Tag Archives: life

Simple Choice

There was simplicity of a crisp, stark January morning of my youth that I miss, today. It was not that mornings on a WI dairy farm of the fifties were easy, for life held to a thread of shelter from the cold. It was that necessity simplified the choices: Certain things had to be done without exception or equivocation. We simply did them.

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. January reflects upon simplicity.

It has been my goal since youth to simplify my worldview (long before I knew I had one) to a form I could understand. I do not wish to simplify the universe. I choose to simplify my model of the universe so that it makes sense to me. I have done the same with the meaning of life.

“The meaning of life is choice.” To the dismay of many students and the amusement of others, this statement has appeared and continues to appear on many of my exams. Students are free to choose “true” or “false” for their answer, and therein resides the meaning of the test item.

“As you simplify your life, the laws of the universe will be simpler; solitude will not be solitude, poverty will not be poverty, nor weakness weakness.” (Henry David Thoreau)

Simplicity is not easy and the choice of simplicity is not often the easy choice to make. It is routinely easier to choose the common, culturally accepted, trendy way of material complication and social drama. It is easier because we do not have to dare individuality. That is where the complication begins.

The laws of the universe are simple. We make them complicated looking for ways around them. We waste the years of our lives searching for ways to extend the years of our lives. We waste time and material trying to protect time and material. We waste our passion looking for the passionate.

Live. Today.

Simple, yes. Easy, no. That is our choice.

There is profound simplicity in acceptance of the personal reality of our present. Acceptance is abundance, and abundance is absence of poverty.

A spiritual person is never alone. Solitude is grandeur, Nature is cathedral, and reality is blessing.

Solitude and people are not mutually exclusive. By simple choice, I can enjoy solitude in a crowd. Also by choice, I can share the peace of solitude with willing others.

Simplicity undefines poverty for simplicity is its own abundance. There is need for neither material complication nor social drama.

Acceptance of simplicity undefines strength as competition for status and stuff evaporate. There we realize power—true, personal power.

Can you ignore the still, small voice inside you that mutters agreement with my claims?

Can you deny the tracks and traces of joys remembered of simpler times?

Seek the evidence within.

Happy Tracking

Joyous Gift

If I were a drummer boy, I would play for you.

“It is the personal thoughtfulness, the warm human awareness, the reaching out of the self to one’s fellow man that makes giving worthy of the Christmas spirit.” (Isabel Currier)

Note: This blog series investigates twelve attributes I see as conducive to recovery from PTSD (and other past stress) which has become part of our ethos or basic belief system. December investigates charity.

You and I are separated, but it is in my heart to connect with you, with others. I find this very curious—like it is in our DNA. I have studied a lot of genetics, because I seek to know how the universe works, and the genesis of life seemed central at the time. The focus of my studies has shifted.

I have not studied the drum for a long time although I have a wonderful elk-hide gift from a friend that I play for spiritual purposes. I have studied a bit of guitar, harmonica, keyboard, and even voice. Music is not my gift to you.

My ego demands that I find my gift that I may share it with others. I have searched a lifetime for it but all I have found is a few tracks.

Words are tracks.

Ernest Hemingway said something about writing being easy, that all one has to do is sit down at a typewriter and bleed. He bled to death.

I do not write because I am in love with words or particularly gifted in playing them, nor do I wish to bleed to death. I write mostly because I can’t seem to help it. I need to write if only to find out what I think about how the universe works. I choose to share it with you.

That is not easy for a shy person with a touch of PTSD. But, then, if it were easy, it wouldn’t be a gift to you, would it?

My gift is my art, and that is all I am to share. My medium is ideas. I move ideas around until I find some structure that pleases, amuses, or teaches me. Sometimes I stumble upon one that does all three and I simply have to share my joy.

“Life is self-controlled chemistry.” is such a structure. I built that sentence many years ago to challenge Advanced Biology students to design a philosophy of Biology.

Define self.

We are each individual, separated from one another in specific ways. Our individuality defines life. It is sacred. And yet, we strive to connect to others. Because we know, deep down inside our selves, that the connection is also sacred. It is spirit.

Trauma breaks something inside us so that we no longer connect well with others. Our individual survival depends upon our separation from others who would end our lives. Forever. And ever.

Still, we need others. We need connection. For combat veterans, we understand connection because our lives depended upon our brothers and/or sisters. But, they all went away to their own lives lived very separately.

Shy men who do not connect well with others can jump right into conversation with other men. Vietnam veterans talk to other Vietnam veterans. Oh, sure, there is a vetting process, but combat veterans understand that other combat veterans understand what the protected can never know. We need each other and we understand that.

Writing words is not my gift to you. Sharing my thoughts and feelings so that we might understand each other is all I offer this Christmas Eve. It is my hope that I can define self in a way that celebrates rather than denigrates the gift that is individuality, that defines life. It is my hope that I can help others who suffer directly or indirectly from Post Traumatic Stress to accept themselves, the sacred individuality, the blessed ego, the gift that finds joy only in being shared.

It is there, that gift, inside each of us, as unique as the freckles on our faces or the prints of our fingers. Track it, find it, and share it.

Have a joyous season—Merry Christmas, if you please—or any other reason to celebrate giving.

Happy Tracking.

Natural Love

“A brother is a friend given by Nature.” (Jean Baptiste Legouve)

There once lived three brothers working on a farm, aged 5, 10, and 15. That was long, long, ago.

