Thursday, May 31, 2018

Realizing Disillusionment

"Disillusionment", said John MacArthur, "is the product of illusion." Find out what you are disillusioned about and you will discover what your illusions are.

This thought has been on my mind over the last week as I have contemplated and reflected.  There is a certain disdain around my soul, a certain sort of quiet anger about the state of my life, which I have come to realize is due to the fact that I am disillusioned - I feel cheated of things that I somehow felt like I had been promised or led to believe were within my grasp.

As I sat down and considered it more, what I came to realize was that my illusions were in every case large things in my life:  A  job that was personally rewarding and deeply engaging, a position of leadership, relationships that were always full and what I desired, reaching the pinnacle of a career and then moving into a second career of my choosing in a location of my choosing.  All of these things - and others - I have clung to as things that were going to happen, that were in some ways bound to happen if I worked hard enough or believed strongly enough. 

But in fact, they are all illusions, false images that were created in my mind for one reason or another and came to be interpreted as things that were owed me, that had to occur - that were destined to occur.  My discontent can easily become anger when I feel I am cheated out of something which I had been promised.

So I had to make a decision, last night as I rethought over these issues.  I can either continue in the illusion, or completely accept that it all was an illusion and get back to perhaps what actual reality was.  And reality, when I sat down and looked at it, seemed to be a great deal like various pieces of thoughts I have voiced here earlier.

Love God.  Love others.Work whole heartedly at the job you have.  Live your life quietly and work with your hands.  Give.  Love your wife and sacrifice for her - and your family.  Learn to be content.

(If all of these sound a lot like the Apostle Paul, that is because he wrote all of them in the Epistles).

In other words, live quietly, humbly, and slowly fade to black.

Part of living quietly, of course, is learning to be untroubled by the world.  It is accelerating the withdrawal from social media and from what media I follow.  It is accepting that any one the things that I had thought would happen might happen - but if they never do that means I am no less of a person for them.

I will say that having made this decision - at least the first 24 hours - there a great sense of not striving and inner solitude.  Not that any of the work of life has gone away - in fact, it seems to have increased.  But having stripped myself of the illusions, I am finding that there is a greater peace.  Things, situations and people cannot disappoint - because demands of them are illusions as well.

It brings to mind the concept that much of life is not how much you are able to keep, but how much you are able to surrender.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

The Chains Of Social Media

I have almost reached the tipping point of social media to where I simply walk away from 90% of my contacts.

I know, I know - many of you do not have the darn thing at all, or have advised me in the past to get rid of it.  And to a large extent, I have tried to moderate the amount of time I spend on it - and succeeded.  But one thing that has consistently remained with me is my unwillingness to "ignore" or "unfriend" people.

(To the uninitiated:  "ignore" is where you no longer see their postings.  "Unfriend" is where you no longer follow them at all.)

I like people.  I do not want people to thing ill of me.  And so I tend to keep them on my list.  I try to overlook opinions I disagree with or posts I do not consider appropriate.  But more and more I am finding myself highly aggravated by what I read people posting.

The problem - as people far more clever than I have posted - is that the InterWeb in general and social media in particular is not a place to make an argument or have a discussion.  In many ways it has become the Western Front of World War I, where artillery shells are fired back and forth and occasionally people lead charges across no-man's land which ultimately result in nothing.  It has become a vast, pock-marked landscape devoid of any life.

Oddly enough, some of the people that I hang on to are in fact not really any part of my life any more - have not been for years.  In a sense this is the microcosm of the issue of social media:  rediscovering relationships which one may have had years ago or for years only to find out that you have both moved significantly apart.  In fact, you may very well be strangers in every sense of the word except for a relationship that has become nothing but a hollow shell.

And as I have come to understand, is this not in fact something which can ultimately limit us all?  If we are only concerned with the opinions of those that no longer matter to us we are no longer self directed but directed by their will.  We have become servants of that which is nothing but the greatest of all straw men, Public Opinion.

So what do to?

I have started at the only place I know:  by beginning to systematically hide the posts of anyone whom I know longer have an active, on-going relationship with.    It is not a lot, to be sure.  But I will start with 10.  And then another 10.  And perhaps over time,  I will begin to rediscover the power of being an individual instead of a servant to demands I can never achieve.

Monday, May 28, 2018

Memorial Day 2018

A simple thank you to all those who made the ultimate sacrifice so I can sit here in front of my screen and type. 

Friday, May 25, 2018

Thursday, May 24, 2018

On The Reading Of Other Blogs

One of my guilty pleasures in these days of hyper-activity is reading all of your blogs.

