Consuming Fire

On 2 February 2015, my house burned to the ground.  We got out in our pajamas.

It is quite a process "starting over."

Some (most?) of my other blogs depend on collections of source material - photography, primarily - that was destroyed in the fire.  For this one, I depend on my head, my heart, and my hands; and the discretionary time to compose a post.

Over the past couple of weeks, our time has been devoted to shock, disbelief, grief, relief (that we got out alive), about a million phone calls to service providers and creditors, rebuilding lost wardrobes and sundry, insurance concerns, and on and on and on...

During one of my many phone calls, the service representative commented on my calm demeanor and healthy humor.  I told him it is because I know where my treasure is, and it is not in this world.

Although many cherished possessions were lost in the fire, all of it is just 'stuff' that will remain in this world when I pass into the next.  Having it all be gone so suddenly, involuntarily, is shocking for sure; but it is also liberating.  Among the many emotions I am experiencing there has been a persistent sense of freedom.  No longer burdened or bound to or anxious about the mountains of accumulated worldly trappings (appropriate term!), we are free to rebuild with more conscious intention than we have ever previously enjoyed.

Also, we are more free to see God's face and hear his voice.  Not that we were not already looking and listening; and not that we did not already know in our hearts that all of our stuff was just stuff.  But it is so easy to let 'stuff' get in the way of building intimate relationship with Almighty God.  Anything that comes between us and God is an idol. Anything. Possessions, relationships, attitudes, traditions, ideologies.

Scripture tells us repeatedly (for good reason) that we must not look back, we must not be afraid, we must look forward, press on toward the mark, keep our eyes on Yahweh, love him and trust him.

Job 1:21 - " The LORD gives and the LORD takes away.  Blessed be the NAME of the LORD."

Baruch HaShem
(Blessed be The NAME)

Wow. Right after I typed those last few lines, this song came up on my playlist! Seriously. Not even kidding.

BLESSED BE THE NAME (From Job)   (click to hear it!)

New beginnings.



I am a convinced believer in the power of creativity.  Doing creative things is deeply therapeutic.  Or, at least, it can be.

In fact, Rule #39 in my personal list of Rules for Life is: Do something creative every day.

Now, creativity is subjective, perhaps.  It is certainly relative.  Eye of the beholder, and all that, ya know.

Create for your own mental and spiritual health.  Don't make it about pleasing anyone but yourself.

[OK. Some people make a living being creative, and often they must create things that are marketable or in alignment with a specific commission.  Still therapeutic.  In that case, my caution would be, "Don't let the necessary boundaries quench your inspiration."]

Recording one's thoughts in a blog is creative.  Writing, painting, drawing, doing crafts, sewing, sculpting, cooking, dancing, making music... the list is long - flower arranging, interior decorating, designing a website, building a house, making furniture, on and on.

So, it's not like there is a paltry list of activities from which to choose when one wants to do something creative.  Find something you enjoy doing, and do it!

The therapy is in the sense of accomplishment, even before your 'project' is complete.  A work in progress is something to anticipate, think about, be inspired by.  The process itself is life-affirming.

The therapy is also in the distraction.  Focusing on something creative for a while and not being overwhelmed by whatever 'drudgery' might crowd your normal daily doings.

And it does not have to be something you hope or expect to see in a world-class gallery or on a best-seller list some day.  You may be the only one who ever sees it!  Lots of creative projects are not permanent.  The point is not to create something for public recognition.  It is just the simple satisfaction of doing something that leads to a beautiful result, even if it is only beautiful to you.

Actually, even if you do not think your result is beautiful, the process of creating something is usually more meaningful than the resulting object or memento.

Be creative.

Life awaits.


Center of the Universe

"...everyone's replaceable... you are not the center of the universe.  If you leave, someone will replace you, the circle will close... That lesson has been helpful because it is really easy...to think that you've got to be involved in everything."  ~ Kristin Muhlner, CEO of NewBrand Analytics, a provider of social media monitoring

Well, OK, then.

My head understands and my heart believes that I am not the center of the universe.  But occasionally, perhaps as recently as this morning, I do not act like I understand this.

