everything is connected

The trouble with life is it’s too dang complicated. Very little is clear cut. I mean, sure, there is good and bad, black and white. But issues are rarely isolated — everything is connected.

Take my last post, for example. I took a swing at an excuse-laden lazy society. I encouraged people to move. But what if you have selfless obligations that keep you from moving? Or what if you’re injured? Or what if the weather is bad? Or what if you’re too poor to afford a gym membership (like me)?

People come at topics from all different angles.

Another example is education. I’ve seen a number of articles recently that address the decline of the American education system. “The American education system is failing miserably,” the authors say. To prove it, they compare old and current middle school reading lists. “A hundred years ago students were reading the classics; today, they’re skimming Twilight.” “It’s no wonder the United States is falling behind other nations in Math, Reading, and Science,” they moan. “Look at what they’re reading!” A quote by the late Joseph Sabron is often then shared. “In a hundred years, we’ve gone from teaching Latin and Greek in high school to teaching remedial English in college,” Sabron said. “So sad and so true!” the authors lament.

So sad and so true; so sad and so true. Yes sad, and yes true. But, but . . . My question is: Is anyone asking what’s responsible for this decline?

The trouble with statistics is that they can’t possibly examine all of the probable contributing factors to a problem. Isolating factors doesn’t do us any good, either. Take the above education crisis, for example. Based on the authors’ comments above, one might easily assume American students are to blame. “Kids are lazy these days!” “Twilight? Bah!” After all, it’s our children who are taking these tests. If we look a little harder, though, we realize perhaps it isn’t our students’ fault at all. And maybe not our teachers’. And maybe not even our government’s. Perhaps the issue is much larger than that.

On any given day American students are likely to hear stories about, witness, and/or be subjected to racism, illegal immigration, gangs, gun wars, drug wars, government corruption, cultural clashes, school shootings, natural disasters, violence, murder, and more — much more. Education starts at home, and unfortunately not all children have a home to come home to. I witnessed this firsthand while working at an elementary school last year. Acknowledging this, I believe it’s safe to say: Certain places in the States (and everywhere) might be more sheltered than others, but no child, school, system, or government is immune to the various connected issues of man.

For a few related articles, look here:




what man has made of man

what-man-has-made-of-man (2)I could go on.

With obesity rates skyrocketing in the United States, many people are asking, “Why?” Why are we fatter now than, say, fifty years ago?

Some look to fast food chains for their answer. “It’s all your fault!” they like to say. “You’re too cheap, and you taste too good!” Others blame more healthful foods. “It’s all your fault!” they’re apt to say. “You’re too expensive, and you taste like wood!” Some others blame traffic and a commuter lifestyle. “You take too long!” they often say. “You crawl along; you’re in my way!” And, still others, the weather. “By gosh, it’s hot. Too hot to go; I guess I’ll stay . . .”

Occasionally a bright-eyed individual will examine their use of time throughout the day. They walk when they could drive, move when they could sit. They actually enjoy exercise — or, at least they try to find ways to exercise that they enjoy. And they put their phones down. And turn off the TV. And have real conversations. And go outside.

They see more. And breathe more. And feel more. And live more.

Our bodies were made to move. When we render them stationary — be it by a desk job, TV addiction, video game, social media, or what have you — we compromise them, and our minds, and our lives.

One of my favorite poems by William Wordsworth sums up my thoughts well:

Lines Written in Early Spring

I heard a thousand blended notes,
While in a grove I sate reclined,
In that sweet mood when pleasant thoughts
Bring sad thoughts to the mind.

To her fair works did Nature link
The human soul that through me ran;
And much it grieved my heart to think
What man has made of man.
Through primrose tufts, in that green bower,
The periwinkle trailed its wreaths;
And ’tis my faith that every flower
Enjoys the air it breathes.
The birds around me hopped and played,
Their thoughts I cannot measure:—
But the least motion which they made
It seemed a thrill of pleasure.
The budding twigs spread out their fan,
To catch the breezy air;
And I must think, do all I can,
That there was pleasure there.
If this belief from heaven be sent,
If such be Nature’s holy plan,
Have I not reason to lament
What man has made of man?
For an (imperfect!) audio recording of this poem, click below.


for all that we’ve gained

social-impact-of-technology-social-isolation-3-638“Duh-uh!” The facebook notification ding! goes off at my computer. I’m standing at the kitchen sink. Oh boy. I roll my eyes . . . Oh boy? My curiosity is piqued. Who’s contacting me now?

