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excalibur-12

Other than “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz,” one of my favorite books from childhood was T. H. White’s “The Sword in the Stone.” (I believe I first read it around the same time I read Baum’s “Wizard of Oz.) I believe I liked the book because it satisfied this urging I had for magical powers.

The sword in the stone, best known as “excalibur” aka sword, was a symbol of power in its purest form. Only a righteous individual could remove the sword from the stone. Rather than re-tell the story, suffice it to say that a young and innocent boy who went by the name of Wart at the time but would later be known as King Arthur, pulled the sword from the stone…a feat that no one else was able to accomplish.

As a King, the legendary Arthur was faced with the ultimate dialectic: Arthur asked himself the question “Does might make right, or does right make might?”  In this case the word “might” meant power.

The question is still valid today and continues to be hotly debated. Does the power wielded by a person, group, or nation make what it does…right? Or do the right actions made by a person, group or nation make it powerful?

There is no doubt in my mind that the world has chosen to use power to make right. Be it an individual or a group, having the power is everything. What we fail to grasp its the fact that power is fickle.  History tells us over and over again how people or nations who once wielded “great power” lost it.

Having power is a great responsibility.  Ultimately if it is misused it comes back to bite you on the ass. A parent who misuses his/her power as a parent will eventually lose the respect of his/her children. The same goes for a boss.

One of the questions surrounding power is not who wields it, but how did one acquire it. Did a person or nation wrestle the power away from another by “over-powering” them?  If the one who had the power in the first place was misusing it, then it could be viewed as a good thing if someone comes along and takes the power away. (I don’t know how often that happens.)

The real problem I have with power is that in my experience more often than not the person who has the power not only misuses it, but had NO RIGHT to it in the first place.

More on this in the next blog.

Oz the great and powerful

Taking a risk here by presenting the first of three blogs on a subject  that has been as much a thorn in my side as a spur to ride on and battle windmills. The subject has to do with power and authority.

To begin, take a stroll with me down the YBR and a brief walk through the dictionary.

In Baum’s novel, Oz introduces himself by saying “I am Oz the great and terrible.”

You might say what’s the big deal.  I say, it is a big deal.

In  common parlance the word terrible means “bad.” BUT, that was not the original meaning. The word terrible did not originally mean something that is bad, as in “that was a terrible movie.:  The origin of word is rooted in the Latin/French word “terre” which actual mean to “cause one to shiver” and is closer to our word for “terror.”

So…when Dorothy and her traveling companions met Oz, he was telling them he was a “terror” and he was as much “terrific” as he was “terrible.”

In the movie the big Green Man booms “I am Oz the great and powerful.”

Instead of saying he was “terrible,” he says he is “powerful.”  That’s a big difference because the word “power”  has Latin roots that mean “to posses the ability to act or do.” The word power also shares meaning with the word “potent.”

So…in the book Oz was a character whose main characteristic was “terror.”  It was the way he “ruled.”  In other words, he literally scared people into acting.  In the movie, Oz possessed the ability to get people to act.

In my opinion one who rules by terrorizing is a monster. One who rules from a power position can choose to be right, fair and just in using his/her power or use his/her power to dominate without any regard to the people subjected to this power.

Ruling from a power position raises another important question: Where does the power come from? How did the person with the power acquire it? (This will be the subject for the next blog.)

The one word common to the book and movie is “great.”

We all know what great means…or do we?  I think we toss the word around without any regard to what we should mean when we describe something as “great.”

The original meaning of the word great meant big in size or coarse. It also came to mean “grit.”

Simply put, the sense of something or someone being “great” but meaning warm, woolly and wonderful is wrong.

To wrap up this “lesson,” in the book Oz was a monster. In the movie he wasn’t so much a monster as he was scary.

What, you might wonder does this have to do with blogging on power and authority?  It is the foundation for a discussion on who has power and authority, how it is used…and more importantly, how it is mis-used.

 

 

 

earthcone

It only seems like yesterday that it was Earth Day and here it is again…and I haven’t done my Earth Day shopping yet!  Well, that’s life, but there is a reason to reflect on Earth Day because world opinion on the condition of planet earth, especially regarding global warming is such an issue.

