In Other(s) Words: Ethics 103 and Tribute to Dr. Martin Luther King

I remember it like it was an hour ago.

About 15 of us plebe undergrads sat and waited anxiously — in a good way — for Dr. Ralph Eubanks to gallop in for our weekly lesson. His classes felt more like a club than a required three-credit business class. His rhapsodic manner and love of learning was the draw and was one of the reasons students lined up early every year to be one of the lucky ones that got a spot in his smaller and limited series classes. This would be my 3rd class in his Ethics series. I was honored to be considered a bit of a mentee.

He grabbed a chair, flipped it around so that the chair back was in front, sat down, and offered a joyful, “Good evening, my Ethics ingénues. Let us become better today.”

Instead of a lecture, that night would be a dialogue. “If you could meet a person today or a historical figure that you consider being one who pursued an ethical code, who would you choose?”

By this point, I resembled the small business school’s version of the iconic Sweathog, Horshack. Dr. Eubanks told me once that my eyes always had that, “Ooooh Ooooh, Pick Me…Pick Me” look about them. He directed his happy gaze at me and said, “Why don’t we begin with you, our spirited Mr. Keyser?”

“If you could meet a person today or a historical figure that you consider being one who pursued an ethical code, who would you choose?” ~ Professor Ralph Eubanks

I asked if I could pick two. He replied, “Of course. I think New Math has its place here.” (his wit eclipsed only by his love of knowledge and his almost childlike gift in passing it on).

I responded that Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King were the two I would like to have known.

They each stood for something. They both died for it. One, MLK, a civil rights apostle from his earliest days. On the other hand, Robert Kennedy acquired his zeal for equality and social justice after being largely insulated from it during his privileged youth. RFK was not an early adopter of the social justice movement. In fact, he contributed to the “investigations” of MLK by allowing FBI wiretaps. But, unlike the rhetoricians of then and now, he let his conscience prevail. He changed. He evolved. He pushed both legally and morally against the toxic status quo so entirely hypocritical to the central vision of this democracy: Freedom.

MLK stayed true. He never wavered in his pursuit of the “Dream.” He knew full well that it was possible and more likely probable that he would not see it realized in his lifetime. But he was an “influencer” in the biggest way. No, not one who sought multitudes of Likes and followers as social media dopamine. He influenced thought, rationale, emotions, and stirred the better Angels in untold humans, black and white. If Dr. Eubanks (R.I.P.) were to ask me that question today, I would answer the same, but ask to add a third. Dr. King’s collaborator and civil rights giant in his own right, Senator John Lewis has become of the most influential thought leaders in my life for well more than a decade now. Prior to his own death in July of 2020, Lewis wrote in his new book, Carry On: Reflections for a New Generation, what he would say to MLK today.

“We’ve been remembering your example and listening to your words. We can still hear you. I hear you every day.” ~ John Lewis

“I would catch him up on this year 2020 especially and say, ‘Look at the progress we’ve made and look at the work we still have to do’ “ He went on to say, “We’ve been remembering your example and listening to your words. We can still hear you. I hear you every day.”

On the day of Dr. King’s assassination, Robert Kennedy spoke to a crowd in Indianapolis. Unscripted and without rehearsal, he said, “What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black…So I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that’s true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love–a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.”

“What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.” ~ Robert F. Kennedy

And from the man whose day this is — “True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” ~ Martin Luther King

Thank you, Dr. Martin Luther King. For your words of inspiration; for your works to improve humanity; for your tireless campaign for justice and civil rights; and for a legacy that I hope and pray is honored and continues to lead to a better society. I will gladly walk those miles with you and for you.

Sean.

“True peace is not merely the absence of tension; it is the presence of justice.” ~ Martin Luther King

The Cost of Un-Care

I was recently asked to contribute to a GoFundMe page to help someone with medical expenses from their recent COVID hospitalization. And I absolutely will.

