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Lincoln head shot

President Lincoln delivered the 272 word Gettysburg Address on November 19, 1863 on the battlefield near Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.

“Fourscore and seven years ago our fathers brought forth, on this continent, a new nation, conceived in liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal. Now we are engaged in a great civil war, testing whether that nation, or any nation so conceived, and so dedicated, can long endure. We are met on a great battle-field of that war. We have come to dedicate a portion of that field, as a final resting-place for those who here gave their lives, that that nation might live. It is altogether fitting and proper that we should do this. But, in a larger sense, we cannot dedicate, we cannot consecrate—we cannot hallow—this ground. The brave men, living and dead, who struggled here, have consecrated it far above our poor power to add or detract. The world will little note, nor long remember what we say here, but it can never forget what they did here. It is for us the living, rather, to be dedicated here to the unfinished work which they who fought here have thus far so nobly advanced. It is rather for us to be here dedicated to the great task remaining before us—that from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause for which they here gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain—that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom, and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

View

I just finished taping an episode of “The View.” Barbara Walters was so impressed with my appearance that she asked me if I would like to replace Rosie O’Donnell when she leaves the show. I’m currently thinking about it.

Of course that’s not true. I’ve never been, nor will I ever really be on “The View.”  However, thanks to my heightened imagination, not only have I been on “The View,” I’ve appeared on television with David Letterman, Jay Leno and even on “Ellen” where she gave me thousands of dollars worth of gifts. I was never on Oprah, but I have been to her house for lunch when she had Barbra Streisand over. Babs and I shared our love for Ebinger’s chocolate butter cream cake. And did I ever mentioned how many Tony, Oscar and Emmy Awards I’ve received?

I have a very rich and fertile imagination. Fortunately I can keep it in check. I’ve also never had a need to confuse my fantasy/imaginary world with the real one I live in. If there comes a time when I cross the line, then I believe I will be in need of help.

How many people are closeted daydreamers? How many people inject themselves into events that have happened, fantasized about being with famous people, or imagined being recognized for some talent or gift?

As one who aspired to be a recognized literary force in print, on stage and on the screen, I might add, the distance between the stories I’ve written and the celebrity I’ve imagined are much close than you might think. Almost like the image you see in your side view mirror…the one that says, “objects in mirror are closer than they appear.”

Today, the world of social media has blurred the line between what is real and what is imagined. Someone can be living in basic obscurity one day and all over the media the next day if their cat video goes viral. How many people believe they are only a hair’s breadth away from being recognized?

It wouldn’t be hard for me to imagine that this blog goes viral and I am asked to be a guest on “The View.” Considering the fact that this blog is normally only read by anywhere from four to 12 people on a good day, the likelihood of it every reaching someone who reaches someone else who reaches Whoopi Goldberg is laughable.

But, we can all dream, and in many cases it’s the dream that carries us forward. Is there ever a kid that played Little League that didn’t see himself as the next Derek Jeter?  Is there ever any JV basketball players who doesn’t see himself as the next LeBron James?  You get the point.

Unless you are like Frank Abagnale,  the true-life character portrayed by Leo DiCaprio in “Catch Me If You Can,” a man who went to the dark side of his imagination, you most likely have your fantasy world in check.

Now imagine you are actually living the fantasy world. Imagine you are Bradley Cooper, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep or any other movie star. Or if sports occupies your fantasy world, close your eyes and imagine what it’s like to be a Tom Brady, one of the Williams sisters, or the winner of one of sport’s biggest awards. If you were to actually live in the world where you are living your fantasies you would either  be able to handle it well or your life could easily spill out of control. If you were one of the “elect” few to “make it,” what would it do to your imagination?  Would you be content living the life you might have only dreamt about when you were a kid, or would you want and need more?

How man headlines or clips from TMZ have showed us what happens when the world if imagination and the real world of fame and fortune collide?

So, what does any of this have to do with Brian Williams?  Here’s a guy who is at the top of his game. A guy who is lauded and applauded. A guy with a shelf filled with awards. And from what I can gather, a really nice guy. What happened.  Isn’t he living the life he might have dreamt about when he was a kid?

