Saturday, October 30, 2010

Trust, and Confidence

The other night I watched what could have been the best baseball game I’d ever seen. Not necessarily the best game ever played, I wouldn’t know about that, but perhaps the best game I’ve ever seen.

Game 4 of the National League Championship Series; the San Francisco Giants vs. the Philadelphia Phillies.

The Giants won the game in the bottom of the ninth inning. I’m a Giants fan, but acknowledging my bias, the fact that they won is not the reason for my profound appreciation for this particular game. Sure, that was part of it, but it goes beyond the actual lead changes, the ‘come-from-ahead’, and then ‘come-from-behind’ dynamics of the game. It really goes to the triumph and redemption of some disappointing players. It goes to a manager’s belief in some players that the fans, myself included, had lost confidence in. It goes to still believing in somebody when that somebody has not demonstrated recently that he is necessarily someone to be ‘believed in’. It goes to a manager trusting in the players that have been entrusted into his care.

All of the players.
And I believe that is a significant reason why his players are succeeding through some big time underdog adversity.

I do not look for life-lessons in the living of my daily life. I do not necessarily even consciously seek to find the hidden in the, otherwise, transparent. When I watch a baseball game I really just intend to enjoy the game for the intrinsic pleasure of the game itself. But life-lessons present themselves to me wherever I am, in whatever I’m doing, and with whomever I happen to be with at the time. I can’t just turn away from those illuminations as if they were a second helping of banana cream pie. That would be foolish on my part. And, furthermore, it would be hypocritical of me to teach if I am not also willing to learn.

Every family will have its own share of difficulties in life, challenges, and failures, just as every player on a baseball team will throughout the course of a long season. It’s often been said that the very best hitters in the game still fail at least seven out of ten times. A batting average of .333 (three hits out of every ten at-bats) is a phenomenal achievement. Very few All-Stars even have that good of an average. Failure is commonplace, in baseball, and in life.

In game four of the National League Championship Series the manager of the Giants showed confidence in his players, as he’d demonstrated all year, even towards those who had not been doing very well at the time. Two players, in particular, were the glaring recipients of his trust. He did not give up on them. He showed that he believed in them.

Not only did he play them, but he put both of them in the starting lineup as well. It was a profound vote of confidence, and they made the difference in the game.
One of them threw out a runner at the plate from center field, and the other hit a double that drove in two runs. Both plays came at critical times in the game.

Those were redemptive moments for the two players.
A couple of months ago I’d given up on both of them, but their manager showed an unwavering belief in them throughout the season. He rested them when they were struggling, but always brought them back to allow them an opportunity to succeed.

As people struggling to make our way in this world, the odds tilt considerably in our favor when we are shown that same trust and confidence by the people we love.
Even when we might not be at our best.

As of this writing, the Giants are two games up in the best-of-seven-games of the 2010 World Series.
But game four of the National League Championship Series was perhaps the best game that I’ve ever seen.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Mental Chronicles 5

And now for some serious reading:

* I recently opened a box of Good & Plenty, and noticed that the White ones outnumbered the Pink ones by about ten to one. Didn’t use to be that way.
So, if there are ‘Plenty’ of White ones, does that mean that the Pink ones are supposed to be the ‘Good’ ones?

And if the Pink ones are the good ones, then why don’t they put more of them in the box?
Just wondering.

* And are they not putting prizes in cereal boxes any more?
Or am I just not buying the right cereal?

* I’m looking forward to winter.
Snuggling up in a blanket and getting away from the glare of celebrity for a while.

* Question: “What’s the difference between ‘here’ and ‘there’?
Answer: There really is no difference.
No matter where you go, or how long it takes to get there, once you arrive there
you’ll have to say, “I’m here”.
Which is where you started out from in the first place.

Might as well enjoy the ride.

* Every once in a while I’ll stumble upon an original thought that I can share with you.
Like this one.
“If you happen to stumble upon an original thought,
get back up on your feet and try to avoid it the next time it gets in your way.
The people in line behind you don’t take kindly to the distraction.”

* If trees could speak they’d probably say, “I’ve given you shade, oxygen, firewood, fruit, and shelter.”
If we could speak we’d probably say, “Yeah, but what have you done for me lately.”

I’ve been trying to stay away from politics, but hey, some things just need to be said.

* I like all these political ads on TV where the politicians are finally coming out and calling their opponent a liar,
rather than the usual clever insinuations.
But what I like most about the ads is that one politician calling another politician a liar
just might be the only honest thing either one of them has ever said.

Kind of like a vulture calling a buzzard a bird.

