The End of the World…or something like it.

So, we are about T-minus 12 hours away from the end of our world as we know it. That is according to a number of groups on the blogosphere but most predominately propagated by a man named Herald Camping.

Mr. Camping’s belief is that the Evangelical theory of the Rapture; the gathering of the Christian elect into the clouds to meet with Jesus and be pulled way from the planet prior to the coming events of the tribulation as explained in the book of Revelations, is upon us (That’s a mouth full). In fact, according to his biblical numerical reasoning, the event is to happen on May 21, 2011.

Let’s take a moment to examine this idea. Let’s say for instance, that Mr. Camping is somehow correct. That indeed, the biblical rapture is upon us and the saints are about to be swept up into the clouds. Well, I guess their interpretation of the biblical text was correct. However, I have a hard time seeing it that way. The largest reason being that whatever is, or is not, headed our way as far as future events, we are all responsible and accountable to them.

If we hold to the idea that the future is an infinite wave of potential possibilities, then our individual and collective choices cascade this wave into the present moment of reality: Our reality. This being the case, we as a human species and all the individuals that make it up, find ourselves at this point in history dealing with these circumstances; some of which have been created by us and others are naturally occurring. I’m confident that God has little interest in sweeping from the face of the planet those that are as individually and collectively responsible for the mess we find ourselves in as the rest of us.

Let’s also examine the idea that Mr. Camping is completely off his rocker but due to some sort of cosmic punchline, something does indeed happen tomorrow; something miraculous, something astounding. It’s possible. Under those circumstances, this kook can take credit for it. He can spin his way into a position of prominence because human beings scare easily and have a tendency to follow fools when they freak. That’s not going to be much fun.

Then there is the possibility that nothing at all will happen. After all, that is what has happened the hundreds or even thousands of time that some guy with a bible and a podium has proclaimed the coming rapture and set a date to it. Perhaps tomorrow will come and go, the sun will rise, the winds will blow and the world will awake to yet another day. Well, then the only folks that will make good on the promise of the global demise will be your local Costco retailer: they are utilizing the natural human frenzy of the moment to profit by selling 20 year shelf life “Food Stuff” in a 5lb bucket and emergency kits. It retails for about $75.00.

 All of this silliness, whether real or fiction, doesn’t negate the fact that we do indeed live in interesting times. We all seem to feel it and our collective emotional state seems heightened towards disaster and distress. Maybe it’s our new-found global connectedness or maybe it’s the result of living on a steady diet of fear these past 10 years. Whatever the case, you should be prepared. Not because the end is near but because we live in a dynamic and changing world. Sometimes, the ground under you does move, the sky does fall and shit happens.

You owe it to your family and your neighbors to have an emergency kit prepared. I’m putting one together now and I’ll post the details soon. Until then, be wise, stay safe and think of others.

-Plowline

A Boy and his Ponies

There once was a young man who lived on a ranch. His parents had died when he was very young. They told the young man that they had come to the ranch looking for work . They told him that they had died one day while on a picnic. They had told him that that they had been stampeded to death by a mob of wild mustangs who didn’t see them in their path.

 He was raised by one of the ranch hands named Larry. Larry was a simple man who taught the boy how to work hard and to earn a days wage. The boy grew up around the cows and horses and donkeys that worked on the ranch with the men. He was a strong and quiet lad without much to say.

 One day, the boy lassoed a donkey and began riding it around. He rode the beast all day and all night. In the morning, the ranch hands came out to find the boy and the ass trotting through the east yard half dead. They boy ran the beast into the ground.

 They pulled the boy from the ass and carried him off to bed. He mumble to himself as they did about how he would tame the mustangs. He carried on about how he had showed that wild stallion that he wouldn’t be trampled by trampling the beast first. The men were confused but put the young man to bed and let him rest.

 The next day, the boy carried on as normal without any explanation as to his actions. The work men asked no questions and went about their daily duty. One morning a week later, the boy lassoed another donkey and out of the corral grounds he road bareback with a hackamore loop around the poor beast snout. He violently spurred at the beast. He hooped and hollered and many of the work men hopped and hollered back.

