Tag Archives: life

from the mouths of babes

Never outgrow that kid.

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fact and faith

Archangel Michael tramples Satan
Image via Wikipedia

It has been my experience that seeking the “truth” (in the spiritual sense) is as much about faith as it is about fact.

I’ve seen many bitter and sour people who spent too much of themselves worrying about what is “true”….I have seen many of the things that people are capable of doing to each other and I am far from naive, so I’m not preaching “sunshine and daisy’s”. However, as I see things, reality and “truth” in human terms are different from “evidence” or scientific truth/fact.  I think that the “Things Worth Believing In” are the unquantifiable human belief in things such as love, courage, freedom, justice, good prevailing over evil, etc. Certainly, when we are talking about policy and law we need to consider scientific fact, but on an individual basis, I think that happiness is more about what we choose to believe.

No triumph of the human spirit was ever founded in cynicism. We all believe in something, and those beliefs, rightly or wrongly held , are the lens through which we live out our lives. If someone want’s to see life as nothing but chemical reactions and electrical impulses, be my guest. I will choose to believe otherwise.

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remember….

 

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

T’was Grace that taught my heart to fear.
And Grace, my fears relieved.
How precious did that Grace appear
The hour I first believed.

Through many dangers, toils and snares
I have already come;
‘Tis Grace that brought me safe thus far
and Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me.
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be,
As long as life endures.

Yea, when this flesh and heart shall fail,
And mortal life shall cease,
I shall possess within the veil,
A life of joy and peace.

When we’ve been here ten thousand years
Bright shining as the sun.
We’ve no less days to sing God’s praise
Than when we’ve first begun.

Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound,
That saved a wretch like me.
I once was lost but now am found,
Was blind, but now I see.

 

Day is done
Gone the sun
From the lakes
From the hills
From the sky All is well,
safely rest.
God is nigh.
Fading light Dims the sight
And a star Gems the sky,
Gleaning bright From afar,
Drawing nigh,
Falls the night.
Thanks and praise,
For our days,
Neath the sun,
Neath the stars,
Neath the sky,
As we go,
This we know,
God is nigh. 

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dont be “common”

Worlds Largest American Flag
Image by BlueSun Photography via Flickr

I do not choose to be a common man. It is my right to be uncommon. To seek opportunity to develop whatever talents God gave me – not security. I do not wish to be a kept citizen, humbled and dulled by having the state look after me. I want to take the calculated risk; to dream and to build, to fail and to succeed. I refuse to barter incentive for a dole. I prefer the challenges of life to the guaranteed existence; the thrill of fulfillment to the stale calm of utopia. I will not trade freedom for beneficence nor my dignity for a handout. I will never cower before any earthly master nor bend to any threat. It is my heritage to stand erect, proud and unafraid; to think and act myself, enjoy the benefit of my creations and to face the world boldly and say: `This, with God’s help, I have done.’ All this is what it means to be an American.

– “My Creed”, by Dean Alfange.

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what to do? what to do?

Image: Wired Magazine Oct 2009

From Wired magazine:

Ralph Keeney wants to improve our lives—by making us confront our deaths. In a recent study published in the journal Operations Research, Keeney, a decision analyst at Duke University’s Fuqua School of Business, crunched data from the Centers for Disease Control to assess how many deaths in the US are due to personal choices—things like smoking, overeating, or unsafe sex. The results: A remarkable 55 percent of deaths for people age 15 to 64 can be attributed to decisions with readily available alternatives. In other words, most people are the agents of their own demise. That’s a vast difference from a century ago, when, Keeney estimates, a scant 5 percent of deaths were brought on by personal decisions (infectious diseases account for most of the rest).

An interesting concept and one that can be applied to anything discussed here from what tactical/strategic decision you make to how you decide to live your life. Much of what happens to you is based on what YOU decided to do at some point in time. Make wise decisions.

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suburban warrior syndrome

Every once and a while, when I cycle through my “Warriorship Examination” phase, I like to resurrect this excellent article.

