Tuesday, June 30, 2009

A Generational Loss - Part 2

This past week, the world also lost Michael Jackson. I was in Las Vegas in the old part of town, on Freemont street when he died. If you've ever been there, you know they have a canopy over the entire street, that stretches several blocks and they project images onto the canopy to create amazing light shows and displays. They did a very touching tribute to him several times during the evening.

I remember seeing Michael Jackson on the Ed Sullivan show when I was a kid. Even when I see those clips today, I'm amazed at the talent and charisma that he had, even as a small boy. He simply radiated contagious energy with his power house voice and seemingly effortless dance moves.

I watched him grow up, and enjoyed his music, my favorite songs of his are:

Don't Stop til You Get Enough
Rock With You
Black or White
PYT (Pretty Young Thing)
Wanna Be Startin' Something
Gone Too Soon

I just read that the song he sang with the Jackson Five on the Ed Sullivan Show in 1969, "I Want You Back" knocked "Rain Drops Keep Falling On My Head" from it's number one spot. Rain Drops was my favorite song at the time! I know... I'm 'dating' myself here.

At any rate, Michael Jackson was an enormously talented individual who changed the music scene and popular culture in dramatic ways. The show he had with his brothers in 1975 was the first ever to feature an African American family. He was a pioneer and a trail blazer in many ways. His music, his music videos and his inventive and creative dance moves were all trend setting.

He was also a deeply tormented and troubled individual. As I watched him continually trying to 'alter' his physical appearance, and exhibit strange and eccentric behavior, I felt sorry for him. He was clearly locked in some sort of internal prison of mental and emotional anguish. He seemed to have some sort of deep body image/appearance disorder. He had the money to indulge his impulses to try to 'fix' whatever he thought was 'wrong' with his appearance, and in so doing, turned his appealing and attractive appearance into something artificial and disturbing. I feel sorry for the pain that he was obviously in. His internal pain showed up on the outside in his bizarre appearance.

He also displayed behavior that rightfully concerned many regarding his children (the strange names, covering their faces continually in public, and the 'baby dangling' incident). His own psychological problems were evident in some of his 'public' parenting displays.

He also had a strange and troubling relationship with children. It could have been an innocent childlike nature that lingered into an adulthood. Possibly the result of being forced into adult roles far too early in his life. Perhaps he was truly a 'boy who never grew up' and related to children as 'one of them.' Or, it might have been much more sinister and sick. It is truly hard to tell. His behavior towards children was definitely not normal by our cultural standards, but he also was a huge target with his fortune. People will often try to exploit anything they can to get money from wealthy people.

I personally was troubled by what I saw with him and his relationships to children (including the parenting of his own). However, I certainly wouldn't draw absolute conclusions in any direction about what his issues actually were.

It was clear that he was emotionally and mentally troubled. Many brilliant people are. He was no different. With enormous talent and ability often come demons and a tormented inner world.

I sincerely hope that Michael is at peace now. I appreciate the immense contributions that he made to this world, through his music, blazing a trail for other artists, shattering racial barriers and also important the amazing amount he contributed to charity. He believed in giving back and did so at every opportunity.

It always makes me sad when people of enormous talent struggle with demons and find no path to relief. I hope Michael is finally free of all that plagued him.

Rest in peace, Michael.

Monday, June 29, 2009

A Generational Loss - Part 1

This past week was a strange one. Three well known people passed away - Ed McMahon (Johnny Carson's long time announcer), Farrah Fawcett and Michael Jackson.

While I am old enough to remember Ed McMahon, he was not a major force in my world. For one thing, I don't usually stay up late enough to watch the "Late Shows" on tv.

I'll get to Michael Jackson tomorrow, but today I'd like to say something about Farrah Fawcett.

Now, what can I say. I, like every other teenage girl in my generation, worked hard at having that hair. Not very successfully, I might add. I was in Jr. High School when she burst into pop culture as one of Charlie's Angels. This picture below is probably the closest I ever came to getting her hair... on "western day" when I was in the eighth or ninth grade. I'm on the left. My friend came pretty close... and she even had the color right!

I was not necessarily a big Farrah fan, but I did want to have her hair! And, I spent a summer living in a house where my landlord proudly had 'that poster' hanging in the dining room!

I think the thing Farrah did that I most admired was to star in the TV movie, "The Burning Bed" which brought domestic violence into public consciousness. That movie impacted me in a major way and shattered many of the misperceptions about this societal nightmare. She helped bring this dark issue into the light.

So goodbye to Farrah. She came, she shined and now she has moved on. Rest in peace.

Friday, June 26, 2009

You've Got the Best Scream I've Ever Heard

I'm in Las Vegas for a few days with some of my relatives. We have a love for gambling in my family. We really enjoy playing various games and playing the slot machines. It's funny how the trait seems to be prevalent among us.

Two of my cousins are with me and they have never been much into video poker, which is my favorite game. I kind of got them both hooked on the game when we arrived here in Vegas. I even carry a little probability sheet with me for the game I play and have been pulling it out to do consultations with various members of my party when they (or I) am in a quandary about what to do!

