Saturday, July 28, 2007

White Dogs and Hard Work

On a pitch dark morning at 4am this past Tuesday, I saw a white dog across the street. Even though it was dark, the dog, approximately the size of a collie, seemed to glow with an eerie iridescence. I had opened the door to retrieve the morning newspaper. The white dog, and it was white from stem to stern without blemish, stopped and stared at me. The dog watched me walk to the end of my sidewalk adjacent to the street where the newspaper lay at my feet. He trotted a few steps down the street, almost prancing, but suddenly stopped and turned completely around to look at me again. I stared back, mesmerized by the glowing brilliance of this dog's coat, a dog I had never seen in my neighborhood. I turned after a few seconds, believing I had won the stare down contest and walked half way up my walk. I stopped there and looked again. The dog, almost as if being cued by a movie director, stopped and turned completely around again to stare at me. Then with a quick about face the white dog began moving away. Down the street it went, disappearing from sight around a corner.
This of course means nothing to you. It was a signal for me. I have much work to do in the near term, work that sends me in new directions. Enough said about spooky/divine signals. Take your pick of the choices of divine or spooky, or define it as you see fit, after all you are all writers.

I have been trying to establish a better pattern of writing consistently here. I have been unsuccessful due to a tight training and work schedule that leaves me little time to visit your blogs, let alone write effectively. I'm off to Maine at the end of this week for a National Championship track meet and then I will be in Italy for 3 weeks of September to compete in the World Championship. I am going to be missing from this blog address indefinitely.
I do want to leave you with one important thought. I want to reinforce the thought with one of my most cherished photographs.

This is a meaningless photograph for you, so let me explain why I cherish it and maybe you will understand.
The scene is the end of a 200 meter race at last year's National Championships in Charlotte NC. It is the period immediately after the race. The period where sprinters are recovering their breathing and allowing the finality of the results to infiltrate their consciousness.
The man on the left is Bill Collins, the winner of the race. He is also my friend, teammate and coach. He owns more World Records than I can keep up with, well past 20 at my last knowing. The reason he excels is due not only to talent, but an enormous work ethic and the strong will to drive himself in exhausting workouts. His success is the mark of true effort combined with enormous talent.
The man on the right is me. I finished second and at that moment was struggling to believe I had actually done so on this important stage. The conversation taking place I want to keep private.
It is the conversation of two friends. Two warriors that pursued a purpose which demanded training, pain, confidence and hope. We had pursued it to a profitable conclusion on an unbearably hot summer day in August of 2006. Bill had set yet another World Record in this race and meet.
I cherish the photo because it locks me into the understanding that our individual achievements can only be measured by our collective success. We can find the meaning of our achievement only when we find meaning in our love for one another and the successes of one another. Without each of the components we remain incomplete.
Alone we are simply alone, running in a race of one. United in love for one another we find a reason to run, and even exist in the first place. This photograph holds that meaning for me. Maybe you find that meaning in the photographs of your children and other loved ones. Maybe you find it in a memory of love and shared achievements. I know you understand what I am saying. It's a truth we all know, but too often forget.

I'll be gone, most likely for a long while. I have seen the white dog.
You have my email in the meantime, and I open it regularly just like any other O-C disorder computer jockey.

Now I Get It.....maybe

God's Peace to Each of You.
Seven
Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Out Foxed

I turned on Fox Cable News this morning at 7:30 am as I started work. Yep, I work at home and sometimes the television at my work station keeps me company. I quit driving the freeways to work several years ago. Yes, I am gloating. It's one of the best decisions I ever made because I timed it almost perfectly with the development of e-communications. The early going was tough, but in the past handful of years the email, internet and other communications have become almost flawless. It's nice to be semi-removed from racing my fellow rats.
As I was saying about FNC, as soon as it came on they were talking about some girl named Lindsay Lohan that had been arrested for drunk driving and having cocaine in her pocket. That's bad. I would imagine over the breadth of the US there were thousands of DWI arrests that night. I once made 5 DWI arrests in one night working alone. So, I was wondering what's so important about this girl, among all the thousands of DWI arrests that occurred.
I turned off the TV cuz I wasn't interested.
I turned it on again at around 9am. They were talking about the arrest of Lindsay Lohan. A famous psychiatrist was opining.
I turned off the TV cuz I wasn't interested.
I turned it on again at around 11am. They were talking about the arrest of Lindsay Lohan. The arresting police officer was being interviewed. Don't they know the department has to pay him overtime for that?
I turned off the TV cuz I wasn't interested.
I turned it on again at around 1pm. They were talking about the arrest of Lindsay Lohan. Greta Van Susteren was being interviewed about interviewing others about Lindsay Lohan.

