Friday, June 29, 2007

Lack Of Sleep

The end of the work week is finally here. The first week back to work after being on vacation always seems longer than it really is. I look forward to the weekend. Even though I am getting older and my children are grown, my life still seems busy. Perhaps it isn't as busy as it seems but only feels that way because I have less energy to deal with my life's current demands. Work always seems exhausting even when I am not particularly busy. Each workday night my brain seems dead and barely able to maintain minimum life support systems. My wife feels the same way but I do not think it is entirely because of age. Even young people I know experience the same type of mental fatigue. I think in this modern technological age when computers were supposed to make our work and lives easier, they in fact drain us of all mental energy. Virtual work seems to create a very real fatigue. This mental fatigue coupled with an aging body and less energy is not a good combination for me. When I had a young body and did more physical work, I was able to recover more quickly from the demands of work. My recovery time is slower now and a 48 hour weekend does not seem to do the trick. Even last weeks vacation, which now seems like a blur or something I dreamed, was not nearly long enough to really unwind and rest. I recently read that the average American now averages only five to six hours of sleep a night. We all know that our bodies require a minimum of eight hours to be completely rested. Eight hours of sleep per night is 56 hours per week. As Americans we are currently averaging 42 hours per week at best. In other words, most of us are losing approximately 14 hours of sleep per week. That is almost two days worth of needed sleep that we are not getting. I'm falling asleep just thinking about it.

Most volunteer work that I have ever done has been for my church. This week, however, I was offered an opportunity to volunteer at Churchill Downs, the home of the Kentucky Derby. The event is the Police concert that will happen on July 14th. My reward is to be able to see the concert for free. I have no idea what I have to do yet. Will I be a bouncer for the first time in my life? Will I take people's tickets as they file in? Do I pick up Sting at the airport or stand backstage and keep him supplied with cold water while he sings and dances on stage? Will I have to shine a flashlight in the eyes of rowdy fiftysomethings? Who knows? Since the remaining tickets are approximately $200 a piece, a little volunteer work seems a small price to pay to see the show. I'll let you know how it went.

Thursday, June 28, 2007

An Unfinished Life

Yesterday morning what appeared to be a young man apparently jumped to his death from the building across the street from my office and outside my window. I did not see him do it but I did see his broken body on the ground as EMT personnel attempted to save him. I did not know this young man nor why he was driven to do such a thing. In my helplessness I did all I knew how to do. I bowed my head and prayed a silent prayer for him. I thought about him all day long as well as those who loved him and the sadness they must be feeling. This tragedy reminded me how precious and fragile life can be. I do not understand suicide. It is difficult for me to understand why some people feel that life is so bleak that suicide is the only answer. I believe there is always hope and no situation is beyond redemption. The good fortunes of our lives can change quickly. We all sometimes experience the misfortunes of life. None of us can avoid disappointment or heartache. In spite of this, there is always hope. Sometimes in life you must simply live through your pain and hang on. Hope and love are transforming and can turn around the most desperate situations. I don't pretend to understand the pain of others and although I have experienced sadness and worry, I have never been close to despair on a personal level. I do, however, understand the value of life. This young man, as well as his family, will be in my prayers and thoughts for a while.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007


It is late at night and I have no thoughts. I am barely awake and it is only in a brief moment of having a second wind that I am even able to type. I actually just woke up a little while ago after collapsing in my chair earlier. This being Tuesday, I picked up Chloe at the day care. She was a charged up bundle of energy all night. She's not the kind of child who quietly sits and plays with a few toys. It's like baby sitting a member of the USA Olympic Gymnastic Team who's had a few espressos. She is a child who enjoys running and jumping, especially jumping off furniture and landing on me. Often when she is with me she wants me to hold her hands and swing her in the air. The more I do it, the more she says "Higher, Pa Paw, higher!" By the time she left tonight my wife and I were wasted. I don't really think she's hyper active. She just loves being with my wife and me. We love being with her. Part of the reason she loves me is that I give her a lot of my attention. Besides being Pa Paw, I am just a big kid in her eyes. Tonight Chloe's father picked her up about 90 minutes later than we originally expected. By the time he arrived, his mother wasn't happy. When he walked in the door, she blasted him. Later, she expressed regret to me for jumping down his throat. "Why do I do things like that?", she said. "Do you ever have things you do over and over that drive you crazy?" My immediate response was that we all have such faults. Most of my life I would have been better off if my mouth had been stapled shut. I try to write daily thoughts that are interesting, helpful, and encouraging. I could easily write daily thoughts about all of my weaknesses and faults. In my wife's defense, I know it was normal end of the work day fatigue that caused her to lash out at Chloe's father. I was feeling the same way. She just got to him before I did! In reality they have a very close relationship. My wife is very good to him and to Chloe. Fatigue often brings out the worst in all of us. It's another reason why sleep and rest are so important. With that in mind, I am going to bed now so I am not a grumpy old man at work tomorrow.

