Saturday, June 18, 2011

A Night I Will Never Forget

The concert kicked off at seven o’clock with an hour set of Lenny Kravitz. At first I was rather confused why U2 would even want or think they might need an opening act, after all, they are U2 and U2 needs no support act. While I can’t speak for U2 in regards to their choice of Lenny Kravitz or why they would even feel a need for an opening act, I have my own theory. U2 needs an opening act because the raw energy that U2 brings to the stage needs to be preceded with a build-up or else their rabid fans, like yours truly, would simply explode…I am not particularly all that familiar with Lenny Kravitz but Lenny Kravitz and his band did a fantastic job of setting the table for the rest of the evening. Well done, Lenny, well done, thy faithful servant…

Lenny Kravitz left the stage around eight o’clock and we all waited in anticipation for about an hour while an army of technicians and support staff prepared the stage for U2. At about eight forty five the crowd began to get antsy and started doing the wave. We had to do something to release the energy that was building and building and building. Normally, I’m a pretty reserved person in public settings but even I couldn’t resist standing up and waving my arms three or four times. Let’s just say I got caught up in a wave of collective energy that had filled the stadium.

Nine o’clock liftoff…..At nine o’clock David Bowie’s classic rock song Ground Control to Major Tom came on the loud speakers. The crowd roared in unison and I looked up at the jumbo screen which was supported by “The Claw”, history’s largest stage apparatus. I literally got goose bumps as I watched Larry, Adam, the Edge, and Bono make their way to center stage. The rest of the night was one big giant blur. I use the word blur "literally" because what happened over the next two and a half hours is hard, no impossible,for me to describe in words. What I experienced can only be found on this planet inside the capsule of nuclear weapons or the eye of a level five hurricane.

I suspect one of the reasons I am really struggling at this point to describe what I experienced is that I have no reference points…and….there are no reference points because there is nothing out there on the entertainment landscape to compare with U2. Last year I attended a Bruce Springsteen concert, and while I mean no disrespect, to “the Boss”, or his legion of fans, there is no comparison, and that is an understatement. So, what’s different?…While Bruce and his fan base are, giving them the benefit of doubt, as passionate as U2 and their fans, the difference is, imo, the combination of the presence of Bono and the otherworldly creative nature of the incredible visual effects provided by the support technology. One of the highlights for me last night was watching Gabrielle Giffords husband Mark Kelly address the crowd on the jumbo screen from the space shuttle. He read some of the lyrics of a U2 song and introduced the song It's a Beautiful Day...It was electrifying and I was just overwhelmed by it all…Then there was Bishop Tutu talking about the need for continued social justice in the world…but…The climax of the evening came for me when U2 sang "Where the Street Have No Name", while we all watched a video feed on the jumbo screen of the members of the band running around in the desert of California which was originally filmes back in 1987. At that point I was absolutely memorized and emotionally drained by the combination of 60,000 screaming fans, the energy of U2 and the integration of the best technology in the world. Tonight I saw the future and the potential positive effects of technology. It was "beautiful"....

There is much more I could say about particular songs, the absolutely incredible special effects made possible by “The Claw” and the onstage presence of the Bono and the band, or the cameo surprise stage appearance of U2’s long time manager Paul McGuiness who apparently made his first stage appearance in history. Bono asked Paul to come onstage while we all sang happy 60th Birthday to him. I am now out of words and concede that what I have said here is almost meaningless to anyone except those who have been to a U2 concert because words can never capture or hold the internal combustible energy that comes only from experience…Last night is a night I will never forget….It was a Beautiful Night…Thanks U2, and thanks to all the fans, who provided the energy for one of the most incredible experiences in my life.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Reflections on Easter morning

It's Easter morning and I thought I would take a few minutes to ponder and reflect on the meaning of Easter. So what is the meaning of Easter? For many Christians past and present the resurrection story provides the hope of eternal life after death and is the basis for a relationship with God because Jesus death and subsequent rising provides the "atonement" for our sins once and for all. This morning I don't intend to dismiss or challenge the importance of this particular take on the meaning of Easter, nor do I want to get into the historical credibility of this story or the nature of the gospel texts themselves which is an ongoing and never ending debate amongst modern biblical scholars but I do want to explore some other potential implications of the Easter story.

I am fifty three years old and don't anticipate dying anytime soon so the life after death implications of Easter don't resonate with me at this particular time although I acknowledge I could die at any moment. As far as being a sinner I acknowledge I am not what I ought or could be but I trust in the nature of loving God to work out the details of "how" God actually works out the justice aspect of the relationship between our individual and collective sins and the Holiness of God. I don't mean to pick a fight with my Christian brethren out there who take their theology seriously but from where I sit these days I'm at the point where I'm trusting in the mercy of God rather than my intellect to figure out how this whole thing fits together...So, where does that leave someone like me who is currently "somewhat" indifferent about eternal life and the nature of the relationship between sin, the need for justice, and the Holiness of God. Is there any meaning of Easter left for someone like me?

As I look around the world, my community, my country, and my own soul I see death one digs deeper one sees the death of a marriage, the death of the hopes and dreams of a young person who has graduated but can't find a job, the death of a business adventure, the death of a happy retirement due to being ripped off by some greedy financial advisers, the death of a spouse due to a sudden unexpected heart attack, the death of a child, the gradual death of our ability to do what we love because of growing old, and the ever increasing death of the American dream for more and more Americans each passing day due to our serious economic problems. Death "is" a part of all our lives. As I reflect on my own life and soul I have experienced the death of a marriage and subsequent romances, the unexpected death of a brother from a heart attack last year, the death of my father when I was only 12, the death of my relationship with my sister, and the death of my ability to function as I wish I could in different areas of my life.

Christianity as I understand it doesn't promise that my life will be happy nor does it promise that things will work out as "I" would hope but the Christian story and the Easter story as I interpret is fundamentally about "hope". The hope for change and the "potential" for resolution and joy in this world and the next. I don't know if I ever be able reconcile my relationship with my sister or if I will ever function as I wish I could in some aspects of my personal life, but I hope I will. As I look around the world and reflect on my own life I do see examples in the world and areas in my own life where death has been conquered and life has returned. In our own history we have conquered the practice of slavery, and women and African Americans now enjoy a level of equality and freedom that they were not afforded for hundreds of years. In my personal life I have experienced certain emotions that were dead for decades and I have a renewed hope for my future as it relates to some areas of my life.

