Monday, September 27, 2021


I am experiencing a new phase in my life that I suspect is related to the aging process.  Most probably, it should be termed a life review. Periodically, I find myself reexamining various events in my past with the mindset of an impartial observer.

Most often, it takes place when I awaken around 5:00 a.m. or so for my attendance to nature’s call.  When I return to bed, I find it difficult to turn off my monkey brain.  So, I lie and think about everything under the sun.  Frequently, this includes various events in my past.

During the day, anything can trigger this line of thinking.  It may be a particular object that I encounter, an activity in which I am engaged or just some downtime when I am not distracted by something else. It would be delightful if I were dwelling on a review of my triumphs and accomplishments.  Usually, however, I begin thinking about the mistakes I have made, situations I have mishandled or people I have known. 

I am somewhat amused by the lack of knowledge that often contributed to my blunders.  At the time, I was unaware of how little I knew about what I was attempting to do.  This was particularly true of building projects in which I was engaged.  The old axiom is absolutely true: a little knowledge is a dangerous thing. 

Today, the internet is a wonderful source of information to fill the gap.  Instructional videos are available on a wide range of topics.  The only requirement for a higher level of success is a little humility.  This doesn’t even require a public admission of ignorance.  It is possible to sit in the privacy of one’s home and learn how to do it right the first time.

I am sorry that this resource was not available to me years ago.  My hope is that I never created a situation that resulted in any major damage to any of the structures I built.  As I reflect on previous projects, I am aware of many of the things I did wrong and how I could have done better, but we are not afforded the luxury of returning in time to redo our mistakes.

Occasionally, I talk to people who have maintained friendships for many years.  I am astonished when I learn of those who still are in contact with friends from elementary school.  My wife attended a boarding school throughout high school and still maintains close relationships with many of her classmates.

I have only had one long term friendship that lasted more than forty years.  Sadly, Dave died from his bout with cancer a couple of years ago. It was just by accident that we both wound up living in the same area in Florida.  Had that not taken place, I don’t know that we would have reconnected after living in separate regions of the country for many years.

I enjoy being around people, but I am also quite comfortable with solitude.  My friendships tend to be situational and last as long as the immediate association does.  When I move or engage in a different activity, I tend to lose contact with former acquaintances.  This might be different if my lack of vision didn’t prevent me from accessing social media like others do.

When I think back on friends, coworkers and acquaintances from years ago, I frequently issue a hope to the universe on their behalf that their life has been peaceful and full of joy. With many, it would be nice to catch up on how life has been, but I don’t have a burning desire to track anybody down. In all honesty, there are a few that I would be happy not to encounter.

Socrates has been quoted as having said, “an unexamined life is not worth living.”  I suppose he intended that the examination would be an ongoing process.  I fully embrace this approach to life and have tended to be introspective for the majority of my adulthood.

What I am experiencing now seems to be something other than considering a course change.  I don’t have a ‘bucket list’ or anticipate pursuing any great ventures. At 71, I feel like I am winding down and preparing for the final stretch of my journey.  The focus of my reflections is not how I should proceed but whether or not my life has been worthwhile.

It is challenging to be objective.  I think we all tend to be the heroes or martyrs of our own stories, especially in our younger years.  Like Joan of Arc, we are either riding in on our white charger to save the day or being horribly misunderstood and unfairly condemned to burn at the stake.  Self-evaluation can be just as misguided.  We can revel in our presumed triumphs or be overly critical and beat ourselves up.

Generally, I think I have done all right.  I have a strong belief that a positive future for humanity depends on our collective recognition of our interconnection and interdependence.  Consequently, I have tried to live with this perspective in mind, promoting harmony and peace among those I encounter and seeking to give more than I have taken.

I suspect that I am not alone in this end time review.  It might make for an interesting topic for a gathering of seniors and even be beneficial for younger adults who might like to have a glimpse of what their futures hold in store for them. 

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Ignorance is Bliss?

I thoroughly enjoy considering the origin and meaning of words.  Take the word cooperation.  It obviously means to operate together.  Hence, co-operate.

