Down a River of Time

Here is a blog from three years ago that I still like very much. Hope you enjoy it. It did not get many readers so I doubt many of you have read it.

My Four Best of Everything:  – Part 3         

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This is Part 3 of my four best of everything.  In this final part, I would like to share with you my four favorite ideas.

For those of you who missed Part 1 and Part 2, this was my introduction.

This week I am doing what I call my four best of everything.  Everything that matters to me anyway.  Perhaps I should say it is my four favorites of everything that I admire in the literary world because best is such a qualitative term.  There may be little difference between the word favorite and the word best, however, using the term best is more provocative and usually ends up in arguments or debates.  Since I do not want to be judgmental, I will use the term favorites in the text of this blog.

I am sure that each of you reading this will have some ideas concerning your favorites in these areas.  I invite you to put your ideas or thoughts concerning your favorites in my comment sections.  The more ideas you have the better.  Don’t be shy.  Use any language you want to share your ideas with the rest of the world.  Let us know what you like and why you like it.  Plenty of room in the blogosphere.

My Four Favorite Ideas:

internal-coverIf you think about the ideas or premises or nostrums that guide your life, you will soon notice that we have many ideas that along our journey we have adopted.  The sources of these ideas are vast.  Fairy tales and children’s stories give us ideas such as “A stitch in time saves nine” or the “The race does not always go to the swift” or “Those who do not plan ahead may starve in the winter.”  Many of our ideas about living no come from our parents and family.  My mother used to say such things as “Ignorance is bliss” and “If you give them enough rope, they will hang themselves.”  My father was fond of saying “Believe nothing of what you hear and only half of what you see.”  He also used to like to say, “You have nothing to fear from the dead, only the living.”  These two later beliefs have guided a great deal of my life.

As we grow up and go to school, leave home and get a job, we no doubt pick up more ideas that we will covertly and sometimes overtly use to guide our lives.  By guiding, I mean we will use these ideas to make choices that impact the direction of our lives.  One of the many ideas that I carry in my brain came from Dr. George Box of the University of Wisconsin.  He said, “All models are wrong, some are useful.”  This premise has guided much of my working life.  I have used this Box’s thought when consulting to find a more productive way of addressing organizational changes that are needed in a client’s business.

However, since this blog is about the best or at least my favorites, I need to start discussing my four favorite ideas.  There is no particular relevance to the following order.

There is No Truth:

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Obviously, if you accept my truth, then it poses a paradox.  How can this be true if there is no truth?  But in many ways, that is the nature of most truths.  They are paradoxical.  If they are relative, they are not always true which is a contradiction.  If they are absolute, there are usually exceptions that can be found which makes them false.  What a dilemma!  From the time we are born we are taught to say the truth, speak the truth, search for the truth, but we are all liars.  We don’t know what the truth is and there are many times we would not say it if we did.

If someone came to your front door and said, “Is your mother home, I want to kill her”, what would you tell them?  Would you admit that she was home, if she was?  I doubt it.  We all say we want the truth, but the fact is that many of us will never find the truth because (As our leaders believe) and as Jack Nicholson said, “You can’t handle the truth.”

A friend of mine explained his version of the truth to me several years ago.  He said “Imagine a bookshelf with five shelves.  On the bottom shelf, I put things that people tell me that are opinions and unsubstantiated or uncorroborated pieces of information.  As time goes by and I find more evidence in support of this so called “truth”, I will move the bit of information to the 4th shelf.  Each time I get more evidence it goes up a shelf.  On the top shelf, I have things that I believe are true beyond a ‘reasonable’ but not absolute doubt.  For the time being, I accept the top shelf ideas as true, but I hold out the possibility that I will later find some bit of evidence that invalidates even this Top Shelf truth.”  I like this model of truth.  Let me give you an example of how it plays out for me.

About two months ago, I came across an article that said “In 30 years, all beef and diary farms will be dead.  Things of the past.”  Living in Wisconsin, I was astonished by this bit of information.  I did not put much credibility into the idea.  Given my predilection for cheese, steak and butter I could not reasonably accept any truth to this idea.  Nevertheless, I put it on the bottom shelf of my “Truth Bookcase.”  A few weeks later, I was attending the Annual Nobel Conference at Gustavus Adolphus in Minnesota. This past year it dealt with the environment and global changes to it.  I was surprised when one of the speakers echoed the same idea that I had heard a few weeks ago.  Namely that diary and beef farms would in twenty or thirty years mostly be a thing of the past.  I moved this thought up a shelf.  Two days ago, I was reading the local newspaper and they had an article about diary farms in Wisconsin.  According to this article, ten percent or 800 diary farms in Wisconsin went out of business this past year and there was no sign that the trend would not continue.  I was astounded. I had no idea that the diary industry was so shaky.  I moved the original idea that at least diary if not the beef industry would be gone in thirty years up another shelf.  Two shelves to go.

