Posts Tagged ‘ opportunities ’

Summer of horrors, or opportunity?

Some dream of high office, few ever attain it.  I can only imagine that one of the first things that anyone would do is sit in that chair behind the Resolute desk in the Oval Office and just…smile.  If ever there was a time to say, “I’ve arrived,” I think that would be it.  Similarly, whatever desk and whatever office the pope occupies, I would think the man would smile like a Cheshire Cat.

Finally: the opportunity to actually make a difference, to change the world.  Surely, that aspiration would go hand in glove with the pinnacle of power.

So, while the Summer of ’08 would seem to be the summer of horrors for the White House, it is no less than the summer of horrors for the papal palace.  While one occupant is probably sincere, and the other one anything but, both are blowing their opportunity.

It has been debated whether or not we have “free will” – the ability to make truly independent choices.  I won’t discuss that here.  But whether we have unlimited choices, or very limited choices, we still have choices.  Someone in the White House obviously has choices that a coal miner doesn’t.  The Bishop of Rome has choices no one else has.  Windows of opportunity come in sizes.

Next, there would be the ability to act upon the choices we make.  If we can’t act, then they really aren’t choices – at least viable ones.  Without ability, all we have are fantasies.  Again, a topic for another day.  Yes, some do win the lottery, tho for the overwhelming majority of us, the answer to the question of “what would I do if I won the lottery?” is just a fantasy.

You need both: opportunity and ability.

I just don’t understand why it is that two people in the news every day these days are squandering their opportunity.  It is said in jest that promotion requires a lobotomy; that, somehow, while we all start off the same, elevation in power is predicated on becoming more and more forgetful of our roots.  That people at the pinnacle truly forget how they got where they are, and therefore do not truly know where they are.

It is fitting that history judges most harshly those that have forgotten it.

I just finished watching an episode of NCIS where Gibbs switches some evidence.  Gibbs is usually unfailingly honest.  Integrity his highest code.  But in this episode he demonstrates that honor is more important than integrity.  There are other opportunities in the series for him to put integrity first, and he chooses another path (almost always honor).  But he “never” loses sight of the “big picture.”  He knows what he does and why he does it.

Neither Trump nor Francis seem to have a clue why they are doing what they’re doing.  I keep coming back to a book that I read years ago: The March of Folly, by Barbara Tuchman.  In it, she picks a few examples of leaders that, had they chosen to do absolutely nothing at all, events would have turned out far different, and probably in their favor.  By being out to lunch, history would have been far kinder, maybe even salutatory.  But, no, they chose to be active in the situation, and all hell broke loose.  Three examples come to mind (it has been years since I read the book): Renaissance Popes, King George and the American Revolution, Vietnam (pick either the French or the Americans, it really doesn’t matter).

Fast forward to the Summer of 2018.  Trump did whatever he could to be elected; it worked.  Since gaining the Oval Office, he has been on a death spiral.  The only question now is whether his four years will end before he’s impeached.  After he’s out, America will breathe a sigh of relief and wonder if we have survived.  Bergoglio got elected pope and has been bouncing around like a pinball.  I don’t believe there is any mechanism to remove him from office, so we are stuck with him for awhile (as long as his health holds out, I suppose; Benedict’s resignation still doesn’t feel right, Francis’ resignation doesn’t seem possible).

Is this the era of the truly stupid leader?  Are these the times for head scratching decision making.  As in, leaders make decisions that the rest of us just wonder at.

My fantasy is that Trump will hit his head on something, rearrange all those megalomaniac brain cells, and move this country forward.  While I agree with Meghan McCain (this country has always been great), we definitely need some direction from that chair in the Oval Office.  My fantasy is that Francis will take responsibility for the predatory priests, instead of facilitating their fantasies.  I don’t know that Trump “must” resign; but I am convinced Bergoglio must.

The rest of us hoi polloi  must do more than tilt at windmills.  In politics, we must become more active and participate.  In the Church, well, we have no idea who the next pope will be, but at the local level, we owe it to the bishops to keep them on track (we don’t vote for them either; but we can close our checkbooks).