The fresh interpretation Ms. Muhlner places on this ancient altruism - "you are not the center of the universe" - is revealing.  I know there have been plenty of times when I thought I had "to be involved in everything," even while I "knew" that I was not the center of the universe.

I have also found it easy to think that "things will fall apart" if/when I am no longer involved in something.  Or I might break out that old saying, "If you want something done right, you have to do it yourself."

How is that NOT the epitome of self-centeredness, hubris, and vanity?

I confess. Sometimes I have had the distinct sensation - based on what I considered to be observable, measurable human behavior in my immediate vicinity - that I was truly surrounded by profoundly stupid people.  [I know: for some families 'stupid' is the other 's' word]

I think most people have that sensation from time to time.  It is disconcerting; even frustrating.

So, what I am figuring out, or reminding myself of more often, is that people are people.  Tough one for me to have such a hard time deciphering, eh? 

Everyone has a story.  We are all operating from a perspective that is the result of years of experiences, which have effectively wrapped each of us in our own unique cocoon of life-filters.  How we view our world today is based on everything we have done over the course of our lives; everyone we have known; every book we have read; every movie, every television program, classroom, nature hike, theme park, accomplishment, disappointment, etc etc.

This is not a new idea, of course.  Philosophers have waxed eloquent on this topic for centuries.

Application in my own life is the thing.

I want to SEE my friends, family, coworkers, colleagues, peers, acquaintances, strangers, celebrities - to see them all as human, beautiful, interesting, worthy of attention - to share, to learn, to listen, to teach, to appreciate, to love.

I am NOT the center of the universe.  I am surrounded by many special universes, constellations, galaxies of humanity.  Fellow-sojourners whose actions and reactions spring from LIFE; from having lived through their own sequence of interactions that is making each of them a living work of art.

Time to enjoy the moving art gallery in which I live and work every day.



I work in an information-rich environment.

I suppose most people exist in the midst of roiling reams of multimedia input opportunities these days.  We have it coming at us from multiple outlets all day, everyday.

But my job actually involves intentionally inviting information to intrude into my inmost being.  Truly.  I go looking for information to ingest.  And then I create some information of my own based on all the information I have consumed. 

It's like making snowballs, though.  I take a bunch of information, pack it tightly and quickly into a projectile, dispatch it toward its target, and before I even witness the disintegration of my latest creation on the  back of my target's head, I am already busy creating my next ball of pre-masticated data.

Seriously.   It seems like much of my analytical effort explodes briefly into a million sparkling bits of spectacular crystalline wonder, barely noticed by the intended target.  In fact, too often the target is laughing and lobbing their own missile in my direction.

The results of all this lobbing back and forth is supposed to be increased understanding of whatever it is we are analyzing at the moment; whether it be business processes, workflows, performance metrics, status of projects, market research, or any of dozens of other human capital assessments.

Sometimes I think the main thing we are accomplishing is making more stuff to be stored in the archives.  Sometimes it does not seem to help the current situation much.  In fact, usually by the time we have written our incisive analysis the leadership has moved on to the next exhibit in the rotating display cases that are the various sections, divisions, departments, and branches who are valiantly endeavoring to prove themselves worthy of retention.

So, for those of us poking, peering, pondering, pilfering, and postulating, it often appears that our efforts were for naught.  At best. 

Every time I write a new "Recommendations" section to crown my analysis, I am entertaining thoughts in the back of my head - remembrances, I should say - of how often my recommendations have been taken to heart; or even noticed, for that matter.  I'm pretty sure I could count on one hand the times I have had a recommendation actually accepted, implemented, and praised.

Well, that turned into a rant, I guess.

When I began to compose this post I was thinking about the irony of how overwhelmed I sometimes feel by the tsunami of information coming my way everyday, when in fact I am literally asking for it.

It helps to have good music playing through it all.


What? Am I Nuts?

Don't answer that.

So, a couple of days ago, I started my EIGHTH blog here on blogger.  I also have a couple on WordPress.

This new one is called Image Horde.

I started it because I had been experimenting with photo collages, and I wanted to put them up someplace where they would be time stamped for posterity.  You know, just in case I become hugely famous and need to prove that I created these pieces and when.  'Cause, ya know, THAT's gonna happen.

