Friday, December 29, 2017

The One Thing I Wish I Had Done In 2017....

What is the one thing I wish I had done in 2017 that I did not do?

That is a hard one.  I really did a great deal this year.  Competed in a number of Highland Games.  Ran two road races.  PR'ed my weights.  Got to go to California (twice).  Saw my job and job responsibilities completely expand 100 fold.

What would it be?  Honestly, I think that my relationship with God did not grow as it probably should have this year.

What would that have looked like?  Great question, to which I do not have a satisfactory answer.  I would like to think it would mean I would feel "The Presence of God" more in my life and see God actively working in my life more than I feel like I do.

Mind you, "feeling" The Presence of God is a fairly ill- defined term.  Plenty of perfectly effective and good Christians through the years have not, and yet they did His work anyway.  But I have always (perhaps secretly) looked at those that seem to have that feeling with a sort of longing.  What must that be like?  How would it feel to really know that God was right there?  (Yes, I know that He is, but it is something I almost never sense).

I do not know if there is something that I can do to make that more real.  I do not think it is the sort of thing that you can force.  But that would have been the one thing, the crowning achievement, on what was a pretty good year.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

Consciously Forgetting

Consciously forgetting is one of the most difficult activities one can undertake.  An example, in this case, is instructive.

Over the last month or so, I have realized that I consciously need to let a person go.  They are not in my life at all right now and if fact have done nothing to sustain any sense of a relationship.  The thoughts have all been on my side - thoughts that follow me around in my head and appear at the least usable times.  It has reached the point that, for me, it is an energy sink.  And so, I need to consciously forget them.

It is very hard, at first.  Social media these days makes it all the harder.  I will find myself suddenly doing a search on a search engine for their name, looking them up to see what and how they are doing.  And then I will tear myself away and get back to what I was doing.

So I have to police myself.  Every time I want to look, I have to say "no" and turn away.  At the end of a day, I can say "Today, I did not go looking for X".  Tomorrow, I have to get up and do the same thing.

Do I particularly believe that I can ultimately forget them?  I doubt it, truly.  I suspect the human mind does not work that way.  But what I can do - what I am trying to do - is not make them my go to thought when I am bored or sad or bitter.

The only ghosts of those relationships that haunt my past are the ones that I continue to feed with my own energy.  And only I can ultimately make them disappear.

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Being More At Home

One thing I am really planning on working on this year is focusing more on being mentally and physically at home

Part of it is purely financial - with Nighean Gheal in college now and Nighean Bhean starting her senior year of high next year and college the year after and (practically speaking) the chances of a significant raise in pay being remote, the less out and about and less spending in general, the less stress will be here.

Part of it though, is a conscious decision.  There is actually quite a bit to do around here, things that (frankly) I often put off because I feel like it is boring or tedious or I would rather go do something else.  These things need to be done though - partially from a practical point of view (if nothing else, they are either repairs and/or improve the value of the home when we do see) and partially from the point of view that my home is a personal sense of pride - and when (not if, in my opinion) we move again I am going to want to treat wherever we live as carefully as I should treat this house and life now.

Practically, what does it mean?  More home projects.  More yard work and gardening.  More cheese and yogurt.  Probably less Highland Games overall.  Lots more practice of Iai.

In other words, paring down a bit the frenzy of activities I am doing and a little more focus on those things that I choose do. 

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas 2017

Because, as always, there is a reason for the season:

"Do not be afraid, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy which will be to all people. For there is born to you this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.  And this will be a sign to you:  You will find a Babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manager.

      And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying:  "Glory to God in the highest, And on earth peace, goodwill towards men!"  - Luke 2:  10-14

"For unto us a child is born, unto us a son is given:  and the government shall be upon his shoulder; and his name shall be called Wonderful Counsellor, The Mighty God, The Everlasting Father, The Price of Peace." - Isaiah 9:6

Nollick ghennal erriu! (Merry Christmas!)

Friday, December 22, 2017

Christmas Homegoing 2017

Dear Friends,

As you are reading this I am probably just getting on the road to head back to Old Home for Christmas.

Up to a little over a month ago I had not decided to do so - but my current employer has pre-programmed time off from 21 December to 01 January.  Good and bad, of course; good in that I typically took this time off (and so it does not "cost"me), bad in that I lose a potential week somewhere else.

I took it last year and while having the time off is great, a week around the homestead in December can get a little old.  We briefly looked at flying, but flying during this period is both expensive and extremely crowded, neither of which particularly appeals to me.

The drive is a long one: 24 solid hours through some of the potential least exciting countryside in the United States - 12 hours one day to almost the precise mile, and 12 the next.  Fortunately, Nighean Bhan can drive as well now so that splits the drive up amongst three instead of two.

We will split the time equally, of course:  3 days at my parents, 3 days at my in-laws.  We will get to see everyone we need to see - and for the first time in probably 6 years, we will actually spend Christmas Eve and Christmas Day with our family.

Not worry - I have pre-programmed postings for the week (and hopefully will have some good pictures of The Ranch in Winter upon my return).  My apologies if responses are a little slow - my ability to get to things on a timely basis when on the road is always a little suspect.

For once in a long while, it finally is true:  I will be home for Christmas.

Much Love from Your Obedient Servant,

Toirdhealbheach Beucail

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Few Words From....Wellington Boone

"The potter sets the clay where he will. Repent of wishing to be something other than what God made you to be.  Male, female, rich, poor, black, or white; don't ever want to be anything different because God, the potter, chose how the clay was going to be formed, and  you are wonderfully and beautifully made.   You do not have the prerogative to make such wishes because it assumes you know what is better for you than your creator, the potter.  Your journey is to find out what God wants you to do with you as His clay and to realize that you are greatly valued.  God never creates objects that have no value.
      The potter can set you where He wants to set you.   He can allow circumstances to happen in your life or prevent them.  It makes no difference, you are his vessel for honor or dishonor.  Get out of your mind the thought that greatness deals with the size of a ministry.  Greatness deals with the ability that God gives you to handle trouble.  Do not reproach His nature in your assessment of what you have gone through.  Greatness does not consist in reducing others to your service, but reducing yourself to theirs." - Wellington Boone, Breaking Through

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Foggy December

Christmas lights twinkle:
festive lighthouses glowing
in a sea of mist.

Monday, December 18, 2017

On Eating Better

One of the things I fully intend to work on next year is my health.  Specifically, eating.

Oh, nothing has really gone out of whack yet.  But I am definitely noticing a difference (yes kids, 50 is more than just a number).  And while my health has been stellar to this point, I would very much like to keep it that way.

Exercise plays a part, of course.  And while I have been consistently exercising, my cardio has fallen off a great deal.  That is something that needs to change.  As well, I am lifting, but have probably reached the outer limits of what I am able to do at this body mass (and I really cannot take it much higher - in fact, I could probably lose at least 15% of my weight and still be perfectly fine) - and I have little intention of damaging my joints by taking on weights that they cannot support.  Also,  I need to work desperately on flexibility. 

But what drives exercise, of course, is the fuel.

