I wish you were still around

Hey Mike.

Facebook is telling me it’s your birthday again.

I saw where everyone checked in on your page. Your family writes their ‘Happy Birthdays’ on your page every year, without fail. And every year I read them and sit here and despite my best efforts to the contrary, my eyes well up with water. That’s the one thing I hate about knowing you. I hate the wishing you were still around, part.

I have this crazy motorized bicycle. It’s an absolute death trap. Probably the worst decision I’ve ever made buying something.

You would have loved it.

I bought it sight unseen from the internet. Everything that has gone wrong with it, I’ve fixed using YouTube….

…your favorite.

Just today, when Facebook reminded me you were gone, I was sitting here in my office rebuilding the wheel so it could use motorcycle tires, instead of mountain bike tires. I was mad. The jerk wad at the bike store said what I was doing was too dangerous, and he wouldn’t help. So I went home and figured it out myself.

I burned up my data plan in the process, but the tire got built.

And I did it myself.  With my own tools, in my own garage.

Karen tells me when I get that way…all “YouTube-Intense”, that “I’ll figure it out”. Says, “You always do”. I’d wager Sandy said that to you also, when you had YouTube-Face.

 

…….

……………..

…………………………………

Things aren’t quite the same around here, and I wish you were still around to be honest.

……..

…………………

…………………………………….

There’s been a few divorces since you left.  Another couple is separating a baseball’s toss from your old house.

I can still remember you standing in my doorway telling me how you were praying that Sandy’s real estate stuff would blow up. That she deserved every success. I could feel your hope for her like standing next to a fireplace. The warmth of that love. You were almost willing it into existence.  You were like a well wishing love-Yoda.

I hold that memory of you there that night…those 2 or 3 minutes – like some token in my pocket. A talisman that I squeeze every so often when the inevitable rocks invade life’s marital road. A “memory lighthouse”, maybe? I don’t know what to call it. . .

We were talking the other day about the people who really go to heaven. The ones that were really Christians, were the people who LOVED others. That LOVE was the material of eternity. If people were trees, the fruit of Jesus was LOVE apples. How people who love others leave indelible impressions on others. You feel it when they’re around you. And when they’re not, you feel that too. Maybe more so.

Most others are like the crazy neighbor lady next to me. The one who cut the oak tree down you were so fond of.

They just exist. Make no marks.

And when they leave, their memories vanish like some wispy morning fog on the river back here. And they are gone.

I won’t tear up someday if Facebook tells me it’s her birthday.

………………….

I think a lot about what life will look like someday in the future. What will people do when Facebook tells them it’s my birthday, and I’m not here to see it. Will people tear up, or scroll past?

Will I have made the most of the last valuable lesson you taught –  in your departure?

That time is fleeting.

It moves forward, fiercely – sans mercy or discretion.

That every day breathing in and out, is a sacred gift. An opportunity to be loved, TO love, and someday hopefully be missed.

To be amazed by it all, and somehow be amazing inside of it all. Be remarkable.

In this, I aspire to be your disciple. Am trying to be.

……..

………………

…………………………

So that when you first see me, right after you know what. . .

to have beautiful and bountiful bruises from my children’s hugs.

…scars and grease all over my hands from stuff I probably shouldn’t have done, but did anyway.

……a moist spot on my forehead…on my lips, from one last kiss.

 

……..

……………..

……………………….

I wish you were still around.

 

 

 

 

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The rock factor

Kenneth White was a passenger in a van travelling along route I-75 near Flint Michigan. If it was anything like when I ride anywhere with my best friend, good conversations were probably going down. He was probably talking about work, his family – making a good joke when the opportunity presented itself mid story.

9.81 meters per second per second later.

This is the force of gravity here on Earth.

If you throw a tennis ball into the air in front of you, straight up – it will fall from the tallest point in the air 9.81 meters per second per second faster from that point.

In 1797, British scientist Henry Cavendish was the first to actually measure the force of gravity between masses, and the first to yield accurate values ultimately for the gravitational constant. When you read about some guy in some lab somewhere measuring ‘gravity waves’, it’s all the same soup – just a bigger pot.