But also, I just wanted to share these 'artworks.'

AND I would like to get some feedback on them.

Are they fun?  Are they appealing?  Are they disgusting?  Are they amateurish, passe, boorish?  Are they legal?  What kinds of images make the best collages?  Should they be themed? Random? Color-coded?

I know there are plenty of high-speed photo manipulation softwares out there.  [I know.  'Software' is inherently plural, so the 's' is superfluous, but whatever.]

I specifically want to keep it 'primitive.'

I want my pieces to look like quilts, so I am not trying to make sure it all blends together flowingly.  [apparently 'flowingly' is not a recognized word.  Too bad.]

Anyway, welcome Image Horde to my burgeoning collection of bloggishness.

[What?? 'bloggishness' is not a word, either?  You're kidding, right? Heheh.]


No, seriously.

I have no idea whether four and a half years is any kind of internet blog hiatus record, but I also do not care one whit.  I think I don't want this blog to be entirely filled with posts about blog hiatii.  OK, I don't think 'hiatii' is the correct plural for hiatus.  Pretty sure it should be hiatuses.

Which, for some reason reminds me of a children's Christmas song from my So-Cal childhood.  "I Want a Hippopotamus for Christmas."  I was the youngest of five children.  We had this song on a small yellow vinyl record.  It was the size of a 45, but it was played at 33 1/3.

I remember some of the lyrics: "Oh, I want a hippopotamus for Christmas. A hippopotamus is all I want.  No crocodiles, or rhinoceroses.  All that I want is hippopotamuses."

The internet is such a great thing.  I just went and did a Google/Wikipedia search - right in the middle of composing this post! - and found a wealth of information about this song that brings back such memories for me.

Released in 1953, it was written by John Rox and sung by Gayla Peevey, who was only 10 years old at the time.

There are even a couple of YouTube renditions; one of which is Gayla appearing on a TV show in 1953.

My memory of the lyrics is a little off, but hey - we're talkin' nearly sixty years past!

Hiatus, schmiatus.



I’ve been thinking about this.

Here are the apparent reasons I have not devoted more attention to maintaining this blog (or any other blog for that matter):

1) Time. An obvious culprit, eh? However, as one who has taught innumerable sessions on “Time Management” I am fully aware that at the end of the day (which is literally when I would be trying to carve out precious seconds for this type of activity) we all pretty much do what we decide is what we want to do or is somehow “mandatory.” I want to maintain a blog, but I sure can’t convince myself that it is in any way necessary. Answer: Just do it.

2) Topic. Seriously. I have so much stuff competing for attention inside my head the very idea of trying to focus on one thing to blog about presents virtually insurmountable inner conflict. Although I am passionate about politics and religion, I confess I’d rather not make my opinions and beliefs in those areas the primary subject of this blog. I’ve found that once you breach those portals there is no turning back and the resulting noise tends to drown out any other sane discourse in which one might wish to partake. Music? Literature? Entertainment? Education? Technology? Linguistics? Humor? The Human Experience? Where does one begin? Answer: Just do it.

3) Target. What is the purpose? Do I have an actual goal for maintaining a blog? Am I trying to achieve some kind of immortality? Looking for my fifteen minutes of fame? Do I expect to be “discovered”? By whom? To do what? Will I “meet” other interesting people? Am I consciously trying to “reach” a particular constituency? Will anyone out there actually read and appreciate what I am writing? If not, so what? Is the “journey” enough? Just the simple personal satisfaction of organizing my thoughts and transferring them to a public forum? Do I really have to have an established, specified, articulated objective? Who is measuring me and my product? Answer: Just do it.

So, I guess I have my answer.

Just do it.

In the end it may or may not make any difference at all to anyone but me; and I wonder how much difference it will make to me, even. Does there really have to be “a point” to it? We humans do tend to place high value on “relevance.” We ask the “Why?” question a lot; and the “Who cares?” question, too.

So… what?

I guess I have to decide to post whatever I am pondering at the time and be happy.

Postscript: Dear Nike, I did not take the time to research whether “Just do it” is a trademarked phrase. If so, please find it in your steely corporate heart to refrain from suing me for enlisting the venerable assertiveness of your simple imperative statement.