The eldest left the farm to drive truck and the others stayed.

When the middle son had a medical condition briefly preventing him from working on the farm, he drove truck with his older brother, but he stayed on the farm.

When the youngest brother graduated from high school, he drove truck with his oldest brother for a summer before he left the farm for college, and the middle brother stayed.

When one brother needed help, the others showed up. It’s what they knew, lessons from their parents, aunts, uncles, and cousins. Money changed hands, time was shared in passing, deer were hunted together, parents and other family members buried, joys and sadness lived.

Years turned to decades and the middle brother went to trucking, but he stayed on the farm. The eldest continued trucking through his heart attack, through two open heart surgeries, and well past an age of retirement.

The youngest son retired from teaching, once, and went back for more. The oldest brother finally gave up trucking of medical necessity but returned to the farm to summer in an RV, work the garden, and help with farm chores. The middle brother lived in the same farmhouse he entered at age 4, continued trucking, and worked the farm in between. The youngest brother returned in summer to occasionally dabble in farm work.

Summers became a time of reunion as the eldest brother returned to the Wisconsin farm from Florida and the youngest visited from Arizona. The brothers laughed, played Sheepshead, and sweated together, again—home…home on the farm.

Always, the farm remained open to family. And, so, another summer brought the eldest home. Eighteen years past his second open heart surgery and thirty three past the heart attack that brought the first one—and the arrest on the table—find him rototilling the garden, mowing lawn, feeding and watering horses, pulling wagon loads of hay, and generally contributing what he can.

The youngest comes to visit for a week, invited into the house with his sick and dying dog, sleeping on a screen porch much like he did as a teenager, throwing a few bales of hay just to say thank you, or, mostly to feel the joy of honest work on the old farm.

After a hot day of hard work, the eldest reflected on the condition, the contribution to the farm, the opportunity to return: “I just love this…for the end of my life, really.”

The end of life may be sad, but it need not be tragic. I have seen too much of the tragic, people withering away far from home, if they ever had a real home. Not all families share this kind of brotherly love, this simple contribution of time and talent with each other.

Maybe that’s the point…of life, I mean, to have a home to enjoy at the end of life. What do you think?

God’s Art: Choice Freedom

For years, every test I gave to 9th grade science students had this question: True or False—The meaning of life is choice. Now, before you get excited, let me tell you two things about my tests. First, students were always invited to explain their answers on the test papers. Second, I gave them credit for any reasonable explanation. If a student chose false, I marked it wrong. If s/he gave a reason, such as, “I believe the meaning of life is Jesus Christ,” I changed the mark to correct. It was one of my ways of helping students from three different 8th grade schools to adjust to the realities of high school, the responsibility of
consequences of our choices.

In preparation for this post, I did a little “content” research on the topic of free will and quickly concluded I wanted no part of it. Western philosophy seems to dwell on hypothetical conjecture like postulating that if God is omniscient, then He knows what I will choose, and therefore, I really only imagine a choice. I choose to not pursue a Western philosophical content, today—at least it felt like a choice. Maybe it is a form of relativity.

Hartley Peavey believes he made a choice, or a series of choices. He chose to become a rock star with a guitar. When evidence convinced him that it would never happen, he made another choice, the one to stay involved in music by doing something he had already learned to do. He built amplifiers. Serendipity brought a salesman to his door who sold them. When retail sales were restricted by guitar manufacturers’ policies, he chose to build guitars as well. His choices resulted in the international multi-million dollar Peavey Electronics Corporation.

This “God’s Art” blog section is predicated on my choice to look for evidence of the nature of the universe, particularly the nature of the mystery, design, or principles, by looking at the physical evidence in Nature. Man is part of Nature. Man’s behavior, even as studied by psychology, is a part of Nature. In my mind, the ways we humans think, cognition, is a medium of God’s Art. We make choices. Therefore, God made us with the ability and propensity for choice.

True, not everything I am results from choice. I did not choose (as I recall) to be a WASP, but I was born into a poor, white Anglo-Saxon protestant farm family. I did not choose to be male or straight. I did not choose to be a reflective introvert, either. I don’t even believe I chose to be a liberal thinker. The combination of my personal nature and my experiences, many of them shaped by my early choices, causes me to evolve in a certain way, and here I am. Am I responsible for the way I am?

Yes. And, no. I can choose to accept me as I am, deny that I am this way, or work to grow into something different. I will never be a rock star. I will never be President of the United States. I will probably never be a Nobel or Pulitzer Prize winner. My beautiful yellow Labrador Retriever, Serenity, will never be a guard dog—she loves and trusts people too much.

Some people ponder and argue about whether or not humans have free will. Not me. I was once called a pragmatist, in a derogatory way, by a fellow graduate student in science. I guess I am. That’s why I look for God in Her art of Nature.

I look now at Serenity, curled comfortably on the carpet, and know that I have a choice to make because she is not at all comfortable. She is confused and in pain. Even if she recovers from this episode, her age, alone, is proof that a choice is imminent because our ethics do not permit us to watch our pets suffer the way I watched my mother suffer. The day will come, probably very soon, when Nancy and I will choose.

Not choosing is, itself, a choice. We have no choice about whether or not we choose.

I had wanted this blog to be fun and funny, especially after the last few downers, but life happens. I chose to share it with you. Choices about stuff in space and time define life.