Easter is a story of hope and it points to the possibility in this world and the next that we might all experience the renewal of life in the world and our personal lives. But, sometimes we can't see or experience the renewal of life within and around us because our own expectations get in the help us all to see and experience the renewal of life that abounds in our world and in our lives and let's celebrate the meaning of the hope that is found in the Easter story today and everyday.

Monday, April 18, 2011

The Art of Journaling

I started to journal after my divorce and I am still going strong. I don't remember how I got started but suspect I may have journaled as a coping mechanism to deal with all that was happening in my heart and head at the time. No one ever told me or suggested "how" to journal but over the years I have developed a number of ways to journal and I thought I would share a bit for anyone who might be interested in the subject. Here are a couple of different journal exercises I do on a regular basis for everyone's consideration.

1. Free association. This may be the most common and popular type of journaling. Free association involves just writing down what you are thinking or feeling about a particular issue/topic or situation at a particular moment in time. This kind of journaling can be very therapeutic and cathartic.

2. Journaling about the past. Because the present is so intertwined with the past this form of journaling can be very beneficial in dealing with a particular issue or problem. While I was working through abandonment issues I once sat down and journaled for hours identifying the numerous people in my past who had come to my aid and provided help and support. This practice helped bring healing to a difficult aspect of my past and it provided a reminder of the grace that was always present even when I wasn't aware of it. I later added these thoughts in another "special" journal and frequent what I wrote from time to time, especially when I feel flooded with certain feelings of rejection, neglect, or abandonment.

3. Copying down quotes. If you visit my blogs time to time you may have noticed that I use a lot of quotes. Over the past seven years I have spent countless hours copying quotes from the various books I read. When I read a book I generally highlight the book and then go back at some later time and copy the highlighted sections that are particularly meaningful and sometimes I take this practice a step further and type them. I now have a huge database of quotes at my disposal. I have found this practice very helpful because it helps move the words from my head to my heart. I have read a lot of books in which the ideas went in one ear and out the next but when I write or rewrite the highlighted sections in my journal it often moves the thoughts into my long term memory where it can be recalled later when I might need it. I also go back and reread the quotes from time to time and one can do this as a type of meditative practice.

4. Interacting with the quotes. I have another journal where I go back and read what I previously journaled and then write a response that applies to a particular situation I am currently going through. This practice helps bring to life what I have read and if we are not engaging ourselves with what we read then what is the purpose of reading?...unless, we are reading for entertainment or pleasure which has it's place.

5. Pictures...I have added some pictures to my journals. The pictures include some very special people in my life and some fictional characters that symbolize important aspects of my life that I wish to be reminded of from time to time.

In conclusion, I consider journaling a "spiritual discipline" that can enrich and nurture ones soul and provide an important resource that one can take with them any time. I take my journals to work and on vacation and read and write in them as often as needed.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Signs of a Healthy Adult

Psychotherapist and author David Richo has written a handbook on the topic of psychological and spiritual integration. I found his chapter entitled Declarations of A Healthy Adulthood informative and helpful. Here are a few of the goals and behaviors Richo associates with a being a healthy adult. This list is not meant to be exhaustive but “I” do find it thought provoking and worth considering.

1.I cherish my own integrity but do not use it as a yardstick for other’s behavior.

2. When change and growth scare me, I still choose them. I may act with fear, but never because of it.

3. I grant myself a margin of error in my work and relationships. I release myself from the pain of having to be right or competent all the time.

4. I live by personal standards and at the same time----in self-forgiveness----I make allowances for my occasional lapses.

5. I give without demanding appreciation though I may ask for it.

6. I am not entitled to be taken care of by anyone or anything.

7. . I love unconditionally but set sane conditions and limits on my self-giving.

8. I accept that it is normal to feel that I do not always measure up.

9. I let go of blame, regret, vengeance, and the infantile desire to punish those who hurt or reject me.

10. Until I see another’s behavior with compassion, I have not fully understood it.

11. I reconcile myself to the limits on other’s giving to me and on my giving to them.

12. I accept that I may never feel I am receiving—or have received—all the attention I seek.

13. I trust that “darkness and upheaval always precede an expansion of consciousness.

14. I let people go away or stay and am still okay.

Tuesday, June 08, 2010

Miracles still do happen

Twelve years ago during the month of August I fractured/broke my lower back while mountain biking in Redwood National Park. The crash was the most traumatic physical experience of my life. Seven hours passed between the time of the crash and the time I arrived at Mad River Hospital in Arcata California. During those seven hours I often wondered if this serious injury would end my teaching career or disable me for the rest of my life. At the time of the injury I knew it was serious because I couldn’t get myself up. I remained on the ground while the mosquitoes took turns snacking on me until a passerby found me about a half an hour after the crash.

Since that never to be forgotten day filled with a lot of angst and fear I have experienced ongoing levels of depression due in large part to my limited ability to do many of the outdoor activities I once loved to do. I also gained about thirty pounds within the first three months of the accident and have struggled with being overweight until recently. I attributed the weight gain to the numerous two pound bags of peanut M&M’s I consumed along with large glasses of whole milk. For the record, I no longer suggest trying to soothe ones depression by eating peanut M&M’s as good as they may taste. It just causes more depression in the long run.

Last summer I hit rock bottom regarding my weight and my back. I ballooned to about 230 pounds and was forced to abandon my annual camping trip after 36 hours due to the and the inability to barely get up off the ground in the morning. I had to use a cane to lift my body up and one morning I didn’t think I was going to be able to get up at all. During the day all I could do was hobble around the campground and take a few pictures as I drove around. I was unable to hike and could barely ride my bike. I threw in the towel on the second day and I still remember the flowing tears from my eyes as I wondered if I would ever be able to revisit this spectacular beautiful outdoor wonderland that has brought me so much peace and joy over the years. As I packed up my camping gear for what I feared might be the last time I said goodbye to the jagged Minaret Peaks and Mammoth Mountain which dominate the skyline of the Mammoth Lakes basin and wondered if I would ever set my eyes on such incredible beauty again.

