Thursday, March 31, 2011

Its Just A Buck

Its been awhile since I have lost so much shoe leather on a city street. This past week in New York has me eating more and losing more weight at the same time-one cancelling out the other to a degree which is my next book..." Walk Your Ass Off"....and as I cruise up and down the narrow streets of The Big Apple I am struck by the diversity of cultures, the push and pull of the crowds, the vendors with music blaring selling everything from Statue of Liberty erasers to half price tickets to a strip joint to the high end stuff like cameras and computers. Its how they make a living and live their lives...every day of the year. As I watch the sea of humanity devour the concrete I wonder how all this happened...watching a cabbie nearly take out a delivery guy on a bike or high school kid tell me that there are some fine young breasts with my name on them for only $25 bucks at the peep show has me wondering if we are really the greatest hope of the planet, the top of the food chain and the most intelligent life in the universe or are we just another species that procreated and got outta control and took over our host planet like so many parasites. Sometimes seeing the Divine is a hard thing to do when all around you is chaos, stress, despair and pain.

I was heading up 8th street from an early feeding and making my way through the drizzle and wet wind, stopping once in an Army/Navy store looking for a ball cap to prepare for the predicted shitty weather tomorrow. Nothing suitable so off I go toward the apartment I am staying in and just as I round the corner going to 52nd street I see a sign that says "What the F**K its just a Buck.." and seated next to the miniature billboard is a woman...a young woman covered in coats and assorted blankets with various bags strewn about and a medium sized black Labrador dog in a half sleeping bag next to her. In front of them was a small red dog dish with a few coins in it. People hurried past her ahead of me, making sure not to look too long and all the while the seated woman was doing what appeared to be a crossword puzzle. As I made my toward her my instinct was to dip into my pocket-grab the change leftover from my meal and deposit it in the dog dish. As I came closer The Voice says.."just watch."

I made my way past her and stood in the drizzle watching her and the dog from about twenty feet away. I watched they way people looked at her...this young woman who is someones daughter...this young woman who might be a sister or auntie...this young woman...who has chosen on some level to sit in the rain with her dog and do crossword. Some looked at the sign and laughed...others shook their heads and most just did a quick downward glance as if they wanted to make sure it was a person they did not know from another time. One guy dropped a few bucks in the bowl..and went on his way. Then a cable TV truck pulled up on the street behind her and two guys got out. They talked on the sidewalk about some cable problem and then one guy got back into the driver seat and started doing paperwork-the other guy went into a building. Then it happened.....

"Hey..Hey..Hey you.." said the man in the van. "Yeah" said the girl. "Whats the long you been out in the rain?" She responded.."Six hours I guess...might be a little more than six hours now." The dog looked at the girl as if approving of the time period. The van man said nothing more but continued to do paperwork.. "just watch.."  A few minutes later he rolled down the window and said  "Hey..girl..Hey you need an umbrella?"....She stopped doing crossword and turned to him..."yeah...yeah...that would be good." Van Man reached behind his seat and produced what appeared to be a brand new umbrella in a sheath..a promotional item perhaps. He tossed it to her..and in one deft move she opened it up, blue and white..."its perfect" she mumbled. She tilted on her arm against the wind and rain..the dog curled itself up tighter in the sleeping bag...the other cable guy came back and got in the truck and off they went. It took me a few minutes to realize what I had seen...what I had witnessed...what I had been taught...what we want...and what we need are two very different things...and we always get what we need...but its not usually the way we want it..."just watch."

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Watch The Gap

For the past week I have been ensconced in New York City, sitting on on SiriusXM Radio on the Martha Stewart Living Radio Channel which has been quite an experience since its been 15 months since I sat behind a microphone with any regularity and nearly five years or more since I did the 3 hour a day back to back to back thing on LIVE radio...which is the only way to be...LIVE.

Stayed in Manhattan a couple nights but for the past few days been bunking with friends about 25 miles or so outside of The Big Apple which entails taking a train back and forth each morning and evening. When I am home in Upper Michigan the mode of transportation is by throngs use the railways to commute and its a pleasant 40 minute ride or so right next to the Hudson River which is truly a remarkable landscape to behold. I imagine the first native people of the area living and thriving along its banks, fishing and hunting and its as if I can almost see the smoke from their fires across the river on the bluffs. Incredible.

