Eternal Vigilance and the Wild Child

What has become of our language? Looking back in history, we find words that ring with Celestial Power. Take for instance ‘Eternal Vigilance is the price of liberty.’ No politician today could get away with such a well coifed phrase.

A great sentiment; ‘Eternal Vigilance is the price of liberty.’  It is often falsely attributed to Thomas Jefferson.

         See how these seven words unfurl a whole raft of associations, meanings and contemplations.

First: Who are these culprits lurking out there ready to rob me/us of my/our liberty; are these enemies of liberty foreign, domestic or both?

What vigilance should I/we exercise? Should preemptive strikes, anti-profiteering precautions, and situation appropriate paranoia be precluded from my/our retinue of responses?

No, I decide as I settle down, as I contemplate the root source of this phrase, the enemy, dear friends lurks closer to home. I refer to (is this too polite a term?) The inner child.

Now perhaps inner child is too polite a term to describe this character. It certainly does no favor to childhood to describe this phenomenon as ‘inner child.’ Could I better call it the id monster, the devil on (my/our) left shoulder or oh; Maybe ‘wild child’ is as good a term as any to describe what I am talking about.

Call it by what name you will, here are some examples of near misses, encounters I have had where had ‘my wild child’ been given free reign, life would not be as rosy for me.

Way back when I got hired for my first professional job, there I sat with the HR man. He was indeed hiring, for not just one, but three positions, one of which was in Portland Oregon, where I now life. At the close of the interview, he said he’d get back to me by Friday. That being Tuesday, when 3:00 PM Thursday afternoon rolled along and I hadn’t heard from the HR guy, I called. His secretary said ‘Plane tickets for that Sunday were sitting on his desk. She suggested I’d best hustle on over and pick them up. If I’d listened to my inner I might still be waiting for that call back, right? Some may think my call back was a no brainer, but believe it or not, some people have a hard time with this lesson; No one will ever take as keen an interest in your career as you do. Always have an action plan; no matter how much confidence your wild child has in the benevolence of the universe, Eternal Vigilance is required if we are to earn a living or enjoy our liberty.

Later in life, my vigilance becomes more keen:

At some point, I left that first job. I had $10,000 sitting in my 401K. It was August 1987. I opened up an IRA and placed a buy order for a stock I liked; Berkshire Hathaway. At the time, the chart said the value of a share bounced between 10,000 and 12,000. But I only had 10. So I placed my order at 9700 so even I could afford it. Wouldn’t you know it, several weeks later black Monday, October 19, 1987 came along. The broker even called me to see if I still wanted him to honor my order? What? Was he allowing me possibility to lower my bid? Had the market gone lower? No. Was it an ‘out’ to cancel my order? How easy it would have been to listen to my wild child and do just that: cancel the order. “No,” I said. “Please execute the order.” That share is worth $120,000 today.

Another example of eternal vigilance, of being alert to the false map of reality, of situations where the wild child could mislead, misrepresent and sabotage our plans.

More recently, OK, it may’ve been 15 years ago, I got a call. “Hello,” the caller said. “I’m not sure if I have the right number. I’m looking for Ted Magnuson, the author.” I hadn’t published anything at the time. Was the caller putting me on? How my wild child preened for repartee. “Is that you Richard? You trying to get a rise out of me?” Or worse; “Yeah, it’s me, I’ve got five freaking books on the New York Times bestseller list. What are you selling?”

But no, thanks to years of adult style disciple, thanks to years of practicing eternal vigilance, I simply said “speaking.”

I got offered to do a book deal.

In these three simple examples, my wild child could have disrupted my life had he been given the run of the place. Am I alone in this? How many of us have a wild child? Worse, how many of us have a wild side and don’t even know it? And so I pose a question to you. When such occasions occur, in our own lives and the lives of those around us, who is in the driver’s seat? The wild child or the director? Oh, the wild child may be entertaining. And yes, they do need their space to romp but when it comes time to do some business; we all need to be alert, we all need to make sure the director is on duty or at least on the scene.

I suspect that were more wild children better educated many of the problems now afflicting the world would be much closer to being solved.

