Posts Tagged: fear

Feb 13

Don’t Fence Me In


Yep… me again, and yes one more entry about South Africa (SA).

But before you grimace and start moving your cursor to the exit icon, stick with me.  I think you will find the topic quite interesting.

The pictures above are examples of the typical fence you see here in the US.

For the most part fences here serve as decorative accent and provide visible separation between property lines.  They are meant to keep little kids or pets from darting out of the yard into the streets.

Usually the fences in the US aren’t designed to keep people out.  Yes, we do have security fences around some businesses such as the one below but they tend to be the exception rather than the rule.

In all honesty fences like this are designed to be more of a deterrent than actual security.  A person can easily cut through the chains.  And yes, there are a few affluent areas where subdivisions use security fences and gated entry.

All of this talk about fences brings me to the second thing that screamed at me while I was in SA.

There are massive, keep you out, don’t come near, make you bleed, don’t even try, you’ll be sorry fences everywhere.  I mean everywhere.

Virtually every home, business, and church were surrounded by amazing security fences.  I am not talking about fences in just the nice part of town.  Even in the poorer areas, each little home had a fence and gate of their own designed to keep people out.

Here are a few pictures to give you a sense of the typical fence.

The only place you did not see these types of fences were in the “informal settlements” where the poorest of the poor lived.

Yes, SA has had very violent times in their history.  And yes, poverty is rampant thus making theft a major problem.  I understand all of this.

Here is the point that struck me.

I know the “Why” but I don’t know the effect on the people.

I have really wondered what the psychological affect is on the people where all they know is massive security fences designed to keep one safe by keeping people out.  You live your life behind a security wall.


Fear is the highest fence.
- Dudley Nichols


It is obviously fear based.  Now don’t get me wrong.  I am not judging them.  I would probably do the same thing if I lived there.

The point I am making is that there has to be an emotional toll living in a world behind a security wall.

What does it do to a person living with the norm of walled security?  Maybe nothing.

All I know is that when I returned home to fenceless neighborhoods and openness between houses I rejoiced in the feeling of freedom not needing to live behind a barbed wire topped wall.

The contrast between the two worlds was striking.

Like most of the entries I post, I don’t have a convenient answer to all the weird life questions I surface.

Maybe you have some insights that will shed light on the psychological or social impact of a world of barbed wire walls.

Well, enough of South Africa.  See you Thursday.


Nov 10

Color Me Gray

Hi, good to see you again.  I didn’t know you would want to be seen with me again after I revealed my teenage sortie into the world of dirty movies.

Okay, are you ready to step off the ledge with me again?  Here goes.

Today I address the fourth element that made the scenario with the crying girl (10/14 blog) so challenging.  For some reason this is the toughest for me.

Element # 4:  Race

If gender magnified the complexity a hundred times, race multiplied that a thousand times more.

The girl was black, I am white.  The only scenario where it would have raised more societal red flags would have been if the races were reversed.  Very sad and undeserved, but true.

This race thing has become a very confusing and heartbreaking issue to me.  And it makes me mad, really mad, and I don’t know what to do about it.

Side Note: I know that somewhere during this blog (if not already) I will offend someone… not from intention but ignorance.

If you are a black person reading this I will most likely say something insensitive or racist and not even know it.   Please accept my apologies.

If you are a white person… I’m sure I will offend you too.  Some may think that I’m making it a bigger deal than it needs to be and others will think that I should be more accepting and understanding.

The race topic is one of those subjects that top the Pucker Chart.   The Pucker Chart is any topic that when broached makes your butt pucker.  Things like politics and religion fall into the category also.

Personal Historical Context

Uggggh, I detest this full disclosure stuff.  Strangely I am much more embarrassed and ashamed to talk about my past regarding racism than I did talking about the sexual exploration as a teen in the last blog.

Growing up it was typical to use phrases that were derogatory toward lots of groups.  I hate to admit it but I used the “N” word and also derogatory names for other culture groups like the polish, Mexicans (Hispanic now), Indians (Native Americans now), Japanese (Asian now), etc.

