Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Heavier and Lighter

This Monday I finally finished re-wrapping my tsuka-ito..

This has been a long process - longer than I had initially intended.  My last wrap of my hilt was not as tight as I needed it to be because it kept slipping over the folds. I kept meaning to get to it but kept finding reasons not to - it takes an afternoon to do it and I have always felt that my skills in this area are lacking.

As a result, I have found myself without my shinken for the better part of two months. In lieu of the shinken for practice I have been using my new bokuto - the longer version more reflective of the swords used in our style.  I have been somewhat grumpy about this process:  the bokuto is 3 inches longer and some pounds heavier than my previous version so my technique seems to have all come undone:  my nukituske (draw) is much harder, with the sword not coming out like it is supposed to much of the time.  My draw time is slower, my blocks less firm.  It has put a certain amount of "unfun" in my daily practice.

But over the weekend I finally found the time I needed to finish my rewrap.  I got it on the tsuka, let the knot dry, and then yesterday prepared to practice.

And was totally surprised.

The shinken was like a feather in my hand.  My cuts flowed, my blocks were effortlessly.  The drawing and sheathing of my shinken was like I have often tried to visualize it in my mind:  smooth, quiet, almost reverent.

Suddenly the months of struggling through practice with the blade that was a little beyond me appeared as it really was:  not just an exercise in learning to do the same activity better in a different way, but training the muscles in the use of something heavier and more bulky such that when the actual item is present, it was remarkably easy.

Will my bokuto practice immediately become easier?  Of course not.  I need to train to the heavier and longer blade - and besides, now I will have to consider a longer shinken (of 33 inches) to match my style.  But now as I continue to try to cut and thrust, to block and sheathe, to see the blade dip low or move more slowly I can take comfort in the fact that it is not an exercise in futility.  It is merely another exercise in training.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013


The sweat of a run
soaks my shirt as I return:
May I have a towel?

Friday, May 24, 2013

More and More

What do you do when everything you give is not enough?

I left work yesterday.  I had just completed a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats) for an upcoming series of events.  Looking at the presentation - which, while fun to create, consumed almost an hour - I suddenly was overwhelmed by the amount of work that needed to performed to make all of that happen.

And then I started considering the (rather long) list of items I still have to accomplish to be able to "take" a vacation next week when we visitors.  At this point it is almost a given that I will have to work one or more days this weekend just to clear out my inbox and desk, let alone to make any progress towards the SWOT analysis listed above.
In others words, I am tired.  And I have a great deal that is expected of me - so much, in fact, that it seems that the only way to accomplish it all is to work semi-heroic hours to make it all happen.

To what end?  This is the part that bothers me.  There is really no carrot here, only a series of stick avoidance techniques.  If I am successful in doing everything that needs to be done?  It will tend to disappear back into the woodwork of daily activities.  The time sunk in will be time lost forever, memories faded as soon as the next emergency arises.  A new set of tasks, equally as critical, equally as many, will appear on the horizon.  And, ultimately, this work will fade into the pastiche of my life of things I have worked on and companies I have worked for which no longer exist.

And if by the grace of God I am able to accomplish all of this, does this become the new "level" of expected activity?

Where does such a thought process end?  Is the expectation that one will simple continue to double and triple down until, weighed down by the inability to go further, one is cast aside?  Or is that one works to the point of failure - mental, physical - and attempt on the back side to recover from the aftermath?

I sense myself be drawn in to what I have to do.  What I enjoy doing, what I would like to do, seems to be receding at a faster and faster pace for the reality of my life.

Perhaps this is simply the nature of things.  But I seem to be unable to see the ultimate benefit of it.

Thursday, May 23, 2013

20th Anniversary

The Ravishing Mrs. TB and I had our 20th anniversary yesterday.

In my more lucid moments I wonder what I would have thought that a twenty year anniversary would look like.  I am not sure that I particularly had a Hollywood view of marriage in my mind - in fact, I probably did not have much of a vision at all.  Did I expect to married at 20 years?  However, I am sure that whatever I visualized owed far more to the perceived image I had of marriage and less of the examples I had around me.

