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Why Not This Why

On my shelf are many leadership books, which I loved for their emphasis on serving others.  But always I stumbled over the nagging question which came in various forms, "What is your calling?  What is your Vision?"  These questions have the ironic effect of turning a desire to serve others into a desire to aggrandize myself, an endeavor entirely predicated on the thing that drives me.  This is not the fault of the questions, which must be asked, but of the manifold deceptions that turn all things into grist for pride.  So any proper answer to these necessary questions would not center on me and would account for my natural proclivities.  For years no satisfying answer came.
Lately, however, one of Fr. Hopko's maxims suggested itself as the answer. Be an ordinary person. The leadership imperative as I have understood it, finding one’s core motivation, bears no relevance to this maxim.  And I've begun to catch a glimpse of what I might look like as an ordinary person.  Or…

Ordinariness

Be careful what you ask for you just might get it.For many years this has functioned as a warning against frivolous prayer, against treating God as a butler.Persistence in such requests may invite, rather, a painful object lesson.But none of these calculations interfered with my decision, soon followed by the action, to ask God regularly to help me be an ordinary person. My life has had many voices saying that “ordinary” is the way to go.The message did not connect.It’s not that I am extraordinary, but that “ordinary” has operated as a term of disdain.A litany of enticements beckon:Success, meaning, impact, “make a difference,” “fulfill your potential,” on and on and on.Naturally this meant that I needed to make everything around me better, and be better than others.The results?Failure by an impossible standard.Bitterness.Frustration.A scary enticement to disengage, to cease caring about The Good, to resign into that very image of ordinariness I had disdained.If you can’t beat ‘em, joi…

Words, Dung, Roots, Flowers

I have reached that age where familiar cultural references aren't so familiar, are, in fact, out dated.But a good reference is worth referring to despite its new found obsolescence.There was a song in the 1980’s called Words, by a band called Missing Persons.It’s a great composition on all counts, with the then automatically recognizable lines:
Do you hear me? Do you care? The gist of the song comes in the following verse and chorus:
I might as well go up and talk to a wall 'cause all the words are having no effect at all It's a funny thing am I all alone
Something has to happen to change the direction What little filters through is giving you the wrong impression It's a sorry state I say to myself
What are words for when no one listens anymore What are words for when no one listens What are words for when no one listens it's no use talking at all
Back then this sentiment roared with resonance.Those were my middle-school days, fraught with the anxieties of early maturation when e…

Seeds Over Saplings

Age gracefully.Who values this phrase?I have no inkling for others’ opinions, but for the span of my 40+ years youth has been more widely valued.Ignore the perennial pursuit of women both to accentuate and prolong their youthful enticements (fashion, make up, diets, etc).These things do not reflect how one ages but the years of fertility and heightened femininity, a relatively narrow window in time beyond which the odds decrease for securing a husband and bearing children.
Age gracefully.The hyper intellectual asks in response, “what’s its opposite? What is it to age disgracefully?”When you follow the themes of pop musicians with the staying power to last many decades, you can see distilled patterns of average people.For example Gene Simmons and Paul Stanley of Kiss, that vaudevillian rock band from the seventies.They were as much a raucous storyline as rock 'n’ roll musicians (and they did produce some quality stuff).Fast forward four decades and you can find them waxing sagacious…

What Did You Expect?

When you reflect on your situation—home, relationships, work—the easiest things to report are the troublesome things, or the extraordinarily good things.Both strike your awareness with more immediacy than the majority of things that just work.The adequacy of their “working” manifests by going unnoticed.So, for example, when asked, “How are things going?” it would be very odd to say, “Water comes out of my faucets; and the toilets flush.”More common would be the catastrophe, “the water-main to my house broke!”Or again, no one would reply by saying, “my house is the same color it was last month,” but anyone would say (if it happened), “we just had our house repainted!”

What’s going on here?All the many things operating as expected, these go without comment.We build our lives around what we can count on, on the things that are stable.It would be exhausting to re-think everything, every time action was needed.In turn, this sets us up to be always aware of what’s not going according to expe…

Leopard Spot

The great thing about aphorisms, proverbs and sayings is they so often turn out to be right.Of course they also tend to have something of an iridescent effect: looked at one way they can mean one thing; looked at another they seem to mean the near opposite.Take for example the saying, “Can a leopard change his spots?”You’ll hear this when a habitually bad actor repeats his bad behavior in the face of a second chance.But then we all know of examples of people who have, indeed, reformed their bad behavior into a more upright life.So, would we say of them, “See, these leopards did change their spots!” The nagging sentiment at the bottom of this particular saying challenges those of us who really want to lead good lives.We, if we’re honest, know that we are not as morally upright as we aspire to be—we all slip up, we all cling to another saying, “nobody’s perfect.”Although a leopard certainly cannot change his spots into stripes (or swirls, or chevrons) we’re sure that our shortcomings are…

Second Branches

The title of this blog was chosen for several reasons, the most immediate being due to my taking up blogging as a discipline for the second time.But as soon as the name suggested itself several overtones folded in quickly on top of the first.Here are many variants:
1.A second time through, as in repeating something but with a fresh approach
2.A second chance, as in forgiveness and repentance following sin, or even outright failure.
3.A second, as in the 60th part of a minute
4.Second born traits – I’m a second born, and that has surprising explanatory power
5.To second, meaning to speak up in support for a motion
6.Seconds, as in going back for more after the first helping of yummy food has been devoured
Each carries a theme near and dear to me, with second-born traits being the most elusive, intriguing, and downright frustrating, even for myself.But within and between these variations the theme of gratitude moves freely, giving them a profound and cheerful hue.
It’s that first one that stirs…