Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Time to burn out the underbrush.

A controlled burn on Pilot Mountain that clearly got out of control.

Sometimes we have these controlled or not so controlled burns in our souls as well. We go in with the intention of just clearing away some dead wood that is resting on the floor of our hearts only to have it result in an uncontrolled outpouring of emotion that we did not know was so very combustable. Setting fire to one branch not knowing that it will ignite the fear or insecurity that was resting against it then spreading to the dry grass of loneliness.

It took the better part of a week for firefighters to bring this burn under control resulting in what was to be a 175 acre burn turned into 1000. So it is with our hearts as well. While it looked so dangerous and damaging beyond its intent, I suspect that it was just what the mountain needed. Just like us, sometimes we start out talking about an old significant event that needs to be looked at and it becomes so much more than we expected and we can't stop it until it has burned all it needs to burn. Like trying to control the fire on the mountain,  if we try too hard to contain it, we ultimately only injure ourselves and place others in danger. We need to get out of its way, let it run as it wants and be ready to address it once it reaches its peak. Once the fire is seen and felt in its entirety, it is more manageable and can systematically be dealt with in pieces. Each section of the mountain soothed with the cool water from the lakes near by. The cool water of our friends extinguish the burn in our souls, a piece at a time until it and we have been exhausted.

Some will look at the charred mountain and lament the apparent damage only seeing what is, forgetting that the spring will bring tender new growth with a deeper green than the mountain has seen in our lifetime. Likewise people will look at us having been through our personal fire and lament our sadness and grief, not considering the sweetness of the new growth to come.

Do not be afraid of the uncontrolled burn. Yes, it is painful, yes, it takes time to allow it to run its course and douse, and yes, recovery takes time. The spring will come and with it an explosion of all things new.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

E.B. White and Genration X, Y and Z (The new silent generation)

First off allow me to apologize for being so long in posting. This has been an extraordinary year for which I am grateful. I will post more personal thoughts as I am able to collect them from the floor and the corners of my study (I think there might be some jammed under the seat of my car as well) and get them organized, or at least thrown together in a paper bag so I know where they are.

As all of you know I am an unabashed fan of E.B. White although I am fairly certain that "Charlotte's Web" and "Stuart Little" were read to me, not by me. I am at present reading "The Letters of E.B. White" which is an amazing collection laid out chronologically beginning with a letter to his brother, Stan, when E.B. was only nine. I feel as if I am walking alongside a man who has been able to articulate with such depth, emotion and texture, the way I see things. It is imperative, however, that to understand these letters, you must read "One man's Meat" and his "Collection of Essays" before diving into his personal thoughts. I am sorry, there are no short cuts in this regard as you will only be left confused and wondering what all the hubbub was about.

In a letter dated 20 December 1938, a thank you note to a friend, White, as usual, weaves in observations from life out in Brooklin, Maine. There is the usual mention of the the current struggles with the hens or the dog or the weather or a looming deadline or the upcoming PTA meeting. He began to lament over the view of the current generation of Mainers in which I think he unknowingly  outlined the trouble with every "next generation".  Here now, in 2012 we look on and back at most recently the "Gen X, Y & Z" cultures or lack thereof, and gave them these very generic titles  that in and of themselves seem to be not so veiled insults about a group of listless wandering 20 somethings who would rather go rock climbing than get a job and be productive. With each new generation looking for direction, they have only one way to look for guidance, and that is to the generation that came before. And it is in that view wherein the root of what we may see to be the problem lies.

White put it like this (and where he references Maine, think of our country as a whole):

"The trouble with Maine is that is has too distinguished of a past. Every day the Bangor Daily News runs a long feature piece on Maine lore or history, usually and octogenarian who still thinks of himself as returning from the China Seas with a sandalwood box for his bride - or a bride for his sandalwood box. Or he is in a clipper ship in a gale off the Horn. I think this kind of reading makes the present generation restless and unhappy, and they are always looking for something bold to do."

He has nailed it with the last sentence "..looking for something bold to do." Today we read about the challenge to go the moon, the victory over other empires, the building of massive financial might and it's subsequent collapse under it's own weight and men like Steve Jobs, who in his own rite is our modern day Sir Edmund Hillary, and I think deserves his own honorary title of Founder in the Explorers Club. X, Y & Z read about, hear about and see nothing but these huge accomplishments (or disasters as the case may be) and I suspect that it all seems too much, so they go climb a mountain. Doing what is probably most valuable to the growing intellect that is not taught in any classroom - the challenge of self.

Now, here is the catch or the rub depending on what happens on that mountain top. Once the personal challenge has been met in the thin and clear air, the next big success or disaster is conceived of to be executed once they have descended from the hilltop. With a clear head, belly full of passion, a JD and MBA they exchange the Patagonia fleece for a suit and try to outdo the previous generation, and they always do. The successes greater than any imaginable and disasters that bring us all to our knees.

We need to be careful how we label this next generation and the implied insult of laziness and we need to be ever more careful about the challenge to boldness we issue to them, for after all, do we really want them to be more bold than those that came before?

Me? Well today I am pondering my ghost of a best friend and wanting to go climb a mountain, all the while being stared down upon by large portraits of my Great Grandfather and Grandfather issuing their challenge to me through old grey suits and deadly serious expressions,  but tonight is a business dinner at my house and I can already hear Monday morning's opening bell in the distance.