A fellow author and blogger I follow has written and posted numerous insightful essays regarding the purpose, the function, and the interaction and intersection of the mysterious processes of the human brain, the ‘mind’ if you will.
I have found that these essays often evoke a frenzy of emotions, thoughts, decision-making and re-evaluations of decision-making moments and times in my life. Another very revealing reaction to his writings is the deluge of memories that flood my own mind, cascading and flowing in a furious river of thought. These memories often have literally nothing to do with the focus of the particular essay I am reading, but rather are the offspring of a broader, more fundamental realization triggered by the words in the essay itself.
To a lesser degree, I have experienced floating down this same river of memories when I re-read my own writings and view the photographs and contemplate the thoughts expressed in what I have tried to convey in my words.
I am no psychologist or expert on the workings of the human mind, but I do share the ability in all of us to ‘remember’. What puzzles me is the extremely fragile nature of the memories that are evoked. At times, the memory is exact and has a clarity that does not diminish, even when the moments remembered occurred half a century ago or more. Far more often though, the memory is fuzzy, incomplete, and sometimes even contains parts that I must conclude are imagined, since they cannot be corroborated to my satisfaction. I tend to consider those particular memories as ‘threads’, a tenuous fiber of connection to something that happened, someone I knew, something I did, or perhaps should have done. Despite their fragility and almost ephemeral nature, I KNOW that they are just as real as any unclouded memory or thought.
The fragility of memory also intrigues me since, in many instances the SAME memory, or sequence of memories I experience, are triggered by DIFFERENT sources, different events, different people, and even different moments in time. For me personally, there has been a fair amount of time of life thus far, so my trove of memories spans multiple decades. This is one of the more satisfying aspects of aging.
I find that I enjoy remembering.
I have found a great deal of happiness looking at photographs, re-reading books, listening to a wide variety of music and even making some of my own. Music has its’ own fantastical and mysterious ability to generate a torrent of memories. Such memories are often sweetening and tainted simultaneously. They evoke their own level of fragility and transience.
There have been, of course, certain events in my life that simply cannot be labeled as having provided ‘happy’ memories. This is true for all of us. Over the course of time however, I have uncovered a latent ability to take advantage of the fragility of the threads of memory and, without discarding the sadness, to strengthen and clarify the invaluable shards of memories shared with those we love in the here and now, and even more so with those we have known and loved in our own fragile lives. These human threads of memory will always be ‘remembered’.
Not long after the November 2016 national election, in which Donald Trump won the Presidency of the United States over former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, my 13-year old granddaughter asked me how I cast my vote for President. Before I could answer her, she somewhat sarcastically added: Probably Trump, right? She was old enough, and had seen and heard enough during the long campaign season, to have come to the conclusion that, well, I MUST have voted for Mr. Trump since I was an older man and therefore I was probably not going to vote for a woman for President.
She was surprised to learn that in fact I had voted for Secretary Clinton. I explained that I had my concerns about Secretary Clinton, but those concerns had zero to do with her gender. I further explained that, although she was highly qualified and capable, my concerns were influenced by her policy stands, and with my retirement days growing near, I really preferred a different philosophy, one more in line with improving my economic situation that I felt would be more successfully addressed by a conservative President.
So, my inquisitive granddaughter then asked me: So why did you vote for Sec. Clinton? I told her that, quite simply, I really did not care for how Mr. Trump treated people. Whatever my political and economic views, it was wrong for someone who aspires to lead our nation and our citizenry to approach that crucial role with a cavalier belligerence and arrogance toward well-meaning people. It is not possible to truly succeed as the leader of the free world by building up our nation by tearing down our people and our institutions.
After nearly two years of the Trump Presidency, my perceptions in 2016 have modulated and evolved in some ways, and been disappointingly confirmed in others. Some very good things have happened in our economy. I do think that there has been a re-evaluation of the United States of America throughout the world, and that other nations realize that it is no longer business as usual. There is no doubt that we are regaining our footing in many ways.
There has, however, been a price to pay.