Thus, truth becomes a process. It is not a final goal.  There is no final absolute truth.  It is a nominal, like in quality improvement that we can never reach.  We can only get closer and closer, but we can never reach a truth that is God like.  The truth that humans can know will never be infallible.

Everything Will Change:

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This idea seems so obvious that I almost ashamed to list it as one of my favorites.  Nevertheless, I keep having to remind myself that “This too will pass.”  Life is a stream of events and even if Santayana was right in that “Those who forget the past are condemned to repeat it”, there is still nothing in the past that will ever be recreated exactly as it happened one hundred or one thousand years ago.  Heraclitus was also right when he said, “You never step in the same river twice.”

All is change.  If we could see the atoms of time that surround us, I am sure that we would see a stream of “time” atoms that are flowing like a river with swift currents and eddies and backwaters.  This is the flow of time and the river of change.  Sometimes going backwards but inevitably surging forward and sweeping everything out of its way.

We poor humans are caught up in this river and we must do our best to keep from drowning.  We are swept along like so much flotsam.  The river of time that we are in is invisible to the naked eye, but this does not stop it from changing the lives of those swept along by its currents.  Every day, we deal with new events while the old events keep playing out.  A continuous series of changes.  New wars, new disasters, new diseases, new horrors all mixed in with new ideas, new joys, new births, new technologies, new celebrations.

There are those who we say are “stuck in the past.”  The good old days never die for many.  We see the sad efforts that many have to hold onto the past or to “Make America Great Again.”  Why, can’t things just be like the were when I was a kid?  Movies were twenty-five cents and a bag of popcorn was ten cents.  The good guys were good guys and the bad guys were bad.  Police officers walked the streets and helped people in need.  It was happy days.

African Americans were denied voting rights and the basic liberties as stated in the constitution.  A women’s place was in the kitchen and a man was the undisputed king of home.  White people won all the wars they started, and Indians stayed on the reservation.  Mexicans came over to pick tomatoes and then went back home.  A child’s place was to be seen and not heard and the World Series was the greatest sporting event in the world that only White Americans played.  Oh my!  What ever happened to the good old days.

You Can’t Take It with You:

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Who says I can’t take it with me?  I sure as hell am going to try.  Like Pharaoh, I am going to build a big mausoleum and I am going to put my house, motorcycles, cars, rings, watches, shoes, clothes, wife, kids and anything else I own right beside me when I die.  I am going to collect the biggest batch of things that the world has ever seen, and I am going to have it all buried with me.  Isn’t that what life is all about?  Collecting stuff, collecting things.  Shopping for more stuff and more things until we drop dead.

Maybe I am getting carried away here a bit.  Of course, I can’t take it with me.  Pharaoh might have had it buried with him, but it did not take the tomb raiders long to take it back.  Maybe you can get something that can’t be taken away?  A building named after you.  An airport or street named after you.  A testimonial placed somewhere in your honor.

Alas, people are fickle.   Buildings get torn down.  Name places change with the whims of those in power.  There are only so many airports and streets and there are millions of people clamoring to have their names in places that they think will insure their posterity.   You can’t even take fame with you.  In a hundred years or so no one will remember who you were.

One of the famous tropes among baby boomers is remembering where they were when JFK died. I once asked one of my freshmen college classes this same question and to my astonishment got blank looks.  I could not believe it when one of them said, “Who was JFK?”  Who will remember you when you die?  Maybe your wife and a few friends assuming they outlive you.  So what can you take with you?  Fame, fortune, power, money?  What did Marc Anthony in Shakespeare’s Julius Caesar say: “The Evil that men do lives after them; the good is oft interred with their bones.”  There is nothing on this earth that you can take with you.  There is nothing that will outlive the entropy and erosion that will destroy all the mightiest monuments that have ever been built.  Everything else is an illusion that you take with your to your grave but that is as far as it will go.

Love is the Only Real Purpose in Life:

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You can spend your life looking for its meaning or you can spend your life trying to find its purpose.  Your search will uncover many ideas but none of them will ever suffice.  Nothing will satisfy your quest until you realize that love is the only purpose a human life exists for.  Every prophet who ever existed recognized this simple truth.  Love is the only thing that gives life meaning and purpose.  It is so simple that it escapes many of us.

We look for purpose and meaning in our work, our jobs, our acquisitions, our accomplishments, our credentials and our status, but none of these give us happiness.  The only satisfaction we get in life is from loving others.  The individual who does not know love for others lives a lonely unhappy life.  Love is the power that makes life worth living.  As Jackie Wilson sang in his song Higher and Higher: “You know your love, keeps on lifting me higher and higher.”