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Zen And Attention Deficit Disorder

Recently I was having a discussion about Attention Deficit Disorder with some of my family. I have no data to support this but I think ADD may be one of the most undiagnosed conditions in our society. We live in a culture where we are bombarded with sounds and images. To complicate the matter most of us have jobs that demand multi tasking all day long. With all of this together how can we possibly focus on anything for very long? In my work I am constantly distracted or pulled away from whatever I am trying to focus on. For me, Zen and Mindfulness are not only good spiritual practices, they are an antidote to modern life. Zen is being where you are and doing what you are doing. Mindfulness is another name for this. It is being present to the moment. Being where you are, doing what you are doing, and being present to the moment are very challenging. It is not easy for me to do and I often fail at it. However, like meditation, once you realize that you aren't in the moment, you can return to it. Much of my day I am returning to the moment from wherever I have drifted. My body is always in the moment but my mind likes to wander off. Sometimes I am reliving a pleasant memory. Other times I am day dreaming about an imaginary experience. Neither of these activities are bad in themselves. We all do them. They're only a problem when we are doing them all the time and we are never present to the present. In Buddhist Zazen or various kinds of Christian meditation, we sit and try to calm our minds. Our minds are restless and difficult to tame. We can't sit all day and focus on this calming of our minds. Most of us are people in the world who must be about their daily duties. Some of life's demands require an active mind. An active mind that is focused is a mind that is present to the moment and the demands of the moment. It is a Zen mind. Perhaps the prescription for ADD is Zen practice. Better yet, perhaps Zen practice is preventative medicine for ADD.

Here's a few notes from a short article in yesterday's newspaper.Money magazine states that Americans average the fewest days off and leave the greatest percentage of their vacation time unused. (I am not part of this statistic!) Here's how different countries fare based on the average vacation time in each country.

Americans use 11 of the 14 days they receive.
Germans use 25 of the 26 days they receive.
The British use 21 of the 24 days they receive.
The French use 33 of the 36 days they receive. (I have been to France. Now I want to move there!)

All this leads the magazine to conclude that America is "the land of the free and the home of the Type A personality". (I am the direct opposite of a Type A. I consider myself a crock pot in a country of pressure cookers)

Monday, June 25, 2007

Back To Reality

For the last nine days I have been on vacation. It was a time that seemed to go on forever while also passing quickly. Early in the week I felt some sadness when I received word that a co-worker and friend, who seemed more like a son, abruptly left my workplace. Later in the week, however, I felt great happiness when my son, Nick, was officially accepted as a seminarian for the Archdiocese of Louisville. He will be moving to Indianapolis sometime in August to continue his college studies. If all goes well, and he continues to follow the Spirit and listen to the quiet voice within him that has been calling his name, he will be a priest someday. Some of you who receive these daily thoughts, besides being my friends, are also priests. Please keep Nick in your prayers as he prepares to be one of you. You might also pray for my wife. This opens up a whole new world of things for her to worry about. There will be much activity in my house over the next six weeks or so as we help Nick prepare for his departure. It will also be another adjustment for my wife and I as we experience the empty nest for a second time.

