Time and Tides

Change and Conflict...

Is there anything quite as disorienting as change we can neither predict nor fully understand? Maybe…perhaps even probably. But for most of us, it’s right up there. In West of Tomorrow, change, both personal and professional is a pervasive theme for the principal characters in the story.

There are several themes at work in West of Tomorrow, but ultimately, all of them either have their origins in change or are in the need for profound change to “fix” what’s wrong. When we catch up with Clay Conover, the first character we meet in the novel, we learn he’s a Vietnam era re-careered Marine officer turned corporate trainer.

With a distinguished record as an officer and self-evident competence in his new career, everything seems to be on track for Clay. He has his ghosts, personal and professional, but who doesn’t? And on balance, he’s got it all handled and hardly anyone he meets sees him anything but balanced, thoughtful and pretty together.

His successful navigation, from senior leadership in the military to responsible mentor in the private sector demonstrate both his adaptability and and admirable innate competence. But in common with many of us, Clay has unfinished business lurking beneath the surface.

What happens when several unsettling events come together all at once to cast a shadow on Clay’s prospects for tomorrow? Will the awakened ghosts from his past short circuit his future? The triggers of memory, we are reminded, have the power to inflict pain or bestow peace…and paradoxically, sometimes both at once.

The Last High Tide

In a chapter entitled The Last High Tide, we find Clay in the throes of an intensely personal transition, forced to confront not simply his own fallibility, but issues he’s spent his life avoiding. Tectonic changes , personal and professional have left him with little to hang onto. How does he reinvent himself at this late stage of his life? Exhausted from thinking about it, Clay awakens from a dream he doesn’t want to have. A raging thirst drives him to his refrigerator for a bottle of water, when he notices the shadows of leaves, dancing across his balcony, in the moonlight.

Walking out on his balcony, Clay hears the distant thunder of surf, even above the offshore winds through the trees and a snippet of a poem he wrote years ago wafts into his mind.

                                  And I thought I heard the sea, as I used to, 

                                 Each time as the first time, far-off, new…

There’s nothing to stop him now. He has nowhere he must be, today. And sometimes, he tells himself, when the going gets tough, the tough go surfing. Deep down, the reader suspects Clay is unconsciously avoiding or at least postponing the work he dreads doing. But is this something he needs to do, or is this a character flaw springing up?

After all, it isn’t a foregone conclusion that Clay will get through this. Neither his successes in combat, nor his subsequent accomplishments in peace are at best imperfect predictors of his ultimate fate. Not unlike the turning of the tide, Clay is painfully aware of all of this. While he’s out there surfing, it’s clear that it claims his full attention.

Clay Conover Exits the Zen Zone (Photo Courtesy of Jeremy Bishop & Unsplash).

But like all postponements, it’s only temporary. On the beach, Clay pauses after a nostalgic session in the waves to reflect on an activity that has been part of his life, identity and sanity—and senses it may be over.

Clay time-warped thirty years. The waves felt the same, and the men sharing them could have been the guys he’d surfed with in the seventies. Even the longer hair was back. He thought of his trips to Mexico, of the trips he and Natalie had taken to the Islands and the kinetic oneness with self and life that seemed to animate every surfer he’d ever known.

It had been Clay’s one bastion of rebellion—his defiance of a “system” his service helped support, while he tried not to see it’s dark side. Surfing had helped keep him young, he guessed—a partial antidote for the gnawing misgivings about the life he’d chosen. But in the end, it had called attention to the contradiction between what he did and who he was. Clay’s laughed, inwardly. Really? he thought. And who the hell are you? That most personal of all Koans, again—never quite solved. Is self-awareness a curse or a blessing?

Back at his car, Clay shrugged out of his wet suit and pulled on his sweat pants and t-shirt. After locking his board in the car, he walked back to the beach to watch.

They’re better than I was at their age, he thought. While he watched, the offshores subsided, reversed, and conditions deteriorated quickly.