The meaning of some words changes over time due to their use in particular cultures.  Traditionally, the word gay meant joyful or merry.  Its current association with homosexuality can completely obscure the original intention of its use in old songs and writings.

Recently, I began thinking about the word ignorant.  Typically, it refers to someone who is lacking in knowledge or awareness.  Thus, ignorance of a negative situation can, indeed, allow one to remain blissful.

This was certainly the case with King George IIII, King of England during the Revolutionary War.  In his diary on July 4, 1776, he wrote, “Nothing significant happened today.”   Well, I am sure that when the first ship arrived from the American colonies a month later, he reconsidered his entry on that date.

I often think about old King George whenever someone asks me how things are going.  Generally, as far as I know everything is usually fine.  However, I could be quite ignorant of events that are unfolding.  Perhaps I have a large bill that I have not yet received or a huge check coming from a long lost relative.

Recently, my own ignorance was glaringly made manifest to me as I read Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents by Isabel Wilkerson.  It is an extremely well written book in which she convincingly presents her belief that racial issues in our nation are actually a manifestation of a caste system in our society with a vested interest in keeping African Americans as a subordinate caste.

She clearly and graphically chronicles the impact of slavery and the Jim Crow era on the African American population.  These were things of which I had a vague knowledge but had not taken time to carefully consider or research.  My ignorance was dispelled as I painfully read about the absolute despair of slaves and the treatment of blacks in post-Civil War southern America. Multitudes of white southerners would often bring their children to witness the mutilation, shooting and hanging of black men.  This was often followed by their bodies being thrown into a bonfire, pictures taken of the corpse and turned into postcards to be mailed to relatives and friends and the body parts being distributed as souvenirs.

I was ignorant of the fact that the U.S. eugenics movement in the early twentieth century and the Jim Crow laws in southern states were used as templates by the Nazis to develop their formal policies toward the Jews.  Hitler admired the ability of the United States to conduct lynching of blacks throughout the south and still maintain a favorable worldwide reputation. Knowing this, only ignorance of our treatment of black Americans can allow us to maintain any sense of moral superiority over the Nazis.

To their credit, the German people have erected numerous memorials to the victims of the Holocaust but not one to the Nazi leaders who perpetrated it.  In harsh contrast, the United States is filled with tributes to the leaders of the Confederacy which was committed to establishing a nation dedicated to the enslavement of African Americans.  Throughout our country, statues, streets, counties, cities, schools and parks bear the names of these oppressors and serve as testimonies to an ongoing attitude of white supremacy among many of our citizens.

I was so impacted by these revelations that I tried to share them with a few other people.  The reaction I received gave me a new appreciation for the meaning of ignorance.  Sometimes, we simply wish to avoid information and, thus, deliberately ignore what is unpleasant.

After giving this a great deal of thought, I have concluded that the old saying should actually be, “unawareness is bliss.”  If our ignorance is intentional, then we already have some inkling of what we don’t wish to know.  One may be able to avoid painful full awareness, but the little that is already known tends to diminish any chance of achieving pure bliss.  There will always be that nagging sense that we are hiding from the truth.



Sunday, September 5, 2021

Change: Friend or Foe?

I fully recognize the security provided by routine and consistency.  As my visual world disappears, having a place for everything and everything being in its place is extremely helpful.  My wife occasionally warns me that if I don’t behave myself, she will rearrange the furniture without telling me first.  I think she is just kidding because so far, she lets me know ahead of time. I guess when I start bumping into things that seem out of place, I will know I’m in trouble.

As I go through my daily activities, I am open to reconsidering how I do what I do.  I may find a better way to accomplish my tasks or a more convenient place for items in my surroundings.  The challenge then becomes remembering what has changed until it, in turn, becomes part of my routine.

As I consider the world at large, I am amazed how resistant many people are to change. It is as though acknowledging a better procedure, idea or perspective somehow diminishes who they have been.  To me, life is all about continually learning and becoming better.  If we consider the physical world around us, it is clear that when living things stop changing, they begin dying.

