Friday, May 19, 2017

The Trail is the Thing

"The trail is the thing, not the end of the trail. Travel too fast, and you miss all you are traveling for." ~ Louis L’Amour, Novelist

Monday, May 15, 2017

Our National Dilemma

The firing of former FBI Director, James Comey, by president Trump has turned into some kind of alternative universe. The political arena, the media and much of the nation have lost their minds over this.

Comey was not fired because president Trump is trying to cover up any ties to him and the Russians and the last election. It’s not about Hilary, either, and her ubiquitous emails. It’s not because Attorney General Jeff Beauregard Sessions told him to do it. What the firing of Comey was about is psychology 101. It’s about Mr. Trump’s gaping insecurity, his paranoia, and his not just demand but neurotic need, for total and unequivocal loyalty.

When James Comey refused to comply with that, he was removed.

What we are seeing is The Apprentice being played out in the White House by celebrity tycoon Donald Trump. There is no governing going on. There are no polices to legislate. Hundreds of important positions in government have not been filled. Chaos monopolizes everything. What we have is simply a president pretending to be president while carrying on his usual business persona.

No one anywhere seems to get this. The media, the Congress, the bumbling and bullying GOP, the passive and impotent Democrats. They all completely ignore president Trump’s genuine, all absorbing need for acceptance and approval. He only gets that from a small posse of people undeniably unfit and incompetent to guide him. They are themselves deeply damaged individuals, some of them even more than that, some of them so unscrupulous and morally warped, they threaten both the president and the nation with their deviant ideas and behavior.

It mystifies me that our leaders apparently have no insight into people like president Trump. I hear nothing from religious leaders other than the same blather that political pundits are saying, that Trump is evil, insane, a preening and greedy manipulating monster. Where are our philosophers and psychiatrists, our therapists and mental health experts? Silence. No one of any legitimate professional reputation is making any effort, as far as I can tell, to understand the president, his manic and disturbing tweets, his endless acting out, his distressing obsession with being favored and approved. 

These are serious psychological matters. And to ignore them and just rail on and on about Mr. Trump’s antics does nothing to solve the problem. Mocking him, calling him names, insulting him over and over only fuels the deep menacing fears that consume him.

He has to convince himself that he is a powerful influential person. He does this by surrounding himself with yes people. If they say no he fires them or ignores them or breaks any ties with them. If he has to lie to keep the pretense going, he will and he does. Nothing is allowed to penetrate the thinly veiled farce he has created about himself.

It must be a terribly lonely existence.

We are watching the disintegration of a person who happens to be the president of the United States. Unless a true friend intervenes, someone more interested in the president than in their own ambition and cashing in on Trumps bizarre conduct; unless someone with human compassion and moral courage, who can win his trust and offer authentic concern and stand in the gap and convince Mr. Trump he must get help or step down, or unless a Republican-controlled Congress initiates impeachment proceedings, then our fragile democracy may very well be torn to pieces.

This is not a time for petty wrangling, empty rage, cute zingers, and hostile disputes. The country is facing a serious crisis of national identity. Our most treasured values are at risk. The freedoms we enjoy and the human dignity we claim are all in jeopardy. 

President Trump needs help. And now.

© 2017 Timothy Moody

Friday, May 5, 2017

A Struggle Worthy of Our Lives

Historian Will Durant wrote in one of his books about “the few” who he said delight in thinking and understanding, “who yearn not for goods, nor for victory, but for knowledge; who leave both market and battlefield to lose themselves in the quiet clarity of secluded thought; whose will is a light rather than a fire, whose haven is not power but truth.” “These are the people” he wrote, “who stand aside unused by the world.”

How perplexing that so often it is thinking people, gentle souls, soft spoken individuals, people of spiritual depth, unprofaned, compassionate to a fault, who “stand aside unused by the world.”

I know these people. I have met them over the years. I have worked with them. They have been neighbors. They have been amazing friends. They live in quiet, modest homes, warm with welcome, blanketed with love.

They are not famous. They have no massive assets. They do not run big companies. Their impact is not in power, or financial resources, or social influence. They do not manipulate others. People are not cowered by their presence. They radiate humility, not arrogance. They display authenticity, not feigned importance.

And yet, in the complicated workings of government, religion, social justice, policing, the courts, the university presidency, the corporate board room, the agency CEO, and elsewhere, society almost always tends to dismiss those who delight in thinking and understanding, the self-effacing, the soft-spoken person discreet with dignity and honor.

Instead, society goes for the assertive, the brassy, the domineering; the person and people who plow through others on their way to whatever ambition consumes them.

In the Amazon Prime Television series, “Suits,” now in its sixth season, we see the struggle between these differences in people. In a large Manhattan law firm, senior partner Harvey Specter (played by Gabriel Macht) brings in college dropout, Mike Ross (Patrick J. Adams). Ross, who never made it to law school, nevertheless presents himself to the firm as a young attorney.

Harvey Specter, handsome, brilliant and urbane, a Harvard law grad, is about winning. And about himself. Mike Ross, a whiz kid in law with a photographic memory, is still in possession of a conscience and struggles with his own secret lie and the often ruthlessness and savagery of the attorneys in expensive suits, especially the odious Louis Litt (Rick Hoffman), a shady and diabolical partner in the firm.

Specter is unapologetic in his arrogance. His reputation is solid. He’s a closer. He gets the job done. The client is everything. Whatever it takes to win, he will use it. Ross on the other hand, carries that conscience of his around, more of a light than a fire. Justice is more important to him than winning. For him, doing what is right, what is humane, transcends doing what wins the case.