What will this look like? As usual, I am not entirely sure.  We are experimenting with a quasi-vegetarian diet (well, really after New Year's - the holiday season is a terrible time to start a new diet, just as it is a terrible time to give up desserts).  What I think the looks like is a whole lot more vegetables and vegetable protein and a whole lot less processed foods and red meat (which, to be fair, we hardly eat at all anyway). 

On top of that for me, it means reining in my Four Deadly Sins:  Alcohol, Sugar, Caffeine, and Fat.

Two of these, Alcohol and Fat, are already on their way out.  I have steadily reduced my alcohol consumption to beer and wine.  And beer is the next thing to go.  Fat has never been a great problem for me - I like cheese and butter, but that is about it.

Caffeine is the next to go.  I am working on reducing my coffee intake from three cups (one cup at home and two at work) to one at home before I go to work and supplementing with tea throughout the day.

But sugar - ah, there is the rub.  Not because it is everywhere (it really is), but because I love it so much.  This is the hardest thing to conquer - but with diabetes in my family, arguably the most important.

Do I have a goal?  Not a well defined one - nor is a weight defined one as meaningful as a health index one has.  I'll say this:  My weight out of high school was 140 lbs and I am 35 lbs about that.  Some of that is muscle, but surely not all of it.  I do not realistically think I could make it back to 140 lbs and maintain muscle mass - but something a little higher might be a worthy goal.

I am striving to be lighter, quicker, and healthier if for no other reason than I want to feel better. And sometimes that is reason enough.

Friday, December 15, 2017

R.C. Sproul.

R.C. Sproul of Ligonier Ministries went home yesterday.

I was privileged to hear him speak twice at Shepherd's Conferences.  He was a cogent speaker, one of the meaningful proponents of The Reformation and what it truly meant, and perhaps one of the greatest theologians in the U.S. of the late 20th and early 21st Century.  His radio program was Renewing Your Mind; Amazon lists 20 pages of books for which is the author or is connected with.

In this age of lazy theology and shallow thinking, his clear intellect and forceful preaching of the Word will be sorely missed.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Jeremiah 45

One last thought on this issue of being confronted by God on the direction of my life and I am done:

"The word that Jeremiah the prophet spoke to Baruch the son of Neriah, when he had written these words in a book at the instruction of Jeremiah, in the fourth year of Jehoiakim the son of Josiah, king of Judah, saying, Thus says the Lord, the God of Israel, to you, O Baruch:  ‘You said, “Woe is me now! For the Lord has added grief to my sorrow. I fainted in my sighing, and I find no rest.”’
 “Thus you shall say to him, ‘Thus says the Lord: “Behold, what I have built I will break down, and what I have planted I will pluck up, that is, this whole land. And do you seek great things for yourself? Do not seek them; for behold, I will bring adversity on all flesh,” says the Lord. “But I will give your life to you as a prize in all places, wherever you go.”’” - Jeremiah 45:  1-5

Wednesday, December 13, 2017

On Understanding God's Will - And Not Liking It

A follow-up on yesterday's Post A Cold Splash Of Reality:

I think the most difficult - or maybe from my perspective, shocking - of yesterday's confrontation with my actual reality is the focus of where the direction came from.  I like to think that I am called to a great many things, none of the related to what I currently do.  God, apparently, feels rather strongly that I am called - at least currently - to very specifically what I do.

Therein lies the rub, of course.  I hear of people being called and people living out their calling and like to think "Hey, that is for me too!".  They may very well be living out their calling - just as I am being called to live out mine.  The difference is that my apparent calling and my desires are radically different.

This would seem to be where the moment of tension comes.  Do I follow the calling that I see God giving me - and by "follow" I mean dedicate myself to it as strongly as I would to anything that I really desired?  Or do I begrudgingly do the minimum, trying to wait God out in hopes that He suddenly changes His mind and relents - "Wow, TB. You are right and I am wrong.  I totally agree that you should be doing X."

That is the most difficult part:  to give one's self 100% to His revealed will as eagerly as I would give myself to something I would prefer a great deal more.  To make myself as careful a student and practitioner of what I do as a career as I would of being a writer on the way up or a farmer building a sustainable venture or a theologian preparing a sermon.  These, all of them, seem to have impacts and influences and meaning beyond the actions and acts themselves.  Sadly, becoming a student and practitioner of Quality is to become an expert in government regulations and nuances of applications, something which neither seems to have significant impact nor influences (Quality being like the transmission of your car:  you only miss it when it stops working).

But if I am completely, totally, bitterly, 100% honest, this seems to be what I am being told.

I am trying to adjust my schedule, my reading, my studies, and my practices around this.  To head into the storm front of a wealth of information that seems almost trivial in the great scope of things is turning out to be one of the hardest things I have ever done.

There is another aspect that I am coping with as well:  the active surrender of hope.

To embrace the will of God (at least as I currently understand it) is to let go of the hope that it will all change.  Can it change?  Of course - in an instant.  But can is not the same as will.  And setting one's self always to hope for the thing that may never occur is to try and bridge a canyon that is continuing to move apart.

I will still do the things I love, of course - iai, gardening, writing (even if only here), and the 40 other things I fill my life with.  It is just that, perhaps for the first time in my life, I am admitting that those things will never be more than they are: hobbies, amateur activities that I can grow better at but only enjoy in my off hours.  My path, it appears, lies in the very direction I have been trying to escape from all this time.

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

A Cold Splash Of Reality

God has a funny way of  getting my attention sometimes.

Why, not even two days ago I was working on my goals for next year.  I was feeling confident.  I was feeling in charge.  I had the year mapped out with confidence and aplomb.

And then, yesterday, found out that I had dropped the wrong ball.  I kept a number of them up in the air, but not one that I needed to.  Just like that, I came crashing back down to reality.

The rather unhappy truth is that - for right now - every other plan hinges rather tremendously on my bringing in an income. Any plans I might have - no matter how glorious or high minded or exciting or even fun - pretty much fall apart instantly the moment that my income is not what it is now.  Yes, I am trying to work on the situation but yes, nothing I am looking at is even close to what I would need to keep everything going at the moment.

So I went back to my goals tonight, and "deferred"  (really axed) a bunch of them.  My career, at least the one I do right now, figures rather highly in activities for the coming year. 

It is hard.  It is as if God is pushing my focus back to the here and now, to the reality I am and the things right in front of my nose.  It makes me scared, because I cannot afford to mess this up.  And then it makes me angry, because I feel as if this is all that there is and I am being asked abandon all hope of life being other that what it has been (more or less) for the last 20+ years.

In other words, I guess I am being asked to trust and have faith.  In  a future that seems as unattainable and far away as Alpha Centauri.

Monday, December 11, 2017

On Bitcoin

So Bitcoin apparently is either the new thing or the next Tulipmania.

To be fair, I do not understand Bitcoin, or cryptocurrencies in general.  I read a bit on Blockchain today and maybe think I get that, but maybe not.  I read up on Cryptocurrencies as well - sadly, again not getting it.

I am not overly concerned about it, of course - I went through my "get rich quick" phase 13 years ago and after missing out on the real estate boom (and bust), have pretty much relegated myself to the world of save and invest - not just in stocks and bonds, mind you.  Land and the ability to provide food have value as well.

