Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Rethinking A Fly Ball

My seven year old son, Jack, is nearing the end of his first season playing baseball for the "Washington Nationals."  He was blessed this year with a wonderful coach who both encouraged and challenged him to become a better player.  He found himself surrounded by teammates who eventually became good friends.  He proved himself to be a solid hitter, but one thing he really wanted to do was catch a fly ball.  This had eluded him throughout the season.  There was the game against the Cubs, when he almost caught one hit high in the air, but it tragically bounced right out of his glove.

This past week, Jack and I practiced catching fly balls over and over.  I would launch a ball high in the air and he would attempt to catch it...with mixed success.  Saturday afternoon finally arrived, his game against the Mets. Just prior to the game, I asked him how he was feeling about his catching.  To tell the truth, he began to get pretty down on himself, questioning his ability in the outfield.  Not sure what prompted this negativity, I questioned him, but he was in no mood to talk about it.

When we arrived at the park (a bit late) we learned that our team would be in the outfield first.  Jack was assigned to the position of short stop.  Literally, two or three batters into the other team's line up, a fly ball was hit high into the air and was coming down toward Jack. "This was his moment!", I thought to myself.  Jack quickly moved underneath the ball as it descended back toward earth.  He raised his glove.  The ball landed right...on the top of his head!  Stunned, he looked around for a moment and then went after the ball, now on the ground.  Being a concerned father, I immediately called out to see if he was ok.  If you are a parent, you'll know the sick feeling you get when you see your child get hurt.  The coach ran over to Jack to check on him as well.  He seemed to be fine.  When he came into the dugout, I checked...rechecked...and checked again.  I had visions of taking him to a concussion clinic, head injuries, etc.  He was fine, fully coherent, just frustrated.  He wanted to stay in the game.

I've got to admit, I glanced up into the sky and muttered to myself, "Way to dash a boy's dreams."  I really wanted Jack to catch that ball.  He worked so hard, and I thought it would be a perfect way to teach him a lesson about "the value of practice" or some other virtue.  Would he be afraid of going after a high ball now?  What kind of lesson would he learn from that?  If you try you'll get popped in the head???  Oh well.  In the whole scheme of things, what would this matter?  Sometimes life can be hard to explain.  There are much more important issues out there.  Right?

Well, in the final innings, Jack found himself manning third base.  I was hot and tired and longing to see this game wrapped up.  Suddenly, a batter hit a big fly ball high into the air!  It was coming down near third base!  Jack quickly moved into position.  I wondered if he would be a little hesitant to get under the ball due to the mishap that had happened earlier.  He wasn't.  The ball landed right...in his glove!  The crowd erupted!  He had caught his fly ball!  A few plays later, a teammate threw the ball to Jack who caught it and tagged out the runner at third, ending the game and ensuring a Nationals win. 

Wow.  This story captures a little bit of our own stories, doesn't it?  How many of us have been whacked on the head by a fly ball?  Stunned by a turn of events?  How many of us are fearful of putting ourselves in a situation where we have been hurt before?  If this quick glimpse into Jack's story tells us anything, it is that facing our fears and trying again is something that brings life.  Like John Wayne once said, 'Courage is being scared to death and saddling up anyway."  Jack later confessed that his "legs were shaking" when he moved under the fly ball. 

We all are faced with a choice.  To try again after being hurt the first time.  This applies to sports, your career, love, and myriad other things in life.  Putting yourself out there one more time, putting your heart on the line, that can make all the difference in the world.

I think I was actually the one who learned something precious that day.  I'm not in control.  I can't keep the people I love from getting hurt.  It happens.  I'm not writing the story...and that's a good thing.  The story I would have written would have been much smaller, less compelling, less rich with meaning.  The story I would have written would have been less dangerous and much less interesting.  I'm reminded all the time that I need to take heart, for things are already in motion that we have yet to see.

Play ball!

Sunday, December 18, 2011

Rethinking Cortez the Killer

Recently, I've been listening to a song by Neil Young called "Cortez the Killer." I've always loved the song. Sometimes I come back to a song and listen to it over and over. When that happens, I know there's something there that I need to pay attention to.

Historically speaking, the song is very inaccurate. Neil Young tells the story of Hernan Cortez and his exploits in the New World. Let's look at the lyrics and see what unfolds...

He came dancing across the water
With his galleons and guns
Looking for the new world
In that palace in the sun.

On the shore lay montezuma
With his coca leaves and pearls
In his halls he often wondered
With the secrets of the worlds.

And his subjects gathered ’round him
Like the leaves around a tree
In their clothes of many colors
For the angry gods to see.

And the women all were beautiful
And the men stood straight and strong
They offered life in sacrifice
So that others could go on.