Of course there are other sites to see, serious graffiti on dilapadated buildings, human refuse and junk strewn along the inner portions of the tracks next to the residential side of the rails, homeless shelters built askew into the stone walls marked with black paint and more crushed glass bottles than you can count. Leftovers from construction projects, dead animal carcasses and piles of unknown garbage have built up over the years like a monument to our existence. We throw so much away...but not really away.

As I sat waiting for the train to do its thing a mechanical voice kept warning me to "Watch out for the Gap"..that half a foot no-man's land between the floor of the train entrance and the platform you are stepping to or from. Its printed all over the train and on the back of the ticket.."Watch The Gap" is the cry of the day and I sat envisioning hundreds of lost souls that somehow became very thin and slipped into the crevice of no return, the emptiness, the chasm of treachery that seems to swallow passangers and never give them back. I guess slipping between a railroad car and a stationary platform could do some serious damage and no doubt a lawsuit of some kind prompted the signage..but "Watch For The Gap" has other applications too.

The gap between what those early people on the Hudson experienced as home and the transit system that now occupies the shores of the river has been filled...and not always for the better. As I look out over the mighty waterway and think of how important this river is, to commerce and transportation, boating and education I cannot help but also see the utter disregard by the latest inhabitants of the Hudson...those that dump waste, chemical and otherwise..rundown buildings and rotting junk heaps along with the most destitute among among that filth.

The gap of what was..and what something we really do have to keep a watch on.....after all the signs have been ignored...that gap maybe something we cannot recover from. If we always do what we have always done...we will always get what you have always got....

Saturday, March 26, 2011

The Almighty....Dollar.

My experience in reading other blogs is that you can pretty much say anything you want-just like in real life-and don't have to defend or respond to that which you blogged-anything goes and whether people agree-disagree or don't care is up to them-kinda like real life too. So at the risk of ticking off alot of my..lets say...Christian friends or devout believers I want to know why there is a fee associated with connecting to God's favor and blessings? Why is a sacrifice demanded of some sort? Why is it that the upper channels on cable are filled with really loud men wearing really loud suits with really big watches and pinkie rings shouting their interpretation of someone else's interpretation of something that was interpreted thousands of years ago and insisting that unless you send a gift or tithe God might spend more time on your neighbor's prayers than yours?

I am fascinated by the messages that are trotted out to the masses, those longing for salvation and redemption, those lost and lonely and the forgotten and unforgiven...that somehow you have to please God by sending in a check or sowing a seed or as one guy on the tube this morning said "show God you trust him enough by sending in your last dime if need be so God can increase your good a thousand fold." The same man spent four or five minutes converting old Hebrew words into today's language and insisting that " if you use the original word in its root form God will hear you more clearly, thus fixing your problems all that much faster." The studio audience shook their collective heads in approval. 1) The thought that God is male says it all for me-I suppose you could use the argument that "God created MAN in his own likeness and image" as a leap off point for the male dominated God stance-which beckons this question- where does that leave the women folk? No one...NO ONE knows-what gender if any- this incredible force is or is not-seems to me fairly confining to make God one or the other-male or female but that's just me. 2) Trust. To imply that the all knowing..all being...all powerful God of the Universe will somehow "trust you" more if you tape a dime to an index card and mail to a church reduces God to the level of a telemarketer or banker as if there is a ledger somewhere on cloud just left of The Pearly Gates with your name on it inscribed by the Creator... "John...hmmm really wanted to help him and his daughter get thru that kidney transplant thing easier but ya know he never forked over enough green stuff to cover his blessings." 3) Nice to know that God prefers old Hebrew words to all the other languages that people pray to him (or her) in. Going to take a college course on it and really watch the favors roll in. When I turn on the tube and catch one of these God Squad stumpers continually pushing and pushing for more money the concept of "In God We Trust" on our currency takes on a whole new meaning.

For me-if the God these prophets are talking about is as they portray then they have minimized and shrunk God down to such small proportions that God has taken on the human like qualities of judgement (homosexuals are bad and going to Hell) favor (if you give me something I will give you something-there is no free God rides here bub) and anger (if you don't continually remind me that I am God then bad things are going to happen to you- and God will enjoy watching you suffer.)