I understand the attraction, of course:  skyrocketing value, non-governmental control (a big plus for me), and the ability to "earn" (apparently) on your own (e.g. "mining").  And apparently it is becoming a thing because more and more businesses are accepting them, which suggests that it is a trend to stay.

In moments like these, I always bear in mind Warren Buffet's advice:  "Do not invest in anything you do not understand".  Which sounds pedestrian, I know.  But I would rather be pedestrian and keep my smaller gains than be cool and lose larger ones.  I tried that, once. 

Never again.

Friday, December 08, 2017


So we had a rare event in our clime - not anything to compare to Reverend Paul in Alaska or Rain and Kymber in Canada, but snow none the less!

My garden fence is not a great protection from the elements:

Rain, I have two lemons.  Let us see if they make it.

The backyard has a blanket of sorts:

And the lavender is covered:

My Christmas lights have actual snow!  

Two days ago it was 80 F and I was wondering how my dry my grass was.  Not an issue now:

Snow and tree trunk:

It will all melt by tomorrow of course, and for us freezing and ice is the real danger.  Still, it is nice to get a little bit of a White Christmas.

Thursday, December 07, 2017

Keeping Work About Work

So one thing the recent run of news headlines and social events has me thinking about is how I act at work.

I would argue I am hardly inappropriate - although to be fair, I probably have not been as well behaved as I should have been (we can always do better).  But I fear we are rapidly approaching the day where almost anything can be construed in an unfortunate manner.

So to wit, how should anyone - male or female - now act at work?

I do not know that I have all the answers.  I do have some suggestions though.

1)  Interactions at work need to be about work:  Limit your talk to work related items.  Personal things, such as perhaps what you did this weekend or even how your child is doing, might be okay - but I would not recommend it.  Even those innocuous sorts of conversations may eventually lead to something else.  If only work is being discussed, you never have to remember what else you talked about.

(One potential question here is what, if any, personal effects one should have in the workplace.   This is another thing I have been evolving my thinking on.  Over time, I am dropping down the number of personal items I have at work.  I anticipate having virtually nothing of a personal nature in the not too distant future).

2)  When at work, work: Do not talk.  Do not socialize.  Work.

3) Any sort of physical contact, of course, is right out:  Arguably, shaking hands upon meeting someone for the first time (and upon their leaving) will probably remain a business norm (although I wonder if the Asian custom of bowing comes into vogue.  No risk of contact at all).  Beyond that, I cannot think of reason - beyond, say, someone choking - that such a thing would be necessary.

4)  Discussions need to be in the open:  Ideally, have meetings with a glass window or door so that you are visible at all times.  If in a group meeting where this is not possible, say as little as possible.  Taking notes is not a bad idea either.

5)  Do not take work outside of work:  There is a high risk that happy hours and parties - really, anything involving alcohol and coworkers - ends uncomfortably or badly.  Friends and family are for weekends and evenings and holidays, coworkers are for work.  (I suppose one question arising out of this would be if you can have friends that start as work acquaintances and grow out of that.  20 years of industry experience tells me no.  In this day and age, work friendships seem to revolve a great deal more around proximity than truly shared interests.  Sure, you may continue to connect through social media or business organizations and wish each other Happy Birthday when prompted by Facenovel.  But it is the rare person I talk to two years after leaving a job, let alone fifteen.).

Looking at the list, you might come to believe that what I am proposing is a sort of monastic, silent worker that speaks as minimally as possible and creates a workplace that is somewhat joyless and soulless.  I do not know that that is quite what I am thinking of - after all, even in the most serious of environments there is some level of "fun" involved.  But I think, at least for myself, I am going to end up becoming a lot more like this.  For two reasons:

1)  It is just more efficient and accomplishes more work.

2)  It eliminates any potential weakness for future accusations (never create a weakness for an enemy).

I am sure that for whomever implements such protocols as these (or for some event things more drastic), questions will inevitably arise about why I am acting this way or if I even have a personal life and family..   My response - the only logical response - has to be "I keep my work life and my personal life completely separate".

Wednesday, December 06, 2017

The Little Drummer Boy

I have always loved the song "The Little Drummer Boy".

Yes, I understand it is completely extra-biblical and we have not a shred of evidence for it and yes, I know that the Christmas celebration went on for hundreds of years without it.  I still love it.

I love it on two levels.  On one level, it is a very good message, not just about the birth of Christ (always a very god message) but also about the power of giving what one has.  On the other level, I love the song as written: it has a very distinctive beat, one that is instantly recognizable.

When driving home a few days ago, I suddenly heard a version I had not heard before.  It took me a bit of searching to find it turns - turns out it is For King and Country's live version.  I enjoyed it so much, I thought I would share.

Please click below:

Tuesday, December 05, 2017

Be Stronger

Sometimes I ask myself why I am in this time, when I so often feel like I have little power to change the world or even fix myself:

Monday, December 04, 2017

Protecting The Garden (Sort Of)

So yesterday I realized that our backyard is filled with little sticks which Poppy has been pulling down and chewing.  Which is all fine and dandy - after all, I don't miss a few oak sticks.  Then I realized that my pepper plant had also become dog fodder.  I needed a solution:

It is not a perfect solution, of course.  My option where either the flexible plastic fencing (pictured here) or the wire fencing (not pictured here), which was a great deal less flexible   I am willing to take a chance that it will be inconvenient enough not to go through.

Pictured are the garlic and leeks and spinach/lettuce, whose little lives I am trying preserve:

I am not sure how it will work this year, but maybe (when Poppy calms down a bit with age) it will work better. I can say that for the sake of convenience and ease of use, it is hands down more convenient than wire.

Friday, December 01, 2017

On Christmas Lights

There is something absolutely joyful about Christmas lights.

I am not really sure what it is - after all, they are just colored bits of plastic (or clear) encasing a light.  Some blink, some shimmer, some slowly glow and then disappear, and some simply just sit there.  They come in big and small, fat and thin, brilliant and subdued.

So why do I find them so magical?

Part of it, I truly believe, is the fact they simple are different kinds of lights.  I spend my life underneath fluorescents or "soft" lighting:  almost always yellow or white, of one intensity.   Christmas lights are variety and splendor.  I can sit and read and work under the colors of the rainbow.

Some of it, perhaps, is also the fact that (generally) Christmas lights are always, well, associated with Christmas.  And other fun things.  It is not like anyone ever said "I am having the worst day ever.  Let me put up Christmas lights."  Nope, they only go up for festive, happy occasions.

And finally, perhaps, Christmas lights - especially not at Christmas - are way to show independence in a world of uniformity.  Christmas lights in odd places - nooks for reading or coffee bars or even inside in the 11 months of the year that are not Christmas - make us stop and look, make us wonder - indeed, perhaps make us look at our own lives and wonder why we do not have a little more whimsy in them.

With all of their bright and shining joy, why would this not be the most wonderful time of the year?

Thursday, November 30, 2017

On Talking Too Much

I am realizing this week that I probably talk about 50% more than I need to.

It all started about two weeks ago, when The Viking and I were headed over to throw in a neighboring town.  He is a good road trip partner:  easy to talk to, wide ranging conversation, and actual listening occurring.  At one point he said "You know, for the fact that we have been friends for at least 4 years, I know almost nothing about your wife or your kids."

