“Living The Dream”

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” — Martin Luther King [MLK]

I’d like to look at the part of this speech which IS what MLK had in mind, “.. but by the content of their character.” 

By the content of their character. Character. Not skin color.

Now, looking around at the world 30+ years after he gave this speech.. it’s my conclusion that as much as we can expect from fallible humans, we ARE living the dream. I know it seems more romantic to think that it’s still some ideal that is ‘far off into the horizon’, one that will require even more demands, more protests, more legislation. But no. We’re there. Not perfectly, but we’re living the dream about as best as can be expected of human nature.

Is there still racism in this world? Yes. Is it part of the accepted norm to carry out acts of racism, as it was 30 years ago? No. 

Back then a black man did not dare be seen dating a white woman. These days inter-racial marriages don’t even drum up a hushed gasp. It’s accepted. It’s fine. People are free to date no matter what the color of their skin. An inter-racial couple won’t be denied entrance to a movie theatre or restaurant or denied a home loan just because one of them is black. We have laws that prohibit such behavior and stern civil action to remedy it.

Are blacks, asians, hispanics denied access to the Sports arena as peer athletes? Again, no. Michael Jordan. Tiger Woods. Shaquille O’Neale and how many others are actually the star celebrities of sports. Golf and tennis, once domineered by ‘rich white men’ is now just as inter-racial as an L.A. school bus. As for the back of that bus.. it’s not even an issue any more. 

What about the film industry? Denzel Washington. Samuel Jackson. Will Smith. Morgan Freeman. Not relegated to some small bit-part in the background.. these and so many others are major film stars with a great following for their fantastic leading roles.

The music industry. Lenny Kravitz. Michael Jackson. Beyonce. Usher. Do I really need to go on? Hip-hop, rap, reggae, R&B, rock, soul.. every area of music has it’s doors open to black and minority artists.

Education and Career. Not only are the colleges and scholarships there for minorities, it’s to a degree that many argue it’s easier to get into college as a minority than as a white kid. Doctors, attorneys, judges, accountants, research scientists.. if a man or woman possesses the training or schooling, it matters not the color of their skin these days. As it shouldn’t.

Politics. It can no longer be said that a black man will never sit in the Oval Office on account of a racist America. Like him or not, Barack Hussein Obama (how much more ethnic can you get than that?) is at this writing in his 4th year of term as President of the United States.

The Democrat party loves to cling to the past. I honestly believe people like Jesse Jackson, ‘Rev.’ Wright and Al Sharpton miss the days of lynchings by those “hatef-filled white crackers”. It served their purposes. They had a demon to point to on order to justify their existence, sitting on a pile of money they extorted from their followers and the white-man himself via closed-door threats of litigation. But, as I’ve pointed out.. in all reality minorities don’t NEED these kind of people like Jackson, Sharpton or his ilk anymore. The dream is here and I’m sure Jackson doesn’t like it one bit.

So what does he and any media outlet he can get to look at him do? Now that civil rights are a reality. If there’s a report that a black person was arrested or shot by a cop.. “Was the cop white?, it must be because he’s a racist!”. And there they go, trolling with ‘outrage’ in front of the cameras. Making unsubstantiated claims like, “(white) President Bush knew that hurricane Katrina was coming and so they dynamited the levies to drown out the black people in New Orleans.”. And the media gives Sharpton the air time. 

I was doing jury duty in Riverside the day Jesse Jackson appeared at the court house steps to stutter out his incoherent outrage about a black woman shot by local white police officers. He was there for the fifteen minutes the cameras were there. He then slipped out once they left, leaving others to continue echoing his hate-filled rage and accusations. If there isn’t camera time or dollars involved.. he’s on his way.

The time is long overdue. We don’t need hate-filled, racist rhetoric stirring up ghosts of inequality from Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton or ‘Rev’ Wright anymore. We need to put an end to listening to these bags of hot-air racism left over from a time now past. I only WISH Martin Luther King himself were here to personally turn his back on Jackson, Sharpton & Wright for their lack of character and unabashed exploitation of their own people.