Interestingly  anniversaries - beyond the first few and the very significant - seem to be a reflection of the life you are actually leading at the time.  Last night was an example:  wedged between tryouts (which were rescheduled), a senior management presentation, and finals we had an anniversary.  We passed each other on the way home - she out to pick up, I inbound to get home.  I was greeted by the Pest control guy, there to spray.  Syrah the Mighty going crazy upstairs, the clock ticks well past seven before The Ravishing Mrs. TB got back.  Dinner?  Yes, we had better have that too.  Blackened catfish and brown rice.  By the time we got done with dinner and cleaning up, it was time for bed.  After all, tomorrow is still a weekday.

Again, this is (I suppose) not what I pictured.

But what the society pictures (if not myself) is hardly the reality of life.  By my sister-in-law's count we have been married something like 7,305 days.  That is a long time - by my count, there are now only a handful of friends I am in contact with that I have known longer.  And we have been through a great deal:  the birth and raising of three children, home purchases, job losses, relocation, vacations, days where we probably did not care for each other a great deal and days that we did. 

The reality of 20 years of marriage is that it is a very rich textured pattern of living - something which the idealized version of marriage simply cannot do justice to. In a way it dwells far more in the realm of science fiction and fantasy than that of romance - who can visualize at the time of marriage the actual realities of life being married? 

So Happy Anniversary to The Ravishing Mrs. TB and many thanks for a life which, while perhaps unimagined and unexpected in many ways, has been far more than I ever could have imagined.

I Love You.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Sore Knee

I walk with my knee;
Feeling the cool morning air,
my feet run for joy.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013


Is telling truth to yourself or others more difficult?

I ask this question pending the upcoming Truth Telling meeting that I perform as part of my employment, a time where I present metrics to management and say "This is what it is".  In theory this is a truth telling moment, a chance to lay bare all the bad - and good - of what is going on.

The effectiveness of a meeting such as this - any meeting such as this - is dependent on two factors.  The first, the willingness of people to receive the truth, is beyond my control.  The second, the telling of the data as it lies, is within my control.  But so often I stumble, fall short of what I could be doing?  Why is this?

Truth is a pernicious thing. It is sharp.  It is deadly.  It can be a tool of healing - but it needs to presented to be effective.  Truth that is never brought forth is no better than the lie that is.

But which is more difficult:  telling the truth to one's self or to others?

I am too often tempted - as with the greater world around me- to come down on the first side.  Telling the truth to one's self is never an easy thing.  At its best it can be a cleansing tool or a freeing agent.  But we are so often clever about the truth to ourselves - or so we are told.  We like to evade the truth.  We like to create walls the keep it from us, shade it in ways that make us feel better.  We see it through eyes that make failures into successes, that make flaws into facets.

Much of this is true, of course.  We do have ways to make the truth about ourselves less than full.  We justify, we slide, we worm around.  There is no doubt that telling the truth to one's self is a difficult and sometimes dangerous thing.

But after consideration, I believe I have come to the conclusion that it is the telling of truth to others that is the more difficult task.

We  have to want to speak the truth in order to tell it to others.  There is a sort of double vesting involved:  we have to want to tell it and we have to tell it.  Doing one or the other - wanting to tell it but not telling it or not wanting to tell it but telling something - will not accomplish the true work of the truth.

Also, telling the truth to one's self never involves a third party.  Telling the truth to others does.  And not just a third party - often a third party that has some ability to bring us weal or do us harm.  They may control our careers, our personal lives, or relationships.  Their opinions - and their actions - can make our lives a heaven or hell.  It would be a lie to say that every time we engage in such an exercise, the thought of that control does not cross our minds.

How many times have I been confronted with the situation of telling the truth when I know that it will create issues for me?  The history of such endeavors in my own life is not such to convince me that telling the truth results in the actions that I would hope for or desire.

But we desperately need the truth.  Truth is to human relationships and interactions what data are to science: the building blocks by which we learn and move forward.  Without data we cannot get to the true root cause of a problem or make a true advance; with truth we can also do neither of these things.

