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Those Shoes


Those shoes over there aren’t yours. You can only understand through the sum of your own experiences, which are not the same. Is this who you are? Some sweet or violent urge. A weak fallen human. With a promise at the end? I do not judge you.



You have to have passion for what you’re doing if you want to be great. If you don’t love it you’ll quit before you get there. This we’ve all been told or read a number of times before.

The struggle we sometimes find ourselves in is when we try to make something great, even though the passion isn’t there. Or, said another way, we struggle trying to invent or re-ignite passion.

It’s a shame that we put this pressure on ourselves. Because passion, by definition, isn’t very controllable. It’s an emotion. It can be modulated to some extent by our actions and mindset. But like most of our emotions, we don’t have direct access to it. Emotions are driven in part by our intellect. We know the situation we are in, and we know how we feel about it. We can observe much of that taking place and understand it academically, but controlling it is a lot to ask. It’s unreliable, at best. Hard to fight our human nature.

The reality is…we sometimes keep trying to find a way through even when the passion isn’t there. This manifests to different degrees I can summarize into three categories:

  1. Apathy – Giving up. No longer trying. One step away from quitting altogether, which could be the right thing to do once one reaches this point.
  2. Mailing/phoning it in – This has most of the appearances of trying, but it’s usually more for the benefit of all the onlookers than anything. Sometimes we do this for a while, waiting/hoping for that spark (spark) of inspiration to strike.
  3. The Struggle – The gallant effort. Continuing to push and work hard, in spite of evidence that it isn’t doing much good. In spite of that dull, nauseating feeling of discontent. The tricky thing is, when we try hard, we usually do get some results. Often it can be enough to keep us engaged for a while. But in the end we usually know the truth.

Without that intangible thing called passion driving us, it’s virtually impossible to do our best for an extended period of time.

And so…things change. Some people experience more of this than others. Some are better at fighting through and ignoring the underlying feelings than others. I would humbly suggest that no matter which side of this you are on, judging what another person is battling  and how it may be manifesting, is probably a misguided waste of emotional energy. Your passion, your common sense, your background of obviousness is unique to you.

When the fuel tank reaches empty, the car can usually still coast for a while, especially when the wind is favorable, but in the end you gotta’ find something new to be passionate about to really get going and get somewhere.

I’m sorry if this is not the answer you may want.

More Perspective


Is perspective something you can have more of?


The seventh post ever penned in this blog dates back to a time when it seemed the message could be powerful and clear enough when presented succinctly. It was about perspective. As with this one, and some others, it highlights that seeing things differently is at once something we understand, but don’t always really get. Thus the decisions others make sometimes seem like major head-scratchers to us.

One man’s junk is another’s statement. One man’s friend is another’s enemy, one’s debilitating frustration, another’s challenge, one’s psycho-bitch girlfriend another’s soul-mate, one’s insensitive asshole another’s hope for change and progress, and one man’s moral corruption another’s necessity.

There are very few bad people in the world. There are plenty of people who don’t see and process the world the way you do. How hard is it really to put yourself in another’s shoes and genuinely try to understand their perspective? When the distance between our sensibilities seems far enough apart, the effort wanes because we don’t perceive a compelling need to do it. We have enough people around us who are like us that we feel validated; it rarely even occurs to us that those other weirdos (assholes) are like us in some other, maybe not as easy to identify ways.

We can accept it academically. But add a feeling that they want something of mine, and now it’s a big problem.

Our perception is our reality, until we stop long enough to realize it’s all just perception.


Abundance and Safety


No question that for most people in the United States there is an abundance of almost everything needed to live a fruitful and interesting life. Clearly not smooth or easy across the board, but certainly miles better than things were for the average person a hundred years ago.

Amazingly, we still struggle with having what’s often referred to as an abundance mentality. We still separate, divide, protect, even hoard resources. We operate out of fear, or in a mindset to keep safe what we have while we sometimes want what others have (validating our fears).

Consider the story about the two shoe salesmen who went to Africa.

After a week, one man calls the manager and tells her, “I’m coming back home. There’s no hope here. Nobody here is wearing shoes, so there’s no one to sell to.” He boards the next flight home.

The second man calls and says, “You wouldn’t believe what I found here. There is so much opportunity. No one here is wearing shoes. I can sell to the whole country!”

It’s all a matter of perspective, and our perspective is often frustratingly biased towards a lack of abundance, and fear over what might be lost.

