Sunday, January 27, 2013

Reflection and Introspection

I drove home with the radio off; an hour by myself with only my thoughts (yeah, that can be dangerous), outside the distraction of the rain and the drivers around me…. I wanted to absorb the emotions of the day. As I sit and try to express my thoughts and emotions now I’m finding it rather difficult, even though I am certain that the day that was this day shall bring plenty of reason and understanding to my life moving forward.

I was honored to receive an invitation to attend the service today as my friend Tammy and her family lay to rest the body of her husband LuvPilot. As I left home this morning it was pouring rain, the kind of rain only seen a few times a year here in The Valley of The Sun… I must say it seemed only appropriate. The service was beautiful, touching, and at times inspirational. The stories told assured me of what I already knew even without having ever met him… the man whose life we celebrated today was a good man. Tammy has two boys of whom I know she is very proud… fine young men, by all accounts... and as she read to us words she had written to her sons earlier this week it brought tears to my eyes, just as it did the day I read it on her blog. She made the decision to speak last minute, she explained, and as she told us this and excused herself for the fact that she would be reading from her phone… and then the way she teased at her boys about the fact that she can’t understand why they don’t read her blog… it was a heartwarming moment.

We proceeded to the gravesite… it’s a natural point of introspection; the times we’re reminded that someday we and those we love shall all be in that place… it can be difficult to accept, but important to understand. It’s what we do with our time here that makes the difference…

As I pulled out of the church parking lot, Norman Greenbaum’s “Spirit in the Sky” came on the radio. It’s a little thing… yet perhaps there are no coincidences.

In the process of attending this service, I was blessed with the opportunity to make human, face-to-face connections with a few people I’ve known for some time now, yet with whom my entire friendship and connection until today had been based only on our writings and comments on our blogs. I can’t say how grateful I am for the time I spent with these ladies today. The feeling of acceptance you all have given me over the past few years, and the opportunity to share time with you and to be there for a friend… our friend… y’all are awesome, and I can’t thank you enough.

So as I drove home, and I thought about my ‘new’ friendships for which I feel so blessed… and I thought of my friend Tammy who has a whole new world to face beginning tomorrow as much as or more than any day perhaps this past week… first I got a little choked up and tears came to my eyes… and then I came to the firm decision that it is time. It is time for me to be the change I want to see, and to truly start living life like I haven’t lived in quite some time.

In my past… a number of years past more than recently… I had allowed myself to be brought down by circumstances… some could have been within my control, and some not so much… but when given the opportunity to make a choice, I didn’t assume control and create my own destiny for the better. Over the past few years, but more specifically within the past few months, I’ve been coming out of my self-created shell, and I’ve been making better decisions… creating my destiny rather than accepting fate. But now it’s time… to break my rusty cage. A change is going to come in my life, and it’s going to be for the better. I’m not quite sure what is to come, but I’m ready… I’ll be watching for signs… little tells that indicate a path, or a reason.

I shall stand by a statement made today in the company of friends… the television needs to be turned off, and the brain needs to be turned on. I am smart enough to know the opinions of the TV personalities on the cable news channels as the news breaks, and I don’t need to have my opinion either validated or discounted by some talking head in New York City or Washington, DC. I stay informed well enough by having the radio on as background noise during the day, and if there’s truly breaking news I can make an exception.

I’ve been playing my guitar again; that’s a great thing, it feels good to strum even a few bars a night… and I need to continue working on it. Before I stopped playing consistently I was getting pretty good, and I’d like to play better. Only I can make that happen… it’s not going to happen by osmosis.

I really enjoy writing. I don’t need to be so political about things… and I don’t need to worry about being the next “big thing” in the blogosphere. A few years ago I thought maybe that was where I was… I tried to be aggressive and boisterous, and I wished and hoped for more and more readers… but if I am to live up to the name I have given this place… The Wisdom of Soloman is really more about sharing the things I learn about life that might help others, rather than shouting my political opinion and expecting everyone to agree with me.