Last night while most of our party was outside watching the light show in 'old town' Vegas, my cousin and I were in playing video poker, of course. Then it happened. She hit the holy grail of video poker. Something I have tried unsuccessfully to achieve in the 24 years I've been playing this game. She hit the royal flush - which paid 4000 quarters - $1,000!!!!

I let out a "whoo hoo" like you wouldn't believe. Truth be told, I let out many of them. Some "Whooooooo's" and other sounds of happiness were also unleashed. I was so happy for my cousin. She was so excited! It was really cool!

The guy playing at the machine on the other side of me said, 'You have the best scream I've ever heard!' He asked my cousin to hit it one more time so he could hear me scream again. :)

It was funny, but one thing about the entire story that made me even happier is that I could express my enthusiasm and my joy in a way that felt good, and was infectious to other people around me. I wasn't being obnoxious of too loud, but I was fully expressing the happiness and excitement that I felt at the moment. I wasn't shy or self conscious about doing it. I even ran outside to get our entire gang to come in to see the royal flush on her machine!

There was a time in my life where I wouldn't have been able to cut loose like that and express my feelings out loud. I would have kept quiet. It would have felt wrong to let it out and share those feelings with those around me. I'm so glad that I've busted loose out of that prison!

When we are happy and excited, it's magnified when we share it with others and see it reflected back to us. It's a gift for everyone around.

I've laughed so hard this past week that my abdominal muscles actually hurt! I tend to be a bit on the serious side, so for me to laugh this much is really something! It has been such a fun trip. Having fun and laughing out loud is something I need to do a lot more of.

Let your joy out to play! It's healing and freeing for everyone around you!

Whoo hoo!!!!!

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

It's Illegal For You to See the Truth

As I've mentioned I just spent 3 weeks in Ramallah in the Palestinian territories/currently occupied/controlled by Israel.

There is another interesting phenomenon that I wanted to write about. This one fascinates and infuriates me.

It is ILLEGAL for Israeli citizens to go into the West Bank (the occupied Palestinian territories) or Gaza. Illegal. They are not supposed to go there. Even Israeli Arabs are not supposed to go there. Israeli settlers are evidently the exception to this rule, as they LIVE in the occupied territories.

It's important to understand that Arab family lines cross these arbitrary boundaries. It is illegal for Israeli (Arab) citizens to visit their families if they live in the occupied territories!

This is merely an attempt to keep Israelis from 'knowing' the truth of what is happening in the territories. The official government line would be that they don't want Israelis to be abducted and then have to work to free them. Sounds reasonable, but what if there could be a waiver that Israelis could sign saying they would not hold the government responsible? I think that's a great idea.

The law is being used to engender fear - Don't go there... you might not come back. It is also being used to hide the truth from good people who might question their own government if they 'get to know' the people on the other side of the wall and the conflict.

Unjust laws are an abomination!

I'm reminded of a story a friend of mine told me about his days in the Peace Corps in Swaziland, South Africa. It was illegal for whites and blacks to walk down the same side of the streets in certain areas. I remember him telling me about defying that law and quickly being 'moved' back to his side of the street by the police.

"Keep 'em Separated!" is a great tactic for making enemies of people... and keeping people from knowing who they are afraid of. So simple... and so effective.

I long for the day when laws like the 'white/black side of the street' and "it's illegal for you to go visit the 'other people'" are no longer obeyed. We allow ourselves to be controlled by unjust and ridiculous laws of man such as this.

All human beings deserve to be treated with respect and dignity.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

A Permit to Live

I just spent 3 weeks in a place where human beings are required to have permits to do basic, essential functions. I was in Ramallah, in the occupied West Bank. This is a Palestinian town, that like the rest of the West Bank, is under the military occupation of Israel.

Although Jerusalem is 10 short miles away, Palestinians can't go there... without a permit from Israel. They can't go to the doctor, to visit relatives, to worship in churches or mosques (there are Christian and Mulsim Palestinians), or leave from the Tel Aviv airport - without a permit from Israel.

It is surreal. Surreal is actually too pretty a word. It's repulsive to me.

To be 'free' to travel in and out as I was, the contrast was startling. Talking to people who have trouble going to Jerusalem for ANY resaon made me feel bad. Their families have lived there for hundreds of years, and they can't travel 10 miles freely, but I, who hadn't set foot on that land until 10 years ago, can go anywhere I want.

I heard a horrible story of a man who was trying to get a permit to Jerusalem for his elderly wife to go to a doctor. He waited in line all day and at 3pm the Israeli authority granted a 9am - 5pm permit for THAT VERY DAY! There wasn't enough time for him to get his wife to/from the doctor. So, he'd have to come back another day and try again. Unbelievable.

The people I was working with in Ramallah are trying to plan a vacation to the US. The entire family has US passports, but still need a 'permit' from Israel to leave via Tel Aviv's airport. The last time they planned a vacation, they were not granted a permit to leave until just before their flight. They could have just as easliy not gotten the permits and would have missed their flight and incurred change fees on their tickets. They can't plan a simple trip - because it is completely the whim of the ISraeli government whether they can actually leave or not.

It is not acceptable for any group of people to hold that sort of 'authority' over other people. I find it offensive.

