Archive for March, 2010


March 22nd, 2010

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It’s a bit of a disappointing start to the week.  There’s little point in going into all the details, but the experience brings up a lot of questions and thoughts.  Disappointment happens.  It is a part of life- we disappoint others when we make promises we cannot keep.  Others do the same to us.  Sometimes, circumstances bring on the disappointment.  It is never enjoyable.

As a person of faith- specifically Christian faith, I am taught to believe certain things about disappointment:

  1. It is inevitable. People are flawed, as is the world we live it. Thus we will all be disappointed.
  2. Neither disappointment, nor specific disappointments come as a surprise to God.  In fact, nothing does.  One of the pastors at my church often reminds us that nothing happens but by the expressed or permissive Will of the Almighty.
  3. All things happen for a purpose, and the closing of a door should only direct us to a different one- or to a time when we will be ready to step through the one that is currently closed.
  4. Our Redeemer has experienced real and personal disappointment. Thus we have a very empathetic ally with whom to share the feelings we experience when life does not go exactly as we think it should.

But it’s still no fun.  It is especially not fun when we have to share disappointing news with others- which is where I find myself this week.  I hate disappointing people.  I suppose a psychotherapist could have a great several sessions with me on this.  But it is an ingrained part of my emotional DNA.  I would rather suffer silently.  I would prefer to muscle through and MAKE the impossible happen.  There are times I would rather fail miserably rather than deliver disappointing news.  But before I wrote this, I already owned up to it.  I delivered the tough news.  Guess what- it doesn’t feel any better.

Ah, but back to my four part list above.  It may not feel better, but it is better.  It has to be.  A friend of mine wrote yesterday that “How you feel about God during the suffering times is how you really feel about God.”  It’s an easy statement when the doors are swinging wide for me and mine, but a bit tougher to swallow when they are not.  But truth works that way- it is true regardless of feelings, circumstances, or the opinions of me or others.  Nevertheless, I will trust and accept as truth that my disappointing week is just that- MY disappointing WEEK.  And something else awaits.  I wonder what…

Rosetta Stone

March 17th, 2010

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The Rosetta Stone was created in 196BC, as a document declaring tax free status for temple priests in Egypt and ordering construction.  It was discovered by the French in 1799.  So what?  The Rosetta Stone was written in the three languages- Greek, Coptic, and Egyptian Hieroglyphic.  Before its translation in 1824, with the first English translation in 1858, no one in the modern era had ever read or understood Egyptian Hieroglyphic.

It’s a fascinating history lesson, but what does it have to do with the theme of this blog?

This week, I wrote out some content for the blog of a friend.  She’s a photographer who writes under Catching Memories.  Part of the post deals with diverse spheres of relationships, and how funny it is when those worlds collide.  For most of my life, I have operated in multiple worlds- a family world, a work world, a church world, various community worlds, etc.  And that’s to say nothing of online personae.  There’s no conscious effort to keep these worlds separate.  The people in them often just don’t have that much in common.  But each of them does see me from a different perspective.  And none of them gets the whole picture.

I think many, maybe even most people are this way.  In our busy world, it is easy to be involved in a diversity of relationships.  But how do you stay honest?  How do you keep true to your values, your convictions, yourself, when there is no one who sees you in all your various states and modes?  Oh certainly, I might say that “God sees all”, which is true, but something of a cop out.  God will not typically put a finger against your chest and say, “You are acting like a different person here” or “You’re being inconsistent there.”  So we need someone or several someones in our lives who can be the voice of reason.

Most friends- even close ones, might only span a couple of those relational worlds. They might be aware, but not a part of others.  In my life, I am blessed with a wife who can see the big picture, and who can often make sense of it.  She’s like my Rosetta Stone, translating from one world to the next.  She may not be an intimate part of all of those relational worlds, nor am I a part of all of hers’.  But she can keep score.  She can look for oddities and inconsistencies.

Your Rosetta Stone doesn’t need to be a spouse, but it should be somebody.  Somebody who you’ll let into your various worlds.  Someone who will make sense of them, and will call you when you’re not making sense among them.

For everyone else, enjoy the occasional surprises, as you learn something new or unexpected about someone you thought you knew all about.  Relish those times.  Ask questions.  Learn something NEW about your oldest friends.

My wife and I were recently engaged in creating a mind map.  It’s an ongoing effort to help us to understand better what significant  life events until now have been leading us towards.  As such, it’s a constant work-in-progress.

But this mind map really illustrates the idea that there are no accidents in life.  Our lives are not a random collection of happenstance, or in the words of The Bard, “…a tale told by an idiot, full of sound an fury, signifying nothing.”  Quite the contrary, as we look over this map, we can see time and again a working pattern, ordered by an intelligence far greater than our own.

The mind map exercise helps us to more clearly see how the seemingly disconnected events, relationships, and ideas that appear to spin in space on their own have an order and a direction to them that is simply… elegant.  While our past should never be the thing that defines us, it is what got us here, and so cannot be ignored.  Likewise, our relationships, events, and ideas are not the sum total of us- but they are what will lead us forth from here.