I sometimes think love is one of life’s great mysteries.  I have spent a great deal of my life asking the question “What is love?”  I am 73 years old and I am still puzzled as to what love really is.  Is love the same as passion?  Is love good sex?  Is love caring for someone else?  Is love simply wishing no harm for anyone else?  Does love need reciprocity?

People use the term love for many things.  I love my car.  I love my dog.  I love my Nikes.  I love you.  I love him.  I love her.  I love everybody!  Jesus said that love was more than just words.  Love exists in the doing.  How do I show my love for others?  “Greater love has no one than this, that they will lay down their life for another.” – John 15:13.   Do I need to die for someone else to show true love?

I don’t believe that loving things is love.  I don’t think loving my car or my Nikes is true love.  For that matter, I do not think that loving my life is true love or even that loving my wife is true love.  I think true love is a more intangible quality that we can only approximate.  To know true love is to be a lover in a more universal sense.  True love seems most evident during a crisis.  I think that the people who stayed behind on the Titanic to let others have a seat in the lifeboats were true lovers.  I think Harriet Tubman (who ran the underground railroad) was a true lover.  I think Martin Luther King was a true lover.  Lovers are not perfect people by any means, but they know that life is more than just loving oneself or even another single individual.

Let’s be clear here.  I love my wife and I love my sister, but does that make me a true lover?  Not necessarily.  What if I love my wife and sister but I hate immigrants?  What if I love you but I hate Black people or Latino people or people who belong to another religion or another country?  To know true love one cannot hate anyone.  Today we hear a vocal minority decrying “haters.”  However, these same people hate Democrats, liberals, Non-Christians, Gays, immigrants and minorities.  They may love Trump, McConnell, Nunes, Christians and Republicans but they are more haters than lovers.  Jesus did not say “Only love those who are related to you or whom you like.”  He did not say that you can pick and choose who you love.

Love is the most important journey of our lives.  To find true love is to find a love for the world both in concrete and abstract terms.  It is to love globally as well as locally.  It is to love non-kin as well as kin.  It is to love the rich as well as the poor.  It is to love the sick as well as the healthy.  It is to love Democrats as well as Republicans.  Probably no task is more difficult, but no task has more promise for humanity and for our own souls.

Well, this concludes my best of everything series.  In Part 1, I covered some of my book preferences.  In Part 2, I covered more literary ground and in this final Part 3, I have covered some of the ideas that I think are my favorite guides for trying to live a good life.  I am certainly no exemplar of any of these ideas.  I journey down the path and get stuck in some bogs.  On other days, I take a wrong turn.  I often hesitate when I should be charging forward.  On some days, I even go backwards.  My life has regrets, recriminations and misgivings that would fill an NFL stadium.  I know right from wrong and still too often choose the wrong.  But one of my other guides is “do not kill the message because you don’t like the messenger.”  You may need to find your own guides, but you won’t go wrong with any of the four that I have described in this blog.  Try them and let me know what you think.

 

 

 

 

 

My Four Best of Everything:  – Part 2         

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I started this blog two weeks ago and became sidetracked what with Trumps possible impeachment and all.  Alas, my dreams did not come true.

In Part 1, I listed my four favorite fiction writers and my four favorite non-fiction writers with an explanation of how and why I picked each of them.  In Part 2, I am going to list my four favorite writings.  I will finish in Part 3 with my 4 favorite ideas.

For those of you who missed Part 1, this was my introduction.

This week I am doing what I call my four best of everything.  Everything that matters to me anyway.  Perhaps I should say it is my four favorites of everything I admire in the literary world because best is such a qualitative term.  There may be little difference between the word favorite and the word best, however, using the term best is more provocative and usually ends up in arguments or debates.  Since I do not want to be judgmental, I will use the term favorites in the text of this blog.

I am sure that each of you reading this will have some ideas concerning your favorites in these areas.  I invite you to put your ideas or thoughts concerning your favorites in my comment sections.  The more ideas you have the better.  Don’t be shy.  Use any language you want to share your ideas with the rest of the world.  Let us know what you like and why you like it.  Plenty of room in the blogosphere.

My Four Favorite Writings:

Ecclesiastes: 

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Was the author of this bible book being a nihilist, a skeptic or an idealist?  I think it will depend on your own interpretation.  For me, the message of this book is summed up in four words “Vanity, all is vanity.”  We are driven by vanity and ego.  Our society relishes fame, fortune and power.  Those who have them, guard them jealously.  Those who don’t will fight and die for them.  And what are the results of this obsession?