I hope the world wakes up to these sorts of injustices and says NO MORE.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Here's to Dads Everywhere

Yesterday was father's day. Fathers are so important it is hard for me to know where to begin as I sing their praises!

In my own experience, some of my best memories in life are those involving my father. He worked away from home alot when I was growing up, so I cherished every minute I got to spend with him. I remember one particular Saturday morning, I heard someone knocking at the front door of the house. I was usually the first one up on Saturdays, to watch cartoons with my dog on my lap. I rushed to the door and could see my dad's face smiling at me from outside the dining room window. He wasn't supposed to be home that particular weekend, but I can still feel my heart overflowing with delight as I saw his face in the window. Daddy was home!

He was my greatest supporter, and at the same time expected a great deal from me. The combination served my development well.

I remember him bringing me little presents whenever he'd come home from a business trip. He let me drink 'coffee' with him (which was mostly milk with a little sugar mixed in). I felt so 'grown up' when he let me drink coffee with him!

We fished together, and went clamming. We spent a lot of good father-daughter time. I am a lot like he was... which is good and bad. I trust people too quickly and too much sometimes, and it has caused me problems in life... more than once. I'm friendly and open like he was, and make friends quickly... just like he did.

I see a lot of my father in me. That makes me happy.

Fathers can make or break their children. The role they play in the formation of the persons they 'create' is immense. Fathers sometimes are considered secondary in the rearing of children. That is such a sad occurrence to me. Their role is critical, and it should be treated with seriousness and respect.

How a man treats his wife/the mother of his children will affect generations to come. How a man treats his daughters will lay the foundation for the relationships she will have with men in her life. This can be powerfully positive, or, if the father blows it, can have catastrophic results.

Men... the father role... are a gift to us all. Men and women are different creatures, and those differences should be celebrated and respected. Give thanks for the men in your life, most especially your father. Even if he 'blew it' you wouldn't be here without him, so at least that deserves a thank you inside your heart.

Do something nice for the men in your life to celebrate the gift they give... just by being men.

Happy father's day...

Friday, June 19, 2009

Playing Catch Up

It's always good to come home from a long trip, but there is a price to be paid for being away. I've been traveling in Israel and Palestine for the past three weeks. Coming home is wonderful, but there are bills to be paid, issues to be dealt with and appointments that were postponed for the trip.

This was my first full day back and I had several appointments to keep and many phone calls to make. I paid bills and followed up on why my lawn hasn't been cut since I left home. I'm also amazed at how my garden was weed free when I left and now looks like a jungle! Everything exploded while I was away.

It can feel a little overwhelming when we've fallen behind in a chore or set of tasks. The extra burden of 'catching up' on top of all our normal daily work can seem daunting.

As I slowly dig myself out from beneath the back log, I remember that I've done this many times before - come home from a trip and whipped my home front into shape. This is doable. Even when I feel overwhelmed, I remember that it is not a permanent situation. I will get caught up again and then life will return to a more leisurely pace. OK, well, maybe not leisurely, but it will mellow out a bit.

Whether we fall behind because of our own actions (like procrastinating or postponing something) or it happens as the result of something beyond our control, the sensations can be quite unpleasant.

Patience and persistence are the answer to this situation. If you have something that you're behind in doing, dig in and start chipping away at it. Give yourself a realistic amount of time to tackle it and just keep plugging away.

As I look at my next pile of financial paperwork to deal with, I'm making a plan for how I'll work through it tomorrow.

In the meantime, I'm also getting over jet lag, so I'm going to call it a night very soon. I accomplished what I could today, and now it's time to let that be enough and give myself some much needed rest.

Remember too, as you're plugging away, to do what you are doing with peace and do your best to stay balanced. How you do something is as important as what you do.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Home at Last

Just a quick note to say that I'm back home in Seattle. Feeling grateful for a safe and uneventful trip. Smooth sailing all the way. After spending time with people who need permits to travel a few miles to visit friends, family, get medical care or accomplish the simplest of tasks... I no longer take my freedom to travel for granted. More on that later.

For now, it's time for a hot shower and some sleep.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Homeward Bound

As I sit here in the Tel Aviv airport I'm reflecting on a wonderful and exhausting trip. A lot of work accomplished, many new friends made, a great deal of amazing food consumed... and too little exercise done (oops - I'll do better next time).

Saying goodbye to one group of friends and loved ones and heading towards another today. Goodbye to everyone here. See you soon.

Get ready back home... I'm on my way. :)

Maasalaama and Litroat from Palestine and Israel.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Almost, But Not Quite

I'm spending my last night in Jerusalem tonight. It's 'almost time' to go home. Tomorrow is the day! I fly in the morning and will be home by late in the evening.

I'm in the place where I feel like it's time to go, but I haven't quite got it all together yet.

There are always tons of things to do at the end of any project, or in preparation for any journey. Why things always pile up at the last second, I'll never know.

As I organize and pack my bags, I'm reflecting on a busy, wonderful, challenging three weeks. Being in the middle east is always a rich and satisfying experience.

I'm grateful for the time I've had here and am looking forward to getting home!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Simple Pleasures

Yesterday I got my hands into a garden for the first time in 3 weeks. I was walking through a friend's garden enjoying the beauty and incredible variety all around me. I stopped at a day lily plant and started pulling off the spent blossoms. It felt good after three weeks of sitting at a computer for long hours, to get out into the garden and do something with a plant! Within a few minutes I had pulled off the spent blossoms, and the plant looked much happier.

