Down the River of TIme

While driving back from Arizona, we were listening to classical music on Public Radio when they said they were going to play a piece called “Down the River of Time.”  Both Karen and I noted the title and almost simultaneously said that would make a wonderful metaphor for a blog.  Since most of my blogs on time deal with metaphors, (Do you remember the difference between an analogy, a simile and a metaphor?) we thought it would be a good subject for a blog. 
Of course, the most obvious metaphor for this topic is that we are all on a river of time.  Some of us are on long rivers, some of us on short rivers.  Some of our rivers are very rocky, shallow and rapid and some of our rivers are deep and wide and placid.  Perhaps some of us are on rivers with many twists and turns and they may go from placid to wild and rough.  Other rivers we are on may have unexpected obstacles that arise causing us to suddenly capsize.
If you have spent your life on a wide tranquil river, it would be very difficult for you to appreciate anyone coming from a rough whitewater style river.  The converse is also true.  Maybe that is why it is difficult to walk in anyone else’s shoes.  We are all on different rivers and it is hard to understand the perspective of someone whose river is one we have never paddled.  At this point, you might say “Well, I disagree, life is simply one vast river and we all have rocks and logs and whitewater to manage.”  Maybe so. 
When we are very young, our parents do the paddling for us. As we become teenagers we decide we want to paddle alone.  Some of us go to school to learn how to paddle and navigate.  Perhaps learning a language helps us to navigate foreign rivers.  Some of us leave our first river and go far away to try a new river.  Many of us will switch rivers in our lifetime and attempt more challenging ones.  As we get older, the paddling gets harder and we need to rely on others more for help.  Eventually, there will come a day when we are too old and infirm to paddle anymore.  At this point, we may have to depend entirely on someone to do the paddling for us.  Some of us will have a difficult time letting go of the paddling chores.
You might ask yourself today what kind of a river are you on now?  What kinds of rivers have you navigated in the past?  Have you had many rocky or obstacle strewn stretches in your river?  Have you ever capsized but managed to get back in?  Do you have a lifejacket in the boat with you?  Are you paddling solo or do you have a partner?  Have you become a better paddler over the years? If not, why?  What will it take for you to continue down the River of Time and continue having fun and enjoying the ride?  

Time to till the garden for love and friendships?

“Grow old along with me; the best is yet to be.”  This was a poem that my first wife found when we were just married. I loved the poem and in some sense it embodied what I felt married life should be about.  There were many times during our marriage when I thought about this poem.  We ended in divorce after 16 years.  I was never sure why the marriage ended.  We fought, loved, laughed and suffered through ups and downs with money but none of these things ended the marriage. I once added up all my theories on why the marriage ended and I came up with 32 theories.  Many years later, I came up with a new theory and decided that all the old theories are bunk.  For years we saw each other and I considered my former wife a friend.  However, we have since drifted apart and for perhaps the same unfathomable reasons that the marriage failed, the friendship has since faded away. 
I am left with the poem and while I still think about it a great deal, it now is more related to my second marriage and the hopes and dreams I have for it. What a wonderful thought that we can share life together with another person and expect that the best of life is still to come. I am facing old age and looking towards the last 20 years of my life. Yet, I can more easily believe the words of this poem today then when I was young. I now realize that relationships are not made in heaven, they are made on earth.  Relationships are like flowers and gardens.  They must be nurtured and pampered and tended daily with loving care.  There will be weeds and dry days and floods and tornados.  Rabbits and other critters will intrude on your garden and eat your flowers.  A garden is not fixed in stone. Each year requires renewed effort to bring out the best in it. Our relationships are a lot like gardens.  If you continue working on your relationships, they will only get better and better.  If you think that your garden will take care of itself and never need replanting or watering, you will soon find that your garden is nothing but weeds and stones. 
Do you have faith that your relationships with your friends and loved ones can be better or do you just take them for granted?  Do you believe that your life will get better and better if you keep improving it each day?  Do you think your life might also be like a garden?  What could you do to improve your relationships or your life today? What challenges could you take today to make your life more interesting or more fun?  What parts of your relationships with your loved ones need watering or replanting? What weeds do you need to remove in your relationships?