That is odd, I thought.  I did not think of myself as avoiding talking about them.  I filed it away.

This week, I have had the opposite problem at work.  It feels like I am talking too much at work.  I am not sure why - yes, you have to speak to others to exchange some level of information.  What I found, as I considered it, was that I tended to go beyond that.  There is a certain amount of conversation I have to do (in my own eyes, anyway) to keep the lines of communication open.  The problem, it seemed to me, was that sometimes I tend to make conversation because I do not really want to hurry back to my desk to get on the ever growing pile of items that need my attention.

And then last night came the final consideration:  that moment where you think you said something clever, everyone acted as if you said something clever, but you end up with this slightly unsettled feeling in your stomach - "Was that really as funny as I think" you wonder, "or was I just on the edge of being annoying or not funny?"

Which, on the whole, makes me think that I am just talking a lot more than I need to be.

Partially, it probably needs to be properly segregated.  Talk about work, at work.  Talk about not-work, at not-work.  Do not mix the two.

And on the whole, say less than you have to.  Some of that (my wife and children) is probably instinctive from years of keeping my life separate at some level.  But I need to work on separating them out more.

There are places and times and relationships for conversation.  The problem seems to be that I confuse what and when those are.  And certainly, I seem to be pushing the line on where it is all about me and where it becomes unfortunate.

From the Spartans we have inherited the word laconic, which suggests a short, pithy statement rather than a long conversation.  For myself anyway, it might not be a bad things to keep in mind.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

A Breakthrough Year?

In talking with A Chailin Ruadh yesterday, we were both lamenting the fact that our lives seem to be in some kind of stasis or time warp, really moving nowhere even where others seem to be.  "You know what I wish for?"  I wrote to her.  "I would love a break through year."  She agreed that such a thing would indeed be wonderful.

Which got me to thinking:  what would constitute a "breakthrough" year?

"Breakthrough:  An act or instance of moving through or beyond an obstacle; a sudden advance in knowledge or technique" (Thanks, Merriam-Webster.)

So, moving through or beyond a barrier, huh?  Some sudden advance in knowledge or technique?

When I think of a breakout, I think of something that is just significantly above and beyond anything that has happened for a while.  Like an actual change in living versus always thinking about it.  Like overcoming some great obstacle in my life that I have been fighting in my life for years.  Like moving forward with one or more of my goals in a way that is demonstrable and noticeable?

Man, when was the last time something like that happened?

I suppose it is just that it does not feel like that kind of thing has happened - in a long time.  The end of the year is a great deal like the beginning of the year; the changing of the guard on December 31st comes to seem the same year after year. 

But what would be like to get to the end of the year and realize that things are different - in a very good way - than when you were started?  What, really, would it be like?  And why is it I have trouble picturing that such a thing would be?

Monday, November 27, 2017

One Of Those Days

Yesterday was one of those work days where you just crawl home hoping nothing else can go wrong.

Oh, I had the greatest of intentions when I showed up, of course.  I was coming off of four days of no work.  What was there that could possibly go wrong?

Well, the wireless, for one. And then the whole stinking network.  And the five things I had to get to instead of the five things that I wanted to get to done.  By the time I left, the greatest victories of the day I could point to was changing a battery to fix a mouse and getting the document I had started working on at 0830 done by the time I left in the evening.

It was not, on the whole, a very encouraging day.  It is the sort of day, in fact, that makes me seriously question what I am doing and why.

There are some days that I feel like I am actually making a difference - in some cases, a life changing one.  But more often than not - and more often than not lately - it feels a great deal more like I am just scrambling to accomplish a series of tasks only to find another series of tasks behind them to be accomplish - perhaps, it might be argued, an unending series of small tasks leading to something that I cannot fully visualize.

I am finding this somewhat problematic.

I am hopeful (but not overly so) that tomorrow will be different.  But even at its best, I am still looking 6 months out and seeing more and more things stretching out over a timeline I cannot seem to see the end of.

Building things is nice.  But sometimes you need to see something you built.

A Few Words From....Tecumseh

"Live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about his religion.
Respect others in their views and demand that they respect yours.
Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long and of service to your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend,
or even a stranger, if in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people, but grovel to none.
When you rise in the morning, give thanks for the light,
for your life, for your strength.
Give thanks for your food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason to give thanks, the fault lies in yourself.
Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools
and robs the spirit of its vision.
When your time comes to die,
be not like those whose hearts are filled with fear of death,
so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time
to live their lives over again in a different way.
Sing your death song, and die like a hero going home."

-Tecumseh (1768-1813), Shawnee Chief

Friday, November 24, 2017

Sunk Relationship Costs

Two days ago I wrote of the fact of how difficult I found it to let relationships go.  Today I suddenly understood the reason why.

The concept is one of business, that of sunk costs, costs that are invested into a project which, whether or not the project succeeds, are non-recoverable.  As Greg McKeown says in his book Essentialism:  The Disciplined Pursuit of Less:

"Sunk cost bias is the tendency to invest time, money, or energy into something we know is a losing proposition simply because we have already incurred, or sunk, a cost that cannot be recouped.  But of course this can easily become a vicious cycle:  the more we invest, the more determined we become to see it through and see our investment pay off.  The more we invest in something, the harder it is to let go." (Emphasis mine.)

Having read that last sentence, suddenly everything became crystal clear to me.  I cannot let go of some people because at some point I had invested so much in the relationship.

Once upon a time, back in the "old days" - say pre-2000 - one simply lost track of people due to moves or time and that was that. Distance was distance and more often than not, a relocation in time or career meant that one simply accepted the high likelihood of the loss and moved on.  But with the advent of mobile phones and cheap calling plans and social media, this all changed:  suddenly the possibility of keeping up with people in real time became a reality.  The investment, it seemed, would not be lost.

But just because something can be does not mean that it will be.

Again, back to the original point of comment:  people move on because, ultimately, we no longer fill a purpose or met a need in their lives (I discount those that leave because of intentionally caused harm, which is both wise and understandable, or unintentionally caused harm, which is wise and understandable from their point of view as well although sometimes confusing).  Seldom do they immediately just "disappear":  it happens instead over period which, if we were honest enough with ourselves and not so concerned with trying to recoup the value of our "investment", we would realize what was happening.  We - or at least I - tend to react by becoming more clingly, more insistent - until the day that calls are no longer answered and the messages disappeared.

Let me be clear:  this is a me thing.  This has nothing to do with anyone else or their actions.  This purely and totally falls on my shoulders.

But falling on my shoulders means I also have the means of resolving the problem.

When I view an investment, I view it from the point of if it is giving me the return I expected.  If it is not, I sell it, accept the loss in revenue and time, and move on.  The same factor should hold true here as well.

Relationships are indeed an investment of time and energy.  But like any investment, they run their course as well.  And only the fool who pretends or does not know better does not realize when it time to simply cut their losses and move on.

