Category Archives: life

To a Nobler Way of Life

I have been going on lately about guns and violence and hatred and anger.  All of this has been in the back of my mind for quite some time now, with all the growing violence, not only in America but throughout the world.  I was reminded of it most forcibly once again last week by the awful mass murder in Newtown Connecticut, a horrible and destructive event beyond the pale of human comprehension.  And again today I was reminded of the insanity of our world with the remarks of Wayne LaPierre of the NRA who said “”The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun,” I believe that I am a relatively good guy and I know many good guys just like me, in fact, most of the world is made up of good guys who don’t want to have to defend themselves with a deadly weapon.

I have already spoken, in an earlier blog, to the statement that many in the gun lobby have made that “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.”  I have said that while that statement is somewhat true the fact is that a person with a gun can kill many people in the time it would have taken them to kill a single person without a gun.  I could go on but I have previously discussed this issue.  We need to be thinking beyond the act of violence and looking toward a way to bring it to an end.

What is this force that makes us think this way?  We, the people who tout “freedom” as a way of life shouldn’t have to fear for our lives, the lives of our loved ones and children.  And, “freedom” was never intended to mean free to do whatever you please.  Oliver Wendell Holmes said “Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose.”   I say, “Your right to own a gun ends at the point where you become a danger to me and my family.” But, we shouldn’t have to argue these points.

There has to be a better way.  And, there is.  If we are all going to live together in freedom without fear that we and our families are in danger we are going to have to change the way we think about things.  I don’t want to always be quoting the Bible as a source of what I have to say but this quotation is particularly poignant in this situation.  The statement was made by the Apostle Paul but it can be appreciated by people of all faiths.  He says “Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable – if anything is excellent or praiseworthy – think about such things.”

I propose along with Paul that we as a people begin to look toward a nobler way of life.  Let us cease our hostility toward one another.  Let us look for the good in all situations rather than looking for the bad.  In everything let truth pervade our speech and our dealings with one another.  Let us all look to do the admirable thing in all situations.  This is the only way to have true freedom.  So, to all of us let this be our mantra: “To a Nobler Way of Life.” And, if that means we need to place some restrictions on some people in order to achieve this nobler way of life then I say so be it.


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A Call To Goodness and Kindness

I remember the moment well.  It was many years ago when my son, now forty years old, was just a young boy of maybe eight or ten.  I was just finishing up my bachelors degree in music.  Jeffery and I were standing in front of our piano and he was asking me for the umpteenth time if he could take karate lessons.  Tiring of the continual battle, I posed this question: “Jeffrey, why would you ever want to study the martial arts where you are learning how to bring pain and suffering into the world when you could apply yourself in the fine arts and bring happiness and goodness into the world?”  Jeffrey pondered that question for a while and never asked to take karate lessons again.  Instead, he began to work harder on his trombone and piano studies and eventually went to the university on a music scholarship.  Many years later, Jeff reminded me of that conversation and told me of the positive impact it had made on his life.

It seems to me that we Americans have become a very self centered, selfish and mean spirited people.  Everywhere you look someone is suing someone else.  We no longer find peaceful ways to resolve our differences.  If a neighbor walks into your yard, steps into a hole and breaks his ankle he is more likely than not to sue you.  A plethora of TV ads by personal injury attorneys is evidence of the fact that people are suing one another in record numbers.   When our lives don’t suit us for some reason we immediately begin looking for a scapegoat.  Anything unpleasant or uncomfortable must be the fault of someone else.  The problems that we encounter are, to us, insurmountable and must be rectified by someone else in order for us to have peace.  None of us ever feels like we might even be partially responsible for our own problems.

It amazes me, also, the amount of hateful talk that we encounter every day and the divide that seems to be widening between people espousing different philosophies.  Republicans versus Democrats, fans of this football team versus that, Roman Catholics versus Protestants. The list is endless.  There was a time when those of us with differing philosophies could agree to disagree but now the airwaves and the social networks are filled with hateful talk.  I have never in my life seen the level of hatred between the two political parties as we see today.   And, it wouldn’t be so bad if we could be truthful in our hateful talk but we fill that mean spirited verbiage with lies and half truths.