What are your priorities today?

Sorry about yesterday. It was a 650 mile driving day that got us from Muskogee Oklahoma to Osceola, Iowa.  Stayed at a Casino hotel last night.  They had a Prime Rib/Crab Legs special in addition to their regular all you can eat buffet. I had six pacific oysters raw on the half shell, crab legs, snow crab claws, stuffed clams, mussels and shrimp in addition to a great piece of prime rib.  After we ate, we “joined” the casino and get free 5 dollars worth of play each on our casino cards. I parlayed mine on the penny slots into 20 dollars and left Karen to see if she could make us more. She lost her five dollars but managed to return an hour later to our hotel room with 18 dollars and change. So we at least paid for one buffet courtesy of the slots.  As you can see, we are not big gamblers. Big eaters more than big gamblers.  So today we arrive home and begin six months in Wisconsin. I hope to continue this blog until at least July but after that I am not sure if I will continue. I think my creativity and energy will need to change to something different.  I guess it is a matter of changing priroities which is the subject of this blog today.  Lets talk about priorities and what they mean to us.

Priorities, the average person spends 3 hours per day watching TV and less than one hour per week in any kind of regular exercise either physically or spiritually. Mark Twain said that the person who does not read good books is no better off than the person who cannot read. We admire people who accomplish great feats of skill, but do we realize how much time and practice went into these accomplishments. We are asked to help someone and we say “Sorry, I have no time.” We come to the end of the week and we wonder where all the minutes went. We look at our life and lament that we just do not have enough time to do what we need to get done.  How many times do successful people or people who are in good shape or people who have good jobs get told, “well, you are so lucky.”  Luck has been defined as “Where preparation meets opportunity.”  The unlucky do not see the preparation or the work that the “lucky” do. It all starts with setting your priorities and making choices.

The rich, the successful, the extraordinary people have the same amount of time we have. Every one of us wakes up each day with a new bag of minutes. The clock resets at 12 AM and we all start fresh with 24 hours. The average person leads an average life and wastes an average amount of time. The successful person does not waste a minute because they know that time is precious. Relaxation is important to each of us and needs to be included in our days, but excessive relaxation is a form of sloth and waste. It comes down to setting priorities. When I hear my students kibbinzing about the latest sports even they watched, I often asked them how will that help your careers? 

What did you learn from this week’s football game or the new TV series about sex and crime? How much do the latest “reality”show help you in your marriage or job or life goals? Which is more really important for your life? Do you fill your life with meaningless activities or do you fill it with activities that will enrich your life and those around you? Do you make choices that will create a great life for youself?  Do you set priorities and examine the time that you allocate to given activities or do you just let your time go by on whatever happens to grab you in the moment?  Do you aspire to be average or would you like to be above average in at least one area of your life? Are you willing to do what it will take to be above average? Do you wait until you really get lucky and hope each day to win the lottery?  Ask any successful person what they do to get lucky!

How can a few marbles help us to really live?

