On Community

On a recent vacation, I was driving in Denver and saw out of the corner of my eye the passenger window coming down at a busy intersection. My friend Bob rolls down the window and has a bill crumpled in his hand. He yells out at a gritty, ragged homeless man who is seated but now trying to get on his feet, “How ya doin’? Don’t get up…here, I’ll throw it too you.” And he tosses a crumpled bill at the man’s feet. Bob rolls up the window and I said, “What did you throw?” Bob replies, “A $100 bill.” I told Bob, “You went to heaven and hell in one sentence.”

Bob meets homeless folks on vacation while I take a more vocational tack. My laptop is nearby, the cell phone rings continuously, and texts chime like streaming points in a Bally pinball game. Even within the slower cadence of vacation, the fourth commandment of the Decalogue is being trampled beneath the virtuous feet of vocation.

According to David Brooks writing for the New York Times in an article titled, The Great Affluence Fallacy, “Antisthenes, a Greek cynic philosopher, is cited as one of the first to equate effort with goodness and virtue. He coined the original workaholic paradigm. Antisthenes,

  • Had no feeling for celebration.
  • Was a-musical.
  • Felt no responsiveness to Eros (he said he “would like to kill Aphrodite”)

Mr. Brooks goes on to say, “Leisure does not mean what it once meant. The word leisure came from a Greek word translated into Latin as the word we now use for school. We have lost the meaning of leisure in our rush to perfect our work.”

What’s replaced our traditional idea of leisure is vocation. Our vacations are mild repetitions of our vocations.

Flying back from Denver to Tulsa I glanced over and noticed that Karen was reading a historical book of Summit county Colorado which includes Breckenridge, Silverthorne, and Frisco. Karen is practicing the way of classical leisure, slowing down long enough to learn about the places that we visit.

My daughter and her husband live in the Lohi section of Denver. They are house sitting for a young lady who is spending several months in India training in yoga. They maintain the row style shotgun duplex with a backyard a bit larger than a ping-pong table, in return for lodging and they are also surrogate parents to a couple of rescue dogs, Sunny, a small wispy female, and Trout, a spunky young male. Twice a day, the dogs are walked, and when the leash is in hand and the door knob turns, they growl and turn on each other in a flurry of fur as they engage in a little WWF dog fighting.

Lohi (lower highlands) is an eclectic neighborhood with top shelf restaurants like Root Down, Spuntino, Linger, and the Gallop Cafe. Around the corner is the American Cultures Kombucha Taproom where we enjoyed a sampler of teas with names like Happy Leaf and Rowdy Mermaid. There is a sense here of what John Denver sang about nearly 50 years ago, the Rocky Mountain high of friends sitting around a campfire looking at the Perseid meteor showers on a moonless, cloudless night.

There are churches next to funky bistros and many used bookstores in this lovely old neighborhood with a history going back to the Arapahoe, Shoshones, and Utes, living along the banks of the Platte River hundreds of years ago. Living in the Highlands today is like living atop an archaeological tel, the geography is littered with events and names and people and places.

After the Arapahoe and Shoshone and Utes, the Italians and German and Latinos came. The old churches, Our Lady of Mount Carmel and Saint Patrick’s, are beautiful and have absolutely no parking. You park on the street, as best you can. I became adept at parallel parking a Chevy Suburban in this neighborhood which should qualify me for a CDL. There are layers upon layers of history here, new layers added each generation. Now, this neighborhood is experiencing gentrification and is a mixture of Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life  and Jack Kerouac’s On the Road with a splash of Sixties tie dye and Nineties grunge.

David Brooks writes about the challenges facing young adults like my daughter and son-in-law. He says, “A few years ago, Macklemore and Ryan Lewis came out with a song called “Can’t Hold Us,” which contained the couplet: “We came here to live life like nobody was watching/I got my city right behind me, if I fall, they got me.” In the first line they want complete autonomy; in the second, complete community. But, of course, you can’t really have both in pure form. This is transformational, but not new. I am unique and yet like everyone else. I am free and yet I still belong. Young folks today are heading, it seems, in the direction of community and neighborhood hospitality, rather than national identity or the borderless digital world.”