{{no|Sir Galahad, detalj fra et maleri av Geor...
Image via Wikipedia

By: Ethan Gilsdorf

Summary: From The Matrix to Harry Potter, heroic fantasy is hot stuff. These modern epics tap into our frustrated impulse to be 21st-century knights–and may even help unleash the workaday hero inside each of us.

A friend of mine is dissatisfied with the modern world–its strip malls and ATM machines, its speed limits and mediated experiences. “I would rather try my luck at a horde of orcs with a broad sword,” he says, “than pay the Visa bill and look for parking.”

He pines for days when life seemed to be constructed around heroic deeds rather than menial mouse clicks. Millions of others also long to escape into brave new worlds: Fantasy and science fiction are now front and center in our culture. Nine of the top 10 all-time, worldwide movie box-office kings are Lord of the Rings- or Harry Potter-based (or else conjure up rival science fiction/fantasy empires like Star Wars). Last year, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix sold 12.2 million copies to become the biggest-selling book in the U.S. in 2003. Throw in piles of Xbox shoot-’em-up games, and you could say the geeks have inherited the Earth.

Why the surge in popularity? Legendary sociologist Norbert Elias suggested that in an increasingly structured society, fantasy books, games and movies create arenas for the “controlled decontrolling” of emotions. It’s not socially acceptable to duel that surly human resources director with a stapler gun at 20 paces, and destroying a castle with a trebuchet isn’t an option for the average white-collar worker. Instead, against a backdrop of magic and myth, heroic fantasy allows us to prove our mettle by saving some parallel world from easily identifiable bad guys.

Futuristic and magical scenarios now dominate because the cops-and-robbers thrillers and cowboys-and-Indians yarns of decades past just don’t fit in our “increasingly multiethnic, culturally relativistic and journalistically examined world,” says Gerard Jones, media scholar and author of Killing Monsters: Why Children Need Fantasy, Super Heroes and Make-Believe Violence. No matter your politics, war stories or police stories just don’t offer the same release anymore. “We can still enjoy police fantasies, but even those bring in so many complex political and ethical issues now that most of us can’t really surrender to a wide-open good-guy vs. bad-guy fantasy in police garb. So stories of magic worlds, other planets and superheroes become our substitute.”

Escaping to another dimension is normal: Most people spend about half of their time daydreaming and fantasizing, says psychologist Steven Jay Lynn, professor at the State University of New York at Binghamton and co-author of The Monster in the Cave: How to Face Your Fear and Anxiety and Live Your Life. “Daydreams and fantasy play a vital role in everyday life,” he says. “They inspire us, regulate our moods and help us contemplate future possibilities.”

That includes the possibility of violence and even evil. Parents who crusade against felonious games like Grand Theft Auto: Vice City may not want to hear it, but idolizing villains and identifying with the Darth Vaders and Lord Voldemorts can be liberating, says Jones. As children, play and fantasy let us practice what we will be later in life-as well as what we will never be. “Fantasies of physical conflict and danger have been branded ‘violent’ in recent decades by people who don’t trust or understand them, but they can be some of the most basic, most natural and most valuable tools a child can have for the hard work of growing up,” he says. Kids with the greatest anxiety about risk and the greatest reservations about exploring their own strength and destructive potential have the most urgent need for fantasy, Jones says.

But while children role-play to explore themselves, in adulthood the game changes. Grown-ups turn to fantasy for stress relief, Jones says. They also identify with make-believe heroes, seeing them as guides for self-improvement. Unfortunately, most shoot-’em-up games are so shallow that players gain no personal insight, says John Suler, a professor of psychology at Rider University in New Jersey and author of The Psychology of Cyberspace. He believes the most beneficial heroic narratives depict essential human struggles: betrayal, revenge and overcoming great odds. “In everyday living, we re-enact the classic conflicts and victories of the hero. We may not be slaying actual dragons, but the monsters in our lives and psyche pose no less a threat,” he says. “A good hero story or computer-mediated re-enactment crystallizes in a vivid and symbolic form the challenges we face in everyday life-and a really good story offers us ideas as to how to surmount those challenges.” Suler says games like Everquest and SimsOnline, which create a complex social structure and let players assume roles, can instruct us.

