Never meet your heroes…

The phrase “never meet your heroes” has an indistinct origin. There is no certainty in where it came from but, as with most statements that bear some timeless truth, it has likely been said one way or another since people first began idolizing other people.

I believe in the truth in this statement but it is important to note that its truth hinges on both the subject and the predicate – that is to say the hero and the act of meeting said hero. When we meet another we bring ourselves into this meeting, we bring our biases, preconceptions, filters etc. A hero is only a hero because of the one(s) who worships them and the expectations and beliefs they endow them with.

Today I read an article in the New Yorker about Flannery O’Connor entitled How Racist was Flannery O’Connor and it seems the answer to that question is – pretty racist.

Apologist have sprung up like weeds to point our various and obvious things like “she lived in a different time” blah, blah, blah. To which myself and others would point out that so did so many others who were not racist.

I bring to this conversation an admiration of Flannery O’Connor’s work. At least I did. Now what I bring is an appreciation of the work and a newfound struggle to enjoy it. At what point do you say that we should not hold the past accountable to today’s morality?

I do not know the answer to that question. Everything is subject to who we are. I can appreciate Shakespeare and The Merchant of Venice but I cannot enjoy it. The caricature of the greedy, merciless, literally blood thirty Jew has done so much harm throughout history that one cannot condone or enjoy the portrayal just as one cannot enjoy the passion plays that continue even to this day in Europe and elsewhere as they present an image of Jews as murderers of the Christian god.

I don’t care when these things occurred I cannot enjoy them.

In the same way I cannot enjoy the music of Wagner though I am forced to admit its quality. Wagner wrote too much about the need for Jews, Jewishness and Judaism to “go away” and of its “negative” influence on German culture and music to be ignored regardless of his motives.

In the same way, while I can intellectually comprehend the use of the swastika as a religious symbol for thousands of years, I cannot endorse or understand its use today because of its co-opting by the Nazis. The symbol is not too loaded with ideologies of racism, intolerance, and death to be worthy of resuce.

Now with all of this being said I do not advocate for the destruction of Wagner’s, O’Connor’s, or Shakespeare’s work – but rather that it be taught and understood within the framework of the artist’s beliefs and ideologies. The works themselves can no longer stand on their own for we know too much. Any such effort would be an exercise in willful ignorance – the opposite of what education is supposed to be about.

And so I am saddened as another star in my sky’s small pantheon has grown dim as a result of having come to “meet my hero” but not so sad as to agree with the statement “never meet your heroes” or else we doom ourselves to live in that ignorance we just railed against.

We find ourselves increasingly in agreement with the author of Ecclesiastes 1:18 when they said “For in much wisdom is much grief: and he that increaseth knowledge increaseth sorrow.

incandescent


what a vision in glass this bright and blinding morning is,
this winter’s day ablaze in white and crystal sun-pun cloak
it covers each branch, each leaf of every shining oak;

and you know on these cold and snowy days
that dark is a myth dispelled by a moment’s brightening,
that night is erased from memory by a single stroke of lightning;

so i fill my mind forever with these incandescent flashes,
these fragments that can be stitched together to banish black,
to blanket my mind in a quilt of brilliant memory-feedback
and those things that seek to drag me down are burned to ashes

publish

words are not words
ideas are not ideas
everything is market potential
everything is for sale

please build your Babel,
let it rise gleaming to the skies
a towering antenna of image
broadcasting an angle and hook;
wear a top hat (or bowler) and tails
and dance while the grinder plays
as you hold your tin cup forth
until suitable crowds amass
doing whatever it takes.

there are no more unknowns,
there are only profit margin poets,
we whores of serif’d letters
calling to the kindly folks
who will gladly hold the megaphone
for a small fee of blood
until it all falls faithlessly to the earth
and we are scattered in ignorance
dumb to one-another

Grimes & the Economic Enslavement of Women

First of all – FUCK!

Second of all sorry for the weighty title.

Something is bothering me lately (you may have noticed) and it has taken a few days of simmering to come to a place I feel I can put it to words.

Recently, a company owned by Canadian singer Grimes, aka Claire Elise Boucher, received a grant totaling $90,525 from FACTOR – a not-for-profit designed to offer assistance to Canadian artists and musicians.

Since this became public there have been numerous headlines and criticisms launched at her and the granting body for the decision. Even the satirical news site The Beaverton jumped on the bandwagon for this one with their shitty headline – Struggling single mother awarded grant to continue pursuing her fledgling music career.

Why the criticism? Well primarily because of who Grimes is romantically involved with – the world’s second richest man and possible alien – Elon Musk. Of course there is also the sidebar that she does not live in Canada but Canadians have always been ambassadors to their homeland when abroad and this is really not an issue – we are happy to see our global citizens supported.

What it boils down to is there are some people and organizations who feel Grimes does not deserve the grant because she should be using her partner’s money and herein lies the problem.

Women have been subjected to financial and economic enslavement to men for what seems like forever. The idea that Grimes does not deserve a grant because her boyfriend has money and she should rely on him to help her out is cringy at best and truthfully horrific. It is a perspective that enables inequality and perpetuates a culture that tells women they need men to get anywhere and do anything.

