Thursday, April 30, 2009

Big Government is Necessary ... For What?

I woke up this morning to a report where the President said that big government solutions, while unwanted, are necessary. My brain erupted with questions.

Big Government is necessary … for what, exactly?

What if it wasn’t “necessary”? What if there was another way through this present economic chaos: a way that would not rob individuals and businesses of their freedoms?

What if Big Government was actually the problem? Hey, just asking!

What is the purpose of saying that Big Government is Necessary? There has never been a time in history where Big Government did not equal Fewer Freedoms and Higher Taxes. Never. So, Big Government is Necessary for Big Government to have Power and Money.

Whereas our nation's forefathers believed that individuals should have power over their own lives (freedom) and that it was productive individuals who would create the nation’s wealth, today’s political leaders believe the exact opposite. The vision and principles of our forefathers created the freest and wealthiest nation in history. What do you think Big Government is going to create?

Go back to the first question that hit me, as I read this article: Big Government is Necessary … for what, exactly?

I suggest that the answer is quite simple, quite profound, and quite disastrous:

Big Government is Necessary for Salvation—what the President euphemistically refers to as “solutions.” Today’s average political leader—on either side of the aisle—believes this to be a fact. It is the calling of the governments of the US (Federal, State, and County) to ”save” its citizens. “If you are sick, we will heal you; if you go bankrupt, we will bail you out; and if you can’t find work, we will take care of you, from bassinet to casket. Of course, all we ask in return is what any Messiah would ask: yield yourself wholly and solely to us."

Why are people willing to do trade their souls for such care? I believe there are two reasons: security is preferable to freedom, and an utter lack of belief and trust in God.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Monday, April 27, 2009

Damien Rice

Damien Rice’s rendition of
songwriter Leonard Cohen’s take

on King David’s Broken Hallelujah’s

This is an ingenious juxtaposition of two differing
perspectives on the same relationship.

Rice’s passion is only superseded by his artistry.

This is 9 minutes long ...
Obviously, a complicated relationship!

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Rush To Be Found

August Rush, Directed by Kirstin Sheridan, Rated PG

Freddie Highmore -- Evan, aka “August Rush”
Keri Russell – Lyla Novacek
Jonathan Rhys Meyers – Louis Connelly
Robin William – Maxwell “Wizard” Wallace

Evan is an orphan. His father and mother, Louis and Lyla, do not even know he exists. Louis never knew the love-of-his-life was pregnant, as they were torn apart by her father. Lyla knew but thought the child had died within her womb, after a terrible accident. The child did live however, as Lyla’s father secretly put him up for adoption.

Louis sings in a band and is a highly talented guitarist, lyricist, and singer. Lyla is a concert cellist. Evan is their child prodigy who runs away from the orphanage to go create the music that he believes will bring his parents to him. Once he arrives in NYC, he is taken under wing by Wizard, the Pied Piper of a group of homeless children who play their instruments on street corners for people who throw coins and cash into money jars and guitar cases. Of course, all this money goes to Wizard.

For me, the most profound moment in the movie takes place during a conversation between Evan and Wizard, who changes Evan’s name to August Rush.

Wizard: What do you want to be in the world? I mean the whole world. What do you want to be? Close your eyes and think about that.

August: Found.

Wizard: [pauses] Doesn't have enough yin. Little more yang, ya know?

August: Yeah

I believe being found is the cry of the human heart. We want intimate connections with other humans: not merely head to head but soul to soul. Even God said that it wasn't good for man to be alone ... and we can be alone in the middle of a crowded room, can't we.

Fame is not synonymous with being found, as the testimony of so many famous people will verify. Just because an individual has a lot of friends doesn’t mean that he feels that he has been found, either. Being found isn’t experienced solely by friendly human contact: it is a deep intimate connection that only comes when two people see, get, and appreciate each other on a very deep level.

Up until seeing this movie, I had always described this experience as being psychologically visible. Now I see that I had confused two experiences that, while often occurring together, are not synonymous.

Being Visible
Being psychologically visible to someone is a powerful experience: sometimes a shocking experience! When someone sees and gets that, for all of my people skills, I can only Do People for so long, and then honors this in their dealings with me, I know that I am visible to them, and am grateful. When they see deeper down into my soul that I approach life as a romantic or that I have a deep current of melancholy and are accepting of this, a deeper connection between our souls is made possible.

