Serenity….

Newspapers, social media, noise, heat, inflation, shootings, wars, COVID, abortion, government, religion, education, Supreme Court, LGBTQ. Did I miss anything? If one were to consider all of these in unison as an attack on our psyches, we should all be committed. 

Some of us are blind and or deaf. Some of us choose to ignore all this. For those of us who have not exited from everyday life, my heart goes out to you …and me. I decided to take a deeper drive. 

Maybe we are gluttons for punishment but Kathy and I like to tune in the national and local news. On the major networks I think you have to go through a grim reaper audition to be an anchor. Lester Holt, Norah O’Donnell and David Muir, Wolf Blitzer and I don’t have a clue who is on Fox, have got gloom and doom down to a science. Smiles and a soothing tone are verboten. Just he facts, ma’am !

In houses all over our wonderful land you don’t need a clicker. It stays on the same channel all day long. How many times can you watch shells in Ukraine, a raging forest fire or the latest totally confusing info on COVID? People, it is not going to change. Insanity is said to be doing the same stupid thing over and over again. Yes I am guilty too. 

I had a woman patient in hospice a couple of weeks ago who was beautiful, classy and more than aware of her situation. We talked for quite awhile. She related her story of 70 plus years and there was a reverie that was enchanting. She had fun as a flight attendant but had been sober for 40 years. Her smoking too much for too long brought her to death’s door. She was calm and accepting. 

Her greatest joy was being a teacher of English to high school freshmen. She pushed them and challenged them to be better than they thought. When they arrived back after Christmas break she had placed a sign saying “Honors English” over the classroom door. If they did not believe they belonged, they should not go in. They all did. 

As we talked, she spoke softly and I had to strain to listen. A good thing in its own right. I asked her what she thought of today’s circumstances.

She put it simply…a lack of gratitude. Not just being an American but just being alive with all its wonderful implications. Not worrying what one didn’t have but what they did. Rich, poor, white, black, we just don’t get it. Pretty poignant. 

She went on to speak of acceptance. Today she said, everyone has an excuse for every little thing. They whine constantly about their plight. Look at us, with my litany above in mind. We are wary and fearful. We almost sit helpless and critical of so many things. I know people face hard times. But no matter what or how bad we have it better than someone else.

I came home deep in thought. I wanted to jot down notes to try to get it right. As I pondered I heard sounds outside. We were having our house painted. The crew was Hispanic. They were laughing and singing in the hot Florida sun. Somehow and some way life was good. I wonder how many others feel that way about what they do?

The definition of serenity is a state of being calm, peaceful and untroubled. It sounds corny and a little Kumbaya but think about it. If only for a few moments a day set all the bullshit aside and just get lost in thought. Just like my lady friend have gratitude, be thankful. I guess what I am saying is be spiritual. Not necessarily in a religious sense but thinking inward and not about “stuff”. 

The synonym for serenity is tranquility. It’s early morning here in Flalaland. The sun is just hinting at a black sky. It is beyond quiet. Kind of cool. A great way to start my day. An interesting thought is that big glowing orb comes up every day right on schedule, everywhere on our planet. I guess we all have something in common. Enjoy it. 

As always,

Ted The Great

Factoids:

Another woman a couple of months ago greeted me with a big smile when I asked her how she was doing? She simply stated she was very happy. She knew she was gong to die and was ready. After we chatted for quite awhile I held her hand and gave her a hug. I said, “Wow, your hands are cold”. She looked at me with a smile and a twinkle and said,”And they are going to get a lot colder soon”  I guess that is a better definition of serenity. Her candor blew my mind.

Steps to serenity:

Acceptance

Don’t take things personally.

Breath and step away. Don’t dwell on it. 

Avoid toxic people. Just leave them alone. 

Laugh at the world and yourself. 

Sounds like a plan. 

Wanna Fight?….

I have been grappling with a thing called democracy for quite a few days. We were fortunate to spend the Fourth of July weekend with great friends in DC. We watched the fireworks at the Washington Monument from a great perch on the 18th fairway of the Army Navy Country Club. Hundreds of military officers and their families. Doesn’t get much better than that. 

The Capitol presented a totally different view from the myriad of expressways in and around the Beltway. Gridlock 24/7.Who are all these people and am I paying for them? Houses and condos selling for millions everywhere suggest the basics for inflation. A strong feeling of insanity and total helplessness pervaded this poor soul. Kind of like, Does this all make sense?

All the while I kept thinking a government of the people, by the people, and for the people and shaking my head. How the hell did we get to this? How can these people relate to one another much less their constituents? Is this the folly of the system or the way we run it?

I was a poli sci major at Georgetown and a little rusty but let’s just say we have a representative form of government. We elect someone to look out for our interests. In the beginning it was pretty simple and their hearts were in the right place despite what some might think today. 

We are a federation of states, each with their own needs and providence for their people. As we grew from the 13 originals, things got more complex. North, south, east, west all had their own idea of heaven. We went from a nice little new world to become a juggernaut worldwide. 

We were also pretty successful and as a result, a lot of those damn foreigners wanted in on the action. We became a very diverse lot and now have so many interest groups prevail that it is hard to figure out what we and more importantly our representatives believe in. We unite under a banner of left, right or center but truth be told if we were to ask each member of the electorate what they comprehended about policy, you would be shocked  at their answers. 

