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Blue Spider's Coffee House

Truth, Love, Beauty and all things Virtuous

Month

July 2013

Envy or Jealousy: The Distortion of Equality

One of the destructive forms that Envy takes today is everyone should be able to do and experience and enjoy everything that everyone else can do and experience and enjoy….People…are suddenly persuaded they are missing something. No societies in the past have ever so assiduously taught people to envy experiences that cannot by nature be theirs.

The United States and other Western Societies…[are pitting] unequals against unequals as if they are equals. This is distortion of the idea of equalty…The idea that we are equal has been perverted into the idea that we are identical…What we are unable to achieve we bring low. What requires talent, training and hard work, we will show can be accomplished without them….We seem no longer able to admire, or be grateful for what is nobler or lovelier or greater than ourselves. We must pull down–or put down–what is exceptional.

The Seven Deadly Sins, Fairle, Henry, pp.62-64, 1978

Chicken By-Product: Notes about Leaving My Old Job

Oftentimes, you don’t realize that you care for people or realize they care about you until you have to part or leave each other. I find this is especially true with co-workers. I was amazed at how many nice things people said as I left and of course, they were probably equally shocked when I said nice things to them. For today, I gracefully accepted their kind words, for tomorrow who knows what they will say about me when I am no longer around.

It’s not until you leave, do you have any idea where you stand with people or understand the impact you on your little working world. Of course, human beings are fickle, so most of your working days you have to focus on where you stand with yourself and your God (which I hope is not yourself, which then turns “God” into a little and not so omnipotent “god”). At the end of the day, you hope you can you answer positively the following question: Did I do my best? Was I honest? Was I thoughtful and kind?

Ninety-nine percent of the time all you are left with is a nice big pat on the back from your conscience, and hopefully your conscience has strong but gentle hands. The workplace is not a place to be if you are searching for continuous external praise or validation. This is what mothers are for. Thank goodness for mothers and their capacity to love us, despite all our failings.

Although validation is tough to come by, everyone seems to be ready and generously willing to offer up criticism and sadly enough there is always a contingent that actively seeks to find others’ weaknesses, looking for ways to coldly step on others. Believing ugly is the way to the top in the working world. And as this world would have it, sometimes it works out for those people. But this is to be expected, every office is full of its misfits and miscreants, saints and sinners, demi-gods and semi-sociopaths.

My Time as Mr. Boss Man

As a boss, I think I did a poor job about giving out praise. I never wanted people to get big headed for just doing their job, especially state workers who have no real measure for performance. It is hard to praise mediocrity; there is something insincere and clinical about it. But, the cynical side of that is to be sarcastic and negative and that is a downright toxic, demoralizing, mean existence. It may be funny on TV or in the movies when actors and actresses are playing two-dimensional characters for a limited time, but all my co-workers have to go home and be a father, a mother, a husband, a wife, etc., to somebody afterwards and live out the more important part of their lives. I didn’t want to be the one who dispirits and deflates that person and makes their life harder than it has to be.

Having said all of that, I was less than perfect and I could have been more humane and less task oriented, more patient, and stopped using words phrases like “babysitting” or “herding cats” and I could have stopped asking questions like “Why are you making this harder than it needs to be?” Or, “Why is this so hard for you to understand?” As you can see it wasn’t always pretty. But life is like that, a delicate walk between justice and mercy, a fine balance between being demanding and being understanding, tip-toeing through doing and being, hoping someday that the gap between love and action closes until full integrity is reached and our god-given potential is tapped.

Pondering About Staff

As I returned to the office one last time last night, to return the keys I had forgotten to return when I left for dinner, I did feel a pull on my heart. I was going to miss this group, this odd group of people I would have never gravitated to if it had not been for work. I began to not think of them as subordinates or as staff, but as human beings. I began to think about their futures.

Would middle-aged Fanny Wickham, who had been recently separated from her alcoholic husband after he went missing for several days on a binge last year, ever find peace? And maybe love? While she embraced tough trailer talk about the men her age, you could tell she was lonely. After 28 years of marriage, you can’t help but have a hole to fill, even if your partner was a helpless lush.

