The Going Up Was Worth The Coming Down (5026)

See him wasted on the sidewalk in his jacket and his jeans,
Wearing yesterday’s misfortunes like a smile.
Once he had a future full of money, love, and dreams,
Which he spent like they was going out of style,
And he keeps right on a’changing for the better or the worse,
Searching for a shrine he’s never found,
Never knowing if believing is a blessing or a curse,
Or if the going up was worth the coming down.

He’s a poet, he’s a picker,
He’s a prophet, he’s a pusher,
He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned.
He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction,
Taking every wrong direction on his lonely way back home.

He has tasted good and evil in your bedrooms and your bars,
And he’s traded in tomorrow for today.
Running from his devils, Lord, and reaching for the stars,
And losing all he’s loved along the way.
But if this world keeps right on turning for the better or the worse,
And all he ever gets is older and around,
From the rocking of the cradle to the rolling of the hearse,
The going up was worth the comin’ down.

He’s a poet, he’s a picker,
He’s a prophet, he’s a pusher,
He’s a pilgrim and a preacher, and a problem when he’s stoned.
He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction,
Taking every wrong direction on his lonely way back home.

The lyrics are by Kris Kristofferson. The song is “The Pilgrim, Chapter 33.” It appeared on his second album released in 1971, “The Silver Tongued Devil and I.” The man can write. This song has so many great lines it’s tough to single in on any one of them. You know me, few things captivate me like a great lyric and this song could supply at least half a dozen episodes.

Many people have experienced it. Both the going up and the coming down.

Sometimes I get on a biography roll. Reading them. Watching them on TV. A week or so ago while doing some writing and other computer work I decided to stay tuned to the NFL Network and watch a series of episodes of A Football Life. It featured coaches. Mike Ditka. Mike Holmgren. Marty Schottenheimer. Don Shula. Jimmy Johnson. Bill Cowher. And more. It was a nice biography marathon.

Great football coaches. Different each and every one. Some won more than others. But Mike Ditka, perhaps the fiercest of them all – certainly the biggest bull in the china closet – used Kristofferson’s line at the end of his episode, “The going up was worth the comin’ down.”

I was in my early teens when I first heard Kristofferson. We mostly knew him for the song made famous by Janis Joplin, “Me and Bobby McGee.” He was flying helicopters in southern Louisiana for an off-shore oil company when he wrote it. For some reason, I remember that. I likely read it in Rolling Stone. And likely remember it because I was living in Louisiana.

Even as a kid I was a sucker for a good line. Kristofferson could write great lines. Not surprising since he was a Rhode scholar at Oxford and proficient in the English language. He had 2 of the 3 skills I most admire: language and music. Art, specifically cartooning, is the 3rd. For all I know Kris is a great closet cartoonist. Wouldn’t that be something? 😉

Going up. Coming down.

Of course, going up is worth coming down – assuming you survive the coming down. Velocity will determine that. If you come down fast enough, you’ll hit hard enough…it’ll kill ya! Worth it? Well, it depends.

It depends on how high you went and how old you are when you come down. Ideally, you go very high, stay there for years, and toward the end of your natural life – say somewhere around 100 – you crash and burn. Totally worth it!

But if you go up to step ladder height and you’re not yet a teenager, but you fall and hit your head, killing yourself (or worse)…so NOT worth it. But I doubt Kris was scrutinizing the line so much. Many good lines can be ruined by over examination. Just take ’em as they come and don’t rob them of their glory.

Up. Down.

Ebb. Flow.

Plus. Minus.

On. Off.

Good. Bad.

Happy. Sad.

Life is made up of contrasting experiences and emotions. Life isn’t a hi-light reel. Or a brilliant Instagram moment. It’s a lot of defeat, angst, and wrestling with what to do. The going up is fueled because we’re tired of being down!

Coming down is the price paid for climbing up. We all know that going up won’t result in a permanent condition, but still we give it all we’ve got because the time spent there is worth it.

Like all forms of entropy, coming down can be a permanent condition. Well, there’s always new lows to achieve I suppose, but defeat can absolutely be a lifelong obsession if we allow it.

When people we love lose their way whether it’s physical sickness, mental illness, addiction or any number of other maladies that can ruin us…we often make a wishful declaration about their need to hit rock bottom.

“I hope they hit rock bottom and realize what they need to change before it’s too late.”

Rock bottom is that proverbial place that can help us see more clearly. It’s only proverbial in the sense that we have a hard time quantifying it, but we know it when we see it. It’s a real place with an improper description. Rock bottom implies it’s as low as a person can go, but mostly we realize there’s always a new lower level to which one can sink. Ruin and despair have no bottom.

But elation and success have no limit either. How high is high enough? Nobody knows because nobody ever arrived. The capacity for human improvement is never fully realized. Measure it any way you choose and the best you’ll be able to do is to compare it to somebody else. What a flimsy way to measure it. Your current state may best mine, but that offers little insights on what either of us is capable of. What’s possible for you may be impossible for me. And vice versa. In the end, how you stack up to me, or anybody else is of no consequence.

Then why do we spend so much time examining the going up and the going down of other people?

Because the comparisons help us feel better about ourselves. Or worse. Sometimes we enjoy feeling worse. Sometimes we don’t.

The irony of ironies is that most of our comparisons are to people we don’t really know or care about. That Instagram influencer. That book author. That keynote speaker. That CEO. That YouTube star.