Let’s take a look at men such as this and take heed to MLK. Let them “not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” From what I hear coming out of their mouths.. people like Jackson and his kind lack any manner of character. They are not concerned with the rights of minorities except as to how they may leverage a profit for themselves by stirring up division wherever they see opportunity. I do not dislike them for their color. I despise them for their lack of character and I believe, looking at their actions, so would Martin Luther King himself.

I think it’s a grand gesture and all, nothing wrong with acknowledging that were it not for God’s providence they wouldn’t even be living in a country that played football, let alone winning points in it. In fact, I think we could all (myself included) stand to be a bit more thankful each day to God as a standard practice. So, before you bang out some hate-mail, let it be known that is where I stand.

However, when it comes to Sports and an athlete acknowledging God for a successful play or win, it does beg some questions, such as.. 

“Does God care who wins each play.. each game.. each Superbowl?” 
“Does God ‘interfere’ with the outcome? Or.. is the winning team the one who strives and succeeds to get the most points?”
“If a player fails a play or a team loses a game.. was it because God prevented them from succeeding.. or because they didn’t train enough, it was a bad play, etc.?”

I don’t know much about sports, but from what I hear.. if a touchdown is made because God intervenes, that’s technically ‘interference’ and is probably against NFL regulations. It also means that when an Atheist scores a touchdown, he did it because God helped him do it. In fact, an entire non-Christian team can win the entire season and the Superbowl all due to God. I think this was a big thing during the heyday of the Cowboys under Landry was it not? That they were winning because the majority of the players were Christians? They were not only ‘America’s Team, they were ‘God’s Team as well? If the Raiders win the Superbowl.. does that make them God’s Team for that particular year?

The idea that God would not only play favorites, but that He would actually give His team an unfair advantage (an unstoppable advantage really) seems like info that would upset many bookies.

But if God does NOT intervene in sports outcomes or plays.. then there’s nothing wrong with the athlete who obtained the touchdown in taking credit for it. After all, he did it on his own efforts and merit. True, he did it with the health, legs, arms and mind that God gave him.. but if he’d run any slower the other team would have tackled him into the ground.

Just some thoughts to consider when God and Sports are intertwined as being ‘significant’.

“Who Loves L.A.?”

Personally, whenever I go into Los Angeles, I get in around 10am.. do what I gotta do.. and then get OUT before 6pm. Unless I’m at my hotel, in a restaurant or at an amusement park.. I’m likely on the freeway with L.A. in my rear view mirror.

For me, L.A. is a great place to live.. if you’ve got the money to isolate yourself from the grit, poverty, grunge and crime that is prevalent in such a large city. Beverly Hills? I imagine it’s great. But East L.A.? Compton? Pico Rivera, Commerce or surrounding Downtown?? Heck, even the Santa Monica pier area goes downhill after dark with the army of homeless people that come out of the woodwork each night. Venice beach is no better, day or night. Personally, if I woke up one day and found myself living in L.A., my only desire would be to get in my car and drive OUT, find somewhere.. anywhere else to live. And raise kids there?? Yah, right. 

No.. give me Inland Empire or San Diego. Cleaner air, nicer middle-income neighborhoods, decent schools and I can actually walk around on a warm summer’s evening without worrying much about getting caught in the cross-fire of a gang shooting or getting mugged, stabbed or car-jacked. I’m not saying there’s no crime in the IE or SD. But it’s nowhere near the scale of a large city like L.A. Murrieta for the last few years has been rated something like #4 in the lowest crime rated cities for the U.S. San Diego gets a bit sketchy as you approach National City.. but offers plenty of great things to do without the urban decay that is L.A.

Most of my relatives live either in Orange County or the L.A. area. It’s where they (and I for awhile) grew up. They’ve grown accustomed to it, even endeared to it. They know the streets and freeways inside out and a trip to Dodger stadium or even the Coliseum (shudder) is what they consider a good time. That’s great for them.. but it’s not for me. I never considered myself as a ‘country boy’.. but after 30 years in the rural valleys from Menifee to Temecula, I guess the ‘big city’ is just not what I call home anymore.

