Saturday, October 13, 2018

TIME On The Road*

Typical pack of Timeless Time in its typical drop!
“Everything takes time. Bees have to move very fast to stay still.”    ― David Foster Wallace, Brief Interviews with Hideous Men

I began noticing Timeless TIME on the street in our neighborhood back in 2013 when Jackson and I would walk. Usually we would find a Timeless TIME hard pack opened with a couple of cigarettes missing once or twice a month along a quarter mile stretch of Haw Creek Circle here in Asheville, NC. I started documenting these sightings with my smart phone and posting pictures on Facebook. I have over 60 photos of Timeless TIME taken over the past several years in different conditions and at different seasons of the year.

“It is looking at things for a long time that ripens you and gives you a deeper meaning.”  ― Vincent van Gogh

It's an ongoing mystery! 

Why does someone do this? Are they a closet smoker and don't wish to be found out? 

A hard pack of Timeless TIME costs nearly $5.00/hard pack or about $0.25/cigarette here in North Carolina. With 16 to 17 cigarettes left in the pack, this smoker tosses about $4.00 on the street. Why?

Why does the toss, drop or pitch seem to occur in this same area? What makes this area of road so attractive or special to toss the remaining Timeless TIME cigarettes?

“All photographs are memento mori. To take a photograph is to participate in another person’s (or thing’s) mortality, vulnerability, mutability. Precisely by slicing out this moment and freezing it, all photographs testify to time’s relentless melt.”                                                   ― Susan Sontag

A crushed and broken pack of Timeless Time.
Who is this mystery smoker? A couple of neighbors have an idea or at least a theory. There is a thin, lanky, bare-chested, long haired, dark sun glassed, gentleman who "jogs" in our neighborhood known as "Running Man," (although he waddles more like a duck when he runs!) He's been spotted driving slowly in his car through our neighborhood smoking. We can't be certain Timeless TIME is his cigarette of choice but he is a prime suspect! A couple of well-placed trail cams with motion detectors might reveal the mystery smoker and confirm the theory. But then my Facebook page would become boring ...

Time isn’t precious at all, because it is an illusion. What you perceive as precious is not time but the one point that is out of time: the Now. That is precious indeed. The more you are focused on time—past and future—the more you miss the Now, the most precious thing there is.”     ― Eckhart Tolle, The Power of Now: A Guide to Spiritual Enlightenment

Only once...something different!
I did find a hard pack of menthol Marlboro cigarettes along the side of the road one time with the same MO - couple of cigarettes missing. Maybe this smoker's regular store was out of Timeless TIME? 
Why does this person smoke Timeless TIME? 

Timeless TIME reviews:

"I am now smoking your menthol 100 lights in the light green color box and really like them. Would like to have some coupons."     - bktenorio6             
"I really love the menthol 100 full flavor of Timeless Time cigarettes. Really hoping the tobacco isn't sprayed with radiation though." - Lori Ann

"Were do I start. Boy do these make me feel like a bag of shit. I tried them becuase there only 4 bucks a pack and I'l never smoke another cigarette again in my life because of these. I smoke one and they made me feel like shit the rest of the day. At first I didnt believe in that FSC stuff but after smokin these I see its true. I had headache stomach ache confusion, flet like vomitting all of the symptoms. Please avoid these try roll your owns instead" - xmaner

Timeless TIME cigarettes are made by KT&G Global, headquartered in South Korea. They've been manufacturing cigarettes for over 110 years. They are a market leader selling their cigarettes in over 50 countries around the world. They recognize they are selling a dangerous product as noted on their webpage: "While operating in a most controversial industry, we take pride in the way we run our business Sustainably & Responsibly. We will continue to deliver our value to our stakeholders today and tomorrow by investing in our people and our processes."
Several packs of Timeless TIME from a 6 to 8 week period.
And yes, I do pick up this "litter" and dispose of it properly!
It has been suggested that I created this as a prank! First of all, I'm not a smoker and never have been. My father smoked at least a pack of cigarettes a day, and I'm convinced they were a contributing cause of his untimely death of a massive heart attack at age 62 in 1988.
“I'm afraid of time ... I mean, I'm afraid of not having enough time. Not enough time to understand people, how they really are, or to be understood myself. I'm afraid of the quick judgements or mistakes everybody makes. You can't fix them without time. I'm afraid of seeing snapshots, not movies.”                                              ― Ann Brashares 

Second, I'm too cheap to spend this kind money on a prank! 

