Wednesday, April 20, 2005

I'm not alone in this room

As I walked the quad between classes, I came across a girl who was crying as she talked to someone on her cell phone. This probably would not have had much impact on me just a few years ago, not sure I even would have taken notice. I know I wouldn’t have felt the heartbreak of seeing another soul in pain that I felt tonight.

Why do we hurt each other?

I’ve spent my life wrapped up in myself, where I’m going and what I want. I’ve tried to help others as best I could, but their suffering has always been outside my experience…something foreign and distant. I’ve been comfortable and happy in my own skin. I seem to be seeing things and feeling things that didn’t intrude on my happy life before.

…not sure I like this
…hard to feel the hurt that I can’t heal
…seems like my voice is a cry in the wilderness
…I wonder at how we all became so distant from one another?
…I’m surrounded by strangers
…better just to be alone

Monday, April 18, 2005

Norm on the Big Bear Posted by Hello

Life is a Roller Coaster

Yesterday, I spent the day at the amusement park with my son. The parks are just beginning to open and this was a sort of warm-up as they get ready for the season. We went with my sister’s family, so the day was pretty much filled with fun and good friends. I’ve always liked to ride the coasters and there were a bunch of other riders in our group, so we got a lot of rides in during the day. By the time we’d left, we’d hit most of the coasters in the park and had done some of them a few times.

I’ve been accused of trying to control too much of my life. In a way this is true, but it’s not a need for control so much as a desire to be prepared and do my best (I was a Boy Scout and some things are just hard to un-learn). I like to have a handle on the situation, but am also perfectly comfortable rolling with the punches and reacting to what comes. There are people that despair over every misfortune or surprise that life gives them; they seem incapable of being happy or content and are unable to see the beauty that surrounds and fills them. I guess I can’t really judge because life has thrown me a never ending series of sweet fast balls right over the plate, but I feel that these people are needlessly causing themselves pain and I wish there was some way I could tell them that it all really doesn’t matter.

Coaster as a metaphor…There was a great speech in the movie “Parenthood” about life and roller coasters. The old woman who gave the speech talked about how some people enjoyed the ride, how they looked forward to each new thrill and twist; but others were apprehensive, the ride made them nervous and sick inside. I am one of those who love the ride; I look forward to every new bend and drop. I never have taken this life too seriously and I take it much less so now that I have found some spirituality. We’re not here long, no longer really than a roller coaster ride. When it’s over, we’ll look back and say, “I lost my stomach a time or two on that one…great ride…pretty short though.” In the end, the ride will be little more then a sweet memory.

I’m thankful to have good and true friends with me on this ride and I want you all to know I wouldn’t trade any of you for the world. I’ll try to let go a little more and be more spontaneous. I’ll always try to be a good and true friend to you and see that you’re enjoying this ride as much as I am. When we leave this amusement park, I will always treasure the memories that you’ve given me.

Thursday, April 14, 2005


...I am a voice speaking softly. I am from the beginning. I am in the silence that surrounds every one of them. And the hidden voice is in me, in intangible, immeasurable thought, in the immeasurable silence...

- from the Gnostic Bible

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Rick and Norm in front of the Ed Sullivan Theatre Posted by Hello

Sunday, April 10, 2005

New York State of Mind

Yesterday, I spent the day in New York City with my kids, my sister, and my brother-in-law. I'm not much for big cities, but thought I'd record some impressions. It was a beautiful day and we had a great time. I've tried to get my kids up to the city every so often as there is so much for them to see there.

Cities, generally, and especially big cities, seem such an artificial and foreign place for me. I guess those who are raised there don’t question how their needs are met on a daily basis…how the food gets in, how the garbage/waste gets out…For me, the whole idea of the reliability of those supply lines is a little disconcerting. I guess it’s stupid, but I somehow feel better knowing I can see fields of food and woods full of game close enough that I don’t need to depend on some complicated logistics system to survive. Then there’s the whole idea of the reality of the experience. To be so totally surrounded by a man-made environment would probably (over the months) really freak me out.

