So just how does a pilot, a combat veteran, hero extraordinaire to boot, (and a good smile) motivate himself in these troubled times of doom and gloom? I’ll tell ya.
Firstly, I have an unshakable hope and belief that “good will overcome”. While I must have received this hope from some influential adults as a child, I cannot pin down exactly when or where or who those noble folks were. I’d love to share that I could easily note that they were all Christians, but as you know, the situation is always complicated when it comes to these things. (And, truth be told, for whatever reason, some of the very people I’m trying to cheer up with this post are Christians who see the end of America and subsequently the end of the whole shebang looming on the horizon.) Either way, I’m happy the LORD put these torch-bearers in my life.
Secondly, I motivate myself by doing my best to recognize the problem accurately. This motivates me because once we identify the problem, solutions appear out of nowhere.
There is a problem, make no mistake. But you all are misidentifying it and, more than that, you’re letting others misidentify it for you. You should try to recognize the problem for your own self. It’s quite a ride. But don’t take my word for it. Read on.
The problem is not Trump. The problem is not the Democrats. The problem is not the Squad. The problem is not Islam. The problem is not the climate.
The problem is that we Americans don’t know what to do with our power. In other words, we’re leaderless. We have been for a long time. We’re just going through the motions, hoping no one will bother us.
Additionally, we can still recall what it took to get the power. We can still remember not having the power.
Put another way, I’m talking about the difference between fighting for the top of the mountain, and living atop the mountain.
To be clear, we did marvelous fighting–and for all the right reasons. But now we’re in some sort of bizarre mental depression. I see future historians describing the Great Depression as having two distinct time periods. The first was financial. The second, the longer one, was of the collective mind. That’s where I want to help you. I want to swoop in and fly you out of the depression.
This particular Sunday it occurred to me that I feel (whether accurately or inaccurately) that I fear another nation/tribe/group developing weapons, strategies etc. that could be used to defeat us. IE, bigger bombs, better economies and economic theories, better religions etc. But when I take a Sunday morning to survey the passing scene, I find this to not be indicated anywhere. Instead, I keep seeing 9/11.
I see men, from meaningfully another world, (to say “another planet” would only be slightly misleading, so “another world” must suffice) using our planes against us. I see men using our planes against us. I see “men” using “our” against “us”.
So solution-wise, we’ve hit pay-dirt. Can you feel it? We now know a great deal. We know that a bigger bomb doesn’t defeat or solve “our”. Neither does better engineering defeat “our”. A robust economy doesn’t defeat “our”. A hopeful outlook doesn’t defeat “our”. Even wishful thinking doesn’t defeat “our”.
Good. We’re making progress. We know now that there is no reason to lose hope, that there is every reason to keep excelling–in everything.
Okay. “Our.” What else do we have?
So these aliens snuck one in on us. Minor loss. One battle, not the war. But the way they did it reveals the war. The war is over the Way. It’s not over land. It’s not over oil. It’s not over past sins. It’s not over present sins.
Our enemies are people whose planes we could never use to fly into their buildings–not because of their more diligent TSA equivalents, but because they haven’t invented any planes. Our enemies are people whose books we can’t read–not because they haven’t been translated, but because they haven’t been written. Our enemies are people whose greatest weapon is their neighbor’s 72 year old repeating rifle.
Why haven’t they invented or written?
Horrible question. A trap set by the great Satan himself. That question is in no way our problem.
Ok. I’ll grant you it’s interesting to say. So I’ll appease us all and utter it again.
Why haven’t they invented or written?
Why haven’t they invented or written?
I don’t know. I don’t care. You shouldn’t either.
But, returning to reality, I do know that this recognition that they use “our” against “us” motivates me like little else on this day.
