Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Greatest Show on Earth

Last Saturday I took my daughter to the circus, Ringling Brothers and Barnum and Bailey’s Greatest Show on Earth.  It was a great time.  A friend of ours scored a few extra tickets and offered them to us. This friend’s daughter is a good friend of my little girl, so them being able to spend time together at such an incredible venue really makes the memories that much more special. I haven’t been to the circus in about seven years, I actually took my daughter, but she was only two at the time so I know she remembers nothing of the experience. And to be honest, as I sat there last Saturday, my thoughts were not of that last time, but of the time I was nine, going to the greatest show on earth for the first time.

Ringling Brothers is an amazing show; it’s really a spectacle of light, motion, color, excitement, sound and fun all rolled into one. As I sat and watched the show, periodically I turned my attention to my daughter. I saw the wonder in her eyes, the extreme concentration on all the amazing things the animals and performers did. The concentration in her eyes and on her face reminded me of my first time watching the circus. I stared intently at all the things going on, desperately trying to imprint all of it so I would never forget, but always be able to revisit that wonder whenever I wanted to by remembering those visions. I watched as she did the same. Her smiles and shared laughter with her friend only added to the joy. When I see that type of amazing joy on my child’s face, I want to make sure it lasts as long as possible.

It should go without saying these times are the ones you want to remember and cherish. Times like these are ones you want to create over and over; good times full of great memories and fun, wonder, excitement and joy. We all know, however, that life isn’t all fun and games. There are darker times and sadder memories, troubles and pains; the things we find hard to forget. But I say it’s the times you’re with your children at the circus, or the zoo, or at the park lying on the grass looking up at a sky so blue it almost hurts your eyes that help you both get through the hard times. In the end, all we really have is each other. We should make our time together as wonderful as possible.

Thanks for reading. Comments and questions are always welcome.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Don't Suffer Injustice

Douglas Clark
-Head writer, The Inspiration Engine

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.
     It would be a wonderful thing if everyone had a positive moral center. The world would be a better place if a universal moral truth existed that we could all center around, believe in, and adhere to. Sadly, an altruistic moral goodness does not seem to be something we all can share. There is a major difference between having a difference of opinion, and having radically opposing ideologies. Wars have been fought, men have killed and died, people have suffered, and lives shattered in following those ideals. But what does that mean for the common man, the individual? Having conviction for your beliefs is one thing, oppressively forcing those beliefs on others is quite another. What qualifies as sharing the tenants of a belief structure or forcing it down someone’s throat? These are deep philosophical questions that may have no definitive yes/no, right/wrong answer. So what do we do with the inevitable injustice that comes along with all of this ideological ambiguity?  Vigilance.

     Thomas Jefferson once said, “The price of freedom is eternal vigilance”. This vigilance, this eternal watchfulness for danger, abuse, and dishonesty keeps you ever aware of the actions around you. Paying attention to what is going on, what is happening around you, who is doing it, and for what reasons are fundamental in forming a foundation of morality. You will be influenced by others, you will be influenced by experiences, your education, environment, health, religion, if you have one, responsibilities, even your wealth or lack thereof. Recognizing that your perspective is not the only one is the first step into understanding what drives others to do the things (sometimes despicable) that they do. This is not to say it exonerates them or justifies their actions, but you will know more about the drive behind those actions. This understanding is important because for the most part, you cannot and will not change anyone, except yourself.

     It is almost inevitable that you will be the target of injustice. The key is to not be the victim. Accepting the ideal that you were powerless to stop another’s actions may seem reasonable, but don’t fall into the trap that just because you could not stop someone from doing something, that it means you cannot recover from it. There is always recourse. Some people delight in causing pain, anguish, misery, whatever you might call it, mostly because they are miserable themselves. In a way they are the victim; the victim of their own limited perspective hiding in a mental world of fear, or rage desperate to lash out at anyone they perceive as a threat. They will attack, they will lie, cheat, steal, cajole, and offend, sometimes overtly, sometimes blatantly; both methods are insidious. Vigilance against these forces of negativity is your first line of defense. There is however, more to life than just battling against the never ending tide of grief. 

     Keeping an open mind about your circumstances allows your perspective to mature. Accepting that you can learn from others both good and bad allows you to see the world from many angles. This multi-faceted perspective cuts through the ambiguity and helps focus on foundational elements essential to a moral center. It may be true that the whole of society will never agree on a bullet-pointed list of things that define true morality; we may never have consensus. Blindly accepting established social dogma and railing against accepted norms for the sake of social disorder are neither effective nor prudent, but centering your individual mindset is the only way to reach out. You don’t have to remain planted with your proverbial feet in the ground, but drifting along with the wind is no help either. One of the hardest things in life is holding on to a conviction that you believe to be right even when others denounce you. The other is apathetic refusal to believe in anything. It comes down to a simple fact: life is full of choices; make good ones.

 Questions and comments are welcome.  Thanks for reading. 

