It is Friday. We are dealing with everything this past week has thrown at us. Sometimes we can feel like just giving up. I want to call to your attention the quote from Duke Ellington above. Let us consider the man for an example. He was a composer and amazing piano player. He wrote or collaborated on more than one thousands compositions. That is mind-blowing in itself. He did all of this during a period in American history when racism was not only present, but was rampant. Despite this, he wrote and recorded some of the most beautiful music in history.
Facing such social limitations I can only imagine would frustrate Mr. Ellington and, at least on occasion, make him feel like giving up. He did not and because of that, he was able to make a living doing what he loved. He also has schools, bridges and a host of other things named after him. How did he manage not to give up? I am not sure we can know all of his secrets, but one of them was pursuing what he was passionate about. When you are doing what you love, it can get you through some of the toughest times.
As this week draws to a close, spend some time doing what you love with those you love. Strengthen your ‘why’ and write down reasons why you should not give up. We may never face some of the challenges Duke Ellington did. We might face ones that seem even more difficult to overcome. What we can do is take his advice and never give up. By doing so we can leave our own legacy. One that says, “Here is someone who never gave up.”
I love this quote by Leo Tolstoy. So often we are tempted to complain about the world and the state that it is in. Whether we are foolishly blaming a political party or race of people for the world’s trouble, or just venting out loud, we are missing the point. *spoiler alert* no political party, no matter how much we dislike them, gets together to figure out how to destroy the world. *spoiler alert 2* No race, culture or religion is filled with evil people whose soul focus is to destroy your way of life* These are just brainwashing techniques used to keep you in fear so your mind and emotions can be controlled.
If there is no specific “us against them” to rally against, how can we change the world? He is a short answer – we can’t. Here is a second short answer – we should not. Here is what I mean. In any relationship, you should never Focus on changing the other person. This is why many marriages fail.They have the right to live as they see fit and so do you. Expanding that to our global community, people have the right, so long as they are not directly harming others, to live, love and worship as they see fit. It is not on job, nor our responsibility to change them just because we do not agree with them. Just as we should not have to conform to their ways either.
If we can’t, nor should, change others, how can we change the world? Take advice from Mr. Tolstoy. We change ourselves. That is all we have complete control over. This works to change the world in 2 ways.
First, we lead by example. Parents, this especially true for you. Children may rarely listen to what you say, but they will always watch what you do. It is not just Parents that have this responsibility. We are all being watched everyday. Especially in this world of social media and everyone walking around with cameras in their pockets. Make sure your actions positively inspire others. A great question to ask yourself is, “Would I be happy if everyone acted like me?” Before you are quick to think of how great that would be, stop and consider your faults. Would we like everyone to judge and insult based on religious or political affiliation? Would we want everyone to be quick tempered? To drive without using their turn signals?
The other way changing ourselves works to change the world is even more powerful, in my opinion. That is the law of reciprocation. You may have heard it stated as “whatever you sow, you reap” or “what you do comes back to you” However you word it, what we put out into the world becomes part of the world. If we are judgemental of others, the world becomes more judgemental. If we are harsh with our words, the world becomes a colder harsher place. This is the key to positively transforming the world.
Whenever we love others, we make the world more loving. When we stand up for the repressed and abused, the world becomes less tolerant of those behaviors. Whenever we allow those we disagree with to live as they see fit, the world becomes more loving and accepting. The only way we can truly do this is one person at a time, and that person is us. The only way we can change the hearts of the masses, is to first change our own. As Leo Tolstoy said, the only way we can change the world is by changing ourselves.
Those of you who know me, even a little, know that I find racism and prejudice both comical in their archaic nature and pitifully sad in the loss of experience one suffers from it. In terms of tackling such issues, there are as many approaches as there are issues to tackle. Some take to the streets and protest peacefully such as the great civil rights leader Martin Luther King Jr. A great and effective approach. Some take to the streets to riot, which in my opinion not only compounds the problem, but adds validity to the fools speaking the racist and prejudice statements in the first place. There are legal actions, social actions, political actions and many others. Personally, I find actions that do not victimize others and bring about needed social change are all good.