Interesting to me that the TV pulpit is filled with humans professing to be mouthpieces for the Almighty but have seemingly forgotten to watch their own reruns. Benny Hinn, self professed "soldier for Christ" lives in a 3 million dollar mansion and leases a private jet. Jim and the late Tammy Faye Bakker blew millions of followers dollars on a lavish lifestyle including air conditioned dog houses all the while professing that "God loves givers not takers." Jimmy Swaggart must have forgotten his own words when he was caught with a prostitute...twice. Ted Haggard, President of the National Association of Evangelicals and associate one of President George Bush regularly railed against homosexuals saying that the gay lifestyle was a one way ticket to Hades. Turns out that Ted was testing his theory one could say but meeting with a male prostitute and engaging in lewd behavior on a frequent basis. Nice.

There are many that do "God's work" in the far corners of the world and we hear little of them. They are not boastful or bragging, on private jets or making sure their dogs are cool in the summer. They are not saying one thing and living another...they are not asking for anything but giving much. They become quiet and listen to "the still small voice" and act accordingly. They feed the hungry, they clothe the naked, they hold the sick and dying. You really want to covet God's favor? Leave a bigger tip for your waitress...say thank you to someone that helped you out. Take the coins out of your ash tray and give it to the woman on the street corner. Pick up some garbage. Visit a retirement home and hold the hand of someone forgotten by family..become a Big Brother or Big Sister...if you are really worried about getting good seat in the hereafter..there at least six billion opportunities to be a positive influence in someones life..  that will go a long way to securing your place in Heaven by doing things differently here on Earth. Stand in the sunshine and give thanks for being alive and remind others of the same gift...and you won't even have to do it in old Hebrew...God, wherever she or he or it is...will hear you...and its strings attached.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Core Workouts

I named this blog post "Higher Ground" because to me the notion of a refuge from the lower levels of existence so readily accessed via the media bombarding the humans with images and information most of us can do nothing about is essential to extracting some sense of meaning for being alive. Face it most of us don't really like some part of ourselves and that dark place gets fed by a constant affirmation that all would be well in our world if we just had... "washboard abs." I am amazed by the number of infomercials touting a great waist and girdle to be the transforming force that somehow makes the rest of life's problems all the much easier to stomach...(sorry.) Of course for the models on TV that use these machines they have taken on the qualities of Adonis or Athena from Greek literature and doubtful if they all used the machine they are posing for to get that way...and the mere fact that they have lost a couple inches off their midsection and you could now bounce quarters off their belly button seems to denote that everything else falls into place once you lift your shirt up. If only that were the case!

Before you call me on the carpet for not getting behind a healthy midriff-let me say that I spent six years as a personal trainer so I get it. The core of your body-the midsection-is a very important part of keeping fit-and long before all the gadgets came out to make the workouts "easier" athletes and others knew the "secret" to a fit human machine- so its back to my days in college kinesiology class when Prof. Betty White (no kidding) taught us the meaning of the S.A.I.D principle-or Specific Adaptation to Imposed Demand. In short- your body-and mine- has adapted to the demand we have placed on it-be it a steady diet of Burger King or Lean Cuisine- sitting on the couch watching the Olympics or doing your own cross-country skiing. Genetics play a role in how you are built-but science has shown that an overwhelming 80% of body reaction and response can be changed by working out-including the Ab-Fantastico machine. What all this means is you don't have to look the way you do-and on some level you are choosing-who you are and be honest-how many times have you tried to lose weight? S.A.I.D means that you have to continually changed the demand on your body- that's why the P90X guy is a millionaire- he took an age old concept-muscle confusion-and put it into a DVD- muscle that get challenged changes-muscle that don't.....don't. Simple- but not easy. Most of us don't want to put the effort in that it takes to make the changes in our life that we crave and we spend billions trying to find short cuts-turning treadmills into catch-alls for clothes and gym memberships are regulated to the bottom of our priority list...matter of fact gyms are banking (literally) on the fact that you will not show up-because most of us lose our motivation in less than a month...Whats all this have to do with finding Higher Ground?