Fast forward to the present. Earlier this week I weighed in at 151 pounds which is almost 80 pounds lighter than last year at this time. Ten months ago after I came home from Mammoth I struggled with the use of a cane to walk around the block. Today I work out six days a week for an average of about two to three hours a day. Four days a week I either hike or ride my mountain bike up and down the local foothills which are steep in my neck of the woods. I also swim three to four days a week, sometime five times. When I first started swimming last August I really didn’t swim much. For the most part, I just walked back and forth in my swimming lane and I occasionally might swim a couple of laps on my back and one lap while doing the breast stroke. I was generally out of the pool in fifteen or twenty minutes. Today I swim for at least an hour and I now swim 63 laps doing the breast stroke. You should see my chest! No more man boobs. I do the breast stroke because I can longer lift weights due to potential back spasms which are triggered by lifting weights and I do need to something to maintain some upper body strength.

So, what happened? I believe there is often more than one way to describe or interpret an event. On one level, one could say my personal physical transformation is best described as a miracle. I wouldn’t quibble with that. I still frequently look at myself in the mirror and ask who is that guy, good looking mind you, who is staring at you in the mirror? From another perspective, one can attribute the change to a lot of hard work, perseverance and discipline Personally, I embrace both perspectives but would add the element of mystery. I don’t know why I was able to break through at this particular time in my life. I wasn’t particularly motivated anymore than any other time in my life and I didn’t really do anything new I hadn’t tried before. It’s a mystery to me.

So, what did I specifically do? I hesitate to offer any suggestions because we all are susceptible to chasing holy grails and formulas to success, particularly when we are hurting, depressed, or in despair. But, I do want to share a few particulars because “some” of what I did “may” resonate or be encouraging to others. I offer the following not as a formula for success. Major transformation often comes when we least expect it and is not simply the by product of human individual effort alone. After I came home from my camping trip my goal was simple. Get up every morning and do whatever I could which at the time meant doing stretching exercises before walking down the street with my cane by my side in case my back went out. I also went to the pool where I walked mostly for about 15 to 20 minutes three times a week. This was my routine six days a week. As the days passed I would push myself to do a little bit more at least once a week and within about a month I added a day here and a day there to ride my bike or go for a longer walk near my house.

Eating habits: Prior to my new exercise routine I was eating fairly well except for an occasional sweet tooth binge which included eating large amounts of cookies and cream ice cream after midnight or a huge bowl of Grape nuts covered in honey. I cut out the binging and added more fruit, vegetables, and soy burgers to my regular diet. Along the way I noticed if you can go cold turkey on the sweets for three weeks your body seems to adjust and you loose the craving for sweets, at least that was my experience. Today, I’m no longer tempted by the sight of ice cream, cookies, cake, chips, or any other forms of junk food. I would like to add that a critically important part of my new eating habits is salads. I eat a salad “every day”, usually, for dinner. Salads in my opinion are an effective way to loose and potentially keep the weight off because salads provide an endless “variety” of combinations. A lot of people eventually get bored with many of the diet food suggestions offered today or go back to eating what they did before but with salads you can mix and match and add this and add any combinations of vegetables, meats, nuts, etc. according to ones personal preferences. There are also a wide variety of low fat dressings on the market today to spice things up. My favorites include raspberry walnut, Asian toasted sesame, poppy seed, and blueberry pomegranate.

Final thoughts: At this time in my life I feel very grateful to God and all those along the way who have supported and encouraged me in the last ten months of my physical transformation. If you are still reading this blog entry I want to encourage you do whatever you can to move in the direction of improving your own health. I can’t promise you the kind of success I have experienced over the past ten months but our goals should always be based on doing what “we” can do to improve ourselves while taking into account our own individual limitations. I acknowledge I am fortunate because I have a job which allows me the time and means to pursue the kind of physical activities which have contributed to my transformation. I am also fortunate because I have an internal motivation because of my serious back problems, that is, my quality of life is directly tied to my eating habits and exercise routine. In other words, if I do not get up every day and stretch, walk, ride my bike, and swim the quality of my life “will” be poor. So, in conclusion, I want to encourage everyone to do what “you” can do and don’t worry about comparing yourself to others. If you do what you can do on a regular basis I suspect you will eventually see results and you will feel better about yourself and you will enjoy life more. I believe this to be true. Good luck!

The Old Me

This picture was taken last summer. At that time I weighed about 230 pounds, give or take a couple of pounds. Yesterday I weighed in at 151 pounds.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

A Day in the Life of a U2 Fan

Following is the account of a long time U-2 fan and what I did to celebrate today’s release of U-2’s new C.D., No Line on the Horizon. My colleagues at work say I have a screw loose. I say to them I have many screws loose but, so what. If you don’t have a screw or two loose in this political and economic climate you ain’t human, so just deal with it…What you are about to read is the truth and nothing but the truth. Life is too short to be talking politics, religion, and economics all the time. Today is a day to revel in the passion, joy, and fun that music can provide for those who have ears to hear and hearts that are open. Enjoy…

4:30-5:30 A.M.
I was wide awake at 4:30 this morning. I didn’t plan on getting up so early but since I was up I figured I would go on line and check out what my other U-2 comrades are saying and doing on Facebook. Julie is waiting for Target to open so she can pick up her copy of No Line on the Horizon and Dave is already in the process of downloading the music off Itunes. Oh, the benefit of living in the Midwest.

5:50-6:20 A.M.
I am headed out the door and off to Wal-mart to pick up my copy of No Line On the Horizon. I briskly walk to the entertainment section. No C.D. in sight. Start to worry that I won’t be able to pick up C.D. until after work because they obviously haven’t stocked the shelves yet but before I go I flag down nearest salesperson. I tell her I am here for the C.D. She obviously doesn’t know who U-2 is but she says she will go check on the situation for me. I am grateful. It’s always easier to get service at the crack of dawn. I wait five minutes before my mild anxiety turns to joy as she approaches me with a armful of C.D.’s. I am a very happy camper as I head to the cashier, plop down my ten bucks, and scurry out the door to my car.