Thirty years ago, he’d spent many weekends here—first alone, later with his wife, and later still with his daughter. Jayna had learned to surf half a mile down the beach at Old Man’s and Dog Patch. As he watched, the outrunning tide exposed more of the red algae-coated rocks.

What twists the gut like endings? (Photo courtesy of Jamie Davies & Unsplash).

Clay lingered, reluctant to leave—sensing that when he left this time, he might never return. The incoming afternoon tide would erase his footprints and all memory of him. He’d become just one more of countless others who surfed here, once. What does it matter? he wondered. He had no answer—but it did matter.

On the horizon, a hazy bank of silver-gray clouds heralded an impending change in the weather. It would rain tomorrow, or the next day, as the low that had spawned the waves moved in.

The sea breeze stirred up an eddy of sand around his feet as he turned, heading for his car, his silent home and whatever might be left of his life.

In this moment, Clay senses he’s at a crossroads. Whether he will ever return to the ocean as a surfer and commune with it, Clay’s life has been changed in ways that will be profound and permanent. Change in itself isn’t bad and most of us recognize this. But when it’s laced with uncertainty and the fears that often go along with it, the uncertainties can be unnerving or even paralyzing and we are defined by our responses both to those fears and the paralysis that may accompany it.

Intuitively, Clay recognizes this, and nothing drives this lesson home like the memories prowling his condo, reminding him of his past. Confronted with what’s left of what was once a life of promise, he finds no escape from the necessary steps of self-examination, acknowledgement of his human failures.Will he grow and overcome them, or be overwhelmed by them?

Readers who have confronted the sneaky realities of fallibility, mortality and bittersweet angst of aging can relate, especially in our age of runaway change and shifting paradigms. Where exactly are we, when we’re half an hour West of Tomorrow? A tentative answer lies on the pages of this evocative tale of corporate intrigue, betrayal, misplaced love and the phoenix living all of us.

West of Tomorrow is available from Amazon, in paperback and Kindle formats.

The “Fine Art” of Ghosting

The Woes of Full Employment...

Recently, I ran across a post on Linked In, noting an uptick in candidates for employment and already employed workers ghosting their employers or would-be employers. Bernie Reifkind, the author of the article is a recruiting executive in the greater Los Angeles area. It was a short post, comparatively,  decried the inherent discourtesy and lack of professionalism in bailing on a scheduled interview, or simply bailing on work without warning after employed. A Washington Post article recently appeared, noting the same phenomenon. 

The Urban Dictionary defines ghosting as “cutting off all communications with friends, or a date with no warning.” (I’ve paraphrased for brevity) Let me get my position out up-front. No, I don’t approve, not that my opinion matters. 

As Dr. Jennifer Vilhauer points out in her Psychology Today article, “The opposite of love isn’t hate, it’s indifference.”

We could debate whether Dr. Vilhauer’s observation is true for all values, not to mention whether we think employees should love their employers, but for now, let’s just acknowledge whether it’s an individual or an organization, there’s an inherent wrong in “ghosting.”

The Vanished...

And at an intuitive level, I think most of us would agree with Dr. Vilhauer, at least as it relates to personal matters. What’s worse than our cries of joy/elation or tears of disappointment/sorrow being greeted with stony silence? Zap! You don’t exist.

In the Linked In post to which I referred, earlier Bernie ended with the question; “Am I missing something?” I was moved to respond because it folds into one of the themes in West of Tomorrow. There are character limitations on Linked In, so I was obliged to edit it down. My extended response follows here.

The Fading Phenomenon

No, Bernie you’re not missing something, we all have. This is a collective phenomenon in the creation of which virtually all of us have participated. From a business perspective, ghosting is the logical result of decades of misuse of the men and women to whom in large measure companies owe their success. Most everyone with a Linked In profile has been a corporate drone, at some point in their career or another…or has cynically used corporate drones for their own professional purposes.

