Well it seems that while things are changing by the hour, definitely by the day. One thing is for sure, it is change and I am settling in for the long haul.

Settling in for the long haul knowing that life as we know it will never again be the same. I am not sure what people are expecting, but I suspect many think that things will be normal again. The reality is that it will not, something of this magnitude never is. I don’t know what the world will look like afterward, I cannot even pretend to predict. It will not be too much a stretch to adjust to the changes that will come down after things have flattened out. This is thanks in large part to a simplified life created for myself and family.

Let’s imagine for a moment what life would be like if we were not to live beyond our means and trying to be something we are not. This is what I call “right-size living.” This is related to stuff and the way in which we think about life and the decisions we make that affect the idea of right size living.

Let’s begin with stuff: What if you didn’t own a car? Or if that is not possible, what if you owned one ecology-friendly car like a Prius. What would life be like? Maybe it might feel like an inconvenience at first having to carpool with your S.O. (significant other) or partner. You would adjust, I am sure. But think about the money you would save cutting down on insurance, gas and maintenance.

What if you paid off your credit card debt and only bought what you could afford to buy using cash? What would life look like if you didn’t have to worry about carrying over the credit card debt from one month to the next paying high interest rates?

What if you lived in a smaller manageable sized living space paying less rent or a lower mortgage? What would your life look like if you only bought that things you needed for the space and not what you wanted? Or better yet, what if you were to buy used or antique furniture that could be cheaper than new not having to use your credit card and go into debt?

What if you changed your thinking about the environment and sustainability rather than feel like you are free to do whatever you wanted?

What would life feel like if you were to have less stress about work because it is no longer about paying for stuff you want or paying off debt.

What would life feel like with less stress? Would you eat less? Drink less? Exercise more? Take more time to be with family and friends? Maybe you would change your lifestyle, one that supports your new thinking about being right sized.

Wednesday, April 1st

Dear Mother,

Hello. How are you? I hope this finds you better than we are doing under the circumstances.

I can tell you are very angry having been ignored for so long. I can say that you have now gotten our attention. It is time we stop and listen, really listen to what you have to say. I know for so long we have been the one calling the shots thinking we know what’s best for you and all the inhabitants of your world.

Before moving on I think it is best to clear the air. On behalf of the human race I would like to apologize for our poor behavior over the last century. We have acted selfishly not taking into consideration your needs, and as a result your inhabitants are dying off in droves. The ways in which we go about our business nad living our lives has been selfish and we have choked off our connection to you. We are 100% to blame.

You have sent us many warning signs over the years and we failed to heed them. At first they were small, and we simply put our heads in the sand selfishly focusing on ourselves and what mattered most to us, regardless of the cost. The destruction and harm we have caused has been devastating. We are very sorry, we had many opportunities to make it right.

Yet we continued on our merry way not paying attention and destroying those dear to you. Now the message is loud and clear. I know this is what it took and we are paying the price for the foreseeable future.

I do hope you will give us another chance. To prove to you that we are not so bad and can work together in harmony with you. We just needed to be reminded that we are part of your world, you are not part of ours. We will make your world a priority and do whatever we have to do to make it right.

If things continue with business as usual, because I know you are looking out for your world, you have every right to send us something even more devastating than what we are experiencing now. We now know what it is like to feel loss and devastation on a grand scale as you have experienced.

Again, please accept our apology. We will do better from now on.

Sincerely,

Humanity

I have so much bubbling inside of me these days. I don’t know if people even take the time to read what I have written. Maybe one day they will look back and read. Or as one of my favorite punk bands lyrics, “One day we will all look back and laugh.” Is that even possible after many lives are lost because our priorities have been so skewed?

I continue to write my feelings and thoughts on the situation knowing that death is a part of this. Knowing that lives will be lost, whether because of the ineptitude of government or just simply living out the days of our lives until it is simply time to go.

I don’t know, nor do I profess to know how any of this will play out. With each passing hour things change. That is life. Life has always been that. This disease, that moves at breakneck speed is highlighting the fact that life is change. That is not to assume that change is positive or negative, change is change.

In the context in which we are living, change leans towards the darker side of life. It is change nonetheless. Our problem, we have held on far too tightly trying to keep change at bay. To maintain our status quo has been detrimental in so many ways. We are seeing the results of our holding on for too long.

People respond in a myriad of ways to what is happening worldwide. Some turn to religion, others rise to the occasion to lend a hand, even taking risks to their own lives, including those on the front lines. Others prefer to place blame, deservedly or not, instead of dealing with the reality at hand. Others problem solve. Others isolate.

There are others that try and find ways to deny the reality, whether it is to binge watch, overeat, drink or the many other forms of escape. While this may be an alright strategy in the short-term, it is perpetuating the status quo and not admitting or allowing the reality that life is change.

The beauty of the internet, I get to read news from all over the world. I gain insight on how countries are dealing with these challenges, and changes being thrust upon people. My focus is on Japan, my home for many years, and also the United States where my family lives. I am concerned for both for different reasons, but with the same actors – the government and its politicians. It has become abundantly clear that the US federal government has failed its people. I won’t go into the reasons, we all know why. What is also clear is that there are people losing their lives unnecessarily.

In Japan, it has been about saving face due to the upcoming Olympics. In addition, an assumption that the way in which the culture encourages face mask wearing, hygiene and bowing instead of handshaking has allowed Japan to “dodge a bullet.” At what cost? Complacency. People had been going about their lives, despite the warning from the government to remain indoors and work from home. This is their way of denying change. We may see the result of this in the coming weeks. I don’t hope for the worse.

I am not in the game of fortune telling and try and live in the now knowing that with each passing moment life is change.

Wrap your head around that!

Unbecoming Italy

These days I have been self-sequestering. To pass the time away I have been watching television shows. Perusing the list of recommended shows I stumbled across a 21st century Italian mobster drama called “Gomorrah. What I found fascinating, as I worked my way through the first season, is the context in which I was watching it – the corona pandemic. This was a few weeks back when the pandemic worked its way into the fabric of Italian society mowing down and any all inhabitants that happen to be in the way.

Reading stories online about the spread happening so quickly in Italy, I was seeing why firsthand in the mob series. Italians touch and kiss one another with abandon. And a large part of Italians live in close proximity in dilapidated, what I assume to be, low-incoming housing and buildings, at least that’s how the creator’s of the series portrayed it.

I hesitate to use the word ghetto, but it was an unexpected sight, and not my image of Italy. Italy has always been one of architectural beauty and art. Think Venice, Rome and Florence. While they are beautiful places to visit, there is also the reality of life in other parts of the country. Like most other countries in the world Italy has created a myth to make us believe.

Our beliefs are created by images, experience and what people tell and do not tell us. Beliefs, while a part of all of us, are fluid and change over time as reality works its way into us. As I see the images of squalor in the outskirts of Italian towns on the TV show, coupled with the spread of the pandemic and loss of life due to the way in which the Italians live, my beliefs of the country change. This is not a bias against Italy, rather a reality check of my own beliefs so that I do not hold on to them so tightly. We all have beliefs, the trick is not to hold on to them letting them change with the context, time and experience.

The pandemic is shedding light on our beliefs as they begin to change. One other example, my country, the United States, the country that voted a president in on the phrase “MAGA.” I will not go into this phrase in detail as I have written it about it in a previous blog. I will say that the myth and beliefs around the American dream, we are seeing is less possible. However, people are holding on to this dream. How? By going into personal debt. The cost of living in the US is staggering, yet people are willing to forego this reality and allow themselves to live paycheck to paycheck. It will be even more unattainable in a post-corona world.

This is the death of the American dream. It hasn’t been nor no longer be possible as Americans are coming to realize they have no savings to last them past the next paycheck. The government safety nets that used to be so readily available are less so. The cost of health care is so high that many forego even getting it. And higher education for many is far out of reach without going into massive debt.

The beliefs of America and Italy are changing. These are not anomalies, they are the realities in just about every country. I don’t mean to assume that the beliefs are negative. Some countries have risen to the occasion. Germany for example has done a decent job for the most part. The same cannot be said of each and every country in the world.

I can say that as I write this now, Saturday, March 28th, we are on a voluntary lock down in Japan. We are on the brink of a potential explosion of infections. Just last week I wrote about why Japan has dodged a bullet. And in less than a week my beliefs, rosy as they were, continue to change.

I love the title of this, but not sure how I can make it into something, so I will write and see what takes shape.

It’s early morning, 6-ish, on my bike riding to a meeting point for a group bike ride, followed by a post ride coffee at the local coffee hangout. Our group is the U.N of cycling, long time residents of Japan whose love of cycling brings together people from all walks of life and countries including Canada, France, United States, Germany and Japan among others.

During these trying times in Japan we try and live a normal active life, with minor inconveniences. Cycling is one of those luxuries we are able to enjoy given that the length of the bike allows for a preset social distancing. Upon meeting fist or elbow bumping is the preferred greeting.

My journey to meeting the international contingency of cyclists continues as I ride down a narrow street in suburban Tokyo. Flanked by a rice field on the right, and a pack of post-war 1950s Japanese wood style homes that would flatten in seconds in an earthquake above 5.0, on the left, I’m about halfway there when suddenly in the distance I spot a crow. Nothing out of the ordinary, crows are in abundance in Japan, right up there with pigeons in New York City.

I notice the crow has flown from its perch, an electrical wire high above paralleling the road and heading in my direction. Still a few hundred feet away, no concern. Closing the distance, 200, 150, I see that this jet black crow has the wing span of an adult eagle, “Rather large for a country that prides itself on smallness,” I think out loud. I am still not concerned. Then less than 100 feet, concern wins out. And like a Jedi Tie Fighter maneuvering the small alley-like maze of the Death Star, the crow is now level and flying straight at his target – ME!

It’s do or die.

Do I hold my ground and assume the crow will course correct pulling up at the last second? Or to avoid a collision with one of Mother Nature’s own Fighters, do I swerve into the rice field?

I held my ground, as did the crow, who was flying level with my head only to slightly pull up at the last second tapping my helmet with its talons. (Or is it crow’s feet?) Had I not been wearing the helmet I surely would have a bald spot and even better story to tell.

After our skirmish, I started thinking about how this relates to what is going on worldwide. Early on in this crisis, corona was careening headlong into the direction of humanity with no conscious motivation to swerve. Like Poe’s Raven, had we listened closely we could have heard the utterance “Nevermore.” Now face-to-face with darkness and the great equalizer, collectively we grieve and will grieve the loss of life, and life we have known will never more be the same.

We could have swerved. Unfortunately, we are seeing the result of our decisions. Humanity is not superior as much as it is a part of nature. This is where the disconnect begins for people in many parts of the world. Technology and stuff have taken over. We have lost touch with the spirit that is nature. And once lost, we care less and less over time about what we have done and continue to do the planet. Thinking superior and invulnerable, it took a zoonotic disease so minuscule it takes a microscope to see for us to realize our vulnerability.

It’s a wake up call to the reality that we can no longer life the kind of life that has left us disconnected from nature. It’s time to change to a life of sustainability for the planet and all its inhabitants, or Mother Nature will continue to dare us to take her head on.

Do we play chicken and risk mass extinction?

To salvage what’s left of her world, I can hear her warning, “Nevermore. Nevermore. Nevermore.

I have a whole slew of posts that I have written that I wanted to begin posting in the next few days.

  1. On Becoming Italian
  2. The Orgasmic Announcer
  3. Playing Chicken with a Crow
  4. Untitled – Interview with a personal trainer on health during this time

I will hold off and want to talk a little about my experience today being out and about in Tokyo, then leave you with a link to an article that sums up what I had written about in my previous post, (Social Distancing. Non-Existing) and why I am now beginning to change my tune.

My day started with a morning train ride to central Tokyo. These days I usually ride my bike to avoid the trains for obvious reasons, but it was raining. I waited a little past 9:00 am in hopes that the rush hour crowds would dwindle. There has been far fewer commuters since the beginning of the spread of the virus. To my surprise the two trains that I took, a total of 45 minutes, were both packed as if there was nothing going on.

While on the train I was listening to a Making Sense with Sam Harris podcast. He was interviewing disease specialists and talking about how serious the spread of this virus is and why the near draconian measures are being put in place. I had done a lot of reading and kept up on the news, but I respect Sam Harris’ scientific and meditation practioner background. He brings a level headed, fact based approach to any topic. He is not an alarmist and what he had to say in effect was alarming.

Picture me standing on the train barely to move, a buffet for the corona virus to work its way through infecting anyone and everyone within vicinity. I admit I let my creative mind get the best of me as it can do.

After arriving at my personal trainer’s gym, he talked me off the ledge and I calmed down. After the gym, I took another less crowded train, thankfully, and went to Yokohama (the location of the first infected ship) where low and behold everywhere you went there were people. I am not talking a few, but many, everywhere, even after rush hour.

It was then that I realized I am one of those people. I had already made plans to meet a friend for dinner, and kept those plans. On my return trip home, of course it was just as packed as it was in the morning. And to top it off a guy standing just in front of me sneezed two of the biggest sneezes I have ever heard. Thankfully he was wearing a mask to keep the death spray at bay. I thought to myself, “FFS, couldn’t he have waited for the train door to open and stepping out into the open platform?”

After arriving at my station and to the safety of open air and free from the worries that plagued me on the train, I vowed that this would be the last day that I take the train and will be riding my bike, something I already love to do.

I have attached a link below to an article from the Japan Times online newspaper that talks about some of what I had previously written, expanding further with a few other potential scenarios that could occur in Japan. With time on your hands at home, I encourage you to listen to the above three most recent Sam Harris podcasts and the Japan Times article.

Japan Times Online article

Upon reflecting on the day, I have come to the conclusion it is better to overplay it safe. While some of the social mores I wrote about may factor in less infections so far, there is still a complacency in the populace to the reality of the situation worldwide and the potential for it to happen here.

During dinner at the restaurant with my friend, looking around at all the people smiling, laughing, drinking and not sitting within an acceptable social distance, I felt guilty that there are others in the world unable to do what we are doing for nobody knows how long. It was then that I also decided that it is a moral and ethical responsibility as part of a global community to adhere to some of the same rules our global citizens are doing to stave off the spread of infection.

Please be safe, practice good hygiene, don’t hoard, take care of one another and know that from my family and friends here in Japan, our hearts go out to each and every one of you who have taken the time to read this and are home bound and worried.

I’m a middle of the road kinda guy so this is strange what I am about to write. Many people from doctors to my Mom who live outside of Japan, the country where I have resided for more than twelve years, are texting and asking the question,”Why does Japan have so few coronavirus infections?” This is an interesting question and one in which I have been pondering for over a week. With things changing so rapidly by the hour in other countries, Japan life goes on for the most part relatively normal. And yet at the time of this writing the number of infected is under 1,000.

Don’t get me wrong there has been some societal changes, such as elementary to high school closings going on two weeks. Many businesses are requiring employees for the first time ever to telecommute, which has also been going on for two weeks. Events across all industries have been canceled as well. However, businesses have remain open and people are freely moving about. There is no quarantine of any kind required, unless having tested positive or showing symptoms.

With people moving about freely this also means that trains are still crowded during morning and evening rush hours. This also means that “Social Distancing” is “Non-Existencing.” People stand and sit next to one another on the train with no problem whatsoever. The only difference, instead of 70% of the population wearing masks it is now 95% and coughing and touching one’s face is no longer done publicly.

This leads me to a theory as to why there are so few infected in Japan. I am no scientist of course, so what I am about to say is really my own opinion based upon years of living in Japan as well as impromptu interviews, observation and conversations with Japanese and non-Japanese alike.

Some liken Italy’s demographics to Japan’s as an aging population. I have not spent time in Italy for quite some time, but I can say with certainty that the elderly make up about one third of the population and increasing every year in Japan. As we know, this is the highest at risk group when it comes to the coronavirus. Yet Italy has been ravaged and Japan has not. It is in my opinion that reason is, for the most part it all comes down to cultural mores.

Japan is a collective culture, one in which the group takes precedence over the individual. This is one reason why Japan is such a safe country. This way of thinking in essence is, if the group is taken care of first then the individual is taken care of. On a personal note, I struggled with this change for the first five year of living here. An American “me first,” entitled attitude is deeply rooted and one that would not be serving me well during times like this in Japan.

The result of a collective culture, rather than having to enforce requirements, government officials make announcements and suggestions and people simply adhere to them.

Mask wearing is a part of the culture. If you have ever visited Japan the first thing you notice, Japanese wear masks year round depending upon whether for flu, colds and hay fever seasons.

Japan is already an impeccably clean and hygienic country. It is one of the first things people comment on when they visit. Everything from hand washing, to alcohol disinfecting, something that is being asked of everyone after entering a restaurant or business these days.

After spending the day outside, showers and baths are done in the evenings before going to bed.

Japanese remove their shoes at the “genkan” or front entrance before entering the house. Shoes are never worn in the house.

Physical contact has always been limited in Japan, bowing instead of handshaking.

Japanese are active and healthy comparatively speaking. Japanese are not overweight, tend to eat healthy and are active, whether exercising or simply riding bikes or walking. This makes them less prone to pre-existing conditions.

I will say after the fact that some of this is generalizations, but when it comes to something like this, it’s difficult to drill down to specific details.

I hope we have dodged the bullet in Japan despite the fact that we had a large Chinese and Korean tourist population in the country a few months back and left the borders open for a period of time.

If these cultural mores indeed are part of the reason there are so few infections we are fortunate. The other possible scenario is that Japan is in store for a big explosion. The good news if that were to happen, the health care system is equipped to handle it, Japan can learn from the other countries dealing with it now and because of the collective society we will all listen and do what needs to be done.

Be safe, practice hygiene, think of others and please don’t hoard.

The other day I was having coffee with two friends at my favorite central Tokyo coffee shops. Being somewhat on opposite ends of the political spectrum. we had long ago agreed not to talk politics. Sometimes politics creeps in by accident. I take the blame on this occasion because of one utterance, “America is finally being made good again.” As soon as these words left mouth a hush descended on our table. One of my friends began stirring his coffee nervously. Looking over at the coffee stirrer I noticed him glancing at his MAGA political gendarme in arms.

All of us having lived in Japan for more than double digit years, I only assumed that while our politics were different, the real MAGA phrase was silly. Not from the commiserating looks they gave one another.

As a former New Yorker I am not afraid to speak my mind when called upon to do so. This was one of those callings. Breaking the silence I said, “Come on, really, you both think that America needs to be great again. Was it ever really great?” Not able to stop myself, it morphed into a rant, “What was it that made America great? What about other countries? Don’t you think that all countries have their own sort of greatness? ” In rehearsed-like head nods they both disagreed.

They say that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over expecting different results. They also say, wisdom is knowing when to keep your mouth shut. I said nothing further changing the subject to what Minnesotans knows best, the weather.

After our coffee talk while on the train ride home I started thinking about the MAGA statement in the context of my two friends. Despite the fact that they have been living in Japan for a combined total of thirty plus years, they still think America was great and has the potential to be great again. This begs the question, “Why are they living in Japan if America could be great again?” I don’t know their answers, nor do I want to jump into their headspace and speculate. I would think that if one wanted to “MAGA” then living in the country to help make it “MAGA” would be the best course of action.

This leads me to the title of this blog – Careful What You Pray For (Or MAGA in the making) Let’s say for the sake of argument that Trump is a god-fearing man and everyday since the beginning of the MAGA craze that got him elected, before the start of each day and after his McDonald’s breakfast he has been hitting his knees at the White House church praying to the almighty. Because of his consistent earnestness his MAGA prayer is now being answered, but not in the way he expected. It never is.

From my experience, anytime I prayed for something it came in ways that I was not expecting. During my punk rock days in my 20s when the world was always coming to an end, thanks to corporations, I used to be a smoker. Being an athlete and a smoker was not a good combination. I remember willfully trying to quit smoking on my own over and over and over again. Then one day after many willful attempts at trying to stop I gave up and began praying daily.

With smoking there is a physical addiction and I had to go through that difficult and painful period of withdrawal for real change to take place. Before prayer, which is simply a surrendering, using brute force, my willpower, whenever I got to that place of withdrawal I would give up because it was too difficult. Prayer, surrendering, allowed space for me to go through that painful withdrawal period. By surrendering I made room for change to happen. I eventually quit and never smoked again.

