Tuesday, August 29, 2006

Cookie Jars and Fat Cats

The story below is fiction. The general idea behind this short story and the story of August 27th is that the world reveals itself to us in ways that we often are not ready to receive until many years later. When the time arrives for perception it often arrives without notice, when the time is correct. How much is attributed to what has occurred earlier in our lives is open to wonder for us all.

In this specific case a Grandmother delivers a layperson’s simple explanation of God, destiny and reincarnation to her grandson. The young boy of 9 is caught up in his own existence that centers on baseball. The boy is actively playing out the prophecy of the grandmother regarding molds and destiny, though neither recognizes the fact. The story is written around my memory of a childhood love affair with baseball and my paternal Grandmother who was in fact named Boots. The remainder is imagination.

I stared intently at the magazine photo of Mickey Mantle. He had just hit another home run and was circling the bases in the photo, wearing his famous number 7 on his back. I wondered why he could hit the ball farther left handed than right handed. It concerned me a lot since I was a right handed hitter. I could always change to left but since I was already nine, I had considerable time invested in hitting righty.
Grandma Boots had her back to me. She was staring at the cookies in the oven. Her big blue apron was knotted at the back in a large bow that seemed larger than Yogi Berra’s rear end. Grandma Boots was skinny anyway, so it made the bow look bigger than it would have on somebody else’s fatter grandma.
The sun filtered through the screen door. A fat cat whose name I couldn’t remember was asleep on the hardwood floor in front of the door. Flies flew in and out of the rips in the screen as if they were outfitted with special ‘holes in the screen’ radar. I figured they went back out cause it was hot as hell in Boot’s kitchen. That’s what my mom called Grandmother Boots, just plain ol’ Boots. I think it was because she wore those odd black grandma boots and nobody really wore them anymore except for grandmas.
Mom left me there so she could go to the doctor to have my little sister. Grandma Boots seemed to like the arrangement better than me. My big brother Pete got to stay with my Uncle Johnny so I felt like a baby loser. She didn’t let me go to Johnny’s cause she said he drank too much beer to watch a little boy. They were probably playing baseball right now and laughing at my sorry butt baking cookies in Boot’s old hot kitchen filled with lazy cats.
The photo in the magazine also showed Tiger Stadium and a big giant arrow was drawn from home plate to the upper deck of right field to show how far Mick had hit the ball against the Tigers. At the point of the arrow was a big grinning bald man holding up the very baseball Mick had just whacked up there to him.
Boots laid a plate of cookies down on the other side of the photo. The rim of the plate partially obscured the happy bald man, but I could still see his grinning face as if he meant to tell me that baseball was far more important than the cookies.
Boots voice cut through my imagining. “Repeat, [which is what everyone called me cause they said I looked just like my older brother Pete] you are gonna turn into a baseball someday. I’m gonna go into your room in the morning to wake you and there aint gonna be nothing but a round baseball staring back up at me.”
That sounded kinda stupid to me so I just looked at her. “If I had a cookie mold that looked like a baseball I would have baked all cookie baseballs just for you, but all I have are molds of animals,” she went on. Sure enough on the plate in front of me were assortments of peanut butter cookies formed into bears, monkeys, elephants and a few things I didn’t exactly recognize right off.
“See having cookie molds makes me feel a little bit like the Lord,” Grandma Boots said. She plopped down in the chair beside me, her wrinkled lips held a cigarette that teetered up and down as she talked. If I squinted my eyes just right it looked a lot like a batter pounding home plate with his bat before a pitch. Anyway, that seemed like the second stupid thing she had said in just a minute and a half.
“I don’t get it Grandma, what’s animal cookies got to do with the Lord,” I asked her.
“Well, see Repeat, the Lord has a mold in mind for each of us. And the oven is like life itself. It bakes us into what we’re finally gonna be, but the Lord knew all along, just like I knew which cookies were gonna turn out to be elephants.” The cigarette danced around until she had to take it out, and that’s when I knew she was just getting warmed up, like a pitcher in the bullpen.
“See the Lord gives us all the ingredients to make good people out of ourselves and if we combine it all correctly and go through life, like being in an oven, we turn into cookies worth putting in the Lord’s cookie jar. But if we don’t use the ingredients right, then the cookies aren’t good. So the Lord has to throw them away.”
It seemed like now she had said three stupid things in a row and was working on a new record of some kind.
“And when the bad cookies get thrown away, then they go from the garbage to the dump and go back to nature so that the Lord can use the ingredients that come from them to make better cookies the next time, see?”
She lit her cigarette and set back grinning at me like she could teach Sunday School anytime she felt like it. I picked up a monkey cookie.
I wished my Mom would go on and have my little sister, or better yet I wished I was in the upper deck at Tiger Stadium and the Mick would hit me one. The bald man kept grinning up at me. The cat was circling around Boots legs and making cat sounds.
Grandma Boots took off her apron and set it on the top of the oven. She was humming something, but I don’t know what. I figured maybe the heat was getting to her.