All that being said, I believe there is one way that towers above all the others in not only bringing about long-term social change, but may be the only way that stands a chance in succeeding to bring change to the hearts and minds of those who hold these archaic and asinine views. Before we get to what I think that may be, I want to share a store about a man that I feel embodies this example and share with you not only some of the things he went through, but of course, how he handled them as well. He is both my favorite singer of all time, but also a great man. He is Nat King Cole.
Nathaniel Adams Coles was born March 17th, 1919 in Montgomery Alabama. Born the son of a Baptist minister, the Coles family moved to Chicagowhen Nat was 4 years old in search of a better life. He began to learn the piano from his mother at the age of 4 and began formal lessons at the age of 12. Nat went on to become one of the most accomplished Jazz pianists of all time. Initially, he did not sing until a drunk patron at a club he was playing insisted he did. Told by the owner that this patron was a well-paying customer and that if Nat valued his job he should learn to sing right then and there. Reluctantly, Nat began to sing Sweet Lorraine. The rest, as they say, is history. Nat King Cole went on to sell millions of albums, have over 100 songs that became hits on the pop charts and starred in film and television.
This is not to say that Nat had an easy go of it, personally or professionally. Most of his success came in the 1940’s and 1950’s before the civil rights movements. I would like to highlight some of the challenges he faced and how he handled them. He was often not allowed to stay in the very hotels that he played at and made money for. What did he do? He quietly sued them after, winning many cases. Those he did not, he chose not to play again and share his talent, and the business it generated, with more accepting locations.
In July of 1948, coming off such hits as The Christmas Song, Nature Boy and Mona Lisa, Nat and his wife Maria wanted to settled down and purchased a house in the affluent,and all white, Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angles. When the neighborhood association learned that a black entertainer was moving into their neighborhood they want to see Cole’s manager and told him they would pay back the down payment as well as some profit if Nat would not buy the house. He refused. They then held a special meaning to try to solve the issue. Nat decided to attend. After many racist and angry things were said, one man attempting to ease tensions told Nat, “Mr. Cole, we just to not want any undesirables in this neighborhood.” What did Nat do? Did he bristle at the statement? Did he counter the insult of being called an ‘undesirable’ with one of his own? Both of those certainly would have been understandable. Did he use his fame to denounce the people and the neighborhood in the press as celebrities are so quick to do these days? Nope. Nat simply stood up and said, “I’m with you. I do not want any undesirables in this neighborhood either. If I see some I will be the first one to complain.” The Coles were allowed to move in. Through the years they were subject to signs and burning crosses in their yard. Someone even poisoned their dog. Through it all, Nat and his family would not take the bait and continued to be the example of perfect neighbors. In turn, making all of those who wished them out of the neighborhood look like the foolish ones.
Even professionally, Nat was not immune to the reality of racism. Despite being an accomplished and award-winning performer, this was made quite evident on a return trip to his home state. On April 10, 1956 Nat was performing to an all white audience in Birmingham Alabama when he was viciously attacked by six men. The men had ties to an organization that was tied to the Klu Klux Klan. After the attack when he returned to the stage the white audience gave him a 10 minute standing ovation. Did Nat swear at the audience or storm out? No he simply told the audience, “I came here to entertain you. That was what I thought you wanted. I was born in Alabama. Those folks hurt my back. I cannot continue because I need to see a doctor.” Later when pressed for his opinions on the attack, Cole seemed confused as to why they chose to attack him as he was just trying to entertain them. By refusing to speak out against his attackers and instead take the high road, Mr. Cole was also attacked, albeit in the press, by the African American community including Thurgood Marshall who called him an “Uncle Tom.” Perhaps Mr. Marshall did not appreciate the resolve and control it takes to suffer such indignity and keep your pride and head held high. Nat did involve himself in Civil Rights, such as joining the legendary 1963 March On Washington, but always insisted he was an entertainer and not a politician.
