Thursday, September 23, 2010

Balance

My grandson is almost five now.
Time flies.
Since close to the beginning of his life I’d been taking him out regularly for some grandpa/grandson time. It started by just taking him out in his own back yard, and then it gradually worked into his dad bringing him to meet me at the park for some playtime. Eventually he was old enough for his parents to be comfortable with me taking him places alone. You know how that process goes.

From the time he became confident enough to walk around I’d spend as much time outside with him as possible. And during our outings I’d always make sure to spend some of that time walking with him on logs, on rocks, or curbs, low retaining walls, planter boxes, lines on the pavement, or whatever else required focus, and, ultimately, balance. My grandson loved doing it. He liked the challenge, and he liked the continuing development of his balance. As a father would, I know my son was doing many of the same things with him as well. Mom too.
And others.

When stepping up onto a log, or something, I’d always take my grandson’s hand and encourage him to ‘find your balance’. He enjoyed the concept of ‘balance’, was visibly pleased when he’d ‘find’ it, and even more pleased when I’d let go of his hand and he still had his balance. If he’d start to lose it I’d encourage him to ‘keep your balance’. He would concentrate, focus, and, ultimately, regain the balance that he was in jeopardy of losing. Sure, he’d lose it sometimes in the beginning, but grandpa was there to catch him, or at least to soften his fall, and he knew that. It led to him being able to readjust his balance during the fall so that he would either land on his feet, or minimize the effect of the landing. It was a lot of fun watching, and being part of, this important development in his life.

A couple of months ago I took my grandson to the park with his bike. We took his training wheels off. Actually, feeling ready to take on the challenge of balancing the bike on his own, he took the wheels off himself. I just provided the wrench.

It was fun seeing him find his balance on the bike, drawing on all the experience he’d had on the logs, the rocks, the curbs, retaining walls, planter boxes, and lines on the pavement. It was satisfying to see that when he began to lose his balance he’d usually find a way to keep it. Sometimes he couldn’t, but even then he would orchestrate a pretty graceful landing, often laying the bike down while he stepped off of it, or kind of sliding on the grass in unison with it. We practiced the dismounts as much as the riding. And he was as proud of a successful landing as he was of a successful ride.

A week or two later his dad sent me a video of my grandson riding his bike like an old pro. Both dad and son were excited, and proud of the accomplishment. It was pretty cool. Made me smile, and made me laugh out loud.

OK now, here’s what I’m getting at. And you’ve got to admit you knew I was going somewhere with this. That’s what I do.

There is a natural balance in life. We see, and experience it, in nature. It is a very important aspect of life, an aspect that, if missing from our own lives, leaves us at the mercy of the emotional, psychological, and physical elements of its absence.

In one’s personal life nobody just happens upon balance, or finds it by accident. There is a process of ‘finding’ it, just as there was with my little grandson. And then there is the practice of ‘keeping’ it. Finding, and keeping. Both require some knowledge, some wisdom, and some experience. Experience produces knowledge. Knowledge, when blended with experience, generates wisdom. Wisdom enables us to measure intangibles. And it gives us the wherewithal to deal with them.

Intangibles are the part of life we have to face within ourselves. They are the inner challenges that we must face alone, without grandpa being there to hold us up, or soften our fall. They are the inner demons we must confront, the assaults on our belief system that we must contend with, the moral and ethical dilemma’s we must reflect upon, and the secret places we harbor that we must be willing to illuminate to, and for, ourselves.
And they are the character issues that we must conquer.

Once you truly find balance it becomes something you never wish to lose. One eventually learns that a steady ride is much more satisfying than a continuing series of unforeseen, but otherwise predictable mishaps.

Only as we are willing to embrace the process will we be successful in finding our balance. And only as we are willing to practice that balance will we be successful in keeping it.

You know what I’m talking about.

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Honesty Of Intention

It may not really matter to you, but I want to say that I have always been someone whom others have been perfectly comfortable projecting their own ideologies on to, their own belief systems. So-called Conservatives have considered me to be either ‘one of them’, or ‘one of those liberals’, depending on what they’ve needed me to be to validate their own position.

And So-called Liberals have done the same, only in reverse on the issues. Truth is, I am neither of those. It’s not good to view people in those terms. I sometimes do, but I try not to. Like you, sometimes I get caught up in the anger, or the immediacy, of an issue, but I don’t subscribe to anybody else’s idea of what’s right, and what’s wrong. I know what’s right, and I know what’s wrong. And so do you. I don’t need an ideology to instruct me. Just because life is not black and white does not mean that right and wrong straddles the middle of the gray scale. It usually resides closer to one end of the spectrum or the other. It always leaves room for us to rationalize our position, however. And we do. Actually, we seem to take full advantage of the opportunities. Adherents of political ideology like to dress every issue in the rightness, or wrongness of it. But not only do I not view political issues as right or wrong, I don’t even subscribe to the idea that a point of view is either liberal or conservative. It all depends on what you match the perspective up against.