5 teenagers had no idea who Henry Cavendish was. Probably never heard of Issac Newton. But they had a pretty good idea what would happen, when they dropped the 6 pound rock in front of the passenger van Kenneth White was sitting in, as a passenger – from atop the overpass near Flint, Michigan yesterday.

All told, the five teenagers ranging in age from 15 to 17, threw a total of 20 rocks off 2 overpasses that night.  And a tire.

One rock weighed 20 pounds.

[A bowling ball weights 16 pounds]

A police cruiser was dispatched to White’s home. Like in some movie. To tell a little boy that his father wasn’t ever coming home again.

FIRST THOUGHT:

Every today….today, in fact – you and I are participants in an eternal cosmic equation. Use words like “chaos theory” or “probability” if it helps you get your head around it. Ultimately however, nearly 100% of us have insulated our minds from the cold reality of the actuarial math which envelops, surrounds, and intertwines us all.  We universally summon the same brave faces and polite colloquialisms in its face.

Oh, it was just his time“, we say. Saying it was “just their time” surrounds the coldness of the math with marshmellowy warm words in an attempt to distance and insulate ourselves. We use words like some kind of vehicular “air bags” to cushion the reminder that we are all Kenneth White bingo-balls in a cosmic VFW basement, spinning around the circular cage until it’s “our time”. Until ‘somone’ calls our number.

SECOND THOUGHT:

People are not generally good.

We are the most advanced society that has ever graced the surface of the blue marble we find ourselves living on. The blue marble is filled with people who have thought some pretty big metaphysical thoughts about it all, topping out with the “big 3” religions after thousands of years.

When I read about Mr. White this morning, Buddhism didn’t have an answer for me about his death. Nor did Islam. Kenneth wasn’t being punished for something in his past life, or smitten by an angry Islamic god.

He was killed by an ancestor of Cain.

Something is horribly broken here on Terra Firma. It didn’t used to be like this. And someday it won’t be like this anymore. But when rocks fall from overpasses and bullets rain down from Vegas hotels, Christ wins the eternal gambit. He alone possesses the answers which most accurately describe the human condition. The potential each of us has to inflict unspeakable, generations-spanning pain on one another.

We all carry Cain’s genes.

These kids, after killing White, went to eat at McDonald’s.   Buddha and Muhammad can’t speak to that.  The holes in Christ’s hands…his feet……his sides give him full observational authority in my mind. The shortest verse in the New Testament sums the condition of humanity’s hearts up, in fact:

“Jesus wept.” [John 11, v35]

FINAL THOUGHT

Today is a wake up call of sorts, for you.  Not so much for me, as I’ve been awake for a little while, anyway. This is what I tell myself…

There are two choices we are all making, every day. Two thoughts at war for our mind.

One is telling you to play it safe. To stand near the other zebras, and go where the other zebras go. Whispers to you, that if all the zebras are standing together, it makes it harder for the lions of the world to pick you off.

This idea that if you shuffle quietly from morning to evening and do what everyone else does and thinks what everyone else thinks we all make it to 82.52 years old. This thought, is a lie.

Today, I’d like you to give yourself permission to hear the second thought out.

It’s the one that reminds you as you’re driving….the person coming at you in the other lane could be distracted. Angry. Drunk. Or suicidal.

Its quiet voice is a primordial reminder that life, however you define its origin – every second of life is precious and beautiful and miraculous. It speaks to the wanton wastefulness of homo-erectus with regards to the commodity of TIME.

You will never have as much of it as you think you will.

We will all be surprised when we die. When our rock comes. Jesus knew it better than anyone:

But God said to him, ‘You fool! This very night your life is demanded of you. And the things you have prepared-whose will they be?’….”  (Luke 12:20)

How would your live your life differently today – if you knew it was your last day?

Where would you travel to, if you truly understood how little time we all had left?

What words that have been left unspoken for decades would you cautiously utter to someone?

What would you tell your kids tonight that they’ve never heard?

Who would you forgive? Ask forgiveness of?

Your parents?

Your spouse?

Yourself?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Only (dumb) ignorant people believe in God

Hang on. Before you lose your minds, just give me a few minutes.