There is a book titled, “The Ugly American” which was later adapted to a movie starring Marlon Brando. Essentially it is a fictional story of two sets of Americans in an Asian country and the way cultural tensions are handled by each. (to greatly understate the plot). But the reason I reference it is because for years we Americans have always had strong opinions, and stereotypes, about the foreigners who come to live in our land.. and that is aside from whether they came here legally or illegally. Many people just mentally lump ‘foreigners’ all into one pile. However, it is time for the shoe to be on the other foot. In my own case, at least. For I soon plan to relocate overseas to the Philippines as my new home. The US will become my ‘vacation’ spot every few years. A big change to say the least.

Now, I am Hispanic, Latino, Mexican-American.. whatever it is they call people like me who simply consider themselves a natural-born American. Yet.. for years, I have been adamant to ‘my’ people of Mexico who come to the US that they assimilate to life here in the US. Learn English, learn the customs (like.. not showing up at my house any and every day of the week without calling first. ugghhh.) and be a good example of your country. No wonder so many Americans have a poor image of Mexican immigrants. They want all the benefits, but don’t think enough of our language to learn it. I will not digress any further.. my point being, are we so puffed and offended that we cannot think for a moment that other countries have dealt with the same issues regarding Americans who come to their country? Hence.. the Ugly American.

Because I plan to move to the Philippines I am now taking my own advice. I am soon to be the foreigner living in a land of citizens, myself without citizenship. Therefore I plan to acclimate to their food. It is me who needs to make the effort to learn the language. Many do speak English, but with a heavy accent and it is I who must be patient and attentive. I’m damn lucky to be going to a country where they even speak English or I’d be hard-pressed to learn complete Tagalog very quickly. (I do hope to learn the basics with time.) Meanwhile, it is not my place to complain of their food or their version of US dishes. I do not have magnanamous “rights” just because I come from America. If anything, I’m always one plane-ride from being deported if I get out of line with the Law.

It is not their job to make me comfortable. It is my job to acclimate and adapt to their everyday life. Period. And that’s exactly the way I want it. One of the reasons I’m not choosing Manila is because I do NOT want a Filipino version of the US lifestyle. I want to become embedded in their own way of living. If I wanted something like Los Angeles I’d have moved there years ago. No, rather I seek the best of their country while understanding that I cannot expect to find all the creature comforts I have come to expect in daily life here in the US.

I do not want the Filipino people to think we are all just a bunch of Ugly Americans. Rather, I want Filipinos there who come to know me to say, “You know.. some of those Americans are all-right-by-me. That Henry guy is cool with us.” It’s not a hard thing to accomplish really. It’s just a little thing my parents called, ‘respect for others’.

by Henry Velez
copyright 2011

Some people believe in Karma. I don’t. At least not in this world. I can believe the balances are re-leveled in Judgment in the next life. But here, I can only count on imperfect, selfish humans to screw you over after you have helped them. I say this after 48 years on this planet, mixing with the humans on a personal level. They aren’t all bad, not entirely. But by the time you figure out that the bad ones are just pretending to be one of the ‘good’ ones.. you’re already screwed.

Take a look at life in the wild whether it be the jungle or desert as to how animals interact. The predators distinguish whether the other animal is either another predator.. or their next meal. In the latter case, it will do anything it has to in order to gain the advantage and go for the kill. The instinct of the Predator is very simple; “Me first, you last.” Some predators gain this advantage through speed or power. But the most cunning are those who gain their advantage by way of camouflouge. The proverbial, “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Pretending to be something they are not.

Humans are not much different. In my experience I have come to label them as either “Takers” or “Givers” rather than predators and prey.. although the distinction is not entirely lost in either case.

These ‘Takers’ in human life are a crafty bunch. Very crafty. I have had sore dealings with them many times. They have learned that the best disguise is that of pretending to be in ‘need’. They will entreat you as if you were family. They will fawn over you with compliments. They will foster a thin veneer of trust. All of this is to accomplish two objectives; to get you to lower your guard and to take from you what they desire. It might be your money. It might be your spouse. It might be your body. It might be your Will. Or.. it might be a renter, as I have dealt with in the past, who needs someone to just help them out a bit as they “get back on thier feet”. You are a ‘Giver’, so you take pity on them. You sign the utilities into your name because they have no money for a deposit. You don’t impose the late-fee when they are late (again) with the rent. You fulfill every letter of the Lease which they coincidentally know down to it’s last details. In the end, they become Squatters.. stealing your investment for an indefinite period.. sticking you with legal hoops to jump through as they lavish in on the kill.. your rental home.