 The young man was encouraged by their response and spurred the ass on into the wild lands beyond the ranch. As he disappeared into the woods beyond the fields he could be heard yelling as the beast cried in agony. The ranch hands waited for the boy to emerge from the woods but as his yelling fell silent they just shrugged and went back to work. 

 The next morning, Larry got up early to go and look for the young man. He hadn’t returned. As he emerged from the bunkhouse he was shocked to find the young man and his ass laying on the ground. The animal was bloodied and frothing. Larry ran to the young man to see if he was alive and was surprised to find the young man breathing. He pulled the him out from under the dead ass and took him inside to let him sleep.

 The next day the ranch owner came to talk with the young man. He asked him why he was abusing his animals the way he was. The young man looked at the ranchman with confusion. What do you mean, he asked. I’m breaking those damn wild mustangs. They won’t be a bother to anyone anymore. I’m going to break every one of them. The ranchman was confused. He tried to explain to the young man that he was hurting his animals but the young man wouldn’t listen. The ranchman warned him not to touch his donkeys again.

 Two days later, before the sun was up, the ranch hands were awoken by the yelps and cries of a donkey and the young man. They didn’t bother to dress. The grabbed their coats and ran out into the yard in their sleeping clothes and bare feet. They caught the last glimpse of the young man and the beast as he road it out into dawn’s dim light across the fields.

 After a full day had passed, the ranchman sent out a search party to find the young man. They tracked him for almost a full day before they found the body of the donkey. It was bloodied and frothing from spurs and exhaustion.  They boy was nowhere to be found. The ranch hands search for two more days before they gave up their search all together.

 One morning, weeks later, the young man was spotted by Larry as he snuck into the barn. Larry ran into the barn to head him off but the young man was already slipping a rope onto a donkey. What are you doing? Larry asked. I’m taming these mustangs Larry, the young man replied. Those aren’t mustangs my boy. Those are jackasses. The boy looked at the beast and said, if these are jackasses then what have I been doing? I don’t know, replied Larry. Why are you trying to tame the mustangs in the first place my boy? Because they killed my parents. But why are you killing these Jackasses? Because I don’t want to die, the young man replied.

 With that, the boy kicked open the stall and leaped onto the Donkey. It bawled as he dug his spurs into it’s sides and the animal kicked past Larry and pushed him down. The beast reared and bolt and as it did, Larry was struck in the head with his rear hoof. The ranch hands called out to the young man as he road off across the fields but he didn’t stop. They ran into the barn to see what happened and they found Larry. He was dead.

 The ranchman formed a posses to find the boy and bring him in. He was to be arrested and stand trial for the death of Larry and his donkeys. They looked for two days and finally found the animal. It had been rode to death. They looked for two more days for the young man and on the last day they found his body. He was bloodied and broken. All around him the ground was torn and dug at by hundreds of hoof marks. The young man had been trampled to death.

That Feeling of Failing

Failing can leave you feeling devastated. Sometimes failing is caused by our own actions. Sometimes it’s caused by the actions of others or circumstances out of our control. Despite the effort or energy we put into our endeavor, it just doesn’t seem to right itself and we end up ejected out the other side. No matter how it happens, failure shakes  at the core of your identity and we are left with the aftermath to sift through and deal with. 

 I have personally have been fired from several jobs and failed several business. I’ve been married twice and divorced once. I’ve experienced eviction, bankruptcy and repossession and I can tell you that all of these situation leave a person standing in the dumbfounding gap between what-I-had and what-I-have-no-longer. 

The big question that constantly rings in my ears is ‘who am I?’. If I am left without any of the landmarks of a life-well-lived then what kind of life do I have? It certainly isn’t the life that I was planning for and working towards. The ideas of raising a family and building a life with my first wife disappeared with divorce. Building my value through the things I can buy are no longer reachable once the job that afforded them is gone. The plans for the front yard and building a community of neighbors disappeared as quickly as the house did. 

 The worst thing about failure is that I can’t drink, smoke or fuck my way out of it. Hell, I can’t even climb out of it. After all, in this life, we all start out in a hole and now that I’ve failed at something, I’m only deeper in that same hole. No amount of distraction or sought-after-salvation can change that fact. That’s the reason why we all started grasping for the bigger house, nicer cars and the better job in the first place; to fill the hole in our lives that never fills. 