How will my meeting go?  I am not really sure.  But I do know that I sit today in a different place than I sat yesterday.  My job - in my career as in my life - is to speak truth and be truthful.

Even if no-one, including myself, always listens.

Monday, May 20, 2013


Tron has always fascinated me.

My fascination with the movie started long ago when it first came out.  I was in high school and on the fringes of the budding video game revolution.  I was one of those who went to pizza parlors not necessarily to eat pizza but to engage in battles with Defender, Beserk and a horde of games now lost.

 I loved Tron the first time I saw it - not so much for the wonder of the computer graphics (which was the actual boundary pusher of the film) so much as for the concept:  life inside of a computer.  What child of that era would not have been excited by the concept of spending an entire lifetime playing video games (ignoring the part about deresolution and death, of course)?

I am largely alone in my fascination in my household.  Na Teaghlach  will tolerate watching the movie from time to time, if grudgingly.  It is, I suppose, interesting in a clinical fashion that their interest is not nearly that of mine:  the graphics are (by now) 30 years old and the story (stripped of its graphics) is no more unusual than a score of other fiction:  a young hero from somewhere else arrives to fight the archenemy of freedom who seeks to control everything.

When Tron:  Legacy came out we trooped off to watch that as well.  While the enjoyment was there (and the visit to Flynn's old archive with the vintage video games and the Journey soundtrack was nostalgia personified) the movie was different to me.  Part of this, of course, is simply the change of time for both the movie and myself.  The main character (Flynn) is no longer the hot shot programmer and saviour of the Grid but is now almost 30 years older, a man - the Creator of the World, as it were - trapped in the system away from his son and his life.  The movie now revolves much less around the fight for freedom (although it is there) and much more about a man considering how he has spent the last 20 years of his life, encased in a world he created but cannot escape.  The thoughts, oddly enough, reflect on thoughts of my own:  the brevity of life, the importance of how we spend it, and the realization that sometimes getting what we wanted was not really what was best.

Now I am watching Tron: Uprising with Nighean Dhonn.  This is yet a different reboot of the franchise.  The concept of Tron and the fight for freedom is still there but this goes a step further by concentrating much more on the life and feelings of a single character, Beck, who has been selected and trained by Tron.  Again the action and fighting is still there but in this incarnation there is a greater sense of actual life on the grid and the observation of some character development.  Even as I watch it with her now there is a greater sense of wisdom as I watch it - not just the excitement of living in a computer game, but real thoughts about freedom and interactions of individuals within an authoritative system.

Will there be more Tron?  Rumors drift on the web of course but nothing certain comes to life.  Still, I find it interesting that after 30 years I can still find action and excitement in something from long ago - and not just action and excitement, but enjoyment and a thought provoking exercise.

Friday, May 17, 2013

Finding The Time

As an exercise this week I constructed a list of what had to occur at work in  the next 45 days.  The list, which ran to three pages when I was done, did not have the direct impact I was hoping for in some people but it did give me pause to stop and think about everything that I had to do.

I then went ahead and started to map out my calendar for the next 45 days.  Suddenly, with a vacation and a seminar and two audits, my 45 days had dwindled down to something more like 33.  And that is business days - my actual weekdays became something more like 25.

Obviously this is a little less time than I had intended to have.

But the work is still there.  And, as has been politely pointed out to me, this work will have a significant impact on my short and midterm future - so it needs to get done.   And so a shift has occurred in my thinking at work, from how much there is to do to how am I going to get this all done. 

It is a subtle thing, this accepting of things that they are and then trying to figure out how they are going to get done.  The energy that I have has been redirected into moving forward on items - or, in a surprise to me, starting to meaningfully delegate items to others for completion and then following up  with them on those issues.

It has also changed how I view hours - in other words how I find the time.  By treating certain things, such as my vacation and seminar, as inviolate and something that cannot be changed (and something which I intend to think about work or daily tasks as little as possible) I readjust my thinking to how I can extract the maximum amount of work out of the time I have.