Still, there’s something to be said for time in the city. There are just so many things that have been brought to one place. I get a strange feeling of energy walking the streets of New York. I think it’s just a result of so many souls so close together. There’s a power there that is seductive. I think this is the draw of the big city to so many people. I hear Billy Joel’s song “New York State of Mind” and I want to jump in the car and head to the city. It’s as if there’s something in the air there that amplifies your feelings. I fear, however, that the energy of the big city pulls our focus outside ourselves and is counterproductive to our own growth. People on the street, and elsewhere, seem to be performing for each other, as if they’re looking for some external acknowledgement of their value…I would never live in the city…I don’t think you can easily be quiet with yourself there. I suspect that this is a great place to live a few years and expose yourself to much of what our culture has to offer and I might have liked to have done this for a year or two when I was young and before I had a family. Today, I can only take the city in short breaths; the crush of humanity is too much for me. It seems there’s “much ado about nothing”, with everyone scurrying off to some unimportant meeting or appointment.

I’m sure we’ll get up to New York again soon, to catch a show or see a ballgame. I’ll have a great time and enjoy the novelty of the experience…and I’ll be happy to head back home.

Thursday, April 07, 2005

The Boys of Summer

We had a great practice tonight.

There’s something about a father and son. Cat Stevens wrote, and sang, a great song about it back in the 70’s…it’s like being in an 18 year argument. There’s a running tension between the men in a family because, basically, they all feel like they should be in charge. This is especially hard on a young boy, who is pretty much at the bottom of the food chain. I am constantly looking for positive things that I can do with my son. He is a typical brain-damaged child and most of what he hears from me on a regular basis is negative (pick that up, turn out the light, flush the toilet, what the hell were you thinking!).

My son is very big on team sports (football and baseball). I have been coaching on his baseball teams for the last five years. He is a normal, clumsy kid and struggles as many do with some of the fine motor skills and muscle-memory needed for baseball (it takes a lot of work to be good at this game). Unfortunately, he has some grandiose ideas about his ability…I don’t know how common this is, but he catches a single fly ball and gets the idea that he’s Cal Ripkin. Last year, he played a moderately good outfield for our team... his fielding was not good enough for an infield position. At the plate, he couldn’t hit a barn with a Mack truck. I spent a lot of time with him on the off-season…playing catch and hitting at the batting cages near our house. With the repetition, he broke through the wall and is now playing up to his peers.

Tonight he played some key positions and showed some real promise. I am the team’s catching coach and I had him behind the plate. He played very well and will be one of my catchers this year (catching is one of the most difficult and important positions to the team). More surprisingly, our pitching coach had him on the mound and he preformed very well…he’s going to be in our pitching rotation. We had the boys take a fair amount of time hitting off the pitchers (our first game is ten days away). The boy hit consistently and sent a number of solid shots into the deep outfield. Finally, our manager ends every practice with a challenge where he hits difficult balls to the boys and they need to keep the hits in front of they let the balls get by them, they are eliminated…my boy won tonight (second time already this year).

After the practice, I took him for a water-ice and told him how proud I was of the work he’d done to get to this point…and of the way he played tonight. He was as high as a kite! I can’t explain just how good it felt to have this singularly good moment with my son. There was no sign of our running battles, we were just enjoying each other’s company.

I’m sure this is little more than a brief cease-fire in our 18 year argument, but I think it’s one we’ll both remember as the years go by.

Tuesday, April 05, 2005

The Coach Posted by Hello

Monday, April 04, 2005

Death be not Proud

It occured to me that I've talked a fair amount about death in this blog. I don't want anyone reading to think I am morbid or fixated, but I believe our fear of death keeps us from acknowledging a vital part of our existence...keeps us from really living!