I turned off the TV cuz I wasn't interested.
I turned it on again at around 3pm. They were talking about the arrest of Lindsay Lohan. They were showing photos of this girl and apparently this is not the first of her trouble.
I turned off the TV cuz I wasn't interested.
I turned it on again at around 5pm near the end of my work. They were talking about the arrest of Lindsay Lohan. #(@**$*@($)(!@#$(%&*^^@Dirty Words in Large Bunches!
Who the hell is Lindsay Lohan anydamnway? Has she made some great contribution to mankind that I missed! Do Fox's sponsors know they are talking all damn day about this girl, whoever she is?
Hello, Planet Earth? Any one sane still left there? Can your hear me? Earth? Sanity? Are you there?

Monday, July 23, 2007

Super Hero?

The last post was about celebrity and a comment from Paul reminded me of something I have been reluctant to talk about. He commented that very often we treat Jesus as a celebrity. Often we declare our love and devotion on bumper stickers or through the latest ‘Christian music’ lyrics where the celebration is set to song.

Between you and me the bumper stickers that declare “I Love Jesus” are especially insulting to me. As I said, I have been reluctant to discuss the subject in a public venue because it floats perilously close to being judgmental. But I also consider myself a spiritual individual and although not a scholar, I am well read in the Christian faith and I am intimately familiar with the New Testament and its gospel. In that way I think my opinion matters.

When we ride about with bumper stickers that declare ‘I love Jesus’, do we make a soft pathway for celebrating the person of Jesus, rather than engaging in the seriously hard work of incorporating the teachings and divine message of Jesus into our lives? Have we reduced the realities of Jesus’ life and teachings to the same level of celebrity worship that seems rampant in our culture? Did Jesus bring his message to help us develop our soul, or did he preach in order to become famous and celebrated?

I believe to be celebrated is a natural development for those that take their existence and life skills to a new level, and in that respect no quarrel can be raised with being celebrated for the correct reasons. I also believe Jesus and the message he carried from the Creator are intended to be instructions for developing our soul. The celebration of Jesus as a celebrity to be sung about and placed on bumper stickers without the hard work of processing and developing the message inside ourselves is the equivalent of a vehicle with faulty GPS moving farther and farther from its intended destination.

I didn’t have to look very far on the Internet to find bumper stickers with outrageous slogans. And naturally I found a plethora of bumper stickers and slogans that attempt to couple Jesus or Christianity with an individuals business or service. I find that especially offensive. How offensive is this?
I also found a sticker depicting Jesus as a super hero, a form of reducing the Christian message to the form of, oh say, Spiderman?

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Celebrity

I know from genealogical research that I have a 3x great grandfather, a gent by the name of John W. McHorse that fought in the Texas War of Independence. He’s buried in the Texas State Cemetery about 3 headstones from Stephen F. Austin. I didn’t do this research, it’s not my thing. It was carefully produced by my law school professor first cousin. Witnesses say she has not been seen without a book in her hand since she was 5 years old. A friend that loves Texas history declared that this fact about my Texas ancestry makes me a virtual celebrity. Ummm….I don’t think so, but I do want to talk a little about celebrity. Before I start I should tell you it is also written in several texts that my long ago grandfather John McHorse had a best friend who was widely known by the nickname “Horse Thief Shorty.” From what I understand the name was earned through merit. Also, poor Grandpa John, a Baptist minister by trade, was booted right out of the Baptist church for what was vaguely referred to as “un-Christian conduct.” He married the granddaughter of President William Henry Harrison in 1890, but she divorced him in 1896, the divorce seeming to be related to the “un-Christian conduct.” Apparently I inherited his penchant for rebellion and self-direction.