Sandwiched between the departure of my friend and the news about my son was a week long family vacation. All in all it was a great time. We shared many laughs and there were only a few tense moments. After all, we are a normal family. We all lived together in a resort cabin and spent much of our time together sharing meals, shopping and swimming. Young Chloe, who is still a couple of weeks away from her third birthday, turned out to be half fish. Once or twice a day we went to the water park. Chloe loved it. She became addicted to the water slide and must have gone down it a hundred times. She seems to have no fear of the water. A few times, when no one was looking, I would slip away to a bedroom for a nap. Every time I would eventually hear a sweet little voice saying "Pa Paw! Get Up"! Although I tend to be a solitary person, I enjoy these family trips. I am happy that we enjoy being together for a few days even if all of us are also happy to return to our own homes when the trip is over. Now it is time to get back to the routine and rituals of my daily life. Vacations would not be so enjoyable if they weren't balanced out by the demands of daily living. Admittedly, I am at a time in my life when I wish the pendulum leaned more towards time off instead of towards working. Of course, as I have said many times, balance is found in the tension of opposites.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Summer Vacation

In a matter of hours I will officially be on vacation. In my mind I am already there. I know of no one who works full time that does not love and live for time off. Time is more valuable to me than money. Time is precious and seemingly rare in our culture where work dominates most lives and leisure has been replaced by excessive busyness. My wife's boss asked her if she was taking her laptop with her so she could keep up with emails. She responded that she didn't even own a laptop and she was on VACATION. Like most people on vacation I will have a time of intense family fun and activity. However I have learned over the years to always factor in a few buffer days before one returns to the demands of work. I will take the weekend to slow down and prepare for a trip that begins on Monday. It will be my wife, my sons, Chloe, and my daughter in law. When we are tired of fun and out of money, we will return home for a few more days of leisure. Family trips can be intense but I am happy that we all like one another and enjoy spending some time together. Of course, I am really the one that everyone else worries will have a meltdown. There's probably some betting going on to see if I make it through the whole trip without flailing. Flailing is my family's term for "Dad throwing a tantrum". It's no secret that I am an introvert and like my space. Communal living can be trying at times. Everyone wants to do their thing but compromises must be made for the sake of family peace. Hopefully everyone will get to do most of what they want and we will return home tired but happy.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

My Son The Future Priest

Right after work on Wednesday I drove to my wife's office and then we walked down the street to a restaurant. We were to meet my youngest son and a representative of the Archdiocese for dinner. As part of the discernment and application process for being accepted into the seminary, the Vocation Director likes to meet the parents of young applicants. It was a very casual and enjoyable meeting. I immediately hit it off with this priest. He is older than my son but much younger than me. We soon discovered that we not only shared some similar interests but we had the very same personality type. That explained the immediate connection and easy conversation. Despite my background, I really did nothing to encourage my son to want to be a priest. He was already well into the discernment process before he informed me of his intention. As I have told my son, and the Vocation Direction, I am happy with this and support it 100%. I would be very proud to have a son who is a priest. This apple didn't fall far from the tree. My other apple....Chloe's father...fell from the same tree but rolled down the hill just a bit. Later in the evening when Nick returned home, I asked him if we passed the audition. He said that we did and the Vocation Director thought my wife and I were exactly as Nick described us. I then asked, "How did you describe us"? His response was, "I told him that you were the spiritual one and Mom was the practical one. You want to talk about prayer and the spiritual life. Mom wants to know how much this will cost". Well, he nailed us pretty good! My son hasn't been officially accepted yet but everything is looking very good. Stay tuned and keep him in your prayers.

I was very tired when I went to bed last night. Sleep came easily. Morning did not. Today is another day of work followed by my Thursday afternoon routine of picking up Chloe at the day care. By the time her father picks her up at my house tonight I will be semi conscious. Of course, Chloe is part of what makes my life exciting. She is always a joy even when I am tired. So....I have no deep thoughts or opinions today. I just have a quiet joy and excitement over my son's potential future and the continuous pleasure of being a grandfather. Life is good!

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Contemplation, The Color Purple, And Gentle Breezes

Yesterday I spent part of my lunch break sitting in the park. It was a hot day but I was protected by the shade of a tree that was planted by someone I do not know. Occasionally a gust of wind would blow through the trees making all the leaves appear to be turned inside out. It was nice to have a moment of quiet and solitude in a day that was mostly filled with activity and people. When I am in solitude and lost in silence I feel like I can breathe more easily.