6:20-6:30 A.M.
I rip open the C.D. put the disc in my C.D. player and head off to the carpool lot. As I am heading down the freeway I am hooked right away with the opening guitar riffs and words of No Line on the Horizon. Now listening to Magnificent. My mind wonders and reflects on my past loves as I hear the words, “Only love, only love can leave such a mark”…That is so true. Then the next line reads “But only love, only love, can heal such a scar”…Reminds me of something I said on my relationship blog yesterday. “Loving relationships are the “potential” best environment for the healing of some of our deepest wounds. It’s good to hear that apparently someone else feels the same way and I am not alone.

6:30-6:40 A.M.
Am now sitting in carpool parking lot waiting for my colleagues. I am now watching the sunrise peak it’s face through the clouds as I hear the words Sunshine, Sunshine, the opening line of a song called Unknown Caller. I skip next to the song Get Off Your Boots and just absorb the energy that is expressed through the magical fingers of “The Edge.”

6:35-7:15 A.M.
…Car pool mates aren’t U-2 fans and seem a bit put off by my obvious enthusiasm so I sit in the back and just flip through the lyrics in the dusk jacket while colleagues talk politics. I am curious about pic associated with the song Cedars of Lebanon. Is that the Wailing Wall in the background? As we get out of the car one of my colleagues pokes fun at me for my fanaticism. I take it tongue and cheek. Nothing they say is going to deter me today.

7:15-8:00 A.M.
I am in my classroom now. Put U-2 on my boom box and turn it up as loud as I can…Open classroom door to let the sound of U-2 spread as far across the campus as I can. Cold air rushes in but I don’t care because the sound of a new U-2 C.D. is enough to keep me warm. I now open the door to one of my colleagues room and let the music do it’s magic. My colleague covers his ears. I tell him to embrace the music…embrace the love…and… remind him there will be no escape today…and…bark out one last passing comment, “If I have to listen to 45 minutes of political propaganda in the morning you can listen to some of my U-2 propaganda. It’s Karma. Time to get to work.

8:00 A.M. My students are filing through the door before the tardy bell rings. No Line On the Horizon is playing in the background. I take roll and then tell them the story of getting the C.D. this morning. I take the liberty to exaggerate the details. I tell them that I had to threaten the salesperson with a baseball bat from the sporting good department in order to get my C.D. They laugh. We move on to lesson. Today’s lesson is supply and demand. I find a way to fit a video clip from U-2’s Vertigo concert into the lesson. I choose City of Blinding Lights to launch into questions about why entertainers get paid so much. I then introduce the concept of supply and demand. Damn, I’m good. A “freaken” genius. Is it me, or the music that has inspired me today. I’ll share the credit with U-2.

Lunch time:
I am writing this blog entry while picking up where I left off with “I’ll Go Crazy if I Don’t Crazy Tonight. Not particularly crazy over Bono’s shrieks on this song…hey…you can’t like them all. So far, I like the first three tracks better than tracks 4, 5, and 7. Things pick up a bit with the slow moving White as Snow and Breathe. I like the line Every day I die again, and again I’m reborn/Every day I have to find courage/To walk into the street from the song Breathe. Reminds me to live in the moment each day. I like the little Chinese sounding bit at the end of the song. I conclude my lunch by listening to Cedars of Lebanon. This song sounds familiar. Now I know…It’s reminiscent of one of Bruce Cockburn’s ballads. I really like the rhythm of this song and the lyrics, especially the line, “Choose your enemies carefully ‘cos they will define you”…How true…but, I no longer allow others to define me. If they don’t like me that’s their issue not mine. This is my favorite track of the second half of the C.D.

Right after lunch
… I Am hamming it up now. Running in slow motion around the room with my arms in the air as the song No Line on the Horizon plays in the background. Students don’t react much, just figure I didn’t get my meds at lunch.

Initial, “first impressions”
….I don’t think this C.D. is as strong as their last two. No huge fall off but doubt this one will be as popular as their recent works…but…I do appreciate U-2 efforts to explore and experiment and not simply settle for rehashing same old styles. For that, they get my respect and thumbs up for their new album. My favorite songs on first run were No Line On the Horizon, Magnificent, and Cedars of Lebanon but that could change with second and third listen….thanks for following along. It was a Beautiful Day….

Monday, March 02, 2009

Why I am a big fan of U-2

Tomorrow U-2 releases it’s fifteenth album which is called No Line on the Horizon. Tomorrow morning I intend to stop by Wal-mart at 6:00 A.M. to pick up the C.D. just so I can bug my colleagues at work who are either too old school to care or too young to realize how big U-2 has been for so long. Up to this point I have avoided reading any early reports nor have I downloaded any early releases available on line. Personally, I don’t need to work myself up to buy the latest U-2 C.D. because it has been my experience that U-2 always delivers the goods. So, tomorrow morning at about the crack of dawn I’ll gladly plop down the 10 to 13 bucks and take a leap of faith before fans and critics alike give us their musings on how great, good, or mediocre this latest version of U-2 is. From my end of things it’s hard to imagine that this album could be as good as the last two or three but quite frankly I don’t care because no one can stay on top forever, not even U-2. By tomorrow at this time I hope to be listening to the greatest band since the Beatles but before I crawl into my hobbit hole with my new C.D. I would like to share for public record some of the reasons why I like U-2. So, without any more fanfare here goes.

Reasons I like U-2

1.They are Irish…I admit I am a sucker for almost anything Irish, except for Irish green beer and some of the ridiculous looking popular Saint Patrick Day paraphernalia. I am not sure where or when I developed my fetish for everything Irish but over the years I have developed a real fondness for Irish graphic knot and mythical beast designs, The Book of Kells, almost all forms of Celtic music, and Irish or Scottish films like Millions, Ned Devine, Once, and Braveheart just to mention a few. I am not sure exactly what it is that draws me into the Irish orbit but I suspect it might have something to do with the “eccentric” nature of the Irish or the passion and unique creativity that has become a part of the Irish landscape for centuries. On the other hand, maybe it has something to do with the memorable episode from the t.v. show Bonanza where Hoss Cartwright was chasing Leprechauns around the Ponderosa Ranch. Whatever, the reason, I love the Irish culture.