It's also been suggested that this some kind of way to deal drugs or pass on information. 
“Don't waste your time with explanations: people only hear what they want to hear.”  ― Paulo Coelho

“Time is what we want most, but what we use worst.” ― William Penn

“Time is the longest distance between two places.”
― Tennessee Williams, The Glass Menagerie  

OK. I've given this blog enough Timeless TIME. It's TIME to move on! Love to hear your thoughts, ideas or questions!

* Title credit goes to high school friend, Donnie Goodwin

Monday, March 12, 2018

Guns, Guns, Everywhere There's Guns...

"My sister Wendy died by suicide with a gun, and my son, Galen, was killed in a school shooting. How do I pierce America's complacent hide? I am fed up with carefully worded essays. I'm fed up with vigils, candles and moments of silence, and I think America is too. Perhaps my next sound bite should be a snarl. I know of a survivor who has crime-scene photograph of her daughter's bullet-riddled corpse. When she speaks with politicians about gun laws, she shows them the photograph. I have a similar photograph of my son. Perhaps the time has come to use it." Georgy Gibson in The New York Times.

It is time we have an evidence/fact based conversation about guns in the United States. The mass killings have got to stop. It's time we paid attention to the Center for Disease Control and the Institute of Health and allow them into this conversation to study and share the facts on death by guns. I know we will not like what they will report, but the NRA can no longer control the conversation or the politicians they support. We need to end the practice of willful blindness.

Me firing an M16 at Parris Island MCRC, SC, March 2013.
Let me begin by saying I have shot an M16, the military version of the AR15. It is fun! It nudges that primitive urge to take down that imaginary enemy in my site.

Let's acknowledge the purpose of a gun. A gun is a machine to dispense death. Guns have only two purposes: for sport/hunting and for killing another human whether for protection or murder. If you only want to stop a human being without killing him or her, consider a taser.

An assault weapon is designed to create imminent destruction of another human being. An assault weapon is not a hunting rifle unless you are hunting human beings. Go to Google and learn of the creation of the assault weapon. You will find it was designed for the military to kill enemy combatants. Legitimizing the ownership and use of assault weapons by the 2nd amendment "logic" also means any U.S. citizen should be able to own hand grenades, land mines and missiles. After all, the 2nd amendment calls for a well regulated armed militia. 

I have been researching the facts and talking with people about guns here in the United States. Here is what I know for sure:

There are over 300 million guns in the United States.

Video games do not contribute to mass shootings. Google Patrick Markey, PhD, professor of Psychology at Villanova on his studies that show 80% of the mass shooters had no interest in violent video games.

You can be 18 years old to purchase an assault rifle. I am fine with an 18 year old purchasing a gun, but not an assault rifle. After all, we allow 18 year olds to join the military and train them in combat. Since we are teaching 18 year olds how to kill, I believe they should also be allowed to drink alcoholic beverages.

With rights come responsibility. You own a restaurant, you get health inspections. To drive a car, you need a license to show mental competence, good vision, insurance and to pass a driving test. Not so with guns. There is no federal law to prove competence. There is no requirement to demonstrate sound mental health or excellent vision.

Presently 700,000 names are missing from the federal background check because there is no national mandate. However, 97% of Americans agree that there should be universal background checks for gun ownership.

Every country in the civilized world has common sense laws on gun ownership and policies to protect its citizens except for the United States of America. You want to own a gun in Canada? You need to provide character references. 

Remember the 60s philosophy, "If it feels good, do it!"? That is the line adapted by the NRA. The NRA operates on fear. The NRA uses fear to keep us believing criminals and terrorists are everywhere. We react much like when we hear about a shark attack and stay out of the ocean even if the shark attack was a 1,000 miles away.

The automobile industry has the right to manufacture cars and they also have the responsibility to make them safe. I remember our car growing up did not have seat belts, airbags, safety glass or a mirror on the passenger side of the car. Today's cars are much safer because auto manufacturers have taken responsibility for adding safety.

