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circus-elephants

A high school friend recently posted on FB about how bittersweet it is that the circus era is coming to an end.  Bittersweet it is because many of us have circus memories etched into our childhood DNA.

We could debate the issue of the circus closing until the elephants come home, but that won’t be very productive.  In my mind, the issue is much larger than the big top.  It has to do with change…be it radical or simple.

The status was pretty  much “quo” in Oz until Dorothy crashed landed.  After that the balance was forever tipped.

We are not the first generation to be challenged by changes.  How many people were bereft when the horse and buggy was replaced by the Tin Lizzie?  How many blacksmiths lost their jobs when their services were no longer needed?

Change is inevitable. We all know that.  But there is something different about the way things have been changing in our lifetime. Change that is gradual and organic is something we can come to understand and even eventually embrace.  But change that is sudden and that comes like a tornado often leaves us breathless.

Animal rights advocates launched a campaign to end the abuse of the majestic animals that were the mainstay of the circus.  Having looked into what had to be done to take a wild animal and have it dance, prance and jump through burning hoops, I was sickened.

With what I know now, should I cringe at having been thrilled when I was held captive under the big top as a child?  Is ignorance really bliss?

I only have to take a look back at the way it was when I was a kid, a time when women’s rights were limited, when segregation was the “law” of the land, when people who suffered from mental illness were institutionalized, when being gay was a punishable  “sin,” when….

I think none of us really have a problem with changes that “change” the way we operate. Who had a problem throwing out the ink pen that used to blot at the worst moment and started using a ball point pen?  Who held a rally to stop automakers from introducing automatic drive, power steering and power breaks?

I think many of us who are open to change don’t know how to handle the militant advocacy that often precedes change.

That’s not to mean that militant advocacy is not more often than not necessary or needed. I mean how far would the Civil Rights movement had gone had advocacy not been the spur? Where would women be if the fight for change was not loud and open?

As much as we could point to other moments in time when change washed over us in tidal wave proportion, that was then and this is NOW.

Should we go with the flow and welcome change?  Should we stand firm and resist change?I mean, is change always good?

I have no answers. All I can say is that life is so friggin’ complicated!

 

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fork-in-the-road

I’m in the state of confusion, the 51st state of the Union where I seem to have taken up permanent residence.  Lately I’m very confused about the definition of words we toss around with reckless abandon.  Words like Democrat and Republican, in my opinion, are totally useless words that should be banned from use in private or public.  But words like conservative and liberal are two words that need some attention.

The dictionary defines the two this way as adjectives:

liberal – open to new behavior or opinions and willing to discard traditional values.
conservative – holding to traditional attitudes and values and cautious about change or innovation, typically in relation to politics or religion.

The “troubling” words in the liberal definition are “willing to discard,” because discard is so close in meaning to toss or throw away like a piece of trash. The words “cautious about change” in the definition of conservative are, in my opinion, less offensive, but can easily be used to stop progress.

What I hate about the two words, aside from their lame definitions, is the fact that both words have driven a wedge between us.

I am a conservative.  I conserve water, energy, and natural resources.  I am a liberal. I am liberal with the time I spend helping other people, in using my money to help the less fortunate, and in praising people when praise is deserved.

But, I am not so cautious about change, when change is beneficial to us all, even if it might benefit some more than others.  I am not willing to discard traditional values without some gut-wrenching decision-making because, as Tevye said in Fiddler on the Roof, “without our traditions our lives would be as shaky as a fiddler on the roof.

I have no problem embracing relationships of and between genders. I have no problem with people who are working hard to legalize marijuana. I am a big supporter when it comes to making sure everyone’s rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are defended. I am not a big, vocal proponent of abortion, but, I am against making it illegal because that won’t work.  Does that mean I’m too weak to defend the lives of the unborn? No.  It just means that I think a woman does have a right to make a decision despite the fact that I believe life is life…but a life has to be wanted, and I don’t buy the argument about so many couples want to adopt children.  (The issue is far too complex to fit into a blog.)

