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

Be Yourself

Popeye was one of my favorite cartoons as a child. He was a somewhat normal guy trying to do the right thing. When times got rough, he would crack open a can of performance enhancing spinach and solve the problem.

That is what I wanted to be like—a normal guy able to overcome the obstacles of life. Of course, I didn’t want to be in a position where I was always getting bullied, where I was forced to drink a cup of courage in my direst need, just able to survive to see the next day.

I yam what I yam and dats all what I yam. -Popeye the Sailor Man

I quoted the quote and sang the song, but back then I never considered taking it to heart. I am what I am. I am not Popeye, not like Mike (Jordan), or any other childhood hero. Nope. I am what I am. I can emulate the actions of my heroes and mentors, but in the end, I must remember:

Be yourself. Everyone else is taken.

Oscar Wilde

The Truth about Masks

Fairy tales and legends are filled with trolls. They are described as ugly and cruel beasts living under bridges and in the marshes. And though the stories are rife with their existence, I wonder how many people have seen one.

Today, the word troll has taken on a different meaning. These are the individuals who scan your posts and your videos looking for ways to attack you. Often, their comments are both ugly and cruel. And like the trolls from the legends, I wonder how many have been seen. Chances are the answer is never.  They might not live under bridges and in marshes, but they do their best to hide. Their power is in their anonymity, and therefore refuse to show their faces or reveal their real names.

The purpose of a mask

Traditionally, masks were used for two different purposes, and both had to do with identity protection. Villains wore masks so they could not be identified when committing their illegal acts. On the other hand, heroes wore masks to protect their identities so the villains couldn’t retaliate against them or their loved ones. In both cases, it was best for individual safety to remain anonymous.

It is easier to be bold when you are anonymous. Who doesn’t want to be able to hit without fear of the repercussions? You can commit the crime without the worry of being caught. As it is with water looking for the path of least resistance, so too is man’s heart. It takes courage to do the brave thing, courage to do the right thing. To be courageous means to go beyond yourself and do the thing you don’t necessarily feel like doing. It means to forego the easy way and choose a path that offers more resistance.

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. -Oscar Wilde

Oscar Wilde

If you want to know what is really in the heart of man, then give him a mask. It will give him an inflated sense of bravado and allow him to freely operate in the shadows. You might not be able to see the face, but you most certainly will be able to see the person’s heart. And the heart as Solomon said is deep like water, and only the one with understanding can draw it out (Proverbs 20:5).

From Reading to Being

I read Historical Fiction. I lived in a make-believe past. I read Fantasy. I went into a fairy tale world. Historical Fiction and Fantasy, with a dabbling of Science Fiction made up the bulk of my reading for over ten years. What do I have to show for it? I can sit for long periods at a time, and I have a rather decent reading comprehension level.

 And then one day, about four or five years ago, I picked up some Non-Fiction. I figured with all the reading I do; I might as well learn something. My life has not been the same since. I went from leadership and psychology to health and fitness. Whatever I came across that I felt had the ability to improve my life, I read.

What has been the benefit? Almost every facet of my life has become a little bit better. In my opinion, the transformation has been amazing. I think different, feel different, and may even look a little different. There is a quality of life I imagine living and every day I get a little closer to it. All because I changed what I read about.

What you read when you don’t have to determines what you will be when you can’t help it.

Oscar Wilde

Nobody forces me to read. And unless you are in school, nobody is likely to force you to read. It is a choice with a myriad of benefits and very few cons. Regardless of age or ability, there is a wealth of wisdom available to us. The only thing holding us back is us. Make the choice to read. What is the worst that can happen?

Developed in Darkness

Who are you when you are by yourself? When nobody’s looking, are you the same person? In times past, only villains wore masks. Today, almost everybody has one on. The masks hide our identities. But in truth, they really show us who we are.

Man is least himself when he talks in his own person. Give him a mask, and he will tell you the truth. –Oscar Wilde

For years, I pondered these words from Oscar Wilde. I thought it was literally about what we say, but it goes beyond that. Put a mask on, and we show the world who we really are. The villain wears it to hide his identity, but his heinous deeds are exposing the darkness of his soul. It is in the shadows that his true self comes out.

Under the cover of anonymity, we speak our true hearts. Words that we would be ashamed to be credited with are released into the public without a second thought. Maybe this is why you see so many secondary/anonymous Twitter accounts. It is much easier to spew hateful things when no one knows who you are.

Character, like a photograph, develops in darkness. –Yousuf Karsh

Can you be the same in public and in private? Can you develop a character in darkness that once exposed to the light is free from defects? This is the transparency we all expect from other people. But do we expect it from ourselves?

Hope 2/9/2019

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all. -Oscar Wilde

Envision a brighter future. One in which we are truly living. Isn’t it beautiful?

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The Virtue of Hope

There is a belief by some that tomorrow will be better, that our future will be a little brighter. This hope is what spurns them to keep going even when the day is at its darkest. Without hope, we are lost.

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