Sunday, January 31, 2010

Follow Your Dreams-

Sound advice, actually. Not quite so easy as this fluffy, warm and fuzzy phrase sounds, but still sound advice.

However, I wonder how many people have a dream that can be followed? I remember in my own youth (we're talking very young here) I dreamed of knowing everything. I hungered for knowledge. At that age I lacked perspective, and really that is a very general sort of dream. Probably more of a longing.

As I gained perspective I learned that getting knowledge required time and effort. I don't really think I had a problem with the effort. I actually like the act of learning. No, the issue is time. Everything is virtually infinite. How much time would be needed to learn everything?

Infinite time.

Not a practical pursuit for a finite creature with a finite lifespan. Consequently, I was frustrated early in life. I would not be able to achieve my dream. No lesser dream sufficed. I never resolved to follow another dream, but rather just drifted through my life. I still loved learning, but it was random and undisciplined, and never developed depth.

In our childhood some of us have dreams. "I want to be a policeman" or some such thing, that holds and directs our lives. Some people follow through, and do become a "policeman." I have no idea if they are happier over all, but I like to believe that following such a dream has some degree of fulfillment. It gives direction and order to life, at least.

Interestingly, my disordered approach to living led to me being a "policeman." A correctional officer, actually, but still a law enforcement professional. To be quite honest, though the job provided well for my family my heart was never in it. I did it well. I appreciate the job, but I never had a sense of fulfilling my dream.

Here I am, late in life and trying to find a viable dream. The quest leads me to the idea of becoming a resource for others seeking their dreams. More of a notion than a dream, at least for me, but the idea promises some degree of fulfillment. Some kind of dream agent, a dreamer's assistant. Concierge of the Dream.

How does one turn that into a career?

Can dreaming become a philosophy, a philosophy on purpose? Perhaps, if the dream leads to concrete plans and actions. Plans that are flexible enough to survive the rigors of actual living, and actions that are focused enough to move toward fulfilling the dream. Perhaps, if it generates or modifies the dreamer's world view.

Is hunting for your dream the same as following it? It is at least a pursuit, an occupation, a thing to do. It is not easy, answering this kind of question. That may indicate that the question is simply not the right question.

I still have the urge to know everything. I still recognize my limitations relative to fulfilling such a dream. No, I need to cast this aside, and follow a more realistic dream.

Perhaps I shall become The King of Suede. Yeah.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Exit Strategy-

When we were attacked on 9/11, it was necessary to go to war. We went to Afghanistan and bloodied some of those who attacked us, and some of those who supported those who attacked us. I supported that, because it was necessary. If you are strong and powerful, insults can be tolerated. Assaults can never be tolerated, or there will be no end to them.

I was, however, concerned as to the objective. Capturing Bin Laden and his associates was a laudable objective, but not necessarily a sound condition of victory. We were not there to take over the country, or destroy whatever government was in place. Afghanistan is not a singular entity, and such a condition for victory can never be met.

Then we became entangled in Iraq. That was simply ill advised, though I could buy a surgical action to take out Saddam Hussein. Threat eliminated, we could have withdrawn and simply promised to return if they didn't behave. It could have gone like that.

That didn't happen, so now we had two protracted wars with no clear definitions for victory in either case. Then came a lot of political jargon and some kind of offal about "exporting democracy." At this point it was clear that our decision makers did not have any idea as to the nature of our enemies.

I am not a genius, but I certainly do not assume that the rest of the world longs to adopt the American Way. I find it hard to believe that any of our "leaders" could hold to that. I am not convinced that the world would become a particularly attractive place if we compelled the "rest of the world" to become JUST LIKE US. Narcissistic paranoia is not a particularly attractive state of mind, and certainly not worthy as a major item of export.

So, the Presidential Election of 2008 loomed. I did not wish for any Bush clones. He and his masters had not proved to be particularly good stewards of my future. Obama? Not my first choice. I actually supported Libertarian candidate Christine Smith. However, she was too hard core as a Libertarian for even the Libertarian Party, and I didn't want to vote for compromised Libertarianism, especially since the stood very little chance of success.