This morning, I woke up and meandered through my early morning Sunday routines, to find myself where I inevitably end up – here in the office scrolling through my Facebook feed. Mark Zuckerberg’s algorithms decided I should see what someone else I respect highly had “liked” earlier on. So I clicked on it. It was all futuristic-spacey looking and if I’m not a sucker for that stuff, I’m nothing.

-Click-

It was a teaser video for a podcast for a man named Sam Harris. Who argued that creation was magnificent enough for us to believe in miracles. That we no longer needed the “myths and fictions” of the past. If only we rejected the “tribalism” of the world – we could solve all our own problems and live in a Harris-topia…a new age of secular cum-bye-ahhhhh.

The distinct implication drawn from the imagery and carefully recorded commentary, was that to believe in an ancient God, was somehow in direct opposition to reason. Or science. And that’s just not true.

According to the Washington Times, 84 percent of the modern world, has a professed faith. A third of those people are card carrying Christians. 23 percent of those people are Muslims. Even in the era of common core math, one can see that over half of the people walking around today believe in the God of Abraham, Issac, and Jacob. Believe that there was nothing, and then everything.

According to researchers who study such things, “the world is more educated than ever before“.

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According to OurWorldInData.org, this rise in education can be attributed to, “… the result of increased appreciation of the benefits of education to the individual and society, as well as and increased government provision.”

People are more intelligent than they’ve ever been before. And they still believe in “ancient myths and fictions”.

Is belief in a God – a supreme being, mutually exclusive from advanced intelligence and reasoning? The evidence seems to bear out the contrary.

Gregor Johann Mendel, the father of modern Genetics was a card-carrying Monk.

German mathematician and Protestant Johannes Kepler is the father or modern Astrophysics. He discovered and formulated the laws that govern how every body in space moves in relation to each other’s mass and distance. Historians today believe that his discoveries, “led him to believe that he had uncovered God’s geometrical plan for the universe”.

Kepler would write in his later years,

“Purposely I break off the dream and the very vast speculation, merely crying out with the royal Psalmist: Great is our Lord and great His virtue and of His wisdom there is no number: praise Him, ye heavens, praise Him, ye sun, moon, and planets, use every sense for perceiving, every tongue for declaring your Creator…to Him be praise, honour, and glory, world without end. Amen.”   ( – “Epilogue Concerning the Sun, By Way of Conjecture,” ibid.)

For Kepler, the very thing Harris says steers us from God – steers us TO a God. His laws, in fact, allow us to understand exactly what the Biblical “star of Bethlehem” was, thousands of years after the event- confirming what was written in the New Testament.

Hundreds of years later, research astronomer and Nobel Prize winner George Smoot – the leader on a team of scientists that was able to image the universe in its infancy – speaks about the discovery of another Christian scientist and NASA COBE satellite team member, Robert Wilson. Wilson and his partner Arno Penzias discovered “cosmic background radiation”.  (The background radiation was the cornerstone of the “Big Bang”…the evidence left behind from that massive instantaneous explosion from nothingness into something-ness._)

Smoot says of Wilson’s discovery,

“…”there is no doubt that a parallel exists between the big bang as an event
and the Christian notion of creation from nothing.”

He called the predicted ripples in the cosmic background radiation “fingerprints from the master”.

Modern day researcher Steven Hawking observed of Smoot,
““If the rate of expansion one second after the big bang had been smaller by even one part in a hundred thousand million, the universe would have re-collapsed before it ever reached it present state.” Slightly faster than the critical rate and matter would have dispersed too rapidly to allow stars and galaxies to form. George Smoot describes the creation even[t] as “finely orchestrated.”

These do not sound like ignorant, myth and fiction followers to me. There are in fact, increasing numbers of people who stood with Harris, who are defecting from a pure materialistic view (the Universe is all there is, and we all random biological happenstance) to one that is more divine.