I don’t make this observation pejoratively. It’s what we were taught by the “higher-ups” in our organization, themselves cowtowing to the money/power junkies cynically running a game they patiently rigged to their advantage over decades. Merciless rounds of down-sizing, right-sizing, re-engineering, reorganizing all in the name of wringing another fractional percentage out of margins while executive salaries spiraled through the overhead. At some point, most people got the non-verbal message we were sending collectively. YOU DON’T MATTER. What you do for us matters.

What’s artfully camouflaged in both Mr. Reifkind’s post and many of the responses to it is the role organizations have played in legitimizing ghosting. To be clear, ghosting isn’t new and it isn’t an organizational phenomenon. Most of us have had people drop out of our lives without warning. But the ghosting of organizations is relatively new. In my opinion, part of employees’ (and prospective employees’) comfort with the practice is the logical result of long-term, organizational power plays at employees’ expense. Organizations have reaped what they’ve sown.

In West of Tomorrow, one of the book’s recurring themes is the fusion of the sweeping paradigm shifts of our age greed, both personal and organizational. Repeatedly, we see examples of men and women taking opportunistic advantage of situations proximal to those changes, cynically and in ways that are hard to justify, ethically. In one passage, the protagonist, (Clay Conover) discusses with an old friend and former professor, Dr. Mastrovik.

 

In the conversation above, Clay confronts his own, unconscious role in perpetuating a system in which the little guy’s role is downplayed and the (hypothetically) more important powers that be remain the litmus test of both contribution & legitimacy. But wherever we are in the organizational ladder, if we’re honest with ourselves,  most of us recognize we ride to victory on the collective efforts of our brothers and sisters working toward the same goals. The rewards systems do not reward us equally, and perhaps that’s okay.

But from time to time, we should be asking ourselves if it’s (at least) equitable. If it isn’t we should not be surprised when our treatment of our employees come back haunt us. What do you think and what has been your role in promoting a sustainable, reward system within your own organization?

Stop me if you’ve heard this one…

Stop me if you’ve heard this one, before. In the midst of a discussion with someone you thought you knew really well, it suddenly goes sideways. You learn they have a “blind spot” where their logic or education should be.

Because you’re invested in them, you want to set them straight, so you start making your case. They push back. Their resistance to logic &/or legitimate evidence is nothing short of breathtaking and nothing you say gets through. They counter with something you know isn’t true, but the more you try to set them straight, the more inclined they are to drop anchor. Been there, done that? We all have, I suspect.

For the same reason we as a species argue endlessly over (for example) the ontological mysteries of the universe or where to go for dinner tonight, we’re going to differ over virtually everything on which two or more strong opinions are possible. (In other words, pretty much everything).

Decision time…fight it out or let it go. If you’re like me, you’re not entirely happy with this binary choice, thinking we can have a “discussion.” But if you’re dealing with, say, motivated cognition, we could be at it a very long (and probably inconclusive) discussion.

Whether it’s the precise nature of “God,” however we choose to define it or what actually happened at the CIA compound in Benghazi, our beliefs have everything to do with how we see ourselves, our relationship with the Universe, truth and each other. Most of us have reasons for believing what we believe and…again, for most of us…those reasons are often hidden, nuanced and multi-sourced.

During the course of that discussion we were talking about earlier, did you feel that hot rush in your gut, or that self-righteous anger over (you fill in the blank)? That’s your emotion and your motivated cognition kicking in. You’re about to make a fool of yourself. I know…I do it all the time.

In the wake of  the 2018 elections, I’ve come to remember what I once knew, in my previous professional incarnation as a Marine officer. Opinions are not the measure of our worth. Behaviors are. We were not perfect when we took our first breath, and chances are we won’t be when we take our last.