One person wondered what I was talking about in yesterday's thoughts when I said "Have you noticed the color purple"? It was a slightly obscure reference to a conversation between two characters in the book The Color Purple by Alice Walker. Celie, played by Whoopi Goldberg in the movie version, is talking with another character and she says, "I think it makes God angry if you don't notice the color purple". It's another way of saying that it is important to stop and smell the roses in life. I agree with Celie. Living a good life is not just about not breaking rules or commandments. The world is full of beauty and good things. We should notice and enjoy them.

Another person asked me about the questions that I suggested might be our final exam in life. Their question centered around the idea of who gets into "heaven". I have been a Christian my whole life but I do not personally believe we have a monopoly on heaven, whatever that turns out to be. The Dalai Lama is a Buddhist. Gandhi was a Hindu. Moses and the great prophets of the Hebrew scriptures, not to mention Jesus, were Jews. The poet Rumi was a Sufi Muslim. We are all children of God. No one is excluded from the life of God. My personal beliefs are influenced by all these people and their traditions. Another aspect of spirituality is the idea of unity. One of my spiritual mentors, Thomas Merton, a Christian monk, said something to the effect that one of his goals was to integrate into himself all the best and common threads of all religions. Imagine a life that is comprised of Christian love, Buddhist compassion, Hindu non violence (as evidenced by the life of Gandhi), and Jewish perseverance. If heaven is a big party with God, everyone is invited. The more the merrier.

I like when people challenge my thoughts. It means they're thinking and that's part of the reason I do this. I want to be like the Robin Williams character in the movie "Dead Poets Society". I want people to challenge people to think and understand there is more than one way to look at life. Like Robin Williams in the movie, sometimes we must stand on top of our desk in order to get a new and different perspective on life. If our only perspective is the one we have from sitting in the same chair and looking in the same direction, we're missing a great deal of the total picture.

In the major religions there are definitely contemplative traditions but I also think you can be a contemplative person without necessarily being a religious person. In my mind a contemplative person is one who takes the time to stand back or step away from the fast pace of life and simply breathe. The contemplative is someone who likes life in the slow lane. It's about being awake enough and present enough to not only notice the flowers but also willing to stop and smell them. It's being present to life in all it's details (mindfulness). Perhaps you are aware of the story of the prophet Elijah in the Book of Kings in the Hebrew scriptures. He had challenged the prophets of the false god Baal to a duel. To make a long story short, Elijah won so they ran him out of town. He hid in a cave on a mountain. There was thunder and lightening and earthquakes and all that kind of stuff but God was not present in them. Finally, there was a small whispering sound like a gentle breeze. Elijah hid his face for in this God was present. The contemplative person is one who has achieved an interior quiet that allows him to notice the small whispering sounds in life where God is often present. If you are constantly running through life, busy all the time, stressed out, and meeting yourself coming and going, you will miss such opportunities. Slow down and be alive.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Life's Final Exam

One of my favorite thoughts from Buddhism is the idea of discovering the face we had before our parents were born. This is the face of the true self. The true self is who we are in God. Unfortunately, the face that we present and that others see is usually the face of our false self. It is not who we really are. The process of becoming a Buddha, or an "enlightened one" is to peel away the layers of the false self and discover our true self. This process of awakening is part of all spiritual journeys, regardless of the tradition. All Buddhists, Christians, Muslims, Jews and Hindus are all seeking this in some fashion. What would our world be like if we all attained this state of awakening? What would daily life be like if we were all our true and good selves? The world would never be dark, and evil would cease to exist, because we would all be glowing and full of goodness. The point of all spirituality and spiritual practices is not to rack up brownie points with God. God doesn't need anything from us. The point of the spiritual life is the transformation of the human heart. You can go to church ten times a day but if nothing is happening or changing within you, you may as well go to the track. Everything in the spiritual life, and the transformation of the human heart, is all about love. If there's no love, there's no spiritual life. If your spiritual life and your daily living are not making you a more loving person, you're spinning your wheels and you are stuck in the mud. I think life's final exam will only have a few questions. It won't matter what you were in life. God won't say, "Buddhists to the right, Hindu's to the left. Christians, Muslims, and Jews, go to the head of the line. The only thing that will matter is who we were and how well we can answer the following questions.

Did you let go of your ego? How much did you love? Did you live with joy? Did you forgive? Did you notice the color purple? Were you grateful for all the beauty in life?