Am I truly more efficient?  I do not know that I can say that yet - ask me in 45 days.  What I can say, at least for now, it that some sort of corner seems to have been turned in how I view time and accomplishments, at least in the work setting.  It remains to be seen if this change is of a permanent nature- and if it will grant the rewards it is hinting at.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

May Showers

Thunder marches by
as the sleeting raindrops ping
off the chimney top.

Stepping up

There is a thin line between stepping up and being used, a line of which I am trying to ascertain the location.

Stepping up, of course, it that series of events that occurs when one is called upon to go above and beyond.  It can be in the pursuit of a higher position or goal or it can simply be because one is suddenly called to greater efforts for a particular need.   Being used, on the other hand, is that series of events in which someone else takes the effort and work and uses them to further their own goals, neither recognizing the effort nor respecting the one who performed it.

The difficulty is in the recognition of that effort.  I can make heroic efforts believing myself to be in the spirit and practice of stepping up; others may simply see it (and use it!) as an expectation of what they wanted rather than a form of additional effort.  Expectations, it seems, can be moving targets dependent as much on the person who determines what the actual target is as on the circumstances in a situation.

How do I resolve this?  As I have pondered before, I am reaching a crossroads one way or the other in my career:  on one road I restart a climb up the road to higher position (one which has been sorely delayed), on the other I become one of the "untouchables", someone who has been in a position so long that they become unpromotable, trapped in a position from which they can never escape.    I want to step up of course, but in my mind I look back over the last period of time and wonder how much more I can step up than what I already have.  Certainly there are areas that I can make difference in but those seem few and far between as my days are already full.

Or is it the audience?  Need I play to a different crowd than the one I am currently dealing with?  Perhaps it is not so much that my efforts are not enough as they are unseen.  Sometimes much of what we do gets lost when we allow it to wander through filters not of our own making, through individuals who have a vested interest in making sure they look good - even if the labor comes from someone else.

Perhaps stepping up is not so completely a matter of effort as I had originally imagined.  It is the combination of effort plus audience.  And perhaps the takeaway is that if you desire a greater recognition of your increased efforts, play to a larger audience.

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Accountable but Not Responsible

How does one manage when one is not in charge but is held accountable as if one is?

This is the situation that I faced yet again for the X-teenth time at work:  a project which was supposedly critical and needed to be done - demanded, actually - for which, when a plan is presented, is promptly torn apart, red-lined, told how to be executed without offering any support in executing it, and then promptly left with the "This is what we should do."  All with a 40 minute meeting to discuss the thing.

The takeaway for me:  I am to be given all the responsibility and accountability for being in charge, but I actually have no authority to make my own decisions to design and/or execute on the plan.  My job is to create the work, patiently wait for my betters to "fix" it, and then humbly accept that I will do all the work.  Oh yes, and that they will get all the credit.

I cannot tell you how unbelievably discouraged I was as I walked back to my desk.  Staring at the pile of work that was already present, I sighed deeply in frustration.  It is as if I have no ability to actually influence my job or even my career - instead, I am a small cog who has been robbed of even the causality of actions.  My job, it seems, is to shut up, thank my betters, and work harder.  And to accept responsibility for things that I had nothing to do with.

My question is how to deal with this.  This is not the first time this has happened since my arrival here.  Certainly there seems to be no change come from any other quarter and I really have no other option in terms of others to go to.  Do I simply be quiet and seethe as I continue to try to make headway?  Do I (once again) raise the issue as a point of discussion, risking looking like "that nagging employee who is never happy"?  Or do I simply quash any sense of aspiration or self worth and accept that I am tool to be used by above me, having no independent thought or action but being completely willing to be sacrificed when something goes wrong?

How does one change the course of one's work life?

Monday, May 13, 2013

Clearing Out Paper

Yesterday came the cleaning out paper.

There is a process which always seems to happen (or at least should happen) each and every time one contemplates a move.  It is called The Cleaning.  It can also be known as The Clearing, The Mucking Out, or even The Great Piling for The Even Greater Fire (or Yard Sale, depending on flammability).  It is the process by which one goes through and begin to evaluate and dispose of everything that came with one from the last location.