Monday, October 18, 2010

Speaking Of Profanity

“God damn!”

I don’t really like using that exclamation, but
it’s the perfect marriage of the sacred and the profane.

Religion, as you well know, seems to create such profound contentiousness between people. The use of religious terminology does the same. I continue to experience
radioactive fallout for something as innocuous as expressing an opinion with words that even imply a connection with religion, no matter how vague, or abstract. I find it kind of disconcerting, and disheartening, that we live in a world where people are not entitled to opinions, where people are knocked down for having one, or for the words they use, like a clay pigeon being blasted out of the sky with a shotgun.

I find it very disturbing, but hey, like it’s gonna keep me from discussing anything?

Here are some thoughts that will be dressed in religious terminology. Reject me for the ideas, if you must, but not for the terminology. Words are simply tools to use to communicate thoughts.

I know life in religion, and out of it as well. Having come from a religious background, first Catholic, then Protestant, then without religion altogether, most religious people today consider me to be ‘backslidden’, or at the very least, a heretic. Although I abhor labels, heretic is one that I am actually willing to wear. The dictionary defines ‘heretic’ as “Somebody who holds or adheres to an opinion, or belief, that contradicts established religious teaching, especially one that is officially condemned by religious authorities.”

I can think of no one I’d rather be condemned by than some of our so-called ‘Religious Authorities’. And those I’ve known,
or who have known me, tend to view my beliefs as profane.
But those adverse to religion, well, they usually consider me to be too ‘righteous’.
Well “God damn”, that’s a pretty good balance to have, if you ask me.

And backslidden? Well, having slidden-back from someone else’s prescribed dogma, unfounded theology, and shallow ritual, sure.
I’ll admit to that.

In truth, I am not subject to religious ideological divisions. And it is something that makes many people very ill at ease. But none of us are really subject to those divisions unless we want to wear the labels.

I believe that righteousness exists in one’s willingness to risk the profane.
Going against the grain, or against an existing majority belief system would be considered profane in the eyes of those who’ve traded their own objective capabilities, and perspectives, for inclusion in a group.
Living outside of ‘religious law’, or religious ‘expectation’, even when abiding by ‘internal spiritual principals’, is, more often than not, enough to brand one as ‘profane’, even though those same spiritual principals might be the standard that practitioners of religion actually aspire to.
Just so happens that maybe their religiosity is what has actually gotten in the way of that ascendancy.

In my mind there is a big difference between religion and religious.
‘Religion’, reverence for a set of principles, the practice of a belief system, can be beneficial to both the individual and to society as a whole.
But the ‘religious’ tend to very easily morph into self-righteousness.

Someone who chooses to live by a moral, or ethical, code often runs the very real risk of being lumped in with them as well, invariably branded as ‘self-righteous’. But that kind of myopic perspective, and judgment, is not what I’m talking about here. The branding is, more often than not, just a self-serving attempt to subjugate and diminish another to puff up and exalt one’s self. And that is self-righteousness in spades.

Living life, an honorable life even, does not require membership in a particular religion, although most religions do require membership for acceptance, and authentication, as a ‘good’ person, a person of value.
Oh, I know they say they don’t, but let’s be real here.

To me, the self-righteous are actually the ‘un-righteous’, as it were, whether they be the religious Pharisee, or the secular self-indulgent. Self-righteousness is most commonly associated with followers of religion, but it seems that the secular perspective, and its inversion of good and evil, right and wrong, acceptable and abhorrent, is more the personification of self-righteousness, even, than the demonstratively pious. Not every ‘religious’ person descends into self-righteousness, but the vain and narcissistic, whether religious or not, tend to find their way there with very little obstruction.

The irony is that it is actually the ‘un-righteous’ considering those who have a heart towards true righteousness to be ‘self-righteous’, thus making the seekers of righteousness out to be profane.

Wrap your head around that profanity for a few minutes.

I believe that self-righteousness is the greatest profanity of all.
And there is a very fine line between the religious and the secular. They are more alike than one might imagine. People who are comfortable with their own stagnation, who are living below even the minimal standards they set for themselves, like to proclaim others to be self righteous, just as the religious self-righteous, living with their own ‘spiritual’ narcissism, like to proclaim others to be sinners. It somehow validates each of their failures and makes them all feel better about themselves.

It is really one in the same.

Speaking of profanity, I know that I’ve been kind of ‘all over the place’ with these comments,
but I’m sure that anyone wanting to make sense of them,

For the rest of you,
Oh well!

Catch me next time around.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

A Certain Lineage

The forest was familiar this morning.
Different enough from yesterday to keep it interesting,
but familiar enough to perpetuate the deep connection.

