Victory from Defeat

‘Tis the season to get thrown down, squeezed hard, and manhandled by somebody else. It is the season where the mind and the heart are tested to see just how far they can go. This isn’t your season for this? Well, after a two-year hiatus from the wrestling mats, it is Alec’s season.

A lot can be forgotten in two years by a nine-year-old boy. The technique, muscle-memory, and explosiveness must be retrained. His new teammates didn’t take the last two years off, and they are primed to deal out some punishment. And in Alec’s last practice, that is exactly what they did to him. Into the fire he goes where all his faculties are being tested, where all the impurities are being removed. As a parent, I am loving it. No, I am not some kind of sadist who loves to see his one and only son get abused. I am loving it because I see the fire within him burning as brightly as the fire that is testing him. He wants to succeed. He is determined to get better.

A couple of days ago, the coach gave his after-practice speech. He told the boys that the most wrestling they will do this season will be in practice. This is where they can perfect their game. It is where they can try new moves and fail. It is where they can continue trying and then succeed. I loved this message from the coach. I hope the boys take it to heart.

If you learn from defeat, you haven’t really lost.

Zig Ziglar

Learning from defeat. It is one of the best educations someone can get. It is a quality that separates the champions from the participants. Nobody wants to lose, but it is a rare individual who can take the lessons from a loss and use it to become better. Giving up might be accepted in a modern society that doesn’t want anyone to feel bad. They might even get an award for their efforts. But will it have any value in the future? Can it compare to unlocking the puzzle that holds the keys to victory?

Sport is a proving ground that can allow a person to find out how to win in life. It is a practice in resilience, courage, determination, and grit. Therefore, I love seeing Alec go into the fire. As a parent and a spectator, I can witness the evolution of a boy earning his rite of passage into manhood. What an opportunity!


Feature photo by Chris Chow on Unsplash.

Embrace the Truth

Are you educated? Or are you indoctrinated? The educated seek to understand. They seek the truth. On the other hand, the indoctrinated seek to go with the flow. They do not break from the mold, they don’t think on their own, and most assuredly, they do not question the information they are given.

Is there a difference between spoon-fed and force-fed?

The spoon-fed lack the maturity to use a fork. It simply is too dangerous as the pokey tines could puncture something other than the food on the plate. The child that lacks the coordination to use a fork must use a spoon. Once the motor skills are developed, the child can progress to the next level of advancement: the fork. Whether spoon, fork, or even the hands, the child can choose what goes in the mouth. The great question is how to get the food in there as efficiently and safely as possible.

When it comes to choice, the force-fed are not given one. They can use whichever utensil they prefer. Yet, it doesn’t matter. They must eat what they are given. And if they don’t eat or will not keep it down, then other measures will be used, even if the digestive system is bypassed and an IV is implemented.

Dispose yourself to embrace the truth, wherever it is found.

John Locke

When it comes to information, are you educated or indoctrinated? Are you spoon-fed or force-fed? One is determined based on ability and can be improved. It involves choice. The other cares neither about choice not ability.

The words John Locke spoke over 400 years ago are just as relevant today as they were back then. We must go to great lengths to search out and seek the truth. There are those who would cover it up, distort it, and even attempt to manipulate it. They want to force-feed what they think we should have. Information is power, and the distributors of it are reluctant to let it go.

The information is out there if we are willing to dig for it. We can either search it out, or we can passively let others give it to us. Which will you choose?


Feature photo by Daniel Joffe on Unsplash

Contemplating Seneca #15 On Youthful Enthusiasm

There are some things my son does that drives me crazy. He is too old to be exhibiting certain behaviors. Why is he not maturing at the pace I expected?

I remember a day at the beach. My best friend, his dog, and I on a rather secluded Florida beach. While my friend and his dog played in the sand, I sat in the surf staring off into the distance. This was my sanctuary, my place to become one with nature. We were both around thirty years old. There I was with all my stoic reserve as he played like a child. He even told me I should do it. I wanted to, but unfortunately, I forgot how. I grew past that stage and felt silly even considering it.

Hang on to your youthful enthusiasm…you’ll be able to use them better when you’re older.

Seneca

I thought I had lost that youthful enthusiasm. Reconnecting with it comes and goes these days. When it does come, I have the joy of a long-lost childhood. All my worries dissipate. I hope my son never loses his childlike enthusiasm. I hope my frustration isn’t so visible that it deters him from his play. Once it is gone, it is difficult to regain. Alec, hold onto it. Don’t let it go and don’t let me be the one to stop you.

Proverbs 19:4 Rich Friend, Poor Friend

How many times did I want to participate in a group activity but could not because I could not afford it? Many of my friends were going, but I had to stay behind.

There was once a girl. At the time, I thought she was the one (Apropos, she was not). When she moved across the state, I did not have the means to visit as often as I wished. In time, she went her way. And years later, I finally did find the right one.