I have been referred to as a “risk taker” by a friend. Hrm. Really?! I’ve worked at the same company for 24 years (through five roles), and lived in the same area for that time. Sure, I drive sports cars fast, invest money in risky ventures, and go out on limbs in some other areas, but I wouldn’t characterize myself as a risk-taker at all. Well, maybe relative to this person I am, and that’s my point! I really just try to see that there is an abundance of opportunities available, so a little risk in places is a good practice. If I stumble, I can pick myself up. Otherwise life gets too stale.

Adventure may be dangerous, but routine is lethal. You deserve better. Put some danger in your life and live. Something really beautiful could happen.

To Die of Love


This painting captures the final denouement of Les aments de Teruel (The Lovers of Teruel), which is alleged to have actually taken place in 1217 in the city of Teruel Spain.

Juan and Isabel were in love, but Isabel’s father forbade their marriage because Juan was not wealthy. Juan left Teruel to build his fortune and while he was gone Isabel’s father forced her into a loveless marriage with Don Pedro de Azagra. When Juan returned with his riches Isabel refused – out of religious virtue – to kiss him. Spurned, Juan died of a broken heart. The remorseful Isabel went to bid her love farewell, and as she bent to kiss him, she breathed her last breath, thus ensuring their union for eteLoversofTGravesrnity.

They are currently entombed at Iglesia de San Pedro. Numerous dramatic adaptations and plays have beenToDieofLove inspired by the story. A filmed ballet about it was released December 14, 1962.

These tragic yet beautiful and dramatic stories are compelling to us. The elements are: True love. An obstacle (culture, her father). Juan respected that tradition and nobly rose above the challenge to earn his love’s hand. Meanwhile she was stuck (a common theme) in a loveless marriage, yet stayed true to her religious virtue, morality, character. He loved her so much that he died (there was no other for him), and she followed suit (reciprocating love). Now they are together, a happy(ish), if tragic, ending; ultimate romance.

We’re compelled because…we somehow want to be them? It doesn’t seem like they were very happy in life. She was stuck in a marriage and probably thinking about Juan all the time. He was off, missing her, trying to make his fortune. Yes, he had a purpose that fueled his fire, and he probably felt great for a short time as his fortunes mounted and he rode back into town, but generally those years were presumably pretty lonely and frustrating.

Maybe we aspire to be like them? They made the best of a shitty situation, which appeals to us. They are together in eternity, which is also a comforting thought.

We love to experience the emotions a story like this elicits. Most of us generally don’t have the passionate love or the dramatic obstacles to overcome. In our actual lives things are generally pretty easy and mundane. This is often by (our) design, of course, as we fear taking the big risks that may produce this type of drama.

What if you loved so much you could die? What if you persevered against the odds? For most, those sorts of things will be fantasies. We’re all dreaming in some ways. For Isabel and Juan there was also a fantasy…that they could live together in love. Most would say there is nothing wrong with a good fantasy, so long as it doesn’t dominate or ruin your life. But put yourself in Juan’s shoes. Should he have given up and married another?

It wouldn’t make much of a story. It wouldn’t make much of a life.




If the wind blows your house down, you can hardly blame the wind.


“You too, child.”


Translated, this is what some believe were Julius Cesar’s last words as he realized Brutus was involved in the conspiracy to assassinate him on what became the Ides of March that we celebrate today. Whether he actually said anything is up for debate, but most historians are sure his disappointment at this discovery was profound.

We also celebrate the ill fated betrayal and demise of Jesus during these times.

As either story is told, its presents us with a classic martyr scenario. Yet, these actions were believed by their perpetrators to be justified, if perhaps somewhat cowardly in execution. It’s very easy to look at these scenarios through a morally polarized filter, but there have certainly been some assassinations over the years that were considered morally right by many, so as I always say, be careful about judging when you don’t know all the information and haven’t walked in the shoes of the other.

Stepping back from the questionable morality of it for a moment…and assuming there are times where it is a necessary action, what is the “right” way to assassinate someone? That it comes to this at all represents so many failures it makes one wonder, how could things be allowed to go so wrong? How could so much control be lost? Now there is the burden to weigh not only whether it can possibly be considered right to end a life under these (or any) circumstances, but what is the “right” way to go about it? Quick and decisive? In the open where you take the blame, and any consequences, or with secrecy? From a moral perspective, does it matter?

Everything matters if you care about the assessments of others.

And finally, what of the guilt the perpetrators carry with them after the fact? What of those men who fired the guns in the firing squad, or the man who released the rope of the guillotine? Or who gave the order to do so.

