Monday, January 15, 2018

Winner vs. Hero

The battle rages on. Stakes, as always, are high. What hangs there in the balance is your mind, your soul, the heart of your actions, the core of your beliefs, the quality of your character. This war is fought over your story, the one you will live by, and the choices could not be more opposed. One one side of this American narrative is that of "the winner." This belief system pits the individual against the world and the the world is seen as a dangerous place, something to be dominated and exploited. Our current president, like Ozymandias, paints this way of being as the ideal, and divides people into two classes: winners and losers. Winners fight and take home the prize and gorge themselves behind closed gates and guard dogs. Winners tend to be products of opportunity and privilege. On the other side of competing worldviews is "the hero." The hero sees him/her self as part of something bigger and works to mend social ills like injustice, bigotry, inequality. The hero meets the inner demons in order to serve others. The hero leaves the world a better place and becomes what most of us call great. In contrast, the winner often leaves a legacy of egoic grandiosity that ultimately becomes mean and petty and self-serving. On this day of remembrance of a great man, I offer this distinction with hopes that the America I love takes the hero path.

Saturday, January 13, 2018

When the Wheels Come Off the Band Wagon

Woohoo! Here we go. The stock market is on fire and corporations are giddy with the prospect of extra money to throw into the fray. Money! Money! Resorts. Entertainment. Shallow reality TV stars as world leaders. Nobody has to think because that is passe, prudish, boring -- the habit of losers. As speed picks up, the band wagon begins to shake and shimmy because it is not built to last on a path made rough by environmental collapse, widening income disparity, rampant social injustice. Not everyone has a seat on this wagon of billionaires and fat cats. Better hang on. The wheels haven't been greased and the driver can't see the turns ahead, the hungry eyes of all those left out of the wild ride.

Friday, January 12, 2018

End of the Line

There you are in the meeting, your eyes on your notebook, looking down your nose through the reading glasses you need to see anything closer than three feet in front of your scrunched-up face. Everyone else is on a laptop or tablet or I-Phone or MP3 player or some other form of screen. People in front move in and out of the light of a projector that clicks through slides of a PowerPoint that no one is paying attention to, and you think to yourself this is it. You are there. Done. By far you are the oldest person in the room, and the topic of the meeting is one you could recite in your sleep. But nobody wants to know what you think. You are yesterday's news, the doddering old geezer that never got off the ground or won any awards or made it big in the world of letters. That's just the way it goes sometimes. One only hopes you know better than to stick around any longer than absolutely necessary.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

One Step Away

The patterns are taking shape. Sleeping when the sun is up, avoiding work, saying no to things you like to do, finding fault with perfection, laying mortar to the blocks of your isolation. Yep. Soon you'll be talking to yourself as you shuffle your way along the sidewalk, coffee steaming in your paper cup, head down, on your way to the river. It's the clutter that got to you. That and the unfinished business. It would have been your father's 89th birthday today if he had made it this far. But that is just a coincidence, isn't it? You pull it together and get your ass in the car and make your way to your first day teaching of this new year and new semester, the ropes and cables that hold you here light as air until you remember.

Tuesday, January 9, 2018


George found the fire road on an old map and suggested we begin the new year by exploring it up into the hills above Ramah, New Mexico. We grabbed our fat bikes and packed some trail food and pedaled up and out of the Ramah valley into the rocky defile that cut deep into the Zuni Mountains. The going was mostly steady, but a few pitches shot up steep, loose, and challenging inclines. The air got thinner as the trail grew faint before turning into a cow path. The sun sank and the wind began to bite with January chill at 8000 feet. George parked his bike near a cairn that indicated a diversion to a natural bridge and old Zuni ruin. The sky darkened as we made our way to the grotto. Along the path were remains of lion kills: vertebrae, pelvises, and, on one, a grisly skull and rack that had been recently cached. The nose had been crushed and eye sockets were missing from the still red remains. George broke the head off of the spine. It held a ten-point rack, a beauty of deer trophy. It had been a fine specimen before the lion ambushed it from one of the many rock overhangs. The rough terrain was a dangerous place. He held it out for me to take. It's yours, he said. The presence of lion weighed heavy on me. This is a hard and precious life, one that can end at any time. Out here there is no mercy, no place to hide. I took it. I did not and will not turn away.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

Too Much of What You Don't Really Want

In this merry time of consumption and giving, one has to wonder when enough for some is enough while others have to do without. The haves give and get more and better of what is already beyond sufficient while the have-nots live with lack and go hungry. The haves worry about toxins in their gourmet food while the haves live in poisoned places and are lucky to get processed junk. The haves drive to the gym to use expensive exercise equipment while the have-nots collapse into bed exhausted from long days doing minimum wage work with no benefits. It's a social justice thing. When you have enough, isn't it a good thing to help someone in need rather than feather a nest already thick with expensive down? Doesn't too much feel a bit empty when brothers and sisters are strained to breaking with need and want?

Saturday, December 23, 2017

Outta Gas

It was a good run. He gave all he could and tried his best not to ask for anything in return. And that is what he got back. Nothing. It wasn't their fault, more the way people are right now. They just don't seem to get it and take and take and take. Oh well, so be it. He was scraped so raw and empty that there was nothing left to draw on, not even fumes. He was the bug in this life, not the windshield, and windshields ruled the world. He was the target in the cross hairs. Maybe next time around he would get it right and save something for the days that went so dark he couldn't remember where it was he wanted to go.