Celebrity, I assume, is a derivative of the word celebrated. Celebrating people is a good thing if the celebrities have accomplished things that elevate our society. That is my definition of what celebrity should be.

Is the idea of ‘celebrity’ out of control? Do you know a celebrity personally?

I want to tell you 2 stories about celebrity that might best illustrate the points I want to make. If I fail to make any points then you have lost some valuable minutes you will never get back, but that happens all the time anyway. Right?

I coached select baseball teams for several years. Baseball is a lifelong passion of mine. I had many outstanding young players. As it turns out one of my students, a lad named Hunter Pence, has become the center fielder for the Houston Astros this year. As of today he is leading the National League in hitting and is considered a leading candidate for Rookie of the Year. This has resulted in instant fame for Hunter in Houston and around the knowledgeable baseball world. Recently the Astros played the Rangers here in the DFW area and BEG and I had a courtesy (gift) seat directly behind home plate. Hunter’s mom told us that Hunter is unable to go out in public in Houston. He is besieged by autograph seekers and a line begins to form as soon as he is recognized. When he finally has to walk away from the line of people that want his signature, some will actually be angry and say unkind things to him. He has had to change his cell phone number several times in the past 2 months. Young female fans in Houston carry big signs to the ballpark asking if Hunter will marry them. In high school the girl fans of our team treated Hunter like any other guy on the field. There’s more, but you get the point. My memories of Hunter are of a very hard worker that dedicated himself to the game, but I also remember a 13 year old boy with braces and a goofy smile. I remember him at 17, growing past 6 foot seemingly in front of my eyes, still owning the same goofy manner and smile he owned at 13. Today he is famous and rich at 24 years old. He is also hounded night and day by celebrity seekers.

This past Tuesday I was talking with Jon Drummond on the track during my workout. For those not knowledgeable about track and field, Jon is a former elite sprinter that won gold in the Sydney Olympics on the USA 4x100 relay team and has a sterling track resume beyond Olympics competitions. Today he is the coach of the currently presumed ‘World’s Fastest Human’ Tyson Gay, a fact that is garnering Jon a lot of national attention. He is also the founder of the Jon Drummond Achievement Foundation targeting the inner city children of Philadelphia for assistance.

On Tuesday Jon was telling me about the infamous incident in the Sydney Olympics after the USA team had won gold in the 4x100 relay. The USA team was celebrating the victory in a way many felt was too vigorous. Anyone that knows Jon understands he is anything but understated, yet they need also to understand that he was born with spina bifida and told he would never walk. I would say winning a gold medal in the sprints in the Olympic Games when you were told you would never walk constitutes grounds for celebration. For the other 3 athletes, let’s just ask ourselves if we won an Olympic gold medal would we be happy? The coverage declared that the US should not be so boisterous, and the athletes should understand they were supposed to win. Excuse me? American athletes that achieve the highest level are supposed to understand they should not be happy? They didn’t exactly break out guns and run around the track shooting people. They merely carried a US flag around the track and posed for photographs for the crowd. The American governing track authorities declared that the athletes appeared to be ‘over-happy.’ Is that a word? If so does it make any sense? National media such as Good Morning America picked up on the ‘over-happy’ theme and publicly wrung its hands about the sadness of the unlovable Americans. As we know, at ABC everything is America’s fault, don’t you dare be one bit happy about the successes of your country!

I am reminded of the Italian film maker that won an Academy Award and went absolutely berserk, running off the stage and into the audience, shouting in Italian and jumping about like a madman. He was widely embraced as a wonderful, engaging and lovable soul. Four hard-working U.S. Athletes exhibiting far more reserved behavior are characterized as ‘over-happy’; meaning please remember to remain restrained in the face of your accomplishments. It’s only endearing if you are a bizarre behaving, short skinny Italian film maker?