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Finding a Lost Da Vinci

Last night I read an interesting article about a painting called the  La Bella Principessa in National Geographic magazine. Yes, I know weird right.  I still get the actual paper magazine.  I like holding a book or magazine in my hands, everything seems more real that way.  But I digress.  This painting and its mysterious story fascinated me.  Supposedly, there is strong evidence that it was painted by none other than Leonardo Da Vinci.  Leonardo is widely considered to be one of the greatest, if not the greatest master of painting there ever was.  This reputation started during his own life time.  And with a reputation like that, I would have figured everything he ever did was cataloged, indexed, and safely locked behind foot-thick glass, but apparently that isn't the case.  What really struck me was the fact that experts believe the portrait is a Da Vinci, even though some disagree saying that it doesn't look like a Da Vinci.

It's true that artists develop their own style and signature look, but if Leonardo is a master, why can't her change his style and look, and still produce a masterful work of art?  From what I've seen, Leonardo's work is grand, detailed, subtly stunning, and intricate.  Why then does it have to be stunted?  If Leonardo chose to challenge his own skill, craft a portrait with a different feel or tone, why shouldn't he?  To me that kind of expression speaks to the New, a challenge that goes against the status quo and invites innovation. 

Being creative requires trying something different.  Doing the same old same old does not bring about change.  Going against the grain, making a 180 degree turn, deliberately trying a different approach is not a bad thing and it does not mean you'll be wrong.  It just means you'll probably end up with something entirely different.  And sometimes, different is just as beautiful as the norm.  So, try something different, it might just be a beautiful thing

Thanks for reading.  Comments and questions are always welcome.  

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Supporting Alex's Lemonade Stand

I stood there, my legs were tired, my feet hurt, I was sure I had a sunburn, and all I really wanted to do was sit down.  But I still had about an hour and a half to go. You see, on Saturday, July 28th, I volunteered to help out at Alex’s Lemonade Stand. It’s a charity drive that donates 100% of the money collected from lemonade sales to help fund researching a cure for pediatric cancer. The mother of my daughter’s friend has been hosting a local chapter for several years now on the corner right by her house in North Park. I’ve helped out the last three years and for the last two years in a row, we’ve reached the goal we set. I would serve the lemonade, hold the bright yellow signs and wave them while I stood in the street trying to get drivers’ attention.  I’d talk to passersby and let them know what was up. I drank several cups of lemonade myself; all I had was a few bucks on me. But you know it’s not so much the exact dollar amount we raise, it’s the effort involved behind it. This all means something greater than just lemonade. This year we were trying to reach $12,000, but half way through the day, we were hovering around $6000 and no one was quite sure we’d make it.

The day for a lemonade stand volunteer is hard, long, stressful, but it’s also entertaining, rewarding, and dare I say it, fun! The local radio station 94.9 FM San Diego set up a booth and broadcast music all day long; well except when there was a live band playing, which was about half the day. There was a silent auction as well as face painting for the kids. You see it’s not just about selling lemonade, it’s about celebrating life and good times with the community, neighbors, and the people you love. 

My child doesn’t have cancer. I don’t personally know any children that have cancer either. However, I do know cancer is a terrible thing. An adult friend of mine is battling it right now. My dearly departed grandmother had breast cancer, although it was when I was very young and I don’t remember it. My other surviving grandmother had cancer as well. Cancer is one of those awful diseases that devastates its victims, and stabs at the hearts of their loved ones. Cancer has no remorse, no pity, empathy or mercy. It just does what it does, and it won’t stop unless we make it stop.

Doctors have devoted entire careers to helping people with cancer and researching cures and treatments. Countless man hours have been spent in the lab struggling for a breakthrough, an insight, an answer, anything that can help fight Cancer’s wrath. Eating right, taking care of yourself and making wise health choices sometimes aren’t enough and the doctors know that. Sometimes, there’s still nothing they can do. Even with all of their efforts they still come up short. I can’t know what it’s like, knowing that after devoting a life to science and helping patients, what it feels like to fail the ones who needed you the most. I don’t know what it’s like to be lying there on a bed, being ravaged by a disease that refuses to relent. There are so many ways I can’t help the doctors with their research, the patients with their pain, or their families with their helplessness. 

I do know one thing though. In some small way, if all I can give is my time, I can make it mean something. I don't have to be rich, I don't have to have political powers or connections, I don't have to be a genius to help out. So I stood on a street corner, like all the other volunteers and I helped sell lemonade. And at the end of the day, we raised over $12,000 dollars. After we hit our mark, I only half jokingly said, "Next year let's shoot for $15,000." Until we end Cancer's reign of terror, everyone will struggle in one way or another.  I figure the few aches and pains I suffer from being on my feet the whole day is a small price to pay.

Thanks for reading. Comments and questions are always welcome.

Understanding Pandemics

By Doug Clark Head Writer -  The Inspiration Engine With all that is going on with Covid 19, I thought it would be a good idea to help ...