When Your Time Has Passed

There comes a time. At least for most people. When their time has passed. When there’s nothing left to do. When they are alone.

I see it every week when I visit a friend who lives in a nursing home down the street from our house. It’s a nice nursing home. Six cottages. Each has no more than 12 residents. Most are in wheelchairs or use walkers. Many are hard of hearing. Some have a tenuous grip on reality.

Yesterday, when visiting my friend, one of the ladies, who’s in her late 90s, obviously wanted to engage me as I walked by on my way to my friend’s room. This lady is often sitting alone in the living area. I always say hello and perhaps have a brief exchange. But yesterday was different. I could tell she wanted to talk. Continue reading

Should You Delete Your Social Media?

Jaron Lanier, regarded by some as the father of virtual reality, was interviewed about the hazards of social media. The interview is well worth your time, particularly if you’re a parent. It can be found here.

An interesting comment is Lanier’s contention that President Trump’s addiction to Twitter has not served him well. I can believe it.

As much as I enjoy following some experts and others on Twitter, I am not at all sure the positives outweigh the negatives. I’m off Facebook and LinkedIn and frequently consider pulling the plug on Twitter, too.

In any case, listen to what Lanier has to say. And if you really want to treat yourself, read Lanier’s book Dawn of the New Everything: Encounters with Reality and Virtual Reality. It’s a gem.

Increased Alienation and Desperation

This is perhaps the most disturbing graphic I’ve seen in a long time:

The CDC reported last week that:

  • Nearly 45,000 lives were lost to suicide in the U.S. in 2016.
  • Suicide rates went up more than 30% in half of the states since 1999.

There’s something wrong in America. Sure, there’s plenty right, too. But when tens of thousands of our fellow Americans decide to take their own lives, then there’s definitely something seriously wrong.

I wouldn’t attempt to address the reasons for this tragedy in a blog post. There’s no way I could do it justice. So my comments will be personal. And only personal. Continue reading

Why I Ride

One of my most prized possession is my R2 Scott Addict.

Basketball legend Bill Walton rides a bike, too. Here is what Mr. Walton wrote in his memoir:

My bike is the most important thing I have. It is my gym, my wheelchair and my church all in one.

I get it.

When interviewed for a Wall Street Journal story (Bill Walton’s All About the Bike), Walton added:

I’m more comfortable on my bike than anything else I do. The longer I ride, the better I feel.

My bike is my medicine. I’m always sick of something or somebody, and I know that when I go out on my bike, my bike makes me happy.

I get it.

Walton conceded he’s not a good cyclist. Neither am I. You don’t have to be. Your bike can still make you happy.

We live in flat Indiana now. The cycling here is easier and less interesting than Colorado (where I lived previously), but it’s still good. The pedals and wheels work the same.

Vera, I’ve taken two bike trips with your dad: one to southern Utah, the other to New Mexico. I recall an 83-mile ride near Taos. They call it the Enchanted Circle. It includes two 9,000+ feet mountain tops. But it was the headwind that day that could have done us in (our group of six riders). Your dad saved us. He took the lead. We drafted behind him for miles and miles. Your dad is a strong rider. And fearless. My memories of our cycling trips together are special (including the time he and the Washington, D.C. detective mounted the elk sculpture in Taos, but that’s a story for another day).

Quite a few motorists don’t like cyclists. And many people are just generally angry these days, especially white men who drive trucks (based solely on my personal cycling experience). Many drivers are distracted, too — talking or texting on their device while driving. I wish it were safer riding the roads — that people would pay closer attention to what they’re doing when they’re behind the wheel — but I don’t worry about it. The alternative is not to ride, and that’s unacceptable.

Mr. Walton said, “[W]hen I go out on my bike, my bike makes me happy.” Me, too.

And so I ride.

 

What Do I Understand Now That I Wish I’d Understood Then?