Nowhere is this resistance to change more evident than in our view of our nation’s future.  The major political parties seem to embody philosophical perspectives that are polar opposites. What we are currently witnessing is more than a struggle between political parties.  It is the clash of mutually exclusive cosmic concepts.

If we embrace the Bible as the complete and inerrant communication from a divine creator, then the only necessary change would be a realignment of those who are spiritually and morally out of sync with the precepts contained in that sacred text.  Of course, embedded in this statement is the source of all religious conflict because there is no consensus among diverse factions regarding what those precepts are. Nevertheless, the implication is that there is some form of perfection that has been established by God and man’s challenge is identifying and conforming to it.

This perspective seems to have been generalized to our nation.  There appears to be a sense that our founding fathers were somehow so divinely inspired that they established a perfect social order that should not be tampered with.  Pointing out the tremendous flaws in our country’s history is considered by many to be unpatriotic.  This defensive attitude seems to be based upon a sanitized historical sentiment that reflects national selective amnesia.

When I first heard the call to “Make America Great Again” my first reaction was to ask what greatness they are referencing. Were we great when we enslaved Africans?  Were we great as we engaged in genocide against native Americans?  Perhaps we were great when women were physically assaulted and jailed for demonstrating on behalf of their voting rights. What greatness was evident when multitudes of Japanese Americans were interned during WWII and forced to abandon their homes and businesses?

MAGA is a perfect political slogan.  It lacks specificity and allows supporters to view that “greatness” in their own way.  It implies that there was an ideal time in our national history from which we have strayed.  Like the garden of Eden, this new appeal suggests that liberals have caused us to abandon our perfect nation and only a conservative political party can enable us to reclaim it.

However, for those who perceive the universe as an evolving phenomenon, change is an integral aspect of an unfolding process of trial and error.  As we view the progressive complexification of life on our planet, we can observe the benefit of adaptation and refinement.  It follows that what is true of the physical aspects of organisms also applies to the social development of humanity.

From this perspective, what our founding fathers accomplished was to conceive and begin a political and social experiment in democracy. It was a brilliant beginning but by no means perfect.  Every subsequent generation has had the responsibility of cultivating, evaluating and redirecting the future of our nation. 

There is no need to hide from our past.  We have accomplished outstanding feats and engaged in reprehensible injustices. The progressive party is seeking to build upon our successes, acknowledge our misdeeds and strive to embody our noble ideals and aspirations.

May we avoid pretending that we are, or ever have been, what we wish we could be. Change is inevitable.  Let us hope that it is not merely accidental, haphazard or overly aggressive.  Change that is planned, constructive and gradual can be an open opportunity to an outstanding future.  If we drop all of the bickering and strife, we can work together to make America greater than it has ever been.


Tao Te Ching

From a translation by S. Mitchell


When a country obtains great power,

it becomes like the sea:

all streams run downward into it.

The more powerful it grows,

the greater the need for humility.

Humility means trusting the Tao,

thus, never needing to be defensive.


A great nation is like a great man:

When he makes a mistake, he realizes it.

Having realized it, he admits it.

Having admitted it, he corrects it.

He considers those who point out his faults

as his most benevolent teachers.

He thinks of his enemy

as the shadow that he himself casts.


If a nation is centered in the Tao,

if it nourishes its own people

and doesn't meddle in the affairs of others,

it will be a light to all nations in the world.


Saturday, August 28, 2021

Who Are We, Really?

Over the past few weeks, the military withdrawal and civilian evacuation from Afghanistan has filled news reports.  In the midst of this current crisis, memories from my twenties came flooding to the surface as I remembered the images that were being broadcast during the exit from Viet Nam nearly 50 years ago.  The most troubling thing about this current situation is the denial of the parallel with our fiasco in southeast Asia. 

Throughout time, men have repeatedly issued a warning that is again going unheeded. Winston Churchill put it this way, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” I must admit, as I observe what passes for American foreign policy, I am thoroughly embarrassed.  I may not live long enough to see it, but if we don’t find the humility to acknowledge our mistakes, our descendants will watch this same scenario over and over.