It usually happens around later in the evening, one of my last rituals just before I go to bed. I click over to see if I had any comments, and then start clicking through the updates since the last time I looked.

Some of my blogging friends no longer post, their last posts standing like mile markers along a lonely load.  I get it - blogs require an investment of time and energy, especially if (like most of us) one is doing this as a labor of love rather than as a financial generator.  But I am fortunate in that there others that post every day or every other day or every three days.

And so every evening I get to walk through other people's pastures and gardens and see parts of the country I will probably never get to and hear stories, little windows into the lives of others.  Sometimes I am encouraged, sometimes I am saddened - but I am always pleased to read of the lives of others.

And there are others, of course - some that for one reason or another I follow for the sheer joy of following although they are not necessarily on my list. Sometimes these turn out to be the gems - surprising things I never though possibly and sometimes things that make me shake my head.

So thanks to all of you that stick with it, who keep putting your writing out there, launching words into the blogosphere without ever knowing where they will land or what good they will do.  Take it from me - they are making an impact.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Today's Lack of Post.... brought to you by a twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, which a local lake was cruised, a local skyline observed, half a million bats made their way skyward, and Mexican food was consumed.  In keeping with this theme, I give you Bat Before The Moon by Biho Takashi (1910):

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Twenty Five Years Of Marriage

So today we celebrate 25 years of being Mr. and Mrs. TB.

I do not know that I can honestly say I had a clue what I was doing when I got married. I do not precisely think the phrase "There was no chance in the world it work" applies, but arguably the odds were reasonably against us:  even at the tender age of 26 I had a fair amount of growing up left to do:  I had two degrees, college debt, and no idea what in the world I was going to do with my life.  I still contend that I probably had nothing particularly wonderful to offer.

We have lived through seven moves, three births, three houses, a rather varied number of careers, nine cars, and rather large collection of pets. We have lost and gained friends.  We have found a number of new interests and lost a number of old ones.

Marriage, in case you do not know, is hard.  It is probably by far the hardest thing I have ever tried to do.  As I described it once to an unmarried friend, "It is not as if you can take your ball and go home.  You are already home."   And I have come to understand over the years how many marriages do in fact fall apart - I suspect in the current environment it is even more difficult because there is so much in the world that tries to drag us apart.  In an age of selfish gratification, being willing to surrender your wants and desires for the sake of the other person really is an act of rebellion.

I do not really have any great advice for how to stay married, other than "Do not give up."  Which seems a bit trite.  After all, not giving up is not a particularly elegant thing (and it sure would not sell books).  But it is that commitment to not giving up, to staying in the relationship for no other reason than you promised you would, that makes things work (e.g. listening to your "feelings" at those moments is not particularly helpful).

We will have a quiet evening tonight, going out for dinner - perhaps one that is a little nicer, perhaps - and reflecting on 25 years of life together.  Not a wholly poor way to spend a milestone.

Monday, May 21, 2018

2018 Spring Garden update

As you might remember, when we last left the garden it was fenced in but with a trio of lettuce and some garlic in place:

We had a planting event about two weeks ago - and we are growing!

Jalapeno (purchased, not from seed)  has some peppers on it already!

The lettuce is putting out flowers for seed heads and the garlic is falling over:

This year's volunteer - a pumpkin, I assume:

Beans and Black Eyed Peas (and the local help):

My Painted Corn is making a promising start:

Tomato plant has some flowers already.  Maybe I can get a few this year:

My two poor lime trees are trying to recover, along with some irises from Old Home that Poppy destroyed the planter on (but have come back nicely):

And finally, a mint plant I bought to go along the side of the house.  For some reason things seem to grow pretty well here without too much extra watering - so I hope it does well:

So far the progress of my sectioned off garden has been so good, I am considering sectioning off other parts of the yard as well for other self contained gardens.

Thursday, May 17, 2018

On The Paring Of Activities

My days have become very focused of late.

With work eating up a great deal more time than I had anticipated, I have had to become a lot more selective and regimented about what I do and when I do it.  The time I have that is not wrapped up in work or family has become precious and something which simply cannot be aimlessly wasted. 

What gets packed in?  Writing (of course), journaling in the morning and blogging at night.  My Bible and inspirational reading, of course.  Iai (practice or class) and workouts (on the days I do not have class).  Icelandic, to prepare for August.  Watering my garden and trying to keep tabs on the pests in it.  A chapter a night and a little Japanese packed in along the side.  The pup and the rabbits get some loves.

