Random Thoughts from a Restless Mind

Dr. Darrell White's Personal Blog

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Archive for September, 2018

Sunday musings 9/23/18

Sunday musings…

1) Autumn. Yep. Here it is. First day of Fall and it’s 55 degrees outside at Casa Blanco.

2) Movie. Mark Wahlberg perfectly captures the intensity and the desperation I would feel if one of my children went missing. The Lovely Bones is gut wrenching.

3) Chardonnay. Do you partake of the grape? My darling Beth has become physically intolerant of red wine (though she will choose to suffer for a special Zinfandel) and so we have been on a white wine quest for the last couple of years. Our first such journey was the classic rite of passage new wine drinkers all embrace as beginners before they are inevitably swept up in the “only red wine is worthy” stage. This has been fun because we’ve given ourselves permission to just enjoy whatever we find for whatever we spend.

Look for Goldschmidt “Singing Tree” from Cali. You’re welcome.

4) Non-Zero. In my travels, and those of my oldest friends and acquaintances, I have come across scores of people who are truly happy. Capable of feeling and giving in to joy. It’s such a special thing to see, and even better to in some way feel a part of that joy, wherever it may be from and whatever may have brought it to life. It’s out there, you know. Sometimes it’s subtle, as gentle and quiet as the proverbial footstep of a butterfly landing on a leaf. Other times it is raucous and riotous and simply blasts through your space like a runaway train.

That’s kinda cool.

Sadly, there are others out there who resent the joy in others. Whether they are themselves happy or not so much, the happiness of another feels to them like losing. It’s more than envy in the unhappy. For these folks it’s as if there is a finite about of happiness and joy in the world; no matter how much of either they may have at any one time they cannot see another’s joy without feeling as if it is somehow draining the reservoir from which they may drink some time in the future. Weird, huh? They sometimes seem more fixated on the blessings of others than on their own, so much so that their own joy slowly seeps away.

Happiness and joy are not limited resources. Quite the contrary. My happiness, my joy is not predicated on your unhappiness or your sorrow, and vice versa. Heavens, if one person’s happiness could come only from another’s despair we’d have long ago slipped into a rather dismal anarchy. No, joy is the ultimate non-zero sum measure. More than that, joy is an exponential multiplier. When you find or see joy in someone else and that vision makes you happy, the mount of happy you get is a full order of magnitude greater than it should be. If that joy and happiness should come to someone who has lately had little of either, well, that’s just that much better.

Life is pretty good around Casa blanco right now, and as much as I’d like to think that means it will always be thus that’s not how life works. Regardless, if I should stumble upon you in the midst of something joyous you can be sure that no matter what happens to be going on in my little world I’m surely not going to resent you or your joy. Quite the opposite.

Whether the skies be cloudy or eggshell blue, a glimpse of the sun always warms.

I’ll see you next week…

–bingo

Sunday musings 9/16/18

Sunday musings…

1) Sabbath. I read this week a proposal to reinstate the institution of the Sabbath, with or without religion, as a way to force at least one day each week without any work in the U.S.

This is an idea worth considering.

2) Bubble. Yesterday’s WSJ Magazine had something like 15 full page ads for really expensive wristwatches. Like, stupid expensive wristwatches. Says here that’s a sign of a bubble about to burst. If people have so much money they can be persuaded to buy a watch by a magazine ad then I’m saying the economy is overheated. Like the P/E ratio, the Wristwatch Index.

First offered on “Sunday musings”, 9/16/18.

3) Communication. My Mom needs a new cellphone. Her old one is apparently dying, and the service contract that covers the phone is so expensive that it borders on usury. Mom needs a new phone and this is turning out to be a rather fraught experience not only for her, but also for her 4 adult children and their spouses. As is the case with all things family, the “why” of this is complex because participating in the process of obtaining a new phone involves so much more than just the kind of financial and technical exercise that you, or your kids, go through when your iGalaxaPhone goes on the fritz.

Oh sure, the technical part is important here, too. Mom’s not all that good on using her 2003-level tech on a phone that doesn’t even “flip”. Think about your first cell phone and how it worked. Kinda like a “real” phone, wasn’t it? At least a real touchtone phone at least. You hit “ON” or “SEND”, tapped in a number on a standard 1-9+0 keypad, and waited for the phone on the other end to ring. If you were born before 1980 or so this was second nature. Texting was exotic and expensive, so most people didn’t do it. Interestingly, if you were born before 1950, it actually took a bit of doing to get used to having to hit “SEND” to make the call; your home phone just did the job after you dialed. My Mom has found this to be a problem. She is a phone caller and a talker, and still has 2 phones attached to a wall in her house  to supplement a “cordless” phone. How will she do with a password-locked screen, the swipes and touches of a state-of-the-art smartphone?