Eventually it was Obama as the most likely candidate to win and (hopefully) end these wars. Though slow, his administration has been (seemingly) winding down the war in Iraq. Well, that's half of the battle.

Afghanistan, however, may prove problematic. Obama seems committed to shifting resources being wasted in Iraq to being wasted in Afghanistan. Those resources are our brothers and sisters, sons and daughters, and whatever economic future we may all have. All to be spent on an ongoing war in a distant land, and no real victory in sight.

So, we still have a war with no clear exit strategy, and no clearly defined condition for victory. We still have a politician in the White House dispensing rhetoric instead of wisdom. I don't believe any one administration can do too much damage to the country, so I don't fear Obama being nominally at the helm. However, I had hoped for more.

If Bin Laden and Al Qaeda are our objective our current method will not work. Armies topple governments. To hunt weasels you need hounds. Hounds that are not restricted by rules. Hounds that do not recognize national borders as impediments. Hounds that will fight just like the enemy fights, only better.

War is an ugly business. Politicians like to dress it up and make it pretty. It is not. Soldiers know what it is, but serving the politicians they dress pretty and allow their hands to be tied. Consequently the wars go longer than necessary, rarely accomplish much more than filling graves, and the world muddles on making redundant history.

It is time to release the hounds, and bring the other soldiers home. If our "leaders" cannot find the testicular fortitude to release the hounds, perhaps it is time for a rogue pack to go out and do what is necessary.

Hounds don't necessarily need an exit strategy. Just a suitable Scooby snack.

Friday, January 8, 2010

Little Old Lady Philosophy-

I have coined an awkward phrase. "Little Old Ladies of any Age and Gender." It needs the qualification, otherwise people will think I am speaking of literal little old ladies.

The phrase refers to the prissy and provincial little old ladies (literal) that we have probably all known. Women who have lived sheltered lives, for the most part, and who think that their own narrow little world is all the world there is. Anything else is false, offensive, and without value.

There are plenty of people like that who are not literally little old ladies. However, they think like little old ladies, and so earn the title. With the qualifier, of course.

I recall sitting under the teachings of Dr. John Mitchell of Multnomah School of the Bible. Dr. Mitchell was fond of cigars, but refrained from smoking them due to the prejudice of some Christians, who considered smoking sinful. Dr. Mitchell did not hold to this view, but for the sake of these little old ladies (literal and figurative) he refrained.

This was an admirable accommodation, but I don't believe that he extended this accommodation to church leadership or matters of doctrine. He was a powerful church leader and teacher for most of a century. Such an achievement could not have taken place in an atmosphere of accommodating little old ladies.

I have thought about these little old ladies, from time to time. I have wondered how accommodating Little Old Ladies of Any Age and Gender might have adversely affected churches, states and other institutions. Prissy thinking is not the exclusive realm of churchy little old ladies.

The term Politically Correct is linked with a political orthodoxy, not a religious one, and is generally secular. Hypersensitivity to words and phrases deemed "offensive" can be very Little Old Lady. The fear of offense can cripple creative thinking and affective action.

This is not to say that lighting up cigars (figuratively and literally) in the presence of genuine little old ladies is good practice. Giving offense on purpose is rude and generally counter-productive. Granted, an occasional shock can shake loose some people that need shaking, but for the most part such intentional offenses will work against ideas and the people associated with those ideas.

I have no idea how to fix this phrase in our language, other than to throw it out into the world and see what happens. Little Old Ladies of any Age and Gender. LOLAG? Hmm. Perhaps. Maybe not.

More important than the phrase is the awareness. Is my thinking LOLAG? Am I being prissy, provincial, and small in my thinking? Am I content with my thoughts going unchallenged?

For any (literal) Little Old Ladies who happen to be reading, I apologize for any offense. Really. Just don't be so LOLAG.