Would the same outcry have occurred if it were a male artist paired with a wealthy female partner? Maybe – but this is not where we are at and the impact is not nearly the same. Where we are at is a world that continues to tell women to rely upon the resources of their male partner before they go looking for help.

This touches a nerve with me because I grew up in a household being raised by a single mum who was stripped by abusive partners of her dignity and ability to be self-sufficient. Partners who held things like access to resources – money, food and shelter – over her head to keep her in check; to keep her from leaving.

Kudos to Grimes for securing the grant and well done to FACTOR for giving it. We need to stop perpetuating this harmful narrative. We need to stop telling women they must use their partner’s resources rather than seeking to be their own, whole and successful individual because whether you believe it or not that is the message the current criticism is sending.

Now I am going to put on Miss Anthropocene (on vinyl) and celebrate Grimes for who she is – a badass Canadian woman, musician and single mum who should not be forced to live in the shadow of any one.

Organizational Insanity

Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.”

Look, as with any mental illness, you cannot boil insanity down to a simple, one sentence definition but it serves our purposes here.

Have you heard this before? It is commonly hurled as an epithet at people who seem to never learn from their mistakes. Like Sisyphus they continue to push whatever slippery rock they are saddled with up their designated hill only to have it escape their grasp near the top and roll back down.

Again and again and again we watch people repeat themselves to no avail and we wonder what in the world is going on.

But back to the question at hand – can organizations suffer from the same malady? The answer of course, you know, is absolutely. We see it everywhere.

When I say organization I mean many things – business, not-for-profit, government, family, church, etc. all of which are guilty of organizational insanity.

If such a thing is so obvious to people on the outside of the circumstance why is it not obvious to those on the inside? This is difficult to say.

Usually when this pattern appears it has to do with a person or people having a vested interest in a particular outcome.

But aren’t there several paths to the same destination – you ask? Of course, but the devil is in the details and in this particular instance what we find is not only is there a vested interest at play there is a lack of imagination.

When the two combine – the need for a particular outcome and a lack of imagination – you have created a very powerful vortex that spins around and around and around never allowing anything trapped in it to reach something resembling a reasonable outcome.

Another ingredient that feeds organizational insanity is when a decision or outcome is being managed by a single person. When this occurs and failure rears its head the manager tasked with the failed goal will often deflect.

“If only the candidate were BLANK” or “Outside forces conspired” or even “there is no way we could have foreseen BLANK” etc. etc.

With such diversionary tactics an ongoing failure can be repeated for years in an organization.

Surely not? You say shocked at the idea.

No it is true. Think about organizational timelines for a moment. You have meetings, planning sessions, proposals, budgets, reviews, ad infinitum often attached to a single project. By the time even a successful project or initiative is implemented more than half a year could go by.

Then of course you have evaluation periods, reviews again, opportunities to improve etc. We are now at the one year plus mark before serious questions are asked (if they are asked at all).

At this point you are at the probationary stage – the one last chance phase – and another three to six months goes by before, finally, and with an exhale of relief, we have arrived at failure.

Usually this is where the whole thing starts again. This is where we should be inserting a clear, well thought out, and concise post-mortem that involves multiple people.

But this is soooo much work, people lament. Management often listens to those in charge of the project; those people who will suggest a redo because the goal is still required. No one looks closely enough to realize that nothing is changing and the entire process repeats itself until a clever person sees things for how they really are and seeks to thrust a spoke into the wheel and interrupt the unhealthy cycle.

One way to avoid this problem is to ensure a documented and required process is in place for every failed initiative (or successful should you wish to understand and repeat success). The post-mortem is the opportunity for management to look into a process and make real change recommendations. You should have no less than three people involved here.

Why did this occur?
Who was responsible?
How do we ensure this does not (or does) happen again?

It is not that difficult. However it is often derailed by the ‘Who’ in the equation that seeks to protect themselves from repercussion.

Another reason organizations find themselves caught in the insanity loop is poor cost evaluation. By this I mean the adoption of a simplistic bottom-line approach that puts keeping implementation costs low ahead of all else – including results.

Usually in this scenario there is little to no work done to determine the cost of failure, only a fixated focus on the cost of up front implementation. Anyone who has done any work in the area of Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) recognizes that implementation costs are a small fraction of the overall.

Failure to invest properly upfront inevitably leads to a failure to, wholly or in part, meet the desired goal. And so while you may think you can absorb the cost of failure because you have kept your upfront investment down, the reality is the organization is bleeding because all of what you need to achieve (remember – the reason this initiative or project is being done in the first place) is not happening or constantly needing to be restarted or rehired and retrained in the case of high staff turnover.