That is where the national reaction to the passing of President George H.W. Bush becomes understandable. We all, of course, mourn the loss, and pay respect to any person who has been our President, our leader, and who has sacrificed so much to bear the stress, the difficulty, the demands and the sometimes virulent criticism that is integral to serving as the President of the Unites States. President Trump is no exception
But you must be literally thunderstruck by the deluge of gratitude, homage, respect, admiration, wistfulness and love shown by not just the broad political class, but even more so by our fellow, everyday citizens, towards our 41st President. Those emotions, the spontaneous outpouring of grief and gratefulness, the tens of thousands of people at the nation’s Capital who want to spend a moment or two to say Thank You, the mothers and fathers who bring their children to pay respect to President Bush, and quietly and somberly explain to their own children and granddaughters and grandsons who this man was and why it’s so important to honor him in this way.
This kind of reaction is no accident. I think that most people in this country have been so inundated by the tone and tenor of our elected leaders, by the viciousness of many in ALL segments of the press, that we have forgotten how to recognize the signs of class, of concern for our fellow Americans, of the benefits of bipartisanship, of forgiveness, and of the willingness to listen.
I mourn the loss of President Bush, particularly for his family and friends. But it has unleashed something in our nation, and in all of us, that I almost believed was totally gone and unrecoverable. It is the newly resurrected realization that one truly kinder, gentler man or woman has the power and the impact to bring all of the great citizens of the United States of America together again, as one, in saying Thank You and God Bless You Mr. President. I pray that our leaders honestly and truly recognize the signs President Bush has left behind, and embrace them fully to preserve our precious nation.
Hello everyone! I really wanted to check in with you all on this sad, happy, mournful as well as celebratory day when we honor the lives of thousands of our fellow Americans who perished on September 11, 2001. We celebrate their lives as well as re-affirm our grief at their loss.
It truly is a day, among the remembrances and commemorations, to reflect upon our lives today as well. In this time of reflection, I also include the life of our nation and where we stand as a people.
It is gratifying to witness the true and sincere acts of courage and determination and homage to our heroes of this day, and to all of our friends and family members whose lives were lost. It has been estimated that one in four citizens in our country knew someone who was either killed or wounded on 9/11/01. I personally knew two men who were killed. Both were co-workers in Manhattan and, in honesty, were acquaintances with whom I occasionally interacted at business meetings. It does not lesson the impact of their loss on me. I also had the opportunity on July 4, 2000 to stand outside at the top of one of the twin towers (the one without the radio tower) and witness the Independence Day celebration in New York Harbor. This included seeing F-15 and F-18 fighter jets flying BELOW us, as well as seeing the Stealth Bomber, the secret black winged aircraft, scream over our heads at hundreds of miles per hour.
So, in today’s reflections, I was drawn back to a story I read a short while ago about two American citizens who were deliberately murdered by the same evil, cold-blooded people and twisted beliefs that wreaked such horror on our friends and families on this day in 2001.
I have included a link to the full story in the New York Times August 7, 2018. It is well worth reading, as are some of the links in the article to a blog maintained by one of the Americans that more fully describes these intriguing people.
The Americans who were killed were Jay Austin and Lauren Geoghegan, both 29 years old. They were close friends who shared a passion for cycling, meeting people and exploring the world up close. They reached the point in their lives and in their shared interests where they decided to give up, at least for a time, what they considered the mundane, humdrum, partially scripted lives as office dwellers, cubicle inhabitants who attended meetings and gave Powerpoint demonstrations, tracking working hours, spreadsheets, participating in teleconferences, attending to all of the day-to-day tedium that can creep into any job.
In July of 2017, they embarked on a cycling journey which involved, among many other places, part of the country of Tajikistan, which is a central Asian country close to China and Afghanistan. During their journey, they had encountered many, many happy moments that re-affirmed in their minds the essential goodness and kindness in people throughout the world. They also, of course, ran into those who did not display these same values, as well as an occasionally uncooperative Mother Nature and other unavoidable unpleasantries.
Most terribly for both Mr. Austin and Ms. Geoghegan, on July 29, 2018, as they cycled with a group of like-minded cyclists in a particularly scenic part of Tajikistan, a car passed by the group on the road, stopped and turned around. The driver of the car then sped up and deliberately ran into the cyclists and drove the car over them, killing Mr. Austin, Ms. Geoghegan, and two other cyclists from Switzerland and the Netherlands. The driver and passengers in the car were later identified in a video released by the Islamic State as members of that organization who were carrying out their ‘mission’ against disbelievers.