Did you know the NRA is 501(c)(4) organization? That status means as an organization, the NRA is to operate exclusively to promote social welfare, primarily to further the common good and general welfare of the people of the community such as by bringing about civic betterment and social improvements. Yet, the NRA has thwarted making guns safer. Our politicians are afraid of the NRA but addicted to their money. The NRA believes more guns are necessary to protect us, yet they fight gun safety. The NRA has blocked technology that would make guns safer. The NRA has thwarted CDC and IHS from studying gun deaths and reporting findings. The NRA lacks the courage to have a critical thinking discussion on what would truly make Americans safer. To ask Ms. Sights, my 60-something year old kindergarten teacher, or any of my grade school teachers to be armed in my classroom lacks logic and rational. 

"Giving teachers guns in schools is like giving passengers who board an airplane guns in case there is a hijacker aboard."  - Dr. David Hemenway, a professor of health policy at Harvard School of Public Health and an expert on the public health impact of gun violence. From what I've read, giving guns to every teacher in the United States for the purpose of taking out an active shooter will only work if their weapons can be accessed in an instant.

The same forefathers who created the 2nd amendment also created and justified the laws for slavery and women not having the right to vote. How is it we came to realize slavery and women not allowed to vote were evil and wrong, yet still justify a very broad interpretation of the 2nd amendment regarding firearms?

If you study the history of the creation of the 2nd amendment, you will find that gun ownership during colonial times was used to suppress the voices of the disenfranchised. Women and slaves could not own or use guns. Selling guns to Native Americans was illegal. Guns were THE staple of "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of (some of) the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed." The primary purpose of a "well regulated militia" was to keep slaves from uprising and starting rebellions. Study the Bacon Rebellion and Stono Rebellion. This is what our forefather's feared more than anything - a slave uprising. The greatest fear our Colonial forefather leaders had was that the British would confiscate their guns and give them to slaves to create rebellions and uprisings. If you are willing to learn more about this, read Nancy Isenberg's White Trash: The 400-Year Untold History of Class in America and Michele Alexander's The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness.

“…one of the greatest pieces of fraud, I repeat the word ‘fraud,’ on the American public by special interest groups that I’ve ever seen in my life time. The real purpose of the Second Amendment was to ensure that state armies—the militias—would be maintained for the defense of the state. The very language of the Second Amendment refutes any argument that it was intended to guarantee every citizen an unfettered right to any kind of weapon he or she desires.” 
                        - Chief Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger 

When the 14th amendment ended slavery, gun ownership by white men was a considered essential and preventing blacks from owning guns was part of the Jim Crow era. To this day, white gun ownership is deemed essential and black gun ownership undesirable. Recall 2015 when Philando Castile, a black man who had a license to carry a gun and was following protocol, announcing he was legally carrying a gun when pulled over while driving, was killed by a white police officer while reaching for his ID. The NRA did nothing to support Castile's right to carry a gun.

What do you know now that you did not know before? Are you willing to have a thoughtful, critical conversation on guns to reduce death by guns?

I have been careful to check and recheck my sources for this blog so as not flame "fake news." I welcome legitimate, thoughtful challenges to what I have written. 

Postscript: Photos from March For Our Lives in Asheville, NC, March 24, 2018

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Happy New Year?

Children go where I send thee
How shall I send thee?
I'm gonna send thee two by two
Two by Paul and Silas… 

                                         - African-American Traditional

While the beginning of a new year is a great time to push a reset button, I don't do new year resolutions.

I do spend time noodling about a word to focus on for the coming year and create a relationship with that word that leads me to be more healthy, more mindful, more thoughtful, more humble, and more loving with the ultimate goal of helping me leave 2018 better than when it started.

Some words I've been trying on include:

Advance - Some believe retreats should be called advances as in moving forward rather than backwards. Advance suggests being open and creating possibilities, forging a new path, looking with new eyes and hearing with new ears.

Vigilant - To be vigilant means to be awake, to be present, to be aware.

Delight - Delight seems to be calling me to reconnect with gratitude and not take people or things for granted. Finding delight in the ordinary can make people and things extraordinary.