For example, take the issue of gun ownership, one of the most hot-button issues in our culture today. Most people line up pretty strongly on one side or the other. And I do too. But, for me it is not a matter of conservative vs. liberal. And it is not a matter of right and wrong. It is a matter of pragmatism vs. idealism, and each has validity to the holder of the perspective. The sides are even interchangeable. But to paint them with a conservative vs. liberal brush is just wrong.
Here’s what I mean.

If I live in a community of gun owners, who could, because of that action alone, be widely considered to be conservatives, and I happen to not own a gun, (perceived as a liberal point of view), doesn’t my not owning a gun actually make me a conservative to the liberal ownership of guns? And on the other hand, if I live in a community that strongly frowns on the ownership of guns, (perceived as a liberal point of view), and yet I happen to own a gun, doesn’t that make me liberal to the conservative community standard of not owning one?
Do you see what I mean?

I believe that one’s actual socio/political leanings can only be determined by one’s willingness to honestly consider the merits of the other side, and to embrace those positions which are authentic, and more importantly, which make sense. Notice I did not say “embrace those positions which FEEL authentic, but which ARE authentic.” Rather than aligning with an ideology, one must align themselves with reason, even though reason may contradict one’s own preconceptions, or those of one’s friends. However, you must already know that when one can effectively do that it will leave those who are left embracing a particular ideology very uncomfortable. When it comes right down to it, the refusal to be labeled effectively eliminates division within one’s self because, in truth, most of us hold elastic principles, stretching the gamut of belief.
For instance, you might believe that somebody caught possessing hard drugs should go to jail. But if your nineteen-year-old daughter is caught with those same drugs, all of a sudden maybe you don’t believe that. Maybe you believe she should be offered some help.

In any event, I think ideology has become the bane of our existence. And I think that many young people, in particular, have got it right in eschewing such division. Sure, they got it wrong in believing that Obama represented that ideal (many adults got it wrong as well), but their idealism does not yet allow for them to effectively differentiate between what is honest, and what is a politically calculated manipulation of their good intentions. Deceit, if you will. Although I disagree with Obama on many of his policies, I have disagreed with George Bush on many of his as well.

I believe that as hard as many people try to bridge the divide, politicians, and others, work even harder to enlarge it. It works for them.
For me, personally, It is not so much about an ideological divide
as it is about the honesty of intention.

Young people may not have life figured out yet, but they know what divides their country, their state, their communities, and their families. And they want no part of the charade. Hopefully, the ageing process will help to merge their youthful idealism with an informed and seasoned pragmatism.

My guess is that it wouldn’t hurt the rest of us either.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Let's Stop Throwing Shit At The Wall

In today’s world, there is tremendous pressure to line up on one side or the other of the socio/political, and even religious, divide. It is no longer a spectrum; it is, rather, a tangible divide. The shades of gray that make up the actual realities of our lives are forsaken for the socially expedient alignment of ourselves on the ‘appropriate’ side of an issue. And appropriate is determined more by ones affiliation of friends and acquaintances than it is by one’s inner compass. Compromise is considered weak, and independent thinking is viewed as betrayal. It permeates our government like a bad disease, and filters right on down to the neighborhoods.

People have disagreements on ‘moral’ issues. They always have. They also disagree on social issues, the need for, and manner of, addressing them, and even the necessity for solutions. People make social issues into moral issues, and they make moral issues into social issues. Maybe every moral issue is also a social issue, and every social issue a moral one, I don’t know. But perspectives do overlap, and it is seldom that part of an issue cannot be shared by both points of view. It is also seldom, however, that one position will allow room for the other. That’s a shame. We are all diminished by that disallowance.

Disagreement is no cause for alignment in totally separate camps, which end up throwing insults at one another like some incarcerated crazies might throw shit at the wall.

Life is not black and white, except to someone of limited capacity. It really does consist of shades of gray. It’s funny how one will be so quick to adopt an issue as black and white, but will be more than willing for personal integrity to move around in shades of gray, landing on whichever shade may prove to be financially or socially expedient, and thus, beneficial to that person.

Integrity, however, is the one intention that does need to be expressed in black and white. It is the scale upon which everything can be weighed and measured. If integrity is intact the rest tends to take care of itself. It becomes no longer about being right, but rather about being true, true to ones core values, and, thus, true to oneself. It does not allow for a whole lot of gray. Were integrity to rule our lives, our politics, and our religion, it would be surprising how many of us would find common ground.
Regarding personal integrity, as clich├ęd as the phrase is today, it bears repeating. “It Is What It Is”; a true reflection of one’s alignment with their own soul.

Many people would like to reprogram the inner core of others, but effectively deny the voice that quietly speaks to them from within themselves. It is really just evidence of one’s own deficiency. I’m not talking about behavior. Behavior can turn a deaf ear to that inner voice. I’m talking about the inner voice itself, the living conscience from which integrity emerges like a sunrise out of the darkness.

If honesty reigns on the inside, then, to be sure, integrity will rain on the outside.


To be continued: