The Tabernacle

TabernacleIn one of my favorite movies, “Rounders”, there is a character with whom I identify very heavily.  Despite the movie starring Matt Damon and Edward Norton, two actors that show up continually in movies that I love, it is a secondary character played by Martin Landau that gets me every time.

For those who have not seen it, a quick synopsis with no spoilers.  Matt Damon plays a talented card player who has sworn off poker after losing big.  He is now in law school and working hard to recover from the loss.  Edward Norton is his best friend who has a troubled past and has just been released from jail.  The movie follows the two friends as they try to pay off old debts, monetary and other.  Martin Landau’s character, Abe Petrovsky, is a law professor who takes a liking to Damon’s character.

Like most characters that enthrall me, it is the reflection of myself in Petrovsky that is engaging.  Earlier in his life, he was disowned by his Jewish family because he did not believe in God.  Law eventually became his religion.  He helps Damon’s character because he feels a form of debt to those who allowed him to be who he was.

Now I am not Jewish and I have no great love for the law.  Catholicism was the chosen religion of my family when I was young.  I attended Sunday school and can recall more biblical text than is probably necessary for someone who is basically agnostic.  Despite my uncertainties about the higher power and all of my reservations about organized religion, there are many things that I carry with me including a sense of duty that springs from that time in my life.

Within most Catholic churches, there is a “box” called the tabernacle that holds the bread wafers and wine that represent the body and blood of Christ.  It is usually given center stage and is ornately decorated.  In this instance, the Catholic church has put emphasis on something that is extremely important to it.  Regardless of your religious affiliation or lack thereof, there are things in this world that deserve reverence and special treatment.

In a world where information is everywhere and basically everything is for sale, it is easy to lose sight of the things that are truly important.  Luckily, God, Nature, Infinite Intelligence or whatever other force you might believe in has given us our own “tabernacles” for the truly important things.  Two of your possessions are encased so deliberately that it is difficult not to recognize their importance: your mind and your heart.

In very real terms, you exist within your mind.  Every feeling, sight, smell, taste and memory is housed within the tabernacle of your skull.  This should be a most prized possession.   It should be protected, exercised, challenged and never abused.  It should be fed with ideas and filled with memories that make it want to create more.  The day should never come where it is left to the complete care of someone else.  It is almost all that you have.

Then there is the heart which keeps you alive.  Two hearts exist: the physical heart and the emotional heart.  The physical heart should be cared for and exercised.  Neglecting or abusing it will only end in pain.  The emotional heart is also key to your survival.  Although it also needs protection, it needs to be extended to people without safeguard at times.  It should not stay in the figurative tabernacle at all times.  If it does then it wilts and dies in a way that is more tragic than the stopping of the physical heart.

These are just two of things that we should hold sacred in a world that dismisses most things without a price tag.  In your life, I’m sure that there are others.  You don’t need to put them in an ornate box but rather give them what they deserve from you.

I have been given so many things “and for that I owe.”




Wash Your Face Before Your Ass

FACEAs one of my first jobs “adult” jobs, I was a pizza delivery guy.  It was great in so many ways.  Six dollars per hour under the table plus tips was pretty good pay for a young man.  When things got slow, I was also in charge of washing dishes or cleaning up the kitchen.  I recall one of the first times that I cleaned.  I was scrubbing some of the equipment and got chastised by Enzo, one of the two Italian brothers that I worked for.  I was cleaning in the wrong order.  He quickly explained that I needed to clean from the top down.  By cleaning bottom up, I might get things dirty that I’d already cleaned.  This was a simple idea but one that permeated other jobs and situations.  The order of operations became important to me and I never forgot that simple lesson.  Not every situation in life has a concrete order of operations.  Personal preferences affect so many aspects of our lives that there are very few absolutes.

Despite the lack of universal answers, there is a lot to be said for using common sense.  This is an attribute that seems to be dwindling in supply.  Unfortunately in the self-interested world that we have created, it is common to forget that we need each other.  We are so busy pushing our own agendas that we fail to realize that those around us have become deaf to us because we have failed to listen.  The first step to making ourselves understood is first to understand.  Taking the time to think about the needs of another before our own needs are met creates a bond that allows others to support us willfully.  Give that which you want to receive.