2.U-2 is a great rock and roll band. Since their appearance on Time magazine back in the 1980’s U-2 has crafted themselves and their live performances like no other band I can think of during my generation. In the early years U-2 relied primarily on youthful energy and the passion of the Irish but since they decided to conquer America in the early 1980’s they have worked very hard as musicians and “performers” to create a “live act” which is second to none. I remember seeing U-2’s Rattle and Hum at the theatre and was throughly impressed by the music, choreography and artistic quality of the production. At the time, some of U-2’s critics suggested Rattle and Hum and subsequent productions of U-2 were the by product of Bono’s narcissistic messianic complex. Be that is it may, messianic or narcissistic, it doesn’t matter to me. The whole act on and off stage is highly entertaining and they are in the entertainment business after all. For me, U-2’s genius climaxed with their ZOO T.V. tour. I have never seen live and in person but I have watched the DVD version many, many, times and I believe it is one the most entertaining and creative acts ever in rock history.

3.Team chemistry. U-2 has been together as a band since high school. I don’t pretend to know what goes on behind the scenes but on stage and in their public appearances the various band members seem to get along and genuinely like working together which is no small feat for any band that has been together for 25 years now. While Bono is the ultimate alpha dog on stage and off, Larry, Adam, and the Edge appear to relish their own roles and each has established a particular niche which suits their personality and specific talent. Can anyone imagine U-2 not being together or Bono going solo? I can’t. So, together they stand or together they fall. They have been standing together pretty strong for two plus decades now and I predict they will ride off into the Irish sunset someday but hopefully not before I get a chance to see them live and hopefully it won’t be at the local fair where many bands go before they die.

4.Can you say, serious, fun, inspirational and exhilarating all at the same time? U-2 has produced some very serious, thought provoking, and inspiring songs like Sunday, Bloody, Sunday, Pride, When I look at the World, and I Still Havent’ Found What I am looking For. Four years ago I purchased a large screen HD T.V. so I could watch movies but since I caught U-2 concert acts live on DVD I now prefer to watch concerts over movies, thanks to the influence of U-2. There is nothing more exhilarating than watching Bono move along the “run way” belting out a line from It’s a Beautiful Day or Vertigo. I have never attended a U-2 concert live but if it is as great as some of my acquaintances say it is, then it is probably best I never go because I can barely hold myself together watching U-2 on my television in my humble hobbit home. Some of my favorites include An Cat Dubh/Into The Heart and City of Blinding Lights from the Vertigo Tour, New Years Day from Go Home: Live from Slane Castle and Bad from the movie Rattle and Hum. While Bono may not be able to match the energy or passion of “The Boss” U-2 live performances will go down in Rock and Roll lore as perhaps the most entertaining, exhilarating and favorite concert performances of our time.

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Magic, Beauty, and Love abound

The world is a magical place. Meadows dressed in yellow flowers surrounded by 1,000 year old giants of the earth. Alpine Lakes sitting at the base of snow covered majestic peaks that extend their tops to the sun. The flight of seagull gliding effortlessly over the open sea.The gentle movement of a stream as it meanders through the forest. Morning mist that shrouds the rocky coastline of the Pacific ocean. A hibernating oak tree standing alone with it feet covered in snow. A lonely solitary country road winding its way along a green pasture on a winter morning in February. The golden leaves of an aspen tree on a crisp autumn day in the High Sierra's. Footprints in the sand leading to nowhere on a beach with no humans in sight. Two lovers looking into the fading face of the sun as it takes it's last bow of the day. Purple and yellow flowers bursting with color in an otherwise desolate landscape of Death Valley. A lighthouse standing all alone in the distance sharing its light with those who have lost their way at sea and fear the retribution of Poseidon...and... The flickering flame of a vanilla scented candle which is currently providing the light for this writer. There is magic all around us. There is beauty all around us...and...There is love all around us even though at any time we may not feel it's touch or understand it's depth. At any given moment we may feel that magic, beauty, and love has left us and been replaced with a void of darkness...but let us not forget that the existence of darkness does not have the power to extinguish the light or the magic, love, and beauty of this world. How do I know this? Because, since the beginning of time the two have always co-existed and even when it looked like darkness might destroy the light there was always the beauty of a flower, the loving hands of a mother, or the magic of the creation everywhere.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

A Day in the Snow

Today was one of the most beautiful days in Bako in years. We have been in a severe drought for the past two years with less than three inches a year. For the past 10 days it has rained off and on with more on the way in the next ten days. Yesterday the snow level dropped to around 2,000 feet and the local mountains were covered with snow when I woke up this morning so I got my butt into gear and headed to the hills before the snow melted. I didn't get as many good pics as I wanted because many of the out fo the way roads were closed but I got a few unusual pics and posted them here at this space.

Only in California

Cognitive Dissonance?

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Search for the Holy Grail

Thomas Moore the author of Care of the Soul writes,
"A major difference between care and cure is that cure implies the end of trouble. If you are cured, you don't have to worry about whatever was bothering or you were struggling with any longer. But care has a sense of ongoing attention. There is no end. Conflicts may never be fully resolved. Your character will never change radically, although it may go through some interesting transformations"

At one time during my life I read a fair share of self help books but many years ago I became so disillusioned regarding the possibility of significant change I abandoned the project altogether. Today, I generally don't ascribe to formula's nor do I expect any significant change or quick fixes from reading any book or listening to any expert guru pontificating about this or that. What if there is, as Moore suggests, no cure for some if not many of our personal spiritual/psychological ailments? Are we without hope? Not if Moore is correct when he suggests in his writings that ongoing attention and care of our soul can in the end lead to transformation that may not solve all our problems but may potentially provide us with the inner strength and motivation to live our lives with dignity, grace, and love despite our shortcomings, individual limitations, and personal demons that haunt our lives. I can fully understand why so many people are searching for answers to their personal problems but perhaps "expecting" the find a cure to many of our problems is our version of the search for the Holy Grail.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Life Can Be Very Frustrating at Times

My friend Kathleen who visits this space from time and time and is a regular on my facebook page suggested I include a blog entry on life's hassles and frustrations. This was a collaborative effort. Thanks for the idea Kathleen.

