Inventions to enrich our lives, fill every corner, nook, and crack, Screens that glow and flash and shift, compute, process, display and track. Hush the screaming lights and sounds, seek refuge in some quiet place, Loose the chains that tie the mind, Take on a calmer slower pace.
The rhyming star is a fickle friend, With mystic rays that shimmer and bend, Around and past the would be poet, With fullest heart though none may know it. Visions of beauty and scenes in his mind, Are trapped without outlet and won't be defined, 'Till lamely he finds a flavorless phrase, Lost in a labyrinthian linguistic maze. "I was not born under a rhyming star", He howls in despair to the silence afar, An echo returns with taunting and spite, So he sets down his pen and calls it a night.
Way back in the dark ages when I was single and in college, I seriously contemplated spending the time and money required to get my private pilots’ license. I even went so far as to get a few hours behind the controls of a Cessna 182. It was enough to convince me I would love it and that I couldn’t afford to maintain it as a hobby if I was ever going to have a family. I gave up my quest before my first “solo” flight. I was disappointed, but accepted my fate with magnanimity; knowing that my first solo take-off and landing would have been a huge blast.
I had a similar experience a few years earlier without leaving the ground. I have always loved being in control of anything with a motor and wheels, so it was a huge thrill the day I finally completed all the requirements to drive a car without direct supervision. Driving solo was a huge landmark I had sought after since I first realized I could reach the gas-pedal and see over the dash at the same time.
Based on these two experiences, it might be reasonable to extrapolate that doing things “solo” is the logical end-state of development. As we learn and grow here in this short life, we should strive to get better at them until we are capable of doing it on our own. This however is a tremendous fallacy.
Consider the pilot scenario above. It’s true that as you progress in development, you get to a point where you are capable of handling a well-behaved aircraft on your own, but that is far from the pinnacle. Consider the cockpit of commercial flights. As a general rule, these flights are made up of a flight crew with both a pilot and co-pilot. While part of the motivation for this is redundancy in case one of the crew becomes incapacitated, the real reason is the capacity for load-sharing. During the more critical portions of flight such as final approach and landing while on instruments, the pilot can become quite busy flying the airplane. In addition to actually flying the plane, radio communications pick up during this phase of flight and include changing radio frequencies several times, not to mention additional activities and preparations. By working as a team, the pilot and co-pilot are able to level out the load, sharing the tasks and cross-checking each other to ensure things are done correctly and efficiently.
In the case of a car, it didn’t take long for driving by myself to lose it’s appeal. The radio and the open road (or congested street more often than not) was a poor substitute for having friends, then girlfriends, and eventually my own family with me in the car. Focus shifted from driving as an end in itself to a means to get somewhere to do something. In general, going somewhere is either a non-fun requirements-based thing or I’m taking someone with me. Driving solo isn’t all it used to be cracked up to be.
So, why on earth am I talking about flying or driving solo… I can’t remember how many people I’ve run into who’s pinnacle was being independent and on their own. Friends and co-workers have indefinitely postponed marriage and/or family because they don’t want to be “tied down.” I’ve known far too many who left marriages and children in an attempt to seek “fulfillment” free from the “restrictions” of family. This universally saddens me when I encounter it.
When I was much younger, I made a high priority of moving out on my own and tackling life alone. At first it was great being free to do as I chose, responsible to nobody but myself. However, as I gained experience with the “single life,” I quickly realized how much of a load of crap I’d been sold. As I gained more and more experience with it, I got more disillusioned, and eventually moved back in with my parents where I had a support structure compatible with my values.
Over the years, I’ve had the opportunity to re-evaluate this concept as I’ve been compelled to fly solo in life for periods when I’ve been called away from home for work or other reasons, and it’s given me opportunity to reflect on the situation. I can’t for the life of me understand why anyone would intentionally choose to be alone. On my own, I’m solely responsible for taking care of ALL the necessities ranging from cooking to shopping to laundry to completing my normal work. That, on it’s own, isn’t too bad. However, I find it’s the intangibles that make the most difference.
I’ve had the opportunity to explore a wide variety of museums, cities, parks, and other attractions around the world during down-time on business travel. In the best cases, I’ve had traveling partners who shared the experience. However, those relationships are transitory, professional, or casual, and the richness that would result from sharing experiences with my family just isn’t there. While I enjoyed visiting the Hyde Park in London, I experienced it on my own, and don’t have common experiences to re-live with someone who cares.
The more time I’m compelled to spend on my own, the more I appreciate the miracle that is family. Learning to solo an airplane is just the beginning of a much longer process of becoming a fully qualified pilot. Learning to trust and work as a team enables a much more diverse and interesting range of possibilities. My family is my team. They help me do more and be better than I could ever be on my own.