Here's the deal- your life-not just your abs have adapted to the demand placed on it- some of it in your control-some of it not-meaning life beckons us to be proactive and reactive often at the same time. Its a process that says tonight I am turning off the tube and going for a walk...or instead of spending hours online looking up information that is at best used for trivia night at the local bar I am going to take a class and learn a language. Its taking the first step forward in repairing a relationship instead of letting age old wounds fester. S.A.I.D is a principle that is not limited to your physical health but your entire being. One change...just one....becomes like compound interest in your favor if you stay with it and allow the principle to work. The human mind has been trained that everything is fixed in the span of an infomercial-life is not an infomercial. Its the real deal and if you are really lucky and reach the average life span in America of 77.6 its just over 28,000 days you get to create ...a really great career...a really great marriage...a really great friendship...what you do with it is totally up to you...and just to be clear..having a great set of abs only guarantees one thing...a great set of abs.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

What did they say...?

I have spent just about 15 years either hosting a talk radio show in various formats from my early days as a one man band-doing it all -from producing, selling, taping, editing, promoting and cleaning the office to the upper echelons of entertainment at the Oprah Radio Channel as both host and producer of programs featuring Dr. Mehmet Oz, Jean Chatzky and everything in between. I took two things to heart when I began flooding the airwaves with my voice and commentary, two concepts that I keep in mind before I ever give the thumbs up to go live on the air. First the old saying of "Before you say a word you are its master, after you say a word you are its slave" meaning of course that with having a great platform to reach people from the bedrooms to the boardrooms carries with it a great deal of responsibility. I am responsible for what comes out of my trap- period end of story. That is true off air as well but for the purposes of this diatribe lets stick to being in the public arena. Secondly it was that troubadour of truth, the guy that some say was a really bad ass (rumored for years to be a Marine Corps sniper) before he was a ....hmmm good ass..the late great Fred "Mr." Rodgers he of the great sweaters and Presbyterian demeanor. Mr. Rodgers is quoted as saying "The space between the host of the show and the viewers (or listeners) is a sacred space and should be treated as such." I like that concept. I have an opportunity to be a part of millions of peoples lives via radio, television, speaking, books and consulting. I hold that what I am bringing to you is for your highest good-and mine too. Unfortunately not all that sit behind the microphone, take up space on television or in commentary feel the same way and its usually some sort of human tragedy that brings out their inner ...asshole. Now to be fair-we all have an inner asshole...and hopefully an outer one as well to take care of natures business. The inner asshole is that nasty dark place that loves to see others in misery, uses human suffering to advance their own beliefs or give platform to the worst inside them. We all have it. We don't all acknowledge it and even some seem not to have the filter to stop the inner asshole from getting out... it was either a) removed at birth or b) they were encouraged to much and paid to much to keep opening their mouth and insert their foot..and too many times its those with the most sway that have have the most say.

Take comedian Gilbert Gottfried who used his "tweet" to say "I just split up with my girlfriend, but like the Japanese say, 'They'll be another one floating by any minute now." and on the televised roast of Donald Trump "He changed so much of the New York skyline he could be the 20th hijacker from 9/11."  Boy that is just knee slapping humor huh? Radio talker Glenn Beck had his own take on the tsunami ravaged Japanese " I am not saying God created this earthquake but I am not saying he didn't. I don't care what you call it Gaia or Jesus or whatever but someone is sending them a message." The devout Mormon Beck seems to have corned the market on what or what not God is up to. This of course is not new phenomenon, as talking heads, pundits and others seem bent on letting us all know that the inner asshole is alive and well, knows no boundaries, political parties or gender. GOP Gov. Mike Huckabee is convinced that President Barack Obama grew up in Kenya and that affects his leadership of America and Democratic Congressman Mike Capuano of Mass. said "There is nothing wrong with throwing a cup of coffee at someone if you are doing it for human rights." Uh-huh...cream and sugar? TV evangelist Pat Robertson spouted that "the feminist agenda is not about equal rights it about a socialist, anti-political movement that encourages women to leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become lesbians." Well that explains everything from bad marriages, successful careers, Harry Potter and Ellen Degeneres all in one breath.

