Gratitude: The New “New” In Thing

LPTrendsNothingClicheToday. Thanksgiving. Yes. In fact a globally celebrated ritual. But ritual gratitude is like breathing only sometimes: folly is sure to befall those who hold their breaths or their gratefulness for special occasions.

It’s just silly. Really.

I’d like to suggest we remember that excrement happens we don’t see coming ALL THE TIME. We might consider how much profit there is in radical gratefulness. Check your six and note the reasons why we might want to work on that. Israel and the Gaza Strip, Staten Island, New Orleans, Haiti, Japan, Thailand, Somalia…the list is long for stories of tragedy that strikes down even the most Pollyanna among us.

Equally long, however, is the list of glorious revelations and solutions we not only see coming; we make happen on the horizon out of our sheer will to change what we realize isn’t so awesome. Like the polio cure, biomass energy, food skyscraper farms over oceans, the Internet, you get the idea.

I and my team at Possibility Media Group won’t bore you with the obvious “be grateful” schtick this holiday season. What I really want to say, as if I just didn’t find cancer on my face, or visit a friend who has it and lost her breast for the second time, or turn on the news to people killing each other over religion and land in faraway places, is this:

  • Every minute you don’t spend in gratitude, or working towards it, is another moment you pissed away chasing stuff that just doesn’t matter. Stop being angry and afraid.
  • Gratitude as a state of being requires conscious intention to forgive as a way of life, and helps clear the path to how to manage your anger, cure your resentment and your poor communications skills, and generally all the crappy human relationship abilities you need to get around to fixing.
  • Finally, gratitude is like a virus. It is contagious, air and skin born, and it can consume entire populations of human beings at one time. Just ask your neighbor what it is they are truly grateful for, if they were really honest and held back no punch. Or the survivors of 9/11, or Sandy, or Hitler. We ought not wait until it’s almost too late to wield the power of gratitude.

Be relentlessly militant about what matters. Because it matters, and maybe we can start a new thing, a new trending trend. It could happen.

What outrageous thing did you find gratitude for recently? Share your story. 

Commentary by Tracy Saville.

Coming Jan 1, 2013.

 

 

 

 

PS..a freebie.  You readers out there may know Phillip Roth, infamous writer of works like Rabbit Run, a prolific scribe who informed our literary roots, was covered by nytimes.com recently on November 17th and gave great interview about his brave new un-writing life at 80. Check it out.

The Multiverse: Proof In the Time of Politics

 

LPTrendsShortScaryFiction. Proof. By Tracy Saville

Escaping our reality might be a good thing about now. Here a short fiction story post-Halloween & Sandy to give you pause, to remind you that you live in a world where it is quite possible that what you think is real, isn’t. The Multiverse. Your reality could be but one of many.

We’ll get back to elevated ideas and people next week – enjoy this award-winning short by Tracy Saville. Published originally in the GNU Journal.

What if we lived in universal bubbles and ours collided with the bad guys?

Proof

By Tracy Saville, 2009.

Rachel, my wife, the only one who can make me want to punch her in the throat and take her clothes off in the same moment, and sometimes at the same time, was giving me that look, the one that says I’m drunk and incapable of admitting it.

The look was followed by a flick of her tongue against her upper lip that only I could notice, a promise – if I left now, I might get a little something later on. I could tell by their bleary faces, my brothers wouldn’t protest an early night. I was about to get my girl and go home. And that’s when it happened.

Up until then Rachel had been in the back, playing Nine Ball with Carter, my oldest bro – their game, not mine, and the mood was vibing, good as in everybody was employed; nobody was fighting or had shit storms brewing in their lives. My other bros, Lars and Kyle, were drowning their sorrows in Peron shots and looked about as pathetic as you can get.

Don’t get me wrong. I loved my brothers. Since our parents died, we were all each other had. We were quads, not identical, but close. We had different colored hair and eyes, and spoke with different slants to our southern accents. Most of the time, we got in each other’s food bowls about the damndest things. We couldn’t spend five minutes in the company of each other without somebody getting a black eye.

But that night, we were feeling happy to be hanging. I recall only telling Kyle to go fuck himself one time, and that was a record.

I was getting ready to roll off the barstool stuck to my ass, when I must have stood up too fast. I guess I teetered when I stepped back because I knocked my PeterBuilt hat on the ground and it rolled under my stool. I bent down; picked it up, hit the crown across my thigh to dust the vermin off the brim.

Now I know I didn’t hit my head and I know I didn’t black out. It was only a few seconds. Yet everything had changed. I felt a cold spike drive into my spine, and there was a certainty to the icy tingling that quickly spread to my extremities.

There was badness in the air.

We were in Frank’s, but we weren’t, which I can’t explain. You know how in a dream you’re aware you’re dreaming, but everything feels real. Different but same.

Same Formica table tops, same burl wood bar, same peanut shells on the same crappy linoleum floor I have personally puked on more times than I care to account for, and the same mustard yellow walls covered with velvet Elvis pictures hanging cockeyed next to black and white pictures of James Dean and Jane Mansfield.

Pitching my eyes around I spied the same pool tables, the same front door, and the same red crapper signs with the girl and boy stick figures hanging on stained doors, pointing in opposite directions.

Same, same, but all changed.

I knew it because the margarita machine was churning Jagermeister, a small detail that under normal circumstances wouldn’t have fazed me given my inebriated condition. Yet I was suddenly more sober than I’d been in my entire life, and I knew there was no way in hell the goo in that machine could turn from green, from Margaritas, to purple in three seconds.

I looked down at the only thing I felt I might be able to control, the few inches squarely in front of me. I counted eight shot glasses stacked in my usual pyramid, so yeah, I was officially tanked. But then I looked over at Kyle and Lars and knew the tequila couldn’t work this kind of mojo. These boys were my brothers, but they weren’t.

Kyle, whose long, black stringy hair was a kind of trademark, was sporting a red Marine buzz cut. Carter’s fake left leg, the one that replaced the one he lost in Iraq last year was missing, and I could tell because he was sitting in a chair with his pants hiked up past his boots and I could see the tattoo on the inside of his missing calf, the same tattoo I had, the same tattoo Kyle and Lars had. We got those tats in 2007 just before he deployed.

All of this was raising hair all over my body, but it was Lars who sent me from generously worried to scared right down to my worn Chuck Taylors.

When we were little, Lars was in the car with our parents when it went over the turnpike wall. His entire right cheek had been torn away and it took years of plastic surgery to craft a nice mottled quilt of scar tissue where his face ought to be. The guy who was wearing Lars’ face had perfect skin, forehead to chin, ear to ear. And the birthmark that used to be on his right neck, just below his ear, was now on the left.

When behind him I noticed the bar sign, which should have told me this was Frank’s joint, and it clearly read “Ruby’s”, I began to seriously question my sanity.

Then came the cluster fuck of oh shit. It was my wife Rachel, the mother of my two sons, the only woman I’ve ever slept with, the love of my fricking life. The same song that had been playing on the juke box before the world turned upside down was still playing, “Hit Me with Your Best Shot,” by Pat Benatar, because she liked the oldies, and my stunning wife was still grinding to the song, only she was about-ready-to-pop pregnant, smoking a cigarette, giving Carter a lap dance, and sucking on a beer.

My wife Rachel had her tubes tied four years ago after Sam was born, and she doesn’t smoke, or know how to lap dance.

In the time it took for the panic I was feeling in my legs to reach my throat and shut it down, Rachel turned my direction and gave me a look I not only didn’t recognize, but I will never forget. She looked right at me, and then through me. She had no idea who the hell I was.

The floor underneath my feet softened and every rational thought I may have had left inside my tequila-addled brain collapsed inside my head like a long string of dominos pieces sliding to a perfect, accordion finish. I thought of my sons at home with the babysitter. Were they still my sons? Were they even there?