By washing your face before your ass, you are preparing the thing that you are going to show to the world.  You take no chances that it will be soiled by your own filthiness.  There are people in this world that you can trust with that but you don’t walk out into the world with it readily displayed.  Be the person that you’d like to meet on the street.  Be the friend, coworker, boyfriend, girlfriend etc. that you wish that you had.  The more that you do this, the more that you’ll find people like that.  The world is waiting for you to lead with your best face.  Very few of us should lead with our ass….

Show your best face today.



The Bird Lady

BirdsDuring my recent trip to Baltimore, I walked by a woman throwing pieces of bread to the pigeons near the docks. It was obvious from the amount of bird poop that this was a regular occurrence.  The next day as I walked by that spot at the same time, the woman was not there but the birds were there in force.  They had a learned to at least partially depend on the “bird lady” for food.  The pigeons had mildly abandoned their heritage as scavengers and become slightly domesticated.  I don’t know  that these birds were completely reliant upon the bird lady but they were definitely foregoing the hunt for the comfort of waiting for the “sure thing”.

These birds represent many of us that are caught up in the paradigm of modern civilization.  Humans were at one point hunters and gatherers.  As we developed means of food production, individuals could sustain themselves and others with their crops and domesticated animals for slaughter.  Eventually fewer people were producing food and the majority of us became consumers that relied on their work.  In many ways this is an unnatural state for man to be disconnected from his hunting instinct.  We have built systems of competition in business and sport that mimic the hunting instinct.  However in recent years it seems that people are being trained to accept only what is handed to them.  For the moment the “bird lady” is showing up regularly and handing out the bread.  What happens when the bird lady doesn’t come back?

The birds will most likely find a new place scavenge while the more “evolved” creatures will blame and complain about their circumstances.  People who have had everything handed to them fight to maintain that situation rather than adapt.  So even though a proactive approach would lead to more self determination, people abdicate the power for comfort.  Those in power will never beg you to take the initiative remove their control on your situation.  They will try to perpetuate the status quo because it only costs them scraps in exchange for keeping you under their thumb.

So look at the life that you’re leading.  Are you dependent on the bird lady for your survival?  What would you do if she disappeared?  Begin to take your independence back.  Perhaps she’s got you financially, emotionally or physically.  Regardless of the hold, you owe it to yourself to break free.

Flying high again!



Continuing Education Fuels Growth


Education is not the filling of a pail, but the lighting of a fire.

  • William Butler Yeats – Poet

Continuing education in its many forms provides the opportunity for learning and personal growth to take place throughout your entire life. It has the possibility to light a fire that burns so hot, you are willing to put forth a colossal effort to reach success. If you do not take advantage of your opportunity to continue getting better in your profession, somebody else will benefit from your indiscretion.

Continuing education works best when it is not mandatory but sought out for your own purposes of learning. Whether you read a book, listen to a podcast, talk with a mentor, or attend a class; your growth as a professional within your field is paramount to the people you influence. Adding value to the life of others deepens your personal relationships while promoting a life of humble service…

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Let’s Get FAT!

GetFatI love languages!  There are so many subtle phrases and words that can be used to invoke emotion or provoke thought.  As we use them in our daily lives it is easy to forget that most of the words that we use are hundreds or even thousands of years old.  Often the meanings can change and words that are actually related become separated.  I was reminded of this as I was running today.  As usual, I was listening to a podcast and the host mentioned a “fatal error” made by a business.  My mind got stuck on that word “fatal” and I started to think of the other words that begin with FAT.  This word rabbit hole took me to five words that stuck out: fate, fatigue, faith, fathom and father.  This word salad got me to thinking about some of the processes that we all go through in life.