Now a country that is 245 years old is  pretty young but we are showing signs of neglect. Immigration, education, medical care, infrastructure, trade, and a huge deficit need an adult in the room. That should be easy. Really?

We elect a bunch of people every two years. We have had it good for so long we really don’t like the word austerity. Individuals and corporations have grown so incredibly wealthy they have an outsized influence on what really matters to you and me. Those that are in the minority spend the next two years seeing how that can screw the other side. And lastly we have a wonderful population who don’t want to spend the time to understand all sides. What could possibly go wrong?

This is why we have chaos but is it integral? There is a guy named,Eric Liu who runs a thing called the Citizen University. Let’s not get hung up on philosophies but he pronounced, “fighting is at the heart of democracy.” I really had to think about that. You believe in something and you are convinced you are right. I believe in the opposite and think my thoughts worthy. Is either side going to give up easily?

Let’s not have the current level of political debates but ones like  we had in college or high school. Each side presented their case. There is no screaming or yelling but a presentation of facts. In the end the judges cast their vote for who did the best job. Okay that is far too simplistic but think about the process not the participants. Isn’t that what democracy is supposed to be?

Authoritarianism is coming on strong. The number of truly free countries number 83. That is down considerably over the last 15 years. Through the elimination of the freedoms of speech, press, and protest, autocrats they  have eradicated any sense of personal autonomy.  The simple operation of the US government and others has fallen short in a multitude of areas. In a lot of ways we can’t provide basic services to a large number of our citizens.People are thinking elsewhere.  Depressing? Of course. 

I had breakfast with an old friend the other day. I tried to verbalize my thoughts in a hope that I could be in any way lucid to my readers. I felt that all three of our departments of government have failed us in some way. Unfortunately I think we as citizens have failed as well. It sounds trite but we are all suspect. We have had in our short history a great game plan but we have become so ambivalent towards its execution. 

Bottom line is we have to have adults in the room. We need pragmatists that know how to make tough decisions and if they get fired for it, so be it. These are not seats of power but temporary assignments to bring new ideas and approaches. A friend said we need the experience of the legislative septuagenarians and octogenarians to make things work. To me, today’s mess is all part of their brilliance and ability to govern. How do you think they are doing?

Our election to the offices of president, congress and even the Supreme Court are fraught with vitriol and misinformation. I do not agree with Eric Liu that democracy is fighting. I think it is a discussion between friends with some sort of common purpose. I have had a lot of fights in my day and the vast majority were stupid ones. I am trying to grow up. Are you ?

As always 

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

Democracy is a belief. You must trust it, study it and practice it. 

“Democracy is the worst form of government – except for all the others that have been tried.”  Winston Churchill

The most obvious way to make government accountable is by holding fair and honest elections. $14.4 billion was spent on the 2020 presidential and legislative elections.  $5.7 billion on the presidents and $8.7billion on Congress.23% of these totals were from small donors. Hmmm. 

 Most economists agree that a common good must serve to better society, be accessible to society and require some sort of societal sacrifice to have. I had to pore through several Google picked to derive this explanation. We have gone back to Socrates to try to do so. Says something doesn’t it?

Define the problem first before the solution.Most difficult part of the venture.

Paranoid?…

Paranoia….a mental condition characterized by delusions of persecution, unwarranted jealousy, or exaggerated self-importance, typically elaborated into an organized system. I dare say we have all been there in some part at some point in time. Today it is the cause celebre in many aspects of our lives. Geopolitics, class struggle, climate change, COVID.all have their villains and victims. 

COVID 19 was and in many parts still is, a wellspring of fear. In the beginning we had no idea what was happening. Isolation was the best tonic. Mask up everywhere. The Chinese are out to get us. Fauci is a socialist. Beware of anyone and any contact with any part of humanity. Lockdown was our personna. 

Then we got a vaccine. Maybe a light at the end of the tunnel. Sure, if everyone got on board.  But wait, there are 1/3 of us(110million) who have forgone the “Get Out of Jail Free Card” to go it on their own. This of course is part of a government conspiracy to implant you with nano chips so they can spy on you. Crazy? Unfortunately there are as many as 20% of us that feel that way. Some have refused it, even on their death bed. 

On the world stage, Russia has for centuries feared the worst from the evil west. China wants to regain their lost dominance in world affairs.We have been petrified someone will press the button to Armageddon since I was a kid.  Look at the trillions we all spend on defense against the enemy. Look at almost any country and there is some sort of grudge or lack of respect to be assuaged.

His Hairness gets the Oscar,Emmy and Tony for best in class for his performance in “Stolen Elections”. His family and closest confidants to this day tell him he lost and yet he persists. There were 62 lawsuits, many overseen by Republican appointed judges that failed. And yet today there are almost 40 million of our fellow Americans who think he is right. His rallies have been laced with feelings of victimhood and stubborn refusal to accept a result.  No wonder we had January 6 festivities. 

Don’t get smug, lefties. There are any number of Dem whack jobs like Bernie Sanders, Maxine Waters, Adam Schiff et al who can conjure up every conceivable theory to prove their point. Hilary said the election was stolen. Going back in time, the evils of communism or race have peppered our body politic. Joe McCarthy, J Edgar Hoover, Nixon. Facts become fantasy and the one who wins has stoked the most fear. 