But they’re not limited to just securing free housing for themselves. They will tell you lies in order to gain your well earned Cash. They will stoop to dragging thier small children into the rain, stand at an intersection and beg for money. I once assisted such a man and his wife to the tune of over $1,200 before catching on to his ruse. It all came to a head when I helped him find a job and suddenly, he wasn’t interested in working. I contacted his Mother from another state. She was in process of moving to an undisclosed location so that her son could no longer steal from her in the future. I found out from her that his situation was due to his own decision to be a professional Taker in life. All that he had told me, to gain my pity since that day he dragged his kid into the rain turned out to be lies.

I have seen this drama play out so many times in my life. Sometimes it is the man who claims to love a woman.. only to later abuse her physically, mentally and financially until she is practically his will-crushed slave. That is what he desired from the beginning. Sometimes it is a woman who has a story of undying love and passion for a man.. only in the end to wipe him out financially the moment she has convinced him to marry. She placed herself as the wilting lilly in need of assistance, while waiting to pounce on his life-blood the moment his neck was exposed. Do not be unaware, those of you who are young and without life experience.. life IS a cruel jungle. Be alert to your surroundings, know your escape routes because your predator is very real, very crafty and unrelenting.

But Life is not all blood and death, thank goodness. As I stated, some people are Takers, others are Givers. If ever there was a tool that is indespensible in your backpack for life, it is this; Discernment. It only comes with time and being alert to minor details. Spotting the fake from the original. Is that a mesmerizing object before you?.. or the bait that dangles just within bite of the Angler Fish? Your survivial depends on you knowing the difference between a real Giver.. and the Taker disguised as a Giver.

When you do find a Giver in your life it may be a true friend, family member or lover. When time has shown that they are truly a Giver, who is not out to harm you or steal from you.. treasure that relationship. It is more valuable than gold or jewels. To know you have a true Giver as your spouse or friend is one of life’s subtle and amazing wonders. They are rare.. very valuable and so you should treat them with respect and loyalty.

Perhaps one of the most practical verses I’ve ever read from the Bible is, “Be as gentle as a dove, but as wise as a serpent.”. Wise words. Take this to heart and you will preserve your days. Strive to be a genuine Giver, for in doing so you will find it easier to spot the imposters. You will know how to test their behaviors. When you see someone in need, be aware of your surroundings as you reach to your wallet to give them a few dollars. The best person to help in need is the person YOU seek out, not the one who plants themselves in a conspicuous area as bait. Help out others in large groups of other Givers whenever possible, for there is safety in numbers. Your compassion is a valuable commodity in this world, so do not squander it foolishly without due diligence.

Be alert. Use discretion. Treasure the Givers in your life. Give to those in need with an eye out for your own legal liabilities, contracts and agreements of implied trust. Those who do not use discernment have found themselves murdered in the back of a van, woken up one day to find their entire life’s savings stolen, caught in the worse end of a business deal, lost their access to their children, held liable for damages they never caused.. or any number of consequences these Takers have of draining resources from their victims.

Be gentle as a dove.. yet wise as a serpent. Or you will only be prey.

Henry Velez
copyright 2011

Yesterday I got a call from a previous client, Caesar, saying he had a friend who needed a computer fixed.. so he hands the phone to his friend. After a few details I ask where I can go to pick it up. His friend says I can pick it up at his workplace.. a hamburger place in Old Town Temecula

So, of course I ask, “Which one?”. He says, “You can’t miss it.. it’s the biggest burger place in Old Town.” Wanting some specific details I ask him two more times and twice more he exclaims, “Oh.. it’s the biggest burger place on the Old Town Strip.. you can’t miss it.”

So I take him at his word and go to Temecula. I go to the biggest burger place in Old Town Temecula (Mad Madeline’s BBQ) and knock on the back door leading into the kitchen. A guy opens the kitchen back-door and I say, “I’m Henry, the Computer Guy.. I’m here to pick up the broken computer.” Now.. this guy looks at me like he has no clue what I’m talking about. And I’m speaking to him in Spanish since I’d heard him speaking Spanish as he opened the door. He asks around and tells me, “Nope, nobody here with a broken computer.” For the moment, let’s call this guy, the Kitchen-Guy.

