Saturday, April 19, 2008

Deadly Viper---deadly good times

It's everything people want in a book these days: small size, small chapters, cool graphics, easy, quick, creative, highly applicable.

The "Deadly Vipers" are the threats to our character as written if Kung Fu's Master Po were talking to you, Grasshopper.

I especially liked the chapter on The Bling Bling Assassin, which was about being less self indulgent and being more generous. One of the authors created The Junky Car Club when he decided to go with an older car so he could give more money away.

Other catchy titles are the Assassins of: the Headless Sprinting Chicken (pace of life) and Boom Chicka Wah Wah (sexy stuff).

I think it's one of the freshest, concisest, creativest books on character I've read in a long time. And it's biblical stuff that's written in a hip culturally relevant way. And a very cool support site with resources to help people go after character.

Its authors are Mike Foster who created XXXChurch and Jud Wilhite who pastors Central Christian Church in the Las Vegas area.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Slow Shoes

Original journal entry Sept 15th '03
It’s September and the morning sun is different now. The air is clearer, the colors brighter. I drove through Highland Park on my way to work. An elderly woman sat under a tree, next to a large rock, next to the waterfall; her cell phone cupped to her ear. The park walkers now have a sweatshirt or windbreaker; if not on, around their waist.

This is the best time; trees full-on green, the last big burst of chlorophyll before fall hits hard. The morning temperature is a relaxing cool, the sky blue and cloudless, or nearly.

These are the days you wish you could just putz. Putz around the park instead of going to work, imagining who the cell phone lady is talking to and what they’re gabbing about.

Putz around the house doing all those little things that need done, but are never quite front-burner important; like framing that old picture from your childhood or arranging some flowers in that vase you never use.

Then stopping whenever you feel like it just to sit in that Adirondack chair in the yard and reflect on how good life is at these times, as you sip an extra cup of coffee.

This time of year warns us that it’s not going to be this time of year very much longer. This fantasy-weather won’t last. Everything in nature now calls us to get out from behind the desk to do the simple things we will not be able to do in a matter of weeks.

And as I write this I feel the kid-like pull to play hooky, to Carpe Sunshine.

Isn’t there a pull inside all of us between being responsible adults and living with a childlike embrace of life?
We read books or listen to speakers that remind us that the man on his deathbed never lamented not spending enough time at the office, and inside we say, “Yeah! That’s right!”

We respect the courage of the person who will let loose the responsible thing to go home and draw, simply because they haven’t drawn since seventh grade art class.

We hear these little antic dotes and our heart says, “Yes!” But later, our mind says, “No, it’s not responsible, it’s simply not done.” And still the chlorophyll’s time-release paint source is ticking.

Who wouldn’t rather be sitting by a rock in the park talking on a cell phone to someone they love who they see but once or twice a year?

Maybe it was attending my 20-year high school reunion the other night, but there is a tension between working too hard and not playing hard enough, not slowing near enough to notice and savor the things of life that can only be smelled, tasted, and felt through slow shoes.

I love my slow shoes, I don’t wear them enough. They’re broken in just right through decades of wear; they’re the most comfortable and relaxing shoes I own. But here is life’s diabolical twist: Without wearing my fast shoes, I don’t appreciate my slow shoes nearly enough.
If I would only put on my slow shoes, I imagine it would only be a matter of time until they became my boring shoes. We are truly weird creatures; seemingly always trying to govern work and play. And it never seems easy and it never seems simple; all we seem to know is when we’re having too much of one or not enough of the other.

What are we to do? I guess try to Carpe “the appropriate shoe.”

Friday, April 4, 2008

What if cities like Kokomo are the American Dream?

One of my pleasant morning rituals is listening to National Public Radio or NPR (106.1 FM locally). This week they did a two part story, Life in the Burbs: Heavy costs for Families, Climate. The subtitle: Millions of Americans have moved to the suburbs, many not anticipating the impact of their choice. click here & then click "listen now" for Part 1.