In his first mock trial, Mike Ross puts aside his compassion and goes for the kill. He has the witness rattled and in actual tears even though she’s a paralegal and knows it’s just a practice trial. But then at the last minute Ross backs off, hesitates, and ends his questioning only to lose the case.

Harvey’s motto is: “Sometimes good guys gotta do bad things to make the bad guys pay.” And, it usually works. While Harvey Specter is finding every loophole and deftly getting around ages old legal precepts and Constitutional edicts, Mike Ross is searching his soul. He represents those “who stand aside unused by the world.”

Harvey mentors Mike in the harsh intricacies of the law; Mike softens Harvey with intelligence, wit, and feelings for others.

The series helps us explore the larger world in which we all live where the struggle to be human is often tested daily. We learn that winning is important and has its rewards. But at what cost to our own sense of decency, self-worth, and compassion for others. Will cockiness always be society’s first choice, or can the gentle power their way to usefulness as well?

That’s a struggle worthy of our lives.

© 2017 Timothy Moody

Monday, May 1, 2017

No Simple Answers

“Life does not give you big, simple answers. It demands patience, focus, and an open, intelligent mind to gather the pieces of a puzzle and fit them together into a coherent whole. Nothing worth knowing is ever easily learned.” ~ Lisa Cach, Writer/Novelist

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Be Water

“Half of me is filled with bursting words and half of me is painfully shy. I crave solitude yet I also crave people. I want to pour life and love into everything yet also nurture my self-care and go gently. I want to live within the rush of primal, intuitive decision, yet also wish to sit and contemplate. This is the messiness of life—that we all carry multitudes, so we must sit with the shifts. We are complicated creatures, and ultimately, the balance comes from this understanding. Be water. Flowing, flexible and soft. Subtly powerful and open. Wild and serene. Able to accept all changes, yet still led by the pull of steady tides. It is enough.” ~ Victoria Erickson, Writer/Columnist/Author

Monday, April 17, 2017

Hibernation or Real Living?

"You live like this, sheltered, in a delicate world, and you believe you are living. Then you read a book… or you take a trip… and you discover that you are not living, that you are hibernating. The symptoms of hibernating are easily detectable: first, restlessness. The second symptom: absence of pleasure. That is all. It appears like an innocuous illness. Monotony, boredom, death. Millions live like this (or die like this) without knowing it. They work in offices. They drive a car. They picnic with their families. They raise children. And then some shock treatment takes place, a person, a book, a song, and it awakens them and saves them from death. Some never awaken." ~ Ana├»s Nin, Author and memoirist born to Cuban parents in France

Friday, April 7, 2017

We Have to Carry the Fire

The Syrian conflict defies reason. What is it about? No one knows. The Syrian government, the Russian government, the US government, and ISIS terrorists—we are all a part of a bloody, inhumane slaughter of innocents.

Our news sources are unreliable. We really have no idea what is going on. We see the devastation and the carnage, the heartbreaking chaos, and suffering. But it all goes around in vicious cycles of obscene violence and endless death and no one has any explanation or solution. Other than who can be the most ferocious in war.

Our entire political leadership, from President Trump and the full Congress, all the way down to state governments, Texas most notably, are so arrogantly polarized, so consumed with indifference to real life and death issues, to actual living people, that they have nothing helpful or in any way substantial to offer a warring world.

Yes, someone is responsible for the chemical explosion in Syria that brought horrifying misery and excruciating death to so many men, women, teens, and children. But the politics of this and the pathetic political infighting of our leaders make it impossible to identify the real murderers.

And so the blame game carries on without end. While Syria and much of the world teeters on the brink of a human catastrophe beyond description, our leaders wrangle over their right to be right, their cozy selfish places of power, their infantile moods of entitlement; and we are left with their intransigent refusal to cooperate for the good of the nation or the world.

I may be an idealist but I’m not naive. There has always been terror and war and human hatred and violence one against another. But we seem now to be in some alarming new dimension of all of that.

Shakespeare said, “It is excellent to have a giant’s strength, but it is tyrannous to use it like a giant.” We seem to have lost all perspective when it comes to our power. And our wielding our power like a giant across the Middle East has created enormous disorder and lawlessness by terrorists, by dictators we have coddled and attempted to manipulate, and by old allies disillusioned by our aggressive and often careless interventions into the politics and governing of other countries.

America is in a leadership crisis. We need men and women who have a vision larger than their own careers, their own personal ambitions. The world has often looked to us for that kind of guidance from our president and the Congress. And history shows more than once we offered wisdom and humanity in our responses. We need that now.

Cormac McCarthy’s novel, “The Road,” is a disturbing and frightening journey of a father and son in a future world at the end of civilization. A dark, withering and diabolical planet is dying and everything in it. The man and his boy travel through unimaginable terror and threats on a road to nowhere.

Near the end, the father, wounded and exhausted, implores his young son to endure, to go on. In a moment of tenderness in the midst of this collapse of humanity, he tells his son:

“You have to carry the fire.”
“I don’t know how to.”
“Yes, you do.”
“Is the fire real? The fire?”
“Yes, it is.”
“Where is it? I don’t know where it is.”
“Yes, you do. It’s inside you. It always was there. I can see it.”

It’s in us, too. We cannot let it be extinguished. Not now. Not ever. The future of everything depends on that fire.

© 2017 Timothy Moody