In 1956, Nat King Cole continued to break more barriers by becoming the first African American to host a weekly national television program. It was the first time that a black man would appear on television in the homes of millions Americans. The show had everything you could want. It had great music, a comic edge and great guests, both black and white. It continued to climb in the ratings and was eventually given a prime time slot. Something unheard of in the mid 1950’s. After a little more than a year of continued success, the one thing the show did not have was a national sponsor. Companies were still not brave enough to link their products with an African American performer, no matter how accomplished, articulate and well-liked he was. What was Nat’s reaction? Did he get on his show and beg for a sponsor? Did he call out and attack the companies for not having the guts to sponsor his show? No. Nat, facing the fact the network would not continue a show, no matter how successful it was, if it didn’t bring in money, canceled his own show. His one comment on the matter? “Madison avenue is afraid of the dark.”
I can appreciate the desire of and the need for more in-your-face solutions to behavior that is as stupid as racism and prejudice. There certainly needs to be a spotlight on those folks who engage in this behavior and make them accountable. For my money, one of the best ways to approach those who attack us for reasons such as these is the one taken by Nat King Cole. Remain dignified. Conduct yourself in everything you do with class and excellence. When those sink to behavior that speaks to their diminished character, you shine by showing them your high character. It is not about letting people walk all over you, but becoming the best version of yourself so their attacks not only fall flat but look foolish as well. When someone considers you ‘undesirable’ for any reason, do what Nat did. Stand right next to them and say, “I am with you I don’t want any undesirables around and if I see one, you will be the first to know.” Not only will you have them feeling foolish, you stand a better chance of changing their minds than if you attacked them for their ignorance.
No matter who you are, or what you are doing in life, you will have negative detractors. These days these people are known as ‘haters’. Especially with the advent of the internet it would seem people are more than happy to offer their negative feedback on you and your life. How do you combat such people? I have found the simplest way is to live the best version of yourself. When you do so you make them look as if they are the foolish ones. When someone says something about you and you are doing the best you can, that says something more negative about them than it does about you.
Let me share a personal story that better explains what I am talking about. A year or so ago, there was a party Margie and I were invited to. When we arrived we were told there would be snacks and people playing games. Margie and I love board games so we figured this would be right up our alley. We could not have been further from the truth. In this particular game, you could write your own answers. As the created answers rolled off the pens of those in attendance, I found myself a mixture of shocked and appalled. From this group of seemingly well-mannered individuals, came answers filled with racism and extreme prejudice. Not at all what I had expected. In a very short time, the answered went from mindless, bigoted stupidity, to advocating violence and other horrific acts against people for their race, religion or orientation. I had had enough. I informed Margie I was leaving.
When I got home, I felt so coated in negative energy I had to jump in the shower. Why did this bother me so much? Simple, racism and bigotry are stupid. They are an arcane belief that shows both a lack of culture and a great deal of ignorance in the individual speaking it. In a world where most of us are a mix of nearly everything, it makes absolutely no sense. With the internet and other advanced forms of communication, it takes only the smallest amount of effort to see how similar we are and how small the world truly is. As we are pone to thinking a great deal in the shower I thought of the dangerous implications this gathering could cause. Even in a group of such close-minded individuals there are always a few that are even more morally bankrupt and impressionable than the rest. Where most of them may have found this a sick sort of humor, there are people who think these acts may actually be permissible and proceed to act on them. This is how we end up with the violent acts we recently seen against the Asian-Americans in Atlanta and the attacks on the LGBTQ community in Orlando several years ago. These individuals were undoubtedly exposed to the same sort of racist and violent discussions.
Knowing I had to do something, I used the one platform I had to express my concern and feelings by writing on the issue. There is no doubt that several people in attendance that evening wrote what I had written. Fast forward 12 months and that group was having another party. I was not invited this time. (I was certainly happy with that) At the party one young lady expressed her joy at my absence telling a mutual acquaintance, “It is sure good Neil is not here. He is really offended by this.” While it was her attempt at painting me as a person who was overly sensitive to racist remarks as if that were a bad thing, I received it as a compliment. By speaking up for what I had felt was right, I now, apparently, had a reputation for someone who did not stand for discrimination of any kind. This woman was saying, in essence, “Neil is offended by our humor demeaning and advocating hatred and violence towards others who are different than us.” I stand guilty as charged. I believe everyone deserves respect and compassion. When I see that is not the case I speak up about it. If people think of that as a negative character trait of mine, they are welcome to it.
