The Good Things

I just got up this morning. I am remembering with a broad smile a host of joys in my life.

As a child, several stand out. There was that feeling on my bare toes as I ran through the summer’s grass. I remember still the joy the first time I heard Rhapsody in Blue at about eight including that beautiful, initial clairinet riff. There was the pitter patter of my little heart when at twelve years of age my girlfriend would smile at me.

Then nineteen years later came real, not puppy love. There was the time Kristine stopped our car in a night of traveling and we stepped out to look up at the starlit sky in Big Sur. I also recall the texture and serenity of the beautiful, low tides Kris and I have seen when the sea beckoned us both. Finally, I recollect our delight in our first brunch at the the Crown Room in the Hotel del Coronado. It was the grand, wooded beauty of the room itself, built in the Victorian era,  in concert with the wonderful meal we enjoyed.

The memories were made when my mind stopped spinning and my senses soaked it all in. Simply put, L’Chaim, to life.

What Changed?

The NFL’s Los Angeles Chargers were losing close games frequently. They had not beaten anyone in the division in a month of Sundays. Suddenly they beat the Jets, Raiders and Broncos on consecutive weeks in close games. Only the Jets were outside their division.

From my view, it all turned following the Chargers stunning defeat to the now vulnerable New England Patriots, 45-0. In that game the special teams came apart at the seams giving up long runs and missing field goals.

Head coach Lynn then declared he would be coaching the special teams. In yesterday’s close victory against the Denver Broncos, it was a Charger, Nadir Adderly, who had the long run back of a kickoff. The LA kicker, Michael Badgley, was four for four including the game winner.

Hopefully the idea of firing Coach Lynn has turned to dust given the turnaround on his watch.

Phil Niekro, an Obit and Memoir

I lived in Atlanta, GA during two years of pathology residency and four years of college. That was all at Emory, 1963-1967 and 1971-1973. That was coincident with the Atlanta Braves career of the knuckleballing Hall of Famer, Phil Niekro.

In 1966 I was able to follow the first year of the NFL’s Atlanta Falcons. But Braves baseball with the quality of Niekro’s pitching and Hank Aaron’s hitting kept me coming back, even on some sweltering Atlanta afternoons.

They are good memories and I was sorry to hear we just lost Phil Niekro to cancer at 81. The NYT obit mentions his catcher Bob Uecker’s response to that unpredictable pitch. He conveyed how in missing so many of them he ran to the backstop and got to meet a lot of the fans.

Youth is Wasted on the Young?

So you are over 65 and you want your youth back? That Spanish explorer found that fountain years ago. I don’t know how much they charge per hour for time in the fountain, but I think it’s doable.

Actually, anxieties and unhappiness at least per some good research tilt toward the young not the old. Nevertheless, heartbreak and pain have not monopolized any particular phase of life. As my mother said many times, “Nobody said it would be easy Robert.”

I do think the less we complain and the more we appreciate our short time here the easier it might be. Don’t you think?

This present time is difficult for us all. Thank God I am alive to write this here in one of the epicenters and you are to read it. May your 2021 get better and better wherever you find yourself on life’s journey.

The Good Life?

There has been at least one good scientific study that shows that boardrooms benefit from honest exchanges of differing points of view from board (not bored) members, reducing BIAS when a decision is made. That’s no small feat. It’s a lesson for individuals, families and nations. It involves speaking the truth non-offensively and listening.

The objective of the board is to enhance the corporation’s profits. There has been at least one good scientific study that shows, as to those individuals who “gain,” once one has food on the table, and, a roof over one’s head differences in people’s happiness based on income are nominal.

Recall in the musical Camelot when the King and Guinevere are wondering what the simple folk are doing to cope, as the royal couple deals with its difficulties. Frederick Lowe wrote for the couple’s duet:

“What else do the simple folk do?

 They must have a system or two

 They obviously outshine us at turning tears to mirth”

(https://genius.com/Frederick-loewe-what-do-the-simple-folk-do-lyrics)

Is it profitable, unbiased decisions that are paramount in our lives? I think that the lesson to be learned from the apparent truths noted comes from Jesus’ words in John 15:12.  “This is my commandment, that ye love one another, even as I have loved you.” That’s a noble task, celebrated in our holiday season, which, surely, requires the grace of God. Don’t you think? It does for me.

