Complex Tales ~ Early Morning Thoughts

To paraphrase the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz ~ “What a week! What a week! I”m melting!” Well ~ not really melting, but certainly glad that the week is over.

Two weeks ago, I landed a job after being out of work for “some” time. (that post here)

Anyone of a “certain” age, knows the difficulty of finding work. As I’ve said before, it’s not something that is even mentioned ~ but being “older” certainly figures in the minds of people doing the interviewing. I was sure the job was out there ~ I just hadn’t found it yet. Of course, the fact that my knees don’t work as they should was part of the problem as well. (As a side-note: anyone who has or is contemplating Wal-Mart, should definitely read —>Behind The Counter<— blog! Along with being very…um…amusing ~ it's a great eye opener!)

On June 11th I in essence, walked in and took over an apartment complex ~ as their new manager. One of a string of new managers, I was to find out. Those of you that live or have lived in apartments know the drill. Once a month, on the first (usually) of the month your rent is due. Failure to pay on the due date results in late fees and play THAT game too long and you’ll be evicted. On the property I’m managing, the tenants pay by the week. So, the work that I usually did over the month is compressed into a 7 day period instead of 30. At the end of the seven day period, I get to start it all over again. Of course, there are certain legal steps that apartments have to take when tenants decide not to pay – for whatever reason. These steps are also compressed into a one week period.

Fortunately, most of the tenants have gotten the picture and the idea. The day of the week they moved into the apartment is the day of the week their rent is due. (Not a really hard concept, but … there are a few who just seem to have trouble with that idea.) So, notices that we are going to file, cut off electricity (we pay the electric and they pay a small portion of what would be a LARGE bill to us) and lock them out…occurs quite quickly.

Under the previous ownership, the apartments suffered from all sort of problems, which we are currently trying to sort out. Some of the problems were/are physical and some were/are residential. Fortunately, with a little strong arm help from the corporate office (You have to love it when someone loves to play Rambo!) and some very friendly and helpful police officers ~ I have reason to believe that the last of the two-legged cockroaches have been somewhat forcibly removed decided to move elsewhere.

The complex itself has such a delightful variety of people that there’s never really a dull moment. I’ve got all kinds of ages, orientations, beliefs, outlooks and ideas. I have one fellow who two months ago was literally living on the street and through the efforts of someone ~ now has a job and is holding his own on rent, utilities and survival. I’ve got a 48 year old skateboarder who really should have been a hippie artist with a flower painted VW van. I have one gentleman in his late 30’s who is heavy into the whole “goth” culture. These are just some of the characters I will be introducing to you over the next several days. Oh and trust me, “corporate” will also be coming under the microscope. There are a LOT of interesting stories there.

And, of course, this was the week that my health decided to become less than perfect. The first week I was in/on the job, I had to spend 5 days (in hot and muggy Houston weather) in a very small office (I think they gutted a broom closet to make it ~ it seems smaller than a small cubicle) with no air conditioning. That was what did me in and tried to bring me down. I’ve held it together, and this afternoon I relaxed and dozed. Tomorrow is definitely a day of “do not disturb – or else!”

Right now, it takes me just over an hour (if the buses and such run as they should) to get to work, and a bit longer to get home at night. I will be moving onto/into the complex the end of the month … so there certainly will be tales of that as well.

–much more to follow

–wicked witch from Mego Museum

Triplet ~ Early Morning Thoughts

Fame ~

He had come to the big city from a little rural community, had worked hard and intelligently and climbed high up the business ladder with unusual speed. He was, in fact, rather well-known among the businessmen in the big town.

With the means and freedom now to indulge himself, he thought of his home-town and how nice it would be to return for a visit — a visit no doubt characterized by praise and adulation of the local boy who had made the big time.

When he stepped off the train there was no welcoming committee there to greet him. this was surprising, and a bit disconcerting. the few people on the station platform paid him no heed and went on their way.

