Making do…

I have an old truck.  To be fair, I have an old bucket of rust that happens to have an engine and four wheels.  Crush is a bright orange 1963 Chevy truck.  As a car from the 60’s, Crush doesn’t have ANY of the modern conveniences that most cars have.  No power steering, no power brakes, no power windows.  Door locks are a hand driven afterthought.  Hell, Crush didn’t even have seat belts until I added them.


So I was hauling down the highway the other day, it was a gorgeous sunny day so I had the windows rolled down and was enjoying driving my old truck.  I was headed east on a local highway, it was late in the afternoon so I had the sun at my back.  As I drove, the entire truck was rattling like it was going to fall apart, and I noticed that the setting sun was glaring off the passenger side rear view mirror and reflecting directly into my eyes.  At first it didn’t bother me, but the longer I drove, the more the truck rattled, and the more the sun was right in my eyes.  But it wasn’t just IN my eyes…it was boring through my eyes, straight through my skull and into the back of my head.  I couldn’t reach across the cab and move the mirror just a little to the right so it would reflect someplace else without running off the road.  It was just me in the cab, so I couldn’t ask anyone for help to move the mirror.  I realized that if I was driving one of our other cars, the ones with power mirrors, I could just move the mirror with a flick of a switch.  Before long, I was no longer enjoying driving my old truck.  Gone was the fondness for the smell of a carbureted engine.  Gone was the joy of really feeling the road.  Gone was the fun of driving.  All because the damn sun was in my eyes.

About that time, I realized something about myself, and I think, about our society in general.

When I was little, and wanted something that my parents either couldn’t afford or just didn’t want to buy for me, what did they tell me?  That I had to, “make do” with what I had.  When my toys broke and didn’t work anymore, we had to “make do” with them anyway, and it is amazing the creative uses we found for broken and repurposed toys.  We “made do” with sticks instead of perfectly sculpted replica guns with live actions and sounds.  We “made do” with paper airplanes instead of quadcopter drones driven by our smartphones.

Yet here I was, driving my beloved old truck, and I couldn’t “make do” with a little sun in my eyes?  Have I become so spoiled in my life that I’m going to let something so trivial, something just not exactly the way I want it, ruin my enjoyment of the event?

We, as a society, are so used to instant gratification that we seem to have lost the ability to get by with anything that isn’t exactly what we want.  In this day and age of customization based on demands, we throw a fit if our order isn’t exactly right at a restaurant and have a tantrum if the latest app doesn’t live up to our expectations.  We have come to take for granted the simple enjoyment of something as wonderful as the memories resurrected by having to “make do” with what we have.

In the movie “Running Scared”, Billy Crystal and Gregory Hines play two tough Chicago cops who midway through the action take a vacation in Key West.  On the first night there, they pass by a crowd gathered on the beach.  Fearing the worst, they ask, “What happened here?  Why are you all just standing around?”  A local responds, “Don’t you see it?  We are watching the sun set!”  They reply, “Yeah, but it does that every night.”  She counters, “Yes, and we come every night to watch it!”

They had gotten so caught up in the world around them that they failed to enjoy the simple things.

So, the next time you are driving along and the sun hits right in your eyes, don’t lose the enjoyment of the moment…just “make do” and enjoy the sunset.

My Peace Manifesto…

War is over!  If you want it.  In December of 1969, John Lennon and Yoko Ono bought space on billboards in 12 major cities worldwide and put those very words on them in the local language.  In addition, they sent out thousands of posters with those same words.  War is over!  If you want it.  When asked about it in interviews, Lennon talked about how each of us through personal accountability, owns a piece of peace.  He reminded us that we are individually empowered through non-violent means to demand the cause of peace.

I was watching a documentary on the Beatles with my daughter when they flashed the billboards on the screen and mentioned how powerful of a force John Lennon was in the public eye at the time. The documentary went on to describe how Lennon used his immense public influence to attempt to drive political change.  Granted, some of his methods (the Bed-Ins and Bagism) might have seemed strange at the time, but in today’s world of social media, ice bucket challenges, and reality television, who are we to criticize?