But we can each day and every day, work to be the best versions of ourselves. Like it or not, we are defined by our actions. While opinions and facts matter, what we do with them is what matters most. Including knowing when to look someone in the eye and end a conversation with “We’ll have to agree to disagree.”  Civility and the recognition of our own imperfections is the beginning of wisdom. Arguing long after you’ve both stopped listening is…well, you decide.

Thank you for your service…

The last full measure of devotion...

With Veteran’s Day coming up, I’m bracing for the inevitable “thank you for your service” I get every year. It’s always an awkward moment, for me. I usually respond with something like: “It was my honor to serve…” (it was, btw. And I’d do it again).

But this year, I have an idea how you can honor all those who served and still serve, as well as do your civic duty in a more general way. VOTE! It has never been more important. On the ballot, this November are a host of issues that should matter to every human of good faith. An incomplete list of those issues follows.

  1. Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. Senator McConnell has opined these should be on the block, in the next session because of the balooning deficit the Republican tax cuts largely favoring the wealthy and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are largely responsible for. In response to which, they’re coming after your grandmother’s Medicare and Social Security and Medicaid which in part funds opioid addiction interventions? Oh and just for the record. Those veterans you’re going to thank this Veterans’ Day? Most of them get part of their healthcare from Medicare, when they retire.
  2. Immigration and Border Security. All BS aside, most reasonable U.S. citizens believe in border security and some kind of controls on immigration. Mr. Trump’s yammering notwithstanding, Democrats are no exception. But what human with the sense to avoid falling over backwards in the toilet thinks a wall is the answer?
  3. Voter Suppression. Georgia, Kansas and North Dakota come to mind. In all cases, it’s clearly intended to disenfranchise people of color, but perhaps most egregious in my mind is the North Dakota case. If any ethnic group has a right to expect they would not be disenfranchised it must be Native Americans. But recent voter ID laws clearly calculated to target them and suppress their voice.
  4. Foreign Policy. It’s a dirty little secret most U.S. citizens would prefer to ignore, but U.S. policy regarding Saudi Arabia’s fratricidal war in Yemen is tacitly permitting a humanitarian crisis even more acute than the one in Syria. Quite apart from being a fairly transparent accomplice in genocide, no thoughtful expert in the area of international geopolitics of whom I’m aware thinks much of his policies. As a retired Marine officer who spent the last half of his career involved in strategic and operational planning, I feel comfortable giving Mr. Trump the prize for strategic ignorance. George the Second was a close second, but he listened (sometimes to his sorrow) to others with more experience.
  5. Income inequality. The tax cuts failed miserably and if you see who arrays on each side of raising the minimum wage, it’s pretty clear that his protestations to the contrary, Mr. Trump and his Republican enablers are on the side of big business, not the average man, woman or child on the street. (Examples).
  6. Corruption. To date, Tom Price Secretary of Health and Human Services, and Scott Pruitt, Secretary of the Environmental Protection Agency both resigned due under scandals involving documented malfeasance. Additionally, Ben Carson, Secretary of Housing and Urban Development and Ryan Zinke, Secretary of the Interior have been embroiled in similar scandals. In the latter case, Mr. Zinke is under seventeen (yes, 17) separate investigations, including at least one referred to the DOJ for possible indictment. And this does not include Mike Flynn (NSA Advisor), Paul Manafort (Campaign Manager) and Rick Gates all of whom have pleaded guilty to a host of charges associated with fraud, etc.
  7. Decency. There is nothing in the Constitution stating the president must be a “good” man, whatever that means. And it is possible to imagine someone who is not a good man (or woman) who could still be effective as president. But among the arguments for Mr. Trump as president was the notion that he would Make America Great Again. The whole notion of American Exceptionalism (whether you buy it or not) pivots on leadership. If we are to view the election of Mr. Trump as a referendum on that notion, then perhaps you’re okay with him being a demonstrable liar, serial sexual assaulter and (when all is said and done) an abysmally deficient mind for someone hypothetically leading the greatest nation on Earth and Commander in Chief of the most powerful military the world has ever seen.