Hate was just a legend
And war was never known
The people worked together
And they lifted many stones.

They carried them to the flatlands
And they died along the way
But they built up with their bare hands
What we still can’t do today.

Ok...let's try to unpack this. When Cortez arrived in the New World, the Aztecs were very much the dominant civilization in Mexico. However, the historian in me cries foul when the song goes on to say that "hate was just a legend" and "war was never known." The Aztecs were imperialists. They conquered many civilizations and tribes throughout Mesoamerica. Their practice of human sacrifice was horrific and brutal. During the Aztec reign, thousands died upon the spectacular heights of blood-stained pyramids.

There, I've had my say. My inner historian has been satisfied. However, I'm starting to think that Neil Young may have been talking about something else, something wearing an Aztec guise. I think he may have been lamenting the loss of paradise.

There's something inside us all that has this vague sense that things are not as they are supposed to be, isn't there? It's hard to put your finger on though. It's not as if I can look back on my life and say there was a time when everything was perfect (i.e. hate was just a legend, war was never known). I'm guessing you can't either.

When I see a friend struggling because a loved one was just diagnosed with a terminal disease or when I watch someone's marriage self-destruct, I think to myself, this isn't supposed to turn out like this. When I see a fellow human being who has obviously been living on the streets, unwashed, and babbling incoherently, a part of me cries out...how far we have fallen from our previous glory! When I see a childhood stolen by parental neglect or alcohol, my heart breaks. Things are not they way they should be!

How do we know that...deep down?

And I know she’s living there
And she loves me to this day
I still can’t remember when
Or how I lost my way.

Something at least to wrestle with this holiday season.

He came dancing across the water
Cortez, cortez
What a killer.

“You will not certainly die,” the serpent said to the woman. - Genesis 3:4
What a killer.

You can listen to Cortez the Killer here. I'd like to hear your thoughts or comments.

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Wednesday, July 06, 2011

Rethinking Photons

Things can't be in two places at once. Right? Well, quantum physicists are saying that on an unbelievably small scale that might not be true. You see...I've been hooked on a fantastic series on the Science Channel called Through the Wormhole narrated by Morgan Freeman. I'd highly recommend setting your DVR to record the show. It will open your eyes and your mind to possibilities that are both amazing and unsettling.

Recently, I watched an episode of Through the Wormhole that described an experiment involving photons. For those of you who are not followers of Stephen Hawking, light is made up of both particles and waves. Photons are individual particles of light. The experiment demonstrated was known as the "double slit experiment." An individual photon was fired at two slits in a screen to see which slit it would "choose" to pass through. Being one particle, it can only go through one slit or the other...right? Not so fast.
Somehow the single photon particle passes through BOTH slits at the SAME TIME! How is this possible? What's even more baffling is that when we attempt to set up monitors to detect how this is happening...it stops happening! The photon, when being watched, will behave itself and only go through one slit. This almost reminds one of a mischievous child who does what is expected only when an adult is watching. Wow! Reality is much more mysterious than we can imagine. It almost seems playful, doesn't it?

It is interesting that the double slit experiment demonstrates what I can only describe as the "playfulness" of a particle of light (if I may anthropomorphize a photon). Symbolically, in myth and story, light has always been identified with playfulness and spontaneity. The Swedes referred to a spot of reflected light that seemed to dance across a room as a "sun cat." If you have a cat, as I do, you'll understand how playful the feline species can be! When one watches light reflecting off a pool of water to dance upon the surrounding walls can catch a bit of the photonic joy.

There is a term for this behavior. The word "mercurial" describes someone who is ingenious, playful, unpredictable, or thievish. The word is associated with the god Mercury (the Greek Hermes) and the planet closest to the Sun (light). It is interesting that in the Book of Genesis, the first words attributed to God are "Let there be light." Light is fundamental it seems to creation, to the Cosmos.

Some scientists will probably admit that they feel as if they are being "played with" when conducting the double slit experiment. Matter (a light particle) by itself cannot be described as playful. The term really is only appropriate to describe a personality. This begs the question, who is playing with the scientists?

As I reflect upon what I've learned, I'm encouraged by the idea that at the core of reality, as exhibited by particles of light, there is a playfulness, a joy, a Personality. It's strange, but I see this when I come to a stop light and it seems to take forever to change to green. The moment I take out my "smart" phone to make good use of the down time to check an email or send a text, the light changes almost immediately. I've got to smile. I'm being played. It seems like a sense of humor may exist at the core of all things too...and it's good.

Watch a video about the double slit experiment below!

