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May 26, 2011

It’s not because…

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , — sbj @ 4:52 pm

It’s not because Barry Bonds hit seven hundred some odd home runs that I’m inspired; I don’t hate him for that like some do…but it doesn’t impress me much (all things considered).

It’s not because, for the first several years of his career (mostly, but not exclusively, in Pittsburgh) he was the epitome of an all around player.

It’s not even because (although this gets toward the heart of this piece) of visiting or offering to pay the college fees of the children of a Giants fan who was beat severely at a game in Los Angeles. (See complete story here).

Nope, its not those things… its this (from same story):

One of the coolest parts about this donation is that Bonds made it over a month ago when he visited Stow in a Southern California hospital on April 22. No mention was made to the media then and it looks like it would have still been a secret had Girardi not revealed it to the media.

Girardi, by the way, represents the man who was beaten, not Bonds.

This was, by all appearances, a completely selfless act.  Mr Bonds is a guy in dire need of some good press right now, and this would have been so easy to capitalize upon… but he didn’t.  He quietly visited the man, pledged his assistance, and went on about his life as if nothing happened. There was no chance for praise, no reason to expect anything in return… just giving… just because.

I am frequently conflicted about announced v. anonymous gifts.  On one hand – as is the case here – there is something awe inspiring about a truly selfless gift.  However, if a tree falls in the woods… blah blah blah.  I believe there is absolutely a case to be made for leading by example and inspiring others to do the same.

On April 22nd the proverbial tree toppled and none of us heard it (until Girardi decided to shout out a posthumous ”timber!” in honor of the languished lumber); and today it matters…

It matters because this is the perfect storm, a rare scenario in which we can enjoy the confluence of selflessness and inspiration; without the burden of self-aggrandizement (or however you spell it).

Not because Barry did something nice, and not because he was silent about it; not because a couple kids will get a good education, and not because their parents won’t have to worry about how to make that happen; not because Girardi spoke out about it, and not because people like Kevin Kaduk continue to do so.

It’s not because of any single thing that this matters… it’s because of them all.

May 21, 2011

A rose, by any other name???

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , — sbj @ 4:14 am

end is nearI have listened, all week, to the rantings of closed minded, short sighted, fanatically biased pundits going on and on about the end of the world (well, actually the rapture… which is just the beginning).  Seriously… non stop cometary, propaganda, and preaching; and these are the folks that think nothing is going to happen, don’t even get me started on the actual doomsday prognosticators.

I, myself, do not believe that the rapture is upon us – or at least that any red blooded human here on earth actually has advance knowledge of its arrival.  In fact, I had (minor) surgery today… pretty much the opposite of what you’d want to do if you thought you were about to be scooped from the earth – as the salt thereof – by God in the opening salvo of the end of the world as we know it (queue REM).

However, using the same reasoning that led me to the conclusion that no one out there has intimate knowledge of riding schedule of a certain quartet of horsemen, I’m pretty sure there is no hard evidence out there that Saturday will not precipitate to the largest yard sale in history. In other words, it could happen.

The thought I am having tonight is that I’m certain my decision to slice and dice myself today looks as bat-shit crazy to end of worlders as them spending their life savings by the weekend looks to me.  I am working off the best intelligence, evidence, authority I have available to me and have reached my conclusion; and guess what… so are they.

Obviously, we have different evidence and authorities in our lives, but there is no clear evidence (to them) that I’m right, just as there is none (in my mind) that they are.

I’ll get to my point: I don’t want them making fun of me, telling jokes at my expnse, telling everyone willing to lend them an ear (friend, roman or otherwise) that I am an idiot ruining the lives of anyone foolish enough to listen to my mad ramblings about life going on as if nothing was going to happen.

If they did, I’d think they were rude; I’d be hurt, offended, and justified in feeling these things.  As such, while I don’t think they are right… I’m not willing to go any further than that in my condemnation of their preparations.

The end of the world is not something we have control over; however, our standing as a respectful civilized society is.

May 11, 2011

More bees with honey…

Filed under: Just life,Observations — Tags: , — sbj @ 4:19 pm

watch your mouthPerspective is an interesting, and – as a friend recently found out – potentially damaging thing. I ran into him walking down the street over the past week and we were in the middle of the standard “catch up” conversation when he revealed he had recently been fired from his tech support job.

Knowing this guy, his passion for helping others as well as his technical competency, this came as quite a surprise to me, so I asked him what had happened. His short answer was “the difference between intentions and perceptions.”

One of his clients was having an email problem, they stated it was an emergency and needed it fixed right away as they had missed at least 5 really important emails (that they knew of… who knows how many more). His response was “I don’t care how many emails you have missed, your email is broken, I need to fix it and that is my top priority.”

You probably don’t need me to go on…

But – me being me – I’m going to anyway :)

In his own words (to me) he explained what he was trying to say was that his priority is making sure that all of his clients systems were working perfectly and – missed emails or not – he was making it his top priority (in other words, even if it was 2:00 am on Sunday and it was having no effect on business, it would be a top priority).