Thursday, November 23, 2017

Thanksgiving Proclamation, 1789

I do it every year.  Because we need to remember:

George Washington's 1789

Thanksgiving Proclamation

Whereas it is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the providence of Almighty God, to obey His will, to be grateful for His benefits, and humbly to implore His protection and favor; and Whereas both Houses of Congress have, by their joint committee, requested me to "recommend to the people of the United States a day of public thanksgiving and prayer, to be observed by acknowledging with grateful hearts the many and signal favors of Almighty God, especially by affording them an opportunity peaceably to establish a form of government for their safety and happiness:"
Now, therefore, I do recommend and assign Thursday, the 26th day of November next, to be devoted by the people of these States to the service of that great and glorious Being who is the beneficent author of all the good that was, that is, or that will be; that we may then all unite in rendering unto Him our sincere and humble thanks for His kind care and protection of the people of this country previous to their becoming a nation; for the signal and manifold mercies and the favorable interpositions of His providence in the course and conclusion of the late war; for the great degree of tranquility, union, and plenty which we have since enjoyed; for the peaceable and rational manner in which we have been enable to establish constitutions of government for our safety and happiness, and particularly the national one now lately instituted for the civil and religious liberty with which we are blessed, and the means we have of acquiring and diffusing useful knowledge; and, in general, for all the great and various favors which He has been pleased to confer upon us.
And also that we may then unite in most humbly offering our prayers and supplications to the great Lord and Ruler of Nations and beseech Him to pardon our national and other transgressions; to enable us all, whether in public or private stations, to perform our several and relative duties properly and punctually; to render our National Government a blessing to all the people by constantly being a Government of wise, just, and constitutional laws, discreetly and faithfully executed and obeyed; to protect and guide all sovereigns and nations (especially such as have shown kindness to us), and to bless them with good governments, peace, and concord; to promote the knowledge and practice of true religion and virtue, and the increase of science among them and us; and, generally to grant unto all mankind such a degree of temporal prosperity as He alone knows to be best.

Given under my hand, at the city of New York, the 3d day of October, A.D. 1789.


Wednesday, November 22, 2017

Letting People Go

I have never been able to readily let people go.

I am not really sure where this comes from. I wonder if it comes from a deep seated feeling that people leaving means that I am not good enough or worthy of enough to be maintained.  Or it could simply be from a sense of pride, that horrible monster that says  "You do not leave me.  I leave you."

But if I objectively look at the outcome of the last 35 years, I come away with the sense that far more people have left than have stayed.  And the longer I live, the more attenuated the gaps seem to become, until what would seemed to have been a steady course of land stretching behind me has a series of small islands, more and more which seem to be receding into the Sea of Memory.

People get busy, of course.  And in a society where there is a plethora of things to occupy one's time, keeping up with old acquaintances that one has not seen in years and with whom one shares perhaps nothing in common now- or worse, only bad and unfortunate memories- probably falls to bottom of the list.  As, quite likely, it should.

I get wistful, of course.  It is part of the romantic in me, I suppose - wondering what happened to people, where they are now, what they are doing - not that this information is at all inaccessible these days of course:  give me five minutes and two social media sites and I can general find out.

But that is not really the point.  I can find the information; I can no longer find the people.

That is the most distressing part.  It is one thing to have events wander away from us; it is another thing entirely to figure out that there is quite likely a reason that people are no longer in contact with you.

The fault, I suspect, is largely my own.  Contrary to my beliefs about myself, I have created any number of bad memories for others, no doubt.  I have failed others.  I have been unkind with words and deeds.  I have not always treated others as I ought.

And so now, every time I find such an urge rising up in me - the urge to follow a link, to search a name, to linger over a recent picture and memories - I beat it back down inside and carefully lock it away.    People have chosen. And it is far more important that I respect their choice than fulfill any sort of foolish nostalgia I have lingering my mind. 

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

The Turn You See Coming

Sometimes you find that you have turned corners and scarcely realize that such a thing has happened.

You suspect it is coming, of course:   like an average city block  you grasp that at some point the intersection will arrive.  You may even have a sense of how far it is until the turn arrives - and then, just like that, it is there.

You probably have made the turn out of instinct before you even thought about it; looking in the rear view mirror you see the traffic that was trailing you headed on down towards what you had believed was your destination.  It was not, apparently:  the turn arrived and for some reason you took it while others did not.

You probably think about it some as you continue on your new course: Did you see it coming?  Did you suspect?  Why did you turn?  And perhaps most importantly, where is it that you are headed now? 

There is probably a pang or two of regret as you continue to motor away.  The destination you thought you were heading to is no longer yours, and the people you thought were going to be there when arrived may not - nay, probably will not be there.  And you have no way of knowing what, or who, you will fine.

But all this is conjecture, of course:  the turn came and you made it and others did not.  All you can do now is to continue to drive into the sunset.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Kindness, Where Art Thou?

Yesterday morning, in a correspondence with A Chailin Ruadh, she mentioned that that her manager had given her a bouquet of flowers for coming in to work on Saturday.  "How kind"  I commented.  "Yes, it is unexpected" she replied.

Which got me to thinking:  Kindness has become a very scarce and unusual thing.

What is kindness?  That is a hard thing to connotatively define.  Merriam Webster would tell you it is the quality or state of being kind, which itself is define as "having or showing a gentle nature and a desire to help others; wanting and liking to do good things and bring happiness to others."  But that is only a general definition.  Kindness, it seems to me, something more seen out of the corner of our eyes rather than clearly.  It manifests itself in different ways:

- Choosing to creatively discuss a failure and come up with solutions rather than come down hard on the failure.

- Choosing to not draw attention to an issue at in inopportune time when it would detract from the main attraction.

- Helping when it is neither your responsibility nor your job.

- Speaking a kind word when it is not required.

Kindness is not costless, of course.  It costs something to creatively resolve an issue instead of attacking someone or not speaking when to speak would be justifiable or to expend one's time on something that is not in one's area of responsibility.  It costs us our right to ourselves, to perhaps be righteously indignant or angry or to answer questions after the fact about why we chose not comment when things were "blatantly obvious".

Why has it become so rare?  The definition of kind perhaps gives us an answer:  something about one's self and something about one's focus.

For the self, "having a gentle nature, wanting and liking to do good".  This suggests that we have a nature such as this - and a gentle nature is something I would argue is neither valued by this society, this social system, or the values currently transcendent.  Perhaps "wanting and liking to do good" is more universal, but too often it is only defined as good that benefits me somehow, not necessarily someone else.

For one's focus, both definitions focus on others, on helping them and wanting to bring happiness to them.  This, again, would seem to be the sort of the thing that in principle is a thing valuable today, but in practice not so much.

Why?  I wonder if it is not due to the fact that we as a civilization and a society have become concerned (extraordinarily so) with the self, specifically the things that benefit me.  I am not discussing the legitimate concern and responsibility I have to provide for those I am responsible for.  What I am talking about is the very real fact that for many, the universe really does revolve around them.  And in the universe of One (Me), neither gentleness nor others figure as valuable commodities.  They are more additions that can be thrown away as needed in the pursuit of the universal good (which in my universe, is the self).

It may seem that kindness is a bit of a luxury, the sort of thing that people can offer when they have taken care of all that is critical to survival, and perhaps one could argue that this is true.  My counterargument would be that in fact kindness is as critical as any food, shelter, or clothing we need for survival.  Without it, personal relations and society itself become a clashing battlefield of self against self, of my wants against your wants, of seeking the aggrandizement of self over all others.

If you would comment that this sounds a great deal like a vast civil and societal war, I would agree with you that it does.  The question is more "How does one stop it?"