Paul Davies, atheistic apologist seems to conceed,

““the laws [of physics] … seem themselves to be the product of exceedingly ingenious design.” (Davies, “Superforce”, p 243)

further speculating,

“There is for me powerful evidence that there is something going on behind it all … it seems as though somebody has fine-tuned nature’s numbers to make the Universe … The impression of design is overwhelming.” (Davies, “The Cosmic Blueprint”, p. 203)

Einsten, while having no belief in a personal God, had this to say on the matter of it all,

““The scientist is possessed by the sense of universal causation … His religious feeling takes the form of a rapturous amazement at the harmony of natural law, which reveals an intelligence of such superiority that, compared with it, all the systematic thinking and acting of human beings is an utterly insignificant reflection.” (Albert Einstein)

As astrophysicists like Hubble and mathematicians like Friedman continued to make discoveries in Einstein’s lifetime – those discoveries forced him to re-examine his own mathematical theories (like the “cosmological constant”), as well as his own personal theories regarding an “impersonal” God. He wrote after these discoveries were made not only of the necessity for a beginning, but of his desire

“…“to know how God created this world. I am not interested in this or that phenomenon, in the spectrum of this or that element. I want to know His thought, the rest are details.”
(cited by Nick Herbert, Quantum Reality–Beyond the New Physics, Garden City, New York: Anchor Press/Doubleday, 1985, p. 177)

I wonder if there’s room in Harris’ world for Einstein’s questions and realizations. What the one man would say to the other if they could debate, or speak.

The science of modern astrophysics in fact, creates an “imbalance” of faith. It requires less faith and mysticism to believe in a divine creator – than it does to believe in accidental chance creation.

Compared to the alternative of supposing that matter and energy somehow always existed, British physicist Edmund Whittaker says,

“It is simple to postulate creation ex nihilo–Divine will constituting Nature from nothingness.” (Edmund Whittaker cited in Fred Heeren Show Me God: What the Message from Space Is Telling Us About God Day Star Publications, 2000, pp. 121)

Author Barry Parker of “Creation – the Story of the Origin and the Universe” points out,

“We do, of course, have an alternative. We could say that there was no creation, and that the universe has always been here. But this is even more difficult to accept than creation.”

In the simplest of terms, people much smarter than you or I – smarter than Harris – the men and women who have peered down through the formulas, telescopes and microscopes far deeper than 99% of the modern population has peered, is peering, or will peer, walk away assured in their faith – or even swayed to have what was not possessed earlier. The calculus and statistics of it all rolling past and overwhelming them like an intellectual avalanche.

This was not an accident.

Something….someone did this.

I would normally be angered by a “Mr. Harris” video. But lately, at 46 years old, I’m grateful to him, and in a way, I pity him. Videos like his drive me deeper in my faith to answer questions that demand an examination. To follow Christ implies a demand that I hold Him accountable – all of it- and search for the evidence His claims require I find.  Those stones….those breadcrumbs…are all around us and above us. The fact that Harris misses it…saddens me.

So chin up.  Whatever your faith. You’re walking in the footsteps of giants who are hardly ignorant…..least of all dumb. In any sense.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I’m tired

I guess this is more of a diary entry than a blog post. I wonder if there’s any difference anymore between the two. The world we live in demands a viewport into lives on par with the most intimate of accesses. It’s a race perhaps to see whose soul’s farthest reaches are on the fullest of displays with a global population running in concert.

I’m tired.

It’s been over 10 years since I collected a paycheck from someone.

Over 10 years since I could fake working hard in my office. Or check out mentally at 4:30 and watch second hands spinning on office clocks down like some kind of rocket launch to 4:59:59. And then leave. And not care. Or think about what I was doing on the PC before shutting it down and closing out Microsoft Outlook.

Over 10 years since I could countdown to a vacation and not care about the fact that no one was doing my job while I was on vacation not doing my job.

Over 10 years since I collected a paycheck for weeks where my performance was mediocre, or sub-par. Weeks I phoned it in, as opposed to  my characteristically overachieving self.

Some weeks since then – I’ve made a stupid amount of money.  Other weeks – like this past week or so, I’ve made none. Not 1 dollar.

I am responsible for feeding 4 other people in this house.

If I don’t perform – those 4 people don’t eat.

I am responsible for people in 4 other families, as well. 5 if you count someone I’m caring less and less about for reasons I can’t get into.

If all of those people do their jobs – do them so well they deserve an award – we don’t make one dollar.

I am the “Sales” guy. Not them.

I did not go to school to learn how to sell. I don’t have a degree in anything remotely parallel or similar to sales. I’m an Engineer. Kind of. Barely even. So sales – marketing – all of it, it’s a foreign language to me. Spoken badly. (Bon Journow). And somehow we’ve thrived. Does that mean I’m a fast learner, or a good faker? Is there even a difference?

