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

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Tune Out and Tune In

22 01 2017

pears

I have two pears sitting on my counter. Seeing fruit outside the fridge, in a bowl, a plant near a window, a photo from a trip hung near the piano – these are all signs that things are going to be ok. They are connections to life that exists beyond these four walls – whether in an orchard, a nursery or a vacation destination. They are things that will remain constant in what increasingly seems like a life uncertain.

A pear. A houseplant. A photo. They are not dependent on the size of my kitchen nor whether my piano is a grand piano (it’s not) or a traditional upright (it is). They are just layers of a life; proof of an existence – even if for a moment in time.

And perhaps that is what this divisive period in our nation’s history is, as well. The inauguration, the marches, the tweets – they are layers in a moment in time. Or I hope. If this nation is our “four walls” right now, then we may be looking at those things that are there to give us what we need to remind us that things will be ok.

For some, that is voting an unconventional candidate to lead our country.

For others, it is raising voices and signs in solidarity to not lose the progress that has been made so far and over so long a time.

I would be disingenuous if I didn’t admit that I am very unsettled about the direction our nation is going. Regardless of the President, I have been awoken to both the plight of fellow citizens and the reality of the real thread of bias, racism and apathy that is overlooked by many good people in the name of “change”. This disheartens me greatly yet it is not for me to judge. It is only for me to recognize what is at this moment and allow it to pass so that we are not defined by party, nor by our social security number but rather by the more complex nature of what makes us human.

That’s why those pictures and plants, children and pets, songs and favorite shows are so critical right now. Tune out of CNN and FOX and tune into YOU. That station is a lot more interesting and a lot more fun for others to watch and without all the side effects.

Until next time,

Marc

 

 

 

 





The Trump in All of Us

9 10 2016

donald-trump-caricature-flickr-cc

I have had fun at Donald Trump’s expense over the past couple days tweeting about his most recent developments. He has seemed to be immune from any consequence linked to his self-centered arrogance, until now. I have been waiting for this moment like a little puppy waiting for his owner to get home. Sadly.

Without getting into a political battle, (I am an Independent voter for those who care), this is not about anything against the Republican party. In fact, if there is anything positive about the whole debacle that is Donald J. Trump for over the past year or so, it is the humility of so many Republicans who have showed integrity and authenticity over blind faith to a man who does not represent their values or those of their party, at least as they interpret it.

Make no bones about it, the man disgusts me – even before full proof of just how Donald J. Trump behaves and thinks became so apparent with the latest release of video and audio tapes. He represents everything that creates hate, insecurity and fear… and yet, isn’t there a little bit of Trump in all of us?

Personally speaking, I am not talking about his personal outcome of his hate, insecurity and fear – racism, sexism, arrogance, pathos – but rather the root causes themselves.

Currently, the national (global) discourse around Trump is whether he is fit to be president and whether his temperament should matter to this endeavor. This conversation will get stale soon and we may all be missing a larger opportunity to recognize the Trump in ourselves and investigate what it really means.

Trump is the quintessential example of what it means to react versus respond, and boy, does he react. I cannot speak for anyone else, but it would be a misrepresentation for me to say that I have never been there myself. Let’s be clear – it’s not about how he reacts, just the fact that he is reacting versus more thoughtfully responding in the first place. Isn’t this an initial “go-to” place for a lot of us when under attack (or perceived attack)?

I like to think that a big difference between myself (and hopefully all of us) and Trump is at least we can recognize it, hopefully before it happens, perhaps as it is happening and at worst, after the fact so we can apologize – sincerely versus a Trump apology which is more like reading an adverse event warning on a prescription bottle.

To me, the dangerous, scary and honest concern about Trump is not so much that he is mired in so much hate and arrogance or even how he exhibits it (though that is all incredibly troubling, particularly for someone who, at least up to now, seemed to have a decent chance of being the leader of the free world), but rather the complete, utter and stoic denial that he exhibits in taking accountability for his actions, never even really acknowledging it without throwing someone else under the bus.

The lesson for me is that, as ashamed as I am to admit it, there is a little Trump in me that shows up every now and then – like when I get another letter from a divorce attorney or someone is tailgating me on the road while the kids are in the car, to name a couple examples. However, I’m aware of it. This is a significant nuance – one that, thankfully, does not make me Donald Trump. The current Republican nominee is completely non-aware, and that is what makes him Donald Trump. And in my book, that’s a big difference.

Until next time,

Marc





A New Year’s Reflection for all my Trump Supporting Friends and Family

2 10 2016

Image result for republican and democrat together

Tonight will mark Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year 5777 and though I am not religious, I thought this was as good as an opportunity to wish all my Jewish (and non-Jewish) friends and family a Healthy, Happy year ahead.

