Archive for November, 2014




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blizzard on the YBR


Meteorologists had their work cut out for them recently as temperatures plummeted and the first major snowstorm of the season dumped mega inches of the white stuff on a great swath of the country. Once again the weather was the topic of the day as it is many days throughout the year. When the temperature soars or drops, when the rains come a-pouring or the rains don’t come at all, or whenever Mother Nature puts on a show it’s all about the weather.

That got me thinking, not about the weather, but the “whether” because I believe our lives are as impacted by the “whether” as they are about the “weather.”

A scholar once wrote that “the word whether indicates that there is a choice or a doubt between two alternatives.”

My future depends whether or not I…get into college, get that job, get my big break, she/he will go out with me….
The fate of the earth depends upon whether or not…people get on board the climate change bandwagon, vote for the legalization of marijuana, crush terrorism…

I’m certain you can come up with your own examples so whether or not you get my point, I will leave it up to you.

So much of our life seems to hang in the whether balance. I think we give whether too much power in our lives. Did Dorothy worry whether or not she was going to make it to Oz?  No, but she did worry whether the Great and Powerful Wizard of Oz was going to grant her wish. And it was only when Dorothy let the whethers in her life control her destiny that she was vulnerable.  The Wicked Witch of the West knew this and used it against Dorothy…but to no avail, because whether or not the witch had amazing power, Dorothy was wearing the ruby slippers. And that made all the difference.

So whether or not you wonder what life has in store for you, don’t get stuck in a snow drift, just remember you have the power of the ruby slippers.

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two points

There is one mathematical rule that made a lasting impression on me: The shortest distance between two points is a straight line. In a mathematical realm there is no getting around this basic truth. However, in life, this straightforward (poor pun intended) rule does not, nor should it apply.

In reality, point A is our arbitrary birth and point B is our inevitable death. Between these two points is that simple thing we call “life.” While many of us cling to the idea that there is a way of getting from point A to point B in as straight a line as possible, anyone over the age of logic and reason will tell you flat out that there is no shortest distance between these two points.

Dorothy’s journey from the land of the Munchkins to Emerald City followed a yellow brick road that was anything but straight. Had it been straight I don’t believe Dorothy’s journey would have been as life-changing and fulfilling as it was.

Despite the fact that we like to believe that all of us are created equal, the truth is that although we might be entitled to the benefits of equality (i.e. life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness) we are not born equal.  Some are born without advantages and some are born with them. When we are born, where we are born, to whom we are born, etc. influence our journey from point A to point B.  However, as we all know, not everybody born with advantages have a straighter line than those born without advantages.

While our life’s journey is a straight forward affair, the path is not.  Every decision we make, as well as every choice we refuse to take, adds the curves to our YBR. Choosing a mate, finding and making friends, welcoming new children into our family, bidding farewell to older loved ones, making  our way in the workplace, dealing with boons and busts, and confronting our own mortality turn the straight and narrow into, well, our path.

Too often we fall victim of comparing our life’s journey with other people’s  and “believe” that their journey’s are so “uncomplicated.”  Not the case…and never the case.  First of all, we should never compare paths. It only leads to discouragement.

That does not mean we should not take a hard look at our path.  Perhaps it is not going in the direction we thought it would take. If we want or need to alter our course (for the better) we need to do everything possible to make it happen.  If we’ve made or continue to make the same mistakes, we can never expect to get off the “circle.”  If we have to make some serious adjustments, we need to  make them because point B is always going to be point B.

My fear is that the current generation believes there is only one path between points A and B.  They fail to see that a career is only a section of the road; it is not the final destination.

A good exercise is to ask yourself “how did I get here?” (The here in this case the point on the road you find yourself at the moment.)  Since you don’t have to share your answer, you can be brutally honest.  Map out all the steps of your journey and be sure to include the decisions made for you by others (either when you were too young to make decisions when you left the decision-making to someone else.)

Look at your map. Embrace the good decisions and take responsibility for all the bad ones.  If you see a pattern and realize how many cul de sacs you’ve been in, then do something about it. We might be part of the “human race,” but life is not the hundred yard dash, it is a marathon of our own. Ultimately, how well we do when we cross the finish line is up to us.

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A good story is like an onion; it has many layers. Peel away one and you find another layer to explore. Frank L. Baum’s “Wizard of Oz” is a marvelous onion that begs to be peeled.

Peeling a literary onion affords us an opportunity to look at a current issue and examine it without prejudice and hopefully to see that issue from different perspectives.

While the big headlines of the day have been about ISIS and Ebola, there is another topic that while seemingly small in comparison to the other issues, looms large in the minds of the common man. And the subject has to do with hazing…particularly hazing on high school football teams.

The ugly hazing secret blew up when it came to light in Sayerville (NJ) where seven football players have been charged with a number of crimes. It didn’t take long before other hazing incidents made the news. The fact of the matter is that these incidents should not be brushed under the carpet. There is no room for such behavior. No excuses. But…

But…let’s go back to Oz for a minute and examine the onion. Dorothy’s story is all about the journey. When she landed in Oz she had to endure an initiation. She had to take a trip into the unknown where she eventually was given a task to complete. The task was arduous and not without danger.  In the end, Dorothy completed her task…successfully.  She went from a meek and humble farm girl to self-confident young woman prepared to continue her journey.

Some things never change.  A baby born in the 21st century is not so different from a baby born in the 18th, 15th, 11th…century. All babies have to explore, have to find their way, and have to take a journey.  In the tribal past there were certain rights of initiation that all young people had to “endure.”  Before a young boy could be accepted into the local society as a “man,” he had to go through an initiation process.

And while many societies became “more civilized,” the need for rites of passage and initiation did not disappear. The “need” to know when we were moving from one stage of our lives to another never disappeared, but the communal rites and rituals did…for the most part.

When my father was growing up a boy did not wear long pants. When he came of age he was given his first pair of long pants. This symbolic gesture contained a message. It told those young boys of my father’s generation that they were now young men.

A look back at history reveals many other rites and rituals related to being initiated in a higher level of the society/community.  A Christian baptism initiates the infant into a society of believers. The next big step on the journey of a believing Christian is Confirmation where the young boy/girl becomes an adult in faith.  The Catholic bishop’s slap on the cheek (more like a very soft pat) is a symbolic gesture that has its roots in a time when initiation included some kind of physical interaction.  In Judaism the bar and bat mitzvah is another rite of initiation where the young boy/girl announces that today they are a man/woman.

Here’s the problem. We have become a seamless society where we mark growth chronologically. There are no steps and there are definitely no rites of passage with initiations of any kind. So how is a child to know that they are moving forward?  How is a young boy/girl to understand what it means to be a young adult when the only thing they have to show for it is another candle on their cake?

Initiations are important, and since nature abhors a vacuum if we as adults don’t provide young people with these rites and rituals, they will take on the task and provide them for themselves…usually with negative results.

We need to “earn” our way along the journey.  We need to be given certain tasks to complete to give evidence that we are prepared to take on new responsibilities and worthy of enjoying the rights and privileges that correspond with those responsibilities.

There should be an initiation process for players on a football team.  New players should not be accorded the same privileges enjoyed by the senior team members.  That does not mean there is any room for cruel humiliation, harassment of any kind, and bullying. However, there is nothing wrong for younger members to have to do tasks, like carrying the equipment bags, the water jugs, etc.

There are ways to allow “proper” initiations.  And I believe if we recognize healthy initiation rites and rituals as part of growing up, we might be able to eliminate some of the horrors when initiations are left in the hands of immature boys/girls.

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