The Spaces Between the Words

Learn to embrace the silence

In the spaces between the words. That’s where the thoughts wait, snug, and safe in their lairs. When the last reverberation of the last word stops falling on your ears, that’s when the thoughts stir, ready to pounce.

As long as the words are there, either yours or someone else’s, spilling out of or into your consciousness, the thoughts stay hidden, afraid to come out. So you strive to keep the words coming, and you beg others with your words to speak theirs, and the sound of the words in your ears is so important that you don’t care that the words are meaningless, only that they make a sound, only that they keep the thoughts away.

But eventually, there is a space between the words. There always is. And if the space is big enough, then the thoughts do come out. And the thoughts have their way with you. They always do. They leave you with what they will, anguish and self-doubt, or whatever is their way.

The thoughts are not you, though. They are of you but they are not you. They cannot define you. You are the one who stands beside the thoughts, separate from them. You are the one who reacts to the thoughts if you let yourself. You are the one who gives the thoughts all of their power if you choose to. But you are not the thoughts.

Remember that you are the one standing beside the thoughts, separate from them, undefined by them, you are not the thoughts. Remember to take away their power because the thoughts are of you but they are not you. Remember not to react to the thoughts, because they hide what’s really in the spaces between the words.

The beautiful silence of the present. And you.

An Open Letter

An open letter to Federal, State, County, and Local government employees, and to all people in the United States of America.

We are in crisis. We are in a global pandemic that is unlike any in this century, perhaps in any century. Our leaders cannot guide us out of this. Some who could guide us are not in a position to do so. Many who are in a position to do so are not capable. Some who are in the best position to do so refuse, perhaps to avoid responsibility, perhaps to capitalize on the crisis. Many leaders failed in response to this crisis. Many citizens chose to follow these failed leaders. Because of this, we are all in danger. We must save ourselves.

For this reason, I implore you to ignore anyone who fails to recognize the severity of the situation or who fails to follow the recommendations of the scientific and medical communities. I implore you to do what is right, no matter the consequence. This is our only recourse. No one can save us from this crisis. We must save ourselves. We have no other choice.

If you are a person in the United States, your job is clear. Wear a mask, avoid crowds, and keep your distance. This may be all you can do, but it is enough. If you are a federal, state, county, or local government employee, you are still a person in the United States. You must still wear a mask, avoid crowds, and keep your distance. Do it with conviction.

However, if you are a government employee at any level and the leadership in your branch of government fails to recognize the severity of the situation or fails to follow the recommendations of the scientific and medical communities then you must make noise, question your supervisors, or alert the media. Our only way out of this failure of leadership is to expose the failed leadership at every level of government to the sanitizing rays of sunlight. We need you to do what is right, to do it right now, and to do it now more than ever.

This crisis will pass. We will eventually make a final tally. Future historians will assess our response, but not favorably. I hope you and yours are still here, some of mine are not. If not, rest your souls, and I hope that you chose to do the right thing. Wear a mask, avoid crowds, keep your distance, and expose those who will not. It is that simple.

How Is It Different Today?

Will this generation finally solve the U.S. race issue?

There has been a lot of turmoil in the United States these past few weeks. Unusual turmoil. Yes, I know, there is a deadly pandemic, not that turmoil, that turmoil is for another post. This is not the first time the United States has experienced such turmoil. In fact, many aspects of the turmoil today echo turmoil from the past.

Racial, ethnic and religious intolerance is a hallmark of the United States. One could argue that the founding of the United States was, at least in part, a result of the religious intolerance in 17th century Europe. It should come as no surprise then that intolerance thrives in the United States today. It is genetic.

From the Founding Fathers to the present day, the United States has blamed the problems it faces on racial, ethnic and religious bogymen. The Puritan line of the Founding Fathers had the Catholics, and all the Founding Fathers had the Native Americans. In the 1840’s it was the Irish, followed by the Germans, and the Chinese, and from 1880 to 1920, it was the southern and eastern Europeans. The list goes on.

Most of these religious and ethnic groups came willingly, seeking a better life, although some indentured themselves to afford the trip. Africans came as slaves, against their will, as early as the 17th century. Moreover, although the United States Congress banned the importation of slaves in 1808, it was not until the end of the Civil War in 1865 that Africans became at least partial human beings in the United States.

As the years wore on, many of the second-generation ethnic and religious groups victimized by intolerance fomented intolerance. As these groups blended into the United States and became an accepted part of this grand experiment, they slipped easily into the intolerance habit, in spite of their recent experience on the other side of the equation.

However, one group, those exposed to racial intolerance, has never easily blended into the grand experiment. The very nature of the fabric of the grand experiment keeps them from becoming a part of the experiment. Africans and other people of color have fought for every scrap of fabric they have.

From the early 1960’s, one hundred years after emancipation, until today, they still have to fight for every scrap. Selma, Martin Luther King, the Watts riots, Reagan’s “Welfare Queen”, Rodney King, Treyvon Martin, Michael Brown, and so many others that it boggles the mind, are all echoes from past turmoil in the present turmoil.

However, the present turmoil is unusual when compared to past turmoil. The sides have changed, the protesters are more diverse, the outrage is more widespread, and the rhetoric more direct. Perhaps it is social media. Perhaps it is fatigue. Perhaps it is just time. We may never know.

Maybe a generation finally says “Enough.” I hope my generation is listening to that generation. They have something important to say.

When Memory Fades

How cognitive degeneration in a loved one can cause self-doubt

Hello gentle reader(s). This one is a bit of a wallow. I hope you continue reading, but you will not be thought less of if you stop reading now.

Although I’m not really the eternal optimist (can you be both a cynic and an optimist?) I guess I always figure it’s going to get better. No matter how bad it seems, it will eventually get better. Eventually. So here it goes.

Tonight I invited my mother, father and aunt over for dinner. The average age of this group, excluding me, is about 90 years young. My mom (87) and my aunt (91) are both still with it, but my dad (90) was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s a few years ago. He’s fading, not fast, but more noticeably.

We were all at the table, dinner was done, and the talk was about my house and the improvements I could make, and what the house might have looked like before the previous owners made their changes.

Dad was trying to participate in the conversation, but it was soon evident that he had forgotten where he was and who I was. Despite the fact that I have been his son for a long and intentionally-unrevealed-to-the-reader time, and despite the fact that he has been coming to my house on a nearly daily basis for the past six months, he continued to tell us how much this house we were in reminded him of his son’s house.

My aunt dealt with my uncle’s Alzheimer’s for more than 10 years. His care became too burdensome for her and he recently passed after 18 months in a memory care facility. She recognized what was happening in the conversation, and I’m sure my mom recognized what was happening as well. Mom’s been coached by my aunt and by her caregiver’s support group throughout dad’s struggles.

I also recognized what was happening, but it didn’t keep me from trying to bring him back to the present reality. I introduced myself, reminded him where he was, but try as I might it didn’t seem to work.

As they left I walked them to the car, but I still don’t think he knew who I was, or that this was the same house he would come to tomorrow. I’m pretty sure that when I see him tomorrow he will remember who I am and that this is my house. At least for a while. But he will never remember our conversations tonight.

I hope I had enough conversations with him when he could remember. But I will never know. I think we’ll be talking a lot more from now on. Even if he can’t remember.