The 1st of Gandhi’s Seven Social Sins: Wealth without Work.

Once upon a time in this great country, a model for attaining wealth and a set of rules to accomplish this objective stemmed from 3 basic beliefs.  These were:

  1. You worked hard, long and industriously.
  2. You attained as much education as you could absorb and afford.
  3. You treated all of your engagements with absolute honesty and scrupulousness.

Somewhere during the later 20th Century these 3 Cardinal beliefs (Above) about attaining great wealth were replaced by the following beliefs:

  1. Wealth can be attained at a gambling casino or by winning a lottery if you are lucky enough.
  2. Wealth can be attained by suing someone and with the help of a lawyer who will thereby gain a percentage of your lawsuit.
  3. Wealth can be attained by finding some means of acquiring a government handout for the remainder of your life.

Admittedly, not all Americans subscribe to the second set of beliefs and fortunately there are many who still subscribe to the first. Nevertheless, I think you would be hard pressed to argue that gambling, casinos, government handouts and lawsuits have not multiplied exponentially over the past fifty years.  The following are some charts which I think illustrate my points rather graphically.

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The nature of human beings is to want things fast and with a minimum of effort.  This is normal and not to be thought of as deviant or unusual.  However, as we age and develop more self-control and wisdom over our daily affairs, we learn to temper our desire for instant gratification with a more mature perspective.  Noted quality guru, Dr. W. E. Deming maintained that people wanted “Instant Pudding.”  For Deming this meant, change without effort, quality without work and cost improvements overnight.  Added together, “Instant Pudding” was Dr. Deming’s metaphor for the desire to obtain results with a minimum investment of time and energy.  Dr. Deming continually warned his clients that there was no “Instant Pudding” and change would take years of hard work and could not be accomplished without continued dedication and focus.

Unfortunately, our media and even schools today seem to emphasize the possibility of achieving success and wealth overnight.  Sports stars are depicted as suddenly being offered incredible contracts.  Movie stars are shown as going from unknown to overnight fame and fortune.  Singers and musicians seem to suddenly achieve fame despite being barely out of their teens and in many cases barely into their teens.  It would appear that everywhere we look fame, fortune and success happen overnight.  All it takes is to be discovered. This might happen if you can get on American Idol or be found by the right booking agent or obtain a guest appearance on a celebrity TV show.  In some cases, all it takes is the right YouTube video to accomplish overnight success.  One day PSI was an unknown Korean musician and in a few short weeks, he was celebrating success by a dinner in the White House and appearing at the Times Square New Year’s Eve celebration.  How can anyone dispute that all that is needed for fame and fortune is to be in the right place at the right time?

You may be asking “yes, but what exactly did Gandhi mean by this “sin?”  The M. K. Gandhi Institute for Nonviolence gives the following explanation:

“Wealth Without Work: This includes playing the stock market; gambling; sweat-shop slavery; over-estimating one’s worth, like some heads of corporations drawing exorbitant salaries which are not always commensurate with the work they do.  Gandhi’s idea originates from the ancient Indian practice of Tenant Farmers.  The poor were made to slog on the farms while the rich raked in the profits.  With capitalism and materialism spreading so rampantly around the world the grey area between an honest day’s hard work and sitting back and profiting from other people’s labor is growing wider.  To conserve the resources of the world and share these resources equitably with all so that everyone can aspire to a good standard of living, Gandhi believed people should take only as much as they honestly need.  The United States provides a typical example.  The country spends an estimated $200 billion a year on manufacturing cigarettes, alcohol and allied products which harm people’s health.  What the country spends in terms of providing medical and research facilities to provide and find cures for health hazards caused by over-indulgence in tobacco and alcohol is mind-blowing.” ‘There is enough for everyone’s need but not for everyone’s greed’, Gandhi said.

There is a visual problem here that perhaps underlies much of the current thinking about success.  The media loves to trumpet short success stories that will grab anyone’s attention. We are constantly bombarded with headlines such as:

Each of these sites (click on to hyperlink to the actual site) promises you overnight success or at least success in a much shorter time span than is realistic.  These ads are in the news, checkout stands, on TV and just about anywhere you turn around.  The constant daily bombardment of such ads creates a zeitgeist in which overnight success not only seems to be possible; but it actually seems to be the norm.  If you are not an overnight success, if you cannot become rich in days rather than years, if you contemplate a life of hard work to attain your fame and fortune, than something is wrong with you.  Anyone subscribing to the first 3 sets of beliefs I mentioned in the opening is a peculiar species today.  The most common belief about success in the new millennium can be summed up as:

I don’t have time to wait. I don’t have the patience to wait.  I don’t want to spend my life waiting.  I am entitled to success now.  Why should I have to wait?  I am as good as any of these rich successful people. If only everyone could see how good I really am, I would get the fame and fortune I deserve now.  If you expect me to shut up and work hard, I will leave and go elsewhere.  You need me more than I need you.

I believe that Gandhi and many of my generation would find such ideas very peculiar not to mention that they contradict certain universal principles.  Every time I hear of a new terrorist attack in this country or a new massacre at some workplace, I wonder how much the instigator was influenced by his or her desire for overnight fame and fortune.  In some bizarre out-of-this-world thinking, these maniacs equate their picture on page one of the news with a sort of glory that is accomplished by their bizarre and cruel rampage.  The more they kill or maim, the greater they think their glory will be.  We can look for all the “reasons” why but we will never find any “good” reasons for anyone to take such anti-social actions against others.  The paradox is that often the very people they hate are the ones they wanted attention or recognition from.

Ok, time for questions:

Have you raised your children to believe in hard work?  Are you one of the parents who want to make sure their kids have it easy?  How do you know how much hard work is enough?  Do you think you are entitled to success because you work hard?  What other factors play a role in success?  Is it fair that some people do not seem to have to work hard and yet still reap big rewards?  Do people today have it too easy compared to the immigrants that founded this country?

Life is just beginning.

Finding Fame, Fortune and Success:  Paths to Misery or Happiness?

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I have adapted an Osho (A noted Indian Mystic and Guru) story as follows:

Once upon a time there was a young boy named Vince who lived in Minnesota.  Every weekend when his chores around the farm were done, Vince would take his canoe out to one of Minnesota’s 10,000 lakes with his best friend and they would spend the afternoon fishing.  Somethings they would catch crappies, sometimes bluegills, sometimes even a walleye.  Sometimes they would not catch a single fish.  Striking out did not bother them one bit.  They were content just to be out on the lake together on a beautiful Minnesota summer day.

They would sit in the canoe casting their rods and talking about many things.  They would talk about school, parents, girls, and sports.  Often they would share their dreams and talk about what they wanted to be and do when they grew up.  One day Vince saw a large jet airliner going over head.  As he looked at the plane he said, “That’s what I want to be when I grow up.  I want to be an airline pilot and fly all over the world. That is my dream.”

Years passed and Vince followed his dream.  He became an airline pilot for what was then Northwest Airlines.  Later, like many other airlines they merged and became United Airlines.  Vince was a lead pilot for a jumbo passenger jet.  He flew numerous routes that took him all over the world.  He flew to China, Japan, England, France, and many other places.  He was one of the best pilots that Northwest had.

Twenty or so very busy years passed.  One day Vince had a flight that took him back to Minnesota.  He started from Paris, flew over the Great Lakes and was coming down from Northern Minnesota to the Minneapolis/St. Paul Airport.  As his plane began the descent into the airport, he looked out the left side of the plane and noticed two young boys in a canoe fishing on a lake.  The scene brought back many happy memories to Vince and his eyes started to mist up.  He asked his co-pilot to take control for a minute while he cleared his eyes.  His co-pilot asked Vince if there was anything wrong.  Vince replied, “No, nothing wrong.  Just saw something that reminded me of my past.  One day I dreamed that I would be a pilot.  Now I dream that I am back on that lake with my best friend again.”

There is an old saying that goes “Be careful of what you ask for, you might get it.”  Of course, no one pays any attention to this bit of wisdom.  Imagine all the people who buy lottery tickets each day.   Now try to imagine any of them saying, “I better be careful, or I might win the lottery.”  We all want fame, fortune, and success.  We set goals that force us to live in the future and we forget how to live in the present.  Osho says that we can never be happy unless we can be happy for no reason at all.

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Some of you have read the story about my six friends and I who put together a “last man standing bottle” ten years ago.  Ken made a case for the bottle.  Jerry bought a name plate for the bottle with each of our names and birthdates engraved on it.  I bought a bottle of 120 proof Old Grandad while on one of my trips to Bardstown, Kentucky.   Ken and Brian have since died.  There are five of us left.  Jerry is the youngest at 74 and Dick is now the oldest at 81.

Jerry was put on hospice care about eight months ago.  I have been to visit him several times and he has joked about going to hospice care too soon.  Doctors had told him that he had only a few months to live.  Jerry has outlived their original estimates.  Friday afternoon, I received a call from Dick who had recently called Jerry.  Jerry is not doing well, and the charge nurse told Dick that Jerry would probably not make it through the weekend.  I have been wanting to stay away from any medical facilities due to the recent Covid surge, but I decided to mask up and go see Jerry.

I arrived at the clinic and was told I could make a compassion visit, but general visitors were not allowed.  I was advised to go to the main desk and see if it was okay with the unit for me to come down.  I received an approval and headed down to Jerry’s room.  The nurse on the unit met me at the door.  She knocked on the door to Jerry’s room but did not receive any response.  She went into the room and Jerry was asleep.  She woke him up and informed him that he had a visitor.

I walked into the room and Jerry was not looking very good.  He could barely open his eyes or even move.  His body was bloated, and his skin had dark splotches all over his chest, stomach, arms, and legs.  I said hi and he replied, “Hi John.”  I told him that the coffee guys (some of whom are on the “Last Man Standing” bottle) all said hi and that they wished him well.  This was somewhat of a fib.  Truth be told, Jerry was not well liked among some of the guys.  He seemed to enjoy making fun of and humiliating other people.  Over the years, this took a toll among the men.  Not many of them cared enough about Jerry to make a visit to see him.

