modern tales of an ancient pursuit
modern tales of an ancient pursuit
“I wonder what’s going to happen exciting today?” (Season 2020, Episode 12)
It's a few minutes past 5 o'clock. In the morning.
The sky is light thanks to an almost full moon. The city lights help, too. When you live in the city the sky isn't nearly as dark as it is out in the country.
I walk. Quite a lot.
You'd think I'd look like it, but you'd be wrong.
No matter. I walk 4 to 6 miles every morning. Often before the sun is up. But not as often as I did before this pandemic. 3 am and 4 am were favorite times back before life was disrupted by COVID 19. I'm not sure why that changed my readiness to hit the streets in the middle of the night, but it did. I suppose I figured people were more uneasy so I just haven't wanted to risk it.
Part of my walking routine involves traipsing through a field near a densely wooded stretch filled with all sorts of critters. I've seen a coyote-type creature a few times. And a cat of some sort. Not the domestic kind either. But I'm not a wildlife expert. You won't ever see my on reality TV...especially one of those survivor type shows. Unless somebody produces one of those as a comedy where morons are dropped into the middle of nowhere so the audience can laugh maniacally at them.
Mostly, in this stretch of trees are cottontail rabbits. I attribute this to the reproductive reputations earned by rabbits. But I'm not complaining 'cause I rather love them. I just wish they'd stick around a bit longer.
The path I walk is about 15 to 20 yards from the tree line of the wooded area. By the time I get within 30 yards or so of them, they quickly scamper into the woods. You can see a handful of little holes that serve as their escape routes. Each hole has a nicely worn pathway as proof that they frequent these routes to dart in and out of the woods. I bent down and took the picture shown below. To give you some scale, that opening is about 10 inches wide. It's not very big. What you don't see is the density of the wall of growth where this opening exists.
On a typical morning, I'll spot 6 to 10 rabbits out foraging for food outside the woods, within 5 to 10 feet of their wooded home. They don't venture out too far. I'm supposing it's because of that coyote-type creature and the cat. But I'm sure there are other predators who'd love nothing more than a rabbit for breakfast, lunch or supper.
That's why there is no rabbit in that photograph. The little buggers are really camera shy. They're the perfect creature for zoom lens photography, but all I have is my phone.
In 1925 Hugh Harman drew a mouse around a photograph taken by Walt Disney. Walt was inspired by this tame mouse near his desk at Laugh-O-Gram Studio in Kansas City, Missouri. Mortimer Mouse was the name Disney gave the mouse until his wife, Lillian, talked him into changing it to the name we all know. Mickey Mouse.
From that cartoon began the modern small animal stories told in moving pictures. But the stories existed long before that.
Anthropomorphism is the attribution of human traits, emotions, or intentions to non-human entities. Like rabbits. Or other animals.
Enter Aesop, a Greek storyteller credited with a number of fables. The timeframe? Around 564 BC is the date ascribed to his death. It's up for dispute whether there was a real person Aesop behind the fables. Somebody crafted the stories though. He was reputed to be a slave who passed from various owners until he was eventually freed. History or legend has it that he was executed by being thrown from a cliff after false charges were leveled against him because he had insulted powerful people.
No matter. Attributing human-like qualities to animals in his fables happened long before Walt ever imagined a mouse.
Frogs. Turtles. Birds. Foxes. I suppose somebody has anthropomorphized just about everything. Especially by Hollywood.
You Collude In Your Own Death (Season 2020, Episode 11)
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My pondering began with Bible study. Not a big shock since you already know how important Faith is in my life. I'd heard the story my entire life, sitting in the pew as a little boy listening to old preachers tell the story recorded in Luke 15. The story of the prodigal son.
As a little kid I sat there wondering why this son got a wild hair to confront his dad and make such a bold request, but mostly I wondered why the father gave him what he wanted. The adults in my life wouldn't have so indulged me, I thought.