That said, this doesn’t get talked about much — the COST of this mess.

I’m not even talking here about the macro effect on GDP, mental illness, loss of life, or long-term health impact (see below)…this is just the personal bank discussion.

It’s not enough that this country spends over twice the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) on healthcare as any other developed country. Add to that, our health outcomes are worse than ALL of them.

Summary: We spend way more. We get less for it. We are NOT healthier.

  • The U.S. spends more on health care, yet has the lowest life expectancy and highest suicide rates among the 11 “wealthiest” countries.*
  • The U.S. has the HIGHEST chronic disease burden and an obesity rate that is two times higher than the OECD average.*
  • Compared to developed countries, the U.S. has among the HIGHEST number of hospitalizations from PREVENTABLE causes and the HIGHEST rate of AVOIDABLE deaths.*
  • We see the doctor much less and we have fewer of them than any other country.*
Courtesy: Visual Capitalist

We have incredible potential, immense resources, and life-changing technology. But we aren’t using it well, and too many of those truly benefiting are known more by their ticker symbol than their overall impact on population health outcomes. The reality is, we have much work to do on the economics and inequities in healthcare. But, as bad as that is, we are losing lives. That cost can’t be replaced.

…people will wait 45 minutes at Chick-fil-A for 8 nuggets and a sweet tea that costs $8, but damned if they will wait for a harmless pinprick that is free and might save lives…including their own.

Back to GoFundMe.

The average hospitalization for a COVID admission in North Carolina (no, not one of those “Oh, something else was wrong with them and they called it COVID in the hospital” myths) is around $45,000. That’s for those that DO NOT require “complex” care such as ventilation or a stay in ICU. It can go up to $235,000.00 for those needing ICU, ventilation, and more complex care.** For a while, insurance companies were waiving co-pays and deductibles. How kind. Trust me, it will come back around in rates one day. Take a look at that again. Some will be hit for a 1/4MM? Many are uninsured or underinsured. They could spend their life paying it off…if they even consider it.

Now, the average cost for a vaccine is…$00.00.

Of course, that doesn’t account for the inconvenience costs of waiting in line or missing a Fantasy Football party. It’s amazing, people will wait 45 minutes at Chick-fil-A for 8 nuggets and a sweet tea that costs $8, but damned if they will wait for a harmless pinprick that is free and might save lives…including their own.

This isn’t an attempt to pick a fight or criticize the My Body, My Right Freedom movement. You have your own truth and convictions. Please, just take some time to look at all of the perspectives and the costs and ask, “Is it worth it?”. Pun intended.

We can do better. We must. Thanks for at least thinking about it.

*Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development
** Source: Fair Health, FH Total Treatment Cost COVID-19 benchmarks as cited in Becker’s Hospital Review, Oct 2021

Sean’s Journal: Epilogue by Proxy

Disbelief turns to quiet resignation. Frustration gives way to anger. Anger at those things inanimate, those things pathogenic, and those things entirely human. Anger turns to grief. Grief turns to a numbing of mind and heart.

Yesterday’s grief was too much. It carries on this early morning. Yet another loss. So very tragic. Needless. Not that there is ever a “needed” loss. When it is those you love and care about…those you’ve shared space and conversation with…the tears flow more and the questions pelt like a relentless hail storm.

And during that awful spell, there is the insatiable need by a few to hijack the moment as an open door for their own philosophical gain. A revolting and, dare I say, evil attempt to make agenda of another life lost.

In one such case, a much less personal one, a beautiful and iconic actress was the convenient target of their machination. For those who have such a cynical view of a global quest to treat and recover from a pandemic that they must offer spurious claims that a booster killed this dear woman, is your shame so infinitesimal that you knowingly and intentionally dishonor the person? Is your desperate search for something empirical to boost (pun intended) your conspiratorial virtual reality that you will accept a debunked and moronically crafted claim just to make you feel somehow justified and get a few “Amens” from your posse of doomsayers?