It seems that we are all looking for something to be angry about and it’s not all politics and religion.  If the person in front of you at a red light hesitates for two seconds when the light turns green expect for several horns to begin blowing.  If someone does something you don’t like look for the finger to be displayed or a volley of vulgar vitriol to ensue.  Then there are of course the more extreme cases; Road rage, for example, where physical violence is acted out, and these seem to be more and more common.

Violence seems to have become a way of life nowadays, it is everywhere.  We read about it in the newspapers.  We see it on the news.  Murder, rape, beatings, spousal abuse, child abuse and on and on it goes.  Occasionally, we view it as entertainment.  Take the most popular movies for instance: gangsters and good guys shooting it out, beatings, road rage… And, then there are video games and popular music that promote violence as an acceptable way of life, even exciting, maybe even pleasurable, that is, as long as you are the perpetrator of the violence and not the receiver.

What has happened to us?  Why are we so angry? Why have we become so mean spirited?  How did we become so violent?  I honestly don’t know.  There is something we can do about it though and we must do something about it before it it too late.  We can choose to bring peace and goodness into this world.  This seems like a daunting endeavor and it is.  It has taken us a long time to become the way we are and it will take a while for us to become what we ought to be, a kinder gentler people.  I hope I don’t lose you by quoting scripture but The Bible puts it this way.  “In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” [Matthew 7:12] It seems a bit simplistic doesn’t it? But, the statement is pregnant with truth.  How can we possibly imagine that someone will treat us with kindness and understanding if we don’t treat them that way? Why should they?  Goodness begets goodness and kindness begets kindness.  As I told Jeffrey, Why do you want to bring pain into the world when you could be bringing goodness? And, guess what, when you begin working toward bringing goodness and kindness into the lives of others, goodness and kindness will come back to you.

I am this day issuing a call to goodness and kindness.  We needn’t be so self centered. I ask that we as a people begin to think more about the wellbeing of others.  I ask that we seek peaceful solutions to our differences.  I ask that when trouble or suffering comes into our lives that we don’t jump to the conclusion that someone else or some other outside force must be responsible.  I ask that we enter into more civil dialogue with others and that we focus on the truth.  I ask that we seek ways to turn off our anger toward one another and that we try to find ways to bring more love and kindness into our world.  I ask that we avoid turning to violence and learn to deal peacefully with others.  I ask that we start looking for better more wholesome forms of entertainment rather than that which is filled with violence.

I don’t know about you but I am thinking about working toward a gentler and kinder version of me during 2013.  I am going to stop looking for the bad in people and instead begin looking for the good.  Maybe that person in front of me at the traffic light is having a rough day.  I’m not going to compound that by blowing my horn when he or she hesitates at the green light.  If I slip on a wet floor at the grocery store and twist my ankle my first thought is not going to be to sue them for neglect, it will be to think of how silly it was of me not to pay attention to my surroundings.  I will not return anger for anger.  I will not act out violently.  As far as I am able, I will love my neighbor as myself and seek for the good in all things.

I hope those of you who read this will take a look around you and see if there are ways that you can, through your behavior, bring some goodness and kindness into our world.  If enough of us will begin treating one another with respect, if we will be kind and look for goodness, this world will become a better place for all of us.


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Lent, Lint & Lindt®

I was reading a blog on a diet and exercise website this morning and the writer was trying to decide on a way to get her diet under control. She thought a good approach might be to give up alcohol for Lent but then decided that she liked beer too much and might need one following an upcoming 5K run. That set the wheels spinning in my head thinking about some of the things people give up for Lent.

My wife’s boss once said that he was going to give up cussing for lent. “You can’t do that” she said. “The hell I can’t!” he rebuffed. Quite often people give up things they don’t want or like. A youngster might say “I’m giving up broccoli for Lent.” Easy to do when the child doesn’t eat broccoli anyway.