Richard Hofstedter penned an article in Harpers way back in 1964 on political paranoia. An updated version states,”The political paranoiac can’t stomach society as it is and thus seeks to destroy it under the guise of some looming threat, a deep state, antifa, migrant caravans, leftists, anarchists, an international pedophile ring … Those taken with the paranoid style channel their victimhood by believing the world is one vast conspiracy.” Yikes! 

Enter the fourth estate. Hopefully we would just get the facts Ma’am. Sorry kids. Look at the evening news on any channel and you will be rewarded with a plethora of fears from school shootings to rioting to wars to floods. Social media has flourished with the firebrands of each side whipping us into a full blown frenzy. Gloom and doom pervades and no one has an answer.  I am starting to scare myself. 

Now you can tell me to take it easy and the pendulum or whatever will swing the other way. I am not so sure of this. Look at our contemporary world. We have privacy issues, identity theft, social media, lack of transparency in government, artificial intelligence, hackers and scams of all sorts. The end result is I question whether  am I worrying too much or not enough? 

The symptoms of paranoia are many. The ones that strike me as particular are, a feeling of helplessness, suspicions of all sorts, hypersensitivity to criticism, stubbornness and the best of all, delusions of grandeur. Do you feel helpless when you see our government and society today? Do you find it hard to accept anything other than your own credos? Do you think you really have all the answers and the world just doesn’t realize it? If we look hard at ourselves there is probably a bit of this in all of  us. Or at least in this poor soul. 

Now hopefully it is not terminal but after going through this exercise I realize I have a lot to do. I really don’t feel the world or anyone in it, is out to get me but I really should take more ownership of my life. I am doing the driving and should not blame the car. I should seek out more and more information on a subject. Look at all sides and not just the one Google or Facebook is steering me towards. Be able to bend if only a little. 

Lastly, I have to realize the world is a crazy but interesting place. I can’t look into Putin’s soul or convince the Donald or Pelosi otherwise. I have to stay involved and not throw my hands up in disgust. Am I going to save the world? Of course not but I can try to change just a small part of it. That is my goal in speaking out and not my paranoia. I hope a few of you hear it. 

As always 

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

Paranoia goes back millennia. The Trojan horse. Et tu Brute. Kings and queens and yes even popes. One is constantly looking over one’s shoulder to see who is behind…and of course they are there to get me. 

Reality:…the world or the state of things as they actually exist, as opposed to an idealistic or notional idea of them. 

Reality is what actually happens. It is how we interpret it and either adapt to it or create an alternate reality drives so much of our lives. We rue the past sometimes and also create absurd expectations about the future . It is what it is. 

I Want To Be Alone…….

 

Greta  Garbo was one of the more illustrious movie stars who craved to be away from the madding crowd. She and others like Howard Hughes, Harrison Ford and even Tom Hanks have shunned the limelight. Most of them can afford to, but the rest of us like the mix of our fellow men and women in a variety of social situations. The spate of mass killings has brought this more to the fore. This gunman or that, appears to be a loner, detached from normal society, whatever that is. A kid in school who keeps to him or herself is considered a weirdo. Hermits, monks. Don’t they know what they are missing? Maybe.

We are social animals. It has been bred into us for sheer survival. Safety in numbers. Over time that defense alliance has given birth to conviviality. As we trust more, we open up and want to relate our experiences, philosophies and beliefs.  We see threads of commonalty and that gives way to a sense of community. 

This is how villages and cities and states are formed but hearkening back to that fear of the enemy we become somewhat closed to outsiders. We have our rules and if you want to stay here you better abide by them. Rural areas are notorious by being suspicious of outsiders. North, South, East, West all lay claim to their version of heaven. 

The definition of community is all the people living in an area or a group or groups of people who share common interests. I would add, “ and seek the common good. Let’s talk silos if you will. The town splits into several churches or synagogues of religious belief. There might be  club formed, be it Rotary, golf or tennis.  People of different political views form parties. We keep getting more and more specific as to our wants and dislikes. And we keep parsing this thing called community almost to the point we are no longer one in any respect. 

Enter the double edged sword of education. In the little red schoolhouse you didn’t really  rock the boat or your mother would know it before you got home. As people started pursuing higher learning they started getting all sorts of crazy thoughts. The more the economically challenged or at least non elites, started learning about the complexities of the world, they began to  ask why? Or better yet why not me? 

Now you can call that democracy and I will buy it. You can also call it anarchy and I might be prone to agree with you on that also. As we become more exclusionary we go from selfless of the early days to when that good old thing called selfish takes its place. Everyone is fighting for a place at the table whether it be in thought or their pocketbook. In a strange way they want to be more exclusive or dare I say, alone. 

There is a huge difference between being lonely and wanting to be alone. In the latter you just want a timeout from the rat race. You want to take a walk, read a book or sing in the shower without worrying about what people think. It is “you” time and very healthy. 

Being lonely is a whole other thing. You want to be part of something but there is no way in. Just a smile or friendly hello would work wonders but they are nowhere to be found. You can be left out for your age, ethnicity, religion or political tenets. Your dress and your feelings are contrary to the local rules. Go back where you came from. You are not wanted here. You are too old or too radical for us. Sad but true. 