Jerry had few friends.  I tried to be a friend to Jerry, but it never seemed to be requited.  I called him.  Visited him often at his home.  Helped him with a garage sale.  Took him to some medical appointments in the Twin Cities.  Invited him out to dinner several times and each year when I got back from Arizona, Karen and I made a point of having him over for dinner.  Not once did I ever remember Jerry returning any of my calls, stopping by to visit or even saying “Thank You” for anything I ever did for him.  Nevertheless, while I stopped the frequency of my visits with Jerry, I never gave up on him entirely.

This day, it was clear that it would be my last visit to Jerry.  I felt sad for Jerry.  He never had much.  The paradox was that he was one of the most intelligent men I have ever met.  Before his illnesses, Jerry was an avid reader who could discuss many of the great writers with exceptional insights.  Sadly, as his disease progressed, he read less and less and eventually gave up reading entirely.

I asked Jerry a few questions about his sister and other visitors.  Something I said elicited the reply, “Now and forever, mumble, mumble, mumble.”  “Jerry, I could not hear the last part of that.  You said, ‘Now and forever’ and something else.  Could you repeat it?”  Jerry replied, “Now and forever, all I ever wanted was a little attention.”  I was somewhat surprised at his comment.  I left a short time later.  I doubt I spent more than 15 minutes with Jerry the whole time.  I gave him some water and asked if he needed a nurse.  He was barely awake, but he declined any offers for help.  I told him goodbye.  I did not want to imply that it would be goodbye forever so I included the comment that I would be back after I returned from my vacation, and I would stop in to see him again.  I do not think this will ever happen.

I thought about Jerry’s comment on my way home.  Was his comment about “now and forever” some sort of delirium or was he actually reflecting on a core component of his life.  Was Jerry’s obnoxiousness and insults simply a way for him to get attention?  At this late stage in his life, was he lamenting his inability to get the attention that he so desperately desired?

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I began to wonder if a need for attention is the primary reason that most of us want fame, fortune, and success.  Rich people, famous people, celebrities all get more attention than the average person.  Think about all of the school shooters that you have heard of.  It seems that the main purpose for their rampages is attention.  There are many people who fiercely desire their five minutes of fame even if it means they get it by anti-social efforts.

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The irony is that fame, fortune, and success never bring happiness.  The more of these things you get, the more you want.  More is never enough.  More of things never satisfies.  Then the day inevitably comes when you are no longer famous.  Your money no longer buys you attention.  Your success is no longer newsworthy.  Your fame now evaporates like the morning mist.  Can you point to anyone whose fame and fortune brought them happiness?  We are brainwashed into thinking that wealth, fame, and success are stepping stones to happiness.  If only I am noticed and get attention from others, I will be happy.

To be honest, I am much like the person who buys the lottery ticket.  I have never had fame, fortune, or great success.  I have never been a great student, a prize-winning athlete, a rich business owner or won any medals or awards.  Years ago, I read all the books I could get my hands on to teach me how to be rich, famous, and successful.  Despite all my learning and education, I never rose above being an average guy with an average income and an average life.

Perhaps, I should be more grateful.  Perhaps, I have been very lucky. I have had a great life.  I have traveled widely.  I have many friends.  I married a wonderful woman and I have always been able to pay my bills.  What would my life have been like if I had become rich and famous?  My thoughts tell me that I would never have lived as happy a life as I can now point to.

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However, telling myself that is a little like someone telling me that I should be glad that my lottery ticket did not win.  Somewhere inside me is a yearning for the attention and admiration that I feel fame and fortune would bring me.  Something inside me desires to someday be “above” average.  I want to be on center stage and have all the spotlights on me.  I want to read in the morning papers, how great and talented I am.  John “The New Mark Twain.”

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I try to counter the above negative thoughts by reminding myself that I am really blessed.  I can walk down the street, and no one notices me.  I have enough money to be comfortable but not have to deal with hundreds of people who want more money from me because they think that I am rich.  I have a loving wife who I am sure loves me for who I am and not for my money or looks.  I have seen the world without a body guard.  I am healthy and would not trade my health for all the money in the world.

My takeaway from my visit to Jerry is how much I wish that I could have left him with the five minutes of attention that he wanted.  The saddest part about Jerry’s life is that he could never let go of this need.  He acted as though by being cantankerous and il-tempered he would satisfy this need.  I think it cost him a great deal of the happiness that was always there for his taking.  We all respected his intellect and admired his reasoning abilities.  Each of us in our own way tried to overlook his insults and criticism.  It is tragic that he never realized how much his talents really meant to the rest of us.  We all knew that Jerry was one of a kind.

PS:  

Jerry died early this morning on the 13th of September in the year 2021.  If there is an afterlife, I hope Jerry finds the happiness, attention and recognition that he sought.  This is one of mine and Jerry’s favorite pictures.  Jerry had a great sense of humor.  He and Wilma posed for this picture at his garage sale a number of years ago.  It is of course a take off on the classic American Gothic.  Jerry liked it so much, he blew it up and kept a picture by his bedside.  This is how I want to remember Jerry.  A man of intelligence and humor.  

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Farewell to Life or Farewell to Death?

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Many years ago, I traveled down a wooded path that I had never been on before.  This story is about how that journey led me to the life that I am living today.

I was eighteen years old.  I had recently graduated from high school.  No awards, no summa anything and no college that would take me even if I had applied.  I always loved to meander in the woods and thoughts of heaven or hell were not intruding on me this bright sunny warm day in June.  As I trod a path that did not look very worn, I suddenly noticed a fork in the trail.  I could just make out somebody sitting between the two roads.  As I drew closer, it was apparent but none the less quite surprising to see that it was an old woman sitting on a log.

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“Good afternoon,” I said to the old woman.  “Same to you, young man,” she replied.  “I have not been on this road before; can you tell me which fork goes where?”  “Well,” she answered, “The right fork is the Farewell to Life fork and the left fork is the Farewell to Death fork.”  Thinking the woman was a little batty, I gave her my thanks, wished her a good day, and proceeded to take the right fork.

I thought a little about her response as I continued on my journey.  I wondered if it really meant anything.  Would one fork bring death and the other life?  I laughed as I assumed that it probably would not matter since I had chosen the life fork.  I was planning to be among the living when I reached its end and not among the dead.  I looked back and the crazy woman was nowhere in sight.

More than fifty-five years have passed since I met the old lady.  I have walked many roads, paddled many rivers, visited many lands, and wondered about the meaning and purpose of life innumerable times.  During my seventy-five years on this earth, I have said dozens of farewells to life.  All of them to date were farewells to the lives of people who were my friends and relatives and mentors.  My father died at 60.  My mother died at 67.  My sister died at 56 and my cousin and best friend died at 47.  Farewell is one of the saddest words in my vocabulary.  As I have aged, the number of farewells that I have had to say each year seems to be growing exponentially.

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A few weeks ago, I was on a solo hike in the Chequamegon National Forest about thirty miles north of Thorp, Wisconsin where my first wife was from.  I was on the Jerry Lake Segment of the Ice Age National Scenic Trail which goes through the Chequamegon National Forest.  I was intending on hiking down the trail to Jerry Lake and back.

Now I have never been known for my sense of direction.  My first wife and I always fought over which way to head but my masculine pride would never admit that she was usually right.  Marrying a second time, I finally found someone whose sense of direction is even worse than mine.  Both Karen and I are lost without a GPS or compass.  The good thing is that I now readily admit that I could get lost in my small back yard.  My masculine pride no longer prohibits me from shouting out “I’m lost.”

As I proceeded down the trail, it seemed that I was not getting any nearer to my intended destination.  It should have taken me about an hour to get to the lake and I had now been hiking for about two hours.  Two thoughts struck me at the same time.  The first was that I was lost.  The second was that I was approaching a fork in the trail ahead and something or someone was sitting between the two paths.  As I neared the fork, I rubbed my eyes just in case I was seeing things.  There on the trail ahead was an old woman who looked suspiciously like the old woman whom I had met fifty-five years before.  Of course, I thought, it could not be.  She would have to be well over a hundred years old.

senior-woman-sitting-log-holding-long-cane-senior-woman-sitting-log-holding-long-cane-countryside-village-people-131962771The strangeness of the situation caused me to be somewhat nervous about proceeding further but I thought, I have nothing to fear from an old lady.  Coming nearer to the woman, I jokingly asked if she was the same old woman whom I had met years ago and if she remembered me.  “Yes”, she said, “but you were much younger then.  How did your journey down the Farewell to Life trail go?”  How could this be I thought?  I don’t believe in magic, miracles, or spirits but suddenly, I began to take her words quite seriously.

“I am not so sure that I took the right trail.  Over the years, I have had to say many farewells to people whom I loved and who passed away long before they should have.  Life does not seem very fair to me.”  “Life is never fair,” she replied.  “Humans weigh things as though some type of cosmic scale existed, and that life could be apportioned perfectly equitably.  You have had a long life.  It has been very successful.  You have had more than your share of fame and fortune.”

“I am very confused.  I chose the Farewell to Life path but what would have happened if I had chosen the Farewell to Death path?  Would I live forever?”  She looked at me very gravely and said “I don’t think you really understand.  The Farewell to Life path is a path where you say farewell to the lives of others.  You yourself then went on to have a long if not happy or prosperous life, did you not?”

“Yes,” I said, “But what would my life have been like if I had chosen the “Farewell to Death path?”  “You would never have had to say farewell to any friends or anyone you cared about.  You would have gone to no funerals, burials, or memorials.  No farewells to the deaths of friends and families.  You would have died many years before those you loved.  Do you think this would have made you happier?  A short life that would have had little tragedy or reason to mourn would have been your legacy.”

“I do not think that would have made me happier.  Why can’t there be a third path in life?  Why are we doomed to either a long life with much unhappiness or a short life where we never experience the joys of getting older and wiser?”