With MAGA, first let’s substitute the word “Good” instead of great. It’s easier to achieve. The reality is that this idea of greatness is nothing more than a narrative used to bind a swath of the population into thinking that America is no longer great because the other has made it bad. (Immigrants, other countries, etc.)

Okay, back to the new phrase MAGA – Make America Good Again, and Trump’s prayer. Trump has a direct line to GOD, and he has prayed for this to happen. GOD says yes, I will grant you this prayer and Make America Good Again. Now his prayer is being answered in an unexpected way which happens to come in the form of this virus plaguing America and the world. There is an opportunity for America to be good again if society makes room for change to take place. Like the smoker in me, willpower will not cut it. Surrendering is what makes room for change.

There will be a window of opportunity for societal change to take place. To care for one another. To be equal . To be less independent. To be less judgmental. And to know that America can be good again with help outside the borders. Maybe this feels too optimistic. I am a pessimistic guy by nature, but having lived through many disasters firsthand including 9/11, Fukushima and now the “C,” I have seen the spectrum of responses.

It remains to be seen how this all plays out of course. Maybe, just maybe it will be a very different world than what it was on the other side. One in which humans trump profit and sustainability is more important than the short-term.

I’m sure the last thing you want to read right now is another piece on corona. The disease that has re-defined going viral. Let’s call it hyper-viral.

This little pesky microbe is everywhere, SNS, MSM, BMW and now burrowing into all facets of life. With each passing day life is being re-shaped as fear begins to take shape. From the canceling of events with large gatherings to the deletion of cultural traditions like kissing on the cheeks in France. This annoyance of a disease is changing everything.

There are no cultural boundaries with corona, despite countries trying to close borders. This is a battle between Mother Nature and humankind. Mother Nature 1, humankind 0.

Until we admit that we are not separate from her, this real life apocalypse scenario will play out over and over.

Admitting is the first step towards acceptance and change. This I trust will get us to rethink the ways in which we live our lives. It is my hope that over time, as the virus wanes we change course by reshaping our lives towards one of sustainability.

I am not sure how many lives will be lost or need to be lost before realizing that the way in which globalization i.e., governments and corporations run and ruin the world, that we the people need to take matters into our own hands and make the tough changes that are necessary.

These are just a couple of very simple easy to adapt examples of the way in which I live my life. Of course some countries and locations are easier to adapt than others. But there are ways and we have choices.

1.) Use hand towels to wash wipe my hands after washing them. Not wasteful paper towels.

2.) Alternative modes of transportation whenever you can. Bicycle, train or bus. Single passenger driving is wasteful.

2a.) Travel less by plane.

3.) Bundle up errand running. If you have to run around town taking care of business, shopping and going to appointments, schedule them all into one outing. Better yet combine them with friends and family, that is if you have to drive.

4.) Buy perishable non-packaged and less prepackaged foods for up to three days at most. Perishable goods tend to have minimal packaging. Buying food for a week or more is wasteful and ends up going to waste.

5.) Exercise and eat healthy. Believe it or not this saves the planet.

This is just a handful of ideas and first step changes to ponder and make a part of your life.

I purposely did not explain how these connect with mother nature, climate change and sustainability. I would rather you make the connections yourself.

There is so much more you can do of course. It is up to you. Right now, we are not doing a good job of it at all.

I hope this corona virus scares everyone, and this reality shifts our thinking towards one of sustainability.

How do you want to leave the planet for your children and generations to come?

I have a few guilty pleasures I don’t really write about much. One of them is to watch television shows that may seem on the surface to be cheesy and shallow. On the surface it may be, but I choose television shows based upon a certain criteria.

I know within the first five minutes of a television show whether it has heart and truth regardless of whether or not it may seem shallow. I can tell by how the lines are written and spoken by the actors. It’s the same way with movies, books and even blogs. I know within the first few sentences whether it is even worth the precious time to read or watch.

Being drawn to the various mediums has its limitations, that is there is not a lot out there I find myself drawn to. It’s easy to spot when its not truthful, forced or manipulative of emotions. It’s easy to spot when there are ulterior motives behind what is being written about. It’s easy to spot when it’s simply shallow.

It’s not easy to tap into truth. It’s not easy to confront oneself, deal with it and lay it out there making room for one’s voice. And with such easy access to creating content in whatever form it may be, it’s no wonder there is so much mediocrity. Of course the only way to finding a voice, walk the path through mediocrity, risk, experience, create.

Getting back to my guilty pleasure, having recently run out of television shows to watch, I happened upon a Japanese Netflix show called “Followers,” about oddly enough a similar same topic I have written about in the last month – Upvote Blues.

The premise of the show follows the life of a famous Japanese woman photographer and her struggles with work and eventually becoming a mother. Parallel with this story is the trajectory of a young up and coming, struggling, unconventional actress who clearly does not fit in with the system. The famous photographer spots her in a photo shoot, takes a few candid pictures and uploads them to her Instagram account. With a large Instagram following, immediately the up and coming actress photos go viral. The actress becomes the “It” girl. Then the swift fall from grace.

I will not go into any more much detail in case you have in fact read this far and want to watch the show. The reviews written about the show call it a Japanese version of “Sex and the City.” It is much more than that.

What I will say, this show moved me in unsuspecting ways about this desire to be needed via likes, upvotes, positive comments, etc. This may be the time we live in, but all of that is fleeting. What matters most is finding one’s own way, voice, path, vision, call it what you will. Sustainability is created by hard work and paying dues. The rest is nothing more than a distraction.

The title of this blog is, “Walk your Own Path and Let People Talk,” happens to be a quote from the very last episode of the show. I think the title speaks for itself. If I have to explain it to you, keep walking you just might find you are already on it.

I don’t want to downplay the severity of what is going on worldwide. It is serious. How serious? Nobody knows. I wrote a piece titled “Fear” a few days back about more or less keeping it in perspective, or as those Zen Masters like to say, “Keeping it in the now.”

Living in the moment there is no fear, no problems, nothing to worry about. I know for most of you this is a hard concept to grasp. Living in the past or the future is easier to control in your mind. This is what they call delusion and manifests in many different forms.

What I want to talk about today is a few oddities I have noticed in Tokyo in relation to corona, fear and delusion.

Imagine …

… you are standing on a packed commuter train in Tokyo unable to move. The corona virus is a few weeks into its long journey towards worldwide infection. Convinced mask wearing offers protection and a modicum of relief, everyone on the train is wearing one. The exception? One haggard looking elderly salary man who clearly should have retired over a decade ago. This non-mask wearing octogenarian surrounded by a sea of mask-wearing paranoid younger salary men suddenly coughs without covering his mouth, spewing forth droplets of saliva easily seen by the naked eye.

The already deafening silence on this morning train reaches a depth of silence that would frighten any meditation practitioner. With this simple act of coughing, everyone within eye-shot in their minds has pronounced him guilty of murder. Nominating himself executioner, a young brash up and coming salary man begins to yell at the perp for coughing in a crowded train, “What the hell do you think you are doing old man? You’re going to kill us all!” Lavishing in the attention the executioner continues his delusional rant, “I think it’s best you get off the train at the next stop or else we will have to take matters into our own hands.” Stunned and speechless by the lack of respect, the old man gets up from his seat and with head held low shuffles off the train at the next stop.

Imagine …

… you are at an Italian style coffee shop in a trendy part of central Tokyo minding your own business writing your next blog post. Sitting at a large dark mahogany table that could easily seat twelve disciples + 1, it is empty thanks to the corona virus scare, save for one patron. This university age Japanese mask wearing male stands in front of a glass counter and home to a plethora of deserts to savor along with a cappuccino.

Having already ordered your banana bread and cappuccino you are sitting down at the hulk of a table getting ready to write. You look up to see the university student with tray in hand sitting down directly in front of you. Annoyed by the fact that of all the chairs to choose from this guy sits within corona giving proximity. You remind yourself that Japanese personal space and yours are not the same. Returning for a moment to your writing you look up for a second and notice the mask on your new friend is hanging from his chin. The stark whiteness of the mask accentuates the red pock marks that overwhelm his face. Thinking he is sick with the big “C” you consider moving further away. At closer inspection you realize it’s puberty related.

You glance at his tray and realize why he has so many of those pesky pimples on his face. He has ordered one of every desert displayed in the glass case, not one two or three, rather six, along with a small cup of coffee to wash it all down with. With mask removed he begins the devouring session with the same banana bread you have ordered. Followed by a slice of cheesecake, then shoe cream (think cream-filled-doughnut). With your stomach getting queasy just watching him, you go back to your writing to push this gluttonous juvenile out of your mind. Then it occurs to you, he is eating out of fear. Fear of the big “C”.

Imagine …

… you are in Tokyo church (yes they have them here too) praying for the sick and the dying, the priest mentions corona in relation to the prayer, a collective sigh moves through the room and heads drop ever lower, as if this is more important than the myriad of other issues that affect the world. The priest says, “Reach out and grasp each other’s hands. Let’s bond and give strength to the poor and hungry, the sick and dying of the world.” Your first thought, “What the hell I am not holding hands with anyone. I’d rather not be one of those sick and dying we are praying for now!

You notice that of the one hundred or so parishioners attending mass that day, nearly everyone is having similar thoughts. One third chose to live on the edge and are actually holding hands, the other third simply opt for survival and do not hold hands. With the final third coming up with a clever alternative, tucking their hands underneath the armpits and touching elbows. You stifle a chuckle at the sight and ingenuity of this life-saving alternative.

The unified reluctance to hold hands is perceived by the priest. He speaks in a calm god-like tone, “God is watching your every move. He knows what you do, what you think.” This Christian koan goes over the head of everyone. Each parishioner holds their ground continuing to do what they are doing.

You don’t care about that at all, you have chosen to cram both your hands into the front of your pants.

True to oneself. Comfortable in skin. Occupy space. Knowing the knowing. Honorable. Responsible. Flawed.

Life is change. Living is now.

Past is pain. Future is pain. Hearing it in the voices of others. Heartless and head full.

Asleep, unable to hear. Awake, not wanting to. Pay no heed go on with life.

The task at hand. Pass no judgment. Listen, speak and live. From the heart a faint recognition. Experience a faint connection.