It’s the people on the list. Any list.

The top 1000 influencers.

The top 30 under 30. The top 40 under 40.

The Fortune 100. The Fortune 500.

Guruism. Hero worship. It’s likely more envy than worship for many.

We’re down compared to their up. There goes optimism. Enter all the negative emotions of feeling like we’re doing something wrong. The whole world is on some exotic vacation while I’m struggling to make the car payment each month. It’s the reality we see.

Completely fake, but it’s still the story we tell ourselves. The view we think accurately depicts how pathetic we truly are. Nevermind that REM is still singing the anthem to the universe, “Everybody hurts…sometimes.”

So we see the coming down. Maybe even cheering it along when it happens. That whole build them up so we can knock them down thing we seem to enjoy as a sport.

We’re not in the news so there’s that! Thankful we’re not in their shoes. Never mind that we still owe $87 on our credit card for these shoes, but those idiots could be headed to prison. Whew! Our life isn’t so bad after all.

All the conflicting thoughts and ideas we hold – at the same time – is fascinating. Envious of the rich and famous. Relief that we’re so much better than the rich and infamous. Drawn to the interesting people while simultaneously yearning for some peaceful monotony where we can just be with people we love.

Hello Ying, meet Yang.

It’s the push-pull of our lives. The going up versus the coming down. The climbing up versus the falling down.

Must we fall down? Well, we’re puzzled by those who choose to climb down. The ones who walk away from what we perceive to be a grand life — why in the world would they do that? Something must be wrong with them? You don’t climb down when you’re at the top. You wait until you’re pushed, or you fall because you just couldn’t maintain your footing at that altitude any longer. Again, it’s the story we prefer. Mostly because we may not feel we’ve ever experienced going up.

We’re wrong. Deluded.

What if THIS is up?

There’s a phenomenon I understood back in my 20’s. Namely, that the water level of how we live is tough to change. We think when we earn a certain income, then we’ll feel like we’re up. That’s what success certainly will feel like.

But when we arrive there it feels no different than any other altitude we’ve ever occupied. Within mere months (folks who claim to know tell us within 90 days or so) our lives are pretty much as before. Warts and all.

Even lottery winners who gain vast sums learn the hard way that life largely goes unchanged except for new toys and new heartaches. Just today I saw that a 24-year-old young man, Manuel Franco, in Wisconsin won the Powerball lottery.

Franco is taking the $477 million lump sum payment from Wisconsin Lottery. He told reporters he does not plan to play Powerball again.

Odds are his life will be forever changed. Odds are his life won’t be changed for the better, but we’ll see. He’s got much more to fret and worry about now. Like him, we only imagine the upside of such events. “Wouldn’t it be great?” we think. Parts of it might. But it makes me wonder if the going up is worth the coming down. It isn’t always.

I’ve been married to the same woman for over 41 years. It’s been intentional. I love her. She’s likely tired of me. 😉

I know people who can’t imagine such a life. BORING! Unexciting.

The other day I was talking with somebody about my hope to see at least the beginning of a shift. A shift away from pundits, gurus, and influencers. A shift away from so many feeling the need to brag about themselves and how special they are compared to the rest of us mere mortals. A shift away from the pompous arrogance that permeates probably every culture on the planet.

What would I love to see in its place?

A shift to focus on the collective. A shift toward the realization that a single exceptional life isn’t restricted to a person we think has lived an interesting life because of some extraordinary circumstances or accomplishes. But rather a shift toward focusing on the collective power that fuels every individual life on the planet.

A focus on the WE rather than I.

I’m optimistic but realistic. It won’t likely happen, but it’s a nice thought. And I bring it up because of this going up and coming down roller coaster that depicts all our lives.

Some can view my marriage as mundane, boring and uneventful. Never mind that I’m kinda drawn to mundane, boring and uneventful. 😀

A man who has been married 3 times may well have more stories to tell. And perhaps more interesting stories.

Which of us is up? Which of us is down? One man’s ceiling is another man’s floor.

Kristofferson got it right. The going up was worth the coming down. It’s called living. We’re all doing it. Some better than others. Some wiser than others. Some doing it as well as they can. Others not trying very hard at all to do it well.

My conclusion isn’t so profound really. Can we be better human beings? Can we provide value to others? Can we serve our family and friends? Or do we provide problems for others? Do we provide pain and suffering? Are we trying to serve others, or are we too busy serving ourselves – and lamenting why others aren’t serving us better?

Optimism. Pessimism.

Doing our best to lean toward wisdom.

Doing our best to lean into whatever impulses fuel our desires. Never mind about you. It’s about me.

You gotta serve somebody. It seems to me the going up is worth the coming down if we get that part of it right. If we get it wrong, then it’s not likely going to matter. Our life is just one downward spiral of selfishness.

It’s not the fall that kills you. It’s the landing.

This Is My Letter To The World That Never Wrote To Me (5025)

“This is my letter to the world
That never wrote to me”
― Emily Dickinson

This is my letter to the World,
That never wrote to me,--
The simple news that Nature told,
With tender majesty.
Her message is committed
To hands I cannot see;
For love of her, sweet countrymen,
Judge tenderly of me!

Ms. Dickinson’s poem was first published in 1890. I’m not a poetry expert. Honestly, I don’t know that anybody really knows what the poem means, but that opening line has long captured my imagination.