The old woman slowly stood up.  She picked up a hiking stick and proceeded to walk off into the distance.  Before she left, she turned and looked into my eyes.  Very solemnly she explained, “I told you that life is never fair.  Humans always want what cannot be.  Farewell.”

Let life be beautiful like summer flowers and death like autumn leaves. — Rabindranath Tagore

 

Ten Things I learned about Life from the 2021 Tour de France

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  1. Teamwork is essential
  2. Sometimes you have to go it alone
  3. The possibility of pain is ever present in our lives
  4. You will never know when you are too old
  5. No one is expert at everything
  6. Life is full of ups and downs
  7. Some days you will be on top of the world and others you will not
  8. Energy output varies from person to person, but we all run out at some point
  9. You have to get up every day to stay in the race
  10. Quitting does not define a loser

In my younger days, I did a few bike races.  I raced a criterion, a hill and dale and a double century.  I was only an amateur and never had the time to race more.  I enjoyed bicycling and did a number a bicycle tours.  At one point, I was averaging almost 450 miles a week in riding. I gave up riding in my later thirties and concentrated more on running.  It was faster and cheaper to get my exercise running.  I could no longer use a bicycle for transportation as I was commuting distances that made bicycle riding less practical.  I was a good bicycle mechanic and I worked in two different shops doing bicycle repair work.

Every year, I noted when the Tour de France came around, but I did not pay much attention to the race or the racers.  This year, (2021), I watched the Tour races in the morning on my computer and then each evening Karen and I watched a video summary of the Tour stage for that day.  It was exciting watching the riders and I learned a great deal about bicycle racing and life in general.  I have identified ten key ideas that I want to share with you.  These are some of the insights about life that I had from watching the Tour.  I suppose one could get such insights from sitting under an apple tree or watching a baseball game.  Life offers many lessons if we simply open our minds.

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  1. Teamwork is essential

No one can win the Tour de France without the support from their team.  I do not care how good you are, you will not win without a team.  Much of the reason for this comes from the support that the team gives to its designated “leader.”  The “domestiques” are the team members who help the leader out in a variety of ways.  Running errands to get food or drink; providing technical support in case of a breakdown; and drafting or helping rein in other racers.

Every potential winner needs a team to provide support and assistance. 

  1. Sometimes you have to go it alone

CORVOS_00028264-002-650x433 (1)A winner will need to rely on their team, but great riders will often find that they are suddenly alone and need to finish the race on their own.  Perhaps their support riders are worn out or perhaps it is evident that the leader needs to charge ahead to gain time or prevent an adversary from gaining too much advantage.  The great riders know when you to use their team and when to go it alone.

Sometimes you have to strike out on your own and depend on your own resources. 

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  1. The possibility of pain is ever present in our lives

Crashing and falling happen quite regularly in the Tour.  Perhaps a rider is hit by another rider or as in the race this year, a spectator ran out with a sign and knocked a rider down.  This caused a chain reaction knocking several other riders down.  Getting hurt is inevitable.  Falling down at nearly 30 miles an hour is painful.  Riders have helmets but no other pads.  How badly a rider is hurt is simply how unlucky they are.  The possibility of pain and serious injury is the price we pay in life for almost any endeavor that we undertake.  Everything that we do in life has risks.

There is no way to avoid risks in life unless you stop living.

  1. You will never know when you are too old

Karen_webMark Cavendish when he was at his peak was considered the best sprinter who ever lived.  This year for the 2021 Tour de France he was almost not selected by any of the teams.  At 36 years old, most thought that his racing days were over.  To the surprise of all, Mark secured a contract with one of the Tour teams.  Even more of a surprise was his winning four stages in the Tour to tie the record of Eddy Merckx for most stage wins in the Tour de France.   Mark did not know he was too old to win.  There is a time to hold em and a time to fold em, but it is very difficult to know when that time is.  One thing is for certain, never listen to other people.

Don’t let chronological age define what you can and cannot do.

  1. No one is great at everything

unnamed (1)The Tour de France is comprised of three main types of riders.  There are the sprinters who are best on flat ground.  There are the mountaineers who excel at hills and mountains.  There are the general classification (GC) riders who are good at both hills and flat ground but are not usually as good as the sprinters and mountaineers at their respective terrain.  The GC riders are most likely the best all-around riders and may be able to win a few stages in both the flats and the hills.  However, the GC riders are much more concerned with their overall time and will generally forego racing with sprinters or mountaineers who may break with the Peloton in an attempt to win a stage.  There is lots of strategy involved in winning the Tour and I do not have the time or knowledge to say more about it.

The main point here is that you can be good but not great at anything and still be successful in life.

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6.  Life is full of ups and downs

The Tour de France is a bicycle race comprised of 21 stages.  It is run mostly in France.  The first Tour was run in 1903.  One stage is run each day and two days are inserted for rest days.  Some stages are mountainous and hilly while others are flat and curvy.  The mountainous stages can be almost 10,000 feet high.  One or two stages will be set aside as sprint runs.  Many stages are combinations of both flat and hilly terrain.  Overall, 200 of the best bicycle racers in the world will race for nearly 2200 miles.  The Tour is considered one of the most demanding and difficult races in the world.

Watching these races, you can see that the world is physically up and down.  Mountains, hills, valleys, flats, and curves.  Some days will be rainy and cold, other days will be hot and humid.  However, in some sense the ups and downs are metaphorical as well.  The riders who are up one day will be down the next.  One day a sprinter will win the stage, the next day a mountain rider will win.  The General Classification riders (Tour leaders usually) will change the “yellow jersey” day by day until one finally emerges as the front runner.  The winner is never certain as falls, bad ride days and simple exhaustion take their toll on each rider.

Accept that life is going to be full of ups and downs.  Just remember that after it rains, the sun will come out.

  1. Some days you will be on top of the world and others you will not

king-of-the-hill-childrens-gameNo rider on the Tour de France has ever won all the stages.  Two or three riders have captured the Polka Dot (Best Mountain Rider), Green (Best Sprinter) and Yellow (Overall time leader) jerseys in the same Tour but no rider has ever won all 21 stages in one race.  We all have good days and bad days.  Some days we wake up full of energy and other days we should just stay in bed.

Karen my wife mentioned yesterday that being able to pick which days she gets up and which days she can linger in bed is one of the joys of being retired.  She noted that some days she just is not able to bounce out of bed like Tigger and meet the world with a full-on burse of energy.  She takes it easy some days and usually the next day, her energy returns, and she is out weeding the garden or trimming hedges.

Common wisdom tells us to honor the cycle of our lives, but most people are too busy being busy or rushing to get someplace to pay attention to this bit of wisdom. 

  1. Energy output varies from person to person, but we all run out at some point

p077x53mTour riders line up maybe 2 miles or so before the actual start line.  Two hundred riders will be almost welded together behind a pace car as they casually ride up to the start.  As soon as they reach the start line, they are off in a rush of cycles jostling for position.  A large mass of cyclists is called the Peloton and most riders will try to stay with this group for reasons of riding efficiency and aerodynamics.  Riding alone is more effort and energy wasteful than riding in a group.  Nevertheless, some game or crazy rides will try to leave the pack.  It may happen soon in the race or half way through the race, but eventually a breakaway group or individual will try to go it alone.  The boldness of these breakaway riders is thrilling.  Daring to challenge the best riders in the world by themselves.

You watch these riders, and the computer will show you how many are in the breakaway group and how far ahead they are from the Peloton in terms of time and distance.  Almost inevitably, (you could bet odds on it) the breakaway riders will one by one fall off the pace and be reeled in by the Peloton riders.  Seldom if ever does the lone breakaway rider stay in the lead for the entire stage.  The strongest riders in the world are in this race and there is undoubtedly a bell-shaped curve of stamina, endurance, and conditioning among the two hundred riders.  Nevertheless, no rider short of superman can stay out front each race for the entire race.  The advantage of a riding in a group, drafting and avoiding wind currents is too great for the individual loner to keep up a winning pace for an entire stage.

Respect your energy levels and do not try to be superman or superwoman. 

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  1. You have to get up every day to stay in the race

This sounds so platitudinous that I am almost ashamed to say it.  Every year a few riders in the Tour de France will drop out for one reason or another.  Sometimes it is injury, sometimes it is just giving up.  We all have days when we do not feel like we can go on anymore.

Yet, it seems as though we continually find excuses to drop out of the race.  The going gets tough and we quit.  We fall down and we don’t get up.  We get rejected and we give up.  We did not get the results we expected so we abandon our goal.  I once asked a friend who was an editor of several magazines what I needed to do to have a “Best Seller.”  He replied, “I could not tell you.  But I can tell you one thing, if you don’t write you will never have a best seller.”  I have never forgotten his advice.  Buying a lottery ticket does not ensure that you will win the lottery, but you can never win the lottery without a ticket.

I once heard that there are three kinds of people.  Those who do not know that there is a parade coming.  Those who will watch the parade.  Those who are in the parade.  Live gives us the possibility to choose which of the three people we want to be.  If you are going to be in the parade, you will have to get up and do something.  The parade will never come to you.

The race does not always go to the swiftest.  Often it goes to the steadiest.

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  1. Quitting does not define a loser

Primož Roglič was the leader in the 2020 Tour de France.  He was almost certain to win the Tour.  He had held the Yellow Jersey for the last half of the race.  His lead seemed insurmountable.  Then came a time trial day.  Tadej Pogačar, a rider from another team, did such an outstanding job in the time trial that he ended up ahead of Roglic.  Pogačar won the 2020 Tour de France.

Now it is time for the 2021 Tour.  Both Primoz and Tadej are back again.  This year Tadej is favored to win but Roglic still has a chance.  Roglic has a bad spill in the race during stage 3 and receives some injuries.  He gets up and continues the race the next day.  A few days go by, and it is clear that he is off pace.  After stage 8 Roglic quits.  He leaves the race.  Is Roglic a loser? They say only losers quit.

