Sunday, January 30, 2011

To Write or not to Write

The near zero temps ended earlier this week. Amazing how warm 25 degrees can feel after a few days of single digit readings. Unfortunately, a rather large winter storm struck the area leaving at least a foot of snow to be shoveled, or blown as the case may be. I encountered some impressive snow mountains during my route, especially in cul-du-sacs. More than a few of them had small children perched on top waving to the cars and pedestrians as they passed by.

More snow is expected this week; after 3 snow days already, I told my daughter she should be prepared to be in school until July this year.

I read a column this past week which admitted to and bemoaned the fact that the writer was aware of an obsession with Sarah Palin. He was not especially proud that he had written about her 42 times since her vice-presidential nomination so he had decided to try to be Palin-free for a month in his columns. I sent him the following email

Mr. ----,

I am a subscriber of the Philadelphia Inquirer which has recently been publishing your column. I was especially interested in last Tuesday's column concerning your dilemma in reporting/commenting about Sarah Palin and your challenge to be Palin-free for a month.

What particularly struck me was your admission that your obsession is partly driven by the reluctance to "send millions of Web surfers, readers, viewers, and listeners to our less scrupulous competitors". Wow. Obviously, as a paid writer, you must be cognizant of your audience in that, you need to have one to be paid. But isn't it the job of the writer to create the audience either by pure writing talent, poignant topical commentary, interesting stories, inspiring tales of human achievement, etc? It seems so easy to stand on a soapbox or sit in front of a radio mike or a TV camera and say "The bogeyman is coming" so as to get attention. I know that your column was meant to be tongue-in-cheek but the problem lies in the fact that even good media men and women are resorting to quips and commentary for the sake of ratings.

Somewhere in your column there is the unstated message that if no one talked about her, she might disappear; if we stop feeding the beast, it will wither and die. I have a blog which I began last year. I have no real audience to speak of so perhaps it is easy for me to sound a bit condescending when I say that I have only mentioned Ms. Palin once or twice and only as an example towards making a point, not as the topic of the entire blog. If my blogs were the norm, Ms. Palin might still be governor of Alaska!!

To be honest, I know that one of the reasons for not blogging about her is that I do not find much of interest in what she says or does. Her popularity seems to be rooted in her ability to create a black and white response to every topic, then convince her listeners that she and they are always in the right and the "others" are always in the wrong. It doesn't matter if today's "right" audience agrees with yesterday's, as long as she winks half a dozen times during her speech, everything is right as rain. For some reason I am reminded of the scene in the movie, Men in Black II when the Laura Flynn Boyle character, Serleena says "Silly little planet. Anyone could take over the place with the right set of mammary glands."

I have only read a few of your columns to date, but I feel confident in saying that YOU CAN DO THIS. As you say, only good can come from conquering an obsession. While I don't think you will gain so much time as to actually understand the federal budget or Medicare reimbursement rates, perhaps you could attempt the more modest achievement of explaining how giving more money to the top 1% income earners is going to get people back to work again.

Good luck and my sincerest regards,

Joe Pugnetti

Monday, January 24, 2011

Working Girl

One of my favorite movies is Working Girl with Melanie Griffith and Harrison Ford. I like the idea of a "rags to riches" movie with a woman for a change and I like to look at Melanie Griffith. Propriety forbids me to detail why I like Melanie but if you get a chance to watch this movie, note the way and how often she licks her lips.

Towards the end of the movie, after it is revealed by her boss that she is a mere secretary causing her to lose not only her job but credit for the big deal she has worked on throughout the movie, the day is saved when she reads about a potential problem with the radio network purchase, Harrison comes to her defense, and she is given the opportunity to explain everything to the owner of the company negotiating to buy the network. When asked why she didn't tell everyone the story of how she first came up with the idea of this big company buying into radio, she said (and I quote)

"You can bend the rules plenty once you get to the top, but not while you're trying to get there. And if you're someone like me, you can't get there without bending the rules."

Is that really true? Do we tend to look the other way when successful people bend the rules, whether they be legal, moral or just the generally accepted guidelines for everyday living? And if so, why?