Worse yet, some of it ironically comes from those who put more chemicals and abusive substances in their body—recreational and otherwise—that it would make a chemist change careers and turn to sorcery because of its virtuous appeal. As Val Kilmer’s portrayal as Doc Holiday in Tombstone uttered, “My hypocrisy knows no bounds.”

Just for a moment, as hard as it might be, honor those lost…those who are the victims. There is a place for the debate. The events and losses can and should spur dialogue and understanding. But, for God’s sake (or whoever’s sake you might be in deference to), allow for expressions of Rest.In.Peace prior to your Rant.In.Propaganda.

Lessons from the “Happiest People on Earth” and My Resolve

They are a people of the Amazon. Simple. Ancient by our standards. Of their own.

Reading, and later listening to Anthropologist and Linguist, Dan Everett, I considered some of this tribe’s cultural staples as possible guiding principles for my own life as this new year begins.

The Pirahã (pronounced Pee-da-HAN) tribe is an incredibly happy lot. The evidence from scholars and anthropologists is less the kind of academic journals filled with Evidential Probability (EP), Causal Inference, and more. No, they observed and measured how much time they spent smiling and laughing. Whether correlated or causal to their contentment, these features may just have a place for me.

They don’t count – No, I’m not saying they don’t matter. They, quite literally, don’t count. They have no sense of numeracy. As Mr. Everett points out, “They are cognitively capable of counting; they simply choose not to.” The closest they come to numbers are the linguistic notions of some, more, and many.

For Me: What if my days had less attention on numbers — how many of my goals were achieved, how many miles I rode on my bike, how many pounds I shed, how much my portfolio grew (or lost), how many Likes or Loves a post received, or any other how many or how much of that matters stuff?

The immediacy of Experience — They live in the present. Their language lacks mythology. They require empirical evidence to guide their conclusions. There is no focus on what happened before or what might happen later. They don’t speak in abstracts. They require evidence based on personal experience (yours or their own) for every claim made.

“After I had worked with them for over twenty-five years, one night a group of Pirahã men, sipping coffee with me in the evening, asked out of the blue, “Hey Dan, do Americans die?” I answered them in the affirmative and hoped that no one would seek empirical verification.” ― Daniel L. Everett, Don’t Sleep, There Are Snakes: Life and Language in the Amazonian Jungle

For Me: While I believe strongly in the power of story and history, and while I entirely believe in vision, dreaming, and planning, I do feel I should live MUCH MORE in the present. To be more aware of now. To concentrate on who and what is in front of me and what THAT person and what THAT moment means.

No Coercion and the Absence of Anger or Resentment — The Pirahã don’t have language or actions that suggest resentment or anger. Perhaps it is due to a complete lack of social hierarchy and that all members of the tribe are considered equal. If something negative happens, they fix it and move on. They don’t tell anyone else what to do. They live their own life.

For Me: I spent too much time over the last 5 years resenting what I felt (and still feel) was the most morally destructive, socially decaying era since the days prior to Equal Rights legislation. I have seethed with anger at a respiratory tract-infecting virus that has no discrimination in its attack and spread. As angry as I was, and remain, at this microbe, I resented the seeming ignorance of those who, instead of listening to the best information and science that might protect so many (including themselves), listened to conspiracy theorists or talking heads with a political agenda. Even worse, they listened to no one and just gambled on immortality and parroted the nescient, “My body; my right” dogma.

I didn’t like the sense of judgment I felt. It was unnatural for me. “Who am I to say what they must do?” It’s rhetorical: I’m nobody. But I still…felt.

What I can do is share my convictions and wonder if they matter. And I can listen to theirs and learn. I will remain vehemently committed to creating a safer population through vaccine advocacy; I will be a boisterous protagonist for social justice, reducing healthcare and economic disparities, and peace; I will continue to urge versus argue…debate versus “Damn it”…advocate over adversary…less professorial and more the knowledge-hungry plebe. I hope to channel my emotions into positive dialogue for change. I don’t want to coerce; I want to converse.