Knowing this means that I know that they’re coming. Knowing this means that I know they’re on their way. It means they’re behind me. Knowing this means that I know they wouldn’t know which way to go without me. It means I can, in fact, tell “us” from “them” while looking out my car’s windows on my way to work, all the way to while I watch the international scene unfold on my phone. And it means that I can talk about who they are without the use of political designations or family associations–even in my children’s government mandated safe spaces!
To the enemy I say, “Here you go. I offer this post which contains everything you need to know about my intentions and strategy to defeat you. It’s free for the taking. (On circuit boards powered by lightning storing batteries, neither of which were invented by you!) Take it. As a gift. Because that’s all you seem to be able to do. Take or receive. Never create. Never give.”
To us, I say, “Back to clearing the path. People need to know which way to go.”
To be clear, this is not my attempt to re-frame the “narrative” of climate change. Neither am I going to give you a new “lens” through which to view climate change.
In the below you will not find scientific facts or debates as to whether teenagers have power. You also will not find prophecies about the future. Lastly, you will not find any black-and-white distinctions between the meanings of “hope” and “action.”
No, this is simply one man’s declaration that the parents of youth-who-skip-school-March-15th-in-order-to-attend-the-Youth-Climate-Strike-rally must join their offspring at the rallies. Parents, you must join your children. Do it. (H- is only 8, so this plan isn’t for me. But you can be sure I’d execute it flawlessly if she was going.)
It strikes me as more than likely that many parents might not know their kids’ intentions regarding such things, so your first step is to ask them if they’re going. If you are lucky enough to have a child who asks if they can go, say, “Sure.”
Next, tonight or tomorrow night, here’s what you do. You make a sign. On this sign, write, “My daughter, my son, I love you. Come home.” Of course, when it comes to rally signs, the BIGGER and BOLDER the lettering, the better. So try, “MY DAUGHTER, MY SON, I LOVE YOU. COME HOME.” Yep, that’s better.
Then, whether you drive with them, drop them off, whether you walk, bus, bike, or have separate travel arrangements entirely, take off from your job and go to the rally. Here is the map.
Here’s where it gets tricky, but I trust you’ll sense the proper course of action. Position yourself so as to be seen by as many people as possible, and root yourself there. Now hold up your sign.
Clarification: It is imperative that you do not write your child’s name on the sign. You have a small window of opportunity here. Don’t waste it. There’s a physicality to “parenting” that most of you miss. Make your son(s) or daughter(s) incline their neck to find you.
When they do find you, hug them tightly–as tight as you can.
At home, it’s time for baby steps. I do not believe in trying something new like “conversation” at this point. Instead, read to them. Pick one of your favorite books. Tell them why you like it. Then begin to read the book aloud to them. Maybe just the first chapter, maybe more. No earbuds, no phone, no tablet, no youtubers, no nothin’. Beseech them to just sit in the same room for a while and listen.
Hopefully your reading voice isn’t too out of practice and hopefully you like good books.
But, then, I know you do. Good luck.
Okay. Here it is. The Author’s Preface and Chapter One are below. Tomorrow’s post will be Chapter Two, but then you gotta buy it. Enjoy! (Click on the image to go to Amazon. Or here.)
Looking back, I am certain that in his last months with us Simon Pastor was aware that his journey’s end was nearing. Those of us closest to him have since discussed the sadness his eyes betrayed no matter how large his smile during those last few months. And I, especially, feel a heavy burden because he once told me that when I tell his story (“and tell it you must!” he’d implore) that I need to get it right, that I need to share everything. In honor, then, of Simon Pastor’s wishes I have chosen to write this book. His will granted me access to everything of his, including his laptop and phone. I have, of course, taken dramatic license with some parts of his story, but when you read a text exchange or email exchange, know that it is verbatim, typos and all.
Men get stuck. Simon Pastor was no different. Like every man he reached a turning point which defined all actions thereafter. Unlike some men, however, Simon fell prey to this moment. It overwhelmed him. It consumed him. And eventually it killed him.
