Month: September 2016

Waiting for Guidance



If you give yourself enough time to be guided, you can probably count on guidance. But if you don’t, if you just have to action right away, sometimes you will pay for your impetuousness. The biggest lie I tell myself is that time is of the essence, that I must hurry because the window of opportunity is closing. Windows and doors of opportunity and slamming shut all the time, while others are just as regularly opening.


My motives are often mixed, so that makes trusting my motivations more difficult. I’m always trying to hide a bad motive under a good one. If I’m anything less than straightforward in my actions, I always get called on them anyway, sometimes sooner than later, but in the long run I never get away with anything.


Any virtue I practice is simply motivated by self-preservation. If I were more clever, perhaps I could pull off being devious, but since I’m not, I don’t.









Why do pop stars suffer from anxiety?


When I turned it on this morning, my computer asked me this question. I was still drowsy and waiting for the coffee to kick in, but it got me wondering. Maybe pop stars are worried about disappointing their many impressionable fans. Could be they’re all too aware that eventually, despite their best efforts to project a false image, they will ultimately expose their true selves to a critical public. This will not be a pretty sight.Then they will have nothing. No career, no fans, just humiliation and disgrace.


Everyone living a lie has that fear. Pop music appeals to a younger crowd, a group primed to value superficial over substance. Did Frank Sinatra suffer from anxiety? How about Bing?


Older men probably don’t care as much about being popular with their peer group as do those recently graduated from the extreme self-consciousness of adolescence. They might feel anxiety if the money starts to dry up. By now they will be all too aware of the shallow rewards and deep pitfalls of being a pop star.


Adolescents and those of any age with that level of emotional maturity will still long to become celebrities. When I taught in both Paraguay and Thailand, I asked my students what they wanted to be when they grew up. They all said the same thing. “Famous.”


Shell Shocked



I was born in 1950, and grew up under the influence of two very powerful belief systems, anti-communism and Roman Catholicism. During my most impressionable years, I lived in constant dread of nuclear annihilation and the Second Coming, both of which understandably occupied the same place in my brain.


All during my primary school years we were being warned by nuns and civil defense announcements that the rug could be pulled out from under us at any time. Prepare to meet Thy Maker!


Little wonder that today I find myself limping through life, waiting for something Terrible To Happen. In my fifth-grade geography book, there was a story about Obit and Kara, two lucky Polynesian kids my age who lived year-’round in a tropical paradise. They didn’t have to worry about winter coats or shoes. They didn’t know the rug could be pulled out from under them at any time, in fact they didn’t even have a rug, just white sand beaches and coconut palms they could climb for fun and nourishment. At night they saw bright stars reflected in the ocean instead of watching their parents in the glow of the TV grow tense as Walter Cronkite gravely intoned the day’s news.


1960’s TV almost gleefully offered repeat showings of our H-bomb destroying the Bikini Atoll, a tropical island much like the one presented in our geography book. Walt Disney stepped up to the radioactive plate with “Our Friend the Atom,” showing us the happy side of a nuclear future. Things weren’t getting worse, but better. In the future we would fly around our cities in atomic helicopters.


In the documentary film “The Fog of War” Robert McNamera admits that we were much closer to nuclear holocaust during the Cuban missile crisis than had previously been admitted. I remember being terrified that week, as my natural tendency towards free-floating anxiety found concentrated focus.


And when political tensions temporarily eased, the nuns would be sure to remind us about the Red Chinese and their persecution of Cardinal Mezvinsky, who staunchly declined to renounce the True Faith despite being tortured on a daily basis. “Boys and girls, would you have the faith to die for Jesus?” They told us of a little boy who had died under a hail of Communist gunfire rescuing the Blessed Sacrament from Communist invaders. He died with a smile upon his lips, certain of entering Eternity. Would we be able to make the same claim?


Living in a state of perpetual fear, I soon began to suffer from insomnia and eczema. I’m sure there are many people about my age who had been children in Laos, Vietnam and Cambodia, actually living under constant real bombardment. Our daily bombing of Laos continued for eight years, and women and children were among the intended targets. If only I could speak their language, I could pull aside a man or woman in that age group and ask  him or her what it was like. I might not enjoy listening to the reply.