I needed to get the hell out of that bar to find out. I needed to grab my wife and shake her until I woke up and it all went away. I needed to get a grip, but that didn’t happen.

Four goons waltzed in carrying guns that looked like Star Trek special editions. The center of each gun was pulsating, but not in a color or a kind of light I’d ever seen. And then they started shooting, not rounds, but lasers that exploded on contact, showering Frank’s/Ruby’s with burning, hot sparks. I dove behind the bar and climbed into the storage cabinet by the sink. On instinct I guess, which is weird because I should have run to Rachel.

Over the din of the space-like battle that had overtaken our little sanctuary something told me home would do no good and my Rachel wasn’t Rachel anymore.

At this point the smell of burning flesh and the screams from patrons faded away as I watched Sal the bartender disappear over the bar out into the battle and God knows what; at least he still looked like Sal, and that’s when the real carnage began.

It lasted two minutes; the longest two minutes of my life. All I could think about was the sound of Rachel’s screams and that I’d never see my boys again. She was dying out there and I was going to die hiding behind an inch of maple, in a ginned up nightmare that no one would ever believe.

There I waited, balled up, scared beyond reason when I heard the front windows shatter, my wife screaming for her life, and small explosions as our unexpected visitors lit their weapons into the water heater and lighting fixtures. Then I heard nothing. Not a whimper, not even a crunch of foot on broken glass.

Peering around the corner, I wiped the sweat from my eyes and tried to focus on the images before me. My labored breathing seemed to fill the room with desperation, but I was thankful for the noise. I realized I was the only one left standing.

Lars and the girl he’d been hitting on were gutted. Something had scooped out their stomachs, and their small and large intestines poured out on the ground like over-sized worms. Kyle was laid out in the corner. His right arm was missing. It didn’t occur to me look around for it, but then my eyes wandered to the back and I saw it, hanging off the edge of the juke box, dangling over Carter’s bloody body laid out like a recently carved lamb chop. Parts were torn from other parts and laying next to each other. His hands were grasping the dead body of a baby the perpetrators must have pulled from my wife’s belly. My Rachel was there, but her head was missing, and I fucking lost it.

The last thing I remember before coming to, here in my cell, was tasting linoleum, and seeing four sets of legs rush past me on their way out the door. After that, the lights went out. I swear I didn’t see their faces. I don’t know what happened. None of this makes any sense.

***

“Is that it?”

I reached behind my neck and gave it a squeeze for the tenth time in ten minutes. My brothers and my wife had been massacred, and all Mr. Bad Cop could do was grill me like I was the one who pulled the trigger.

“Tell me about the four foot soldiers. Why did you send them? Why not handle it yourself? I hear you like your carnage up front and personal.”

This guy was getting not just getting under my skin, but into my DNA.

“I told you, I don’t now who the killers were. They wore masks, hard ski masks, like Mike Myers. You know, like in Halloween.”

“Halloween? Is that some kind of weird cult?”

I considered this remark almost blasphemous; everyone knew Halloween films, and it was October so the reference should have resonated.

My new best friend, Detective Randall Smythe of the Twenty-First Precinct, chuckled, a guttural laugh, the kind narcissistic psychopaths offer to their next victims.

“Hallow’s Eve?” I asked, hearing my own voice drop into a kind of beseeching tone. “You know, everyone dresses up like ghouls and goes trick or treating?”

He threw a handful of photos across the desk in front of me in response, not impressed with what I took to be an assumption I was trying to delay the inevitable. I wanted to scream in his face this was the wrong world, the wrong day, the wrong nightmare and I wanted to go home.

“You don’t recognize your own brothers?”

I scanned the photographs.

“See here? There’s Danny, and there’s Blake. We like him. I think he’s the handsome one, don’t you? And there’s Lane. I suppose the fourth is a cousin. You have, what, fifty of those in town, or maybe it’s your new lover. Flavor of the month?”

What? I was a gay gangster?

“I’m telling you my name is Gavin Elders. I’m from Fargo, North Dakota and I live in Barkley. We got a little place out there last year. I have two kids, and I work for Thomson’s Bricks out on Route 40.”

The detective pushed back from the table and propped his elbows on his thighs. He hung his doughy head between his legs and looked up at me over and down his nose, as if I were the lunatic in the room.

“Mr. Six, you are not now, nor have you ever been married. You do not live in Barkley. You do not work as a bricklayer, and you do not now, nor have you ever been a father to anyone that we’re aware of. You were fixed in 2086. And you are, as everyone in the universe knows, a very gay man, who has never once tasted pussy – that we know of.”

I let this sink in.

Every bit of me was still back on the images of my murdered brothers and wife. But the word “universe” tugged at my receptors and pulled my focus there. I didn’t like the way he was looking at me or throwing gay insults my direction, but he said “universe” like it was it was a charted place. Most people would have said “everybody in town”, or “everybody in organized crime”. Not “universe”.

“If I were you,” said my new worst enemy, “I’d seriously consider cooperating this time.”

2086. 2086. Did he say I’d been neutered since 2086? I grabbed my balls. Felt the same.

“I told you, my name is Gavin Elder. I need to make a call to see if my children are alright.”

I could hear the panic in my voice overtake the grip I was trying to hold on to. But the cop was cool, like he was enjoying this. That’s when a new detective walked in. He sat down like he was the boss of the other one. They exchanged smiles. Great.

The new cop ran his fingers through hair that looked like it hadn’t been washed in six weeks. Not that I typically notice such things, but he had a smell about him, and I had to wonder if it was his dirty hair. It was abnormally dirty. And come to think about it, both of these guys were seriously grungy. Everything around me had a grey, washed out appeal. There was a rank smell to the air, too, and it wasn’t just in here in the interrogation room. It smelled like this outside and in the hallways when they dragged me in for booking. It smelled like old socks left in the dead carcass juice of a deer in the back of a truck.

His badge, Detective Ross it said, was worn, and smudged with some substance I didn’t need to verify. He had a bad comb-over and a half-chewed cigar stuffed in his mouth. Bits of it gathered in the corners. It was like meeting the cliché detective in one of my son’s graphic novels.

New Cop moved the cigar around in his mouth as he opened a file and shoved a mound of papers at me. I glanced down and saw a list of crimes, from armed robbery to assault to drug and human trafficking, off world. Off world?

Some of the pictures were of me and the other three guys I met in the other photographs that were my alleged real brothers. Ross completed the file for me by pulling a driver’s license out of his front breast pocket and throwing it at me like he’d pulled that maneuver a time or twelve. He followed that up with a hand mirror, which at first I thought was weird. But then, it all began to fit.

He said, “I’ll let you go home to your boys, but first you need to explain this.” And by ‘this’ I figured out he meant the reality of what was inside the file and that he wanted me to look in the mirror. I picked it up and slowly brought it to my face. It was me, but not me; my hair was Hollywood long with blond streaks. Five earrings, all huge diamond studs, ran along the cartilage of my right ear, and one in my right eyebrow. The real me had mousy black hair that stuck to my head. Staring back at me was the image of a playboy, a player, a handsome guy with a weathered sneer that looked like he might fuck with your grandmother for a ten-dollar bill. I was not that guy. I was plain Joe, normal Bob, and everyday Earl.

I always thought I had too many scars from picking my acne when I was a kid and dim eyes. I knew I was good looking in a sort of irregular, make-you-feel comfortable kind of way, but I wasn’t drop dead handsome like the guy glaring at me in the mirror. I almost puked.

Inside the file I found more joy. It was everything I could do to train my focus on those pages as the air around me began to seep from the room.

My crimes were legion. In real life, my life, the only crime I ever committed was getting popped for a DUI eight years ago, but that was wiped from my record. Here it said I was public enemy number one. I picked up my license. I was born in August, not September. And the last time I looked, it was 2012. The top sheet in the rap file had a date stamp. It said it was October 14, 2096.