In Western culture, “how to be a hero” instruction has roots that go back to 12th century Norse sagas and ancient-Greek epic poems, points out University of Michigan Law School professor William Ian Miller, author of The Mystery of Courage. These legends taught both psychological and moral lessons, and pointed the way to bravery. “In Icelandic sagas, the character would say, ‘I have not yet done anything saga-like,'” Miller says. “This type of epic wasn’t just escape, but was designed to fantasize yourself into this action and this behavior.” These heroic narratives featured imperfect characters who accomplished great things, despite their flaws.

However, kids raised on Thor or Tolkien don’t predictably gravitate to modern-day “hero” jobs like policeman or firefighter. Nor can you ever guarantee who will act bravely in wartime, Miller says. Courage is learned by practicing it day by day-by speaking up when you get cut off in line, not by waiting until you come across a maiden tied to the railroad tracks. “You have to train yourself to be courageous,” Miller says. Taking small daily risks prepares us for unexpected tests of courage, and he worries that “the upper-middle-class disease of risk aversion”-meticulously organized playtimes, the rush to protect children from any potential conflict or harm-has deprived children of chances to test themselves.

Reality-TV programs like Jackass or Fear Factor, which do involve risk, don’t do much to foster real bravery, says marriage and family therapist Tina Tessina, author of It Ends With You: Grow Up and Out of Dysfunction. “Jumping out of a plane without a parachute, climbing Mount Everest, and other extreme sports can be used as a way to avoid real life responsibilities and feelings, and to get high on adrenaline,” says Tessina. The courage required in these televised tests of character-drinking blended pig parts before mobs of spectators, for example-are at best a temporary escape.

Yet because we yearn to be seen as bold, brave and courageous, we’ll take stupid risks to prove our worth. Psychologists Mark Leary and Kathleen Martin interviewed 300 adolescents on risk-taking behavior. About one-quarter said they’d driven recklessly in order to impress people, and one-third of the young men admitted performing reckless stunts in an attempt to look cool-everything from juggling knives and jumping off a bridge to riding on top of a car.

Some blame these faux-heroics on modern society, arguing that our culture just doesn’t offer enough opportunities for valor. That’s not strictly true-after September 11, firefighters and police officers were nearly elevated to the status of saints. They are the exception, though: For many of us, struggling with mundane jobs and tedious hassles, heroism on the scale of saving lives will never seem attainable. But that doesn’t make everyday quests any less important. It can be equally brave simply to stand up for what you believe in. “Quiet heroism is showing up for your child’s school play when it’s difficult to get off work, or being honest and ethical in the face of someone’s disapproval or scorn,” says Tessina. “That’s the kind of heroism that really counts in life.”

Ethan Gilsdorf (www.ethangilsdorf.com) is a freelance writer, critic and poet based in Paris.

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yeah Im a Tolkien nerd….

Hello. My names Tom and Im a Tolkien geek.

I have been a fan of Tolkien since I picked up a copy of the Hobbit at the local library when I was a grade schooler and have read the Trilogy every few years ever since. I even packed a copy to take with me on deployment. The scene above is one of my favorite parts. Theoden, an aging king is answering a call for aid from an ancestral ally. It is a battle he knows is hopeless. Drastically outnumbered, he goes anyway. This passage in the book has always spoken to me. It speaks of duty, honor, courage,  good vs evil and standing up for what is right against all odds.

The film of course took liberties with the original text and it wasn’t quite portrayed “the way I saw it in my imagination”, but I still get that hair prickling on the back of my neck feeling when I watch it.

Then suddenly Merry felt it at last, beyond doubt: a change. Wind was in his face! Light was glimmering. Far, far away, in the South the clouds could be dimly seen as remote grey shapes, rolling up, drifting: morning lay beyond them.