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Sunday, April 26, 2009

Rethinking Those Who Wander

This weekend we had the opportunity to visit our nation's capital, Washington D.C. What an incredible trip! We saw the Washington Monument, a memorial to George Washington, the first president of the United States. The monument style, known as an obelisk, goes back to the ancient world. To the Egyptians, it represented the intimate and mystical union between the Earth (Geb) and Sky (Nut). Later, the Freemasons adoped the symbol for their own use. It can still be seen marking Masonic tombs around the world.

Yesterday, however, we took somewhat of a detour. We traveled by ferry to the town of Alexandria, Virginia, a town that was surveyed by the then seventeen year old George Washington. There were quaint, little, shops by the dozen scattered throughout the town. Tourism had obviously become quite a boon for the local community.

As we walked, I noticed a street performer. Having just visited Washington, D.C., seeing a street performer was not all that unusual. My initial thought was, wow, what a hard way to make just a little bit of money. Another hard luck case. However, as I looked at this man's face, it seemed different. He played his guitar with a passion, that caused me to stop in my tracks. The joy that radiated from his face was contagious. He looked right at me and smiled. I couldn't help but smile back. He played a song I remembered from my childhood, from the band "America." He sang powerfully, "O, Oz never did give nothing to the Tin Man, that he didn't, didn't already have."

It made me think... What did Oz give to the Tin Man that he already had? Oh that's right...his heart. I think this man of the street gave me a little bit of my heart back yesterday. As I turned to leave, I looked back once more. I saw a sticker on his guitar case that read,

"Not all who wander are lost."

How true.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Rethinking Fresh Air

The Fresh Air Fund, an organization dedicated to bringing urban kids into a direct experience with the great outdoors, is looking for counselors for its summer program. Take a moment and consider supporting this worthy endeavor.

Learn more.

I've learned that taking some time out of our busy schedules to bring joy to another ends up being worth whatever sacrifices we make to see it happen.


Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Rethinking the Story

My sons and I just finished setting out "reindeer food" for Rudolph and his eight compadres, when I happened to look up at the night sky. The rain had stopped, leaving a clear, cloudless sky full of stars. Beautiful...

Let's switch gears for a moment. Why do we celebrate Christmas? What is its purpose? As most would probably acknowledge, it commemorates the birth of Jesus Christ. Was Jesus born on Christmas Day? The answer is unequivocally no. The ancient scriptures point to a date closer to early Spring.

Why then was December 25th selected as the day to mark the birth of the Christ? Here's why...

Since the Autumnal or Fall Equinox, the days have been getting shorter and shorter. December 21st, the Winter Solstice, marks the darkest day of the year. The days remain in that darkness for approximately three more days. Then, on December 25th, the sun moves one degree higher, heralding the lengthening of the days. So in a very real and a very symbolic sense, light is being born into a world of darkness.

Think about it for a moment. What better day to choose?

Let me go back to the reindeer food. When I looked up at the night sky, I immediately noticed the three star belt of the constellation Orion. Actually, the three pyramids at Giza in Egypt are patterned after the three stars! The Great Pyramid of Khufu, the pyramids of his son Khafre, and his grandson Menkaure, are aligned to match the three stars with incredible precision.

Thus, the three stars are sometimes referred to as the "Three Kings." On December 24th, Christmas Eve, the "Three Kings" line up with a star low in the sky called Sirius. It is the brightest star in the night sky this time of year.

Follow me now, the "Three Kings" follow the "star in the east" or Sirius. They line up and point to...

The place where the sun rises on December 25th.

The birth of light into this dark world. What a powerful image to be woven into the heavens!

So as I clean up the reindeer food and tuck my sons into bed, I'm reminded that we are a part of a much bigger story than any of us realize.

Good night. Oh...and Merry Christmas!

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Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Rethinking the Natural World

A recent survey apparently showed that children in our modern society are beginning to "lose touch with the natural world." It seems that very few young people were able to identify even common animals. Only two out of three children ages 9-11 were able to identify a frog. How did this happen???

Sometimes we lose the things that are truly precious...slowly. We get busy. We get distracted with the cares of this world. We gradually exchange the things that are magnificent and magical for the things that are profitable and practical.

Remember, this is the season of Hope. There is a great program available to the youth of New York City called the Fresh Air Fund. The Fresh Air Fund provides the opportunity for inner city students to experience the great outdoors. What a gift!

Watch the video below. If a picture says a thousand words, then a video should say about a million! Please consider supporting this effort to broaden the horizons of our nation's most valuable natural resource...our kids.


Friday, July 25, 2008

Rethinking Treasure Hunts

Last week, my family and I went to Amelia Island, Florida for a relaxing vacation. The days were spent floating in the soothing waves of the Atlantic, collecting shells along the beach, swimming in the resort pools, and hunting for treasure. Hunting for treasure? Yes...treasure hunting!

