Your Independence Day

When the American Revolutionaries gathered to declare their Independence from Great Britain, it was really just the beginning of a hard fought war to actually achieve that goal. It was not until the Treaty of Paris, signed on September 3, 1783 that this freedom was secured.

It is because of this that one might find it a good day for personal reflection. One to seek, discover, and declare those things in life we want to declare our own independence from.

Is there is an unhealthy relationship in your life you know it’s time to be free of? Maybe, there is a task or project that hangs over you. One you need to either complete or walk away from. Or, a habit or addiction that is time to break free of. Then, there is freedom from debt or financial freedom. Freedom from having to worry. All of us have something we wish we could be free of.

Perhaps, this is a good day to declare your independence from something. Sit down, grab a paper and pen, date it, write it out, and sign your name. Tack it up in a prominent place so that you are forced to remember this day — your independence day.

Freedom from anything that takes away value from our lives is, like those brave revolutionaries discovered, worth fighting for. And, stating definitively what you are fighting for is a reminder of what makes the time, effort, blood, tears, wins, losses, and every thing else it takes worth it.

Your free will donation of any amount helps to support a full-time independent writer. Thanks for reading!

Things I Learned In 2013

With the close of the year, here is a not nearly complete list of the things I learned this past year:

  • If you decide to do something, you can do anything. All you need is to get past that comma.

  • The first part of your life is spent finding out who you want to be. The second part of your life is spent finding out who you really are.

  • You do not discover the future. You create it with the actions you take today.

  • The fanciness of your process only reveals your resistance to the dirtiness of the work.

  • If you find yourself unusually productive in one area of life, ask yourself what tasks you are avoiding in the others.

  • "Work, without love, is slavery." — Mother Teresa

  • The secret to making kids that travel well is to start them traveling young and keep them doing so.

  • Schlag is a Viennese term for homemade whipped cream that is seeing a certain renaissance as of late (in order to differentiate it from the canned stuff).

  • We don’t buy things, we buy into things.

  • One should strive to use all things until their usefulness is no more.

  • I’m not sure I will ever be as emotionally fulfilled by digital technology as I am by a good pen and a nice blank page of paper. Nor will it hold, for me, the same feeling of possibility.

  • Chindōgu is the Japanese art of inventing ingenious everyday gadgets that seem like a solution to a particular problem but cause so many new problems it is effectively useless.

  • So much of modern tech is beginning to feel like Chindōgu to me.

  • Sometimes, you have to come up with the completely crazy idea that could never work to get to the slightly less crazy one that will.

  • It’s worse than we could ever imagine.

  • One of the most dangerous ideas in a free society is one in which we believe that rights are granted, not guaranteed.

  • Fight fear, with facts.

  • “Fear is just excitement without breath.” –Fritz Perls

  • Most of what we call truth is merely consensus.

  • Unlike other trees whose roots are deep and thick, California Coastal Redwoods, some of the tallest of trees, are thin and wide. They stand tall by binding their roots with others near and far.

  • The first approximation of others is ourselves.

  • How much better “how to” posts/sites would be if they led with “what for”.

  • "Why?" would be good as well.

  • The GORUCK Challenge taught me more about myself in 13 hours than I learned this entire year. Especially the first item in this post.

We don’t buy things…

We buy into things. What things? All things. Even the things we don’t buy but get for free.
For instance, let’s say you buy a shirt. How many times will you wash that shirt in the time you own it? How much water and soap and electricity will that cost? How much added labor will you expend to fold it and put it away?
Furthermore, we buy into the idea of that shirt. That that shirt will serve us. That it will keep us warm. That it will serve the need that we have. That without that particular shirt that need will be unfulfilled.
And, when it no longer served you, did you give it away? Did you take it out of the drawer? Did you drive it to a thrift store? Did you hand it to a friend? Tear it up into rags? How much time did that take?
Perhaps you put it in the garbage. Do you hire a garbage company or does the city handle that through your taxes?
The moment that shirt entered your life you bought into that shirt. You paid for it in a myriad of ways far beyond it’s actual value.
Ownership of anything is a commitment to that thing and it has a cost — a direct personal cost — beyond the cost of the thing.
The harder question to answer is this: Was it worth it?

