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Archive for the ‘Yellow brick road’ Category

witch

The annual commencement speech at the University of Oz was delivered by the Wicked Witch of the West, her sister unable to attend the ceremony because she was bogged down with housework.

Good afternoon graduates. While it is customary to be warmly embraced by your commencement speaker, it is not in my purview to offer you hollow plaudits and pleasant platitudes. I will not coddle you, I will not play nice-nice with you, and I will most definitely not bull shit you.  You have a legitimate reason to celebrate because you did finish what you started out to do when you graduated from high school. That’s more than the close to 50% of college bound students can say who didn’t pass the finish line. But don’t get a swelled head. Across the fruited plains of America two million undergraduate degrees are being awarded.  Mathematically that means you are not even one in a million.

Economic statisticians love to point out that college graduates have a much higher life-time earning potential than non-graduates. Big deal. So you spent about $200,000 to get where you are today.  It will take you a decade to break even with your non-graduate contemporaries’ earnings. Imagine what you could have done with that $200,000.  Instead of earning 15 credits studying abroad for a semester, you could have actually lived abroad for four years and come away with a lifetime of valuable experiences.  You could have invested your $200,000 and bought a nice car with the interest.

But for the moment let’s forget about earning potential and let’s focus on what happened to you after four years on the Yellow Brick Road. What did you really learn? What did you really learn here in these hallowed halls and rolling hills that you couldn’t have learned somewhere else? How many hours did you spend in class and working on papers and projects that were wasted hours?  If your four years of college were an orange, how much juice would you have actually squeezed out?

If we were to be really honest you would know that it wasn’t the courses you took in college that made all the difference, but it was the course you set to navigate the waters of higher education. If you didn’t set a course, all the credit courses you took were for naught. But don’t think for a moment that your course had to be a rigid one because many a boat has been dashed upon the rocks because the navigator failed to trim the sails or let them fly when necessary.

Graduation is not a final destination. It’s a port. If you got the most out of your education you will see the open seas and be overwhelmed about all the opportunities that await you.

Please don’t think for a moment that your diploma is equipped with a GPS. Your diploma is like a driver’s license. And if you can remember the day you passed your road test you had no problem saying you still had a lot to learn.

Sometime in the next week or so, check your parents’ odometer and see how many miles they’ve journeyed on the Yellow Brick Road and ask them what they’ve learned in all the years they’ve been driving.

It is totally out of character for me to say anything that is not a tad wicked, but I will break character today and say this. You life is what you make of it and if I can offer you a suggestion, your life will be full of meaning if you take full responsibility for your actions, your motives and your decisions. You will never have full control of what happens to you in life, but you can retain control over how you deal with what life throws at you. So don’t spend your life blaming others.

Formal education eventually comes to an end, but learning does last a lifetime…if you choose a lifetime of learning.

Now get out of here before I turn you into a Munchkin.

 

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crayoladandelion

Word went out on March 30, 2017 that Crayola was going to retire Dandelion, one of eight new colors introduced in 1990. Dandelion wasn’t the first color to be retired. Six colors introduced along with 32 other colors in 1903 when Crayola changed the way we colored as children, bit the dust seven short years later in 1910 (RIP: Permanent Geranium Lake, Dark Venetian Red, Light Venetian Red, Celestial Blue, Charcoal Grey and Raw Sienna.

Yellow crayons have never been given their due in Crayola’s long history.  It should come as no surprise that word of Dandelion’s retirement was met with a degree of sadness on the YBR for two reasons, the first being the direct connection with the Cowardly Lion (The word dandelion is a corruption of the French “dent de lion” – the lion’s tooth) and the second has to do with the “yellow brick road.”

For the moment let’s forget about the color and name connection of the soon to be retired crayon and focus on the word “retired.”

While many people are overjoyed when they “retire,” there are some who rue the day when they are the guest of honor at their own retirement gala. Being retired is, in some ways, like being taken off the shelf.   In baseball jargon it means to be put out…not a very positive term.

With a growing number of baby boomers choosing not to “retire” either because they like to work or because they have no choice, the word retirement needs to be…retired.

We have been conditioned to look upon the time we spend toiling in the market place working or tending a career as the penultimate time of our lives.