Lost are the masses. Driven by what? Those words I dare not speak. If you have to ask you are not found.

Where is the heart, not a sound. Blinded by the darkness residing within. Light emanating grows slowly so dim. Knowing they know not.

Light if found, the way out. No longer fear, no longer doubt.

Gratitude abound for another breath. Another day. How many left? This I can say I know not.

At least I know there is another word, another thought another something that reveals in time.

Fear is funny. Yes I know, how can one say the word fear and funny in a sentence. I just did and because by making that claim that fear is funny, I am saying that by not giving fear too much credence, then I am also not giving it too much power.

Fear in the right context, say in nature with a bear approaching is one thing. But in others like thinking of the future, that is just plain suffering. You suffer now for something you don’t even know will happen yet. By fearing the future you are implying you are doomsayer because you are thinking you know what will be.

The reality is this is just not true. In this context I think fear is funny, because nobody is a teller of the future even though somewhere in our minds we all think we are. Otherwise why would be doing what we are doing in the first place. This must be part of the human condition, pre-loaded for some purpose. Maybe some kind of residue or leakage from evolution where we need to have a sense of fear in certain contexts, but it has seeped into the psyche causing unnecessary suffering.

The choice is yours. Give in, suffer now and later.

Or

Be here now. Don’t suffer now. Don’t suffer later knowing that later will some day be now.

You know the old adage about opinions? If not, google it!

For someone who didn’t have much in the way of opinions when I was younger it certainly has changed. I seem to have an opinion, sometimes strong, on a myriad of topics. It’s all based on experience and knowledge I have in whatever it is the opinion has to do with. I have learned over time that an opinion on something I know nothing about or have never experienced is simply lying.

I think this in some ways ties in with having a voice, a perspective on the world based upon knowledge and experience. These opinions have fermented with age on the inside for a long period of time and only in the last few years has it come to the fore ready to be put into words.

Finding a voice and perspective in which to write challenging notions, offering up alternative perspectives and getting people to reflect and think about life is the approach.

While people change on their own accord, putting it out there in words in hopes that people read it is the best one can do. If they begin to think and reflect on what they read connecting it with how it may pertain to their life, that’s a bonus.

I am finding that is the way in which you can find an audience, keep putting it out there in different ways and themes, with the voice being the same.

Blogging is a platform that is a place to write on a variety of topics, especially cultural related. I have the luxury of straddling two cultures. Being on the outside of both gives me clarity to see things that may be difficult for those living amongst their own culture. And having transcended some of my biases has also afforded me a level of clarity I might not never have had if I were to remain in the same place.

In the end, people will read and glean what they want and back it up with you know, that thing everyone has.

Saying and doing are two very different things, yes they are. Of course they are and yet we all say something and do not really do it.

These days I do the things that I say far more than when I was younger. I think this is connected to integrity, trust and age. If I say something you can trust I will do it. Reliability is another word that comes to mind. Being one of those people you can rely on. I will be there for you. Again something I am more adept at than in my youth.

I used to give lip service to just about every aspect of my life. Looking back it is any wonder I had any friends at all during that time. Then again I think we were all the same. Or at the very least this was the kind of people I hung out with – a lot like me.

I am not sure. I may have just been one of those people that do not do what they say and people just put up with it. Ahhh that’s just AL, (they used to call me AL in those days) he does that all the time. If that is the case, I apologize to those that I did that to. I know there were many out there.

I still have it inside me. There are times that I make plans and then want to get out of it. On occasion I do in fact do that.

Cultivating integrity, trust and reliability is important in my life. I am not perfect and strive each and every day.

I chose this title in advance of writing today. This has been on my mind as of late. How does one go about touching madness? Just what is madness? Is it a man-made definition about something that simply does not fit in the constructs of the human mind so it is labeled as madness? When in fact it is simply a letting go completely and allowing that which exists within to come forward to be expressed in some form, whether it be a painting, books, a song, or any other myriad of expressions.

Is there a varying degree of letting go to get to that place of madness? Does one tip-toe bit by bit or is it a full run and a jump into the abyss? I know all of this in and of itself sounds like madness, but really these are questions I have.

I also know that this all resides on the inside and cannot really be actuated internally. Or to put it another way not something that is really tangible other than the expression of it on the other side in the form of creation. And even then there is only so much one can glean by the form of expression because it is only being experienced by that individual.

I have always been fascinated with artists and their willingness to let go. Lately I have watched a number of movies and tv shows having to do with artists, singers, comics and painters. Fascinated by the process and how they got to the place of letting go, and finding their voice. Having something to say is one thing and having an audience willing to listen is another.

Then along the way they are given the opportunity for their voice to be heard and expressed, acknowledging to the artist what they are doing is in fact what they are supposed to be doing. This in turn propels them forward to go deeper and create more.

I like the idea of a comic going on stage and just letting it all go, hanging it out there and taking big risks in the hopes of getting laughs. And while at the same time having something meaningful to say. It is truly brilliant.

I love words and love to write. I don’t know how much I have to say, I feel as though I do, and I do know I have a voice. So I continue to write and put it all down while tip-toeing up to the edge of the cliff and jumping into into the abyss of creativity where it all just comes out.

It is not clear, it is not certain, it just is. Being present in the moment letting the words spring forth on the computer screen without a thought in mind. No censoring, just letting it come forth like a well-spring of never-ending water wanting to reach the light of day. No idea, no word, no concept is a bad idea. Judgment is not an option. Ease and commitment is the key.

Where to go next is not known. The experiences of life is being forged into words as a means of expression. Waiting for the next wave to come forth needing to be expressed. What will be said? That is the question.

I write like a sculptor. Put it down, chisel it one word at a time tightening. It always needs more tightening in ways I do not know. Not knowing is the way.

It will be interesting to see how it continues to take shape.

Here I go another step towards madness!

After a recent blog post about disliking Mondays, someone tweeted back the question, “What do you think it would have been like had you stayed at your job?” This person was referring to the ad agency job, but it could have easily been the first job I quit after being lured away from a competitor for money.

Because I was in my 20s and naive, I will give myself a little leeway and know that was all part of life experience. Knowing that, let’s go back to the original question posed in relation to the ad agency job that I quit. This is a good exercise in writing, “What if …?” Even as I read that question the first time on twitter a flood of ideas came forth. So without further adieu “What if I had stayed at the ad agency in New York City?”

Before continuing on I encourage you to read up on my previous post so you can understand the context – “I Don’t Like Mondays”

As Director of Operations, let’s begin with the fact that I had already laid off at least three of my colleagues in the first week thanks to the internet bubble bursting. Each week I was given a spreadsheet with co-workers names and salaries. At the bottom was a number I had to hit, as in adding up the salaries of however many it took to hit that number. That number coincided with the employees to be laid off. The first week was easy, three. With each subsequent week it got more and more difficult as that number total was rising, so too were the number of layoffs. It would have taken a toll on my feelings each time calling my friends into the office only to tell them they were being laid off.

I was truly the messenger, but it did not matter to them in their eyes I was management. This despite the fact that I was one of them for most of my tenure at the agency. I had only been in the director position for less than six months. So had I stayed on I would have laid off countless number of employees. Some taking better than others, with many taking it personally and no longer my friends.

I can also imagine that for a job well done in the end after hitting those weekly numbers, I would have received a bonus. I would have seen that bonus in relation to the salaries of my colleagues I had laid off and felt worse. How do you justify a bonus for laying off friends? Money does not buy happiness. At least not for this guy.

I am sure in the end I would have stayed on at the soul-sucking company and continued working in a corporation doing what employees do best, passing the buck, playing politics, attending long boring endless meetings and going on occasional trips to meet with other directors at various sexy locations, the last one, having been Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas. Fun? No! It’s all a game as far as I was concerned.

Had I stayed in the position at the ad agency that would have meant I would continue living in New York City. Up to this point it was eight years. That is a long time in one place for me. The longest to date, with the exception of Tokyo now.

I had a great studio apartment in the West Village (Greenwich Village) paying a relatively reasonable monthly rent. I would have certainly remained in that place. The thing is, a year before 9/11 happened, which I had witnessed, my Father passed away and I was newly married. Talk about the spectrum of experience.

My wife and I at the time were living separately and planning on moving into our own place together. The problem, my attitude about work life was carrying over into life life. How can it not. Work consumes so much of our thinking that it becomes habitual once you walk out that door and into “the real world.” At least for me it did. Take all of that had happened, mix it up and I was a swirling mess of a New Yorker. And do you know what New Yorkers do when a swirling mess? Find a therapist that’s what!

I am sure I would have found an overpriced therapist whose main goal was to get me to talk and rehash over events beginning from my earliest childhood. That would have been the first sixty minute session. Then the following sessions for the next, I don’t know many years, we would continue to talk in chronological order with him probing me, verbally that is, by asking how I felt about such and such and so and so, all the while ponying up $150/hour, and making little to no headway whatsoever. But hey, at least I would be covering the costs for his kin to attend university.

In the end, I am sure I would have been forced out of my rent cheap apartment because of gentrification. Not able to afford rent in Manhattan I’d be forced to move to Queens. Brooklyn by that time would have been way out of my price range.

Living in Queens and commuting to and from work on the subway each and everyday would grind me down over time and in the end I would have divorced my wife, moved back to my hometown, finished an undergraduate degree at the University of Minnesota, met my now wife and moved to Japan.

Same journey just a longer time to get there.

I am glad that this is a “What if …” scenario and not reality. I’m breaking out in hives just writing about it.

Start from here see where it goes. I am not sure what to write, but I will.

Looking at the Pepsi on my desk beside me, it’s what’s they call a tall boy, more than 12 oz. It packs a punch with a ton of sugar. A treat instead of my usual afternoon coffee.

For some reason on occasion after a hard day of cycling, funny my favorite band The Replacements line from a song just came in mind, “After a hard day of nothing at all.” Is this telling me something? I certainly do not live a live of nothing at all. Not that important for sure, but I do tend to do things. Many things truth be told. I have a laundry list of what I get done in the morning, including laundry. And you know what? I am never really tired. I have a ton of energy. I do love my naps though.