Sunday, August 27, 2006

Indians and Funerals


My uncle Johnny made his way into the boat with the stranger. My older brother Jerry squinted into the sun and waved goodbye. With his other hand he steadied himself by leaning into my shoulder. He was bracing himself against the rocking created by the waves of the departing boat occupied by the overweight sweating stranger and our skinny uncle Johnny.

The fishing boat grew smaller and smaller as we stood and stared into the sun. I shooed a team of three flies away from my eyes and sat down on one of the boat’s vinyl padded seats. The Texas sun bore in on my forehead and its glint off of the water caused me to blink my eyes like a small boy awakening from sleep. I was only 10 years old, but the consequences of running out of gas in the middle of a giant lake were not lost on me. Jerry acted fully confident about our predicament. I supposed it was the full experience of his 13 years that brought him such confidence.

My brother hauled the ski rope up out of the water and predicted our uncle would be back with the gas shortly. I looked out at the tree lined shore at least a half mile away and imagined there were Indians hiding behind the trees. Just like in the western movies I imagined they were intent on scalping us both unless my uncle Johnny returned just in the nick of time. I wondered if they would begin to beat their war drums like in the movies, and then paddle out to us in a canoe yelping unintelligible Indian chants.

That would really upset my mom. I thought about a funeral for a little 10 year old boy scalped by Indians on the lake, while his uncle went for gas to power the ski boat. The fact that it was 1961 was a small flaw in my western movie fantasy. Like a slow thinking movie director forgetting to use time period objects in a movie I had imagined my way into an impossibility.

“I sure hope they come back soon,” I muttered across the top of my imaginary little boy casket. Jerry looked at me with that look of his that meant he was thinking about what I said but had no intention of saying something as pitifully soothing as “Don’t worry they will.” What in fact came out of his mouth was more of that philosophical stuff he was always attributing to our dad. A lot of times I wasn’t sure if Jerry got it all correct since I was more involved in imagining funerals and hitting imaginary home runs at Yankee Stadium than in my dad’s philosophies.

“Dad says the idea of hoping for things is bullshit.” I looked back at him thinking to say something smartass just because I was pretty sure dad didn’t say it that way. Mom didn’t allow that kind of talk in front of us. I didn’t say anything though. I knew he didn’t like being interrupted when he was repeating dad philosophy. He even tried to bow his head down like dad did when he was looking at us from his full standing height. “He told me hope is an unconscious compromise with expected failure.” I had no idea what he was talking about really, but of course he carried on like a sage of the east. Maybe it was because he just got a tight burr haircut the day before and fancied himself a Buddhist wise man or something. “He says having hope is just another way of saying we aren’t really sure about something. Sort of like just saying maybe something will work out alright, but we aint so sure.”

“Well, what’s wrong with wanting something good to happen,” I asked?

“There ain’t nothing wrong with it you retard, it’s just that dad is saying something else is better.” I didn’t imagine a real Buddhist preacher would call me a retard so he was already losing a little ground with me. I looked out across the water and squinted way into the distance. I didn’t care what Mr. Budhha had to say, I was hoping they came back soon.