Certainly, we treat our athletes differently than everyday people. Especially if the person exhibits extraordinary athletic prowess. Right from high school they are accorded special status which can frequently lead to the turning of a blind eye when rules are bent or broken.

Or in the case of high salaried executives who cook the books resulting in a corporation's economic collapse. Is that person punished in the same way as the common criminal who holds up a grocery store. Obviously, I am not condoning armed robbery, but hasn't the executive whose crime results in the unemployment of hundreds of people and the loss of millions of dollars of pensions/IRA money done more harm to society than the guy who steals $300 from the owner of one store? Yet, the thief will spend real, hard time in prison behind bars while the white collar criminal, perhaps after months if not years of judicial posturing might spend some time in a federal penitentiary. Worse, once the blue collar criminal serves his time, his record will make it difficult for him to find meaningful employment, yet some of these CEO's leave one failed corporation only to go to another 7 figure salary at another one.

In the movie, Melanie's character makes the jump to a better job, gets the guy and, at least at first, treats those in the position she left with respect, unlike the way her boss treated her. She has made the most of her opportunity and, with some help from those who already "made it", we are treated to a happy ending.

I still believe that America is the place to be for to experience this kind of "success" story. But I sometimes wonder if more people who have become successful are demonstrating the example of Melanie's original boss rather than her eventual boss.

Do enough people in management and ownership positions realize how many future Melanie Griffiths working the assembly lines and phones lines and counter lines there are who just need that one break? Do they remember that it wasn't that long ago that they were in a similar position and received that chance from a mentor or ex-boss? Pulling up one's bootstraps is a great cliche, but the vast majority of people who have made it, did so with some help in addition to their own hard work. .

Finally, I read an article in the business section of the Phila Inquirer recently. The author was commenting on the news that corporations are currently sitting on literally billions of dollars of cash but are still slow to hire new employees. When the author asked a person of some standing in the business community what advice they would give these companies about jobs and hiring, the answer was that they should continue to focus on returning profits to the investors.

Is this a reflection of most thinking in today's business community? Is this a philosophy that will help hire and encourage future Melanies?

Does a concern for investors and profit rather than the employees or people of the community bend the rules of how we should treat each other?

Pretty Condoms In a Row

Extremely cold weather the last few days. My car's outside temp reading dipped below the zero degree mark the last two mornings. I was curious to see if it would actually display a negative number but it did. In fact, this morning it displayed a negative number for the majority of my route. When it finally warmed up to zero then topped out at 3 degrees I was tempted to open my window and let in this warm air.

Yesterday the papers were very late getting to the warehouse so I did most of my route in the light. A new perspective for many of the neighborhoods and homes of my customers. Also, I witnessed a very pretty sunrise while noticing a just-off full moon on the other side of the sky. The sun and moon in the sky together is an interesting sight.

Finally, not many deer out these last few days. Funny, when the weather gets extreme, the animals know enough to stay in shelters but the humans still go out!

A new friend of mine who frequently submits letters to the Phila Inquirer, recently sent one regarding an Inquirer editorial supporting a contest in conjunction with the distribution of condoms in our city schools. (I believe the contest was to create a new wrapper for the condoms in hopes of increasing interest, hence increasing condom use.) My friend's letter expressed displeasure that rather than promoting abstinence and self-control, the Inquirer was supportive of a school program that more or less condoned teen age sex. In response to his email detailing his letter and asking for feedback, pro and con, I sent the following response.

Dear ...,

You may recall that this was the topic that began our correspondence, and, dare I say, friendship. I had submitted a letter to the Inquirer about teen pregnancy to which you responded. If you further recall, we disagree somewhat on the subject.

As I may have said to you before, I believe that humanity is evolving, physically, emotionally, spiritually.

As I see it, this evolution as it relates to sex has developed in the following manner. (This would be my personal viewpoint, I didn't read it anywhere).

A. The Beginning to the discovery of a link between sex and children

My understanding is that man spent many eons in ignorance of the relationship between sex and conception/children. One could argue that this was a good thing as the species needed to breed to increase its chances to survive. The base workings of this time are still present today; in men, a stronger sex drive (create a blood line), and in women, the desire for family and the nurturing aspect of raising children.