And that seems to be about it.

Oh, there is a bit more time on the weekends for some longer developed activities, like cheese or more extensive yardwork or the hint of home improvement.  But frankly, right now, that seems to be about all the time there is.

I have pondered in the past what would rise as the most important activities in the event that my time became constrained.  Turns out, I seem to have discovered what they are.

Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Where Is Holiness?

It strikes me that holiness is something you almost never hear anything about in church anymore.

It saddens me more than I can possibly express - not because I am fan per se of judgment, but that it (to my mind anyway) demeans the nature of God.  Suddenly God is much more concerned with other things - social justice, environmentalism, _____ rights.  These, we are told, are what the gospel is really about.  Sin is at at best alluded to, at worst not mentioned at all.  We are "saved", but from some nameless thing we cannot verbalize.

Mind you, I understand the root of the complaint.  Holiness as it has been interpreted by lots of periods of time has simply become a list of things that a person should not do, sometimes without any root in Scripture.  Yet holiness, we are told, is a command of God - "Be ye holy, as I am holy" (Leviticus 11:44, 1 Peter 1:15).  It is a thing that we are told without which we will not see God.

But think about it:  holiness was valued by the prophets, valued by the apostles, valued by Christ himself (see Matthew chapters 5-7 to get a glimpse of what Christ said holiness looks like). And yet the modern church, for the most part, seems to have turned its eyes away for the clear commands of God in the matter for other things. 

Just plug in your favorite cause - "Be ye Diverse, for I am diverse; be ye environmentally friendly, as I am environmentally friendly".  Oddly enough, you will not find those verses in Scripture (although it is fair to say they are discussed or implied.  But holiness is commanded.

I have to ask myself:  where is the cry for holiness from the church?  Where are the models of holiness in her ranks?  Where are the people - not saints of far away lands and times but those that live near us - that we can look to as role models of holiness?

Holiness, said one preacher, is "to think as God thinks and will as God wills."  Do we true aspire to think as God thinks?  Or do we think as we would like to think that God thinks, sprinkled with our own flavor of interpretation.

Every successful religious movement of the Old and New Testament, even to our day, had holiness its root.  Where is the cry to discover that root in our own churches today?

Social movements and trends will fail us.   Feelings will be betrayed, relationships will be broken.  Only holiness has the enduring power of God in it to sustain us when the going get rough.

Where are the cries for holiness today?

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Earth's Meteors

Phosphorescent balls
dart between my Iai strokes:
Evening's cosmic wind.

Monday, May 14, 2018

The New Dark Ages

Last week I noticed an article that certain schools were starting to discontinued the use of "face" clocks in their classrooms, because some of their students could only interpret digital readouts. 

Sign of the times, I suppose.  But then I got to thinking about the arguments that are being had in some districts about the teaching of cursive writing at all, or the use of hand written calculations or formulas instead of calculators.

Again, a minor point - one would argue that if one can write in block letters one need not write in cursive.  But with the growth of typing as a medium, the same argument could be made - probably will be made - within my lifetime.

Such things are probably all within the the context of the timeline of civilization - after all, blacksmithing used to be the only way to get forged metal and leather working was the plastic manufacture of its day - but it also betrays an increasingly disturbing trend, at least to my way of thinking.  We used to put skills aside for technology; now we are putting aside the basic means of the transfer of knowledge.

One of the great advances from semi-permanent to permanent societies (besides that whole "farming" thing) was the development of the ability to maintain and understand knowledge in the form of records.  Suddenly a person did not have to remember everything; it could be record for posterity and recovered via reading it.

But we are moving backwards in this, it seems.  Oh, not visibly - after all, digital clocks do exist and people do still write.  But ask yourself:  where is the growth of knowledge now?  In means that are transferable without technology such as books, written records, and the like?  Or in visual and written forms that are completely reliant on technology to make them possible?  Which is all fine, of course - until the technology fails or is wrenched away.

In my nightmares, I see a society surrounded by knowledge but with the people unable to read or write to access it, screens of darkness with no letters on them and digital clocks that only ever show the time as blank even as the sun sinks into the evening.  A people starving for knowledge that is locked away as solidly as if it was behind iron bars and concrete walls.

There is a new Dark Age coming - maybe not quite yet, but coming fast.  I check the time on my hand winding, Roman numeral bearing watch.  The sunset is not yet, but will be here soon.

Thursday, May 10, 2018

On Success Books

So as I have often written, I have a little bit of a problem with books - in that I have a fairly large collection of them.  My solution - to almost anything - is when in doubt, to buy a book.  So today, when I was reading an article that recommended a book on goals and success, you can imagine what my initial reaction was.