The unchangeable nature and trueness of my predicament hit me in the chest like I imagine the heart attack my old man had did. It wasn’t good. I fell right over the edge into madness that all men must feel when they come face to face with the reality that absolutely nothing is as it should be, like the rules had changed and somebody forgot to send the memo.

It was enough that my wife was dead and my brothers were still in pieces on the floor of a bar in a town I used to know; this would have sent most men past the edge and into the abyss, but I’d just seen the enemy, and he was me.

I wondered if the stars fell out of the sky outside, because gravity had lost its place in line as a fundamental law of nature.

“This is not right.” I said, pointing at the ‘not me’ in the license and mug shot photo. I held up the mirror to my face again and pointed it at. “This, this is definitely not me. I don’t know what’s going on here. I don’t. I swear.”

Detective Ross didn’t blink. “You’re not going to cry are you?”

I wanted to punch him.

His minion leaned over and whispered in his ear. “Can I have a word?”

Ross didn’t seem happy, but the two excused themselves. I heard their voices over the intercom. Was it a trick, or a mistake? Let him go, I heard Ross say, he’ll lead us to the others. Maybe there’s something going on here we don’t see.

When they came back in Ross was on me. He crawled across the table and took my neck in his hands and started squeezing, shutting down my air supply. It was almost a relief not to smell the vile odor in that room, but it was short-lived. He loosened his grip, but stayed in my face.

“Listen, Six, your weak ass games won’t fly here. But we’re gonna do something I still can’t believe. I’m doing you a solid. I’m letting you go.” He pulled himself closer still, so close I could see the blackheads in his pores. “But I’ll be riding so far up your ass; we’ll have to get married before this is over.”

He paused, his face now an inch from my own. I wanted to gag his breath was so foul.

“And I think you should know those three guys in the bar and that girl you called your wife? They weren’t your brothers, or your wife.” He pulled out a piece of paper and shoved it down my shirt. “Wrong DNA, asshole.”

Ross let go like I was a mistake and shoved me back. I lost my footing and tipped backward, end over chair. I tried to stand up to shout at Ross he was insane, but he was on me again. He had me pinned back down arms to floor, face to mine, like he practiced the maneuver a million times.

“I don’t know what kind of game we’re playing now, but when I figure it out, I’m coming for you. I will bring you down, Six. I will or die trying.”

The he released me and tossed my license at my chest. “Have a nice day, Mr. Elder. Don’t forget your greatest hits.”

He tossed the file at my head. Paper scattered all around. And then he was gone.

***

Moments after processing out of the scariest fucking place I had ever been, I found the street, Harvard Street, outside the station doors, which is where the station used to be, from my – what – my world?

Up and down this street there were familiar signs of the street and town I’d known since I was a kid, but none of it made sense. I started walking. And the longer I walked, the deeper I felt the fissure of my reality widen until I could barely catch my breath. I turned a corner and found the bread store, but it wasn’t a bread store anymore. It was a gizmo shop for some kind of telephone system I didn’t understand.

I guess you stand in front of a laser and it passes over your pupils. It recognizes you and makes the call, because it can read your mind.

Another corner, a few miles away, and I found the school where my kids went to elementary. Only it isn’t a school for kids, it’s a training ground for soldiers, or some kind of security force, shooting and practicing kicking the shit out of each other behind glass, as a local spectacle I guess. Talk about your deterrents.

How long I walked after that I don’t know, but it started to rain. I headed north, toward the river, and I knew I was getting closer because I could smell the rotten eggs. Some things hadn’t changed.

Faster and harder I walked as it came down harder still, until it was coming down in buckets and the temperature dropped fifteen degrees. The temperature gauge on my keys was still working, which was odd, considering these keys went to things I couldn’t begin to imagine. The key ring said W instead of G – the details in this life compared to my last one were mind-boggling.

Overhead flashes of lightning sprang to life and the lightening began to intensify, the kind that bubbled up from nowhere in movies where the hero dies suddenly. The air mixed with golf ball size water drops and began to crackle all around. And I could feel a slight electrical charge as the water hit my skin. I was as good as cooked if I didn’t find someplace to get dry.

As if it could read my mind, a long, white limousine appeared out of nowhere. The back window rolled down and a woman wearing a white, fur-lined jacket with the hood propped back on her head, appeared. She was uncomfortably beautiful and stood out in the grey and black day like a beacon. I swear her skin was almost glowing.

I wondered why and took a step closer to see it better. Her skin was translucent and shimmering. I could see her veins underneath. She handed me her card.

“Lost, Mr. Elder?”

Recognition and hope shot through me. I guess I must have looked like it because she smiled and opened the door. I looked down at her card. It had an official looking gold seal, but it wasn’t a U.S. government seal. It was written in symbols.

“Get in. Too much time in this rain and your skin will burn.”

I didn’t need to hear that twice.

The door swung open and I sidled in. Everything in the car was black but her. She told the driver to find some address I didn’t recognize, but then again this mattered little. I didn’t recognize a fucking thing.

“You’ve already met my colleagues.” She motioned across the seat, and there were the four goons from the bar – my weird reality brothers. And my, what – cousin or lover? I was about to ask for clarification about that guy when glow girl interrupted my thoughts. I guessed because she could.

“Of course, you have questions.” She said and smiled a placating grin like she was bothered to be there, like the whole thing was beneath her. I didn’t know what these things were that bothered her, but I was going to find out.

“Your brothers here in this universe work for me, and they’re doing double duty for you. A bit disloyal, as you can imagine. I told them they were on a short leash. Should I kill them for you?”

“What the fuck is going on and where is my family!” I demanded. The words tumbled from my lips in hysterical dribble.

The stunningly, cold, beautiful woman smiled again. “I have your answers, but first, I need to know something.” The goons smirked like they had a secret. She began to move toward me. “Pull down your pants.” She said, like she was giving me directions to the bus stop.

I, of course, appreciated my pants right where they were. She sighed like she was bored and sat back, folding her arms like a spoiled child.

“I need to check your number.”

Number?

“I need to see if you’re the right one.”

The right one?

I must have said this out loud because the car stopped abruptly and she turned on me, a blaze of frustration behind her cold eyes. I could see she was pissed, but trying to maintain.

“Try to keep up, Mr. Elder. The year is 2096. You have been dead for forty-eight years. However, here on this Earth, in this multi-verse, you are a crime lord of the Ninth Seal, a very bad man who jumps bubbles and games the universes. We, the Interplanetary Peacekeepers, have been tracking you, the “you” that is William Six, aka baddest badass in a thousand multi-verses, for ten years. We learned when Six jumped into your world, he caused a rift and that rift is not just in your universe, but several actually, and today this rift deepened and stole your 2012 soul.”

She began to pull her gloves off, finger-by-finger, exposing elegant fingers, like a bird, with long luminous nails. They glistened like diamonds. It occurred to me they were and I hoped they were insured.

“So you see, Mr. Elder, you are you, on the inside, but you occupy the body of William Six, from this multi-verse. And these gentlemen were coming to rescue you so we could put you back, make things right before you figured out what was going on. It seems they were a little clumsy in their rescue attempt. I am sorry for the inconvenience.”

It didn’t take me a second to see where this was going.

“So, Six’s soul is in my body back in 2012?”

The gorgeous woman laughed.

“Yes, and five others of you are having this same conversation, or had this same conversation, in five other multi-verses. We actually have been tracking all five of you here, in this bubble, for the last twenty-four hours to get a fix on the other multiples. The Mr. Elder you would know, here in Multi-verse Nine Billion, is running around with Six inside him. Each of you has a number on your left buttock cheek. The real Mr. Elder in all five multi-verses, in every replicated scenario we know of, AKA William Six, will have a string of numbers in the five sequence, beginning with one.”

It occurred to me I hadn’t looked at my ass since the world went crazy.

