Politics, Lawns and Deep Space

1 07 2017

MilkyWay_AFP_360x270

There are three things that have been swirling around the brain space today. They all seem pretty innocuous but they all keep dancing around each other as if they belong in some way – like ingredients to a stir-fry or witnesses to a crime that each saw only one part of it.

Or it could be nothing.

  1. I posted a question on Twitter and Facebook: “Just one serious questions for Trump supporters – is there anything he could say or do that would cross a line for you?”
  2. I finished a TED Radio Hour Podcast, “Peering Into Space”.
  3. I mowed my lawn while listening to Spotify.

Let’s start with answering the “why” for each of the above:

  1. I just need to know. I have a good friend (among others) who voted for the guy. I actually get it. I even can accept it though I don’t agree. I just can’t accept the behavior of this person any longer. There has to be a threshold even for supporters, no?
  2. I have been intrigued, fascinated, mesmerized and overwhelmed by space exploration since I started writing NASA letters as a kid to get cool glossy, planetary photos back.
  3. It was time and I had to cut the grass before the rain fell and music makes it go faster.

Now, the deeper insights – what did I learn?

  1. Out of over 1,000 “friends” on Facebook, not one answer relative to the question. Is this such an unsafe topic that we are now a society that can’t stand up against something without fear of compromising how we will look to others? Do we not have enough confidence to separate the man from the party and call it what it is? Are we now at a point where we can’t admit maybe we got part of it wrong without feeling like a failure? I learned that, sadly, we are.
  2. Jill Tarter, astronomer discussed our “common cosmic origins “, the bond among all living things, regardless of birth place (on this Earth or otherwise), that makes us part of a “billion year lineage of wandering stardust…an intimate connection with the cosmos”. Consider that the molecule of hemoglobin in your blood which equates to a significant amount of iron was created in nucleosynthesis inside a massive star that exploded about 8 billion years ago! As she put it, “we have the remains of a stellar explosion in our veins (and)… if we got that concept in our minds….and take a few moments in our day to take a step back…earth is one tiny planet in corner of one small galaxy in one big universe – all of us are the same.”
  3. I can’t listen or explore new playlists when distracted – by loud mower engines or even louder thoughts. This was the goal but I reverted to my own playlist instead of a new one, which I listened to after I was done so I could give it my full attention, like days gone by where people used to actually sit and listen to an entire record while reading the lyrics for the album sleeve, and nothing more.

So what? Is there a connection?

Yes. I can’t stand living in such a myopic world where taking sides is the new “can’t we all get along”? Whether you want to believe it or not, we really are all connected. If, like a good (or not so good) Will Smith movie, Earth was going to be attacked by another alien society, we would not be Democrats and Republicans, or Americans or Syrians, we would just be Earthlings. It sounds silly but it’s true. This is why banding together to protect this place from environmental damage should be a no brainer and yet we divert to what is easy, what is based in fear and what has nothing to do with the connected stardust coursing through our veins.

And we have to start somewhere. We can’t bring our own playlist with us every time there is an uncomfortable situation, discussion or person in our midst. It deserves our full attention and this takes work and time, patience and listening. That’s all this nonsense is really about – different playlists that we hold on to because we feel it defines ourselves and we have to identify with it. I don’t like some of my son’s playlists (though it has introduced me to a new vocabulary) but they are his and it doesn’t mean he doesn’t respect that I have my own. In the end, we both love music.

Can’t we be the same with our individual social, economic, cultural and personal playlists? After all, we are just one tiny planet in one small galaxy in an enormous universe. We better get on the same page soon because we have bigger things coming our way – like asteroids, comets and unruly lawns.

Until next time,

Marc





A Most Significant February

13 02 2016

staircase

I don’t even know where to start. This is the shortest month of the year and it’s not even over and it has been one for the books.

This has been quite the month – divorce final on the 3rd, confirmed my job will be ending this year on the 11th and very possibly selling  my house (for a loss) somewhere in the remaining 16 days.

At the same time, my mother is doing great after having had heart surgery, my dad is doing equally well, the kids are well and I have had terrific feedback with both comedy and my songwriting. Perhaps the internal forces that were waiting to finally be listened to could not be heard in light of the life that had to be left behind. It’s the yin and yang, the pleasure and pain, I guess.

There’s no grand plan to leave it all behind and start over – finally enter that creative universe that I long for. Two kids, college savings and a now badly dented retirement savings requires the practicalities of a “real job” and I am just grateful for those who may be able to help me in that capacity, as well.

What has surprised me, however, is just the wave of almost eery calm that seems to accompany what might be considered “bad news.” The fact is, for me, and I suppose many others, I am much better off with knowing than not knowing, even if the knowing is not good. The in-between stage of waiting, wondering, hoping, fearing, surmising and assuming is a purgatory that is not relegated for the faint of heart. At least with knowing, there can be action – or, in my case, more definitive action.

The same day that I learned about my work situation, I also viewed both my kids’ report cards – straight A’s with the exception of high Bs in honors math for both of them. They are doing amazingly – both academically and socially. I have nothing to complain about. I am convinced that, however difficult this period is for them (and for me), it is where we are all supposed to be in this journey. If I never receive a promotion, check off the items on the bucket list or “make it”, it is of no consequence because I am sure that my purpose in life was to make sure that these two kids were here at this time. I don’t know why….yet. But I am sure.

