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.

Culture Wars…

In my unending quest to find something reasonable in this wacky world, the phrase “Culture Wars” keeps popping up. Culture has a number of definitions from a sort of artistic class to a medium to grow bacteria. I am going with: The attitudes and behavior characteristic of a particular social group.

If you think about it, this presents decades if not centuries of thinking a certain way. You grew up rich or poor. A working family or elite. It can be your school or your church. It is our way of life or better yet how we grew up, if indeed we have done so. 

It is part imbued and part acquired. Rarely does one think about how they got here. That is until they are threatened. The haves want to keep things just as they are and the have nots can’t wait to get out of their predicament. We construct breaking points from which we will not deviate such as abortion, racism, LGBTQ, and  sexual freedom to name a few.

It goes beyond the definition of mere differences. People are adjudged good or evil.The enemy.  These are not grey areas as a rule. No middle ground. Our religious history has been at the forefront of acceptable behavior for millennia. God of whatever sort says you have to act this way or you will not get to the promised land.That gives us orthodoxy and the ability to punish for transgressions. It has been that way for a long time. 

Enter stage right, the secularists or progressives. They want to turn this comfy world upside down. The Enlightenment has given us permission to think outside the box. Maybe I am just as good or even better than your god. Perhaps we can have a new morality and the schism begins. 

Traditionalists are scared to death. To defend themselves they may have to recite and justify their beliefs. Their ability to do so really depends on how well they learned them or even better yet how well they have internalized them. 

Don’t panic yet kids. The progressives are in the same boat at the other end of the ocean. Rarely do they dig down to consider the outcomes of their beliefs. They just want a different world. But they are on a roll and people are listening to them. They too are scared to death that their day in court is fleeting  and they better make the most of it. Their gains are precious to them. The nature of our society makes all this seem beyond critical. There is no turning back for either side. 

There are poster children everywhere. The glitterati don’t do themselves any favors. Examples of greed and opulence are everywhere from the Mansions section of the WSJ to movie stars to captains of industry. The downtrodden are displayed for all the world to see from our borders to our barrios. Every week brings a new call for the righting of injustice. Both are valid but with a fair bit of theatrics. 

You see there’s not much of a story without a villain on either side. We inflame people’s passion by personifying the crime. Politicians are the best at doing so. If you are for immigration we trot out the latest pictures of desperation at the border. If you are against it we show the mug shot of a rapist or killer who has an Hispanic name. We play each situation like an A flat. Both sides are maestros. 

In our current state there is absolutely no room for negotiation. To do so would be a betrayal. Of what you say? The very foundations of our Constitution whether you are trying to enforce the electoral process or storming the Capitol in defense of freedom. Each has different interpretation.  If we cannot try to find some sort of common ground of any sort, we are destined to fail and probably wind up in another Civil War. Hyperbole? I think not.

 We are dealing with two separate and distinct cultures. Two entirely different ways of looking at life. And we all want our way to be the survivor. We are petrified that our side is going to become extinct. We have upped the stakes to the point where neither side can envision backing down. 

 Our cultures are the root cause of our divisiveness. Each side had strong and weak points to ponder. There is no known impartial arbiter to sort this out. We have to do it for ourselves and that is beyond difficult in our too busy world. We have to realize, and yes admit, which sides of our tenets make no sense whatsoever. 

Studying and understanding our own culture as well as others will take deep diving and mature thinking. It is a lot sexier and visceral to shake your fist and curse some politician out rather than have an in-depth conversation. Social media with its implied anonymity and shoot from the hip repartees only add fuel to the fire. We need statespeople and they are few and far between. 

What can we do? In simple conversations. In our everyday dealings. The snide remarks and innuendo have got to fade. The intransigence will get us nowhere. At least try to have the discussion or have the balls to speak up against insipid remarks of all sorts. Just listen if even for a moment. 

If I sound at wits end, I am. I see this thing spiraling out of control. I hate war. You should too.

As always

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

We are now doubting our institutions will act in our best interests. It runs the gamut from business to government to religion to education. 