The only way out of this hole is through the bottom. You’ve got to touch ground before you can walk out. I’ve tried to scramble to the top but no matter how much shit I put under my feet, the top just gets father away. So, let’s try something different. I’ve touched bottom before but only for a moment; in the midst of divorce or loss in my past. Those moments were peaceful and I found a sense of serenity with myself. However,  life moved on and so did I and I began to try and fill the void again. This time I’m going to try something different. I’m going to act on the lessons I’ve already learned from failure. 

The first lesson is not to be ashamed of failing. Failure doesn’t have to be the shame ridden wallowing that it so often is. I’ve been there and it doesn’t accomplish anything. Attitudes and perspectives that include, ‘I’m fucked’ or ‘my life is ruined’ only keep people in one place; stuck. Sometimes for a very long time. What I’m talking about is moving in a direction. In a direction that is the opposite of what we think it should be: Down. 

The second lesson is to identify the patterns. I can see the clear patterns of behavior that got me to this place. I’ve got an ego. We all do. This ego acts as the lens between me and the way I see the world. There are some flaws in that lens. For instance, I consistently take the lead when it’s not mine to take. I have a belief that I’m destined for a future purpose rather than living out my purpose daily. I limit my perceived risk by taking control. I avoid my feelings of hurt and pain by masking them with anger. My self-inventory is long. 

The third lesson is to take accountability. I’m going to try to take accountability in all consequences of my life; even those that don’t seem to be my doing. Consequences are the outcomes of choices that I or others have made that affect my life. Every choice has an outcome and they stack on top of each other until they become a pattern. Sometimes those consequences are fruitful and inspire others. Sometimes those consequences are painful and they sever relationships. 

Whether it’s my choices or someone else’s that directly or indirectly resulted in painful outcomes is irrelevant. To try and make a distinction between direct or indirect consequences means that blame must be involved. To see things through blame is to not be honest with myself. For instance, if I get into a car and drive a mile down the road and a drunk driver hits me, there are two different questions I can ask myself. The first is who is accountable? The alternative question is who is to blame? 

If I choose to seek my answers in the question of who is to blame than I become a victim of my circumstances. I’m choosing a life that is at the whim or will of some drunk fool’s decision get behind the wheel of a car. Yes, he  is accountability but so am I. If I choose accountability, I’m giving myself a chance for self-exploration and that is the only way to the bottom. I ask myself, who is accountable to this accident, then I can take a self-inventory of the circumstances that lead up to it. 1) I choose to get into my car. 2) This other driver chose to drive drunk. 3) those two choice collided and hurt people. 

The fourth lesson is to take responsibility. I am choosing to be accountable for getting into the car therefore I am taking responsibility for how I responded to the situation. To choose my response (response-ability) allows me to be free of the self-imposed burden of blame and victimization. I can now be empowered to move on with my life with whatever pieces I have left; to rebuild. The same is true with being fired, losing a business, losing a house or losing a spouse. It’s painful! It feels like an awful weight bearing down on you but the question is, how will you respond? 

I am accountable for the choices I made in getting myself fired. I choose to use credit. I choose an interest only loan. I choose to start a business. I choose to get married and I choose who I married. Once I take accountability for my choices, I’m free to make different choices. That wouldn’t be the case if I choose blame. Blame locks me into only seeing someone else’s choice. It focuses me on what they did to make this situation happen. Without close examination of my own choices I can never move forward with my life. I can never see things from a different perspective. I will repeat my mistakes because I have not allowed myself to become aware of the mechanisms in my decision making processes that lead me to these results. 

It’s not easy. It hurts. Everyday it hurts. It’s pain that I’m feeling right now. I am so tempted to bury this feeling. I was fired from my job 5 days ago. This was my first job after closing my business a year ago. In the wake of that, I lost my home and most of what I owned. Now I’ve got too much time on my hands. My days are spent toiling to be productive in a void of unproductivity . I could fill them with TV  or surfing the internet. That’s easy to do. I could try and fill the void with drinking or smoking to ease my mind. I’ve tried it before and it only makes the hole feel deeper. This time, I’m going to try and learn from the lessons that I’ve had to endure before. I’m going to try and take an honest look at this emptiness below my feet and see if I can reach the bottom. It’s down there somewhere.