Archive for the ‘Peace with God’ Category

Speaking Well of Others Speaks Well of Ourselves

June 17, 2017
Be careful how you speak of others.
That sounds like the start of a stern lecture, so let me word that another way. Take care to think through what you say when you speak of others.
It doesn’t matter whether they are living or dead. The more negatively you speak of others, the more negative the reflection on you.
This stuff is called dirt for a reason.
I’ve always marveled at the interest of others have of drama not on the stage. Soap Operas, Reality TV, and a host of other things suck people in. This in addition to the drama we find ourselves facing on a daily basis. Speaking poorly of others only feeds that beast. How much is enough?
If you wish to speak of someone in a way that might warn others about their behavior, then consider the trust but verify approach. It carries more weight than muckraking.  An example I’ll share involves a referral. I was asked by a stunt coordinator about an individual she wanted to hire. The stunt side of the Film and Live Show entertainment business is different from the acting side. Where actors have to audition, stunt performers typically get their work through relationships and referrals. I was honest with her. I told her this particular performer had presented performance challenges on a previous project, and that I had to chase her for several weeks to get her info for a production I was coordinating, which ultimately opted not to hire her. It would have been easy to say, “the kid is lazy, immature, and unreliable” but there was a better way.
Find the better way.
A word when spoken is a bird taking wing for flight forever. The things you say you cannot undo, you cannot change, and you cannot take back.
This past week found me remembering my brother’s birthday, gone five years, and marking the passing of two people close to me. That qualifies as a pretty crappy trifecta in my book.
Neither who jumped ship this week was perfect, but both were worthy of stories that make us smile. In the one case, an old friend from my Rocky Horror days in the 80’s (and part of the then-famous Wild and Untamed Things) passed away after a lengthy battle with mental and physical health issues. At the memorial, my dear friend Jack and I both determined that stories to make people laugh was the order of the day. The Matriarch from my mother’s side of the family also shuffled her mortal coil. Her story to share (since I was and am still not ready to grieve openly) involved her walking up besides me, in the midst of a group of people we both knew, and rubbed my belly…as she looked at me and said, “Say it, honey. Lower and faster.” and then she walked away, laughing hysterically. In a rare case, I was left speechless.

When we are saddened by loss, someone more callous might observe and say, “boo hoo, people die.” That is not in the least bit mature, and we should not be those people. Nor should we pay any attention to those who demonstrate such ignorant temerity.

Speak well of others, living or dead, no matter how much the temptation to do otherwise. It’s better to be the better person than to live with regret because you said something in haste. Similarly, look for every opportunity to speak well and positively of those you know and those you love. Finding and extolling the good in others brings out the good in ourselves.
That’s how we should immortalize others; this, no doubt, is how we ourselves would want to be remembered.
Speaking of remembering, remember to call someone you love and remind them of how important they are to you.
Do it now. Go ahead. I’ll wait.
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How We Change The Past