If Lennon was able to make as big a splash as he did with his “War is Over!  If you want it.” campaign in 1969, when Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram weren’t even dreamt about, what kind of an impact would he make today with all of the power of social media behind him?  Katy Perry currently has around 73 million Twitter followers.  Justin Bieber has 65 million.  Even Barack Obama has 62 million.  Eminem has over 54 million “Likes” on his Facebook page.  Rihanna 53 million.  The Instagram account has 38 million followers.  Justin Bieber (again) has almost 11 million followers.  We live in a world where popularity is measured by rankings in social media.  I have to believe that if Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram existed in 1969 when the Beatles were at the height of their hype, the names John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison, and Ringo Starr would top all of those lists.

Now imagine what would happen if Katy Perry, Eminem, and Justin Bieber all shared the sentiment from Lennon, “War is over!  If you want it.” on their pages and then encouraged all of their followers to do the same.  Instantaneously touching hundreds of millions of lives with such a simple message.  I’m sure the impact would be infinitely greater than 12 cities worth of billboards and a few thousand posters.

If we were able to do that very thing, express a very simple but world changing message, what would it be?  Is “War is over!  If you want it.” still topical and relevant?  I feel that it is absolutely relevant, but it may not capture all of our current struggles.  It may not capture the despair that our homeless feel when they have to struggle each day to survive.  It doesn’t fully capture the separation that exists between the racially profiled and their own local law enforcement.  It doesn’t capture the isolation that our young people feel as they are bullied into eating disorders, anxiety, and suicide.  I think that in our new hyper-aware society, we need a revised message that captures our desire for a new way of thinking.

What do we hunger for?  Peace.

When do we want it?  Now.

Where do we want it?  Here.

How do we get it?  It begins with me.

Peace.  Peace now.  Peace here.  Peace begins with me.

Peace.  Peace now.  Peace here.  Peace begins with me.

Can something as simple as these few words have any impact at all in these days of media overexposure, virtual overload and sound bites?  I have to believe it can.  To believe otherwise is to accept that the world will not change, that the broken systems in place will continue to operate with implied social acceptance, and that we are doomed to repeat our bloody broken history.  I have to believe that our children will inherit a world that is better than the one we currently inhabit.

I’m a middle child, I have an older sister and a younger sister, and when we were growing up I was often forced into the role of “peacemaker” between them.  Typically, this entailed listening to both sisters separately so they both felt heard, then bringing them together over some kind of common ground.  Before long, we were all playing together again.  I’m not naïve enough to believe that we can instantly bring peace to the Middle East or to the racial battlegrounds in America.  However, I do believe that the same principles will hold up on a grander scale.  These conflicts have been going on for so long that no one believes that anything can change.  All sides claim that nobody is listening, and they cannot see any common ground.  We all feel a tremendous sense of hopelessness with how to handle this kind of situation.  Maybe we need a way to tackle just a portion of the problem so that it doesn’t overwhelm us.

I had an old boss who loved to say, “How do you eat an elephant?  One bite at a time!”  Instead of trying to solve the elephant of world peace, or Middle East peace, we should take the first bite of that elephant and focus on personal peace.  Many religious and spiritual practices tell you that you cannot change anyone else’s behavior, you must focus on your own.  If we continue to practice this simple behavior, “Peace.  Peace now.  Peace here.  Peace begins with me.” in everything we do, it affects our every action.  When we are confronted by an angry coworker, we respond to them in peace instead of anger.  When we see a homeless person asking for money, we respond to them in peace instead of questioning their motives.  When we see rioting and looting on television, we respond to it in peace by looking for the broken systems that cause people to feel so hopeless that they feel they have no recourse but to riot.

We live in a time that is miraculous.  There should be more than enough for everyone.  Sadly, so many in the world go hungry while we throw food away in the United States.  So many in the world do not have any shelter while we have abandoned buildings in our cities.  So many are jobless while large corporations continue to lay off employees so the company can reap profits that their shareholders will never be able to spend in a dozen lifetimes.  Our world is crying out for some kind of change, and we are all hungry for something different than what we find in our broken society.

Peace.  Peace now.  Peace here.  Peace begins with me.

Peace means that everyone on this world should have enough to eat.  Peace means that everyone should have the benefit of shelter, and the respect and purpose of employment.  Peace means that we all constantly remind ourselves not of our differences, but of our similarity.  We are all human.  We are all God’s children.  Forget race, religion, nationality, economics, politics, and all the other nonsense that we put on ourselves.  Dare to live differently.  Dare to live peace.

