Bittersweet Sixteen

Posted: November 3, 2010 in Family and Friends, Music

Every year, on November 3rd, I specifically think about my dad. This year marks sixteeen since he passed away, and it is weird to consider that he hasn’t been around for 40% of my entire life now.

Couple of years ago I stumbled across this Chet Atkins song that I thought was just perfect, and I thought I would replay it today. The original YouTube video I used has been removed, and the only one available now has these weird foreign subtitles. But that’s okay. Doesn’t keep me from seeing my dad in the old man version of Chet Atkins. And it sure doesn’t distract from this beautiful song. Hope you guys enjoy it, too.

Ten New Questions

Posted: October 6, 2010 in Ten Questions

A few years back, I came up with ten questions that I wanted to use to govern my life. Answering them literally (via my blog) didn’t last long, but I think the effort was worthwhile and had its effect. Still, I have long ago forgotten the specific questions.

Recently, I have struggled through redefining “meaning of life” stuff once again, and when my efforts unexpectedly resulted in ten questions, I thought I should compare the two lists. In so doing, I was interested to discover how different the two lists were! Just goes to show me how much my life perspective can shift in a few short years.

For what it’s worth, here are my new ten questions:

1. Am I providing a happy life for those who depend on me?
2. Am I compromising social walls and making friends I’m not supposed to make?
3. Am I resisting the urge to love and focus on institutions/ideas instead of people?
4. Am I living a simple life and resisting the urge to always have or do or be involved in “more?”
5. Am I living a healthy life?
6. Am I finding joy in everyday life?
7. Am I working hard and being a productive member of society?
8. Am I taking time to relax, remembering that the world doesn’t revolve around me?
9. Am I dreaming about healthy things to dream about?
10. Am I regularly spending time with a close friend(s) who share(s) my outlook on life?

Integrity & Moral Cautiousness

Posted: October 2, 2010 in Lessons, Peace

One of the more intriguing course titles in my law school career is my current “Law & Morality” class. This seminar is taught by the highly-esteemed visiting professor, Ellen Pryor. Professor Pryor has showered us with interesting readings throughout the semester. Recently, we read large chunks of Sissela Bok’s classic book, “Lying.” Me, the smart aleck, thought it would be great fun to go out to some public place to read this book, and when an astute observer would undoubtedly ask why I was reading a book on lying, I would respond, “Oh, it’s for law school.” 🙂 My follow-up line would be, “I took Cheating last semester, and Stealing is on tap next.”

This week, we’re reading Stephen Carter’s excellent book, “Integrity.” Which, if nothing else, is better PR for the legal profession should I choose to read it in public. But there was one passage that really struck me as profound, so I thought I would share it with the world via blogging/Facebook. As one who has from time to time been accused of moral relativism, this passage really resonates with me.

Your comments would be interesting and welcomed, but honestly, my motivation in sharing this is to provoke reflection more than to inspire conversation. Here goes (from pages 59-61):

“. . . we Americans do public dialogue badly. I suspect that the principal psychological difficulty that frustrates our national efforts to conduct public moral dialogues is not, as is sometimes asserted, that nobody believes that there are right answers to our moral dilemmas; no, the American problem is that we all believe that our own answers are the right ones. In this sense, we are a land not of moral relativists, as is often charged, but of moral objectivists: people who believe that there are universal, moral truths. Our necessary if sometimes uncomfortable celebration of moral tolerance is a mark not of our relativism but of our objectivism; having learned the lessons of history, we are trying in America to be morally cautious. It is not that there are no right answers, but that, given human fallibility, we need to be careful in assuming that we have found them. This point was made famously by John Stuart Mill, and today the very variety of moral truths in which different Americans wholeheartedly believe is proof of the wisdom of tolerance. Tolerance is the reason that the most liberal Americans must accept hateful speech and the most conservative Americans must accept homosexuality. It is not that nobody could hold the view that one or the other is morally wrong; it is rather that history has taught us to be careful about enforcing our moral views as law.”

I Hear It Was Charged Against Me

Posted: September 25, 2010 in Peace

I Hear It Was Charged Against Me

I hear it was charged against me that I sought to destroy institutions,
But really I am neither for nor against institutions,
(What indeed have I in common with them? or what with the destruction of them?)
Only I will establish in the Mannahatta and in every city of these States inland and seaboard,
And in the fields and woods, and above every keel little or large that dents the water,
Without edifices or rules or trustees or any argument,
The institution of the dear love of comrades.

– Walt Whitman, Leaves of Grass (1900)

A Pensive, Born-Again Pirate

Posted: September 19, 2010 in Lessons, Music

Been thinking about pirates and Jimmy Buffett and such, what with the coming and going of my fortieth birthday. Not that I feel as if my life’s calling disappeared a couple of centuries ago—and not that I’m all that attracted to pirating as a career path in the first place; instead, here I am, staring at forty, embarking on career number three (or so), and sitting in school with bunches and bunches of beautiful and talented twenty-somethings. It’s enough to make a guy stop and think about life.

Once upon a time, I actually had a little life philosophy. My idea was to live in such a way that I could look back on it all someday and honestly say I had no regrets. Sounded good at the time. Of course I didn’t realize that this would later serve as a poignant illustration of shooting oneself in the foot before getting started, but all in all, I am glad I adopted that approach. It has led me on an interesting journey, and I doubt I’d be sitting where I’m at right now without it. And, oddly enough, I like the view from here.

I’ve heard it said that life begins at forty. Seems somewhat appropriate since I get to graduate and (re-)enter the real world this year. (And no, I’m still not exactly sure what I’ll be when I grow up, but as for now, I’m simply hoping that I’m a second-half team.)