The First Amendment is the right to free speech...but its not free anymore because we pay for it one way or that other...and so do those that open their cake holes...Gottfried loses a lucrative contract..Beck loses more sponsors...Huckabee could lose an election..Capuano loses respect..and for some poor woman trying to find her way in the world Robertson who could lead a flock loses a sheep. We all lose with this type of unfettered rhetoric as it erodes our humanity and those who are really suffering. When Minnesota Viking Adrian Peterson compares playing in the NFL for a paltry $10.2 million a year to "modern day slavery because the owners want more from you" I wonder what the descendants of real slaves must think of his comments.

There is a an antidote to the inner asshole..its called "compassion"..and "awareness" and "respect." Concepts that have become less and less important as we hurtle along in the 21st century toward more natural "disasters" that will give those without a filter a chance to remind the rest of us that we do.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Always ask for directions-

I could not have been more proud. My son Andy was selected to the Wisconsin Eastern Conference All-Star team in basketball as a Sophomore. He had a huge year at guard with nearly 350 points and a slew of other stats that ranked him 8th of the top 22 players in the conference out of nearly 500 athletes. Not too much chest thumping from Dad huh? The opportunity for me to watch Andy display his prowess on the court is something I treasure-and the three hour drive to the game with him next to me in the car adds to the magic. Time spent together while he is at college is a rare commodity.

Off we go to Wausau, Wisconsin and I had already looked at the map-you know the old fashioned way like my Pop did. Pull out the Road Atlas-turn to page whatever and follow the little lines to where you want to go. Then you memorize it-leave the Atlas at home and off you go. Simple. As we leave college he picks up his phone that doubles as a radio, television, microwave oven, game board and speaks into it..."Wausau, Wisconsin" and plugs the thing into my cigar lighter in automatic fashion. I think "what the hell is he doing?" Then this mechanical female voice which is a cross between Marge Schott the late owner of the Cincinnati Reds and Rosie the robotic maid from the Jetsons starts talking.."Go straight to business 141 and turn left" Whaaat? That's not on my map. I ignore the directions and drive the other way and the thing starts squawking with more directions...and more and more...all the while he is saying "Pop you gotta follow the directions on the phone..!" We go back and forth..making a couple U turns before the GPS and I agree that we are indeed heading the right way...if nothing else to shut it up. It goes into a brief hiatus and leaves me drive in peace.

As we get nearer the destination the thing starts up again..barking out "turn left in 600 feet" and my own inner map says no way-its a dirt road and I am not going there. I am of course in charge of 2500 pounds of the finest steel on the road and not going to listen to a rebate laden telephone. Finally between the electronic conductor and my son insisting I turn left on 52 south and not 51 south like the Atlas instructed I give in and start listening to this thing-this modern day marvel that has more tracking components in it than the first Apollo lunar module.  52 south takes us to another road and then another and damned if the the thing didn't get us to exactly where we needed to be and calculated the time it would take-and it saved us about 20 minutes. From a cell phone.

Its taken a day to absorb what else happened for me. My own inner GPS- has been off whack for a long time-mostly because I don't listen to its instructions. "Call Bill about the project" nah- "Stop and see Bruce" nope too busy. "Make sure you take your extra keys with you" why would I do that I have AAA? On and on this built in system is constantly trying to correct my course while I keep insisting on using an old map. Its trying to save me time, money, friends, health, career, family, wear and tear on my already over stimulated mind. Its always suggesting an alternate route, a new concept to consider and a solution to my problems-my problems-the ones I create by not listening in the first place. Sometimes when I listen it suggests road to take-that I don't want to go down because they don't look familiar to me or they are too dark or too uncertain. What I learned is every road leads to another one and my GPS knows the destination and how to get there far better than my human mind that argues with it constantly about who is right and who is wrong-a byproduct of watching too much MSNBC. Sometimes the voice is hard to hear and doesn't sound anything like Marge Schott or Alice..but it is there...and always has been.