Perhaps the problem is that we are a relatively young nation. Our behavior is that of an adolescent who is trying to act like an adult.  We revel in the little we do know, are ignorant of our lack of wisdom, want everyone to overlook and forget our glaring mistakes, strut around with an inflated ego, resent criticism and lack the honest introspection that would enable us to grow and become who we wish we were.

Some may see these comments as harsh.  Years ago, in response to national criticism, conservatives began displaying bumper stickers that read, “America, Love It or Leave it.”  Today, I would draw our attention to the words of the 20th Century preacher William Sloan Coffin who said,

“There are three kinds of patriots, two bad, one good. The bad ones are the uncritical lovers and the loveless critics. Good patriots carry on a lover’s quarrel with their country…”

This is, indeed, intended to be a lover’s quarrel. I long to see my beloved nation rise to the level of our deepest held values.  Our aspirations are noble, but too often our actions fall far short of those cherished ideals.

As I prepared for this post, I scanned the internet to see if there was a consensus on what our American values are.  Because they are not explicitly spelled out in any in our founding documents, various lists are available that hold some similarities and a wide range of diversity.  The three most basic are freedom, equality and justice. To these we might add democracy, individualism, diversity and unity.  Certainly, we shouldn’t overlook a few self-affirming adjectives like intelligent, friendly, industrious and creative.

One of the most stirring summaries of our foundational aspirations found was in the July 4, 2020 post of Mark Schaefer (link below). “The United States of America has always had this aspirational element to it. Whether an expression of sincere conviction or of stirring rhetoric that served the aims of independence, the Founders of the Republic gave to us a vision of something that was truly revolutionary: a country where power is based on the consent of the governed; where no person need subscribe to a common religion; where people of all races, ages, sexes, creeds, nationalities, and colors were treated with dignity, respect, and equality; where all people enjoyed the equal protection of the laws and were afforded equal access to the political mechanisms that governed the nation; where liberty and law provided justice and equity.”

Domestically, we are continually struggling to live up to our pledge of allegiance to be “One nation, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.”  Ideally, each election season affords us an opportunity to consider where we have been, where we would like to go and who we believe will best represent our concerns legislatively.  It is clear that those who are seeking to preserve the supremacy of the white race are desperately striving to restrain the growing call for social change.  However, based on the recent census results, the shifting demographic makeup of our nation will eventually diminish white control and assure more equitable political diversity.  

I would love to believe that this could take place completely peacefully. Regrettably, I have had to painfully admit that we live in a society that is as harsh and dangerous as those found in many underdeveloped nations. We secured our nation with firearms, and gun oil seems to run through our veins.  Truly civilized nations understand that gun ownership needs to be governed by strict guidelines. It does not appear that we are ready for that level of sanity and will continue to suffer the consequences of unbridled gun violence.

The assault on the U.S. capital building on January 6, 2021 demonstrated that ethnocentric and xenophobic obsessions are still alive and well in America.  They ring loud and clear in the mindless and jingoistic chats of “USA … USA.”  If we ever hope to draw closer to our cherished aspirations, it will require a steadfast effort on the part of thinking Americans to progressively nurture meaningful change.

Internationally, we seem to be locked into repeating attempts at cowboy diplomacy.  We apparently think we are the heroes who can ride into town, shoot all of the bad guys and then ride off into the sunset leaving the town folks to clean up the mess left behind.  Too often, we support the wrong local players, pump tons of money into their economy which is siphoned off by the leaders and, by the time we pull out, the general citizens are no better off than they were when the U.S. first became involved.

I would like to offer a few observations that might make a difference in the future.

1.      We are not responsible for fixing everything on our planet.


The world is extremely complicated and often brutal.  No matter how much we may be moved with compassion, we lack the resources and ability to resolve every situation.  Our track record makes it abundantly clear that we need to focus on our own issues and leave others alone.


Too often, it appears that our national sense of superiority has emboldened us to enter into conflicts that could not be resolved by other nations with the expectation that we could succeed where they could not. No matter how much we may ennoble our motives or honor the sacrifices of our service members, our failures stand as disgraceful monuments the to our ill-conceived decisions to venture forth.


