The Written

Home/The Written

This is how it begins …

We look the other way, not wanting to get involved.
We voice our opinion, but only to those who agree and listen.
We grow accustomed to the new norm, forgetting how things were.
We ignore the signs that history is repeating, believing we are different than before.

 Erosion of the cor    ners of the foundation,
  cracks that grow    from within.
   Bricks removed,   one by one,
  and the mortar re   turns to sand.

This is how we collapse.
This is how we crumble.
This is how the dictator
turns democracy into rubble.

By |2020-07-28T17:57:41-04:00July 19th, 2020|The Written|Comments Off on This is how it begins …

At a loss for words in a world that feels lost

These past few weeks have left me speechless. I simply don’t know what to say. It’s not that I don’t have emotions or reactions, rather I don’t want to feel what I am feeling—hopeless, horrified, completely disappointed in our government, the actions of individuals, even in our species.

Once again we are rising up, reawakening to power differentials, taking action and saying “No more!” Is this real change and an upward trend, or a momentary flutter in an historic review when we look back a few centuries from now?

In the lifetime of my grandmother she saw the rise and fall of lynchings by the KKK. In the lifetime of my father segregation in the U.S. came to an end (mostly). In my lifetime we have seen the end of electroshock therapy and sterilization of those who have learning disabilities. We will look back on each of these in disgust and wonder how it could have been.

But how quickly do we revert to the behavior of the prior generations? Are we truly changed as a species, reprogrammed at a fundamental level, or are we more simply rewiring our expectations with the underlying systems of interplay nearly identical to 100,000 years ago?

In our places of work, school, and social engagement, we talk about awareness and education. We engage in difficult conversations and walk in the shoes of those we do not understand. We remove people from power who are abusive to the minority and the under privileged. I ask, Are we affecting change at the source? Or are we just temporarily modifying the behavior of a half generation, the next to come along reverting to what we thought was erased?

Maybe we are on an upward trend, a global consciousness rising. Maybe the current rise of dictators and fascism and hatred for “the other” is a momentary, interglacial freeze in a longer warming trend. Or maybe Roddenbury got it all wrong and four hundred years from now we will not be unified as a species, exploring brave new worlds, rather we’ll still be fighting our synthetic racial divides and protesting brutality every quarter century.

We share the most homogeneous code of any species on the planet and it has not evolved to thrive in this overfilled, boiling pot. I fear we will continue to invoke change at a superficial level only to wonder a hundred years from now why we’re doing the same damned thing over and over again. We need to stop pointing fingers and implicating that that person is racist and that other is not, when this is but a temporary fix. We need to dive in deep and look to the source of these behaviors as functions of home, school, church, and the very foundation of cultures and nations and the social construct of our species.

Yes, we have to keep trying. That too is fundamental to our species. We keep working for a better world in which we reward unity over division, and the minorities at both extremes share power with the majority.

By |2020-06-11T20:10:12-04:00June 9th, 2020|The Written|Comments Off on At a loss for words in a world that feels lost

The last time I read a book …

The last time I read a book must have been some time ago,
for no longer do I recall the cover, the title, or the hero.

Instead, my days are filled with tasks and action items and to-dos,
The only action I see is when I press the wrong key,
all mystery, crime, and murder DELETE’ed.

By |2020-06-08T20:59:45-04:00June 8th, 2020|The Written|Comments Off on The last time I read a book …

Because I don’t have to …

For more than a century,
radios have done our bidding at the movement of a hand.
News updates, music, and live events
our attention captured in AM or FM band.

Because I don’t have to rise from my chair.

Now smart speakers listen, processing all that we say.
Every conversation transcribed,
key words sold to the highest bidder.
Our most intimate secrets lost to a market we fail to consider.

Because I don’t have to walk over there.

Every time we replace effort with an automated mover;
Every time we use our voice to replace a louver;
Every time we give in to the temptation to make things easier,
we fail to recall that we are three dimensional, analog creatures.

Because it makes life easier, simpler, faster, better.

It is the rotating of the dial to that special space between 91 and 91.5
that gave us the satisfaction of knowing how to tune in.

It is balls of aluminum foil atop the antennae
that coaxed invisible energy to the audible domain.

It is the voice of the DJ in the context of static
that told us the quality of the skies and pending weather.

Because I don’t care.

While the speaker may have become smarter,
we have surely grown dumber.
Like parrots in a cage,
all we do now is, speak.

By |2020-02-02T00:47:09-04:00February 2nd, 2020|Critical Thinker, Humans & Technology, The Written|Comments Off on Because I don’t have to …

The fear of love

How is it that the very thing we seek our entire life,
is the very thing we grow afraid of?

For having finally received it,
we make the mistake of believing
it is ours to own.

By |2020-01-17T15:25:36-04:00January 17th, 2020|The Written|Comments Off on The fear of love

At home on the farm in Iowa

Each morning I take in the latent aroma of freeze dried coffee and hear the monotone voice of the radio reporter who calls out the price of beans and corn, the auctioneer’s rhythm unmistakable. The soft voices of my grandparents speaking to each other echo in my memory of the early morning kitchen table. The door to the stairway would be open such that it blocked most of the entrance to the kitchen, reducing the clamor of breakfast preparation to a minimum.

No matter how I tried, I never woke early enough to catch either of my grandparents descending the creaking stairs, for Grandpa was there, sitting in his chair at the table, smiling when I came in.

