A Language Apart

We want to be loved; failing that, admired; failing that, feared;
failing that, hated and despised. We want to stir up some sort
of feelings in others. Our soul abhors a vacuum. At all costs
it longs for contact.
 Hjalmar Soderberg, Doctor Glas, 1905

I read these words six months ago at the beginning of a book titled, One Of Us, by Asne Seierstad. It relates the true story of a man, whose name I won’t mention, who killed seventy-seven people in Norway on July 22, 2011. Eight people were killed by a bomb outside of the Prime Minister’s office in Oslo and sixty-nine more were killed by guns at a youth camp on the wooded island of Utoya. Most of those killed on the island were teenager members of the country’s governing Labour Party.

It was, in the same breath, one of the best and most compelling books I’ve ever read, and one of the most disturbing.

I write these words because every time there is another act of terrorism or violence anywhere in the world, I feel as we all do; angry and helpless. There are no words that can explain the acts committed or the mindset behind them.

Terrorism has its own language; one no rational human being can begin to understand.

The only thing we can do is offer our thoughts and prayers for the loss of so many. For the loss of so much promise and potential; for the lives that have changed; for those taken and those that remain.

Hatred is an irrational and powerful enemy and not exclusive to specific parts of the world. It lives where you live.

Believing otherwise is foolish.

Smarter Than A Fourth Grader?

For those of you unfamiliar with Amazon’s Echo and our friend, Alexa, here is a description put out by Amazon…
Alexa is an intelligent personal assistant developed by Amazon, made popular by the Amazon Echo and the Amazon Echo Dot devices developed by Amazon Lab126. … Alexa can also control several smart devices using itself as a home automation system. 

Essentially, Echo is a smart speaker and Alexa is the voice you hear providing you with answers to most any question you might have. She’s basically a know it all that you can’t see.

With that as a backdrop, I was teaching a fourth grade class the other day and we were just beginning our math period by reviewing the previous night’s homework. Individual students would give an answer and if everyone was in agreement we’d move on. If not, we’d work out the problem on the board so everyone understood.
After James gave his answer, a couple of students sold him out and began laughing, saying he cheated because he asked Alexa for the answer. I looked over at James and his eyes were looking down and his face was red.
I was trying not to laugh because i never considered Alexa as a resource for homework but then again, I’m not a clever nine-year old with easy options available to him. So the very brief conversation went like this…

Me (smiling): James, did you use Alexa to do your math homework last night?

James (looking at his “friends”): You don’t how I did my homework!

Me: James, I’m not upset if you did, I’m just curious if Alexa helped you with your homework.

James: (looking at me with his face still red): Yeah, but after she gave me the answer, I did the problem myself. I wanted to check her to make sure she was right.

Me (trying not to laugh out loud): So you checked Alexa to make sure she didn’t make a mistake?

James: Yeah.

The class became quiet and looked at me to see what I would say but I don’t sell out clever nine-year olds who can think on their feet in front of their peers. So I simply said, “that was smart,” and we moved on.

I’m not sure what kind of lesson James learned that day, if any, or if he understood he was scamming the system a bit and might try doing it another way in the future. It’s possible.
All I know is that when I glanced back up at him a few seconds later he was smiling and his face wasn’t red anymore. I’m guessing he was feeling pretty good about himself.

And that was good enough for me.

 

Five Things

I read an article recently by Dr. Travis Bradberry who is the author of a bestselling book called Emotional Intelligence 2.0. In it, he speaks about how each of us are weighed down by at least 70 decisions each day; how we handle each of those decisions and how they affect our lives.
He also speaks about a palliative care nurse by the name of Bonnie Ware who works with people every day who are usually three to twelve months from dying.

According to Dr. Bradberry, Bonnie has made a habit of asking her patients, during their conversations, if they had any real regrets in life. The following five responses made the list every time.

** They wish they hadn’t made decisions based on what other people think.
They realized when they lived life for others, they either made poor career choices or compromised  their own morals.

** They wished they hadn’t worked so hard.
We are programmed or taught that hard work leads to certain results or rewards in life; that we are providing for our families, their futures and well-being. But balance has always been the key when it comes to how much time we spend at our jobs. When work compromises a person’s ability to communicate and connect with those we love most, then our priorities need to be reassessed. As the old saying goes, no one on their death-bed ever said, I wish I would have stayed at the office longer. 

** They wish the had expressed their feelings.
We always think we have more time to say the things we need or should say to others. When time runs out, the regret of not having said those things is sometimes difficult to accept. In the words of John Mayer, Say What You Need To Say

** They wish they had stayed in touch with their friends.
With our day-to-day routines pulling us in many different directions, it’s easy to lose track of friends. Then thirty years go by and you wonder how and why it happened. Reach out.

** They wish that had let themselves be happy.
This was an interesting one for me but as I thought about it I understood why it would be there. Michael J Fox was on a magazine cover no long ago; an individual who has battled Parkinson’s disease since he was thirty years old. On the cover he was quoted as saying, Happiness Is A Decision.
He’s absolutely right. We all encounter challenges in our lives. Some more so than others. How we face those challenges and live our lives is our choice. It may not always be easy to accept or live with those challenges but our lives would be much richer and rewarding if we can allow ourselves to be happy.