It was a simple thing, but it gave me enormous pleasure.

Sometimes I think we set our expectations too high and set ourselves up to require too much in order to feel content. Often we need to realign our expectations to something more realistic and more sustainable.

If indeed we want to be happy, we need to really dive into and enjoy the simple pleasures that life has to offer.

Star Wars (Episode IV - which is really 'the first' movie to us old timers) just started... so I'm off to indulge in another simple pleasure!

Friday, June 12, 2009

Hanging on for Dear Life

It was a windy day today. There is a beautiful tree outside the office I'm working in that is covered with lavender colored flowers. It is a stunning site to behold. This tree appeals to a little bird that looks somewhat like a hummingbird. I'm not sure if it is a hummer or not.

As I watched one of these birds drinking nectar I was amazed at his tenacity. The wind was blowing so hard that the little bird was holding on for dear life! The cluster of flowers that he was drinking from were bouncing around like crazy. That little bird just kept holding on and kept drinking nectar. He wanted what he wanted and he wasn't going to let a little wind stop him.

I was inspired by this bird. Next time I'm getting getting bounced around by the wind, I'll just hang on a little tighter and keep on keeping on!

Hand on tight and ride out the wind!

Thursday, June 11, 2009

Accepting What Is vs Working for Change

It's a fine line to walk. When faced with an untenable situation, how do we know how long to continue to work to change it and when do we know it's time to surrender? There is no clear answer for most situations. We have to trust ourselves and apply an appropriate amount of persistence!

Often times we can be 'conditioned' just just 'give up' and stop trying. There is a teaching story told about how baby elephants are trained. The baby is tethered to a large and strong steak in the ground with a strong rope. The baby elephant struggles and struggles to try to break free, but it can't. At some point it finally give up and knows that when it is attached to a rope, it cannot move freely. After that critical point, they don't even need to be tethered to anything! Their rope can simply be draped over a railing and they will not try to walk away. They have come to associate the rope with being trapped and stuck. They don't even try. The truth is, they could get away any time they want to. They simply don't try.

We can be the same way. We always need to be vigilant for areas where we settle for something unacceptable, simply because we have come to believe there is no alternative. Often times, we are trapping ourselves!

Likewise, sometimes we really can't change a circumstance, and if we continue to beat our head against the wall, we merely exhaust ourselves needlessly.

There is a balance to be struck here and it will be different for each of us and it will vary from situation to situation. The most important thing is to remain conscious and keep asking ourselves what the appropriate course of action is.

Conscious awareness is the key!

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Relief at the End of the Day

It just feels good when we come to the end of long, hard day. Sleep never feels better than when we have exhausted ourselves body, mind and soul.

Likewise, when we've come through a difficult time and we finally start to emerge on the other side, it feels wonderful.

We need to always realize that we can make it through much more than we think we can. When the long day ends, and we know we've done our best, that is all we can ask of ourselves.

When we finally start to feel better after a betrayal, loss or trauma, we realize that the sun really does rise again. It really does.

I have been through some tough stuff in the past couple years. I'm still standing. In fact, I'm doing just great! There were dark days and tough moments. I just kept on walking. Now, I'm getting to reap the rewards of all those steps I took in the dark.

As I'm back in the saddle, doing some work I haven't done for a long time, I was nervous and anxious about it before I started. Now, after a couple weeks of doing it, I'm seeing that I'm handling it just fine, and am, in fact, doing a great job.

Let those moments of 'relief' and 'peace' after a 'long haul' soothe and bolster us for the rest of our life's journey.

The day is over for me at this moment, and it's time for the much earned rest.

Good night!

Tuesday, June 09, 2009

Honoring Ones Own Way

Comparing ourselves to others is so destructive! Even though many of us know this is true, we still do it! Sometimes we are extremely harsh with ourselves. We look at other people's skills, abilities and ways of doing things and we idealize them, while at the same time we look at our skills, abilities and ways of doing things and we discount them.

What is that about?

I was telling a story the other day about an experience I had many years ago as a software designer and programmer. I have a particular way that I write programs or solve any complex problem. It usually involves lots of paper and diagrams that help me segment out what I'm working on and see the actual relationships visually on paper.

I am actually pretty good at solving complex problems, but *not* in my head! I need to write things down and figure them out on paper.

When I was in college, taking computer programming classes, I would write my programs out on paper. I would start with a bunch of blank sheets of paper and I would label each one with a function that needed to be performed in my program. I would logically split out the program into various tasks/activities that needed to be performed. I would start very generally, and add sheets of paper for the 'sub tasks' as I got into more specific detailed actions.

By the time I was done writing any program, I had a stack of paper. I could easily rearrange the order of the pieces as I needed to. Every single line of code was actually on that paper when I was finished. It was ready to be typed directly into the computer.

I rarely had logic errors. Usually my errors were limited to 'syntax' errors caused by typos! My programs were always well thought out and met the objectives set for them.