I disagree.  While it might be our longest stretch, it does not have to be the most important part of our lives, nor should it be the defining time of our lives.

Consider this. In our youth we don’t say we’ve retired from high school or college. We say we’ve graduated.  The word graduate carries with it a forward motion.  It means growth as in taking the next step.

I say that instead of anyone of us “retiring,” I think we should say we are graduating, graduating to another level in life.

Crayola might be retiring “dandelion,” but our true color never has to, nor should it ever… retire.

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english muffin whole

With social media taking over our lives I fear that we’ve moved from having superficial relationships to having what I call “surface-ficial” relationships. Many of us are no deeper than our facebook profile photo. Of course that’s not true, but it is so much safer and easier to be surface people. But as we trod the YBR we gain so much along the way.  Every knock and every boost goes into making us who we are. But rather than reveal the inner us, we show the world our outside.

Just think about the many people who have been or still are in your life. Just think about the hundreds upon hundreds of people you have met and will meet on the YBR. Because we travel the YBR at breakneck speed we don’t have the time to see more than what we see on the outside of  person.  Of course there are people whose insides show on the outside.  Sadness seems to rise to the surface and hardships also can shape the surface.  Happiness and joy can also radiate on the surface as well. But for the most part we hide much of what is inside us.

In the classic musical “A Chorus Line,” the opening lines in the opening song say, “Who am I anyway. Am I my resume.”  Well, modern man can often be reduced to a resume, but that only scratches the surface.

Take the ordinary English Muffin. On the surface it looks like most other English Muffins. It’s not until you fork-split one, that you reveal what the makers of Thomas’ English Muffins call the nooks and crannies.

nooks and crannies

If you fork split open a person you reveal not just nooks and crannies, but every knock and every boost of a person’s life.  In short, once fork-split, we reveal our character. And it’s only after you do this can you actually understand who someone is and how someone became the person they are.

So many people who mean something to us step off the YBR without us ever having ever seen all those “nooks and crannies.”  And once gone, it’s too late.

I had an Aunt Mary who was an extraordinary English Muffin.  Fortunately as I got older (and I dare say, wiser) I got to see inside my Aunt Mary.  She had far many more knocks than she did have boosts, from being abused by a wicked step-mother, to having a very challenging marriage to my uncle that eventually led to a permanent separation.

But through it all and sharing all her love to raise two amazing sons, she glowed and had a laugh that was contagious.

Unless we see the “nooks and crannies” that make up a person, we can never say we know them.  Unless we are willing to let people see our “nooks and crannies,” we will never be authentic.

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ybr

Face Book always wants to know what’s on your mind. Most FB followers are less interested in what’s really on your mind, preferring to see selfies, cat videos, and quotes about how much they love third cousins (pease like and share).  A blog, on the other hand encourages you to speak your mind. So, what’s on my mind?  Roads. Those taken and those not taken.

When I think about roads, two thoughts immediately come to mind.  The classic Robert Frost poem and M. Scott Peck’s best seller “The Road Less Traveled.”

Apparently L. Frank Baum was not interested in the road conundrum. When Dorothy met the Scarecrow she was not at a crossroad.  She didn’t wonder which way to go. She and the Scarecrow engaged in the usual blah-blah-blah and in short order were off to see the Wizard.  (I believe the yellow brick road Dorothy was traveling on was her road less traveled.)

For whatever reason, the filmmakers wanted Dorothy to have to make a choice.  It’s funny, but after all the pondering, the movie lacks any dialogue on why Dorothy and the Scarecrow did take the road they eventually took.

Looking back on my highway I can say without fear of contradiction that choosing the road to take is not a once-in-a-lifetime event.  In fact we are constantly having to choose the road to take. Sometimes we take the well-traveled road and less frequently we take the less-traveled road.

Every semester when I begin teaching the one course I teach, I ponder the question of which road to take.  Every semester I am greeted with twenty new faces.

I am teaching the GPS generation.  They were born knowing where they wanted to go and they seem to know exactly what road/s they have to take to get there…wherever there is.

I am the scarecrow they meet on the road.  To be honest, most students do not want to engage in conversation let alone take me down and invite me to travel along with them.