Was Harriet Betancourt ever going to find peace and be able to deal with incompetence of Ken Parker. I think he was one of reasons she was such a stud at competitive darts. And how long was her health going to hold up, with the stress she put on herself to get things done around the office. How many years could she hold up with lupus, diabetes, high blood pressure all the while still smoking heavily every day? I did appreciate her hard work, but not so much all the time she missed from work with health issues. It left a big hole when she was gone for periods of time. God bless her though, she did work her tail off when she was around and struck fear in all the slackers in our office. She was not going to let you off the hook. This was the same woman who bragged about trying to take out her no good ex with a frying pan and the family car. I learned you put your life in peril when you took on this feisty, red-headed French Canadian. But underneath it all she was a real softy and you could really get to her with criticism. She did care a lot about people and every Christmas she gave to all those who were not offended by Christmas a homemade ornament.

I do wish her luck and some peace of mind and happiness. If there ever was a case for not legalizing drugs it would be her family. Drugs and alcohol had devastated her family. Her kids all had issues with drugs and alcohol as well as her grandkids. She could no longer have her son come over because he had stolen so much from her. During my tenure, we had a Bounty Hunter come to our office looking for one of her grandsons who has skipped out of town. And another grandson was shot in the stomach by the police in Stockton when he attacked them while he was high at a 7-11.

I was going to miss the humor of Mason Bixby and his quirkiness. I will miss our resident philosopher. It was only today, did I realize how good of a worker he was when there were no deadlines or stress. I never could figure out what it was but the more stress there was in the office the more he would uncontrollably shake. I will miss his shouting expletives and slamming the phone down whenever he had to make arrangements with his ex-wife for picking up his daughter for the weekend. And, I will miss his odd habit of flirting with the clean-up crew when they came into the office to vacuum and dump trash.

But at the end of the day, this guy could really make me laugh and at some level we shared the same goofy humor. And he was another one of those people, who tried to think about others. He too gave out gifts at Christmas and in the summer would hand out tomato plants to those who wanted them. Also, what stuck in my head was the fact that he deliberately used the phrase “God bless” twice when telling me good bye, sneaking in God, heaven forbid, at the workplace. God bless you Bixby.

Others I have little worries about as they seemed to have very little drama in their lives, or at least they didn’t lay it all out for others to hear or see. Like my temporary replacement, Dylan Escusi, who watches no or little TV or movies, loves to read and bikes 20 miles to work every day in the summer and spends most of his time with his family hiking, biking and rock climbing. He had an amazing ability to keep his desk clean all of the time and was a great worker, but truly embraced the philosophy of working to live. I never had to really supervise Dylan, we made a great team and accomplished a lot together.

And then there was Deepti Devi from India, our payroll expert, who quietly did excellent work and never said a bad word about anybody. She had a Master’s degree in Biology from India, but somehow ended up in America doing payroll. All her children were highly accomplished. So much could be learned from her, she never let anyone get anyway with anything and persistently chased down paperwork, but did it so nicely and always with a gentle smile. People loved her for it. She actually received a standing ovation at our Supervisor’s training. And then there is Miss Anna Knight who brought to work a youthful spirit when it was much needed, and was a blessing in that she had a lot of skills and a high standard of professionalism. Her learning curve was not as steep as it had been for others.

I also thought about Algernon Godfrey who left about a week or two before I did for a lower paying job in the Bay area. When Algernon had come to us, he had just gotten married for the first time in his early fifties to a Chinese woman, who spoke limited English. There was a definite innocence to him. He worked extremely hard, but moved 150 miles an hour in the wrong direction and so wanted to have people to like him that he was not a very effective manager. None of the women in the office respected him very much and pretty much ignored any direction he tried to give them. I hope he is doing well, I know this job took a lot out of him. I hope he is happier now he can be with his wife more often. His wife literally had about 15 different jobs and plans for jobs during his time with us and was always traveling to the Bay area to visit friends or work out one of her schemes. The poor newlywed had to go weeks at a time without his new wife, hence we suffered from too much sharing when she was gone.

And then there are others, to whom my concern is what they would do to the office morale now that I was going to be gone.