Nicole Burns offered this explanation on Prezi:

“What Emily means by this is that she wrote a letter to the world but the world doesn’t know who she is since she never leaves her home. She also writes about what nature has taught her in hopes to teach other people lessons. In the closing of the poem she asks the readers to not judge her harshly on what she has written.”

I suppose such writing can mean whatever meaning we ascribe to it. My first thoughts when I saw the opening line I instantly had some notions. They’ve remained with me through the years.

What are you telling the world, even though the world has never asked?

What story are you continuing to share with the world, even though the world isn’t writing back?

What are you saying to the world, even though the world may not be listening – and may, instead, be judging?

Permission

The Internet empowered us to become our own publishers. Emily had to rely on somebody with a publication to print her creations. The time from creation to publication to consumption in her day could easily be years. I can write these shownotes, record a podcast and hit “Publish” and within nanoseconds it’s online. Within seconds, or minutes (at most), the podcast will be in every major podcast directory on the planet. You can do it, too. No permission or talent required.;)

But just because we don’t need permission doesn’t mean the world is going to care. Or pay attention. Or that haters won’t hate. Emily and every other person who creates anything, or says anything, or does anything is going to endure harsh judgment.

Judgment Is Easy

None of us have a tough time with it. And for good reason. We have incomplete knowledge and understanding. We don’t know what we don’t know. So we fill in the gaps of our knowledge with assumptions and opinions. Finding out – gathering more information, asking more questions, going directly to the person (or the source) – and working hard to understand, that’s tough work. And takes too long. Far easier to just complete the story on our own, then close the book.

The world never wrote a letter to me. And so I suppose that makes it sort of fair for the world to do as it pleases. Including harsh judgment.

Fair doesn’t mean it right. Or that it’s justified. It just means I understand it.

What’s Your Letter To The World?

What would you like it to be? What do you choose it to be?

First, we’ve got to think about our view of ourselves. Psychologists divide our views into two distinctly separate and different perspectives: 1) you were born as you are and the outcomes of your life are largely beyond your control or 2) you get to choose your outcomes (you have control over your life).

Moments of decision make up your life. 

Your decisions matter. Your first decision really matters. You must pick one of the two perspectives I just mentioned. Basically, the choice boils down to whether you want to be a victim or in control of your own destiny. So which is it?

This sounds like an easy decision, but it’s not. It also sounds like it would be reasonable and rational to only pick the second option. Yet, we don’t always pick that one because…

We’ve got lots of reasons to feel victimized by others, and by life itself. Everybody suffers. REM sang it correctly, “Everybody hurts…sometimes.” Truth is, suffering occurs a lot of the time.

That second choice is our only choice IF moving forward is the point. But maybe moving forward isn’t the point. I’ll argue it’s the best point. But there are others.

Do you know people who enjoy being sick? Well, to be more accurate, they enjoy being able to tell you about their sickness? Do you ever wonder what that does for them? I do.

I watch them as others lean in and say, “Oh, I’m so sorry you’re not feeling well.” They do it because it’s the only path they can seem to find to garner sympathy or compassion. Is that the point? I’m not sure. Over time it seems to me that there may be a bigger, grander point. To garner attention. Nothing wrong with that. We all need attention. We all need to be noticed. Question: What do you want to be noticed FOR? Being sick? Surely we can rise above that level of pettiness. Maybe not.

Whether we’re a victim of ill health (legitimately), or we suffer at the hands of the ninnies who surround us (and we often do), or we suffer at the hands of our own idiocy (and we suffer due to that far more than anything the ninnies can do to us)…how are we helped by leaning into that? Far better to lean into wisdom. Far better to lean into answering the question, “What can I do about this that will move me forward?”

Movement may require GPS else we have no idea the direction. Forward is the optimal direction. It’s improvement, growth, and transformation. Not always fun, but always profitable.

But forward robs us of ingratitude and complaining. And where will our attention come from? You mean I’m going to have to start being valuable to others in order to gain attention? But that means I have to do something worthwhile? #StopBeingLazy #StopBeingUngrateful

Unlike the Waze app or Google Maps…our internal GPS sometimes has difficulty figuring out how to move forward. Or whether or not we want to move forward. Too often we may be unsure of what direction to go.

Then there’s the big elephant in the room — HOW?

Empty advice abounds. “Just make up your mind.” “Just do it.”

Would that it was that easy, but it’s not. Life is more complicated and complex. We over-simplify things. Sound bites, pithy quotes, and sayings don’t properly portray the difficulties. The cumulative impact is we wrestle with the complexity thinking we’re doing something wrong because we’re not able to “just make up our mind.” Nobody is helping us figure out HOW.

It’s as ridiculous as the premise on living like a millionaire. First, get a million dollars. Okay…but how? Well, we’re not equipped to tell you that. “Thanks much!”

All this determines our story, the story we’re telling the world.

We’re telling the story we want to tell. That doesn’t mean it’s good, or the best one for us. Some of us aren’t driven to grow. We’re uninterested in being better. Not concerned with having a positive impact on others. Too many of us are selfish, living in the moment, impulsively driven to do whatever we want without concern for the consequences to ourselves or those around us.

How can we modify or change what we want – the story we want to tell? How can we change our desire and seek to tell a better story – a story that involves us being our best self?