Like Buttons

This piece was originally published in the now discontinued Read & Trust Newsletter.
There is a universal sign of acknowledgement that is, in my experience, common only to African-American males. I’ve often wondered if anyone outside of our community even notices it. It happens quickly, almost imperceptably unless you are specifically looking for it or in-the-know. Yet, no matter where I go in this great nation, when it is gestured to another Brother, it is returned in kind. I’m not even sure I can describe it well, but I will try.
It is sort of a reverse head nod. Where the chin is lifted up swiftly and returned. I like to call it The Wassup. When I’m walking down the street, and another Black male is coming the other direction, our eyes meet and The Wassup is gestured as we pass. When I walk into a room and I see another Black man, especially if we are the only ones, we exchange the sign. What’s interesting is that this is true even when we don’t know one another. In fact, I would say the exchange is even more pronounced and crucial then. Because, The Wassup communicates so much, so succinctly, and so silently.
It says, I recognize your humanity even when for most of this nation’s history others did not. It says, no matter our respective lifestyle, status, or class, I share in your pain and struggles and joy and courage. It says, you are beautiful my Brother and seeing it reminds me I’m beautiful too. It says, as the gesture itself denotes, keep your chin up and stand proud for you have fought too hard to earn the right to walk tall.
After mentioning this to my wife, she reported to me that mothers have a similar gesture. When they encounter each other in public, if one had a kid who is behaving in an unruly way, there is a glance, a sideways eye-roll and grin, that is exchanged between them. One that says, I’ve been there. One that says, I know what it is like to have a misbehaving child in a public space when all attempting to appease or control them is futile and it sucks. One that says, I know this is not a reflection on you as a mother anymore than it is when it happens to me.
I’m a runner. Often, when a car stops for me at an intersection to give me right of way, I give a single short wave or, in some cases, a salut (a habit still ingrained from time spent in the Navy). It is, I hope, taken as intended. A thank you for yielding. An acknowledgement that, though it is state law, the sheer size difference between me and their vehicle meant they don’t have to obey. Far too many don’t give we pedestrians this courtesy. I hope that by thanking those that do I’m encouraging continued fair play.
I found out something really neat today that, in a way, relates to this. When small children cover their eyes to hide, they think they are invisible. But, here’s the twist. They know full well their head and bodies are able to be seen, but this is not what constitutes “self” to a small child. They believe that if you can’t look them in the eye, they are hiding their selves. Eye-to-eye contact is, in a child’s mind, required for visibility.
Yes. One of the beauties of humanity is that we can communicate so very much with a silent gesture. These are, in effect, our Like Buttons. These are the reveal in our childhood hiding game. And, just as Likes and Favorites and Plus Ones, they communicate so much depth and nuance in a single, simple, action. These are our requirements for visibility.
I often wonder if there are other such subtle gestures among other groups. Ones that happen all around me yet I have never noticed because I’m not in the know. I’m not a part of that group. Do other cultures have such silent gestures? Would mine translate elsewhere? In other words, would The Wassup be understood and returned by the Black men of London or Paris or Amsterdam if I gave it in passing? Would my wife’s empathy land the same way with a mother of an unruly child in a shopping mall in Brussels? I wish I knew.
I’m betting that there are similar gestures elsewhere. One reason for believing this is how universally understood that Like button on many social networks is. No matter if you are an American fan of some celebrity or an Iranian revolutionary, you know and understand all that is communicated by clicking that Star or +1 on that post. You are in agreement. You are empathizing. You are supporting. You are simply saying that thing that feeds and sustains we humans so well… “Me too.”
I’m a writer. Writing is how I make this world better, friendlier, stronger place. If these words improved your day, please let me know by contributing here.

Paper Airplanes

My Favorite Paper Airplane from Patrick Rhone on Vimeo.
Beatrix and I spent the best parts of this last weekend being outside throwing paper airplanes. All totaled, we likely spent about 3 hours doing so. It was the most fun, rewarding, and relaxing activity I’ve done in a long time. Cheap, easy, fun. Kept both a 5 year old and a 45 year old entertained for hours.
Above, I share my favorite paper airplane design. These glide well and go long if made right. I challenge you to spend some time making and flying one today. Guaranteed to lift your soul.
I think our children are full of valuable lessons like this. That you don’t need to spend a lot of money. All you need is time and imagination. The rest will fall into place.