This is typically a good time for reflection – in the Jewish religion – as to what kind of person we were during the past year and our hope to be “inscribed” for a good year to come. This is an easy wish to also grant to those around us, particularly those who happen to agree with our positions, but not so much for those who do not, especially during this vitriolic election cycle.

So, in an effort to really try and challenge myself as to how people I care about could possibly support someone that is so antithetical to most of my beliefs, I am taking this opportunity to turn things around and demonstrate a willingness to assume the best. Here it goes.

You really do want to make America Great Again.

 

Let me be the first (and maybe only) to admit that when Trump says this, I don’t know what his reference point is? I hear a lot about financial metrics like jobs and infrastructure, which is hard to disagree with in regarding the need to move this forward – a platform of all involved parties.

However, if you happen to be non-white, and, for the most part, non-Christian, America wasn’t so great in the first place. This is not a bleeding heart liberal opinion. It is fact. Ever notice that the only people ever getting really angry about calling out racism are white people? I’m one of them by the way (white, not calling out racism – well, ok, both).

Nonetheless, the purpose of this blog is not to defend nor accuse and therefore, I get it. You truly believe that Trump has the business experience, the balls and the intention of focusing on America and its future for the better. I believe that for Hillary and believed that for Kasich. I even could sort of believe that for Bush. Trump? Not so much. But that is my belief and I respect yours.

You don’t trust Hillary and rather see Trump in office, or anyone, other than her.

 

I get this, too. Let me just say that it is disconcerting that this presidential race seems more like a high school race, based on popularity and likeability, rather than who is best to lead, but I, again, will give you the benefit of the doubt that you, too, are deciding based on leadership, not based on who you’d like to have a beer with.

That being said, I will accept that, even given the 3rd party, non-partisan, vetted and credible fact checking sources that are often cited that show Trump actually lies more than Clinton (what a low bar either way, I realize), you inherently feel that there is more trust in a Trump presidency than a Clinton one. Perhaps it has to do with his proclivity for not being able to hold back a single thought and therefore there is seemingly more transparency. Either way, trust and instinct are very subjective and I cannot challenge the reasons why you find one more trustworthy than the other anymore than I can challenge why you might like one type of music over another.

You feel only Trump will call it like it is and put America first, reversing what seems to be like out-of-control policies of the last 8 years.

 

Whether it is immigration, the racial tensions between African American communities and our police, or policy on trade with other nations, one could certainly surmise that we have lost our way in constructing a foundation for ourselves that will lead to security and prosperity. I watch the news, too (though that needs to stop) and it’s very easy to lose perspective.

The truth is that there is no candidate that will be able to ignore any of these (or other) major issues. I hope we can all agree that no candidate is suggesting that there isn’t a problem, but rather, unfortunately, we hear little other than focusing largely on who is to blame. Like any complex situation, there is no “one” person or administration to blame but like the other items above, I, too, get how you feel Trump will be more targeted in identifying and implementing solutions here. I disagree but should he enter office, for the sake of our nation, I hope you are correct and respect your belief.

So there it is – I know there is a lot more. I am not anti-Republican. I am anti-Trump. Absolutely 100% without a doubt. The hate and separation that has been excavated from the underbelly of our own backyards has deeply saddened and troubled me. I pray that we may all find healing together. But that’s not going to happen if we don’t at least try to understand where each of us is coming from. We don’t have to like or even accept it. Understanding is all that is needed. This is my attempt to do so.

Whether it is in the context of the Jewish New Year, the “Traditional” New Year, or just a new day – may we all breath out that which divides us and deeply breathe in that which connects us – love, hope and most of all, peace. It’s there in all of us if we could tap into it and let fear aside for a few moments to allow space.

Until next time,

Marc

 





Heckling His Way to the Presidency

9 03 2016
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This man could actually be the leader of the free world. I think we can remove the word “free”.

I have not met one person who supports Donald Trump, not one. Which seems unlikely given the fact that the more vitriol and hate he spews into the system, the more popular he gets. Yet, he is where he is in this circus of an election process.

I am all for difference of opinion. In fact, I have a healthy respect for people who support other Republican candidates, even though I don’t, because at least there is some sort of reason other than “he is saying what I feel”. I actually think Ted Cruz is a lot more damaging should he ever get near the Oval Office, given his views on so many issues that are important to anyone who isn’t male, white, heterosexual and Christian, but at least I know what he stands for and he’s on message.

So, I have been really struggling with how Donald Trump could even get this far based on an agenda of pure hatred with absolutely no substance and seemingly innocuous to the very real protests of people even within his own party. I have come to the conclusion that it is because he is the loudest heckler in the worst comedy club in the city.

