On Anger (it’s your choice)

By all accounts, it started out as a beautiful day—a sunny Saturday under a bright blue southern Arizona sky holding with it the promise of the New Year, itself barely a week old. And then, someone put his finger on a trigger and in the same amount of time it took to write these first three lines 6 people were dead and 19 were wounded. That quick. Among the wounded was a Congresswoman just re-elected in a hotly contested race just 8 weeks before. The dead included a sitting Federal judge and a 9 year old girl. In less than a couple of heart-beats, the lives of countless number of people would be changed forever. That seems to be the measuring stick by today’s standards- a couple of heart-beats—one, two or three seconds; someone gets your goat- unload on ‘em in a couple of seconds; someone driving like a nut—flip ‘em off, it only takes a second or two. There are those in our society today who seem to think that their actions or their comments have no consequence. Not only are they full of themselves but they’re making it unbearable for the rest of us, the silent majority.

I remember rolling my eyes as a kid when I lost my temper and my grandma told me to count to 10. And when someone did lose their temper, my grandma always put her finger up to her lips and instructed us not to respond in kind. How does that work like that? You take your ordinary run-of-the-mill uneducated, ill-bred ignoramus and he’s allowed to run off at the mouth while the others sit by and say nothing. What’s worse is you put him on the radio or you give him a t.v. show. One elected official, acquainted with a number of the shooting victims, spoke of the hate and the animosity that pervades throughout our society today stirred up by people of this ilk. Geez, Louise, the press and all the other elected officials were all over that guy presumably for, dare say it, speaking the truth. The official, a cop, lamented that this was not the America that we all grew up in. And those with the bully-pulpits of radio and television made this guy look like he was the bad guy. Well, they’re wrong. We know it. And they know we know it. B.S. only goes so far.

America has lost its civility. And those things like grace, class and elegance seemed to have been tossed by the wayside with it. You see, you never had to have wealth or position to obtain any of those traits; they were handed down from generation to generation. It was all in how you carried yourself, how you treated others and how you could disagree with someone without being disagreeable. Simply put, you had CLASS. This is the America that we all grew up in. Back then, we were proud to be Americans.

There are those who would say that the reality is that this is the new America. Call me old-fashioned, call me a romantic but I kinda liked the old ways and the old days a lot more. There was a substance then that is sadly missing now.

When we initially heard of the shooting in Tucson, the internet (Yahoo!) originally reported that the Congresswoman had been killed. Three hours later, they corrected the mistake, but the vitriolic comments posted on the Yahoo site gave you pause and made you sick AND angry. The first: Good, she had it coming. She voted for Obamacare! And then, they got worse. I was infuriated. I wanted to strike out but I remember my grandma with her finger to her lips. I’m much better off writing about hope and a brighter tomorrow and all things positive, not the opposite. Besides, gram used to tell us that you can’t make a silk purse out of a pig’s ear. Well, she didn’t really say ‘ear’; her focus was on the other end of the pig. Y’know, I think she was right.

At least, that’s the way I see it. MLProko (2011)  additional columns at www.mikeproko.com

Published in: on January 25, 2011 at 2:14 pm  Leave a Comment  
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On Self-Pity [5 out of 5 have it]

I guess I must’ve been around 10 or 11. My grandfather was recalling something from my not-to-distant past: Remember that first ride on that first bike of yours. You wanted to do it but you were scared. You knew you were going to fall but you did it anyways. And when you did fall, you just kept gettin’ back up. As long as you’re alive, you’re goin’ keep fallin’ down for one reason or another. Just remember to ’keep gettin’ back up. Keep gettin’ back on that bike. Don’t just sit there feelin’ sorry f’ yerself. You weren’t raised that way and that ain’t the way that God made you.