Now most just accept their fate and try to make do. They eventually fade to black, Others sit and fester. Their rage against their fellow man or woman intensifies. They can go online and get really whipped up. In a strange way they are forming a new community. And then BOOM! And we all wonder why it happened. Small town or big city. Why didn’t we see this coming? Why couldn’t we fix it?  How hard do we try?

Communities come in all sorts. It could be a family, a street or town. It could be a county, a state or a country. It could be at work or at play. We have common interests. What if we all thought not of our little burghs but a much bigger picture. We are all Americans. Do we really think that way? We are all members of the planet. Is that possible to even fathom?

In Flalaland Kathy and I live in a most unusual place. People are beyond welcoming and everyday it is easy to say hello to a dozen or more neighbors. Nobody really asks what you did or where you came from. Just nice to have you here. That feels good. Will that change over time? Good question. Will more and more new entrants want to have it their way or ours? Or is it possible the change will be gradual and God forbid for the best? 

Solitude is good for the soul but many times tough to achieve. Our frenetic world wants us to be accessible 24/7. Every little thing requires our attention. We want to respond and micromanage. For me,I usually take a look at the cliff for the beauty beyond it rather than worry if I am going over it. It has worked so far for 77 years. Do I want to be alone? Hell no! But I worry all the time about those that have no other choice. 

As always 

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

  • The number of over-50s experiencing loneliness is set to reach two million by 2025/6. This compares to around 1.4 million in 2016/7 – a 49% increase in 10 years [6]
  • Half a million older people go at least five or six days a week without seeing or speaking to anyone at all 
  • Two fifths all older people (about 3.9 million) say the television is their main company.

Loneliness does not depend on how many friends or relationships you have. Loneliness depends entirely on the subjective quality of your relationships—on whether you feel emotionally and/or socially disconnected from those around you.

Smiling stimulates our brain’s reward mechanisms in a way that even chocolate, a well-regarded pleasure-inducer, cannot match. It is the best way to make a lonely person feel wanted.

Whenever you go to the gas station, store or restaurant, just say hello and mean it. You might have saved that person’s life or at worse made their day. Think about that. 

Perception Is Not Reality….

I have just read a book by Marian Salzman, The New Megatrends. It was more than interesting but as I read I questioned her base assumptions and then went on to see if her postulations held true. I usually question veracity in everything. Not because I am not a naysayer but in today’s environment you have to be skeptical at best. 

Rightly or wrongly I have always fought against conventional thinking. Right off the bat I am challenged by both sides. I am not a MENSA candidate but there are holes in so many beliefs. Without being overly dramatic I try to dig down and cut out the bullshit and see what is really going on. I am not alone but I am probably not  of the majority. 

Let’s go back to basics. I was born some 77 years ago. Strangely enough at that time and to this day I was not different than anybody else. I was a blank slate. The entire world population of 7.9 billion share 99.9% of the same DNA. That is both sobering and exciting. We weren’t born Republican or Democrat or Asian or European or even rich or poor. I was just a new human being plunked on this planet. Look out world!

As time went on I was either nurtured or abandoned. I was stimulated or set aside as a hood ornament. I was subject to love or abandonment. I was influenced by love and prejudice. I had an easy or a hard life. I was adjudged chosen or part of the refuse pile of life. I looked at life through a prism that was forced on me not chosen. I lived in Disneyworld or a ghetto and many times never knew of the other side. But it was who I was or at least who I was supposed to be. 

That perception stays with people for decades if not their entire lives. Now you can say that is the way society works and you might be right. It just seems to me reality gets father and farther away from all points on the spectrum. We really are products of our environment which is fine but haven’t we built in a view of he world that is not in synch with what is really going on?

Reality is just what is happening  at a given point of time. It is completely objective. As I love to say,It is what it is. I can look at an event through my different lenses and see it entirely differently than you. Who is right? In normal time we take look at things and say well it could be this or that. As the only saying goes, if you look at the right and left the truth is somewhere in the middle. We had  biases but we could see some of the error of our ways. 

That is out the window now. I would feel more comfortable with the extremes if they were based on fact or dare I say, reality. Sorry kids, the 2020 election was not stolen. Yet 60% of Republicans think it so. We cannot apply limitless funds to solve each and every problem but Democrats feel we haven’t even begun to open the nation’s vault.

 On the right we say less government intervention and rules. Don’t worry but  rely on the basic honesty of people. Right.. On the left we haven’t spent the initial COVID relief programs but we want more. Money is the solution to all our problems. 10 billion lost here or 50 billion there are just rounding problems. People, we have lost all sense of reality.

We cannot have an infrastructure that is crumbling but is encumbered by a myriad or rules and departments to oversee projects that have to be done now not years from now with resulting cost overruns. Yet we can’t cheat and lie on contracts and their fulfillment . We need flexibility but culpability. 

We have spent trillions on programs to help the poor with minimal results. Yet at the same time we pontificate that these  people just have to work hard and get ahead. Tragically all that money gets teachers who are not smart and incentivized but at the low end of the talent chain. Do you really think doctors and healthcare workers of a high caliber are going to use their talents to fix a screwed up system. Either side feel free to speak up if you think you have a handle on realty or is it really your perception of it?