Famous people hide from those that made them famous because they can no longer live a public life.  In many cases, they are hunted by nutcases who believe that they can be famous by an association with the famous no matter what kind of a bizarre twist it might involve.  The death of John Lennon comes to my mind as I write these words.  Often fame itself is fleeting and the aftermath can be a feeling of abandonment, loneliness and worthlessness.  Witness the number of famous people who take their own lives.

Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.  The quest for power destroys the soul of the power holder.  Power becomes an end in itself rather than a means to obtain some good.  We can see this problem when we look at the US Congress.  The power that these congressmen hold is all too often corrupted by their desire to hold on to this power regardless of the moral and ethical conundrums such desire involves.

Fortune hunters think that they can achieve happiness by becoming millionaires or billionaires.  Many see wealth as a pathway to freedom without realizing the chains that wealth forges for them.  The following refrain that Porgy sings in Porky and Bess sums this up very well:

De folks wid plenty o’ plenty

Got a lock an dey door

‘Fraid somebody’s a-goin’ to rob ’em

While dey’s out a-makin’ more

What for?

Porgy had the sun and the moon and the deep blue sea and that was plenty of nuttin for Porgy.  Porgy exemplified the wisdom that is at the core of Ecclesiastes.

Martin Luther King’s “I have a Dream Speech”:

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The only other speech that comes close to this one is Dr. King’s famous Eulogy speech.  The passion, cadence, rhyming, metaphors and ideology embodied in his “I have a Dream Speech” is matched by no other that I can think of.  Even more remarkable is that a large portion of this speech was impromptu.  Dr. King did not write all of this speech before he gave it.  Someone mentioned that he should tell them about his dream and he then went into the most memorable part of his speech.

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

Dr. King goes on to describe many more parts of his dream.  Each one is spellbinding in that they speak to the possibilities that one day racism may no longer darken the doorsteps of American life.  I never get tired of hearing this speech because it embodies the hope that we can all live together some day as brothers and sisters and not race haters.

Jesus’s “Sermon on the Mount”:

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Jesus was a revolutionary and a radical.  He died for his beliefs that righteousness and justice and mercy and peace should not be tied to status and power.  In each of the eight beatitudes that he gave on the mount is the idea that you cannot buy your way into heaven.  We will be judged on the mercy and compassion that we show to others and not on how big our house is or how many diplomas we have.  I often wonder why some Christians are so determined to plant the 10 Commandments on public lawns, but I have yet to find one that wants to plant even one of the following eight beatitudes:

  • Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
  • Blessed are they who mourn, for they will be comforted.
  • Blessed are the meek, for they will inherit the land.
  • Blessed are they who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be satisfied.
  • Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy.
  • Blessed are the clean of heart, for they will see God.
  • Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.
  • Blessed are they who are persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Ryūnosuke Akutagawa’s “In a Grove”:        

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This story was the basis for the film Rashomon by the great Japanese filmmaker Akira Kurosawa.  It demonstrates what is perhaps one of the most important and often most ignored of all psychological concepts.  What we have increasingly realized is that different people see things very differently.  The idea that absolute facts exist beyond the minds of human beings is put into question by what has been called the Rashomon Effect.  Seeing is not always believing and sometimes believing is seeing.

The validity and reliability of eyewitnesses is an example of the “Rashomon Effect.”  Clarence Darrow knew how unreliable eyewitnesses were and even said “There is nothing as unreliable as an eyewitness.”  In this story, a tale of rape and murder unfolds.  A perpetrator is captured and put on trial.  Each “eyewitness” tells a very different story in terms of what happened.  This is significant to the fate of the defendant since the difference between murder and self-defense is acquittal and the same judgment will apply to the difference between consensual sex and rape.

Death row has been populated with about 1 in 25 people who were judged guilty on the basis of an eyewitness or some “indisputable” piece of evidence that turned out not to be so indisputable.  (A study, published in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences determined that at least 4% of people on death row were and are likely innocent.)  Since 1973, more than 165 people who had been wrongly convicted and sentenced have been exonerated. The next time you think you have the facts or are quite certain of something because of what you heard or saw, you should think twice.

I hope you have enjoyed or at least found my list of favorite writings interesting.  I will follow up with Part 3 which will deal with my four favorite “Ideas.”  Until then, try singing the following song when you are feeling down or unhappy and substitute your “favorite things.”