Lets start this Monday off with a story.  Since “once upon a time” is such a famous first line, I will use it this fine Monday morning to tell a little story I heard some time ago.  I loved this story, it resonated with me so much, I have shared it with many of my friends.  I think it is an inspiration for me and I hope it will help some of you today to really start living your life.  Many people are alive but are they really living?  
Once upon a time there was an older woman (Named Helen) who had watched her life fly away. She did not feel that she had really lived it. She was afraid to try new things and after her husband had died, she remained pretty much a recluse. She hardly went out and she sat most evenings in front of the TV set.  When she turned sixty, she started thinking “Well, I will have about 20 more years to live and I really want to make them count.” She went out and bought 365 marbles for each year she would have left to live. (365 marbles x twenty years). This seemed like a lot of marbles but she put them in a big bowl in her house and set the bowl on her dressing table.  Each day, she took one marble out and put it in her pocket to think about. 
The years continued to go by and she said the exercise became almost a habit, until one day she reached in the bin and noticed she could see the bottom of the bowl.  Out of curiosity, she counted the marbles and found that she only had 365 marbles left, exactly enough for one year. She was rather stunned for she still had not really started living her life.  She was still doing the same old things in the same old way.  Had the same experiences, ate the same foods, traveled to nowhere and had too many ho hum days.  However, stunned by the revelation that she indeed might have only 365 days on this earth, her attitude changed dramatically. Each marble she withdrew took on increasing significance. The days and marbles continued to go by, but not without her trying to live each day to the fullest.  She started to do things differently.  She took a trip, she met new people, she read some new books, she ate some new foods.  She started to risk doing things she was afraid to do before. She skydived, took a scuba diving class and even learned to ride a motorcycle.  
As fate would have it, she did not live the full 365 days.  Seemingly healthy she succumbed to a brain aneurysm about 15 days before the end of her “allotted” year.  However, before she died, she said that she had finally started to really live.  The activity of counting the marbles had made her aware of how precious each of our days really are. We take them for granted until we only have a few left. Some of don’t even realize this fact until it is too late. How many marbles do you have left in your bowl? Do you count each day as a blessing, or can you hardly wait until it is tomorrow? Do you throw away your week days and live for the weekends? The marbles don’t know the difference between Monday and Saturday.  Are you really living or are you waiting for retirement to start?  

Is it time to forget the past?

I forgot to remember to forget her,
I can’t seem to get her off my mind.
I thought I’d never miss her,
But I found out somehow
I think about her almost all the time. (Sung by Elvis Presley)
I always loved this song by Elvis, perhaps for the interesting twist to the lyrics. Have you ever not been able to forget something? I am sure we all have things we would like to forget. Sometimes, it seems we think about them all the time. Often, ironically, it is only time that helps us to forget them. However if we keep rehashing the thoughts in our mind, we never let time work. We are constantly refreshing the thoughts and allowing them to be present and timely. 
I know it is too much to hope I can ever get all of these all thoughts out of my mind. Some are mistakes, some are regrets, some are things I feel sorry for, some are “might have been” but all are things I can no longer do anything about. I have made my amends where I can and made my apologies where necessary. I can’t live my life over so the thoughts and reminisces don’t do me any good except to continue to feel bad over and over again.  Time to let go as my friend Bruce would say, but letting go is never easy.  I guess like everything else, there are times to remember the past and times to forget it.
How then, do we get unwanted thoughts out of our mind if even time will not erase them? How do we let go of the past?  One thing I do is use a prayer to help me push the unwanted ideas or thoughts out. As soon as the undesirable idea or issue arises, I repeat a meditation or prayer which replaces the idea. I have found this to work quite well. There are many different types of prayers in all religions. I have a book titled: “Prayers That Avail Much” by Germaine Copeland. This book has many prayers for all occasions and can be quite helpful. Try buying a prayer book in whatever faith you practice and see how prayer can help to keep your mind fresh and peaceful.
What thoughts do you have that you want to get out of your mind? How often do they reoccur? What techniques have you found to “forget the past.”  Say a prayer today and see if it helps? The thoughts may reoccur but the meditation or prayer will help you to forget.

Is your life anything but dull?

