. Even when we are comparing our current self with the version of ourselves from a previous point in time, it serves no real purpose. We’re no longer in that place in time and awareness. We are here. As I attempt to judge or evaluate myself in relation to others, I will always be in one of two categories…better than or not as good as. The relativity of both these categories negates the usefulness of either.

So I would encourage you to trust that your honesty will always steer you towards truth, to appreciate whatever beauty it is you see in front of you, and to relish pizza in all its glorious versions.

My deepest understanding is that we are all created equals.

When I am constantly comparing, I lose sight of that truth quickly. And I suffer.