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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!

 

oz-2017-new-year

For lack of a better visual equation, we could say that a House has fallen and 2016 is ding-dong dead.  Many might say 2016 was the worst year since the last worst year. Others might be inclined to say 2016 was a Super Bowl year.

Wherever you stand the first thing we need to admit is that there is nothing we can do to change what happened in 2016.  All we can do is reflect on 2016 and take the good and make it better.  We also need to understand the bad and do all we can to make sure it doesn’t happen again.

2017 is full of promise.  But nothing is going to happen unless we roll up our sleeves and make sure we are part of 2017 and not apart from it.

I hope that 2017 will be the year where we strive to make understanding universal and inclusive, where compassion is boundless and endless, and where we all find the courage to do the right thing.

But in our struggle to make 2017 a memorable year we have to realize we can’t change the world on our own.  We all need to shoulder the challenge.  And we have to cherish and appreciate the loved ones we have in the here and now.  We need to know that happiness is in our own backyard and in truth, there is no place like home.

 

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

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.

 

election-post-card

Dear State and Local Candidates: Alright already! Enough of your innocuous glossy large post cards! I don’t read junk mail! And that’s what your post cards are. Junk mail! They lack any creativity and they appear to be one size candidate fits all. Your attacks on your opponents are falling on my deaf ears because your promises are not only hollow, they are filled with bull shit!

And while I’m at it. How come I never hear from you when you aren’t running for election…or are you ALWAYS running?

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

sclock

L. Frank Baum really never told his readers how many days Dorothy spent in Oz. In fact, time as we know it, stood still in Oz.  Unlike the White Rabbit in Lewis Carroll’s “Alice” story who was always running late or J. M. Barrie’s Peter Pan who wanted to stop time so no one would ever grow up, Dorothy was not limited to or hindered by time. (When The Wizard asked her to bring him the broom of the Wicked Witch, he didn’t give her a deadline.)

rabbit.jpg

Locked in time

peter pan.jpg

The last moment in time was on the Big Ben’s clock

I was reminded of time in my Marist class the other day when one of the student’s asked me what was my best time.  It was a good question in a class built around the importance of asking questions. I didn’t have much “time” to think about an answer, but my head was flooded with images of past events. And while I was tempted to say one of my best “times” was my year as a student at Oxford, I found myself saying that the present was my best time. And I meant it even though it wasn’t the kind of answer the average college student is looking for.

College students are all about time.  They crave it and want to be washed in “good times.”  They look at the future and want to hurry it up.  Their impatience is understandable because when you are young you are always looking forward.  When you are “older” it doesn’t mean you don’t “look forward,” because you do.  Many seasoned individuals, on the other hand, tend to look back at “good times.”  And while there’s nothing inherently wrong with that, it can be dangerous though when the past is where you live.

Living in the moment often gets an undeserved bad rap.  That doesn’t mean I encourage selfish and careless living where you abandon any sense of responsibility for your actions. What we do in the moment does come with consequences.

However, the present is really all we have.  And while there is always room in the present to prepare yourself for the future, I think we miss something if all we do is think about the future.

There is no arguing that I have far more yesterdays in my life than I have tomorrows.  But I have the present and it is up to me to squeeze as much juice out of each moment in the present that I can.

I am very fortunate to be in the presence of young, eager minds.  And if there is one message I would hope to give them it would be this: There’s nothing you can do about yesterday. What happened is in the books. Believe in tomorrow, but don’t take up residency there before tomorrow happens. If you do, today will slip through your fingers. Make the most of today by living in it and celebrating it. Carpe diem!