Equality in pay and advancement is coming at a snail’s pace. You know it and I do too, that  women and minorities have been placated at best with cries of progress. At the same time if there is to be equality it has to be demonstrated that the talent is there and not  a required quota. For the upper 1% the rewards are absurd. That is not anti capitalism but a long look in the mirror. 

We got problems right here in River City. As we go through life every one of us could be busted for DUI. We have had it easy. When things are rolling we can cite this statistic or that but it is all our way of feeling better about who we are. I love the life that I have but it is with a dose of sobriety. The haves have gone too far and the haven’ts want a free ride. Somewhere in between is the right answer. 

The ending of the book revealed that we are all coming more and more into ourselves. The “ME” society is evident everywhere. Young and old. Every man or woman for themselves. Hyperbole? Look around you and not with your built in biases on either side but with a cold hard look at reality. Let me know if I have hit a nerve or totally missed the base. 

As always

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

Jamie Dimon, Chairman and CEO of JP Morgan in his bid to receive $84.4 million in annual pay was voted down by 31% of the stockholders. The company said the vote mat not be binding. The stock is down 23% from its highs. 

A policy analysis released by the Cato Institute in April shows that despite nearly $15 trillion in total welfare spending since President Lyndon Johnson began the “war on poverty” in 1964, the poverty rate in the United States has remained relatively constant.

U.S. health care spending grew 9.7 percent in 2020, reaching $4.1 trillion or $12,530 per person. As a share of the nation’s Gross Domestic spending was 18.7% of the national budget 

Research shows that Facebook users engage with misinformation — which often takes the form of fake news — 70 million times per month on average. This is a decline from the 2016 peak of 200 million monthly fake news engagements, but still no small figure. On Twitter, people share false content 4 million to 6 million times per month, a figure that has not declined since the 2016 election.

There are numerous theories that question whether reality is possible. I think it is but would take massive amounts of soul searching to accomplish. I am just getting started 

Where Are We Going?……

I have been trying hard over the past couple of weeks to take my little brain back up to 30,000 feet. The view is better up here and fault lines are more obvious. There was a great article in the Wall Street Journal this weekend that asked if history has some rhyme or reason to it or is it just a whole bunch of random events? Good question.

It seems that it was just a few years ago we were in the midst of globalization. I buy from here and sell to there.Little countries became important if for nothing more than cheap labor.  Standards of living started getting to survival level. People were able to buy things they never thought they needed.

They became educated and more perceptive of the world around them. There was mobility.  Life was good and going in a positive direction for most. That should continue and prosperity reigns.

True to form that was not good enough or fast enough for some. I want it all and I want it now. Nationalism creeps in. Trade, immigration, even education takes on an air of conflict. Supply chains and diplomacy are a mess. The two bit bully on the block tries to take a chunk of land while waving nukes at us. China and everyone else seems to be on sort of a mission to prove their standing in our world. Is all or any of this connected and inevitable?

We have made some incredible strides and catastrophic mistakes throughout history. As the world become more affluent more seek higher education and that breeds new ideas and creativity. Yet in our new Age of Enlightenment we trend more towards anarchy and polarization rather than a kinder gentler world. Is this the way it is supposed to be?  Is this evolution of the body politic or just smashing atoms? Dunno. 

Technology has made this a different ball game.Make no doubt that Google, Facebook, Twitter et al have made our brains very easy to get into. The algorithms automatically shape opinion in a subtle and robotic fashion. The left and right learn next to nothing about alternate or opposing views. We claim to be open minded but they are actually locked shut. We are at opposite ends of the spectrum because that is very profitable for so many. 

The worst part is the anonymity of the spears and hatchets thrown. In a nanosecond my vitriol can destroy someone and have it “liked” or retweeted to thousands in a matter of seconds. No one can prove or disprove the allegations. We have perfected bots to the point where they can create cogent  praise or defamation just by pressing a button. 

How did we get here? I think a great part of this is our neglect of consequences or outcomes. I am stunned sometimes to see our military, three levers of government, medicine, education, corporations and even churches make some really boneheaded moves without realizing “what they have wrought”. You can ascribe this to a learning curve. I say it is blatant egoism and disregard. Irresponsible or criminal? Now we are getting to the good stuff. 

We place great emphasis on brainpower and experience. Look at our bewildering response to COVID. Not good! Archbishops, cardinals, university presidents, corporate executives, coaches have fostered and extended sexual predation. A festering boil. Malfeasance at every level of the food chain. Government programs at all levels are plagued by theft and corruption. Does history teach us anything?

I am in awe of Valadymir Zelensky, a former comedian turned leader. Inexperienced in both the government and military he has put on some performance. Is he just lucky? I think not. He has proven one thing to the chagrin of many world leaders.

They are not as regal in both position and thinking as they thought they were. Nations and skeptics have sat on the sidelines and now are all getting on the Ukraine bandwagon. Bully for them. How original. I didn’t see a statesman or stateswoman in the lot. That is not taking shots but being brutally honest. 

I guess what I am saying and have said before is that we have to take a long look at who we are as a nation and a world. Here we have to look at immigration and fix it. We have been trying for 35 years to no avail. Don’t snicker at that, but become nauseated. Our educational system is a wreck for a lack of a “Come to Jesus” meeting for all involved. Corporate boards and religious enclaves have to do away with the pomp and get their hands dirty. History is ripe with our foibles. They don’t overshadow but definitely compete with our accomplishments. 