Let me explain. I don’t know of a single comedian who hasn’t had to deal with a heckler at some point in his or her career. When you are lucky enough to be in a really professional, well-run, and respectable club or venue, usually it will be clear that it just will not be tolerated for long (if the comedian even gets to the point where he/she hasn’t nipped it in the bud already). At that point, the owner, manager, hell, even the other patrons will shut down the heckler.

However, unfortunately, in many venues where the comics are left to their own devices and there seem to be no standards or guidelines regarding expectations of how things are going to be run, what is and isn’t acceptable, etc. – the louder the heckler, the more attention he gets. Even when the comedian destroys the heckler, the audience will remember the heckling that took place and that is the strategy of the Trump campaign. 

Donald Trump is the heckler in every piece of crap basement that bills themselves as a “comedy club” and specializes in an onslaught of blow job jokes and cheap vodka. And he loves every minute of it because he is an attention hound and has systematically gone to every show with a weak headliner and feature act. First it was Jeb Bush and now it’s Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio. He doesn’t even have to worry about Kasich because Kasich won’t even play. He knows no amount of backlash can outdo his heckling skills.

Furthermore, Trump knows that since he can’t truly compete at the classy clubs (think those with actual content, intellect and rules), he will gain all his attention by annihilating social norms that others require and make his own and he does it by being an equal opportunity offender, or heckler in this case.

This is where the heckler has an unfair advantage because hecklers do not need to address the subject matter at hand. I was once talking about cougars and someone called me an asshole. It had nothing to do with my set. I mean, I could almost understand if they didn’t think I was funny or they lost a loved one to a vicious cougar attack but this guy just didn’t like me. Period. That’s how hecklers work.

Donald Trump can’t actually respond to anyone with anything of substance so he goes after their sweating, their birth place, their spouses, their looks, their religion, their nationality, their gender, their handicap, whatever. Anything is fair game and it grabs the attention of everyone, whether they agree or not. Everyone is talking about Trump the same way everyone talks about the asshole who heckled during the show.

The problem is that this heckler isn’t going home to nurse a hangover and beat up his dog (or maybe he is) but he is also dangerously too close to being the leader of the free world and applying junior high school playground tactics on the world stage thatmay have all of us asking for a refund sooner rather than later.

Until next time,

Marc





Open Heart (Surgery)

10 01 2016
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I am trying to open my heart to the fact that this is a schmaltzy image.

My mother had open heart surgery this past week. Nothing snaps you out of the self pity associated with job uncertainty, divorce, financial instability and overall restlessness like sitting 175 miles away in your home while you know the person who gave birth to you is on a ventilator while someone rewires her heart.

My kids and I just returned from visiting her (and my dad) and there were some key takeaways (sorry – that was so disgustingly corporate) – there were some important messages (that’s better) that I felt compelled to write down and share:

  1. Sometimes you have to sweat the small stuff. When I was visiting my parents with my kids just after Christmas – my sister was also there with her family and for all the articles and morning talk shows that insist upon the importance of having those “difficult conversations with your aging parents”, it never happened. Certainly, with the knowledge that my mom’s surgery was essentially a week away, that was not the best time but it wasn’t going to happen anyway. Instead, we played board games, got annoyed by incessant calls to eat more junk food and dealt with familial familiarities, good and bad, that would be of inconsequence to most people (yes, apparently it does matter who takes what food home with them and how much). This is as small as it gets but you know what? It is exactly the type of diversion that helps get through times when the gravity of the situation just seems too great to bear. That’s why I think sometimes (and only sometimes), sweating the small stuff isn’t such a bad idea.
  2. We need doctors. I, for one, have had many dealings with arrogant, self-centered, “cry me a river/claim poverty” U.S. physicians who have lost both their empathy and their perspective but…there are many, many physicians who are saving lives, every single damn day. I don’t give a shit about a single doctor who is interested in making some 50 year-old rich, entitled socialite look 30, but for every single doctor helping with cardiovascular disease, the onslaught of neurological-based diseases and children, etc. – thank you, thank you, thank you.
  3. I am a series of computer programs in dire need of software upgrades. I have written before about the scripts we carry around with us and the self-talk that we do and impacts us, either for better or for worse. As I took a shower in my childhood home, it occurred to me after cleaning it out, that there are tons of rituals I do that have been embedded in me for decades that are in need of a little mindfulness. Let me explain briefly. Since I can remember, the last person who took a shower had to clean out the tub and walls. I have always followed the same pattern: faucet, shelf, top half sides, bottom half sides, little stool, left glass door, right glass door and the shower bottom – in that order – since I ever even had a reason to take long showers (which is code for “a long time ago”).  I did it again this morning (the cleaning, not the long shower) and realized that I have tons of these rituals – some physical, some mental, that I never change. How I react after taking a shower in my parents’ house is one thing but what about how I react after being dismissed in a social situation? My thoughts follow a similar pattern every time – and it’s not good.
  4. Friendship is the #1 most vital component to a sustainable marriage. My mother can give my father a hard time. My father can selectively hear and not hear what my mother has to say. But they are friends, tried and true. It was never more apparent than during our visit this weekend. They respect and love each other in a way that transcends (or is exclusive of) romantic love and at least, in older age, seems to be the vital ingredient to a meaningful marriage (or partnership).
  5. I am so thankful for my kids. We were in the hospital for 6 hours and they never complained once. Mind you – they are on the verge of being 15 and 13. 6 hours with their dad and grandparents – in a hospital – on a Saturday – can seem like an eternity. And they were great. There were cell phones and untied shoes but there was also a tremendous respect and love. I am a lucky dude.
  6. Trump, ISIS, my job situation, Kardashians, cat videos, who got a promotion, who is headlining – they will all go away. Every single second focused on the irrelevant and stupid is a second wasted on the relevant and important. Every damned, single second.

