Category Archives: Common Sense

Btw- I Love You

 “There is an immeasurable difference between late and too late.” ~ Og Mandino**

Syzygy is coming. The alignment of the first four planets in our solar system. It’s got a lot of people in an uproar. A lot of folks are saying that the world is going to end. This week. Could it be the Rapture? The second coming? The apocalypse? I don’t purport to know the answer to this. I suppose that anything is possible.

Okay, so the world is not going to end. In reality, all of the believers will be ushered up to heaven, to sit at the right hand of God for all eternity. The rest of us, heathen Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, Taoists, atheists and the like, will be stuck here in an earthbound purgatory, counting down to October 21 and the bitter end. If I only have five months left I should probably go back being a carnivore, right?

A lot of people are ridiculing the syzygists (I love that word), calling them all sorts of names. Quite correctly, they are using the event as an excuse to party. I approve of this message. I have two syzygy parties to attend this weekend. I view this as covering my bases. If the world ends, I’ll go out with my friends. If the world survives, then we’ll have something to celebrate the next day too. At any rate, the event got me to reflecting on the fragility of life and the human fiber that can band us together or rip us apart.

It has been proven that human contact is one of the most important tools in keeping us happy and healthy. If a baby is born into this world and isolated from human contact, the baby will die. We cannot be all that we can be without contact with others. Therefore, it is tantamount not only to nurture the relationships that we do have, but to reach out to others who we come into contact with. I’m not saying that you have to become best buds with mechanic at the service station, the bank teller or the pizza delivery guy. But just because you’re never going to socialize with someone doesn’t mean that you have an excuse to be rude to them.

It happens to me all the time. In my job I meet as many as fifty new people a night. Some of them would be my friends if we lived next door to each other or hung out at the same tavern. Others are socially or ideologically incompatible on a base level. It would be very easy to discount or dismiss them at a glance. Many times I receive this treatment from them. But I make it a point to treat everyone the same way, I treat them ‘as if” we’re going to be best friends some day. I try to get a smile from every single one of them.

I know what you’re thinking. “But Brother T, it’s your job to be nice to all those people.” Or, “Brother T, you are nice to everyone.” Not necessarily and not for all time. I have been a dick in the past and no matter how much I try to suppress it, every once in a while it still happens. I am not perfect and I don’t expect you to be either (though you probably are). But I certainly am not.

I’ve had a long-standing issue with perfection. I expected to be perfect. And I expected you to live up to that standard as well. This is best illustrated by a number of people who I have left along the side of the road during my long journey. I have given up on friendships for the most trivial of reasons. A number of times I have given up out of shame. Other times it was imagined slights that any rational person would laugh off and move on. Shame still prevents me from picking up the phone and calling them to apologize. In this regard, I am still very juvenile.

But my biggest regret of all is my father. It seems as if we’ve always been out of sync. Our anxiety with each other goes back almost to the beginning. I have (too) infrequently reached out to him over the years, only to be pushed away by something that he did or didn’t do. More often than not it was either my fault or my bad interpretation. Nonetheless, we are still off-kilter. This is my reminder to myself to keep working at it until I fix it. Indeed, to keep working to repair all of the old friends who are still salvageable. And no, I’m not going to pull a John Cusack from High Fidelity and contact all of my exes from across the years. Those boats have surely left the dock.

“Terry, I really hope that you don’t grow old alone.**

Tell me about it. I’ve been doing a damn good job of growing old alone. Just because I’m good at it doesn’t make it all better. I guess the point is that I have to make an effort to connect with the people who matter. It doesn’t cost a dime to say, “I love you.” When I call you brother or sister, it means that I want you to be in my life until eternity, even if the syzygy doesn’t crack the world in half and bring out the four horsemen of the apocalypse. When I say “I love you,” it doesn’t mean I want to sleep with you or have your babies, unless of course that’s what you want, but maybe we should go out on a date first.

So this goes out to all my friends, Romans and country(wo)men. I wish you glad tidings on the eve of the syzygy. I hope that you get all that you want out of the event. I hope we get a chance to hang out before the bitter end. And by the way, I love you.