Less than a month later, Roglic finishes 28th at the Tokyo Olympics road race.  Four days later, Roglic competes in the individual time trial.  39 cyclists from 31 nations compete in the race.  Roglic wins the gold medal in the time trial with a winning margin of 1’01”.

Sometimes it makes sense to quit.  It is not true that only losers quit.  Some of the greatest people of all time have had days when they quit.  It is not quitting that defines a loser, it is never starting again.

Be realistic about those times when pressing on is not as smart as quitting.  History is full of examples of people who pressed on and were never heard from again. 

Conclusions:

There you have it.  The ten things I learned about life from this years Tour de France.  Rest assured I will be back next year to see what else I can learn.  I may even dust my bicycle seat off, oil my chain, pump up my tires and take a ride down the Gandy Dancer Trail.  If you see me coming, you should step aside as I am sure that I will be quite wobbly.

 

Dix choses que j’ai apprises sur la vie du Tour de France 2021

  1. Le travail d’équipe est essentiel
  2. Parfois, vous devez faire cavalier seul
  3. La possibilité de la douleur est toujours présente dans nos vies
  4. Vous ne saurez jamais quand vous serez trop vieux
  5. Personne n’est expert en tout
  6. La vie est pleine de hauts et de bas
  7. Certains jours, vous serez au sommet du monde et d’autres non
  8. La production d’énergie varie d’une personne à l’autre, mais nous sommes tous à court d’énergie à un moment donné
  9. Il faut se lever tous les jours pour rester dans la course
  10. Abandonner ne définit pas un perdant

Dans ma jeunesse, j’ai fait quelques courses de vélo. J’ai couru un critère, un monticule et un double siècle. Je n’étais qu’un amateur et je n’ai jamais eu le temps de courir plus. J’aimais faire du vélo et j’ai fait un certain nombre de tours à vélo. À un moment donné, je parcourais en moyenne près de 450 milles par semaine en équitation. J’ai abandonné l’équitation à la fin de la trentaine et me suis concentré davantage sur la course à pied. C’était plus rapide et moins cher de faire mon exercice. Je ne pouvais plus utiliser un vélo pour me déplacer car je parcourais des distances qui rendaient le vélo moins pratique. J’étais un bon mécanicien vélo et je travaillais dans deux ateliers différents pour faire des réparations de vélos.

Chaque année, je notais quand arrivait le Tour de France, mais je ne prêtais pas beaucoup d’attention à la course ou aux coureurs. Cette année (2021), j’ai regardé les courses du Tour le matin sur mon ordinateur, puis chaque soir Karen et moi avons regardé un résumé vidéo de l’étape du Tour ce jour-là. C’était passionnant de regarder les coureurs et j’ai beaucoup appris sur les courses cyclistes et la vie en général. J’ai identifié dix idées clés que je veux partager avec vous. Ce sont quelques-unes des idées sur la vie que j’ai eues en regardant le Tour. Je suppose que l’on pourrait obtenir de telles informations en s’asseyant sous un pommier ou en regardant un match de baseball. La vie offre de nombreuses leçons si nous ouvrons simplement notre esprit.

  1. Le travail d’équipe est essentiel

Personne ne peut gagner le Tour de France sans le soutien de son équipe. Peu m’importe à quel point vous êtes bon, vous ne gagnerez pas sans une équipe. Cela s’explique en grande partie par le soutien que l’équipe apporte à son « leader » désigné. Les « domestiques » sont les membres de l’équipe qui aident le leader de diverses manières. Faire des courses pour acheter de la nourriture ou des boissons ; fournir une assistance technique en cas de panne; et rédiger ou aider à maîtriser d’autres coureurs.

Chaque gagnant potentiel a besoin d’une équipe pour fournir soutien et assistance.

  1. Parfois, vous devez faire cavalier seul

Un vainqueur devra compter sur son équipe, mais les grands coureurs découvriront souvent qu’ils sont soudainement seuls et doivent terminer la course par eux-mêmes. Peut-être que leurs cavaliers de soutien sont épuisés ou peut-être est-il évident que le leader doit foncer pour gagner du temps ou empêcher un adversaire de prendre trop d’avantages. Les grands cavaliers savent quand utiliser leur équipe et quand faire cavalier seul.

Parfois, il faut se débrouiller tout seul.

  1. La possibilité de la douleur est toujours présente dans nos vies

Les chutes et les chutes se produisent assez régulièrement sur le Tour. Peut-être qu’un coureur est heurté par un autre coureur ou comme lors de la course cette année, un spectateur est sorti en courant avec une pancarte et a renversé un coureur. Cela a provoqué une réaction en chaîne qui a renversé plusieurs autres coureurs. Se blesser est inévitable. Tomber à près de 30 milles à l’heure est douloureux. Les cavaliers ont des casques mais pas d’autres protections. À quel point un coureur est blessé est simplement à quel point il est malchanceux. La possibilité de douleurs et de blessures graves est le prix que nous payons dans la vie pour presque tous les efforts que nous entreprenons. Tout ce que nous faisons dans la vie comporte des risques.

Il n’y a aucun moyen d’éviter les risques dans la vie à moins d’arrêter de vivre.

  1. Vous ne saurez jamais quand vous serez trop vieux

Mark Cavendish, lorsqu’il était à son apogée, était considéré comme le meilleur sprinteur qui ait jamais vécu. Cette année pour le Tour de France 2021, il n’a quasiment été sélectionné par aucune des équipes. À 36 ans, la plupart pensaient que ses jours de course étaient révolus. À la surprise de tous, Mark a obtenu un contrat avec l’une des équipes du Tour. Encore plus surprenant a été sa victoire sur quatre étapes du Tour pour égaler le record d’Eddy Merckx pour le plus grand nombre de victoires d’étape sur le Tour de France. Mark ne savait pas qu’il était trop vieux pour gagner. Il y a un temps pour les tenir et un temps pour les plier, mais il est très difficile de savoir quand est ce moment. Une chose est sûre, n’écoutez jamais les autres.

Ne laissez pas l’âge chronologique définir ce que vous pouvez et ne pouvez pas faire.

  1. Personne n’est bon en tout

Le Tour de France est composé de trois principaux types de coureurs. Il y a les sprinteurs qui sont les meilleurs sur terrain plat. Il y a les alpinistes qui excellent dans les collines et les montagnes. Il y a les coureurs du classement général (GC) qui sont bons à la fois sur les collines et sur terrain plat, mais ne sont généralement pas aussi bons que les sprinteurs et les alpinistes sur leur terrain respectif. Les coureurs GC sont probablement les meilleurs coureurs polyvalents et peuvent être en mesure de gagner quelques étapes à la fois dans les plats et les collines. Cependant, les coureurs GC sont beaucoup plus soucieux de leur temps global et renoncent généralement à courir avec sp les coureurs ou les alpinistes qui pourraient rompre avec le Peloton pour tenter de remporter une étape. Il y a beaucoup de stratégie impliquée pour gagner le Tour et je n’ai pas le temps ni les connaissances pour en dire plus.

Le point principal ici est que vous pouvez être bon mais pas excellent dans tout et réussir dans la vie.

  1. La vie est pleine de hauts et de bas

Le Tour de France est une course cycliste composée de 21 étapes. Il se déroule principalement en France. Le premier Tour a été couru en 1903. Une étape est courue chaque jour et deux jours sont insérés pour les jours de repos. Certaines étapes sont montagneuses et vallonnées tandis que d’autres sont plates et sinueuses. Les étapes montagneuses peuvent atteindre près de 10 000 pieds de haut. Une ou deux étapes seront réservées aux courses de sprint. De nombreuses étapes sont des combinaisons de terrain plat et vallonné. Au total, 200 des meilleurs coureurs cyclistes du monde courront sur près de 2 200 milles. Le Tour est considéré comme l’une des courses les plus exigeantes et difficiles au monde.

En regardant ces courses, vous pouvez voir que le monde est physiquement de haut en bas. Montagnes, collines, vallées, plaines et courbes. Certains jours seront pluvieux et froids, d’autres jours seront chauds et humides. Cependant, dans un certain sens, les hauts et les bas sont également métaphoriques. Les coureurs qui sont debout un jour seront à terre le lendemain. Un jour, un sprinter remportera l’étape, le lendemain un coureur de montagne la remportera. Les coureurs du Classement Général (les leaders du Tour en général) changeront le « maillot jaune » jour après jour jusqu’à ce que l’un d’entre eux ressorte enfin en tête. Le gagnant n’est jamais certain car les chutes, les mauvaises journées de conduite et le simple épuisement font des ravages sur chaque cycliste.

Acceptez que la vie soit pleine de hauts et de bas. N’oubliez pas qu’après la pluie, le soleil se lèvera.

  1. Certains jours, vous serez au sommet du monde et d’autres non

Aucun coureur du Tour de France n’a jamais remporté toutes les étapes. Deux ou trois coureurs ont remporté les maillots Polka Dot (Meilleur coureur de montagne), Vert (Meilleur sprinteur) et Jaune (Meilleur temps global) dans le même Tour, mais aucun coureur n’a jamais remporté les 21 étapes d’une course. Nous avons tous de bons et de mauvais jours. Certains jours, nous nous réveillons plein d’énergie et d’autres jours, nous devrions simplement rester au lit.

Karen ma femme a mentionné hier que pouvoir choisir les jours où elle se lève et les jours où elle peut s’attarder au lit est l’une des joies d’être à la retraite. Elle a noté que certains jours, elle n’était tout simplement pas capable de rebondir hors du lit comme Tigrou et de rencontrer le monde avec une pleine énergie. Elle se calme certains jours et généralement le lendemain, son énergie revient et elle est en train de désherber le jardin ou de tailler des haies.

La sagesse commune nous dit d’honorer le cycle de nos vies, mais la plupart des gens sont trop occupés à être occupés ou à se précipiter pour trouver un endroit où prêter attention à ce morceau de sagesse.