Okay where was I? Oh right Pepsi. I am drinking this as a treat after a kick-ass bike ride with two Frenchmen. Their nationalities don’t really matter, just that they are French. Okay, I lied, one is French Canadian and the other is French. Both have accents though and really good guys. I don’t know why I mentioned their accents. Really we all have accents. I get on with them very well. They are strong riders and challenge me. Usually we have a coffee afterward and always interesting conversations.

Now back to my Pepsi and writing anything, something.

Really? I do.

Monday, Saturday, Wednesday, any day it makes no difference to me I like em all!

Actually, today is Saturday and I’m going to simply start writing on this day and see where it takes me.

I never really get why people get so excited when Friday rolls around. I get that it’s the weekend and no work for the the next two days for most people. Why get so excited about it? What do you do on weekends? Relax? Work more in a different way? Party hard because it’s Friday night and the next two days you get to recover? I guess everyone has their reasons for being so excited about Fridays.

Let me pose this to you. Why judge one day any different from the next? What if it were all simply a change of attitude and perspective? Why not change your thinking from TGIF to TGIM – Thank God It’s Monday! That way you are looking forward to the work day and don’t have to think about Friday or even Wednesday as being halfway to Friday known as hump day.

What if you changed hump day to Thursday, halfway to Monday? I think it just might change your attitude.

To be honest I never really dreaded Mondays. I know many do. Is it because you don’t like your job? And because you don’t like your job the only solace is looking forward to Friday knowing the next two days after are not working days. Then it’s the dreaded Monday again and the cycle continues.

I don’t recall where this ever came from, but part of my personal philosophy has been, “If I don’t like my job I will quit and find a new one.” What I mean by this statement is that life is short with a large percentage of that life taken up by work. If I ever found myself complaining more about my job than not, that is 50% more on a regular basis I quit. I bet you’re thinking, “He’s never done that!” Well you’d be wrong. I have and did, twice!

The first time was in my late 20s working in sales. At the time I was hired away by a competitor. I was happy at the original company, but they dangled a larger salary carrot in front of me, and being in my 20s, naive and “wet behind the ears,” I took it not giving any thought to the type of company atmosphere. Pure unadulterated greed drove me to accept the job. Miserable, I found myself complaining and getting caught up in petty arguments with other company members. I quit within a year.

The second time I was working at an ad agency in NYC. This time in my late 30s and well-seasoned. I had worked my way up from Production Manager to Director of Operations managing a department of around twenty-five designers, copywriters and programmers. It was during the internet bubble and the money and perks were great! Like all bubbles it burst.

We hung on doing our best to maintain morale for the teams. The atmosphere became more and more difficult. As the director it was my duty to layoff friends and colleagues one by one as budgets got tighter and tighter. I found myself becoming more and more despondent.

Then one Sunday afternoon I read a piece in the New York Times about the top 25 companies with the largest stock price drop due to the internet bubble bursting. Our ad agency was on that list. The article went on to display the CEOs salaries. Despite the massive drop in stock price our CEO was still paid an incredible salary. Yet I was laying off my colleagues. That was the last straw.

The following day I went up to my boss and asked her if I could be laid off. With an “I don’t think anyone has ever asked to be laid off look,” agreed. I received severance, health insurance and uncontested unemployment insurance for a year.

It was the best thing I had ever done. If it wasn’t for my personal philosophy I would have stuck it out at one or both of those companies and continued to be miserable for a very long time.

After getting laid off at the ad agency I moved back to my hometown of Minneapolis, lived off my unemployment insurance while completing an unfinished undergraduate degree with a focus on Japanese language. During that time I ended up meeting my now Japanese wife. And well, the rest is history as I write this blog from Tokyo, Japan.

Next time you’re looking forward to Friday or hump day and not Monday, ask yourself why.

You never know what you might find.

Or do for that matter.

I love music. It has been an integral part of my life since as long as I can remember. The earliest memories are of my Dad putting on records of John Denver’s “Take me home” or Gordon Lightfoot‘s “Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

Entering my teens and all that goes with that, angst, hormones and rebellion, punk rock became my beacon of no hope fueling the feelings that were raging inside.

Nowadays, I have a very eclectic taste. I choose music that represents my mood on any given day. Music and lyrics inspire me. It doesn’t matter the mood I choose music to match it. Or, if I am in a funk, I choose music to get me to a mood I would rather be in.

These days I am listening to an upbeat ska punk group that fits my energetic view of life. I am leading the most interesting period of my life right now. Rich and full of possibilities. Turn the corner and you never know. Open a door and you never know. Go somewhere and you never know. That’s it! You never know.

The less control the more richness of life. Shutting down parts of my being, I short change the ability to fully engage. There are days where I feel it bubbling to the surface ready to burst. It is those times when I I want to scream to the world thank you for it all! Crazy? Indulgent? I think not, as long as it comes out in words and actions in the spirit that serves others.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not painting a rosy picture. When I speak of richness I am speaking of it all. I have posted this before, but worth posting again. It is the poem by Rilke at the end of the film Jo Jo Rabbit.

Go to the Limits of Your Longing

Let everything happen to you

Beauty and Terror

Just keep going

No feeling is final

In my middle age I still want to put up the good fight. This time with words challenging the status quo and people’s notions of what they think. Only this time around a softer gentler approach, not going for the throat. This is something I have learned living in Japan. There is power in the subtle, nuance and details.

Time to deepen after having spent time on a plateau and getting my bearings. Letting what is there be there with acceptance, love and a modicum of grace. The fight is no longer on the inside, it’s out there!

I love with this band with their poignant, timely protest lyrics.

Write To the point Tight Clear

Context is Everything!

What if I were standing on a peaceful Tokyo mid-morning train, rush hour long over, a rare time to enjoy American sized personal space. Listening to my favorite punk/ska band, “The Interrupters,” I am lost in the music with a female Joan Jett-like singer of poignant protest lyrics, “What’s your plan for tomorrow, are you a leader or will you follow, are you a fighter or will you cowl.” I am suddenly startled into reality when an impeccably dressed black man wearing the whitest mask covering most of his face except eyes and forehead invades my personal space. A quick glance I do nothing. I feel his presence even closer. I dare not look.

Without warning he sticks something into the side of my stomach and says, “Stick em up!” Surprised by such a daring act, I look over and see the finer details of the would be robber dressed in a blue blazer, Republican red tie framed by a blindingly white shirt that happens to match his mask made even whiter by the darkness of his skin. He is staring right at me. What is happening? This is not registering. How can it be that I am getting robbed by a well-dressed black man on a Tokyo train in broad daylight? Japan is a safe country with one of the lowest crimes anywhere in the world.

A vivid imagination? Not for me. This actually happened on Tuesday, February 18th 2020. In this day and age who would have thought the words “Stick em up” would ever be uttered in public. Well dear readers context is everything. It turns out all of it was true except for one piece of information I left out, the well-dressed “Robber” was my friend and former colleague. He was playing a joke. And what a joke it was.

As soon as I recognized him, somehow his eyes and forehead looked familiar, I took out my earphones and said to him, “That was wrong on so many levels.” That was all it took for our boisterous laughter to overtake the silent train. I mean we didn’t just laugh and stop. When the laughter was about to subside, I would repeat the phrase “Stick em up,” and the laughter intensified. Then it was his turn, “Stick em up!” This ebbing and flowing went on for a good two minutes. I imagine everyone on the train was thinking, “These two foreigners have lost their minds.

After the laughter died down I looked at him and said, “That was the funniest thing I have heard in a long time. Can I use this for my blog site?” To which he replied, “Of course.” We went on to small talk, getting caught up on our lives and making plans to meet before getting off at our respective stops.

After parting ways and walking to my appointment I thought about what had happened. And every time I replayed it in my mind I laughed out loud. I am still laughing as I write this now in the evening. As you may know from previous blogs, my process is to pose questions and let the words flow. So, “How can I use this in my blog? What is this all about?” Then it occurred to me, context is truly everything!

Let’s unpack this for a few sentences. If you think about it, my reply “This is wrong on so many levels,” I was referring to racism in America. A black man robbing a white man. The fact that it was a joke initiated by him, makes it humorous, and we are in Japan, where the history of African Americans is quite different. Imagine wearing a white mask on a New York City subway saying those exact words, “Stick em up!”

Back to Japan. As you know unless you are still under a rock, there is the Corona Virus. If the media had its way, affecting everyone on the planet. While Japan has one of the largest number of infected after China, it has caused a panic with a run on the sales of white surgical masks, the same mask worn by my robber-friend. Just about every store I have been to in Tokyo is out of masks.

What most people don’t know about Japan, it is a country of masked avengers. Everyone wears masks, whether cold or flu season or simply as a protection against pollen allergies, which seem to be year round. Thanks to the Corona scare, everyone, foreigners including my friend who stuck me up are wearing masks.

So if you are ever in Tokyo and you see a well-dressed black man wearing a white surgical mask, chances are he is my friend and you will not get robbed.

Did I get your attention? Don’t worry this is not a cheap ploy. Okay, maybe it is. But there is a legitimate reason why I wanted to get your attention, and you’ll learn why if you read on.

What this post is not is a detailed review of all the movies I have seen that were up for awards this year. All of them very good for different reasons. Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time” taking liberty rewriting a storyline and paying homage to a period of time in Hollywood.

1917, every award season needs a war picture.

Parasite from the director whose work I have been following for a number of years, Bong Joon-ho with its strong message about the haves and have- nots among other things was brilliantly done.

The character study of the Joker and the strong message about society was powerful.

The Irishman, same old same old, emphasis on old.

There is one film I want to focus on which for some reason or another was overshadowed titled, JoJo Rabbit, by the brilliant director Taika Waititi. Why this film didn’t receive top awards and accolades is beyond me.

This was a pitch perfect artistic film that tackled a dark subject with nuance and humor. I loved this film so much I saw it twice, something I rarely ever do and a testament to its brilliance. While there are many incredible scenes in the movie I want to focus on one, the beginning.

I am a believer that no matter what artistic medium you are involved in, if you don’t grab your audience in the first few moments you will struggle to get them later. I first learned this from a New York City acting teacher who said, “The moment you step out on that stage is the moment it all starts. You better be present and prepared to grab your audience.” I would add, this is true of all art, writing included. It can start with the opening line or better yet title. (See my title again)

A painting needs to grab you from the first look. Recently, I read a New York Times article about a famous artist I had never heard of. Part of it is that I do not pay attention so much to the art world. His name, Anselm Kiefer, known as the “Greatest Living Artist.” First thought, “That’s quite a title to be given,” followed by, “Boy am I out of the loop.”