Mr. Brooks quotes Sebastian Junger’s book, “Tribe”, which raises the possibility that our culture is built on a fundamental error about what makes people happy and fulfilled. Junger writes about the American Indian and about how they were more communal. “They would have practiced extremely close and involved child care. And they would have done almost everything in the company of others. They would have almost never been alone.” Mr. Brooks goes on to say, “Our institutions can offer only service — not care — for care is the freely given commitment from the heart of one to another…Maybe we’re on the cusp of some great cracking. Instead of just paying lip service to community while living for autonomy, perhaps people are actually about to change and immerse themselves in local communities.”

 

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Table in the Son

When you are young and the world is your oyster, older folks are wont to lend much wisdom thus rendering the use of knives to open the sublime stubborn shell, rather useless. As if allowing youngsters to pry open oysters in search of a beautiful pearl is beyond their ability and to wield sharp objects to crack open a shell might be better left in the hands of experienced oyster crackers. After all, as a good friend of mine often says, “It’s all fun and games ’til someone puts an eye out.”

My son, Brandon, will be living and studying for six months at the University of Hamburg, Germany in the Meteorological Exchange Program of Oklahoma University. His coursework will be presented in the native German language, so he’ll spend the first months studying the German language, how to hear and comprehend as well as speak Deutsch, and then begin classes in April. And so as we dined in my parents sunroom at the tabelle in die son (table in the sun) with several experienced travel guides who had been to Hamburg, I listened with interest to the advice offered to my son.
Hamburg University School of Meteorology University of Hamburg

Someone asked if I knew what was in the middle of Hamburg? I thought maybe it was a pickle, but was corrected. Apparently there is a lake called Aussenalster, which means “Pass me a pretzel” in Deutsch.Germany Hamburg Aussenalster Lake
Aussenalster

And so with fascination we listened to the collected wisdom of the table giving advice about what to do and what to eat. Beer is almost akin to water and the children drink it because it’s alcohol content is less than 2 point. I didn’t know that, but I did look up annual beer consumption per capita by country and the Republic of Czechoslovakia has everyone beat and it isn’t close. They consume 137 liters annually per capita, Germany 107, USA 79. Although the USA has everyone beat at the cost of television beer ads which equals roughly the Gross National Product of Austria, $310 billion dollars. Oddly enough, Americans eat 12 billion cattle cars more of hamburgers than the Germans who founded the city named after Ray Kroc’s favorite sandwich and who also made an urban-locked lake to slake their thirst from eating too many pretzels which are abundantly subsidized and distributed by the machinery of industrial beer makers to make Germans thirst for more beer, as if they need help. Germans are hard to figure out, I mean Beethoven couldn’t even hear my son’s subwoofers playing Metallica if he put his ear next to the woof, and he still came up with that Fifth Dimension song, “I Didn’t Get to Sleep at All Last Night.”

And so my advice to my son is to carefully weigh advice given by anyone who claims to have been in Hitler’s bunker when he ended it all by drinking a finger of dark Munich malt lager and finished it with a Luger to the temple. For instance, one lady at our table who actually took Deutsch lessons and traveled extensively in Germany, said she always listed on job applications, “Fast” under Race, and “Good” under Sex. Now why hadn’t I thought of that before. And another time under race, frustrated with the need to reveal such personal information, she listed her entire family tree of ethnicity, “French Huguenot Germanic Hungarian Austrian Danish English American Indian and Just American.” Again, why didn’t I think of that and…aren’t we all?