  1. La production d’énergie varie d’une personne à l’autre, mais nous sommes tous à court d’énergie à un moment donné

Les coureurs du Tour s’alignent peut-être 2 miles environ avant la ligne de départ réelle. Deux cents coureurs seront presque soudés ensemble derrière une voiture de course alors qu’ils monteront avec désinvolture jusqu’au départ. Dès qu’ils atteignent la ligne de départ, ils s’élancent dans une ruée de cycles qui se bousculent pour se positionner. Une grande masse de cyclistes s’appelle le Peloton et la plupart des coureurs essaieront de rester avec ce groupe pour des raisons d’efficacité de conduite et d’aérodynamisme. Rouler seul est plus un gaspillage d’efforts et d’énergie que de rouler en groupe. Néanmoins, certains gibiers ou manèges fous tenteront de sortir du peloton. Cela peut arriver bientôt pendant la course ou à mi-parcours, mais éventuellement un groupe ou un individu échappé essaiera de faire cavalier seul. L’audace de ces échappés est passionnante. Oser défier les meilleurs cavaliers du monde par eux-mêmes.

Vous regardez ces coureurs, et l’ordinateur vous indiquera combien sont dans l’échappée et à quelle distance ils sont par rapport au Peloton en termes de temps et de distance. Presque inévitablement, (vous pouvez parier là-dessus), les coureurs échappés perdront un à un le rythme et seront rattrapés par les coureurs du Peloton. Il est rare, voire jamais, que le coureur solitaire de l’échappée reste en tête pendant toute l’étape. Les coureurs les plus forts du monde participent à cette course et il existe sans aucun doute une courbe en forme de cloche d’endurance, d’endurance et de conditionnement parmi les deux cents coureurs. Néanmoins, aucun coureur à court de superman ne peut rester en tête de chaque course pendant toute la course. L’avantage de rouler en groupe, de dessiner et d’éviter les courants de vent est trop grand pour que le solitaire puisse maintenir un rythme gagnant pendant toute une étape.

Respectez votre niveau d’énergie et n’essayez pas d’être un surhomme ou une superfemme.

  1. Il faut se lever tous les jours pour rester dans la course

Cela semble si banal que j’ai presque honte de le dire. Chaque année, quelques coureurs du Tour de France abandonnent pour une raison ou une autre. Parfois c’est une blessure, parfois c’est juste abandonner. Nous avons tous des jours où nous avons l’impression de ne plus pouvoir continuer.

Pourtant, il semble que nous trouvions continuellement des excuses pour abandonner la course. Les choses se corsent et nous abandonnons. Nous tombons et nous donnons ne te lève pas. On se fait rejeter et on abandonne. Nous n’avons pas obtenu les résultats escomptés alors nous abandonnons notre objectif. J’ai demandé une fois à un ami qui était rédacteur en chef de plusieurs magazines ce que je devais faire pour avoir un « Meilleur Vendeur ». Il a répondu : « Je ne pourrais pas vous le dire. Mais je peux vous dire une chose, si vous n’écrivez pas, vous n’aurez jamais de best-seller. Je n’ai jamais oublié ses conseils. L’achat d’un billet de loterie ne garantit pas que vous gagnerez à la loterie, mais vous ne pouvez jamais gagner à la loterie sans billet.

J’ai entendu une fois qu’il y a trois sortes de personnes. Ceux qui ne savent pas qu’il y a un défilé à venir. Ceux qui regarderont le défilé. Ceux qui sont dans le défilé. Live nous donne la possibilité de choisir laquelle des trois personnes nous voulons être. Si vous allez être dans le défilé, vous devrez vous lever et faire quelque chose. Le défilé ne viendra jamais à vous.

La course ne va pas toujours au plus rapide. Souvent, il va au plus stable.

  1. Abandonner ne définit pas un perdant

Primož Roglič était le leader du Tour de France 2020. Il était presque certain de remporter le Tour. Il avait détenu le maillot jaune pendant la dernière moitié de la course. Son avance semblait insurmontable. Puis vint une journée de contre-la-montre. Tadej Pogacar, un coureur d’une autre équipe, a fait un travail si remarquable dans le contre-la-montre qu’il a terminé devant Roglic. Pogacar a remporté le Tour de France 2020.

Il est maintenant temps pour le Tour 2021. Primoz et Tadej sont de retour. Cette année, Tadej est favori pour gagner mais Roglic a encore une chance. Roglic a une mauvaise chute dans la course lors de l’étape 3 et reçoit quelques blessures. Il se lève et continue la course le lendemain. Quelques jours s’écoulent, et il est clair qu’il est à contre-courant. Après l’étape 8, Roglic abandonne. Il quitte la course. Roglic est-il un perdant ? Ils disent que seuls les perdants abandonnent.

Moins d’un mois plus tard, Roglic termine 28e à la course sur route des Jeux olympiques de Tokyo. Quatre jours plus tard, Roglic participe au contre-la-montre individuel. 39 cyclistes de 31 nations participent à la course. Roglic remporte la médaille d’or du contre-la-montre avec une marge gagnante de 1’01”.

Parfois, il est logique d’arrêter. Il n’est pas vrai que seuls les perdants abandonnent. Certaines des plus grandes personnes de tous les temps ont eu des jours où elles ont arrêté. Ce n’est pas d’arrêter qui définit un perdant, ce n’est jamais recommencer.

Soyez réaliste à propos des moments où il n’est pas aussi intelligent d’appuyer que d’arrêter de fumer. L’histoire est pleine d’exemples de personnes qui ont insisté et dont on n’a plus jamais entendu parler.

Conclusion :

Voilà. Les dix choses que j’ai apprises sur la vie de cette année Tour de France. Soyez assuré que je serai de retour l’année prochaine pour voir ce que je peux apprendre d’autre. Je peux même dépoussiérer ma selle de vélo, huiler ma chaîne, gonfler mes pneus et faire un tour sur le Gandy Dancer Trail. Si vous me voyez venir, vous devriez vous écarter car je suis sûr que je serai assez bancal.

The Fear of Aging or the Aging of Fear

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Have you noticed that some of your friends are less bold than they used to be?  The older people get, the more things they seem to be afraid of.  Some people are afraid of aging, but many more people exhibit what I call the “Aging of Fear.”  Wise people tell us that fear is natural and healthy, but it can also be unnatural and unhealthy.  The healthiness of fear depends on two things.

First, how realistic are your fears?  The reality of fear can be thought of as a form of risk analysis.  We all conduct our lives with an intuitive analysis of the risks that our behaviors either entail or might entail.  Frequently, these risks are distorted by emotions and perceptions.  If I live in Wisconsin, I should be more worried about bee stings or a tick bite than a shark attack or a tiger eating me.  It would be unrealistic to worry about things that are less likely to happen.  Surprisingly, many people are more afraid of things that have a low-risk potential than things that have a higher risk potential.  (What’s the Risk?)

bearsafety_3_1Second, what are you going to do about your fears?  Fear is an adaptive mechanism.  It helps to keep you alive.  If you are in the woods and walking down a trail and see a large bear or cougar coming towards you, it is quite healthy to have some degree of fear.  But fear alone is not going to save your life.  If you are paralyzed with fear you may just be eaten.  Fear is an alarm.  An alarm sounds to wake us up.  The next step is to do something.  Doing something is a risky effort with no guarantee of success.  Sadly, there are few guaranties in life, but the evidence seems to suggest that doing nothing is worse than doing something.  This is where forethought and preparedness come in.  One of my favorite quotes is by the Roman philosopher Seneca (died 65 CE) who once said that “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.”

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People who think ahead and try to identify potential negative consequences of their actions have a better chance of survival than people who do not plan ahead.  The Titanic is a great example of poor planning brought on by hubris.  They were so confident that the spotter in the Crows Nest did not even have a pair of binoculars.  In chess, a good player looks at lines of play to see what might happen given any particular move on their part.  Strategic thinking entails looking into the future to see how our behaviors or actions will play out.  If I do this, what might happen?  The more we look into the future the greater the odds become in our favor for getting the results we want.  It is of course impossible to identify every conceivable consequence either intended or not of our actions.  Life is frequently about dealing with unintended consequences but there is little doubt that the Boy Scout motto of “Be Prepared” has a lot going for it.

young man looking at an older himself in the mirror

The “Aging of Fear” is what I see in so many people who grow more and more afraid of life with each passing day.  I have friends who will not travel anymore.  Some of my friends are afraid to travel by plane.  Some have purchased concealed carry permits to protect themselves against an unknown assailant.  Every day more and more people in America seem afraid of something.  There are efforts to protect ourselves as we get older that make sense.  I have given up motorcycling.  Most of the people I used to ride with have also given the hobby up.  Falling off a motorcycle at the age of 75 or older will likely bring many more injuries to the human body than falling off the same motorcycle at the age of 25.  Anybody over sixty getting up on a roof in winter needs to have their head examined.  Older bodies are not as resilient as younger bodies.

Knowing when to hold them and when to fold them is one of the secrets of growing older gracefully and living a long and healthy life.  But planning for unintended consequences is equally as important.  There is a balance here that we need to find, adjust, and continually readjust as we get older.  It is a not a static effort that you do today and that is the end of it.  Each day requires rethinking and readjusting what we can do and what we should do.  The conscious reflective activity is crucial.  Without an intelligent appraisal of life, fear can put us in an early coffin.

