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Life at 65 MPH

GapThis afternoon I was driving back from Pennsylvania through the Delaware Water Gap.  As I was driving, I listened to the audio version of a biography on Teddy Roosevelt (I’m really cool).  As I listened to the stories of events that happened a century ago, it started me thinking about my surroundings.  The Delaware Water Gap is a marvel of nature that makes the one hundred year space between Teddy and I seem like a millisecond.  I wondered, where are we going in such a hurry?

The pace of almost everything seems to skyrocketing upward.  For example travel: in little over one hundred years, we’ve gone from walking, riding horses and trains to cars to planes to supersonic jets to hyper-loops (Elon Musk).  The pace is not limited to travel.  It affects technology, communication, commerce and change.

As we move at this speed, it seems that in many ways the world is getting smaller.  We can get to a place in three hours that used to take several days.  We can communicate with someone on the other side of the world instantaneously.  While this speed is a great advantage in many respects, it does rob us of the details that life has to offer.  At 65 MPH the river and the mountains are a moving backdrop to a functional carnival ride.  Having hiked the trails in the Gap, I know there’s a large stream that empties into the river.   My kids have played on the moss covered stones and tickled their toes with the crisp clear water.  You can’t get there traveling at 65 MPH.  You need to slow down, stop the car and get out to walk.  Speed is efficient but is it effective?

The underlying thought that keeps coming back to me is, where are we going in such a hurry?  If our destination is new frontiers that we’ve never seen then I’m fully in favor.  If we are trying to get to McDonald’s before they stop serving breakfast, then I wonder if we’ve missed something.  If we are on the web or our phones to extract new ideas from thought leaders that we’d never get the chance to meet in real life, then the price of our data package is worth it.  If we are re-watching the same youtube video of the kitten playing the piano 100 times, then the price is too high.  Inventions are intended to enhance our experiences and not rob them from us.

sunriseAs we move faster and the world gets smaller, I hope that we take time to truly experience life.  Use the technology that you have as a key to open doors rather than a chain to lock you down.  If you have a device in your pocket that can contact almost anyone you choose, use it to tell someone something of substance.  Don’t text them a message that says nothing.  Our lives should be filled with experiences that make it worth the while.  Blurring those experiences with speed and efficiency may get us more experience but it will be more blurriness.

“Quality or Quantity.  Don’t tell me they’re the same!”  – Greg Graffin

Go out and experience!

Pete

 

 

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Ketchup Sandwiches!

Ketchup SandwichWhen I was a kid, I was an extremely picky eater.  For an extended period of time, the one food that I would make for myself was ketchup sandwiches.  It really needs no explanation but just in case, it is simply two pieces of bread with ketchup in the middle.  (Do not judge my mother, I did this mainly at her protest or without her knowledge.)

Ketchup is intended to be a condiment.  Something that is a taste enhancer.  It should not have been a staple of anyone’s diet.  However I made it a center of my diet between my sandwiches and drowning things so completely in ketchup that I was often asked, “do you want fries with your ketchup?”  Luckily this was just a phase and eventually I found a lot more foods to fill my plate.  It’s an easy thing to explain away in these terms.  A young boy, who is afraid to try new foods, relies heavily on something that is safe but nutritionally empty to make it through.

This concept becomes more difficult to explain when we look at ourselves.  We’re not little kids anymore yet we cling heavily to things of little or no value.  In small doses, things like junk food, television, alcohol, etc. are not life altering forces.  However when those “condiments” become staples of your life’s diet, it is hard to say whether you are truly living or if you are just alive.

I’m looking in the mirror here.  Have a great weekend people!

Pete

 

 

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The Next Layer of Skin

LifesaversStay with me on this one!  To a certain extent, I wish that each layer of my skin were a different color like a stack of Lifesavers in a rainbow progression.  Each layer would disappear over a set amount of time revealing the next color in the order.  Within a week or so, I would be red, orange, yellow, green, blue etc.  Beside the obvious reduction in racism, I think it would help get past a problem that I think many of us have.  We cannot see past ourselves.

We see ourselves as consistent beings and therefore we act and think consistently with that picture.  The truth is that we are always changing but those changes are so subtle that we do not perceive them.  So when we truly do need to change, we think that it will be difficult or that we are incapable of change.  At some point we need to recognize that we can be more than what we perceive that we are.

We need to be able to see the greatness that is on the horizon.  Our progress or lack of it is a decision.  Do we allow ourselves to see the person who is six layers of skin away?  Or do we accept the “Who I have been is who I will be.”  So the challenge is down to you.

Can you see the greatness inside of your own skin?  Are you willing to do the things necessary to dig for that person that hides underneath?  Or is your skin an imperceptible covering that gets washed down the drain of your shower along with your hopes and dreams?  If only we were multicolored and could say, “by the time I turn green I’m going to ______________!”  We are always shedding skin, so figure out what your ideal skin looks like and put it on underneath.

See the best you inside today.