But I also fear that we are living in a society where anything goes without giving a second thought to traditional values that perhaps might  have some permanence and universal viability. These values, in my opinion, include respect, honesty, tolerance, selflessness, compassion, etc.  My conservative genes believe that today it is hard to maintain values in a world that spins on an axis of entitlement.

When I was in college during the big anti-war movement of the 60s, I was amazed how a “liberal” student could come home from a peace march and turn up his stereo to a deafening volume, but would say “fuck off” to a conservative, aka, hawk, when asked if the stereo could be scaled back.

I sometimes believe that extreme liberals and conservatives make it hard for all of us to create a world of mutual respect and admiration.  There are numerous forks in the road and we have to believe that not all of the roads to the left need be taken nor should we take all of the roads to the right. As a secular people we have to understand that our rights can be found in our founding documents. As a secular people we also need to know that we have a right to make changes in our laws and that our “laws” are not necessarily sacred.

Progress is not a dirty word. It does not, pardon the expression, trump, using our heads or following our hearts in the pursuit of creating a just world.  It does mean it is going to take a lot of internal courage to support justice for all.

 

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tinman-crying

Life is a song – sing it.
Life is a game – play it.
Life is a challenge – meet it.
Life is a dream – realize it.
Life is a sacrifice – offer it.
Life is love – enjoy it.

Sai Baba

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Declaration-of-Independence

My economic sense is as good as is my sense of direction. Nonetheless, as we the people of the United States prepare to celebrate Independence Day, I couldn’t help but think about price and cost. Economically speaking the price is the what we pay for something, and the price we pay (supposedly) for something should represent the value of what we have to give up in order to acquire that something…and at the 4th of July that something is freedom.

But,as with everything there is always a cost involved and the cost is the amount we spend to produce, again as is the case, on freedom.

Essentially when it comes to our freedom price and cost are inexorably linked. (That’s theoretical, of course, because for many people the price of freedom is paid with the cost of their lives. So, the 4th of July is also another Memorial and Veterans Day.)

What was the price of America’s freedom? In a word, immeasurable.  And the cost?  In lives some 24,000 patriots either lose their lives on the battlefield or in prison. While that number might pale in comparison to the loss of lives in other conflicts, consider for a moment that the population of New York City at the time was only  25,000. So, using that as a comparison the cost of lives in current population would be close to 7 million.

Was it worth it?  No hesitation here. The cost of paying the price for freedom was more than worth it. But, here’s where I scratch my head. Is the price of freedom always worth the cost we pay?  Our freedom was at the cost of English lives. While the men in red coats were our “enemy,” they were fighting for what they believed in. Two centuries later we let bygones be bygones.  That’s easy to do when your differences have faded to dust. But the nationalistic wounds of more recent struggles for freedom are still fresh.

Today the world is struggling to keep freedom alive in a world where some people are willing to pay a dastardly cost to abolish the rights of all people so that a misguided ideology can triumph.

I’m all for “religious freedom,” but no religious belief should trump the rights of any man.  Take “God” out of the equation and let religion stand on its own two wobbly feet.  The very exclusive nature of “religion” is rotten to the core.  That one religion is the right and true religion is bull shit. That some ridiculous sets of doctrines and practices should cause permanent brain damage in the “faithful followers” is fucking unbelievable.

That one has to pray so many times a day facing a certain direction, that one cannot have a glass of milk with a ham sandwich, that one cannot marry the person (regardless of gender) they want, that one cannot drink or dance (and be merry), that one could have gone to hell because they ordered the hamburger helper on a Friday instead of the twin lobster tails, makes me question the belief that we are the most intelligent form of life on the planet. (Aliens take warning. Don’t waste your fuel coming to earth.)

With that said, until some time in the future when we understand the idea of universal freedom, people will still be paying the price for freedom.  What we have to consider is at what cost?

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no matter how small, is ever wasted. – Aesop

kindness kids

Whenever these cherubs get together, without any prompting, they give hugs to each other.

There must have been something in the air today because as I was driving home from my early morning college class, I was thinking about kindness only to learn that today (October 5, 2015) was anti-bullying day. While bullying  is as old as time, we have finally become smart enough to know that bullying in any fashion is wrong and should not be tolerated for a nanosecond.