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The coffin might be our bed or our home or our neighborhood.  A coffin is a metaphor for a set of boundaries.  The realism of our boundaries is vital.  Too many boundaries and we are not living but too few and our lives can be cut short much sooner than then they need to be.  One of my favorite motorcycle aphorisms was “If I ride like there is no tomorrow, there won’t be.”  I would tell myself this each time I got in the saddle of my Yamaha Super Sport R1 and went for a ride.

downloadDylan Thomas said, “Do not go gentle into that good night.” I don’t know about the raging part of his poem.  I prefer thinking about my life as I get older and not raging.  But he makes a good point.  It is all too easy to give up on life as we age.  We can live in memories of what we used to do, or we can find new activities and new levels to pursue old activities at.  For instance, I may not have the stamina to play tennis or racquet ball anymore, but I can still play pickleball or go for a short ride on my bicycle.  I used to do six-minute miles in road races.  My personal best was 38.48 on a 10K.  The race I ran for Frederic Family days this year on June 12, 2021, I averaged 10.14 per mile for a 5k.  Quite a bit off of my pace from years ago but I still got my t-shirt.  I run for t-shirts these days and not trophies.

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To conclude.  Don’t let aging or fear rob you of living.  Well thought out days with lots of contingency plans can help you to continue to live a full and happy life.  Look around you for the 80, 90 and even 100-year-old elders who are still out there enjoying life.  What keeps them ticking is not giving up but meeting each day as a challenge to live life to the fullest.

Que Sera, Sera

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I think that I am a coward.  I don’t want to grow old.  They say that growing old is not for the faint of heart.  Every day, I understand that aphorism more and more.  In the last thirty days, four friends have passed away.  Mickey, Glen, Bill, and Dick.  I could write a blog about each of them.  They were all just nearing 80 years of age.  Not one of them died of Covid.  Had you known any of them, you would have been truly fortunate.  Perhaps, one of my greatest blessings in life has been to have people like this for friends.  People who lived life to the fullest and cared about other people.  Men who went out of their way to help not just family but strangers.

Two weeks ago, we found out that Karen’s oldest daughter Julie had five brain tumors.  For the past year or so, she had been acting very strange.  She had frequent bouts of forgetfulness along with severe headaches and neck pain.  Doctors had been treating her for an enzyme imbalance for several months, but she kept getting worse.  Her husband thought it might be the onset of early dementia.

Finally, someone decided to do an MRI for her.  At first, it looked like one large brain tumor but a neurosurgeon looking more closely at the scan found four other tumors.  Julie had been diagnosed with leukemia when she was six years old and for ten years had undergone frequent trips to the hospital for chemo and radiation treatment.  They believed that the tumors were related to the radiation treatments.

Julie is now fifty-three years old.  She went in for surgery on Tuesday of this past week.  She was in surgery for nearly seven hours.  They chose to remove the largest tumor but indicated that they would need to go in for another one at a later date.  They were not able to remove the entire tumor since it was awfully close to the optic nerve and they were afraid of damaging it and causing blindness.  Ironically, they want to use radiation therapy to try and remove the rest of the tumor.

Karen flew out Friday night thinking that she could try and help Julie when she returned from the hospital to her home.  Only one person could be in the hospital each day with Julie and her husband was the obvious choice.  Karen worried all week as complications arose each day and Julie did not seem any closer to coming home.  As I write this, it is now five days past surgery and Julie is still in the hospital.  She has been in and out of intensive care since the surgery.  Karen and Rob (Julie’s husband) have agreed to alternate days spent with Julie at the hospital.  So Karen is in Minnesota now and I am watching the home front here in Arizona.

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I am growing old, but I am growing more tired of seeing people I care about either get sick or dying.  I went to a concert last night with two friends Evelia and Angie.  Karen originally was going to go but being with her daughter was the greater priority.  The concert was put on by the True Concord Singers and Orchestra in Tucson.  It was held outside on a patio at what appeared to be an old mansion that had become a private men’s club.  It was called the Mountain Oyster Club.  Since it was members only, they would not let us dine there.  I had originally thought that after the concert we could dine at this exclusive club but that was not to be.  We ended up going to a resort called the El Conquistador.  My two companions are both Latina and I wondered what they thought about dining at a place called El Conquistador.

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The concert was called “The Trailblazers” and consisted of songs arranged by women composers and based on the works of noted women writers and artists.  Some of the composers included Judith Weir, Hildegard von Bingen, Emma Lou Diemer, Ysaye Barnwell and Alice Parker.  The writers and poets included Emily Dickinson, Maya Angelou, and Edith Franklin Wyatt.

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The fifteen songs performed were arranged along a series of themes.  One set of the songs was called “Remembering Those We’ve Lost.”  Thinking back to my lost friends while these songs were performed brought tears to my eyes.  Reflecting on what it might mean to me if Karen should pass away before I do, I could not bear the thought.  Coward that I am, I am hoping to pass from this world without too many more losses of those I love.  Here are a few of the lyrics from the songs in the concert.  It is of course quite different and much more moving hearing these sung but the lyrics themselves are quite compelling.

From: “My Companion” by Edith Franklin Wyatt (1873-1958)

Let the roadside fade:

Morning on the mountain top,

Hours along the valley,

Days of walking on and on,

Pulse away in silence,

Let the world all fade,

Break and pass away,

Yet, will this remain,

Deep beyond all singing,

Beautiful past singing.

We are here together,

You and I together,

Wonderful past singing.

From: “Wanting Memories” by Ysaye Barnwell (1946- Present)

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me,
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me,
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.

You used to rock me in the cradle of your arms,
You said you’d hold me till the pains of life were gone.
You said you’d comfort me in times like these and now I need you,
Now I need you, and you are gone.

I am sitting here wanting memories to teach me,
To see the beauty in the world through my own eyes.
Since you’ve gone and left me, there’s been so little beauty,
But I know I saw it clearly through your eyes.

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I finished a run this morning in the mountains.  Saw a large coyote on the trail and thought at first it was a deer.  You are not likely to see a deer in the desert, but the coyote was large and brown and from a distance it did look like a small deer.  As I ran, I could not help but thinking of the song by Doris Day “Que Sera, Sera.”  The lyrics that go “Whatever will be, will be.  The futures not ours to see, Que Sera, Sera.”

We scheme, we plan, we strategize, we organize, we bribe, we cajole, we blackmail so that we can control the future.  We pray to whatever god or gods we believe in to keep our loved ones safe from harm or pain.  I am sure that every one of you reading this would rather suffer death or pain before seeing your family, friends or children suffering.  Jesus said, “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13

But as written in Ecclesiastes, it is all vanity.  Nothing but vanity.  I can’t stop a single person I know from dying or suffering pain.  The best that I can do is to be there for them during their suffering.  This is the role that my spouse has chosen to take with her oldest daughter.  It is a role that I would gladly have pass by me since coward that I am, I find it harder to watch my family, friends and others suffer then to deal with my own suffering.

I once loved the poem that admonished us to: “Grow old along with me, the best is yet to be.”  Now I wonder, what could Robert Browning have been thinking?  I am waiting for “the best that is yet to be.”  I must be missing something.  As each day goes by and as yet another friend leaves this earth, I am more and more wondering what I will have left when they are all gone, and I am the only one here.

Nothing I have ever worked for, saved for, bought, owned, or possess will have any meaning without the ability to share it with those I love.  I think about walking through the house where I am now sitting without my spouse or friends or family and it is by far a fate worse than death and dying.  I won’t rage into the night.  I am reflecting upon death as a comforting blanket than I can pull over my head and use to hide from the sorrows of the world.  I will not rush it, but as many have realized that have gone before me, at some point, we all know that our time has passed, and that we must leave this world.  As for what will come after, I can only say “Que Sera, Sera.”

I think you will enjoy this song:  https://youtu.be/xZbKHDPPrrc 

Que Sera, Sera

When I grew up and fell in love
I asked my sweetheart, what lies ahead
Will we have rainbows
Day after day
Here’s what my sweetheart said

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future’s not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

Optimist, Pessimist or Realist

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Are you an optimist, pessimist, or realist?  I have a good friend who always says that he leans towards being a “guy whose glass is half-full.”  I guess he is a pessimist.  I know I am married to an optimist, because whenever I say anything negative about anyone, she will provide a contrasting optimistic perspective.  I tend to believe that I lean towards pessimism.  I like to think that I am a realist.  When someone asks me if my glass is half-full or half-empty my answer will depend on whether my glass is being filled up or emptied.  Nevertheless, I suspect many would find that my blogs reflect a rather negative view of life and humanity.

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Climate Change:

Pessimist: “The end is near; the end is near.  We have destroyed the world with carbon pollution, and it is too late to do anything about it.  Nature magazine published a study which shows that Global Warming stated as early as 1830 CE.”

Optimist: “There is still time to do something about climate change.  Humanity has faced disasters before, and we always overcome them.  They thought that we would destroy ourselves with nuclear weapons, but we learned to use other strategies to deal with our differences.”

Realist: “Maybe we have just been lucky.”

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Corrupt Government:

Pessimist:  Politicians since the days of Plato and Socrates have always been corrupt.  There is no such thing as an honest politician.  Lying comes naturally to all politicians and the truth is only an inconvenience for most of them.  Politicians have become worse and worse over the years in terms of lacking morality and ethics.  They will always do what is expedient and they are all amoral.”

Optimist: “How can you make such a blanket generalization?  There have been many good politicians and many or them are very honest and moral.  Look at Marcus Aurelius, Rómulo Betancourt, Thomas Sankara, Nelson Mandela, Lee Kuan Yew, Jimmy Carter, and Muhammadu Buhari.  These men were all honest leaders who fought for the welfare of their people and did it selflessly.  They were capable, incorruptible leaders who made a real difference in the lives of their followers.

Realist: “You win some and you lose some.  On the whole, it would seem that we have more leaders like Trump than we do leaders like Gandhi.”

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Education:

Pessimist: “Pouring money into education is a waste of time.  Kids are learning less today than they did in the early days of public education.  Half the kids in school are bored.  Teacher turnover is at an all time high and classrooms are chaotic.  Parents do not support teacher discipline anymore.  Schools have become jails for most students who would rather be home.  Kids today do not see the value in education because parents do not.  Schools are just factories for the more privileged to come out and get the high paying jobs in society while the rest of the pack will work for Walmart or McDonalds.”