But at that same moment there was a flash, as if lightning had sprung from the earth beneath the City. For a searing second it stood dazzling far off in black and white, its topmost tower like a glittering needle; and then as the darkness closed again there came rolling over the fields a great boom.

At that sound the bent shape of the king sprang suddenly erect. Tall and proud he seemed again; and rising in his his stirrups he cried in a loud voice, more clear than any there had ever heard a mortal man achieve before:

Arise, arise, Riders of Théoden!
Fell deeds awake: fire and slaughter!
Spear shall be shaken, shield be splintered,
A sword-day, a red day, ere the sun rises!

Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!

With that he seized a great horn from Guthláf his banner-bearer, and he blew such a blast upon it that it burst asunder. And straightaway all the horns in the host were lifted up in music, and the blowing of the horns of Rohan in that hour was like a storm upon the plain and a thunder in the mountains.

Ride now, ride now! Ride to Gondor!

Suddenly the king cried to Snowmane and the horse sprang away. Behind him his banner blew in the wind, white horse upon a field of green, but he outpaced it. After him thundered the knights of his house, but he was ever before them. Éomer rode there, the white horsetail on his helm floating in this speed, and the front of the first éored roared like a breaker foaming to the shore, but Théoden could not be overtaken. Fey he seemed, or the battle-fury of his fathers ran like new fire in his veins, and he was borne up on Snowmane like a god of old, even as Oromë the Great in the battle of the Valar when the world was young. His golden shield was uncovered, and lo! it shone like an image of the Sun, and the grass flamed into green about the white feet of his steed. For morning came, morning and a wind from the sea; and darkness was removed, and the host of Mordor wailed, and terror took them, and they fled, and died, and the hoofs of wrath rode over them. And then all the host of Rohan burst into song, and they sang as they slew, for the joy of battle was on them, and the sound of their singing that was fair and terrible came even to the City.

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relics from the past found in my nightstand drawer

blank_book

For a long time I have had the habit of maintaining notebooks. I think it started in my middle school years when the “ninja craze” was just heating up and I became fascinated with military and martial arts “stuff”. I used to fill them with “reference materials” lifted from books, magazines and military manuals. I would diligently copy information about poisonous plants, L-shaped ambushes and how to “take out” enemy sentries into these “little black books”. I always enjoyed the fantasy of finding some secret knowledge in a dusty book found buried in a corner of a library or under a pile of old magazines in a second hand bookstore and in hindsight perhaps this is a manifestation of that. Or perhaps this is one of the side effects of living out in the styx with no girls to chase or friends to play ball with.

As the years went by I would write short “posts” about my thoughts into these books. I recently came across a stack of these black, hardbound “blank books” in my nightstand drawer under a pile of holsters, old badges, military paraphernalia and Army FM’s.The most recent one has entries from when I was deployed to Bosnia Herzegovina. A passage I found in it says:

When I purchased this blank book I did so with the intention of writing my beliefs and ideas in it and through that process learn something about myself. Now that I have started I don’t really know what it is that I believe, I’ve read many books about ancient and modern philosophies, religions, psychology and myth but in the end I cannot determine if any of them have changed or influenced  who I am or if I just took from them what I always believed.

I guess that my current life view is similar to the eastern concept of the Tao. We all think of ourselves in individual terms…separate from each other and from the rest of the world. I tend to think of our existence as being manifestations of the same “reality”. From a college philosophy class, I remember watching a film where Joseph Campbell made an analogy to a light bulb. The bulb is a vessel for light, when the switch is thrown it illuminates. When it is turned off the light vanishes but the energy..the “potential” is still “out there”. Do you identify with the “bulb”…your physical manifestation? Or do you identify with “the light”? That same current that runs through all of our “bulbs”? When our “light” goes out the energy doesn’t “go” anywhere because it never really “came” in the first place. We are just material manifestations that come and go.