         If you think education is expensive, try ignorance

Ted Magnuson’s audio CD Those Self Evident Truths,’ captures more words that ring with Celestial Power, 1215-1865.

Who’s that yonder do I see? Seen while cycling in Oregon

Ah, summer in Oregon.
I mount my bike. I spin past the farm fields of the valleys, shifting down, climbing up the north sides of hills clad in evergreen trees, descending fast down southern slopes planted in vineyards. I ride for miles and miles.
Pausing at the crest of a hill who do yonder I see but Mitt Romney, pecs glistening in the sun. He wears only running shorts, sneakers and yes, that shrewd smile of his. He flicks a finger in greeting as he acknowledges me as he passes by.
No. Surely it couldn’t be Mitt Romney…but who knows what one might see while riding a bike through the mystic Oregon countryside on a summer day. It’s Sunday. Quiet.
I pass by a church. Again, a coincidental surprise. Who was that shaking the pastor’s hand? I kid you not; it was George W. Bush. And seated outside the café at the crossroads- Gorbechev…talking with Henry K? Ho! This must be a big day in history, to see the doubles of so many prominent people as I cycle by.
What state am I in, anyway? Is it Oregon or Dehydration?
I pick up a sport drink at a market. Is the shopkeeper handing me my change Bill Clinton? He turns to stack his merchandise in the front of his store.
Then on the move again. There’s Ronald Reagan tearing down an old barn, mending a fence, riding off on his ATV, tipping his hat to me. Richard Nixon boards a Cessna on a grassy field. He’s heading west, the gas station attendant tells me.
Jimmy Carter talks to some migrants at a camp. I stop by the side of the road to refill my water bottle at a farm stand disbelieving everything I see.
Who is that, working out in the hazel tree orchard, scraping the ground, preparing for the harvest? The mannerism, the deportment of the man. He looks familiar. He raises his hand to wave. Good lord, it’s the President! Barack Obama—
Now admittedly the bike is a marvelous machine, bringing the rider closer to the countryside, much more so than in a car. Yet have I become too familiar with my country, expecting to see, yea seeing, so many luminaries out shirt sleeves rolled up toiling away under a now very hot sun? But no, isn’t it what we would expect to see, our Presidents hard at work just like you and me?

What an Age We Live In

What an age we live in. Trillions have been blown on bailing out industries that ‘deregulated’ themselves into penury (except for executive compensation), Wars have been declared with budgets conveniently hidden ‘off budget,’ Computing capacity has expanded exponentially over the past 20 years into the region of terabytes yet some industry wags can claim with a straight face–innovation is dead. Healthcare costs consume 17% of our Gross Domestic Product –and growing at a rate twice as high as the rate of inflation (half of healthcare spending is Medicare related)…
Whoaaahhh now–Enough with the problems already. It’s enough to make a body sick. Worse, according to the press, all these problems are highly entertaining. The arguments are framed by the extremes. Now ain’t that a kick in the pants?
Our elected leaders hold town halls and are shouted down with irrational argument. Attempts to get a handle on escalating healthcare spending are called fascist (Nazi). I would hope that those who have taken the trouble to secure a career in either government or journalism would be seeking solutions instead of sowing such discord. Leonard Pitts called them on this in a recent column. ‘Too, socialism’ is hooted by some about as a dirty word. Perhaps if those who complain of such an outrage as socialism were to surrender their social security income once they were eligible, that could go some ways towards offsetting the tremendous expenses that are now bandied about so freely.
The truth of the matter is No One achieves anything on their own. Our society works because there is a certain assumption that we should all be working together on building the world we live in. If I were to build a house, I wouldn’t rely on just a carpenter, or just a plumber, or an electrician. Neither should you. Specialization has been going on for a very long time now and to the degree that some of us are supervisors and leaders, we shouldn’t be inciting one group of people against the other.
As to our current problems, there is plenty of blame to go around as to how we got to where we are today. While it may be entertaining or even cathartic for some to rant and rave- is this really productive? Why is attention so directed at the extremes of a problem, at the outliers, if you will?
Let us hope rather that there is an eye at the center of this storm where progress is being made, where sound judgment is exercised, and society can move on in its primary objectives, to provide a healthy environment for all humanity to live, pursuit their ambitions and make the world a better place for us all.
Such crises are nothing new. Before democracy became the law of the land, ‘Royalty’ was said to have divine rights. If you do doubt the ingenuity of people to rise above their problems, I invite you to listen to “Those Self Evident Truths,” an audio reading of the English Magna Carta, the Amercian Declartion of Independence and the events leading up to the need for them.
Tough times don’t last. Tough people do.

