Wednesday, April 28, 2010

The Worst Part

Recently I said my four favorite words are "pitchers and catchers report". I said this for many reasons, not the least of which is I'm a baseball nut. However, the start of baseball season signifies many things. The end of Winter and the beginning of Spring. The imminent arrival of Summer. Grass goes from various uninspiring shades of brown to lush green. The sun shines a bit brighter. Birds sing (and crap all over my car). Yellow pollen covers everything in Georgia in a thick blanket that doesn't wash away when it rains only streaks and smears into an odd sickly green color. The best of times.
If someone has favorite words it stands to reason they have their least favorite as well. Mine are ones I am saddened to admit I have said way too often in my life: "I could have done better". Is there any feeling in the world than knowing that we could have done something better? Loved someone better? Shown appreciation better? Served better? Played better?
There is only one thing we have control of in this world and that is how we act. How much effort we put into something whether it is a job, a relationship, or hobby. People talk about Hell and how horrible it will be. For me, the ultimate Hell would be to spend forever knowing I could have done better. I don't want to "go to Hell". I don't want to spend eternity mentally torturing myself for not giving life my all. That is something I can control. Something we all can. The only question is do we want to put the effort in? Is it worth it to us?

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Danger of Hope

Is there anything in life more useless than a hollow promise? Words spoken solely because they are what the listener wants to hear? Words and promises spoken at such times may raise spirits or rally a group to one's cause but the effects are fleetingly temporary at best. The time will come when a reckoning will be due, the promise will go unfulfilled and the hopes of the followers will be dashed to pieces. What then? What will become of the unfortunates who hoped in something unproven, untested, and their hopes fell short of reality? I dare not contemplate the sad state of those when that day comes.
How do we avoid this terrible day? What can we do to protect ourselves from the disappointment of unkept promises? Take control. Take control of our lives and responsibility for our actions. The rising generations have to recognize the benefits of responsibility. Too long have we acted without thought or care of what our actions will result in.
We live in a time of instant satisfaction and have not learned the simple truth that when something is earned by sweat and toil it is far more dear and precious to us than that which is easily gotten. I am just as guilty of this as most, but there comes a time when we must take control of ourselves. The words of the poet William Ernest Henley, despite being put in a bad connotation recently due to them being the last words of the worst domestic terrorist in our history, Timothy McVeigh, remain true enough:

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the Pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloodied, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds, and shall find, me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate.
I am the captain of my soul.

We cannot allow ourselves to be caught up in the moment. To allow misplaced hope lead us merrily down to despair. Please allow me one more quote, this one from a March 23, 1775 address delivered by Patrick Henry to the Virginia Convention:
" is natural to man to indulge in the illusions of hope. We are apt to shut our eyes against a painful truth, and listen to the song of the siren till she transforms us into beasts. Is this the part of wise men, engaged in a great and arduous struggle for liberty? Are we disposed to be of the number of those who, having eyes, see not, and having ears, hear not, the things which so nearly concern their temporal salvation? For my part, whatever anguish of spirit it may cost, I am willing to know the whole truth; to know the worst, and provide for it...
Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? Forbid it, Almighty God! I know not what course others may take; but as for me, give me liberty or give me death!"

Sunday, March 28, 2010

The Crisis

The following words penned by Thomas Paine on December 23, 1776 and which George Washington caused to be read to the Continental Army at Valley Forge are still valid today. Enjoy.
"These are the times that try men's souls. The summer soldier and the sunshine patriot will in this crisis, shrink from the service of their country; but he that stands by it now, deserves the love and thanks of man and woman. Tyranny, like hell is not easily conquered; yet we have this consolation with us, that the harder the conflict, the more glorious the triumph. What we obtain too cheap, we esteem too lightly: it is dearness only that gives every thing its value. heaven knows how to put a proper price upon its goods; and it would be strange indeed if so celestial an article as FREEDOM should not be highly rated."