The dilemma I face every semester is do I act like a brainless scarecrow? Do I just smile, go through the academic motions and keep my big mouth shut? Or. Or. Or do I rip myself off the wood frame and open my big mouth?

Why would I want to do that?  Because I believe that letting them go their merry way toward Corporate City without asking them to think about the journey would not only be a mistake, I would be missing an  opportunity to shake them up a little.

My greatest fear is that the current generation is actually lost. And that’s not a bad thing.  They should be lost, or at least they should think long and hard about the yellow brick road in their life. The current generation is so directed, so pampered and so content that rather than ask hard questions about their journey, all they want is for you, the teacher, to see they graduate with an EZPass.

I have no doubt that the students in my class will succeed.  They have been well-taught. They know what to do and how to do it to succeed. They are determined.

I am a speed bump.  I want my students to think. I want my students to question and to challenge beliefs they have taken for granted. I want them to believe they have a choice.  I want them to understand that consequences come both from taking action and from choosing to be inactive.  (You can neve escape from consequences.)

In the end I also want my students to realize that the most important thing is to make sure the road they travel is THEIR road because THEIR road is one that has never been traveled on.

It’s all about seizing opportunites. But we all need to remember that opportunity is not a lenghty visitor.

A bumper sticker from my college days gave me some food for thought: Remember, wherever you go there YOU are.

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Thanksgiving 2016, the traditional day of turkey, football games and relatives, is over and for far too many, done with. (Let the shopping begin!)

But, I think we short change Thanksgiving by giving it but one day. Heck, we give pickles, popcorn and peanut butter a whole week.

The people in Oz got it right.  Thanksgiving is a daily event. 24 hours a days where the people can give thanks to anyone and for anything.

Some years ago…at least 12 but probably closer to 15 or 18 years… I penned a short essay that appeared in the Times Herald-Record (Middletown, NY).

Of course I had forgotten about the article until this Thanksgiving when a woman, now living in South Carolina, called “out of the blue” to wish me a happy Thanksgiving and to tell me how much that article meant to her when she first read it…and everyday thereafter.  She told me she has the article framed and on her desk and that when she sends a graduation card to anyone, she includes a copy.

Today this woman’s call would be equivalent to a single tweet in a world where anything less than being retreated 278,413 times is meaningless.

However, one to me is still a significant number.

I share my Thanksgiving piece hoping that it might be meaningful to some “one” else.

thanksgiving

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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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2016 ozlympic medal

As an “American” I couldn’t help but cheer on the “American” athletes in the 2016 Summer Olympic games.  There’s nothing inherently wrong with that, but it did get me thinking about “being” something. Even though we live on a tiny planet in an ever-expanding universe we have taken to divide ourselves into ever-expanding groups of people identified by imaginary boundaries. Some of “us” are Americans, some Brazilians, Italians, Iranians, Bolivians…. (According to a source there are 195 countries and 206 nationalities.) If that isn’t enough, we further identify ourselves beginning with larger geographic regions (states) down to smaller ones (towns and villagers).

If geographic divisions are enough, we further divide “us” by religions This division is further divided by religions of which there are over 4000!

There is a certain irony to all these divisions. An “Albanian” can, through the “magic” of the internet/social media, witness…in actual time what is happening to a “Bolivian” or an “Indonesian.”

In other words, all the walls we have constructed are crumbling. And that’s a good thing. The only problem is there are far too many people who like walls. Good fences do not make good neighbors and people who insist on reinforcing old walls are not good people.  We need to tear down walls by beginning to do it close to home. Very close to home.

We first need to tear down the walls of fear and ignorance.  We need to stop branding one another with the divisions we have created.  Nationalism, when it leads to jingoism, only leads to war. We even need to swallow our “pride” and admit that there is no one single “great nation” or one “right” religion.

The whole notion makes me scratch my head and makes me wonder if I am wrong. Is there anything wrong with the pride that comes from being a (fill in the blank)? Is it wrong to wrap yourself in a flag and pound your heart when your “national” anthem is played?

More often than not I have no answers to most of the questions that bounce around in my head, but when witnessing something like the Olympic games, I can’t help but wonder if will we always build a wall around the yellow brick road.

 

 

 

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