He takes the money and whatever else he got and left home. That baffled me, too. I'd never had the urge to run away from home. Well, not for long, any way. There were days, you know? But I figured I had it pretty well. And that's where it started for me. Wondering why this son didn't realize how good things were. Of course, I knew the end of the story. I know in advance how bad his life got. Mostly I wondered how long he was in that far country doing whatever he was big enough to do. I wondered why he had to lose everything before he gained clarity that things back home were really great.
That was likely my first serious pondering about delusion and my introduction to the fact - yes, FACT - that every human being is capable of self-deception. Seeing things inaccurately. Believing things that aren't true.
Some months I put my own sermon about this story online, but I approached it from the perspective of the father, not the son. The father, by the way, did not deceive himself. He was seeing clearly the entire time. And thankfully, his clarity served both his sons.
Self-deception and delusion is an everyday conversation in my work. Twenty years ago I bought and read a book, captivated by the joining of 2 topics I was interested in, leadership and self-deception. "Leadership and Self-Deception: Getting Out of the Box" by The Arbinger Institute.
Leaders of every ilk can be prone to self-deception. But leaders aren't unique. It's a complex issue and our quest to simplify things likely contributes to our delusion or false assumptions. We like neat and tidy things and most things aren't neat or tidy.
Fast forward and the topic of delusion and self-deception intersect with another conversation point, addiction. In my executive and leadership coaching work, I often have conversations with clients whose families and lives have been horribly impacted by addiction. From people abusing prescription medications, to people not abusing - but people taking prescribed medications that have completely altered their personality, to people abusing alcohol and even people consumed by gambling or other addictions.
Almost weekly I have a conversation with people whose family is struggling to help a member of their clan get out of the pit. They tell stories of how the person just can't seem to think or see things accurately. Fogged over with chemicals that have impaired their ability, I'll often listen as they recite how smart, funny, and engaging the person was before they surrendered to some form of chemical dependency. Once in a while I hear about recovery. Like the prodigal son, it never happens quickly. In most cases, many years have elapsed before the self-deception and addiction are overcome.
Success stories are both rare and lengthy. I've yet to encounter a story of somebody who recovered quickly.
I’m Sure There’s A Way Forward (Season 2020, Episode 10)
She was in the midst of a struggle. It was fresh though, which is never the best time to do much more than encourage. We reviewed the facts - the things she knew to be true as opposed to the things she could be assuming. At some point I said it.
"I'm sure there's a way forward."
Just because it's not apparent right now doesn't mean it doesn't exist. Figuring out ways to escape isn't often apparent. You've got to search high and low, devoting yourself to figuring it out. I'm thinking of that classic film, The Great Escape. Those prisoners of war had to consider a variety of paths forward in their attempt to escape. It required lots of thinking, pondering, planning, debating, and figuring it out. It also involved many setbacks and high risks.
Nobody said the path forward would be apparent or easy. Besides all that, sometimes endurance is the path forward. Not overcoming.
I've lost some friends - close friends - to fatal health issues. There was no overcoming of their illness. But each of them had to find a path forward so they could more successfully endure their eventuality.
Pain. Sorrow. Sadness. Disappointment.
EVERYBODY has experienced plenty of it. EVERYBODY has plenty of things they could dwell on to serve as excuses. EVERYBODY has lots of circumstances - some beyond their control and some not - that might compel them to embrace being "victims." NONE of us are immune.
A few years ago I suffered a personal setback. One I've alluded to in the past. It prompted me to surround myself with older men - each one a gospel preacher who I'd known all my life. I figured these were the guys who could help me find a way forward. And sure enough, they did.
I'm unsure of how timing works. I'm very sure about God's providence though - meaning God's ability to work through the natural courses of life. We all make up our own mind. We make choices and behave in ways we choose. The Bible pretty clearly teaches us that God can and does use the natural events and circumstances of life for his Will. If I choose to behave poorly, it's not God's fault. He's not behind it. It's my own free will in motion. But my poor choice can still be leveraged by God to serve some purpose that may not be clear for a long time - if ever.