March 24, 2017
We Don’t. We can’t change the past.
I learned a great deal in the presence of my mom recently. Dad died a few months ago and she has managed to summon the strength necessary to move forward through the fog that besieged us all.
I mention we can’t change the past because I have spent so much of the recent past woefully lamenting how horrible a son, brother, or friend I have been I’ve managed to miss a few opportunities to do my level best in a situation.
There are several layers of danger in looking back. The obvious is you’re not looking forward. That’s bad because you don’t see what’s coming, and can’t prepare in the event something whacks, trips, or otherwise reaches out to influence your forwardly locomotion. It’s also not good because you are distracted. You’re so focused on the thing that already happened, and the “what-ifs” that surround it, you are fairly well insulated from anything happening in real time.
Many do this unintentionally. You’ll know it’s happening with someone else when you are sharing a story or insight and you get a “what’s that?” Or they nod absent-mindedly, and offer some form of affirmative answer in the hopes it is the correct one. Usually they’re thinking about something else, sometimes trying to connect the dots with a thought you just shared. Other times their mind is simply wandering.
But it is that other looking back, the one where you’ve lost the ability to move forward, breathe, or achieve on your own. That form of looking back can become a false comfort, providing a seductive darkness.
We miss out on opportunity when we continue to look back. We turn our back on the chance to experience in real time when we look back. People who live their entire holiday, or another event, through the lense of a camera suffer this fate.
An old friend hastened to advise me, with my love for photography, to try enjoying moments as they happened, and not through the view-finder. Another old dear friend, long passed, questioned why people couldn’t just enjoy the memories as they happened, since it was impossible to duplicate in a photo.
I have spent much time pondering how I was not the friend I should have been, that I was never truly there for those few who would have thrown themselves on the blade for me. My brother pointed out, years ago, it wasn’t possible for me to be an active participant in the ‘group thing’ because I was like Hans Solo in my Millenium Falcon (a 1972 Mach I with a 351 Cleveland, 4bblcarbs, and the destinct ability to both turn heads and cause whiplash). He told me I was running solo and had to because that was where I was in my life. It was a sort of Buddhist assessment. But it was also right.
My brother has also long sinced passed; at that moment death became a callous creature that reminded me of all the things we’d never get to do or share again, and of missed opportunities.
With my family the lament was similar. Holiday get-togethers. Phone calls. But it’s all in the past…
We can only influence the future.
Another wonderful and wise person told me the only reason you should look to the past is to see how far you’ve come, and hopefully, what you’ve learned. She’s right. We have to see where we’ve been to know where we’re going. The plus is we can change our behavor at any time.
In that case I think I’m doing ok. I just returned from a week in the mountains of Western North Carolina followed by a week in the coastal lowlands of South Carolina. Both places, rich in history, have residents whose sensibility is entrenched in the here-and-now. I worked hard to enjoy the moments as they came, and found myself living most of them. I spent much of my time around mom, doing work in and around the house, and simply being there without being suffocating. We scattered dad’s ashes in relative silence, hung his plaque, and did a bit of work around the area without somber reserve. Mom said to me, as we walked up the path from the garden, “I can’t imagine anyone else I would rather have done this with.” I didn’t take it as a commentary on how I was the favorite child: I am not; I viewed it instead couched in the context I believe it was meant: even if I devalued my own contributions to the family as a unit, I was appreciated in full and my value should not be be questioned.
Not looking back with regret will be tough, but I’ll keep you posted on my progress.
Perhaps you can do the same, and check in from time to time with your own procedural?

Happy Birthday, Bernie ( Show the Ones You Love the Love You Have to Show ).

November 15, 2016

His name is Bernie, and today is his birthday.

One of the smartest, goofiest-yet-classiest guys I’ve ever known, he was never afraid to poke fun at himself. With his easy-going personality he’s one of those people that never walked away from a stranger. People talk about knowing someone like that. Bernie is that person. He could walk into a room full of strangers and leave behind a room filled with friends. Looks, charm, and smarts made him a much sought after partner for conversation.

We’d be having a talk about politics or golf or the way people drive and I’d be trying to wrap my head around some behavior that had me scratching my head, frustrated. He would offer a summary in a few succinct words. He did it without fanfare and without making a big deal of it. He possessed this Buddhist sensibility. That was the kind of guy he was.

In my book (and no doubt plenty of others) he was the Unofficial Mayor of Waynesville. He knew everyone everywhere. He knew the business of different businesses, and could tell you which ones had a decent shot of succeeding. Here’s an example of the impact he had on his world. Years ago I’d gone downtown and wandered into the newspaper shop on Main Street (a now long lost relic to the past). I grabbed a paper and soda, and as I was paying, the guy behind the counter, who also owned the place, asked how my folks were and told me to say hi to my dad. I hadn’t been there in about a year. Another time I was in town and went with him to one of his Kiwanis Club meetings, where they were talking about doing a haunted house. He immediately volunteered me because of my experience designing them when I was in college. For countless Halloweens after Bernie would call and pick my brain, telling me about the space they had to work with (small), their budget (non-existent), and asked if I could get up there to help.