Monday, June 11, 2007

Baby Boomers

It was a quiet and restful weekend. It was exactly what I needed. I managed to get out of the office early on Friday. My oldest son, who is in charge of all family car maintenance, was going to meet me at home and take my car for some warranty repairs. This meant I was going to have the whole afternoon at home to do whatever I wanted. The first thing I did was transfer all the TV and DVD remotes from my wife's table to mine. Then I went to my music room and selected a few of my favorite musical DVD's, i.e. The Monterey Pop Festival (A Summer of Love event), Carlos Santana & Friends at the Montreux Jazz Festival, and John Fogerty at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles (I saw this same show in Cincinnati and it was one of the highlights of last summer for a friend and me). Once the DVD's had been selected I sat in my new Lazy Boy chair and turned it up LOUD. I was quite content for the afternoon. Admittedly, I did doze off late in the afternoon despite the jamming.

Saturday was free of obligations except that my wife and I did bust her mother out of the nursing home. Although she still has some memory issues, she has been making a nice recovery and we hope to take her back to the assisted living home where she has been since late 2003. Needless to say she felt like a bird that had been released from it's cage. I knew she was getting better because she is bored and complains about the food. We wanted to give her a good meal so we tried a new restaurant called "Mimi's Cafe". I'm not sure if this is a chain or not but it is the first one in Louisville. It has a French decor but the food is American which means something for everyone. I had some very tasty Cordon Bleu.

Sunday afternoon I watched a very interesting PBS special called "The Boomer Century 1946-2046". You are a baby boomer if you were born between 1946 and 1964. It was like watching a history of my own life so far. Even though my generation is not perfect, this show made me proud to be a Baby Boomer. The future is hopeful and optimistic for my generation but not lacking in challenges. There was a statement in the show that I thought was great and it went like this, "We are what we leave behind". I found that this statement intriguing. I hope to live many more years but if I died today, what am I leaving behind that represents me and says something about who I was? In general I hope that my own attempts to raise my consciousness and deepen my spirit have encouraged others to do so as well. That is part of the reason I share my journey with others. I would also be leaving behind two sons and a granddaughter. What part of me will continue to live in them? Who knows? They may change the world in a way that I have not. I may have been born just to be their father and grandfather. When I am gone and people are sorting through all my stuff they will find these daily thoughts as well as hand written thoughts that contain much family history and some of my personal angst. I have a nice library of books dealing with various aspects of spirituality and a music collection that any baby boomer would kill to have. Filling in all the gaps are many trinkets and souvenirs I gathered throughout my life but what will I leave behind that is intangible? What memories will others have of me or you? How will we be remembered? What is our legacy? What difference did we make in the lives of others? People who know me at work will remember these thoughts more than any work I did. How will family remember us? What about friends? When our lives are over, what will be the sum of our existence? I hope I am remembered as a kind and compassionate man. One who was respectful of the old and playful with children. I hope I will be remembered as one who walked the talk of what he believed in. Some will remember my seriousness but I hope more will remember my humor. Will I be remembered for my attempts to love? I hope I have also made some think but also laugh. All of these thoughts may seem a depressing way to start a Monday. These thoughts, however, are not about impending death. They are about life. This is a challenge for all of us to live well, love much, forgive all, hurt no one, to dance and laugh everyday