Any dream, project, calling or endeavor has to start from somewhere – the FATher.  The FATher is the seed, the idea, or the start that we all need.  Once we’ve begun, we need to have FAiTh because it is the fuel that keeps us going.  Belief in the unseen at a time when there is little or no evidence that things will work out.  FATigue is the feeling thing that we will feel through all of the work that is required.  Then there is FATe which is the thing that is preordained.  It cannot be stopped because it was just meant to be.  There is fathom which can be a type of measurement but more importantly it is to gain understanding.  Then for better or worse, we end at the word that started this thought exercise – FATal.  As I looked up the origins of the word FATal, it was exactly what I thought it would be.  In the late 14th century it was used to mean “decreed by fate”.  I suppose the word took a pessimistic turn and it was only applied to the one thing that most people thought was decreed by fate.  So what does this have to do with you or I?

We all need to get FAT.  We need to plant the seeds of our wildest dreams.  Then we need to feed them with an unwavering faith in the fact that they will be realized.  The actions need to be taken that lock in the absolute certainty of our desire will wear us out.  Eventually the people who talk about us and what we have done will say that it was destiny.  Gaining a better understanding of ourselves or the world through what we’ve done.  All things come to and end but if we are willing to get FAT perhaps they’ll meet the end that we want.

So go get FAT today.



Invisible People

InvisibleAs a teacher, I take pride in the fact that I learn all of my students’ first and/or last name within the first three days of class.  Learning the names of over 100 people in that amount of time is not always easy but it is good for building a rapport with people.  There are plenty of tricks to acquiring information that quickly.  Unfortunately the honest truth is that I don’t remember all of the names after the year is over.  The other day a former student came to visit and it took about five minutes for me to remember her first name.  While I’m not proud of this event, I don’t feel all that badly about it either.  The information was in there but just not near the top of the filing system.  I feel much worse when I first meet someone and less than a minute later, I don’t remember their name.

There are many reasons why this happens but a major one is that new people aren’t usually important to us yet.  In English class you may remember your teacher talking about the “first person”, “second person” and “third person”.  That basically represents the way that we used to define people’s importance.  In a pre-technology world, the most important person in our lives was ‘self’.  This was followed by the people we had contact with directly.  Finally there was the rest of the world that held up that third position.  Now there is a third class of people, invisible.

Invisible people are all around us.  Of course they’re not truly invisible.  We can see them if we look hard enough.  The reason we usually don’t see them is because we’re looking at our phone, TV or tablet.  In theory these should be “third person”, people that are there but you are not directly interacting with.  The problem is that position has now been replaced by the “second person”.  These are the people that we are in direct contact with but today they are almost universally ignored in favor of the digital.  The digital second person is basically the default contact that we reach to before anyone else.  For some, it seems as though all people have become invisible people.

So this weekend, give life back to the invisible people.  Take the time to see who is there.  Engage with people you know and don’t know on human level.  Remember that a hug is better than text.  A smile is better than a like.  Time with an old friend is better than a new Facebook friend.  Technology is a tool just like a hammer.  Used correctly, both are intended to build.  Used incorrectly, both have the possibility to destroy.  Be human this weekend and visit with the invisible people.


The Lake House (When Less Is More)

LakeHouseGrowing up, my grandparents owned an A-frame house in the Pocono Mountains.  It remains one of my favorite places in the world even though they sold it over 20 years ago.  This place was spectacular!  It had no TV, only a radio that may have been from the 1950’s.  There was no running water, we had to fill 5 gallon jugs at the spring nearby.  The toilet was filled by rainwater that needed to be pumped into the basin after each use.  There were exactly two bedrooms and about twelve beds.  The master bedroom was on the first floor and it contained one king size bed.  The rest of the beds were set up end to end in two columns on the second floor varying from a crib up to a queen size.  At maximum capacity, the second floor could sleep about 20 people.  It was located on a gravel road about a half mile from a lake with a small sand beach.  The nearest store or other forms of civilization were at least five miles away.  It was a wonderful place to vacation.