The truth will set you free they say, Give you strength and show the way. Help you stand when threats come strong, Make clear the route to carry on. Sometimes it's true that truth is kind, Healing hands and heart and mind. But all too oft it carries weight, Truths that grind, and crush, and grate. A knowledge of a harsher sort, Breaks through to light, a sharp retort. The darkened hearts that plot and plan, To hurt, oppress, and exploit man. Patterns followed o'er again, Truth and right now labeled sin. Done before, the outcome's clear, But boldly on, the crash comes near. On every side distinctive signs, describe the flaxen cords that bind. Yet no one stirs to shake them off, Some warn, entreat, but yet they scoff. To see the truth through sophistry, An ancient path of catastrophe, Makes knowledge a burden heavy and grave, No freedom here... I am truth's slave.
While much of the poetry that I write is deeply personal, this one stems from an experience I had helping a friend and colleague through the collapse and beginnings of reconstructing his marriage.
Twenty years he towed the line, In the lead or just behind, Purpose bent to meet his task, Ever solid, firm, steadfast. Many nights would find him still, At his work for hours 'till, Exhaustion bid him pause a while, Then homeward trudge without a smile. Daybreak bids him e'er again, Drawn as moth to candle's flame, Weary eyes in a care-worn face, Search for meaning in this place. He comfort seeks in a future distant, When the work will all be done, Yet each day the tasks insistent, Bid him stay 'till time is gone. While in his poor neglected home, His life's companion sits alone, Grieving over memories dear, Of promised changes ever near. All alone in thought and deed, Her guard let down, she feels a need, Then knocking at her lonely door, Ancient friends entice her more. Hardening with cold neglect, Losing e'en her self respect, She wanders off the beaten path, a one-way road - no turning back. One halt step to test the road, And swiftly others more profound, 'Till shucking off her heavy load, Faith shatters on unholy ground. Youth now entangled by the fray, Their children know not how to pray, Or whom to ask for lighter loads, Ne'er taught to seek in His abodes. The promise made of finer things, A house of playing cards now seems, They never wanted more than time, To share their thoughts and speak their mind. They see the strain in mothers face, Her tender heart with ice replaced, Withdrawn and secret, pained and sore, She loves their father now no more. Pulled and yanked at every joint, they wish for what will never be, Voices shout and fingers point, A shattered future now they see. In days gone by 'midst hope and joy, He'd scheme for idler times employ, Speak of happy things he'd do, When the work was truly through. Yet every time he'd start anew, Some labor kind, or service do, In habits set, he quick returned, To toil in his profession learned. Seeking joy where never found, Dashing hopes on stony ground, Accolades and praise received, Clearly had him then deceived. Now too late begins to dawn, Through misty eyes and broken heart, How changes made so early on, Can stop the pain before its start.
Large even from an airplane window seen, sixty miles away. Built to send people where nobody's been, the vacuum of space. Buses could park on the stripes of the flag, if it laid down. A symbol of pride, a nation's great brag, look what we did. Here they built monsters of metal and flame, they tore at the air. Hyperbole claimed we would conquer and tame, the vastness of space. Pushing man and machine to limits then past, They risked all to explore. Lionized pilots who flew fearless and fast, some died on the way. The men are gone - the structure stands still, shelved to history. A monument to engineering, cunning and will, empty and mute.
Countless small sparks in a maze of maneuver Like flickering flames buried deep in the dark Shimmering, shifting, and boiling below Less venomous than fire ants I've known; At least from a distance. Much prettier too; From a distance.
We must be warned that coffee's hot, that smoking hurts the lung. Knives are sharp and spoons are not, and sunscreen blocks the sun. We must not eat the non-food pack, that freshens packaged foods. Know calories might make us fat, and sleep might make us drool. Labels warn that water's wet, and bullets might go bang. Signs to warn of dangers met, adorn each mundane thing. We used to use our eyes and think, to see, assess, then act. Replaced with warnings bold in ink, a talisman of words and fact.
A million years of sand and rain made me who I am Built up, compressed, washed clean and worn down. Rusty red, sandy blond, and streaked with black. I defy the elements openly as an acrobat would For Newton pulls heavy on my ancient spine. Yet I arch high overhead triumphant and grand Shade from a withering sun for strangers below.
The super secret squirrels convened Their meeting in the vault Each day at noon they gathered there Discussing who knows what The watchers all looked in from out As blind and dumb and deaf As though they had no mouth or ears To use for baited breath Whispers swirled from left to right Then back around again Tales of conquests in the works Cabals of greed and sin Murmurings of secret tech Sensors, planes, and tools Laser guns and mind control Oh man... it sounded cool While all along the secret squirrels Sat bored and languid then And hour by hour discussed at length The font for slide one-ten