One by one these 3 older sages in my life passed on...leaving me alone and pretty much without any more older men in my life who had served me as they had all my life. I'm not bringing it up to lament my plight, but to illustrate how urgent it is for all of us - no matter what we're facing - to find a way forward. My confession is that when I lost the first one I took great comfort that I had him for as long as I did. I was especially thankful to have had him over the course of the previous year plus. His wisdom was unparalleled. But I was also very grateful I still had the other two even though both had serious health issues (one more so than the other).
Curveballs enter everybody's life. Mine came when the seemingly healthier of the two was suddenly gone. Even though he was the oldest of the 3 - the youngest was the first to pass - none of us were expecting it. The suddenness of death is always a jolt.
Within a short time, the 3rd and final old man left the planet and entered Eternity. It was expected, but that didn't make it any easier. Now there were none and my path forward was not apparent. During dark days of sadness and sorrow, it's hard to find enough light with which to see any path or way. I'm a lifelong insomniac. Inside the Yellow Studio is a red light bulb I burn at night - like an old photographer's darkroom. It provides enough light to see without illuminating the house and waking up Rhonda. But I'll often traipse into the kitchen from my studio and without any lights on...and my eyes adjusted to the red glow...
It’s Hard To Measure A Pleasure Or An Itch (Season 2020, Episode 9)
Jason Wilber was John Prine's longtime lead guitarist and musical director. John died during this pandemic. Jason released a new album after John passed. It's entitled, Time Traveler and contains a song, Poet's Life. Today's show title is a lyric from that song.
How do you measure a pleasure or an itch?
I don't know. But I don't know how you measure sadness, sorrow or disappointment either? So my inability to measure such things runs in every direction.
I've been sharing way too much Billy Strings with the private Facebook group lately. Billy Strings is William Apostol. He's a 27 year old guitar whiz kid who combines heavy metal with bluegrass. Yeah, I know. Sounds nuts, right? Well, it's not nuts. It's brilliant.
Billy is one of those artists that I'll binge on a few times a year. I'll just listen and watch everything I can for 2 weeks straight. Mostly in complete amazement at how somebody can be so proficient at something at such a young age. I look over in the corner at my encased acoustic guitar, which I'm unable to play - and I think of measuring the value of a guitar in Billy's hands versus a guitar in my hands. At least you could kinda sorta measure that by looking at how much income Billy earns playing the guitar versus the zero dollars I'll ever earn with a guitar. My only chance of making money on a guitar is if I sell mine!
I grew up hearing preachers deliver sermons about the powerful impact of godly women. Much of the time they'd speak of how priceless a godly wife, mother or grandmother was. And since I had all three, I can attest to the high value they deliver. But I'm not able to measure it.
Proverbs 31:10 "Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies."
I can't play the guitar, but I sure do enjoy watching and listening to Billy Strings perform. In the last 2 weeks, I've likely spent over 50 hours listening to my Billy Strings' records (okay, they're digital) and watching his YouTube concerts. I love watching the guy perform. Many nights in the last 2 weeks his songs have been earworms.
Many things are hard to measure.
But maybe it's worth asking, "Why measure them anyway?"
The square, super-logical among us would say, "Because you can't make progress unless you can measure it." Check out The Squircle Academy if you want to investigate circles and squares.
Ridiculous. Of course, you can make progress in something that can't be measured.
Some aspects of love may be measurable, but it's pretty hard.
John 15:13 "Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends."
So there's the pinnacle, right? Hatred is at the opposing extreme I reckon. But what about all that space in between?
I fell in love with my wife in the summer of 1975. After 42 years of marriage, I love her more now than then. I don't have any paperwork to prove it. Nor do I have any assessment I can show off to her. I just know how I feel and what I think. I can measure it intuitively. By how important she is to me. By how devastated I'd be if something bad were to happen to her. By how lonely I'd be without her. By the value she provides to my life.
