The Wednesday Rant.

October 25, 2017 | Posted in General

Back in the saddle as it were.

Since none of you were in the audience at the Capitol Theater for “Human Math”…thought I would share this abbreviated “Cliffs Notes” version of my 18 minute platform rant at my 2nd TED Talk at TEDx Chatham-Kent in Ontario last week.

Disclaimer- The odds of me doing any sort of presentation involving math is a bazillion to none. My best grades in grammar school were lunch and recess. In high school, lunch and gym (which is just recess in a uniform.) When I brought home a report card to my dad who was a banker and “numbers guy” there was usually a big red F- and it wasn’t for “FANTASTIC.”

So here ya go.

The odds of being born is 1 in 400,000,000,000,000 (the number 400 trillion doesn’t even take into account the incalculable variables that put all the right people in all the right places at all the right times for us to exist.

You beat out 399,000,000,000,000 other potential humans to get here. The odds of winning a $700 million Powerball is 1 in 292 million–so compared to being born, you’ve already won the biggest lottery there is.

You can take up space or you can occupy it.
You can let your circumstances define you or let them reveal you. You can see a life full of accidents that have pushed you down or a life full of incidents in disguise designed to lift you up. Life is an ongoing exercise in adjusting perspectives. What we focus on tends to expand. So consider not majoring in minor things.
So, while the odds of being born are nearly infinitesimal, the odds of dying are currently at 100%.
Your eventual cause of death is nothing compared to your ongoing cause in life.
151,600 humans left the planet overnight. If you can read this…you win again.
Don’t worry about adding years to your life, be about adding life to your years because how you were born isn’t nearly as important as why, and how you die isn’t as important as how you live.
Joan of Arc had just 6,935 days to lead France to victory and become a saint in the process.
Terry Fox ran across Canada on one leg and became a nation hero in 8,030 days.
Marilyn Monroe and Princess Diana both had 13, 140 days to bend history.
John Lennon re-defined the word “Imagine” in just 14,600 days.
My late, great friend John Denver became a voice for the planet in just 19,345 days.
Once you figure out the “why” the “how” will take care of itself.
If my numbers hold up I have an estimated 7,300 days left or 20 years.
So, today isn’t just another “day”…its an unfolding miracle…and so are you.
Don’t just count your days, make your days count.
Or not.
What you do with your winnings is matter of choice not chance.
Safe travels.
JSA
2003-09-29-09-10-02-2-3

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The Saturday Morning Memo

October 14, 2017 | Posted in General

“Dear Every Single American..”

What follows are not my words, but rather those of my veteran brother-in-arms Nate Boyer, decorated Green Beret soldier and former NFL long snapper with the Seattle Seahawks.

Nate was a guest on my “Life Matters” podcast in 2016 and dropped the term “Earned Americanism” into my ear, a challenge that hasn’t left me since he said it. We are a nation that loves to claim our greatness without really having to actually “earn it” in our own lives each day, content more with opinion that action, diversion rather than inclusion and separation rather than unity.

Nate’s words hold great weight with me, I only ask you take a few minutes to digest what he is offering. JSA

i

Darkness cannot drive out darkness; only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate; only love can do that.” — Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Dear Every Single American,

Every. Single. American. Including President Trump, Colin Kaepernick, and my brothers in arms overseas who are wondering, “what in the hell is going on back there?” I’m sitting in the same chair, in the same apartment that I sat in almost a year ago when I wrote an open letter to Colin Kaepernick. I was hurt when I saw him sitting on the bench during the national anthem, but I’m much more hurt now. Not by him, not by where we’re at now with the protests, but by us.

Simply put, it seems like we just hate each other; and that is far more painful to me than any protest, or demonstration, or rally, or tweet. We’re told to pick a side, there’s a line drawn in the sand “are you with us or against us?” It’s just not who we are, or at least who we’re supposed to be; we’re supposed to be better than that, we’re Americans. This doesn’t even seem to be about right or wrong, but more about right or left.

Today it feels like this national divide isn’t even really about the anthem, or the flag, or kneeling, or sitting, or fists in the air. It’s not about President Donald Trump, it’s not about Colin Kaepernick, it’s not about the military, or even police brutality. It feels like it’s about winning. That’s what makes America so great, our sheer competitiveness. We’re winners, and we won’t quit until victory is ours.

We see it in sports everyday, we “live and die” by the outcomes of our teams. That desire to win at all cost is costing us greatly now among our neighbors. This winning mentality seems to have spilled over into an obsession with being right and not willing to admit that maybe, just maybe we were wrong. We repeat mantras to ourselves like, “no matter what I will never ever surrender.”