Friday, June 08, 2007


One of my friends recently made a comment to me saying, "I hope the popularity of your daily thoughts doesn't play to your ego". What would we do without our egos constantly challenging us? It is difficult to have no ego. Most spirituality, regardless of the tradition, has teachings about the ego. Buddhists strive for nothingness and an empty mind while Christians strive to die to self in order to put God and others first. Just think of the term "selflessness". It is an easy word to understand. It simply means less of the self. How many of us put ourselves last.....willingly....on a daily basis? The average person is good and does not want to hurt others but they still often put themselves first. We have a tendency towards selfishness. We like ourselves and we often like the glorification of ourselves. We love praise and adulation. I enjoy compliments and I have received more personal compliments since writing these daily thoughts than ever before in my life. It's nice to receive them but one must be careful not to believe all the hype about oneself. I think in the world of celebrities many have met their downfall by believing their own press releases. Some people have been very impressed with the things I say and the way I write. They send me emails telling me so. There is always the temptation to believe that maybe I really am wise and as great as some believe. This temptation is usually squashed when I go home every night. My joke about this is that a prophet is never accepted in his own country...or home. At home I am just Dad. I'm the guy who can be annoying and who occasionally has a tantrum. I am not the Dalai Lama sitting on a mountain top in Tibet. I am the guy getting yelled at for playing music too loud or for picking movies that everyone else thinks is boring. We should not have big egos about anything. If you have a talent for anything, it is a gift to you for others. You are not necessarily a great person because you have a great gift. Some of the most artistic people in the world are jerks. I believe we all have gifts even if we are not aware of them yet. We are all here for a reason. Sooner or later our gift and our reason for being will be clear to us. I am not a person of many gifts but I do think I have a gift for writing. This gift, however, has only surfaced for the benefit of others in recent years. I like having this gift and it pleases me that others enjoy it. When I sometimes write things that impress others I wonder where it came from. My fingers move on my keyboard and thoughts fall out of my head. Most of these thoughts I did not realize were in there. I suppose that my talent for writing, like the gifts of so many other people, have been lying dormant waiting for the right time to reveal themselves. Does the earth have an ego because it produces a flower? No more than we should for producing anything that is good. Be open to the Spirit within you and let your gifts break through the soil of your being and produce joy for others. All the beauty of spring is hidden beneath the barrenness of winter. It's there even when you can't see it. The same can be said about individual gifts.

Yesterday Chloe came to my office and helped me read emails. She was with me for about an hour. She sat on my desk and we talked. While we were talking, we shared three tootsie roll pop (different colors), a bottle of chocolate milk, and some vanilla pudding. We rode the elevator up and down and visited the fountain outside as we walked to and from the parking garage. The only time she was silent is when I tried to introduce her to someone. Of course, everyone who saw her said, "Hi, Chloe!". She must have wondered how all these strangers knew her name. Well, that's what happens when your Pa Paw turns you into a celebrity.

Thursday, June 07, 2007

The Basics of Life

Yesterday I received an email from someone I don't know asking if I would add them to my daily thoughts list. They told me that someone forwarded my thoughts to them and that my writing reminded them of the author Robert Fulghum. I considered this a great compliment because I really like Robert Fulghum and have most of his books. He wrote a wonderful little book called All I Really Need To Know I Learned In Kindergarten. The book is uncommon thoughts on common things. Here are the basics of his book. This advice will serve you well in life. The author discovered that wisdom was not at the top of the graduate school mountain but there in the sand pile at Sunday school.

Share everything,
Play fair.
Don't hit people.
Put things back where you found them.
Clean up your own mess.
Don't take things that aren't yours.
Say you are sorry when you hurt somebody.
Wash your hands before you eat.
Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
Live a balanced life...learn some and think some and draw and paint and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
Take a nap every afternoon. (My personal favorite)
When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands and stick together.
Be aware of wonder.

Here's why I sometimes want to run away and join the circus. This was my day yesterday.

Get out of bed at 6:15 AM and go to work in order to support basic life systems, i.e. water, electricity, housing, food, car, cable, CD's etc.
Leave work and pick up wife at her office.
Drive to the other side of town to check on mother in law in nursing home. (On Tuesdays and Thursdays, substitute go to daycare and pick up Chloe but I like that job)
Grab some dinner on the way home.
Take a bath and change clothes.
Continue laundry begun a day or two ago.
Read the morning paper and then fall asleep in chair.
Wake up and continue laundry. Take clothes out of dryer. Take clothes out of washer and put into dryer. Pick up another pile of clothes on the floor and put into washer.
Watch a movie with the family. (A Night at the Museum)
Continue laundry.
Load the dishwasher.
Prepare recycle bin for morning pick up.
Take shirts out of dryer, carry upstairs, and hang in closet.
Get ready for bed. Finally get there at 11:30 PM. Watch a little David Letterman. Turn off TV after today's top 10 list.
Fall asleep debunking the myth of the eight hour work day and thinking about how the whole cycle will begin again in little over six hours.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007


