My Life – Above Ground

The Point of Gratitude
December 31, 2008, 5:22 pm
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So many times each day, I am in a state of extreme gratitude. Oddly enough, most of the time it has nothing to do with circumstances of the day; sometimes I’ll just be sitting there in silence and there’ll be a surge of energy coupled with incredible gratefulness. Although my mind tends to attach that gratitude to something or another that’s immediately relevant in my life, my hunch is that it’s a natural spring that sprouts without a rhyme or a reason.

A while back, I had a thought of writing a note to gratitude every night before I sleep … to honor the deep connections that I cherish.

In our networked, information-heavy world, we are suffocated with lots of superficial connections – MySpace, Facebook or LinkedIn, or it’s an email from your co-worker’s neighbor whom you met once or an interesting blogger that your sister has been reading for a year or an artist whose photos are up on Flickr. Yes, your addressbook has a thousand email addresses but really, how many of those people would wake up at 1AM to help you out? Really?  C’mon, be honest…

And it’s not just people. Our connection to ideas is also superficial. We will watch ‘Inconvenient Truth’ and talk about sustainability but we’ll still use plastic, not change the light bulbs in our house, and secretly admire SUV’s. We will donate to a homeless shelter or sponsor a well in a developing country, but we will ignore a homeless man on the street and indulge in long showers everyday. We will read spiritual books and quote scriptures, but we can’t get along with those closest to us and we never practice being still.

Such paradoxes are a reality, for all of us, not because we don’t believe in things but because we’re confused about what to believe in. Hedging, weighing in the opportunity cost, cashing in for the quick fix, we sink in the quicksand of information, mis-information, dis-information.

And that’s where gratitude comes in for me. Gratitude creates that stillness that allows truth to arise, clears out the lens through which I look at the world, and gives me that extra umph needed to make my life my message.

And it’s under this auspice that I want to place the exclamation on the great year that was 2008, and welcome in the new one. 

Gratitude.  It is the ultimate cure-all…


Holiday Daydreaming
November 28, 2008, 3:55 pm
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While stuffing my face yesterday, listening and watching my family around the table, the memories of spending past holidays far away from these same family members and friends – onboard the USS SEMMES and USS NICHOLAS in the late ’80s and early ’90s flooded my mind.  How I would daydream about my future life.

I distinctly remember one year during the Holiday season – I believe it was 1989.  Standing, or rather swaying back & forth – on the bow of the SEMMES, sea water spraying across my face and gazing into the dark water that is the North Atlantic, asking myself the self-examining question – where will I be in 5 years, 10 years, 20 years?  What will I be doing?  Where will I live?  How will I spend those future holidays?   

I’m sure you’ve done something like this too… daydream about what’s next.  What will be. 

In hindsight, I look back at all of the places I’ve been… all of the people that I’ve had the pleasure to spend the holidays with – the vast diversity of experiences:  from having a Cuban Thanksgiving in Panama, to having an authentic Italian Christmas in Santa Barbara, to being Santa Claus for over 100 kids at an orphanage in Los Angeles, to having my first Filipino Christmas in Eagle Rock, to deep-frying a Turkey in Long Beach, to having a Tennessee Thanksgiving in Wyoming, to having a family Thanksgiving vacation in Oklahoma… I never could have daydreamed any of that.  My reality has been better than my dreams.

It’s not so much about what’s next, rather, what has been… at least as it relates to the holidays.  I’ve truly lived a full life so far… for that, I’m grateful.

To Consume or not to consume, that is the question
November 19, 2008, 11:22 pm
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As I write this, I sit in a comfortable office chair, which I’m using only because the old one became tattered and old.  I’m looking at the screen of a laptop that was replaced a few months ago as a result of it only being newer than the last. I’m wearing clothes – all less than one year old, that have replaced, again, old and tattered ones. 

Consumers.  We can all carry that label.  Like rabid animals, we consume everything in front of us – only to throw away things once they’ve reached our own personal use lifecycle. 

I’m someone who considers himself a bit of a stodgy user of aging stuff… but I – like 99.99999% of Americans are the same.  We seemingly can’t help ourselves.  It’s like we’re addicted to stuff.  Newer.  Better. Brighter.  Longer-lasting.  [Insert clever marketing adjective here].

What type of personal and societal culture has this created though?  You can say that it’s the whole ‘keepin’ up with the Joneses’ disease, but I submit that it’s much deeper than that.  I believe underneath it all is a sense of entitlement. 