1. Trying to keep cool in Bakersfield during the summer. In cold weather you can always put on more clothes but there are only so many clothes one can take off and still walk around in public.

2. Almost anything to do with car repairs.

3. Trying to remember all the various computer passwords.

4. Dealing with bureaucracy of any kind, especially on the phone.

5. Programming electronic small appliances, such as BLUE TOOTH, personal travel assistant, IPOD, etc. - IPOD

6. Driving in foggy weather in Bakersfield during a really foggy day.

7. Trying to buy Christmas gifts for people who have everything.

8. Trying to multitask too many things at one time, like downloading an IPOD while talking on the phone and watching the news at the same time.

9. Picking a movie at the video store when you have two or three other people with you.

10. Reading through a digital camera manual which is now somewhere between 150 to 175 pages.

11. Listening to almost any talk radio show for more than five minutes. If it's Michael Savage or Sean Hannity you can reduce that number to two minutes.

12. Driving in heavy traffic in a large city that you have never been to before.

13. Finding parking in San Francisco.

14.Waiting in almost any hospital emergency room.

15. Going to Costco at the beginning of the month or the holidays.

16. Trying to explain to women why I like my beard and why it has nothing to do with trying to hide or cover up something.

17. Trying to explain to people how an educated and otherwise sane person like myself has a house filled with dragons, wizards, gnomes, and a couple of rather unsavory mythological creatures.

18. Explaining to school administrators how the use of movie video clips has potentially important educational value.

19. Unwrapping almost any sealed item from the store these days

20. Listening to computer geeks at the computer store tell you how easy it is to install and use some new computer program you just recently bought.

Saturday, February 07, 2009

Verbal Abuse

Recently I encountered an individual who is very skilled in the art of verbal abuse and during our brief encounter they used the entire arsenal of the abuser which includes wagging the finger, guilt, shame, moralizing, and repeated attempts to define me and my reality. The encounter was short because over the years I have learned a series of responses to diffuse and break the spells of those who resort to scorched earth tactics. The unpleasant episode reminded me of a very good book I read on the subject by Patricia Evans called The Verbally Abusive Relationship: How to recognize it and how to respond to it. Evans has written a number of books on abuse and other related topics which include, Verbal Abuse Survivors Speak Out...Teen Torment: Overcoming Verbal Abuse at Home and School...and...Controlling People: How to Recognize, Understand, and Deal with People Who Try to Control You. I recommend her work highly and encourage anyone who is dealing with emotional/verbal abuse at home, school, work, etc. to check out her work and become a spellbreaker before you look back on your life ten years from now and wonder to yourself, "why did I tolerate" such nonsense. Here are some excerpts from her book on Verbal Abuse to give you a flavor of her thoughts on the subject...and...don't forget, "Sticks and Stones may break your bones, but words will break our hearts", Robert Fulghum.

An abuser is determined to not admit to their manipulation and need for control.If they did, they would have to come face to face with their own feelings...and...since a verbal abuser needs to have Power Over their partner, they cannot accept them as their equal.

An abuser's worth is derived from a sense of one-upmanship and winning over. If one partner accomplishes something, the abuser views their accomplishment competitively.

There are many ways to manipulate another person, including being "friendly" only when one expects to get something from the other, suggesting disastrous outcomes to another's plans, and acting as if something has been agreed to or decided that hasn't been agreed to or decided.

When the verbal abuser refuses to discuss a problem, they prevent all possibility of resolution. In this way, they exercise control over the interpersonal are frequently left with a sick, hurt feeling that is never really resolved. There is no feeling of closure.

Verbal abuse closes the door to true communication and intimacy. Intimacy in a relationship requires mutuality. Mutuality requires goodwill, openess, and a willingness to share oneself. An abuser cannot control their partner and be intimate with them at the same time. Intimacy is lacking if there is no equality, partnership,mutuality, and goodwill...and...because of the abuser's need for dominance and their unwillingness to accept their partner as equal, the verbal abuser is compelled to negate the perceptions, experiences, values, accomplishments, and plans of their partner.

The more a partner shares their hopes and fears with the abuser, hoping for acceptance and intimacy, the more the abuser views their openness as weakness; the more superior they feel; the colder they become, and the more Power Over they feel.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Some things I would do over

I am generally not one for regretting most of my decisions of the past because it has finally sunk in that it is not a good idea to beat myself up. It's not that I don't reflect about the past because I often do but I believe that my emotional, physical, and spiritual condition at a particular time overrides my decision making process to the point that if I had to do things over I would probably make the same decision most of the time. For the sake of making conversation here is a list of some of the things that I wish I could over if I given the chance and was in the state of mind I am today.

1. I would have stayed in Oregon and not come home to Bakersfield after going to school at Oregon State. I have never liked living in Bakersfield and I can't wait to move someday.

2. I wish I would have dated more when I was in college. Between the ages of 19 and 25 I did not have one serious romantic relationship with a Daughter of Eve. What was I thinking?

3. I wish I would have went out for the Basketball team in high school. I was one the best players in Bakersfield in high school but had such a fear of failure I was afraid to go out for the team. I was so good that I frequently held my own playing against college players in pick up games and some of the guys I played against were starters on the Junior College state championship team. I was a scoring machine, a white version of Allen Iverson.

4. I wish I had traveled to Europe before I got married. I had planned to travel to Switzerland and study at L'abri, a popular religious study center but I ended up staying home, getting married and paying off my wife's student loans.

5. I wish I had experimented with at least one drug. To this day I have never experimented with any drug, not even beer and I just can't relate to people when they talk about drugs or drink a beer from time to time. I am like a fish out of water in most social situations because I don't drink beer, wine, etc.

6. I wish I had taken more risks in life. I have played it pretty safe most of my adult life. Lived in the same city, worked at the same high school for twenty two years and belonged to the same religious sub-culture for twenty five years. I just feel at times like I may have missed out on so much.