I hung out with a lot of programmers in school and at work. In the company I worked for, I was one of three database designers/programmers. The two other guys were really experienced, talented programmers. They both coded in their head. They would just sit at the computer and type in their code straight away. Somehow they could hold all the logic in their head in a way I had never been able to do.

I started to feel inadequate compared to these two co-workers. I felt like 'their way' was superior to 'my way.'

One day I decided I was being silly and I should just be able to code like they did - straight out of my head onto the computer. So I gave it a try. I had a complex process to write a program to accomplish. I worked on it ALL DAY (to the tune of 8 hours!)

As I neared completion of the program, I felt proud, but it was also much harder than it would have been if I'd done it 'my way.' It took me longer, and I was pretty sure I was going to have some 'logic' errors in addition to my 'syntax' errors.

Then the unthinkable happened. Our computer system crashed (this was a Xenix multi user system). ALL MY WORK WAS LOST! All of it. I hadn't saved during the day (OK, that was a silly mistake). And, because i hadn't written anything down... all my work was lost. I was devastated.

This powerful experience left a lasting impression on me. I realized that I had basically dishonored myself with what I had done. I tried to force myself to do something that was against my nature. The universe let me know that not only was this not necessary, but that it could also be quite painful and costly.

I never tried to code straight on to the computer out of my head... ever again. I still, to this day, draw diagrams and write out my information requirements on paper when I'm trying to solve a problem. In fact, I just finished doing a complex database design... on paper!

It is very important in life that we learn to honor our own unique way of doing things and our own rhythm in our life. We are not like anyone else and we're not supposed to be!

Honor yourself as the amazing creation that you are! The world wouldn't be the same without YOU!

Monday, June 08, 2009

Falling Off the Cliff

In the project I've been working on, I've used a particular analogy over and over again to make a point.

Let's say we are trying to solve the following problem. There is a dangerous cliff in our neighborhood and people keep falling off this cliff and severely injuring themselves.

There are two basic approaches to solving this problem.

The first, is to treat the injured and build hospitals at the bottom of the cliff.

The second approach is to go to the cliff itself and build some fences to PREVENT people from falling off the cliff. We might also post some warning signs and help people avoid the danger in that way.

Approach one is reactive and repetitive. We will have a continued need for medical care at the bottom of the cliff. We have no reason to believe that any fewer people will be falling off the cliff in the future. Nothing is being done to address the cause of the injuries.

Now, while we might need to build a hospital to treat those who have fallen, the second approach is much more of a 'solution.' We are actually implementing a plan to prevent people from falling off the cliff in the first place, thus preventing the injuries in the first place.

When we live our lives in 'reactive' mode, we are basically using the first approach. We fight the fires in our lives repeatedly, without giving thought to a way of preventing or lessening the severity of the fires.

We are actually fairly conditioned to look for the fasted relief from a symptom, even if the approach doesn't resolve the issue permanently. When we do this, we are almost guaranteed a repeat performance. Treating the symptom and ignoring the cause is not a true solution.

Taking a reactive approach takes a tool on us. It requires more energy in the long run to repeatedly deal with something than it does to spend a little more time up front and REALLY solve the problem.

We need to turn a new eye to the issues and challenges in our lives and see if we detect any patterns that require attention.

It might be time to climb the mountain and starting building that fence!

Friday, June 05, 2009

Obama Blazes a Trail of Possibility

US President Barack Obama was in Cairo Egypt yesterday, June 4, 2009 to deliver a speech aimed at improving US Muslim/Arab relations.

I am in the Middle East myself, and actually feel proud to be here at the same time that delivered this message to the Arab world.

Do I think all the problems are solved... of course not. Do I believe Obama can achieve everything he hopes he can... again, no. Do I think his speech, and the feelings expressed in it provide a way forward into the future... absolutely.

I still maintain that while it may take time for this world to change, it will, indeed... CHANGE.

Obama's election, to me, represents the opportunity to begin to break down old, crystallized thinking, stereotypes and limited perspectives that keep us locked in a prison of ignorance, arrogance and fear.

He may not be able to accomplish all that is required to resolve the key problems of our time (with regards to the middle east) but I do believe that his knowledge and understanding of the truth, and what is needed here can, at the very least, lay the ground work for a very different future.

Nothing happens overnight, but for the first time in a long time, I believe that some important ground work is being done.

Many people believe that 'words are just words.' I too want to see Obama act on his words (Especially those regarding the emergence of a viable, secure, autonomous Palestinian State). BUT... I am delighted that at the very least, we have a president in the United States who is not going about flexing his muscles and insulting other people! Obama understands what it means to be respectful, and to wield one's power responsibly. This is a HUGE improvement over the past 8 years of nightmare that the world has suffered at the hands of former president Bush.

I have hope. I see this as a positive time, filled with possibility. Only time will tell, but it will take time to develop the fruits of the seeds that Obama is sewing. The time will pass anyway, so we might as well be hopeful that the results will come to fruition.

Here are some excerpts from the speech. They are things that jumped out at me. I don't agree with every single sentence in what I'm sharing, but probably 98% of it!

If you haven't heard or read the entire speech, I encourage you to do so.