“My Favorite Things” by Rodgers and Hammerstein

Raindrops on roses

And whiskers on kittens

Bright copper kettles and warm woolen mittens

Brown paper packages tied up with strings

These are a few of my favorite things

 

Cream-colored ponies and crisp apple strudels

Doorbells and sleigh bells

And schnitzel with noodles

Wild geese that fly with the moon on their wings

These are a few of my favorite things

 

Girls in white dresses with blue satin sashes

Snowflakes that stay on my nose and eyelashes

Silver-white winters that melt into springs

These are a few of my favorite things

 

When the dog bites

When the bee stings

When I’m feeling sad

I simply remember my favorite things

And then I don’t feel so bad.

Pity the Nation: the handwriting was on the wall

This is a wonderful blog post from Ms. Jane Fritz whom I regard as one of the best bloggers on the Internet. Be sure to visit her site which she calls Robby Robyn’s Journey. Her posts are always interesting and well written and thought provoking.

Robby Robin's Journey

In 1933, writer Kahlil Gibran’s poem “Pity the Nation” was published posthumously in the book The Garden of the Prophet. In 1933. This poem has inspired several important writers over the years, including American poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti.

In 2006 Ferlinghetti published his version of Gibran’s Pity the Nation. In 2016. Fourteen years ago. Its prescience is beyond sobering. He clearly saw what many of us were blind to.

PITY THE NATION
(After Khalil Gibran)

Pity the nation whose people are sheep
And whose shepherds mislead them
Pity the nation whose leaders are liars
Whose sages are silenced
And whose bigots haunt the airwaves
Pity the nation that raises not its voice
Except to praise conquerors
And acclaim the bully as hero
And aims to rule the world
By force and by torture
Pity the nation that knows
No other language but its own
And no other culture…

View original post 84 more words

The Impeachment Song by D. J. Chump

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Listen up now all my loyal fans and supporters.  I just wrote the greatest song that’s ever been written.  It’s in honor of the greatest event to ever happen in the history of America.  It will take place later this week.  You all know what it is, so I won’t bother you with the details.  It’s going to be great though.

Now, I need to have you all sing this song in honor of me.  Everybody must join in.  No slackers or wusses.  We will start on the right.  As a matter of fact, we will start and end on the right.  No Democrats, liberals, homos, blacks, Mexicans, Reformist Jews, college professors, disabled, Chinese, Japanese or any other Asians, immigrants, Arabs and of course no Muslims are allowed.  Poor people only if you voted for me.  So, sing out loud please.

Song to the Tune of “Hey, Hey, We’re the Monkeys by the Monkeys

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Hey, Hey, I’m a Republican Politician,
I’ve got no morals, I’ve got no ethics,
All I care about is getting reelected.

Hey, Hey, Donald Trump’s my man,
And I’ll stick by him as long as I can.
We all know he’s got a great defense,
Cause nothing he can do will ever rise to the level of an Impeachable Offense.

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Hey, Hey, I’m a Right-Wing Bigot and Fascist,
I don’t like Mexicans, I don’t like blacks and I don’t like Jews,
I guess it’s time to grab a brew.

Hey, Hey, Donald Trump’s my man,
And I’ll stick by him as long as I can.
We all know he’s got a great defense,
Cause nothing he can do will ever rise to the level of an Impeachable Offense.

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Hey, Hey, I’m an Evangelical Christian,
I only vote for those against abortion,
Can’t have any uppity women getting out of the kitchen.

Hey, Hey, Donald Trump’s my man,
And I’ll stick by him as long as I can.
We all know he’s got a great defense,
Cause nothing he can do will ever rise to the level of an Impeachable Offense.

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Hey, Hey, I’m a rich fat cat who hates all taxes, I pay as little as I can,
I hide my true dividends and earnings,
You guessed it, in my offshore banking.

Hey, Hey, Donald Trump’s my man,
And I’ll stick by him as long as I can.
We all know he’s got a great defense,
Cause nothing he can do will ever rise to the level of an Impeachable Offense.

Democracy passes into despotism. — Plato

 

My Four Best of Everything – Part 1

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Have you ever gone to a concert where the performers asked you to join in?  Well, I am asking you to join in today and contribute to my blog.  This week I am doing what I call my four best of everything.  Everything that matters to me anyway.  Perhaps I should say it is my four favorites of everything because best is such a qualitative term.  There may be little difference between the word favorite and the word best, however, using the term best is more provocative and usually ends up in arguments or debates.  Since I do not want to be judgmental, I will use the term favorites in the text of this blog.

I am going to share with you my four favorite fiction writers, my four favorite non-fiction writers, my four favorites writings/stories (both fiction and non-fiction) and my four favorite ideas.  After I list each of my favorites, I will provide a short explanation of why I like this writer or selection so much.  Each of my favorites are listed in no order or preference.  Asking me to pick the “best” of any of these would be impossible.