As always, I am amazed by the types and amounts of paper that we store.  It is not just the items you would expect - tax receipts and paperwork from old businesses, old bills - but things that just over run your filing and your piling:  manuals to things you now longer have, checkbooks from 4 years ago, benefits paperwork from 3 years ago. Piles and piles of materials that were given to you as important which you, in turn, carefully preserved in locations hidden away and thereby forgotten.

Paper is recyclable - which is good, I suppose. The bad part is that we seem to feel the need to get and print out so much of it, treasuring it to ourselves as a precious items when it fact so much of it is merely for informational purposes or even worse, really for nothing at all.

Every time we seem to do this it serves as a reminder to me of what I am trying to do with preserving all of this paper - indeed, with so much of what we keep and store.  Am I doing this out of habit?  Am I doing this out of some deep need to hold on to items?  Or am I simply being lazy up front, not questioning each and every thing as it touches my hands?

I am not like this at work at all.  Except when I am quite busy (and so lose the time to organize) my desk and draws are clean and virtually empty.  I hate clutter.  I hate losing things on my desk only to find out that they were needed later and being "that person" - the person that held something up because it was lost.  And yet seemingly this personal behaviour gets left at the work door.

We are done with paper at this point so I imagine we will be moving on to other items, other boxes, other tubs to review and clean.  My hope is that with the paper, we can once again begin to make some space amidst the clutter - not only for the physical benefit of not moving it, but for the sense of serenity and peace it brings to the mind.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Demands of Time and Task III

How do I believe in the tasks that I set for myself, that such are as important and achievable as anything that is set before me in the professional environment?  This is the problem I must confront and address if I am to be able to make a commitment that is as firm to doing my own items as it is to dedicating extra time to the demands of others.

Ultimately it comes from a core - a core that at it center states "I can do this".  "This" can be defined as any number of things - including things which I have never attempted or accomplished before.  But even not having attempted them before, the core maintains the assertion that if I try something, I can do it.

Do I have a history of this?  I do, if I sit and think about it for a minute.  There are many things that I have tried and done - perhaps with varying levels of success, but in every case with some level of success.  In fact if I sit and think about it, the times that I have completely failed at something are very few.

But they are always in my mind.  Here is a second issue.  The failures always seem to rise to the top far quicker than the successes do as if rushing to make themselves seen and heard.  And it they do not immediately make themselves there, the partial successes come to take their place - those things that I tried and perhaps did not completely fail at but did not completely succeed in the way that I had thought.

How to combat it?  The only thing I can think of is to begin to build a mental binder of successes.

The Woodsman in Build A Bridge  says the same thing:

"But remember what I just told you - you need to ensure that you take a moment to recognize the fact that you have completed what you started out to do.  This is the true reward, not just the destination that you are reaching.  You will build many bridges and go to many destinations; every completed bridge will become a picture in your mind until you have a gallery of bridges which will mark you progress through life."

When those thoughts of failure leap up I need to combat them with pictures of successes.  When thoughts of driving myself away from those tasks I want to accomplish to I need to go back to those pictures of the times I have accomplished and dwell not just on the accomplishment but how I felt when I achieved it, because the feeling of achieving an accomplishment is inevitably much greater than the degraded sense of relief I feel checking another thing off my work "to do" list.

I cannot control the demands made on me by the outside.  What I can control is what I see and adhere to as a vision on the inside.  The choice to dwell and believe on that which I can do rather than that which I cannot is not something that anyone can make me do even as it is not something anyone can do for me.  In the end, demands of time and task are deterimined not so much by those making the demands as they are by what I am willing to believe in - and in believing, to accomplish.

Thursday, May 09, 2013

Demands of TIme and Task II

Why do I so easily conform to the demands of extra time when placed upon me by work and am so willing to surrender time which is to spent on myself even though I believe that one will not improve my life over time and the other will?

I can make the simple argument of reality, that one directly pays me a salary and one does not has a noticeable and realistic impact on my decision making.  And to some extent that is true:  I need money to survive.  But the frequency and the reckless abandon with which I seem so willing to do this suggests something more than mere economics at work.