B. The Time when that link was understood by women (only)

I assume that at this point, women understood the relationship between sex and children. I would bet that research into most of the civilizations of the past would reveal lore passed along from mother to daughter as to how to keep from getting pregnant. Of course, since men wrote much of the history that we read, this information may be hard to find but I am sure that women figured it out long before men. How long that time lasted I will leave to greater minds than my own.

C. The Time when men (in charge) finally figure it out

Whether there was a Benedict Arnold among women along this topic or just that finally men started thinking with their big heads, sometime in history the link became apparent to the men in leadership positions. Unfortunately, since men are more about power and control, all the institutions of the day were adjusted to include this new knowledge. Whether by religious or government control, men incorporated this new knowledge in their need to be in charge. Sometimes sex was good such as when procreation of those like oneself was involved, sometimes bad. To defend men, there were decisions to limit sex that were actually good for society, such as no sex between family members or with farmyard animals, but in general, it is more about control. This is best reflected in the fact that so much of the birth control methods are for women, a gender with such a complicated reproductive system when compared to men.

D. The Time when contraception becomes widely known

Finally, through science and despite the control mechanisms (still ongoing) from religion, everyday contraception is available to most people in societies like our own. (There are still leaders that don't allow birth control in their country because they are still stuck in level C above). While we still struggle to define when sex is appropriate and for whom, we at least understand the link between sex and pregnancy and have the resources to engage in one while preventing the other. But the evolution of our emotional understanding of sex is still to come.

E. The time when our understanding of the mechanism of sex is matched by the evolution of our emotions concerning sex

This time is yet to come. Birth pangs of this time are evident in the fact that our young people use sex for all sorts of emotional gratification rather than for its true uses; responsible pleasure and/or procreation. But I believe that eventually, sex will be treated as I have indicated. Young people may still have sex, but not because their peers do, or because they are bored or because they have not progressed beyond the base instincts that I detail in section A. Of course, as is true for all generations of young people, they will at times engage in foolish acts, including sex. The good news is that birth control will not be about controlling the actions of certain populations but about preventing pregnancy for people either too young to be parents or not desiring to be parents.

I think that in the end, we still confuse birth control with preventing sex. It is about preventing pregnancy. Take out the emotional baggage and it seems pretty clear that we want all people, children as well as adults, to understand that sex leads to pregnancy and so if one believes that sex is an expression of love, then true love includes some form of birth control in that expression.

Or, to put it another way, if you believe that sex among young people is irresponsible, fine, continue to give them solid, rational, practical reasons why they should not participate. But isn't it as irresponsible to withhold the process of birth prevention to those same people? Does it help to stand above them and say - see, I told you so when they get pregnant for lack of knowledge of prevention?

As always my best regards,


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Last word (for now) on violence control

From the time I leave my house to get the papers until I return home, I usually note upwards of a 10 degree swing in temperature per my car's outside thermometer. Usually Doylestown is warmer than Perkasie and certain neighborhoods built near open fields are colder than those in town. This morning every time I looked at the gauge it said 33 degrees. Every time!! Although the temp was at 33 degrees, I still found my car sliding through certain turns and around some areas. While I won't say that I am becoming an expert at driving in ice and snow, I am certainly getting more used to being out of control, temporarily, while driving in poor weather. Could there be a future blog about life and enjoying those out of control moments?

Speaking of sliding, yesterday's sleet cover on top of the new snow produced my longest newspaper tosses to date. Not because I threw the papers any further but because some deliveries hit the ice and kept on going!! I wonder if any of the subjects of the various articles were saying WHEEEE as they slid on the ice?

I realized after posting on Monday that I was remiss in not mentioning that it was the national holiday in recognition of Martin Luther King Jr. What a tremendous example of working for societal change within the framework of non-violence! It makes me wonder why, on a national level, we continue to advocate change in countries where the rule of law is less established, countries where leaders routinely use violence against their own people to control them, yet we invariably turn to our own version of violence to reinforce these ideas. Again, as if might makes right.