“Dad says we should learn to expect, not hope. He means that expecting something is going to cause it to happen and just hoping for it aint as good really. That’s what he means when he says that hope is an unconscious compromise with expected failure, except I told you a simpler way to understand it cause you’re a little retard.”

I looked at him and he smiled. He liked being a Buddha and all but he never got tired of being my big brother either. I figured his smile meant he was just kiddin about the retard thing. “What do you think about that hope business then, he asked?”

“I hope you drown before uncle Johnny gets back, I said.”

“Well, dad says that aint good enough, you gotta expect for me to drown if you want it to happen, otherwise you’re just whistling Dixie up Ol' River Hope.”

I told him to eat me.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Bald Noggin

You wanna see my bald noggin did u say? OK...see ya later, I'm gone for the weekend, tryin to get some sun on my white scalp.....
Thursday, August 24, 2006

Wild Bill

It’s late on a Wednesday night and I am thinking about prison. No, I don’t want to go and no one is threatening me with it. As the old saying goes “I’m clean.” But I’m thinking about how it must be to spend many years there.

It’s unknown to me how or why memories choose their visitation time. The memory of an adventurous evening of chasing a bank robber paid a visit to me this evening. The memory took residence in my mind as I was sitting by the pool at the end of today’s work. I was sitting at the same deck table I was sitting at 12 years ago when my phone rang. It was the police station telling me I was being summoned to track an escapee from our jail. He was freshly gone, crawling below an observation window and bolting out a door an officer left unclosed.

The man’s name was William Thayer. He liked to be called “Wild Bill”, his self administered nickname. Our Chief of Police was not a happy man that evening. Wild Bill was on the loose.

A seven man team tracked him to a poverty stricken residential area of Fort Worth. Actually it wasn’t that difficult since we knew William had a heroin addiction and that he would be headed for his nearest source. Where exactly he was bound was given to us by his younger brother (also in our jail) who rolled over on him for the promise of a reduced charge.

I was destined to play a major role in this small drama. I want to tell you the whole story someday. It is truly a made for TV story. However my focus tonight is prison, so I will give you a quick cliff notes and save the details for later.

Thayer had stolen a car moments after escaping. We found the car. Thayer was not in the area. So I was left to provide undercover surveillance on the car while the marked police units circled a larger perimeter. Wild Bill finally showed up around 3am, hitching a ride with another man that let him out next to the car. I followed him through residential streets long enough to positively ID him, then called in the marked units. This resulted in a high speed auto pursuit through the streets, including some off road dust raising antics worthy of Starsky and Hutch. Wild Bill abandoned the vehicle while leaving it in gear (a common bad guy practice) and took off on foot. While the trailing pursuit car secured the unmanned vehicle, I stopped mine and went into foot pursuit.

Wild Bill and I had quite a race. I didn’t know at the time if he was armed, but I was ‘guns on’ and I was screaming at him to stop or he would meet God shortly. I used language that might have embarrassed the actors on Deadwood. Since he was endangering an entire neighborhood with his vehicle, the Chief had given us authority over the radio to kill him earlier in the pursuit. My memory is forever etched with the words of Wild Bill as he turned and yelled back during our foot race, “go ahead, shoot me”.

I’m fast enough that I caught Mr. Bad Boy on foot. It took 4 blocks and the scaling of 3 chain link fences and a wild and somewhat frantic physical showdown. Mr. Thayer lost. With handcuffs bound tightly he was returned to our jail. He had a long list of prior convictions in California and his worst nightmare was going back to prison. He told me later in interviews he would have preferred I kill him and that it had in fact been his goal.

And tonight 12 years later I feel sadness for William. I don’t really know where it is coming from, but it is a heavy and infiltrating sadness. Maybe its because its 105 degrees every day in DFW this August, just like that summer in 1994.

Maybe it’s because, like William, I can’t imagine a fate worse that spending the center years of my life imprisoned. I found his Department of Corrections records tonight. His projected release is 2029. (See below)

The power to take away another man’s freedom is a power that can create reflection. Some would argue that he took his own freedom.

I have come to a point in the dialogue where it’s important for me to wonder out loud if we have thought this through. Is this the deepest we can think? Is this the most humanitarian and effective way we can deal with the William Thayers of the world.