The obvious point to my writing here is that we, along with a celebrity focused media, too often create something that is devoid of reality when we obsess about celebrities. We build prisons for them and then scowl if they do not conform to our invented image of what they are supposed to be. This is a bizarre fashion of thinking that we might actually own them. If we own them we can control them, and if we can control them we might become like them?

What I know for certain is that Hunter simply loves playing baseball. He has made it his life’s work. I also know he is entirely human, the same kid I have known all these years. He sleeps, he breathes, he feels and I have seen him at his most human. He deserves to be treated as you would treat your son, brother or friend. Anything else is a false reality created by our own imaginations.

Jon is a man that is gregarious and full of life. That is who he is. He has also created a foundation for the enrichment of the inner city Philadelphia child, a testament that being over-happy in life can perhaps be a purely positive thing, no matter your country of origin?

Unlike my 3x grandfather's friend, 'Horse Thief Shorty’, maybe we should quit taking and start giving. Maybe instead of attempting to wrap ourselves around the lives of celebrities, stealing their freedom to be as they are, what we should do is look inside our own lives for an original source of inspiration? That, you see, is what will actually make us worthy of being celebrated.

Saturday, July 07, 2007

"Nuts and Neurotics Holiday"

Last night a couples friend came to our house for dinner and a movie. We watched 'The Good Shepherd' which I recommend, especially if viewed in my high quality home theater. I can even pump in the smell of popcorn if you like that sort of thing. The best thing about a home theater is you can pause a movie so someone can go pee or if they have a question, and God knows you women are full of questions. Last night I was given an official pause signal by BEG. What happened after that is my wife asking the other wife, "Don't you just love that dress she's wearing"? Please, that should not be an official pause. I will have to develop a penalty for such pause transgressions.
Speaking of being anal......
The male part of the visiting couple is a psychologist that conducts group sessions with folks that have extra problems with, well, whatever they are having trouble with. He calls them his merry band of nuts and neurotics, which doesn't seem very nice, but after all he is the doc. During dinner I asked him if the two of them had a nice Fourth of July. Yes, I am capable of inane and plodding conversation. He answered that nuts and neurotics don't recognize any holidays. Once you are officially a nut and neurotic there are no days off. This was his way of saying he was on call and got called.
This led to a sleepless night for me. I stayed up worrying about nuts and neurotics and the fact that there is no time off for holidays. It doesn't seem right to me. Since today is officially my day, being the seventh day of the seventh month of the seventh year, I decree all July 7th days henceforth to be an official "Nuts and Neurotics Holiday."
There you are, take the day off. You deserve it. If you need me I'll be in the pool all day. McCain and I have a lot of resting up to do.
Friday, July 06, 2007

Living in Hope....err.....Wonderland


The count on presidential pardons/commutations shows Senor Bimbo Eruption leading George by 396 to 113. If it was a football game we would not be able to watch for the lop-sidedness of it all.

It didn’t stop former Master Pardoner Prez Bill from saying this Scooter Libby commutation from George was outrageous, creating open mouths of astonishment to the crazy conservatives that think for themselves without Bill and Hillary’s help.

Then, naturally, Hillary jumped into the steaming pile of hypocrisy with both feet kicking, declaring the Bush team thinks it is above the law. I think we are all waiting for her to give back the White House items she stole when she left after her first two terms; the items that the Bush team waived aside not wanting to make a fuss.

This silly charade should provide plenty of ammo for Obama, Letterman and Leno.

By the way, did you know that the most famous Clinton pardon of all, Marc Rich, was supported by and argued for before the Master Pardoner by none other than Scooter Libby? If I put it in a novel, you wouldn't believe it. What's next for the Dem frontrunners? Maybe a $1,200 dollar haircut for a man that runs on the concept of 2 Americas, one very rich and one very poor, a problem that vexes him to no end? Well, for starters, if Mr. Edwards is serious, he could get a $15 haircut like the rest of us and give the $1,185 balance to a homeless man me.
Don't hold your breath.