One of my friends, who shares my love of music, once told me a story. She was sharing her enthusiasm for music with another friend. When she finished sharing her story, the friend said, "I didn't know there were still people like you"! At first she wasn't sure it was a compliment. Later when she shared this story with me I told I would have considered it a compliment. Why? I think her friend recognized her passion. Perhaps the friend didn't understand her passion but he could hear it in her voice. It's a great thing to have passion for something. I sometimes recognize it in myself when I am teaching or discussing spirituality and I also share my friends passion for music. There's so much in life that many of us simply trudge our way through. When we have passion for something it is exciting. When I feel passionate about something I feel more alive. I like it that I can still get excited about something. Whether it's beautiful sunrise, a blazing guitar solo, or a quiet, contemplative moment, I can still be impressed. I love to be in awe and I love to be with others who share my awe. How do you know others share your feelings? You know because you don't have to explain the moment or the feeling to them. I have shared many quiet moments with friends when we all knew no words needed to be spoken. It was enough to share the silence. There have also been many joyful moments in musical settings when I have looked at a friend and the look in our eyes told one another that we were mutually lost in the music and experiencing something like a Vulcan mind meld with the musicians. I used to have a bumper sticker on my car that had a Grateful Dead logo with the words, "If I have to explain you wouldn't understand". Any Deadhead knew what I was talking about. I admit that I struggle with cynicism about much in life. This is much in life that disappoints. However, I am grateful that I can still be in awe, can still be impressed, can still get lost in the moment, can still feel joy, and can still be passionate. I still have fire in my belly and I am grateful for that. When I feel the burn I know I am still alive.

Yesterday was Tuesday so I picked up my granddaughter, Chloe, at the day-care. Since she is just weeks away from her third birthday, she's been moved to another class with other children her age. She showed her usual excitement when she saw me. It's no secret that being a grandfather is the source of many of my best moments. I am in awe of her as a person. It is a wonderful experience to watch her grow and develop into a unique, one of a kind person. She's quite the little girl. Last night we spent part of the evening sitting at my kitchen table eating frosted flakes out of the box and drinking chocolate milk. We talked about everything under the sun. Eventually we moved into my music room where we listened to some Talking Heads. She got into the groove and soon her little body was moving in rhythm with the funkified beat of the music. She's a hip little girl. I wonder if someday she will be in a contest like the young girl in "Little Miss Sunshine" doing a dance that her Pa Paw taught her. (If you haven't seen "Little Miss Sunshine", tell your boss that you don't feel good and need to go home. On your way stop at Blockbuster and rent it.)

Recently I have rediscovered a simple pleasure. The mornings have been so wonderful lately that I have been spending some time sitting on my front porch for a while before I leave for work. It occurred to me this morning how similar early morning in my neighborhood is to being at the monastery. All is quiet and calm. This morning I was sitting with a cup of coffee warming my hands while listening to birdsong. Nearby a red bird was perched on a bare limb seeming lost in thought and taking it all in as was I. There was a light fog shrouding the ground and bushed. Such moments are ripe for contemplation.

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

What Is Contentment?

What is contentment? Most of us are not overjoyed with every aspect of our lives so we at least hope for contentment. Sometimes I am joyful, occasionally I am happy, but often I simply feel content. But what does that mean? I hope that contentment is more than simple resignation or acceptance of what is. Contentment is surely more than a "whatever" attitude about life. I don't want to just settle for what life has given me. I want my contentment to be wrapped in gratitude. Perhaps contentment is the mature acceptance that life is sometimes joyful, sometimes happy, and occasionally sad. No one is happy all the time although some seem to always live with a joyful spirit even when life is hard. Even joyful people who are often happy cannot escape the occasional sadness of life. Perhaps we are content when we live with an attitude of acceptance for whatever life brings us each day. Perhaps contentment is understanding that some days are better than others but all days, even ones filled with sadness, are a gift. Contentment can also be the acceptance that whatever you have is enough. Contentment may be the absence of obsessive longing for more than you need. Most of my life has been good in the sense that my legitimate needs have been met and many of my desires have been met as well. For now I am going to be content with these few words. It is late night as I type them. I accept that my mind is tired and cannot think any deeper without sleep and the joy of a new dawn. This acceptance gives me peace and I content for now to offer these short thoughts. They are enough and all I have to offer right now.