There was a time when death was a very intimate part of everyone's life. When people saw death regularly and learned from those experiencing it. Today, we keep death as far removed from our lives as we can...we try to deny the truth of death. Those who are dying are separated (quarantined) from the rest of society. It seems to me that everyone loses here...the dying are left alone at a time when the love of family, friends, and community is important to their peaceful transition...the living are left without closure or the ability to learn from those who are experiencing what lies ahead for all of us.

I remember the last day of my Father's life. I was called home from work and spent the afternoon before he died in his room with him. My father and I had more than our fair share of issues and I will always be grateful for that final time together. I read to him...he was a sports fanatic and I read about the Superbowl that had been played two days before...although nothing was discussed openly, I felt a great peace settle between us.

How different that afternoon would have been if I had been older! I felt then that there were so many things that I just shouldn't say...BULLSHIT...If I were with him today, I would ask, "Are you afraid? Do you feel ready for what's coming? What are you thinking/feeling? Can I help?" ...We treat death as an impolite topic of discussion, even amongst the dying??! Don't we think they care?! That they might want to talk about it?!..... I want to go to a hospital and talk to dying people. I want to tell them that I care about them ... and hear what they have to say about what they're experiencing... to let them know there is someone to listen.

As regards my being morbid...I am not afraid of death anymore and I'm sure as hell gonna live every moment while I'm here.

Saturday, April 02, 2005

Death of Love

The Pope passed today.

When John Paul II became Pope in the late 70's, I was in High School and was an active member of the Catholic Church. As any of you who read this blog know, I am no longer a Catholic. Still, on his passing I need to write about John Paul. He is one of the few examples in my life of someone who used the power of love to change the world.

I have, as often as not, disagreed with the direction of the Catholic church over the last 30 years; I have also disagreed with many of the conservative positions of the Pope (i.e. women clergy). If I look back into the church's more distant history, I am distressed at how much suffering and death has been caused (in the name of love) and at the hands of this church.

All that said, I am in awe of the love and energy that John Paul II brought to his church and to the world. I largely credit three people with the fall of totalitarian socialism in the 20th Century: Ronald Reagan, Michael Gorbachev, and Pope John Paul II. That the Pope should play such a critical role in this rebirth of freedom and human dignity is a testament to the power of his love.

There are two spiritual figures in my lifetime in whom I see the love of the God of Light. they are the Dalai Lama and Pope John Paul II. It saddens me that I don't believe the Pope is self-aware and ready to move on ... to rejoin the Light. Still, I believe (along with the Buddhists) that the love we give comes back to us is this life and in others.

I believe and pray that the Pope's path to oneness be soft and gentle. I look forward to knowing this part of our spirit when the time comes and honor the man whose quiet compassion and devotion made this world better for all of us.

The Waiting Room

God grant me patience.....Now!

It's one of those last crappy days as spring begins to overcome the winter. Baseball practice is scheduled for this afternoon, but I know I won't be on the field today...the rain and cold are endless (it was 60 and sunny yesterday). My irritation at not being where I want and doing what I want today makes me think about my lifelong struggle with patience. I've gotten so much better as I've grown older, but recently I think I've been back-peddling.

The way I feel about things and the importance of things in my life has changed dramatically over the last year. I find myself in a daily existence that is separate from my heart and my dreams. I try to be patient about my life, but constantly struggle with balancing where I want to be against where I am. I want to focus my power on the things that are most important to me, but time separates me from those things and I feel trapped in this waiting room.

Being able to write out my thoughts has been a great help and I wish I'd started this a long time ago. I can also try to get in touch with the permanence within me and remind myself that all of this is transcient and of little importance. I feel as though I were growing and am stronger within; I am better able to deal with the delays and dissapointments that life brings.

Days like today are my test... If I can keep this up, it won't be long before I'll be sitting through Insurance Conventions with a smile on my face.

Friday, April 01, 2005

9/23/04 Katahdin - The day before our hike Posted by Hello