On this day, September 11, 2018, I find myself thinking of the unrecoverable loss our nation and the world suffered in 2001 at the hands of people who perpetrated the same kind of pointless, useless and mindless violence against these two Americans.
I recently have eased into retirement from my own career as an office dweller and cubicle inhabitant, who labored through some of the same mundane and tedious moments as those experienced, and rejected, by Ms. Geoghegan and Mr. Austin. In fairness, I enjoyed a very satisfying career in the information technology business, however, there was far too much of what these two Americans jettisoned from their lives.
I was particularly struck by a highly impactful insight Mr. Austin posted in his blog, accessible via the link to the NY Times article. As I adjust to new life routines, and have far more time to contemplate my life and the lives of those closest to me, I found Mr. Austin’s perspective quite profound, and particularly appropriate today, when we mourn the huge loss of lives, vow to make positive changes in our lives, and pledge to take the time to appreciate the sweet and beautiful moments of life, including not allowing too many gentle breezes to go unnoticed….
This is Mr. Austin’s blog reply to the questions he was asked concerning WHY he decided to give up a good job in a steady, predictable life, WHY he decided not to follow the traditional path of his peers, and WHY he so strongly felt that he had to change his life’s path to what his heart told him to do. May Mr. Austin and Ms. Geoghegan rest in peace, along with all our friends and families who lost their own lives on September 11, 2001.
I’m grateful for the opportunity, and I’m anxious to turn my back on what was really a good thing. But getting too cozy is dangerous. Inertia is a stealthy predator. I’ve learned a lot from these seven years, and I enjoyed plenty, but with each passing year I feel I learned a little less. The days have blended into weeks, the weeks into months, the months into years. I’ve grown tired of meetings, of teleconferences, of timesheets and password changes and Monday morning elevator commiseration. I’ve grown tired of spending the best hours of my day in front of a glowing rectangle, of coloring the best years of my life in swaths of grey and beige. I’ve missed too many sunsets while my back was turned. Too many thunderstorms went unwatched, too many gentle breezes unnoticed. There’s magic out there, in this great big beautiful world, and I’ve long since scooped up the last of the scraps to be found in my cubicle.
Hello again to all my readers! Been a while! Although I haven’t posted for a while, it doesn’t mean that I have not been reading, watching, thinking, researching and writing :). In fact, all of these enriching, mentally demanding but enjoyable tasks are also quite time-consuming, as I am sure you all well know.
One of the more challenging patterns I have discerned, at least for me, is that the sheer volume of information and the barrage of daily events, both minor and major, often serve to distract my mind from the particular task at hand. My primary goal in maintaining this blog remains as I describe on my main page: To define and discuss how the founding of our nation, and its’ subsequent journey to survive, came so perilously close to failure and destruction in the 18th century, and how the incredible men and women of those days dealt with all of the insurmountable odds against success.
Those distractions I mentioned are not necessarily always a bad thing. I have often found inspiration for this blog’s topics and examples from current events. In fact, they tie in to my thesis very nicely and help me to illustrate what I contend in my words. Despite the constant barrage of events and information that relate to who and what we are as a people and a nation, the discouraging heartbreak we all have recently been subjected to, the incessant whining of the news media, the schoolyard recess in our nation’s Capital and on and on ad nauseam, in the 18th century our nation faced obliteration and non-existence from the troubles of those times!
That’s precisely why it’s so important to really learn about the founding of the United States of America. It gives not only a perspective on the troubles of our own time, but also gives us all the awareness that we CAN and WILL do whatever is necessary to resolve the sources of our national divide. And let’s face it, there are many.
Like you, I have my own opinions about some of the more wrenching and difficult sources of division in our country. I have my own political leanings and religious beliefs. I have my own opinions about the stands that other people take on a variety of issues. But one thing that seems like simple, basic logic to me is the fact that, in order for our nation and our way of life to survive and continue to thrive, we MUST be willing to first acknowledge the differences among us. Next, we MUST learn to tolerate the existence of those differences. We must then be willing to listen to those earnest and sincere people who hold those differences. And finally, we MUST make our cogent and fact-based arguments to each other without impugning the integrity or motive of those who disagree with us.