“What if it’s not me?” This seemed like a reasonable question, considering the unreasonableness of the fact I was sitting in a limousine talking to a glowing girl in the ninth billion replica of my Earth, next to my multi-verse bros who fucked up my rescue attempt. My brothers always screwed things up.

She cocked her head like I was an idiot.

“Why Mr. Elder, you die, of course.”

No more funny.

I was beginning to feel like I was better off in the acid rain or in the hands of Detective Ross.

But apparently there wasn’t time to contemplate the choices I should have made because the glowing girl shoved a syringe in my neck. I could feel the cool leather of the seat against my cheek and see between my captor’s legs, which were now sitting open directly across from me. Lo and behold, glow girl wore no underwear. Her pubic hair was pink. This made me smile; a glowing girl, pink pubic hair, dead wife: the day was really winding down in a bad direction.

Then I passed out. I saw or felt nothing. My last last thought before the dark swallowed me whole was I hoped my number wasn’t up.

***

They say, and I forget who they were, but they say psychotic schizophrenics’’ minds break when they try too hard to protect the body from a memory or incident so bad, it can’t be entertained. When I awoke, I wondered if perhaps that was it; I’d had a psychotic break, and maybe I was in the hospital.

My arms were tethered to the bed with those leather straps you see in movies they use on crazy dudes that can’t be trusted, and I had three different lines running into my arms; two on the left and one in my right hand. But then I saw my blood moving through a series of interconnected tubes, which fed into the line in my right arm, and that the lines in my right hand and left were shooting a light blue liquid into me. I noticed where my blood went in it was red and when it came out it was blue. My heartbeat a steady beat on the monitor and across the room the glowing girl was there, now joined by a man I presume was my doctor. He seemed to be the boss, what with his white lab coat, and stern expression. He was glowing, too. I wondered if everyone did, or just the special space crazies.

The doctor turned away from his monitors and smiled like he had a secret. What was it with these people and their deadpan smiles?

“Ah, Mr. Elder. You’re awake. Yes, we all glow, because of the air. Our atmosphere here in this bubble is a slightly different mixture than the one you’re used to. This is why we’re sprucing up your blood as we speak. Can’t have your skin falling off, now can we?”

He spoke with a British accent. This was weird, but not as weird as the visual as my skin sliding off my bones and slithering to the floor, or the fact he could read minds. But then again, everyone here could but me.

I cut straight to the chase. “I guess I was the right one.”

“Indeed! And we’re very pleased. Central is very, very pleased.”

Everyone was very, very pleased, but me.

I began tugging at the intravenous lines attached to my hands and trying to grasp the clips of my leather restraints. But I didn’t get far; glow girl cold-cocked me. She was good at that.

“Mr. Elder if you leave now, you’ll die and you’ll never find your way home. If that doesn’t happen, if we don’t get you back to your 2012 body and bring William Six back here, your sons will never have been born in any universe and you will cease to have ever existed at all.”

She was a serious buzz kill.

I relaxed back into my pillows and the good doctor shot me up with something that made me feel like I was wearing warm chocolate pudding. This was a good thing because I was shaking and breaking down fast. I was trapped in the body of a man wanted by everyone in multiple universes, and the “me” – back home – had the soul of a murderer. He was probably diddling my Rachel right now.

My kids back home were fine, but here they’d never been born. My blood was being exchanged for some other kind of blood so I wouldn’t combust, and I was as close to hyperventilating as I’d ever been. It was then glow girl and the doctor, I never did get his name, began to tell me what my fate would be if I didn’t go along to get along. They added what mine had to do with theirs.

As the good doctor removed my restraints and began to disconnect all my feeding tubes, he told me a story. It was a story out of a Ray Bradbury novel.

My dumb fucking luck.

As I got dressed and followed my new friends to what they called a “launch chair”, I rolled my new reality over and over again in my mind.

The entire known universes were actually limitless universes contained inside bubbles, which occasionally bumped into each other and opened portals, creating wormholes. Generally this space bump changed everything from the atmosphere of universes altering global temperature to the outcomes of civilizations. These changes, or openings, were normal, all things considered.

When bubbles bumped, shit happened.

Climate change acceleration on Earth caused by human over-consumption of carbon was a product of a bubble bump. The simplicity of this truth was almost funny.

It freaked me out to learn that the number and kind of sentient beings were infinite, and presently being mapped by the highest level intellects among all the beings in the known charted multi-verses. Aliens were real, the kind that had spindly legs and huge eyes and no mouths.

The Interplanetary Peacekeepers were really intergalactic or multi-verse cops with knowledge and brainpower that would make the smartest smart guys on my Earth look like fourth graders. That’s why they glowed; lots of neurons.

William Six the First had mucked up the travel gateways they used to move between multi-verses to set up criminal enterprises, otherwise the smart cops never would have found out his game. That sounded like good news for me, that they were diligent in their jobs.

The leaders here were trying to keep the truth that there was a rift causing the intermingling of souls and bodies on the down low until they could find and document proof that is was happening.

Proof.

I guess they needed to prove they could fix the rift and switch back my soul and Six’s before they could get approval for the expansion funding. Bureaucratic mumbo jumbo was universal. Glow girl said it was election season.

I asked how long we had. They said one million Earth years.

My first thought was our last Presidential election season had lasted eighteen months and I thought that was a forever kind of Hell. My second thought was Rachel and the kids would be gone by then, a whole different level of a new kind of Hell.

We talked for more than an hour I guessed, and then we moved into a room where the “launch chair” was. It looked to me like a normal dentist’s chair.

“Please, make yourself comfortable.” Glow girl was so hospitable.

Something was bothering me.

“Am I the only soul breach?” Not that I cared, not really.

Glow girl grinned and pointed upward toward the ceiling. The tiles began to lift off and float away into the corner of the room, exposing a vast dark, glittering space. Every second or two an explosion, like the ones I’d seen on Discovery Channel when a star is born or dies, went off out there.

“The explosions happen every time a soul switch occurs. Repeating the rift moment, the precise millisecond in time when Six screwed you out of your life, is the only way to prove its possible to save at least half of the known universes in the multi-verse, or your soul. If we make the switch successfully and close the hole, no more breaches.”

Maybe I looked like I was struggling with this truth, because she screwed up her nose and planted both hands on her hips. “Let me put this in terms you can understand, Mr. Elder. If we fail, we can all kiss our galactic asses goodbye.”

She pulled a remote out of her white leather Matrix coat. She really was very cool.

“Comfy?”

The chair I sat in, the launch point to put me back, in the bar, where it all happened, was in fact very comfortable, cozy even.

“Mr. Elder, you see, it happened, but it didn’t, because it hadn’t happened yet, but it had, and it will again, and again and again. Make sense?”

I was about to say not so much when my two new glow friends dissipated into the ether as the chair wrapped its arms around me and I could feel my body losing particles. I closed my eyes, and wondered if the third time was a charm.

I only had two more to go.

***

Rachel, my wife, the only one who can make me want to punch her in the throat and take her clothes off in the same moment, and sometimes at the same time, was giving me that look, the one that says I’m drunk and….

-end

 

2012. Tracy Saville. All Rights Reserved.

For more from this writer visit her here. Tracy Saville.

Waking The Hell Up

 

LPTrendsCommentary. Waking the hell up & risking failure in an age of fuzzy change and uncertain realities. By Tracy Saville.

Waking up = consciously finding the inner you and living it every day. That’t it.

This much is true: the older you get and the less clear your picture of certainty becomes – about having those comforts or pleasures you dreamt of having in your forties or fifties, and beyond – the more fear creeps in, the sharper the edges and corners of your horizon become, and one of two things happens. 

When faced with the idea that you won’t get or become what you wanted or believed you could become: 1) You either fall back to a safe position or search for safe harbor somewhere, often giving in to insecurities and looking for others to take care of you in case the worst happens, and you greatly reduce your expectations until there are none to breech or 2) You double down, remembering that only in the not living, and the not being, and the NOT offering the universe everything you had and have to give will you fail. The rest is sweetener.