We also learned that Danish women are tall, blond and beautiful, warranting a side trip to that country since the men there are all short, balding and fat. Those odds look good to any man with any prospects or physical attractiveness or hair (which my son has), so he has that to consider, although he has an American girl friend already, so that could get dicey.Brandon Surfer Ocean City

The conversation continued and meandered into the realm of milking cows and it was determined that all at the table had indeed milked a cow, except Brandon. And so, one particular anonymous gentleman regaled us with his legend, that of holding firm to the cows, well, teats, and that was what made him such a good wrestler in his Montana high school, the tenacious experience of locking onto the teats and not letting go, which I found to be udderly fascinating.

And so go to Germany, my son, with our prayer and blessing, bring back a Stein and a silver bratwurst, maybe a pair of those alpine baby boy suspenders with shorts, swim in the middle of the Aussenalster with a pretzel in your mouth, learn to speak the Deutsch and learn some Thermodynamics from those high falutin techno-smart geeky-efficient Germans. Eisenhower sure loved them. Ike returned from Europe after World War II with Autobahn envy and he spent ten trillion dollars building Interstate 40 and it’s still under construction. Anyway, I abschweifen die thema. Back to the point.

Have fun and remember, they still think they won the war, so be sanft wie ein Lamm, gentle as a lamb, with their Deutsche psyche and don’t bring any Danish girls home…although a good danish and a bag of pretzels sure would be good. Remember to keep a journal and someday, you can sit in die son at some tabelle and pass out your own sharp oyster-opening knives.

Dancing Around the Costume Chest

Family 1430 nook kidsBack in the days when my kids believed in Santa and my words had the force and weight to either bless them or crush them, our daughters and son indulged in make-believe, dressing up to become the character of their dreams through the magical powers of the family costume chest. It was magical only in the sense that this chest of clothes, accumulated from garage sales and bad Christmas gifts, held the power of transformation. Our children became Andrew Lloyd Webber’s costume designer leading friends like pied pipers to the costume chest where they transformed into eye-patch pirates wearing tricorn hats or boa feather divas. Family Dress Up Sofa

Sir Kenneth Robinson, the English author and advisor on education in the arts, talks about our education system as one that teaches from the waist up and mostly above the neck and favoring one side. He tells a story about a young girl drawing a picture at school. Her teacher noticed her drawing and asked what she was drawing. The little girl said, “I’m drawing a picture of God.” The teacher intoned, “But we don’t know what God looks like.” The girl replied, “We will in a minute.”

Sir Robinson comes from the same town in England which produced the father of William Shakespeare. We don’t think of folks like William Shakespeare having fathers nor do we think of William Shakespeare as a child. Can you imagine a teacher’s notes about William, “Bill must try harder.” or Bill’s Mom sending him off to bed with, “Put that pencil down and off to bed with you…and quit talking like that, it just confuses everybody.”

Family Brandon Tutu

My son loved to mimic his sisters which led him to dance in a tutu. His favorite song was These Are Days by 10,000 Maniacs and that song and dance was his first connection of mind and music, emotion and energy and the education of his feet. Maybe I should have had him take it off, but he really was a dancing prodigy and accomplished showman, and he turned out just fine despite the abuse he received from two older sisters.

Sir Robinson goes on to say about education that most of us have had all our creativity educated out of us by adulthood. Our educational hierarchy elevates mathematics and literature, below that is the humanities, and at the bottom of emphasis is the arts with music slightly ahead of dance in the pecking order. Ken Robinson says that all of formal education is tailored to producing professors and that we all can’t be professors, not that there is anything wrong with being one. Robinson has a great line about professors, “They think of their bodies simply as transport for their heads to get to classes and meetings.” He also says our system of education is currently producing a kind of academic inflation graduating kids who go home and play video games. It seems that in this academic inflation, a Master’s degree is the new Bachelors degree.
Family Beach w Liz
My daughter Jenna is studying Dietetics and is considering an advanced degree and internship. She asked me today, “Dad, should I get my Masters degree?” I didn’t know how to answer. We discussed and explored the topic but in the end she has to wrestle with the worthiness of investing in another forty hours of graduate work. Will further education make her a better person, a more productive and efficient purveyor of information about what we stuff into our mouths every day?
Family Washing Dishes