2.      War should not be a money-making venture.

WWII demonstrated our nation’s ability to train service members, manufacture war materials and deploy them all in an effective manner. At that time, these abilities were critical to the defeat of dangerous threats to world stability.  However, it appears that we have become too eager to exercise this proficiency.  We need to learn that just because we can present an overwhelming and well supplied armed force does not mean that we should.

President Dwight D. Eisenhower recognized the inherent danger of this new-found American accomplishment and offered this warning in his final presidential speech on January 17, 1961, “In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist.”  

Even a casual consideration of our annual military budget reveals the wisdom and foresight of this prediction. Successive presidents have propelled us into armed conflicts that have grossly expanded the role and expense of unrestrained military deployment around the world.  This serves as a seemingly bottomless source of wealth to Department of Defense contractors and suppliers. Reports of contractual excesses, misappropriations, corruption, and waste abound.  

As long as American industry has access to this abundant financial resource, there is no incentive to avoid or terminate our military conflicts and commitments. Congressional legislators are lavishly courted by lobbyists peddling bloodshed, destruction and the overseas sale of weapons.  Until we are ready to honestly consider this soulless industrial greed, we will continue to witness the unconscionable waste of human life and tax dollars all in the disingenuous name of patriotism.

During WWII, General Eisenhower served as the supreme allied commander of the European theatre.  Certainly, he understood the importance of military equipment and supplies in the midst of critical wartime circumstances.  Nevertheless, he offered this peacetime assessment of arms manufacturing, “Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired, signifies in the final sense a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed.” 

Congress needs to reclaim its sole authority to control the deployment of American armed forces. It would slow the process and increase the likelihood that our involvement would only occur at times of absolute necessity. As voters, we should refuse to elect representatives who are unwilling to accept this responsibility.

Who are we?  We are a work in progress, a wonderful experiment in democracy, an extremely diverse community of cultures and ethnicities, a microcosm of the world.  If we are ever able to reach a point where we have true freedom, justice and equality in our nation, we will finally be qualified to serve as one example of human potential.


The United States of Aspiration

By Mark Schaefer 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Shared Psychosis

“It is naively assumed that the fact that the majority of people share certain ideas or feelings proves the validity of these ideas and feelings. Nothing is further from the truth. Consensual validation as such has no bearing whatsoever on reason or mental health. Just as there is a folie à deux there is a folie à millions. The fact that millions of people share the same vices does not make these vices virtues, the fact that they share so many errors does not make the errors to be truths, and the fact that millions of people share the same mental pathology does not make these people sane.” -- The Sane Society (1955) by Erich Fromm (p. 14)

Are you completely baffled by the irrational behavior and bizarre ideas evidenced by millions of our fellow citizens? Does it seem like they have all lost their minds? It would be easy to think that this is a new phenomenon, but it isn’t.  History is full of incidents in which nations have embraced delusional thinking to justify what would normally be considered inappropriate behavior. Social psychosis, mass psychosis, shared psychosis, folie à millions or psychic epidemic are all terms that refer to this manifestation.

Consider the era of European colonialism.  The underlying belief was that their superior intellect and ‘civilization’ justified the conquest and subjugation of indigenous people the world over.  Nowhere is this more evident than in the savage brutality of Spanish conquistadors or the wholesale capture, transport and enslavement of Africans in the pursuit of wealth.

Shared psychosis is clearly evident in the witch trials that took place in Europe and colonial New England. Fear of witchcraft contributed to mass hysteria resulting in the execution of innocent individuals.  In the Americas, the deaths were measured in dozens.  In Europe, the condition was so widespread that it is estimated that as many as 60,000 died at the hands of their delusional neighbors.  In some villages, nearly the entire female population was wiped out.

In hindsight, we recognize the audacity of taking possession of land in North America that was already inhabited and forcing native Americans to continually relocate into progressively harsher regions.  When they chose to defend themselves, they were labeled “savages” and ruthlessly slaughtered.  The delusional thinking that prevailed at the time is evident in a quote by the future president of the United States, Theodore Roosevelt, during a January 1886 speech in New York, “I don’t go so far as to think that the only good Indians are the dead Indians, but I believe nine out of every 10 are, and I shouldn’t like to inquire too closely into the case of the tenth.”