I also told jokes at the expense of each of these groups.  Some really bad jokes, very embarrassing.

I am not a racist now… but then again I didn’t think that I was racist then.  Unfortunately that was state of our country at the time.  I am in no way justifying or legitimizing this behavior.  It is just a factor that feeds the complexity of the issue.

Another thing that feeds the complexity of racism is the justification that occurs when humor is used to poke at the differences between groups.  For example, I made jokes about people from the south, Canada, Yankees (not the baseball team), poor people, rich people, Catholics… basically anyone that was different.

I do know the difference between natural fun hearted bantering and harmful jabbing… intent.  Some people may try to make it a finer line than it is, but if you’re honest with yourself you know if there is an edge.

As I stated earlier, I am not racist.  But the reality is I am sure there are things of a racial nature that I am totally blind to.

Now is where I probably get into trouble.  I reflect on the racial division in our city, state and country.  Although there appears to be more opportunity, the divide seems to be greater than in the past.  So as a starting point I thought I would share some things that I feel pretty certain to be true.

I am certain that….

  • Racism is worse in the US than I think it is
  • Racism is not as rampant or bad in the US as some think it is
  • To change racism in our world it must start with me
  • It is my responsibility to be open and work on me regarding what I need to learn about my racism and not anyone else

The rest of the racial issue is up in the air.  I have some beliefs and I want to test those but I cannot say that I am sure about them.

But this I know… I am certain about my intent.  My heart is right even though my head may have some faulty assumptions and misinformation.

I do not want to prolong this topic but I will tackle a few beliefs in the coming blogs to see what I need to learn regarding racism.

See you Thursday.

May 10

Runnin’ on Empty

Hi, I feel better today.  But that still doesn’t mean I will have anything meaningful to say.  As most of you know… I just write what pops into my head.

Every now and then something worthwhile tumbles out and it surprises me as much as it does you.  But that is the joy of opening one’s self.  You will never really know what amazing things are inside of you unless you take the risk to open yourself up in a creative process and be willing to empty yourself. 

The reality is, I’m not special.  I am truly an ordinary guy with issues, insecurities, good points and bad points.  The only thing that makes me a bit different is that I am taking a step to open up and empty myself.

I’m trying not to worry about what people think; I just open up my head and heart and allow my life to flow out. 

Humm… empty one’s self.  That is a foreign concept in our society.  It’s counterintuitive.  The human default is to focus on self and make sure your needs and wants are filled.  I am no different than anyone else.  But this blog journey I started in January is different.  It is not a journey for fulfillment, self-realization or higher awareness.  It is genuine journey of liberating exploration.  I am trying to let down my natural defenses and just empty self.

You may be wondering why in the world a person would want to empty themselves and take the risk. 

Basically, I believe that everyone has all kinds of interesting stuff inside.  There are amazing insights, thoughts, facts, and information squirreled away in all the nooks and crannies of our mind.   Usually there is so much stuff packed in our heads and hearts that it seems cluttered and makes no sense most of the time. 

I think our minds are sort of like my house now.  We just moved and the rooms are stacked with all kinds of boxes and the clutter is overwhelming.  I know that there is some good stuff in there somewhere but I have no idea where things are.

I want to challenge you.  I want to stir you to consider the possibility of a new creative outlet… just as a starting point.

The perfectionist inside of you will scream for details and demand perfection.  Don’t worry about that… just start something.  As I said in an earlier blog, “Movement is key not direction.”

I have a friend that has a sign beside his office door that says, “Die Empty”.  That is challenging to me and encouraging at the same time. 

I feel I really don’t have anything of value to offer.  But I am attempting to empty myself.  I am opening the door to the cluttered room and pushing stuff out.  Most likely nothing will ever come of this blog… but what if?  What if someone is challenged to step out and take a risk and they write that song that has been nagging them, or take that class that has held some interest but scared them. 

A pebble thrown in the water makes a small ripple.  My blog is a small stone and I toss it out. 