Never a dull moment!  Do you ever have one of those days that you honestly wished were dull?  A day that is without any excitement, surprises or disasters!  For some of us, life is so busy that we have no time to think and hardly time to breath. We go from one event to another. We manage one project after another. We have a series of never ending appointments to attend. We careen from one meeting to another, with just time to grab a coffee in between. We fuel our constant state of activity with high energy caffeinated drinks or other energizers. Coffee, donuts and some candies now come with extra dosages of caffeine to fuel our frenzied lifestyles. Notebooks, I Pads, I-Phones and even old fashioned calendars are all hot-sellers as we try to manage and schedule the many varied activities that comprise our daily life. We would pity an animal if it led the type of life that some of us lead. We laugh at the rat on the treadmill but many of us have become that rat.
It is not even much different for retired people. How often have you heard a retiree who says “I am busier now than when I was working.”  I usually laugh because it seems foolish to me to quit working to be busier than I was and not be paid for it.  Of course, a retiree will defend this hectic schedule since they are choosing it.  Someone at my coffee shop hangout brought in a schedule from one of the local RV Parks.  The activities start at 8 AM and go to 8PM.  You can start your day with Yoga, go to breakfast Bingo, get in a few hands of Vegas Poker, have potluck lunch and then head off for a round of Golf.  Just be sure you are back at 4 PM for coffee and then bridge which will be followed up by evening yoga.  Another RV park we visited locally called Palm Springs had over 45 organized clubs and activities for the mostly retired and elderly clientele.  No worry about being bored before you die!
Do you have the type of life that is never dull?  What do you think your life would be like if you had a few more “dull” moments? Are you a junkie for action?  Do you think time might slow down for you if you were not constantly going from one activity to another? Do you ever take some time for just meditating during the day? Every great spiritual tradition in the world notes the spiritual benefits of meditating. “What doth it profit a man if he gain the whole world and suffer the loss of his own soul? (Matthew 16:26)
Try meditating for five minutes today. If you don’t know how to meditate, look it up and find a technique to try.  Go to the following website for some ideas and methods on how to meditate:  http://www.learningmeditation.com.  There are many different ways to meditate.  Start off by meditating for only a few minutes each week. Gradually increase the time and number of days that you meditate.  Your days will probably not become dull but you will gain a deeper appreciation of life.

The Role of Fantasy Time: Part 2 Villains

Yesterday, in the first of these two blogs on Fantasy Time, we looked at various fantasy worlds and the role that they played in our lives.  If you have not read this blog, I encourage you to go back and read it as it is a prelude to what we are going to discuss now.  Today, I would like to look at the role that the villains in these various fantasy worlds seem to play in our lives. Specifically, I would like to answer the questions:  “Why do we always have an evil villain who wants to destroy our fantasy world?   Why can’t we just have our fantasy worlds and let them remain peaceful and happy?”  Before we turn to this most important question, let’s take a brief look to see what traits define evil our various villains. What if anything, do the Devil, Voldemort, Mordred, Sauron and Captain Hook all have in common?  It is too easy to say that they are just evil and let it rest at that.  However, we often define evil as someone who murders or takes another’s life and in all of the stories I have read on the devil, I have not found one wherein he actually murders anyone.  The devil seems to be content to steal souls and let his henchmen do the dirty deeds.  This is not so with our other villains. 
I believe there are three traits that define each of the villains I have described.  The first is Megalomania.  This is described in the Free Dictionary as:
1. A psychopathological condition characterized by delusional fantasies of wealth, power, or omnipotence.
2. An obsession with grandiose or extravagant things or actions.
Each of our villains is dissatisfied with their role in life. As powerful as each one of them is, they want more.  There can never be enough for them as the thought of sharing power with anyone is beyond their conception or desire.  They have a fanatical drive to achieve power at any cost.
The second trait is a complete lack of moral scruples.  Each of our villains will lie, steal, cheat, double deal or in some cases murder to achieve their goals.  There are no commandments or moral precepts in their lives.  They subscribe to no moral or ethical codes and any laws or contracts are meaningless to them.  They make the laws to fit the situation and they break the laws when and if they desire to. 
 