Would not an example of diplomatic pressure, aid to improve the people's standard of living, and support for the process of change, ultimately work better than bombs and bullets? Please, can someone cite me an example whereby the killing of the citizens of another country led them to change their society to be more like us? And, please, don't respond with WW2 for my understanding of history indicates that it was more the incredible amount of economic aid and debt forgiveness that turned Germany and Japan into allies. As proof, I would offer the evidence that our treatment of the losers of WW1, especially Germany, planted the seeds for the eventual rise of the Nazi party. It was oh so easy for Hitler to take national pride and turn it into international hate when his fellow citizens could see in their everyday lives how little the world cared for them.

You can catch more flies with honey...

But again, there is a violent streak in Americans, by nature and by culture. We love righteous anger and the victory of the downtrodden over the bully. Unfortunately, we don't seem to recognize that in many parts of the world, we are considered to be the bully. The memory of America's role in saving the world from Hitler, or even that of our victory over the evil Russian empire has been replaced by our more recent history of both covert and overt actions to change the leaders of countries with which we disagree.

So, how does all this relate to guns, gun control, violence control? Perhaps it is inevitable that the crazy or the angry individual will kill regardless of the law. But are the laws written to control those individuals or to guide the more rational, majority of the populace. I would think that if asked, most Americans would prefer a world with a little less violence and a little more love. For themselves and their children and grandchildren, etc.

If love then is preferred, should we then not use it as a litmus test when considering any topic? Do guns promote this future world of love or suggest that violence is an acceptable method of interacting with one another? Or more specifically, do assault weapons and multi-round magazines for hand guns sound like they should have a place in a world with more love and less violence?

Monday, January 17, 2011

More on Violence Control

On my way to pickup the papers last Friday, I glanced at my car's outside thermometer and was reminded of the movie The Golden Child where Eddie Murphy is crossing the path of logs to get to the special dagger and asks how many people successfully completed that same challenge. When he hears the answer, he repeats it: None, None!!. In the case of my car's thermometer, I was repeating One, One.

I was in an especially positive mood within the first 15 minutes of Saturday's delivery because I saw a herd (what qualifies as a herd by the way; 6, 8, 15?) of deer on Harvest Lane. Eight deer were in the midst of crossing the road as I approached and two more were about to cross but turned around when they saw my headlights. I lowered both windows and greeted them with a hearty "Good morning".

In my last blog, I suggested that we should reframe the issue of gun control as a violence control issue. Of course, there is an inherent problem in doing this as violence is part of our American culture as well as part of our human nature. I have even had people tell me that it is only through bursts of violence that all the important advances to humanity have occurred. One could even argue that the very basis of how we mark the passage of time began with as grisly a death as imaginable; a crucifixion.

"We justify our bloody deeds in the name of destiny and in the name of God". (From the Last Resort by the Eagles, on the album Hotel California).

Nonetheless, I remain hopeful that we are slowly (agonizingly slowly) evolving away from violence as a means to address our problems. From country on country to man on man (or woman), our use of violence has reduced over time.

Yes, countries still drop bombs on each other, mobilize troops at each others' borders and actually invade each other, but generally these actions follow an attempt at diplomacy, and even after the onset of hostilities, lines of communication remain open and other nations intercede to help negotiate a ceasefire.

And certainly, as individuals we continue to wrangle over resources and occasionally murder each other but most nations have developed laws which make killing illegal and the vast majority of people respect and honor those laws.

To me, one of the critical concepts we must address is: might makes right. Whether it is the wronged innocent who exacts vengeance on their unpunished attacker or the belief that the victor in a war must have had god on their side, this concept permeates our existence. What is truly striking is that, at least in America, we take pride in our christian values yet conveniently forget that the foundation of those values, Jesus Christ, did not "win" his earthly battle with those that held the power in his time.

So, if might makes right, doesn't that mean that at various times in man's history, some of the most ruthless men and their nations were in the right?