Of course, the way my head works, being a bit of a wordsmith, I started playing with the words. I was going to respond to the blog with this line of thought: “I think I’m going to give up lint for lent… you know that fuzzy stuff that collects on your wool jacket or in your belly button….hmmm or maybe I should give up Lindt® for Lent…. you know that luscious dark chocolate covered caramel that causes fat to collect on your waistline. I just don’t know, it’s a tough decision.”

But really, why do we give things up for Lent? What’s that all about? Traditionally, many Christians give up things for Lent as a way of honoring Christ’s voluntary self-deprivation during His forty days in the wilderness. Our self –deprivation has a theological basis in that when we think of that which we have given up it helps us to focus on Christ and His sacrifice. And, while our sacrifice pales in comparison to His, it still serves as a reminder to us of God’s love through the sacrifice of His Son.

I don’t know what I will be giving up for Lent this year. It is not required in my worship tradition but I still like the practice and will participate. I might not even be successful for the full forty days but I will make an attempt. All I know is that the benefit to me will certainly outweigh the small sacrifice I will be making, a benefit to me both for my physical health as well as my spiritual health.

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Folrida High Speed Rail – Rejected

Florida Governor Scott’s Rejection of Stimulus Money For High Speed Rail

Let me begin by saying this is my opinion.  It is based solely upon what I have read in the papers and on-line as well as TV reports that I have heard.  The fact is that Governor Rick Scott has rejected over 2 billion dollars of Federal Government stimulus money that was offered to the state to create a high-speed rail system connecting the Tampa Bay area to Orlando.  This seems extremely short-sighted to me.  Most of the people I have discussed this with who are also against the project say that they don’t believe the rail system will benefit them.  They cite their belief that neither parking nor mass transit will be available at the other end or in the very least it will be limited.  I say that if we base the acceptance or rejection of this project on how it will affect us individually then we are looking at it all wrong.  I say we look at what kind of impact it will have on everyone in the area and also the indirect impact it will have on each of us as individuals.

My stance is that it may be true that the rail will not directly benefit me.  I may never have the opportunity to use the rail system.  But, the indirect and long-term benefits I believe will be tremendous.  Indirectly everyone in central Florida will benefit by the creation of jobs and business during the construction phase.  It has been said that over 9,000 jobs will be created during construction.  That in itself would be a tremendous boon to central Florida.  Additionally, no one in their right mind could imagine this system being built without considering the need for parking or mass transit at either end.  Surely, that will develop throughout the planning and construction.  It has been estimated that ridership will be in the millions.  Think of the tourists who have flown in to either Orlando or the Gulf Beaches.  These people are generally here for a week or more at a time.  Wouldn’t it be a wonderful spark to the economy of Central Florida to have those tourists spending money at each end of that rail line rather than being confined to one end or the other?  And what about the future? I can imagine a future Florida with a north south high-speed rail connecting Miami Dade with Tallahassee intersecting in Orlando and possibly another connecting Pensacola and Jacksonville through Tallahassee.  This would connect the major sections of the state via high-speed rail and make it possible for our state politicians to travel back and forth without having to use state airplanes (since the governor owns his own and has sold all the state planes.)

To me it would have made good sense to accept the money and go ahead with the project.  I believe there is more to this story than meets the eye.  I believe Governor Scott has decided to reject the money solely because it was “Obama Money.”  Governor Scott has allowed his bias against the president and the democratic party, and, by the way, many in his own party who were in favor of accepting the stimulus money, to cloud his judgment in regard to what is best for Florida.  I believe Governor Scott has made a dreadful mistake, a mistake that will negatively impact the economic growth of Florida, a mistake that will haunt us for many years to come.

I know of a town in central Kentucky that many years ago had the opportunity to have a major interstate highway come through.  The townspeople said “no way in hell do we want that highway and all that traffic.”  The interstate was diverted through other areas which have since grown beyond the dreams of the residents there.  That small town that “avoided all the traffic” is basically now dying on the vine.  They had an opportunity and they let it pass.  I am afraid that is what will happen to central Florida.