It starts with character. Poor character will always write a poor story. No matter what else a person may have in their toolbox, poor character can’t write a great story…just a good looking chapter every now and again. But the chapters are fiction. Readers may not know it, but the writer does. It’s the proverbial truth: “You can fool some of the people some of the time.” It happens.

True character reveals itself in the story. It’s the engine behind the story. Indecent people write indecent tales. Consistently. So job one is to be a good human. Job two is to commit yourself to being even better. Consistently working hard to grow, improve and transform as you journey toward the ideal version of yourself.

It’s the only way to write a letter that impacts the world. Even if the world is just your small corner. Scope and scale don’t matter. You don’t need either in order to have impact. It’s why I’m constanly talking about the parable of the starfish.

One day, an old man was walking along a beach that was littered with thousands of starfish that had been washed ashore by the high tide. As he walked he came upon a young boy who was eagerly throwing the starfish back into the ocean, one by one.

Puzzled, the man looked at the boy and asked what he was doing. Without looking up from his task, the boy simply replied, “I’m saving these starfish, Sir”.

The old man chuckled aloud, “Son, there are thousands of starfish and only one of you. What difference can you make?”

The boy picked up a starfish, gently tossed it into the water and turning to the man, said, “I made a difference to that one!”

You want people to read your letter and feel something. You want that feeling to compel improvement. You want your letter to the world to help the world. To serve.

Why would the world read your letter? 

Jerry Van Amerongen (Amer-ho-en – it’s Dutch) is the cartoonist, creator of BALLARD STREET, easily my all-time favorite cartoon. On Saturday, March 30, 2019, he posted his final Ballard Street cartoon.

The Final BALLARD STREET cartoon - Saturday, March 30, 2019

The Final BALLARD STREET cartoon – Saturday, March 30, 2019

Jerry was writing one letter and at the age of 40 decided to write a completely different letter. In 1980 he began writing a letter that took the form of a cartoon, The Neighborhood. It was published in newspapers for the next decade. Along with the Far Side by Gary Larson, Jerry’s work refined the single panel cartoon.

In 1991 Jerry created Ballard Street. It began as a comic strip, but after 2 years Jerry went back to the single panel format, which suited him better.

Jerry was born and raised in Grand Rapids, Michigan. He spent the first 17 years of his professional life in corporate sales, marketing, and product management. Jerry’s cartoon ideas often came from scribbles and drawings. The drawings rely on facial expressions and body postures to give readers a sense of the characters beyond the caption.

Boyhood memories influenced by his Dutch and Polish heritage, images of roly-poly women in print dresses and rotund men in baggy trousers helped form his characters. Jerry said, “Regardless of our physical appearance, we see ourselves as having wrinkles and rumples on the inside. We all perceive ourselves as having big bottoms.”

Since 1980, the year my son was born, I’ve been a rabid fan of Jerry’s work. I’ve often wondered how less rich my life would be – and millions of others who enjoyed Jerry’s work – if Jerry had remained in corporate America. I’m much fonder of his second and third letters (The Neighborhood and Ballard Street).

The world didn’t ask Jerry to do it – to make such a dramatic change in his professional life. But he did it anyway.

A Ballard Street print

Another Ballard Street print

Another Ballard Street print

A Ballard Street print

I’m so glad Jerry wrote the letter to the world without waiting for the world to write him first. Wise choice.

From Good To Better To Best

Some people are writing a horror story as their letter. Their lives are so incredibly wrecked, it’s the only letter they’re capable of writing at the moment. They need to change their circumstances, their choices, their actions, their behaviors.

Hopefully, most of us are trying to write a good letter. We’re attempting to pursue a good life. Doesn’t mean we craft every sentence perfectly. Sometimes we write a pretty crappy paragraph. I’ve been known to write a few awful chapters. One chapter does not the entire story make.

The writing isn’t always stellar because the decisions aren’t always wise. Or smart. Or congruent with my best effort.

Yes, it’s all relative. Good. Better. Best. But it’s not relative to anybody else. It’s only relative to YOU.

Do you ever get sick of thinking about, or hearing about POTENTIAL? I do. What’s the point of potential if it’s always unrealized? I look at Jerry’s bold move to ditch corporate life for cartooning and I’m envious. Of his bravery and his talent.

As I think about my life I wonder about my potential. By now you’d think I’d have it figured out, but I don’t. I think what I’ve always thought – my best is yet to come. I know it’s not necessarily true. I mean, it’s possible I peaked 20 years ago! 😀

Time doesn’t define impact. That’d be like saying the length of the story determines how memorable it is, or how impactful it is on your life. That starfish parable has been pretty impactful on my life. It’s only 4 little paragraphs. Jerry’s final cartoon is like so many others before it – a single panel. But look at it. How well does it tell the story of Jerry’s retirement?

I’d say Jerry figured out how to go from good (a corporate career that lasted 17 years) to better (creating The Neighborhood cartoon for 10 years) to best (creating Ballard Street for almost 28 years). I’m not him. So he’s not my barometer. Fact is, nobody is anybody’s barometer. But he’s a solid illustration (at least for me) of how great a letter can be written.