Reading the piece on this artist was fascinating. I am always curious to learn what makes a great living artists. What really caught my eye, and this is going back to what I said about grabbing your audience in the first few moments, the power of a painting he did in 2006 titled “Schwarze Flacken” or “Black Flakes.”

The energy emanating from the painting, the darkness, and flood of images that flashed through my mind was incredible. Now I understood why he may be the greatest living artist.

Black Flakes” 2006

Getting back to the director Waititi and the opening of JoJo Rabbit. Let me describe it for you, keeping in mind that words and imagery are a different experience when compared to seeing the film. I suggest you see it.

Opening scene, we hear an iconic melody. The singing begins, but the words aren’t in English. The song? ” I Want to Hold Your Hand,” by The Beatles, in German!

Cut to screaming fans.

Followed by a seamless cut and shot of Hitler addressing his adoring fans at a youth rally while The Beatles song plays in the background.

Cut back to Beatlemania. By the way, we never actually see The Beatles, only hear the German version of the song.

Final cut to a massive Hitler rally.

Returning to my point about grabbing the attention of the viewer, this was the best I’d ever experienced. Think about it, one of the most popular rock bands in the world espousing love contrasted with the complete opposite end of the spectrum and evil and darkness personified. Yet both revered by many. What a powerful opening statement.

This director created the perfect film balancing dark and light, humor and drama, love and hate all beautifully done with storytelling and cinematography. This is risk taking at its best.

The question I have, “How does one pitch a movie idea like this to investors and movie producers?” I can see it now sitting in a corporate meeting room with the director describing his vision of the opening scene I have described above. Who in their right mind would be open to investing in a story-line that opens with The Beatles and Hitler, both solidified in history for very different reasons.

Brilliant!

I am inspired whenever I see a film such as this, or a painting or a good piece of writing, hell any good art. What I am drawn to is risk- taking and true creativity.

Living in Japan for as long as I have my attention to details has become refined. It is all in the details. And what I am finding as a writer, the pursuit lies in perfecting the way in which I write about details. There is power in the subtle, in the nuanced way to describe something. To be able to connect and go deeper in ways that are universal and portrayed from a unique perspective, pushing the limits and taking risks is what it is all about.

This is what the director of JoJo Rabbit has achieved and what I aspire to.

… Luke!

Today is my son’s tenth birthday. I cannot believe it! It’s gone by so fast. Is it because we had our son later in life? My wife and I were in our mid 40s. And because of that, it feels faster? While I cannot compare having a child in my 20s or 30s, I can say it definitely has gone fast.

I am fond of saying, “Every year my son gets older, I get old.” Don’t worry that doesn’t bother me in the least. I am loving “mid-life fathering.” In fact, I cannot imagine it any other way. Being way too selfish and caught up in my own “stuff,” there is no way in hell I would have been ready. It wasn’t until I got all of what I wanted to do out of the way and setting down roots, in of all places Japan, that I was ready to have a child. I cannot speak for my wife, but I think she feels the same way.

Of course carrying a watermelon size package inside you for nine months and then figuring how to get it out in the light of day is a helluva lot more work for my wife than me. Add to that all kinds of worries and potential complications carrying and giving birth at forty-five, I will forever be grateful to her.

Presenting to the world ten years ago today, February 15th at 9:46 in the morning, (six minutes from the time I am writing this) a beautiful boy we named Luke. Naming this bundle of joy came easy. Even though my wife is Japanese, thinking she would prefer a traditional Japanese first name, she came up with Luke. My contribution? If it were a girl we would have called her “Lilly.”

This feller changed our lives forever in more ways than I could have imagined. All of it amazing, some of it without its challenges. Confronting my own cultural expectations and child-rearing based on my own experiences being raised in a culturally different place than Japan made for a trying first few years. All sorted out, I am a better person for it.

There are many unforeseen gifts Luke has given along the way. Unconditional love being at the top. We don’t have to be doing anything in particular when we are together. I just enjoy being in his presence. Although we do many things together, lately skiing, dual masters card games, monopoly or just hanging out watching YouTube episodes of “Dude Perfect.”

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCRijo3ddMTht_IHyNSNXpNQ

He is coming into his own as an individual with a character not unlike his father, sorry mom, he may be a handful in his teens. I am looking forward to seeing how it all manifests for him in the future.

Living in Japan can be a challenge if you are not willing to learn the language and pay attention and adjust to the social mores. For many it can be a very lonely isolating place as a foreigner. Luke coming into my world has had the opposite affect by expanding it. With his interest in soccer I took to co-coaching his team for a few years and have become friends with many of his teammate’s parents. It’s not uncommon while walking down the street in our neighborhood when off in the distance I will hear a “Ohayo gozaimasu Aren coachi” translated as, “Good morning coach Allen.” No longer coaching I am still coach.

I feel a part of the community in a culture where many people feel it is closed off to foreigners. I can only hope to give back even a little of what Luke has given me when he made his presence in this world ten years ago today.

As some of you may know by now I get my inspiration from anywhere. This means I can never run out of things to write about. I hope.

Waking up this morning, as I usually do and sure most of you as well, with the first morning coffee in hand, I glanced over my SNS feed. Most of the time nothing ever really catches my eye and I move on to reading a bit of the news. Today in the Facebook feed something grabbed my attention. It was a comment underneath a Facebook post.

You may be aware that these days Facebook is popular among the old(er) crowd posting photos of food and family, recent vacations or simply funny quips from the internet. The one that caught my attention falls under the vacations heading.

I am from Minnesota, and Minnesota winters can be brutally cold with a ton of snow. Many stay indoors during the winter months waiting for spring to arrive. Over time cabin fever sets in and they either get out of the house or go crazy. There is a swath of the Minnesota population like myself that takes winter head on by participating in winter sports such as skiing, skating and broomball. (Learn about broom ball here)

The other swath would rather not deal with potential frostbite and the loss of fingers and toes so they head south to a warmer climate. We call them snowbirds. The comment that caught my attention this morning came from a snowbird who had gone south for the winter. South, as in south of the border to Mexico. I love Mexico and have spent a lot of time both sober and not. I don’t recommend not being sober in Tijuana. A story for another time.

This Minnesota snowbird was clearly in a resort town along the ocean as evidenced by the beautiful deep blue ocean beach pictures he posted. Along with the accompanying photos, he had simply written.“Enjoying vacation in Mexico.”

This is not what caught eye. I know we all like to make comments underneath the postings and this was no exception, 25+ at last count. Most likely all from Minnesotans from what I could tell with comments like, “looks beautiful,” “I want to go there,” “I remember going there,” etc.

Scrolling down near the bottom I noticed a comment from the original poster which went something like this, “I am enjoying a part of the world not yet ruined by US influence, there is a community of expats here that are enjoying the richness of the Mexican culture, with a strong revolutionary attitude, something we need in my country as it has fallen in disarray.” He goes on to say, “With the time I have left on the planet, I want to better myself, fight the good fight for justice and not be tied to the outcome. All the intellectualism of the world won’t bring a solution. It was as John Lennon said all along, ‘All you need is love.’” How beautiful is that?

This comment got me to thinking just how caught up we all can be in our bubbles. Notice I did not write bubble? That’s right we have multiple bubbles in our lives that cut us off from fully experiencing what life has to offer. There are far too many bubbles to list, the obvious ones, religion and politics are the driving force behind the chasm between one another in the United States at this moment. But there are many more.

Bubbles are really anything that you are a part of that reinforces your ideas closing you off from other possibilities. We all do it. Maybe it is human nature I don’t know. What I do know is that people have substituted the word bubble with the words camp and tribe avoiding the reality that they are in a bubble.

What I found so amazing about his quoted comment above was his literal transformation as he wrote it. He simply had to get out of a bubble I call the “provincial bubble.” Provincial in this case means the area in which you live. This can be neighborhood, state or even country. He stepped out of all of the above and it unexpectedly opened his mind and heart. It’s as if he became enlightened in that instant. You could feel and experience his amazement and joy.

I bring this up not only for you to read and ponder, but also as a reminder to myself. I am prone to bubbles. I recall a time in a university writing course. The professor gave us an assignment to write about something that influenced our life. At the time (early 1980s) I was really into punk rock music. It was my life and fueled my anger and other darker parts of my life at the time.

I wrote the paper with such conviction laying out reasons why corporations and governments are evil and it was only punk rock that could call out truth power and take it on. (Yes I was 20 and naïve at the time). Handing in the paper with a smile and job well done knowing that the assignment turned manifesto will convince the professor to listen to punk rock and fight the power alongside us.

The following week he handed back our papers. Calling my name last, I went up to get my “Manifesto.” The professor handed me my paper, but it was heavy, as in not paper light. I had no idea why until I turned to the last page to read his comments. He had taped a cassette tape to the bottom of the back page.

(For those born after the 1980s, this was the main form of listening to music along with a tape player)

I was confused by the tape and thinking the two paragraphs long comments the professor wrote meant I had gotten an F. That is until I read what he had written.

You have provided a cohesive description about punk rock music and why it is so important to you. But your last sentence, ‘punk rock is the only music that is powerful and unique enough to change the world not country music.may be correct in this moment for you, but don’t close off your mind to other forms of music. Give this tape a listen and tell me his lyrics and music is not as powerful.”

What he had given me to listen to was music by the original country singer “Hank Williams.” I immediately went home and listened to the tape. You know what? He was right. It was amazing listening to the combination of blues and country, and the emotion behind Williams’ singing was amazing.

It was then and there that my musical bubble popped for good. It was from that day forward that I will always remain forever open to new music and why to this day I have an eclectic taste.

Fast forward many decades, although I have been out of the United States for well over a decade living in Japan, what other bubbles have I put myself into? This is something we all need to ponder and change. All the evidence I need? Anytime I become dogmatic and defensive it is time to pop that bubble and find a new way.

Maybe in the end life is simply a series of bubble popping as we grow and get in touch with what really matters – LOVE.