One thing is sure…children are extraordinarily creative and talented. Education often educates the creative brilliance out of childhood hearts and we are left with nothing but adult heads walking around on flaccid bodies looking for the next great idea or software app. Family Beach Castle

Should Jenna get her Masters Degree? My advice to Jenna is to take a chance, keep dancing, keep running, keep singing…see your whole life as a canvas to explore and create, not something to mess up. Just like you did making castles on the beach, drawing tattoos on your little brothers face with permanent markers of many colors, washing dishes even when you needed a chair to stand on…you are filled with extraordinary creativity so whatever you decide, keep nurturing the creative spirit of your professional, athletic, romantic and spiritual nature.

Family Costumes KidsIt’s remarkable how much the world has changed since I graduated college in 1981. No cell phones, no internet, ESPN was a minor blip in the cable tv world, the World Trade Center twin towers stood tall over Manhattan. You have no idea what the world will look like in five years, much less when you retire in 2065, so don’t get too hung up on a formal education. Your entire life is an education and it begins with each sunrise. And if you are not prepared to be wrong, you will never create anything inspiring or original.

So, sling a little paint on that canvas, dance a little jig and keep hitting those books…just do me a favor and don’t write on your brothers face anymore. Family Jenna writes on Brandon

New Book: Lay Down Your Guns

Greg Taylor has written a compelling read about a remarkable person, Dr. Amanda Madrid. “Lay Down Your Guns” is a book about conviction, courage, and the power of tenacious love. It’s coming out in October 2013.

Greg R. Taylor

LDYG CoverReleased in October 2013

Read Excerpt

Order from Amazon

Book Description

In Honduras’ “wild west” mountain jungles, Amanda Madrid found her calling as a medical doctor to poor farmers.

When Amanda’s father rejects her dream to be a doctor, eighteen- year-old Amanda strikes out alone and enters medical school in Tegucigalpa.

Her work as a medical officer, public health consultant, and director of an international holistic Christian ministry called Predisan could have resulted in prestigious luxury for her. Instead these experiences led Dr. Madrid to the mountains on horseback and prepared her for the biggest challenge of her life.

When illegal drug trafficking and murders lead to closing medical clinics, Dr. Madrid goes toe to toe with cartel mercenaries, the unarmed doctor in her signature red high heels against men in combat boots armed with AK-47s.

This is the story about the life of a Honduran doctor heartbroken about the many…

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“Fill Up the Back of that Shovel, Son”

Iron Spring Mousetrap Iron Spring Mousetrap – National Museum of American History Smithsonian

“Build a better mousetrap, and the world will beat a path to your door,” is a phrase I first learned in a Harding University Marketing class. The phrase originated with Ralph Waldo Emerson although Mr. Emerson’s original statement was a bit different. “If a man has good corn or wood, or boards, or pigs, to sell, or can make better chairs or knives, crucibles or church organs, than anybody else, you will find a broad hard-beaten road to his house, though it be in the woods.” In 1889 the modern mousetrap was created and patented and though Emerson had died seven years previous, Emerson was quoted as saying: “If a man can write a better book, preach a better sermon, or make a better mousetrap than his neighbor…”

And so the catchy phrase has turned into a metaphor about the power of innovation and how people will buy something as long as it is attractive and useful. I recently read in Professional Builder magazine about how the “best companies have mastered the best form and function with an attainable price. Many of these great companies do not represent the lowest price in their class. Apple is a master of this strategy. The company has flourished in a down economy, not by offering cheaper products, but by offering design and innovation that cannot be found elsewhere. Evidence of this innovation is my Apple IPhone 5 which my nieces discovered in my possession on a recent trip to their home in California. I entered their home with twenty pictures on my phone and left with five hundred pictures, mostly self-portraits my nieces left for me like wolves marking territory. They seemed fascinated with the phone and I kept misplacing it, only to find I hadn’t misplaced it, the nieces had stolen my technology and were taking pictures. I posted the worst pictures of my nieces on Facebook as vengeance. Melita and Bethany 1