Now is it fair to tar all of Mr. Trump’s shortcomings on Republicans running for office? Logically and in a word, no. The president of the United States is part of the Executive Branch, separate and distinct from Legislative and Judicial Branches. Every sophomore knows this (or should) from their Civics/Government classes. As they should also know, however, it was the intention of the framers of the Constitution that the Legislative and Judicial Branches should act as a check on the Executive and vice versa.

They are not by law bound to oppose, simply because they are different branches. Rather they are expected to form independent judgments and act accordingly. At virtually every step, the Republicans in both houses of Congress have acquiesced when they have not actually abetted the president in his intentions and (frankly) routine departures from the truth. If we watch what they do, rather than listen to what they say, it’s pretty clear there’s not much daylight between the president and the Republicans in Congress. Following their conscience, that is their right as duly elected members of Congress.

Just as it is our right to jerk a knot in the butt of someone when we don’t like what they (or the president) are doing. Mr. Trump has suggested we should vote as though he was on the ballot.

I couldn’t agree more. We should take him at his word and remind him he answers to someone.

A Symphony of Complexity

The Reductive Mirage of Simplicity

Maybe it’s an occupational hazard of being an author or maybe it’s advancing age, but for some reason, I find myself more and more preoccupied with matters philosophical. This would probably happen, even if I could avoid the news. I can’t and you probably can’t, either. We’re pretty much immersed in it. Can’t even get away from it on social media. (he observes as he adds a link to his latest blog post…). And I can think of nothing more catalytic of reflection than trying to puzzle out how the hell we got where we are.

The events of the last three years have led me to conclude that a significant number of Americans (U.S. Citizens to be absolutely precise) seem to have fallen for the notion that simple solutions to complex problems are generally our best answer. It’s not hard to figure out why. Virtually all of our political discourse, these days, is reductive. Whether it’s macroeconomics, international security treaties or negotiations, here in the U.S., we’ll bite on simple, despite of (or perhaps because of) the complexity of our world.

Please don’t misunderstand me. I’m sensitive to the undeniable elegance of simplicity. Reducing anything to a few simple concepts is a very seductive notion. And who hasn’t heard of the KISS principle (Keep It Simple, Stupid)? Maybe you’ve even used it yourself. I know I have. And nowhere is the siren call of simplicity more seductive than in political campaigns. Simple concepts are easy to understand. They lend themselves to clever slogans and effective if meaningless rallying cries.

With all that going for it conceptually, what’s wrong with trying to simplify things? I thought you’d never ask. Work with me a minute, here.

Complexity is baked in...

Let’s start with the observation that our world is home to a dazzling range diversity. It always has been. Never mind all of creation…just wrapping your head around one classification: Avians, let’s say. Ask any Ornithologist and they’re sure to tell you it’s a life study. Whether it’s something we think about or not, life writ large strenuously resists our attempts to simplify it.

Life thrives on diversity, in part because it allows for experimentation and adaptation, a bedrock of evolution. What adapts successfully survives, barring catastrophic events like asteroid strikes. Collectively, the dinosaurs were remarkably successful (and diverse) adaptations to their environment. Absent the hypothesized asteroid strike resulting in the climatic catastrophe that cut them short, might they eventually have developed intelligence we would recognize? We’ll never know.

In the same way that nature experiments through subtle and incremental genetic adaptation, humans (ourselves a genetic experiment) fiddle with ideas. Successful ideas adaptive to the environment giving rise to them tend to survive as long as the environment remains relatively stable. Please note, here, that I used successful rather than good.

It’s a distinction worth making. Successful ideas aren’t necessarily good ones, from an ethical perspective. It “works” in the context which gave birth to it, hence it thrives. A couple pretty obvious examples of bad ideas no longer generally accepted include the divine right of kings or the sun orbits the earth. But old ideas gave way to new ones.