Like more wars, of course.  Except in this battle, kindness becomes both the weapon and the goal to be sought.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Outer and Inner Collapse

I have been wrangling back and forth with myself what to write about.

Part of me really - REALLY - wants to write about current events that suggest that the country, as whole, is pretty much politics.  But that is politics, which we do not do here.  Another part of me wants to write about what appears to be the complete and total moral collapse that seems to have engulfed Western civilization to the point that I do not think that it can be come back from - but again, that seems to border on politics.

And then I realized that really, all of the outside angst I am feeling is really more indicative of my inside angst.

I am feeling cast adrift, caught between the reality that I live in and the reality that I would like to live in - only to discover that the greater reality seems to be completely unraveling.  What good is it if you are good at a job in an industry that failing, or even a society that is failing?  What good is getting halfway to the life you want to live only to have everything around you dissolve?  It is as if you were trying to drive halfway across the country only to run out of gas in the middle of New Mexico with no town or car around:  you are stuck.

Societies, just like economies, are built on an array of almost invisible relationships that ultimately reside in trust and faith in others and circumstances.  Without this faith and trust that a certain cause and effect exists in social affairs, people have no reason to continue to invest in them.  If crime is ultimately not punished, why should one approach the authorities or report the crime - or on a broader level, why pay for the taxes that support the government that is not  doing their job anyway?  It is as if I can see the the strands unraveling before my eyes even as I am powerless to stop it - and am running out of time to do what needs doing before something serious collapses.

It is a bit selfish, I confess, to be more worried about me and mine rather than the greater masses out there. But I am exactly as all I see:  my own trust and faith in this society and civilization has been unraveled, almost to the point where collapse is viewed not so much with terror or anger but rather as something which simply needs to happen so we can all move on to the next phase.

And so I have come to view current events not so much as omens of worse to come but rather as evidence that things are simply crumbling - perhaps a little more quickly than anticipated, but collapsing none the less.  We are not surprised that the waves destroy the sand castle, only that it does not destroy the castle sooner.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

My Dwindling Consumption of Entertainment

My consumption of current entertainment has dwindled to almost nothing.

This has been a gradual process, of course.  The last television series I kept up with was almost 20 years ago - and with The Severing Of The Cable ten years ago, such things are now non-extant.  My theater/film attendance, which peaked somewhere around the time of The Lord of The Rings, has also steadily dwindled away to where if I attend more than one movie a year in a theater, it is a remarkable thing,  My attendance of the theater, never something of note, is now essentially limited to plays and musicals I know a child in.

Part of this, to be sure, is financially and technology based.  NetFlix and You Tube have made it easy to find almost anything I want to watch for almost nothing - and if I am really pining for a film, I can go to my local large Quarter Price Books and spend less than the cost of a ticket:  $5 to $10 to own it.  When the cost of a theater ticket is $7 for an afternoon showing and $12 for an evening showing (and even more for one of the fancy Dinner and A Movie places), this begins to make a difference (to be fair, we have a "Dollar" theater near us, although they never seem to be in quite as good repair).

Part, I know, is the fact that these sorts of things are a time sink - and for an unknown product, a great risk.  The average film or play is 1.5 to 2.5 hours, television shows 25 to 55 minutes: is it worth it to risk my precious time on something that I am not sure that I will like with time I cannot get back?  And part, of course, is that the entertainment industry long ago seems to have departed from my values and mores.

But the biggest contributing factor seems to be, remarkably enough, that the entertainment is no longer entertaining. 

Oh, they can be exciting or gripping or occasionally moving.  But even within this there is little sense that I am entertained, that I am being taken away from my existence into another reality and come out on the other side as a better or more thoughtful person.  More often than not, it has come to be something that fills the time (and kills it) and something that is anything that just entertaining.  And why would I pay someone for that?

I am sure all manner of entertainment shall continue to be produced (after all, it does make money for someone), just as I am sure that my consumption of it will continue to decline.  After all, is not part of self sufficiency not that ability to entertain one's self?

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

The Great Dropping Out

One day - I do not wonder any more if it is in the all that far future - thousands, maybe hundreds of thousands of people (in my wildest dreams, millions) are going to simply drop out of the world at large.

It is happening, I know, in small numbers now.  But in my soul, my bones, I feel like this is going to start to becomes more and more of a movement.

In is, perhaps, in a sense the quintessential "Going Galt": people realizing that the world simply has nothing to offer them except grief, destruction, and treatment as the financial mule that moves society.

Most people will not notice it in any meaningful way, of course.  Folks will suddenly just seem to be not "around" any more - not in society, not (mostly) on-line, not in the stores, not in the entertainment venues, not really anywhere except the places they choose to be, which likely will be away from the public eye (and consumer spending).

Governments will eventually notice of course:  incentivize people long enough not to be successful and guess what:  they will not be, at least not in any way that is remotely taxable.  Commercially people may notice as large chunks of the economy stagnate:  retail, entertainment, indeed many sorts of things that are not essential to daily living.  Religious institutions may be the beneficiaries of this - not all of them of course, as such people tend to be less about the appearance of the church and the worship but rather about the integrity of the message and the presence of the Holy in the place.

There is a perfectly viable argument to made that even now, to a large extent, society may be disengaged from with none the worse for wear.

Not notified of elections or financial events?  Be honest: to what extent does your involvement in such things matter beyond the initial vote or investment?  Not much, to be sure, until the next vote or next investment occurs.  Things might go really bad?  Possible, but again what will your involvement do except to remind people that you are there?

One day, in the land of drained coffers and wrecked economies and spiritual wastelands and urban centers of decay and rural pastures where all the farming was for corporations, the question will be asked "Where did all the producers go?  How do we get them back?"

The reality will be is that mostly likely, they will not be coming back.  They are perfectly content to live their lives in solitude and engagement the daily act of living without the need of involvement or oversight. 

In the end, it is not those that leave that are the most needy; it is the institutions that drove them away.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Goodbye Bountiful Gardens

Friends - Sad news today. I was notified via e-mail that Bountiful Gardens (  is going out of business after 30 plus years.

This saddens me greatly.

I think I first found Bountiful Gardens in 2004.  They had an amazing selection of heirloom seeds reasonably priced (my wheat, corn, and barley yields that year were never beaten).  The service was prompt and friendly, and it came to where every year I looked forward to getting their catalog and planning both for my regulars as well as my 2-3 larks I would try just to see if they would grow.

I have no idea why they are going out of business (and they apparently have not announced it) but I will miss them a great deal.

One thought: currently they are selling almost everything at 15% off, so if you want to pick up some unusual seeds now might be the time.  I am building up my grain experiments....

Any suggestions for other heirloom, non-GMO seeds?

Monday, November 13, 2017

Winter Garden 2017

My 2017 Winter Planting is done.

I have fairly low aspirations this Fall:  Garlic (always the Garlic), two kinds of lettuce, two kinds of spinach, leeks, beets,  barley, and wheat.  This probably a little less than what I usually plant, but then again, my summer garden was nothing to brag about.