What I am wondering is that if, in my heart of hearts, I truly do not believe that what I am trying to do is going to move me forward at all.

There is an argument to made for this.  Only effort in my career area has moved me forward in parts of my life, no matter how fitful that progress has been.  Certainly many of the activities I have tried in the past and even some career choices never produced any more than a brief change to my life, if not a series of unintended negative consequences.  And anything I consider at this point is quite likely years away from producing anything more than a sense of satisfaction doing something I enjoy.

And yet I still so easily turn away.

The irony of the situation is that the additional efforts spent in pursuit of my "career" seem equally as unproductive in the long run.  The work is always followed by additional work; the effort is effaced in the cascading tasks that continually flow across my desk.  The only thing that additional effort seems to supply is the fact that such effort is available and can be used with more frequency.

This is the core of the issue then:  what do I believe in?  Do I believe in myself such that saying "No" and drawing boundaries and putting the time into the "Yes" something else is something that I can do?  Or have I become so ingrained with the division of work/life and the evidence that I cannot really do what I set out to do that I am subconsciously compensating for the fact - that I am willing to say "yes" because in my heart I know the other will lead to nothing?

If true - that I have no confidence in myself and my abilities and that I am compensating - then this is worst of all possible worlds:  wanting something else desperately yet not having the belief that such a thing can be accomplished.  Allowed to run roughshod and free it will continue to create a situation where the guilt of not doing on the one hand and the perception of not being able to on the other will always create a hammer and anvil of despair: always wanting to be more but never believing such a thing is possible.

How do I overcome this?

Wednesday, May 08, 2013

Demands of Time and Task I

How should I allocate my time?

I am faced with a dilemma.  The workload I now balance is becoming increasingly precarious due to the fact of increased activities and acting in the place of two positions at once.  As a result of this I am confronted with the issue that in order to do the work that needs to be done I  have to increase my time spent at work by approximately 10-15 hours a week.   Where would this extra time be drawn from?  From working on my own projects, on those things I hope can someday sustain me beyond what I now do.

This frustrates me on two levels.  The first one is obvious: whenever a position requires significantly more time and effort than what is typical for a position, frustration mounts because the expectation is that the work will get done, no matter where the effort comes from.  The fact that there tends to be disinterest where that effort comes from detracts somewhat from the drive to see the things accomplished.

But the deeper frustration, the one which haunts me, is the assumption by myself that this is what I will do.

This is a recurring theme in my life.  When required to do so by outside influences, I inevitably seem to "dig deep" and get the task accomplished.  When confronted by the same concept in my own life - tasks which need significant amounts of time and effort to accomplish - I often cannot muster the same amount of drive.  Worse, I  am willing to sacrifice them for the demands of the tasks generated from the outside.

Why is this?  Is is that I do not value what I am trying to do?  I should - after all, what I am working on is ultimately designed to benefit my life (in theory anyway). Effort spent in that arena will, with the appropriate time spent, result in direct benefits to my physical and psychic health.  Effort spent in the first arena will at best remove a monkey from my back which will be quickly replaced by another one requiring similar demands.

In the first scenario - demands generated by outside influences -  I can legitimately say that the ultimate accomplishment of the tasks resulted in nothing significant or lasting in my life.  Those from the second scenario I have taken through to conclusion have almost always done so.

Which leads me back to my question:  Why do I easily do one and refuse to do the other?

Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Plans, Goals, Change

"If you go to work on your goals, your goals will go to work on you. If you go to work on your plan, your plan will go to work on you. Whatever good things we build, end up building us." - Jim Rohn

Goals and plans are funny things.  We tend to think of them as third party objects which we create and execute on.  There may be physical executions and the outcome of the goals may be real things but the goals and plans remain (in our mind) something we have thought our or written out on paper, brought to life ex nihilo of our minds.

The reality is that goals and plans are in fact imbued with a certain amount of life.  Perhaps not life as we know it, but life.