It is funny that as I seek to seriously reduce attention to time and what’s left and what was, and I am writing about it as a New Year post and fresh resolution for the next iteration of me. Chronological irony at its best.

Happy Time. May there be more…and many :).

My Jeep is Me

A speedy downhill finish, ducking under a fractured limb of Water Oak, a full tug on the rear brake as I approach the trailhead where I am parked at its entrance. The rear tire locks and the bike slides across a mixture of damp leaves, sand, and gravel and into the front bumper of my Jeep.

I catch my breath and laugh. No one hears. No one is near. My outdoor companion of twenty-one years greets me with a big red smile. I can almost see his headlights roll as if to say, “Whatever, Hot Dog.”

Pulling the water bottle from its holder on the frame, I climb onto the battered and scarred hood of “Rangler” (short for Red Wrangler…clever, eh?). I thought of how many places this old Jeep has been with me. My Jeep and me. As I reflected, the moment turned from nostalgic to metaphorical. My Jeep…is me.

Despite its age, still has a great sense of adventure. Happiest when off the beaten path and far away from the highway. Prefers the open air to closed-in spaces. Runs a little hot now and then and needs hydration and a rest for the tempering. A little harder to see through the cracks in the glass.

An empty space where the radio once was. Ripped right out and stolen. Never replaced. A reminder of when my song was lost and a nudge to listen to the sounds of the waves, the woods, the wind. None of the locks are working. No need. Trusting nature and assuming the best in others. Manual five-speed stick. Old and quirky original clutch. Getting where he’s going requires push and pull, shifting and timing. Things no longer run automatically :-).

He carries the reminders of times past and things cared about. Tickets, notes, maps, stickers, pebbles and sand, weather-worn cards, Tybee’s collar and his chewed-up Frisbee, a glove compartment with keys to locks unknown or forgotten, flip flops from beaches gone by. Mementos bought, found, dragged in, or fallen. Pelted and dented by a hail storm in ’17. No insurance claim — not one to worry much about cosmetics. Scratched and torn from the journeys. A little rust here and there, but not enough to get him down. The ghost of Tybee still sitting shotgun and waiting for me to invite him to run alongside.

Plenty of signs of wear; no signs of slowing down.

As is, no warranty

I Don’t Wanna Be Right

The call began without a “Hello, it’s been too long, “ or “Happy New Year, how have you been?”

No, my ultra-conservative and life-long Republican friend simply greeted me with,

“How’s it feel to be right?”

He was referring to my long held mistrust (for 25+ years) of and complete lack of belief in the moral or ethical character of my Nation’s elected leader in the highest office. He offered a nostalgic homily of how he felt this guy was to be the “savior” (yes, that word was actually used) of the conservative movement. My response…

“Other than his own histrionic spiels, what EVER made you think he represented any form of conservative principle, AND, what qualities of a ‘savior’ did you see?”

He shifted the conversation to our times playing baseball and how he feels 80’s music is the best ever.

I couldn’t let it go.

I don’t know that I’m right at all. I know how I felt then and now about the person and his capacity to lead from a place of humanity or policy or principle. I never wanted our elected leader to fail. I take no satisfaction in watching a necessary and long-overdue exit. I simply breathe better and hope those stepping in will have the necessary character and resilience to lead a country whose diversity can and should coexist and heal from this political apartheid. I do have a competitive streak; those who know me well know that I love to compete. But winning always meant someone was losing. And, for whatever reason, I don’t like that as much. Yes, I was actually one of those parents who supported “participation trophies.” I hated little kids feeling like they lost the joy of play when others gloated in their victory. I wonder if that was the beginning of my move to left-of-center :).

“You see, I don’t want to be ‘right’ about this or about him.”