Happiness is our choice.

Five things that can make a difference in each of our lives. All we need to do is listen to the suggestions of those who truly understand.

 

 

Monday Morning Smile

A blonde, (sorry for the stereotype), goes into a coffee shop and notices theres a “peel and win” sticker on her coffee cup. So she peel it off and starts screaming; “I’ve won a motor home, I’ve won a motor home!”

The waitress says, “That’s impossible! The biggest prize is a free lunch.”

But the blonde keeps screaming, “I’ve won a motor home, I’ve won a motor home!”

Finally the manager comes over and says, “Ma’am, I’m sorry, but you’re mistaken. You couldn’t possibly have won a motor home because we didn’t have that as a prize.

But the blonde says, “No, it’s not a mistake. I’ve won a motor home!” So she hands the ticket to the manager and he reads…..

WINABAGEL.

Have a nice Monday and week!

Ignorance On Steroids

Ignorance always seems to find a season. It never seems to max out, regardless of how bizarre the situation might be. There are always people willing to do something that some moron decided might be a good idea.

A few days ago I read an article about a game show in the Netherlands where male contestants were asked to guess whether woman on the show are fat or pregnant.

Really.

This is the same game show that asked contestants last year to guess whether a person was Japanese or Chinese, and in another segment, whether a woman’s breasts were real.

I have a pretty broad sense of humor but I didn’t think this was funny. It was simply dumbed down sensationalism at it’s worst.

I decided not provide the name of the show because I don’t want to give it any more publicity than it has already received. But as I thought about it, I wondered who I should be most upset with. The producers for financially supporting this show? The station for putting it on the air? The viewing public for watching? The advertisers? I mean there is a sufficient about of blame to go around here.
But the bottom line is, you don’t have a show if no one agrees to participate. If people who were paid to appear on it had a shred of sensitivity, decency or self worth, this or any show like it, would never find air time and maybe we wouldn’t still be having misogynistic or discriminatory discussions.

But it seems like many people have a price, and that number is not very high. My guess is it’s just a little north of their IQ.

 

The Things We Don’t Say

Nothing haunts us like the things we don’t say.
Mitch Albom

This is not an elephant in the room kind of thing where the problem we all acknowledge keeps getting pushed under the carpet. This is more about an unspoken hug. It’s about the things we don’t say because we don’t know if the person we care about wants to hear them or if the words are just inadequate.

It’s about love, and pain. It’s about hurt, and loss. It’s about moments that stay with us forever but never get acknowledged once we’ve moved past them.

It’s about remembering, and forgetting. It’s about understanding, and learning. It’s about wanting to put your arms around someone you care about and tell them you can’t begin to understand their hurt or loss but you think about them everyday. It’s about wanting to let them know that you see past the smile.

This is about learning to live with the kind of loss that is not openly discussed. It’s about what if, and never was. It’s about what you can’t get back, and what you can’t let go.

It’s about remembering.

It’s always about remembering.

So when I walked over and hugged you the other day for no apparent reason , it was my way of letting you know that I remember, too. That I wish things were different for you. For all of us. Because for as  long as the people who love you have breath, you’ll never be alone.

And if there comes a time when you feel that words might bring you a sense of comfort, I’ll know before you begin speaking.

And I’ll see you there.

 

Death And Sales

You probably thought the only sure things in life were death and taxes, didn’t you. Well, we can throw one more thing into the pot roast of life’s guaranties.

Death and sales. I don’t remember the last time it wasn’t a sure thing.

Chuck Berry died last weekend. A rock and roll pioneer without question; he was one of the first inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and influenced generations of artists.  But Chuck’s last hit record was back in the early 70’s and he had been averaging 39 album sales prior to his death.

But then he died and his record sales increased 11,684 percent. Really.

Now this is not unusual. The same thing has happened following the death of other musicians and I’m having a difficult time understanding the mentality. Then again, the human mind is difficult to figure out on a good day.
But really, what compels people to buy an artists music after they die when they had no interest in doing so before they died? The music has been out there for decades, readily available. Why are they enough of a fan now to buy their music, but not before? Chuck’s songs have been around since the fifties. They’ve been all over the radio, movies, television, etc, forever. If people liked these songs before, why did they wait until he died to download them? It’s the same song. Sung by the same artist. But they like it better today? Are they afraid it’s going to somehow disappear or that Apple will go out of business? Do people sit around and wait for the evening news to decide what they should download that night based on the obituary reports? Does the music somehow sound better after someone dies? It all sounds a little macabre to me.

In some ways, this same phenomena happens in food stores the day before a snowstorm. People rush out to stock up on essentials because the roads may be snow-covered for maybe a day. Maybe. I always feel like they’re expecting Armageddon to arrive and bread will be have to be bartered with a laptop.

I wonder if all my blog posts will suddenly be in monetary demand when I’m no longer around. Maybe I should fake my demise, stay away for a couple of years and reap the financial rewards after I decide to return from my self-imposed disappearance. Sort of like an Eddie and the Cruisers thing.

Okay, I think might be getting a little carried away.