To have my freedom taken away is a terrifying prospect to me. I know that it terrified William as well. He preferred to die that day in 1994. He was 31 years old that dark morning when my handcuffs sealed his fate.

I don’t know the answer to my own questions.

But it’s why I am not sleeping tonight. In 1994 I threatened to kill William. I almost did as he clung to the top of a fence he was climbing. I had the barrel of my handgun centered on his skull and he paused in mid climb and stood completely still encouraging and daring me at the same time. I holstered and continued to chase him. I’m glad I did.

But tonight, I’m sad for William and I can’t sleep. I’m thinking about living in a cell until 2029.

Maybe tomorrow’s memories will wash this one away.

And maybe someday we will know how to not take a persons freedom from them. Maybe. I pray for them and for us.

Texas Department of Criminal Justice

SID Number:

05220381

TDCJ Number:

00736954

Name:

THAYER,WILLIAM JAMES

Race:

W

Sex:

M

Age:

43

Maximum Sentence Date:

2029-06-18

Current Facility:

MICHAEL

Projected Release Date:

2029-06-18

Parole Eligibility Date:

2000-01-10

Friday, August 18, 2006

Sevens Bald Head

Well, I don't actually have a bald head pic, but here is a photo sent to me by my T&F buddy Rob. It was taken at the track meet in Charlotte. I fixed it in Photoshop by taking away my hair. And yep, that looks like me right now alright. I just handed off the baton in a relay.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Stupid and Funny (at the same time)

Yesterday I took Peanut Queen’s advice.

I shaved my head.

Sure did. It’s kina shiny and because I have a round face I look somewhat like the beloved round yellow smiley face. Or Jack from the Jack in the box commercials.

However, I actually like it. I think I look really stud, in a smiley face kind of way.

I think brown eyed girl might disagree. We had a conversation last night that went like this:

BEG: Where have you been?

7: I was at 24 hour fitness working out.

BEG: Anything new going on there?

7: Nope, but I think my new shaved haircut must look really good.

BEG: Oh?

7: Yep, it seemed like everyone was staring at me. I noticed a lot of people just keep looking and looking at me. Some of the women even smiled at me.

BEG: Why would they stare at you do you think?

7: Maybe my handsome muscles and I had that new Nike shirt on too. I looked in the mirrors and thought I really looked like a stud.

BEG Do you mean you looked different to yourself that just a day ago?

7: Yea.

BEG: That’s stupid.

7: Well, but I just noticed everyone kinda staring at me. What else could it be?

BEG: Maybe because your face is very tan and you have a dark complexion to begin with?

7: I’ve always looked like that.

BEG: I know but you haven’t always had a white scalp to contrast with it. It’s sort of like an upside down chocolate sundae.

7: Does it look stupid?

BEG: Well, yes sweetie it looks really stupid and funny.

7: Oh.

The End.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Mianus ignored

Dudes, I am so bummed. All this talk today about the designation of three new planets...and yet not a single mention of Mianus. Bummed I tell ya.....having Mianus ignored cuts deep!
Tuesday, August 15, 2006

The Inalterable

Looking in a mirror we see what we have seen so many times before. The number of days we have experienced this disconcerting fact quite obviously depends on the amount of days we are old.

I say disconcerting because so many times we sit in a stupor, or what might be more softly described as philosophical befuddlement, and wonder why do we have to be who we are. Looking in that mirror we see the same person, day after day. So, we begin to wonder….how did this happen? Why am I Seven in Texas, and not Chapek in India?

Why did I get these parents? Why was I born into poverty rather than wealth? What is it like to be Patricia in Seattle? Why did I get crooked teeth and black hair and she got perfect teeth and a big nose? And when we are finished with these wanderings we look again into the mirror and, damn it, there is that same person still looking back at us.

A songwriter captured this feeling with the phrase “No matter how fast I run, I can never seem to get away from me.”

We do this. We run and run and fake this way, then that way. We buy different clothes and we swear we will change this or that. Still, looking back out of the mirror is that same old you. Every time.