"I am convinced that in order to move forward, we must say openly the things we hold in our hearts, and that too often are said only behind closed doors. There must be a sustained effort to listen to each other; to learn from each other; to respect one another; and to seek common ground. As the Holy Koran tells us, 'Be conscious of God and speak always the truth.' That is what I will try to do - to speak the truth as best I can, humbled by the task before us, and firm in my belief that the interests we share as human beings are far more powerful than the forces that drive us apart.

As a student of history, I also know civilization's debt to Islam. It was Islam - at places like Al-Azhar University - that carried the light of learning through so many centuries, paving the way for Europe's Renaissance and Enlightenment. It was innovation in Muslim communities that developed the order of algebra; our magnetic compass and tools of navigation; our mastery of pens and printing; our understanding of how disease spreads and how it can be healed. Islamic culture has given us majestic arches and soaring spires; timeless poetry and cherished music; elegant calligraphy and places of peaceful contemplation. And throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.

And when the first Muslim-American was recently elected to Congress, he took the oath to defend our Constitution using the same Holy Koran that one of our Founding Fathers - Thomas Jefferson - kept in his personal library.

So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed. That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn't. And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.

Moreover, freedom in America is indivisible from the freedom to practice one's religion. That is why there is a mosque in every state of our union, and over 1,200 mosques within our borders. That is why the U.S. government has gone to court to protect the right of women and girls to wear the hijab, and to punish those who would deny it.

This is a difficult responsibility to embrace. For human history has often been a record of nations and tribes subjugating one another to serve their own interests. Yet in this new age, such attitudes are self-defeating. Given our interdependence, any world order that elevates one nation or group of people over another will inevitably fail. So whatever we think of the past, we must not be prisoners of it. Our problems must be dealt with through partnership; progress must be shared.

The Holy Koran teaches that whoever kills an innocent, it is as if he has killed all mankind; and whoever saves a person, it is as if he has saved all mankind. The enduring faith of over a billion people is so much bigger than the narrow hatred of a few. Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism - it is an important part of promoting peace.

Let me also address the issue of Iraq. Unlike Afghanistan, Iraq was a war of choice that provoked strong differences in my country and around the world. Although I believe that the Iraqi people are ultimately better off without the tyranny of Saddam Hussein, I also believe that events in Iraq have reminded America of the need to use diplomacy and build international consensus to resolve our problems whenever possible. Indeed, we can recall the words of Thomas Jefferson, who said: 'I hope that our wisdom will grow with our power, and teach us that the less we use our power the greater it will be.'

And finally, just as America can never tolerate violence by extremists, we must never alter our principles. 9/11 was an enormous trauma to our country. The fear and anger that it provoked was understandable, but in some cases, it led us to act contrary to our ideals. We are taking concrete actions to change course. I have unequivocally prohibited the use of torture by the United States, and I have ordered the prison at Guantanamo Bay closed by early next year.

Around the world, the Jewish people were persecuted for centuries, and anti-Semitism in Europe culminated in an unprecedented Holocaust. Tomorrow, I will visit Buchenwald, which was part of a network of camps where Jews were enslaved, tortured, shot and gassed to death by the Third Reich. Six million Jews were killed - more than the entire Jewish population of Israel today. Denying that fact is baseless, ignorant, and hateful. Threatening Israel with destruction - or repeating vile stereotypes about Jews - is deeply wrong, and only serves to evoke in the minds of Israelis this most painful of memories while preventing the peace that the people of this region deserve.

On the other hand, it is also undeniable that the Palestinian people - Muslims and Christians - have suffered in pursuit of a homeland. For more than sixty years they have endured the pain of dislocation. Many wait in refugee camps in the West Bank, Gaza, and neighboring lands for a life of peace and security that they have never been able to lead. They endure the daily humiliations - large and small - that come with occupation. So let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.

For decades, there has been a stalemate: two peoples with legitimate aspirations, each with a painful history that makes compromise elusive. It is easy to point fingers - for Palestinians to point to the displacement brought by Israel's founding, and for Israelis to point to the constant hostility and attacks throughout its history from within its borders as well as beyond. But if we see this conflict only from one side or the other, then we will be blind to the truth: the only resolution is for the aspirations of both sides to be met through two states, where Israelis and Palestinians each live in peace and security.

That is in Israel's interest, Palestine's interest, America's interest, and the world's interest. That is why I intend to personally pursue this outcome with all the patience that the task requires. The obligations that the parties have agreed to under the Road Map are clear. For peace to come, it is time for them - and all of us - to live up to our responsibilities.

Palestinians must abandon violence. Resistance through violence and killing is wrong and does not succeed. For centuries, black people in America suffered the lash of the whip as slaves and the humiliation of segregation. But it was not violence that won full and equal rights. It was a peaceful and determined insistence upon the ideals at the center of America's founding. This same story can be told by people from South Africa to South Asia; from Eastern Europe to Indonesia. It's a story with a simple truth: that violence is a dead end. It is a sign of neither courage nor power to shoot rockets at sleeping children, or to blow up old women on a bus. That is not how moral authority is claimed; that is how it is surrendered.