Part 1 spends a day in the life of a woman whose family aspired to life in the suburbs of Atlanta: 3k sq ft home w/5 bedrooms, 2 car garage and big yard. She spends about 90 minutes in the car each way to and from the city where she works, often creeping along at 16 mph in a 65 mph zone. People in the Atlanta area drive so much that if you added up every commute and every trip to a store or soccer practice on just one day, you'd get a number that's larger than the distance between the Earth and the sun.

Her day sounds exhausting. In essence it's: get up at dawn, drive in hideous traffic, work all day, back into molasses-like traffic, get home in time for a late dinner, do some chores, go to bed, repeat. For a fresh change of pace listen to a woman (part 2) who moved back into the city to be close to her job and all her other activities.

In essence the 2 part story was about the toll commuting in highly populated areas takes on us as people and on the environment with greenhouse gases. The two lives sounded like night and day. One felt stressful. One felt relaxing. One felt more like where I live.

No one ever talks about K-town like it's the American Dream--quite the opposite. When I was younger I was no fan of Kokomo myself. But then again, in my 20's I was naive. I "knew" a lot of things based on my impressions. Not so much based on experience or reality. It did help that I spent a very brief time in southern CA where to my surprise, everyone was no smarter or more cultured than people in Kokomo. They did however dress hipper.

I listen to a radio story like that or drive to Chicago, and instantly Kokomo is---dare I say..attractive. I live in a decent sized home on a double lot with little through-traffic for the same price as a 600 sq ft hovel in CA or big city suburb. I drive 5 minutes to and from work in what is effectively no traffic. I fill up my gas tank about every 2 weeks. In 3 minutes I can be on a windy country road on my motorcycle. Our family is home in plenty of time to sit around the table for a home-cooked meal. We have hours of time afterward to spend as we please. All the schools are good. There is very little crime. No traffic. Affordable homes.

"Yes, but where is the culture?" Fair enough. I'll admit Kokomo has an apparent blue collar personality. But I think culture predominantly is the way in which we live our life with our family and how we choose to interact with others who share our view of what culture is. And beyond that, Indy is chalked full of culture and is a straight shot south on the highway with again, virtually no traffic and unlimited options within I465.

And with all of the national talk of "going green" and since George Bush finally decreed that global warming exists, it occurs to me that our carbon footprint is inherently smaller in the 5-15 minute commutes of cities & towns like Kokomo; not to mention plenty of places to walk and ride our bicycles.

In America sometimes I think we discount whatever is in our back yard for anything that's 50 miles away. I know Kokomo has its shortcomings and things that I avoid e.g. country music, NASCAR jackets/discussions, entitlement mentality, lack of appreciation for the arts, just to name a few.

But I'm not sure I'd want to spend 50% more money to live in a different area and have significantly less time to live this life just to get a different geographic personality. This life is mine to live and make it what I want. If I can't figure out how to do that in Kokomo while appreciating the positives this city affords me and finding like-minded souls to relate with; then perhaps I lack creativity or initiative.
Maybe we have the opportunity to live the American Dream more so in Kokomo than we have previously thought. And in the end, how much about "living the life" is on the city and how much is on me and my perspective?

The Shack

One of my favorite quotes of late is, "Whenever someone tells you they're open-minded, it's a sure thing they're not." And in that vein I will tell you, "I do not like Christian fiction--I do not like it on a boat...or with a goat...I do not like Christian fiction."

Well, true to my ability to lie to myself and everyone else, I readily admit that this book (Christian fiction btw) captivated my mind and soul like no other. This is a book for everyone: seeker, new believer, "mature" believer. Sorry but I'm about ready to add "mature believer" to my oxymoron list ;-)

If someone were to have outlined the plot it wouldn't have sounded intriguing. In fact I confess I started reading it because a sweet elderly lady gave it to me, perhaps as a leading. And as she dropped it off to me said, "You may end up throwing it down at some point---I did..." I found it compelling--very intriguing--thought provoking--hard to put down--writing that easily instantly creates a film in one's mind---writing that reveals holiness in a unique voice.

Please consider reading this before someone tells you something about it that will spoil the read for you.

See it at Amazon.