Sunday, March 29, 2009

Boy oh boy, has that ever happened to you? Sure it has. Maybe not that exact scenario but some similar incident has, where you've forgotten someone's name or called them by the wrong name. At the least, it's embarrassing to say nothing of thwarting your attempts to make a good impression on a new acquaintance. Sure, that's happened to everyone. How about forgetting the name of a friend or co-worker that you've know for years and even seen almost everyday, at least at work.

Up 'til now, I don't remember ever forgetting the names of my wife, children or siblings, but I can say with surety that at some point or another I've forgotten the name of friends, co-workers and close acquaintances at least once,probably more. Sometimes it's with people I've known nearly my entire life. The scenario usually runs like this: I notice the approach of a familiar face (I never forget a face), and I immediately draw a blank as far as their name goes. I wave or nod, they do likewise while saying , hi rel. I give a reciprocal nod and the tell all; Hi dude, bud, babe etc., and throw in a; hey man, how's it goin'. Nice day don't ya think? You and they both know: you've forgotten their name, if only momentarily.

You might be thinking; what's the big deal rel? Everybody does it and nobody thinks poorly of you for doing it. Wrong! I think poorly of me for forgetting their name.

I think it's extremely important to remember peoples names, regardless of whether I've met them once or known them for years. It makes me feel significant when someone recalls me by name and I know that feeling is reciprocal. We all like to be called by our name. Everytime you use someone's name in an encounter or conversation with them, you cement a feeling of familiarity, conviviality, warmth and likability. It's a way of saying; you are important to me.

Because this name thing is so important to me I've developed varied mind manipulation strategies to help me minimize the incidents where I am unable, at a given moment, to access the name of someone I meet. The most difficult time is the instantaneous meeting; you round a corner or the elevator door opens and there you are: face to face. If I have a few seconds between face recognition and conversational distance I force my thoughts to something totally unrelated to that person. Thinking, I'm not going to think of what their name is, is counter productive. I have to consciously divert my attention to the headline in the paper, or what will I have to do first thing when I get to my work space or what was the last thing I heard on the news before I turned the tube off. Actively concentrating on some unrelated process is the key. Ninety-nine times out of one hundred, when I come within hi-ya distance their name is right there on the tip of my tongue and rolls off with equanimity. I call it serendipitous memory.

I know, I know, most people think serendipity happens to us and is not any result of effort on our part. Perhaps that is true, but let's take this mind manipulation thingy a little further. Indulge me please.

It's generally accepted that serendipity is the effect of discovering something desirable while looking for something else entirely. In other words, It's the curious happenstance of finding something we weren't looking for, but find we want it anyway.

Calling my name recollection technique serendipity may be blurring the edges of the definition some what, or is it? I've found something by looking at or for something else, albeit something I was looking for. Can serendipity be a mindful thing? I think it can.

Our mind is our friend and wants to help us achieve our goals, but it doesn't like to be bullied or pressured into performing. Some examples: We've misplace our car keys. Look high and low. Think, think to no avail. Move on with other tasks or locate the alternate set of keys and off you go. Sooner than later the eureka light comes on and you remember where you put your main set of keys.

You're relating a story and the name of someone in the story eludes you. You say; "oh, it'll come to me later," and sure enough, at some point later in the day the name pops into your consciousness.

How about this one, I know this is my favorite; You want to or have to write a piece to a prompt or a writing site you subscribe to and darn it your mind is a blank or at least nothing cogent or coherent flows from your pen. You say, "I'll sleep on it." In the morning the master piece flows onto the paper like magic.

That's just three examples, I'm sure you can think of others. Where am I going with this? I think you know: Give your mind a task and then leave it to it's own devices. No pressure or deadlines, just a request. Then fagetaboutit! No, really. Put your consciousness into other endeavors. Stop! don't go back there to check on your problem solving mind's progress. Leave it alone. Your subconscious mind knows what you want. Let it find the solution while you do other things that your good at and serendipitously you'll find what you were looking for.

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Sunday, March 22, 2009

A web page which I frequent, Helium, is for writers, citizen journalists and so on. They are always looking for contributors to write articles on any topic that you can imagine. Frequently they sponser contests. This weekend I visited and discovered their current contest; Helium’s Responsibility Project Writing Contest. There are 15 prompts and I selected, Should our politicians be held to a higher moral standard? My submission follows:

Do moral standards come in levels? There are jobs with differing levels of responsibility.
A person’s integrity may be measured as high or low. There is but one moral standard and one either meets it or they do not. Being held to a “higher moral standard” is like being asked to give more than 100%. Although we frequently hear people say, “he gave 110%”, or some figure above 100%, in reality, any one of us is only capable of giving 100% at any given time.

It has become common to expect athletes, teachers, religious leaders, politicians, scout leaders, any and all people in positions of responsibility for a public trust to lead lives of exemplary behavior, at least in public: to set the example. We expect these individuals to set aside their humanity. When they succumb to the frailties to which the more common man gives in to, we the public, raise our voices in indignation at the betrayal of our faith by such public figures. We interpret their behavior as being done to us individually and are outraged. When, in fact, they are just giving into temptation. The Ten Commandments of Christianity weren’t developed arbitrarily but because they represent the temptations given into by mankind over his entire history no matter how high or low his position in society.

We expect the other guy to be perfect, while reserving the choice to be imperfect for ourselves.

Perhaps then, common sense might dictate that we take a more laissez-faire approach to expectations of our leaders. That is to say, live and let live. We accept their moral/ethical lapses and hold those failures not against them so long as they do the job otherwise expected of them. If they break the law they will then be subject to accountability before the courts. For example: a Boy Scout leader has a sexual encounter with one of his underage charges and is discovered. He will be prosecuted under the law and suffer the consequences. However, if the scout leader is having an extramarital affair with the scout’s mother that will be ok, because otherwise he is an exceptional scout leader.