I like books on success.  I have one or two.  My favorites are the ones by Jeffrey Gitomer and Seth Godin and Steven Pressfield.  Reading them, I can always feel more empowered and focused.

I clicked over to Amazon, looked at the book and the reviews, did the math, and put into into my cart.

And then I stopped and thought for a moment.

The reality is, the message of all books on success and succeeding and goals is - really - the same:  Get Goals.  Plan.  Persevere.  Achieve.  Essentially that is it, filled in with a little bit of stories and humor and encouraging words.  But not much different than that.  Because really, the nature of success is a path well worn by those before it.  It is not a question of more knowledge or more power or even more books, but rather a question of simply putting in the work until you arrive at your goals.

Which in a sense, eliminates the question of buying any other book on success (except if I really like the name or cover).  After all, one can only watch so many re-runs until one turns off the TV and simply goes outside and does something.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Monday, May 07, 2018

On Re-Invention Of The Self

The thought occurred to me that it might be time to re-invent myself.

We all go through periods of micro reinvention.  We sometimes call it "getting a new hobby" or "In A Relationship" or  "Out Of A Relationship" but in each case, they involve changing something about ourselves and our presentation to the world. 

On even rarer occasions we go through major reinventions, where our lives and ourselves significantly change.  This is as varied as "becoming a parent" or "getting married" or "finishing school" or even something as mundane as "purchasing a house".  These are more much more significant in that large portions of our lives have to shift to accommodate the new change.

But these all have one thing in common:  the reinvention is almost invisible to us, brought on by events which in some measure we have chosen.  The idea of consciously,  out of the blue for no reason reinventing ourselves, is a much more difficult and perilous thing.

Difficult?  Changes that take place in the middle of normal living can be tough to sustain.  There is no precipitating event to kick them off nor a continuing event to keep them going until they are on auto-pilot.  It is only the force of will that is going to keep them in place and moving forward until they become automatic.

Perilous?  Change is always difficult on everyone around you when it comes, and especially when it seems to come from nowhere.  Sometimes reinvention comes simply because it has to - as the title of one too many books and articles has stated, "What Got You Here Will Not Get You There".  Sometimes this is self evident to everyone, but sometimes (more often than not, I am coming to believe) we are the only ones that realize it.  We can try to explain it when something is noticed which is different about we are making the changes - but I wonder if someone else can truly understand a change taken for the sake of the change itself.

What would re-invention look like for me?  I am not terribly certain at this point.  But the one thing I do understand is that it cannot just happen on a whim.  That is the sort of thing that will never sustain itself.  Without a plan of what you want to change and why and how, it just becomes a disjointed exercise that does not accomplish the underlying goal:  to change for the better.

But like the flashes of lightning in the clouds not so distant, change is coming.  I just need to manage it rather than get washed away by the storm.

Friday, May 04, 2018

Article: Staying Hidden Online

I ordinarily do not post links to articles, but today I would like to commend one to your attention from  Staying Hidden Online.

Honestly, I am probably pretty late to this party. I am not, on the whole, very tech savvy and have probably managed to litter the landscape over the years with bits and pieces of me. I have been slowly trying to undo the damage in the last year or so, but the recent social climate is such that it is too much of a chance to take anymore.

The thing that managed to put me close to the edge was Amazon and their ads.  All of a sudden before I knew it, things I have had to research at work starting showing up on my personal accounts as suggestions for me to be.  I did not cross the streams between work and home - how did this happen? Someone was obviously working overtime to gather data on me and what I was up to.

But the thing that has put me over the edge was reading a report that FaceBook had tested an function whereby others can vote on whether or not your posting is "appropriate".  Suddenly, the mob now determines what is acceptable.  And if they see you there, they will start to run you down everywhere else you are on the InterWeb.

Not that they seem to make it easy, it seems.  Trying using a non-common web browser and all you get is "We do not recognize this log on".  Every time.  The Very Large Internet Companies very much prefer you use their tools, not others.

I am sure on the whole this will not make a great deal of difference in the long run - but at least, in my own mind, I am doing what I can to prevent the commercialization and probable eventual demonization

Thursday, May 03, 2018

On The Ending Of Friendships

I wish we taught the ending of friendships as a skill.

It is awkwardly learned skill, one most of us stumble into without any sort of guidance whatsoever.  Initially we all learn the same way as children:  "I am not your friend"  we shout and that is that. But as we grow older, we find that are making attachments that are not so nearly easy to break. 