The morning hike held new signs of a visitation from animals usually hidden from view. Our dog, Chica, put her nose to the ground and did her best imitation of a Hoover, taking in the scents to determine the kind, and size, of the creatures we shared the land with last night. She was unusually obsessed with the smells today. It was pretty obvious that we’d had some new visitors. She led me to fresh bear scat, and the tracks of a good-sized mother and cub. I followed them around the trails, which ultimately led up to the water trough I’d buried in the ground for the vagabond critters to refresh themselves.

This was not a particularly remarkable morning, by any means, just a pretty cool way to start the day, any day really.

The forest is a good parallel for life.
There are some aspects of it that we can count on. There is a certain sameness. Generally speaking, the trees are rooted where they’ve always been, the topography is constant, and the rocks continue to lie partially buried like pimples on the surface of the earth. The trails remain in place, wearing into the ground, like a good pair of shoes, over time, conforms to your feet.

It’s what we can depend on, a few of the things that we can anticipate being there tomorrow. Tomorrow is never promised to anybody, but there’s a reasonable expectation that the landscape will be then as it is now, or at least very similar. The constancy, the reliability, the fidelity of nature, as it were, is something that gives security to us in an otherwise undependable, and unpredictable, world. It is, I think, part of the reason I’m so drawn to it.

Sure, nature changes, just like people do. You often can’t trust it, sometimes it rises up suddenly, and unexpectedly, to hurt you (a tsunami, an earthquake, a hurricane), and sometimes it even hurts you inadvertently (a drought, the heat, the cold). Some say you can never trust nature. But, by and large, you know the rocks will be there tomorrow just as they were today. And you know that if you carve your lovers initials in a tree (if the developers don’t carve their own initials in the forest) you’ll be able to sit under that same tree in thirty years and remember what you were feeling way back then.

The trees change colors, they drop their leaves, some even shed their bark, but they remain as markers, they remain as sentinels against the threat of everything being in flux. Kind of like your old elementary school. Every year it admits, and graduates another group of kids, but it was there before you ever began attending way back then, and it’s still there, and still the same, all these years since you’ve been gone.

But maybe with a fresh coat of paint.

There’s a certain comfort in that.
A lineage, if you will.

Monday, October 4, 2010


I’ve coined a new word.

There are activities associated with words that affect, and impact, our lives.
Meditating, praying, studying, working, exercising, etc. These words, and many others, engage the practitioner in the process that is known as ‘cause and effect’.
A ‘cause’ is something that makes something else happen.
An ‘effect’ is what happens as a result of the cause.
And, obviously, the ‘effect' is why people participate in the cause.

I engage in ‘Natureing’ almost every day, and on many days, many times throughout the day. It is simply the process of engaging with nature. Some call it ‘communing’. I don’t really commune, that’s just not my style. But I do participate in, and with, nature. And I fully engage my sense of appreciation when I do.

Back in the 70’s, as a new Christian, I remember hearing many sermons about the ‘Worship of Nature’, as opposed to the ‘Worship of God’. I remember being taught that we must monitor our participation with nature, our love of it, and our indulgence in it. God forbid that it replace the Creator as the object of our affection.

Not an unworthy concept, or topic of attention, but I also remember that most of those sermons were preached by men who had little-to-no involvement with nature, whatsoever.

I do not worship nature. That would be foolish. I wear it like one would wear a comfortable coat. Some do worship it, but, obviously, they have not progressed to the point of appreciating the musician through the song, or the artist through the painting.

I have always immersed myself in the natural world. It has always provided me respite from the hypocrisy of the socio/political world, and of religion. It has never taken the place of my appreciation of God. In fact, it has enhanced my appreciation a thousand times over. I think those people who rail against the worship of nature are not only afraid of the natural world, but are afraid of themselves, and of their own faith, as well. The beauty, and order, of nature has always pointed mankind to the existence of the Divine, and to an appreciation of God.

Natureing is my meditation, it is my time of prayer, it is my work, it is my exercise and education. Much more, even.

Building, and gathering, in religious ivory towers has never been my idea of worshipping God. It is not necessarily even a good pathway to understanding our own purpose, and position, in life. It seems to me, however, and I’m sure you’re quite aware, that the most glorious cathedral ever imagined already exists, above us, below us, and all around us.

In order to connect with the Divine, and even with our own inner selves, it couldn’t hurt to spend a little time in the Garden.
With our eyes open, our ears, our minds, and our hearts.
On our (figurative) knees, as it were.

No standard of dress, or character, required.
Come as you are.