I am sure that each of you reading this will have some ideas concerning your favorites in these areas.  Like the concert performer inviting you to join in on song, I invite you to put your ideas or thoughts concerning your favorites in my comment sections.  The more the better.  Don’t be shy.  Use any language you want to share your ideas with the rest of the world.  Let us know what you like and why you like it.  Plenty of room in the blogosphere.

My Four Favorite Fiction Writers:

Mark Twain: I started reading Mark Twain when I was in grade school and fell in love with his short stories.  Later I graduated to his novels and then some of his commentaries.  I love his ability to combine satires with humor.  He had the ability to send a message about life while still making his reader laugh.

the war prayer

“O Lord our God, help us to tear their soldiers to bloody shreds with our shells; help us to cover their smiling fields with the pale forms of their patriot dead; help us to drown the thunder of the guns with the shrieks of their wounded, writhing in pain; help us to lay waste their humble homes with a hurricane of fire; help us to wring the hearts of their unoffending widows with unavailing grief; help us to turn them out roofless with their little children to wander unfriended the wastes of their desolated land in rags and hunger and thirst…”  — Mark Twain, “The War Prayer”

Kurt Vonnegut: My first book of Kurt’s was the novel “Cats Cradle”.  I am not sure if you would call it simply satire or more nihilism, but I was 18 when I found his pick and was just doing into the military.  I could not wait to read the other novels that he wrote, and I binged on Kurt for the next year or so.  I think I may have co opted many of his ideas as they became my ideas for much of my life.

“Perhaps, when we remember wars, we should take off our clothes and paint ourselves blue and go on all fours all day long and grunt like pigs. That would surely be more appropriate than noble oratory and shows of flags and well-oiled guns.”  — Kurt Vonnegut, “Cat’s Cradle”

Anatole France: I discovered France about five years after Vonnegut.  A very different writer but also with a keen sense of social justice and injustice.  I loved “Penguin Island”, “The Revolt of the Angels” and “Thais.”  How these stories shaped my thinking about life, I will never know but I am sure that they fueled my already growing skepticism about life, good, evil and truth.

“No, let us not conquer the heavens. It is enough to have the power to do so. War engenders war, and victory defeat. God, conquered, will become Satan; Satan, conquering, will become God. May the fates spare me this terrible lot!‎” — Anatole France, “The Revolt of the Angels”

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Edgar Allen Poe: Yes, it is true, sometimes I do read material that is simply escapism.  My favorite genres for many years were science fiction, science fantasy, horror and murder mysteries.   I am pretty sure that I read everything that Poe wrote.  I found many other fiction writers that entertain me but only Poe could blend horror, mystery and the foibles of humanity to create the strange stories that he wrote.

“He did not perceive that my smile now was at the thought of his immolation.”  — Edgar Allan Poe, “The Cask of Amontillado”

My Four Favorite Non-Fiction Writers:

Thomas Jefferson: Call him a Founding Father.  Call him a hypocrite.  Call him a racist.  Call him whatever you want, but no one has ever in my mind approached his depth of intellectual vigor in terms of delineating the necessities for a truly just society.  You need to separate the man from the message.  The message that Jefferson left us was sublime.  The man himself was not up to the message but that does not diminish the message one iota. 

“Experience hath shewn, that even under the best forms of government those entrusted with power have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” — Thomas Jefferson, “A Bill for the More General Diffusion of Knowledge”W. E. Deming:

Dr. W. E. Deming:  Dr. Deming is the only one of my favorites that I have had the pleasure to not only meet but to also work along side of.  He was cantankerous, irascible and cynical.  He was also brilliant, compassionate and a true humanist.  His vision for humanity was a workplace that embraced both the scientific method with a love for all employees.  Dr. Deming spent most of his teaching and consulting life dedicated to making his vision a reality.  I had the privilege of working alongside Dr. Deming several times.  He taught me most of what I now know about organizations and how to continuously improve them.

“To manage, one must lead. To lead, one must understand the work that he and his people are responsible for. Who is the customer (the next stage), and how can we serve better the customer? An incoming manager, to lead, and to manage at the source of improvement, must learn. He must learn from his people what they are doing and must learn a lot of new subject matter.” — Dr. W. E. Deming, Out of the Crisis

00oshoOSHO: His given name was Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh.  OSHO was a religious teacher from India.  He wrote numerous books on life, religion and spirituality.  He also gave talks and started several communities for his followers.  His books and talks were full of insights and stories to make you think and question your own life.  OSHO became infamous when he tried to start a community of acolytes in a rural area of Oregon.  The town OSHO started was called Rajneeshpuram.  It became a target for locals who thought that their community was being taken over by a bunch of cultists.  Things went south when some of OHSO’s devotees exceeded authority and tried to retaliate against the local community.  This is perhaps another case, where the man did not live up to his message.  Nevertheless, I have never found any spiritual writings that are as profound and thought provoking as OSHOs.