When considering the events of WWII, Carl Jung introduced the term psychic epidemic to explain the absolute devotion of the German people to Hitler. Who can doubt that those involved in the extermination camps were not sharing a common delusion regarding the Jews and other populations that suffered their same fate?  It is hard to imagine how this insidious perception could be embraced by such a substantial portion of the population.

We have yet to see the extent of the offenses attributable to the delusion of white supremacy in our nation.  The atrocities of slavery were augmented by those perpetrated during the Jim Crow era in southern states. The federal civil rights legislation of the mid 1960’s may have delegitimized the formal systemic racial statutes, but the source of that pathological mindset is still shared by many.

It would be nice to believe that our nation has advanced to a level of rational thinking that can propel us into a more progressive social order.  Sadly, the acceptance of Trump’s assertion that the 2020 election was stolen, the attack on the Capital on January 6, 2021, the denial of the reality of the Corona pandemic, the resistance to mask wearing and social distancing and the extensive refusal to receive Covid-19 vaccinations make it quite evident that this is not the case.  A critical challenge currently facing our society is how to overcome the delusional precepts flooding the mass communication networks that perpetuate these distortions.

It is difficult not to become angry when our fellow citizens engage in what is plainly irresponsible behavior and hold such irrational beliefs, but the direct confrontation is clearly ineffectual.  This was wisely expressed in an ancient Chinese proverb, “Opinions are like nails.  The more often you hit them, the deeper they go.”  The reality is that people who appear to be rational in every other manner may still hold completely illogical views and will resist every effort to present evidence that contradicts their position.  Consequently, there is little point in trying to reason with those who are politically or ideologically entrenched. 

The situation is by no means hopeless. The future of our nation will depend on the ability of moderates and progressives to work together in a spirit of genuine cooperation to establish a coalition that can minimize radical influence.  Perhaps the greatest threat to realizing this collective political power is allowing ourselves to engage in divisive factionalism.

Ultimately, I suppose that the most effective approach to dealing with those who suffer from social psychosis is to engage with them the same way we would deal with someone with an individual mental illness:  be compassionate, redirect delusional dialogue whenever possible, tactfully and assertively confront personal assaults in a calm manner, and avoid contact with the individual if social interaction with them is too disturbing.  Above all, keep in mind that they are not necessarily bad people, merely misguided.  Whenever possible try to develop or maintain positive relationships and build bridges of communication that may promote nonthreatening dialogue about areas of disagreement.

For more information on this subject, view the links below.

The 'Shared Psychosis' of Donald Trump and His Loyalists - Scientific American

An interview with Forensic psychiatrist Bandy X. Lee, editor of “The Dangerous Case of Donald Trump” and author of “Profile of a Nation”.

Mass Psychosis: How an Entire Population Becomes Mentally Ill 

Saturday, August 14, 2021

I Am Hopeless

Most of my adult life has been spent working in positions where I can help others.  In 1973, I obtained an AA degree in Human Services, a program intended to develop lower-level support positions within the mental health profession.  It was my intention to pursue an advanced degree in psychology, but instead became involved with the Pentecostal church and served in the ministry for many years.

I began my return to secular employment by obtaining a degree in Applied Behavioral Science. For a couple of years, I worked as a social rehabilitation coordinator in a day program for people with mental illness; obtained a Master of Science degree in management; worked for a college-based program providing academic advisement, tuition assistance and work readiness training to displaced homemakers and single parents; and, eventually, worked as a personnel analyst for Calvert County Government in Maryland where I conducted job recruitment for the county.

In 1997, I was forced to retire on disability due to my declining vision.  Until my move from Maryland to Florida in 2001, I volunteered at a local marine museum.  In 2002, I was licensed as a massage therapist.  Since then, I have maintained an active practice in which I have been able to address a wide range of physical and stress-related concerns.