Maybe it was because I was their boss and had to somewhat learn to care about them as humans and not just as worker bees, but I will miss them even though we had very little in common other than work. Strange how that works.

The People of Africa and the Gospel

The gospel in Africa is going to a happy people, very unencumbered by the trappings that affect the lives of many in the West. They are not concerned about having endless material possessions.

It has been said of Africans that they have very little of that which matters least and a great deal of that which matters most. They have little interest in enormous homes and the finest cars but great interest in knowing their Heavenly Father and His Son, Jesus Christ, and in having eternal families. As a natural result of their faith, the Lord is lifting them in meaningful ways.–The Gospel To All The World, John B. Dickson

Poetic Snippets

There fared a mother driven forth
Out of an inn to roam;
In the place where she was homeless
All men are at home…

For men are homesick in their homes,
And strangers under the sun,
And they lay their heads in a foreign land
Whenever the day is done…

This world is wild as an old wives’ tale,
And strange the plain things are.
The earth is enough and the air is enough
For our wonder and our war;
But our rest is as far as the fire-drake swings
And our peace is put in impossible things…

To an open house in the evening
Home shall men come,
To an older place than Eden
And a taller town than Rome.
To the end of the way of the wandering star,
To the things that cannot be and that are…

The House of Christmas, G.K. Chesterton

By cool Siloam shady rill
How sweet the lily grows!
How sweet the breath beneath the hill
Of Sharon’s dewy rose!…

By cool Siloam’s shady rill
The lily must decay;
The rose that blooms beneath the hill
Must shortly fade away.

And soon, too soon, the wintry hour
Of man’s mature age
Will shake the soul with sorrow’s power
And stormy passion rage…

By Cool Siloam’s Shady Rill, Reginald Heber

Work! That makes the red blood glow
Work! That makes the quick brain grow.
Plough and hammer, hoe and flails,
Axe and crowbar, saw and nails–
A splitter of rails,
Lincoln was never a snob or shirk,
Thank God for work!

Toil that binds mankind together,
Day by day in every weather.
Pen and distaff, needle and thread,
Vision of wonder over her head,
A toiler for bread,
Joan of Arc was a peasant child
On whom God smiled.

Labor that God Himself has blest,
Honest endeavor that earns good rest,
Bench and hammer, nails and cord,
Hammer and chisel, plane and board–
Christ our Lord
Had a carpenter’s horny hands,
He understands.

Work, Abbie Farrell Brown

Excerpts from Tam O’Shanter

As market days are weeping late,
An folk begin to tak the gate;
While we sit bousing at the nappy,
And getting fou and unco happy…

This truth fand honest Tam o’Shanter,
As he frae Ayr ae night did canter,
(Auld Ayr, wham ne’ver a town surpasses
For honest men and bonnie lasses.)…

But our tale–Ae market-night,
Tam had got planted unco right…
And at his Elbow, Souter Johnny,
His ancient, trusty, drouthy crony;
Tam lo’ed him like a vera brither–
They had been fou weeks thegither!
The night drave on with sangs and clatter
And ay the ale was growing better;
The landlady and Tam grew gracious,
wi’ favours secret, sweet, and precious
The Souther tauld his queerest stories;
The landlord’s laugh was ready chorus:
The storm without might rair and rustle,
Tam did na mind the storm a whiste

Care, mad to see a man sae happy,
E’en drown’d himsel’ amang the nappy!
As bees flee hame wi’ladies o’ treasure
The minutes wing’d their way wi’ pleasure:
Kings may be blest, but Tam was glorious.
O’er a’ the ills o’ life victorious!

But pleasures are like poppies spread,
You seize the flower, its bloom is shed;
Or like the snow falls in the river,
A moment white–then melts for ever..
Neither man can tether time or tide…

–Robert Burns

If

If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you,
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too;
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated, don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk to wise:

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim;
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two imposters just the same;
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build’em up with worn-out tools:

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings
And never breathe a word about your loss;
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: ‘Hold on!’