“Never belong to a crowd; Never belong to a nation; Never belong to a religion; Never belong to a race. Belong to the whole existence. Why limit yourself to small things? When the whole is available.” — OSHO

Daniel Kahneman: I first read Kahneman and Amos Tversky’s book “Judgement Under Uncertainty” in 1982.  Twenty years later Kahneman won the Nobel Prize for Economics.  Tversky had died in 1996.  Their research and work challenged the very bedrock of economic decision making since they attacked the assumption of human rationality that prevailed in modern economic theory.  I completed my Ph.D. degree and went into management consulting.

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One of the key foundations of my consulting was based on the work into heuristics and biases that were described in “Judgement Under Uncertainty.”  Corporations could make some brilliant decisions but too often they were guided by fallacies and misconceptions that relied more on emotions and prejudice than good data and facts.  Today, economics has taken a giant leap forward in understanding human decision making based on the work of Kahneman and his many followers.

“Searching for wisdom in historic events requires an act of faith—a belief in the existence of recurrent patterns waiting to be discovered.” — Daniel Kahneman and Amos Tversky, “Judgment Under Uncertainty”

I hope you have enjoyed or at least found my list of favorites interesting.  I will follow up with Part 2 which will deal with my four favorite “Writings” and my four favorite “Ideas.” 

Now it is your turn to list some of your favorite authors or speakers or books in the comments section.  I am looking forward to hearing what some of you have found interesting and why you found them interesting.

 

 

Death in Arizona City

There are many ways to die but most of us will not get to choose the way we die.  Saturday on a three-mile dusty stretch of two-lane highway between Sunland Gin Road and Arica Road in Arizona City, two people died.  One made a choice, the other did not.

It started out as just another sunny and cool January morning in Arizona.  At 8:30 AM, I dressed to go for a run up at the Casa Grande Mountains.  I was going to drive to the post office first to pick up a delivery that Alexa had told me was made.  She had also told me what the merchandise was and I was excited to get it. The post office in Arizona City is only open between 9 AM and 11 AM on Saturday and I intended to go there first to be sure that I got there before it closed.  I then wanted to go to the Health Fair that the Chamber of Commerce in Casa Grande was putting on.

The Health Fair was scheduled to start at 10 AM and end at 2 PM.  I planned to get to the fair about the time that it would start.  There are always a lot of handouts and goodies at these fairs and the earlier you get there, the more stuff you can pick up.  I thought I could squeeze a decent run in sometime between the post office and the health fair.  I had to be back home from the fair before 2 PM to pick my wife Karen and her friend Nancy up.  The three of us were going to Tucson for a Dulcimer Jam that would start at 3:30 PM.  Following the jam, we were going to have a potluck and some conversation.  Thus, I was a man with a tight schedule.

I left my house at about 8:55 AM.  I live about two miles from the Arizona City Post Office. The parking lot there was not crowded, and I immediately found a place to park.  I went in and checked my mailbox but there was no package notification in my box.  I then went to the desk and asked the clerk to check if any packages had arrived for PO BOX 2498.  She said, “No problem” and went back into the storage area.  She returned shortly.  “Sorry, she said, but there are too many packages to check and they have not been posted yet.  You will have to wait until Monday.”  I left the Post Office moderately disappointed and headed up to the Casa Grande Mountain Park by way of Sunland Gin Road.  It is about 4 miles from the Post Office to the Arica Road Trail head.  There was little traffic on the way, and I arrived at the trail head about 9:15 AM.

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I put my extra gear on, mostly some pads and armor and commenced running up a trail.  I was not sure how long I wanted to run but I figured maybe 40 minutes or so.  I run with armor because it helps when I fall.  Running these mountain trails, it is not a question of whether I will fall, it is only a question of when.  I have already hit the ground twice this year.  One was minor and no pain.  The other hurt and left me bruised.  After falling, I laid on the ground for a while and stared at the clouds drifting by before trying to stand up.  Finally, I got enough courage back and the pain had subsided enough to enable me to finish my run.  Bruised, battered and my confidence shaken but knowing that I still had a few more runs in me before I called it quits with my running; I finished my run.

