Mission Revisit

As the news continued to pour out of Trump Tower this week about billionaire-selections for cabinet-level posts, and the promise of America took further hits to its central purpose, I dusted off my own mission statement to see if I was living up to snuff. As I explained back in March this document is a statement of my core principles in life; a reflection of the the value of Tom being Tom. It’s a rewarding exercise in discovery I recommend to all human beings of at least moderate self-awareness and current levels of evolution. This site can help you get started.

As I looked at mine, I immediately caught glimpse of certain passages and intentions that needed an update. I decided the best way to go about improving it was to break it down, sentence by sentence, to ensure relevancy. Below I show my work. Here’s what I learned this week, about Tom:

My mission is to delight in life, to show appreciation for each new day.

This I do remarkably well. Okay, sometimes I do this too well, but that’s the price of loving life. I believe we only get one crack at life (since I’m not the spiritual sort) so I think it’s important to enjoy every day and surround myself with positives. I don’t think any of us can afford to wallow in the muck too long, even when the world does stupid things. It does. It always has and always will, long before I came and long after I’m gone. But for these eight to ten decades, I get to be me like nobody’s business. I intend to do that well and enjoy the hell out of it. For the most part, I do.

In so doing I will not wallow in remorse of past things or fear the things to come, but instead revel in each trial knowing that it is in the fire that we are forged.

There’s that wallow word again. I haven’t been wallowing in any kind of remorse lately, so that’s good. In fact, 2016 has been a pretty good year for leaving things behind that wore heavy on me. I have been able to move on. And except for a genuine concern over the possibility of tyranny in America, I haven’t spent much time fearing the things to come. There isn’t much I can do about that, anyway, that I haven’t already done, so it would be pointless to stew too much. What’s that line about accepting the things we cannot change and wisdom and whatnot?

The last bit, about being forged in the fire, seems aggrandized to me. I’m not writing poetry here but a statement of purpose. Everything after the comma is irrelevant. Fires will come; sometimes they will forge and sometimes they will burn. I don’t need that reminder.

For myself I will practice balance, seeking a habit of meditation, moderation and temperance in my daily living.

In a way this has been a very balanced year for me. I have balanced revelry with responsibility, indulgence with discipline, and conflict with patience and understanding. But there are times when my moderation and temperance are out of whack with my mission, and that’s something I can work on. My habit of meditation fell apart early in the year but I have discovered a new level of reflection in my writing that seems to have taken its place. This section needs rewording.

For others I will strive to help them in their journey as I continue to define my own.

I’m not as good at this as I could be, and this has been a divisive year in some ways. I find myself in need of a greater understanding of the voyage that others find themselves on. We do not all have the same boat; we do not all sail the same seas. This line stays as it is but requires effort on my part in the form of greater empathy.

I will show love, devotion, adoration and encouragement to the love of my life, my wife and partner, every day.

I do this. I show my love and devotion daily and even when I misstep – which I do, bless my heart – I try to make corrections quickly. I fail at this most when I think I understand what is better for her than she does. Empathy, again. My mission will be clearer as I strengthen that quality.

I will remember that success, like happiness, is a product of effort and focus.

This line is fluff and will be removed from the next draft. The definition of success in my life is happiness, and I cover that in the first line of my mission. The rest of the process is about effort and focus. This line is unnecessary.

I will honor the thoughts and traditions of others even as I strive to break from traditional thought myself.

This is my favorite line of the whole exercise, and the very definition of who I am along my path. I am a big believer that many of the things that hold us back as individuals, and as a humanity, are related to our obedience to traditional thought. Things like religion and nationalism are impediments to our evolution. I am always seeking to shed such constraints to be freer in my own world view, more objective in my analysis. However, I strive to never disrespect others’ devotion to tradition. For many, it is that which defines them in their personal journey. It is not mine to judge, but to learn.

I will always seek to gain a higher perspective on my path to wisdom and personal evolution. I will find solace, and a creative outlet, in writing.

Mostly fluff. Sounds airy and all, but unnecessary except the last part.