We cannot change the world overnight.  But we can change it.  If I choose to live a life of “Peace.  Peace now.  Peace here.  Peace begins with me.”, and then others do the same, and we continue to share this message, changing the world is inevitable.  Like a glacier slowly but inevitably carving out the landscape, we can bring change.

Peace is now your personal mission.  Live peace yourself and share peace with others.  Make peace a priority in your own life, and look for it in the lives of those around you who are also trying to practice it.  Peace is a movement, a way of life.  And someday soon…War will be over!  Because we want it…

Lessons learned playing in the waves…

Lessons learned playing in waves…

So, I love the ocean. Love the beach. In particular the Gulf Coast. So, when we planned on going to Dauphin Island, Alabama for our family vacation, I was thrilled to think of spending a few days playing in the waves with the kids, but I didn’t realize that that time would give me insight into a few life lessons.

On Monday, the waves were pretty rough for Gulf Coast waves. I hadn’t been paying attention to the news (hey, I was on vacation!) and didn’t realize that Tropical Storm Bill was raging west of us, and causing serious wave action on Dauphin island.

The kids and I walked along the perfect white sand beach and they went immediately into the water. I realized it had been years since I had been to the beach with them and even though I knew they were both strong swimmers and smart teenagers, I kept a close eye on them as they ventured out further from shore.

Only a week or two before, my son had started driving solo in the car. Up until then, he needed a licensed driver to go with him everywhere, but when he got his license upgraded, he was magically able to drive himself (and sometimes his sister) places. Of course, being his father, I worry until he pulls back in the driveway safe and sound. I also make him text me when he gets to each of his destinations to make sure he got there safely. I’m amazed at how casual my parents seemed to seem when I started driving, long before they could rely on a text or call when I got places. Now, I understand how much worry and anxiety they had knowing I was on the road, outside of their control.

So I was already wrestling with the whole “letting go” thing before we got to the beach. As I watched the kids playing in the surf, I realized that they were having a blast getting knocked down and tossed around by the waves, and that if I had ordered them back closer to shore, they would have missed out on that. It was the very freedom to go out “just a little farther” that made the excitement so heightened. I forced myself to relax and just immerse myself in the sound of their laughter. Sometimes, especially as parents, we need to turn loose of the anxiety and embrace the freedom that our kids are exploring.

Finally, I was ready to go down into the water myself. I’m not a small man, and I was immediately impressed with how the waves were big enough to pick me up, throw me off my feet, and toss me around like a leaf in the wind. As I relaxed and charged into each wave, I started to laugh after each wave passed. The feeling of a total loss of control is so foreign to us sometimes that when it happens, the only thing I could do was laugh! The more I threw myself into the waves with wild abandon, the more I laughed. It was incredibly freeing to acknowledge that the outcome was purely beyond my control. As people, we spend all of our times trying to control everything around us. We pursue our lives as one great struggle for control after another. And when we have things (particularly bad things) happen to us, we are at a loss to deal with that lack of control. So our lives are like that time in the waves sometimes. When life starts to drift out of our control, there are times when we need to embrace that loss of control and throw ourselves into it instead of fighting against it. The outcome is inevitably the same, only the journey to the outcome is changed. We can embrace that sense of freedom in leaving our outcome in the hands of a higher power and just enjoy where the waves are taking us.

Ramblings from an Evil Monk

I’m still not sure exactly what this is supposed to be. Is it my own rambling thoughts? Some stumbling catharsis as I continue to find my way to who I have become? Or maybe just some life lessons that I want to pass along to my kids?


Perhaps it is my own way of learning, formalizing, and changing my ongoing opinions on my life and my place in this world. At the end of the day, it is what I can make of it. If anyone reads it and finds it worthwhile, even some small portion, feel free to share it with others. If any part of it offends you, you may have missed the point. I’m not doing this out of some compulsion to convert anyone to my way of thought or my point of view, I’m merely sharing my dimly lit insights with the greater consciousness with the faint hope that someone can benefit from it.


I will never claim to be smarter, wiser, or more experienced than anyone else about life in general. All I can speak to is my own experiences in my life…


If you are comfortable with all of that, read on!