7. I wish I had pursued my creative side when I was younger by taking art classes, learned to play an instrument, or something. It wasn't until I was in my forties that I discovered that I had a very strong artistic side to me.

8. I wish I hadn't passed up two opportunities to see Dave Matthews and U-2 in concert years ago. I have a real cheap side to me and just couldn't pull the trigger on spending some bucks on a live concert but I now realize I really missed out.

9. I wish I hadn't gotten so engulfed by my religious and political ideology for so many years. In hindsight, I think it was counterproductive to much of my life and contributed to some of my marriage problems and lack of social skills and kept me insulated from the other half of the world for a so many years.

10. I wish I discovered some of my real "issues" when I was younger. For many years I have spent so much time and energy dealing with various symptoms with little to show for it and have only figured out the major pieces of the puzzle of my life in the last five years. Better late than never, I suppose.

Monday, February 02, 2009


Friendship is a necessity. If we neglect it, we will feel a vacuum in our soul. Friendship makes a major contribution to the process of soul-making and without it we feel a painful lack and debilitating weakness of heart. Friendship offers the soul intimacy and relatedness…and…without intimacy, the soul goes starving for the closeness provided by intimate relationships…In friendship, we want to receive and to be received. To the soul, there is hardly anything more healing than friendship…A friendship doesn’t require compatibility. Friendship is not essentially a union of personalities it is an attraction and magnetism of souls….It may be wise, then to cultivate friendships in an indirect manner. Friendship may not respond well to pressure….Friendship consists of mutual understanding, a common concern for each other, sensitivity to the soul work of the other….Friendship entails a paradoxical blending of intimacy and individuality….and…to the soul, there is hardly anything more healing than friendships... Thomas Moore

As I get older close friendships have become more elusive yet more important. Most of my friends my age are now very busy with work and family responsibilities which more often than not prevents them from hanging out with other guys much of the time. In general women seem to be more intentional about spending time with each other and mutual support seems to be an important aspect of their time spent together. Men on the other hand often get together for sporting events or just to shoot the bull where small talk seems to rule the day more often than not. Personally, I miss time with my single friends back before I was married when we would often sit up until the wee hours of the morning sharing our lives, hopes, and dreams. I can't turn back the clock but I would hope that more men would see the importance of taking more time to cultivate their relationships with other men and pursue the potential healing that is available to those men who are willing to be vulnerable, show concern, and sensitivity for each other. We need each other.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Are you listening God?

This is beginning to look serious. Much of California has experienced a drought the past two years and with no serious rain in sight it now looks like this will be the third year in a row we will get about half or less of our annual rainfall amount. Last year it was very dry in my neck of the woods, less than two and a half inches of rain for the entire year!...While California has an annual snow pack we can fall back on the snow pack to this point is only about 60% of normal. The coastal areas from Ventura to Monterey are going to be hurtin for certain because they get all their water from local reservoirs...which means...they may have to ration water by not watering their lawns and taking even more drastic measures. Personally, I miss the rain in large part because when it doesn't rain it looks just down right ugly in my neck of the woods and the air quality sucks. So, God, if you are reading my blog right now please send us some rain, snow, and wind because we need it really, really, bad...

Friday, January 30, 2009

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Since I tackled my favorite soundtracks a couple of days ago I thought I would next move on to my some of my all-time favorite songs. Here is a list of twenty of my favorite songs with a few brief comments. The order is random and doesn't correlate with the songs.

1. Strange Waters by Bruce Cockburn. This modern day psalm captures my journey and state of my soul better than any song.

2. Your Song by Elton John. I fell in love with this song in 1970 and I have loved it ever since.

3. Into the West by Annie Lennox from the Lord of the Rings soundtrack. I want this song to be played at my funeral. It touches my soul every time I hear it.

4. Jeremy by Pearl Jam. I can relate to Jeremy. I feel your pain and someday hope to meet you in the next life.

5. Almost any song by the Cambridge Singers. This is what the angels will be singing when I walk through the pearly gates.

6. Beyond These Shores by Iona. My latest favorite song. This song lifts my soul when I am lonely and feeling down.

7. Nights in White Satin by the Moody Blues. Classic rock. I can still remember listening to this song late at night on the local FM stations as a kid.

8. Child of the Wind by Bruce Cockburn. I swear this song is about me. If I ever meet Cockburn I am going to ask him he wrote this song with me in mind.

9. Good Morning Sunshine by Oliver. I wish I could wake up to this song every morning. It's better than coffee.

10. Seascapes by Michael Jones. I have been listening to this song/album for over 20 years and I never get tired of listening to it.

11.U-2. I can't just pick one. How about the following, Bad, 40, City of Blinding Lights, New Years Day, With or Without You, Unforgettable Fire, and Until the End of the World. Ask me another day and I'll probably give you a five or six different songs.

12. The Walrus by the Beatles. One of the most unique and weird song I have ever heard. It's right up there with "Puffy Little Clouds" by The Orb.

13. Faceless Man by Creed. When the angst meter is running high I turn to this song by Creed. Scott Stapp must have broken a blood vessel when recording this song in the studio.

14. Winter and I Can't see New York by Tori Amos. The most beautiful haunting songs by this wonderful artist.

15. From the Edge of the Deep Green Sea. Before there was Nirvana and grunge there was The Cure.

16. Riders on the Storm by the Doors. Oldie but goodie.

17. Kashmir by Led Zeppelin. The best gym work out song in history.

18. I'm Your Captain by Grand Funk Railroad. Thanks Dave for bringing this song back into my life and thanks USC for beating Michigan. I won this song in a bet.

19. Caoineadh Cu Chulainn (Lament) Riverdance This song captures the soul and spirit of the Irish.

20. Almost any song by John Michael Talbot. His songs take me back to my spiritual roots.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

My Favorite Soundtracks

I started buying movie soundtracks prior to the release of the Lord of the Rings. I was so excited about seeing the movie I just had to get something to keep me from going over the edge before the opening night. This is also when I started buying LOTR's action figures, but that's another story for another time. Here is a list of some of my favorite movie soundtracks. I think soundtracks are generally under appreciated and underrated.

1. The Lord of the Rings, all three soundtracks... Like the movie, the music is majestic and epic. I put it in the league with listening to one of Bach's Masses.