A little bit different than other years, of course.  My continued heaping of rabbit droppings and horse litter (wood pellets that have degraded) have composted nicely into a lovely humus that is fairly easy to work and retains a great deal of moisture.  Basing  a little bit off of The One Straw Revolution I have covered the lot with leftover hay from the rabbits.

My plans for this winter?  Not much.  I'll cover the planting with more hay as it becomes available and let the okra and jalapeno peppers (I managed to get three) go until the cold kills them off, but not much more than that.  There is a certain elegance to practicing natural farming, and I intend to see how far I can do it in the home garden.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place: and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead: Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved: and now we lie
In Flanders fields!

Take up our quarrel with the foe
To you, from failing hands, we throw
The torch: be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Lt. Colonel John McCrae 03 May 1915

Thursday, November 09, 2017

On Thinking Deeply

Re-reading The One Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka, I realize that I am not nearly as deep thinking as I need to be.

"A person can analyze and investigate a butterfly all he likes, but he cannot make a butterfly."

"If you hit the mark on the wrong target, you have missed."

"The ultimate goal of farming is not the growing of crops, but the cultivation and perfection of human beings."

"I probably know more about what can go wrong growing agricultural crops than anyone else in Japan."

Why can I not think like this on a more regular basis?

Two factors, I believe:  Lack of contemplation and lack of purpose.

My days - almost from the time I get up to the time I go to bed - are filled with activity, both mental and physical.  Work has become (literally) a cyclone of activity where I do not seem to have five minutes to contemplate anything, let alone an hour.  But deep thoughts only grow out of the soil of thinking deeply and having the ability to do so (silence plays an incredibly important role here as well).  A constant stream of information flow and decision making, both internal and external, prevents this.

Deep thinking also occurs about something - we thinking deeply about farming or life or love or the nature of rabbits.  Such thinking does not occur in a vacuum.  Without a purpose - in our life or in our thinking beyond the day to day activities we undertake - we do not provide grist for the thought mill.  Bills and documents and pulling the trash out to the curb on Fridays scarcely has the power to generate the sorts of thoughts that change lives (or maybe they do - if your gift is thinking about the very hum drum nature of existence).

Do I have an answer?  Not one that I can readily apply.  Yes, I can perhaps create a little more space in my life for the thoughts to occur?  But on what?  And more importantly, how do I increase that amount of space to think deeply?

Wednesday, November 08, 2017

The Week of Coupons

This week is the Major Used Book Store's Week of Coupon Sales.  It is my equivalent of Halloween - for 7 days.

It is an escalating addiction:  2 days of 20% off the highest price item, then 2 days at 30%, then 2 days at 40%  and a last gut wrenching day of 50% off.

Oh, I have worked it out to a science, of course.   I start scanning as soon as I get notified of the sale.  There are five locations in my relative area, and I go one by one, looking through the sections that I always peruse for this once in a three month opportunity to build my library.

Once I have decided the what and where, then it is the when - after all, I only have one 50% coupon and that has to be used sparingly.  If I buy this book at 40%, does it come in at or below the book at 50%?  And so it goes.

You may find it a bit foolish that I put this much effort into book purchases.  It probably is.  None the less, for one week every so often I get to to live in the world of possibilities, of maybes and what ifs.  And what a wonderful place it can be.

Now, if you will excuse me, I have something I have to go read...

Tuesday, November 07, 2017

Thinking On "The Next Phase"

So last night The Ravishing Mrs. TB and I had our second discussion about "The Next Phase".  

A great deal of this, of course, revolves around what the financing of "The Next Phase" looks like.  Sadly (or at least sadly from my point of view anyway) taxes form a fair amount of consideration here.  I have started doing the math on tax rates in places I would consider living (yes, I know, there are tax free states and I currently live in one.  That said, tax free does not always make it a home).  Then balance the tax rate against things like property taxes, housing costs, and cost of living.  Then balance that against what one thinks one is likely to make in a different location, perhaps doing a different thing (acknowledging that what I currently do means I have to live in certain places, so to relocate would be to live in one of those places or change what I do).

The second is simply "What would we do there?"  Here things diverge a bit more.  The Ravishing Mrs. TB would like to travel.  I am not so much for travel but for staying home more and doing "things" - gardening, bee keeping, actual reading and contemplating, actually taking care of things (instead of packing it in around the margins). other sorts of things that I simply do not have the time to do at this point.  There would have to be a compromise, of course:  endless travel is not in the cards and (if I am truly honest) puttering around is not either.  There is a happy medium there somewhere to be made.

Why does all this matter?  Because it is helping me to frame my thoughts and my actions in the next few years, which have become incredibly important in determining what will happen in the years that follow (even something as simple as "Should I buy this?  Do I really need it or could I save the money?  And would I really want to move it?").  Thinking about possibly doing something very different in 30 years is nebulous.  Thinking about doing something different in as early as less than five is completely different.

Monday, November 06, 2017

10 Miles

Yesterday I ran 10 miles (16 kilometers for my Canadian friends).

I do not know that, had you asked me at the beginning of the year, I would have told you that this is a thing I would have ever contemplated running.  Earlier this year, after I ran 7 miles (10 K), I would have told you no way. 

So apparently I lied to myself?

Maybe.  I had signed up with a friend to run it and something else came up and he decided he was unable to make the run.  I was not going to let my registration fee go to waste. 

When I run a race, I have only two goals.  The first is that I complete the race.  The second is that I run through the entire race.  It does not matter how slow I go, only that I keep running.

The (somewhat) surprising thing about this race was how amazing supportive folks were that were not running the race.  A grandmother who just randomly set up a water booth on the course.  Kids who were cheering and ringing cowbells and giving high fives.  The police in general, who are standing there for 3+ hours managing traffic - and in one case, an officer who helped to pull a stroller up a hill.  And of course all the volunteers and support groups just there ringing cowbells and offering water and shouting their heads off.

The most difficult part?  Actually, not the hills (not too many, but I am not a hill person).  It was really miles 8 and 9 when I kept having to fight myself to stop from walking and keep running.  I think mile 8 was so hard because it was the farthest I had ever gone, mile 9 because it was not mile 10.

How did I do?  1 hour 51 minutes to complete the course, average mile of 11:06  Not bad for 50 years old.  I ran it in a kilt because I promised my friend I would, and I ran the whole race - perhaps very slowly at points, but I kept running?

Will I run so far again?  My brain says no, but my heart is already thinking  "You know, a half marathon is only 3 miles farther...."

Thursday, November 02, 2017

The Economy of Stuff and Ideas

We are passing from the Economy of Stuff to The Economy of Ideas.  And, on the whole, I do not know that this necessarily represents an improvement.

The Economy of Stuff is the economy that the global system has been based on since at least the 1950's.  It is the economy of the consumer, the economy of things at the lowest possible cost.  It is the economy of consumption, the economy of the disposable, the economy of the maker and sellers of things.

The difficulty is twofold, of course.  On the one hand, in order to keep making things at a low cost jobs end up moving from place to place.  Places that made things are replaced by other places that make things more cheaply.  For those that remain, the work they have is replaced - hopefully with something, but sometimes with nothing.  One the other hand, the drive to sell things as cheaply as possible ultimately leads to cheap ways to sell things: small stores are replaced by big stores, bigger stores by chains, and chains by stores on the Internet that can ship things from far away.