* Og Mandino – American author and psychologist

** Mike Burns – back at the old Sawdust Lane apartment, 1995

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Filed under Common Sense, Life

My Universal Theory Of Everything

From the day we are born we are flooded with sensations. Assuming that all goes well with the birth, we are placed in our mother’s loving arms. We immediately start to bond with her. Over the course of days and weeks we are bombarded with wondrous things. Smiling faces, stroking fingers and the words of loved ones fill our wakeful moments. This is universal, whether you are born in a suburban hospital in middle America or in a wooden and tin hut in one of the poorest slums in the world.

Today I deal in universals. As we begin to grow the wonders of the world keep on coming. For the American kid it comes in the form of toys and playgrounds, sports and music, television and games. For the poor kid the wonders come in the form of natural phenomena, puddles, grass, dirt and mud, discarded objects and trash, and hopefully a soccer ball or jump rope in the best of times. These two kids live in different universes but they share the one joy of all children, curiosity.

As children we are all deluged with new things. We sit up on our own for the first time and become cognizant of our surroundings. We notice ordinary things and take pleasure in them. We hear the sounds that people make around us and learn to recognize what they mean. We learn to form words and take wonder in the sounds that we can make. We discover new tastes and smells. We develop our dexterity by first squeezing fingers, then by grasping objects and finally we manipulate those objects. We learn to roll over, then crawl and finally take those first tentative steps. This is universal.

As we grow older, we start to recognize the beauty in things. At first it might be our mother’s face. We gradually learn to discern light and color. We hear music for the first time, or the sound of a truck backing up, beep, beep, beep. We jump in a puddle for the first time, luxuriate in the water squishing between our toes. Or we run outdoors for the first time and feel the brisk wind in our hair and whistling in our ears. For the first time we see that little girl or a boy who seems meant for us alone, we love their smile, their eyes or their hair, and we know that they are the most beautiful person in the world. We share that first kiss and we know that this is what life is all about. This is universal.

We grow. Our bodies change and we begin to know longing. Life’s challenges and stresses become tantamount. We begin to plan for our future. We dream of professions, of owning things, of moving off to the big city. We want the next big thing, whether it’s a gaming system or a real soccer ball, a new dress or pair of shoes. We long for things that are realistic and we long for things that are impossible. We continue to experience the joy of new sensations, but that joy is tempered by What Might Be. This is universal.

We become enmeshed in school. We try to decide what we want to be when we grow up. Images flood into our awareness. Movie stars, doctors, lawyers. Gentleman farmers, store owners, taxi drivers. Our dreams narrow into our realistic possibilities. Some of us take the path of least resistance. Others embark on a path to greater things. There is suffering in each path. The easy path to the future might lead to a life of hard work, of necessity rather than luxury. The hard path with start with the hard work and the hard work will continue until late into life. The luxury that is experienced will come at the cost of time and effort. Some will accomplish great things through luck and timing. But most will achieve it day by day, year by year. There are plusses and minuses along the way. This is universal.

We emerge from the exuberant time of youth into the burgeoning time of adulthood. Most of us will still dream. Dreams of a better car, a house in the suburbs, a second degree. Dreams of owning a car, having a job, emigrating to another place for a better life. We save for things, we forego experience of today for the possibility of tomorrow. We settle into a day-by-day grind. We value our off-time above all else. We watch the clock until it’s quitting time. We stop after work to self-medicate. We play with our kids, our pets or the toys that we accumulate. We plan for vacations to “get away from it all.” Because we are adults we forget what was most important to our child-selves, joy, wonder and curiosity.

So I challenge you to search for that feeling again in your life. Break your routine. Find your bliss. Park in the farthest spot in the parking lot at the grocery, or better yet, walk there. Be mindful of your steps and the cool fresh air. Go into the produce section and breathe in the smells of the fruits and vegetables. Do the same in the bakery. Go down to your local waterway and stand, listening to the rushing water and the wind in the trees. Be mindful of the air as it tingles the nerve endings of your exposed skin. Follow the tingles all the way to your heart.

If you are fortunate enough to have a child, look at the world through her eyes. Experience things as she does for the first time. Jump in a mud puddle. Put aside your worries about getting dirty, being presentable. Laugh, just laugh. Turn off the television for a day and read a book. Unplug from the technical world so that you can plug-in to the real world. Find your bliss.

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Filed under Common Sense, Life, The Way, Uncategorized