2. Friends, Elton John...Many years ago Elton John performed the music for a movie called Friends. I don't know anything about the movie. I think it was a French production but the music is very romantic and some of his best. If you like early Elton John, you'll like this little gem. I doubt if the soundtrack is still available but many of the songs can be found on his Rare Masters album.

3. Dances With Wolves: This soundtrack is as big, and bold as the broad sweeping landscape and cinematography of the film.

4. Into the Wild: Eddie Vedder the front man for Pearl Jam sings the songs for this soundtrack. A match made in heaven. His haunting voice is perfect for the storyline.

5. Braveheart: I am a sucker for anything Irish or Celtic. This soundtrack helps to
reinforce my opinion that pound for pound the Irish are the best.

6. The Last Samurai and The House of Flying Daggers: When I want or need to be in a
moment I turn on either one of these two soundtracks.

7. In the Name of the Father: Oldy but goody. The movie stars Daniel Day Lewis. An eclectic collection of songs but the soundtrack is worth it for the songs by Bono and Sinead Oconner. Powerful stuff. Maybe one of Bono's best.

8. Once Soundtrack: Nice collection of catchy tunes. Loved the movie. One of my favorites form last year. Alot of passion went into the movie and some of the songs.

9. Titanic: Great date music. Very romantic, just like the movie.

10. The Chronicles of Narnia soundtrack: I actually like and think the soundtrack is better than the movie. Give it a listen sometime.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Random Thoughts about Bilbo

I noticed a number of fellow cyberspace junkies posting 15 to 25 random thoughts about themselves. I really enjoyed reading what they wrote so I thought I would post some random thoughts about myself.

25. I once lost 25 pounds in six days.

24. My family were migrant field workers from Oklahoma.

23. I was adopted by my grandparents.

22. I was born in Santa Cruz California.

21. I wanted to be a forest ranger up until I was 20.

20. I once saw a Unicorn in the wild...kind of...really.

19. I attended four different colleges.

18. My favorite musicians are U-2 and Bruce Cockburn. It's a tie.

17. My favorite "current" authors are David Richo and
Thomas Moore.

16. I aspire to be a very good photographer someday.

15. I have cried more in the past year than in all my previous years combined.

14. I am a book collector. I specialize in illustrated books.

13. I own too many pairs of shoes.

12. I hope to get married again someday. Bag End has been a lonely
place for too long.

11. I have a Russian Icon that hangs above my bed.

10. My favorite vacation destination is Redwood National Park.

9. I think we should slash the military budget in half.

8. My two sisters married the same guy at different times in their lives.

7. I love the wind blowing on my face.

6. I don't get it why so many people like the popular reality shows.

5. I once beat my chess coach 40 plus times in a row.

4. I never acquired a taste for coffee,tea, beer, wine.

3. I eat a Healthy Choice chocolate bar almost every night.

2. Chris Matthews is my favorite political pundit and Charlie Rose my favorite

1. I hope to take a trip to Europe and go on a cross country drive before I die.

Monday, December 29, 2008

Another Visit to Christmas Around the World

Today I went back to the Christmas Around the World exhibit for the sixth time. Why six times?...On the previous five visits I have taken a friend or family member to see what is the second largest nativity exhibit in the world. This time I went back to finish photographing some of the nativities and ornaments I had passed over on my previous photo shoot. It has been a pleasure to photograph this exhibit and it has helped to hone my skills photographing indoors which has always been a challenge for me. I hope you enjoy this latest edition of Christmas displays from the Christmas Around the World exhibit.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Christmas Around the World

Earlier today I visited the Christmas Around the World exhibit for the second time during this past week. The exhibit includes over 2000 nativities from all around the world and is spectacular and hands down the best Christmas exhibit I have attended in Bakersfield. It is worthy of museum status in my opinion. If you want to see more pictures you can see them over at my photography site called Bilbo's Adventures. During the holiday season I try to get out as much as I can and attend as many local Christmas events as possible. Christmas is a special time of the year and the holiday lights, Christmas music, church services, and various Christmas festivities helps make it truly a magical time of the year, even if the economy sucks.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

The Enchantment of Christmas

This week-end marks the beginning of the Holiday season. While we all look forward to eating turkey, pumpkin pie, putting up Christmas trees and spending time with loved ones for a significant number of people the holiday season also signifies a time of stress and deep depression for some. Personally I generally have my highest highs and lowest lows during this time of the year. Since my divorce over seven years ago I have really bounced around during the holiday season going here and there often not sure who or where I am going to spend Thanksgiving or Christmas day.

In an effort to ward off the holiday blues this season I am trying to be more intentional about what I do and where I go for the holidays. Over the past couple of days I have spent a significant amount of time decorating my house in an effort to create an atmosphere that will hopefully lift my soul and the spirit of anyone who comes to visit. So far I am really pleased with what I have created this year. Over the years my holiday tastes have evolved to include a bit of almost everything from traditional nativity scenes to gnomes, dragons, fairies, and my latest Christmas Viking ship decoration. To the Christmas traditionalist my house may appear to be an eclectic mass of Christmas schizophrenia but there is a method to my apparent madness. It’s called “enchantment” and for at least the past eighteen years or so I have slowly, gradually, and methodically surrounded myself with objects and mythological beings which are by their very nature incarnations of the spirit of enchantment.

I am not sure where the origins of this magical/mythical appeal are rooted. Perhaps it originally started when I became obsessed as a boy with watching Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer…or…maybe it all started with the birth of my two sons eighteen years ago. Whatever the case, my heart and home are now inhabited by religious and mythological symbols and beings which help to create a feeling of enchantment and in a world filled with so much cynicism and assumed cold hard facts it is always good to come home to an alternative world filled with creatures, beings and powerful religious and mythical symbols which remind us of the beauty and enchantment that co-exist with a world dominated by science, politics, competing ideologies and some religious people who seem determined to squelch anything magical or mysterious.

Earlier in the day I spent time photographing some of the enchanting symbols and creatures who now inhabit my humble abode and I have posted the entire collection of this years Christmas decorations on my photography blog called Bilbo’s Adventures.