As he picked up his bag and old freight handler came up, looked at him curiously and said, “Howdy Jim, you leaving town?”

Buried Treasure ~

A farmer on his deathbed summoned his four sons and told them he was leaving his farm to them in four equal parts. “I have very little ready cash, but you will find that the greater part of my wealth is buried somewhere in the ground, about a foot and a half from the surface.
I have forgotten precisely where.” Then he died.

The fours sons set to work on the fields and dug up every inch of them, searching for the treasure the father had buried. They found nothing. But they decided that since they had dug up all the ground, they might as well plant a crop and reap a good harvest.

That autumn, after an abundant harvest, the four boys again began digging in search of the buried treasure; as a consequence their farm was turned over more thoroughly than any other farm in the area.

And of course, again they reaped a fine harvest. After they had repeated this procedure for several more years, the four sons finally realized what their father had meant when he told them his wealth was buried in the ground.

Tolerance ~

Legend has it that when Abraham sat at his tent door, according to his custom, waiting to entertain strangers, he saw and old man, stopping and leaning on his staff. He was weary with age and travail, being a hundred years of age. Abraham received him kindly, washed his feet, provided supper, and caused him to sit down.

Observing that the old man ate and prayed not, nor begged a blessing on his meat, Abraham asked why he did not worship the god of heaven.

The old man told him that he worshiped fire only, and acknowledged no other God. At this answer Abraham became so angry, that he threw the old man out of his tent, and exposed him to all the evils of the night in an unguarded condition.

When the old man was gone, God called out to Abraham, and asked him where the stranger was. “I thrust him away, because he did not worship you.” God was silent, then answered, “I have suffered him these hundred years, and you could not endure him for one night-when he gave you no trouble?”
–Jeremy Taylor

Just stand aside and watch yourself go by,
Think of yourself as “he” instead of “I”
–Strickland Gillilan

The Wonder Of It All ~ Early Morning Thoughts

I had been “doing” today, and when I got home there were still things I needed to be “doing.” Finally, there was time to sit and contemplate. All that I could accomplish (OK, read that as WOULD accomplish) had either been done or passed onto that list of to do later. I was looking up something on-line, and instead found an amazing article titled “A Wonder-full Life” by Juan De Pascuale: (edited/abbreviated, full link below)

All of us are a little like Gulliver in Jonathan Swift’s masterpiece Gulliver’s Travels– sailing the sea of time in our fragile bodies, repeatedly finding ourselves shipwrecked on our voyage to the Unknown. In this parable of the human condition, Gulliver’s accidental voyages take him to strange worlds inhabited by odd creatures. Perhaps most bizarre is Laputa, the island world that floats like a Zeppelin in the sky high above the ground.

The Laputans who inhabit this island have one eye permanently turned inward as though in literal introspection, while the other is turned upward as though in permanent contemplation of the stars. They worship the abstract sciences and have a passion for theoretical reflection; they are devoted to the study of mathematics, music theory and astronomy.

(additional note:The population of the island mainly consisted of educated people, who are fond of mathematics, astronomy, music and technology, but fail to make practical use of their knowledge (the rest are their servants). They had mastered magnetic levitation and discovered the two moons of Mars, but couldn’t construct well-designed clothing or buildings – reason for this being that measurements are taken with instruments such as quadrants and a compass rather than with tapes.)

The cerebral Laputans are masters of a wide array of esoteric arts and sciences that gives them the ability to control the land below and hold subject the ordinary earthly citizens. However, they have difficulty in social situations. When they go out into society, they must be accompanied by a servant carrying a stick to bash the Laputans on the head so that they don’t drift off into flights of absentminded speculation, ignoring the person in front of them.

What is truly astonishing, however, is not the mystery of life, that some things move and other things don’t, that in every life’s voyage there are shipwrecks, that you never know what tomorrow will bring …
These mysteries are merely the tip of the metaphysical iceberg hiding beneath our everyday concerns. What is truly amazing is the fact that there is anything at all.