Some visualize the demon too long and place a gun to their head. Some choose the escape of drugs. Some slip into mental decline and others cope nicely with this smothering constraint. And in the middle of all this we ask over and over…why me? Why am I me?

I don’t know the answer, and I know that is a big surprise to you. I do think wrapped inside this mystery lie explanations for our behavior. It seems to me that the first order of business is to accept the fact that this is presently inalterable. Maybe the future holds some secret where we can choose to be a new individual each day? Maybe. But it does sound confusing, doesn’t it?

Inherent in knowing that this fact is inalterable comes the twin and painful fact that we must now do the best with whom we are. Again this is likely not a philosophical nugget or thought unknown to you before now.

But we do this dance of confusion with ourselves anyway. We get up and look in the mirror and decide what there is to not like, change, or wish to be different. Why was my father not a millionaire like David’s? The dance with confusion and the inalterable goes on day after day. Week after week. Year after year.

I am reflecting a simple yet inalterable fact. Unless the Creator decides to issue a memo we will not unravel this anytime soon. We are simply stuck with the image in the mirror and the thoughts that reflect our discomfort with these stone facts.

In our discomfort, we grant a tattoo artist the right to push ink into our backs illustrating God knows what. Maybe a snake coiled around a something or other. We decorate ourselves with piercing jewelry. We succumb to alcohol and drugs in an attempt to numb the reality of the recurring image in the mirror. We are cruel to others because we are not them. I could go on with these examples a long while and you could do so as well.

I’ve worked my way to making the obvious more obvious and now I am reluctant to make such a simplistic statement that we should all just decide to love ourselves because we can't change the facts of who we are.

We all already know this don’t we?

And so I guess I am left with another intractable truth.

It is far easier to teach the Truth than it is to practice it.

Maybe tomorrow the image looking back will understand something finer.

Monday, August 14, 2006

Dell Keyboard Dyslexia

I have recentyl notiecd that my Dell keybaord has typing dyslexia. It keps typing letters of wodrs out of order. Anyone esle have this problem wiht Dell keyboards?
Saturday, August 12, 2006

Billy Graham Parkway

Last week our taxi driver in Charlotte drove a part of our route to the hotel on Billy Graham Parkway. The name Billy Graham brings back many memories for me. I was raised in a very strict Baptist environment and Mr. Graham was considered a first cousin of God in the deep south of Texas.

In the airport at Charlotte while waiting on our return flight I took a lap around the airport magazine/book store. Staring at me from the cover of the most recent Newsweek was non other than Mr. Graham himself. I bought a copy and quickly read the interview with Graham.

A particular thought that was attributed to Mr. Graham has remained with me for a few days now. He made the comment that all of his life he has been training himself and others to prepare for death, but preparing for the elder years of life is not always taught as well. That’s a paraphrase, but accurate in context I think. Graham’s reference point for his comment regarding our preparation for death is obviously the preaching of the gospel and its embedded message of salvation. I can close my eyes and begin reciting the gospel. I have heard Graham’s powerful and remarkable version many times, delivered in his prime to thousands of listeners. I have heard other evangelistic preacher’s version many more times. One of my favorite phrases is that my mother has been to church more than Billy Graham. And if my mother was going you can bet I was taken with her until I was at least 17 years old. Now many years have passed in my life and I still have respect for Mr. Graham.

I know this has become an elaborate table setting, so I will move to some distinguishable point or observation.

I was saddened by this statement from Graham, because it exposes what in my mind can most charitably be called ‘the overlooking of something’. I don’t presume to call Mr. Graham to task. That is a risky and tricky business.

I do think the articulation of his reality that his own preparation for death is superior to his preparation for life in his elder years might give us all the desire to look at this statement in depth.

I’m not necessarily going to tackle it in any depth here. I am writing a book as I think I told you, but I do not intend to write it here. Further, I figure you have your own ideas about these things and I am interested in hearing your ideas.

It seems to me that this statement from Graham, seemingly innocuous or even slightly maudlin on his part reveals a weakness in the historic teaching of the gospel.

