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Archive for March, 2016

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.

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belgium-flag

Rust in Verde
Belgie

Ruhe in Frieden
Belgien

Repose en Paix
Belgique

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outlier ornament

One of the greatest crimes someone can commit in the 21st century is to be a nobody. With so many social media outlets available, we have so many ways to avoid being a nobody.

Emily Dickinson had something to say about being a nobody in her famous poem about being a nobody:

I’m nobody! Who are you?
Are you nobody, too?
Then there’s a pair of us -don’t tell!
They’d banish us, you know.

How dreary to be somebody!
How public, like a frog
To tell your name the livelong day
To an admiring bog!

I’m more conscious of what it means to be a nobody today while all the attention is on the presidential nominee race, especially when you focus in on both the vocal supporters and the volatile protesters…on both sides.

Who are these people?  They don’t qualify to be a nobody. But, in my humble opinion, they are empty and vacuous individuals…sheep.  The supporters cheer and chant inane slogans. The protesters reel and rant and also chant.

Not all of them, of course, are hollow men, but the majority of them have never analyzed anything with any sense of objectivity.  They are either black or white on every issue. But, and here is the scary thing…they do have some power, be it mob power, and they do have the ear of the power brokers because the power brokers know how to herd sheep into the voting booth.

I, on the other hand, am a nobody. I don’t rant and I don’t chant. I approach all issues without an agenda.  Nothing is pure black or white.  Every issue has a history. Every issue has a number of points that need to be examined…objectively.  But more importantly, each issue holder needs to be stripped naked.  Just because the issue holder wears the red hat of a Cardinal in the Catholic Church, is the President of a College, a boy scout leader, or anyone else in a position of power, should not be a reason why their views are not challenged, nor is a position of power an excuse to believe anything they say without looking it under truth’s microscope.

I fear that we are living in an age where the people in power no longer have the ability to tell the truth or to speak truthfully.  These people make the Wizard of Oz, the biggest humbug in children’s literature, look like a shining star of truth.

Because I am a nobody, I am an outlier in the political and social landscape. Because I am a nobody, what I think doesn’t matter. Because I am a nobody I’m not allowed in the arena because the the gatekeepers only want to admit cheer leaders.

Are you a nobody, too?

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Aurelia-Postcard

The YBR is, for most of us that is, a long and winding road. Looking back on the yellow bricks we’ve traversed, we often focus on very specific parts of our journey.

In September of 1968 I boarded the MS Aurelia in New York City for my college junior year abroad (pictured above). It would take nine days to cross the Atlantic during hurricane season…suffice it to say it was not a smooth crossing.

The major advances in passenger cruise ships is not the point of this blog, although the difference between cruising then and cruising now is remarkable.

My point has more to do with how we’ve come to disparage time.  We have no time for time.  We want our communication lightening fast. We want reactions to our facebook posts instantaneously. (If a post at 8:19 pm does not have 1,267 likes and 120 comments by 8:35 pm, we wonder what’s taking people so long to react to our cat video.)

And when ti comes to travel, we want to get from here to there…in record time.

Well, compare my nine-day Atlantic crossing with the average six or seven hour flight from JFK to Heathrow.  No comparison. But let me tell you that the nine days I spent at sea were literally rewarding.  The time was, to coin a new term, gestational. The ship was like a womb and the time it took to cross the ocean gave me a chance to prepare for a new birth as a student abroad.

L. Frank Baum never made any mention to the actual time Dorothy spent in Oz because her time there could not be measured by the ticking of a clock.

If I remember anything about my year abroad, I remember I had a totally different mindset about about time.  While I new my time at Oxford was limited, I didn’t think of the time as time. I embraced it as an experience that was not going to be numbered in days, weeks and months.

I came away from my abroad experience with a new appreciation for time.  Instead of waiting for something to happen in the future, I relish each moment as a gift that is bigger than time itself.

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paint by number

Where does an idea or a notion come from?  Sometimes it’s the result of indigestion while other times it can be blamed on inspiration. Well, whatever the cause…and for whatever the reason…I thought about paint by numbers, one of the most common gifts a kid would get at a birthday party when I was a kid.

I had a love/hate relationship with paint by number kits.  I loved them because they were all about the possibilities. I hated them because I could never finish them, no matter how hard I tied, which, to be honest wasn’t very hard.  Usually I couldn’t paint within the little areas and more often than not would smudge some of the paint with my hand when I went to paint in another number.

Well, that was then and this is now. I don’t know if it was the curse of my generation or if it was universal, but for some reason, we were led to believe that life was like a paint by number picture. Our destinations were established and all we had to do was paint by the numbers.

Of course it didn’t matter if the picture we were given was not the life we wanted. It only mattered that we completed the painting…by the numbers.

The education system back then was like that…and I guess our view on life was like that, too.  None of us could choose our painting. Worse yet, none of us could even draw the picture of life as we saw it.

Unfortunately, I believe things haven’t changed all that much since I was a kid. In fact, I venture to say that today’s kids might even think a paint-by-number life is okay.

Almost from birth a kid is handed a paint by number and that’s it. Every step of the way the kid is instructed on what color goes with what number…and God forbid, there is no room for deviation.

Before Dorothy was whisked away, her life was not only a depressing paint by number,she had a palette limited to blacks and grays. Once freed from her barren landscape she was presented with a plethora of colors…and she no longer had to paint by the numbers given to her. She was free to follow her yellow brick road.

We should take a lesson from young children when they attack a piece of blank paper with such gusto. There are no numbers. Life can be what we want it to be.

 

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