Betrayal, which comes in many lesser forms than murder, is a tough pill for either party to swallow. It is deemed wrong, and yet is sometimes justifiable, at least to some extent. Once things get this far, it is too late to save ourselves. We become prisoners, whether we execute the betrayal or not. There is no escape.

Intervals of Time


I wrote two articles yesterday (to be published soon) that included discussion of small intervals of time – milliseconds. Small intervals? To certain quantum functions the passage of milliseconds can be glacial. Today I am thinking about my friend Rob, who died a year ago. That makes me think about other endings, yet nothing really ends.

A year. Another interval of time. What happens in a year? Sometimes profound changesnewshoes are realized. Usually not. We cycle and basically stay the same: Another New Years Day (of hope), another Valentines Day (nice for some, not so nice for others), The Super Bowl, March Madness, a summer vacation, checking Facebook, a birthday, a few dozen trips to the grocery, neurons fire, cells divide, a new pair of shoes.

For Rob nothing happened.

Time seems to stretch out in front of and behind us, but that’s just our perception. It’s a perspective we use to give us context, and hope. There will be less tread left on the tires in what we call a year, but you’ll still expect them to work when you pull out of your drive as the sun does its thing in our linguistic definition of its interval of time.

Tires and shoes can be replaced. Many things can. Individual people can’t, but can the feelings we associate with them be replaced? Love is pretty good at finding a way – a recipient. We usually do replace people in the focus of our lives. We have a linguistic distinction for that, too. We call it “moving on.” And we sometimes say time heals all wounds.

Comforting perhaps.

Until you realize you don’t know anything and we really just made it up. We did. Time doesn’t pass linearly. It doesn’t really “pass” at all (look it up). It’s just a quantification we put to what’s for us a mesh of thoughts, feelings, beliefs and memories. There is no real moving on, as hopeful as that might sound. We make all of it up. All of it. The evidence is right in front of you. Your real experiences often don’t quite feel like they truly match the convenient, bottled up things you were told. The more aware of this you become the more unsettling it is, therefore we have a lot of incentive not to be aware. We brush the beginnings of that awareness aside, in favor of the comfort.

Everything is in an unquantifiable moment. Until there are no more.


Empathy is Better than Sympathy

steiner-prag_0Sympathy is acknowledging another person’s feelings. “I am sorry for your loss” means you understand the other person is grieving and want to recognize that fact.

Empathy is having the ability to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and relate to how the person feels, at least in part because you’ve experienced those feelings yourself.

Understanding and knowing (or at least truly relating to the feelings) are two different things.

Empathy connects us to others. It requires an ability and willingness to take the perspective of another person, which begins by recognizing that their perspective is their truth. It requires us to stay out of judgement. And it requires we recognize emotion in other people and then communicate accordingly. All easier said than done.

Sympathy is disconnecting, or more passive. “I’m sorry, I know it sucks for you, but…” The “but” is often implied, whether or not it’s actually spoken. It’s a hallmark of sympathy. It could mean anything from, “I don’t really care that much” to, “At least [fill in the blank with some proposed silver lining].”

Empathy is the vulnerable choice because it requires us to connect with something in ourselves that knows that feeling. It’s not comfortable (understatement). It’s you being willing to walk down the steps of that dark and foreboding stairwell to truly meet the other person where he or she is.

Sympathy tries to make things bearable. It can be dismissive, or it sometimes looks for a solution. Anything to get away from dealing with the difficulty or pain. It takes courage to sit with it and be in the weirdness without feeling the need to somehow dismiss it or even rationalize it. It simply is what it is, and it sucks, and there may be nothing to say. Often times it is better to say little to nothing.

It can be hard for us to know what to do to best help others (hint – the answer is sometimes nothing but be present). It can be hard to know how to act, but when we are the one who is struggling it’s usually pretty easy to sort the difference between sympathy and empathy. It matters to us greatly at those times, and we usually remember.


The Little Things

newshoesMaybe it’s the new shoes, or it could be the the joy that someone cares enough to make it happen. It’s often the little things, the intentions behind the actions or gifts that we take meaning from. Even if the meaning we think is there actually isn’t, we still benefit so long as we believe.

It’s fragile. Maybe someone believes in you. Are you ready to work to validate that? To lift the person up and help them fly on that belief?

You have a lot of power to do something good no matter which side of the gift you’re on. In the end you help yourself, of course.

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