We as people are not unchanging items in a universe of change but are in fact equally as malleable as any other living thing.  We may believe that we are not - we are "pessimists" or "optimists" or "really not good at anything" - but as we move through time we realize that our opinions of ourselves, much like photos, are merely a snapshot in time.  It is the whole of the life that must be considered.

And this is where those goals and plans come in.

By working on the plans and goals, what we find - maybe only after the fact - is that we are molded by that for which we are working for.  For example, I may start out wanting to do Highland Athletics.  What I may find is not only do I get better at Highland Athletics but that I also learn to make connections with others in an environment very different from the one I typically work in; in other words I develop social skills.

Or take Iaido.  I learn to use the bokuto and the shinken; what I learn by learning is the hard art of practicing and the concept of continual improvement.  These concepts begin to impact other areas of my life as well:  I do not just throw at Highland Games to throw, I throw to make a new personal best that may be measured only in inches; my cheese making becomes not the pursuit of one perfect cheese but the continual improvement of my cheese making art.

This concept is a subtle one and certainly not one I personally appreciated (or even knew about) growing up but I believe was (and is) evident in the minds of my teachers and the meaningful adults in my life.  They knew, as they know now, the outcome of such goals and plans; I believe they understood then (as I only understand now) that one of their tasks is imbue this into the lives of their students, even if unconsciously.

I cannot promise that every goal or every plan will change one dramatically; certainly within my own life there are plenty of accomplishments which seem not to have scratched the surface of my personality.  But I can only believe that like those that have consciously impacted my behavior these also in time will give rise to results that will make me say  "I am glad I decided to do that.  Look at what it did in my life."

Monday, May 06, 2013

Scottish Athletics as Church

Participating in the Highland Games as I did this weekend I was struck by the similarity between Highland Games Athletes and the Church.

(I know.  It is not something I ever thought about either).

Similarity, you might ask?  Surely I jest.  There is little that is the same between the Church, the living body of Christ and a group of men and women gathered together for the purpose of throwing heavy objects long distances -  if for nothing other reason the religion is not quite the first topic of choice at one of these gatherings.

But the thought hit me as I drove home that the similarities were there.

Like the Church, Heavy Athletics is a collection of people who otherwise have no relationship to each other.  They are people who likely I would never meet in my life if I were not participating because they live completely different lives than myself.  The differences are somewhat jarring initially, but after three hours of throwing everyone becomes supportive:  after all, although we are competing we are really all there to do the same thing:  our best.

The Church is like that too, although I suspect that after two thousand years we have become a little numb to it.  We tend to expect people in Church that are like ourselves - in fact, we often go out of our way to find churches that are like that.  There's nothing inherently wrong with that I suppose - after all, I have my own preferences of worship just like everyone else - but we cannot be so set that seeing someone who seems completely contrary to ourselves sets us off and makes us uncomfortable.

Since I have started throwing I have encountered a wonderful cast of characters:  semi-professional athletes, law enforcement officers, heavy equipment operators, the retired, college athletes, computer programmers, administrators.    The range of types and characters runs from the highly health minded to those who alternate Monsters and Bud Lights, from the heavily tattooed to those without them, from 250+ lbs of solid muscle to 140 lb lightweights. 

All in kilts.  All pulling for the same them. All (eventually) pulling for each other.

It does not matter where you are from, what you do, what you look like, what your skill level is.  If you are there, you are there to compete.  And you are accepted solely on the basis of that fact.

Like church there are rules (NASGA rules instead of the Bible), those that guide (referees instead of pastors), and share praise and encouragement (mostly shouting at each other to "Get it out here!").  True, we are not in worship - but we are all intensely focused on one thing while we are there.  The world has been shut out for a period of time and only where we are and what we are doing is important.

I do not expect heavy athletics to become the norm at church services even as I do not expect the next Heavy Athletics event I participate in to break out into worship.  What I do expect - of myself if no-one else - to step back for a moment and see my fellow brothers and sisters in Christ the way I see my fellow athletes:  without bias to how they look or seem but focusing only on the common goal of what we are there to do, worship and glorify God - and how I can help them (and myself) to accomplish that as we all seek to do and be our best for God.