At the risk of not knowing what the hell I’m talking about, I’m going to try and imagine what Brian Williams might have dreamt or fantasized about. I imagine he imagined himself as one of the greatest television journalists ever. As a kid he probably saw himself as the next Edward R. Murrow or Walter Cronkite. Imagine his thrill and exhilaration when he found himself on the path of greatness.  One would “imagine” that he would have no reason to dip into a fantasy world when he was living the fantasy. Wrong. Sometimes what we imagine might not be enough. If Mr. William’s fertile imagination was not satisfied by actually doing and being a potentially famous television journalist, it’s not hard to imagine what he imagined. It wouldn’t come as a surprise if he didn’t imagine what it might have been like to report on the JFK assassination. But, if you are going to imagine something that other real people did report on, why not go for the gusto, and place yourself in the JFK motorcade, or what the hell, why not be in the car with JFK and Jackie. That would be the scoop of the century.

Is it hard to “imagine” that since it wasn’t enough that Brian Williams was covering world events, he needed to or had to inject himself into the story, but never as the super hero, only as a journalist who actually got his hands dirty by participating in the story.

One might judge such behavior and call it mental illness. I would hesitate to use that term. I would rather call it a mental flaw where no real harm was done.

Celebrities who have an alcohol or drug problem seek treatment . Many of them turn their lives around. I can only hope that Brian Williams is able to ride his ride of terror and hold on tight because when the ride is over, perhaps he will rise from the ashes like the Phoenix and shed light on an issue that is not as uncommon as one would think.

And Ms. Walters, you can reach me by phone or email. We can negotiate about filling that vacant seat on “The View.”

Williams of Oz

The current headline-making Brian Williams story brings to mind the unmasking, or to be more accurate, the uncurtaining, of the Wizard of Oz. You remember the scene in the movie (not to be confused with the better part in the book) where Toto pulls back the curtain and reveals the man behind the curtain. Of course he told us not to pay attention to the man behind the curtain, but that was impossible. His gig was up. He was revealed for what he really was, a humbug.

When confronted, the Wizard confessed that he had been making believe. He made believe he had great power even though he didn’t. And because he was believing his own disbelief he got suckered in to his own fabricated story. Not only did the Wizard believe his story, the citizens of Emerald City did, too.

Was the Wizard wrong? Of course. Was he guilty of abusing the truth? Without a doubt. Were we supposed to believe him when he told Dorothy after she called him a very bad man “Oh, no my dear; I’m really a very good man; but I’m a very bad Wizard, I must admit.”

Fast forward to the present in real time. The question before us: is Brian Williams a very good man but a very conflicted news anchor?

Here’s my humble take on the situation

“I believe Brian Williams is a good man. I also believe that if he is guilty of anything he’s guilty of digging a hole for himself that only got deeper and deeper overtime. If some of us were to be honest we would have to admit to having an imaginary world where we often escape to. As children our imaginary world was filled with pirates and princes. As adults, this world is a mirror image of our real world. We are the hero in our imaginary world.  We always do the right and brave thing as we stand up to cruel and unjust bosses. In our imaginary world we solve problems that change the world. In our imaginary world we are on a first-name basis with famous people who hang on every word we say.

And if we are being honest, there are some times when events in our imaginary world spill over into our real world. It’s those times when we might inflate an accomplishment, when we innocently embellish an incident, and where we might inject ourselves into a real event despite the fact that we only had a tangential connection to the real event.

I can truthfully say that I was sitting next to Betty White at the Emmy Awards where I told her I thought she’d be up next year getting an award for The Golden Girls. I can truthfully say that I was at the Emmy Awards the following year where I had the chance to congratulate Betty White on her award and even mentioned our talk the previous year. If I said “I know Betty White” would I be lying?  Yes. Because I don’t “know” her. I met her. I had a brief talk with her. End of story.

But how often are we tempted to exaggerate? How often would it be so easy to lead people to believe a fabrication?  What harm is there in doing that. That depends. If our fabrication becomes someone else’s truth and that truth plays a part in getting a job, a promotion or elevates us into a person of authority, then we are dead wrong.

The problem is that in the world we live in the fine line between fact and fiction has worn gossamer thin. Since so many have a penchant to be recognized social media is turning many of us into figments of our imagination. We want a gazzilion FB likes. We want people to think we are important.

