Saturday, December 29, 2012

Random Thoughts of a World Traveller

Starting in 2005, I have averaged over 125,000 air-miles a year in travel for my day job. In addition to that, I have driven back-forth from my home in Northern Kentucky to Detroit, Chicago, and Nashville more times than I can count. In short, I get around.

Its all too easy for me to complain about the traveling life and there is plenty to be negative about. Airports, crowds, lost baggage, flight delays, poor hotel service, loneliness, etc, etc. And the nature of my travel is not leisurely. I don't get to sight-see and the goal of my travel is to get the job done so I can get back to my family.

That being said, however, there is plenty to be grateful for. I've been to places and done things I never thought I'd see/do. I've been to China and got a glimpse of the amazing Chinese culture. I've been to Germany and seen a cathedral the pre-dates the age of my country by 500 years. I've walked into the wrong bathroom in Brazil. I've been to Argentina, Mexico, and Columbia and discovered the huge differences in culture between those former Spanish colonial interests. I've literally set foot in the Atlantic and Pacific ocean in the same week. I've flown from a winter storm in one hemisphere into the heat of summer in another hemisphere. I can go on and on.

At the risk of sounding "touchy-feely", however, the one thing I'm most grateful for is confirmation in the truth that people have far more in common than not. When you strip away politics, economics, language, and culture, you are left with people who want the same basics: love, comfort, peace. I find this very comforting. I've been the benefactor of hospitality and friendship all over the world and found kinship globally. Yes, I've encountered "assholes" in my travels as well and can confirm that being a jerk transcends national boundaries as well (in fact, I've been guilty of being an American ambassador of bad behavior). But so too does compassion and empathy transcend borders and thank God for that as it takes the edge off of being an outsider within another "tribe".

As I wrap up another calendar year of travel and pack my bags for another trip to Brazil next week, I take stock of this existence I've stumbled into, focusing on the positives. I look forward to seeing my Brazilian friends again, sharing some laughs over meals, and doing my best to get the job done so I can get home to partake in the love, comfort, and peace found within my own tribe.

I wish everyone everywhere a joyous and peaceful 2013.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Baby's and Bathwater

There seems a societal pull to choose sides in all walks of life, as if everything is black/white, good/bad, prudent/excessive, liberal/conservative.....and requires labeling and classification. The most obvious arenas where this pull is evident is religion and politics. But it's present in the arts and culture as well.

The older I get, the more I learn and relearn that absolutes are the exception and not the rule.

I try to live my life being informed by honesty, open-mindedness, and willingness and develop opinions accordingly. I have what some might consider varied political, religious, spiritual, and cultural opinions. I have been accused of being "wishy washy" by those more entrenched in their views. I dispute that claim as that implies that I haven't expended intellectual energy before arriving at my opinions. But as this accusation comes from a perspective that holds to perceived absolutes, I accept the fact that we will need to "agree to disagree".

One absolute that I do subscribe to is that impermanence is a constant. Circumstances change. Environments change. People change and grow old. Societies evolve/devolve as do theories. Time has a way of doing that. So I try to keep an open mind. I try to look at all perspectives, looking at wisdom from the past that endures to inform the present. I seek enrichment from sources that have been labeled as one extreme or another or considered incompatible. In a term, I don't "throw the baby out with the bathwater".

Case-in-point #1: I am a Christian. (Some would say a "liberal Christian" or "progressive Christian" or even a heretic. But, for the sake of this point....Christian). The teachings of Jesus are a primary focus of how I lead my life (no surprise). However, I would have not have taken a path towards Christianity if I hadn't read the writings of The Dalai Lama (Buddhist) or M.K. Gandhi (Hindu). Long story but it was specific books from those non-Christians that led me down a path that led me to be baptized a Christian. I found wonderful ideas and perspectives articulated by those men that informed my viewpoints greatly. Now, I've encountered Christians who discount spiritual viewpoints from non-Christians immediately because of adherence to dogma and shut themselves from viewpoints and ideas that can be enriching. I don't understand this but so be it.

Case-in-point #2: I'm a musician as well as a music fanatic. I LOVE music!. If I had to sacrifice 4 of my 5 senses, I'd opt to leave my ears intact. I love music from all corners. I love to follow the historical and stylistic connections of artists that inspire me and "discover" things. I love Led Zeppelin AND Philip Glass, God Speed You Black Emperor AND John Coltrane, Steve Roach AND Mozart, Johnny Cash AND Daby Toure. I don't care about genre or crap like that. Its either good or bad to my taste (and there is a lot of stuff I can't stand as well). But GOOD LORD, have I had to deal with some incredulous reactions from people who can't understand how I can like "wholesome" music like The Carter Family and have Slayer on the same Ipod, as if somehow one is going to soil the other by proximity. But, anyhow, it has been the lifelong pursuit of musical discovery/investigation that has enriched my life immeasurably. I could not imagine being just a "genre snob" or limiting myself to what is on the Top 10.

I'm not critical of view points that are more entrenched than mine. Live and let live. I know in matters of right/wrong, I've been both. I know in matters more subjective, my viewpoint doesn't work for anyone else but me. I guess all I'm saying is that I've been rewarded by my occasional willingness splash around that messy used bath water in search of the precious. And I recommend it....come on in, the water!

Wednesday, February 22, 2012


I'm all for capitalism provided that its done with a mooring of ethics (yes, I can hear the laughter now). However, I believe healthcare is something that shouldn't be part of the profit-motive equation. I don't know if Obamacare is going to make a shit of difference but its now painfully and personally clear to me that the current system is way broken.

Case-in-point #1: My daughter is being treated at a facility. I have been insured by the same insurance company since 1992 and have the most comprehensive policy they offer. No one in my family to this point has had a serious (i.e. expensive) illness or injury until now. Because of the nature of my daughter's ailment, my insurance will cover only a percentage of the cost which, in a very short period, has gone into thousands of dollars. What little savings we have is now gone.

Case-in-point #2: My wife's uncle suffered a stroke a month ago and has been comatose since. Because of the incredible mounting cost of care, my in-law's are opting to pay to move him to the NEXT STATE 4 hours away to go to a cheaper facility.

I'm not cheerleading Obama's still-pending healthcare reform though I applaud the direction he's trying to inch us towards. As stated before, I think its too little too late. But conservatives in congress as well as the talking media heads (i.e. Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity) are plain WRONG when saying that the U.S. medical systems is "the best in the world". What good are all the wonderful medical advances that our current system purportedly creates when no one other than the rich (like the aforementioned) can afford them?