We may not say it out loud, but “I deserve” is something that many of us feel… deep down.  Think about it.  For example, what happens when the electricity goes out in your home?  When it happens, the first words out of most folks’ mouths are “Come on, when are they going to have this back on!  I need my electricity!  How can they do this to me?!”  We feel like we deserve it.  And this example is only a drop in a very large and deep bucket. 

While it has a great end result, the process of honestly defining ones needs versus ones wants is hard, huh?  Who wants to give up things for which they are accustomed to having?  I lump myself into this too – I think most of us have our needs and wants a bit skewed at the moment.  The current state of the economy is a vibrant depiction of this state of the being, if you will. 

Here’s another example – I helped my dad build a house when I was young.  Times were a bit tough… with building a new home, running a small business and trying to keep 3 kids and a wife fed, clothed, etc.  Well, if we bent one nail when building our home, we couldn’t just keep reaching for a new nail… we straightened the bent one out, and made it work.  This is what we need to do on a more grand scale.  Straightened the nail and make it work. 

In reality, we don’t need the newest, the brightest and certainly not the most expensive.  It might also be a nice exercise for us to do on a macro scale – to “straighten and reuse the nail.”  Make it a habit to consistently ask “do I really need this?”  It will not only make us happier, more contented people, but will also help our economy, our society and our environment become healthier and more sustainable.

Thank A Vet Today
November 11, 2008, 7:37 pm
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There’s not very many other things that unite men as much as facing evil head-on in war… today, I wanted to say a heart-felt, emotional and sincere thank you to all of those brothers who served before, with and after me.  I consider it one of the most significant pleasures of my life to have served with you in our nation’s military. 

Thank you for your service & brotherhood.

“Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”

Gettin’ Ready for Turkey Day
November 10, 2008, 10:58 pm
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I know I say this every year – but again, I really can’t believe it’s almost Thanksgiving!  This year has flown by… seems like time speeds up as I get older, actually…

In preparation for the triptophan-laden day of feasting, thought I’d throw a few thoughts out there to help get my mind in the proper place to truly celebrate the day – shoot me your comments about it – I’d love to discuss with you…

– “Gratitude is not only the greatest of virtues, but the parent of all the others.” – Cicero

– “As we express our gratitude, we must never forget that the highest appreciation is not to utter words, but to live by them.” – John F. Kennedy

– “The deepest craving of human nature is the need to be appreciated.” – William James

– “Saying thank you is more than good manners. It is good spirituality.” – Alfred Painter

– “To educate yourself for the feeling of gratitude means to take nothing for granted, but to always seek out and value the kind that will stand behind the action.” – Albert Schweitzer

– “Silent gratitude isn’t much use to anyone.” G.B. Stern

… with that last quote in mind, may I please say thank you to all who have helped to shape my life.  Truly, I am grateful.

The Silence is Deafening
October 22, 2008, 1:53 am
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Let’s face it… our world is LOUD!  It’s non-stop.  It’s ‘always-connected.’  It’s everyone.  Everywhere.  In your face.  From the moment we wake up, to those last few moments before drifting off.

Don’t you wish it would all just stop?  Just for a second? 

Is it any wonder why we are all so uncomfortable with it?  We yurn for it, but really – even the shortest moment of silence makes the vast majority of us uneasy.  We have to SAY something… we have to DO something.  

Think about it – when you’re in a group, or just you and one other person for that matter… just sitting still and not talking… not doing anything… it’s uncomfortable, huh?  But it’s something that we need so badly.

Try it.  When you’re next by yourself.  Sit still.  Be quite.  And think.  Ponder.  Think about the your life.  Your friends.  Your family. 

Then try it when you’re next with someone or even a group.  Suggest that you all take some time to think.  Don’t talk.  Don’t DO anything.  Sit still and think. 

Like I’ve experienced, I think you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results.

Cherishing and Pursuing Life
September 30, 2008, 4:45 pm
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I ran across the following Alfred Lord Tennyson poem – one which I remember having to memorize in high school – and it rekindled a spark in me to both see the beauty of what has been, and pursue the opportunities that exist for tomorrow… I would encourage you to read this and ponder on it…

Come, my friends,
‘T is not too late to seek a newer world.
Push off, and sitting well in order smite
The sounding furrows; for my purpose holds
To sail beyond the sunset, and the baths
Of all the western stars, until I die.
It may be that the gulfs will wash us down:
It may be we shall touch the Happy Isles,
And see the great Achilles, whom we knew.
Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’
We are not now that strength which in old days
Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;
One equal temper of heroic hearts,
Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will
To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.