The Virus as 2020 Comes to a Close

The draft has ended for our youth. It did so in the early 70s. Young men have a choice as to whether they are willing to take on a soldier’s risks.

At the same time a scourge that has killed more Americans than the Second World War or Vietnam War seems to be gaining momentum. It’s lethality is weighted towards the elderly or other end of the populace.

I missed Vietnam because the doctor draft ended shortly before I was to take my draft physical. But now, short of vaccination, there is another draft my generation faces. This time there is an invisible enemy that does its own drafting.

My prayer for you, particularly the elderly, is that good health would characterize your life until the vaccine arrives at your doorstep.

What Made Some of My Teachers and Professors Great

My first, great teacher was our homeroom and shop teacher in junior high. That was largely because he went beyond his required duties to help several of us. He thought we could succeed with more advanced math and so he taught a group of us, separately, essentially for no pay. It’s never been my best subject, but I never forgot his generosity.

My second, great teacher was an extraordinary history professor visiting from University of Chicago. I was at Emory University, where, I was a history major. He had established a new motive for the western migration, an enthusiasm to develop major, American cities. If you think about the fanatics that root for the Kansas City Chiefs or the LA Lakers, you get his drift. We deeply care about our major cities blessed with big economies, much inventiveness, the arts and major sports. I never forgot and never disagreed with his original premise. I enjoyed that course as much as any I have taken. At this point two of my favorite, major cities are historic, the Baltimore of the 70s and the London of the 60s.

Finally I had an organic chemistry professor who exuded enthusiasm every day. I didn’t do as well in his class as in other science courses, but I have never forgotten his love for the subject and students he taught. It was simply unforgettable.

Those great teachers and professors may not have earned a fortune, but, I was fortunate that they crossed my path.

Rolling Those Eyes?

I have heard from reliable sources, there is a certain visual cue that is amongst the most powerful weapons we have to damage relationships. By that I mean, specifically, rolling one’s eyes. Like they say, a picture is worth a thousand words. The problem with the gesture is it is CONTEMPTUOUS. It is usually motivated by our lesser angels.

I have my own large set of demons. Rolling my eyes, I think and hope, though I haven’t asked, just happens to be way down the list. In this season, particularly trying to present my better angels, while, under the stress of COVID isolation, I am trying to communicate clearly and lovingly whenever I can. By the grace of God, I can communicate well, despite my broken, angel’s wings.

May the Christmas season bring you joy and and may 2021 bring you change for the better.

How We Choose to Spend Our Days

“Why exactly do people do what they do for a living during their relatively brief time on earth? That was a question raised in an NYT obit today by Alex Vadukul.

I became a history major 56 years ago because History 101 was my first collegiate A. I didn’t become a history prof because it might result in me becoming history in Vietnam.

Somehow the forces of history and our labyrinthian lives find many of us in work we either love or hate. I loved my profession enough to tolerate the boring details in the belly of the work and the abusive personalities who occasionally crossed my path.

At 68, since, thank God, I had a choice, the details and abuse outweighed, the love. This time at 75 IS precious. Studies have actually shown, on average, us old fogies are happier than the rest of you. I would have NEVER guessed that at 25, a long, long time ago.

Deep Down Inside Us

In Scriptures, Paul says in his magnificent love chapter: “…then I shall know even as also I am known.” I think “then” refers to the afterlife of believers.  I think Paul means: Today we are not transparent to ourselves but then we will see ourselves as God sees us. Yes, today our inner selves are extensively complex. Years of “digging” through study, reflection, behavioral therapy, etc., in many, barely scratches the surface.

Even when we make the life changing decision to marry, most behavioral therapists would agree that our subconscious, unbeknownst to us, recognizes the strengths and weaknesses of our parents in the person with whom we will hopefully spend the rest of our lives. Loves seems blind to that truth early in a relationship.

As to what one might read to gain a better understanding of people and the character of God on our journeys, consider the following: Somehow the Bible has outlasted the “glories” of the Roman Empire, an empire built in concrete, the power of the Egyptian Empire, etc., etc. Why did that lambskin outlast the empires of antiquity? It’s worth considering as we struggle with self-understanding and learning how to more gracefully accept/love others. In this wonderful holiday season, I think it’s a question worth pondering.