Imagine you are working in a world where who you are and where perception is reality. Imagine that this is a highly competitive world where you are only as good/popular as your latest accomplishment. With so many people in the news medium fighting to stay on top, there is such a great temptation to do almost anything to make yourself standout. If you are covering a big story, you don’t just want to give an objective  broadcast, especially if you’re in the heat of the event. You want to be part of the story because that brings a different dimension to your report.

I believe if Brian Williams is guilty of anything, he’s guilty of what I would call The Oz/Secret Life of Walter MItty syndrome. He injected himself in the story he was reporting on. but never to the point where he was the hero. On the contrary, he was always “saved” by the hero, and he made it a point to pay tribute to that hero.

So, before we rush to judgment on Brian Williams, I think we step back and take an inner look and find the Wizard in us.

MLK walked the YBR.

MLK on YBR

coin toss

World problems, in a nutshell, can all be traced back to one concept. Believing. Despite the fact that we are all humans occupying the same tiny planet in a universe so large as to make us inconsequential, we all believe different things.

The people living in the Emerald City were different, because they all believed the same things, and that was because they all wore emerald glasses and they all saw the world the same way. Well, we don’t live in Emerald City. Or do we? I have come to believe that we all live in different Emerald Cities that are only geographic to a degree. By that I mean, just because the French live in a geographic part of the world with manmade borders, that does not mean that ALL French people think alike.

Thinking and believing are the two sides of the same coin. Ideally our thinking and believing should conform, but that would be a hard idea to sell on the open market where thinking and believing are often miles and centuries apart.

Our ability to think….openly, clearly and critically, is one of the aspects of being human that we surrender as we get older. As members of a tribe (family, community, nation, etc,) we are taught to think one way. If we want to maintain membership in our tribe we are obligated to think the way everyone else thinks or we could be banished to the deep dark forest.

Anyone or anything that penetrates the bubble that surrounds our way of thinking is immediately identified as an enemy. It doesn’t matter if we have right thinking or wrong thinking, we really don’t want to THINK because thinking involves testing our what we think against what someone else thinks.  If you only want your liberal thinking to be supported you will only listen to people who preach the message you want to hear. If you want to hold onto your conservative way of thinking you’ll only tune into networks that support your conservative views. Tell me, is there a right and a wrong?

I’ve thought long and hard about this and have come to the conclusion that our thinking is largely influenced by our inherent belief system, and this belief system is usually controlled by religion.  Usually by the time we turn seven or eight our belief system has been wired and it is very difficult to change the wiring. What we believe in and how we believe drives how we think.

If you live in a secular society you have been dual-wired. On the one hand you can “embrace” a very specific religious belief system even if it contradicts your enhanced thinking abilities. If you think about something, you just can’t “believe.” You need some sort of proof, and as we all know demanding a proof often flies in the face of religious belief systems.

The power of science can be found in the very fact that if something is “disproven,” the science has to change. If not, it is no longer science. The power of religion can be found in the very fact that it resists changing. I ask you, are all powers equal?

Holding onto an idea that we’ve believed for most of our life and asking to think about it is something many people cannot bring themselves to do.

Are we at a point in history that we have to flip a coin? I hope not because there’s too much at stake. We need to encourage real thinking. But before we can do that we have to be willing to embrace a new way of thinking…if it’s called for. And there’s the rub. When do we know when changing what we believe and the way we think is called for?

We need to become a world where thinking is encouraged, where love steers our ship, and where we have the courage to stand up for what is right.

world in hands

Rather than hold YBR blog followers in suspension anymore, I’ll reveal the word I believe should forever replace tolerate and any of its forms. Embrace.

Why replace tolerate with embrace. Largely because I believe the word tolerate can’t shed the idea that people who just put up with something or someone (often reluctantly) can claim to be tolerant.

I don’t think people should fly under the radar by claiming to be tolerant when they are not always invested in what they are tolerating.

I propose that the real word should be embrace. The dictionary defines embrace this way:

(v) accept or support (a belief, theory, or change) willingly and enthusiastically; (n) an act of accepting or supporting something willingly or enthusiastically.

The difference between tolerating and embracing can be found in the willingness or enthusiasm attached to embracing something.