For 10 years, I’ve not had a boss. But me. And these 4 other people in my house. No performance reviews. No written or verbal warnings. No chance of an unexpected layoff or downscale. No overtime I didn’t want to or have to put in. No pre-approval required for any new ideas or risks taken. Ten. Years.

And I am tired.

I have big plans. Big dreams for this company.

I have customers who have taken something I made for them. An idea I had that was taught – and made fortunes with them. Paid for their lives with an idea that came from my head, was spoken to them through a computer screen – and absorbed it into their brains where it germinated and became a skill. Lots of those, in fact.

I never saw that coming.

I am tired, though. Especially on the hard weeks where the manna isn’t there on the ground in the morning when I go out with my basket. There’s nothing to eat- nothing to pick up and bring back to my tent to my family. A sense that we have been here before and will be here again, and to trust. Trust. Wait.

Everyone is encouraging lately. Other people in the company tell me I’m doing a great job. As good as ever, in fact. They are proud of me. My wife tells me that I will figure it out – and I always find a way. She trusts me.

But will I ever hit a wall? Will something happen that I can’t foresee – an obstacle I can’t overcome? Like when PanAm closed up and told my Dad there was no more job to come to. Ever again.

There’s no going back to the I have a job life. I’m sure of that. But what if this fails? This decade’s old experiment of mine. What if the ideas stop coming? What if someone bigger and better comes along. What if I falter in my faith, and the manna doesn’t come back ever?

No one else really understands that part. They see the guy who works from home, who rarely leaves his house or dresses up anymore. Who fishes from his orange kayak and goes to the beach in the summer for a week. It – this life – looks really good from a few hundred yards away.

Come stand here – a few inches away -and you can see my eyes are trembling a little bit now. My blood pressure is kind of high. I’m short with the people that I love who love me. I’m thinking about stuff.  Trying everything, and doing what I know to do hoping it’s enough to restart the engine. Another week. Another month – year. Decade.

I am tired.

 

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Finding the happy pockets

It’s 04-18. And if you don’t really, really know me – haven’t travelled with me far back enough, you don’t really understand why that’s not a great day for me. That, and 08-02 are hard.

Confession – and seemingly disconnected side thought – I watch ‘Gilmore Girls‘ on Netflix with my daughter and wife. (Yes). The main love interest of the show, “Luke Danes”,  caught my attention one episode. People in the town knew that he had a “Dark Day”. A day that he shut down his diner and isolated himself from people. 04-18, 08-02, I get it. I get how it affects those around me, and my “Lorelai”.

04-08 was my birthday. I’m 46 now – according to all known public records. You think about things more when you’re 46. I’d like to think your brain picks up where your body shuts down- compensating. There’s more considering and contemplating than I remember at say, 36 or 26. More pauses prior to speaking. More thinking out how a situation might play out prior to acting. Rounder edges and corners. Less Hulk, more Dr. Banner.

On 04-07 , the afternoon before my birthday – I left my house. Got on a motorized bike (I call it a Motorbike in my brain to feel more like James Dean, and less like Paula Dean) and drove 40 miles to the tallest campsite around my house – a place called Hanging Rock State Park – combining a string of things I’d never done before in one experiential sentence. When I first bought the bike – this was what I’d dreamed of doing. Gas. Gadgets – gone. And on 04-07, I did it.  I mention it to you, because it was a “Happy Pocket”. A pocket of time that I’d envisioned – fashioned together, and executed…resulting in a huge smile and an even warmer heart.

There’s a big demand for happy pockets, lately.

A few weeks ago – Miss Evans across the street, died. She was affectionately known to everyone around as “Granny”. And Granny watched my yard and house from across the street in her kitchen. She watched the birds, and the flowers, and the children playing in the yard and street. She called several times to tell us that the wind turbine in my yard was slower than normal – or questioned why it was down at all and when would it be up again? Because she loved watching it spin. Watching all of it.  No one’s watching anymore, and there’s an empty kitchen window. And the turbine is just a turbine now.