Wealth makes many friends, but the poor is separated from his friend.

Proverbs 19:4

Instead of building wealth back then, I developed poor spending habits. I increased my debt, and consequently, my way of life suffered. I bought now and found myself paying what seemed like forever. No wonder my social life was not enviable.

“What is the proper limit to wealth?” Seneca asked, “It is, first, to have what is necessary, and second, to have what is enough.” The line may sometimes seem murky. Too much is not necessary; not enough is undesirable.

Strong Body, Beautiful Body

Some say the body is a temple. Yet like the body, not all temples are the same.  Some are carved out of abandoned shopping centers, while others are magnificent structures designed to glorify the Deity it represents.

All temples began the same way. A dream and a vision, the clearing of ground, and then the work to build the structure. Once completed, it became a place of worship and spirituality.

It is a shame for a man to grow old without seeing the beauty and strength of which his body is capable.

Socrates

At forty-seven years of age, I still look in the mirror and imagine what my body can become. I can’t control my height, facial structure, or any of the odd features I was born with. Instead, I can only try to control the things within my power. I can make what I can control beautiful and strong. My temple holds my heart and my spirit. Therefore, I work to make it a worthy structure fit for a child of God. While on the earth, this body is the only I have, and I treat it with the reverence it deserves.

How is your temple coming along? It would be a shame to grow old and never be able to see the beauty and strength it is capable of achieving.


Feature photo by Jade Stephens on Unsplash.

Compliance not Recommended

Indoctrination begins at the earliest stages of life:

  • Don’t stand out from the crowd.
  • Do as your told.
  • Behave yourself like a good little boy/girl.

It continues in school:

  • Check this box, not that one.
  • Be where you are supposed to be when you are supposed to be there.
  • Stand out as a cool kid, and you are in. Stand out as anything else. Awkward!

That wasn’t enough for some of us, and we needed remedial training. I fell into this category and ended up in the Army. There I was granted the opportunity to live in forced compliance. March, turn, eat, and sleep. Everything in order and on schedule.

What do the rulers of the world (governments and corporations) want from us? They want us to do exactly as we were trained. They want us to be compliant. The outsiders don’t fit into their plans. They need workers and consumers who can be where they are supposed to be and are able to check the correct box. And the result? The average person will put off their dreams, work themselves nearly to death, and then hope they have a little peace in their final years of existence. From their earliest stages of life, they were molded to be compliant citizens working for “The Man.”

To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

Thinking outside the box is only acceptable when it benefits the higher ups.

Our current pandemic has highlighted the world we live in:

  • Small businesses are getting crushed because they do not fit in with the corporate scheme.
  • Compliance is being forced with our freedoms on the line.
  • Make one wrong step or voice one contrary opinion and Big Brother’s minions, the social gestapo, will cancel you.

To be yourself in this world may be one of the hardest endeavors you could undertake. It could also be the most rewarding. That’s why Emerson said it was the greatest accomplishment. It means we can’t allow others to think for us. We must think for ourselves.

Emperor’s Log #6 What Should We Prize?

What was I designed to do? I study, learn, experience, and try to help others. I take of myself, my family, and the land I live on. When I work toward these pursuits, I am doing what I was designed to do.

What was I not designed to do? Everything that was not mentioned above. Everything else falls into one of two categories: laziness and procrastination. I was not designed to be lazy. And if I get busy doing something I was not designed to do, then I am just procrastinating on the things I was designed to do. I was built for action, not inaction.

*What is it in ourselves that we should prize?

What is it in ourselves that we should prize?

I think it’s this: to do (and not to do) what we were designed for. That’s the goal of all trades, all arts, and what each of them aims at: that the thing they create should do what it was designed to do.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditation 6:16

Going after the things I wasn’t designed to do will leave me in a bad state. My soul will desire what it is not getting. I will be always wanting and never satisfying the hunger within. And the worst part is that I will be gaining that which I do not want. For example, my body was designed to be in motion and to eat real food. If instead, I choose to sit around all day and eat junk, I will not be doing what I was designed to do. Instead of getting the body I want, I will get a body that is weak and fat.

And if you can’t stop prizing a lot of other things? Then you’ll never be free—free, independent, imperturbable. Because you’ll always be envious and jealous, afraid that people might come and take it all away from you.

Marcus Aurelius, Meditation 6:16

Free, independent, imperturbable. That is the prize of doing what we were designed for. That is a prize we should all pursue.


Feature photo by Fauzan Saari on Unsplash

Investment Advice from a Poet

When it comes to where to invest our money, we have a plethora of options:

  • businesses
  • currencies
  • real estate
  • sports
  • casinos

Some are slow-going and relatively secure. Others are contingent on how all the others are doing. And some are a toss of the dice with the fingers crossed.

All investments have the same end-goal in mind. The investor wants to get a positive return. So, what this have to do with a poet?

Charity and personal force are the only investments.