All of us, regardless of who we are or where we came from have the necessary tools within us to accomplish whatever it is that we wish to do in our lifetime. All of us, regardless of who we are or where we came from suffer from a malady known only to the human race—self-pity—no where else in the known world does this exist. Young or old. Rich or poor. Big or small. Black or white. And boy, we got it in spades. Some, especially as young ones, will let this rule their lives. Hopefully, as we get older, we obtain the necessary tools to put the self-pity in its proper place. If not, then we start to build a wall one brick at a time that is intended to keep others out so we can bathe in our own pool of self-pity. Then, you have a problem, an outlook that will manage to suck all the joy out of your life turning you into one sad and sour individual. We all know people like this who parade around in one hair-shirt after another. It gets boring after a while, doesn’t it? Then you start to avoid them and yes, they start building that wall thinking, rightfully so, that no one wants to have anything to do with them. God forbid they should change the way that they look at things.

The trick to the self-pity trap is to realize that life doesn’t hand out breaks, it doesn’t test you and there is no such thing as luck (good or bad), fate or destiny. The simple truth is that your life, with all its’ hits and misses, is your responsibility, no one else’s. Twenty- five hundred years ago, Lao-Tzu reminded us that when you realize that there is nothing lacking in you, at that point the whole world will belong to you. To have hope and belief in yourself will be stronger than anything that you will ever face in your lifetime. Good, bad or indifferent, your world will turn out the way you want it to.

Another good rule of thumb that I got from my grandfather: Always try to keep your bouts of self-pity to about 30 seconds. After that, move onto something else. That seems the best advice. It’s a big world out there and, in the final analysis, sitting around and wallowing in self-pity doesn’t really do anyone any good including you. After all, no matter how bad things get, we always got tomorrow. Like I remind the readers in my children’s books: ‘When the sun rises on a new day, all things are possible.’ Take it slow. Be good to yourself. Tomorrow’s going to be a great day.

At least, that’s the way I see it. MLProko (2011)   www.mikeproko.com

Published in: on January 15, 2011 at 1:54 pm  Leave a Comment  
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On Nature

Hurry up! For cryin’ out loud! C’mon, get movin’! Geez, just get outta the way, willya? Sound familiar? In this time of our instant communication and our multi-tasking, we have this notion that if we get to save a few seconds here and there they will be stock-piled in an undisclosed location to be enjoyed at some later date. Even good manners seemed to have been kicked to the curb. We tend to think that others are just supposed to know that we’re in a rush. The only bad part about this line of thinking is that this actually makes sense to a lot of people. We don’t write letters anymore, we shoot e-mails. We don’t talk on the phone, even though most of us are never without our ever present cell-phones; no, now we text or tweet or some other jazz that some young geek has yet to invent. All of us are plugged into who knows what and are in constant contact with everybody everywhere and all the time. Are we better off? Don’t answer that now. We’ll take a little detour and then you can answer at the end of this column.

All of the great minds, (Edison, Einstein, Thoreau, Mozart, Shakespeare, etc.) spent plenty of ‘alone’ time communing with nature; a walk along a secluded beach, maybe a walk through some woods, maybe you just find yourself sitting alone on a pier just looking out at the water, but no matter where you are, just sit and listen to the sounds of silence. There are messages in the breeze that silently glides past your ear. There are answers etched in that dirt road that you walk along and there are subtleties written on the clouds as you watch them make their way across the sky. The answers are out there if you know where to look and how to interpret them. These are lessons that cannot be taught, but they can be learned; however, it is up to the individual and his imagination to master them. This is not about learning per se, this is more about using your senses to teach you: sight, sound, touch, scent and taste. This is where we get a chance to turn off our analytical brain and just ‘be’.

The first thing you learn about the beauty of nature is that NOTHING is rushed. Nothing. Not the Grand Canyon. Not the aspens of the Great Northwest. None of the oceans, lakes or rivers—they all get to where they’re going eventually. Even the planets spin in a timeless, orderly fashion. And all of this was done, not by accident, but by design. Then and only then do we realize that one thing is a part of everything else. All great works of beauty have had the luxury of time to develop, i.e. its beauty is in its age. Yet, in our context, when we see something as old, we throw it on the garbage heap—people as well as things. We just can’t wait to get rid of the old stuff.