I believe that God intends for us, and that Jesus taught us on his behalf, that life and heaven are here and now. More specifically, I believe the Kingdom of Heaven can be found inside of us each. This is a different idea than Graham preaches. The standard gospel that we are here to serve in some degree of pain and suffering while we earn the reward of heaven promised upon our death doesn’t register with my own personal search and wanderings through the New Testament. I wish the gospel preachers, and they are very influential, would work more with the idea that heaven can be found today and is not a piece of pie spinning in our future sky. Maybe I wish for too much.

I believe every day can be fashioned as hell. Similarly each day we can look inside for heaven on earth. And this thinking requires some preparation for living don’t you see?

Preparation that Mr. Graham acknowledges is lacking in his elder years.

Perhaps I misunderstood the quote. Maybe I have spent the past few days thinking about this without understanding what he actually meant to imply.

What has occurred in my head in the interim has been an interesting process in any case. And again if I wrote all of it down, you would have to take my post on vacation with you; a sorry proposition at best.

No way to summarize my wandering. I guess its somewhat like a mountain hiker with Alzheimer’s. Lots of ground covered, I just can’t remember it all.

I do know this. Preparing to be alive is a primer for preparing to die. I’m not sure we can skip the first chapters of the textbook. I think this might be a version of God denying.

The floor is open.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Reflections and Fragments

Reflecting on my time in Charlotte
The races rattle around in my memory as if they are ghosts of a time past
A fragmented glimpse of a finish line or a spectator smiling and waving
Friends and handshakes
A moment of laughter
Periods of reflection and friendship
Staring down the track before the start, knowing show time had arrived
Shared meals and smiles
Fatigue and welcomed showers
A brown eyed girl with video camera at the ready
Heat, sweat and exhaustion moving athletes, officials and spectators perilously near dehydration.
The starter’s commands and the crack of the starter’s pistol
Medals hung from ribbons that dangled around smiling faces
Ascending the medal platform barely suppressing a smile
Hung heads and brave smiles of the others
Lightning storms and mass crowd retreat to the safety of a parking garage
Distance runners struggling in suffocating heat
Staggering displays of speed and athleticism
Brightly colored racing uniforms
Crowds of athletes anxiously waiting for the official posting of times and results
Igloo coolers of Gatorade and water too quickly emptied
Crowded tents; people seeking protection from the sun and hell-like heat
Rude and inconsiderate race officials
False starts
Clean starts
Valiantly chasing my coach, the World Record holder in my two finals races
Handing the baton (with a gigantic lead) to the same speed king described above in the 4x100 relay and watching him sail to gold
My name being called throughout a prelim race by legendary announcer Peter Taylor
Friends in the stands calling my name after a race
Smile meeting smile
Challenges survived
Goals achieved
Success granted to some
Success denied to many
A cooling breeze too quickly gone
Hotter than hell heat too long persistent
Long cool showers in the hotel
Sweat soaked, wet racing clothes
Sleepless nights as competition loomed the next day
Dinner, smiles and laughs with friends
A remarkable restaurant in downtown Charlotte
The sad face of a very tired Brown Eyed Girl whose feelings I callously hurt
The returning smile of Brown Eyed Girl after I apologized, something I learned from my female blog friends
Coming back to all of you and your tequila bottles and swimsuits
I hope you had as good time as I did
Let’s do it again, except for hurting feelings

In one of those odd twists that happens sometimes, I got both a laugh and a little disappointed when I saw my name in a USA Track and Field press release during the weekend. The story was about my coach and friend, the legendary Bill Collins. In the article you will see that they describe me in a less than flattering way. This, despite the fact that I just proved I was the second fastest 200 meter runner my age in the US, losing only to the man that has run this distance faster that anyone our age in the history of the danged world! (Which is a long time). Yes, the runner-up mentioned in the story is none other than your blog friend Seven. Oh well, better to be a tardy 2nd than a distant 3rd.

If you would like to see the race described in the press release, I have placed the video here.

Below is a photo taken during the race somewhere around the 130 meter mark of the 200 meter race. World Record holder Bill Collins leads and teammate 7 chases from behind (same uniform) and would eventually earn the silver medal. Everyone in the race is between the ages of 55 and 59.