So, after a year of staying mostly on mission, the statement gets a revision while it becomes more succinct:

My mission is to delight in life, to show appreciation for each new day. In so doing I will not wallow in remorse of past things or fear the things to come. For myself I will practice balance, seeking revelry and contemplation in equal measure. For others I will strive for empathy so that I can help them in their chosen path. I will show love, devotion, adoration and encouragement to the love of my life, my wife and partner, every day. I will honor the thoughts and traditions of others even as I strive to break from traditional thought myself. I will seek solace, and creative outlet, in writing.

Nice. But I think I’d like to make it more colloquial, like I’m talking to myself like a real person:

My primary goal is to delight in life. Just enjoy it. Time is short and there are so many great things about being alive. I want to spend as little time as possible wallowing in what was or worrying about what will come. I want balance. I love nothing so much as revelry, nothing so much as reflection. I want to understand the journey of others, and help them along their way. I will love the missus unconditionally at all times because she’s the best. I will be who I am, and let others be who they are, honoring their traditions even as I break from tradition myself.

And I will write. I will write all the time. That’s my thing.

I think I may like that better. Either way, it’s small enough to fit in my wallet now.

So tell me … what’s in your wallet? 😉

About Them Cowboys

I’m not ready to talk about Donald Trump yet.

I mean, I’m paying attention. I’m reading, I’m watching, I’m taking notes. Last night, during a pretty riveting Bengals/Giants game I kept flipping over to the news stations. It was fascinating stuff. I’m hooked. The storyline is unbelievable. Sean Hannity is still unwatchable, but some things never change.

I’m sure I’ll be talking about Donald Trump a lot in the months to come. There’s almost always something to see and something to say. It’s a circus and he’s the ringmaster. Even more than before, he’s the ringmaster. He’s the President of the United States of America now. There’s that.

But I don’t have a lot to say about it yet. The presidency is still in pre-infancy; the head is still forming. I could talk about Steve Bannon today, I suppose, and how if he is not a white supremacist then he at least has great appeal to that ilk. He does. The alt-right love him. He basks in that. Even if he himself is not a bigot he certainly panders to bigotry and has built a base around it. I’m sure Donald Trump wants to keep that far right bloc with him, so Steve Bannon is a smart political choice. I don’t want to talk about it.

If I did want to talk about it I might talk about how the cabinet appears to be coming together. There’s a lot of talk about the old guard Republicans making up Trump’s inner circle. America’s Mayor is back. The Newt will have a place. Even the acrimonious warhawk John Bolton is being tabbed. It’s hard to drain a swamp while you’re still filling it with gators, Don.

But it’s too soon to say. The American people have spoken, and they have chosen Donald Trump to be their leader after a tight, bitter election. He’s the guy now. Unless the electoral college pulls a 180 on December 19th then he’s the prez. They won’t. That never happens. But if it did we’d see the biggest flip flop in protesters in American history. Dems would go home. Pubs would hit the streets. The shift change would be kind of fun to watch.

But it won’t happen. It never does.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m not one of those “bitter about the electoral college” kind of guys; it did what is was designed to do. Maybe it’s outdated, maybe it’s an important safeguard. Either way, it worked the way it was supposed to and that’s just fine with me.

Maybe I’d be more bitter if there were a decent candidate to fall back on. Maybe I’d be out on the streets with the protesters if Hillary Clinton were a legitimate alternative. Maybe I should have hit the streets after the DNC, when the real travesty of this election ensued. I didn’t. I didn’t even write a blog about it. Shame on Tom.

Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference. Maybe Bernie Sanders would have lost to Donald Trump, anyway. Maybe Donald Trump was inevitable. America has been spiraling out of control for a while now, and the culture war is fierce. Maybe the pendulum was going to swing far right this time no matter what. Mr Naccarato in 9th grade History was resolute about that; the pendulum always swings hard the other way in time. Maybe it was just time.

Time.

Mark Twain famously said that any man who is a pessimist before the age of 48 knows too much, and any man who is an optimist after the age of 48 knows too little. I am 48 years old, and a half. I have been an optimist my entire life and I’m very proud of my ability to see the silver lining in every gray cloud. So I’m trying, here, not to jump to conclusions, to see the positive in this election, to give the president-elect time. Not a free pass, by any means, but time. Time to prove me right. Time to prove me wrong. Time. In six months I’ll be past the age of 48 and I’d like to think I’ll retain my youthful optimism. If I do not then it would not surprise me if it were taken away by a misogynistic, xenophobic, egomaniacal charlatan who conned his way into becoming the most powerful man in the world, after I thought he was only a joke.