We went out to walk along the shore during the final night of our vacation. I had told the boys earlier in the day that Pirates sometimes come out at night to bury their gold! Being five and three, they were ecstatic! What the boys didn't know was that I had buried several piles of "pirate coins" along the way...each marked with an "X." When the boys saw an X with their flashlights, they would scream with excitement and run to dig up the treasure. You would have thought they won the lottery! Watching the joy they were experiencing filled me with that sense of wonder that I thought I had lost all those years ago. That night the boys fell asleep on a pullout bed with dreams of pirate treasure and the waves of the sea floating through their innocent minds.

As we grow older, the mystery and excitement of life seems to fade, doesn't it? An "X" in the sand of the shore is simply...a letter. The joy we once felt at the discovery of something new is swept away by the cares of this world. Sometimes I wonder if we as adults have it all wrong. Maybe my sons are the ones who have figured out the secret to life. What do you think?

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Friday, July 11, 2008

Rethinking Coldplay II

No I don't wanna battle from beginning to end I don't want a cycle of recycled revenge I don't wanna follow death and all of his friends. - Coldplay

I couldn't have said it better myself...

Does anybody have any thoughts on these lyrics from "Death and All of His Friends?"


Saturday, June 28, 2008

Rethinking Coldplay

I finally picked up a copy of the new Coldplay CD, Viva La Vida. I've always enjoyed the way Coldplay starts a song slow and mellow and then allows it to rise to a powerful and emotional crescendo. I tend to find one or two songs on an album that really speak to me and listen to them over and over again. The lyrics to the song Viva La Vida have been drawing my attention lately. It's a good idea to pay attention to the things you pay attention to. The lyrics are below...

I used to rule the world Seas would rise when I gave the word Now in the morning I sleep alone Sweep the streets I used to own I used to roll the dice Feel the fear in my enemies eyes Listen as the crowd would sing: "Now the old king is dead! Long live the king!"

When things are going well in our lives, we feel like we are on top of the world. We feel invincible. But, when adversity rears its ugly head, we suddenly feel helpless. The earth quakes beneath our feet.

One minute I held the key
Next the walls were closed on me And I discovered that my castles stand Upon pillars of salt, and pillars of sand

"My castles stand upon pillars of salt and pillars of sand." Adversity makes us look beneath our "castles" to see what under girds them. What are the castles in your life? Your career? Your looks? What are the things that define who you are? Are they what is most true about you?

I'll write more about this song later...it's getting late.

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Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rethinking Challenges II

As many of you know, I have been participating in the National Advisory Board for O2Max Fitness, an organization in Santa Monica, CA, that is dedicated to promoting healthy lifestyles among teens in the area and around the country. This summer, O2Max Fitness will be offering opportunities for teens to get into shape over the summer, including:
  • Six-week summer fitness camp for teens
  • Beat the Freshman Fifteen” program
  • Sunday workouts in the park
  • Pre-season high school sports program
Remember, your mind, spirit, AND body are integral parts of who you are. We need to be mindful of each part of the whole. Don't miss these great offerings! Even if you don't live in the Santa Monica area, you can still participate in O2Max Fitness online.

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Thursday, June 12, 2008

Rethinking Paths

Yes there are two paths you can go by... - Led Zeppelin

The more I think about it, the more I realize that our every thought, word, and action brings us one step further down a road that leads to either life...or destruction. Do your thoughts dwell on the negative? Are you consumed with worry or fear? Anger perhaps? Those are all normal emotions depending upon various life circumstances, so look at patterns in your thought life over a period of time. Are your thoughts leading to life or to destruction?

But the things that come out of the mouth come from the heart... - Matthew 15:18

Pay attention to the words you speak. Do they encourage others or do they spread doubt and fear? Do your words bring people together or do they sow division?

What do your actions tell you about the road you're on? Are your actions destructive? Take a moment to reflect upon what you do. Play your actions out over the course of time. Will they lead to blessing and life or will they lead to death? So often we cruise through life without ever considering where we are headed. There is hope in all of this though. It's not too late.

...but in the long run, there's still time to change the road you're on - Led Zeppelin

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Sunday, April 27, 2008

Rethinking the Abyss

It is by going down into the abyss that we recover the treasures of life. Where you stumble, there lies your treasure. - Joseph Campbell

This quote has been on my mind as of late. We all have an abyss of sorts, don't we? Some dark place that we know exists, but we fear going down there. Could it be that our darkest abyss is in fact a doorway that opens to a world we were made for?

We tend to view our abyss as our destruction, but in reality, it may lead to our salvation. What do you think?

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