I love this country. I so love the theory of democracy. And like all theories, they are meant to be proven. In these last months, and I would suggest that over the last several years, the theories of both a Republic and a Democracy have gone through social scientific method rigor and have been failing. And, for some…for many… the dogmas of autocracy and socialism and other forms have been uttered as preference through actions and rhetoric. The reality, at least to me, is that conservatives do not prefer nor do they want to entertain the thought of an autocracy. They are just led by one who sees that as a sanctioned and destined position and have been more afraid of him than tethered to principle. And very few liberals want socialism. There are simply those whose concept of public ownership (a Republic) fights with our other treasured feature of capitalism. It is a worthy tension. And, if dialogue is good and hearts are less about self than about the whole, then we can collectively be a better society—through democracy.

Whew! I just wore my own damn self out with all of that. Crazy what happens with the ink flows and the paper is blank and the heart and the mind are going through a contemplative Ninja Bullet. I digress.

What has happened over the late days of the last year and during these first days of the new year has made me sick. Truly sick. In this last year we have seen the ravages of a pandemic; we’ve seen social injustice at its most transparent (and necessary) exposure; we have seen movements celebrated or excoriated based on their fit with one’s own sense of morality or value systems; we’ve seen the muted prejudices and bigotry of a large (sadly) base flamed and encouraged in rhetoric or inaction; and we’ve seen division like never before along fictitious lines with titles that have lost a bit (or a lot) of their original franchises of Democrat or Republican.

And with all of that, we are still here. We will grow from this if we are capable of listening and talking and learning from sources other than Twitter or talking heads with personal or ad-based agendas. Our system of government and our purer intentions for society over self may be truly resurrected. Our media will remain biased and, as long as we know that, we will seek many sources for what is our truth and our better path. We will love our families and our friends. We will defend against evil—after trying to understand and face what “evil” means (within and outside). We will hopefully find that prospering as a country and as individuals does not have to come at the sacrifice of decency, integrity, honesty, and humanity. And there will be wine. And music — including the 80’s.

Yes, I am advocating for the proverbial, and elusive, Win-Win.

Sean

The Thing About Fog and Musings on the Nature of Beauty

You see, or, perhaps not, the Golden Gate Bridge is still just as brilliant even when obscured by the perpetual fog that squats over the strait in summer. Or is it?

If beauty and brilliance is there, but left blurred or altogether eclipsed by the upwelling of busy-ness and what ultimately matters little, is the beauty really there if not seen?

The vaporous mass of 2020 has held transformational change, a horde of emotions, division, life milestones, and more. It has left so much beauty obscured. Then again, other exquisite things have opened and become treasured.

The year began with a collision of personal loss of what was most dear paralleled by the slow and steady swarm of microscopic invaders whose indiscriminate and random attacks led to an overthrow of the human condition. Further and forever tainted by ideological division, conspiracy theories, social injustices, character vacuums at a time when we needed moral clarity the most, and a lack of dialogue.

The wounds remain fresh and unexpectedly raw. Their sting revealed in the late hours of the night and at first wake; in the artifacts and pictures and memories that cannot and should not be erased. Sometimes in dreams. Signs of healing are there, too. Stitches come in the form of new little lives, new love, the return of friendships seemingly lost or diluted, and inspiring ventures and adventures. The emotional rehab reveals new strengths and capabilities. Families and loved ones found intimacy and the proverbial “quality time” driven by an unwelcome quarantine whose ironic effect was to bring us…closer.

I will not try and forget 2020. I will work to embrace its lessons. I pray that its fury and toxic layer be appreciated but not welcome for a return. I will hope strongly that some things disappear forever; and I hope others will return and allow me to hold close their beauty and never let the fog steal its most permanent place.