What do I understand (or at least think I understand) now that I wish I had understood when I had began my journey through adulthood? It’s of no consequence to me, of course: it’s impossible to turn back the clock. But it might be of some help to you, Vera.

In looking back I’m struck by how naïve I was when I came out of high school and, four years later, college. I had little appreciation for what the world was really like. Growing up in a working-class family in homogenous rural south-central Pennsylvania hadn’t exposed me to much. My world was very small.

More than four decades of career experiences in law, business (CEO), government (special agent for DOD and, later, cabinet secretary), and higher ed (college president) changed that. To a degree. There is still much about life I don’t understand or, perhaps more accurately, refuse to accept. I’m still learning and always will be. Nonetheless, life has imparted a few lessons along the way.

Some of the lessons were easy to learn; some were hard. Some were moments of euphoria and left fond memories; some were painful and left scars. Others were learned merely by reading or observing. (It’s always preferable to learn from other people’s wisdom or mistakes.) I decided to compose a list of what I consider to have been some of the most important lessons.

What the list isn’t, however, is a list of rules to live by. I’m not fond of rules and would never suggest life is so easily mastered. Moreover, as I’ve mentioned before, I have absolutely no desire to tell you how to live your life, Vera. Rather, I’m simply sharing some of the things I wish I had better understood when I was young, starting out.

Some of the lessons are practical; some are of the existential variety. The list is neither complete nor final. After all, I’m still learning.

Please don’t infer an order of priority, for none is intended. “You” and “your,” below, refer to me; it is as if life is speaking to me. Occasional personal comments follow parenthetically. Continue reading

What Is It About Kids?

It’s not uncommon for people in the area to ask me why we moved to Carmel (Indianapolis). Especially when they learn we had lived in Colorado. Most people think Colorado is a great place to live. And it is. It’s then I tell them we moved here because of you, Vera. I add that I never thought we’d be trailing grandparents but that, despite your small statute (you’re only 2-3/4 years old), it turned out you had tremendous power. Enough power to cause me to move 1,100 miles.

Your parents came to pick you up at our house Sunday upon their return from a European vacation. You had been staying with us for nine days. It was wonderful having you here. It was so wonderful that when it came time to leave, I could have cried. (I’m slightly embarrassed to admit that. It’s kind of sappy I suppose.)

Children have that effect on some of us. I’m not sure why.

Perhaps it’s because you’re a free comedy show. You make me laugh. When I mentioned to you that you were funny, you replied, “Yes, I’m funny.” But I doubt you understand. Really. I doubt you appreciate just how precious it is having someone in your life who makes you laugh. Who brings a smile to your face just by being. Who makes your heart dance.

Of course, it’s more than that. It has to be. It’s the love, too. The unconditionality of it. The purity.

You actually don’t know much about me. What I’ve done in my life. How much stuff or money I have. You can’t judge me on any basis other than whether I treat you well. Whether I love you. Whether you want to be with me.

And the same goes for me. You’re not old enough to have done anything other than to play and live. You’ve earned no degrees or medals. Landed no prestigious job. Earned nothing. You just are.

And so we play. You test us, and we provide some parameters (lovingly, of course). Self-discipline is part of living well. It’s fun to watch you grow up and learn how to live well.

Curiosity is key, too. It’s fun to watch yours in action and to nurture it. It’s gratifying to help you discover new things. To experience new things. It’s exhilarating to witness your enthusiasm. The wonder.

You remind me that curiosity, discovery, and wonder are not the sole province of small children. You make me want to spend more of my time following my curiosity and discovering new things.

That’s the beauty of relationships with small children: it’s mutual. Each can learn from the other.

I’m glad you stayed with us while your parents were away. It gave us the chance to become even closer. The hugs are firmer. The kisses more frequent. The smiles more revealing.

I look forward to helping you discover new things in the world. And to being reminded by you to do the same in my life.

Everything is new and exciting in your life. Thanks for sharing your excitement and innocence. Thank you for being you.