In the 100 meters I earned the bronze finishing behind Bill and the current World Champion Marion McCoy.

Teaming up with Bill and Houston Elite teammates Mark 'White Lightning' Hastings and Charles Allie, I managed to come home with gold in the 4x100. So there you have it…a trifecta, Gold, Silver and Bronze.

In a closing note to all the above I would like to thank Lynilu. She wished the spirit of Mercury to enter my body. And Lynilu, I want you to know that I actually affirmed your image while waiting in the blocks for the start of the 200 meter final. If you watch the video you might see Mr. Mercury himself slip inside. What a wonderful affirmation.

I owe you one.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Finishing With Dignity

Monday, August 7
Charlotte, North Carolina

It was hot and humid in Charlotte and the track meet officials, athletes and spectators had more to cope with than any of us might have expected. A highlight for me was the opportunity to meet my blog reader and commenter Rob, a fellow masters track athlete. I know you are all familiar with Rob’s cogent and spirited comments here. Rob is a 300 meter hurdler and sprint relay participant. Late on Sunday I caught a glimpse of Rob happily wearing a gold medal around his neck.

I shared another moment with Rob that I am sure he will remember. As I was preparing for the 100 meter finals I overheard a woman in the warm-up area ask a fellow competitor how she had fared in her race. In a chipper and light hearted tone she responded with the quotable phrase “I finished with dignity.” The value of this phrase caught my attention and as I turned to find the owner of the voice my eyes caught Rob’s eyes and we both smiled in recognition of the deeper meaning embedded in this woman’s response. I paused for a moment from my preparation to jot the phrase down in the small notebook I keep in my backpack.

I would like to transfer that idea into a wider platform for thought here. I like this phrase because it is imbued with all the flavorings of hope that can help glue the ragged edges of our lives. It carries an optimistic message for continuing our work through, despite the challenges presented to our living.

In Charlotte I watched my friend Wayne Bennett exemplify the idea behind this phrase. He arrived in North Carolina with a strained hip muscle that prevented his best performance. Wayne has proven over the years that he is one of the world’s best age group sprinters and I know that it was difficult for him to perform below his ability. Ignoring that fact, he raced and competed capably without excuse, while taking time to congratulate everyone around him on their own success. On the last day when the injury had reduced him to non-running status he still managed to smile, congratulate others and “finish with dignity.”

If we transfer this woman’s phrase and Wayne’s living example to our larger world we can find a valuable lesson for all of our lives. Each of us has surely faced adversity. Seven and the Brown-Eyed Girl have had our number dialed on many occasions.

Our hurdles might be overcoming addictions or illness. Maybe our family is not the family we would have chosen if we had been allowed to choose. All of us have made poor choices and come to regret things we have said or actions we have taken. We have all been offensive or have been offended.

Still, somewhere in this lady’s remarkable phrase lies hope. We all continue to own the opportunity of the next minute, hour and day. Utilizing that opportunity it matters not what we have left in our wake. It matter most that we take full advantage of the opportunity to transform ourselves into someone we and others love and respect more. This is a marvelous saving grace we have been granted. We can choose to run to the finish in a new way. No matter our past we can still choose to “finish with dignity.”

Embrace the paradox and choose wisely.

Pleasure to meet you Mr. Rob, and a pleasure to know you Mr. Wayne.

**********************************************

Postscript: When I got home late this afternoon I found several tequila botles in the trash and some discarded swim suits behind the pool's fountain walls. Anybody know what that's about? Allsion sez she doesn't know???

Wednesday, August 02, 2006
Allison Helps Uncle Seven

A Neck of Red

I am the son of a West Texas cotton farmer. My father didn’t continue farming beyond my seventh birthday, but lasting impressions of the flat plains of deep west Texas decorated with endless rows of cotton and the simple wisdoms of the people remain with me. I am an urban person today, sitting in the middle of the Dallas-Fort Worth urban sprawl one night removed from my 55th birthday.

I am told I was delivered in the middle of a blinding sand storm in a tiny farm house in the summer of 1951 amid the absolute nightmare of a wind driven hell, sand pounding against the walls. I am immersed now in the disquieting task of having to think about how long it has been since that night.