The last president to be perceived as working in the country’s best interest was George H.W Bush. Many suggest we have to go back to a community level to achieve any progress.

Culture Wars:

Abortion.

Pandemic

Religion/ Secularism

LGBTQ

Critical Race Theory

Guns

Progressivism/ Conservativism

Globalism

Income Inequality

Women’s Rights

I could keep going on and on…….

Change is inevitable. Every day and every person is different. You can fight it or embrace it. Not easy..

We are the sum of our stories. The good, the bad and the ugly. What are yours?

 . 

Great Expectations….

It has been awhile since Ted’s Head has been forthcoming. I have started several times only to be distracted by what I had perceived as more important chores. I have been doing a lot of work on hospice, which is becoming more and more of a passion for me. Maybe just one place to put my energies. 

I had another task at hand. Here in Flalaland we have a thing called “Foreign Policy”. We pick a topic, research it and present it to an audience that opts in. My topic was “Drug Policy and South  America” The unique experience is studying something you know nothing about. 

I dug into the research. I went down all sorts of rabbit holes. Man, I knew my subject backward and forward. I was ready to wow the crowd, tuned in on ZOOM. In truth, it was just short of a disaster. 

A computer glitch made me scramble with 80+ viewers waiting patiently. When I finally got online I was out of step, scrambling to catch up. TTG was not so great. So be it. 

The experience although humiliating was instructional. Did I set my expectations too high? Did I prepare for the ZOOM meeting properly? Was I as good as I thought I would be? Did I view my world with reality, rose colored glasses or doom and gloom. 

This expectation thing is really quite interesting. I hope I go through my day not expecting the worst. I think I would really like to be thought of as a pragmatic optimist. And yes I do want to shoot in the 80’s in golf, be a decent hospice volunteer, or a decent husband and father. Do I make it? Who knows? My philosophy has always been, to hit high you have to aim high. 

I see people every day for whom life sucks. The pessimist has low expectations so he or she is never disappointed. They tend to blame someone else for their problems. “I coulda been a contender ” is their mantra. I truly feel sorry for them. But who is right? Probably neither of us.

 

Don’t get me wrong. I am not opting for the dark side but in truth the realist is the winner. Sorry to say the vast majority of us are not. We all hope for something in the future. We all rue something in our past. 

Mindfulness is all the rage. Yoga, meditation, Zen,Tao are all lofty ambitions. I have meditated and it is beyond cool. You shut off all the inner voices both pro and con and just drift. In theory this gives our poor old minds a rest from the everyday worries. Who wouldn’t love that? Unfortunately my local Buddhist monastery is booked full so I will have to exist on my own. 

Psychologists describe explanatory styles. Do you feel like you can change your life or you have to live with what you got? Are events caused by you or an outside force? This all sounds a little wonky but if I can’t change the bad parts of my life, why even try? 

25% of the way we feel is genetic or environmental. I will buy that especially in the case of abusive or supportive parenting. Yet the other 75% is learned or acquired. We all set a group of behaviors that work for us. Is your glass half full or half empty? It is not preordained.

As some of you know years ago I was diagnosed with clinical depression. It was sort of a happy on the outside and hurting on the outside thing. It wasn’t fun but I met it head-on. This thing called cognitive therapy showed me the error of my ways and a whole set of coping skills. And I still use them to this day.  

The best part of the process was learning to like myself. I am who I am. I will make some people joyously happy and piss others off ad nauseam. I, in no way like the latter but it happens.  I can try to hone down the edges but I gotta be me as Sammy Davis once sang. I can’t help but feel my best when I can be honest with you, warts and all. I am trying.

I beat myself up but only to try to get better. I try to be grateful for all I have and realistic about my abilities. If I am critical it is for self development not self degradation. I am just human and that for me is the Greatest Expectation of all. 

As always 

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

A noted psychologist claims,”Unrealistic expectations are actually premeditated resentment.” Interesting.

Oddly, many expectations are met or failed because of the judgment of others. We are social animals and want to be attractive and relevant.