Monday, June 04, 2007

Tragedy In The Neighborhood

It was a mostly busy weekend that started with sadness. Friday night I looked out my window and noticed most of the local news media parked outside my home and up and down my street. I found out later there had been a murder-suicide right around the corner, just hundreds of feet from where I live. I did not know the people and was not aware of any problems. I live in an old and quiet neighborhood. It is an integrated collection of elderly folks, working people, and young families. I know I am fortunate to live in a neighborhood where such violence, and even crime, are very rare. This sad event is another reason to pray for peace in our families and in our neighborhoods.

Yesterday I crept out of bed as quietly as I could in the early morning darkness trying not to wake my wife and Chloe who were sleeping beside me. Being the first Sunday of the month, I was committed to going to the monastery. I live about 50 miles from the Abbey of Gethsemani and feel very fortunate to have such easy access to such a holy place. I go there once a month to meet with a group of like minded individuals. I am not really their leader. I am more an organizer and facilitator of our monthly gatherings and discussions. Part of the experience is to also attend mass with the monks. After a short prayer called Tierce, guests are invited to sit up front near the monastic community. It is quite uplifting to walk up the long nave of the abbey church while Father Chrysogonus plays jubilantly upon the huge pipe organ. In the world of liturgical music Father Chrysogonus is something of a rock star. Sitting near the monks and participating in their community prayer one can strongly smell the sweet aroma of incense. It always reminds me of the Psalm that goes "Let my prayer, O Lord, rise before you like incense"! After mass I finished my visit with a simple but tasty pot luck lunch with my friends. After our good-byes we parted and headed in our different directions. The drive home was enjoyable and the overcast morning had turned into a beautiful and sunny day. When I pulled in my driveway, young Chloe was standing in the doorway.

Speaking of Chloe and other small children......Chloe is quite active and can be a handful. As a general rule she is usually well behaved but, like me, she has a short attention span. Her restless pursuit of activity can be exhausting. We have discovered something that is worth every penny of money that it cost. It is a DVD called "Madagascar". It is a Disney cartoon about some zoo animals who escape the zoo and end up in Madagascar. It holds Chloe spellbound. We were in great need of a new DVD because I have watch the "Doodlebops" DVD at least 457 times in recent months

Friday, June 01, 2007

A New Month

It is a new month! It hard to believe it is already June. In my kitchen I have a box full of Christmas coffee mugs sitting in a corner. I have been putting them away since last December. I suppose at this point it could be considered proactive for me to leave them out for another six months in preparation for Christmas 2007. If you wait long enough even procrastination can be transformed into being proactive.

I have flipped the pages on my calendars. Now I have new pictures to stare at in moments of fatigue, confusion, panic, or simple daydreaming. One of my calendars has pictures from the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I buy one of these calendars every year because I love the nature photography. It adds an element of peacefulness to my little self enclosed cubicle world. Whenever I feel the need I can look at the nature scene of the month and retreat in my mind to a quiet and beautiful place. On my other wall is a calendar from Holy Spirit Monastery in Conyers, Georgia. It was sent to me by my friend, Brother Chaminade. He is a monk that I met in France. We hit it off and have remained in contact with one another. He does a better job of writing to me than I do writing to him. I do send him my daily thoughts so he knows what's up with me. Being familiar with monastic life I am also aware of his daily life. I appreciate the fact that he is a silent presence in my life and that he is one more person who remembers me in prayer. I like having both calendars. One keeps me in secular time and the other keeps me in sacred time. The truth is that they are one and the same. Even when you try to live with a spiritual consciousness, those of us in the world must also be about our daily tasks and responsibilities. The spiritual journey and it's hoped for enlightenment is simply becoming more aware of what should be obvious. The world is full of the greatness and goodness of God and each moment is pregnant with grace when anything and everything is possible.

Why do these four day work weeks seem six days long? It has been a long week. I am finally feeling better but I am weary. Because of my long illness I have not slept well. The combination of medicine and fatigue have kept me in a daze for much of the last two weeks. I look forward to the weekend and the possibility of extra sleep. I will have to get up early on Sunday to visit the monastery. I go there once a month to meet with a small group of like minded folks. It is sometimes difficult to drag myself out of bed but I enjoy the drive there and the time I am with my friends and the monks. What I really need is a few days at the monastery alone so I can really rest and get renewed. I have had some world class naps in the silence and solitude of the monastery. It is place to renew not only the soul but the body as well. Like life and spirituality, the body and soul cannot be separated. Both need attention in order to be balanced.