He’d been in the restaurant supply business for so long there were few who knew more than he when it came to restaurant and kitchen equipment. He could have written a book called ‘Kitchen Confidential’ on the things he’d seen, but he wasn’t an exposé kind of guy.

He had a way of sharing his opinion in such a fashion it often opened your mind.

About a year ago I was up visiting and we had to take a trip into town. He liked to say that when you were living in the mountains every trip was a trip into town. This particular excursion was an excuse to stop at Clyde’s, a Waynesville institution. It was the middle of the afternoon and we got coffee and talked. It was a quiet, unassuming moment, much like the man. Life is filled with moments we realize only later carry deeper impact.

Years ago, back in South Florida, he was thrilled when I took up magic, and would share new techniques. He always referred to himself as ‘The Great Lousini.’ But was as good at a pass, lift, or palm as any pro I’d known. The old saw about how ‘a good magician never reveals his tricks’ didn’t apply. The guy was better than I’ll ever be.

I talked to him the week before he passed away. I made it a point to try to talk to him at least once a week. Some weeks were a lot better than others. I was up there recently. His strength had been much reduced, but the light in his eyes and his wit were both present. The first thing he said when I walked into the house? He told mom we were going to take a trip into town for an ice cream.

I have this great photo I took of him when he and mom first moved up to the mountains of Western North Carolina. Clearing the land on the side of the house where the land sloped up, he happily cut away. He was wielding a chainsaw as I shouted for his attention. He turned around and saw the camera. He hammed it up by holding that chainsaw above his head, opening his mouth like some crazed member of a chainsaw brigade. I smiled as I took the photo, and smiled every time I looked at that picture.

Here was a man much admired and appreciated by all he met. He inspired when he didn’t try. He was my hero, in part because he was so sensible. I grew to admire the boxy style of the Volvo because he drove one for so long. It might have been uncool to most, but not to me, because it was his. It was because of him I learned early in life to appreciate National Public Radio, an appreciation I carry to this day. I can’t turn on a radio without switching to FM and heading to the left on the dial. Turned out to be a good thing I listen so much since a lot of the news I hear is topical and applies well to the courses I’m studying.

Being in a situation where you’re certain you know how you should react, yet can’t, is a tough place. When the thing that triggers confusion is the loss of a loved one, the emotion of choice is sometimes despair. The loss of a loved one is a different experience for each of us. In my case the plunge into fog was quick and without mercy. In the fog I’m fortunate there are people like my mom, reaching out and touching my hand, comforting me by letting me know we take this one day at a time.

My mom is my other hero. She is an Olympian example of strength I cannot possibly possess. Her heartbreak I cannot fathom. My heart cries and struggles as it fights to break free of my chest. She once remarked her job was to ‘help mountain folk keep their heads screwed on straight’. The key word there is help. My blinding quandary is how do I help her?

For the grief that is inevitably going to catch up with me, I am not yet prepared. I’m not ready. Perhaps it makes me something of a coward, convinced I can outrun the pain. If it gets me to a place where I can take my breath before facing the pain, then call me what names you will.

I’ve always been the prodigal son in part because that’s the journey I unwittingly chose. But as I grew older I grew to understand the importance of family, how they prop and support, how they provide insight, refuge, and balance. Conversations where one could disagree without being disagreeable; where one could talk and find a union of the heart and mind. I’m working on my MBA and I’m going to miss those opportunities to talk politics and economics.

When I called the house for the first time after he passed away I heard his voice, thankfully still on the voicemail message. The first time I heard that voice singing, “Nothin’ could be finer than to be in Carolina…” I thought it was so corny. We all did. But it was perfect and it was Bernie. Hearing that voice now brings a smile wrapped in sadness.

And I understood why of late he was reluctant to be seen on the streets of downtown Waynesville. It wasn’t that no one wants to see their beloved Mayor, their hero, reduced of strength physically, even if still a giant mentally. But more importantly to him, he didn’t want people to see him and become worried. That was also Bernie.

I’d give anything for one more cup of coffee at Clyde’s.

Happy birthday, Dad.  Thanks for introducing me to NPR and Daniel Silva, among other things. I love you and consider myself most fortunate indeed to have been part of your world.