Perhaps might needs to be defined in a different way? Perhaps the "right" path is the one which involves the least amount of physical might as that kind of might can so easily lead to an arrogance that values some lives over others. Perhaps the preoccupation with might and the belief that "right" can be won is, in fact, the exact opposite of the message of Christ. Perhaps believing in one's might to make right has everything to do with living a life demonstrating the example lived by Jesus and nothing to do with the might derived from weapons.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Tucson Shooting

This morning I delayed delivering the paper as we had received about 6 inches of snow overnight. As a result, I was out and about between 6-8:00 AM which meant that I was driving in the light for about half of my route. For the most part, the main roads were completely clear and virtually all of the streets I encountered were plowed. My only difficulty was the occasional turnarounds that I do in customers' driveways and the fact that many had not cleared them yet. But any minor turnaround issue was more than made up by the scenery of the morning, especially in the time when it is light but the sun has not quite risen. There was a white and silver sheen of snow on the trees and telephone wires which was very pretty indeed.

The past weekend's horrific shooting spree in Tucson which claimed the life of six people and left many more wounded, elicited some strong discussions about both the vitriolic discourse careening across our airwaves and the status of gun control in America.

While I certainly agree that the nature of our political discourse has been very extreme, I don't think it is possible to know what transpired in the mind of the young man who committed this crime. But I have heard it said, and have said it before, words matter. As long as the talking heads, radio talk show hosts, TV commentators, etc, continue to cater to the extreme ideologues on each side, as long as conflict, and three people talking at once, and screaming sell advertisement time, as long as we, the audience, continue to settle for superficial blabbering rather than meaningful debate, then there will be individuals, already on the edge who will find subtle and not so subtle encouragement to address today's issues with violence.

Which brings us to gun control.

It dawned on me today that, again, part of the problem with meaningful gun control is that the issue has been framed by the people who are opposed to it. It is too easy to fire up a certain portion of the public by turning all attempts at gun control into a litmus test about the Second Amendment. Assault weapons are clearly not needed in a civilized society (they certainly didn't exist in the time of our founding fathers) but banning their use becomes an attack on our right to bear arms, even though so few people in this country choose to purchase an assault weapon.

So, perhaps we need to begin calling this issue violence control. Isn't that what we are really attempting to reduce; the number and severity of violence and violent acts. Certainly, no one is for more violence! Banning multi-round cartridges like that used by the Tucson shooter would not be gun control, but an attempt at violence control. Restricting the type of weapons that can be purchased, certain assault weapons for instance, is an attempt to reduce the violence that results when such a weapon is fired. Requiring that someone notify the police if they lose their handgun, again, becomes an attempt to reduce the violence that might be committed by the thief.

Since the Tucson shooting, I have heard more than one person say that if more people had been carrying guns, the shooter may not have done so much damage. In other words, had more people been shooting in that crowded parking lot, there would have been less violence. Does that sound right? I would hazard to guess that had more people had weapons, more people would have been shot; perhaps less shot by the disturbed young man but probably more overall due to "accidental" hits. Am I wrong?

On the other hand, if no one had a gun, then no one would have been shot.

Violence control; are you for it or against it?

Monday, January 10, 2011

The Growing Income Inequality

Since my last post it snowed a few times. The first began in the early morning hours while I was delivering papers. The flakes were of the large variety and when I flicked on my car's high beams the scene was spectacular. Big, fluffy snow flakes flying at my car's windshield made the road resemble a scene in one of those snow globes that you shake. Beautiful.

On the weekdays I am done delivering papers by 6:00 AM so it is still dark when I get home. But on the weekends, I have almost three times as many customers so I don't finish until 7:30 at least. This past Saturday, the sun rise was especially pretty especially when viewed coming up over an open field some of which still exist in Perkasie area.

Last Friday I read an article which presented information detailing the growing income inequity in the United States and questioning why Middle America was not more outraged.

The information about the income inequities came from Timothy Noah at; a link to view this info is below.

My response to the author is as follows

I read your article in yesterday's Philadelphia Inquirer with much interest as I have spent much time recently trying to understand why average Americans are not more outraged at the redistribution of income that has resulted in the stagnation of their standard of living. Unfortunately, you did not present any substantial answers. Perhaps it is because you are asking the wrong people.