Technology, of course, has made this even more ridiculous as now things can go on for months after any real interaction has taken place.  Like a snowcloud that occasionally spits snow in hopes of a blizzard, we check in and out in fits, leaving calls or messages and then waiting to see if they are responded to.  If yes, the friendship must still exist; if no, then maybe things are closed down - until we get the next message out of nowhere.

I am more prone, I suppose, because at some level I feel like friendships that die (and they do) is the equivalent of abandoning someone that might need me.  In my mind, I am being entire too tough or quietly waiting in the wings (For what?  Some undefined emergency to come, I suppose).

But then it really happens:  the responses stop all together.

I panic at first, impatiently waiting - "They are busy" or some such.  Then I (inevitably) retry to make contact as if somehow the first one got missed or that a lack of response sometime in the past caused this.  The cycle probably repeats two or three times until I finally admit to myself that it truly is gone.

The reality is that these are no more my fault than the other persons.  It is simply that the friendship served its purpose and now, like spring wildflowers, is withering away as it distributes its seeds.

I have tried to make a virtue of such things, working on willingly surrendering without becoming panicky or concerned.  I struggle a little less than before - not that it seems to hurt any less mind you, just that we make a little more progress every time.

But part of me wonders - five years, ten years - will the friendship live at all in their mind?  Or is it simply another example of leaving others even as we meet, always saying goodbye every time we shake a hand.

Wednesday, May 02, 2018

The Vanishing Usefulness Of My Smart Phone

I have had my Smart Phone for approximately five years.  It was a gift from The Ravishing Mrs. TB, something to get me "plugged in" to real world from the previous Flip Phone.

The Modern Smart Phone is a miracle of replacement technology.  Without using any of its communication features it has successfully replaced the watch (pocket and wrist), the calculator, the music storage and playing device (a.k.a. The Walkman), the physical notepad, the camera, and the pocket flashlight (by far the most useful feature).  It makes all kinds of communication, written and verbal, possible.  It allows one to check in on one's children in a way my parent's generation must have only dreamed of.  Add to that its functionality as a entertainment and knowledge center - literally, the world is right at your fingertips - and you have essentially poured all of the human experience into something you can hold in your hands. 

And yet I am considering it to be more and more of a paperweight.

The Smart Phone has changed our behavior.  We are now a people that spend most of our time with our heads downward facing our screens, a pack of hollow eyed zombies stumbling over curbs and into walls as we walk.  We interact with the phone - through selfies, through conversation, through laughing at what we see - as much or more so than with actual people at this point. The world slowly becomes invisible except as viewed through a screen.

It has also changed how we respond to each other.  In days past, responses were largely a result of personal interaction.  Now, the omnipresence of the Smart Phone and the power of text make everything a "right now" response.  If you are not responding "right now", something is obviously wrong or you are simply not paying attention.  The sender has now become the most important person in the room - by not being in the room.

But for me, the question has become very much about how I actually use the phone - as a communication device.  Frankly, I really do not any more.  The handful of calls I make or get outside of family are either recruiters or people trying to sell me something.  My texts, which originally seemed to replace the calls, are simply an extension of this as well. 

In other words, I scarcely use my communication device to communicate anymore.

Will I ditch the phone immediately?  Of course not.  It works, it is paid for, and it does have that rather useful flashlight.  But I am reaching zero initiative on getting a replacement model if and when this one perishes.  I can do a lot of what the phone does on my computer.  I can get an actual phone for people who actually want to call me (or text, I suppose).

I will sure miss the flashlight though.

Tuesday, May 01, 2018

Asking The Work Stress Question

I will posit a question:  at what point do you determine the stress level of your career is enough to make you walk away from it?

To be clear, I do not think I am quite there yet.  I still enjoy my job and the people that I work with.  But there is a growing sense of stress in my day to day operations.  I have slowly seen my hours increase from 40 to 50 or more.  Weekend work is not required at this point - but it seems more and more that such work is required in the sense that it allows you to keep up with what you needs to happen.

But if things do not significantly change for the better in the not too distant future, hard questions may start to have to be asked.  It is never really the time to be without a job, of course - but as hours creep up, the average hourly wage starts to fall down.  This year I found that my hourly wage actually drop 6% based on the hours I currently keep.

But the stress factor is the one that worries me the most.  As it stands, I feel like I cannot afford to not check my e-mail in the evening and on weekends.  I dream of work.  And working a "regular" day almost feels like cutting out early.

So is there a threshold where one simply says "I am at my limit" and moves on?