What the customer heard was somewhere between “I don’t care” and “%$#& you” (and where, in between those responses, they actually landed clearly doesn’t matter).

Poor choice of words? Obviously. The words “I don’t care” really cannot come out of the mouth of anyone in a customer service role who wants to retain their position for any length of time (unless perhaps referring to eating their own lunch; specifically, declining to do so in favor of working on said clients problem).

But its interesting to me, nonetheless, to note how a well intentioned, yet ill-conceived, sentence could be someone’s undoing. I guess it also speaks to the truth and wisdom of the old adage, “you get more bees with honey.” The fact is if he had just taken the time to clean up his sentence, in stead of losing his job he’d probably be getting an orchid letter right now about his outstanding service and dedication.

It’s amazing, really, to think about how significant the difference in outcome is based on the delivery of the exact same intended message. Clearly, there is a valuable message here. As a person who has often had it suggested that he should consider more carefully how his words (and non-verbal communications) are coming across…this story really resonated with me.

Choose your words (and actions) carefully the first time through… you may not get the chance to clean them up later…

May 7, 2011

Do as I say…

I do not think Bush, Cheaney, or any other prominently places US official had anything to do with orchestrating the events of September 11th, 2001 (other than the actions of men in similar positions than the afore mentioned pair years earlier and US policy in general that is). I do not believe that Osama Bin Laden was a “good guy” or patsy, a victim of propaganda or anything like that. What I do think is that he was a desperate person who did what desperate people do… desperate things.

I don’t believe any of these things, but… I know a few pretty intelligent people who do. Because of their beliefs, I find myself questioning their thought processes and conclusions on this matter but not – at any point – their intelligence.

Why am I bringing this up?

Because a football player has been held over the fire for about a week now for publicly denouncing the celebration of another mans death and for questioning the involvement of people such as those mentioned above in the tragedy of September 11th, 2011. it is suspected that he will lose endorsements, fans, and – as a result of the previous two – that his personal finances will be (to whatever degree) compromised.

Folks – and I’m gonna be blunt here – this is just stupid. If we, nestled comfortably in the land of the free and the home of the brave, need to live in fear of exercising our right to speak our opinions (clear and present danger issues not withstanding, of course) what is it everyone was extolling when they were singing (and saying) “proud to be an American” after Bin Laden’s death was announced?

If I am to listen to what “they” tell me… in Iran, you need to be afraid of what you say… it may come back to haunt (hurt) you (especially if you are a woman). In Iraq, Syria, Saudi (oops, I don’t think I’m supposed to say bad things about Saudi Arabia cause we are friends… regardless of the actual conditions on the ground there… sorry… my bad) I am told by those I’m supposed to trust to know what they are talking about that the same is true.

I am supposed to be excited about all of the civil unrest in these countries, about UN sanctioned and executed no fly zones etc. Why? because it is all supposed to be ushering in an era of democracy and freedom in the region. It is supposed to make them more like us… enlightened and tolerant.

Unless… of course, by “us,” you happen to be a running back who has an opinion running contrary to the oh so profound refrain of USA!!! USA!!! USA!!!

Rashard Mendenhall is doing **exactly** what we are over there fighting (and over here preaching) about, exercising his freedom of speech. He has hurt no one (unlike many of his unpunished peers) and he has committed no crime (again, unlike many of his unpunished peers). No, what he has done is practice what we have all been told from as far back as we can remember is your right and responsibility as an American… when you have doubts, questions, or opinions – open your mouth and start a dialog about them.

He embraced the American way, the constitution, the bill of rights… everything that is what we (supposedly) hold dear. In return “we” have spent a week making him retreat from his words, reiterating in our actions that despite all the blather to the contrary a person really isn’t free to speak their mind in this country… at least not without consequences.

I just struggle to understand all of the national pride in our freedoms, and all the interest in “fixing” other parts of the world so that they can enjoy them as well when it doesn’t seem to actually be a core value to the average person on the street here. Freedom to agree is not the same as freedom of speech…

May 6, 2011

Make babies, not war

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 11:20 pm

I stumbled upon an interesting quote today which set me down multiple lines of thought. I haven’t yet decided which of those lines I will be writing about, but they all fascinated me to the extent that I felt the need to start writing right away and let that all sort itself out as I went. The quote:

It is, for men, at some terrible level the closest thing to what childbirth is for women: the initiation into the power of life and death. –William Broyles Jr., “Why Men Love War,” 1984

I haven’t read that actual piece yet, I don’t want my interpretation to be clouded by the reality of the authors intent or any context he may have provided… that would be so… limiting…

I have long stated that I would love to have a child, meaning, in this case, be pregnant and give birth to a child myself. From various women I have had a wide spectrum of responses to this ranging from thinking I was “cool sweet and sensitive” to being angry with me for wanting to step in their space and accusing me – as a man – of trying to take away the one thing women truly own (etc.).