Thoughts on the Reason for the Season

December 24, 2015

The reason for the season.

What is it exactly? If you ask 10 people you’ll get 10 different answers. Similar to my experience as an actor and stuntman, every time I went for a new headshot session I would go through the photos and pick the top 10 I felt best represented me as me and not someone else. And I would seek out the council of my experienced actor friends and ask them their opinion. After, I would talk to a couple of casting directors and ask them theirs. Finally, I would go to my agent and let her have a look see. Would it surprise you to know that some folks like the same photo but in almost every instance every individual picked another, different picture. I would make notes who likes what and why, and then I would compare that to my own notes of what I liked. That’s how I chose my new headshot pictures. Ultimately, it had to be an honest representation Of Ron. If this somehow conflicted with my agent’s choice I never told her. And she never said word one to me when I submitted new head shots for her file.

My choice of headshots is a variation of reflectively deciding which path or fork in the road to take, ultimately making the mindful choice of what best serves you and your sphere.

So, you may be wondering how I started on the topic of holiday interpretation and got to a monologue about headshots. While it is critically important to respect the belief and values of others, it is equally important to identify your own values and be willing, through self awareness, to stand for them.
Our belief system is always evolving. As we get older we develop stronger feelings on certain subjects and in many instances abandon beliefs and sentiments we held in our youth. sometimes we make slight modifications and other times we engage in wholesale changes.

What does this mean for you? I can tell you what it means for me. I may not believe in your belief system but I’m willing to listen and learn, & adopt those rudiments as they apply to my vslue system.
Christmas is about the spirit of giving, of family, and of compassion. Hanukkah is about storytelling, light, hope, and faith that all things are possible when you believe. Ramadan is about family, religious observation, and self-reflection. Yule is about acknowledging the cycle and circle of life, and remembering why connecting with nature and each other is so important. And so it goes. See the trend in similarities? Truth is, each of these holds within its bosom a commitment to celebration, remembering, and self-reflection.

Every major religion, including many not considered “major,” celebrate the new year at a time that contradicts the Gregorian calendar. This doesn’t make one more “right,” anymore than local cultural norms that dictate you dine on the floor and eat sans utensils, or sit at a long linen-bedecked table, waiting for the next course to be served.

Here’s the thing. every one of these tenants listed is something that any single individual can get behind and adopt. In that way it’s kind of like getting advice or seeking counsel. Take what works for you, apply it, and discard the rest. Don’t forget the rest because there’s a good possibility somewhere down the road you’ll look through that pile of discards and realize, Hey that thing there just might work.

So that’s the thing to think about not just for the season, but every single day of your life. Remain true to who you are, and be open to the sort of change that is personally fulfilling and socially enriching. You’ll notice a positive change in yourself. Your ever growing circle of friends and family as well as sphere of influence will reflect this. All you have to do is be willing to share and participate.
That sense of self realized connectiveness, the concept of individual wholeness bringing value to the community?
That’s the payoff.

Jim Robertson – A Mission of Love

November 17, 2011

It was quite the gathering, somber and subtle.  The steady flow of people suggested the hope of getting a glimpse of someone known to many and loved by all, their mere presence a testament to the man.  They came from everywhere, current and former work colleagues, and all friends.  Jim’s storied history as an entertainer encompassed everything from clowning around to stunts.  Really.  He was a clown with Ringling Brothers and stunt performer at Wild West, calling upon his ability to make people laugh while doing stunts so effortlessly he made you believe anyone could do them.

It is said we are measured by the company we keep.  If you want to know a little about a man, take a look at the people he calls “friend.”

By such reckoning Jim is a man wealthier in character than most who measure their wealth by something more tangible, yet no more substantial.  His love and connection to those who paid tribute by their presence to him showed a man who had not only made peace with God and the complexity of the human condition, but he made the effort known to each and every soul who reached out to him.