This brings up the first uncomfortable topic for her kids and their spouses: Mom is getting older. Make no mistake, Mom is still in full control of all of her faculties. She is whip smart and continues to be able to call into play everything she knows. Indeed, she is quite happy to share with all of us her thoughts on how what she knows squares with what we are all doing! But she will admit that she has changed as she has gotten older, and that some of those changes have made life a bit harder. She doesn’t really like to drive after dark or in the rain, for example, a couple of very common things that happen to everyone. Changes occurring around her over which she has little control make her more unhappy than they did when she was younger. Thank Heaven’s she is surrounded by so many wonderful folks who look after her! A few months ago her plumber figured out the software change to her TV cable remote so she didn’t have to, and got her all set up in time for Jeopardy.

As an aside, tech companies should be tasked with making all of their offerings geared to be usable by the LEAST technically savvy users in their markets. That would demonstrate real innovation.

Over my years musing on Sundays I have often thought about how people communicate. The differences in style between generations, and the changes that have occurred over my lifetime, for example. This is the hardest part for us in my generation as we tackle this issue for Mom; we must look through HER eyes, through the prism of HER needs and HER comfort as we seek to find the successor to her 15 year old cellphone. You see, we communicate much differently than Mom. When she wants to get in touch that means she wants to TALK to you. That’s right…old-fashioned verbal communication. This morning I have texted with Randy’s family  (pics of The Littles included!) and Beth (from an airplane!), emailed a colleague, Tweeted @ someone and answered a FB message. With all of that I am a comparative Luddite; I don’t Snap, Instagram, or WhatsApp. Mom dials up a call.

What my Mom needs is a phone. A telephone. What she wants is a phone that feels as close to a phone that is wired into the wall next to her fridge. She is emblematic of her generation; a phone call is in itself a compromise, because the person to whom she is speaking isn’t right there with her in the kitchen or on the couch. We want Mom to be available to us and we want her to feel that we are available to her, but what that means is terrifically different to each of us. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve wanted to just send her a quick text. It is at the same time the most loving, and yet the hardest thing to do for us to acknowledge our Mom is ready only for a new version of what for us is an old thing, a phone that can make phone calls.

There is nothing wrong with that.

In this day and age how we communicate with someone else is a sign of commonality, but it is also a sign of respect. I text Dan to make sure it’s OK to call for example. My daughters-in-law text me the photos and videos that they Snap to everyone else. My Mom wants to talk. When she has a problem or is in need of some help, being able to reach out and talk makes her more comfortable. My siblings and I so desperately want to believe that Mom is just like us, only now maybe just a little slower around the house. We want that to be more than we allow ourselves to think or say. Mom needs a phone to make phone calls. As hard as it is for us to be here and to think along these lines we need to show that we see her and love her as she is today. We need to help her get that phone.

We need to call her on it for as long as we have her here to call.

I’ll see you next week…

–bingo

 

 

 

Don’t Exist, Live.

After my first foray into Spinning my back seized up. Pre-CrossFit this was a rather common occurrence, but it’s been some 10 years since my last episode and I’ve been feeling a little sorry for myself. For as long as I have been writing these little ditties I have exhorted (both of) you to get out and actively live your lives; don’t just exist.  More than that I have tried to impress upon anyone who would listen how important it is to have people to live for. People who truly care that you are living among them. What follows is a re-posting of one of the saddest, most powerful stories I’ve ever heard.

 

“Billy Ray (not his real name, of course) turned off his implantable defibrillator (ICD) yesterday. Billy Ray is 44.

In my day job I was asked to evaluate him for a problem in my specialty. I was told he was about to enter hospice care and assumed that he was much, much older and simply out of options. I admit that I was somewhat put out by the request, it being Saturday and the problem already well-controlled. Frankly, I thought it was a waste of my time, Billy Ray’s time, and whoever might read my report’s time, not to mention the unnecessary costs. I had a very pleasant visit with Billy Ray, reassured him that the problem for which I was called was resolving nicely, and left the room to write my report.