Being itself — to be! — is the most uncanny datum of our experience, and yet it simply stands for everything. It is this very act of writing, the air we breathe, the space we move through and this time that we are sharing. It is here, there, all around us, between us, it is us. It is now. From… to the thoughts in your mind, to the most distant galaxy: All this, the world itself, is, and it is wondrous that it is. And yet we tend to lose sight of the wonder of it all in the midst of it all.

It is our capacity to wonder at the mystery of being that makes us human and separates us from the rest of creation. To wonder about being is like having the top of your head removed and feeling with your naked brain the icy cool presence and unfathomableness of everything.

When you fall into wonder only one sentence forms on your lips: Why is there anything at all and not, rather, nothing? I am not seeking a “cause” or a general explanation of what is, which might or might not be provided by philosophy, religion or science. I am, rather, acknowledging a deepening experience of everything around me. Prior to the experience of wonder, I now realize, I took the full weight of existence for granted, as most people do most of the time.

You cannot, however, deliberately choose to wonder. You can only ready yourself for it. Wonder always happens as though from the outside in. One slides into wonder, is surprised by wonder, is overtaken by wonder; but one cannot will to wonder. And all of this happens under the most ordinary of circumstances. Maybe it has already happened to you. Maybe you have already fallen into wonder. Or maybe you have been touched by wonder but turned away.

Maybe you have had the experience, as I have, of awakening in your familiar bed only to find it inexplicably alien, and not because of what you drank or took the night before. A morning when, for reasons unknown, you woke up before the alarm rang and, somewhere between a dream state and clearly felt reality, found yourself bathed in astonishment at your mere being. At the fact that you are at all, let alone here, now, in this particular place at this particular time in this familiar yet so strange bed of yours. A moment when everything you cast your eyes upon– your shoes on the floor, the plant on the windowsill, the pile of books on the desk — fills you with a mixture of awe and anxiety as you let yourself admit to yourself that the mystery of life, of being itself, is so overwhelmingly shocking that it leaves you powerless and speechless.

Many of us, however, have had …moments of realization of what it is and means to be. If you have, then you know that no amount of description can capture the actually lived felt-sense of being in awe of being. You also know with certainty that it changes you forever. You know that you have rubbed up against the very edge. There is nothing that could be further or deeper.

No one knows what being is or why it is. Not Plato or Aristotle or the Buddha or Einstein. There is no knowing the what or the why of what is. There is only the understanding of life that is acquired through the asking in the state of wonder. But that’s enough. And it better well be because that’s all there is for us mere mortals.

The experience of wonder brings the world into relief and makes a person take life seriously. In wonder you realize that this is it. You have the opportunity to swim through the river of life rather than just float on it, to own your life rather than be owned by life. If attended to, the experience of wonder gives birth to self-examination and to a mindful awareness of the world. In time you come to know yourself as you have been and are — and this gives you the possibility of choosing how to be. Through the experience of wonder we become true individuals and true citizens of the universe.

Most people, however, live out their lives unaware of the mystery of existence. Everyday routines of work and entertainment keep them from seeing the world and themselves in the light of wonder. They drift quietly through life like the autumn leaves that float on the surface of a river, barely noticing that they are adrift even as their place in the river of time empties into the ocean of death. This is the most common kind of life, literature and art tell us. It’s the life of Tolstoy’s Ivan Ilych, Arthur Miller’s Willy Lohman, W.H. Auden’s Unknown Citizen and Kierkegaard’s aesthete. The average life of the average person seeks to become just that, average — to be “just like everyone else.”

But why do people drift through life like dead leaves? The answer is simple: Drifting is easy and has obvious advantages visible to everyone, while the advantages of letting wonder teach you to swim through life are known only to those who actually do it. Yes, drifting can lead to worldly success, but it can cost you the only thing in life that you can truly call your own — your self. And therein lies the tragedy.