I’m checking facebook on my cell phone. I see I’ve got a new message. I click on the 💬 button but am greeted, no, not by my message, but by a black screen: “Please turn on notifications,” it says starkly at the top. Below it, as if to soften the blow, the screen explains, “The app works best when you and your friends can see new messages right away.” It then gives me step-by-step directions explaining how to turn on instant message notifications on my phone.

I’m feeling alone. The work day is slow: I don’t yet have a lot to do, being new. But, oh wait! According to my phone I have ten new messages in my email inbox . . .  Never mind that they’re all from credit card companies or people I don’t know. Maybe I’m not so alone after all.

“Did you look at Yahoo this morning?” “No. Why?” “Just go look at it. Tell me what you think.” “Think about what?” “Just look!” “Uhh . . . Okay, okay.”


When I was a kid, the only way to look up the news was to read a newspaper or watch the evening news. The only way to get in touch with a friend was to call them up (on a landline) or to pass notes in class or write a letter — and send it via snail mail. I didn’t get a cell phone until I was in high school, and I didn’t have a texting plan until long after that. And I distinctly remember the first time I ever heard of MySpace (at an evening service in college) and Facebook (a friend convinced me to sign up so we could stay in touch over the summer). I remember that the very idea of a social network site seemed strange to me. Why would I want to use something like that?

How times have changed.

But have they changed for the better?

These days, even when I try to decrease my online time, I’ve got applications telling me I’m better off not. “I’m here! I’m here!” the Internet calls. “You’re better off because I’m here!”

Am I really?

Yes, I can now buy groceries, go clothes shopping, read the news, look for jobs, “follow” my friends’ lives, look up words, track races, watch games, and so much more — all on my computer — thanks to the Internet. But . . . Did you read the conversation about Yahoo above? For all that we’ve gained, how much have we lost?

what now?

IMG_4028It’s an afternoon in the office. My eighth afternoon, to be exact. I started the new job last week, and, so far, things have been good. My coworkers are nice; my boss is, too. Things have been slow and mostly low stress – a good thing since I’m getting used to a new schedule.

It’s been a melancholy start, though: mellow and mild, a search for meaning. My long-term goal is still graduate school. This job – writing agreements and contracts at a water agency – pays well but isn’t what I’d hoped for. I want to teach.

IMG_4029(And yet you’ve gotta pay the bills. You’ve gotta start somewhere.)

My favorite college professor died, too – last Friday. I’ll write more about him soon, but my heart aches at the loss. I always looked to him for wisdom (believe me, he never held back), but now?

Now I have to rely on my heart, which sometimes feels so old and, then again, so young. Where will life lead next? What now?


Hqb3pRing around the rosies,
pocket full of posies,
Ashes, ashes,
we all fall down.

The delightful children’s chorus, one nearly all Americans learn as youth, has an insidious underlying meaning. Yes, yes, we’ve all heard the associations — the song dates back to the London Plague of 1665. (Well, some say it does. Others dispute this claim, tying the song to childish courtship games and pagan history.) I’m not here to argue for either case; rather, I am amused by the fact that something so appealing on the surface can actually mean something so somber. Continue reading

the search

bachelier-phantom-chamberAnd if I could inside me,
find all of me that’s you.
I’d bleary, eye the darkness,
then plummet down to you.

I’d through the winding tunnels,
across the creaking planks,
eschew the jaundiced suitors,
the lust of lesser ranks.

I’d scale the wintry mountain,
I’d swim the briny sea,
I’d fight the zinging cobra,
I’d crawl on hand and knee.

And, desp’rate, I would find you,
and headstrong I would be.
For there I’d find inside you,
your desp’rate search for me.

For an audio version of this poem, click below.


Image: Google

the man next door

shutterstock_103496906_copy_712_711The crazy guy next door moved out. Well, actually, he got evicted. I don’t know why, but I wouldn’t be surprised if it had something to do with his personal hygiene — the man never showered. His clothes were always dirty, too, and, despite his friendly demeanor, he couldn’t hold a conversation to save his life.

“I see you exercise a lot,” he’d say, exuberantly. “I exercise a lot, too. I walk a lot. That’s how I stay fit.”

“I saw you running the other day,” he’d say the next day. “I exercise, too. I walk a lot. That’s how I stay fit.”

And the next day. “Is that your bike? That’s a nice bike. I have a bike, too, but the tires are rotted. But I exercise a lot. I walk a lot. That’s how I stay fit.”

And so on and so forth. I used to try to respond to his comments. To his, “I see you exercise a lot,” I’d say, “Oh, I try!” Or, “Well, I’m training for a triathlon, so . . .” But the conversations never went anywhere; they always ended the same. Continue reading