Where there is any authentic friendship, there is a mutuality of basic visibility. I mean, If I am blind to who you are, how in the world do I know whether or not I like you? And when you keep saying you see me as a so-and-so and I know that I am not, you should not be surprised when this invisibility creates a gap between us. True?

Obviously there are degrees of visibility, which can be seen in your friendships. The more we see of each other, the deeper the friendship can grow, until at some point we experience that intimate connection I am referring to as Being Found.

How many people go through life feeling invisible, even to their friends or family members? Of course, many people make it difficult to be seen by hiding so well. Sometimes the reason they do this is that their need is accompanied by a fear of being rejected after being seen by those they love. Are we humans complex, or what?!?

Being Found
Being found occurs when two people see down in to the depths of each other’s souls, and in this experience a bond is created that is something akin to familial love. This is what lifelong best friends experience. It is also what happens when we, romantically speaking, encounter The One.

Because these two experiences--being visible and being found--are so powerful, the lack of each can be painful. We were created with the need for meaningful connections with others, and when these needs are not being met we suffer. When we become invisible to someone who used to see us, we are wounded. And when we are lost after feeling we had been found? The pain is so horrifying, so crippling and so soul shattering that you wouldn’t wish it on your worst enemy.

Sometimes the pain is so severe that people become emotionally ill and handicapped. This occurs in those individuals who do not know how to manage the emotions surrounding these needs. One thing that will help us here is remembering that being visible to another human is a gift that is given or withheld: it cannot be demanded. Being found is a more valuable gift that, even more so, cannot be commanded. However much I want “you” to be the one who sees me and finds me—someone with whom I have an intimate connection—it is a gift, not a right. As long as we can hold on to this reality, I believe we will find the inner resources to regain our equilibrium.

In reflecting on our needs for visibility and deep, intimate connections, we should remember that the people around us have the same needs. For a long time, I was so hungry to be visible to those around me that I failed to grant them the gift I wanted and needed. This, of course, was because I was one of those complex humans who were terrified of rejection. Go figure.

Take time to listen. Ask questions that will help others open their hearts even more. If what you are hearing is other than what you wanted to hear, remember that they are gifting you by revealing their true self: be accepting, just as God accepts you: as is.

Of course, we are not always going to appreciate what we see. This is why visibility does not always lead to great friendships and intimate connections! However, even when we find we cannot appreciate or empathize, much less develop a deep bond with an individual, they are owed the respect due to every human, as all of us were created in the image of God.

I cannot help but wonder if some of our struggles here come from failing to realize that there is only one connection that fully satisfies these human needs, which happens when God finds us. Can any one but God truly see us in all of our glory and rubbish? Is there any connection we can experience that reaches farther down into the very depths of our souls, other than one with God? No, there is not. And thinking that any human connection, however deep and meaningful, will do for us what only a connection with God will do, will leave us dissatisfied: expecting from her, wanting from him, and demanding from them what only God can give.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Friday, April 17, 2009

The Missing Soul

As a coach, one of the more common problems my clients wrestle with is the issue of what author Thomas Moore refers to as loss of soul: the loss of a sense of wholeness, feeling disconnected from life.

When our jobs bring us no real, substantive sense of satisfaction;

When our primary relationships are stuck on Not Working, and we feel the futility of all past hopes for joy and meaningfulness;

When either or both of these challenges occur, we are experiencing the Missing Soul.

One of the more poignant descriptions of this loss can be read and felt in Fernando Pessoa’s poem “There is a sickness worse than sickness,”

My soul came apart like an empty jar.
It fell overwhelmingly down the stairs.
Dropped from the hands of a careless maid.

It fell. Smashed into more pieces than there was china
in the jar.

Nonsense? Impossible? How should I know?
I have more sensations now than when I felt I was all me.
I am a litter of shards strewn on a doormat about to be

My soul came apart like an empty jar This about sums up the life-experience of so many people. Maybe the “maid” was a spouse or ex-spouse; maybe it was a boss; maybe a teacher or friend; maybe it was a series of painful experiences. Whomever or whatever happened, the individual now feels as “a litter of shards”: soul-wearied, soul-broken, soul-less.

I think one of the ways we can begin gathering the pieces of our shattered souls is by first acknowledging the source of our feeling disconnected. I am not referring to the culprit(s), mind you, but to the fact that what is “wrong” lie within our souls.

He is not the problem.
She is not the problem.
They are not the problem.
It is not the problem.

The problem is with soul.