Walt Whitman

Charity. How is charity an investment? Is there a tangible return on a good deed that has no expectation of getting anything back in return? For the investor that is only looking to increase the portfolio size, it is an obvious no. but are we not all connected as humans on this planet? If we make a charitable investment into our communities, do we not get a positive return? By helping those in need, we can create a portfolio that goes beyond our own lives. This is an interest that truly compounds.

Personal Force. Whitman said this is the other great investment. Once we put ourselves into motion, momentum builds. When we invest in ourselves, whether through education, health, or any other self-improving endeavor, we become more valuable. Our stock goes up.

The challenge for us today is to take Whitman’s words to heart. Charity and personal force. Are there any sounder investments than these two?


Feature photo by Anne Nygård on Unsplash

Home of the Brave

As a parent, the line is razor thin. On the one side is protection. My goal as a protective father is to ensure my son sees adulthood, preferably with a sound mind and all his body parts. On the other side is freedom. I want him to have the freedom to choose, to explore, to do all the mischievous things boys should do. I don’t want him to get hurt. But at the same time, I don’t want him to be coddled to the point that he grows up to be something less than a man.

I think of all the stupid stuff I did as a kid. At least, my hindsight says it was stupid. How many times did I do something dangerous, get lost in the woods, or be somewhere I shouldn’t have been? In some cases, I was lucky to survive. In all cases, I was learning how to live and how not to die. With freedom came risk. And in every instance, freedom was preferable to it counterpart.

This nation will remain the land of the free as long as it is the home of brave.

Elmer Davis

This land was built with freedom as a focal point. To ensure that freedom and pass it down to the next generation, men and women had to sacrifice. The tree of liberty was refreshed in blood (Jefferson). Bravery was the prerequisite to freedom.

Today is a day to remember the brave men and women who have protected Liberty’s torch and ensured its light will continue to shine for the next generation. And the best way to pay honor to that sacrifice is to do more than offer a small word of gratitude. It is to be brave ourselves and to raise the next generation to be brave. This is the only way to guarantee our freedom. It is the only proper way to pay homage to those who gave so much.

First a Dream

A Father to His Son by Carl Sandburg

A father sees his son nearing manhood.
What shall he tell that son?
"Life is hard; be steel; be a rock."
And this might stand him for the storms
and serve him for humdrum monotony
and guide him among sudden betrayals
and tighten him for slack moments.
"Life is a soft loam; be gentle; go easy."
And this too might serve him.
Brutes have been gentled where lashes failed.
The growth of a frail flower in a path up
has sometimes shattered and split a rock.
A tough will counts. So does desire.
So does a rich soft wanting.
Without rich wanting nothing arrives.
Tell him too much money has killed men
and left them dead years before burial:
the quest of lucre beyond a few easy needs
has twisted good enough men
sometimes into dry thwarted worms.
Tell him time as a stuff can be wasted.
Tell him to be a fool every so often
and to have no shame over having been a fool
yet learning something out of every folly
hoping to repeat none of the cheap follies
thus arriving at intimate understanding
of a world numbering many fools.
Tell him to be alone often and get at himself
and above all tell himself no lies about himself
whatever the white lies and protective fronts
he may use against other people.
Tell him solitude is creative if he is strong
and the final decisions are made in silent rooms.
Tell him to be different from other people
if it comes natural and easy being different.
Let him have lazy days seeking his deeper motives.
Let him seek deep for where he is born natural.
Then he may understand Shakespeare
and the Wright brothers, Pasteur, Pavlov,
Michael Faraday and free imaginations
Bringing changes into a world resenting change.
He will be lonely enough
to have time for the work
he knows as his own.

Such a beautiful poem whose message rings true through the ages! These words penned by Carl Sandburg went into the book __ and was read by countless people. Eventually, the book won a Pulitzer Prize, a prestigious award that is highlight of a writer’s career. Sandburg won three of them.

Sandburg’s advice to a son. So much could be given to a boy embarking on manhood and may one day have children of his own. How many hours did it take this poet to write one piece so eloquently and to the point?

I have been immensely busy today. I worked on one of my poems all morning and made an important change, I took out a comma. That is not all I did. In the afternoon, after much mature reflection, I put it back.

Oscar Wilde

Think of all the revisions and rewrites. A comma here, a pause there. The contents always on the mind. The work never ceasing.

Before the revisions, it was a jumble of words. Ideas put onto paper drawn from life’s experience as a son, a young man, a husband, and then a father. Theories put into practice becoming hard-earned experience.

And ever before the first draft, the poem was a dream pulled from the ether. It was a formless embryo hidden within the recesses of a brilliant mind.

Nothing happens unless first a dream.

Carl Sandburg

All great works started as a dream. Ideas were birthed and then sprang into life with a plan, with trial and error, and with dedicated and perseverant work.


Feature photo by Sharon McCutcheon on Unsplash