I’m realizing that there is going to be a rambling quality to this writing endeavor, but I’m going to just let that go…it’s funny how I’m sitting here spouting off all this highminded stuff but inside I know that I can be just as jealous, insecure, hesitating and brooding as the next guy…

…All my life I’ve wanted to be a “good soldier”. I’ve read comics and books about war. I’ve watched countless action movies. Under it all there’s a part of me that wants to prove something to myself. I’ve jumped out of planes, climbed cliffs and done some “stupid dangerous” things. I’m still not certain if I did these things for enjoyment or simply to spit in the face of my own insecurities. Either way I did enjoy the adventure and in the end it has lead my life in a direction that I find fulfillment in….”

I wont belabor you with the rest…the reason I even bring this stuff up is because, when I think of it, blogging can be much the same sort of thing as this journal writing. By posting things that interest you and through writing about things that you believe in you start to reach a “critical mass” of posts that can become a “snapshot” of your “self”.

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dojo wars…dont get any on ya. Pt.2

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As I have come to understand it, the Filipino Arts as commercial ventures in America can be traced to a small handful of “masters”. While there have been a number of people teaching the art in the US to individuals or small groups for many years, a couple of notable figures can be credited with its sudden popularity in American martial arts circles. The art that I am associated with gained popularity via the “seminar circuit”. The master hopped around giving weekend long seminars. He passed out rank certificates based on his opinion of the students skill level and how often they came to the seminars and demonstrated how they were progressing. I think that the masters concept of “rank” and how it was to influence his arts politics was ill conceived. Perhaps it was a cultural issue, perhaps he wasn’t concerned with politics and cared less about people squabbling over titles…either way, passing out rank “willy nilly” with no discernible framework or structure was the foundation upon which a lot of rivalry was formed. To add to the confusion, senior students began to form their own variations and associations with their own rank structures, resulting in rank issued by the master as well as rank titles in their own associations. It was against this backdrop that this particular story unfolded.

For myself, time went by…I did my military service, got married, started having children, got into law enforcement, SWAT, promotions, etc. All the while I kind of existed on the fringe of this martial arts group. I trained with Paul, attended seminars and training with DB and some of his close students. Through Paul I heard the stories about the politics and infighting going on in the Filipino Arts in general and the antics between DB and THin particular. He mentioned that some interesting discussions were taking place on an internet discussion forum and suggested that I take a look. I registered with this forum and shortly found out that the board was not only heavily trafficked by students and associates of TH, it was owned and administered by a student/associate of his as well. Discussion on the Filipino Martial arts quickly divided into what became known as “camps”. The “TH Camp” and the “DBCamp”. Being a childhood friend of Paul’s and of the same mind on many issues I of course agreed with most of the points he made in discussions and my own posts were of obviously similar philosophies. Because of this I was pigeonholed as being a member of the “DB Camp”. Even though I was only bumping into DB on a once or twice a year basis at this time and had no political ax to grind.

The bulk of the controversial posts were about TH and his rank. Admittedly, he was issued a fairly high belt level by the master of the art (for whatever that was worth). What was called into question was his formation of his own association and its separate belt structure. Within this association, TH formed a directors board of people from various arts, some that were his own students and juniors in the art. Eventually he had this board promote him to an extremely high rank. This caused squabbling amongst some senior students over who was the senior most student in the masters art.

It all sounds so juvenile, silly and confusing and to a large extent it is, but there were some good points made regarding various artistic and ethical problems with this too. However, the internet being what IT is, all sorts of silliness ensued on this discussion board. Various “sock puppet” accounts jumped into the mix adding fuel to the fires. Some were obviously the same people posting with different names. Some were girlfriends, friends and students from each “camp”. Names were called, threats were made…the age of the internet makes for some very strange circumstances.

What made our local situation even stranger was the fact that many of the people “getting into each others shit” either resided in or frequented the same geographical area. When you take the “6 degrees of separation” factor and add in close proximity it becomes a matter of time before you are dragged into stupid situations and that’s what eventually happened to me.

Stand by while I try to formulate part 3 without getting myself into more stupid situations. 🙂