Most of us operate somewhere between the Iphone and the mousetrap. We long to create something amazing, five hundred pictures of ourselves in fifteen minutes or a light and airy souffle’ or great architecture, yet we are bound by the reality of our resources and the time allotted. So…how do you manage your work…with furious haste or slow-burning creative passion? I started early in my career writing down tasks on a legal pad, later a Franklin Covey Daytimer. Writing by hand seems to crystallize the task, to sear it into my mind as if a wire extends from hand to frontal lobe, a way of making my work become part of my psychosomatic subconscious. This approach to work is clinical, less frantic, more thoughtful…or is it? Perhaps great work is sometimes accomplished in the crucible of disarray?

When I was a teenager working in our homebuilding business, my Grandpa Taylor would tell me to “Fill up the back of the shovel and the front will take care of itself.” The application of that maxim to my work style took hold slowly, my shovel work marked by a wild and raw energy, conveyed by a story from the killer heat wave of 1980. We were working a footer on a hilltop near Skiatook, Oklahoma. The sandy loam flew out of the foundation ditch, slung right, flung left, the blistering July air mingled with dust, caking our blushed skin, coffee-colored perspiration streaking down face, neck and shirtless torso. We were one with the dirt, and our sweat was honest and abundant, our shovels flashing sabers in the brilliant sunlit oppression that tinged the grass and trees the color of lightly browned toast that record-breaking summer. My buddy Jeff Lowry and I were the summer flunkies, the ditch scrapers, following the yellow Case backhoe, making sure the ditch was clean and square. It occurred to me that Paul Newman made hasty sport of forced chain-gang labor (though our labor was voluntary and compensated) along a Dixie county road in the in the movie Cool Hand Luke. Luke (Paul Newman) rallied his fellow prisoners to frothy frenetic pace, slinging gravel screenings atop freshly sprayed tar.cool hand luke shovels With hours of daylight left and the days allotment of road work complete, guards and inmates suddenly realized the implications of their astonishing burst of work speed, and the guards attuned to the inmates sense of camaraderie, readied their weapons awaiting an insurrection, unclear of the meaning of what they had witnessed. Having just watched the movie the night before, I implored Jeff to make haste, to be Cool Hand Luke, and so we flung dirt with magnificent obsession, wiping sweat from our faces with soiled hands, faces muddied with sweat and unalloyed effort. Motivated only by an early finish and the relief of a shady oak, we made shovel speed history. Why will inmates work furiously? And why did a couple of nineteen year old college kids work so hard for $5.00 an hour?

We all have an approach to work. Mine is colored by the patina of experience…and age. My world has been impacted by watching my Dad who is a master delegator, and my Grandpa Taylor who believed in working easy, not hard, by finding the best and most efficient way to carry out a task. So today, my work style is less dirt and sweat, more daily journal and to-do lists. My Franklin Covey Daytimer has this quote from Benjamin Franklin printed on the cover page. “Dost thou love life? Then do not squander time, for that’s the stuff life is made of.” And so I’m fascinated by people like Gary, a carpenter who has worked for me for twenty-three years. Gary never hurries, but rarely has to rework a project. Careful forethought, a plan, execution, production, efficiency. UCLA basketball coach John Wooden advised his players to, “be quick but don’t hurry.” Wooden believed that hurry is an emotional state that breeds bad decisions, but quickness is a learned skill acquired by physical and mental training.

We live with a continual tension between creative perfection and furious haste to finish a task on time. Doing our best and understanding we don’t have time to do our best reminds me of the challenge of managing this tension between a work of art and a work of production. For instance, I’ve proofread this piece five times, and could keep honing, but at some point one must have confidence to present their work even if it is imperfect, unless of course you are the Admiral of the U.S. Nuclear Navy.