So what happens when we start to view the world this way?  Suddenly, every event is a gift- an opportunity to unwrap a bit more of “what’s next.”  Every relationship is important.  And nothing is wasted.  What happens when we decide to experience the random and trivial events (or the random and trivial people) in this higher light?  They become much less trivial.

Socrates is famously quoted as saying, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”  At some later point, I’ll reflect on my studies of Socrates/Plato during my undergrad years at Northern Illinois University.  But for now, I would like to share a framework that my friend Ron K. shared with me a few years ago for actually examining life.

We were talking about New Year’s Resolutions, and Ron shared that he had a much more elaborate system.  Every year, he would sit down and make resolutions from several categories.  He wrote them down.  He kept them.  He showed me a tablet of paper going back YEARS, with these annual plans and goals- detailing the person he wanted to become that year.  Some were very lofty and high minded.  Others very earthy, talking about income goals for that years.  Others were more whimsical, like learning to play guitar well enough to perform publicly.

And so, for several years now, I have at least attempted to make a similar list.  Ron shared that the ACHIEVEMENT of the goal was not necessarily the mark of success, but rather the MAKING of the goal.  It’s the process that matters.  It’s the systematic, regular, detailed examination of one’s life that not only leads to business success (and Ron has been very successful in business), but to fulfillment in life.

As these goals are often very personal things, I won’t share all of mine here, but I would like to outline the major areas, some of which I’ve altered from Ron’s list.  Each category should have 1-2 concrete goals within it.

  • Artistic Goals – we all need some sort of artistic outlet, whether writing, painting, making music, or even blogging.
  • Career Goals – Not just “job” goals, but how do I want to enhance, or even begin to change my work life this year?
  • Family – What do I want to do to be a better husband, father, son, brother, etc.?
  • Physical – Run a 5K?  Lose weight?  Bench press a Volkswagen?
  • Public Service – What will I do to serve my community this year?
  • Attitude – What do I want to develop or change in how I respond to the world?
  • Educational – We should always be learning. How will I?
  • Financial – How will I know if I’m succeeding in the area of personal finance?
  • Pleasure – What will I do that will bring me joy this year?
  • Spiritual – How will I develop or change my relationship with my Creator?

One of my Artistic goals for the last several years has been to blog at least weekly.  And so here we are!  Anyone else want to share?

At almost 40, I am yet again taking a run at blogging. There was one really bad attempt in 2004-05, and I will buy dinner for the first person who can find said bad attempt- sadly, it lives on in a popular blogging site.  I first made “weekly blogging” part of my annual Goals for the Year project about two years ago.  Growing business, growing family, etc. always seem to take precedence.

I won’t go on to list all the reasons why you should follow these musing.  Hopefully, you will see something worth reading, and returning to read more of.  I also won’t go into lots of details about the author.  Plenty of those details are available on other sites, which is probably how you got here in the first place.

So where is “here”?

The title of the blog: A soul in tension, that’s learning to fly… comes from the Pink Floyd song “Learning to Fly”.  I’ve been a Floyd fan since sometime in the 80’s, and never even had to do drugs to appreciate the decades-ahead-of-their-time music and staging, and some of the most intelligent and deep lyrics that are written.  What’s especially amazing is that they’ve done it for decades.  I don’t want to entertain discussions of Syd Barett vs. David Gilmour vs. Roger Waters, and who was “the best” front man for the band- the reality is that each contributed in amazing ways.

But the song “Learning to Fly” has been interpreted to mean everything from a tribute to Gilmour’s love of flying, to Gilmour’s emotions on taking the lead of the band, to a description of a drug-induced experience.  Regardless of the author’s intent, I think that the lyric I’ve lifted as the blog title is something that many people experience and can relate to.  There is who/what/where we are and who/what/where we want to be.  I’m not talking about “what might have been”, as that sort of speculation is usually a waste of time.  Rather, I mean the sense of who we want to be, or who we believe we are MEANT to be.

So that tension is a recurring theme.  But not a frustrated tension at feeling “stuck” in a current circumstance.  Quite the opposite, really.  It’s the tension of seeing, even if only vaguely, a place to be, and striving to be there.

I invite feedback.  In fact, I relish it.  I live for good conversation.  Plenty more to follow…

Pink Floyd: Learning to Fly (from A Momentary Lapse of Reason, 1987)

Into the distance, a ribbon of black
Stretched to the point of no turning back
A flight of fancy on a windswept field
Standing alone my senses reel
A fatal attraction is holding me fast
How can I escape this irresistible grasp?

Can’t keep my eyes from the circling sky
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earthbound misfit, I

Ice is forming on the tips of my wings
Unheeded warnings, I thought I thought of everything
No navigator to find my way home
Unladen, empty and turned to stone

A soul in tension, that’s learning to fly
Condition grounded but determined to try
Can’t keep my eyes from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earthbound misfit, I

Above the planet on a wing and a prayer,
My grubby halo, a vapour trail in the empty air
Across the clouds I see my shadow fly
Out of the corner of my watering eye
A dream unthreatened by the morning light
Could blow this soul right through the roof of the night

There’s no sensation to compare with this
Suspended animation, a state of bliss
Can’t keep my mind from the circling skies
Tongue-tied and twisted just an earthbound misfit, I