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friend can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much;
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

–Rudyard Kipling

Despite Ourselves: The Mystery of How Things Turn Out

Phillip Henslowe: Mr. Fennyman allow me to explain about the theatre business. The natural condition is one of insurmountable obstacles on the road to imminent disaster.
Hugh Fennyman: So what do we do?
Phillip Henslowe: Nothing. Strangely enough, it all turns out well.
Hugh Fennyman: How?
Phillip Henslowe: I don’t know. It’s mystery.
–From Shakespeare in Love

A few weeks ago, when my wife and I were dedicating our weekend to a Netflix marathon, we decided to watch Shakespeare in Love. And while I enjoyed all the wit and romance of this well-told story, but it was this simple exchange between Phillip Henslowe and Hugh Fennyman that resonated the most with me not only because it most likely seems to be true of the theatre business from what others have told me, but because I think true about life at all levels.

“Imminent disaster” and “insurmountable obstacles” are part of the natural human condition. If we could step outside of ourselves and see more of our life, than we currently have the capability of seeing, we would first be amazed at how ridiculous preposterous we are and next we would be surprised by how many things go right despite our huge blind spots and our natural inclinations to be lazy, destructive, biased, perverted and unsympathetic to needs of others.

Humans suffer acutely from an inability to learn the right lessons from our past, an inability to apply a full and proper perspective to the present, an inability to assess the consequences of our actions, and our limited in their ability to look into or predict the clouded future. Add to this list all of our vices and our destructive addictions, our myopic selfishness and our foolish pride, and our narrowly defined desires and passions. And don’t forget our physical limitations and the breakdown of our bodies and minds as we age. And this is all before, we have to interact with each other, imagine millions and billions of people interacting with each other, each making decisions for themselves and others, yet all suffering daily from the same follies, foibles, and limitations. Lastly, top all of this with the capriciousness of nations, governments, and Mother Nature herself.

Despite of all of this, we should just be astonished that things actually get done, that tall buildings and a lengthy highways get built, that we have automobiles, trains, planes and large cruise ships, and that some geniuses came up with the computers, the Internet, and smart phones. We should recognize that it is an absolute miracle that our children, our siblings, our friends, and co-workers, pets, plants, nature and wildlife survive us. Each nation should have a National Day of Awe because life truly is a marvelous mystery.

The Extent of Tolerance: When Virtue Becomes A Vice

“Tolerance is a virtue, but like all virtues, when exaggerated, it transforms itself into a vice”–Boyd K. Packer.

The Relative Limits of A Material Reality

To insist on only being able to see things without a spiritual perspective or at some distance from our material reality, is to merge ourselves with our exterior reality or to capitulate to the endless induction of empiricism and to the endless marketing of this material reality. This however, is not to say there is no material reality and there is no need for empiricism, but it is to say not all of reality is material, especially the most important parts of reality and that is our relationship with our families, friends and all the rest of humanity. And to live only one part of reality, means you live with illusion and illusion eventually becomes a complex malaise, instead of a simply profound experience, if one is not actively seeking to incorporate both the material and spiritual realities into ther lives and is not seeking to understand the proper relationship of one to the other.

This is why our politics has become so empty as of late and this is why we clamor about the lack of leadership in our institutions. Our politics, whether it be the environment, welfare entitlements, taxes or budgets and its attendant political rhetoric and sound bytes only focus on the economic reality of the individual and ignore anything that has to do with our collective spiritual needs.

Innately our souls, timeless as they are, resist the flat, sterile and unimaginative limits of this type of logic, rhetoric and marketing over time and searchingly ask, as in the sardonically titled Peggy Lee song, Is That All There Is? Our souls seek to be guided by something more profound, something more symbolic, something more morally rational, and something more sacred. Something that ultimately appeals to our inborn moral imaginations. Our souls ultimately want peace from the seemingly, conflicting, and chaotic world that materialism, individualism, and sensationalism have created and cannot ever hope to contain.

Virtue which holds in balance individual freedom and moral order and brings about peace within ourselves cannot be reduced, desecrated or even obliterated by limited empirical, legal, and material definitions, which in the end make honesty, patience, chastity, modesty, family, loyalty, work and love all relative values reduced only to either physical need or situation, thus making them only one-dimensional, or flat, and for the most part unmeaningful and oftentimes divorced from the consequences of the new, pithy and marketable mantras they induce.