Surrender - Surrender doesn't do it for me. It seems to say settle. I believe I unknowing surrendered last year. Surrender, has that link to the serenity prayer by Reinhold Niebuhr which caused me to reconsider:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

The word that seems to be calling me is resilience.

Even though resilience is a noun, it is call to action. It is a challenge to fight entropy. To be resilient is to stop being complacent, to stop shrugging one's shoulders and stop saying, 'It is what it is,' 'Whatever,' and 'Not my circus, not my monkeys!' Resilience is a call to take a stand. It's a call to face and act upon that mega vision, "What kind of world do I wish to create for tomorrow's child?"

The scallop shell is the iconic symbol for pilgrims to look for and follow on the Camino de Santiago to reach the tomb of Saint James in Santiago de Compostela in northwest Spain. There are different routes pilgrims can take to reach St. Jame's tomb. Like all the different possible routes to Santiago, the lines of the scallop shell converge to one point.

The call for resilience is to find the route that brings us together. I challenge you to join the pilgrimage. It may be inconvenient. You may have a load of excuses. It will be messy. You may not enjoy the journey. It is necessary. It needs to begin now. Come struggle with me! Become resilient!

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Am I The Only One?

As 2017 comes to a close, I catch myself shaking my head. I am battling cynicism, disgust and disappointment in and of the United States. I find my optimism taking a hit. The root cause is linked to this being one of the strangest, most turbulent, most disturbing years I have experienced. Discord, injustice, racial violence, opioid drug abuse and sexual harassment and assault are the rage. We, the United States, are not united, nor are we good for ourselves. The United States cannot be good for the world until it's good for itself. It appears the Chinese dream is more attainable than the American dream!

IMHO, we Americans have forgotten why and how to be good people, neighbors, residents, inhabitants of planet Earth. We have learned to be more fearful of everyone and everything that is not like us or familiar to us. Civil discourse is a lost art. In fact civil discourse is
threatening. Freedom of speech requires responsibility and the ability to listen without feeling threatened, yet as I write this, gun sales may have had the best year ever.

While the stock market has gone into the stratosphere, so has selfishness. The "selfie syndrome" is more than the pictures we take of ourselves. It represents self-absorption and self-absorption kills empathy, kindness and compassion. We seem to only value kindness and compassion when we want something in return. This goes against the suffering-servant way Christ taught, lived and asked His followers to follow. We seem to have lost the will to serve or to suffer!

Running wild egos have also made headlines. POTUS 45 and LaVar Ball are the poster children for egomaniacs of 2017, leaving the Kardashians, Kanye West, and Justin Bieber in the dust. Egomania is catching. It contributes to conflict, finger pointing, rudeness, selfishness and ultimately, distrust. According to Thomas Friedman, NYT OP-ED December 19, 2017, Merry Christmas, Vladimir - Your Friend, Donald, "Trump has averaged 5.5 false or misleading claims every day in office, putting him on pace for 1,999 in his first year." The antidote for ego is humility of which we seem to have a huge shortage. 

One of my favorite quotes is from former Army General Eric Shinseki, "If you don't like change, you are going to like irrelevance even less." Unfortunately, the change we are making in the United States is making us irrelevant. Change is making the homeless, the immigrant, the sick, the poor, the abused, the addicted, the least of these, irrelevant

We seem to embrace and celebrate foolishness. Common sense is not in vogue. Education and critical thinking are seen as destructive and evil. Science has become a liberal conspiracy. Reason, logic, truth and evidence are distrusted and get in the way of our perception. It feels like we can't handle real life. Everything and everybody is suspect, fake or is part of a conspiracy. In fact I wonder if truth is dead. I am reminded of that famous exchange between Lt. Daniel Kaffee (Tom Cruise) and Col. Nathan R. Jessep (Jack Nicholson) in the movie, A Few Good Men when Jessup responds to Kaffee wanting the truth, "YOU CAN'T HANDLE THE TRUTH!"

