Current Events, Reason to Believe

Climbing Smooth

“If the mountain was smooth, you couldn’t even climb it!” unknown

I was watching a YouTube video about the hymn Amazing Grace with Wintley Phipps yesterday.  What an inspiring bit of film and song!  But I was struck by the proverb above that Wintley quoted in the beginning of  the clip.  How profound 10 ordinary words can be!

What are the mountains in your life?

Webster says:  “Adversity: (noun) a state, condition, or instance of serious or continued difficulty or adverse fortune (see adverse).                  Synonyms:misfortune, ill, knock, misadventure, mischance, mishap, tragedy Antonyms: fortune, luck, serendipity”

Did you ever try to climb up the slide at the playground?  I have.  Tough.  I remember a group of us kids daring each other to make it to the top.  There were dozens of attempts without touching the sides.  All unsuccessful.  It wasn’t until we used our hands to grip the edges of the slide that anyone made it to the top.  A smooth mountain would be like that.  Think of trying to climb the perfect triangle, we would crash every time.

Real mountains are not smooth.  Craggy, rocky, difficult, dangerous, murderous, majestic, beautiful, lofty and huge are words we use to describe them.  Rock climbers know that it requires the gear, the skill, the perseverance,  and the courage to undertake it all.  The climbers that tackle the big ones–K2, Everest, McKinley all know it takes planning and serious preparation to accomplish the task.  Most will also tell you it takes teamwork.  Your climbing partners and your base camp support folks they all have to be committed to the effort and work together.

K2 in summer.
Image via Wikipedia

Watching the news the other night I felt like the kid in the playground, surrounded by the “Super Committee”  trying in vain to climb the slide.  No one was successful.  No one worked together.  Everyone wanted to blame someone–someone else.  It was discouraging!

My own mountain right now has many sharp obstacles.  Kind of like the picture of K2 in Summer to the right.   After a long career of sitting in an office, I am doing retail sales and my body is revolting big time!  My bank account and my retirement account and my real estate are like team mates that are pulling the ropes that keep us together in all different directions.  How can we reach the summit with problems like these?

That’s when it hit me that the craggy bits and the sharp outcroppings and the difficulties with sore tired muscles and stiff joints are part of what makes reaching the summit the true achievement that it is.  The base camp team is vital–family and friends–cheering you on and making the assent possible.  If the way was smooth, how could you climb?

The other thing that hit me is that if you don’t work together, you can’t work at all when it comes to climbing.  The climbers that reach the summit know they did not get there on their own.  The guy at the peak had to have faith in the team, each one contributing their part and all contributing to the achievement.

So what then is the problem–how do we plan to achieve the summit here?  How can we get the team to work together so we’re not climbing smooth?  What can we do to conquer that adversity mountain that our country confronts?  The mountain that represents all the debt and loss of confidence in government and in ourselves?  How do we gain the courage to climb despite the partisan fear and destructive mistrust and being pulled in every direction by special interests?


Current Events

Does anyone have a Swiss Army Knife?

Richard Dean Anderson on the set of "MacG...
Image via Wikipedia

Belt tool fans of the world unite!  We know who you are–the tinkerers, the inventors, the thinkers, the ones who are prepared for nearly everything!  We want you to jump into the mess we’re in and put those belt tools to work to get us out of it.  We want you to take bits of duck tape, imagination, faith and know-how and fix it!

We want MacGyver!  We need MacGyver!

Sometimes the problems seem so overwhelming that only the intrepid hero that resolves every crisis and saves the world in 60 minuets will do.  Our hero–he knows how to use what he has instead of what he wishes he has to resolve the crisis.  At least that is what the Wells Fargo Economics Group says in their August 10, 2011 Monthly Outlook about the way out of our economic mess.

Making do with what you have is not a new or trite.  It is reality.  If you stop to think about it, it is something we do all the time.  No staples in the stapler? Use a paper clip. No buttermilk in the fridge?  Take milk, add vinegar, wait for 15 minutes.  Storm take the power out?  Break out the candles and board games.  We really do it without thinking much about it–it needs to be done so we find a way to do it.  And usually that works!

One of the things it is easy to forget is that MacGyver took a moment to notice what there was to work with.  He didn’t panic, he got to work.   What do we have at hand to apply to the economic mess?  Let’s take a minute or two to survey what we have.

What we have is very important.  The freedom to dream and think in a variety of ways continues to be essential.  I read this week that foreign applications to US graduate schools is very high this year.  There is a reason for that–we have a deserved reputation for big ideas and folks that believe in their dreams.  Who doesn’t want that in their lives?

It’s time to take stock of supplies and dream a little.  Time to stop worrying about failure and keep trying until we succeed.  Time to call upon the tinkerers, the inventors and the thinkers to reveal their big ideas so we can believe in their dreams.  We not only want those wonderful visions to come true, frankly we need them to come true.

Then of course we need to take out the belt tools and get to work!

Current Events, Reason to Believe

Pblilius Syrus

Pubilius Syrus

The ancients are often overlooked today.  No, I’m not talking about grandma and grandpa!  I’m talking about the first century BC.  There was a young slave–captured in Syria and brought to Italy.  This young man’s obvious gift for wit and his quick intelligence made him so popular that he gained his freedom and won a prize from Caesar in 46 BC

Syrus is best known today as the author of some 600 +/- sayings.  Some of which are quoted often—even now .  The sayings were like the punchline of the small vignettes called mimes (not silent) that were performed before thousands of adoring fans in competitions like the pop star contests we are used to today.  The purpose of these mimes was to instruct in an entertaining way.

boat in calm water
North Sea

Perhaps my favorite of all his sayings is this one:  “Any one can hold the helm when the sea is calm.” Pblilius Syrus

I have family members who make a living on the water.  It is an outdoor life, an active life, a hard life but a rewarding one.  This current situation probably mirrors our ancestors who lived in Scandinavia and spent years exploring the seas and we like to think they found the land of North America 500+ years before Columbus.

When you are on the water, there are things you can control.  And there are very big things you cannot control.  Wind, waves and weather are those really big things.  My son on the Great Lakes likes to say “most people enjoy the gentle rocking of Lake Michigan” and adds a bit of a secret smile.  My daughter on the blue water always reassures that she has her survival suit–the one that inflates when it hits the water–always at hand.

Dealing with those really big things can be very hard but heading into the wind and keeping the tiller still so the vessel continues into the wind is required to ride out the storm.  That will take courage and strength, knowledge and skill.  I guess that is what we all have to do when the big trouble comes.  Head her into the wind and keep her there.

Our founding fathers knew this important truth too.  They built-in ways for the tiller to be attended to and the ship to be kept afloat.  Over time we have had to demonstrate our courage, strength, skill, knowledge repeatedly.  Today is not really any different.

Today is our time, our turn to step up to the challenge.  The big trouble, so much out of our direct control, demands us to make a choice.  We can curl into a ball and hope the disaster will disappear or we can take the tiller and head into the wind.  Muster the courage, strength, skill and knowledge that each of us has to offer.  Face the big trouble enjoy the “gentle rocking” with a secret smile–remember the ancients and steer  the course into the wind!