The Eastern Conference beat the Western Conference, Andy had a great game and we had a great time. As we began to head back home I let the GPS lead the way and enjoyed the trip. About time.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday

One of the things about "blogging" is that I can of course state my opinions in a forum that is for the most part nothing more than a reflection of what is going on in my mind at any given moment-whatever happens to trigger a thought that at first gives me pause... ie "President Obama grew up in Kenya" out of the mouth of former Governor Muck Hickabee...or is that Mike Huckabee? See how easy it is to transpose a word or two and give a different meaning?  On the other side of the fence Dems AWOL in Illinois are asking to meet the new Governor of America's Dairyland at the border of Illinois and Wisconsin...near Kenosha, Wisconsin I would guess...perhaps at the Brat Stop to discuss serious pending legislation...really? Kinda like High Noon or...maybe not. The Gov. said put on your big boy pants and come home...elected officials..all of them.

But none of that is really what is on my mind-my brain bucket and all its gray matter and unseen contents is gnawing on a long standing phenomenon in America and dare I say in the world. Fat people...more specifically fat people that are in contests to lose weight..and even more specifically fat people losing weight on television while other people that need to lose weight watch them-trying to lose weight.

First- I am not fat by the standards of any of the shows that air- I have never been fat and most likely will not be fat-as outlined heretofore. These TV shows that feature mammoth sized humans trying to lose the equivalent weight as that of a small dinosaur are not interested in people like me-as participants. So before I mush on let me state that this rant is not about fat people- how they got fat, why they are fat, what makes them fat, the emotional state of being fat or just really anything to do with fat. It has to do with Mike Huckabee...not really just seeing if you were paying attention.

I cannot find a way around the fact that millions of people actually sit and watch fat people try to lose weight. I don't know the demographic for these types of shows but the image of the family sitting down and getting ready to watch "The Biggest Loser" and lining up a smorgasbord of munchies while tuning in to some massive human eating nothing but a pile of green stuff and sweating their collective nads off confirms what I have long suspected-the human mind does not know what reality ...really is. The advent of television has billions of us watching shows that are nothing more than made up stories..that our mind processes as real. My grandmother used to sit and watch her "stories" every afternoon-soap operas- and talk out loud to the TV set-as if the cast of characters actually existed and were sitting in the living room. Watching a group of fat people working out and sweating to the oldies is not the same as really working out and sweating to the oldies...really..really it isn't. Let me address the inevitable comment lurking ahead.."But its so inspirational to watch these shows...people losing weight..." is my much weight have you lost watching other people lose weight? Inspiration is great...imagine combining that with perspiration....that would actually lead to real...TRANSFORMATION...

And one more thing...about Mike Huckabee and those Democrats hiding in Chicago.....what do they have in common with "The Biggest Loser"...hmmm

Monday, March 7, 2011

Seeing Charlie Sheen

Its near impossible to turn on the tube and not see "the latest and most exclusive" interview or review or rear-view of the on-air destruction of a human being that is so caught up in the manic world of his own mind and that "duh" and "winning" have become water cooler talking points. Charlie Sheen-born Carlos Irwin Estevez is the son of The President from "West Wing" Ramón Gerardo Antonio Estévez (Martin Sheen) and brother of the dude from "Breakfast Club" Emilio Estevez (Emilio Estevez.) He has been married 3 times, has a few kids and his net worth hovers around 85 million dollars and up to recently he was paid 2 million dollars a show on "Two and a Half Men" to portray a guy that is a basic loser, womanizer, alcoholic and basic bad influence on his brother's son. In other words-he was paid to be himself-which perhaps makes his on air performances so convincing. To be fair-I have a watched about six minutes of the show that has millions laughing at what part of him do we see in ourselves that keeps would be interviewers like British import and late night Larry King replacement Piers Morgan saying things like "you seem somewhat normal to me..."
Perhaps its the part of us that usually falls apart in private. All of us have meltdowns-but not in public or for public comsumption. No doubt listening to Charlie talk about his porn starlets is more fun than listening to some guy from Chicago wishing he could trade places with Sheen...and who would want to? Perhaps its the part of us that is so full of ourselves that we belive our own press clippings... Charlie could actually demand more money per show- $3 million-to be himself for CBS. He might have a point-if he has actually caught on that he is portraying himself-he should be paid more for it right? Maybe what keeps us tuning into the sideshow called "Sheen" is how much we all like to see someone suffer...other than ourselves.
I hope Charlie Sheen gets a second chance-that somehow through the fog of his own illusions and the obvious goading by a close circle living off his resources like so many hyenas pulling apart what's left of the carcass-he rises out of this as a testament to the human spirit and gives pause to so many others that struggle with substance abuse. In America we love to watch someone fall-suffer and get laid open. We also love it when they apparently crawl thru the muck and mire, polished and ready for another shot. I hope he makes it-
I really do.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Only the good die young...