Trauma is usually found within these turning points. I say trauma to emphasize the sheer shock of the event and its aftermath. Combat is the trigger for some, the senseless unexpected death of a loved one for others. For Simon, the event was his divorce.
When men are confronted by these moments, they respond in one of two ways. Either they grow or they get stuck. And I don’t mean to imply that men have an equal chance of responding in either of the two ways, not at all. Most men get stuck. Most are not equipped with the skills and tools necessary to deal with the trauma. Poor Simon wasn’t.
“Simon, here, is a virgin,” said Brian. “He’s holding out for his one true love.”
Simon was, in fact, a virgin. But this did not make him any different from the rest of the eighteen year old college freshmen in the dorm room. The dorm room’s dominant feature was the two twin beds lofted into the air by homemade wooden stands, which made the shape of an L in the corner. The room’s current tenants each hung bed sheets from the ceiling in order to conceal any co-ed sports that may or may not occur on the beds. This was standard practice among the dorm’s residents. The beds being in the air also created more space for the young men to come together for intimate conversations. In the case of Brian’s room, this room, a love seat was under one of the beds. Two more 1950s style wooden desk chairs and one crummy bean bag chair completed the room’s seating arrangement.
“You laugh,” Simon replied, “but I actually did sign a ‘True Love Waits’ card once. With others, I walked it up to the front of the church during a special service and everything. A public vow between God and I. You ever made a commitment to anything higher than yourself before? Any of you?”
It’s what we loved about Simon. He was honest to a fault and all heart.
“That depends on your definition of high, Simon,” Chris offered to a general laughter among the guys.
Rolling his eyes and shaking his head, Simon took a breath.
“Is it on my back? My forehead?” he asked, pretending to wipe off a mark. “Why is it everywhere I go this is the most frequently discussed thing? No, I haven’t had sex. Yes, I’d like to save myself for marriage. And yes, I’m proud of this and could not care less who knows. But I do hope that we can someday talk about something, anything, else,” he lamented. “How about Josh? He was so drunk he pissed on his own computer the other night. Isn’t that interesting?”
General merriment accompanied Josh’s inadequate rebuttal.
For Simon, college was infinitely better than high school in every way save this one. In high school, while every boy talked about having sex, only a select few had actually gained carnal knowledge. In college, however, Simon soon found himself in the minority. And given the general lack of responsibilities that come with attending American universities, everyone soon knew.
He once shared with me, though, that almost to a man, when in a one-on-one conversation, the guys would admit that they respected him for his decision. I knew I did. It was not difficult to see why. Simon believed in principles. He believed in virtue. And that is rare.
Buy it today. Chapter Two tomorrow.
Simon Pastor believed he had never been hurt before. By the time he found himself in an uncontrolled cycle of hurting his wife, he realized that was not true. He felt his wife had hurt him. Then he hurt her. And hurt her. And hurt her. Finally, he divorced her. But that didn’t stop the hurt.
The Divorce and Doom of Simon Pastor is an explicit look at innocence and hurt. It is not about innocence lost, but about innocence never had. It is about the most destructive kind of hurt. A shameful tale of his descent into madness, The Divorce and Doom of Simon Pastor offers an unencumbered look into one man’s failed marriage and failed divorce.
“I heard that his face was blue.”
“I heard that he still had a faint pulse, so they tried CPR on him for a long time. It’s all about oxygen in the brain. Doesn’t matter if there’s a pulse if the brain’s been deprived of it for that long.”
Any teacher looking toward the boys during the passing period could tell by their enhanced self-awareness that none of them possessed tools capable of handling the news. As if bound by tacit consent, each of them did their part to keep the silence–the sadness–at bay.
“His parents were the first to see him in the tree early this morning. Can you imagine it?” the boy asked, almost forgetting to avoid silence. “Knowing that,” the boy stumbled to resume, “knowing that while you were sleeping in your bed, right outside your window your child was…” the boy couldn’t say it.