A few months ago, someone I’d gotten to know  cheated on his wife and kids. For the 2nd time, after an initial reconciliation and forgiveness.  Little kids ‘little‘. ‘Don’t care that I did it, and consequences be damned‘ kind of affair. It’s about the 10th divorce since I got married – people I knew along the way that just bought a ticket to Crazy land, packed their marital bags, and pulled the pin on their respective devastation grenades.

Just down the road from us, yesterday – something horrible happened. The worst kind of horrible that you don’t talk about. If you do, it’s a hushed whisper kind of talk. The kind of bad where you hug your kids after, and ask your spouse ‘are you okay?’ every day for a long time afterwards, bad. You can’t ever make it right for that person darkest of darknesses bad.

So, I’ve been focusing a lot on my happy pockets.

I love watching Netflix with my wife Karen. Love shows we love together, like Stranger Things, and Grace and Frankie. We just watched “13 Reasons” together, and binge watched one night until past 2 in the morning.  When days are hard or long – I can see myself on a couch with my wife and that huge red NETFLIX logo (BUM BUM!) and it just makes me feel, well, happy.  I am together with my highschool sweetheart in a house we live in surrounded by a life – and safe.

I love riding my motor-bike (the hyphen kills me) the last 30 minutes before sunset. The light is thick maple syrupy golden, and I imagine what heaven must look like. Where I live, there are deeply green wheat fields growing now – lawns being mowed and spring onions cut scenting the air. And steaks being cooked far off somewhere where kids are laughing playing baseball or cows are grazing watching me ride by. My helmet speakers are on, and Glenn Fry is telling me to “Take it Easy” from a recording studio before I was born. And I smile – uncontrollably smile.  Catch myself the happiest I can remember being – not wanting to stop riding almost trancelike deliriously submerged in a brief eternal moment.

I love Tuesday night dinners. My oldest son Caleb goes to music class (he’s learning to program Dub-Step electronically), and afterwards we go to dinner together. We talk endlessly about the future of video games – the future of just about everything. I sit and listen to him passionately dissertate why PlayStation squandered a tremendous opportunity with the gaming community – artfully and skillfully presenting points and counterpoints – when I realize I could be reading what he’s saying in a trade publication, word for word. I realize he’s going to be ok as an adult. Admire his mind, and his heart. I half understand some of the game references – but ask boiler plate questions when I sense pauses (“What do you think that means?“….”How might that affect the gaming community?“….) and he launches back into his diatribe a 2nd or 3rd time like a whale diving miles deep down to the ocean floor disappearing in thought again in between bites of his meatball hero. Lately, my youngest son Evan Michael is joining us. He’s quieter than Caleb – but he’s been holding his own (deftly) at the roundtable. Some nights, I just watch them…my 2 sons – going back and forth about this game or another talking laughing sharing and arguing and eating and my heart is so full I have to look away.

I love watching my daughter Abbey compete at school sports. Her softball games….her basketball years, and now her latest foray into High School Track. I was never in any kind of organized sport at school – and don’t really watch any professional sports teams on TV. But when my daughter is competing or playing – I am Kevin Costner in “A field of Dreams”. I am the Miracle hockey team. I am riding next to Lance Armstrong and sitting next to Dale Earnhardt.  I have lost my voice at almost every game. Left with elevated blood pressures and sweaty hands. Pride so effluent, I’m practically slipping on it as we leave the school’s bleachers.  I never cheer for anyone, or anything – but when my daughter is out there, something in my heart stirs. I am Gladiator, and on that floor/in that field making all the hand motions that dad’s a hundred years before me have made…holding my breath when she swings, or swooshes……

Happy pockets.

They’re in short order and supply, now – more than ever.  And I thought a lot about them up on that mountain bike camp trip.

It was less about sleeping in a tent, and more of a “mental inventory” between 46 and the unstoppable 47. I was there, cataloging my moments…understanding the why of “it all“.  Looking squarely in the eyes of the not so happy pockets and having a counterpoint. A defense.

An answer, maybe, on the dark days.

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No instructions included

This is one of those blog posts that are for me – not so much for you…whoever you are someday. A friend…my kids after I’m gone…a stranger. Peek over my shoulder, no worries. But ultimately, this wasn’t about you.