Humanity and Context

But it’s worth remembering where those new ideas come from. Generally, they emerge from a new contextual reality. They are outgrows of a dynamic situation. The old wheeze “shit happens” is a pungent reminder that change is the lei motif not simply of our age but every age.

But there’s a pivotal difference between this age and all the ages that preceded it. Humans have always been change agents. But considering how much we contribute to shaping our environment today, it’s getting increasingly difficult to escape the conclusion we are now the apex change agents on the planet. 

We are shaping our future and not always for the best. And like it or not, some of the pivotal change agents are not copping to their role either in that change, or for that matter that it’s even happening. For the record, it is. Consider the graph following.

The foregoing graph, even supported by evidence is unlikely to move the stubborn atavisms prone to cling to obsolesence. I’m reminded of the old AA wheeze, “Drop the rock, you’ll swim better!” To which the obstinate alcoholic shouts back, “But it’s my rock!” We all get it. Few things are more difficult than abandoning (or even significantly modifying) a paradigm that has served us well for so long.

As with the bio-genetic adaptation referred to earlier, our adaptation to an emerging reality, even before it’s entirely clear what that reality is pivotal. What is unique to our adaptation is that we are re-engineering ourselves on the fly, whether we’re aware of it or not. And the evolution is much faster. Estimates vary with respect to how quickly the rate of knowledge acquisition is occurring. But if Buckminster Fuller’s knowledge-doubling curve is even close, what we “know” collectively as a species.

A couple of important caveats are in order. For starters, the knowledge-doubling curve above is a highly speculative approximation of what the knowledge growth curve might look like if the continued expansion of what we know continues. As a forecast, it is unlikely to be dead-on accurate, nor is it likely to be even. We should also recognize that the distribution of knowledge across the 7 billion human inhabitants of this planet, will not be very uneven, nor will all of it be accessible or readily applicable in it’s immediate, raw form.

Half an hour West of Tomorrow

Those observations made, the prevailing trend isn’t particularly difficult to puzzle out. When we fold Toffler’s concept of Future Shock, it is no longer remarkable that we have a huge disconnect in attitude between those closer to the leading edges of knowledge acquisition and those who are either unaware or even resistant to it. It is also painfully clear that at some point, those who resist assimilating knowledge as it is gained run the risk of becoming irrelevant in short order.

So, does the desire for simplicity in our lives have a place? I think it does, at least on a personal level. It may even be an indispensible component of our personal sanity. But extending that yearning for simplicity to our exogenous life in general strikes me as an unerring path to frustration and rage. I suspect that we left simplicity behind when we settled down to plant crops and domesticate animals for food.

The more ubiquitous and powerful humans become, the more complex our interaction with the contextual reality we call life becomes. Making America, Great Again is not function of “returning to our roots,” or how they did things, “back then.” We can honor our antecedents best by recognizing what it was that made them great.

Irrespective of the political, social, religious or spiritual framework to which they adhered, our Founders and the ones who followed and made us greater still, successfully balanced  honor for our traditions with foresighted innovative spirits. It is not that “simple” solutions, even to complex problems that we must resist. Sometimes simple solutions are the best ones.

Rather it is the reductive, simplistic thinking to exclusion of the evidence that we need to eschew.The future and the keys to it lie in our ability balance our yearning for a time when life was simpler with the recognition that, increasingly, simplistic answers are at best an illusive mirage. 

It is okay…even essential…to recognize when we don’t know. Not knowing is the human condition. What must change is how we deal with it. We must collectively recognize the global community as a community. A global community in which each human has a vested and legitimate interest in the impact of others’ individual and collective behaviors. In the same way change is unavoidable, so is the global impact of that change. Disparaging globalists or deifying nationalists completely ignores the truth. We are the world.  It may be a while before we fully grasp the implications of this new reality. But we can’t wait too long. The lives of our children and the quality thereof literally depend on it.