I don’t recall any mention of Oz Day or Emerald warming on the YBR. Since there were no cars or other motor vehicles  in Oz, they didn’t have to worry about carbon emission problems.

Here on earth it’s a different story. Politics and science aside, it really should matter where you stand on global warming, even if it’s only to get you to think that for every action there is a equal reaction or something to that effect.  All of us need to be conscious of the earth’s fragile nature and be mindful of what we do…even something small like discarding trash correctly rather than litter.

Today I went out on our lawn and began the laborious process of riding it of dandelions.

dandelions

I hate doing it, but I realize if I don’t tend to the problem it is only going to get worse and before I know it the lawn will be covered with more dandelions.

In a metaphorical sense, dandelions are those issues or problems that appear in our lives and won’t go away unless we do something about them. Earth Day is the perfect day to take a long, hard and realistic look at our lawn. Is our  life covered with dandelions? If so, what should we do about it?

I think we need to take an inventory of our lives and see what impact those dandelions are having on our lives.  I believe most of our dandelions are the result of bad habits, those sometimes little things we do…or don’t do as the case might be…that are preventing us from living fuller lives.

While I don’t know if it is possible to rid our lives of all our dandelions, that’s no excuse for not doing something.

One of the things I suggest doing is weeding our lawns of all those people in our lives who are dandelions. You know, selfish people or those people that don’t bring anything positive to our lives.

If you happen to work for a dandelion and you can’t leave your job, you can protect yourself from being contaminated by not letting them have control over your inner life. Sure, they may treat you like dirt, but you have the same power Dorothy did in Oz. Mentally throw a bucket of water on them and see them melt.

marist building one

Although I have spent many hours imaging Oz in my mind, I’ve never been there. If it were possible to visit a place we imagine, I would like to have been in Oz when they were building the Emerald City and not because I am a student of construction, but because I am curious.

My alma mater, where I still find myself on campus as an adjunct, is an amazing place. All the many buildings that were constructed long after my days as a student are wonderful stone structures. They are as pleasing to look at on the outside as they are to walk the interiors.

A new building is going up on campus and I had the opportunity to watch it go up. One morning as I entered the campus I was taken back when I saw the construction crew putting up a new wall. I was surprised, but not pleasantly.

stone wall

The beautiful stone walls were…fake. Or were they?  In construction parlance, they were “pre-fabricated stone walls.”

So what’s the problem?  In the end the exterior of the building will be stone and none will be the wiser in years to come.

It got me thinking about how we are constructed. While I believe that it’s what’s inside that counts… character, heart, courage, etc…I sometime think that modern man is more interested in appearances for appearances sake.

A look at the dictionary definition might help:

One definition of facade  is “the face of a building, especially the principal front that looks onto a street or open space.”
Another more telling one is  “an outward appearance that is maintained to conceal a less pleasant or creditable reality.”
In the dozen or so years I have been an adjunct, I have come to the conclusion that many students who go to college are going, not to construct an exterior wall that supports their interior beams, but to learn how to cover their beams with a wall that will make them more attractive when they go out and battle for a position in the market place.
How many people do you know whose facade is like a pre-fab wall?  How rare is it to find a person whose exterior is constructed with windows that let you see into the soul of the person.
Something to think about.

Snow on april

*Why the Flurries


April is the cruelest month, breeding
Lilacs out of the dead land, mixing
Memory and desire, stirring
Dull roots with spring rain.
Winter kept us warm, covering 5
Earth in forgetful snow, feeding
A little life with dried tubers.
                                           The Waste Land – T. S. Eliot

When I woke up this morning (Sunday, April 3, 2016) I was more than surprised to see a covering of snow….despite the fact that snow flurries had been part of the forecast.  Spring is spring, for God’s sake.  The ground shouldn’t be covered with the white stuff. The grass should be turning a nice shade of green and kids of all ages should be out on the ball field shagging fly balls, kicking a soccer ball, or just running and romping (do kids still romp, or is that a lost art?)