“To deploy overseas, train, live with, fight alongside, and ultimately defend foreigners that you have little in common with is truly a challenging task. But returning home to a country that is so divided, so judgmental, and so hateful of one another is almost as difficult to deal with as burying a fallen comrade.”

Earlier this week I sat down with a group of five Combat Arms and Special Operations Veterans. The round table discussed our individual feelings on the flag, the anthem, and the players who knelt when it was played. We all had very different takes, but what surprised me most at the end of the discussion was that we all agreed on one thing. Colin Kaepernick and President Trump should be the ones uniting our country together. Wait…what? I know it sounds crazy, but maybe that’s exactly what we need to see. Maybe that’s how we start to heal. Two men sit in a room and talk, simple as that.

That’s how it all started with Colin and I, neither of us knew that kneeling would be the result of our conversation. Colin wanted to sit, I wanted him to stand, and so we found a common ground on a knee alongside his teammates. I believe that progress and real change happens in this world when you reach across the divide, you build a bridge, you swallow your pride, you open your mind, you embrace what you don’t understand, and ultimately you surrender.

Now I don’t pretend to speak for everyone who fought overseas, many veterans rightfully disagree with my position. But I do feel that I echo the sentiments of most war fighters when I say that what we hope for more than anything right now in America is unity. To deploy overseas, train, live with, fight alongside, and ultimately defend foreigners that you have little in common with is truly a challenging task. But returning home to a country that is so divided, so judgmental, and so hateful of one another is almost as difficult to deal with as burying a fallen comrade. In fact we’re still losing our brothers in arms overseas right now and it’s hardly mentioned it in the media; but that’s OK, we don’t risk our lives and sacrifice so much for fanfare or recognition. It’s not at all why we do what we do. We do what we do because you are worth it, because we love you.

I would love for those two leaders to have that conversation, but more than anything I just want us to love one another again. One great thing about freedom is that you get to choose everyday how you treat your neighbor. This IS the best country in the world, but we can always do better. I’m laying it all out there because I have to, I swore to defend this land and its people, and I will die trying. I know some people will hate this (we love to hate things these days), and I’ll get called a disgrace to the Green Beret once again. But I don’t care, the United States means more to me than any of that.

Over the past year I’ve come across veterans from various walks of life. We may actually be the most diverse sub-culture in the America. Since I myself am a Green Beret, I want to share with you a couple of messages that were sent to me from men in my former unit. One of them is white, and one of them is black:

“Hey brother. At first I was with you on the Kaepernick issue. However, I just stood in formation while one of our brothers was pulled off a plane with our nation’s flag draped over the coffin. I had to fight back tears as I saw the pain in the eyes of Staff Sergeant T’s wife and family. While I would like to sit here and tell you that I rose above it all, I have to be honest. My heart filled with rage. Rage for anyone who takes for granted the ideals and symbols that we fight and die for.”

“Hey Brother, this is J. I spent nearly 18 years in 10th Special Forces Group and wish I had an opportunity to meet a brother like yourself. I just want to say I appreciate your views on this national anthem and flag issue. I love our country, but at the same time I have to take the time to tell my sons to act a certain way out of fear for their lives when dealing with police officers. Most of my neighbors and friends here in MD are law enforcement personnel and will tell you they also have to act a certain way to avoid confrontation and situations that normally don’t occur for those that are not of color. Not all officers are bad, the majority I believe are good and poor training is attributed to some of these issues we hear of. I really just want to thank you for your taking the time out to understand and convincing him to take a knee and not sit out on what we have fought for. God Bless You Bro!”

Different backgrounds, different experiences, different colors, but at the end of the day they just want the same basic things for their families.

So please, no more lines in the sand, not at home, not among our people. No more choosing sides, no more “for or against.” I believe our Veterans will be called upon to lead the way in healing the world and solving its problems; right now our country needs that more than I can remember. So I’ll be here, standing in the radical middle, doing what I can to continue fighting for those that can’t fight for themselves. Let’s get this thing fixed together, you and me. I love you all with all my heart.

De Oppresso Liber

– Nate Boyer

 

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Pandora’s Box.

October 11, 2017 | Posted in General

I haven’t posted “The Wednesday Rant” in three weeks.

