Sunday, November 23, 2014
Saturday, November 22, 2014
Aura, Greensboro, NC
It's been observed that once we cross through the thin veil to the other side our perception of beauty will radically change because we will see folks' spiritual souls instead of their mortal bodies.
But we may be even more surprised by someone's presence than their appearance!
Friday, November 21, 2014
Thanksgiving Sale, Greensboro, NC
I just returned from a brief shopping trip where I once again had to drive around the mall parking lot to find a space, searched in vain to find someone who could assist me, listened to old familiar holiday tunes on the ubiquitous speaker systems that followed me on my quest, passed innumerable sale signs announcing the season, stood in line just to give the retailer my money, drove home in four times the normal passage of time as the traffic dodged all around me, and finally arrived home only to discover that I forgot to stop at the service station to refill my gas tank. All of these familiar signs of the season including the markedly colder temperatures were subliminally and not so subtly heralding the arrival of Thanksgiving Day! Retailers continued to jostle for any leg up on their competition which lately has included who will be open on Thanksgiving Day and how soon they will unlock their doors. It seems they’ve outdone themselves in the rush to capture our consumer-driven culture’s almighty dollar by stretching the revered Black Friday sales day well beyond the space-time continuum for multiple days this year. Hopefully, no one will be crushed to death once the doors are opened as happened last year.
In spite of all the hustle and bustle, this is a good time to pause life and focus on giving thanks. I’ve always liked a short story with an O. Henry twist like his famous Christmas story, The Gift of the Magi, about a young couple and sacrificial giving out of unconditional love. Our senior pastor relayed a story this week about perfection and thanks giving. Long ago there was a king with a devoted and very positive advisor. Whenever any situation arose, the advisor always remarked that “It was for good and worthy of thanks giving”. One day the king suffered a painful accident that severed his thumb. When his devoted advisor again said “It was for good and worthy of thanks giving”, the enraged king had him thrown into prison. Months later, the king was with a hunting party deep within the kingdom when they were captured by savages. As the natives began boiling water and preparing their captives for a slow death, they noticed the king’s missing thumb. Since they worshiped their perception of perfection and were suspicious of imperfection, they released him. Whereupon he returned to his castle and immediately released his old advisor. He fervently asked for forgiveness in treating his friend so grievously, but the advisor once again stated “It was all for good and worthy of thanks giving”. When the king incredulously asked “How this could be?” the old sage replied “If I hadn’t been in prison, I would have been with you”.
I became acquainted with Francois-Marie Arouet who wrote under the pen name of Voltaire when I took a philosophy class years ago in college. One of Voltaire’s more famous quotes that caught my attention is that “Perfect is the enemy of good”. As one who was schooled in engineering and spent my entire professional career in operations, I learned early on about the law of diminishing returns. Folks can spend an inordinate amount of time and effort striving along that final stretch to perfection when “good” will get things off dead center and actually accomplish something in short order. Someone obsessed with perfection may never accomplish anything. A college professor related the story of a mathematician and an engineer who were both vying for the hand of a beautiful young woman. Since she couldn’t choose between them, she proposed a challenge that each should stand apart from her and then begin moving in successive steps half way towards her. The first to reach her would get her hand. The mathematician immediately threw up his hands and forfeited, complaining that it couldn’t be done as there would always be a minute distance to travel. The engineer immediately started walking, stating that he knew he would never arrive, but he would get close enough for all practical purposes! Should we constantly seek perfection in life or will “good enough” see us through? I’d argue that perfection is a nice goal, as long as we understand that falling short will be the norm and only one person ever walked this planet in perfection. Accepting imperfection as long as we can attain a level of “good” can immensely improve our productivity and peace of mind for the good life. Life is neither perfect nor fair, but life is good.
As we journey through life, we can serenely look back on a good life well lived and say “It was all for good and worthy of thanks giving”. And besides, there are many times when perfection can get us into hot water!
Wednesday, November 19, 2014
Saturday, November 15, 2014
Monet Maple, Jamestown, NC
I was introduced to Impressionist paintings at the Nelson Art Museum in Kansas City and I've had the pleasure of viewing them in many other major museums like the fantastic collection at Chicago's Art Institute on Michigan Avenue. This Cross Process photo edit of autumn Japanese Maple leaves in my backyard this morning immediately brought this technique to mind.
Thursday, November 13, 2014
Thursday, November 6, 2014
Leaf Run, Jamestown, NC
Running with Cars, Jamestown, NC
A million revelers gather every year in Pamplona, Spain in the Pyrenees foothills to celebrate the Running of the Bulls through the streets of town. It’s called The Fiestas of San Fermin, after the martyred patron saint of Navarra. The original saints feast day now runs for nine days of partying, bull running and bull fighting. Every morning at 8:00 there are six bulls released from holding corrals into the main street bordered by barricaded side streets. A small minority of adventurous folks called mozos dress in traditional white clothing with red bandanas (representing the saint and his martyrdom) and get an immediate infusion of adrenalin as they run ahead of the bulls. The unwritten law if you fall in this flight for your life is to stay down and get trampled instead of getting back up and being gored. The short course ends at the town’s bull ring as runners shout “Viva San Fermin”! Ernest Hemingway first experienced the spectacle in 1923 and wrote about the celebration of energy and life that was apparent in both the two and four legged participants.
As I was driving along a bypass today, the newly fallen leaves were once more gathering along the banked curbs after the first hard freeze of the fall season. The leaf spirits had been bound to the trees all during the spring and summer as fast moving cars and trucks freely sped under them. But now their job was completed as the trees withdrew their life giving sap back deep within their trunks in preparation for the impending winter. The leaves had received the satisfaction of a good and faithful servant that had served their symbiotic masters well. And all of the minions had worn the standard issue drab green uniforms of their rulers. Now they were released from the bondage of the tree branches and their true colors were revealed as the green chlorophyll retreated from their veins. The human creatures scurrying about below suddenly began to take notice as each tree temporarily exploded into the bright colors of fall. The free spirits were left with one last surge of energy as the autumn winds gathered them up in spontaneous bursts that sent them sailing over the landscape.
The new found freedom of the autumn leaves was beyond imagination! The early morning commuter cars were flashing by as they gathered in traditional colors of orange, yellow and scarlet. They really had no interest in soaring with eagles in the skies, but running with the cars in the streets was quite another proposition. They waited in anxious anticipation for each wind gust that propelled them into the streets and freeways ahead of the oncoming cars. As the rapidly moving cars overtook the courageous bands, they lay low as the aerodynamics of the cars’ front wind dams redirected them. When the speeding cars passed over the adventurous spirits, they rose up in the updraft, celebrating their survival. The wind currents created a vortex behind the passing cars that sent every leaf spiraling up and out of harm’s way. The excitement generated by each passing car pumped the last vestiges of chlorophyll throughout the leaves’ veins and imbued each of them with an extra shot of energy to continue the death-defying spiral dance.
When the rollicking festival in Pamplona is over at the stroke of midnight on the ninth day, the people gather to light candles and sing “Pobre de Mi, poor me, the festival has ended”. Withering leaves are caught up on the gusting winds around them and gently settle at their feet. And both the mozos and the free spirits of fall will rest assured that their legacy will not lie with those timid souls that stayed on the sidelines, but with those who ran with the bulls shouting “Viva Life!” at the end of the dance.