History in the Faking

I celebrated Indigenous Peoples Day with a post and a thanks to some I have been honored to know and receive teaching from. I added commentary that I feel it is more appropriate to honor these people and continue the decades long re-think of whether or not Christopher Columbus’s “discovery” is really something to pin a National Holiday around.

One response was, “Hmmmm, revisionist history.” Well, yes, it is.

Unlike conspiracy theories — of which the “discovery” of America might be one of the great originals–our understanding of history can and should be revised based on new knowledge. To think that it isn’t used for personal and political agendas would be naive. However, most historians are looking for truth, such that it can be found.

This well-dressed Genoese Parrot Head, sailing on behalf of Spain, was off to find a new route to places not yet seen by THEM and to find treasures. Fair enough. He and his crew kind of bumbled onto some of what is now called the “Americas.” Folks were there. Millions. Living a life with families and commerce and pursuit of growth.

But noooooooo.

The claims of discovery have long since been debunked. Rightfully so. The facts covering the brutality and inhumanity on behalf of progress–totally driven by greed–were muted for so long. Until recent decades. Why? Because those facts, like so many others, mess with the myth of who we are or where we came from or what we value about our history.

Visiting and setting up residence in a new place isn’t bad. Most of our country is based on valuing immigrants (until the last few years). But to say it is YOURS because YOU haven’t seen it before has NOTHING to due with “discovery.” It’s more like this.

Seanus Greedus (mountain biking and coming across small village–let’s call it Waxhaw): I’ve never seen this place. I like it. I think I’ll call it Seanus Township.

Indigenous Person: Yo. We’ve actually been here a long time and we call it Waxhaw.

Seanus Greedus: You mean this isn’t Japan?

Indigenous Person: No. That’s a little East.

Seanus Greedus: Well, I don’t see anyone else wearing Lucky Brand 110 Jeans, Vans sneakers, and drinking Ka’Chava shakes.

Indigenous Person: Nope, don’t see that either. But you’re welcome to join us for a shot of moonshine.

Seanus Greedus: No, I am claiming this place on behalf of the Land of Lucky Brand Vans Sneakers Wearing Ka’Chava Drinkers.

Indigenous Person: You can’t do that. We already live here and it’s called Waxhaw.

Seanus Greedus: Well then, we will cut off your head, enslave all of your brothers, take all your women away to star in our show, The Bachelorette, and make your children slaves or keep the nice ones for Chick-fil-a servers.

Indigenous Person: That seems pretty extreme. Can’t we just have that drink and talk about it?

Seanus Greedus: Okay, but only if you name a National Holiday after me.

Note: To those anywhere on the planet whose history has been dismissed, exaggerated, erased, distorted, and otherwise stolen for the sake of painting a different picture in order to make the selected generations to come feel a false sense of pride and wild frontier bravado, a closer look reveals your beauty and a heritage we should all celebrate. What was stolen, or acquired, or, in some cases gratefully landed upon, can be shared. And honored with a bit of humility and truth.

Just a thought.

Sean

“Life, Liberty, and uuuhhh, what’s the last word?”

I was leaving the pristine mountains of the Pisgah National Forest after 3 exhilarating mountain bike rides. After a perfect weekend with friends I stayed in Asheville one more day in order to get a few more miles of crazy exciting trails and to say Thank You to nature and her wonder.

As I left Bent Creek and headed for the interstate taking me back into Asheville, I was struck by the number of State Trooper vehicles speeding past me in both directions. I counted 17. Then, the colors and the banners and the lawn chairs and the people in ball caps and camouflage pants and shirts started to appear. American flags and confederate flags and MAGA hats were everywhere. With each mile there were more and more and more. It was like the lining of the boulevard for a parade. I was reminded that is was the first day of the RNC and perhaps POTUS was going to have a motorcade detour to this wonderful region of North Carolina. I prayed for an exit.

The crowds grew thicker by the mile. Folks with smiles and some with scowls waving their posters and banners. It looked like the 4th of July, but had more the feel of a Slender Man convention.