What good is it to know the world but not to know yourself — to be the scientist who succeeds in mapping the 30,000 genes of the human genetic code and thereby hold the biological secrets of all of mankind in the palm of your hand, but not to know the very person who holds this knowledge in his hand?

What good is it to find a high paying job, fit well into the community, be well-liked and thereby succeed in “living well” but, for a lack of time or attention, fail to succeed in dying well?

You cannot will yourself to wonder any more than you can will yourself to love, but you can prepare yourself for it just as you can for love. You can choose to move slowly through this fast life mindful of your experiences. You can strip down to your bare self and press up against what is.

That is where I want to be, how I want to be. To be completely open to wonder (remember child-like enthusiasm) and the sheer wonder and joy of living. However, I don’t want someone to have to bash me in the head to bring me “back to earth.”

— from Notre Dame Magazine
Spring 2003 issue

–laputa picture from
–photo of ice ribbon by Andy Goldsworthy
–picture 8 courtesy of “eternal”

–boy on sidewalk – “Sidewalk Circus” by Paul Fleishman and Kevin Hawkes

An Intermezzo List ~ Early Morning Thoughts

When I was teaching in India, my speech students were required to start what I called an Idea File. Basically, it was a collection of their speeches, quotes, stories,pictures and such. Ostensibly, it was for later speeches, but the hidden agenda was that later on, they would be able to look back and perhaps find something they needed to make a choice or find/offer comfort.
Before going further with my thoughts on choice, I’m posting a morning intermezzo list. I’ve included a number of quotes from Denis Waitley, one of the most sought-after keynote speakers and productivity consultants in the world today. And he believes very strongly in personal choice and the responsiblity for those choices.

As near as I can tell, he’s also discovered as Linus told Charlie Brown (one of my favorite moments): Life is more than a bumper sticker.

There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.
–Denis Waitley

If you believe you can, you probably can. If you believe you won’t, you most assuredly won’t. Belief is the ignition switch that gets you off the launching pad.
–Denis Waitley

Our limitations and success will be based, most often, on your own expectations for ourselves. What the mind dwells upon, the body acts upon.
–Denis Waitley

Life is inherently risky. There is only one big risk you should avoid at all costs, and that is the risk of doing nothing.
–Denis Waitley

Losers live in the past. Winners learn from the past and enjoy working in the present toward the future.
–Denis Waitley

Goals provide the energy source that powers our lives. One of the best ways we can get the most from the energy we have is to focus it. That is what goals can do for us; concentrate our energy.
–Denis Waitley

Forget about the consequences of failure. Failure is only a temporary change in direction to set you straight for your next success.
–Denis Waitley

Change is the essence of life.Be willing to surrender what you are for what you could become.
–Denis Waitley

Procrastination is the fear of success. People procrastinate because they are afraid of the success that they know will result if they move ahead now. Because success is heavy, carries a responsibility with it, it is much easier to procrastinate and live on the ‘someday I’ll’ philosophy.
–Denis Waitley

Change the changeable, accept the unchangeable, and remove yourself from the unacceptable.
–Denis Waitley

The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, the education, the money, than circumstances, than failure, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company… a church… a home. The remarkable thing is we have a choice everyday regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past… we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude. I am convinced that life is 10% what happens to me and 90% of how I react to it. And so it is with you… we are in charge of our Attitudes.
–Charles R. Swindoll

Remember you’ve got a choice. When you feel you can’t handle something, you can either choose to feel miserable and helpless, or maybe put your life in someone else’s hands to sort out – if they can be bothered. Or you can decide to take charge , take full responsibility for whatever’s happening, even if none of it seems to be your fault, and decide to turn poison into medicine
— Geoff from the book, The Buddha, Geoff and Me

tomorrow: choice, maps and territories

1st picture by Eric Lindgren