Really been working to pull back on the reins a bit, being as Zen like as I can in the wake of all that is going in the world. As California burns, I am reminded that once again, we are merely another species on the list, when it comes to “Mother Nature”. Hurricanes, flooding, fires, sinkholes, record heat and “abnormal” temperatures have humans fleeing their homes, losing their homes and waiting to rebuild their homes…and their lives.

But of course, there is human induced disaster as well.

On October 1st, 58 people were gunned down in Las Vegas at a concert, the responses to the event that has now become part of the normal course of things in America is predictable as both sides go into their corner, lace up their gloves, coming out swinging like an ongoing game of “Rock Em’ Sock Em’ Robots” that allows us the opportunity to “knock their block off” and then our foe resets their head on their shoulders and we resume battle, usually on unsocial media.

But so often the dead are forgotten in favor of opinion.

So, I posted their pictures last week on my Facebook page, a little bit about each one of them and now their faces live in a file on my desktop marked “58.” But while the rest of us moved on to other things, families were burying their children, their husbands, wives, sisters, mothers, fathers and brothers. They were sealing off their rooms, not touching a thing, consoling the children they taught and the loved ones they left behind.

So, while the predictable responses to the latest slaughter rolled in, none of the 58 who could ever have imagined they would all die at a concert, are here to be witness to our collective inability to make any attempt to find solutions.

In a country that put a man on the moon, boasts of incredible technological advances, and claims to be the greatest nation on earth, we somehow cannot figure out how to stop someone from using military grade weapons on civilians, at concerts, at movie theaters, in grade schools on a front porch or backyard.

As its been pointed out many times…apparently there is no answer to our self-induced problem.

The “carrot and stick” news-cycle moves on, begging us to follow the latest White House twitter antics, NFL controversy and Hollywood scandal, and we do, predictable species that we are, in constant “fight or flight” mode as our central nervous systems are drenched with constant downloads that we cannot possibly assimilate, sort and store in any rational manner…that makes sense of the senseless.

As we try to grapple with the steady stream of “end of the world” scenarios I am often reminded that we are at fault for all that goes on, there isn’t any alien species on another planet pulling our strings and that for all our greatness at times, our Achilles Heel is our seeming inability to see each other as equals.

That blindness creates a lot of hell on earth.

Over the past few weeks I have kept thinking about the profound truth of “that which we allow we become” be it in a personal relationship or on societal level. We allow for all that goes on in the world in some way shape or form, that which is no longer allowed, no longer exists as it once did. But true to form, the cycle of life has us dealing with the same concepts over and over again, simply in different form and messenger, deciding what to allow or not.

We allow it all.

In classical Greek mythology, Pandora was the first woman on earth. Zeus ordered Hephaestus to create her. So, he did, using water and earth. The gods endowed her with many gifts: Athena clothed her, Aphrodite gave her beauty, Apollo gave her musical ability, and Hermes gave her speech.

According to Hesiod, when Prometheus stole fire from heaven, Zeus took vengeance by presenting Pandora to Prometheus’ brother Epimetheus. Pandora opens a jar containing death and many other evils which were released into the world. She hastens to close the container, but the whole contents had escaped except for one thing that lay at the bottom – Elpis (usually translated “Hope“, though it could also mean “Expectation.”)

The bottom line is that Zeus was pissed, takes his revenge through Pandora who couldn’t contain her curiosity and opened a box unleashing horrible things into the world, and trapping hope at the bottom, making it the last thing humans reach for, and are so often unable to hold onto.

Once Pandora opened that box, there was no way to ever put any of what spilled out back in.

Greed, shame, hate, pain, jealousy, fear and want became part of the human condition.

Hope became “expectation” an open ended yearning that somehow life could be different than it is, but until it we transform it from a noun to a verb, taking some sort of action in the direction of the change we seek, nothing…changes.

So, we endure what we allow.

I have come to the conclusion that body count has become one of the ways we keep score in America, it is a byproduct of our collective allowing and I have no doubt whatsoever that there is some off the rails human waiting in the weeds, loading up on ammo and weapons, ready to unleash horror on even more people, putting the Las Vegas Massacre in second place and once again making sure that we spend more time on being “right “in our beliefs than finding any solutions.

The gap between “expectation” and “reality” is where suffering resides.

We hope things get better…we hope that things will change…we hope for the best…and yet the reality of what we allow is in direction opposition to our deepest longing.

The pain of hope is only lessened by the acceptance of reality and the willingness to take action…not be in constant reaction.

Nothing in life changes until we do.

And so, it goes, that we become what we allow…for better or for worse.

Be well
JSA

Pandora-mini 2

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