Oh well.

It happened.

We’re here.

I’m not ready to talk about Donald Trump yet, anyway.

How about them Cowboys?

A Proposition For You … Or Maybe 17

I’ve been asked by several people over the last few days and weeks about the ballot initiatives in California, so I’ll talk a minute about them. Maybe I don’t remember there being this many in the past but there sure seems to be a mess of them this time, eh? I’ll be brief and keep the rhetoric to a minimum, but I don’t mind sharing my thoughts. I’m an open book. 😉

We’ll go in order:

  • Prop 51, no
    • More bond money for more school projects. Flip a coin on this one and take your best shot. I’m a big believer in fixing the education system, but we already spend more and get less out of it than any developed country. This one seems to favor the developers’ pocket books more than the kids, so I’ll vote no. Still, I was on the fence.
  • Prop 52, yes
    • Another flip of the coin but this time I’ll vote yes. I lean toward help for the young, the old, and the downtrodden when it comes to health care. Extend it.
  • Prop 53, no
    • I circled yes the first time I read it, and flipped to no after reading deeper into it. Tying up funds that could go to disaster relief would do more harm than good. In this case, leave the decision local.
  • Prop 54, no
    • Politicizing the process more doesn’t help anything. We need better transparency, but this doesn’t look like a good way to get it.
  • Prop 55, yes
    • This is the right way to raise money for education and other services. No brainer.
  • Prop 56, yes
    • Another good way to raise revenue. Now if only we can spend all this money right.
  • Prop 57, yes
    • Our country has a shameful prison system and we need to massively overhaul it. In the meantime, let’s reassess who we’ve put away, and why.
  • Prop 58, yes
    • Diversity is one of California’s greatest strengths, and dual-language immersion is often the best way to teach. Let individual schools decide.
  • Prop 59, yes
    • Citizens United was a travesty, and the Supreme Court got it wrong. California should take the lead in overturning this terrible decision that further corrupts American politics.
  • Prop 60, no
    • This one just seems silly. It’s a violation of privacy, for one thing, and how do you monitor and enforce it? This one wasn’t thought out well, but it does add comedy to the initiative process.
  • Prop 61, yes
    • Drug prices are out of control. This doesn’t go far enough but it’s a start.
  • Prop 62, yes
    • With an asterisk. If you favor the death penalty, vote no. If you’re against it, vote yes. I’m forever on the fence but my higher self hopes for a better way. Your call.
  • Prop 63, yes
    • We need better provisions to help curb the ridiculous gun violence in this country. This is a good start, but something needs to be done at the federal level to ensure all states comply. Will this help? I hope so.
  • Prop 64, yes
    • Legalize it. Tax it. Regulate it. It’s silly that it has remained illegal this long.
  • Prop 65, no
    • This looks like a plastics industry ploy, not an environmental cleanup.
  • Prop 66, no
    • I’m not sure we should be using the death penalty at all anymore, but if we keep it we don’t need to be speeding it up. The system gets it wrong too often now in the name of expediency, so no.
  • Prop 67, yes
    • I love plastic bags, but they are not good for us or for our environment. This would suck for me and be better for everyone. Yes.

That’s where I stand on the 17 in question. For a junkie like me, who can’t get enough information absorption, it was daunting as hell. Do we really need this many initiatives? Can’t some of this be decided by the representatives we put in place? Isn’t that their job?

We need more than a bevy of propositions to fix the system, we need a system overhaul. We need better leadership and better information.

But for now, this is what we’ve got. Have an excellent election day, my friends; may we all come out winners in the end. 🙂

Reflecting on Hope

I read a great article last week, one that gave me hope. It was filled with some political bias, some subjectivity, but the overall tone is consistent with my own. This is a great time to be alive.