Now to get to what I wanted to discuss. This is another of Thomas Paine's thoughts, but this one comes from Common Sense.
"Where there are no distinctions there can be no superiority, perfect equality affords no temptation." This, in my opinion, does not mean we set aside all those things that identify us as who we are; or that we should all take to heart the lyrics of that most over-played ballad 'Imagine'; merely that we do not let that which sets us apart physically, emotionally, or phylosophically deter us from seeing those around us as equals and treating them as such. No man, or woman, is superior to another. We are all flesh, bones, and blood and can be brought low by the most microscopic of organisms on the planet. Superiority is a matter of perspective. There is a saying I heard growing up, I did not like it very much back then but I feel it has a place in this discussion: There is always someone better than you. This may saound a bit discouraging to some, and it did to me when I first heard it, but when you think about it, it really is true. I do not say this to offer an excuse for us to allow ourselves to become demotivated, but if we always keep that thought in mind we will eventually become more humble; and humility, being an integral part of unity, is something our nation as a whole could use a lot more of.

Friday, March 26, 2010

As true now as it was then....

You might not like the URL I chose for my latest blog. It is a bit brash and some may say overly melodramatic. After all, we are the greatest union the world has ever seen. We've overcome the threats our nation faced in it's infancy and have become the last super-power in the world. But I say the slogan "Unite or Die" is just as applicable, and possibly even more so, today than it was in 1754 when Ben Franklin published the etching in his Pennsylvania Gazette.
I would like to take this opportunity to quote from the Farewell Address of our first President (if you don't know who that was you don't deserve to be considered an American): 'The unity of Government, which constitutes you one people, is also now dear to you. It is justly so; for it is a main pillar in the edifice of your real independence; the support of your tranquility at home, your peace abroad; of your safety; of your prosperity; of that very Liberty, which you so highly prize. But it is easy to foresee, that, from different causes and from different quarters, much pains will be taken, many artifices employed, to weaken in your minds the conviction of this truth; as this is the point in your political fortress against which the batteries of internal and external enemies will be most constantly and actively (though often covertly and insidiously) directed...'
For those who don't know, this is the same speech where the President draws our attention to the dangers of political parties and warns against them. The very nature of a political party, or any social organization for that matter, is designed to draw like-minded individuals together. This in itself is not necessarily evil but it is the tendency of such organizations to regress to name calling and pointing out the flaws of others while extolling and praises the virtues of themselves, thus creating a scene of discord and disunity that, when carried out on a large scale, can result in mobs and possibly violent acts.
Our nation is more divided now than it was when the issue of Independence was raised and fought valiantly for by our ancestors. Don't believe me? All one needs to do is watch the news for ten minutes and it will be displayed in shockingly clear HD quality that our nation is divided right down to it's core. We are so concerned with ourselves, so focused on our own lives and what luxuries we can accumulate to ease our time here that we have lost sight of one simple truth: the freedom and liberties we enjoy are fragile and must be defended every day. This is exceedingly difficult because we as human beings are by nature a selfish, conceited lot. We have to fight against the impulse to impose our will on others, to take from those weaker than us, to shut ourselves from the problems around us and not risk losing what we have.
We are not a united people. We are not taught to be a united people. We are taught to walk on egg shells. To dance around topics that might make others uncomfortable or someone could possibly take offense to. We are divided in every aspect of our lives whether it be by our ethnic background, our economic status, how we dress, how we talk, our education level, where we live, our political view points. These divisions are nurtured and encouraged by the elected officials we have over us because it is easier to control someone when they can be identified by a convenient label. It is not good enough for us to be known as Americans. We have to separate ourselves with titles such as Native American, African American, Irish American, Italian American, Latin American, Mexican American, Japanese American, Chinese American, etc. I can claim two of these and probably five our six others but what is the point? I have lived in America all my life, as have the vast majority of us. I was born here. I am an American first and last. That should be all that matters. But it is not convenient for people or governments, especially the Census Bureau, to accept that. So we cling to what is familiar to us, what we most easily identify with, and shun the rest. We are by nature racist, but we should strive to overcome the racial labels we so boldly and proudly flaunt.