Living the Dream

I was raised to believe in the American Dream and the intrinsic value of hard work as a means to success. The current envisioning of the American Dream is, that by participating in society and the economy, everyone has the opportunity to get a good education and a good job and can become successful.  “.. a dream of social order in which each man and each woman shall be able to attain to the fullest stature of which they are innately capable, and be recognized by others for what they are, regardless of the fortuitous circumstances of birth or position”.  James Truslow Adams   These days –  financial success depends more on what you do for a living, than how hard you work/how devoted you are at or to your job. How successful you are in terms of economic status is not just determined by your hard work in your chosen profession – its actually determined more by the profession you choose and the salary and benefits attached to them.  Of course, if you are a screw up then you’ll lose your job anyway – but reasonable competence in the corporate world guarantees you a fairly high standard of living with few – if any,  economic worries.   Certainly you can still be successful in terms of job satisfaction/personal happiness no matter what your career. But I am also equally certain that the janitor cleaning those corporate offices after business hours has substantially greater economic worries than the executive whose office he’s cleaning. And that doesn’t necessarily indicate that janitor is living beyond his means.

The Statue of Liberty front shot, on Liberty I...

The Statue of Liberty front shot, on Liberty Island. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Somewhere along the way we came to equate the American Dream solely with financial success –  ie  if we ain’t livin large, we ain’t livin the dream. I completely disagree with that mindset.  And I’ll tell you why.  In my opinion – every job is an important one. Every career path chosen not only validates our interests, but also identifies us to the world at large.  No job is too insignificant. Performing your work well should be the primary factor in satisfaction but I know that  many times it is not. (We don’t always get that “attaboy” or “attagirl’ from our supervisors. But we always hear about it when we screw up, right?) Anyway, I’m not sure what we can do to change the mindset.  But I can tell you that I am blue collar middle class.  I work hard,  and I feel good about what I accomplish – every day.

Perhaps it is a gratitude issue.  We Americans are a whiny self entitled bunch these days.  I have a nice house,  food in my fridge and freezer, most of my bills are paid or pending to be paid, I have shoes on my feet, a choice of weather appropriate clothing to wear each day, indoor plumbing, laundry facilities, health insurance, heat and electricity, and an automobile to get where I need to go, and at least a few dollars in change in my pocketbook.   If I had to guess – that makes me better off than probably 75% of the rest of the planet. Most people I know are at least as well off. Even most of the poorest of us are generally better off than most of the other people on the planet. We have access to housing, medical, food and clothing, transportation  – all the basics are met – or can be. And yet – complain complain complain.  Because we don’t have the 52 inch plasma TV, or the jet ski, or the Beemer.  From my perspective, why do we care?  Having a BMW doesn’t make me “better” than  anyone else (not that I actually have one) And if you are receiving assistance, why do you feel the need to have the large screen HD TV?  If you can’t afford to pay for it yourself, perhaps you might consider finding something that fits into your budget.  Are you meeting the needs of your family – 3 hots and a cot? Are you proactively planning for your children’s education or vocational needs? Planning for your retirement? Planning for your essential living expenses?  If you aren’t doing these things/cant afford to do them , there is no place for that HD TV in your home. The world will not come to an end if you can’t watch The Avengers in HD.  Get over it.

American Dream

American Dream (Photo credit: Robert Gourley)

More to the point, I strongly feel that the American Dream should be about what you can DO, not what you HAVE or can GET. The American Dream should be, was intended to be, about the pursuit of happiness. I can tell you happiness is not defined by what things you possess, but rather by interpersonal relationships and self esteem. We’ve lost sight of that, much to our detriment.  My ideas to increase our happiness quotient, and thereby put us on a path to achieving our dream:

  • Volunteer –  Helping others – without judgement –  and sharing our wealth/resources is one of the best ways I know to get people out of their boxes, develop a broader world view, and develop empathy.
  • Live within your means –  Understand that living is about relationships not about possessions. This is perhaps the biggest issue in terms of  achieving happiness.  We have to redefine it and tell ourselves it is perfectly OK not to “keep up” with our neighbors.
  • Learn and Practice proper Social Etiquette –  Learn how to behave towards others in such a way that they feel valued – no matter their economic status, they are a person with intrinsic value and deserving of respect. You WILL feel valued in return, trust me on that.  Because  “in the end, the love you take – is equal to the love you make.”