In light of this background, I have always believed that I was a kind and supportive person.  However, after many years of reflection, I must admit that I have numerous biases that will not go away no matter how much I may want them to.  I have finally decided to simply acknowledge their existence and consciously try to override them when they poke up their little heads.

I am usually able to keep them to myself.  As I told my sons in their youth, “Just because it comes between your ears, doesn’t mean that it has to come out of your mouth.”    That has generally been my approach to my lurking biases. Having admitted this, they say that confession is good for the soul, so let me try a little bit of that.

Whenever I hear a southern or New York accent, I automatically deduct 20 points off of the IQ assessment I arbitrarily assign to the speaker. I subtract even more when I hear an athlete who is being interviewed speak in short, clipped improper sentences interspersed every five words with “You know”.  I am aware that this is an inaccurate perception and make every effort to take myself by the scruff of the neck and listen more attentively.

I am an old guy who was raised in the north.  From elementary school upwards, I attended integrated schools.  Like many others, I would have declared myself free of racist tendencies until a few years ago.  While I still resist referring to myself as a racist, I will readily admit to a preference for western European culture and physical appearance.

To overcome this particular personal defect, I have found it extremely beneficial to read a variety of African American literature.  I have read several of the works of Zora Neal Hurston.  “The African American Book of Values: Classic Moral Stories” edited by Steven Barboza and published in 1998 is an outstanding collection of uplifting stories about black individuals throughout American history.  More recently, I have read two marvelous books by Isabel Wilkerson, “The Warmth of Other Suns” and “Caste: The Origins of Our Discontents”.  I will never fully comprehend what it means to grow up black in our nation, but these and other sources have given me a deep appreciation for the incredible struggle our fellow Americans have had to endure in the face of unrelenting racial suppression.

My current struggle concerns those who have refused the Covid 19 vaccine.  On the one hand, I feel that I should be compassionate about the suffering and death of those who succumb to the illness.  However, unlike a regional accent or ethnic origin, failing to be vaccinated is a decision, not an accident of birth. 

This action is not merely a personal decision.  They are endangering the health of others in their community and possibly our entire planet. Often the resistance to receiving the vaccine is accompanied by a disregard for mask wearing and social distancing.  They potentially expose vaccinated individuals to infections that may go undetected and further the spread of the virus.  Furthermore, as the cases multiply, it presents a greater opportunity for the viruses to mutate and potentially produce a variant that is resistant to the vaccines that have been developed such as the new Lambda variant.

I am angry with those who are filling the internet with completely bogus information against the vaccines, those who are accepting this misinformation as superior to that being provided by legitimate scientific sources and refusing to get the vaccine, those in the conservative media who are fueling this element of our population merely to promote viewership, the elected officials who are pandering to these constituents in an effort to solicit their political support and, most recently, those who blame the resurgence of Covid 19 on undocumented aliens crossing the Mexican border.  The fact that the surging numbers of infections are not prompting a more rational response to the crisis is thoroughly exasperating. 

The ones I feel most sorry for are the healthcare workers, the vaccinated individuals who have suffered a breakthrough infection, those who have not had access to adequate medical care and the relatives and acquaintances who are unable to reason with their unreasonable friends and family members regarding the vaccine.  I wish I could be a better human being.  Unfortunately, I am finding it extremely difficult to feel sympathy for people who are so willful when they reap such a predictable and preventable outcome. 

Saturday, August 7, 2021

Victim or Victor?

A golfer once asked me if I knew what the greatest obstacle was on a golf course.  Not being a golfer myself, I admitted that I didn’t really know.  Smiling, he said, “It’s the six inches between the golfer’s ears.”

This is probably true about all sports.  Reaching a level of maximum performance certainly requires a great deal of training and practice.  Ultimately though, the internal dialogue determines the level of success.  Confidence, concentration, being able to relax into a state of complete mind-body synergy all influence the outcome.

Isn’t this true of most things in life?  What is going on in our thought life determines how well we handle the events we encounter.  How often do we witness the rich and famous crash and burn even though they seem to have all of the advantages one might hope for?  How often do we hear of individuals born into adverse situations who rise above their circumstances through determination and heroic effort?