One more point… and it is the most sobering point of all.  I am not trying to be melodramatic when I say this, but the reality is, anything left inside dies with you… lost forever.  The encouragement to the friend in need, the book that will never be written, the song that will never be birthed by a voice, the canvas that won’t be beautifully covered, the boat unsailed, the letter not written, the touch not given.

And the sad truth is we lose because you kept full… and honestly… you lose too.

I challenge you to open the door and start tossing stuff. 

See you later my risk taking friend.

Feb 10

The Vacant Look

The page is blank and I face the screen with this dazed stare.  The same kind of void look you only see in the eyes of zombies in “B” rated movies.  Or a better example is the completely vacant look of the young cashier who must make change manually because the electronic register has crashed.  No one home!

My mind is empty and creativity no where to be found.  I guess you might say I am resting on a rock.  I know that sitting on a rock sounds weird but it makes a little sense if you have been following the trek I have been on.

So I guess today my mind was tired and decided to stop for a rest.  Maybe I needed it after the weighty stuff we have been talking about in the past couple of blogs.

Pretty sad if you ask me…  nine entries and I need a rest already.  I need the rest because writing is not an easy task for me.  I don’t feel very competent at this writing thing so the energy expended is greater.  Have you ever notice how much energy it takes to do something that is so easy for some other people.

Let’s face it.  When a person is naturally gifted at something they tend to wonder why it is such a challenge for someone else who is struggling.  I do the same thing.  I have a few talents that come so easily and naturally that I believe it should be easy for others.  In fact, I’m sorry to say, I’ve gotten frustrated with people because I thought they should know how to do something so simple.  Guilty as charged!

Question: (for those who have children)

Which do you value more regarding your child,

  • Success or effort?
  • Comfort or risk?

Someone told me one time that most people are talented enough to be mediocre.  It’s true.   Most people have enough going for them to get by.

I don’t know about you but I’m tired of getting by.  But making the decision to step out is risky.  The world around us will try (not maliciously) to keep us where they are comfortable.  Weird… our change makes it uncomfortable for them.

There are two important lessons here for me.

  1. Step out (which I’m doing with this blog thing)
  2. Give space to those around you who want to step out.  In fact encourage.

I ran across this poem a few years ago that to me sums up the need to encourage.

The Average Child

by Mike Buscemi

I don’t cause teachers trouble;
My grades have been okay.
I listen in my classes.
I’m in school every day.

My teachers think I’m average;
My parents think so too.
I wish I didn’t know that, though;
There’s lots I’d like to do.

I’d like to build a rocket;
I read a book on how.
Or start a stamp collection…
But no use trying now.

’Cause, since I found I’m average,
I’m smart enough you see
To know there’s nothing special
I should expect of me.

I’m part of that majority,
That hump part of the bell,
Who spends his life unnoticed
In an average kind of hell.

So I am stepping out.  And I am not going to let anyone discourage me.

Anyway… at least I can make change if the electronic cash register goes down!  So there!

C U Monday.

Jan 10

The Wall

Hi there… welcome back.

I hate to start off with bad news and be somewhat discouraging but…  we haven’t even started yet and we have our first challenge… the wall.

I finally decide to go on this adventure of discovery and wouldn’t you know, I ran smack dab into the garden wall.  Yep, and I hit it hard.  Bruised myself up a bit.

Facts about walls:

  1. They hurt when you bump into them.
  2. Everyone has them.
  3. Walls are not accidents.  Walls are intentional… built for a purpose.  They are created to keep things in or to keep things out.
  4. Here’s the scary one.  If not careful, the garden walls intended for good (protect and defend) subtly transform into the walls that trap rather than protect.  Without our knowledge we become imprisoned and we don’t realize our fate until we try to step beyond the parameter.
  5. You don’t go over or around walls… you go through them (more about that at another time).

Making the decision to step beyond the safety of the familiar is one thing, but actually taking a few steps is another.  I wrote the first two blog entries over five weeks ago and POW – I hit my wall.  The idea was to get six to ten blog entries in queue, release them on a schedule and this would allow me to get in a rhythm of writing.  Good plan huh?