Maybe I’ve been all wrong. Maybe I’ve assumed people want to write a better story. No, I’m not wrong. People do want to write better stories. I’m convinced we mostly don’t know how. And I’m equally convinced we don’t know how – or we can’t figure out how – because we don’t change our minds. We’re stuck in our head listening to the same endless loop tape we’ve always listened to. Which is why Jerry’s story so intrigues me. And why I wish I knew more details about his story.

To go from corporate sales and marketing after 17 years to cartooning…well, if that doesn’t exemplify change, what does?

Stephen King, a famous horror writer, began professional life as a school teacher. In a few years, his novel Carrie was published. It was his 4th novel, but the first one to be published. That was in 1973. Since then he’s written a couple of hundred short stories and sold more than 350 million books. King has written lots of letters to the world and he’s still doing it.

John Prine was a mailman in the late 1960s. He wrote songs while spending all that time alone. With the mail. Then he began going to open mic nights at the Fifth Peg in Chicago. First only as a spectator. Then one night, a performer challenged him, “You think you can do better?” Prine got up and sure enough, he could do better.

By 1971 he had released his first self-titled album, thanks in large part to having played for Kris Kristofferson late one night in a club, after the club was closed (and all the chairs were upside down on the tables). His first new album of original material in 13 years, titled The Tree of Forgiveness, was released on April 13, 2018. He’s now 72. He’s battled cancer twice. And his latest record has charted higher than any of his other 22 albums. He’s on top of his game.

Then there’s a top chef, Dan Giusti. Here’s what The New Yorker wrote about him last August.

In 2011, a young chef named Dan Giusti quit his job at the helm of 1789, a long-established restaurant in the Georgetown neighborhood of Washington, D.C., and boarded a plane for Copenhagen. Like many ambitious cooks, he had applied for a job trial at the original Noma, which was widely considered to be the best restaurant in the world. Unlike most other ambitious cooks, he swiftly rose through the ranks to become Noma’s head chef. But, after running the kitchen for three years, Giusti felt his enthusiasm for fine dining wane. “At Noma, we were forty-five people feeding forty-five people,” he recalled recently. “I realized that I wanted to feed a lot of people, and feed them every day.” He thought about opening a counter-service chain—another Sweetgreen or Shake Shack—but felt that the choices were already too abundant. What was the point? So his mind went to institutions—schools, in particular—where, despite a larger cultural shift away from industrial foods, there had been little innovation or improvement in decades. He saw both a moral purpose and a business opportunity.

In 2016 he started writing a very different letter when he left fancy hi-end luxury dining to school cafeterias. He formed Chef Brigaid, a company dedicated to changing the way kids eat.

Jerry Van Amerongen wrote some chapters as a corporate guy. Then he changed the narrative to a creative endeavor many likely didn’t see coming, he became a cartoonist.

Stephen King got an education and a teacher’s certification. It was a chapter in his life, but the best chapters were yet to be written as a best-selling novelist.

John Prine was a singing mailman. It was a chapter kind of like the chapter of being an Army soldier serving in Germany during Viet Nam. A new chapter began one night at the Fifth Peg and he’s been writing and performing music ever since.

Dan Giusti’s entire professional letter appears to be that of a chef, but what a different letter he’s writing today compared to his earlier writing. He’s no longer attached to 5 star high end restaurants. Today, he’s writing his story from school cafeterias.

What’s your commitment to your craft? If you’re not yet good, then make up your mind to pursue it. If you’re good, then decide to step up your letter-writing game to great, your best!

Don’t fret about how long it takes. It’ll take however long it takes. The important thing is to get on with it. And make progress. Take some chances along the way, too. Jerry and Stephen did. It worked out well for them. Why not you?

RC


 

Help Me Get A Rode Rodecaster Pro

Now that Sweetwater has the unit, I’m linking up their E-gift-card link (you can enter ANY amount you want): https://www.sweetwater.com/shop/gift-cards/email

Use email: RandyCantrell [at] gmail [dot] com

 

The Reward – For A Special Leaning Toward Wisdom (LTW) Episode

• 10-minute Skype call with me (30 minutes if you donate $25 or more)
• The topic: tell me about a time when somebody really encouraged you in a meaningful way
• This will provide content for a special episode about encouragement 
• I’ll include your name and any links you care to promote (or if you prefer, you can remain anonymous because I still want the stories)

It’s the power of others. And it includes the power of others to help the LTW podcast. Thank you for all your support!

March 30, 2019 Saturday’s Smile (The Final Edition)

Jerry Van Amerongen, creator of my all-time favorite cartoon – BALLARD STREET – is riding off into the sunset. Jerry is 79. At 40 he left corporate sales and became a cartoonist.

Ballard Street has been published since 1991. Before that he created “The Neighborhood” for 10 years.

The man is an extraordinary talent and I’ll miss his regular work. His work has surrounded me for decades (and will continue to do so).

Today is Jerry’s last Ballard Street cartoon – the one pictured here. And the irony is, I’m terribly sad about it. I love Jerry and his work very much.

Over on Facebook Jerry post this, along with this final cartoon:

ADIOS PARTNERS! I’ll see you on the other side, where I’ll post irregularly. Thank you again, and remember gocomics.com for B St. oldies and the books for collections.

Adios, Jerry. Thank you for leaving sales for cartooning. My life was made better by your creations.