Now that the stimulus package has been finally rejected and all the fighting is over, Governor Scott says he can proceed with what he has planned for Florida.  Maybe he will be successful, I don’t know, time will only tell, but for now there will be no high-speed rail, there will be no jobs created, there will be no new business, tourists will be stuck at one end or the other unless they rent a car, and we will still have to make the drive down I 4 to get back and forth from Tampa to Orlando.  What a waste.  Congratulations to some other state who will surely accept the stimulus money intended for Florida, a state where broken Floridians will probably go in order to get work.

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This morning, as is my custom when at the beach for an extended stay, I arose before the crack of dawn, put on a pot of coffee, checked my email and went out to pick up the morning paper.  By the time I got back to my room, the coffee was ready, I poured a cup and went out to the water’s edge and just stood there for a while.  This would be the last full day we would be at the beach.  Soon, our summer vacation would be over.  Our daughter and her children would be traveling back to Kentucky, our son and his children would be traveling back to Virginia, My wife, Dad and I would be traveling across the bay to our home in Brandon.

I love to go out to the water’s edge by myself first thing in the morning with a cup of coffee in hand just to contemplate things, things we had done together as a family during the week, the dread of seeing my children and grandchildren go home, thoughts of work and what I might be doing for the rest of the week and so forth.  It is always a peaceful time with my thoughts, just me, the vastness of the ocean, a few squawking sea birds, the gentle waves rolling in and lapping at my ankles.  Occasionally a small pod of dolphin will roll and blow a hundred yards or so out from shore, looking for breakfast, a pelican will dive-bomb into a school of fish.  All of us at that moment seem to be in harmony with one another.

As the sun begins to peek over the horizon behind me I recognize the fragrance of frying bacon wafting on the morning’s warm salty sea breeze.  Others are beginning to wake up and get about doing whatever they will be involved in during their day.  Soon a lone runner can be seen running up the beach toward me.  I begin to think it’s time to get back to the room and make preparations for the day’s activities.  For a while though, it was glorious, just me, the beauty of this natural setting, my thoughts and a good cup of coffee.

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The Garden – Part 3

You may be wondering how the dog fits into all of this, having mentioned earlier about how the entire family got pleasure from this garden, even the dog.  Well, Fred, was a beagle mix.  His mother was a full blooded beagle with papers and everything, his father, obviously, was a traveling salesman, never seen or heard from again.  Fred looked a lot like a beagle, shape, size, ears, and tail but he had sky blue eyes.  Oh, he had the wonderful howl of a hound as well.  We saw the ad in the newspaper for puppies that were being given away and we went by to take a look.  Fred was the clumsy one of the litter.  He seemed to trip over his own paws.  He was all brown except for a large white diamond shaped patch on his chest.  Any way, we (I) fell in love with him and immediately named him Fred.  The name seemed appropriate for the bumbling ball of brown fur.  Later the children and I began to refer to him as Frederich von Dog.  We thought the name gave him a bit more class.

Fred loved the garden for a cool place to hide and nap during the heat of the summer.  I always planted my squash and zucchini in hills.  This had the effect of creating a small valley between the hills.  The zucchini plants always grew to a huge size.  Some of the leaves seemed to be a foot across.  On any particularly warm day we could always find Fred snoozing in a cool moist valley under the shade of the zucchini leaves.  You could open up a hole in the leaves and try to coax the lazy hound out but he wouldn’t budge.  Fred would just lay there, slowly open one eye as if to say “you see me trying to take a nap here, leave me alone” then he would let out a sigh, close his eye and go back to sleep.  Fred never messed the garden up, no digging or rooting around.  It seemed like he knew that we respected that plot of ground and he respected it as well.

