don’t let this be you

in our minds, we right
our wrongs–

in our hearts,
we’re always right.

left of center,
but still in the field,

chasing the moment
to voice our righteousness–

all hearts closed,
all tongues sharpened,

whetted by indignation,
quenched and tempered with pride–

voices lie fallow,
hearts grazing on ash–

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Ayn Rand & Altruism

This is perhaps the best, most eloquent piece I have ever read discussing the deeper aspects of Ayn Rand’s philosophy, beyond the surface, which most of her detractors are all too eager to condemn.

The Awkward Pose

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This essay was recently published in WBUR Cognoscenti, where it generated more comments than all my previous Cognoscenti articles combined. Ayn Rand is still a polarizing character.

April is National Volunteer Month. Over the past forty years I’ve donated time in dozens of ways, but since I retired, providing services without compensation has become even more commonplace. This commemorative month seems an appropriate time to reflect upon why I enjoy unpaid activities. It’s also got me thinking about Ayn Rand.

images-3Ayn Rand was all the rage when I came of age in the 1960’s. The libertarian darling authored the hedonistic novels Altas Shrugged and The Fountainhead as well as a philosophical manifesto titled The Virtue of Selfishness. She once said, “If any civilization is to survive, it is the morality of altruism that men have to reject.” What light could the originator of Objectivism possibly shed on volunteering?

Merriam-Webster defines altruism…

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Drop-Lights

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Full of the hosts of every season
And taken in measure
From the overflowing coffers,

This is our bounty
In the evenings, fading.
This is our reverie
While the world is tilting

Away from the center.
This is our bounty
In the overflowing coffers.

This is the wealth
Of milk and honey,
Light-drops like wisps
On the evening air.

Don’t Panic! It’s Only Boredom!

I came across a quote a while back that struck me as particularly fascinating and very true. It was simple and straightforward, but wise and elegant. And it has not left me since. The quote was:

“Boredom is the most misunderstood luxury.”

At first, this statement seems ridiculous. How could boredom ever be considered a luxury? We all do our best to escape boredom. It seems to be a hand of oppression whenever it surfaces. There is rarely a day that goes by in which I don’t hear someone bemoaning their current predicament of being in a state of absolute boredom.

So why would anyone consider boredom a luxury?

Because, simply put, it is.

Boredom is nothing more than a state in which chaos has been calmed, whirlwinds of activity have settled, tensions have eased, work is completed and rest can be had. It is a state in which there is nothing to do because everything that needs to be done has been done.

When I think of all the people who never have the time to rest, all the single mothers, all the people working two and three jobs, all the people constantly looking for a job, all the people consumed with stress and anxiety, who seem to be more common now than ever, I can’t help but think these people would give just about anything for a day filled with nothing to do. A day filled with the luxury of boredom.

I used to be a person who often complained of boredom. If I didn’t have a constant flurry of activity surrounding me, I wasn’t happy. Then all that activity started to take its toll on me and the result was complete exhaustion and burnout. Ever since, I’ve come to realize what a blessing the times of silence in the midst of chaos truly are. I am not a man of means, but I have still been very blessed to have what I do, even though I have no idea what I did to deserve it.

I am blessed with the gift of boredom, the restful times between activities in which I can recharge for the next go-round. I am currently recharging with a cup of coffee from my monkey-face shaped mug, given to me by my wife last Valentine’s Day. I am relishing this moment of pause before the next movement begins.

Boredom is a luxury, but more than that, it is a necessity. Music doesn’t exist only as notes, but as the flow of notes and rests. Without the rests, there is only cacophony, chaos. In the Psalms, the word “Selah” is used to indicate a pause, an interlude, a time of reflection, of introspection. These times should not be castigated as being counterproductive, but praised for how necessary they really are.

“Boredom is the most misunderstood luxury.”

Maybe we can all try to understand it a little better.

Quiet. . . And Vaguely Narcissistic. . .

I’ve never been the type to share my personal life. So it seems strange to me that I would start a blog. A blog is really nothing more than the sharing of a personal opinion on a regular basis with a global audience.

And this idea always seemed vaguely narcissistic to me.

I’ve always been a quiet man. Not a shy man, but a quiet one. I’ve never had a problem speaking my mind or defending my position in an argument, but I only ever really speak when I feel I truly have something to say.

Hence, this could be a problem when it comes to keeping this blog updated regularly.

In our socialization-crazed world, I see everyone talking, sharing ideas, experiences, photos, life stories, personal anecdotes. All the time. In all of this socialization, most of the time, I fail to see any real content behind the billions of words being slung through the air at any given moment. In our newly social world, it seems as though everyone is talking because they feel they must. Whether or not they have anything to say comes secondary to saying something.

I love writing, but I have difficulty writing with regularity (and writing with regularity is the point of a blog) because I only wish to write when I truly feel I have something to say. And I am in no way under the impression that every thought I have deserves to be written, or that everything I write needs to be blogged.

But this does certainly lead to irregularity in my postings.

I am a quiet man and I do not understand the constant ravings of the world via social media. I talk when I have something to say, but I don’t talk all the time. I don’t believe my personal life is of any value to the world at large, but my tales and experiences could be of value to individuals. I can’t write all the time simply for the sake of writing. I can’t talk all the time simply for the sake of talking.

I must be true to content over style, to character over personality and, if need be, to irregularity of blog postings if that’s what it takes to charge them with content.

All of this is the stating of a personal opinion and I suppose that is the point of a blog. My content for the day was my opinion of content and lack, thereof.

And now the world will see my personal opinion and will see perhaps a small sliver of my personal life.

All of this still seems vaguely narcissistic to me.

This is T Day

Happy Thanksgiving to all! The rolls and pies have been baked and the masses are prepared for the feast. I have left my post at the altar of the rotating rack oven and have now settled after a day of feasting of my own.

It may sound trite to say this, but I truly do have so much to be thankful for, not only on this sanctioned day for the giving of thanks, but every day of my life. I have a job that I love, I have a wife I love, I live in an area I love, which is incidentally the area I grew up in. I have a family I love, I have more food than I know what to do with. Not only on this day, but every day.

My hope is that this day is used not only for the giving of thanks but as a reminder to all of us to be thankful every day, not just on one day at the end of November.

Happy Thanksgiving! And may every day be a day of thanksgiving.

Not Much To Say At First

Being that this is my first attempt in the grand world of blogging, I will start out by saying that this first posting will not be very long, nor will it be very interesting. I am lying on my bed typing these words on my phone because I am too cheap to fork over the money for real internet access. It is 11 o’ clock in the morning and I have been off work for the past four hours.

I bake bread for the hungry masses.

And now that the holiday season is upon us, the people are demanding more bread and I have been forced to work all night to keep up with said demand. During this time of year, I usually bake around ten thousand (I exaggerate, not) individual dinner rolls over the course of two nonstop nights of hell before the altar of a rotating rack oven. This year is no different.

The people must be fed and the people must be fed well with Thanksgiving only two days away. And I, the baker, must be the one to feed them. The story has been the same ever since the first humanoid sowed the first kernels of wheat and liberated us from our need to kill our food, looking it in the eyes as its life slowly perishes that we may carry on to kill again.

The people want bread.

The baker needs only to grind the wheat to feed the masses. And that is what I do. There is only the sowing and the growing. The reaping and the threshing. The milling and the mixing. The kneading and the proofing. The firing and the feeding frenzy. I feed the masses and no sentient creature is killed in the process.

Mine is a peaceful profession.

And this is the first posting in the grand world of blogging by a man whose profession is a peaceful one.