Fear or Hatred?

Aphorisms, Truth Vs. Fact

I must confess I have a weakness for aphorisms. There’s something about the taut simplicity and economy of words that feels like enlightenment. And of course, that’s the point. A well-worded aphorism should feel that way. For refresher’s sake, an aphorism is:

    “a concise statement of a truth, principle or sentiment.” (Merriam-Webster’s dictionary)

In the interests of short-circuiting philosophical debates about what is epistemically knowable, I’m going to focus on the principle or sentiment aspect, rather than “truth.” Truth drags way too much intellectual baggage around with it, especially today. Personally, I tend to look at aphorisms like a Zen Koan. Aphorisms are not neither wisdom nor truth. They are signposts along the way. Work with me, here.

Fear or Hatred?

The last couple years there’s been a lot of angst richocheting around our country over our “direction,” the polarized divisiveness, intolerance, etc. It’s been argued that #MAGA and the “success” 45 is rooted in all that angst. And it has been hypothesized that the angst in which that success is grounded had its origins in the financial collapse of 2008 or the Obama presidency. As if racism, divisiveness or political hyperbole is new. But this is the United States, after all and historical perspective often gets lost in our quest for simple solutions implemented today and effective tomorrow.

What do you think? Fear or Hatred?

You will likely recall Mohandus Gandhi as the renowned, non-violent activist and the father of India’s independence from Britain, in the late 1940s. Gandhi based his opposition to British hegemony on non-violence and religious pluralism. Given India’s religious and cultural diversity, it isn’t difficult to understand why. The aphorism above is attributed to him.

It would be hard to miss its apparent relevance today. But if you’re also a student of history, you’re painfully aware of how it turned out for Gandhi personally, and for what subsequently happened in India…not to mention how radically times have changed since.

All that aside, it still feels true, at some level. Does not intolerance, suspicion and uncertainty have some grounding in our fears? If so, does it follow then, that fear is the enemy or is there something else going on? At the risk of disagreeing with someone  whose teachings, life and moral courage I admire, I think it’s a little more complicated.

Are we what we fear?

For the record, I am not contemptuous of fear, or people who feel it. As a retired Marine officer, big wave surfer and snow skier, I’ve learned a little about it and understand how debilitating it can be. Fear is often rational and justified. But while  fear may be rational, it does not follow that our response to it will be. 

My experiences with my own fear factors have taught me that fear,  Mr. Gandhi’s thoughts notwithstanding is not the enemy. Misdirected fear, or harnessed to the wrong purpose,  is. In both cases, fear replaces reason, often to our sorrow. 

Okay, so what and why now, particularly? Fair question. These are fearful times. Uncertainty can do that to us, if we let it. And we seem to be letting it do that a lot, of late. It tracks along behind us in our personal finances, unless you happen to be one of the exceptionally fortunate. It shrieks at us in the howling winds of hurricanes and typhoons and leers at us in the flames consuming hundreds of thousands of acres in a matter of days. It’s even visible in the eyes of our children whose short memories have no frame of reference for our times.

Through the shadowed forest.

Courage and Hope.

But as fearful as the times may seem and as trite as hope sounds as a remedy, in the jaded 2nd decade of the 21st Century, we must nevertheless hope. Individually and collectively we are larger than what we fear and greater than our challenges. All that stands in the way of our success is are clear eyes, open minds and the conviction that we can craft a future in which the fulfillment of all is not merely possible, but in all of our individual best interests. 

Courageous men and women do not give in to their fears and they certainly don’t allow the fears to morph into hatred or tribalism. Both inevitably consume. Individually and collectively, courageous women and men connect and find inspiring beauty and wisdom in diversity and difference.  We are one by choice. Not by color or by philosophy but by conscious choice and a devotion to the best in all of us. Today, look a brother or sister you don’t know in the eye…and see yourself.