Dorothy could well be a spokesperson for an anti-bullying campaign. She might not have been literally been bullied on her Kansas farm, but all that changed once she dropped in on Oz. She was bullied by the Wicked Witch who seemed to take delight in poking Dorothy along the yellow brick road. I don’t know  how she did it, but Dorothy used kindness to counteract the Witch’s bullying. It wasn’t until the end when Dorothy could not allow the Witch to bully her friends.  That’s when she took action.

Unfortunately here on planet earth when someone who has been bullied to the extreme too often either takes their own life or strikes out in rage.

Having circled the sun some 24,445 times I have learned a thing or two. I learned that bullying come in different forms. There is blatant bullying where the bully either openly taunts and teases his/her prey or resorts to the more subtle use of social media.  We are all familiar with this form of bullying.

But there is another form that gets little press.  It’s bullying by deliberately ignoring the victim.  Instead of teasing, taunting and making horrible FB posts, this bully resorts to passive/aggressive tactics. Instead of pushing a kid up against a locker in the hall, this kind of bully has a knack for making the victim feel invisible by not-including them in anything. Shutting someone out might not seem to be bullying, but when it is done deliberately, it is as mean and vindictive as open and blatant bullying.

It takes  a sixth sense to realize when someone is a victim of this form of bullying. Oddly enough it only takes an act of kindness to “include” this person rather than exclude them. A smile, some kind words, and sharing a cookie can make all the difference in the life of someone who is a victim of silent bullying.

We need to take action to end blatant bullying. We need to spread a little kindness to stop silent bullying.

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untitled

For a moment forget about the wonderful Wizard of Oz movie. As good as it is, Hollywood failed to understand some of the finer nuisances that can only be found in the book.  There were no farm hands, no Elvira Gulch, and no Professor Marvel. What was left?  Aunt Em, Uncle Henry, Dorothy…and Toto, too.

Who can forget Dorothy running away from home to find happiness over the rainbow only to abandon her plan to return home where a cyclone propelled her on her fantastic  journey.

It’s different in the book. It took only 600 words to set the story to send Dorothy up, up and away. Author L. Frank Baum used the word “gray” ten times in those 600 words. He not only described Dorothy’s home and landscapes as gray, but he used the same word to paint a picture of Em and Henry.

In the book Dorothy had no reason to run away. She was not a misunderstood little girl. But she did have a longing for a place over the rainbow.

“It was Toto that made Dorothy laugh, and saved her from growing as gray as her surroundings.”

And therein we learn why Dorothy was longing for something to happen. She was deathly afraid of turning gray like Em and Henry. Deep down inside she understood how easy it was to lose your color and turn grey.

overwhelmed by what her future was going to be like, a cyclone struck…and nothing was ever going to be the same.

We don’t have to wait for a cyclone to help us avoid or escape becoming gray. We have options. We have opportunities. But many of us prefer to stay grey because it’s so safe.

Having had the opportunity to teach college students for more than a dozen years I have observed, first hand, the future. The close to 1000+ students I have had in my classes were all solidly nice “kids.”  But they were in danger of becoming gray, and not because they wanted to become gray, but because many of them didn’t know they had a choice.

By and large they were all good students in high school. And by good I don’t only mean they had good grades, they were well-behaved, polite, and focused on the role they would play in the greater marketplace. From early on in their education they either knew or their parents knew, what they needed to do to “succeed.” They learned that it was far better to play it according to the rules than to take risks. When they colored, they stayed inside the lines.  And over time they only had one colored crayon.

gray crayons

What do these students need? A cyclone. They need something to send them on a journey. They need to step out of their comfort zone. They can do this by choosing to study abroad, by taking a lead role in a campus activity, by being selfless and going out into the community and volunteering, by shedding old prejudices and embracing people not like them, by being exposed to new ideas, and by standing up for what is right.

We don’t need to go to Oz, because in the book Dorothy was glad to be home, and home is where can not only bring color into our own lives, we can bring color into the lives of others.

painters-palette

 

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