The other nice thing about nature is that it costs nothing to listen to a bird sing, to look out over an ocean or to look in wonder at a giant spruce. The best things in life really are free. Do not rob yourself or your loved ones of the most important memories. Twenty years from now, your child will forget about their first text message but they will never forget walking in the woods with their mom and dad. A lot of us approaching our dotage can’t remember what we had for breakfast but we all remember the first fish we caught or the first campfire we sat in front of. We remember the crackling of the fire, the taste of the marshmallows, the scent of the pine trees and how clean and sweet the air smelled. Remember the first time you put your ear to the ground and listened to the earth? Do you remember that, that sound, that silence? That’s right, there is no ticking clock in the universe. And everything is as it should be. Keep in mind that if all things are related, then all of the beauty that you see out in the world is really inside all of us. At least, that’s the way I see it.

Take it slow, my friends. Enjoy. MLProko (2011)   www.mikeproko.com

Published in: on January 10, 2011 at 11:51 pm  Leave a Comment  
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On Materialism (and what really counts)

In the back of our minds, there exists an idyllic place, a magical place that we get to at the end of our journey, a final destination where we end up and everything is the way it should be. We have lived by the ‘list’ our entire lives and as we have crossed things off of that list, we have moved up the success ladder and rewarded ourselves accordingly. We reward ourselves with adornments that others might see as affluent, but, what the heck, we deserve it is what you tell yourself. We’ve put in our time, we should have this.

Why not? We join the nicest clubs, we send our kids to the best schools, we live in the nicest houses, drive the fanciest cars. We are somebody. We make the statement for all to see: We belong. Like it or lump it. At least, that’s the way we think it shakes out. In reality, we have stepped onto a treadmill that we cannot get off of. Keeping up with the Jones’ was supposed to be easy, but the Jones family can always be replaced. What then?

If you think living in a million dollar house is nice, there are some who wouldn’t walk into a house that wasn’t worth 50, 100 or 250 million dollars. Suddenly, your million dollar castle looks like a 50s ranch home. You’re very proud of that luxury car that you tool around in until you find the guy who has a warehouse filled with collectable antique cars. And even if you lived to be 175, you will never have anywhere near what he has. And he’s only one guy. There are others worth a lot more. There will always be those who are better off than you and there will always be those who have a lot less.

Education? There is nothing wrong with a quality education, as a matter of fact, in today’s business world, it’s a necessity. But, an education does not equate to being a success. The world is filled with ‘educated derelicts.’ On the other hand, there are those worth millions that never finished grammar school or high school. An education is a tool and, like all other tools, you have to know how to use it and make the best of it.

Money? Why is it that some of the most successful people in the country still drive Chevy’s or Buicks? Why do they shun the spotlight? If they can afford a $50K watch, then why would they buy a Timex? Warren Buffet can afford to eat in the best restaurants but his favorite meal is a hamburger in a saloon. Any saloon.

Houses? Again, I’ll defer to Mr. Buffet, who lives in the same house he bought over 35 years ago.

Well then, what really counts? First of all, it’s anything that you feel passionate about.

Anything. It might be studying trees in Bolivia. It might be writing odd-ball children’s books. Any one thing that stirs your soul. I heard one person ask if you could do one thing FOR FREE, what would it be? Make sure that you gravitate in that direction.

Second, someone to share it with (a spouse, a loved one, a very good friend); although this would be optimal, it’s not necessary. We would all like to have a story book life but, in reality, for some people it’s not in the cards. Perhaps you might share it with those who have helped make your dream come true. The upside of this is seeing your accomplishments through the eyes of another and how they affect the community of life in general. The down-side to this? There is no down-side for doing your heart’s longing just as long as it benefits the whole of mankind.

So, forget about the Jones’ or, better yet, ask them if they’d like to get together at the local saloon for a nice hamburger, just get separate checks.

At least, that’s how I see it. MLProko (2010)   www.mikeproko.com

Published in: on January 2, 2011 at 7:09 am  Leave a Comment  
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