With the headlines filled to the brim on the rantings of Charlie Sheen, the North Korean leader once again threatening war because no one is paying attention to him, Libya falling apart and Wisconsin about to go out of business I wanted to take this space to tell you the world lost someone really important. Someone I had never met-but wish I had.

On one of my frequent trips to a close friends house to basically suck down coffee like a Hoover (vacuum cleaner not the president) and walk through the more spiritual aspects of life and how to possibly apply forgiveness to situations that seem hopeless and ride out the pain that life throws at us in all forms, my eye caught the edge of the daily paper-a photograph to be exact of Hampton Benjamin Waring on the obituary page. He is a square jawed bright eye young man with a slight smile and shock of dark hair and the reading goes on to say that Ben died tragically in a car accident in Dover, Wisconsin on Feb 19, 2011.

Ben was born to Hampton and Mary Beth Waring and attended Superior Central Schools here in Upper Michigan. He was a standout baseball player, track athelete and made All-State and All-Class Honorable Mention his Senior year in basketball. It was at high school he met the love of his life Jessica Shegan-Fox and was in the National Honor Society and active with Big Brothers/Big Sisters and the Dare Program. Word has it he was a skilled craftsman and great brother to Katie and Joe. Ben spent his summers throwing bales of hay at the mill and working for any neighbor who needed a hand-no questions asked. After high school graduation he attended Michigan Tech-and in his senior year he helped to design a bridge in Soloy, Panama and upon graduating from Tech with his civil/structural engineering degree was part of the bypass project in in Wisconsin. He continued to enjoy baseball and was a tough foe in paintball. He planned to marry Jessica in July of 2012. A great day for Ben including a good pair of jeans and sweatshirt..customizing his pickup truck named "Talula" and eating his favorite food with a large glass of cold chocolate milk. Ben was a remarkable guy who had a real sense of himself and others and had a way of listening to other people's problems and with his down to earth character, he could simplify the issue and show them that they could overcome the challenge. He had a real clarity about life and friends and family say that Ben "got it" in regards to life. He was a great role model for all who knew him.

Hampton Benjamin Waring was 23 when he died.

My spirit leapt just thinking about his incredible young man-untainted by the polarizing issues of the day that knock so many of us off track. His inner compass that brought forth his gifts and his willingness and courage to totally be himself when so many his age want to be someone else. The energy and zeal for living that he lived life with, a sense of urgency about the gift of waking up another day. As I read and re-read about Ben's life I began to question my own mortality. What will be written about me when I am gone? Will it be about the books I have authored or the radio shows I have done? Will it talk about the famous people I have worked with and the places I have been? The houses I bought or the cars I drive? I suppose all of that is in the hands of the final author of my life-whomever that may be.

I left the house and thought about Ben all night. Family and friends were gathering to say good-bye to a remarkable human being, comforting each other in their loss, made that much deeper due to the fact that the Ben Waring's of the world are few and far between...oh they are out there but its not often we hear about them until its too late. I wish I would have known him in life, but its his death that has given me a spark, a gift and a resurgence that brought a little bit more light into some dark corners. I have another day that he did not, I have the opportunity to make the most of it and so do you. I have the paper with Ben's obituary on my writing desk-and there it will stay as a reminder that tomorrow is promised to no one. In a final act of courage Ben had chosen to be an organ donor and his wishes will save up to 50 lives.

The most important headlines seemingly are about mega-stars flapping their yap about how life did them wrong, dictators that were ignored as kids and need to make a mess the world to get attention and how those in elected office often confuse force with true power. Ben Waring knew the difference and in just 8,395 days on Earth accomplished more, touched more lives and made more of an impact than most people I know.

Thanks Ben.