Perhaps that is a bit of a misnomer.  In sooth, he reached out to everyone, one delicate and fragile soul at a time.  It was like watching a receiving line for royalty.  He had special words for every person.  Even in pain, the love on his face shone through his smile, a beacon to each one of us lost in the confusing darkness.  Some of us chose to remain nearby, standing sentinel, others had not the strength to wait for the moment the ferryman would arrive.  His family was never far away, each one at one point or other in the evening offering every one of us a hug as thanks for being there.  Except for his father.  His father sat at the foot of the bed and gently massaged Jim’s feet.  The image is a powerful one that will forever remain with me.  You see, I lost a brother years ago, and the pain and sadness that affected me, while deep, was different from my parents, faced with the unsettling reality of having to bury their son.   No parent should ever have to stare this reality in the eye.

I said goodbye to an old friend tonight, careful to remain sure-footed and stoic in his presence. I’d summoned up the courage (which was nothing compared to Jim’s daily battles of late) to come to the house. I was conflicted about going, because I knew why I was going. By his invitation we all were there. I dug deep as I walked in to see him, bolstered by the presence of so many friends and loved ones gathered under one roof. Most of us tried the same tact.  But our body posture shouted something else entirely.  And Jim? He knew better. It’s why he smiled as he held my hand.  He spoke to me of marriage and of flying, the former a passion of his and the latter a passion of mine.  He offered wisdom to a neophyte married man with the same lucidity of conversations we so recently enjoyed at work.

Have you ever wanted to hug the pain out of someone?  I felt that way, and yet sensed Jim wanted to hug the pain out of all of us, one at a time.

That’s a lot of love.  That’s a colossal giant of a man.

I remarked later that I admired him for so many things, and most recently, for his strength.  To have the wherewithal to make peace with the world in general and accept the hand one is dealt, while capitalizing on the moments still hanging in the pass, takes remarkable fortitude.  I have never been so strong in the brilliant points of my life, allowing rather the crest of momentum to carry me.  I know with fair certainty I could never be so strong faced with the imminent advance of my own mortality.  I will never understand what sort of Herculean strength is required of a person to stave off the advances of organ failure simply to say good bye to those who need.

An anxiety attack is cause for concern in most.  Yet here was a man who found a way to smile as he sat at the portal, refusing the suffering any quarter as he kept the pain at bay in favor of the company of we few who trudge onward, forced to face the day of our own reckoning in the gentle eyes of a man twice as good as most of us will ever aspire to be.

People often use clichés to the point of exhaustion.  One such phrase, “…Charming to the last,” has seen more than its fair share of exposure for causes and people unworthy.  Yet such a simple phrase does not describe Jim in those hours and moments.

To say Jim was charismatic and charming to the last denigrates the statement and does little to stress exactly how much love and charm exuded from this man.  He inspired a prominent local entertainer, himself a charming and charismatic fellow, to take on the task of becoming a concert promoter, building a night of entertainment dedicated to a singular purpose: helping Jim and his family. During the pre-production period of bringing the “Mission of Love” concert experience to fruition, Donn managed on a few hours of sleep a night.  He didn’t care.  Forging forward with this pressing need, he touched upon its importance with every person he spoke to.  And wound up having to turn people down.  What’s that say for a man’s worth that entertainers were lining up when they heard whom the benefit was for?

In times of trouble, and all too often at the expense of a person’s demise, does the kindest of words begin to drift skyward. We too often delay our effortless endeavor until we are robbed of the opportunity to say, “I love you” or offer some other sweetly noble cadence.  We create this sadness for ourselves and then wonder why we waited.

Yet Jim never waited, and he never allowed us to wait, either.  He compelled us to speak our mind, from the heart, in one voice.

Don’t wait.  The world needs the possibility of a universe with love, of people not willing to remain the silent majority, taken to task for thinking, “what if?”

I heard someone question why God takes all the good ones, and leaves the miserable, villainous sots behind.  I have an answer:  He is sometimes a selfish God, and when the mood strikes him, he wants the best for himself.   Or, to put it in the words of Donn:  “Open the Gates!  You got a good one!!!”

If you knew Jim, you’d agree.

Thanks Jim, for sharing your heart and showing us foolish mortals the hopefulness of a world with Love.