The reality is, of course, somewhere in the middle.  I am not the coolest things since sliced (refrigerated) bread, nor am I a some sort of misogynistic glory grabbing egoist.  Rather, I’m a guy who is both curious about the experience and – to a much larger degree – envious of the ability to create life.  I get that I, or some other man if we are not talking about my children, already am part of the process of creating life… but when I say that here, I mean being part of the incubation process; bringing what was simply a spark of life when I “left it” to a viable human being.

I can’t imagine what that must be like, but I know – given the chance – I’d want to find out.  At times this desire, and the associated reality surrounding it, are a touch depressing.  The hard cold facts are that, no matter how badly I want it, no matter what I do… this is something that I simply cannot make happen.

Which brings me back to this quote and the simple concept that, when faced with the inability to take part in the genesis portion of the circle of life, men – some men anyway- form a bond with team taketh-away (AKA death).  Imagining this potential reality of cause and effect and manifesting it over thousands – let alone tens or hundreds of thousands – of years allows one – if one were so inclined – to draw some interesting conclusions (and ponders some interesting questions) about the general nature of men and women.

Are men typically more violent, prone to anger, etc. because of traditional societal roles, because of some genetic predisposition, or – perhaps – simply because they have been living for aeon’s with only one available option, if they want to be part of the truly big picture?  In simpler terms, would the world be a more peaceful place if men were able to have babies?

Taking that quote at face value, granting (for the purposes of this exercise, I do not expect you to change your world view over this quote) that men embrace violence because it is the only path to experiencing “the initiation into the power of life and death” – and then making the mental journey’s associated with such acceptance, how different do you think the world would be if men (or both men and women) were able to carry a baby to term and deliver?

I’d say more, but honestly I really interested in what you might have to say.  So, I’m going to go read the article now and come back and read your comments (I hope) later :)

May 2, 2011

No thank you, I’ll pass on the bubbly…

Filed under: Observations — Tags: , , , , — sbj @ 9:02 am

September 11, 2001; I was sitting in my house watching what was probably the 8th or 9th hour of coverage from New York.  There was a shot of a man clinging to the side of the WTC, shortly before letting go and plummeting to his death.  The imagery was poignant enough but just before the man leapt one of my friends, who I happened to be on the phone with at the time, said something to the effect of:
“that’s just an ordinary guy, he probably has kids, and a wife.  He has a life full of hopes and dreams, just like you and me. This was just another ordinary day, and now he’s dangling there, some 1000 feet above a sidewalk that – until today – has been a seemingly insignificant part of his daily routine… a sidewalk that will soon be the instrument of his death.  He knows it’s all gone and he’s probably trying to figure out, in these last desperate seconds, what the hell happened.”
The enormity of those words still weigh on me every time I think about what we have come to refer to as nine-eleven.
Tonight, as I watch the news coverage of Bin Laden’s demise, I am curiously brought back to those same thoughts.  As I watch people reveling, stating their pride in being American, and as I receive links – via email and social networks – depicting varying degrees of celebration from the rather somber “glad we got him, perhaps this can all be over now” to Photoshopped pictures of Lady Liberty holding his decapitated head (bad form, whoever you are); I can’t help coming back to the stark reality that more people have been killed. More lives have been taken and with them, more sets of hopes and dreams snuffed out.

I am by no means a  Bin Laden apologist, I do not condone killing in small doses and as such I certainly cannot cotton to it on the massive scale that Osama is reputedly guilty of orchestrating.  But still, in the end, more life is gone, and I cannot bring my self to celebrate that, regardless of who’s life it is.

Sometimes killing is necessary, I recognize this rather unpleasant reality of the human condition and accept it. I also understand, or at least have been led to understand, that every effort was made to take him alive and to reduce, if not eliminate, any collateral damage.  My, admittedly ignorant, understanding (at this very early juncture) of the mission was that it was as close to the “right thing” to do as one can come, and I am glad for that.  However, I still cannot bring myself to celebrate another man’s death, regardless of what that man has done.

I hope that we (as a global community) have turned a corner today, that this is the first step in the de-escalation of hostilities in the middle east.  I hope that the net result of today’s actions are a decreased western presence in the area and – splashed on the canvas of a recent groundswell of (what I perceive to be) positive, democratic, civil actions in the region – this all manifests itself, over time, into a more stable, peaceful, and cooperative global climate.  I am hopeful for many, many things; and yet, I am saddened – not celebrating – over the loss of more human life.

I was mortified, and recall all to clearly how I felt, when I saw the clips of people in other areas of the world adulating over the tragedy of September 11th.  I remember those feelings turning to a gentle rage when I superimposed them against the individual story line provided by my friends fictional narrative of that one man’s last moments on earth.

I loath the idea of anyone, including myself, being able to look at my country through that lens; to see our people acting in that manner. I want to believe that while we are glad this part of the action has played itself out, and that we are hopeful of better days ahead for ourselves… and for the rest of the world; we are, at the same time, above celebrating the death of anyone… friend or foe.

If we aren’t… I don’t understand what have we been fighting to protect the past 10 years… or the 235 years before that, for that matter…

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