However, today was different.  I started off feeling very well and with over fifteen trails to chose from, (I often add or change my route depending on how I feel) I felt strong and decided to run one of my favorite routes.  I was about fifteen minutes into the route when I heard the sirens start off in the distance.  It is not unusual to hear sirens, but these did not stop.  They went on and on for what seemed like forever.  I guessed based on the direction that they were coming from that it was an accident on Sunland Gin Road.  I had two reasons for believing this.  First, this is the major and heavily trafficked route out of Arizona City and second, speeders and impatient drivers seem to abound on this section of Sunland Gin Road.  Last year, three people were killed when a driver drifted across the lane and rammed head on into an oncoming car.  Anyone living in Arizona City has seen several near misses on this road when some driver decides to pass them with little margin for error.  It does not matter that it is only three miles long or that the speed limit is 50 mph, many drivers do 70 mph or more on this road.  I assume following anyone doing the speed limit drives some of these impatient people crazy.

I finished my run in about 37 minutes and got back to my car.  I put my gear in my car and pulled some pants on over my running tights.  I drove off at a few minutes to 10 AM.  I went down to Sunland Gin Road but did not see anything amiss as I made a left turn to the freeway.  It took me about ten minutes to arrive at the Promenade Mall where the Health Fair was being held.  I parked across the street, walked through the car show outside the Mall and into the Mall area.  There I saw the Chamber of Commerce booth where some friends were handing out tote bags.  I greeted my friends (I volunteer at the Chamber on Wednesdays for four hours) and proceeded to systematically visit any booths or tables that either interested me or had some good swag.  It was about 10:15 AM.

I stopped to chat at several booths.  I do not like to appear greedy and just grab the swag and I usually find some vendors who might be helpful to me for any number of reasons.  Nevertheless, I picked up two calendars, 2 mini-calendars, several pens, a banana, a bottle of water, a sweat band and lots of good information relating to home improvement.  I finished going up and down each aisle and double checked to make sure that I did not miss any vendors.  On my way out, I met two more friends who were vets and briefly said hello.  I ended up hitting the men’s room before getting to my car.  It was now about 11 AM.

I took the freeway back to Sunland Gin Road but decided to get off on Jimmy Kerr Blvd. which runs parallel to the freeway.  I wanted to come back to the intersection of Jimmy Kerr and Sunland Gin so that I could pass Carl’s Jr. and stop in for a breakfast burrito.  I went about two miles down Sunland Gin road and suddenly realized that Carl’s Jr. was on Toltec Road and not Sunland Gin.  Burger King was on Sunland Gin.  I decided to just go home and skip the burrito.  As I neared the top of the overpass that connects the I-10 exit to Sunland Gin, I could see in the distance many police cars and lights and it appeared that the road was blocked off.  I had time to make an immediate left turn onto I-10 before I was committed to trying to drive down Sunland Gin Road.  I doubted that going down Sunland Gin Road was possible.

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I headed south on I-10 and got off on Toltec Blvd.  I drove over to Carl’s Jr. and parked. I went in and they were no longer serving breakfast burritos since it was past 11 AM.  They did have some breakfast burgers left so I ordered one and a drink and proceeded to call my wife Karen to tell her about the accident.  It was now two hours or so later then when I had first heard the sirens and the road was still blocked.  As it turned out, the road was not opened until about nine or ten hours later.  We both surmised that a really bad accident had happened on Sunland Gin Road and (Sad to say) we both knew why and how.

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I arrived home and after some relaxing, showering, changing up and loading the instruments and food in the car we left for Tucson.  The jam went great and about 20 people were playing various instruments but mostly dulcimers.  We ate at 5:30 PM and conversation carried us to nearly 8 PM.  We packed the car up and headed back to Arizona City.  I had not thought any more about the accident until we were near our exit.  As we approached, we saw a lot of cars that were coming down Toltec Road which normally would have been coming down Sunland Gin Road.  Apparently, Sunland Gin Road was still closed.

As soon as I came home, I logged onto a Face Book chat group for Arizona City where residents bring up issues and ask questions about what is happening in the area.  Of course, the questions were about the accident and what could be done.  It seemed like everyone knew that two people had died.  Given the history of this road, it does not take a rocket scientist to surmise that two cars had hit in a head-on collision.  The only real question was how many were in each car and how many had died.

One person made a choice to pass and died.  The other person did not make a choice and died involuntarily. 

The following is an excerpt from the Arizona City Facebook chat with a typical selection of comments and questions regarding the accident:

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As you might notice from these comments, the range of solutions varies widely.  Some want more policing.  Some want a passing lane.  Some want a four-lane highway.  Some want better driver education.  Some want people to smarten up and not be in such a hurry.  It is a difficult issue.  People don’t usually respond well to persuasion and people do not want their taxes to go up to pay for new roads.

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So, what will we do?  Are these deaths the cost of riding the highways?  Are we content to simply let more people die on this road?  Not very difficult to decide unless it is you or a loved one who will die.  The cost/benefit equation can change very radically when it impacts us personally.

 

 

 

 

 

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