Optimist: “We live in a more educated society today then even twenty years ago.  Education has been responsible for raising the standard of living the world over.  People are living longer than ever because of scientific advances in hygiene, medicine, and public health.  Without education, we would still be dying in our mid-forties instead of in our mid-seventies.  Kids today learn different things then when we were in school.  They are more visually literate, and computers have been a new tool that students today are using to change the world for the better.”

Realist: “We seem to take two steps forward and one back.  For every pro about education today, there is a con.  For every pro about technology there is a con.  We need to have a broader perspective on change that will enable us to embrace new ideas and let go of old ideas that no longer work.”  We simply keep adding pages to school textbooks without taking any out.”

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I could go on and on with examples of the quite different outlooks that life provides us.  Who is right?  I doubt that we will ever really know.  Many of the old sayings exist to provide us with some direction on how to live.  A friend of mine tried to convince me that writing should be positive and inspirational.  His motto was, “You catch more flies with sugar than with vinegar.”  According to my friend, people will ignore writing that is too dismal and negative.  It is his opinion that writers should provide a path forward to growth and development.  I told another friend the other day that “hope without action is hopeless.”  It is not enough to just hope for change, you need to do something about it.  I like to think that my writings provide a path forward.

Nevertheless, we are all familiar with the concept of being too “Pollyannish.”  Someone who is too Pollyannish always sees the positive in everything.  Pushing the envelope on optimism they become extremists who see a bright spot in every dark endeavor.  We sometimes refer to these people as wearing “rose colored” glasses.  A realist would argue that sometimes a bright spot does not exist.

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My writing instructor, Dr. Wedin informed our class a few weeks ago that the story of Pollyanna, a 1913 novel written by American author Eleanor H. Porter, has been grossly misrepresented.  In common usage, a Pollyannish person is someone who is too unrealistic about life and its difficulties.  I decided to watch one of the many movies based on the novel and found a quite different interpretation of young Miss Pollyanna.  One that I assume was more in line with the novel.  In the movie, Pollyanna is a young girl who faces her share of joys and unhappiness.  However, remembering what her father told her, she always tries to find a bright spot in life regardless of how difficult things may be going for her.  Pollyanna’s philosophy of life centers on what she calls “The Glad Game,” an optimistic and positive attitude she learned from her father.

As a man who has leaned strongly towards pessimism for most of my life, I found myself admiring Pollyanna’s attitude and efforts.  They say pessimists live longer lives but optimists live happier lives.  There is something about pessimism that wears one down and tires others out.  Friends, family, spouses, siblings, and children all have a difficult time being around someone who is relentlessly pessimistic.  Just as hope without action is useless, pessimism without a plan to change things is depressing, gloomy and dreary.  Would you rather be around a pessimist or an optimist?

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But what about our third choice?  Would you want to choose a realist for a life partner?  Is this the Golden Mean that the Greeks worshipped?  I think not.  The problem with being a so-called realist is twofold.  The first problem is that realism must be based on a foundation of facts and evidence.  Herein, you can immediately understand the problem.  It is difficult if not impossible to obtain evidence that will prove irrefutable and reliable.  Life is full of lies, half-truths, unsubstantiated facts and impossible to find evidence.

The second problem with realism is that it is not useful without a path forward or some means of making sense out of reality.  Knowing reality is meaningless if you cannot do something about it.  Finding the best path forward always involves a number of decisions that go beyond the facts.  For instance, if I decide that my car needs a new engine, will it be more cost effective to purchase a replacement engine or buy a new car?  You might be able to work out an equation to make this decision, but I guarantee you that there will be several unknowns in your equation.  Every unknown impacts the outcome of your decision making.  Then of course, there are what we call “unintended consequences.”  Charting the unknown, even realists must go into mysterious territory.

So we arrive back to where we started.  Would you rather be an optimist, pessimist, or realist?  I would love to hear your comments on this question.  Please feel free to send me a reply.

Only send optimistic comments though.  😊

The Seven Greatest Appreciations of Life:  Friends and Family

Adults and kids sitting on the grass in a garden

The famous French philosopher Sartre said that, “Hell is other people.”  What I think he meant to say was that “Friends and family could be hell.”  A number of years ago the mother of a good friend of ours passed away.  The fight between her siblings over who was going to get what was vicious and resulted in a permanent schism between the siblings.  I was commiserating one day with her over our very dysfunctional families.  I noted, “Wouldn’t it be nice if we had normal families?”  My friend replied, “We do have normal families.”  I knew exactly what she meant.  Years earlier when I was attending support group meetings for men who were violent and abusive, we would always hear newcomers say, “My family is so screwed up.  I wish I had:” (Pick one)

  • A more loving mother
  • A non-alcoholic father
  • Parents who did things with us
  • A father who was not a gambler
  • A mother who was not a drug addict
  • A mother or father who was not always gone
  • A mother or father who was not abusive

The more seasoned men in the group would listen to these plaints for awhile but eventually tolerance would run out.  Then you would hear someone say, “If you want a happy family, turn on TV and watch “Leave it to Beaver” or “Father Knows Best.”  The rest of us would sagely nod our heads.  In our milieu, healthy happy families did not exist.

“All happy families are alike; each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way.” ― Leo Tolstoy , Anna Karenina

downloadWell, you are probably thinking, “You can’t always pick your relatives, but you can always pick your friends.”  This is absolutely true, but how many people do you know that have lifelong friends that they can trust and rely on in an emergency?  I could start a long list of friends that I have left behind over the years for one reason or another.  I have ex-friends who became rabid Trump supporters whom I said goodbye to.  I have ex-friends who said goodbye to me, and I never knew why.  I just did not hear from them anymore.  I have other ex-friends who I could no longer relate to for one reason or another.  Friends seem to me to be like annual flowers.  They pop up for a while and then they fade away.  I have five good friends left.  I would have more, but some died early and one committed suicide.

You may be scratching your head now and thinking, “What does this narrative of misery have to do with appreciating our friends and family?”  One answer is that I do not like to sugarcoat things.  Most of life is composed of the good, the bad and the ugly.  I Latino-Family-small-1-850x566have put the bad and the ugly out first so that you would not simply hear a chorus of how wonderful friends and relatives are.  The truth of the matter is that as in most of life, you often have to take the bad with the good.

“The truth is, everyone is going to hurt you. You just got to find the ones worth suffering for.” ― Bob Marley

Another point for acknowledging the bad side of things is that it helps us to appreciate the good side.  If things were always great we would never appreciate the bad.  We love the sunny days more after the rainy days.  We enjoy a good movie or a good painting because we know what a bad movie or a bad painting is like.  We develop models in our heads for the good and the bad and they are to some extent a mirror image of each other.  The Yin and Yang of life is a push and a pull.  Happiness, joy, and good health are more appreciated when we have experienced the opposite in our lives.  We appreciate good relatives and good friends more when we acknowledge some of the “mistakes” that life has dealt us.  We rise above life by dealing with the bad, putting it aside and saying prayers of thanks for the good friends and family in our lives.

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Family:

I do not know how many “Leave it to Beaver” families are out there, but I do have many friends who have had loving fathers and mothers.  Their families might not have been perfect, but they learned good values from their parents.  The other night we had two friends (Tom and Nancy) over for dinner.  We started talking about some of our family.  Since we were all over 70, our fathers, mothers and several siblings had all passed away.  We shared some of the good things we missed about these relationships.  Our conversation prompted me to ask, “What are the three most important things you learned from your parents?”  The discussion on what we learned was heart-warming and lasted nearly an hour.

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The answers to my question elicited several traits that we had all absorbed from our parents.  Among the common ones were a value for hard work, education, and honesty.  Tom mentioned that he learned, “You should always finish your work before you play.”  I could hear the same words echoing from my father.  Karen mentioned that she learned the value of frugality from her mom.  Nancy added that she learned caring from her parents.  This was seconded by both Tom and Karen.  I added that I learned to be accepting of other cultures and races.  My father was intolerant of racism and prejudice.  I grew up fighting for the under-dog as a result of what I learned from my parents.

“I sustain myself with the love of family.”   ― Maya Angelou

Good relatives and good families infuse us with good values and good character.  You learn what you live with.  Live with honesty, hard work, and compassion and you will be a person who cares for others and who is unselfish in their efforts to succeed.  Success is more than just one person succeeding, it is an entire world succeeding.  I have always loved the line from John Donne’s poem, “And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; It tolls for thee.” (No Man is an Island, Meditation XVII, Devotions upon Emergent Occasions)

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Friends:

Aristotle was one of the wisest men who ever lived.  Perhaps he was not as wise as Socrates, but he left us numerous writings which provide a guide for right living.  Aristotle wrote quite a lot about the issue of friendship (See his “Nicomachean Ethics, Books VIII and IX).  He commented that it was good to have many friends.  However, Aristotle had a typology of friendship based on three characteristics.  These characteristics were:  pleasure, utility, and virtue.

e232a636b958e0e88ab2b927e3db8531Friendships based on utility derive some perceived benefits from each other.  Perhaps helping each other with building or fixing things.  Friendships based on pleasure derive fun or shared activities together.  Friends who canoe or ski or golf together.  Friendships based on virtue derive mutual benefit from pursuing shared values and goals.  Friends who work together for a common good.  According to Aristotle, friendships based on pleasure and utility tend to be shorter than friendships based on virtue or goodness because needs and pleasures often change over time.  Our values in life are less transient and more permanent.  Friends who share your same values will be friends for life.

“I would rather walk with a friend in the dark, than alone in the light.”  ― Helen Keller

The value of a good friend is immeasurable.  Someone who understands you.  Someone you can trust.  Someone who cares about you and will step up in your hour of need.  Someone who will have your back when you are in a crisis.  Someone who consoles you when you are in grief or mourning.  Someone who cares about your life and wants to share your joys and your pain.  I hope that everyone reading this blog has at least one good friend.  Count your blessings if you have more than that.

downloadI have written about friendship several times in my blogs (See my Friends and Friendship: Part 1 and Part 2).  I have said that Facebook friends should not be counted as true friends.  FB friends are closer to what I call acquaintances.  Facebook can introduce you to possible friends but it will never be able to create real friends.  True friendship is difficult if not impossible to establish on FB or any other social medium.  Friendship is like marriage.  You get out of it what you put into it.  If you look at the high number of divorces today, it may blind you to the almost equal number of marriages that last for decades.  My spouse has some friends since grade school.  I have a few friends going back to high school.  We both share bonds of time and life experiences with these friends.