Seeing the snow made me think.  In childhood anything goes.  There are the four seasons, but as kids we make room for the unexpected.  Snow in July in New York would be a cause for a a Fourth of July snowball fight for a kid, but for an adult it would be a cause for alarm and a Google search to see if the great and almighty power of the Internet can explain what’s going on.

As we grow older our expectations in life (on many aspects of it) become more rigid.  As adults we believe there is a time and place for everything. We set our iphone calendars and see the future as a series of meetings, appointments and obligations.  Our wall calendars are marked with “things” we have to do.  We become like the White Rabbit in “Alice in Wonderland.”  We’re late, we’re late for a most important date.

We believe in an orderly progression in life.  One thing follows another in a specific and certain order.  What was right for us at a certain time in our lives is no longer right at a later time in our lives.

That’s not life.  Life doesn’t always happen in chronological order. The life we live, especially the inner life, does not evolve the same way as we might age physically.

In one of my many un-produced plays the main character was a young man who firmly believed that there was an organised progression in life and that to defy the trajectory of our lives was to meddle with fate.  Well, in my play the character playing the part of this young man’s guardian angel strongly disagrees with him and tells him the following story:

“Once upon a time ago there was this man who sold the Brooklyn Eagle.  Every day like clockwork he was out at the same corner selling his papers.  It got to the point where he could predict the number of papers he would sell depending upon the day of the week, the month and what the weather happened to be on that particular day.  He was a happy man living a very predictable life.

“One morning this man went to his corner of the world to sell his papers and what to his wondering eyes did he see?  There were men with pick axes chopping up the cement on the corner because there was a leak in the water pipe that had to be fixed…and it was going to take at least four days to fix it.

“The man was perplexed beyond belief. The orderliness of the universe had been disrupted. But something happened that day.  The little boy that lived in a a dark corner of the man’s spirit told him to find another corner. And as scary as the thought of selling newspapers from a different corner might have been, the man actually did that.

“And do you know what happened? The man had no idea how many papers he was going to sell…and that excited him to the point that the next day he went and found another corner to sell his papers, and the next day, and the day after that he did the same, never to return to his old corner.”

The man in the story experienced snow flurries in April.  What wasn’t supposed to happen…happened.  He could have gone home and waited for the repairs to be done at his familiar corner, but he didn’t. Instead he ventured forth into the unknown.

Today we might use the expression, if life hands you a lemon, make lemonade. I say, when there are flurries in your life at a time when you least expect them, listen to your inner child because he/she might have a message for you worth listening to.

preheat

Of late I have taken on the task of cooking our evening meal.  Most recipes call for preheating the oven.  I must confess that I rarely take this step seriously. Perhaps that’s a clear indication of being impatient.

So, what’s the big deal?  Instead of preheating the oven, you throw the dish in the oven at the designated temperature.

 But tonight as I was preparing some baked salmon I had an epiphany. And usually when I have an epiphany it is followed by one of those aha moments.

While many wise and woolly people have announced to the world that there is a recipe for life, I say…maybe, but no one recipe for life fits all. Each of us has certain inborn ingredients. Each of us has a number of hidden traits that can be developed.

But how many of us fail to preheat our oven?  How many of us neglect this one important step, and I say important because in life preheating is synonymous with preparation and timing.

Unfortunately many of us are impatient.  We have a mind’s-eye vision of what we want to achieve/accomplish, but in our haste to achieve our goal or goals, we put it right in an unheated oven. By doing this we sometimes rush the process to the point that when we take the finished dish out of the oven, the center of the roast is under cooked or the middle of the cake is not baked enough and the cake falls.

Having the right ingredients and following a recipe for success more often than not demands that we wait until the oven temperature is right because in the end, we are more likely to see satisfactory results if we preheat the oven.

Dorothy understood this as she journeyed along the YBR. She knew that by preheating the oven she was eventually going to get back home.

belgium-flag

Rust in Verde
Belgie

Ruhe in Frieden
Belgien

Repose en Paix
Belgique

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