We have one job in this current life to do and that is to wake up to what is on the inside of us and bring that out into our lives intentionally. Not hype. Not goo. Not weird science or doctrine dogma – there is absolute truth in this single absolute.

The rest:

-intentionally seeking an authentic life and state of being and exploring knowledge well beyond the edges of what you can see;

-practicing wellness and consciousness and valuing creativity and divergent thinking, and then living into your strengths and collaborating with others to make the world a better a place–

These are the fruits of what naturally happens when you wake up every single day with a single purpose and truth in mind.

  • Your existence is unimaginably brief and small when compared to space and time and matter and energy.
  • You make up what is true or false about everything and that meaning can be changed at will.
  • You have the individual power to change the course of human history and your own life with every action you take and every moment you fail to act.
  • When you harm your body you harm all our bodies.
  • When you do not speak up for others, especially children and the elderly, you deny your own existence and that silence will come back to you tenfold in painful ways.
  • When you stay asleep you lose. Doing what you must instead of wanting to; going nowhere for fear of losing what you haven’t even gotten yet; believing in false cures for happiness and wellness that keep you numb, afraid, and standing in concrete will result in fear, pain, and regret.

What will you compromise on this week that is something you know is right and what dreams will you put in a drawer that are fueled by fear of failure at some other goal or definition of success that has nothing truly to do with your humanity or inner life?

Whatever those compromises and hidden treasures are is where you will find the truth about your life and how to change it. For an exploration of someone who gets this very idea, meet Amanda Gore and Her Joy Project. One human being leaning hard into waking up. You don’t have to become an Amanda or serve others this way to wake up, but it helps to find what other people look like awake and in motion.

If you have a story about this to contribute to the conversation, I’d love to share it. Share it here. 

_____________________________

If you liked this piece, you might also like:

We’re Alive & Doing Fine

Truth, Lies, Voice & Democracy

 

 

 

Proof of Life In Michigan City

LPTrendsCommentary. Finding ourselves by returning to the heartland. by Tracy Saville.

In late Mid-August, just as the wet is wrung from the broiling heat of a Heartland humidity streak, you can stand alongside any road east of Chicago and taste the bittersweet zest of hard work and regret. If you bend your ear toward the north, you’ll hear its song, carried on the breeze that blows in from the Great One, a waterway given life when the great ice took itself back up toward the pole from whence it came billions of years ago.

I traveled there awhile back, and was moved to lay down what I saw and felt then, and still do.

I’ve always known my fellow American was anything but predictable, but lately I’d been wondering what happened to our good manners and intentions, until my faith was restored as I went on a family crusade to care for a mother who’d always cared for me, out there in the middle of our nation, wallowing in that syrupy aroma of middle of the road.

I went to the land of lakes and Indian casinos that put Vegas to shame, and farms, and urban sprawl, and fear. With every passing mile I thought of our settlers and tried to imagine what they must have felt as they navigated their way down our abundant rivers carried into the land of opportunity toward a destiny they believed was God-given. This dark earth and wild sunflower-filled land, pock marked by industry’s unceasing claw and yet also sacred, giver of life to white, brown, and yellow-skin people from every corner of the world.

And there among all that seems to be right and wrong with our fair nation, there lived the last struggling heart beat of our humanity; you know the one—the one that began to wiggle from your chest as your retirement portfolios crashed and health care got cancelled, or your jobs were taken away from people you’ve never met who live in places with names you can’t pronounce.

Route 12, just outside of Michigan City, Indiana, home of the Blue Chip Casino. The Blue Chip isn’t exactly Las Vegas, what with its smiling security guards and Midwestern service that ought to be legendary if it isn’t, but then again Las Vegas isn’t Las Vegas these days either.

Located just blocks from the Impsco Natural Gas Power Plant, a hallmark of local working class ethos where a cooling tower reminiscent of Three Mile Island hovers in the sky, the bookend casino and concrete pyre reminds all who enter this small town’s roots are mired in power and money.

The Qualleys

I had come on a celebratory holiday with my recovering madre, to wallow in something precious and rare; a thing that seems to live above politics, speak beyond the economy or lack of one, and seems to carry us outside ourselves in such a way that I have hope again for leaving behind a happy master narrative of the American experience.

I found proof that underneath all the wounds and war and wacky Wall Street boondoggles, a bond exists between us all, stronger than any ideology or conflict, and stronger than the special interests in Washington white-knuckling that which they fear losing the most. This bond holds us to the road, keeps our chins lifted toward the heavens, and our hearts open to each other.

I found this thing of extraordinary equanimity in the small town of New Buffalo, Michigan, about thirty miles east of Gary, Indiana, home of singer John Mellancamp. New Buffalo is like Mayberry meets Huntington Beach, an hour from the gasping yet still alive city of Detroit, and about half an hour east of US Steel City, where giant ravenous creatures live off the blood, sweat and tears of its caretakers and spew its capitalist refuse into the air while water flows under ironclad labor agreements approved by blind governmental enforcers.

This is the land where the line between the working class, the middle class, and the powerful few who own them is as bright as a neon sign, and its drawn just outside a dense, cricket-filled wood along a two-lane country road that rides alongside a rail line running east to west. It’s a place where folks stop and ask how your day is going and eat food because it tastes good; a place where lots of folks smoke or drink, or don’t, yet never hold it against each other or try and be somebody they aren’t. Life here is what it is, and everyone is on his or her way to something better.

It was two days after Labor Day, a day when at least eight British and American soldiers would die in Iraq and Afghanistan, and I was playing a slot machine—Triple Diamonds, if I recall. I was beginning to wonder when my day would come when I won a $200 jackpot and cursed it. Always the $200, never the $200,000, as if that would change anything.

Courtesy of organicvalley.coop

I glanced to my right and noticed a quiet man sitting next to me, his back curled from exhaustion, and a grimace pasted to his wan face. He pulled methodically on the machine lever rather than hitting the button as so many weekend gamblers do, yet he pulled with about as much consciousness as a walking cadaver. He seemed to hate his skin, as if it was not his own.

He appeared droopy and sad, almost pathetically so. I saw his small eyes squint in pain as my machine screamed out that lovely tinkling sound of a good win. His machine read $1.00. He looked like it was his last.

“Bad night,” I asked offhandedly, being careful not to be too assuming as experience tells me some folks don’t want to mix gab with their gaming. But he looked right at me and extended a hard, slightly dented hand that felt warm, firm and rough as I took it my own.

“Joe,” he said. “My name is Joe and I’m a farmer.” He really did say Joe, too.

And that’s all Joe needed to tell me. I knew that look of duality in his hardened face that matched the pallor, and I knew the texture of his weather-burned cheeks. I expect if I’d reached out and touched it, his cheek would have felt like the ages.

“I work about a hundred acres a little east of here,” he finished and then looked at me like where in the world must I have wandered in from. All ice blond hair and spike heels.

Well, that did it for Joe and me. We were smitten.

You see, I’m a North Dakota girl at heart, though I didn’t grow up on our family farm. But I did spend some summers there and have taken my fair share of farm tours. So I know that farmers are the most dogmatic, even-tempered folk on the planet. They’ve learned to expect the best and plan for the worst. They rarely get the former, and yet they’re the most optimistic, forgiving people I’ve ever met, and doggedly determined; they never say die, or I’ll do it tomorrow because they know tomorrow may not be there when they wake up to greet the day.

So I told Joe the Farmer about what I knew about him and he lit up like a firefly waking up at dusk, and then he told me the story about his daughter, Orelia, who was looking for a job, but couldn’t find one after serving four years in Iraq and Afghanistan. Here was Joe, dropping his last few dollars in a house-fixed slot machine to try and win some extra money for his daughter, who needed his help, but, as he said, didn’t like to take it. She was thinking of re-enlisting, which he just couldn’t abide. He was sure if she went back she’d be coming home in a coffin and we’d be watching it on CNN. My heart broke in two.