“Well there he is! ‘morning Kai-boy!” he would say.

Grandma would chuckle, turn from the counter where she tended to a pot of oatmeal, and smile. “How did you sleep Kai?”

There was not a single morning, not as a boy, teenager, young adult, or even in my thirties when I tied my business road trips into visits to the farm that I did not feel welcomed, respected, and cherished. Those smells, sounds, and voices are yet here, alive, vibrant. They are welcomed ghosts of more than a decade ago. The rattle of the glass pane at the top of the stairs, the static of the countertop radio, the subtle hiss of water through the pipes from the basement to the main floor, and ultimately, the sound of Grandpa opening the ground level door that brought the smell of fresh cut grass, rain, or sheep inside.

This is why we come back here, to our family farm. This is why this place, more than any other feels like home.

By |2020-01-17T15:00:08-04:00November 29th, 2019|The Written|Comments Off on At home on the farm in Iowa

No instead of Yes

When I feel safe,
I open my arms
and welcome you wide.

When I am insecure,
I shut down,
run and hide.

When anyone but you
confronts me,
I deal with it fine.

But just one word,
“no” instead of “yes”
or an uncertainty that leaves me to guess
and my heart is left in pieces,
my maturity replaced.

Once again, I am a mess.

By |2019-05-29T02:54:21-04:00May 29th, 2019|The Written|Comments Off on No instead of Yes

Where is Walter Gropius now?

I stumbled across an article about the Bauhaus, and how its founder Walter Gropius and members defied the Nazi regime for more than a decade. As a graduate of the School of Architecture and Environmental Design, the Bauhaus was core to our curriculum. I recall vividly images of profound shapes, stark contrasts, and bold lines that defined the artists of that era.

The one line of this article that stood out for me was this, “Gropius’s aim was to introduce soul into the age of the machine. The Nazis’ was to introduce the machine into the soul.” I was immediately moved to ask, are we not now in the age of the machine, far more than the second decade of the last century? And what has become of our soul now?”

Those international designers, musicians, potters, painters, and architects risked not only their standing in the local communities, which often rejected them for their expressions, but their lives under the increasing intolerance of the Nazi regime.

According to the Wikipedia article, “… —the radically simplified forms, the rationality and functionality, and the idea that mass production was reconcilable with the individual artistic spirit—were already partly developed in Germany before the Bauhaus was founded.”

I look at where we stand now, the machines we have designed, built, and integrated at every level of our lives—between us, communicating for us, in our hands, our back pockets, even embedded in our ears. We hear voices and see faces and receive written communications—digital representation of what was once a face-to-face norm. Each of us is now endowed with the capacity for personal expression, every message moved across a medium in which the entire world can view, reject or enjoy.

Is this what Gropius has in mind? Are we the very souls entered into the machines? Or have we become so intertwined, so dependent, so anxiety ridden when we are no longer connected by means of our digital companions that in fact the totalitarian machines have entered into our souls?

By |2019-03-12T12:54:02-04:00March 12th, 2019|The Written|Comments Off on Where is Walter Gropius now?

Chocolate

Tonight, I am deeply troubled by the fact that Hershey’s Syrup with Genuine Chocolate Flavor contains no chocolate. And we wonder how and when the world became prone to believing alternative facts? I say it started a long time ago, when we were first fed chocolate syrup, that is not.

By |2019-03-11T00:44:22-04:00March 11th, 2019|The Written|Comments Off on Chocolate

What does the future hold?

For the third year in a row I have returned to our family farm in Iowa for the week of Thanksgiving. My grandmother of 99.9 years lives in town, at an assisted living center. Time with her is cherished, for while she will soon move into the start of a second century on this planet, we know intuitively that years past 100 are limited.

With each visit my mother and I engage my grandmother in story telling, recording each memory on our cell phones, camera, or audio recorder. She shares with us a blend of bitter, sweet, dismay, and wonder at all she has seen and experienced. In the century that has passed she has moved from moving between rented farm houses by means of horse and sled to the automobile, the first commercial airlines, jet engines, and Moon landings. She has seen communications evolve from installation of the first telephone lines to mobile phones, satellite, and the Internet.

Just yesterday afternoon, while decorating her apartment for Christmas I played a Putumayo album ‘Folk Playground’ which started with a fun version of ‘This Old Man’. My grandmother leaning just a bit forward on her walker, swung her hips left and right, tapped her feet, and rolled her shoulders to the lyrics and the beat. My mother quickly came ’round to my grandmother’s front and danced with her, both of them laughing.

The moment was just that, a few bars of a familiar song and a reminder of the countless thousands of evenings that my grandparents danced in Texas, Florida, and Arizona during their thirty years as Iowa Snowbirds. And then my grandmother asked, “Where is that music coming from?”

“From my little black box,” which is how she refers to my cell phone.

“Oh my,” shaking her head as she found her seat, “I just don’t understand how all of that works. All of that,” referring to phone calls, text messages, photographs and music, “in that little box?”

Once seated she concluded, “As I always say, what does the future hold? What … does … the future hold?”

She asks this with a certain degree of longing to know, and at the same time a need to let go. She seems content to know that it produced a song familiar to her, and in that moment she found joy. Moments are what matter most to her now, not the past nor the future. In some ways, she is living exactly how the wise have advised for millennia—in the moment.

By |2018-11-24T17:38:32-04:00November 23rd, 2018|The Written|Comments Off on What does the future hold?