First, does a plutocracy exist in America today? Probably not yet as there are too many professions that still produce exorbitant salaries. Athletes, movie stars, rock stars, hedge fund managers, CEO's of multinational companies, reality show hosts, etc, there are thousands of people who are earning millions of dollars a year. As I would include an organizational aspect as part of the definition of plutocracy, I don't see one existing today nor do I see one existing in the near future.

That being said, I do believe that there are forces at work in America that actively work to keep influence and resources in the hands of the rich while offering just enough opportunity and reward for the middle class to keep them, as Tyler Cowen so aptly defines them, as threshold earners. But these forces are not big enough to direct all the money and all the influence as many people achieve enhanced economic status through the vagaries of emotion, fads and other superficial factors that can't be predicted or controlled. Who knew that American Idol would become what it is today? (Although, the recent Supreme Court decision allowing more money to flow into politics disturbs me and certainly increases the chance of a plutocracy emerging).

A possible answer as to why middle class Americans are not up in arms is that our belief in capitalism overrides our ability to make a connection between the problems of capitalism and the growing inequality of incomes. That is because capitalism is no longer an economic philosophy but is beginning to become a religion.

The rich, of course, believe 100% in capitalism as it has worked for them. They are the poster children for hard work, entrepreneurship, individualism, etc, all the positive attributes that are associated with capitalism at its best. And, not only did it work for these individuals, but it worked for America. We are a country that went from a second class world power which just barely recovered from a decade of economic depression to the only super power in the world; all in about 50 years.

Organizations like the Cato Institute and magazines like the American Interest are the priests and rabbis of the religion of capitalism so will not be able to offer any understanding of why people who are not benefiting from it are not more outraged. They undoubtedly believe that those who are not benefiting are just not working hard enough, or worse, they have fallen all the way down the rabbit hole and believe God does not love those people.

In the end, the plutocrats are winning because middle class Americans still believe that they can be rich. And, since enough "regular" people still achieve a lofty economic status, the middle class will continue to believe so, despite the fact that the chance of earning your way to this level is slim to none.

If you want to prove or disprove my assertion, it is easy enough. Ask middle America.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Best Times of Your Life

I recently watched the movie "Pirate Radio". If you haven't seen it yet, it is a light-hearted piece of entertainment, especially if you are either 50+ and can remember when rock n' roll was just beginning to invade our air waves, or if you are a younger rock music fan and you are curious about its origin in terms of radio broadcasts.

There is a scene towards the end of the movie which occurs after the radio rock DJ's are told that legislation has been passed in Great Britain making Pirate Radio illegal. (Considering all the talk today about an increasing government interference in our lives, it is interesting to realize how much more freedom we have today, at least in terms of access to music and entertainment, especially in light of the world wide web).

Anyway, the scene depicts a conversation between two of the main characters in which one comments to the other that he had a horrible thought a few months past and instead of suppressing it, he allowed it to stick in his mind and become a conscious realization. When asked what that thought was, he responded that it was the understanding that this was the best time of his life. The second character, a much younger man, responds that he thinks he will have better times in his future. The first character emits a short laugh, and says, "maybe, but I doubt it".

The meaning that I grasped was that the character was lamenting, not that he was having this spectacular time but that he knew once it came to an end, he would never have as great a time again. His life had peaked. And his conclusion that the younger man would never have a matching experience was based on the wisdom gained from the decades of life that he had already lived. He knew, or thought he knew, what awaited the young man and concluded that it would never match this Rock Radio phase of his life.

So the question that begs to be asked is, when was your best of times? High school? College? Your 30's? 40's?

How many of us would say that their current life phase is the best of times? How many (over 40 years old) would say that the best times are still to come?

I suspect that most people over 40 years old would label their glory days as a time in the past. They might admit that life in the present is good, but not great, but many would certainly consider life in the future as either not something to be thought of or as a time to fear. Our obsession with youth and avoidance of getting old or being old clearly defines most people's opinion of aging.