In this case, by living by the principles I have in my life, I have not only shown the haters for who they truly are, but turned their attacks into compliments in my opinion. They may mock my sensitivity to their racist and bigoted humor, but I will thank them for it. Live the best version of yourself my friends. It is better to be hated for who you truly are than to live a life that does not live up the standards you have set for yourself.
With all of the craziness going on in the world, I am proposing a brand new holiday – UNIFICATION DAY. This holiday will be all about bringing the people of the world together.
UNIFICATION DAY should involve commitments by groups to do a better job working together for common goals. That could be different faiths setting aside the ritualistic differences and work towards common goals such as love and compassion. Reduction of violence between religions and many other common goals.
It should also include those of different political leanings. Work together for the good of the people. Help each other become more understanding. Work together to help small businesses and to educate those who may not usually have the opportunity. When we are all educated, the world benefits.
Lastly, let there be commitment to work together as members of the human race. Let us refuse to be divided by race,economic standing, or any other issue that could divide us.
UNIFICATION DAY can be a day where we stand up to those that seek to divide us and do it with a spirit of love for one another. Host a UNIFICATION DAY party where you invite others that differ from you to celebrate, love and respect one another. Learn about a different faith. Perhaps give your time and effort to help those struggling with issues that you are grateful enough to not have in your life. If you have any ideas for ways we could celebrate UNIFICATION DAY feel free to share them in the comments below.
In the United States, today is election day. It seems every four years when we choose the leader of our country things get more tense and divided than the election before. Civility and respect tend to disappear and are all too often replaced by things such as insults and in the worst case violence.
Win or lose, this last year has been tough on all of us. There has been,of course, a terrible pandemic that has affected everyone in the world in some fashion. There have been losses, both financial and of life. Dreams have been shattered and lives turned upside down.
With all of these trying circumstances, you would think it would help feed feelings of compassion and a desire to help each other. I believe that is yet to come. Although we may differ greatly on the paths to take, I believe we all want the same things. We would like an end to the pandemic. We would like an opportunity to pursue our dreams and see our friends and family again. We would like to see the smiles behind the masks once more.
While we cannot force things to change, there are certainly things we can do until that happens. We can fill our hearts with hope for s better future and for it to arrive sooner than later. We can pray, whatever our faith may be. We can pray for the health of the world. We can pray for the healing of our, and other’s hearts. In the meantime we can fill our lives and our world with as much joy as possible.
It is our love and compassion for each other than has not only helped us get through the most difficult times, but has lead to the greatest breakthroughs and advances in history. In a world that often seeks to divide us, let our love be stronger than their division.
In this crazy world we have many issues dividing us. Wear a mask verses don’t wear a mask. Open the economy verses quarantine. In the United States we can also add an election.
It is more important now than ever to remember we can disagree and still respect each other. Even issues that have our passions and emotions running high, we must understand that is often the case on the opposite side as well.
Many crazy things have happened in 2020. Let us add one that we choose. May it become one of the first times in recorded history that we managed to stay united as humans despite our differences.
There is no need for name calling. That is something we should have learned in elementary school. When someone differs in their views there is no need to insult their character or them as a person. There is certainly no need for violence and destruction of property, especially that of innocent people and children.
Let us rise above our basic and primal instincts to show how good humanity can be in the face of grave challenges. We cannot control the news,we cannot, and should not try, to control our neighbors. We can, however, control ourselves. Let us hold ourselves to a higher standard and carry ourselves and treat each other with dignity and respect. It is not easy, but it is our only way forward.
My wish for all of us this week – may we hear more compliments than political ads.
Last post we spoke about resisting posting or responding to negative content online. We also mentioned using these platforms, whether they be Facebook, Twitter or any other social media, to spread love and appreciation we may be hesitant to voice in person. Today we are going to expand that principle. We are going to ‘take it outside the classroom’ as they say.