I had to stop for gas. I slowed and pulled in to a station along Brevard Highway, my 3 bikes loaded on my orange Subaru filled with bags and wine coolers, a guitar, and all manner of what is required to sustain life in the woods or with nutty friends at an Airbnb.

I had no sooner opened my driver-side door when a friendly-enough guy walked up and reached out to hand me a bumper sticker and a pamphlet. The organization: The Silent Majority. He wore jeans and work boots. His hands leathery and dirty from what I am certain is an honest job and one that adds value. His voice gritty from the combination of a lifetime of smoking and a couple of hours yelling at orange Subarus.

This is a close transcript of the conversation that ensued between me (ME) and the Silent Majority Guy (TSMGUY).

ME:
Hi. I’ll take the pamphlet, but keep the number sticker for someone else.

TSMGUY:
Why don’t you want the sticker? You’re not one of those Obama-loving socialists, are you?

ME:
Well, I am not a socialist and I was and am a fan of President Obama.

TSMGUY:
Well, seems to us that if you liked that muslim guy then you must be a socialist.

ME:
Another two-parter here. First of all, President Obama is not a muslim, although that would not change my support of him in the least as a man or as a politician. And, once again, I am not a socialist; I am a capitalist with a conscience.

And once again, my new friend, I am not a socialist; I am a capitalist with a conscience.

Roadside chat Me and TSMGUY

TSMGUY:
What the hell does that mean? Capitalist…communist…same thing.

ME (looking very confused):
Do you have any idea what you just said?

TSMGUY (walking away to next target):
You have a good day, man. Make America Great Again.

ME:
You do the same. Truer words never spoken. But not with this guy.

I offered a peace sign as he slowly jogged away. He returned a hand gesture of his own, minus one finger.

All I could do was invoke the southern phrase that is usually mixed with a touch of well-intended concern and disingenuous affection, “Bless his heart.”

I Choose Light this Day

This morning’s news was dark. More and more illness and death from a pandemic. More protests from non-violent and peace-seeking people bewildered and oppressed during their lifetime and representing the generations before them, blended with others who stand with and for them. More violent protests and violent response from those perhaps misguided, misjudged, and misled — who am I to say? I am not them, the protesters or the law enforcers. Angry weather breaking and entering the southern coast. And the stories of the rich and powerful having their way; or losing their way.

And then, fifth in line, the news of the celebration of the life of John Lewis and his final crossing of the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Alabama. A metaphorical tapestry masterpiece. A bridge. A casket. A flag. A body of honor on its way to rest in the Nation’s capital, but first crossing the very place it was beaten, just under the name of a man who was a grand dragon of the Ku Klax Klan. A sweltering summer day in the south where the images of toil and suffering are not as distant as some would like to believe, but where the hope and promise John Lewis labored for still shines as brightly as the July sun.

It would be easy to resign the day to everything that is dark. Easy to let cynicism overcome idealism in these days and in these moments. Easy to blame or subscribe to conspiracy theories in lieu of truth because the truth is less animate. Easy to just turn it off and pivot to social media to escape with dances and pictures of cats and memes of all kinds that serve as teflon for the hard reality around us.

Today, I choose to focus on story #5. I choose to remember words that have the potential to unite humanity. A person who led with conviction and empathy and kindness, but did so with a strong will and a relentless quest of justice. I will bring my book with me to the woods and read some of my favorite passages from Walking With The Wind. I’ll be glad the rest of this day that despite the dark that so anxiously seeks to consume and divide and crush the spirit of good, we are…I am…seeking and appreciating what is beautiful in this life. My family. My friends. My love. My pursuits and passions. Nature. My opportunity, privilege, and burden to contribute to a better society and a better evolution of self.

“You are a light. You are the light. Never let anyone – any person or any force – dampen, dim or diminish your light. Study the path of others to make your way easier and more abundant.” ~ John Lewis