To embrace something or someone is an active process where toleration can often be a passive activity. When you embrace something you actually have to “wrap” your mind and heart around it. You willing accept it. You just don’t deal with it or put up with it.

Think about it. And be honest. How many people, things, ideas, notions, etc. do you merely tolerate because you do it because it’s politically correct, the thing to do, or because you have nothing to lose by tolerating it.

If you have your heart and mind in that which you tolerate, you can proudly say that you embrace it.

In time, I think if you can wrap your head around the point of this blog, you can embrace embracing,

Tolerance - 1

In light of the recent, cold blooded murder of 12 people at France’s Charlie Hebdo I can’t stop thinking about a word that has always caused me a problem. The word is “Tolerate” in any of its variations. It is one of the banner words wildly waved around today. People proudly proclaim how tolerant they are and that it’s intolerance that is the cause for so many of the problems facing us today. Well, I have a different take on it. I believe far too many people claim to be tolerant while in fact they are either closeted closed-minded individuals or shallow mob followers.

The word bothers me because it’s one of those words that actually has two diametrically opposed meanings. The older meaning of tolerate is “the capacity to endure something, especially pain or hardship.” People often use the word when they are telling us that they “put up with something.” With this meaning, toleration has its limits. An individual can usually tolerate something for just so long before they take action to end that which they are suffering.  The other definition is the one most popular today: “a fair, objective, and permissive attitude toward opinions, beliefs, and practices that differ from one’s own.”

I ask you to focus on the words “permissive attitude” because that’s where I have a big problem. Is it always good to have a permissive attitude? Aren’t there limits to what should be permitted? I think there are. Consider the popular concept found in schools, organizations, companies, etc. “Zero Tolerance” meaning that certain things will NOT BE TOLERATED.

While I don’t think we should ever “tolerate” racism, bigotry, sexism, violence…the very fact that we as a society have a list of things that should be tolerated and things that shouldn’t be tolerated, makes me believe that toleration is really in the eye of the beholder. I can’t say that I have a total permissive attitude toward all opinions, beliefs and practices that differ from my own. And if you are honest, you’d have to admit that you too don’t have a “total” permissive attitude.

I get a big kick out of religious leaders who publicly declare that they are open about other religious beliefs. BS.  That’s virtually impossible because many of the beliefs of one religion contradict or don’t support the beliefs of other religions. Christians believe in the divinity of Jesus. Non-Christians don’t. Fundamental Christians don’t, from what I know, believe that non-believers are going to be saved. How can someone with that belief system be tolerant of someone who has a different viewpoint?  They might give lip service to non-believers, but I don’t think they are keeping the spirit of permissiveness alive.

Take a walk back in time and consider the Maryland Toleration Act (1649), also known as the Act Concerning Religion. It was a law mandating religious tolerance for Trinitarian Christians.

“The Calvert family, who founded Maryland partly as a refuge for English Catholics, sought enactment of the law to protect Catholic settlers and those of other religions that did not conform to the dominant Anglicanism of Britain and her colonies. The Act allowed freedom of worship for all Trinitarian Christians in Maryland, but sentenced to death anyone who denied the divinity of Jesus.”

Sentenced to death! Wow! That’s real tolerance. A little bit more on the nitty gritty of  the Maryland Toleration Act” …no person or persons…professing to believe in Jesus Christ, shall from henceforth be anyways troubled, Molested or discountenanced for or in respect of his or her religion nor in the free exercise thereof within this Province. Settlers who blasphemed by denying either the Trinity or the divinity of Jesus Christ could be punished by execution or the seizure of their lands. That meant that Jews, Unitarians, and other dissenters from Trinitarian Christianity were practicing their religions at risk to their lives. Any person who insulted the Virgin Mary, the apostles, or the evangelists could be whipped, jailed, or fined. Otherwise, Trinitarian Christians’ right to worship was protected.”

You might argue that’s ancient history, and you might have a point, however, what one man tolerates another man abhors.

Today, liberal thinking rules. And while I am a firm believer in being open-minded, especially about things that might be out of my comfort zone, I have no problem in questioning some of the things we tolerate just because it’s the thing to do.

I believe there is a better word for what toleration is supposed to mean. And I’ll introduce that word in the next post on the YBR.

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