This morning, I’ve been spending a little time with myself. The kind of myself time where you peer down into yourself, like you dropped your keys in a storm drain and are staring through the grate down into the murky depths pondering just what the hell is down there. I’m frustrated…lion pacing in a zoo cage frustrated. Do stupid things lose your keys bang your knee on the table corner restless. Something worth parking in the mental garage and peering under the hood for.

Carl Sandburg once said,

A man must find time for himself. Time is what we spend our lives with. If we are not careful we find others spending it for us. . . . It is necessary now and then for a man to go away by himself and experience loneliness; to sit on a rock in the forest and to ask of himself, ‘Who am I, and where have I been, and where am I going?’ . . . If one is not careful, one allows diversions to take up one’s time—the stuff of life.

Okay, Carl.

Today I realized – I keep doing this to myself. I take on projects (going in knowing) that have no “instructions”. No tidily wrapped brown box arrives at my front door with a “do-A-do-B-do-C” instruction list inside of it, when I take on a new project. These projects inevitably lead to the, “why the hello did I do this again?” question.

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I was one of the first people to own a consumer  grade 3D printer. A heartache that was so not-finished relative to what you can buy now, people were erasing the original operating system away, and writing their own to make it run right. 1 year…365 days to make peace with it…spending hours online in obscure chat forums divining what others had crafted to make theirs work. 12 maddening months later – something just shy of perfection would materialize on the printer’s build plate – a plastic thing of beauty.  But between the book ends of that first idea, (“Let’s get one!’ ) and the first great print  (“Oooh – did you make that?“) I was not a pleasant person to be around. (more on that).

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I have 18 solar panels at my house, powering all sorts of things. I used to have 1 five watt panel when I was living on Long Island. Between 5 watts and 1800 watts, were a few more of those unpleasant ‘How the bloddy (*@(#*$@(# does this work?” moments. The kind of learning experiences that had my arms and hands covered in acid, or the permanent ringing in my right ear – both resulting from an unfortunate exploding golf cart battery ‘incident’. As of right now though – everything is working. Now, years later – when you can hire a guy to come to your house with a van loaded with instruction booklets.

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I have jogged around this exact same track of insanity with consumer drones. (another year of insanity).

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Done this to myself with the hydroponics greenhouse that I am writing this blog post from. (another year).

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Jumped headfirst into yet again building a wood-pellet-rocket-stove that now heats to 865 degrees burning recycled little hardwood dust pieces. I can feel it on my back as I type from where it sits 10 feet away, keeping the tomatoes from freezing at night. (another year).

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The rocket stove sits 25 feet from a home built wind turbine (nearly 8 feet wide tip to tip, almost 40 feet in the air) that also celebrated a one year anniversary of “WTF’s” with me. It’s on it’s 3rd revision, and is finally charging batteries that power stuff I use.

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Then there was that, “Hey, I think we can make a portable gold dredge” project using designs found on YouTube…..another year….and yes, we found gold.

All these things without a formal education in said things. All the projects – the same cycle of “this-sounds-fun-can’t-wait-to-try-it-wait-why-is-it-doing-that-why-did-I-do-this-in-the-first-place-what-if-I-just-change-this-oh-look-it’s-working-now”. Lots of patient eye rolling from my wife between “A” and “Z” and the thousands of YouTube videos searching for salvation.

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I’m getting a motor powered bicycle. What used to be called a “moped”.  It gets over 100 miles to the gallon. AND it has pedals. I ordered one, and the all too familiar, “this project is all I can think about-mental-brute-force-it-into-reality” is back. There are several thousand of them in existence…which isn’t many considering there are 330 million Americans. Maybe 1 for every 5,000 actual “scooter” mopeds in my state. It’s so weird and new that people at the DMV when asked how to register it, actually had a conference to figure out what it was – and they’re still not sure.

And yet again….I pace. I grind my teeth. I chew the insides of my cheeks and lips (a habit that goes all the way back to High School). My mind goes into a ‘brute force’ pattern of problem solving and internet surfing. I obsess. I research. And research. And research. Until I’m saturated with the knowledge of the thing…seeing the problem from all angles, simultaneously. Most of the time – without a smile. I get quiet. On edge. My brain gets tender, and protective of the singular thought pattern. I send emails out to people who are helping me that are short….direct….rude, I think. Most every one of these ideas and projects are “complicated births” that never go smoothly though. There’s weeks and months of pushing the idea out into reality.