Cruelty. There is the GOP Tax Bill that promotes more inequality and divides the classes in America. The effort to repeal and replace ACA that will cause 14 million Americans to lose health insurance in 2018 and 24 million by 2026 is cruel. Taking away sacred land in Utah from Native Americans for corporate development and mining is cruel. There is the cruelty of the Las Vegas mass shooter. Who can forget Charlottesville, VA? The reaction to NFL players kneeling has been cruel as well as misunderstood. (Note: If you want to understand the NFL players and the message they are trying to send, read Michelle Alexander's, The New Jim Crow.) We see "the other" including refugees and immigrants as human waste. Name calling has become a part of free speech, tweeting and FaceBook postings. 

Rick Steves, the American travel writer recently wrote in his blog, "I once asked my Swiss friend Olle, “How can you Swiss people be so docile about paying such high taxes?” Without missing a beat, he replied, “Well, what’s it worth to live in a country where there’s no hunger, no homelessness, and where everyone — regardless of the wealth of their parents — has access to quality healthcare and education?”  (Maybe you'd like to suggest I move to Switzerland!?)

Then there were the natural disasters of Irma, Harvey, Maria and Nate; wildfires in Idaho, Oregon, Washington state, Montana, and California; tornadoes throughout the year.

I can't watch "entertainment" based on human dysfunctionality like HBO's, The Deuce (the germination of the porn industry in New York City back in the '70s), Amazon's Catastrophe (accidental pregnancy leads to a marriage in which neither knows anything about the other or themselves), or Netflix's, Gypsy (a bored, unethical, voyeuristic therapist's out-of bounds life). There is more than enough real-life dysfunctionality. 

Some major disappointments include people I enjoyed and respected like Charlie Rose, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey and Al Franken, who all gave terrible apologies for their sexual misdeeds. I took it for granted they had the self-discipline to control desires, lust and demons.

Then there was the death of a friend with whom I had fond memories of sailing and fly fishing. 

I've always told my team members as their leader, if you come to me with a problem, also bring a solution(s). So here are my personal solutions to all the problems I've listed in 2017.

I am going to practice digital detox and loosen the addictive grip of technology in my life. One of the books I read in 2017, Adam Alter's Irresistible: The Rise Of Addictive Technology and the Business of Keeping Us Hooked, was a call to unplug. I tried. I am going to try again. I am going to spend more time meditating, reading books, going outside, having face-to-face conversations with others.

I'm going to nurture my gratitude. As shameful, hurtful and un-Christ-like the new tax bill is and the gutting of ACA (rather than fixing it!), I am going to remind myself continuously how blessed I am. I am still better off than 90% of the world's population. I also know nurturing gratitude feeds my compassion and humility!

This is the sharing economy, I am going practice sharing more. I give away about 10% of my work. I'm going to do more for others. My mission is to create and build commUNITY. Since many corporations are flush with cash and will be getting more with the new tax plan, how about sharing that cash with your present employees and hire more employees. If your employees are making a living wage, go against the flow and pay more. Contrary to Wall Street's philosophy of putting stockholders first, putting staff and employees first does incredible things! If you want evidence, read NYC restaurateur Danny Meyer's, Setting The Table: The Transforming Power of Hospitality in Business. And if you can't find enough good, qualified employees, put some of that cash toward training and education. Grow your employees. Who knows, you may end up becoming an "employer of choice".

Exercise even more! Last fall I began a daily 20-minute combination of stretching, yoga and core moves first thing in the morning. It has made a big difference in so many ways in this older body. I will continue walking and cycling, as well as hitting the YMCA for swimming and strength work. Among the many benefits, it reduces stress. Besides, ignore your health and it will go away!

Seek out people who are not like me and engage. I'm going to practice seeking to understand rather than to be understood! Quit judging and labeling people who don't see it the way I do, but embrace the differences. Make discussing controversial opinions easier. This will get me out of my comfort zone and into my learning zone. This will feed my life-long learning need!

One of my favorite metaphors for hope, unity and seeking a better tomorrow is the V formation. Whenever I see one,  it helps me hit my pause and reset buttons. I am going to be on the lookout for more V formations, not just in the sky, but here on the ground. A couple of personal V formations I am looking forward to in 2018, my wife's major birthday celebration, our son becoming a fire fighter and our daughter and her partner's marriage.

Apollo 13 was called a "successful failure." I am going to nurture relentless hope that our culture and political situations move to a "successful failure" in 2018. The challenge becomes, how do we get better with each other without facing a disaster?