I don’t know why I did what I did next. I suppose it could have backfired. He could have been offended, or even angry, at my expensive linen shirt and designer jeans. But I cashed out my ticket and handed it to Joe. I think it was for $236. Tears filled his tired eyes. He began to push it back into my hands, but I pushed back, said he should go home and tell his daughter to go buy herself something that made her feel the way he knew she should. I reassured him, though you don’t have to tell a farmer how to buck up, that maybe tomorrow would be a better day.

Joe thanked me as I left, hurriedly, because I was immediately overcome by what I saw in his ancient eyes. There, behind the years of turning over his little patch of black dirt in one of the most lushly beautiful places in the world, among the shrinking industries and changing demographics of a place where he grew up, but barely recognizes as his own, I saw love and familiarity in a way I never have, or may ever again.

In Joe I saw all the things that made us the same and none of the things that made us different. And I had to come to a struggling little town in Indiana in the heart of America to find it.

I found our human vibrancy and vitality and his name is Joe the Farmer, and he has a daughter Orelia, who risked her life to protect my right to be talking to her father about her future, while I pretended not to be scared to the core about my own. And I suppose I found a little bit of me in Michigan City, a reminder of what it means to be American, wrapped up in the hopes and dreams of a man named Joe who sure does hope this year’s winter isn’t as long as they say it will be.

As I was driving away from my foray into the great Indiana and Michigan back country, I wondered if Orelia had brown or blue eyes. As I rounded a complicated interchange and saw the tall proof of America’s capitalist nature, the Windy City, rising into the evening sky like a rack of black swords, I decided I bet they’re emerald, her eyes, with a fleck of gold. And I prayed that when Orelia gets that job—which she surely will, because karma is like that—for those eyes of hers that have seen death as I never will to shimmer with life, like her father’s, and mine when I think of her.

It puts everything in perspective; that bond we have with each other. Who knew I would find it in front of a Triple Diamond slot machine, in a town that plays Kid Rock music in their gas station bathrooms, $236 down, and counting?

 

 

 

Bo Knows Open Skies & Presencing

LPTrendsMindGoo: Leo Babauta, a sharer of all things Zen, yesterday reminded me of Bo Jackson, the iconic athlete, who Mark Alexander of Wiles Magazine called the “Greatest Multi-Athlete of All Time.”

And Leo reminded me of presencing, plus the ability to judge less, accept more; let go of goals, and recognize automatic self-defense mechanisms; to be like the sky-be empty, and willing to accept things as they are, wide open, not attached to your fears, not attached to control, hands open. Bo Jackson understood open hands, being present, and letting go better than anyone.

Photo by: ccsabathia52.com and http://wilesmag.com/2012/g-o-a-t-the-greatest-multi-sport-athlete-of-all-time.

Bo Jackson, former baseball and football player, the infamous Heisman Trophy winner (1985) who played running back for the Los Angeles Raiders and in baseball played left field and designated hitter for the Kansa City Royals, the Chicago White Sox, and the California Angels. Bo knew something the rest of mostly did not.

Bo knew what it truly meant to be like the sky—what it is to be open to the possibilities that everything in sports was potentially possible. His career attitude led others to believe in that potential as well, like how lava flows over land, consuming everything in its path, the energy of openness quite literally creating a tsunami of possibility. Famous for igniting the Nike brand campaign “Bo Knows,” he was also famously injured in 1990 after unbelievable records of performance in baseball and football, ending his football career and threatening his baseball career. He reportedly popped his hip back in place while on the field, followed up by a discovery he had avascular necrosis and he had to have his hip replaced.Most believed he would never return to baseball, although his first return to bat was a homerun. Throughout his career his “firsts” and records were legendary proof that in being open, and not closed off to self-induced self-defense mechanisms–the stories we hold on to that keep us from seeing and experiencing so much–a person could achieve anything they wanted.

And this brought me to presencing.

I know, right?

The Many Colors of Being Open To Possibility

What the deuce is that?

Presencing refers to the ability to sense and bring into present one’s highest future potential. Along with it Theory U suggests that as we attend to a problem or situation, so will it unfold, giving us a new framework for practicing and ultimately creating the future we want.

Presencing (or the act of being present for you bottom line people) allows for co-initiating, co-sensing, co-inspiring, co-creating, and co-evolving and is one of those areas of work at the Presencing Institute “that seeks to facilitate profound innovation and change.” PI was founded in 2006 by a group representing all sectors of society—business, government, and civil society— who believe that the crises of our time require developing and advancing awareness-based social technologies – fancy talk for more of us being present more of the time.

Why do you care? 

Firstly, you care because it’s all about how do you experience life the way Bo Jackson did? How we are able to come to know what we know, practice what we want, develop abilities that evolve us into super-athletes or just more masterful people working in the world to do better every day–this is a byproduct of mashing up advanced ideas with very relevant, right now practicals. Finding the amazing right under our noses.

So, there you go. Mashed ideas. Bo Jackson, Zen openness, and unbelievably courageous people taking on what once seemed like out there ideals, with the cajones to call it presencing and the genius to get away with it because it seems to be working.

How cool is that.

Article by Tracy Saville

For more on all of the above visit:

The Presencing Institute

Bo Jackson at the College Football Hall of Fame

Bo Jackson at the Heisman Trophy

Monday Night Football recap for November 30, 1987

Bo Jackson at the Internet Movie Database

 

 

 

 

Some Weeks Suck, Sometimes

LPTrendsTruth: This is oh so short, but sweet. Today we did a few things that felt right, after a week from Hell, and I wanted to share by way of offering permissive fuel so you can go kick some serious (fill in any word you like that makes you feel sixteen feet tall) this weekend after your week from (any word that works for you where fire is the least of your worries).

1) We secured a structure for our next-level venture to give you (you know the world) back the web and your personal, creative voices and goo. No going back – now it’s your turn: what is your big, hairy audacious to-do?

2) We survived a week of dealing with Apple in our first foray into official publishdom – and I share with you the heartache and moronicness we felt (or I guess I felt) in what should have been an easy process to give your product to a company that wants 30% for the privilege…but I did it, and I can now say I have temporarily joined the man so I can help the man. Oh, wait, that’s like weird, isn’t it. What short-term compromise did you make this week for the sake of mankind that you fully intend on rectifying once you finish building your own planet?

3) We prevailed by standing up every day even when we wanted to crawl into bed and eat our own left arm. Some weeks are hard. This one was like pulling femurs out of our own legs with our bare hands. My Momo who died last year would say, as Mother Theresa also said, “Just put your head down and do you own work. Tomorrow will be better.” So we did, and we hope for you the strength to do the same, the courage to know that this is true, and the wisdom to kick some crap tomorrow out of all that insanity you left unchecked when you hit the front door.

Happy August 24th. Happy Happy.

This is a picture of a baby that does not suck.

ps…I would like to share also our newest additions to the English language that played well with friends on Twitter and Facebook. Please use and abuse them. Words are fun. You can make them up. Really. The last one – Nordicon – evolved out of a moment when I imagined what would happen if I acted on my rage regarding ineffective customer service and technology. Paperwork and prison. pps…Tanner Dell – Apple Senior Help Guy. You rock.

#wankerdoodled=flogged about the neck and shoulders by anyone who thinks they know what is in your best interest.

#FBoinked=when Facebook takes away your friend request privileges, deciding they know better than u how you should behave.

#twitterated=when your sense of self is crushed by a mean-spirited twitterer with a hangover.

#thumbling=harking up your tweets or texts due to poor thumb manipulation, or in some cases, over-consumption of Pinot Noir.

#nordicon=prison incarcerated Norwegian.

 

Relevant Relevance: Get Down To It

LPTrends: Relevant Relevance. What matters matters.

Conscious Sight by Tim Saville.