A few years back I read a book by the author Malcolm Gladwell titled “Outliers” about how successful people reach their goals. Chocked full of excellent examples of successful people and ideas what stood out:

One – Successful people, while they may be talented, never do it on their own. They get help from others along the way.

Two – The author talks about what is called the 10,000 hour rule. The key to success is by doing something for 10,000 hours. (10K) This boils down to 20 hours a week for 10 years. That’s right ten years.

Two of the more famous examples Gladwell highlights, I am sure many of you have heard of The Beatles and Bill Gates, both allegedly putting in more than 10K in their respective fields. Now whether or not they did, or even if this 10K rule is true or not, you certainly have to put in your time to be good at something. I would add, dig deep by pushing yourself to the limit, test boundaries and take risks.

It is point number two that I want to explore a little further in today’s post. Here is my take on it, by doing something for more than 10k hours you may become an expert at it, or at the very least really good whether it is sports, art, work etc.

Two questions come to mind, “Does this take into account someone who is endowed with talent to begin with? Or anyone who is willing to dedicate that many hours to something realizes over time the talent and is simply perfecting it by tweaking every nuance and detail to be the best?

Either way, anyone willing to dedicate 10k hours to something, whether it be a sport or creative endeavor is pretty amazing. Stop for a second and think about how much 10,000 hours actually is – 20 hours a week for 10 years, 10 hours a week for 20 years, 5 hours a week for 30.

I have been sitting with this question all day, (I started this blog this morning and back to it tonight) “From age eight until twenty, how much time did I dedicate to the two sports, cross country skiing and ski jumping known as nordic-combined?

I know with cross country skiing I most certainly closed in on 10,000 hours, which explains why it was the stronger of the two sports. As for ski jumping, this is a little more complicated, mainly because an actual jump from the top to the bottom takes less than 10 seconds. Do the math on that and you begin to get an idea how many jumps, crashes included I’d need to do to hit the 10k mark.

(NOT ME)

I guess I could add non-ski jumping training known as dry land training such as running, weight lifting and other exercises to develop strength and power, but that does go against the 10k rule of actually doing it.

Then I started thinking the time dedicated to writing. I have been writing on and off for many years. Included in the hours are the numerous research papers as well as the creative endeavors such as the book I have written and currently revising and the on-going blogging.

It’s got to be somewhere close. Maybe? This does raise another question, “Does the 10k rule include doing something consistently for years on end or can there be breaks in between?” This is a rule after all. I guess we need to defer to someone who is making sure that we adhere to the rule? I haven’t a clue who that might be.

What I do know is that I continue to write adding seconds, minutes and hours chipping away at the 10k hours. In fact I just spend sixty minutes on this.

Am I there yet?

I have been blog posting nearly everyday for at least a half a year. Prior to that irregularly for over a year. With all of the postings, the evidence is overwhelming, most people don’t read, they glance. Wait stop! Don’t go back and read what I have previously blogged, that is not what this is about. I don’t take it personally.

Truth be told, people do not read for a couple reasons. First and foremost, technology and SNS has made it much easier to make it seem like someone has read something simply by “upvoting,” “liking or “hearting.” The other reason, there is so much content, who in their right mind has the time to read it all. I don’t blame you.

Why do I bring up this topic? Because I’m going to fess up, I do the same. I don’t profess to know other‘s reasoning besides the two, but my other reason, many of what people write about I’m not interested in reading. However, I will show my support with a “Like,” “Upvote” or a “Heart,” but chances are I have only done a passing glance.

Everyone has their motives for writing. For some it is a personal diary for public consumption. Others it is therapy putting whatever comes to mind without a care in the world. Many are looking for attention and accolades wanting as many votes and followers for whatever reason. And there some who, albeit with well intentions offer support and help in areas where they are not trained. And finally, those that simply want to make money by any means possible, the confidence man.

Don’t get me wrong there is nothing wrong with any of the above, except the con man. Question I have, what are your motives? Do you know? Is it clear why you are doing what you are doing?

It is getting clearer with each passing word why I do what I do. And I am finding with that clarity what I am drawn to reading. There is less than a handful that are doing something creatively with a voice and focus that is worthy of my attention and limited time. Don’t worry, don’t let it get you down, or take it personally. It’s not you, it’s me. See I am well over the middle age mark and I cannot squander my time. This is the world we live in. With so much content out there and people vying for attention we have to sift through the mediocrity to get to the good stuff we are interested in.

Personally, I don’t care if people notice or not, I just do it. Well okay, that last statement about “not caring” is not altogether true. I care a little, but not that much. Why? The answer and inspiration comes from a very strange place, the Ken Burns documentary on Jazz, which I happen to be watching.

These early Jazz pioneers perfected their art by just playing, constantly playing. These musicians embodied everyday life experiences and struggles and it came out in their music. They didn’t care who was listening or not, they had to do it. They had to express. Upvotes and like buttons never factored into what they did, they just played.

Over time people began to take notice and show up to listen. Word spread, and the music took off in a big way. A number of musicians rose to the surface standing out among the crowd. They pushed the boundaries of the music, their playing was their voice, loud and clear. The clearer the voice the more they stood out. People resonated with the familiar sound that spoke to them of their same experiences.

I am not putting myself in the league with these greats, but inspiration comes from any true creative endeavor. They did nothing more than play music.

The moment I get carried away with likes, upvotes, followers and money is the moment I will stop writing.

It is then that I will have lost my way forgetting that I write for the love of writing. Anything beyond that is a gift.

One of my reluctant routines is to go to Starbucks to write. While I am not a fan of the coffee shop, my excuse, it’s the only one open at 7 am in the morning. I have a schedule two days a week in which I get up early to write before getting on the morning train to commute to work.

The other day while waiting for my soy latte to arrive I looked around and noticed how many people were at the shop so early in the morning. I know not everyone is writing like me. As a part of my warmup writing I sometimes simply pose a question and let the writing take over. In this case the question, “I wonder what everyone at Starbucks is doing at 7 in the morning?” I never know beforehand what will come out after posing the question. I took a sip of my latte and the words began to flow.

BE FOREWARNED, it turns dark.

There were a few of us with computers who seemed to be doing something. Writers, working remotely, “freeters” passing the time away, or officer workers in suits telecommuting. It is the office workers that grabbed my attention.

How many of the around twelve suit wearing company men have lost their jobs? I bet there is at least one in the bunch that is simply putting up a front by getting out of the house. For many months he has been lying to his wife making it look like he is going to work, when in reality he is at Starbucks whiling away his time before returning home after “work.”

Why would he go to to the local Starbucks where the chances of getting found out is much higher? Does he want to get caught no longer able to keep up the lie due to the dwindling bank account?

The better play? Go at least three or more stations away to minimize that risk. That way it’s easier to maintain the lie. It would be more natural as he gets on the train every morning at least feeling like he is commuting to work, even if it is Starbucks.

His charade continues for more than six months. Severance has run out. He has blown through all his savings and now into his family’s life savings all to maintain a front and avoid the shame of having lost his job. With two kids and a wife to support how much longer can this continue? The question is, “What to do when the savings is down to nothing with no job prospects in site?” At what point does it occur to him that in being middle age in Japan it is nearly impossible to get a job in the IT world? Who wants to hire him? Nobody that’s who.

Next, what to do about it? There are options, he could look for a part-time job. Problem with that, not nearly enough money to cover household expenses. How about fessing up to the lie? Well there is his wife who already despises him due to the lack of engagement in the home with the kids. She would use it against him to file for divorce. Justified, he thinks it doesn’t matter, the sex life is long gone. Does that suppress his libido? No way! Thanks to daily Starbucks coffee laden with chuhai, he gets up enough courage to get a quick glance at porn on the laptop when nobody is looking, followed by a two-minute wank in the Starbucks bathroom, practice makes perfect and satisfies that urge.

In the end, the money runs dry and the only way out of his miserable existence is to jump in front of the very commuter train he used to take before losing his job.

Cruising along on a Tokyo commuter train to my job grateful to be alive, and “then there’s that.” “That” is a text from a friend back in my home state of Minnesota, “Give me a call when you can.” A call I did not want to make. I knew from the friend what this might be about. It wasn’t “that” call yet, but it turned out she suffered a brain aneurysm and was on a respirator being kept alive so family members from outside of Minnesota could come to be with her before they unplug the life supporting system. After she told me the news, we spent the next few minutes sharing a few memories and stories of our dear friend Lisa aka Lulu.

People will remember Lisa in different ways. One of many that stands out, Lisa connected people from different walks of life. A creative soul who created by connecting people. I don’t mean a matchmaker, rather anyone who seemed to have similar views and a creative bent. Lisa would simply name drop and let the other make the connection. This was her very last act she did for me.

During our month-long vacations to escape the oppressive summer heat of Tokyo, my son Luke and I would return to my hometown of Minneapolis. We always made a point of seeing Lisa, whether for lunch, dinner or at least a cup of coffee. Luke really liked Lisa and the feeling was mutual.

On our most recent visit last summer (2019) we did something a little different. At the time, Lisa was working as the front receptionist at Dick’s Barber, a longtime establishment specializing in crew cuts. I asked Lisa to make appointments for the two of us setting us up with the best barbers they had. She did, Dick the owner’s two sons. They did a great job.

With newly cropped tops we joined Lisa after her shift for a late lunch at a funky restaurant nearby. She always had her pulse on the best places for coffee, food, music and art. Meeting outside the restaurant Lisa walked up to Luke signaling she wanted a big hug. Living in Japan all his life Luke was not accustomed to arms wide open as the cue to what Minnesotans do best, hug. I wanted him to get used to it. I nudged him saying, “She’s a really good hugger. Remember?” She bent down to his level opened her arms bigger to let him step into her space. Feeling the warmth of her invitation, without hesitation Luke hugged her right back. It was a sweet couple of moments. Of course, we hugged, we had been doing that for more than thirty years.

Thirty years I’ve known Lisa. First as my very first girlfriend and then as a dear friend. We had a long and complicated relationship. Life is messy. If you stick it out, the messiness falls away and what rises to the surface is love and adoration. I loved and adored this woman.