Randy

Help The Yellow Studio & The Leaning Toward Wisdom Podcast Get A Rode Rodecaster Pro

Now that Sweetwater has the unit, I’m linking up their E-gift-card link (you can enter ANY amount you want): https://www.sweetwater.com/shop/gift-cards/email

Use email: RandyCantrell [at] gmail [dot] com

 

The Reward – For A Special Leaning Toward Wisdom (LTW) Episode

• 10-minute Skype call with me (30 minutes if you donate $25 or more)
• The topic: tell me about a time when somebody really encouraged you in a meaningful way
• This will provide content for a special episode about encouragement 
• I’ll include your name and any links you care to promote (or if you prefer, you can remain anonymous because I still want the stories)

It’s the power of others. And it includes the power of others to help the LTW podcast. Thank you for all your support!

I Wanna Be Anxious For Tomorrow (5024)

Project Craving Encouragement Update

Some personal stuff got in the way, but I’m pushing through. Doesn’t that often seem the case?

I’m growing increasingly intent on ramping up the project because daily – every SINGLE day – I see the need. The need for encouragement. Mostly, I see the lack, which prompts the need. And I wonder why the gap is so cavernous. And growing. I’ve got some theories. But whatever the reason it’s something we can all do. A contribution we can all make. To let somebody in our life know we’re aware of their struggle and that we believe in them.

Do it for somebody today. Fill the silent craving people have for encouragement. Lord willing, somebody will fill it for you, too.


 

Matthew 6:25-34Therefore I say unto you, Be not anxious for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than the food, and the body than the raiment? Behold the birds of the heaven, that they sow not, neither do they reap, nor gather into barns; and your heavenly Father feedeth them. Are not ye of much more value than they? And which of you by being anxious can add one cubit unto the measure of his life? And why are ye anxious concerning raiment? Consider the lilies of the field, how they grow; they toil not, neither do they spin: yet I say unto you, that even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these. But if God doth so clothe the grass of the field, which to-day is, and to-morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Be not therefore anxious, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? For after all these things do the Gentiles seek; for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. But seek ye first his kingdom, and his righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you. Be not therefore anxious for the morrow: for the morrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.” (American Standard Version)

Context matters. What the Lord said here in His Sermon On The Mount is accurate and true. I believe it, in spite of the title of today’s episode. I just don’t use the word “anxious” as He did. He used it to mean worry, or fret. Don’t worry about tomorrow because tomorrow is going to have enough problems all its own. Take care of business today. Trust in God today.

That doesn’t mean you sit back and wait for God to just take care of you like a magic genie. That’s not God’s role in your life. God is God and wants to help every one of us – mostly He wants us to be saved in Heaven.

John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him should not perish, but have eternal life.”

God isn’t some Grand Puppeteer either. He doesn’t coerce or force us to do anything. We decide for ourselves. The Lord was preaching that we ought to trust God more and more, do our work to obey Him and stop worrying about what may happen to us here, in this life. Mostly, because if we’re faithful to God He’ll save us in Heaven forever.

I’m using anxious in a very different context. I mean it in the sense that we look forward to something. Kids go to bed on the night before their birthday anxious to enjoy a party and celebration where they can open presents. They’re anxious for it to happen. There is no dread or worry, only anticipation looking forward to a good time. THAT’S how I mean anxious in today’s show.

I Wanna Look Forward To Tomorrow

Old man spat and cursed as he spoke
“It’s all going to hell and the whole world is broken”
The little kid is busy making plans
Save the whole world along with that old man

So as far as I can see
A better way for you and me
Is to let the children run the show
Not too long and we’ll be good to go

All the girls and boys will sing
Come tomorrow we get everything
So as long as we survive today
Come tomorrow we gonna find a way
Yeah, as far as I can see
We should let the children lead the way

Bang bang you’re dead nah you missed me for real
I got a bag to smoke come on let’s make a deal
Yeah, bridges burn but tomorrow is another day
To feed the world and thengo outside an play

Yeah farmers farm and dancers dance all night
Lovers love and the firefighters fight
Let the children run the show
Not too long and we’ll be good to go

All the girls and boys will sing
Come tomorrow we get everything
So as long as we survive today
Come tomorrow we go and find a way
As far as I can see
We got to let the children lead the way

The storm will rise
Out of innocent skies
Times will change
When you let the children play the game

All the girls and boys will sing
Come tomorrow we fix everything
So as long as we survive today
Come tomorrow we gonna find a way

All the girls and boys will sing
Come tomorrow we get everything
So as long as we survive today
Come tomorrow we gonna find a way

Come Tomorrow by Dave Matthews

Dave Matthews has a story, not merely a chapter. Here’s a review of the album, Come Tomorrow.

Anticipation for tomorrow is a hard thing. Because people are struggling. Suffering. Enduring pain. People are anxious, and not in the best ways, but in the worst.

This Dave Matthews’ song is about hope and optimism. And that’s how I’m using the word “anxious” today. Reframing that view of the word may just give you a renewed hope.

It’s about going to bed at night with strong anticipation for tomorrow. That “I can’t wait for it to get here” feeling that many of us haven’t experienced since we were children.

And I wonder why?

Adult problems. Is that the reason? We’re burdened with all the moving parts of being an adult? Hopefully, a responsible, mature person who embraces all that is being a good human. Does that weigh us down, make us cynical and wear down our optimism and hope?

Likely.

What can we do about it?

Probably a few things. Things we’re likely leaving to chance when we should be acting with greater intent. Things like gratitude. Not just saying we’re grateful, but being purposeful and thoughtful about our thanksgiving.