The ironic truth about human experience is this: black or white, good or bad, depressed or expanding – red or blue and sick and tired of being sick and tired – we understand extremes. We seem to innately understand why things have full spectrum opposite states of being, and that extreme everything is to be expected. Hair on fire is the new normal.

Ask a Bosnian refugee, or a Syrian mother who has lost her only son in a fire fight in her own neighborhood, or a child selling bath salts to a college student to survive, and they’ll say: “Yeah, we understand extremes, but whatever happened to reciprocity?”

You know that old school rule that says give as good as you get, or get what you deserve? 

Consider perhaps that you do get what you deserve. The relevance of that is that everything is connected. Everything you do or don’t do, say or don’t say not only matters, but is the reciprocal of some correlating truth.

If you look around lately, like in the halls of Bloomberg West, and you note the market is deciding it doesn’t much care for tech start-up greed, perhaps a sign that says if you build something, it ought to actually be what you promised and not all about you. (Read about news on tech start up bubble). And from Forbes.com.

Or consider your very own life. What reciprocal strings are dangling out there that you can’t see, that are tied to extreme intentions you perhaps might not want?

This week’s big idea is simple: when it rains, it should pour, but sometimes it doesn’t, and we all have to account for that. Even the most irrelevant things can turn out to be very relevant.

When we do nothing, something will still happen, just not the something we could have promoted. Carbon use? Check. Innovation used for profit-only scheming? Check. Education un-reform? Check.

Kids turning out badly, companies turning out to be investor-centric boondoggles, gluttonous economic disasters and the end of our farm culture? Accountable. Accountable. Accountable.

Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. Sometimes it rains. Even Bull Durham’s Crash Davis knew that.

Sound advice suggests sharpen your relevance meter, stop complaining about things you haven’t even tried to fix, be good when others are bad, and carry a flashlight in the dark. Love those who have earned your trust. Pick up others when they’re down.

Do only what you decide to do from a place of mutual reciprocity, knowing the extreme is always just around the bend, because someday you will need a leg up.

And for Heaven’s sake, respect each other and the rain.

Rainbows come from rain. Relevant relevance. It matters.

_________________________________

Article by Tracy Saville.

If you liked this, you might also like:

You Can’t Outrun A Bear 

The Unknown Leader Among Us

 

 

 

 

 

When People Don’t Get Us

LPTrendsIdeas: When People Don’t Get Us.

Who gets you? Painting by Justin D.

Rejection. Dismissal. Abject denial. Fathers sometime don’t want their kids and they leave too early. Mothers sometimes don’t get their children, and they miss the most valuable aspects of their inner souls. Friends and co-workers often miss the most salient bits of substance in each other as they toddle to and fro from their daily grind, lost in the minutia of what’s not really even important. And all too often we are misunderstood by those we love the most, and by those from whom we seek acceptance from in deepest measure.

We would like to be islands, but we’re really not built that way. We need others to get us; we need to be affirmed.

And while attachment to the outcomes of other people’s behaviors is a kind of illness that has the capacity to shut down entire civilizations – (Rome wasn’t built in a day, but it did burn down pretty quickly at the tail end of a long fight between peoples who simply didn’t get each other) – it’s nearly impossible to detach ourselves from needing another’s acceptance.

The big idea of the week? It’s really a question, in honor of the Romney’s and Obama’s of the day and having to eat what we don’t “get”:

Who have you not gotten lately, someone who by your actions or inactions you have shut down, closed off, denied, or in some way dismissed that set another’s course in a terrible direction? 

Knowing you cannot possibly be responsible for how another person sees themselves or whether or not you accept them, might the compassion to care enough to at least try and get each other serve you and the other to better ends? Effort at least says, you notice. And that’s something.

I don’t have to get you to love and respect you. I just have to be listening and paying attention, and want to try.

GIve us your best “I don’t get…..” story!

 

 

“Namby-Pamby Middle Of The Road Crap”

LPTrends: Staking Out What Matters. Reading the current issues of Fast Company, Wired, and Inc. magazines right now. My goal? To sharpen up the old short list of top innovating technology to leverage my new media company …why you ask?

Slippery When UnTruthful About Your Values

Because I need to know the difference between what sucks and doesn’t and what users really love or hate, but most importantly because I can’t afford to waste time or money wading through what Ben & Jerry’s founder Ben Cohen calls “…milquetoast, namby-pamby middle-of-the-road” values about anything. I can’t afford, and neither can you, to let anybody tell me what I think is important or right. (1). We all need to be able to stand up for what matters.

The Burden and Opportunity Costs of Values

Part of the burden and opportunity every entrepreneur has to face is deciding what they truly care about and what they really stand for, and then doing that, through and through.  Socially conscious companies with brand values that are their DNA stand up for the cause or intention they were launched to serve; if they’re through-and-through they do not deviate because it’s in their genetic make up. They can make mistakes, but they clean up fast and hard, and they never make the same mistake twice.

Brand values are made trickier when you serve human kind and desire to be a solvent, successful business that can attract investors. ROI is sometimes diametrically opposed to human kind’s best interest. Okay a lot of the time.

“I don’t want what you want, but I want what I want!”

The entire concept of brand values is at the crossroads of international debate going on about economies, profit structured capitalism, inflation, and the re-evaluation of everything we thought was good and was working. Everything isn’t good and most everything we know is broken. We even disagree on the extremes to what is good or bad or broken or working, yet everyone has this long list of frustrations and violations of things that they just won’t tolerate any longer.

Evolving Past Our Noses, Stomachs, and Pocket Books

It is an evolution of values. I think. Ours as a human race are changing, and from what to what is anyone’s guess. But I argue it isn’t that we’re headed to somewhere else in the values department as much as it is we’re finally headed somewhere.

I’m talking about discernible, clear, powerful values seemingly being drawn more deeply and often in the sands of human consumption and behavior. Fence-siting or flip-flopping when it comes to you or your company and your spinal commandments, which is an extension of both your personal and corporate values at work, is not something any of us can afford to do, especially if we want to rise above our competition and stay the long course of that rapid and ever-changing landscape we call life.

Freak Flags, Mickey D’s, & Ralph Lauren

The Classroom

I used to tell my English students that to write well, you have to write about what you give a crap about and never waste time on words that don’t do anything for the reader or the world. But to do that, you actually need to know what you think about the topics and whether or not you love it or hate it, and be clear about why, then passionately argue for it.

Rambling about stuff you could care less about is a waste of human engineering.

Building or managing a company, or a family for that matter, without first committing to bold and precise values (what you stand for)—that you then embed in your company or environmental DNA—is never proven when sales are good or times are easier and everyone is getting along. Values are proven when competition is tough and your competitors fold like a cheap lawn chair when their so-called values are called on their carpet.

This is not the body of a Golden Arches fan.

An example here is how the International Olympic Committee bent to McDonald’s pressure to ban all other restaurants from selling chips in London unless served with fish because it would compete with fries. There are many things wrong with this, but most glaringly in the values department is that the Olympics are the quintessential athletic event. No athlete competing will be chowing down on a Big Mac, large fry, and super-sized Coke in their training diets.

First and foremost McDonald’s is a poor choice to highlight as a primary official, American food sponsor of the most elite athletic event in the world. And to cave to pressure in London, where chips are sacrosanct (and equally diabetic-inducing if gorged upon repeatedly as a lifestyle choice), for money, makes the whole values boondoggle taste even worse. I’m sorry, but did Subway under bid, or do they not have enough corner storefronts in London? (2)

One need only look deeply at global advertising to see the best brands, the iconically revered brands who stand the test of time and dominate, rarely if ever make the mistake of saying they stand for one thing and then do another. When a brand breaks their word, they lose customers.

Disney Breached The Trust, Too

The New American Family: Lines are the norm, stuff costs an arm and leg, and Pickletown is a better value in your own hometown than expensive vacays.