My mother has a ways to go in her recovery. The good news is that her cardiac vitals are very good and if she can take the long-term view, I really think everything will be for the better. It is hard to see your parents age, for both the knowledge of what no one wants to talk about and the acknowledgement of one’s own aging and mortality. But it makes one so thankful for the days that do exist where we have to bite our tongue, sweat the small stuff and think about opening our own hearts a little more, which is a lot tougher sometimes than a 6 hour operation.

Until next time,

Marc





The Continuing Tragedy of 9-11

11 09 2015

We have wasted a terrible tragedy.

We have wasted a terrible tragedy.

Today, on Facebook and all forms of media outlets, people will commemorate those horrific events that changed people forever on September 11, 2001. It is not difficult to believe that 14 years have passed as much as it is to believe that, for the most part, we are a less unified and, in my opinion, a more shallow nation than prior to that fateful date.

I remember reading an article not long after that day that had basically said that we, as Americans, had enjoyed unparalleled peace and nothing was more indicative of this than the “feel good” and “newsworthy” stories that infiltrated the nightly news and the covers of Time and Newsweek. That all changed, of course. However, what did not stick was the sense of patriotism and connectedness that was fostered in the next few months to follow.

It gets tiring to hear about the “lessons” learned from September 11th because, for the most part, they are used for negative, not positive, means such as to promote xenophobia and help boost electoral polling. No doubt, a big lesson is to not be asleep at the wheel. We have to be awake to the very real threats that surround us, our nation and as such, our futures. However, that is often used to create division, not unity.

What about the lessons about the importance of shutting out all the background noise that is not only distracting but also reflective of the worst parts of who we are? For all the issues that plague our country, we continue to soak in the Kardashians, Trump and jerks who refuse to issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

I know this sounds preachy but if we had as many outraged posts on Facebook about what we are doing to ourselves as a nation (reduced commitment to education, the disgusting impasse that we can not seem to overcome regarding gun safety and mental health, the inability or apathy associated with holding our leaders accountable to facts and not soundbites, etc), we would rise as a much stronger and proud nation. 

You may have heard the saying “don’t let a good tragedy go to waste”. I don’t know what a “good” tragedy is but I do know that is hard to think of one that has impacted so many people and will for the rest of their lives – and rocked an entire nation -like that of 9-11. We owe it to every single person lost that day and as a result thereafter, to not waste the sacrifices that were made. We owe it to do better than posting angry rants and looking to blame people who are different from us so that we can feel better about having a direct enemy. It just is not that simple.

We owe it to them to face our fears of having less than our parents and creating a next “greatest generation” that holds the future of our nation as more of a priority than the present. It makes me sad that we have devolved more into a nation of shallowness and second rate priorities. Maybe it is just me but this is a continuing tragedy – not only because of the events of September 11 but also due to the opportunities that we have seemed to overlook to come together and do the hard work.

Until next time,

Marc

Thanks again for reading. I appreciate it. If you haven’t already, please consider enrolling to get my blog posts delivered straight to your inbox through this site, email me at marckaye91@gmail.com or follow me on Twitter @marckaye1. (Better yet, how about all 3). Also, through October 15, for every new follower I get, I will be donating $1 to Nechama, a disaster relief agency, in honor of my daughter who is raising money and awareness for this great organization for her Bat Mitzvah project! Thanks again, Marc








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