On the world stage we are never going to agree on a system that fits all. The UN was a nice idea that has now gone impotent. War crime tribunals are an exercise in futility if we don’t have the guts to enforce their judgments. Sadly, we all act in our own best interests. Let’s just admit it. 

Where are we going? Don’t look to prognosticators to tell us. Look to ourselves and see if we want to make a difference or just enjoy the ride. Where that ride ends up depends on each and every one of us. 

As always

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

Below is a chart of countries on the democracy spectrum. Pretty amazing.Most notable is the number of authoritarian regimes. Some people like it that way or don’t know any other way. The democracy numbers have declined. 

Type of regimeScoreCountriesProportion of World population (%)
Number(%)
Full democracies9.01–10.00   8.01–9.002112.6%6.4%
Flawed democracies7.01–8.00   6.01–7.005331.7%39.3%
Hybrid regimes5.01–6.00   4.01–5.003420.4%17.2%
Authoritarian regimes3.01–4.00   0–3.005935.3%37.1%

Predators can be anyone, including a family member, clergy colleague, coach or friend. According to The Pragmatic Parent, “90% of the time a predator is someone with a relationship to the victim and the family. On the outside, they have a great looking life and are well-liked by others.Much of the time someone definitely knows what is going on .

Smart is being curious. It is realizing what you don’t know. It is to be willing to adapt to changing circumstances. It is taking life’s lessons and changing our own lives and maybe a small part of the world

Gratification, Happiness and Serenity

I have just had another birthday. The bigger the number it seems the more wistful one gets. You think about where you have been and more importantly how you are going to live your life from here on out. The temptation is to put your feet up and go on auto pilot. Somehow I am not quite ready for that…yet. 

The world is a crazy place. Or should I say the world is constant, the inmates are crazy. I often think the mountains and trees and oceans, that have been there for millennia, must look at us and say,”What are those idiots thinking?” 

You can get philosophical and question why we were put here? I truly believe we all play a part. The trick is finding out which one is best for you, whether we are talking loved ones, careers or just where we plant ourselves.  It probably comes down to following your talents whatever they may be. 

There are gazillions of books on how to find happiness. I have read a bunch of them. Then I had my Aha moment when I realized happiness is a somewhat transitory state. You capture a moment and think it can’t get any better. That can be an incredible sight, a stolen kiss, a glass of wine or even a promotion. You have found the perfect house, shot 78 or driven a very cool car in your driving loafers and smooth leather gloves. It doesn’t last forever.

Some feel you should act like this this every day and maybe they can. The term gratification, comes to mind.  It is the pursuit of pleasure; sensual self-indulgence. You have earned it. You can do anything you want at any time and the cost is irrelevant. It is not just rich people but a poor soul who squanders their meager funds on something stupid. 

Think about it for a second. We have the ability to go online, buy anything we want and have it delivered in a few hours or God forbid the next day. You put it on that magic piece of plastic and eat drink and be merry for we don’t have to pay for at least a month and then only a minimal sum. And all for that one euphoric moment when all your dreams come true and then, POOF, you are searching for another hit. 

Now I am not claiming to be a monk and I definitely don’t want to be a killjoy. I have had my share of fun and games. But is it realistic or more importantly fulfilling to always be at the trough? My daughter as a young girl once pondered, “If you can have anything you want all at once, what is there to look forward to?”  Out of the mouths of babes!

It has never become more evident that we define ourselves by things. Here in Flalaland the pace has picked up with the price of the houses. Tear down and build anew. Bentleys and Rolls are replacing the Beemers and Mercedes and our Volvo. Let it rip. Hey, go for it if it floats your boat, but what do you do for an encore?

Of course we ask ourselves are we or they happy? Maybe for a moment until we realize those new golf clubs aren’t going to produce low scores. New car smell goes away and sooner or later the kitchen you redid five years ago is somehow “dated”. Is there something more?

Enter stage left, a thing called serenity. Peace, calmness, tranquility. Yikes!  Even the words sound soothing. Definition..the state of being calm, peaceful, and untroubled. Are you kidding me TTG? In today’s world? Have you lost your mind?  Not quite yet. 

I was at hospice a few weeks ago. I walked into a patient’s room and asked how she was doing? She said she was great. She was dying, knew it and ready to go. We had a fascinating chat for almost a half an hour. When I was going to leave I held her hand to thank her and noted how cold they were. She laughed and said,”Pretty soon, they are going to get a lot colder!” Kids, that is serenity !!!

The antithesis might be Putin. He has stolen billions and may be the richest guy in the world. He has yachts, mansions, and power of a sort. And yet he wants Ukraine. He is tortured and tormented by the has been USSR. This dude will never be happy. Do you know any Putins?

Simply put, you accept things as they are. Don’t get crazy whether things go wrong or they go right. It’s life. You can be happy and you can be sad. All part of the program. You can put yourself in happiness or harm’s way but a good deal of the time it is unavoidable. I am going to try to stop making life happen and maybe just take it as it comes. 