Family. Friends. Allies. Mentors. Teachers.
How do you measure their value?
Billy Strings said this in a magazine interview...
Those moments are what I cherish the absolute most. For instance, when I was six or seven years old, I was learning “Beaumont Rag,” and I just played the rhythm, but I kept messing it up in this one part. Right in the middle of the song, I said, “Stop. Dad, why don’t you play it and let me listen?” I listened to what he was trying to say with the guitar, and I go, “Now, let me try it again,” and I nailed it. He started laughing.
Moving In Silence (Season 2020 Episode 8)
NOTE: I began preparing for this episode some days before the violent death of George Perry Floyd Jr. in Minneapolis at the hands of a police officer. As violence broke out across the country it seemed best to stay silent and observe. And listen. The irony of the title of today's episode wasn't lost on me. It was purely coincidental. I was already thinking very seriously about my own urge to be quieter in some specific areas of life. If you've listened to the COVID19 episodes you could likely figure out that my tolerance of highly opinionated, judgmental people is eroding. I've never much cared for it, but if the coronavirus didn't bring such people out of the woodwork, this current ordeal surely has. I simply want you to know that today's show is not a response to specific incidents or any news, but today's show is mostly provoked by human behavior. Disagreement. Anger. Assumption. Judgment. Strife. Contention. No big shock really. Behaving poorly is almost always the easy choice. Doing the right thing - behaving with kindness - requires more from us. At the beginning of the pandemic, I began to post some audio sermons in a YouTube playlist entitled, In Thy Paths. The first sermon (21 minutes long) was entitled, A Certain Samaritan Answers The Question, "Who is my neighbor?" I've embedded it here in case you want to give it a listen. Even if you're irreligious I hope the message will resonate with you. So with that, let's talk about moving in silence. Thank you for hitting that play button. I know your time is valuable and I can't properly thank you enough for giving me your time and attention. Without you, I'm just a guy talking to himself into a microphone!
It started some time ago with Baker Mayfield, starting quarterback for the Cleveland Browns, but most notable in my book as being the OU Sooner Heisman Trophy winner. Last year I was highly entertained by him, as usual. But I'm a fan, so that's my bias. During the offseason - and even during the season - Baker was widely criticized for being too loud and talkative. Prior to the beginning of this weird 2020 season, Baker decided it was time to start "moving in silence" - a quote from his press conference that captured my attention.
John Prine's song had already been in my ears and on my mind, Quiet Man. And for weeks I'd been giving serious consideration to my urge to become quieter, not in a podcasting sense necessarily, but in other real-life situations. Truth was, I had made up my mind weeks ago that I was going to be much quieter in some areas of my life.
And there's more music about silence or quiet, too. One of my favorite bands, Mandolin Orange, released an album in 2010 entitled, Quiet Little Room.
Then about a couple of weeks ago Ken Yates released a new album, Quiet Talkers. It's like the universe was pushing, not just nudging, this idea of quietness. Something that isn't all that hard for me. In spite of the fact that I'm a podcaster who struggles with consistency.
Thoreau wrote, "The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation." I'd also been thumbing through an old book (circa 1988) - a paperback that I've had for years entitled, "Quiet Desperation: The Truth About Successful Men."
There are a number of books dealing with introverts which have a focus on the power of quiet.
The paradox is that I'm compelled to communicate. Until I'm not.
Then I'm even more compelled to be silent. And it can last quite a while.
I don't read the genre, but I jotted down a quote I ran into that I thought was quite clever. Science fiction writer, Philip K. Dick crafted a great line in a novel, Valis:
“When you are crazy you learn to keep quiet.”
Perhaps I'm becoming aware of my own craziness.
Oh, No! Not Another Covid Show! (Season 2020 Episode 7)
It's May. And we're still in this pandemic thing. Let's talk it out. Some more.
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Make Me Think - And I'm Your Friend
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