44 years old though. What was his fatal illness? What was sending him off to Hospice care? I bumped into his medical doc and couldn’t resist asking. Turns out that Billy Ray has a diseased heart that is on the brink of failing; without the ICD his heart will eventually beat without a rhythm and he will die. A classic indication for a heart transplant–why was Billy Ray not on a transplant list? Why, for Heaven’s sake, did he turn off his ICD?

There is a difference between being alive and having a life. It’s not the same to say that one is alive and that one is living. It turns out that Billy Ray suffered an injury at age 20 and has lived 24 years in unremitting, untreatable pain. Cut off before he even began he never married, has no children. Each day was so filled with the primal effort to stop the pain he had little left over for friendship.

Alive without a life. Alive without living. Billy Ray cried “Uncle”.

I have been haunted by this since I walked out of the hospital. How do you make this decision? Where do you turn? Billy Ray has made clear he has no one. Does a person in this situation become MORE religious or LESS? Rage against an unjust G0d or find comfort in the hope of an afterlife? Charles DeGaulle had a child with Down’s Syndrome. On her death at age 20 he said “now she is just like everyone else.” Is this what Billy Ray is thinking? That in death he will finally be the same as everyone else?

And what does this say about each of us in our lives? What does it say about the problems that we face, the things that might make us rage against some personal injustice? How might we see our various infirmities when cast in the shadow of a man who has lived more than half his life in constant pain, a man alone? The answer, of course, is obvious, eh?

The more subtle message is about people, having people. Having family, friends, people for whom one might choose to live. It’s very easy to understand the heroic efforts others make to survive in spite of the odds, despite the pain. Somewhere deep inside the will to live exists in the drive to live for others. The sadness I felt leaving the hospital and what haunts me is not so much Billy Ray’s decision but my complete and utter understanding of his decision.

Billy Ray gave lie to the heretofore truism that “no man is an island”.

Go out and build your bridges. Build the connections to others that will build your will to live. Live so that you will be alive for your others. Be alive so that your life will be more than something which hinges on nothing more than the switch that can be turned off. Live with and for others so that you, too, can understand not only Billy Ray but also those unnamed people who fight for every minute of a life.

Be more than alive. Live.”

 

Sitting here in the airport with Beth, headed home after celebrating our Anniversary with Lovely Daughter Megan and her Handsomedon Prince, somehow my back doesn’t feel all that bad anymore.

Sunday musings 9/2/18

Sunday musings…

1) Eschaton. A final stage in social evolution. Proposed by futurists in Silicon Valley as the inevitable.

Likely to be as accurate as Marx commenting on the steam turbine and electrification. (HT George Gilder).

2) Refurbish. Mrs. bingo and I own a refurbished 1971 runabout. It took 11 months to be  returned to us. At the moment it is a lovely piece of lawn art because our 1999 pier is in the middle of a refurbishment.

Yup. It’s been 11 months.

3) Air Show. Labor Day Weekend means it’s air show time in Cleveland. It’s nothing short of awe inspiring to see the majesty of our nations’s air power parade by the North Coast of the U.S. Two A-10′s casually floated by Casa Blanco on their way to the fairgrounds. They. Fly. So. Slowly.

Why do people choose to mess with us?

4) Nest. My brother and sister-in-law are now officially empty nesters. Both children have graduated and are full employed. No one lives at home. Randall and Joanne chose to spend their first official trip with us. This is actually a pretty big deal; for 10 years they have spent literally 40 weekends per year following their boys’ collegiate teams. For 10 years I have waited for my bother, my best friend, to be free to hang with me again.

What’s the point? Simple. Sunday musings, indeed, all of my pabulum, is a luxury that I have taken for myself, and that all of you have gifted to me. It’s been a blast. A privilege. But it’s neither necessary nor is it mandatory. Here we are at 2042 and I am just now getting around to my laptop. I spent today doing pretty much exactly what I have exhorted each (both?) of you who read my stuff to do: spent my day in direct face-to-face contact with people I love, away from pretty much all forms of digital whatever. Arms length or closer, all day. We slept in while Mrs. bingo tended to her horses. We got a collective dousing from the Man Cub, who has apparently discovered how to turn on the back yard hose. The sunset over Lake Erie was epic.

I love writing for you, I really do. I hope that what I write occasionally gives you a moment to reflect on what it is we do and why. Today I just lived among my people. My whole day was spent with people I love who love me right back. I was busily in the act of loving and being loved all day long.

What a day!

I’ll see you next week…

–bingo

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