I am hopefully good natured Irishman. I have a pretty good temper that I try not to show too often. I also think I understand  emotions. I feel things deeply. The good and the bad. Maybe, just maybe I can round off the sharp edges and lower the distance between highs and lows. Serenity? I don’t think I would go that far but a taste of it now and then doesn’t hurt. 

As always 

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

It is difficult to quantify emotion. It is the worst utilization of algorithmic theory. How do we define happiness? The best guess is biological, observable or self reporting. 

World’s 20 Happiest Countries

  1. Finland
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Switzerland
  5. Netherlands
  6. Luxembourg
  7. Sweden
  8. Norway
  9. Israel
  10. New Zealand
  11. Austria
  12. Australia
  13. Ireland
  14. Germany
  15. Canada
  16. United States
  17. United Kingdom
  18. Czech Republic
  19. Belgium
  20. 20.France 

Look up serene in Goggle. You will get spas, hidden getaways, music, photographs. Ever wonder why they don’t have your house, car or bank? If you think about it ,a lot of those places for sereneness are free. 

True Grit….

I must admit I am a little obsessed with the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The sheer brutality of the battle and the absurdity of the reasoning  has gotten to my soul. In an age of information overload there are still those who can censor what you hear and don’t hear. You don’t know what is happening.For all our intellectual growth we are taking inhumanity to a new and sinister level.

The Ukrainians are beyond heroic. Before the second day of the invasion was over, the U.S embassy in Kyiv was beating feet out of there and offering president Zelinsky a free ride to safety. He laughed us off as he should have and asked for help not a hitchhike. Yet all of the nations are calculating where they are in the geopolitical sphere and how far they are willing to go. 

The Ukrainians screwed us. We were waiting for the capitulation of some very brave souls. That would give us cover. We will accept their refugees and say what an evil person Putin is. Every move parsed for what it will look like to the enemy and making sure we don’t get our hands dirty. These peel have true grit. They have made this picture very complex.

I am sorry but my  mood is emotional and at times irrational. Collateral damage is not a concept I can live with when it comes to women and kids. I don’t cow tow to bullies. This slug has been playing games with us for 30 years and countless administrations. We have looked into his soul, tried to befriend him and played the game of sanctions. Maybe they will work and maybe they won’t. We have drawn red lines only to have them washed away by the tears of victims. 

But aside from all this is an incredible demonstration of defiance and belief by people in their homeland. We are talking about what was supposed to be one of the world’s great armies. Face to face the Russians have been beaten back. Their only counter is long range artillery as a scorched earth policy supposedly will bomb them back to the Stone Age. I think Putin already lives in one. 

Grit is an amazing resource. Call it guts, bravery or whatever it enables people to garner a whole new set of resources to access in order to survive. You throw caution to the wind and probably for the very first time in your life you are willing to die for a cause. I wonder what would happen to me or us?

It’s great to say I would stand up but I have watched with a curious eye our reaction to a thing called COVID. I am seeing universities trying to create “safe” spaces. Helicopter moms…and dads, want to create a bubble around their children that is sanitized and fool proof. I think the fools are inside. We all want an Eden like existence. 

I happened by the New York Times Magazine a few weeks ago and noted the cover teaser was “music to help us get through our difficult times”. Are you shitting me? On the front page were accounts of maternity hospitals and theaters being bombed, universities demolished and people without water, heat and food and these literati are teaching us to cope. Can we even relate? Reality and crises are out there but we have no idea. 

This is not said with Irish or Catholic guilt but with a desire to get my own head figured out. Volunteering will get you on a different trajectory. I have told you all of my gig at a homeless shelter in Denver. Hospice is a passion for me. Not because I dig watching people die but because it is as close to humanity and my fellow man as I can get. Not admirable or heroic in any way but to truly give back.

Let’s face it. Most of us live in Disneyworld. Too many have forgotten where they came from. Many are jaded and look upon their lifestyle as a reward for all their hard work. Did you every work in a factory or a meat packing plant? Go over and teach class five days a week and then come home and get dinner? Nursing, cops, EMT’s, a mother with three jobs?.

I am not saying we have to walk around in sackcloth and ashes. I hope I am getting this right by not necessarily being accusatory as I am trying to slap me and you both in the face and say do we have even the slightest idea how lucky we are? Yeah we can thank whatever God we worship but deep down do we feel it? Is it even possible to understand what Ukrainians, Uighurs, Syrians, and poor people of America go through?

This war has hit us right smack in our living rooms but it is quickly fading to page four of our newspaper and page ten of our minds. It’s natural. We think we have it down and since there is not quick resolution we are ready to move on and let the armies and diplomats divide up the spoils. It’s the way it has always been. 

It has been a beautiful day in Flalaland. I played golf and came home to hit the keyboard. My vitriol just started to rise and I decided to let it rip. Sorry about that. It’s what I do and this is really Ted’s Head right now. Old age is supposed to be some sort of freeway to wisdom. I must have taken the wrong exit. C’est la guerre! 

As always

Ted The Great

Factoids:

Just one. Below is a You Tube of a song we are singing for chorale. “Do You Hear the People Sing ?” From Les Miserables. Play it if you will. I wish it could be played from every radio and TV station in the free world.  It is 2 and 1/2 minutes. Let me know if you think it fits. 

New World Order….