But I forget. It always finishes well. There’s always an end….a moment of success. Sure, it comes with a cost – but as my wife Karen told me once, “You’re you…..You always figure it out eventually”. It has to be hard being married to me, I’m thinking. but yes. This crazy bike project too, will pass.

And then I want to dig my own off grid well.

I want to double my greenhouse floor space, and learn to use geo-thermal heating and cooling from the ground beneath it.

I want to fly an ultralight powered parachute. Land it, and camp somewhere.

I want to convert one of my cars to drive autonomously. And drive to California.

More pacing. More cheek biting. More forgetting I always do this, and that it always ends the same.

But maybe starting now, appreciating the in-between stuff. Not being so intense…replacing the anxiety with curiosity and gratitude for a clear mind.  Be a litte easier to live with and be around between the beginning and end parts.

Maybe.

 

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My friend

I’ve known my friend Ron now (I don’t know the exact number of years) long enough. That is to say, there was a Ron Gardner before there was a “Ron Gardner knows Michael Lydick” . That part of his life (BM, “before Me”) is laden with colorful characters and encounters that precede anything I ever influenced. See, I haven’t known Ron forever, but I’ve known him arguably, long enough.

In that long enough period of time, he’s not once raised his voice to me. I sat here cycling through the Rolodex of my memory. Not. One. Time. We’ve had 1 fight that I can ever remember in close to 20 years, and if I’m honest – it was me being angry and him just trying to tell me he was sorry. The entire episode lasted maybe an hour. Friends like that, well, it’s comforting and simultaneously unsettling. Someone you fearfully wonder on your own, “What would I have to to do make them irreparably angry at me?” I suspect I know the answer to that question but I’ll die before I prove out the theory.

In the period between “now” and “long enough”, almost every dollar I’ve made doing something, I’ve shared with him. Every flake of manna that has, is falling, or will fall from the sky for the foreseeable future – we split. Our failure or success or our mutual mediocrity in business – is, well, mutual. And it occurred to me that not once in “long enough” have I ever questioned his integrity.  Were I forced to wager in fact, I would garner that my pile of manna flakes ‘post-Ron-division’ has a few more than his pile.

Somewhere between now and long enough. I’ve seen more of the world, done more things, and experienced more adventures than I had with any 10 people leading up to and including the long enough time. In fact, my Facebook photo albums are a colorful cacophony  of things built…places gone to…people met and hands shaken once there. I swear sometimes a good third of theses things are born into existence via the sheer will and life force of my long enough friend. ( I secretly hope that I will meet my end one day during such an undertaking, as opposed to slobbering on myself in a hospice bed somewhere. )

Between now and long-enough-ago, I’ve watched my friend bring young man after young man alongside himself on his own journey and attempt to mentor them with what knowledge and experience he’s accumulated. Most listen. Some, haven’t.  I imagine him telling them what Robert Duvall’s  “Secondhand Lions” character told his movie proteges. When I heard these words, I thought I heard my friend’s voice saying them…

Sometimes the things that may or may not be true are the things a man needs to believe in the most. That people are basically good. That honour, courage and virtue mean everything ; that power and money … money and power mean nothing. That good always triumphs over evil. And I want you to remember this…. that love….true love never dies ! Remember that boy … remember that. Doesn’t matter if it is true or not, a man should believe in those things , because those are the things worth believing in…… got that ?

I don’t have much in the way of family. My own brother and sister are more or less ‘in the wind’  having drained me of what resources they could before casting me off; moving on. For all intents and purposes I’m a 45 year old orphan.  But I am neither poor in spirit, or to be pitied-  in any sense. For in the words of acclaimed Christian apologist Alistair Begg,

If you have one true friend in the world, you are very rich

Today is his birthday. And it gets harder every year to think of what to wrap in paper and hand off to him in celebration of the day. What do you get someone who at any moment in time, is Wyatt Earp, Thomas Edison, and the American Sniper rolled into one person? They don’t have categories for that guy on Amazon. But I can write. And acknowledge. And have gratitude. And my long enough friend would probably say “that’s enough”.

 

 

 

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