Glowing Rectangles

Many of us spend much of our days in front of some glowing rectangle. When we wake, we grab one right away. We stare into it hoping to get a jump on whatever responsibilities and expectations were dumped on us overnight. We might then turn on another as we drink our morning coffee, hoping to get “caught up” on information that is mostly meant to distract and not inform. Most of us work all day in front of one, our tasks directed, next steps informed, and labor performed inside the glowing rectangle on our desk. Even those who work in fast food or retail are largely directed by a glowing rectangle telling them who ordered what and what is expected next. We kill time in lines and waiting rooms with the rectangles. We are entertained by them. We sometimes bring our rectangles into bed with us. Because, increasingly, our books are in there.
I’m no different. I grabbed my first rectangle very shortly after waking. I will likely stare into several throughout my day. For work and for pleasure and as a way to simply pass the time. Heck, my regular gas station has them built into the pumps now. My guess is that when one is distracted by the local weather or the two-for-one beef jerky special they tend to buy more gas. In fact, I’m staring into a glowing rectangle right now. Tapping away at the illuminated screen. Convincing myself that this is the best way to write about them. That, if wisdom is born of knowledge and experience then, right now, this rectangle is supplying both.
Yet, I’m going to present myself with a small challenge this week. One you may wish to take on yourself. It is a modest change but one that, hopefully, will lead me to see if if makes difference enough to expand. I’m going to avoid glowing rectangles as much as I can for one hour after I wake up and one hour before I go to bed. If I need to write or work or wish to read, I have plenty of non-glowing rectangles for that. And, if that is not enough, I have plenty of other non-glowing shapes that would benefit from my increased engagement. I know that my soul might benefit from staring into the dark circle that is my morning coffee for some quiet contemplation.
I’m going to see if this makes any positive difference for the week ahead. And, if it does, perhaps I’ll next try a bit more.

Giving Up, Giving In

People always say that I didn’t give up my seat because I was tired, but that isn’t true. I was not tired physically, or no more tired than I usually was at the end of a working day. I was not old, although some people have an image of me as being old then. I was forty-two. No, the only tired I was, was tired of giving in. — Rosa Parks, My Story

Rosa Parks didn’t give up her seat, because she was tired of giving in.

When we don’t give up, we don’t give in.

When we give up, we give in.

Don’t give up. Don’t give in. 1

I post daily here. I stand this ground. If these words changed your day, please let me know by contributing here.

  1. One of life’s great paradoxes is that, often, the most powerful change comes from those that stand their ground. 

You Are A Hero

We all have our personal struggles in this life. Our shit to shoulder. A monkey on our back. The things we keep mostly hidden from the world, yet still remain with us.

Perhaps it was a childhood that was less than ideal.
Perhaps it is a marriage that is slowly falling apart.
Perhaps it is a less than ideal relationship with your kids.
Perhaps it is a bad habit or addiction you wish you could shake.
A secret, silent, shame.

You are a hero. We all are. I may not know what you are victorious over but I know that each one of us has a huge amount of baggage to carry and, to get through this life with it, it takes heroic courage. That making it to the end of each day, is a small (and, some days, large) but not insignificant victory.

So many problems would be overcome in this life if we recognized each victory in what we have come to know as routine. If we all simply recognized the hero in ourselves and each other.

Your free will donation of any amount helps to support a full-time independent writer. Thanks for reading!

A Real Vacation

The next time you are ready to take a vacation, let everyone know you will be gone. Perhaps in some exotic locale, deep in the wilderness, or far off the grid. So far that you wont be able to check your email, answer your mobile phone, or "check in" on any social networks. You wont have any vacation photos to share when you return because you’ll be leaving your camera behind. Perhaps drop the hint that the place you are going is so cool, so hip, that to tell any stories about it when you return could never truly describe or in any way live up to "being there".

Then, no matter where you go, no matter how much opportunity to do otherwise really does exist where you are going, do exactly that.

The only person you need to check in with is yourself and the people you are with. The only camera you need to preserve these memories are your eyes. The only call you need to answer to is that of the wild beyond. The only thing you need read are the signs pointing you to your destination.

Because, once you have done this, you are truly ready to experience something that you have probably not had for a while — freedom. That is a destination all on it’s own. Even if you go no where at all, you will have had more of a vacation, in the true sense of the word, than you likely have in years.

Your free will donation of any amount helps to support a full-time independent writer. Thanks for reading!

Clark Loves Me

"We find truth in the things we come back to. The longer you hold onto what you love the more you realize that it is something you truly love. In that sense you dont define your passions your passion defines you." – Patrick Rhone – Clark Loves Me.

I was honored to be among the artists, photographers, designers, and writers to be featured in Clark Patrick’s ongoing Clark Loves Me series. Therein, he profiles artists of all stripes by photographing, interviewing, and detailing the essence of their work.

Clark is an amazing guy and we clicked on a level that happens rarely but is so rewarding when it does. This was less an interview and more of a verbal jam session between two artists who are passionate about The Work™ and all that encompasses it. His own work is as artistically pure as any photographer I’ve ever met. He uses a mixture of photographic equipment and techniques that literally span the history of the medium. The photos you see in the feature were taken with a modern digital camera through an antique lens and camera box that were both well over a hundred years old. Thus, the artistry is not only about the finished product but the entire journey to create it. I could have spent hours just watching him work.

I don’t even remember saying the quote above but I’m glad Clark captured it and included it in the story because it distills so much of what I believe to be truth. He did such a wonderful job of capturing the spirit of my work by communicating what he took from it which, for a writer, is the highest honor.