Lisa had been having health issues for a number of years. She was always hesitant to share them with me during texts, calls or visits. On one visit a few years back, Luke and I were both really looking forward to seeing her. As per usual, I texted her my schedule to confirm to meet at least once, preferably twice this trip. On this occasion I never heard from her before during or after our visit. I thought, “Did I do something wrong? Was our relationship still messy?” My own shortcomings and insecurities rising to the surface I let that go. It turned out that she was hospitalized for the duration of our visit and had nearly passed away. She rebounded and a few weeks after our return to Japan she called and apologized profusely for not being able to see us. I told her no need to apologize. What was important was that you were still here with us.

That day last summer at the restaurant she was in good spirits, but a little under the weather. I could tell the continuous health issues were taking its toll on her, but she did not overtly show it. That was Lisa. She didn’t want to burden to people with her stuff. Both a Minnesotan and Japanese way of being. We talked and she asked Luke questions about school, soccer and his newest sport skateboarding. She really listened to his answers. She was so lovely with Luke and I imagine other kids as well.

Conversation turned to adult topics as Luke played a game on my iPhone. We caught up with the usual stuff of family and friends. I pushed her on the topic of health to let me know how she was doing. Then something happened that sums up one aspect of Lisa. She loved to name drop. And I don’t mean name-drop as in a form bragging because I know so-and-so, rather names of people she is connected to in the food, art, music or theater world, any creative world for that matter. She knew a lot of people and they knew her.

I have been living in Japan for many years and the topic turned to restaurants. She mentioned the name of a new fusion style Japanese restaurant that was gaining popularity in Minneapolis. Then she mentioned the owner’s name. I said, “Can you say his name again?” She repeated his name, which was a typical Minnesota first name followed by an atypical Japanese last name. Then as I repeated his name out loud a memory flashed in my mind. “Why do I know that name?” I immediately asked Lisa if she was connected to him via SNS. “Of course I am,” with a confident, this is who I am reply. She pulled up Instagram and started scrolling through for a photo. Finding one she handed me the phone. In that instant, I realized I knew this guy from a few decades earlier. Long before Japan was ever on the radar I used to sell printing, and this guy was one of my customers. While it was technically a vendor/client relationship, he and I talked much more candidly about a myriad of personal topics. Fast forward, and both of us went in very different directions. Thanks to Lisa, she put me in contact with him and we exchanged a few messages and a “Let me know when you are in Japan and I will when in Minnesota.” We have yet to meet.

Just as Lisa was hospitalized a few weeks ago I happened to check my Instagram, something I rarely do. There was a message from Lisa, “Hey, it’s the Awful AMERICANS super bowl tomorrow. Per usual at least 4 out of 6 years I will be looking at the stadium from my hospital room. Been a rough month, dude! Btw, JOHN IS COMING TO TOKYO! Or did you already know that?” My initial reaction, “Hey what, you’re in the hospital! Sending love vibes from TO-KI-O.” That was Lisa, never wanting to put others out by making a big deal with her stuff if she didn’t have to, followed by making sure people are connected. I did connect with John and we will be meeting in a few weeks in Tokyo.

I am looking forward to seeing him for the first time in decades and getting caught up with our lives. Now it will not be just that, rather about how much Lisa played a part and touched lives as she did even during her last few days of consciousness, bringing us together in of all places TO-KI-O!

From now on, every time Luke and I return to Minneapolis there will be a hole in our schedule no longer be filled with Lisa’s physical presence. She will be missed.

I love and adore you Lulu.

This is another take on a topic I have previously written about. Recently listening to a Sam Harris Making Sense podcast I am inspired to revisit the “Path.”

The path we walk while wide and early in life tends to narrow as we age. This is not to imply it is a bad thing. I do believe it narrows with age if we are fortunate to find what we are meant to do.

My approach early in life was like a fishing bobber on the water floating around wherever the tides would take me going from one thing to another without ever really engaging or paying attention.

It took a while and I eventually became more engaged with life, making conscious choices, trying new things out and taking risks. This coincided with knowing the kind of person I was both becoming and wanting to be.

Then something happened, the path narrowed as I became the person I was meant to be, by letting go and getting out of my own way. This is not the approach I was accustomed to. I thought I had to make it happen. Over time I began to create a world in which I wanted to live, surrounding myself with supportive people, music, art and literature.

A further narrowing of the path coincided with a further letting go to create a simple life and heeding the call of what I was meant to be doing. This is where I see the narrow path benefiting our lives, it becomes clearer.

Continuing to walk the narrow path there comes a place and time where it widens to an expansiveness never before experienced. A world of freedom and possibilities. A world of participation, service and love. Getting there is not easy, and one must walk it alone, learning, experiencing and adjusting until it is time for the world to open.

What you thought your life would be, plans, is never what the world has in store for you. One such example, twenty years ago if you would ever had said that I would someday be living in Tokyo, Japan working as a university teacher I would have said you are crazy. Or that I would someday write a book and even have a blog. My reply, “You’re out of your mind.” Looking at the path up to this point, it now makes complete sense.

Knowing what I know now, I cannot imagine what life will be like one, two or even five years out. What I do know is that I will walk this path I am on now to see where it leads. Once there, I will know this place, as if it were a familiar feeling that I knew existed all along.

There are a number of words that come to mind for me these days. With the passing of friends and acquaintances these past few weeks it is clear that we all need one another for support. And the only way is being inclusive.

We need to support one another along the way. Life is hard and we cannot do it alone. I know I have learned about community in a variety of experiences. Being inclusive is walking the path with a welcoming heart. That is the way I prefer to live life. Being supportive and letting go of competition. I am supportive of people living their life and putting it out there for the world to see.

I have been heading in this direction for quite some time and it seems ever clearer. People are not the enemy. While there are some not so good people out there most are just trying to get by and live.

I am totally revamping my life to such a simple way of living with the words, truth, honesty, freedom, love and inclusive guiding me along.

Freedom to be, freedom to let it all go. Feeling it taking shape on the inside manifesting on the out.

Life is connection and experience limited by time on this earth.

Making changes in our lives is one of the greatest challenges. I am not talking about simple things like changing clothes. What I am talking about is a fundamental way we live our lives. This includes the way in which we live in the world. This includes our thoughts and actions. Usually, rather than simply change, people hold on for deal life until something comes along to loosen our grasp, and only then do we let go making room for the change.

For someone like an alcoholic it takes hitting some sort of bottom, perhaps losing it all before realizing they need to change. For others, it may the death of a family member or a life threatening illness. Otherwise, people just go on living their lives without a care in the world, even with a nagging feeling for change.

I am fond of the saying “Everything Changes.” The deal is, change is inevitable. It is so true it, and does whether we like it or not. Most don’t realize this truism. Rather than having me tell you what changes, think about your life? What has changed in all your years on this earth? There’s a lot more to come.

Speaking from experience, holding on for dear life was something I did on many occasions before letting go. These days it is far less holding on and more letting go, I like to think. What makes it so difficult is that there are a whole host of things one has to do to let go. Depending upon the type of change there are things that have to happen before letting go.

There are also things that happen after letting go as well. Our thinking changes. We may look at the world in a new way. What was once acceptable is no longer. I also think that what comes with change is a level of honesty and truth. An admittance that the life we were living is no longer the life we want to live and need to make those changes.

A simple example, I changed my diet and lifestyle because I wanted to be healthy. I had to change my thinking from, “Just because I am an athlete I can eat anything I want” despite it being unsustainable. To eating healthy supports being an athlete and the chance at longevity. I had to consciously buy healthy foods and let go of junk food.

I wanted to get fitter so I made a commitment to exercising regularly. I wanted to have a clearer mind and approach the day with some gratitude and well-being, so I incorporated meditation and prayer into my daily life in the morning and evening. I wanted to make a commitment to writing so I started writing. And before you know it almost two years later the book is complete, and I am still writing, both the book and blog everyday.

By now you may be getting the picture. It’s not simply paying lip service to wanting change, it’s taking the actions and doing it until it becomes a part of you.

Here’s the kicker, just when you think you’ve go it, along comes that inner feeling asking for more change.

This is a short one today. Why? Because I am beginning the process of mourning a dear friend of mine of over 30 years who has been put on life support until the rest of her family arrives. And then it will be time.

I have been writing about death quite a bit these days. It is what I write about, life experiences. This time, death is reminding me of the word truth. Death is one of life’s truths, the great equalizer in a world of inequality.

Death is a fast track to truth. What I mean by that is, experiencing the death of someone or one’s own mortality forces you to either look within for answers to your life and truth. Or you look on the outside for answers and avoid your truth.

I have been watching an interesting television series. It is no coincidence that one of the lead actors resembles my friend on life support. What I found fascinating was a line from the main character, “Truth is found only after we let go of our shame, anger, resentments and regrets.” I would add, otherwise it is only a partial truth viewed through the prism of these emotions and tinged with lies. It isn’t until we let it go absolutely and transcend by whatever means possible before we fully touch our truth. And here’s the rub, it takes a lifetime, however long that is.

For my friend on life support, she found her truth. A lovely, kind soul who will be deeply missed.

Bounding out of bed as a soon-to-be 55 year old to greet the day is not quite the same experience as when I was half that age. The difference, pain and stiffness, now not then. I notice it most when I bend over to put on my socks. I work on balance by attempting to put each sock on while standing on one foot. I can say my balance is pretty good overall. I can still do a bike track stand at stoplights. (This not me by the way)

For some reason as I rise every morning, my balance is not quite there and my back screams out to stop. Determined, I override the clear message from this body part to prove to myself that “I Still got it!” Still got what? At what cost is more like it.

When the day comes that I have to sit down to put on my socks, it’s game over. Until that day comes I am determined to I continue to put my socks on one foot at a time while standing. Back be damned!

On the plus side, I have noticed that after a few minutes of moving around mobility begins to improve. When I was younger mobility was never an issue. Hell, it was not even in my vocabulary. The only time I would use the word movement might have been in a research paper in reference to immigration, as in “the immigration in the 1970s saw a large movement from Vietnam to the US after the war.” Something to that affect.

It’s funny how language changes as we age. I never thought of that until I became old(er) and began using words to describe my state of mind and body. Again, never had those kinds of conversations back in the day.

Regardless of it all, I awakened in Tokyo with the sun shining and a forecast of 15 degrees Celsius (above 50 F). Stepping outside greeting the sun on my face, thoughts about age, pain and movement of any kind falls away.

It’s going to be a beautiful day.