Friday, May 03, 2013

Early Morning Productivity

I sit here this morning with my cup of "Texas Style" coffee at hand, tasting faintly of "cinnamon, chocolate and vanilla" pondering what I am going to write.

The day has already been a full one at 0630:  dreams last night of a car with failing brakes (where did that come from?) ensured that my sleep was disrupted.  I have performed my bible reading, prayed, did my study of New Testament Greek (Did you know there are at least four ways you can identify a pluperfect in New Testament Greek? Neither did I.), Gaelic, and Old English ("Here waes Eadward gehalgod to cinge...").  I ran:  two days ago I came home drenched in sweat and today I had to run with a sweatshirt because of the weather change.  I have packed lunch, eaten breakfast (half a grapefruit [ why grape-fruit?  They look nothing like grapes.], one egg, 1/2 cup of dry oatmeal with yogurt), published and posted.  I need only finish this, feed the rabbits, and I am on my way.

Why is this so often the most productive piece of my day?

It is not an idle question.  I wish that I could be this productive throughout my day - in 1.5 hours I have accomplished more than I may in the next 10 hours.  What is it that makes this a time of real production instead of just going through the motions?

What I am doing is one item.   Everything I listed (with the exception of making lunch) are items which are me, which engage me, which brighten my world.  By doing them I believe I am attempting to keep the "world" (so defined as the work world and my "adult" life) at bay, to maintain a shred of individuality that is still me.

Another element is time.  This is the time I have to do these things - if not now, they will never find their way into my day as they will be swamped and thrust aside by more "important" issues that probably do not matter that much in the long run.

The final element, as strange as it seems, is success.  I do these things because at some level I believe them to something that will give me a greater life in the end.  Right or wrong  I perceive that each of these activities will in the the course of my life better me, empower me, give me something which will allow me to move forward.

I look at the bottom of my coffee cup:  gone but for the residual fumes.  The rabbits are hopping about in the other room, patiently waiting for someone to feed them.  The magical time has passed; the world is closing in.

And I wonder:  what if all of my life could be spent on such useful things?  How productive could I be then?

Thursday, May 02, 2013

Social Facade

We live in a  social media era.  We live in an era of careful crafted and controlled personal appearances and perceptions.  More and more it often seems the case that what we want to live and been seen as is our Facebook updates or online avatars, where generally we do no wrong, our teeth are straight and our kids are doing well in school.  But the reality is in fact that we are the same people we ever were, with the faults and flaws that we carry inside.  We just kid ourselves that they are less relevant.

However there come moments where the facade is removed by others - often unsuspectingly - and the soft underbelly is revealed.

Such an incident happened to me yesterday.  It was a chance conversation that I was tangentially involved in - but one for which the words stuck in my heart like arrows.

I reeled back in internal confusion for a moment.  Not me - I was not this way.  I mentally started making a list of all the ways I did not seem like that and all the ways I did not share those characteristics.  The instant justification and vociferous voicing of my inner defender surprised me with its intensity.

And then I stepped outside of myself for a minute and tried to look at myself, not as I would from a social media standpoint (how carefully we choose our pictures of ourselves that we want to show to others) but simply from the cold hard facts of the words.  And looking at it that way, there were shared similarities.

It is odd how we couch the evil in ourselves as not as a bad as it really may be.

It provoked a good afternoon of thought which was needed.  But what it really provoked was a re-examination of my own life - not as I present it to others, but as it would be presented if my own thoughts and internal dialogues were put on display for the world to see.

In such a case, I fear my social media facade would scarcely match the internal things - the "me" that I like to gloss over" - that I know are within me.

Wednesday, May 01, 2013


Back and forth, back and forth
the cursor wanders the linear paths:
filling the void with words,
then hurrying back to erase the electrons.

First the words seem to form a thought -
but no, they are banished to the netherworld
of the unrealized.
Now a haiku - Wait!
Too many syllables; again the cursor performs
its destructive dance

Back and forth, back and forth
the cursor wanders the linear paths,
trying desperately to create
but seeming only to destroy.