Have you ever sat down and written out, or typed out a list of things you’re thankful for…and then listed out, in detail, why you’re thankful for them?

When I ask people about it, I hardly ever encounter a person who has. Sad. Not because of their lack, but because of their loss. Such an extreme loss to their humanity and depth of life they could experience if they’d practice it every now and again.

But don’t stop there.

Now keep digging and consider what other positive things in your life would be missing if that blessing had never happened. Our lives have more ripple effects than we can likely measure. Think of the Christmas movie, It’s A Wonderful Life. One little change would have dramatically altered the trajectory of your life. Maybe it’s time to more deeply consider them.

You can’t practice this without being very intentional about it. Simply put, you have to force yourself to do this. I’m not smart enough to figure out why that is, but I just know it’s true. It doesn’t seem to come naturally. And we seem mostly content to dwell on what’s missing in our lives than to dwell on what’s right.

The challenge is to exercise gratitude so frequently, and so deeply that we form a habit so we can make it easier to be anxious for tomorrow. The goal is to live a life in happy anticipation for tomorrow.

It doesn’t mean we’ll never experience bad days, or bad moments. Me? I’m coming out of a 7-month knife fight and I have days where it seems there is no end in sight. But my wife and I were talking the other night about the elephant in the room in our life at the moment – the source of our deepest pain – and we quickly looked at the most positive things we could think of as it related to our pain. It didn’t make us happy, but it did make us thankful. More thankful.

Bad things happen. No amount of happy thoughts or gratitude will necessarily alter the outcome. Or make things better. But gratitude can (and will) serve us to help us cope, overcome or endure. No question about it. Don’t argue if you’ve not yet tried it.

Building anticipation into our lives so we can be anxious in the best ways for a new day – a new day where we believe our opportunities will abound. A new day where we’re confident we’ll be able to make a positive contribution in the lives of the people we love, the people we care about, and perhaps even a few strangers. A new day where we look forward to the possibilities.

It takes work. Lots of hard work.

Sometimes people will tell me, “That’s a lot of work.” Translation: “I’m not sure that’s gonna be worth it.” Or, “I don’t think that’ll be worth it.”

I used to try to persuade people. Attempting to influence them that they’re wrong. I don’t do that anymore. Mostly because I’m no good at it. Maybe nobody could persuade naysayers that they CAN live a brighter life. I know I can’t. So I no longer try. I look at them and say, “I understand. Yes, it is hard work. Only you can decide if it’s worth it or not.”

I’m sad for them, but I honor their decision to live as they’d like.

Our lives are what we make of them. We get to decide.

Some of us are anxious for tomorrow because it’ll bring us a new day where we can play the role of the victim. Another day of complaining of what others have done to us. Another day of proof that life is awful. Folks who enjoy – even seem to thrive on – being down and out. As Dr. Phil would say, “it’s working for them” at some level or they wouldn’t keep doing it. Such a waste of human capacity and potential. And such a drag on the others in their life. Everybody loses.

If today is awful, why lament the dawning of a new day? Some people need professional help to get through. If that’s you, please go seek the help you need. Don’t let hopelessness overtake you.

A week ago Sydney Aiello, who survived the 2018 massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida, committed suicide. She was buried on Friday. Her parents said she struggled with survivor’s guilt, coupled with PTSD (post-traumatic stress disorder). A young, bright light attending Florida Atlantic University, extinguished. I’m sad about her plight. Sad for her parents, family, and friend. I wish she could have found her way to be anxious for tomorrow. To be excited about her future and what she could have made of her life. I’m sad that she couldn’t find excitement about the people she could have positively impacted.

Jeremy Richman was 49. In 2012 he lost a first grader, his child, in the Sandy Hook shooting. On Monday he was found dead in his Connecticut office of an apparent suicide. Was the grief too heavy? I don’t know. I don’t him or his whole story. I only know one very specifically heartbreaking chapter of his life. If it turns out that he died at his own hands, then I’m sad that he couldn’t find excitement for tomorrow.

Try as I might to understand the pain of yesterday for Jeremy, I can’t. I know the loss of a child, not to death, but to other circumstances in life. I know the pain of staring into the future, wondering how you’ll make it through. But I also know the challenge of searching for (and often unable to find) excitement for today, much less tomorrow.

I’m especially mindful of those who struggle with mental illness. Danny Brown is a longtime online acquaintance. He’s a Scotsman living in Canada. Recently, he was diagnosed with depression and anxiety. His wife, who has battled the same maladies, took him to the ER where he was diagnosed. Treatment began. It’s only been a matter of weeks, but his wife interviewed him for a podcast project. You can give it a listen here. Thankfully, Danny has Jaclyn, his wife, to help him. And thankfully, he was willing to seek and accept the help he needs. I’m happy Danny is on the road to improved mental health. Jaclyn, too.

Formal diagnosis or no, we all have mental challenges, emotional distress, and pain. Life is neither equal nor fair. Some people must endure lifelong challenges. Others suffer only momentarily, every now and again. Some of our problems are self-induced. Others befall us through no fault of our own. No matter the source of our pain and suffering, we have choices to make today. About today, and about tomorrow.

This episode is really about those choices. The ones we have to make today. Right now. The ones that will impact not just today, but tomorrow. Perhaps decisions that will impact us for years to come.