Former President Jimmy Carter tells this story about an interview with Admiral Hyman Rickover, head of the U.S. Nuclear Navy: “I had applied for the nuclear submarine program, and Admiral Rickover was interviewing me for the job. It was the first time I met Admiral Rickover, and we sat in a large room by ourselves for more than two hours, and he let me choose any subjects I wished to discuss. Very carefully, I chose those about which I knew most at the time—current events, seamanship, music, literature, naval tactics, electronics, gunnery—and he began to ask me a series of questions of increasing difficulty. In each instance, he soon proved that I knew relatively little about the subject I had chosen. He always looked right into my eyes, and he never smiled. I was saturated with cold sweat. Finally he asked a question and I thought I could redeem myself. He said, ‘How did you stand in your class at the Naval Academy?’ Since I had completed my sophomore year at Georgia Tech before entering Annapolis as a plebe, I had done very well, and I swelled my chest with pride and answered, ‘Sir, I stood fifty-ninth in a class of 820!’ I sat back to wait for the congratulations which never came. Instead, the question: “Did you do your best?’ I started to say, ‘Yes, sir,’ but I remembered who this was and recalled several of the many times at the Academy when I could have learned more about our allies, our enemies, weapons, strategy, and so forth. I was just human. I finally gulped and said, ‘No, sir, I didn’t always do my best.’ He looked at me for a long time, and then turned his chair around to end the interview. He asked one final question, which I have never been able to forget—or to answer. He said, ‘Why not?’ I sat there for a while, shaken, and then slowly left the room.”
Ephesians 2 10

Reflection in a mirror

waynoka tornado 2012We toured the National Weather Center building at Oklahoma University with our son Brandon before his decision to attend Oklahoma University to study Meteorology. We sat in a 360 degree tower with expansive views of the Oklahoma prairie. I asked the guide, “Is this building tornado-proof?” The answer was, “Yes, and bomb proof also…the glass is bullet-proof, structural steel frame, the exterior skin, Kevlar.” One could theoretically view an oncoming tornado from this observation tower…to gaze into the eye of destruction and stare it down. It’s not recommended. Best practice is to go to the lower floor interior gathering room. But the meteorology students cannot resist. They rush to the observation deck like moths flickering about a street lamp, unable to defy the siren call of the tempest. They are fully aware of their peculiar calling. They long for the adrenaline rush of being part of the storm, to see it, to feel it, to know it.
Brandon has an incredible passion for weather, immersed in the passionate swelling tides of weather-watching by his Mom. When storms are aloft in the Oklahoma sky, his eyes twinkle like a Rockefeller Center Christmas tree. I rushed home from work one recent evening with knowledge of a tornado located about five miles southwest of our house. As I drove down our street I spotted a truck with two passengers. It was Brandon and his Mom, watching the spinning purple-black wall cloud approach. IMG_4147
Perhaps to understand the storm-chasers addiction we can look at Job’s conclusion about wisdom: “I am unworthy—how can I reply to you? I put my hand over my mouth.” Then the LORD spoke to Job out of the storm.
Perhaps storm-chasing speaks to our longing to not only understand the observable,verifiable and scientific… but also the unseen. To bring us to that holy moment of awe when we can only put our hand over our mouth in wonder.

cropped-waynoka-tornado-2012.jpg

My son and a friend captured this picture on a storm-chasing trip near Waynoka, OK in the spring of 2012. He was safe on the upstream path of the twister. As a freshman Meteorology student, Brandon was thrilled to see the power and immensity of this particular tornado, as he continues his academic education in the unpredictable atmospheric conditions of Oklahoma…as well as the dimly lit mysteries viewed through a dark glass obscured by our finitude and limitations as storm-chasing humans, flittering moth-like amongst the deeper and darker mysteries not yet refined by computer code and predictive theory.