The author of the article was Barack Obama. To some 45% of you reading this – statistically speaking – that’s a terrible thing to say. But the tone of the article was uplifting. We live in an age of wonders. This era has brought us so much to celebrate – the internet, smart phones, computers, medical advances, space travel, Starbucks, Avengers movies, tombeingtom.com … just to name a few. I am fond of saying that we are all, now, connected at the speed of light. At the speed of thought. It’s a wondrous thing. And this is just the beginning. We are living in an unprecedented age. We do not know what breakthrough will change the world tomorrow, we only know that another one will. Shortly. We know that. It might come in the form of miracle cures. It might come from artificial intelligence. It might come from nanotechnology. It might even come from space aliens, we do not know.

(As an aside, I don’t really believe that alien life visits us from afar but I’m sure they must exist. The universe is too big not to have other life forms evolve somewhere. Like Carl Sagan I am absolutely certain there is, was, or will be other advanced civilizations out there, but also fairly certain that we will never meet. The probability of two advanced civilizations living anywhere close enough to each other in the same time frame is pretty slim. The universe is that big. Time is that long. Encounters are a mathematical near-impossibility.)

((As an aside to that aside, if we ever do encounter aliens more advanced than us I am fairly certain they will have ill intent. When has an advanced civilization ever encountered a less advanced civilization and not wiped them out or enslaved them? My optimism has limits.))

(((As a last aside to that aside of the original aside I would also like to think that if an alien civilization were ever to become advanced enough to visit us, then maybe it has outlived the desire to destroy things. Maybe they chose instead to get along and explore the stars. They might, then, be space-worthy, long distance travelers and evolutionarily altruistic. In that case, all my other asides are irrelevant.)))

Where was I?

Oh yes, Barack Obama.

In just a few days we will know who his successor will be. In just a few months one of the great orators of our time will step down and head back to private life. History, I believe, will show him to be an able leader, a grand communicator, an optimist and a pretty swell human being. Like all human beings there will be faults, as well, to remember. My focus today, however, is on his greatest strength. His optimism.

Like Barack Obama I believe that we are on the verge of greatness. I believe we will overcome our prejudices, our fears, our bickering and our predilection for toys of war, and we will learn to become a benign species. We will, at first, because we must. After a fashion we will because we want to, because we will see the greater benefit to all mankind when we spend our defense budgets on human development instead. We will explore the stars, someday, free of the hate, jealousy, and nationalism that has kept us earthbound. We will remember our infancy and our adolescence with laughter and with shame.

And in the afterglow of our awakening we will, quite possibly, run across an alien civilization out there in the infancy of their development. The enlightened us will quietly observe them and gently nudge them towards a positive evolution, if we can. We will be the benefactors of all that we survey, because we made it through our own youthful era of self-destruction.

See, there are really no asides, just circuitous routes. 😉

So please read the article. Ignore the self-gratification of a politician trying to set his legacy. Read the optimism that abounds. We are all self-promoting in our own way, but the central message should be clear: Believe in the human ability to achieve and the human ability to love. In the end, those two factors will overcome the rest.

Despite the quagmire of executive leadership that is what Barack Obama believes. I look forward to seeing another leader like that, someday. One whose central message is hope, for all of humanity. Maybe next time that leader will have a friendlier legislature to work with. A more enlightened public. Maybe next time that person will not be fighting wars started by others. We can all hope for that.

I hope I’m wrong about the next four years. With the candidates left standing we appear to be in for a tumultuous turning back of the clock. We look to be heading into a presidency rife with controversy and scandal. We look to be entering another era of hate. Maybe that’s the rite of passage; the bump in the road. A hiccup in our evolution. Maybe we need something this bad to remind us what is good. Maybe next time we’ll get it right.

In the meantime, let us keep hope in our hearts. Let us all turn to optimism and find a way, together, to build a better world. We are not all congruent in our thinking – we are as disparate as they come, my readers and I – but we find peace together. We know that we can disagree and still find accord. We know that we can live in harmony despite our differences, and that is the lesson we need to teach the world.

No matter what happens on Tuesday we have each other. We have this planet, this humanity, and this freedom. We have this time together, in the greatest era mankind has ever known.

Let us hang our hopes on that.