In essence then, many of us are saying that our lives have peaked. Considering that our population is aging, that the first of the baby boomers will be applying for Medicare this year as they turn 65 years old, is it any wonder that the United States is struggling with its identity? Is it a surprise that we see such a strong yearning for the past, that so many people are looking back for answers to our shared problems rather than forward to the future for resolutions? If a large percentage of the populace thinks it has peaked, then does that not mean that the country has peaked as well?

In my last blog I resolved to try to find the unique in the everyday. Twice in the past three days I stopped to look at the sunset. The magnificent colors, the sheer expanse of the sky where it approached the horizon, and the way the entire scene changed as the sun slowly dropped beyond sight, made me smile. To think that the process happens everyday, twice, when you consider the sunrise, certainly qualifies as both unique and everyday.

But more importantly, I look forward to the continued best times of my life. Yes, I may not be as spry in appreciating those events. I might have to walk through the more physical events rather than running. I may nod off as an evening progresses, perhaps even missing a portion of the night. But I remain hopeful nonetheless that the best times are happening now and are still to come. Perhaps because I have only recently decided that I am a writer, obviously not by profession as I have never been paid to write, but by avocation, and certainly by self-identity. Maybe I am lucky that it has taken so long for this realization to occur, so now I have the rest of my life to see where my writing will take me.

Perhaps then, what defines the best of times is not just what is happening in the present but what keeps us looking forward to life's journey. We believe today is the best of times because we look forward to the same or better in the future.

So again I ask; when was your best of times?

Saturday, January 1, 2011

A Special Day

Happy New Years!!

Again, too much time has passed since my last blog. But the perfect storm at my two jobs, extra deliveries and heavier newspapers in the morning job and extra shifts and incredibly busy days at my full time work produced barely enough time to complete the standard holiday routines let alone find the time to write. Still, as is always the case, the gifts were purchased and wrapped, the tree was chosen and decorated, the cards were sorted and mailed, and despite those nagging thoughts that everything wouldn't get done, the end of another holiday season approaches and nothing was neglected. Here's wishing that amid all the rush of the effort, you were able to take a step back and enjoy this special time.

Speaking of special, today is 1/1/11. Another one of those numerical oddities that occur very rarely in life. While we will also have 11/1/11 and 11/11/11 this year, the next date with just one numeral across the board after this year won't be for another 11 years. Think back to where you were 11 years ago, January 1, 2000 and how much has changed in that time. Perhaps a new job, new home, family addition?

Now imagine the changes to come in the next eleven years. Continued family growth or just the opposite, children leaving the nest. Maybe a new job or career; or retirement from your current work. Will your favorite TV show still be on air? Will your daily routine feature a new source for news, a new leisure activity or a new form of transportation?

My son is home from college for Christmas break. As it is a 6+ hour drive, we had ample time to talk about his first college semester. In the course of our discussion we touched on philosophy (one of his classes this past year). Among many topics was whether the penchant to reflect upon one's life is an innate trait or can be learned. To be honest, I was a bit shocked to think that there could be people who do not spend some time considering their life and its activities. My son posited that not only has he encountered such people but that some of them demonstrate much intelligence in other areas of life suggesting that the ability to reflect was separate from the ability to succeed academically. Let's hope that his classmates who appear non-reflective are guilty of youth only and will learn the wisdom of self examination.

Which brings me back to the special nature of today's date. New Years Day in general will often bring out our philosophical nature, which usually results in resolutions for the coming year. Of course, such a large percentage of these resolutions are broken. Perhaps one reason is that it is so hard to maintain that feeling of a new start or a new attitude that inspires these resolves. The days routines entrap us until we forget how the specialness of January 1st enhanced our reflections.

If that is even partly true, then consider this; 1/2/11 only happens once in your life. So does 1/3/11 and 1/4/11 and 1/5/11. We don't need special numerological events to consider each day unique, just the perspective to know that it is.

And so, my New Years Day resolution? To do the most simple and most difficult thing one can do; remember that each day only comes once in a lifetime and to look for the unique within the routine.