Expectation: anticipation, contemplation, expectance, expectancy, prospect We have expectations for our health, financial results, relationships and achievements. We also have the same for our environment, politics, and common good. 

Twas The Week Before Xmas….

Here in Flala Land, Christmas is just around the corner. Temps in the mid 80’s and no humidity. Top hat and a scarf as I belt out Noels are not exactly in the offing. But it is still that time of the year. 

I got to wondering why we feel all good inside? Grouches smile even if grudgingly. You air out your billfold and give this one or that a few bucks for their service. You watch, It’s A Wonderful  Life or Christmas Story. We are all Ralphies in a way. There is something that gets awakened.

I think it is the thought of giving. You love to put a smile on someone’s face. You search for the perfect gift or thought to be written. You do a good deed here and there. For those brief times it ain’t about me. I muse as to why we don’t feel that way all the time? By using too much of a good thing, would we lose it? 

We are more cognizant of what it going on around us. Our antennae are up and our radars scan everywhere for that  deep down feeling. I could give you twenty vignettes of things that happened this week that I hope would reach your heart. We realize that maybe we have been too cooped up in our own little worlds to see both tragedy and joy around us. 

The divine Miss K and I went for a late leisurely lunch yesterday. The place was a pleasant new Italian bistro. As we sipped our white wine trying to be so cosmopolitan, there was a family across the way. One of the children was handicapped. After lunch, big brother picked him up and carried him out as they left laughing. In a strange way it felt good to see. 

As we stared out in the parking lot there was a young woman and a gentleman who drove his electric wheel chair with a joystick he clutched with the only two fingers that worked. She opened the van and pushed him up the ramp with effort and yet ease. She had done this for years. She then picked up her baby in a carry seat that rested on the macadam. She had a pretty smile on her face. How do you do that? 

Your feelings are a cross between guilt and gratitude. We enjoyed our pasta but the thought of these people lingered long after. Kathy and I talked a good while.  I emailed my kids and old friends. I wanted to write my blog. There was just something in me I wanted to share. I hope I get it right. 

While we were driving, Kathy blurted out that she wished people would listen to God. We are churchgoers, but not holy rollers so it came as a bit of a surprise. She plainly stated that if we adhered to the Ten Commandments, the world would be a pretty good place. I thought about that not as a theologian but as a human being. 

This is not about proselytizing but trying to find a way in our crazy world. Forget about God but just think about,Do not kill, Do not lie, do not swear, Do not commit adultery,Do not rob. Geez Louise, just treat someone else as you would like to be treated. Do you want to be raped or shot at? Do you want to be taken advantage of or cheated ? Do you want to be looked at as a miserable human being just trying to make your way in the world? Is my color or status the only thing I have going for me in your eyes? Interesting thoughts. 

I often think about what Christmas is like in all the crazy places we have visited. Europe, Asia, Australia, New Zealand. A little town in Tuscany or Amalfi.

Wimbeldon, where my son lived with is family for three years. Denver, Cleveland, Scottsdale and San Francisco. There is so much out there to be thoughtful of. Longtime friends and casual acquaintances. Thousands of people we have met in our lifetimes. Each and everyone distinct and yet so much a part of this thing we call civilization. 

My final thought on this beautiful morning is about war. What TTG? You are a sicko. I hope not. We are battling COVID all over the planet. We want to quarantine and protect our turf. We are using syringes instead of missiles but aren’t they the same?

There are enemies everywhere and that is very sad. It could be Putin or Xi. It could be Delta or Omicron. It could be an immigrant that doesn’t speak our language. It could be a right winger or left of left liberal. 

We are all at each other’s throats. Some call it capitalism. Some call it socialism. Some of us are running out of water. Some are starving. We all want to shrink back into our cocoons and make the world go away. Except at Christmastime, when we are all so cheery and welcoming and generous. It is the week before Christmas. Maybe we could just make it the week before next week. You know, keep this feeling going. Might not be a bad world after all. 

As always

Ted The Great. 

AND A MERRY CHRISTMAS AND HAPPY HOLIDAYS TO ALL OF YOU!

Factoids: 

Simple. I am the luckiest guy in the world. I looked it up in Wikpedia and below proves it !

Scott,Dionne,Aiden and Jack Kenny
Linsdey,Chip,Anders and Phebe Mc Keever
Megan,Ausitn,Harper,
Ryan and Quincy Kane
The Lovely Kathy and TTG

Daydream Believer…

I thought I would Monkee around with this week’s title. Boo! Hiss! I can hear the groans now. I couldn’t resist. Then again many of you weren’t around in 1967, so my bon mot might be wasted. Anyhoo, I decided to write of one of my favorite pastimes…daydreaming. 

It is frowned about in our frenetic and demanding world. You are considered stupid at best and slovenly at worse if you make such bad use of your precious time. It has received a new moniker in our upbeat world. It is now clinically bad like everything else in the form of ADHD. Scientists really are downers at times.

 It has been studied since the days of that good old standup comic, Sigmund Freud.  No matter what is going on in your life, he theorized it is because of sexual deviation or not being toilet trained properly. Only recently has daydreaming been appreciated for its positive characteristics. 

I have become quite good at it. I have been known to have thoughts alternative, in the middle of my backswing in golf. If you have seen my golf swing you know why I want to think elsewhere. While reading, running or just waiting for something I just let myself wander into the world of reverie. The fun part of being old is you can now dismiss it as early stage Alzheimers. It works for everything. 


It is definitely  associated with creativity. You have a tough problem to be solved. Think about it. You don’t seek a solution among the strict confines of analytical thought. You draw outside the lines. You think the unthinkable and voila, that answer pops right up in front of you. 

That AHA! moment is the result of an increase in alpha waves in your frontal cortex. Whoa! Don’t worry I don’t understand it. I just read it somewhere. But even that is great fun. Pick a topic. Go to the world of Google and start researching. Trust me there is something for everyone. I sometimes get into a subject and zig and zag and then after awhile wonder how the hell I got there? Waste of time? I choose to think not. 

The brain and its multitudinal  functions fascinate me. It has been the subject of study for millennia and yet we are still just scratching the surface. We can watch brainwaves react to this or that stimuli but we still can’t put together how it manages our bodily functions, enables us to move around  and still have emotions all at the same time. It’s not artificial intelligence. It’s the real thing. 

It is more than interesting that we are all born more or less with the same grey matter. Who you are and what you become is not limited in any way. What goes on up there is the result of years of learning, decision making and most of all the environment you are brought up in. People are not born smart. They become smart. Yes, there is still hope for me.  

We can lay blame to ADHD and number of other so called diseases of the brain. Einstein,Da Vinci and Walt Disney were dyslexic. In today’s world we would label them as such and perhaps not take note of their creativity or scientific achievements. That is tragic. “A mind is a terrible thing to waste” is never more true. 

Too late to become smart? Not really. I find myself learning more and more each day. That is not because I am smart but because I have so much to discover. Hmm, Humility is the best teacher of all . When you feel egotistical, start looking into a world where people have put years of study into this or that. It is sobering and in a good way.

Daydreaming is a state of mind. Unfortunately some get depressed when they drift off. I am no good. I have no talent. I suck at thinking great stuff. Really? If you want to you are more than welcome to dwell on negative things. Replay the movie over and over. Guess what? It still turns out the same. On the other hand you can rewrite that script. It is all in your head. 

Your brain is not a muscle but you can make it better by working out.

If you want to absorb Fox, MSNBC,CNN or Facebook in a semi comatose state, go for it. If you want to rehash elections, decry most everything, complain incessantly about every little irritation, I understand. Does Putin or Xi give you fits? Do you really think you have control over the weather or stock market?  It is the way you choose to be. But it does not have to be that way. 

You can savor that cup of coffee or a dram of scotch and just relax. You can walk outside or look from the window and see how amazing this world is.You can say hello to just about everyone you see. You can text or email someone you have forgotten about. You can think about how lucky we are to still be alive. Corny? Maybe. But it is a wonderful daydream for me. It hope it is for you. 

As always 

Ted The Great  

Factoids:

Daydreams last only about 15 seconds. Mine seem a lot longer.

You don’t blink. Daydreaming usually completely consumes your thought processes because you’re basically creating a world within your head! 

Researchers have found that when they stimulated people’s frontal lobes with a mild electrical current, the people reported experiencing more daydreams than usual. The frontal lobe is the part of the brain that regulates our self-control, planning and logical thinking.  See,I did look it up. 

The brain weighs about three pounds and is 75% water. It contains 100 billion neurons. I have no idea how they counted them. 

Human brain keeps developing until you are in your late 40s. It also sees more changes than any other organ. Around mid-life, the brain will begin to shrink. However, size doesn’t matter in the brain. There is no evidence that a larger brain is smarter than a smaller one. Trust me I knew that. 

Consternation….

I am consternated. I have not put keyboard to screen in several weeks. At least one of you noticed. As usual it has not been for the lack of topics but just too many for this poor little brain to try to make sense of things.

I have been looking for the right word or theme to describe my mien. The topic says it all: amazement or dismay that hinders or throws into confusion. It is not just Flalaland but the world in which we live. I love change and thinking outside of the box, but this is ridiculous. There are so many disparate views on things I could be wandering around for a long time.

I have just read a book sent to me by my daughter and written by Andrew Yang, former presidential candidate and also tossing his hat in the ring  for mayor of New York City. He seems thoughtful enough and describes his presidential run, a synopsis of the problems we face in the US and finally his proposed solutions. 

For the moment let’s not judge by political association whether we love or hate this guy but just listen to what he has to say. His campaign laid bare some of the inadequacies of our democracy. To be heard you need stature. To have that you need money and a lot of it. Just to be noticed. So much for voices in the crowd. 

Another aspect was the dearth of local news reporting. The internet has deprived the weeklies of classifieds and regular advertising. Without that you can’t hire journalists. There are over 3,000 counties and almost 20,000 incorporated places in the US. There are around 1,000 newspapers. Circulation has gone from 60 million in 1992 to 26 million today. On one hand you are not going to get a lot of diversity of thought and on the other maybe a lot more people could care less. 

He spoke of automation and social media in not so flattering terms. Both are wildly successful in today’s world but beyond problematic in their logical conclusions. We will eliminate thousands of jobs. We will have knowledge of your most intimate secrets. But we will be moving towards a more real time and technologically driven universe. My point of consternation is that in some ways this is great and on others  it scares the hell out of me. 

To wit the latest on Facebook. They knew what they were putting out there was bad for some segments of their viewership, especially teen age girls. Ditto Google but they have so far eluded the radar of the press. The real scary part is they have been at this for 17 years for Facebook and 23 years for Google. Yes, they have connected us and made life more interesting but did we ever stop to think of the downsides? We rarely do?  

One also has to consider our dependency on drugs….legal ones. Last year 100,000 people died from an overdose of something. OxyContin was first introduced in 1996. It was hard at work for over 20 years before anyone questioned its efficacy in laymen’s terms. Now we as a country are paying for all that ease of use in terms of hospitalizations, rehab treatments and heart break for families involved. Is that consternating to you?

The coup de grace was a conversation I had with an ex military  buddy last night. He was senior officer and  described the procurement process for anything in the military from everything to advanced weapons systems to a simple piece of hardware. The bureaucracy, red tape, hoops to be jumped through and compliance made this a living nightmare. And folks we pay for all of this. 

I put my head on the pillow last night and it was exploding. Not from a couple of vodka and tonics but from all the surrealities my discussion had conjured up. It seems to me that everything from education to commerce to restaurants to automobiles is so fraught with pratfalls and pitfalls that it is a wonder we get anything done. Yet we continue to push on, open new frontiers and want to venture in outer space  without cleaning up what we have now. 

I am not so pessimistic this foretells our demise. We have a lot of great going for us. But to look at this world with rose colored glasses is foolhardy. For some of us to try to get out the door and leave it to our kids to solve is a total cop out. 

The first step is not to throw more money at a problem unless it happens to be a deteriorating bridge or roadway. Education suffers not from a lack of snappy looking classrooms but a coordinated effort of both the school and the parents.

 Secondly we don’t need more rules and regulations. Some of these are hundreds of pages long. This is not the libertarian but the pragmatist in me. 

Lastly, we do not need another department, detailed study or anything else that contributes to our overly bloated bureaucracy. Look at what is in place. Clean it up and root out the dead wood. Give people respectability but also responsibility. Make them answerable for their staffs and the decisions they make. 

My consternation is my own fault. I should just chill out and ignore all this Maybe my cranium should explode? I told the lovely Kathy last night I was giving up thinking for awhile. A few moments ago she asked me how that was going for me? What do you think?

As always

Ted The Great 

Factoids:

Consternation synonyms:  alarm, amazement, anxiety, awe, bewilderment, confusion, dread, fright, horror, panic, perplexity, terror, trepidation, distraction, fear, muddle, shock, stupefaction, wonder. Any of these work for you?

The not-for-profit Social Progress Imperative ranked social progress in 128 countries in 2017 based on three criteria: basic human needs like food, water, and shelter; foundations of well-being such as access to information and environmental quality; and opportunity, including personal rights and freedoms and access to education.

The US came in 18th on the list.The US spends about three times as much per capita on healthcare expenditures than other countries with comparable incomes, yet Americans have a lower life expectancy than people in those countries

Countries With The Best Education Systems

RankCountryMathScienceReading
1China591590555
2Singapore569551549
3Estonia523530523
4Japan527529504
5Korea526519514
6Canada512518520
7Finland507522520
8Poland516511512
9Ireland500496518
10Slovenia509507495
11United Kingdom502505504
12New Zealand494508506
13Netherlands519503485
14Sweden502499506
15Denmark509493501
16Germany500503498
17Belgium508499493
18Australia491503503
19Switzerland515495484
20Norway501490499
21Czech Republic499497490
22United States478502505
23France495493493
24Portugal492492492
25Austria499490484

Need I say more ?

On more positive note I took an airplane ride on Thursday. It was in a WWII P51 Mustang. We flew over the Stuart Veteran’s Day parade and were supposed to return to base. My pilot broke formation and headed west to Lake Okeechobee where we did about 8-10 minutes of aerobatics. What a ride!

Have a Happy Thanksgiving

Perfect…..

Upon first glance the topic is easy.

noun: perfection

  1. the condition, state, or quality of being free or as free as possible from all flaws or defects.

Some of you may feel that describes you to a tee but therein lies your first flaw. Failed reasoning. But we always seek the perfect wine, the perfect word, the perfect lifestyle. And even if we think we get there we are always looking for more. Did you ever wonder why?

For time eternal we search for things. Neuroscientist Jaak Panks argues that of seven core instincts in the human brain (anger, fear, panic-grief, maternal care, pleasure/lust, play, and seeking), seeking is the most important. It is how we grow and it is healthy to a point.

We all have frontiers to conquer whether is is a more fulfilling job, getting in shape, or just pursuing a topic we know nothing about. Over the years I have watched good friends who slip into the routine of the day and don’t want to be bothered. Don’t get involved. Relax TTG ! They might be right but that feels sort of like giving up which to me  is the opposite of the pursuit of the unknown. Stop Ted, you are making me tired looking at you.

My old buddy Leonardo described it as curiositae.That beautiful genius looked at everything as something to be learned. He would look at fields and see how many different shades of green there were? How do fish swim and breathe? He would question people on the street. He kept dozens of notebooks on his observations and then read them through trying to connect the dots. 

His greatest strength was not considering himself smart but inquisitive. There is so much to learn. He asked tough questions.As we become more academic we tend to be more rigid which is sad. We rely on consultants and so called experts when all that gray matter that we have upstairs is the same as DaVinci’s. As Mark Twain said,”We are all perfect, just at different things.”

I think there is a distinction between striving for knowledge and just wanting more. In today’s world we tend to emphasize things more than thoughts. There is never enough. We want bigger houses, faster cars and airplanes, and more lavish accoutrements. We don’t stop to think of what we have but are always looking down the road. It is almost impossible to live in the present. We don’t find time to enjoy the simplest of things. Does that great scotch taste any better in a fancy restaurant than your back porch? Good question for us all. 

Part of this thinking lends itself to constant comparisons. Our world is full of it. Advertisements and media of all sorts blast us with visions of who we should be and what we should look like if we are successful. When we lived at Desert Mountain in Scottsdale, people would build what I called two party houses. They were gigantic and off the charts with this and that but after two parties people would wonder what the owners were going  do for an encore. 

I know it sounds corny but do we never just sit down and thank whatever God we employ for all we have. Not just saying grace every now and then but really looking at our world and being grateful. I don’t. I get off on this tear or  that until something hits me over the head. It is usually Kathy. 

This all has a dark side as it relates to mental health. Some equate perfectionism with acceptance. If I am not that good then I am not lovable. If I fail then I am worthless. Sadly this affects young people the most. It is estimated that 50% of those teens who have taken their own lives did so because they were not able to measure up. They felt they had let down family and friends. They felt there was no hope for them. 

How incredibly sad and what an indictment of our society. Pressure to get into the right school. Pressure to succeed in work and make not only a decent living but supersede all others in wealth and power. Pressure to be acceptable to our peers and conversant in the latest fads. Pressure to fit in every possible way. This is not a passing moment but being ingrained into our younger generations by a constant barrage on social media and an amped up culture. I don’t know how we stop it?

Perfect, TTG. You have now screwed up my day by your drivel. I apologize for that but I see too much of it. Here in Flalaland we have it good but it is not good enough for some. We went to the New York area and saw a frenetic pace twice to three times what is was just years ago. We can strive but we don’t have to be insatiable. We can dream but life is tough with all sorts of ruts in the road. When we create unreal expectations we are setting ourselves up for a hit.

The prefect answer is to be grateful for what we have. It sounds trite but if we just stopped the world and got off for a minute we would realize what a good thing we have. Thank all to you for reading and listening and of course thinking. It  is as close to perfect as I am going to get…and that is just fine for me.  

As always

Ted The Great

Factoids:

The average American home has tripled in size in the last 50 years and continues to grow larger and larger. The average American woman owns 4X the amount of clothes as her grandmother, but continues to purchase. The average American home has 300,000 items inside it… and yet Amazon arrives on our doorstep several times each week. Go figure

Perfect games in baseball, bowling and sub par golf are very rare for the vast majority of earthlings. Ditto 1600 on SAT’s. 

Both adaptive and maladaptive forms of perfectionism have been linked to depression, anxiety, obsessive-compulsive disorder, personality disorders and eating disorders.

Perfectionism and procrastination go hand in hand. You are so afraid of not being perfect you don’t do anything at all. Yikes

Who Do You Trust?….

I don’t know about you but I am in a serious search for the truth. No, I am not doing my Socrates gig but really trying to figure out if there is anyone or thing out there that I can believe in? Whether it is  government, media, business or religion, you really have a hard time saying this or that is really true.

We make our decisions and form our ethos by looking at data sets and deriving conclusions. Your thinking follows a trend and your beliefs are either confirmed or disrupted by what you perceive to be reality. In today’s world our sources of data have become suspect. You can follow blindly or constantly challenge their veracity. I choose to do the latter. 

We have had a pandemic scorch our civilization. We are mesmerized by its evilness in every part of our lives. We look for a way to make sense of this or at least to understand what we are up against. We want and need answers. We are told to follow the science, but science disagrees.

People who have spent their lives studying epidemiology, find it impossible to speak in a unified voice. Even worse we have some with dubious credentials who are now touted as specialists. And on top of all of this is politics and optics. The so called leaders might know something for a fact but they cannot let it get out for fear of panic or image ruination. What’s a guy to think?