So.

Here I sit, born again at forty, all eat up with pensiveness, and wondering what to think about it all. What is life all about? What really matters? What should be my philosophy of life heading into the second half?

Answer: I don’t know.

But the older I get, for whatever reason, the more I’m okay with not knowing the answer.

Maybe I’ll just be a pirate.

On the Run

Posted: September 10, 2010 in Miscellaneous

I have run quite a few road races in my day, but admittedly, my day came during the Reagan Administration.

Back in the day, I was a decent runner. My career highlight came in late 1985, when at age fifteen, I turned in an eighteen-and-a-half minute 5k at the state cross country meet (six-minute miles isn’t bad). A year prior, just after my fourteenth birthday, I ran a 15k (9.3 miles) in Memphis in one hour and thirteen minutes (eight-minute miles, thank you very much). The 15k was my longest race, and in fact, the longest I ever ran without stopping. My friend, Shawn, and I, did run about eleven miles one memorable day just for fun(?), but with a couple of significant breaks thrown in.

After a twenty year break (or so), I hit the road to run a 5k with my wife for her 40th birthday last spring, but from my perspective, my job that day was cheerleader, not competitor (and I must say, I did look cute in the uniform). That was a good day for several reasons, and I must admit that the 5k-running crowd did bring back some good memories. Still, however, I didn’t get the urge to really run again.

I should probably mention that I have had the running urge at various times in what I called a twenty year break, but none lasted long enough to qualify as anything worth mentioning. Instead, they were more opportunities to feel badly about myself, so let’s just act like those never happened, ‘kay?

So. Something happened to me this summer in the Houston heat, and I decided that I want to run a marathon. I must have been light-headed at the time, but for whatever reason, my interest has remained. Thankfully, climbing stairs and mountains in Malibu for the past couple of years meant that I wasn’t horribly, horribly out of shape (relatively speaking). It didn’t take long for me to be running a mile or two at a decent pace. Now, after returning to Malibu for a few weeks and keeping this running gig up, I am up to three / three-and-a-half miles at a decent pace. That’s a long ways from 26.2, but it is a step in the right direction.

So I’ve placed a few markers for myself on this new little journey of mine, and the first is this very weekend:

* 5K: I am running the Lexus Santa Monica 5000 this Sunday morning, and my goal is to see if I can run it in under twenty-five minutes.

* 10K: I plan to run the Venice-Santa Monica Christmas Run on December 11, and my goal is to see if I can run it in under fifty minutes.

* HALF-MARATHON: I plan to run the Pacific Half-Marathon in Agoura on March 26, 2011, and my goal (unrealistic dream?) is to run it in under two hours.

And then we get to the biggie. The marathon. Since this is kinda the whole point of all the other, this is a rather big decision. My choice is further complicated because, if all goes as planned, I’ll be ready to give this sucker a shot just as I’m completing the bar exam, moving (?), starting a new job (?), and no telling what else. Therefore, I’d better keep this puppy flexible. So, I’ve got a couple on my radar for now, but these are just possibilities.

1) THE CAMARILLO MARATHON: This one is close by, and it is a flat course—both good things. If we stay in California (as we would like to do), and if I am either unemployed or permitted by my new job, then this seems like a logical target marathon for me.

2) THE MAUI MARATHON: This one is not close by, and it is not a flat course—both bad things. Plus, it is completely illogical—but I like that part a lot. Further, it’s in Maui. This is my dream marathon, and dreaming is a really good thing, too.

Check it out on YouTube:

So anyway, I hope to run a marathon about a year from now, and I plan to run a 5k for real this very Sunday morning. I’m kind of excited about this weekend, and hoping my aging, creaky body doesn’t get in the way of what I hope to be a good start to this little journey of mine. Wish me luck, and I’ll let you know how it goes.

Joined at the Prosthetic Hip

Posted: September 4, 2010 in Peace

ESPN did a nice piece about an unlikely friendship between an elderly man named Boston Bill and a young boy named Jake, brought together by a funny word called “fate” and the shared challenge of living life with just one leg. The challenge hasn’t slowed down Boston Bill one bit, and the heartwarming part of the story is how he is teaching young Jake to follow in his, yes, foot-steps.

For your sake, you should probably read the story (and/or watch the video) HERE before continuing with my meandering thoughts.

It seems like most are primarily attracted to the “fate” part of the story, which is admittedly pretty cool, but that’s not what I find most striking. Instead, what gets me is that the chasm between these two people—a chasm brought on by age and simple geography—has been bridged by a common “weakness.” Oh, I know that chasms are constantly being bridged by folks finding commonalities with one another, but I am intrigued by the idea of being joined at the weak spots.

There is great danger in forming friendships at the weak spots. Such a bond can easily become an exclusive club dedicated to either hatred of others or the throwing of pity parties. But I think it carries unique possibilities, too.

I perceive intimacy as something that, once achieved and maintained, is considered a good thing to share with another human being. And what does intimacy involve, if not the sharing of weakness with another? Isn’t vulnerability a prerequisite for achieving true intimacy?

Jake and Boston Bill are unique in that their perceived “weakness” is on display for the world to see. Most of ours are not, and we work awfully hard to keep it that way. As a result, we travel through life looking to connect to people that are either (a) what we wish we were, or (b) like the parts we present to the public. I wonder what kind of relationships we could have if we connected first in the weak spots.

Again, doing so is dangerous. It could easily be a path toward resentment or depression, if not both. But. If infected with the hope of Boston Bill, it could just as easily be a path toward a world far better than the one we inhabit at present—a world where we don’t have to hide so much, and a world where we don’t have to feel lonely in crowds anymore.

Just a thought.