“For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.”
I Corinthians 13:12

Tornado Weather by Vincent Wixon
Clouds build all day, hold west of the section.
Plowing east he feels them piling darker, deeper.
Wind through ankle high corn comes cold, dries his back,
and he pushes the throttle a notch,
checks the hills blurring between the wheels.
At the field’s end he raises the shovels, as first drops darken his shirt.
He shifts into high and opens the engine for home.
The rain thickens, turns hard, pings off the tractor,
bounces on the road, stings his bent head and back.
He pulls under the cottonwood,
covers the stack with a can, and sprints for the barn.
Clouds hang low and come on…a black-green curtain wide as sky.
The high leaves of the cottonwoods shudder for the first time all day.
Women stand on their porches and the air turns cool.
They shiver, hug their sleeveless arms,
and listen for the tractor whine of their husbands leaving the fields.
They call the children from the barn, and turn inside to switch on the radio.

Do You Ever Yearn?

Do you ever yearn? Some folks yearn to write. Others yearn to paint, or to capture images with a camera, or yearn to connect to a husband or wife or daughter or son…or to God. Yearning embraces a sense that somethings missing, that perfection or wholeness or actualization or some other buzzword of fulfillment is incomplete. Is yearning the sign of an emotionally healthy person? Beats me, I don’t have the definitive answer, but I have observed yearning, pining, hankering, craving and emotional thirst as a common characteristic of the humanity I’ve encountered in my relational universe. Yearning is even expressed in pop culture. Remember the Seinfeld episode with Kramer revealing to George his yearning to go to California to act in movies. Kramer moves over into the booth at the diner next to George and gets right in his face and asks him if he ever yearns.

KRAMER: Do you ever yearn? GEORGE: Yearn? Do I yearn? KRAMER: I yearn. GEORGE: You yearn. KRAMER: Oh, yes. Yes, I yearn. Often, I…I sit…and yearn. Have you yearned? GEORGE: Well, not recently. I craved. I crave all the time, constant craving…but I haven’t yearned.

Then Kramer recalls his one movie job and speaking part with the line, “These pretzels are making me thirsty.” He tells George about his yearning to go to California. Then George reminds him that his stint in the Woody Allen movie didn’t end well and he got fired. To which Kramer replies, “I know, I know, but man! I never felt so alive!”

So what does it mean to yearn? Is it to be alive? Is it to feel the unexpressed within our creative nature? Is it a longing for what we can’t reach and have? Are yearnings simply cravings to satisfy? What about faith? Does confidence in a transcendent being, one outside ourselves, outside our control, change how we yearn? In other words, do atheists, agnostics, Christians, Jews, Muslims, Hindus…all yearn in the same way? How much is yearning simply part of our organic nature as humans? I don’t know, but I have been pondering the idea of yearning as it relates to writing. Here’s my thought.

The inspiration to write is not easily manufactured or artificially produced.  It’s a yearning that begins with the collision of the why that resides within me and the inspiration that knocks on my front door in moments of lucidity. Inspiration enters from my environment and begins a leisurely backstroke through my stream of consciousness, leering and meandering in the backwaters and inlets of my being, striking up conversation with the who that I am. As inspiration mingles with who and why, they  begin a conversation. If they enjoy one another and bond, they have a cup of coffee as more visitors arrive. What, where, when and how stop by the café, pull up chairs, prop their feet on the table, and the rumbling stumbling ruminations commence. Then I get uncomfortable, physically, in the same way one feels hunger or cold or fear. And the only outlet for the feeling is to let the dogs run, let the thoughts out, let the feelings animate and fall on the page. And then…I feel better. Does anyone else feel this strangeness, this yearning to express something via artistic expression? I was just wondering.

“I believe in the Kingdom come, then all the colors will bleed into one…but yes I’m still running. You broke the bonds and you loosed the chains, carried the cross of my shame, you know I believe it. But I still haven’t found what I’m looking for.” U2 (from an old african-american gospel song)