The only thing worse than having a person, project or process in an organization repeat the same failing strategy again and again is being the person or persons (CEO, board, management, etc.) with the authority to do something about it and choosing not to.

antenna

i am here
waiting for you
like fall before your eyes
and the words –
i don’t know
where they come from
they just spill out
as if there’s an antenna
buried in my head
picking up thoughts
of better people
in far off times;
snippets of excellence
mixed with flotsam

and i want to meet the people
whose words pour forth
to thank them for
a beautiful insanity
that makes the days cycle past

Thunder Road

In my opinion the greatest song Bruce Springsteen ever wrote is Thunder Road. Now any Bruce Springsteen song could legitimately qualify as any other musician’s greatest song which is why is is so difficult to pick a greatest.

Heck I could almost as easily pick The River, Jungleland or Born in the U.S.A. but that’s where choices become personal. There’s just something about Thunder Road that sets it apart for me.

At any rate here’s the lyrics followed by a link to the YouTube video – do yourself a favour and listen to it.

P.S. If you don’t think some songs are simply poems in disguise you are not looking closely enough.

Thunder Road

The screen door slams
Mary’s dress waves
Like a vision she dances across the porch
As the radio plays

Roy Orbison singing for the lonely
Hey that’s me and I want you only
Don’t turn me home again
I just can’t face myself alone again

Don’t run back inside
Darling, you know just what I’m here for
So you’re scared and you’re thinking
That maybe we ain’t that young anymore

Show a little faith there’s magic in the night
You ain’t a beauty but hey you’re alright
Oh and that’s alright with me

You can hide ‘neath your covers
And study your pain
Make crosses from your lovers
Throw roses in the rain

Waste your summer praying in vain
For a saviour to rise from these streets

Well now I’m no hero
That’s understood
All the redemption I can offer girl
Is beneath this dirty hood

With a chance to make it good somehow
Hey what else can we do now
Except roll down the window
And let the wind blow back your hair?
Well the night’s busting open
These two lanes will take us anywhere

We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back
Heaven’s waiting down on the tracks

Oh-oh come take my hand
We’re riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh-oh-oh-oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road, oh Thunder Road

Lying out there like a killer in the sun
Hey I know it’s late we can make it if we run
Oh-oh-oh-oh Thunder Road, sit tight, take hold
Thunder Road

Well I got this guitar
And I learned how to make it talk
And my car’s out back
If you’re ready to take that long walk

From your front porch to my front seat
The door’s open but the ride ain’t free
And I know you’re lonely
For words that I ain’t spoken
Tonight we’ll be free
All the promises’ll be broken

There were ghosts in the eyes
Of all the boys you sent away
They haunt this dusty beach road
In the skeleton frames of burned-out Chevrolets

They scream your name at night in the street
Your graduation gown lies in rags at their feet
And in the lonely cool before dawn
You hear their engines roaring on
When you get to the porch they’re gone
On the wind

So Mary climb in
It’s a town full of losers
I’m pulling out of here to win

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JGBXnw86Mgc

Grace, Forgiveness & Trust

As the holidays approach I have been dwelling on the greatest gifts I have been given in my life. What I have come to need most, these gifts, have paved the way to how I try (and often fail) to approach life with others – with grace, forgiveness and trust.

I pursue these things as well as I can, even at the risk of being made foolish as a result. I have never liked the maxim “you have to earn my trust” because of how it forces you into a particularly negative view of humanity.

It is true I may protect myself from abuse on occasion by adopting said maxim – but how much do I lose?

I prefer to trust people and leave them the opportunity to erode such trust, should they choose to. Maybe that is naïve but it is my choice and the consequences are mine to bear. I wonder where I would be if certain people had not chosen to trust me and I shudder at the thought.

I am thankful for the grace, forgiveness and trust people have placed in me at times when perhaps I did not deserve it.

In my life I have required so much grace to be bestowed upon me that I fear I will never be capable of returning the favours. I am an opinionated loudmouth who often rushes in where angels fear to tread and on many occasions it is not simply me that feels the repercussions but those closest to me.

As I move forward in life how can I not take into consideration these gifts that have been given to me? How can I not extend the benefit of the doubt to others? How can I not trust that others are worth knowing despite what some may say or gossip?

I have lashed out at others in times of great stress and pain in my life. I have wounded people who have nothing to do with the pain that caused me to wound and they have forgiven me time and again. Am I not bound then to do the same?

As I read in the areas of leadership, management or just run of the mill social media posts it seems the general trend is toward protecting oneself and offering excuses as to why things like trust, grace and forgiveness should be doled out sparingly, if at all.

The interesting thing about this trinity of gifts is that they require us to be people in motion…to be constantly in a state of thinking and rethinking, assessing and reassessing. This is tiring work.

It is far easier to excise these things from our lives, make a decision or judgement about people, and never have to revisit it. I like and respect these people, forever, and I dislike and distrust these people, forever.

So simple.

Sadly this is the reality for many. Liked or not you are relegated to a place without much thought or attendance to who you are and how you change. I have done this many times despite working very hard to avoid it – it is the very gravity of our decision-making world.

Grace, forgiveness and trust require us to become astronauts in a way. We must break free of the gravity of judgement and, through sheer force of will, ascend beyond it to something higher.

I realize this all makes me sound holier than thou but in reality it is simply me speaking to myself what I need to hear most and inviting you in to listen alongside me, perhaps even coaxing me along in the process.