“I’ll tell you something. His brother, Josh, is probably the reason I began lifting weights,” another interrupted in an attempt to lighten the mood. Attentive and curious eyes rewarded his move. “Seriously. I remember in gym, in 7th or 8th grade, that a girl was in awe upon, at her request, seeing his flexed bicep. She had such a big smile.”
Their acceptance of a prolonged silence told him they were happy to hear more of this odd revelation.
“Yep. I remember going home and flexing. I was so ashamed. He wasn’t much stronger than me, but compared to the sphere sitting between his elbow and shoulder, mine was like a straw. In that moment, I knew what I had to do if I wanted a girl’s attention.”
They shook their heads in disbelief at his confession, so he continued.
“Of course, if we were to replay the situation today, he’d look puny. On that day the big difference between he and I was that he was flexing incorrectly, his arm bent all the way, while I was already using a more proper pose, arm bent at ninety degrees,” he modeled to an approving audience. Dropping his arm, he concluded, “But she didn’t know any of that. And without her, without that smile, I can’t say for sure that I would’ve ever picked up a weight.”
“Great story man,” one of them voiced, lighting laughter’s fuse.
“Give me a break! It’s just a memory I had,” he answered, smiling as they shuffled off to their classes.
Rock Gods Metallica just became the first band to perform live on all seven continents last week. Adding icing to the cake, they accomplished this enormous feat within the last calendar year. However, the news isn’t all unicorns and rainbows. Without stating its intentions, a private polling organization released survey results which strain credulity, and frankly, are depressing.
736 randomly selected participants, ages 13-25, were given the following information and question: “Metallica just performed on on Antarctica. This means they have performed on all seven continents in 2013. What is a continent?”
- 13% answered “I don’t know”
- 36% answered “Something in space; like an asteroid, I think. Metallica sure is crazy”
- 19% answered “It’s another word for country”
- 32% answered “One of the main landmasses on the globe, usually reckoned as seven in number (Europe, Asia, Africa, South America, North America, Australia and Antarctica).
More surprising than the fact that more participants thought a continent was an off-earth body is that these young people never learned that the longest answer is usually the right one.
Nevertheless, “you can’t keep a good dog down” as they say, and the older Metallica fans are lifting themselves out of these findings’ mild depression by reminding themselves that over the last 22 years Metallica’s Black Album is the “highest-selling record in the U.S., period.”
In Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, Marlow’s apathetic voice is Conrad’s gift to readers. Through this apathy readers have a defibrillator to use on their hearts, which have slowed to a stop after contemplating the full meaning of the tale. Without this literary device, countless souls would be unable to return to their pleasant state of existence.
Conrad introduces Marlow as the novella opens. Within two pages we discover Marlow has decided to tell an unrequested tale containing an uncommon bleakness that offers no immediate value to the audience. By the end, we are left feeling despondent, depressed, and largely in a state of wonder. We ask ourselves, “If this horror happened to a man such as Kurtz, it surely would happen to little ol’ me. And that being the case, what’s the point of even trying?”
Add to these feelings the fact that the story is only 70-pages, and we find ourselves returning to page one with a singular goal. We long to discover that we overlooked the hope. Returning to page one with this new sense of purpose, we begin to notice that Marlow’s story is preempted by the notion that “the bond of sea…had the effect of making us tolerant of each other’s yarns—and even convictions.” Likewise, Conrad demonstrates his value by creating this tolerance in those of us without this bond.
Marlow’s apathy is palpable throughout the tale—evidenced by his ability to remain a detached observer. During this re-read we notice that this apathy, then, is Conrad’s gift to us. This apathy lights the path which will lead us out of darkness. Conrad doesn’t intend for us to remain in darkness. He wants us to take Marlow’s journey; not believe that we’re Marlow. The key to coming out whole is to remember this–remember that, unlike Marlow, we still care.
Conrad, Joseph. Heart of Darkness. New York: Dover, 1990. Print.