Pete

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Choose Your Near Death Experience

Rocky Feet

This photo was taken on January 18th 2015 at approximately 7:15am.  If you don’t recognize the location, this is the top of the steps at the Philadelphia Museum of Art affectionately known as the “Rocky Steps”.  The relevance of the time and the date is that it was lightly raining that morning but the temperature dropped suddenly and the steps became extremely slick.  About thirty seconds after I took this photo, I started my descent, slipped and fell on the steps.  My upper back and pelvis both hit the points of two steps.  I lay there on my back for a moment with no air in my lungs trying to decide just how hurt I was.  Thirty seconds after standing on a spot of personal inspiration, I was on my back wondering if I could get up.

After peeling myself off the ground and determining that I was battered but not broken, I slowly worked my way back to my hotel.  As I walked, I thought of how close I could have been to real injury.  The “what if” question ran through my mind several times when finally, my thoughts rested on George Lucas.  His fate was changed by a near fatal car accident.  It changed his entire perspective on his life and what he was doing.   Many people have near death experiences that change their lives forever.

The key to the near death experience is that it reminds us how temporary life is.  We often forget for long stretches of time that in essence we’re dying.  The number of tomorrows that we will get is limited.  So today’s value is enhanced because we got so close to not having a tomorrow.

Rather than waiting for that experience to come, shouldn’t we just choose it instead.  Choosing a life that recognizes how close death could be.  What if your actions of today were what determined whether or not you got a tomorrow?  How would you live?  Would you have any doubts about the things that were priorities?  It all becomes clear when tomorrow isn’t a guarantee.

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In Your Honor

I’m not sure of the exact date but I remember the day when I knew that I had that thing in me that a parent needs.  My wife and I were at my in-laws’ lake house.  I was on the phone inside the house when I heard a strange kind of screech then my wife called for me.  I dropped the phone and ran outside.  When I got to where she was, I saw what had caused the screech.  My dog, Kelme, pinned on his back by another dog in the bed of rocks that descended down into the lake.  I was on the deck that was about fifteen feet above where Kelme and his attacker were.  Without a thought, I hopped over the railing, dropped the fifteen feet and miraculously landed safely on the jagged rocks right next to the two dogs.  Luckily the other dog got completely spooked by my sudden appearance and bolted quickly.  So I did not have to engage in the vicious fight with a dog that I anticipated.  I scooped Kelme up and took him to the vet.

This morning I was reminded of this experience while on my run and listening to the Foo Fighters’ song “In Your Honor”.  The line “In Your Honor, I would die tonight!” is the one that hammers the point of that experience home.  I gave absolutely no thought to my own safety in that situation and justifiably so.  In my view, it is inherent to being a parent that you put the welfare of your children above your own.  After that experience, I knew that I had that inside of me.  I know with complete certainty that I would be willing to make the ultimate sacrifice for my children, trading my life for theirs.  Today while listening to that song, I decided that there is another level to that equation.

The idea of the sacrificial trade holds but my hope is that we never get there.  So “In Their Honor”, I will not be dying but what if instead “In Their Honor” I lived?  If I am willing to make the ultimate sacrifice, why not make some of the smaller sacrifices and live life to the fullest?  Show them that my purpose is not particularly to give everything that I have in order that they might live.  My purpose should be to give my best attempt at this life in order that they might follow that example.  Perhaps the sum total of all of those little sacrifices will be a greater gift because they get to keep their father and he is someone to be proud of.

Luke and Emmy, In Your Honor, I will live tonight!

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Picnic Baskets and Swiss Army Knives

SwissArmyKnifeEvery year I hike part of the Appalachian Trail with my brother.  It is one of my favorite events of the year.  First, it is time spent with one of my best friends.  Second, it is enjoyable to forget about comfort for two days and walk into the woods with only the supplies we can carry.  It’s not army survival training by any stretch but it’s not a picnic either.  We never bring a picnic basket but we always bring a Swiss Army Knife.  The tools that you pack on any adventure say a lot about what you are expecting, what you can handle and whether or not you’ll survive.

picnicbasketOne of my greatest concerns is the youth of today are under-prepared to deal with the challenges they will face.  I fear that in many respects kids today are walking into the woods with picnic baskets.  They are anticipating that everything will continue to be easy.  The tests of life will be multiple choice.  If they need it, they’ll get extra time to complete their work.  Mommy or daddy will always be available to fix their problems.  Unfortunately this picnic basket life that they are anticipating doesn’t exist.  What happens when they find out that life is not always a picnic?

My hope is that we never get to that point.  I want the young people that I have contact with to leave the basket at home and take the Swiss Army Knife.  Start equipping themselves with any and every tool that they can to survive effectively in the woods of life.

The reason that I use the Swiss Army Knife in this metaphor is its adaptability to many situations.  The world is changing at an increasingly rapid pace.  Yet many young people seem to have trouble keeping up with the status quo.  The expectation that tomorrow will be like yesterday is foolish. It will leave us at least two steps behind where we need to be.

Whether you realize it or not, you’re in the woods. Did you pack well?  If not, maybe now you should look around for supplies.