Eventually, of course people have more stuff than they need.  And we are making all the stuff we can.  Then comes the next shift, the Economy of Ideas.

The Economy of Ideas is somewhat more nebulous.  It still involves the creation and sale of things, but the things are nebulous, tools that help us accomplish things:  software, designs, plans.  They are higher value things that ultimately help to do lower value things. 

But there is a catch here as well:  ideas cannot be eaten.  They do not directly result in things that can be used.  And they require a fairly large infrastructure of support to make those jobs possible.  And, there are a finite amount of people that can do them due to the education and skill levels required.

What do we end up with?  A society that has started to reach the final point of consumption where it consciously starts to stop consuming.  A society where those who perform lower skilled jobs are replaced by the indirect fruits of those who work in the economy of ideas:  automatic checkouts instead of checkers or even no stores at all, just sorters and delivery drivers (and this, of course, discounts the field of robotics, which at some point will find its stride - and whole new swaths of career fields will become obsolete).  A society where you may have fewer and fewer wealthy and more and more poor, but a society which is also largely paid for by those wealthy.

Do I pine for a return to the old days of "handmade"  On the whole, no - I like convenience and the Economy of Ideas has brought things to my life I could have never imagined.  But economically there are causes and effects:  those out of work buy neither the Economy of Stuff nor the Economy of Ideas.  And the economy ideas often relies on the economy of stuff to accomplish what it is producing.  

If neither side thinks of the other, I am not sure how it ultimately turns out - except that, oddly enough, neither the Economy of Stuff nor the Economy of Ideas can exist without the other.

Tuesday, October 31, 2017

Reflect Jesus, Serve Others

Once upon a time - 2003 - I had a mission statement.  I was very proud of it.  I thought of it all by myself.  It was a pretty good one, I thought, full of purpose and meaning and scope:

To Write for Impact
To Preserve for The Future
To Lead for Change
To Glorify God

Quite the statement, right?  Very forward thinking and action sounding.  Very sort of "Live to leave a legacy".  The sort of thing that future great people have.

Nothing worked out that way, of course.

My "Writing for Impact" resulted in a number of items which did not become the best sellers I was hoping for but fulfilled a dream of writing (and little else).  My blog, although enjoyable (and through which I have met a number of very fine human beings) did not become the monumental change agent for future I expected it would be simply by its existence.  My "Preserving for The Future" seemed to have slipped away when I moved away from where I was thinking I was supposed to be preserving, halfway across the country.

"Leading for Change" never happened.  Despite my rather grandiose imagination, no leadership position appeared - except the sort of leadership positions that are not recognized positions but exist on the fringes of the light, more the sorts of things that one has to do to survive work rather than become drowned by it.  And "Glorifying God" - which in my mind was nothing less than church leadership on a public platform - disintegrated and melted into quiet service in my hands.

The statement itself died a sort of postscript death around 2014, quietly slipping beneath the waves of realities that could not support it.  But I never really thought to replace it until recently.

It has reduced to this:

Reflect Jesus
Serve Others

Reflect Jesus:  Make my life an image of Him in that people see Christ through me.  Be the mirror that reflects Him in their lives, the window through which He can be seen. 

Serve Others:  Always seek to be of service.  Do the work you see that is undone.  

There, I noted as wrote these four words, a rather marked lack of self in them.  Which is actually as it should be.  Nor is there a great deal of direction as to know how these things will be accomplished.  And especially there is no "This is how I will serve God - or not at all".  I think we can agree - or at least I can - that such plans such as I have tried in these matters have, on the whole, ended in rather abysmal failure.

Do I believe that this change in mission statements will somehow lead to all the success I thought I was entitled to?  Not at all - in fact, I have ceased to expect any sort of success at all.  Because the Christian life is never ultimately judged on how "successful" one is has been.  All I can do is reflect Christ and serve others and leave to direction and the outcome to Him.

Monday, October 30, 2017

On Not Being Called To A Career

So last week on Facebook this wandered across my feed:

Initially I posted it because I liked the thought - dig far enough back in my own feed and you will find that "calling" is something that I have struggled with.  But the more I thought about it, the deeper and broader my thoughts became. 

I came to question if there is such a thing as "calling" at all.

I have not totally abandoned the idea - after all, calling in the ministry is something I continue to recognize (with the caveat that fewer people are called than think they are) - but I am considering the concept that for most, calling is a mire created by modern social thinking.

You may, if you are of a certain age, remember a book called What Color Is My Parachute?  This book - updated every year and as far as I know at least in existence for 25 years - uses an assessment of your skills and interests to suggest career fields that you really are made for.   This book matches the zeitgeist of our age, that we are all truly unique individuals and therefore need unique life paths suited to our wants and desires (thus, in a passing mention, the explosion of college graduates with degrees that interest them but no work in their fields.  I am one of those).

There may some value in considering what sort of work we might better be suited for - if I do not enjoy math, perhaps accounting is not a choice for me or if I lack attention to detail, engineering may not be the way to go.  But I submit that the reality is that while these may be indications of certain fields we may do better in, they by no means constitute some sort of "calling" to enter that field.

Work is a great many things, but - as the original post points out - the real point of work is to make a living.  To pay our bills.  To be a responsible adult human being.   Sometimes this may result in a taking and keeping a job that is not our "path" but pays the bills and gives us the most reward for our effort.

A personal example:  Over the past 32 years I have (at one time or another) thought I was "called" to be a teacher, a performer, a writer, a real estate agent, a pastor.  All of these - if I am truly honest with myself - were not completely disinterested choices:  in some way or fashion, they were something I enjoyed doing and figured I was "called" to do.

The reality?  My career during the last 20 years, Manufacturing and Quality in the Biopharmaceutical/Medical Device Industry, has paid all the bills.  The time I invest in improving myself in it has direct and practical financial rewards, a far higher return on investment than any other single activity I have performed for income (by contrast, all 8 of the books I have written have returned me less than $50.00 all told).  If I want to feel like I am "following my path", I write a book or dream big of market gardening or practice the harp harder.  If I actually want to make more money, I learn about regulations and better ways to do Quality.

I have to be the first to admit that finally admitting this fact was one of the hardest things I have had to do in my life.  Admitting the fact that this is what I probably do until I retire is even harder.  There is no "calling" in this, no suiting of my personal skills or interests in this.  At best, I adapt those skills and interests to the job, trying to find ways to use them.  But that is a far different cry from feeling like they are manifesting themselves in my work every day.

I do not know that everyone is this way, but it seems to me that most of the people I have met and know are in the same position.  Ask them the question  - What did you major in during college?  How did you end up in your current position?  - and the answers you will quite often hear are a long winding road of searching for a job but taking the one that was offered. 

Perhaps it makes the world a little dimmer - and I would never say that God does not call people (I think He does).  But I think we have done a great disservice to all job seekers by telling them that only the job that matches their skills and interests is the fulfilling one, that all other jobs  which do not meet that requirement are little better than forced labor. 

It is time - and it would be a helpful thing - if those that make their living on finding people the "work they love" would change their thinking to admit that what we really need to start with is "work that pays".  The love - perhaps like the arranged marriages of old time - is something that might come later but if it does not, we shall at least have made a living in the meantime.