By many standards, this might seem like the exact opposite of a vacation spot.  It seemingly lacks all of the comfort that one might look for in a week away.  However everything that was lacking was what made it so great.  The lack of TV forced everyone to find other ways to entertain themselves.  My brothers and I caught salamanders.  We raced them down the gutters on the side of the house.  My grandmother taught us to play rummy and other card games at night.  The lack of running water made us conscious of our resources.  Also everyone had to pitch in with finding firewood for cooking or carrying supplies from the car on arrival.  The communal sleeping arrangements forced people to get along and be respectful of the needs of others.  We had everything that we needed when we had nothing that most people would have wanted.

In our fast paced, consumer based world, most of us do not lack resources but rather resourcefulness.  Having more things is not particularly the answer.  Now that most Americans have most of their needs met, satisfying their wants has not particularly made them any happier.  Since more is not particularly the answer, perhaps the answer lies in better and deeper forms of less.  Rather than having 500 Facebook friends, it might be better to have 5 irreplaceable friends.  In the place of better resolution on your flat-screen, put more resolve into the relationships with the cast in your own life.

I’m not saying that you can’t have it all.  I’m saying that the key to having it all may be enjoying all that you can from all that you have.  Less will always be more if it is appreciated for what it is and not lamented for all that it lacks.

Double down on a person or situation that really deserves it.




Gravity’s Pull

GravityMy mother is a spectacular cook.  Her cookies are famous among our family and friends.  She makes sensational macaroni and cheese.  Although I don’t eat them, I’ve been told that her apple pie is the best.  I’ve started off with this shower of compliments because my mom is also a bit clumsy.  She has fallen and hurt herself quite a few times.  Once she broke her ankle without even falling down.  She and gravity are not the fondest of friends.

It is a force that sometimes wreaks havoc on her life.  Gravity could be seen as a force that pulls us down but more accurately it is a force that makes us lift ourselves up.  Gravity is not overwhelming.  It is a relatively small amount of resistance to endure.  We’ve become quite adept as a species at defeating gravity in a variety of ways.  At the moment our problem is not that we cannot overcome resistance, it is that we do not face enough of it.

In the modern world, we face so little resistance on a daily basis that we have forgotten or never learned how to overcome it.  The challenges of most days are nothing more than annoyance.  With so little an amount of resistance against us, we should be able to break free of their pull and almost fly.  BUT we don’t.  The reason that we don’t is simple.  We’re afraid.  Afraid that we’ll fail.  Afraid that we’ll lift off but then fall.  Afraid that someone will see us and laugh.  Gravity is a force, a constant that we can work around.  We did not create it but we can figure a way around it.  Why can’t we do the same thing with fear?  Unlike gravity, it does not have to be a constant and we create it.  So getting around it or destroying it completely is well within our grasp.  Fashion your wings and fly.



Reversing Now

RightNowWith a very quick internet search, I found a list of 225 stadiums in the United States.  This list does not  come close to covering all of the high school and college stadiums that exist.  However the number does illustrate pretty easily that we are obsessed with competition in this country.  The enormous salaries of professional athletes further shows that we put a huge value on competition.  Visiting one of those stadiums would make something else very clear.  Special attention is paid to championship seasons.  This means that the team either won more than anyone else or won when it mattered most.  Despite this overwhelming obsession with competition and results, in life we tend to ignore the games that are most meaningful.

The reason that we ignore is because there is no stadium, scoreboard or crowd.  The game that we are playing is the game of NOW.  Each moment of our life can be WON or lost.  NOW is the only game that matters and there are too many opponents to count.

We lose NOW to laziness.

We lose NOW to procrastination.

We lose NOW to fear.

We lose NOW to indifference.

We lose NOW to foolishness.

We lose NOW to the promise of later.

NOW has to be WON.  The beauty of this game is that we are in control of the rules, the scoring, and the opponents that we allow to play.  NOW is a rigged game if we’re willing to take control of it.

Decide today!  How do I win this moment?  How do I string a large number of winning moments together?  Have I been losing without even knowing?  Life is a game in so many ways.  Don’t forget that you’re the referee and the score keeper.  And most of all, don’t forget to lace up and start playing NOW!