“Friendship is unnecessary, like philosophy, like art…. It has no survival value; rather it is one of those things which give value to survival.”   ― C.S. Lewis, The Four Loves

In my experience talking to other married couples, the ones that last are the ones that invest time and effort into their relationship.  Good marriages take work.  Good marriages are not taken for granted.  Good friendships also take work.  By work, I mean taking risks to improve your friendship.  The risks can be self-disclosure, honesty, confrontation and saying no.  Good friends are not born, they are made.  And like everything in life, they require effort and maintenance.

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The Beatles had a song and one of the lines was, “I get by with a little help from my friends.”  Hardly a day goes by that I do not think of this line and its relevance for both family and friends.  We are social animals, and we need other people.  We need people to love and people who love us.  Our friends and family are the wellspring for giving and receiving love.   The Covid Pandemic has clearly shown the negative impacts that isolation has on people the world over.  The biggest joy that will come out of defeating the Pandemic will be when we can all freely share time with our loved ones again.

The Seven Greatest Appreciations of Life:  Travel and Food

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Yesterday I had an argument with myself.  One of my key values is gratitude.  Years ago, I attended a Demontreville Retreat, and the Retreat Master gave us a sermon.  In the sermon, he told us that Saint Ignatius Loyola believed that ingratitude was the gateway to all sins and misbehaviors.  I thought about this and realized that I am often ungrateful for the joys and benefits that life has given me.  I take things for granted.  I ignore things.  I am simply unappreciative of things.  I compare myself to others and come up ungrateful and angry.  Wondering why or how these people got more than I did.  More money, more talent, more fame, more prestige.

When I started to think about writing this blog, I was confronted with a question.  Are gratitude and appreciation the same thing?  I discovered at a marriage retreat that Karen and I attended that tolerance and respect are not the same thing.  Once, I had thought that my goal in life should be to tolerate others.  I frequently used the quote that “The test of courage comes when we are in the minority and the test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.”  I thought tolerance was the epitome of human behavior.  I learned at this retreat that respecting others is much different than simply tolerating them.

gratitudeappreciation2Thus, the question arose in my mind about the difference or relationship between appreciation and gratitude.  Perhaps this is like asking how many angels can dance on the head of a needle, but I thought the question deserved some reflection.  Is the relationship between gratitude and appreciation similar to the relationship between tolerance and respect?

After looking up the definition of both words, I have come to the conclusion that gratitude and appreciation are more symbiotic than tolerance and respect.  To have gratitude is to have an appreciation for something.  However, while gratitude is easily defined, the concept of appreciation presents more difficulty.  Websters Online Dictionary defines appreciation as: “Recognition and enjoyment of the good qualities of someone or something.”  I may be grateful for something and this is a heartfelt or emotional process.  Enjoying the good qualities of someone or something is more of a mental or cognitive process.  What exactly do I appreciate about my spouse?  I say every day that I am grateful for a wife like Karen but why?  What are her good qualities that I appreciate?  How often do I compliment her on these qualities?

In this blog, I am going to talk about appreciating travel and food.  Covid 19 has rendered both of these tasks more difficult.  One of the symptoms of the Covid virus is a loss of smell and taste.  Without smell and taste, you cannot tell the difference between a medium rare steak and roast chicken or between vanilla cheesecake and a chocolate brownie.  Until you lose these abilities, you may never realize how important smell and taste are to your life.  Food is never something to simply sustain life.

“If more of us valued food and cheer and song above hoarded gold, it would be a merrier world.”  ― J.R.R. Tolkien

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well.”  ― Virginia Woolf, A Room of One’s Own.

The Covid virus has also made travel an onerous task.  Countries have closed their borders.  Many nations have instituted mandatory quarantines on travelers arriving in their countries.  Dangers exist in crowded places such as airports and airplanes.  Fools are out there in public insisting on their rights not to wear a mask.  Travel means to be in closed confined spaces with a multitude of people.  All situations which exaggerate the risk of getting the Covid virus.  Furthermore, who wants to come down with a deadly virus in a foreign country 5000 miles from home.  These facts have made travel truly frightful for many formerly adventurous people.

“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only a page.” — Saint Augustine

“Well, I’ve done a lot of traveling and, I think over all, travel does broaden one’s soul. If anything at all, that’s probably the most important of what’s happened to me during the past five or six months.  — Malcom X, An Interview with Bernice Bass (December 27, 1964)

Travel and food go arm in arm and hand in hand.  You must eat if you are traveling.  Travel exposes you to mysteries every step of the way.  What will this new land be like?  What will the people be like in this foreign country?  Will they like Americans?  How will I communicate with them?  What do they eat?  Will their food make me sick?  What foods should I avoid?  How will I know what their food tastes like?

Belize Trip-035 (3)If you do not like to try new things, you should not travel.  One of my mottos is “I have never met a food I did not like.”  Karen and I eat at street vendors.  We often shop locally and pick out foods that we do not even know what they are.  When we were on Naxos, we found a meat market.  We entered and were greeted with a variety of skinned animals hanging from hooks.  There were no labels on these various creatures.  We assumed they sold the meat in kilos, so we asked for a ½ kilo of this and ½ kilo of that.  We decided that we would take the meats or whatever they were back to our little apartment and cook them.  We figured that once we did this, we might be able to guess what we were eating.  This was many years ago and I do not think we ever figured out what we were eating.  The food was good and twenty-five years later we are alive and kicking.  It was a great adventure.  One that we have replicated many times.

Karen and I avoid prearranged travel tours.  We have a formula that has worked for us over the years.  We rent a small apartment with cooking facilities.  We then take day trips by car to places that we want to visit, or we might take a train or plane.  We do not have to pack for more than an overnight stay and we have our own “home” to come back to.  Having kitchen facilities means we can eat out or in.  Days that we decide to eat in will find us at the local food markets.  It is always exciting going to these markets.  We buy things that we have never eaten before.  Another of my sayings is that, “I have never met a food that I did not like.”

Belize Trip-083 (2)I was forty years old before I had my first trip out of the USA.  I had always wanted to travel and my four years in the military had not provided me the opportunity to travel.  Later on, I became so busy with school and work that traveling seemed like a remote luxury.  One day I was on a plane coming back from Thompson, Manitoba.  (Canada does not count as foreign travel.)  I had been working with a mining client that week and was now headed home.  Next to me sat a young woman holding a travel guide to Spain.  It was May and schools were getting out for the summer.  I remarked “Are you going to Spain?”  “Yes,” she replied.  “Oh”, I said, “you must be very excited.”  She answered somewhat petulantly, “No, I went there last summer but my parents wanted me to go again since I am studying Spanish.”

Peru Trip 2007-334 (2)I did not say anymore to the young woman, but I thought “My, would I love to go to Spain or anyplace for that matter.”  Then and there in that moment, I made up my mind.  Karen and I were going to travel.  We were going to see the world.  When I arrived home, I shared my decision and determination with Karen.  She was delighted but wondered how we would manage it.  We have since been to 33 countries for a total of about 25 or more trips.  We like to go to one country and see various sections of it rather than trying to see the whole of Europe or Asia in one trip.  Usually we go for three weeks or so.  We are very budget oriented and try to behave like pilgrims rather than like tourists.  Our trips are usually a balancing act between being a pilgrim and being a tourist.

What have I learned from these trips about the world?  I would say my two greatest insights have been as follows:

  1. Americans are not exceptional.  We are privileged to have been brought up in a country with a great deal of natural and cultural advantages.  People the world over are as smart as we are.  People the world over work as hard or harder than Americans.  The inventiveness and level of development in many countries would astonish many Americans.
  2. People in other countries want the same things that we do.  People all want a successful life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.  Wherever we have been, we have seen people striving to live a good life surrounded by friends and relatives that they can share it with. 

We try to respect the cultures and people we visit.  We take some time to practice languages where we are going to travel.  We research cultural faux pas and expectations so as to avoid insulting or disrespecting other people.  We are visitors in their countries, and we are always grateful for the help that people give us.  Many times we have been helped by people whom we have never met before and who have gone out of their way to befriend us.  We have always been treated with respect on our travels and not as outsiders.  We have made many friends during our journeys.

Conclusions:

Travel to another country may be as educational as a year in school.  A life lived without travel is not really a life lived.  Travel requires risk but the rewards are great.  You will meet people who can enrich your life beyond your wildest dreams.  And to top it all off, the icing on the cake, will be the new foods that will expand your palette of tastes and smells and provide a variety to your diet that will make your life infinitely more interesting.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”  ― Mark Twain, The Innocents Abroad.

Intriguing Stories for the 21st Century: To Make You Laugh, Cry and Think

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I have put together a selection of short stories that I have published over the years on my blog.  I thought it would be nice to have them all in one place.  If you have enjoyed any of my tales, I think that you will enjoy this book.  It contains 25 of my favorites pieces of writing. 

 

The fables in this book are unique and cover a wide range of topics.  It is a book of make believe that is designed to challenge the way that you look at life.  Some of these stories are Aesop like, and some are Mark Twain like.  Some of them will make you laugh.  Some will make you cry.  Some contain morals and parables that may help you think differently about your life and the world.

 

 Intriguing Stories for the 21st Century: To Make You Laugh, Cry and Think    Kindle Edition

by John Persico (Author), Socorro Luna (Editor) — Feb, 9, 2021, Kindle Edition, $4.99

 

If you prefer a paperback edition, it is available at the following link for $9.99

Intriguing Stories for the 21st Century: To Make You Laugh, Cry and Think

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