A Little Too Free for the Common Good?

Broadband has now given the public a splintered rainbow of opinions. ‘Who can tell the accuracy of any given ‘read’ on a situation? Accountability has to be factored into the process. Perhaps that is why ‘Mission Statements’ have become so popular of late. Of course, mission statements are nothing new. And even the most concise such statements offer an opportunity to ‘read between the lines. For example, let’s pick apart these two statements: “The No Spin Zone, and All the News that’s Fit to Print.”
In the first example, one may well ask ‘Of all the words available in the English Language, why does Bill Reilly gravitate towards the word Spin?’ As to the New York Times choosing ‘Fit,’ this too leads to some interesting speculation…such as ‘What doesn’t fit?’
Perhaps that’s why the internet has incubated this splintered rainbow of opinion we find on our blackberries and elsewhere- finding places where the news will fit.
Indeed it would benefit everyone to develop their own mission statement. A mission statement can serve like a rudder that guides the ship out on the vast sea of information that is available to those willing to sift through the facts.
Before being swayed by the various pundits and arbiters of reality one might do well to consider a mission statement like armor, too. In this age of rapid change, perhaps a drastic example could illustrate this point. Once upon a time when the world was young, and automobiles were just coming on the scene, as those on horse drawn carriages might have passed a broken down motorist, the well horsed traveler might have smiled as his horses trotted by the avant-garde motorist with a cheery greeting of ‘Get A Horse.’
Now, fast forward a hundred years and the motorist is in many places ruler of the road. Horses are nowhere to be found. What of that brass plated opinion of yesterday? Get a Horse indeed. If it can be found at all, it’s in the dustbin of history.
Perhaps today, as a go-by-rail commuter passes stalled commuter traffic on the ‘expressway’ the rail commuter ‘might mutter ‘Get a metro pass.’ Warning/opinion to follow: Will rising fuel costs turn our highways into the exclusive purview of local delivery services, inspectors and salesmen?
Getting back to ‘Get a Horse.’ If that message has any meaning now, it could serve as an invitation to a well-to-do city-slicker (or a farm family); to get into the pleasurable (but time-and-money consuming) pastime of horseback riding.
New is not always good. Old is not always good either. This brings us back to the original issue; how can we tell which news source has got the real fire, the heart of the matter, and who’s blowing smoke? Who’s got the interests of the common welfare in mind and who is more interested in feathering the nest of special interests?
Reading a variety of sources can help sort this thing out. But also establishing a mission statement, to support those whose point of view agree with our own, to stand up for what we believe, that may be the final word.
As a person develops a mission statement, some criteria I would offer to measure the validity of an issue are as follows:
• Does the opinion expressed stand on its own or is it borne along by demeaning the opposite point of view?
• Does the opinion offer a positive direction or does it argue that this is ‘an emergency crisis situation; there are no other options?’
All this philosophizing came about the other day as I happened to hear a talk radio host rant “Charisma shouldn’t count in reporting a political candidate.” Ironically, he made quite the point of how reportage shouldn’t be laden with ‘touchy feely’ emotional comment—(Is bitter vitriol better) ?
I turned off the radio as I’d reached my destination; the neighborhood garden store. I hadn’t anticipated planting a garden, but how the clerk rhapsodized over growing your own green beans.
As I returned to my car with my packet of seeds I wondered how the talk radio host might react to my decision. Perhaps he would take me to task for going to so much trouble, being so gullible to the clerk’s ‘implication’ (real men till the soil). The talk show host might even be so bold as to point out his sponsor’s grocery chain sell perfectly adequate canned green beans with only 5% of the nutrients.
It’s a free country, although some of us may be a little too free for the common good.