I wanna be anxious for tomorrow. I want to be excited for tomorrow. I want the prospects for tomorrow to be filled with hope and optimism. I want tomorrow to be better than today. And at the start of today, I have hope that it’ll be better than yesterday. The margin of improvement doesn’t have to be by much. It can be so incremental I’d have a hard time noticing. I know it may not happen. But why should that possibility rob me of hope?

For seven months now I’ve been enduring what feels like a knife fight. A knife fight I’m losing. But I’m still alive and kicking (cue up the song by Simple Minds – click here to watch it; it’s got almost 48 million views).

I’ve learned more in the last 7 months than I’ve learned in the last 7 years. So there’s THAT. Suffering is a great teacher provided we’re open and willing to learn.

Lately I’ve been fascinated more and more by our capacity, probably more accurately stated – our incapacity, to fill gaps in our knowledge. I’ve talked quite a lot in the past about how prone we all are to make incorrect and inaccurate assumptions. People may see us at our worst and conclude, “That’s who he is. He’s a jerk.” We rather enjoy opening the worst chapter of somebody’s life and judging their whole story based on that. Yet we realize the unfairness of it all when it’s happening to us. So it goes.

Giving grace and compassion is hard. So hard it seems to be increasingly rare. Perhaps harder still for some, is giving more grace and compassion to ourselves. Not in accepting our poor behavior, or in looking to excuse it, but in coming to terms with it, recognizing it and devoting ourselves to grow past it.

Leo Bottary and I just recorded a show for our podcast, WHAT ANYONE CAN DO. He just got back from doing some workshops over in the U.K. He got some feedback from the first few and the feedback could have been viewed as less than flattering, but Leo chose to view it through a different lens. The audience members had an expectation that wasn’t met. Leo took responsibility for it. He didn’t shy away from it. He didn’t resent it or push against it. Instead, Leo realized as the workshop leader the burden of responsibility was on him, not the audience. He felt as though he dropped the ball so he went to work to correct things, improve things and grow better.

I know life can sometimes be wearisome. I know it can be tough to get out of bed some days. I also know we’ve all got plenty of regrets and bad behavior in our rearview mirror. For some of us, the objects in the mirror are much closer than they appear. Fact is, some of us may be engaged in poor or dangerously foolish behavior right now. It happens.

What are we gonna do with it? Like Leo, we have choices. We can face it, make up our mind to grow from it by first fixing it, then move forward. Or, we can follow the many lemmings who chose to be victims living the life dictated by the universe.

We can bemoan our lives, grow increasingly dissatisfied that we don’t have the life of our dreams, or even a life free of pain. And we can fail to look forward to tomorrow, hoping that today is speed on by. I wouldn’t wish such a life on anybody. I certainly wouldn’t wish it on you. I wanna be anxious – excited – for tomorrow. I want you to be anxious for it, too. I just know that the best way to make that happen is to take full advantage of today, the day God has given each of us. A day where we can come to ourselves, realizing the gifts we’ve been given, perhaps the gifts we’ve squandered…and a day where we can make up our mind to improve and grow.

It’s the only way tomorrow is going to worth living. By our dedication to bringing our best selves to the universe so we can have the most positive impact possible on others.

RC

Help The Yellow Studio & The Leaning Toward Wisdom Podcast Get A Rode Rodecaster Pro

Now that Sweetwater has the unit, I’m linking up their E-gift-card link (you can enter ANY amount you want): https://www.sweetwater.com/shop/gift-cards/email

Use email: RandyCantrell [at] gmail [dot] com

The Reward – For A Special Leaning Toward Wisdom (LTW) Episode

• 10-minute Skype call with me (30 minutes if you donate $25 or more)
• The topic: tell me about a time when somebody really encouraged you in a meaningful way
• This will provide content for a special episode about encouragement 
• I’ll include your name and any links you care to promote (or if you prefer, you can remain anonymous because I still want the stories)

It’s the power of others. And it includes the power of others to help the LTW podcast. Thank you for all your support!

March 23, 2019 Saturday’s Smile

March 23, 2019 Saturday's Smile - LEANING TOWARD WISDOM March 23, 2019 Saturday's Smile - LEANING TOWARD WISDOM March 23, 2019 Saturday's Smile - LEANING TOWARD WISDOM March 23, 2019 Saturday's Smile - LEANING TOWARD WISDOM March 23, 2019 Saturday's Smile - LEANING TOWARD WISDOM March 23, 2019 Saturday's Smile - LEANING TOWARD WISDOM

Help The Yellow Studio & The Leaning Toward Wisdom Podcast Get A Rode Rodecaster Pro

Now that Sweetwater has the unit, I’m linking up their E-gift-card link (you can enter ANY amount you want): https://www.sweetwater.com/shop/gift-cards/email

Use email: RandyCantrell [at] gmail [dot] com

The Reward – For A Special Leaning Toward Wisdom (LTW) Episode

• 10-minute Skype call with me (30 minutes if you donate $25 or more)
• The topic: tell me about a time when somebody really encouraged you in a meaningful way
• This will provide content for a special episode about encouragement 
• I’ll include your name and any links you care to promote (or if you prefer, you can remain anonymous because I still want the stories)

It’s the power of others. And it includes the power of others to help the LTW podcast. Thank you for all your support!