Years ago, I became aware of a formula for life, E+R=O.  E represents the events in life over which we have no control.  They simply come our way, and we are faced with the dilemma of dealing with them. O represents the outcome we would like to see associated with the various events.  R is our response, the only aspect of this equation over which we have complete control.  So, our challenge is to develop a range of responses that can positively influence the outcomes we seek.

Below are a few websites that address this in more detail.

2 Minutes with TK #18: The E+R=O Mindset


International Neural Science Consultants: Changing How You Work: Using the E+R=O Formula


TOM BARLOW ONLINE E + R = O: An Equation For Life


We need to be honest with ourselves.  Victory seldom comes easily.  It often requires long arduous hours of struggle to learn a subject, develop a skill, acquire necessary funds, lose the excess weight, address mental health conditions, obtain the required muscle strength or whatever else might be essential in order to achieve our goals. However, when we do achieve our objective, there is a deep sense of satisfaction and confidence in our ability to succeed.

In the 1990’s, I identified my lifelong mantra for dealing with life’s challenges on a teen sitcom entitled Boy Meets World. It featured Cory Matthews as the middle child in a Philadelphia family.   Frequently, his older brother, Eric, would pick on him in humorous ways.  In one particular episode, as Cory was whining about Eric’s agitations, Eric reached over, popped Corey on the back of his head and said, “Life’s tough. Get a helmet.” Well, I don’t think the mindset of a victorious life can be expressed any better than that.

The best example of this for me was Ken Davis, a young man I worked with many years ago.  Although Ken had cerebral palsy (CP), he was determined to live as normally as possible.  Using a wheelchair would have been much easier for him, but he chose to walk even though he did so with severely bent knees and his hands drawn up near his shoulders to aid in his balance.  He spoke with great difficulty which was hard to understand unless one was around him frequently. He drove a small truck equipped with hand controls, and friends of his in Pennsylvania would take him deer hunting in the fall.

Ken decided to pursue a degree in psychology.  He began at the local Community College where physical education was a required course.  Undoubtedly, he could have obtained an exemption from the course or taken a health course instead.  However, Ken chose to take an aerobics class.

He told me that the instructor began tailoring her course to accommodate his difficulties.  He said he went to her and asked her to merely teach the class as she normally would and   assured her that he would stand in the back of the class and fall down from time to time but would get up and do the best he could. I asked him why he had taken an aerobics class.  He laughed slyly and said, “I stand in the back of the class and the rest of the students are young women.” 

I lost contact with Ken after I moved on to a new job.  However, I have often thought of him over the years.  He was incredibly brave to place himself in public in a way that might subject him to awkward encounters and situations.  I am quite certain that those who have taken the time to get to know him have been equally impressed with his courage and determination.

I think I must be getting old and cranky.  It appears to me that people no longer have this kind of grit to face adversity with a positive determination to overcome their Challenges. Instead, whining seems to have become a favorite American pastime.  I guess it is simply easier to blame our situation or the actions or inactions of others for our lot in life. Too often people tend to resign themselves to the status of victim and live far below their true potential.

I’m not alone in this perspective.  Several years ago, Senator Ben Sasse wrote a book entitled The Vanishing American Adult.  His primary point was simply that we need to accept personal responsibility for our behavior and future.    We need to exercise self-discipline, sacrifice when necessary   and do what is required, not merely those things that appeal to us.

Life really can be tough.  Often, we may find ourselves buffeted about by adverse situations and events.  We really do need a helmet, a mindset that accepts this reality but does not easily yield to discouragement or failure.

What does it mean to be victorious?  That varies from one person to another.  To me, living a victorious life has nothing to do with acquiring material wealth or notoriety.  It is a matter of boldly accepting the hand that life has delt and playing it to the best of one’s ability without resentment or bitterness. This is poignantly conveyed an an ancient eastern proverb:

“When you were born, you cried, and everyone’s heart was filled with joy.  Live your life in such a way that when you die, your heart will be full of joy, and everyone will cry.”