The events of the last few weeks in Ukraine expose our soft underbelly on all sides of the world. Democracies and totalitarian regimes alike. We crave some sort of game plan and yet definition and acceptance is beyond elusive. 

We had a presentation yesterday from a fellow member here in Flalaland in a series we call Foreign Policy. This one happened to be on Biden’s Agenda as it relates to the world but it would be folly to ascribe it to one man. This evolved more into a discussion on how we see ourselves in this contrast between democracy and totalitarianism. Not only what works but who wins?

I have had my doubts about democracy and its utility for a while now. Not the basic tenets of course, but its application in real life. All men and of course women are created equal and are able to express their opinion via the ballot box or elsewhere. In the US we have legislative elections every two years and a presidential one every four. This should indicate slight movements either right or left of center. How is that working out for you these days?

The dictator approach is much cleaner and simpler. You do it my way or else. No discussion. I know what I am doing and even if you have a better idea it will never see the light of day. We don’t vote on infrastructure or arming to the teeth. We just do it. Environmental, economic or psychological concerns? You have got to be kidding me?

Putin’s war is as much about the conflict of ideologies as bombs bursting in air. It is not the fight for territory but for your soul. He has seriously mistaken the backbone of the Ukrainian people as well as the free world. Will he succeed? Dunno. It depends on how fervent we really are and how good our memory is. 

During the talk and my readings this week I find myself fascinated that one man can inflict all this carnage…in 2022. We are supposedly a more educated populace and yet we did not see this coming. Today we have Xi, Kim Jong Un, Maduro et alia looking to be not only a national but worldwide top dog. Have we forgotten about Hitler and Bonaparte, Stalin, the Csars and petty dictators throughout history? Our desire to play nice is admirable but look where it has gotten us? Look how we have fawned over these characters? Perhaps our desire for wealth has clouded our senses? In a lot of cases we have really given the store away. All in the name of diplomacy….and our own profit.

If you look at these dudes it is hubris, selfishness, arrogance, greed, and revenge all rolled into one. Maniacal or shrewd? Probably a little of both. Character flaws?

It depends on your beliefs. It sounds trite but we can look at them as villains or saviors and therein lies the struggle. 

At this time we go back to their childhoods and find a bad parent or experience. For Putin he was a KGB agent exiled to rural Russia in a ridiculous farmhouse headquarters. He was a nobody. In a leaderless Russia, post breakup of the USSR, he ascended without many obstacles other than a drunken Yeltsin. By making all his buddies and enemies rich on the way up, he guaranteed their obeisance. The downfall of the Soviet Union was the perfect ploy to get the people to rally. I feel his paranoia of a European invasion to be as absurd as his propaganda. But it worked. 

The bigger question in my mind is whether or not these guys are weird or is there a little something of them in many of us? Happy Days takes us back to a time of drive ins and neat lawns. People were well to do of a sort but not in the gaudy ostentatious realm of today. You had a nice house, got an education, a job and lived happily ever after. You might say there were standards of decency that covered a broad spectrum. What happened? Or better yet was that all just a facade?

Now some will say they never had it good and I understand and respect that. As some became more educated they became reluctant to accept their plight. They rose in stature, and wealth became a vague notion without limits. Now people of all walks of life wanted it all. Power was no longer in the hands of the few. And the few did not like it. They found their world order being turned upside down. 

With a new cognoscenti and glitterati, they weren’t subtle but bold and brassy. Thoughts that were crazy and revolutionary in the 70’s and 80’s turned mainstream at the turn of the century. 9/11 was as much a total devastation of our senses as a statement of what our world was going to look like. We had a brief and almost euphoric unity exemplified by American flags and the singing of anthems. Then we got back to our own business and it became about me once again. 

Instead of taking over countries we were taking over corporations. We were fortified by technology that grew exponentially, demonstrating incredible efficiency. The buck was beyond Almighty and we had new deity, We had our new commandments, We could claim to be in the best interest of our stockholders but if we are honest it was in the best interest of me. 

We can argue a rising tide floats all ships. Fair enough. And yet we have started creating the unattainable for most and the middle class is a vague notion. In our own politics and industry we have our own petty dictators. Scorched earth is for the everyman. Come one TTG, get on board or be left behind. Whether it is Trump or Pelosi, or Diamon or Bezos, are we all drinking the Kool Aid? Perhaps we are creating a new world order of our own. Is this after deep thought or are we just going along for the ride? Thnk about it! 

As always 

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

Greed.. intense and selfish desire for something, especially wealth, power, or food.

Revenge.,,The action of inflicting hurt or harm on someone for an injury or wrong suffered at their hands.

Narcissism…Having or revealing an exaggerated sense of one’s own importance or abilities.

Selfish…lacking consideration for others; concerned chiefly with one’s own personal profit or pleasure.

I know none of us exemplify even a speck of these attributes…

Amazon has acquired over 100 companies over the years. Imagine if they were countries?

The 2021 edition of Freedom in the World,  marked the 15th consecutive year of decline in global freedom. Of the 195 independent countries assessed by the report, 73 experienced aggregate score declines and just 28 made gains, the widest margin of its kind during the 15-year period. There are now 54 Not Free countries, accounting for 38 percent of the world’s population, the highest share since the decline began.