What the soul is missing is quite simple: simple, but not simplistic. What's missing is love. Whether it is in loving our work or at least putting love into the work we are performing, or allowing our love to, once again, reopen our hearts toward others, it is the lack of giving and receiving love that keeps us disconnected from our worlds. In his book “A Life at Work: The Joy of Discovering What You Were Born to Do,” Thomas Moore writes:

This talk of love may seem completely out of place in relation to contemporary work life. It may seem more a luxury than an essential. That is because we tend to think in purely pragmatic terms. We worry about profit, efficiency, and productivity so much that important human issues go unnoticed. Whatever the work, however exalted or menial, a person needs the basic experiences of intimate connection and love.

Feelings of belonging, connection, history, and involvement may seem secondary to the person designing and managing the job, but these soul qualities have everything to do with good and fulfilling work. They may appear to be second in importance to productivity and efficiency, and yet they have an impact on the success of the work being done. Tardiness, absenteeism, and sloppy work are often due to the absence of soul in the workplace.

Moore Soul: Deepening, broadening, enriching, and caring for the soul is the theme that runs through each of Moore’s books. By the way, I highly recommend his Care of the Soul: A Guide for Cultivating Depth and Sacredness in Everyday Life, and Dark Nights of the Soul, which was the only book I read for months when my soul last went into utter darkness. (For True Believers--you know who you are: Moore does not write as a Christian and uses metaphors and images mined from many different religions.)

Whereas so many authors, coaches and managers emphasize technical expertise and competencies (which are important), few seem to get just how critical soul is to living a whole life ... which includes our work environment. Moore gets it. We need to.

Love is what gathers the shattered pieces of our souls.
Love is how we bring our whole self into our work.
Love is the only way to be fully in the moment.

Bringing soul back into our work and relationships— back into the totality of our lives—begins with bringing love back into our lives. Loving God and loving others as we love ourselves is the way to reconnect to life with purpose and passion. Or so I believe, anyway. However, for those who are experiencing the Missing Soul, seeking to revive love can be a daunting task.

Where to begin:

For those of you who are people of faith, I suggest beginning with your relationship with God. Be open. Be honest about your losses, your sufferings, and your sense of alienation. (It’s not like you can say some- thing God doesn’t already know, anyway.) Seek to rekindle a living, loving, authentic relationship. Don’t, as yet, give a lot of conscious thought to loving work and others: focus on reinvestigating and renewing your faith in and love for God.

For those of you are not people of faith, begin with loving the gift of life, loving the world and the times in which you are living. Be open to surprises, to beauty, and to the goodness that is all around you. Pay attention to the small kindnesses you see in everyday life. Don’t try to do anything: Don’t try to study what you are seeing, or learn from it, or apply it, just acknowledge what you see and be careful to whisper a thank you. This also might be a good place to start for those people of faith that are ticked off at God!

Life is too short to waste another moment ignoring the care of your soul. While it is far easier to focus only on surface concerns, it is far more rewarding to dig deeper down, into the soul.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Easter Celebrations

For the first time in around 3 years
All the children were in the same
place ... along with their children ...
here in Atlanta.
This is Sean, Laura's son.

Maddie, Laura's eldest, in Aunt Bethany's
backyard, Easter Sunday

Rachel's ManFriend, Justin,
getting his lunch handed to him
by Sean and his younger sister

The Hostess and daughter number
three, Bethany ... she's special.

Uncle Monte and Aunt Bethany
painting Easter Eggs.

Kate, explaining to me that she
is a very FRANK person ...
Doesn't have time, she says,
to not be FRANK.

Uncle Monte with Sean
Genes are amazing ...

Paige (L) is eldest daughter Rebekah's
one and only. Can you say, DIVA!

Paige's Mom, 'Bekah, comforting her after she
fell and knocked the air out of her lungs.

Rachel, Laura and Monte IV
It was not exactly a great day
to be at the park: chilly and windy.

The twins: Rachel is older by
9 minutes. I have never figured
out their generation's love for
taking their own photos.
However, as they choose to
use dad's camera to do so
I felt free to post 'em.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Performing or Living?

While standing in line at the grocery store the other day, I couldn’t help but overhear the conversation of two women in front of me. Actually, people three lines over could hear them. Lady Number One was angry and hurt over being rejected by her long time boyfriend. Lady Number Two was seeking to comfort her by telling her that there were plenty of men out there, that she could do far better than him, and to remember—Cue drum-roll, please—“Living well is the best revenge.”

Now, what do you think? HA!
See, you were wrong about me!