Now is the time for Palestinians to focus on what they can build. The Palestinian Authority must develop its capacity to govern, with institutions that serve the needs of its people. Hamas does have support among some Palestinians, but they also have responsibilities. To play a role in fulfilling Palestinian aspirations, and to unify the Palestinian people, Hamas must put an end to violence, recognize past agreements, and recognize Israel's right to exist.

At the same time, Israelis must acknowledge that just as Israel's right to exist cannot be denied, neither can Palestine's. The United States does not accept the legitimacy of continued Israeli settlements. This construction violates previous agreements and undermines efforts to achieve peace. It is time for these settlements to stop.

Israel must also live up to its obligations to ensure that Palestinians can live, and work, and develop their society. And just as it devastates Palestinian families, the continuing humanitarian crisis in Gaza does not serve Israel's security; neither does the continuing lack of opportunity in the West Bank. Progress in the daily lives of the Palestinian people must be part of a road to peace, and Israel must take concrete steps to enable such progress.

America will align our policies with those who pursue peace, and say in public what we say in private to Israelis and Palestinians and Arabs. We cannot impose peace. But privately, many Muslims recognize that Israel will not go away. Likewise, many Israelis recognize the need for a Palestinian state. It is time for us to act on what everyone knows to be true.

The sixth issue that I want to address is women's rights.

I know there is debate about this issue. I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality. And it is no coincidence that countries where women are well-educated are far more likely to be prosperous.

Now let me be clear: issues of women's equality are by no means simply an issue for Islam. In Turkey, Pakistan, Bangladesh and Indonesia, we have seen Muslim-majority countries elect a woman to lead. Meanwhile, the struggle for women's equality continues in many aspects of American life, and in countries around the world.

Our daughters can contribute just as much to society as our sons, and our common prosperity will be advanced by allowing all humanity - men and women - to reach their full potential. I do not believe that women must make the same choices as men in order to be equal, and I respect those women who choose to live their lives in traditional roles. But it should be their choice. That is why the United States will partner with any Muslim-majority country to support expanded literacy for girls, and to help young women pursue employment through micro-financing that helps people live their dreams.

All of us share this world for but a brief moment in time. The question is whether we spend that time focused on what pushes us apart, or whether we commit ourselves to an effort - a sustained effort - to find common ground, to focus on the future we seek for our children, and to respect the dignity of all human beings.

It is easier to start wars than to end them. It is easier to blame others than to look inward; to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path. There is also one rule that lies at the heart of every religion - that we do unto others as we would have them do unto us. This truth transcends nations and peoples - a belief that isn't new; that isn't black or white or brown; that isn't Christian, or Muslim or Jew. It's a belief that pulsed in the cradle of civilization, and that still beats in the heart of billions. It's a faith in other people, and it's what brought me here today.

We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning, keeping in mind what has been written.

The Holy Koran tells us, 'O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.'

The Talmud tells us: 'The whole of the Torah is for the purpose of promoting peace.'

The Holy Bible tells us, 'Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.'

The people of the world can live together in peace. We know that is God's vision. Now, that must be our work here on Earth. Thank you. And may God's peace be upon you."

Thursday, June 04, 2009

Getting Into the Swing of Things

We've all had the experience of getting sore muscles after doing something physical that is not usual for us to do. Our muscles are not used to the exertion and we feel it as soreness after the fact. If we continue doing that activity on a regular basis, eventually the soreness eases and our body grows accustomed to the new activity level.

It's the same scenario for other new experiences in our lives. If we try to incorporate a new activity into our schedule, for example, we may find that it is a struggle for quite some tome. We might discover that it feels impossible to fit it in without disrupting our normal routine. If we persist, however, the activity becomes a bit easier (just like my physical activity example) and we are able to integrate it more completely into our life.

We have to keep this in mind when we are taking on a new endeavor. I'm in the middle of a huge, new project that is taking a lot of my time and energy. Its a different schedule and a different type of mental engagement than I've done for quite some time. It can seem overwhelming on some days. Yet, I know that there is a process happening inside. Old skills are getting dusted off. Some things that initial felt awkward to me are already starting to feel a bit easier and more comfortable. Parts of my brain, that have been 'resting' for a time are waking up. Some old capacities are being resurrected, and some 'new muscles' are being flexed. With each day that goes by, what at first felt foreign is feeling more 'normal' and 'natural.'

Remember what it was like at the beginning of every new school year? After the lazier more relaxed days of summer, it took a little while to get back into the routine of going to school every day, doing homework, and balancing our time. We knew this was going to occur and we accepted it. Most of us cut ourselves some slack as we 'ramped up' to the pace we would need to sustain for the school year.

Many of our life experiences are similar to this. Some new endeavor enters our life, or a new responsibility, or challenge appears. It might feel daunting and impossible at first. It might seem like we'll never be able to do what needs to be done... day after day after day. Yet... we do!

It's important to give ourselves time to get 'back in the swing' of things when we are integrating anything new into our lives. Shway Shway, as is said in Arabic. Slowly slowly... little by little!

Wednesday, June 03, 2009

The Winding Path

Have you ever noticed that sometimes, now matter how much you might want to, you simply can't go straight to where you want to go? Sometimes the path to our destination is long and winding. It seems as though, for some reason, we have to go through a lot of things before we can reach the place we wish to reach.