To be clear, I am well aware that not EVERY person we encounter, or institution we interact with, is going to be so level-headed and embrace this philosophy. We certainly do have to accept the fact that there are just some people who are simply not willing or perhaps capable of taking this approach. When you do encounter that, it is probably best to limit your conversation to the weather!
I am also well aware that, if you are a news-junkie like me, you may get the impression from the breathless, non-stop media reporting frenzy, that my recommendations are naive or impossible to achieve. That is the culture of our national divide. The truth is that our nation is full of caring, thoughtful, passionate citizens who love this country and ARE willing to solve problems together, even with those with whom we disagree.
That was the spirit of the founding men and women of 18th century America. They built a grand and wonderful country through far more divisive and dangerous times. Now it’s OUR turn. Our task is to preserve this incredible nation!!!
In future posts, I will discuss how we can do that, and present some very wise words and descriptions of events from those dangerous times that we can use in the 21st century!
Today I am taking a break from the concerns of the political world, and the trajectory of our nation, as I celebrate my big brother, Mike. Today, February 26, 2017 is my big brother’s 66th birthday. This is a personal celebration of what Mike has meant to me in my own life as I reflect on his memory. Mike, or Tike, as I and others often called him,has passed on from life on earth. He became yet another victim of cancer in 2012. His passing was devastating to me and all my brothers and sisters, his wife Patrice as well as my Mom, who survived him for a year. Mom lost both her youngest and eldest sons in her lifetime, extending the pain of loss even more. (Tike third from left with the white shirt)
Despite the loss, which every one of us on earth have or will experience, this post today is to celebrate the fun and happiness and love I gained throughout my entire life with Tike as my big brother and best friend.The four amigos..Den, Tike, Joe and John.
His nickname Tike was given to him by a teenage friend who recognized the little kid in him (a little tyke!) in his jokes and antics while growing up. Mike never lost those peculiar qualities about him, even as a senior citizen when he faced the most serious circumstances one can face in life. Mike suffered from a malignant glioblastoma which is a cancerous brain tumor. He had surgery to remove the tumor which was extraordinarily successful to the extent that it removed over 90% of the cancer. On the day of his surgery, I was with him as well as his wife Patrice all day at the hospital, awaiting word of how things had gone and what his prognosis was. (Mike and Patrice)
After hours of waiting and wondering and worrying, the surgeon finally came out and told us we could actually go see him and talk to him in the recovery room. When we entered the room, we were almost overwhelmed to see about a dozen patients in the room all recently out of major surgery for one reason or another. And we could not find Mike! We began to walk up to each person to see if we were at the right bedside. Then we saw him and we literally did NOT recognize him. He was a ghost of himself, a face drained by enormous trauma. Or so we thought. As we approached him, his eyes fluttered open and, when he saw Patrice, a slow, big and broad smile grew on his face. Then he turned and saw me. He extended both of his arms out to us. We sat down on either side of him and put our heads on his shoulders as he embraced both of us. It was incredibly moving and no words were spoken for a moment. Then Tike appeared…his first words to us were.. “I finally had my head examined and they found nothing”. Patrice and I, and a couple of the staff members, burst out in an uproarious laugh. THAT was Tike. (Den and Tike)
All during my time growing up, especially as we became teenagers, Mike was the guy I looked up to, wanted to be like, wanted to hang out with. As often happens with brothers, and I have two younger brothers as well, we did not always get along. Sometimes he was annoyed that his kid brother was around because I wasn’t really all that cool, or I wasn’t old enough to hang out with his buddies even though we were born only 16 months apart.
In high school Mike was a year ahead of me. As we got to be in our junior and senior years Mike started giving me some tips about particular teachers or classes to look out for or prepare better for. When he went to college, and I told him I wasn’t going to go to college the following year, he convinced me that I should because I might meet some really awesome chic that I could study with…I didn’t want to miss out on that, did I ?? Well, no.
When ever I had life troubles, Mike was the guy I always turned to. Even though he wasn’t that much older than me, he always seemed to have a confidence and wisdom about him that was hard to define, but far more often than not, his ideas and suggestions were good ones. He was a bit of a trailblazer for me, particularly when it came to dealing with Dad. Our Dad was strict and sometimes pretty tough on us, particularly Mike. He was the oldest son. He had a responsibility. He should know better. But Mike being Tike, he often clashed with Dad and they were at odds all throughout those formative years before turning 21. My turn came for dealing with Dad too and Mike’s suggestions (and warnings!) really helped ease that path for me.