I have a lasting memory of a cotton farming grandfather in overalls. And yes he truly had a red neck. He also had a red face, and when he removed his straw hat at the end of a day of plowing, his forehead was a brilliant white. The location of his hat had created a vivid demarcation of skin color across his face, a lower face of red brown color and a forehead of pale white. It didn’t seem to be an issue for anyone, only a stern sign post of a life spent working the fields in hot and unforgiving dusty tractor toil during a Texas summer.

My grandfather told me about the things he knew the most about. We would talk on his porch, the endless rows of cotton stretching out in front of us for what appeared to be an eternity in my small imagination. He told me the earth gives back what is given to it. He would tell me how important the seeds were, and that the quality of the seed and their proper planting were vital to the yield. He would spit tobacco at a nearby can, sometimes with aiming success but just as often not, and then pick up cotton seeds and show me how to distinguish the strong from the weak. In his mind I was destined to be a two-tone faced cotton farmer as well.

Its deep night in Texas in 2006 and I sit here paralleling that long ago conversation with a personal spiritual conviction. If we imagine that our mind is like the soil and every thought we hold and every direction and result we imagine for ourselves is the seed, then it may appear to us to be a remarkable parallel to my grandfather’s lessons. The mind you see has no more choice than the west Texas soil than to return to us what we ask it to germinate. This is spiritual law for me. Just as the soil receives seed and begins to work upon the germination of the physical manifestation inherent in the seed, so mind responds in the same fashion. It has no choice as it is only on rent to our soul and labors as it is instructed, never asking questions in attempts to sort out our ‘soul thinking’ for us. It does as it is told. And so it is our soul that must give instruction to the mind.

The quality of the seed is what matters. We can plant negativity and yes, negativity will be our crop. The converse reality is self-apparent.

If our life condition is not controlled by our thoughts, the natural question that follows is what then is in control? Some will immediately argue that our condition is controlled by circumstance only. However is it not logical to believe that circumstances are an effect? I think so. Every thing we see and experience is an effect, including what we refer to as circumstances. If this premise is accepted we can conclude that all circumstance has a cause. This is the easiest way I have of explaining what I believe. All things we see and experience have a cause generated by mind and no circumstance can hold causal power. I believe all cause springs from the fertile ground of mind, and what we believe we bring to pass as effect. This also intellectually dismisses concepts of evil and the existence of the anti-God figure we refer to as satan. The guilt inducing evangelist will spoil for a fight with me on this one since dismissing the presence of satan simultaneously dismisses their convenient tool of assigning guilt to those they wish to hold control and power over. They will forever lose this argument with my logical mind. We can choose evil to plant or we can choose the good. This is the challenge granted by the Creator in giving us free will. We are one with the mind of God. We can choose the opposite, but it is our own choosing and not the work of a satan. If it were so, every evil could be gently dismissed and every law and rule ever written cast aside. Why do we choose not to do this? It is because we all inherently understand the power of choice. And yet we simultaneously grant harbor to thoughts of an existent satanic force. This confusion can be easily jettisoned by understanding no satan exists, it is only our free will running in an opposite direction of the power of good.

Does this mean that a bad effect that has befallen you was consciously thought out? Perhaps, but it’s likely not the actual case. It is possible that the negative thoughts have slipped past the filter and the mind has operated on the wayward negative seed planted. Mind has no power of discernment. It only operates as it is told. The soul discerns, not the mind. If this were not true, when we die the brain would ascend rather than the soul. A forensic tech can assure you that dead bodies retain their brain, it is merely a processing tool no longer needed.

This is a large and daunting challenge in my life. Yet, having seen the effect of my causal positive thinking I trudge on with the work. I guess this is akin to plowing fields all day and the echo of my grandfather’s words that a “farmer’s work is never complete.”

Postscript

I will be gone for a week. I’m racing in a track meet against the best in the world. I am pleased to the point of pride to believe that my work ethic allows me the right to say I belong beside them. I need now to go plant seeds of success; my version of a 55th birthday present.

Stay well and safe while I am gone. God’s Peace and positive seeds to each one of you.