What I didn’t plan on was my progress being hindered by the very walls I mentioned in the last blog entry… “what will people think?  will this be interesting? etc. etc. ad nausium.

It was easy to use the excuses such as the time consuming discipline needed to write and the commitment required to launch an ongoing blog.  Good excuses but in reality, it was the putting of my self at risk which stopped me.  I was rationalizing.

My definition of RATIONALIZE:  Rational Lies

But thank goodness, through the malaise the persistent soft piercing voice from beyond the wall (blog # 1) broke through.  I came to the realization that the fear of losing out on what is awaiting me is greater than the fear of the prison wall of what people think.  That is an awesome point of awareness.

Side Note:  Fear is an interesting paradox.  There is fear that debilitates and fear that motivates.  If not careful, fear becomes a seductive voice for non-action.

I bounced around in the confines of the wall far too long in my life.  Now that I am finally getting through my wall we can now proceed.

Ooops, I forgot… what about your walls?  Have you addressed the walls you have?

You can still walk along if you like but you’ll never really get to where you are going until you deal with your walls.  I don’t know the answer for you but I do know what I needed to do.  I needed to finally identify them for what they are.   A point of “Marking the Wall”.

This is what I needed to do.  If you are daring, I encourage you to mark your wall.  You can do it any way you want but you might want to consider posting it on the blog.  No one knows you… so think about it.

Rest well.  You’ll need it this Thursday for the next step of the journey.

Jan 10

The Direction

Howdy.  I didn’t know if you would be back.  Glad you’re here.

How’s the journey so far?  Psyche!  I’m just playin with your head.  We haven’t even started yet.

But then again I may have spoken too quickly.  Your visiting again may be a part of your journey.  I need to honor that.  Forgive me for violating rule # 1 of travel.

Rule of Travel

# 1.  Every person’s journey is different

I don’t judge yours and you don’t judge mine.  But insights and feedback are welcome.  I don’t know about you but I need all the help I can get.

We may walk on the same path for a while but we may be looking for something different and the things we encounter together will be experienced differently.  That’s the joy of having a companion.

The first decision is which direction we are going to go.  We have many choices.  But one thing is clear, I may not know what direction to go, but I do know what direction NOT to go… back toward the house.  This is a journey outward not inward.

The confines of the house are all too familiar.  I have spent too many years poking around inside trying to figure how every thing fits together and what it means.  If our focus is only inward we become trapped in an emotional cul-de-sac.

The decision to step beyond the known is a big deal.  It’s risky.  This risk is different than what you may think.  Like many, I enjoy taking risks.  I am willing to try new foods, travel to weird places, experience different types of entertainment, and my wife would say my driving is risky.

The risk that I am talking about is self.

Honestly, it is very tempting to forget the whole thing.  I sit typing on the keyboard and I don’t want the hassle or hard work.

Side note:  This blog thing is not a casual endeavor for me.  I am very serious when I say that this is a journey.  I have no idea if anyone is reading this or even cares.  But all I know is that I hear a call from beyond the wall.

I don’t know much, but this I know… there is something remarkable beyond the wall.  I realize that it will be frightening (most likely terrifying), extremely difficult, invigorating, life giving and transforming.  I am scared to death that people will think this blog is stupid, my grammar is terrible and the journey thing is ridiculous.

What makes this particularly difficult is the fact that I am not a writer.  Words do not tumble easily from my heart and head.  They struggle to find their birth on the page.  Whether they have meaning in their life is yet to be known.

The reality is… I know that I don’t have to respond to the call.  I can sit, watch TV and dull my senses to the point where the call is no longer heard and the prickly awareness that currently motivates me can be eliminated.

Even though I feel I am at risk and it’s gonna be challenging… I must go.

If you wish, join me on an adventure into the unknown.

You ready?!  In the old TV show The Cisco Kid, Cisco had a sidekick named Pancho.  His signature line whenever they were leaving was, “Let’s Went”!

So…  Let’s went… any direction but IN.

Hopefully I will see you Monday.