In 1972, Disneyland was a place of family value, as in you could take a family there for vacation, and all the rides would work, the experience would be something you could count on, and you wouldn’t bust the bank. Over time, Disney’s values for what they sell has changed: you have to have a few thousand in the bank to even think of taking a family of four there, you have to like standing in line, and big has overshadowed everything else, even the kind and operational quality of their attractions has changed from a few E ticket rides to all E ticket rides, where half are broken or under maintenance. I love Disneyland, but they violated my value expectations. The break feels personal, like they care less about me now.

Take also Ralph Lauren, who made a huge error by making the clothes they designed for the American Olympic team in China (this is so stupid that I can hardly believe they made this mistake as the great American clothing design brand). (3) And while they’ve been silent in response to the outrage many have expressed at a time when our economy is hurting so badly, I am betting Ralph, like Lucy, will have ‘some ‘splaining to do” when all is done and said to clean up their value-laden image of Americana design kingery, at least among those progressive manufacturing plant owners in Nebraska.

Oh, wait; are there any progressive manufacturing clothing makers in Nebraska?

The Beauty of Imperfect Commitment To Values

Aw, I’m perfect!

In the end, I admit, this is a terribly difficult challenge when we are all so beautifully imperfect and flawed. I am also not naïve to the objectives of business survival. Yet I like to think that if we valued the idea of being who we are—as people or companies—and working to resonate with others based on our mutual truth, over say the monopolization of the chip sales at a sporting event dressed like a community expression of friendship, we might not have to pretend to make our food seem healthy when it isn’t. We could just be honest about our food and profit motives, and brand from that place.

  • Let your imperialistic freak flags fly, but fly honestly.
  • Don’t pretend that you aren’t interested in profits over nationalistic interests or diabetic coma-inducing food products. People are not stupid, and more and more they require what they consume to be consistent with their values, too. There is no judgment here. Just be what and who you are.
  • Be not namby-pamby when it comes to picking or sticking to your values. Be not perfect, just perfectly truthful.

We can be bullish that values have even shown up in mainstream media at all.

Personally I remain optimistic that people will resonate with integral values consistent with their own. There is a sea change, a tipping point in people sharpening up their values and being far less patient for milquetoast or charlatans. I am so optimistic I have hinged my entire future on that observation. Conviction in values at the core.

Perhaps the lesson becomes this: for those who win or persevere, be clear, be bold, and be real about your values, pander not to those who do not share yours by being that which you are not to please; and perhaps do learn how to do well and do good, consistently, thereby attracting a greater share of the value system.

The winds they are-a-changing, and I hope to Gaia I am right about that, because McDonald fries could be all that I can afford come this time next year when my bet on values and your ability to discern good ones from bad doesn’t pay off.

I believe in you.

But then again, my values dictate I would rather fight for what I believe in than lay down my sword, and I would rather die from starvation than a diet of fast food. And I believe unequivocally in you.

Article by Tracy Saville

 

 

 

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(1) Fast Company Magazine, Sachs, Jonah. How To Create A Brand With Values. Reprinted from Harvard Review in FCM with permission.) http://www.fastcoexist.com/1679967/how-to-create-a-brand-with-values

(2) The Daily News, UK. July 16, 2012. London Olympics 2012: McDonald’s force Olympics bosses to ban all restaurants from selling chips unless with FISH | Mail Online. http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2172168/London-Olympics-2012-McDonalds-force-Olympics-bosses-ban-restaurants-selling-chips-unless-FISH.html

(3) Huffington Post, Cassata, Donna, July 12, 2012. U.S. Olympic Uniforms Made In China: Lawmakers Furious Over Ralph Lauren Gear Made Overseas. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/12/usa-olympics-uniforms-china-harry-reid-ralph-lauren_n_1669661.html?utm_hp_ref=sports

Fun Fact: Who is Jonah Sachs? Jonah wrote the Harvard piece about brand values, and he’s an internationally known storyteller, author, designer, and entrepreneur. Follow Jonah on Twitter: @jonahsachs. Fast Company ran this story (brand values) as part of their series on why those who tell and live the best stories will rule the future.

Note to readers about Ben & Jerry’s ice cream and McDonald’s: Most food is never evil if consumed in moderation. Ice cream or a burger, in and of themselves will not kill you. Ben & Jerry’s doesn’t ever pretend ice cream is the great American community/kid/family brand. They’re ice cream and they stand up for that. McDonald’s is squishy about who they are at best. In our humble opinion.

Tiger Woods & Fear: The Paralyzing Lay Up

The U.S. Open of 2012 in San Francisco gives us more than just a story of average defeat. Here is what happened. You shanked it. Your eyes squint to follow the ball as it snakes left and drops into the first of seven traps on the third day of play of the first hole of the U. S. Open, a contest most will never dream of playing much less winning. But you’ve won it before, three times, so you know what is at stake. Tiger Woods, they say you tried to be positive even in the face of utter defeat. I’m not so sure.

The last three days of your every step, shot, and decision executed has felt like slogging through acid on a spaceship, every inch of forward momentum feeling like a sting against your nature, taking you a million miles away from your goal. When you started it was all about winning. Now you’d be willing to deal away your first born for a chance to finish in numbers that won’t mar an already clunky comeback.

You are paralyzed by the magnitude of your failure in performance, a condition your top competitors, McDowell, Furyk, Simpson, Els and Westwood have so far seemed to avoid (though some of them will fall, too). At the outset they still have the gait and expression of men working from a place of warrior optimism that they’ll find their look; they have a chance to win. You have already decided today is not your day.

The mere thought of not getting what you want so desperately, to win, to gain back the respect and ground you have lost has you locked into a kind of tumbling inevitability.

I’ve played golf since I was eleven, and never well, but sometimes okay. I have never been to a Master’s but I have watched Tiger Woods chip a shot from 150 yards away toward the pin, and wonder in amazement at his sheer talent as he walked fifteen feet from me on the green to find that the ball had hit and broken the pin, dropped in the hole, and counted. It was the AT&T Pro Am at Pebble Beach and I fell in love with the serendipity of the game of golf, understanding in that moment the metaphorical grace it has for mirroring life’s deepest mysteries.

This Father’s Day 2012, I watched the U.S. Open with my husband and cringed in pain as Tiger collected 6 bogies in the first six holes of his third day. What I wanted to say to Tiger Woods as he teed off the first hole that final round, as his Inaugurial drive found its way into the sand and he began to free fall into the paralysis of cascading failure, is what I am supposed to share with you now:

…the first six holes of your own personal U. S. Open test may produce pain of an excruciating nature you will never forget, but we are never judged ultimately by how many times we laid up in the rough; we are judged and should only ever judge ourselves by how boldly we choose the next right club, by how confidently we shoot our way out of the weeds and toward a possible hole in one, and by how humbly we stand, proverbial wanker in hand as the replays of our shank carnage are played to millions who revel in our pain as if we had it coming.

When the first six holes suck it is because sometimes they do. Odds dictate this. But there are 18 holes in a single round, and an estimated 35,000 golf courses in the world. (1)

The next round, the next course, the next step—they could be simply, stunningly glorious. Sometimes you do things like sleep with prostitutes while married (or the bone-headed, metaphorical equivalent), or you perform badly for a stretch because you’ve taken your eye off the ball. This is why hope is supposed to spring eternal and odds are you will live to fight another day.

“Right now” may indeed suck wind. But tomorrow, or even five minutes from now … well, it just might not suck. It might be your time.

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More On The Subject:

On Tiger’s Loss: Boomerang

David Feherty on The Open: June 16, 2012

About Golf

Why does golf have 18 holes?

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Cherry Picking Our Beliefs

War Between the Sexes: Annihilation or Détente?

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(1) Saito, Dr., Osamu. Measuring the Lifecycle Carbon Footprint of a Golf Course and Greening the Golf Industry in Japan, 2010