I need to read. Based on my understanding of today’s political climate, I’ve been working on the most important book I can think of… yet for a reason I can’t explain other than the magnet that is the boob-tube, it’s taken me over a year to read Atlas Shrugged. I know exactly what my pattern is… over the Christmas season I pick up a book and read, because I am on an airplane and in airports, and because it helps me wind down when I’m visiting my family. Yet I come home, the book gets put up on a shelf, and doesn’t get picked up until the next year. It’s time for that to change.

I have been given plenty of motivation to travel… the jigsaw puzzle of the state of Arizona given to me by my parents this year offers all kinds of ideas for travel right here in my home state. My employer has been bringing me the travel section of the Arizona Republic and discussing with me some of his favorite places. I have coworkers who want to spend time in the Bradshaw Mountains, panning for gold or doing whatever… I have a 4x4 and plenty of time, a few guns to practice shooting, and an acoustic guitar that would love to travel. And today I received an incredible offer I just might accept sooner than later… I hear there’s a lot of beautiful scenery in Utah, and it’s just a day’s drive away…

Perhaps most important of all, it is time for me to delve into my faith, and to gain a greater understanding of what it is I truly believe and how it shall affect my life. During a conversation today I admitted out loud something I recognized not too long ago; there could be perceived an extreme arrogance on my part, to name my blog as I did. As I have said many times, I am not a churchgoing man, yet I consider myself a person with faith in God. I am by no means a student of The Bible; in fact I would say I am far from it. I understand The Ten Commandments, which are the basic tenants of God’s law, and I make an effort each day to live more within those guidelines than ever before. But to say I have wisdom… hmm.

Psalms 111:10 tells us, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom: a good understanding have all they that do his commandments: his praise endureth for ever.” I’d say I’m on my way, but there is work to be done.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Prayers For My Friend

This afternoon I learned some very sad news. A friend… someone I have never met personally, but with whom because of blogging and our similar perspectives on life and politics I have developed good rapport and a feeling of confidence… has lost her husband. A heart condition, by her account… similar to something he had experienced a couple years ago.

I know of him only by the nickname she uses for him when she writes on her blog or when she comments here… LuvPilot. He was a pilot for Southwest Airlines, which is the airline I always fly when I go back to Cleveland for Christmas. Of course, I have no idea if he ever piloted one of the planes I was carried on, but it always crossed my mind… each and every time I stepped on a plane, I thought of my friend Tammy and the man she so clearly loves with all her heart, and wondered if he was the pilot keeping my passage safe.

I can’t even begin to understand what Tammy is going through right now. I don’t know what I would do… I have no idea how I might react to the loss of someone close to me. It is nearly inevitable; at some time in our lives, we all will likely lose someone, at some very close level. I always believed it would be me being mourned by others, given the wreck I was for so many years… Maybe I was trying to make it be me, because I was so afraid to feel. I don’t know for sure, and that’s not the point, really… although I can’t help but selfishly think about what I would feel, if I were in her shoes. I guess that’s human nature… all we really have is our understanding of what we experience through our interactions with others. A book can never tell you what only your heart can feel, and no amount of planning can prepare a person for the journey upon which Tammy is about to embark.

As she wrote about this overwhelming event, Tammy said she doesn't feel amazing, and that she doesn't feel strong… yet she had the strength to write about this, just one day after learning the news. I’d probably be curled up in a ball in the corner of my bedroom and losing my mind. And while she likely doesn't believe this today… I think Tammy is going to be just fine. In fact, I’m sure of it. I wish I could take the pain and sorrow from my friend and let her move on as if she never missed a beat, but that’s not the way God meant it to be, as she knows. Her faith, along with the strength and love of her family and friends, will see her through this turbulent time.

Tammy was blessed with the opportunity to have a good conversation with her LuvPilot on Friday, and she had the chance to say “I love you.” I know, somehow, that makes all the difference.

I don’t ask this often… ever, really… but please… say a prayer for my friend Tammy, and for their two sons.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

A Pox on Both Houses

On both the left and the right of the Second Amendment discussion there are radicals who come across as nut-jobs, and there are reasonable brokers who deserve and need to be heard. To say nothing needs to be done is ignorant, because there are definitely reasons we continue to experience such tragedies as we have witnessed in recent times. But to create new and broad-sweeping laws in an extremely emotional reaction to recent events is not necessarily the best course of action either. We are a nation of over 300 million free citizens who have a constitutionally protected right to keep and bear arms that, as the Second Amendment states, “Shall not be infringed.” We reside in fifty individual States with different political climates, geographical makeup and historical perspectives that make suitable nationwide laws difficult to enact, yet there must surely be some reasonable national agreement about the basics of firearm ownership.

To be completely honest, we need to look not just at firearm ownership and The Second Amendment. In my opinion we need to take a serious look at our mental health system. We should assess the effects of Hollywood and other factors such as video games on the minds and morality of young people. And as difficult as it will be, America should also take an honest look at the number of single parent homes in America today, and the potential lack of support and nurturing that children may receive within such environments. With more than half of children born to American mothers younger than 30 happening outside marriage, our society is changing in ways never before seen and certainly not very well understood.

I have opinions about the “gun control” debate” which I plan to begin expressing over the next few days and perhaps weeks, but tonight I would like to speak out and express my disgust with both the NRA and President Obama for using children as props in a political debate. I have discussed this here before and I’m sure will be pressed to do so again, and it saddens me greatly. In the midst of very important conversations in American politics, politicians, pundits and persons of influence continue to use children to tug at heartstrings or to make points that can very easily be made in rational ways, and it saddens me greatly.

The NRA made a commercial that accuses President Obama of being an elitist hypocrite, because his children are protected at their private school by individuals who carry weapons while everyday Americans watch their children go to school every day to places where they are not protected in the same fashion. While I can say I understand the point being made by the organization at the very surface, it is unfair and out of line to put the children of The President of The United States into the same category as the children of everyday Americans. President Obama’s children are potential targets by no fault of their own in ways that ‘regular’ kids will never be, as any rational thinker should clearly understand with no further explanation needed. We as a nation have provided such security for the families of our Presidents over the course of our history, and to consider President Obama and his children any different than any past leader is simply ridiculous.

On the other side, President Obama today had four youngsters standing alongside his podium today. In an effort to make his actions appear to be all about “the children,” he discussed how these and other children had written letters expressing their dire concern that he please, please, please do all he can to change laws to make it “safer” for all the children. Of course these children have no real understanding of the facts surrounding the tragedies at Sandy Hook Elementary, the Aurora movie theater or any other recent incident. The stories of how these children would hurt so badly were they to lose siblings is certainly heart-wrenching, but we need to be honest; if we take all our actions and make all our decisions related to such extremely difficult issues based on the thoughts and emotions of children, we are destined to fail as a society.

I must admit I am somewhat surprised by the NRA; I had hoped they would take the higher road in this debate and keep the discussion based in facts rather than hyperbole, because I sincerely believe the facts are on the side of those of us who believe in The Second Amendment as the fundamental protection of our right to protect ourselves. Clearly I was wrong, as they sank to the level of their political opposition and disgraced themselves in the process. So while they say they represent the protection of our rights, their actions lead me to believe they are really not much better than many of the other power-brokers and lobbyists on Capitol Hill, saying and doing whatever it takes to advance a cause.

One of the things I disliked most about the 2012 Presidential election was the massive amount of lies and misinformation put forward by the Obama campaign. I have in the past been outspoken about my beliefs regarding team Obama and their nature as propagandists; quite simply, they do it better than any political team in history. I believe today’s press conference is a good example of this, and while it doesn’t surprise me, it does of course disappoint. President Obama had a chance to really catalyze a much needed conversation, and instead he made snarky remarks about Congressional representatives being more concerned about their “A” grade with the “gun lobby” than with the safety of the nation. Sadly many will look right past his immature behavior and treat it as acceptable, because it is, as they say, "the new norm" in the era of Obama. I expect such sarcasm and half-witted comments from Hollywood types and talk radio hosts; I expect much more from The President of The United States of America.

E Pluribus Unum; Out of many, one. It is our nation’s motto, and it represents the best of the political visions held by both sides of the aisle. The individual is strengthened by the community, but there is no community without strong individuals.

It will require parties from both sides to be willing to deal with each other and make concessions, to be sure. But if we are to move in a direction that serves our future best as individuals within the collective population, and as states within this great nation, we desperately need this President to stop campaigning and stop throwing around snide remarks about his political opposition, and start leading as if he is the President of The United States of America.