There now, that makes it easier, doesn’t it? While some readers will agree with this tenet, others might take exception to such a lackadaisical approach to expectations for people in the public eye and in particular, our elected politicians. So, is there some middle ground between the mythical “higher moral standard”, and the base standard of immorality?

The perfect human being comes with flaws. But even with their flaws, the expectation that our leaders will adhere to the ethic of reciprocity is not unreasonable. Politicians should not be held to a higher moral standard than the electorate, nor should an unprincipled lack of integrity be accepted from them. Maybe it would be enough for them to adhere to the standards put forth by R. Fulghum in his book; All I Really Need To Know I Learned in Kindergarten. Perhaps we could all try following those instructions.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Harbingers of spring.

Spring is in the air. The recent warm , balmy days have raised our spirits and reminded us that the season of rebirth from the dormancy of winter is starting to emerge. This week dawn has greeted my drive east, each morning, with spectacular displays of light and shadow. The snow has receded, and only small isolated north slope pockets of dingy accumulations hang on begrudgingly making way for crocus blooms to break through. Daffodil sprouts spear their way through last fall's leaf beds, as the maple trees feel the surge of new life when the new sap courses it's way to new buds. Tapping spills this golden sweet nectar into pails soon to be emptied into, forest hidden, sugar bushes, where, boiled down it transforms into another of spring's long awaited delights: maple syrup.

While reflecting on birth, rebirth and other evidence of renewal, I want to share with you another sign that we were privy to in the past few weeks. First a phone call informing us of the pending news, was followed by an e-mail containing a sonographic image of a new human embryo beginning it's 9 month journey to join it's delighted parents in the cycle of human life.

Kristy, Jacob, Grandpa rel, cousin Crystal, Grandma D., cousin Hailey, Uncle Bob, Uncle Josh, and Auntie Michelle.
Kristy and Jacob told us their joyful news a couple of weeks ago. They've diverged to the path to parenthood with happy expectations. It's a toss up as to who is the happier; the new parents to be, or the respective grandparents, but one thing we are sure of; this new life will be born into a nest of bountiful love and caring!
new baby LaRock.

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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

'Tis a sunny day the weatherman has forcast for us today. And in the fifties too.


Saturday, March 07, 2009

Habit is necessary; it is the habit of having habits, of turning a trail into a rut, that must be incessantly fought against if one is to remain alive.
Edith Wharton

Hey, look who's back! We thought you'd died, or had fallen off the edge of the earth. Your last few posts have been more morose than not.....all cemeterian and deathly and the like.

Sorry 'bout that. It's just that the days tick by, the months pile up and one day you wake up and you're in a different place; mentally for sure, and on occasion, physically. For the past couple months I've been ensconced in a new routine, establishing new habits. I've had ample opportunity for reflection but limited time for writing and blogging. When life's circumstances change, and of course change is inevitable; like it or not, some things fall away and different things take their place.

In many ways, moving away from old routines is like dying. When you are separated from a friend or relative by the act of death everything changes over time. At first, depending on the closeness of your relationship with the deceased, you feel the void of absence painfully. As time passes, you think of them a little less and someday you may reflect back and recall that you didn't think of them for a day or even longer.

Take, for example, the habit of smoking tobacco. For 32 years I smoked tobacco. Mostly in the form of cigarettes but also in pipes and occasionally cigars. In all that time, I never went a day without smoking. The least number of cigarettes I smoked in one day was 3. That was one time when I was trying to quit. Twelve years ago I did quit and today I rarely think about cigarettes and more importantly; I do not miss them at all!

With the ebb of economic stability we are currently experiencing, many business failures and subsequent layoffs, firings, resignations and in general; disruptions of the daily routines and habits that come with the going to the job everyday. Once that separation occurs, regardless of the reason, that part of your existence: those habits, that routine dies and everyone, those who leave as well as those who stay, will experience the 5 stages of grief outlined by E. Kubler Ross:
1. Denial,
Example - "I feel fine."; "This can't be happening, not to me!"

Example - "Why me? It's not fair!" "How can this happen to me!" "Who is to blame?"

3. Bargaining,
Example - "Just let me live to see my children graduate."; "I'll do anything for a few more years." I will give my life savings if..."'

4. Depression, Example - "I'm so sad, why bother with anything?"; "I'm going to die . . . What's the point?"; "I miss my loved one, why go on?"

5. Acceptance,
Example - "It's going to be okay."; "I can handle it with change"; "I can't fight it, I may as well prepare for it."

Leaving my position, after 33 years, at my hometown hospital to follow a divergent fork on the same career path has entailed my own traversing the 5 stages of grief. Knowing that I would be happier, less stressed and overall, much better off did little to negate the feeling that in some way I had in fact died. I am dead to that previous life. I've crossed over to a better place and the pain and regrets are sloughing off like dead skin and in time will be a memory reflected on less and less frequently and, perplexingly, more fondly.
What has all that have to do with blogging less? Well, I'll tell you, but with this caveat; writing is in my soul and will always find an outlet. It's not a habit likely to be set aside until I make the final transition to the other side of the curtain. So, I will be back to blogging more. Sooner rather than later, I promise.

The fact that my lap top died the later part of Dec. '08 is a major contributing factor as well. With the arrival of the insurance company's remuneration I hope to remedy that loss soon.

My interim routine for the time being goes like this:
  1. get up
  2. workout
  3. shower
  4. eat
  5. drive
  6. work
  7. drive
  8. eat
  9. Jeopardy
  10. sleep

and so it is.

next: Where do you go when you die?

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Monday, March 02, 2009

It's March already!