I wonder if this is a healthy motivation, as it focuses on the thoughts, opinions and evaluation of others, rather than on simply seeking to maintain your ideals, living your own life as you believe best, and going about fulfilling your raison d’ĂȘtres. As long as I am driven to “prove you wrong,” am I not allowing you to define my life? By doing what I do to satisfy a need for “revenge” aren’t I making someone else the final arbiter of whether or not I am leading a Good Life?

Another problem with this motivation is this: what if this person is not even paying attention? After all, it is not like everyone around us is so free as to have nothing better to do than obsessing over what we are doing.

Anyway, most of us only see what we are predisposed to see. If this man truly is an “enemy,” do you think your new car, promotion or European vacation is going make him think, “Wow, God/the gods/ the Universe is really blessing her!” Not hardly. More than likely his thoughts will run something like this: “Fine. She is getting hers in this life. In eternity, there will be hell to pay.”

You see this all the time in American Church-o-rama. If a church has more people than the one I attend and is adding members every week, it has “Sold out, sacrificing the Truth for success.” The reason my church can hold meetings in a broom closet, don't ya know, is because we are faithful. If we lose one of our 20 members, we are having a “back door revival,” getting rid of the chaff, leaving only wheat. Of course, if we start growing in number, it is God blessing our faithfulness. Again: not so, with your church.

We see what we want to see. To my enemies, my Great Life is a mirage, or it is proof of a Faustian deal with the devil. So much for gotchyas.

I was about to write: Leave revenge up to God. However, in this context, why even think in categories of revenge? Why waste the energy? Why give people power over your happiness? If living well is not its own reward, we are in trouble. After all, if living our life as we believe best is all about proving something to someone else, we are not living: we are performing for an audience—an audience that may not even be paying attention, and, if they do, are going to judge our performance as proof of what they already thought of us. So much for revenge.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Friday, April 10, 2009

Capitalism Defeats Socialism...Barely!

"They do not want to own your fortune, they want you to lose it; they do not want to succeed, they want you to fail; they do not want to live, they want you to die …” Ayn Rand, Atlas Shrugged

“Democracy and socialism have nothing in common but one word, equality. But notice the difference: while democracy seeks equality in liberty, socialism seeks equality in restraint and servitude.” Alexis de Tocqueville

“Socialism is a philosophy of failure, the creed of ignorance, and the gospel of envy, its inherent virtue is the equal sharing of misery.” Winston Churchill

Rasmussen reports that only 53% of Americans say capitalism is better than socialism. Not really a shocker, is it?

1 How many Americans have ever taken a class in macroeconomics?

2 How many of the people polled even know what capitalism is … or, for that matter, socialism?

3 How many of the 47% receive local, state or federal income either as an employee or as a recipient of aid?

Capitalism frees you to utilize your gifts, talents, skills, wisdom and will power in the pursuit of happiness. It also frees everyone else to do the same … and therein is the rub for many, many people. How so? Because I must compete with others in the “arena of achievement,” (Tom Peters) and sometimes others win.

When I fail to achieve what I wanted, I can seek to sharpen my skills or maybe even change the arena within which I wish to compete. I can also say, “It isn’t fair that she bested me, isn’t fair that he was more skilled, leaving me with less-than what I want.” And, in my mind, being it isn’t possible your skills were superior to mine, “You obviously cheated, lied and manipulated your way around me. We must have more government involvement in the market place.”

In his book, The Anti-Capitalist Mentality, Austrian economist Ludwig Von Mises (1881-1973) wrote:

“The suffering from frustrated ambition is peculiar to people living in a society of equality under the law. It is not caused by equality under the law, but by the fact that in a society of equality under the law the inequality of men with regard to intellectual abilities, will power and application becomes visible. The gulf between what a man is and achieves and what he thinks of his own abilities and achievements is pitilessly revealed. Daydreams of a 'fair' world which would treat him according to his ‘real worth’ are the refuge of all those plagued by a lack of self-knowledge.” (p.15)

People raised in a culture of entitlement, seeing wealth as their birthright, aren’t too keen on competition, especially if it is on an even playing field.

Young men and women who attended schools where, for years and years, there was no competition allowed on the field of sports or in the classroom for grades, have little familiarity with dealing with—Cue voice of Jim McKay—“the thrill of victory … and the agony of defeat.” “Isn’t everyone supposed to win?”

And what happens when such people hear about their neighbor’s wealth? Being they refuse to look within and acknowledge their present real value in the market place, they want to do away with equality under the law and require equality of rewards, with the government deciding what is and is not “equality.”