I would like to tell you this only holds true for this once in a lifetime event. For years we have discussed climate change.

Forget about whether it is man made or not, it is happening. We are hotter, colder, wetter, drier. I happen to believe the world before we started screwing with it, is system complex far beyond our comprehension. Ice melts in the Arctic, the saline flows up the west coast of Africa on underwater currents to the Sahara and then is blown across the Atlantic to nurture the rainforests of South America. This is not Sci fi but highly observable phenomena. Yet we don’t believe. 

Let’s forget about science and move onto the Disneyworld of the Capitol Beltway. We have a multi trillion dollar infrastructure bill that the pols tell us is revenue neutral. The non partisan Congressional Budget Office just pegged that declaration off by $350 billion over ten years. A mere rounding error, you say. We have not fully spent the remnants of the last giant COVID bill.  The current one is 2500 pages long. How can you begin to comprehend not only its utility in solving  problem but how do you administer such a giant? The devil is truly in the details.  

We had an attack on the nation’s capitol on January 6. It was beyond embarrassing for us as a great nation. Despite on the spot coverage there are those that think it was just tourists acting up or at least exercising their right to free speech. Interpret it any way you want but IT HAPPENED! 

I am embarrassed and saddened by my Catholic church. For an institution that has over the centuries sought to care for the sick and educate our public we have done a horrible job on sexual abuse of minors. That’s right, we have specifically preyed on the young and impressionable. We have ruined lives beyond repair. And yet we stonewall and pontificate. Don’t be smug. It is emblematic of other so called teams in gymnastics, football et al. If you can’t trust your priest, coach, governor or scout troop leader, who can you?

Wall Street is a game of numbers and numbers can’t be altered or can they? Stocks gyrate up and down by 20-50% largely based on rumor. Theranos was a new type of testing that would revolutionize medicine. Millions of dollars invested. Safeway and Walgreens were going to carry the tests. The board included former heads of the DOD, Wells Fargo, Bechtel and of course Mad Dog Mattis..  All taken in by what was probably a total fraud. 

Nikola is an electric truck startup that staged a video showing one of their rigs cruising down the highway. It turns out that they pushed a shell of a truck with no engine to the top of a hill and then filmed the ride down. Some pretty smart people got sucked in and millions down the drain. 

Everyday there are people stealing everything from pension funds to school budgets. There are con men on the prowl worldwide on the internet. The recent revelations of Facebook are just the tip of the iceberg. Are we at the core dishonest?

Money, greed and power will do strange things or are they just part of our way of life? I would hold out that we are shocked at first but then complacent or even complicit in our acceptance of,”It’s just the way it is”.

Trust is earned. I go out on a limb for anyone if I feel they are genuine and truthful. I am also greatly saddened and beyond crestfallen when I find out it not to be so. I am all too far from sainthood but I hope I am decent human being you can depend on. Maybe we are just numb to events and they are easy to ignore. It’s just people being people. Lower your standards, TTG, otherwise you are going to have a heart attack or an ulcer. Sorry, just not there yet.  

Who do you trust? It says on the fiver in my pocket, “In God We Trust” Maybe we ought to think about that? It may be all we have left. I hope not.

As always

Ted The Great

Factoids:

The FTC said there were 2.2 million fraud reports from consumers in the US in 2020. A large portion were online and from overseas. Many sought out the elderly as perfect targets. Sadly it works. 

Healthcare fraud is somewhere between $100-230 BILLION per year. This comes from HMO’s, doctors, pharmaceutical and individuals. The most common is billing for services not provided. 

A recent analysis indicates the average person tells two lies per day. On further study the lies were not evenly distributed. This pattern of a few individuals telling most of the lies follows what is known as the Pareto principle, which is also known as “the law of the vital few.” In short, this principle suggests that in a population, 20 percent of the people account for 80 percent of a behavior. There might be hope

Some Big Lies:

The Trojan Horse

Bernie Madoff

Hitler

Bill Clinton and Monica Lewinski

Watergate

Stolen Elections