As we grew into adults, Mike and I really and truly became friends….best friends really. We went on vacations together with our spouses. We went to rock concerts together, baseball games, family picnics. Mike became the Godfather of my daughter Kate. Years later I was Mike’s best man as he married Patrice. Then he was my best man as I married Denise. He was the commissioner of our yearly fantasy football leagues, and obtained an official NFL football that served as the trophy for the winner. I was the first one to win it and he had me sign it and pass it on the the next years’ winner. That tradition continued for several years. There are so many good memories I fall back on whenever I feel that sadness come over me.
Even at the end, Mike was an astonishingly courageous and re-assuring presence for me and my family. I have never known anyone with such courage and determination, as he faced the extremely difficult reality of what he knew was going to happen.
I think for me, the thing that is really missing, even stolen, from my life is what you might call a ‘state of mind’. It is that knowledge in the back of my mind that no matter what problem or question or mystery or solution I have or need, I just have to call up Tike and see what he thinks. I know he’ll have something I can use. I experienced this feeling and the loss of that state of mind on the day that Mike passed away. I was on my way to his house, travelling a route I knew by heart from continually driving back and forth to his house during his two-plus years of life after surgery. I made a wrong turn by mistake and promptly got lost and not sure how to get back on the main road. After some initial panic, I thought..don’t worry…just call up Tike…he knows this area up and down and back and forth. But Mike could no longer help me. So I remembered something he told me and just calmed down and found my way. (Tike and Mom)
So today, I CELEBRATE you Tike. Happy Birthday in heaven. I love and miss you. We all do.
Hello out there in America and the World today!! If you have taken a look at my very nascent web site and blog posts, then you may have a sense of what I hope to convey by my thoughts and the topics I chose to write about.
I would like to ask everyone today to really and seriously hit the pause button on the political music you have been listening to, voluntarily or not, over the past few weeks and months.
Pausing and standing back, taking stock of where you are, giving yourself some breathing room…these are all solid ways to help yourself take your own political temperature and allow realistic assessments of what things are truly important. These practices are not solely appropo of politics, but are useful in the conduct of most aspects of your life.
I totally appreciate the divide in our nation, exacerbated HUGELY by the 2016 Presidential campaigns and election. Much has been said, as it has been throughout the long history of our nation, of the peaceful transfer of power as the presidential administrations end and begin anew. The transition of 2017 is no exception. It does seem, however, that the transition that occurs today, January 20, 2017, is accompanied by unprecedented rancor, fear, elation, relief, foreboding, excitement and apprehension.
In fact, you don’t have to go back in time very far to discover that this is not the case at all! Think about the Presidential election of 2000. Perhaps you’d rather not! 🙂 But think about it for a moment. The democratic nominee was declared the winner prematurely by the professional media networks. The actual ‘certified’ results revealed that there was a HUGE problem with that declaration. Frankly, they were completely wrong. If you lived through this time as a politically aware politico-phile, you saw that there had NEVER been a more contentious and uncertain election between two nominees that couldn’t have been more different. The national popular vote was extremely close. A single state’s Electoral College votes determined the outcome but not before an incredible rollercoaster of recounts, lawsuits and finally a United States Supreme Court decision that brought the chaos to an end. The winning candidate was immediately and permanently hindered in his efforts to ‘Bring Us Together’. Literally, all of the political noise and ranting and raving surrounding the 2016 Presidential election was preceded in 2000 by what almost became a Constitutional crisis.
The initial results of those events in 2000 mirror the same excitement and apprehension I attribute to the results of what has taken place in 2016. I do not think they compare though in the same way.
As someone who loves this country and has deep respect and trust in our political institutions and in our long-lived traditions, I ask you to Pause, Stand Back, and Give Yourself Some Breathing Room! Give our nation the benefit of the doubt. As I have urged in earlier commentary, Be Involved, Be Vigilant….and follow the example and spirit of our founding citizens who learned to accommodate dissenting points of view in a respectful and inclusive manner, and ultimately make our nation and ourselves great for the FIRST time.