Truly, the Summer of ’08 is a summer of horrors.  But, what are we going to do with the opportunity to make this a better world for our children?  As painful as these times are now, to do nothing would be worse, for eternity is a long time.

(Thanks to Georg Weigel and his essay in First Things for “summer of horrors”)

The damn island

The good news is: I survived the plane crash. The bad news is: I am all alone on this island. Of course I am thinking of Tom Hanks in “Cast Away.” But, why? Every year about this time, as everyone I know is getting excited about Christmas, I take the time to review the calendar year that is coming to a close and think about the year that lies just over the horizon.

It has been a good run. I found employment as a field representative, which was absolutely perfect for me, for a time. I loved the globetrotting. I loved actually being helpful to customers. And, there was ample pay to grease the wheels of the constant relocations (about every 30 months, on average). On the one hand, it was a sad day when I was assigned to the company’s central call center because that was the end of a life that I dearly loved. On the other hand, I was overseas when my father died, and I felt I needed to be near my mother. So, for the past five years, I have been spending a lot of time with her – this, a very good thing.

But, for purely political reasons, and not the financial reasons which might be easier to accept, the call center is moving, and I am not moving with it. I do hate this call center job. With a passion. Mostly for all the politics that I am subject to (after nearly 17 years in the field, I was blissfully distant from the petty machinations of the people who were more concerned about their own careers than doing the right thing). It has, however, been a paycheck, which has allowed a life-style that I have grown accustomed to.

Consequently, 29 years with the company are coming to an ignominious end at the first of the year. The good news is that I have not lost my paycheck just before the Holidays.

Back to the movie. At one point, Tom tried to hang himself; I’m certainly not there (I would never give the company the satisfaction of knowing it had destroyed me). At the end of the movie, Tom has lost the girl that kept him alive for the four years he was on the island. But, he’s standing at a crossroads, somewhere in the middle of Texas, with possibilities that extend beyond the horizon. On the island, his future converged and it looked like a hopeless dead end. Having survived his ordeal, he is looking at a future that diverges – unlimited possibilities.

The bad news is: I can’t see beyond the damn island.

True, no one in my work group has yet gotten a lay-off notice; and management keeps up a constant litany of “we will do everything we can to make sure everyone has a job.” If I had any respect at all for management, that would be reassuring. Unfortunately, if I have learned anything in my very long tenure, I have learned not to trust management. They think they walk on water, and don’t realize they’re not wearing any clothes.

I do have enough time with the company to retire; but wasn’t planning on taking that step this soon, so financially I can’t swing it. How much is enough? With a daughter who has returned (can we say “boomerang”?) and is expecting in January, and a wife who is expecting in July; whatever it was I had planned will be about four mouths short.

So, at this festive time of year, I am immediately confronted with the choice between pulling out the stops for Christmas, or hunkering down. My wife and I have tickets to the Pacific Northwest Ballet’s long-standing tradition of “The Nutcracker.” I made this a holiday tradition when I moved to Seattle back in 1985. Why this will be the last performance, I don’t know; but it is another ending. That will be our Christmas present to each other. Our daughter gets baby clothes.

There are some who look at a personal tragedy and say it’s the best thing that ever happened to them. Hard to imagine Tom’s character saying the island experience fell into that category. And, being forced out of a job I hate is not exactly a tragedy; but, what am I to do now? Dunno. I have absolutely no clue in the world.

After the debacle of trying to hang himself, Tom’s character made a life for himself on the island, and he was open to new ideas. He monitored the seasons, and specifically the winds. He was able to envision a sail in part of porta-potty. (Quite a stretch; something to keep in mind.) It has been said that “good luck” is what happens when preparation meets opportunity. For non-believers, “good luck” is all there is.

Christmas is, more than anything, a beginning. A new, radical, unheard of beginning. For some, completely unexpected. Maybe this Christmas for me will not be more eggnog and fruitcake, but something worth getting out of bed for? Gotta keep that possibility in mind.

But first, I’ve got to get off this damn island.