I grow impatient sometimes, when i want something to be done NOW. I often expect myself to be able to figure things out quickly and accurately with no wavering. This isn't really very realistic.

I do know that sometimes, when I'm trying to solve a complex problem I have to think about something, roll it around in my mind, come at it from different angles, try different approaches, feel very lost... and then suddenly everything crystallizes and comes together. It might come in a flash, but there was a long, slow, sometimes frustrating lead up to the solution!

I guess the qualities that are needed in such situations are patience and trust. We need to remember that there is a solution and that we will get there if we keep working the problem and let the answer emerge.

These days I'm working on some complex projects that are not quick to complete. There are many decisions to be made, and those decisions need to take into account a lot of information and possibilities. It takes time and it takes a lot of 'trial runs' through different scenarios to see if they will handle what needs to be handled.

It's all part of the process. Growing impatient doesn't help anything. In fact it can thwart the creative process. Feeling like something is 'wrong' because the end result is not achieved just wastes energy.

Maybe we find ourselves in situations that take time to resolve so we can cultivate the qualities of patience and trust. Perhaps those experiences are like our curriculum for learning these two important aspects of a happy life!

Next time you find yourself wishing you were 'through' something and that it was all 'settled' and 'figured out,' remember that you are being given an opportunity to demonstrate and cultivate patience and trust in the process of life itself! When we have these gifts, life becomes much easier and more pleasant to live!

Tuesday, June 02, 2009

Working it In Around the Edges

I have come to know the importance of exercise in my daily life. It is simply no longer an option for me to go for long periods of time without it! When I'm not exercising, I don't sleep as well and I don't feel as well as I do when I'm getting regular exercise!

Sometimes life gets hectic. I used to be somewhat of an 'all-or-nothing' thinker. If I couldn't do something 'the whole way' I'd rather not do it. With regards to exercise, this might mean that if i couldn't go to the gym for an hour or go for a long run, I simply would do nothing. If I couldn't do the entire activity the way I usually did it, then I simply wouldn't do any of it.

This is a very destructive way of doing things and looking at life! There are many times in our lives where we cannot do 100% of a task when we want to do it.

At the moment, I'm in the midst of a complex and consuming project. My daily routine is very disrupted. I'm not at home. All of those things are making it difficult to get in my normal amount of exercise. When I'm home, I workout 2-3 times a week and I do cardio exercise (to get my heart rate elevated) every day. I spend 30 - 90 minutes a day on my exercising.

Now, that is simply not possible. I've had to make some changes to the expectations. I've also had to get creative about how I get my movement needs met. So I'm working it in around the edges.

For example, I'm staying on the fourth floor of a hotel here. I am walking up and down the stairs whenever I need to go anywhere. This is a little bit of exercise that I would miss if I took the elevator. Likewise, I'm walking to my destinations, as often as possible, instead of driving. Squeezing in a little bit more exercise.

Is this as effective as my normal routine? No, of course it isn't. To get me through a temporary situation, however, it is adequate. It is certainly better than throwing up my hands and saying, "oh well, if I can't go to the gym to walk on the treadmill and workout I'll just skip it."

We need to learn to let go of unrealistic and unsustainable expectations. It is really beneficial for us to operate on a model of doing whatever we can do, instead of waiting for some time when all the stars align and we can do exactly what we want to do. That day usually never comes.

It is very helpful in life to learn to work things in 'around the edges' if that's the only way we can fit them in. We can still make progress towards our goals, albeit at a slower pace. The time will pass anyway... so where will we be in one year, or five years is we do nothing? We can't stop the passage of time, but we can change our approach to how we spend it!

Monday, June 01, 2009

Rising to the Occasion

Uncertainty causes anxiety. Often times the worst aspect of an upcoming challenge or new experience is facing all of the unknowns. If you're anything like me, you might feel some doubt from time to time about whether you can handle something that is coming your way. Now matter how many times I demonstrate my competence to myself, I'm still nervous when the time comes to try something new and different!

And yet, with each new experience, I find that once it has begun, I find my way through it... step by step.

Sometimes when we are sitting at the bottom of a mountain, it can seem overwhelming and at times might even feel impossible. Then we take the first step. Then we take another. And another. And yet another. Soon we have gained altitude and things look different. At some point we start to believe we will make it to the top. What a moment that is!

Dealing with the anxiety of change and uncertainty requires courage and willingness to flail around a bit. Most of us have no idea what we are capable of until we are faced with a situation where we have to step out and do something we weren't sure we could actually do. It is a moment of trepidation for most of it, but more times than not we are able to do what needs to be done. We astound and amaze ourselves from time to time.

I remember reading a book once about a woman who was chronically depressed and unable to function very well. Then, one of the worst things that can happen in life occurred in her life. Her house burned down. Suddenly she was thrust into a situation where she HAD TO function. It snapped her out of her depression and put her on the road to recovery!

Sometimes what we consider negative or horrible experiences in our lives can be the circumstances that cause us to rise to the occasion and go beyond the limitations we perceive ourselves to have.

Let's start giving ourselves credit for our ability to go above and beyond what we often think are our limitations. Necessity is the mother of invention. Often was are propelled forward by the demands placed on us by life itself!