Capitalism asserts and defends individual rights, most especially the right of private property. Socialism asserts and defends the rights of the masses—the collective over against the individual—with the State “administering the means of production and distribution of goods.” (Merriam-Webster)

Capitalism sets people free to “work out your own salvation.” Socialism asserts the State as Savior.

Capitalism leaves my “happiness” up to me. Socialism places my happiness in the hands of the State.

Choosing Capitalism is the choice for freedom. Choosing Socialism is the choice for tyranny.

Sheesh … you’d think the choice is a no-brainer.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Enya: How Can I Keep From Singing?

My life goes on in endless song
Above earths lamentations,
I hear the real, though far-off hymn
That hails a new creation.

Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear its music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?

While though the tempest loudly roars,
I hear the truth, it liveth.
And though the darkness round me close,
Songs in the night it giveth.

No storm can shake my inmost calm,
While to that rock I’m clinging.
Since love is lord of heaven and earth
How can I keep from singing?

When tyrants tremble in their fear
And hear their death knell ringing,
When friends rejoice both far and near
How can I keep from singing?

In prison cell and dungeon vile
Our thoughts to them are winging,
When friends by shame are undefiled
How can I keep from singing?

Thursday, April 2, 2009

John Williams, Itzhak Perlman: Schindler's List

One of the more powerfully moving true stories ever to be filmed ... and the music is equal to the story.

Schindler (played by Liam Neeson) starts a factory and, seeing what is happening to Jews during the Holocaust, begins hiring them and doing everything in his power to save them. Neeson won the Oscar for his performance: one of the few times that most everyone said, "Of course!" rather than, "I never even heard of the movie.") It also won 6 other Oscars, including Best Picture.

"Whoever saves one life, saves the world entire."

One of my favorite Perlman anecdotes is when he wheels up to a ticket counter at an airport and the agent kept speaking to his assistant. Frustrated, Perlman blurts out, "I am crippled, not deaf!"

Colonel V Doner: Friend

This was taken during our meetings this
past December in Costa Rica at
Vista del Valle

This is the lobby of the Hermitage Hotel
taken with my spiffy iPhone

I spent last weekend in Nashville with Colonel Doner. Last month we connected in Houston. Anyone who knows Colonel knows that great food, libations and hilarity abounded.

Colonel is an amazing man: masterful CEO of Children’s Hunger Relief Fund, Uber fundraiser, author, bon vivant. Two of the things that I most admire about him are his insatiable hunger to grow as a human, and the depth of his love for others.

I have never met another person who is more intellectually inquisitive than Colonel. No matter where we travel, he has a suitcase filled with books on history, economics, philosophy, psychology, theology and science. He is no dilettante, however. His pursuit is always about seeking wisdom and understanding that will serve him on his Quest to know God and to become the man he was created to become.

Most intellectuals I know live in their heads, rarely having deep, meaningful relationships. I have known Colonel for over 20 years and can honestly say no one could have a better friend than him. For me, he is the consummate example of God’s command to love others as you love yourself. I wonder if the reason God winks at how much he loves himself is because he bestows this same great love on others!

No one has stuck with me through more disasters and debacles. As many of these were self-induced, I cannot even begin to explain how deeply grateful I am for his friendship. While he can kick ass faster and with more force than anyone I have ever known—other than my father, that is—he just as quickly and forcefully offers his care and support. Throwing friends either off of the bus or under the bus is not in his DNA.

Actually, one of the only things that will keep you at arm’s distance from Colonel is a lack of self- awareness. He doesn’t mind your character flaws and such, just as long as you are aware of them and are seeking to better yourself. If you try to make your excrement smell like roses, you won’t get too far with him.

The older I become, the more deeply I am aware of how valuable our friends are. At my age, it is extremely difficult to make new friends. People’s lives are already filled with children, grandchildren, work and many other friends. Add my extreme introversion to the mix and, man-o-man, am I grateful for the friends I do have.

Don’t take your friends for granted.

Don’t allow familiarity to breed a laziness that allows the relationship to gradually degenerate into "distant acquaintances."

Cherish your friends. Invest in them.

Be the sort of friend you wish to have in your life.

And pray that God gifts you with a “Colonel”(if he already hasn’t): a friend who believes the best, ever hopes for your best, and readily endures the strangeness, foibles, and the idiosyncrasies that make you the unique individual that you are.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2009