The third trait is the capstone.  The first two traits alone would probably describe many people who do not go on to become major villains.  History is full of people who were megalomaniacs without any moral or ethical scruples.  There is something more unique about Mordred, Sauron, the Devil and Voldemort.  Captain Hook does not quite belong in this group. The third trait is Power.  Each of our villains already has a tremendous amount of power, more than any other human being around them but it is not enough.  They want all of the power in the universe for their own.  They are not content to share power with anyone else, even God.  
So having defined what makes an evil villain, why do we need them?  Why do we create them in our world?  What role or purpose do they serve?  They must serve a purpose or why do we create them, for create them we do.  Some of the arguments I have heard are:
  •  Evil defines good, without evil we would not know good
  • We need evil to have a challenge in our lives
  • Without evil, life would be boring and humdrum
  •  Evil always exists because it is born from free will
  • Humans are inherently evil
  • There is no evil, we only label things as evil
To digress for a minute, have you ever heard of the good girl/bad boy syndrome.  This is a condition that seems to afflict many women who almost subconsciously seem to be attracted to “bad boys.”  Many times this brings pain and suffering but such women will go right back out and find another “bad boy.”  Men have a similar affliction.  It is called the good girl/bad girl condition.  Men say they want to marry a woman “just like mom” but are then attracted to the woman who has more of the devil in her than angel.  So for both sexes, there is a curious attraction to the dark side of life.  Perhaps this is the same attraction that afflicted Darth Vader and Luke Skywalker.  I note these syndromes not only because they are so common but I think they speak to the question of why we need our villains in life.  Perhaps they provide a purpose that might otherwise be missing.  
I have heard that in heaven, you get to visit with God all day long and sit and worship him.  I don’t know about you, but I do know that Jesus’s 12 apostles could not even sit and worship with him for one hour.  I can’t imagine many people sitting all day long, day after day worshipping anyone.  In fact, in about ten minutes, a fight in heaven would probably erupt between some worshippers.  I can hear the beginning of the fight now “I was sitting next to God and you took my seat.”  “I was worshipping God but you were worshipping so loud, he could not hear me.”  “It not fair, you know more good worship words than I do.”  “God always liked you best.”  I mean can you imagine all of the people on the earth who ever lived just sitting around worshipping God all day long?  I can sell you a nice bridge in Brooklyn cheap.
So enter evil.  “Let’s just get something going around here to spice things up.”  If you have ever taught school, you will notice that your “evil” students are simply bored.  It’s amazing how much “evil” these bored students can introduce into the classroom.   So Superman needs his Lex Luther, Batman needs his Joker, Spider Man needs his Green Goblin and we all need someone to help put some spice into our lives.  Perhaps we get carried away with creating these villains and get more then we bargained for.  Our stories, lives, habits and even goals are strongly influenced by what we deem as evil.  Go to the book store, either online or in print and a majority of the books deal with serial killers or with romance novels wherein the good girl is attracted to the bad boy.  
So what is the answer to the question I initially posed?  Why do we need villains?  I think the better question, is how do we create a world in which we can live without them? 
Osho says: 
·         A totally different attitude is needed: the attitude of love. Christ brings love to the world. He destroys law, the very basis of it. That was his crime; that’s why he was crucified — because he was destroying the whole basis of this criminal society; he was destroying the whole foundation rock of this criminal world, the world of wars, and violence, and aggression. He gave a totally new foundation stone.
·         As you become more conscious of your cruelty, of your violence, gross and subtle, you start becoming more and more compassionate. Not that you cultivate compassion. Just by becoming aware of your cruelty, violence, ugliness… the very awareness brings new changes in you. And the energy that was involved in cruelty, in violence, starts changing. The same energy becomes purified, the same energy becomes compassion.
I think a goal for all of us might be to create these conditions in ourselves where we do not need the ultimately addicting but fatal stimulation of violence and hatred.  Perhaps once we have done this, we will not need to develop a purpose that relies on war and death and destruction.  We can create a purpose to build and develop and sustain.  Perhaps one day, we will not need evil villains to help define our lives. 
What villains have had the most influence on your life?  Could you live a life without a villain in it?  Are you attracted to the dark side?  How do you find the goals you need to make your life happy and productive?  Do you need to be in conflict too often?  Is your life more or less peaceful now than it was ten years ago?  How do you share your peace with others?

Previous Older Entries

%d bloggers like this: