The UFO Reluctance

“The UFO phenomenon being reported is something real and not visionary or fictitious” General Nathan Twining Chairman, Joint chiefs of staff, 1955-1958

When I was 11 or so the USSR launched Sputnik, the first satellite to go into orbit around Earth.  Even as a kid, I remember, it was a shock that a) it had been done at all and b) that it wasn’t the US that had done it.  For months afterwards I would lay in the cool grass of the lot next to our house, back from the sparse streetlights, and watch the sky at night.

One evening well after sunset I watched the darkening sky.  I read Project Blue Book publications and was fascinated with UFO’s, but I was looking to see Sputnik.  Then I saw it, a small bead of light far overhead, far higher than any airplane of the time could fly.  I thought, “That’s Sputnik!”  I lay back and watched as it passed from north to south.

After just a few seconds, however, the light turned right at full speed at almost 45° and formed what looked like a “J”, turning back on itself slightly before it vanished.  I went in and excitedly told dad that I’d just seen a UFO.  No one was nearly as excited as me.  I was disappointed that my find had not sparked everyone’s excitement!

This past week, I met with some guys after work.  One of them, Mike, is a great storyteller and spontaneous limerick poet.  For some reason, I looked at him and asked, “Have you ever seen a UFO?”  His face changed, the smile dropped away and a brief serious look crossed in its place.  Then he was back, smiling, but when he told this story, he was very serious.

He told of a time when he was a kid at a church camp with his family.  One evening he stood at the edge of the camp with his mother and cousin when suddenly, between gaps in the treeline they saw a glowing sphere about 4-6 feet wide hovering.  Quietly it crossed the opening into a copse of trees where, according to Mike, it was as if it were trying to hide.

As that orb floated in the trees, unsuccessfully hidden because it was glowing, another and then another moved to join it.  They watched for 20 or 30 minutes, he guessed, until they all moved away rapidly from them and were gone in an instant.

Have you had an encounter with a UFO?  Share it here.  My experience is that many people have, but rarely talk about it unless prompted.  Here’s a great article I found that talks about that reaction: http://www.ufodigest.com/news/1108/something-is-wrong.html

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Project_Blue_Book

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Limerick_(poetry)

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Argumentum Ad Hominem

An ad hominem (Latin for “to the man” or “to the person”), short for argumentum ad hominem, is an attempt to negate the truth of a claim by pointing out a negative characteristic or belief of the person supporting it.  Wikipedia

Do you use Facebook?  Have you suddenly been slammed by another for expressing an opinion or sharing a link with which they didn’t agree?  If so, welcome to the large and growing club!  During this election cycle the “dialogue” has often degenerated to unprecedented levels of vitriol and venom.

Recently, I “friended” a younger guy I knew when we played golf together years ago.  He is the nephew of a famous amateur and the good golfer gene made it’s way to him.  We always enjoyed our time on the course and I loved watching his swing and the results it produced.

As soon as I was connected to the man, however, his political views and beliefs were immediately evident.  They are far from mine and I knew that I didn’t want to see or hear them, so I cut our tie right away.  I was honestly a little shocked that this guy had become so bitter and hateful toward those who choose to think differently.

After a few days, he appeared again by making a comment to another man with whom I am a friend.  These two are closer in age and were in school together, but former affiliation stood for nothing when political beliefs came up!  The name calling and personal accusation was startling.

The golfer called his friend a racist, a “liberal”, and basically an idiot for feeling strongly about his beliefs.  The responses were dripping with condescension; it was frightening to read the depth of his antipathy.  To me he said he wished we could debate this face to face, and I thought, “Yeah, right, like I’d ever want to discuss this with you.”

The point is that over the past few years the political discourse has devolved into personal attack when people feel attacked via social media.  Argumentum ad hominem is the Latin phrase for it.  When a point can’t be made with legitimate argument and thoughtful response, the personal attack begins.  It is nasty to see and makes me want to reconsider whether more social networking is a good idea during these highly divided times.

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Apathy is the Enemy

A republic is a form of government in which the state is considered a “public matter” (Latin: res publica), not the private concern or property of the rulers. . . Wikipedia

We all know in our hearts that we tend to neglect those things we take for granted.  A relationship neglected quickly fades.  A vacant house deteriorates much more quickly than an occupied house.  Personal health as we age requires maintenance or it, too, will quickly fade away.  While we think we are invincible when we’re young, as we age we find out differently.

So it is with our republic.  It has aged; it has been tested for centuries, and now it is threatened.  We are in danger of having those who own the vast percentage of wealth in this country also buying the government as an added convenience to the continuation of their wealth.

It is not my intention here to be political, it is my intention to be civic.  Whatever one’s political beliefs, maintaining and caring for the republic in which we live is paramount.  Recently, under the thin guise of cleaning up the voter roles, many states have imposed daunting barricades to becoming a voter.  Our most cherished right as citizens is being challenged.

While today I have a driver’s license, a passport and other documents, it may not always be the case.  Many of us have seen our circumstances change in unexpected ways, have we not?  When I vote today I’m asked some questions that clearly identify me as me.  I’m also issued a county voter card that I carry with me but have never needed.

In November, millions of people who are otherwise legitimately eligible to vote, and have done so for many years, may not be able to do so because of these specious laws that ostensibly respond to a threat that truly does not exist.  I’m more likely to be struck by lightning 3 times this year than more than a handful of voter fraud cases might occur.

Warren Buffett said there’s class warfare all right, and it’s his class that’s winning.  Buffett stated this as a warning that things have gotten too out of kilter.  Neither a political system, a government, an economy or a culture cannot long survive such imbalance.  Those who wish to make the discriminatory rules and laws today will ultimately be caught in their own trap.  Apathy is the enemy.  Either we nurture and protect what we have inherited, or it will die on our watch.

http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/28/opinion/blow-wheres-the-outrage.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

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A Twist of Fate

As we move through life, the force of fate creates events that we only appreciate when we reflect on our existence.   Ronald Harmon

Daylight was turning into dusk and the boy had to get back home to the village before dark.  He hurried through the woods and thickets making a trail when he couldn’t find one.  He had been in these woods many time playing by the stream, watching the animals scurry and feed.  As he walked down the trail he’d found in the direction of home, he heard a snorting from a grassy patch to his left.

There in the small clearing was a beautiful horse, chestnut brown, sleek and calmly eating the grass.  The boy stopped and stood very still.  The horse knew he was there but paid him no attention and continued to eat.  One step and then another moved the boy into the clearing and yet the horse stayed.  Slowly he turned his head and nodded.

The boy moved closer until he could touch the horse’s powerful neck and still the horse didn’t move, he was not afraid of the boy and he seemed to welcome the company.  What to do, the boy thought?  There is no bridle, no rope or any sign that the horse was escaped from its owner.  After a few minutes, the boy decided to try to mount the magnificent animal and the horse allowed it.

Using only his knees and the mane, he guided the horse back to the trail until they reached the village.  As he rode in triumphant, the villagers were in awe!  Where did the boy they all knew get such a fine animal?

When he arrived home his kindly parents were thrilled to see their son with the horse.  It was a thing of great value to the family if they could keep him.  The horse didn’t resist when the father guided him to the barn and let the horse drink from the trough and fed him some fresh hay.  With the horse secured for the night, they all went to bed happy.

Next day the boy awoke eager to see his new friend.  He rushed to the barn and there was the horse, waiting for the boy.  The boy put a bridle on the horse and again, without resistance.  He hopped on his back to take a ride before he had to start his chores.  But, within minutes of leaving the barn the horse jumped a small stream and boy fell to the ground with a sickening, splintering sound, knowing he’d broken his leg.

His scream of pain and call for help made his father come running.  Others came too and with help the boy was carried back to the house.  The joy of the new horse quickly turned to sadness and concern for the boy and his badly broken leg.  The leg was set and some natural remedies helped ease the pain and put the young man to sleep.

In the surrounding countryside there had been stories of soldiers and fighting and the villagers were scared.  The next day as the boy rested and fought the pain, soldiers rode into his village.  The soldiers announced that all men of a certain age were to be taken from the village and made to fight on their side.  They went into the boy’s house and saw his broken leg and let him alone.  They quickly rode off with 3 of his neighbors’ boys.

The boy’s family was amazed.  The joy of just a few hours before had turned to sadness in an instant and then that sadness turned again to joy since their injured son was left alone by the army.  We never know what life events will bring.  What we think is the worst is often the best and perfect thing for us to experience.

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Dorothy and Nelson

I learned that courage was not the absence of fear, but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. Nelson Mandela

July 18 is the shared birthday of two special people, born on the same day of the same year, 1918.  It sounds and is so long ago, 94 years.  Dot Griffin, my mother, was born to a father who was busy building a fledgling business at the end of WWI and a mother who had aspirations of grandeur for herself and her girls.

Today, Africa and the world celebrate the 94th birthday of Nelson Mandela.  15 years ago today, on her 79th birthday, we buried our mother.  My grandmother Griffin had 5 children; Dot was the oldest.  She described her early life as Cinderella, consigned to caring for the younger ones to the exclusion of her own wants, needs and desires.  She resented it terribly and found a way out by marrying a man everyone warned her against when she was 18.

Two children later, the husband left Mom to fend for herself at the onset of WWII.  Once again she was relegated to struggling to support others despite her own desires.  Nelson was incarcerated by the apartheid regime of South Africa for over 27 years, only to emerge victorious, rising from the ashes of the demise of that regime to become the president of the country that had suppressed and brutalized him for so long.

Mom married Dad near the end of the war and struggled with him to build a business that over several years became prosperous enough that she could finally get some help with her own 5 children.  What liberation that must have been for her, and what servitude, albeit for decent people, it was for Pauline, the housekeeper who came to live and work on our premises.

The interplay of race, oppression, war, death and finally victory for both of these gallant people weaves them together in a way that could not have been imagined beforehand.  So today I raise a toast to both of them, to Nelson on his 94th birthday and to Dot on the 15th anniversary of the occasion of her funeral.  Thank you both for your contributions to the world.

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Growing Relationships

   There isn’t a child who hasn’t gone out into the brave new world who eventually doesn’t return to the old homestead carrying a bundle of dirty clothes.  ~Art Buchwald

It’s coming soon, that annual ritual of sending kids off to school.  It’s a time of mixed emotions for everyone.  For the kids it’s a mixture of the elation of freedom, along with the anxiety of freedom.  For the parents it’s a mixture of concern and sadness, albeit occasionally mixed with some relief.

After a few weeks or months of being apart, there’s often a reunion when the student returns at the next holiday.  My mentor Arno talked about “the return”, or from the Hebrew, “tsuvah“.  In practice it has a sense of repentance, but it translates as “return”.  When Arno talked about it there was a sense of reunion with another.  We go apart from each other and we look forward to the return, the reunion.

When we see our loved ones again they will have grown and become more worldly wise.  They will have had encounters, only some of which they were prepared for.  Tsuvah also has an aspirational meaning that when we do meet again it’s in a higher, purer state.  We learn from our experiences while apart and strive to bring something of value back to our subsequent meetings.

In all aspects of our lives, including our relationships, “the return” is crucial.  If we learn from our time apart, when we meet again we have something to offer.  Otherwise, if we have nothing higher and purer to contribute, we begin to deplete the other person and the relationship deteriorates.

It is always my desire, but not always my practice, to bring something fresh and new to my relationships.  Sameness and predictability sap the life from them.  Unless we meet our significant others at a higher, purer level, unless we look forward to the return, we will tire of each other and the relationship will usually die a lingering death, even if it remains intact.

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Teach Your Children Well

The illiterate of the 21st century will not be those who cannot read and write, but those who cannot learn, unlearn, and relearn.  Alvin Toffler

Years ago I was in the USAirways club at LaGuardia airport in New York.  A friend from my hometown came in to wait for the same flight back to Charlotte.  I put my book back in my briefcase and we talked for a while.  Soon it was time to board and I took my coveted, upgraded seat in first class for the flight home and pulled out Alvin Toffler’s book, Future Shock.

As I sat reading and waiting for the peons to board, my friend, Rick, walked by and asked about the book.  I told him a little about it, Toffler’s assertion that we face too much change too quickly and this state of “future shock” is the root of most all social problems.  Rick went home, got the book and shifted his career, becoming a futurist in the fields of community building and civic progress.  Toffler’s work has that kind of power.

Toffler’s quote above reminds me of another piece of wisdom about this subject that occurred on the 16th birthday of Carol, the only child of my mentor Arno.  Their minister, Carlyle Marney, about whom I’ve written before*, looked at Carol and said, “Hopefully, we’ve taught you in a way that doesn’t have to be undone later.”  Marney knew that in order to be and stay intelligent, an open mind is required, along with a willingness to adapt one’s thinking in light of changing information and circumstances.

What has happened in this country today?  Intellectual curiosity, the willingness and/or ability to shift one’s thoughts and beliefs is heresy for many people.  As the great philosopher Frank Zappa told us, “A mind is like a parachute.  It doesn’t work if it’s not open.”  Accepting changing circumstances and events as part of life and amending one’s worldview is not encouraged, and yet it is essential for the kind of citizens who will take the world into a future most people on earth long to have.

*”Giving Grace” at Mentorboom.com

http://www.bookrags.com/Future_Shock

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A Life of Few Regrets

What other people think of me is none of my business.  Physicist Richard Feynman

                                   Replace fear of the unknown with curiosity.  Richard Feynman

We’ve all seen and heard about living with no regrets.  Personally, I don’t see how that’s possible.  But I do think there is a way to minimize our regrets about the lives we’ve led.

Bronnie Ware is an Australian singer/songwriter, palliative care nurse and author.  Her book, The Top 5 Regrets of the Dying, recalls her time as a hospice nurse spending her days comforting and accompanying those who were on their way out.  I always find this relationship between terminal patient and caregiver informative.  I’ve been through death with both of my parents and talked about some of their regrets along the way.

Nurse Ware lists the top 5 she’s encountered along the way:

1)   I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.

2)   I wish I didn’t work so hard.

3)   I wish I’d had the courage to express my feelings.

4)  I wish I’d stayed in touch with my friends.

5)  I wish that I’d let myself be happier.

I wish I’d been more authentically me.  I wish I’d taken time for myself and my relationships.  I wish I had stood up for myself, even when it was uncomfortable.  I wish I’d let myself be happy.  After all, everything I do, have or be is because I think that the doing, having or being of it will make me feel better, i.e., happier.

I don’t want to live a life so worried about others’ thoughts, my self-imposed duties and obligations and pleasing others that I neglect the one person with whom I have to live 24/7.  How can I change my life over the next few days in some slight way that will minimize regret?  What’s the one thing I could do to slightly shift the course of my life for the better?

Look forward, not back.  The human situation is one of constant compensation.  An action is one direction spurs action in another.  Accept that while I will make mistakes, I don’t have to stay there.  Find the things that bring me joy and follow them.  Just the act of moving in the direction of my desires will help me leave behind the concerns.  Pollyanna had a series of joyful experiences and, despite the criticism, managed to lead a joyful life!

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Life Inside the Bubble

Life isn’t stable. Stability is unnatural. The only stable society is the police state. You can have a free society or you can have a stable society. You can’t have both. Take your choice. As for me, I’ll choose a free, organic society over a rigid, artificial society any day.  Tom Robbins

In just a few weeks my town, Charlotte USA (no hubris there), will be invaded by 30,000 conventioneers for the Democratic Convention.  Every civic building, community college classrooms and public park near the uptown will be usurped for the attendees, security and vendors.

2 weeks ago when I awoke at dawn, I looked out my window, down to the quiet street below, and saw 5 black cars and several men in baseball caps, flack jackets and powerful handguns strapped to their legs.  My first reaction was, are they going to come storming into my house!?  They were studying maps and would occasionally look up to our building as if looking for danger from above.

Within 30 minutes or so they had all left, but as I drove uptown later, over streets being resurfaced, I saw more of these black cars.  Then I noticed I couldn’t even go my normal route home.  Every driveway, every cross street was blocked by one of these black cars (the black helicopters must have been above).  It took me an hour and 10 minutes to go the 1.25 miles back to my house.

Turns out V.P. Biden was in town for a fundraiser and the roads were his.  We watched from our front porch as the black “Beast” (as the Presidential limo is called) passed by.  Well, we said, get ready for it!  Over the next few weeks the bubble surrounding uptown Charlotte USA will be on lockdown.  We will get to see the whole outward face of the new police state that’s been instituted on us over the past 11 years.  Funny, I don’t feel safer, do you?

And besides, the cost of one of those agent”s flack jacket, pistol and black car would buy school lunches for some poor classroom for a year, and they’d eat well.  What have we come to in the name of security?  While I give thanks to the legitimate police who protect and serve our neighborhoods, the proliferation and aggressive of the new breed harkens back to the black leather SS parades of the 1930’s.

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A Father’s Gift

Americans are like a rich father who wishes he knew how to give his son the hardships that made him rich.  Robert Frost

No one would be foolish enough to choose war over peace–in peace, sons bury their fathers, in war fathers bury their sons.  Croesus of Lydia

My father and I struggled with each other for years.  As a small kid I had polio and dad bargained with God that if he’d spare me from the ill effects he’d quit drinking.  I was spared and he kept his promise.

As a teenager and I wouldn’t go along with his commands or suggestions, I was “the most stubborn person” he’d ever known.  That, I took as a compliment.  When I sang in a band, grew my hair, learned to play guitar and wrote ballads, my father took it as a sign of weakness.

When we worked together in the business he’d founded for 15 years he tried to “train” me by lashing me with harsh words and sharp tones.  It didn’t work, I made my own way and trained myself to do the work well.

When he fell ill at about 60 the tables began to turn.  He softened and I gained compassion for all he’d been through and was going through.  By then I’d learned that life is difficult and had children of my own to teach me greater tolerance.

As he lay dying in the dim light of a winter’s evening, I kissed his cheek and said, “Dad, you’re a wonderful man.”  Suddenly he looked up at me, as if coming back from the dead, and said, “Son, you’re a better man than I.”

I was stunned.  All these years and I never knew he thought of me in that way.  It was the gift of love and affirmation I’d sought for so long, without even knowing it.

How many of us have struggled with a lack of this affirmation from a parent?  My father’s ultimate gift was that he didn’t take this message to this grave and I’ve had years to live out the positive consequences of knowing how he really felt.

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