I don’t have any other ideas at the moment, but would love to hear your thoughts.  Feel free to comment.  Thanks.

Changes

Image

20121018-203432.jpg

We are born, we live, we die. A simple sentence. Yet what occurs between those two commas is everything. In order to truly do this, sometimes we must embrace change as eagerly as a new lover. Sometimes, we must accept it, matter of factly – as we accept that the earth is round and the sun rises in the east. It serves no good purpose to fight it. We are human, it is our nature to adapt.

We must also recognize that our time here is finite. The Fates, capricious bitches that they are, snip the threads of life too soon for some of us. Which, in my feeble mind, makes it all the more important for me to do something with my life.

There’s an expression going around these days: YOLO (you only live once). Truth. Yet all too often I see it used as an excuse for ridiculously self indulgent, immature behavior. It’s the “Gimme Generation”s self-entitled slogan du jour. But it doesn’t have to be.

We live. Once. I would like to be part of the changes I want to see in the world. I hope I already am. I want to look in the mirror when I wake up and see someone who made a difference to someone else. Some days that’s difficult. Anyone who knows me knows I’m absolutely not -ever- at my best in the morning, so gazing into a reflective surface is going to be a terrifying experience, at least until I’m caffeinated.

Anyway, all humor aside, I just want to point out we don’t have much time, on the grander universal scale at least. We can adapt to change, learn from each other, and grow during the time we have. Rejoicing in our differences, and remembering that we are stronger together BECAUSE of them. Or, we can squander ourselves and extinguish our precious inner light with futile, utterly senseless violence, prejudice, hatred and intolerance. I know what I choose. We are born, we live, we die. Lets make those two words between those commas count for something.

Deep Peaceful Summer Reflections

 

We need to find God, and he cannot be found in noise and restlessness. God is the friend of silence. See how nature – trees, flowers, grass – grows in silence; see the stars, the moon and the sun, how they move in silence… We need silence to be able to touch souls.  ~ Mother Teresa

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. ~  Lao Tzu

Come to the woods, for here is rest. There is no repose like that of the green deep woods. ~ John Muir

Now he walks in quiet solitude the forest and the streams
Seeking grace in every step he takes . . .   ~ John Denver 

In the viridian depths of the forest we find solace.  In the quiet reflection of  jade-dark, slow-moving streams there is peaceful contentment. The jewel tones of the plants and flowers are mirrored  – jade, beryl, ruby, amethyst, emerald, and pearl – colorful little surprises. There is no sense of past or future – only the Dream Time; only the Now.  The rain patters softly on the surface of the water, or the sun dazzles and dances across it.  Clouds create depth and shadow.  The water and the forest watch.  They are ours to rejoice in.  Tomorrow, all will change.  The beauty will remain for us to see. The serenity inside,  for us to feel.  We take it with us when we go.  ~ Donna Erickson

 

Flora and Fauna: A Pledge of Paradise

;

Pink Bee Balm, and a Bumble. I love how you can see the delicate veining and transparency of the bumble’s wings, the yellow fuzziness of the torso ( I have no idea what the proper anatomical term is. Emma – help me out on this one please and thanks!) – and how the wings function as a transparent screen for the edge of the flower blossoms. I’ve never seen pink bee balm before. It was everywhere along one section of the Harbor Walk in Gloucester. All sorts of bees were landing and taking off – creating a lovely background hum as we strolled along.

Floral Fireworks. I think these are some sort of daisy or brown eyed Susan, or maybe some type of coneflower. Flower Salsa! Very spicy! Red and Orange Rocket Flowers – Yeah, that!

I have no idea what the name of these flowers is – but they grow on the side of the road and in fields everywhere around here in July and August. They’re the prettiest shade of periwinkle blue.

Another view of the spicy firework flowers. I applied a “soft and faded” photoshop action – and also managed to catch a couple of honeybees hard at work. In this photo particularly the blossoms are shaking their petal skirts in a gentle breeze – swaying to a rhythm only they can feel.

Just some of the vibrant beauty to be found – right in front of me. If you have a favorite of these, please comment and let me know. Thanks.

“If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awake – Aye, what then? ” ~ Samuel Taylor Coleridge

English: Reproduced signature of poet Samuel T...

. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Update: The Great Floral Identification Adventure: the bee balm is in fact bee balm; the red and orange rocket flowers – they also remind me of badminton shuttlecocks-are echinacea; the blue flowers are chicory. Thanks everyone!! 🙂