Fred and I were good friends.  We have had many conversations out on the patio overlooking the garden, me with my cup of coffee, him sitting by my side listening intently, giving a happy wag of the tail when we made eye contact.  I shared my happy times with him and my sad times as well.  He would listen without making judgment and with that caring look in his eye that said no matter what goes on in your life I love you.  We had the old boy for about fourteen years then he was gone.  There were some really tough times in my life after that when I wished I had old Fred there to listen to me.  He was a good dog.

As with chapters in a book, things eventually come to an end.  My marriage eventually came to an end, Fred went off to dog heaven, the children went off to school, got married, had homes of their own and moved on with their lives.  The need for a huge garden no longer existed, but, oh my, the memories that are still there, some as vivid as if it were yesterday.  I am in a new phase of my life now, a new chapter you might say.  Yes, I still garden, although, it’s smaller now.  I found my soul mate and we married ten years ago. One of the best things ever to happen in my life is to fall in love after fifty. We have five wonderful children between us, and nine grand children.  With seed that has been passed down from generation to generation, the garden is still growing, producing happiness and new fruit.

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The Garden – Part 2

The garden that year, my first year as a full-fledged gardener, organic gardener nonetheless, was such a success that it became the necessary thing to do each year. The whole family got involved in the process.  The children, me, the dog all of us found pleasure in the things the garden provided, not just the vegetables from which we derived physical nutrition but also the hours of hard work and exercise together as a family, from which we derived sustenance for the soul.  Now that the children have all married and moved away they are planting gardens in their back yards with their children. The seed has been planted, seed that has been passed down from generation to generation.

I don’t remember if it was the second or third, who knows, maybe the fifth year of the garden that I made a discovery.  Before I continue though, I need to explain that this was during a previous marriage, I did most of the cooking then.  In my second marriage now, I am married to a wonderful woman who loves to cook so sometimes it’s a battle to see who’s going to get to cook each meal.  As the main cook for the family at that time, though, I really preferred (and still do) to use fresh ingredients, in fact I insist upon it as much as is possible.  My children grew up eating fresh vegetables from the garden, if not our garden then fresh food from the farmer’s market.  In my opinion there is nothing worse than store-bought canned vegetables and one step up from that is store-bought frozen foods.  Whenever possible, in my opinion, one should use only fresh ingredients.  So, my children grew up having fresh foods to eat.  Even canned vegetables you have canned yourself are far better than those purchased at the local grocery.  Anyway, back to the discovery.

This particular year, I had planted a variety of tomatoes that grew into huge plants.  My tomato cages were made from six by six reinforcing wire mesh, the kind used in concrete floors.  These cages were around eighteen inches in diameter and six feet tall.  The variety of tomato plants I had planted that year were growing out the top of the cages.  I bet we got a bushel of tomatoes off of each plant.  As the plants were growing I began to spy out a prime tomato, one that was sure to be the first to ripen.  I watched that tomato every day, sometimes two or three times a day I would check on it with great anticipation for the day when I would harvest that beauty and be the first to sink my teeth into its luscious red flesh.  On the day that I was sure that my prized tomato was ready for plucking, I went to the garden, walked down between the rows of squash and zucchini, past the purple hull peas to the end of the garden where the tomato cages stood billowing with greenery, branches laden with green to pinkish orbs. My mouth began to water as I rounded the corner and made the horrible discovery.  There basking in the warm sunshine, sitting cross-legged on the grass, lips glistening with the luscious juice of my prized tomato was Heather, my thirteen year old daughter.  She and I had been watching the same tomato all these weeks.  How could you get angry about that?  I was so proud of her for wanting to get in on that goodness and having the ability to beat me to it.  Heather and I have always been a bit competitive.

If you are a gardener you may or may not be aware of this.  If you want to speed up the ripening process with your tomatoes, here’s what to do.  After the fruit has set and is of substantial size, wait for the next full moon, strip off all your clothes and run through the garden naked.  The tomatoes will blush immediately and you will have ripe tomatoes very soon.  At least that’s what I’ve been told.  I think maybe it was Dabney who told me… I don’t remember.

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