As responsible human beings we always want to fix what is wrong. That is a good urge and one I could certainly get behind. The method in which this is often done can be focused incorrectly. We worry about fighting a world in which all people are not treated equal. That in itself is a rather noble pursuit. In my opinion our focus should be on creating a world where everyone is treated equal. This may sound like the same thing, but it is not. Instead of focusing solely on eliminating hate, we should spend the bulk of our time on spreading love.
This may seem difficult to do when we look at issues of things such as racism, spiritual persecution, bullying and other societal behaviors. It would indeed be rather overwhelming to change all of that, but what we do have complete control over is ourselves. Let us focus on creating the new that we desire with our own behavior. Do we desire a world that is more loving and accepting? Let us be more loving and accepting ourselves. Let us join groups and organizations that promote unity and love.
Beginning today, let us focus our energy on growing the new world in which we wish to live. Let us do it by both changing our own actions as well as promoting and joining forces with individuals and groups that do the same. Instead of focusing on fixing what is wrong, let us instead focus on growing what is right.
Just a quick reminder of what really matters as we head into the weekend. Surround yourself with those people who have good souls. You will find your happiness and inner peace will increase dramatically.
In my own life, I look to include people from as many different cultures, religions, races and beliefs. It not only provides a great deal of variety, it brings a lot of new opportunities for joy. I encourage all of you to do the same. Have a great weekend!
In the wake of recent events the pace of change is accelerating today faster than it has in a long time. In many respects that is good. Giving those who have not had a voice a platform to speak. Addressing issues like racism and inequality that have plagued our nation for far too long. Unfortunately, there are many cases when people searching more for revenge and less for equality dominate the headlines. Violence and vandalism distract from what is a very important message.
I would like to see the world begin to create some real change. Peaceful protests are needed to bring the attention to issues that some may have ignored and others may be ignorant to the fact they have even existed. Now that many of the issues are on the table, we need to move forward in a constructive manner to institute real change. Toppling statues of leaders that were cruel and unjust is one thing. A more powerful route is to topple senators that still are. For the world to see real change, for people of every color, creed and sex be treated fairly we must educate ourselves and take action. What can you do? Learn where your elected officials stand on issues that are important to you. Make sure you are registered to vote and encourage, and assist if needed, others to do the same. Vote out of office those that seek to divide us and vote into office those that are pushing for the world to come together as one. Vote for peace, vote for love, vote for what you believe in, but whatever you do, vote.
Enough of this political banter. There is an even more powerful change that I have witnessed a lot more lately. What is that change? LOVE. Throughout all of the violence and negativity we have seen on the news, I have seen a different sort of change. I have seen many more people displaying a love and respect for others who may be different than them. A great example – The other night I had ventured to my local coffee shop to create some of these blogs. There were two young African-American ladies there studying for what appeared to be some exam. They were hard at work but still sharing some laughter. Shortly after I arrived, an elderly white couple came in and began to play bridge. With the social distancing in the coffee shop, there was not many tables to choose from. This created a rather ‘cozy’ atmosphere among the three tables I mentioned. I was lost in the world of my typing, which happens quite often. The next time I looked up the elderly lady had walked over to ask the young ladies what they were studying and to compliment one of them on their outfit.
This story may not seem like anything to mind-blowing, but it was heart-warming. Why? It is the way the world should be. From what I have seen in the past, people from different worlds do not often communicate with each other. Whether this was out of fear, a perceived lack of things in common (trust me we all have a lot more in common than we think) or some other reason, it prevents us from really getting to know each other. In a world where there needs to be some tough conversations, it is vital that we respectfully communicate with each other. If you think of tough conversations you have had in your personal life, you know how difficult that can be.
One of the most powerful ways that we can foster change is to simply love one another. Not only does this make sense from a social perspective but it has been the theme of almost every spiritual belief system as well. The golden rule. Below you will see how that very axiom is promulgated in nearly every spiritual text. Yet again, something we all have in common. No matter what belief we follow, we should all do our best to love one another.
Let us change the world. Let us change it with love. Let us change it now.