It makes me happy to finally get toward some resolution. By the summer, I will be in a new place with a new job (hopefully) and a new tax filing status. On a recent TED Talk podcast, the subject was about resiliency from people who had to exhibit tremendous fortitude – much greater than I had to. It was mentioned, as it often is, that we don’t really know what we are made of until we are put in situations that really test us. I agree with this fully. I also think that we don’t know why we are here sometimes until we are put in these situations. The truth is that the steps that continue to forward my path to wherever it is meant to go are the exact ones that I may never have ever followed were it not for some very, very tough times, decisions and truths.

I hope that we all have the resiliency we need to call upon the strongest parts of our being when we are called to do so and that we are supported along the way.

Until next time,

Marc





The Amateur Advantage

20 10 2015

Stay classy you amateur!

Stay classy you amateur!

I am always a little envious of those friends of mine who seem to be experts at something – martial arts, baseball, a specific era of art history….The Simpsons.

I don’t consider myself an expert at anything. I probably never will be either. I don’t have the fortitude to commit to one thing so wholly that I can even approach mastery level. There are just too many things I want to try.

This, while great for weekend excursions, is a difficult realization when you are passionate about doing something – in my case writing, music and comedy. I have a lot more experience writing and with music than I do with comedy (of the stand-up variety) and the numerous articles and podcasts proclaiming that it takes a “good 10-20 years” to really get good and know what you are doing have often times nicked away at the “carpe diem” attitude I have tried so hard to apply to this strange endeavor.

Recently, I heard vignettes of different TED talks on people who “plunged” into unchartered waters as amateurs and emerged as “experts”. You can listen here if interested: http://www.npr.org/programs/ted-radio-hour/431363633/amateur-hour

What really struck me was that the word “amateur” stems from the latin root amare which means “to love”.

The TED talks and interviews I listened to were incredibly inspiring in that they spoke to the power of being so enamored with something that you have no choice but to learn everything you can about it. This is the part of work that I really love. For a while, I prided myself that if there were some sort of less than terrific project at work, I would be asked to do it. I thought it was an honor and for me, it gave me the chance to learn something new. The problem was trying to live up to some expectations to have all the answers. I am slow – which has a bad connotation in our society. But slow does not mean dumb. It just means slow. I have to ask a lot of questions, take a lot of notes, doodle – a lot – and then hopefully, retain the most salient points of whatever it is I am trying to learn.

We should all be amateurs at work regardless of our title and position, otherwise I do believe we are not challenging ourselves nor are we allowing others to freely admit what they don’t know – a sharp cliff to failure in organizations and relationships alike, if you ask me.

So this brings me all back to comedy. I am not going to shy away (as much) from the count of years I have in front of audiences compared to some others I perform with because the passion is there and that creates more momentum to learn more, quicker and in comedy – what better material than discussing your “epic fails” (as my son calls them)?

So, don’t hide from your inner amateur – whether you are a weekend warrior on the golf course or a Vice President of Finance at the Fortune. I have a feeling you’ll find yourself farther ahead than you ever imagined.

What’s your amateur advantage?

Until next time,

Marc

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Leaving Your Old Life Behind

5 05 2015

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I have been deliberately not thinking about the future lately – or at least my future. I think a lot about my kids’ futures – will divroced parents put them at a disadvantage for establishing healthy relationships themselves? Will the world they inherit be a healthy one, mentally and physically, and be empathetic to their individual struggles? Will I help guide them to find their true north and be authentic to who they are and find their passion but still be able to instill upon them the importance of practical work?

I listen to TED Talks via podcast (and recommend it if you don’t already) and heard one titled “Champions”, focused on those who have accomplished amazing feats of strength and willpower, such as Dyan Nyad the 60+ swimmer who swam for 53 hours straight from Cuba to the Florida Keys. These stories are amazing and the one that really got to me was that of Amy Purdy, the paralympic snowboarder, who went on to almost win the entire Dancing with the Stars competition. Her story was heartbreaking and inspiring – an avid snowboarder who, at the age of 19, lost both legs (among other things) to meningitis. In the interview she explains that as devastated as she was, at some point she realized that she had to leave that old Amy behind and focus on the new Amy.

I had a similar experience with a young woman from Wisconsin who, after a horrific car accident, was on life support, not being given even 24 hours to live, now living with a traumatic brain injury (TBI). She is still living with a TBI and in her interview, she, too, said that she wished friends of old would get to know the “new her”.

I find this type of self awareness fascinating. It is not mired in pity but acceptance. This is something that I need to learn myself. When I first confessed, right before the new year, to the fact that I am going through a divorce I ended my blog post by simply stating that it is just another descriptor to who I am.

Things are not always neatly packaged. Most of my friends in my age group are married, and happily, I hope. I see a journey that mimics what I thought mine was – raising kids, fixing up the house, posting family photos of vacations and milestones on Facebook, etc, etc. That was me. That is the “old Marc.”

The new Marc is a single dad who is having new experiences with his kids, enjoying comedy and friends more than ever and struggling through this journey day by day. My struggle is one of millions and not so bad. When you’re going through a divorce, every guy you meet seems to have a wedding ring on. But, we all have our own journeys and we all have many descriptors. At some point, maybe leaving the “old you” behind is a chance to reincarnate in this life and what emerges may be a “new you” that was always there but not able to emerge in the first place. Be forewarned, though, while you accept the “new” you, it may not be as easy for those who know the “old” you.

Here’s to whichever “you” you are. Embrace it, accept it and take stock of your purpose.

Until next time,

Marc








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