So I go to the sidewalk and call Caesar, who referred him. No answer. I try calling the number the client gave me so I can find out exactly where he works.. no answer there either. I decide to drive to Caesar’s house since I remember where it is. Get there, nobody home. It’s almost 1pm and I still haven’t eaten so I go to my favorite Chinese place only to find out it’s really gone downhill. I leave with indigestion and decide to try driving to Caesars’ home one more time.

I get there and the wife answers the door. “I’m looking for your husband’s friend, the one with the broken computer.” She says her husband, Caesar, is at work, but she doesn’t know anything about a broken PC. So I go from there to see her husband at Rosa’s Cantina, where he works. I get there and find him right away.

“Hey Caesar.. I’m looking for your friend, the one with the broken computer.”
“Oh.. he’s working at the burger place on 5th street.”, he says.
“I was just there three hours ago and nobody knows anything about it.”, I reply.
“Maybe he went home early, try visiting the house up the street at the end of the block on the right hand side of 5th street. Somebody there might know where to find him.”

So I go to the house up the street from the burger place at the end of the block and knock. Nobody home. Again I try calling the number of the client to find out where I can meet him to pick up his computer. Still no answer. I get back in the car and as I’m driving away I see a guy riding a bicycle up the street towards and past me. Just out of curiosity, I make a U-turn and follow him. Wouldn’t you know it.. he goes right to the house I had just knocked at. I re-park and knock again. The bicycle-guy opens the door.

“Hey, I’m Henry, the Computer Guy.. I’m here for the broken computer.”
“Ohhhh!”, he says as I get my hopes up that I’ve finally tracked down the elusive PC. “Yah, right. You need to talk to my room-mate, Victor. He knows all about it.”
“So where can I find Victor?”, I ask.
“Victor is at work right now.”
“And where does Victor work?”, I ask.

He then tells me… .. “Oh, at the big hamburger place down the street. It’s right over there.”
“But I was there earlier today, at Mad Madelines, and nobody knew what I was talking about.”
He says, “No, Victor works at ‘Texas Lils’, right behind the big burger place on the street.”
“You mean Mad Madelines?”
“Right. But behind it, at Texas Lils.”

Okay, as I get back into the car, again, I’m thinking at least now I’m making progress. I go back to the big burger place parking lot and this time I go into Texas Lils and ask the first waitress I see, “Can you tell me where I can find Victor?”.
“He’s over there.”, she says, pointing at the kitchen where I see another Mexican guy working the grill.
I walk up and say, “Hola, Victor.. I’m here for the broken computer.”
He says, “I’m not Victor.. Victor’s in the back.” So he calls for Victor.

Out comes this young kid about 20 years old that I recognize as the bicycle-guy’s room-mate from the house I just left, I had repaired his laptop two years ago. “Victor, I’m here to pick up your computer.”
“Why?”, Victor says, “My computer isn’t broken.”
“But your friend Caesar told me.. anyway, do you know any friend of Caesar’s with a broken PC?”
“Oh..”, he says, “You must be looking for Gerardo.”
“Where can I find him?”, I ask.
“I’ll take you to him, follow me.”

So now.. I’ve really got my hopes up that this bizarre journey is about to end in success. It’s been over four hours I’ve been driving back and forth across Temecula, but now it seems the end is in sight. I follow Victor and guess where he takes me?.. right back to Mad Madelines, where I had first started looking. Victor is talking to this ‘Gerardo’ through a small window into the kitchen but I can’t see who he’s talking to.

“Gerardo!.. the hombre that fixes computers is here to get your computer.”, Victor says. I can’t make out what’s being said after that so I poke my head into the little window to get into the conversation and finally get a look at this ‘Gerardo’ person.

As if none of this seemed surreal up until this point.. this is where it just went off the deep end.. I kid you not, this is what I see when I look through the small window into the kitchen..

I see the same Kitchen-Guy I had first talked to, at the back-door of the kitchen earlier that day.. he is the guy with the broken computer! The Kitchen-Guy is Gerardo.

“You’re the one with the broken computer?!”, I asked.. trying to appear calm and sane as best I could.
“Yah. It’s not working. Something wrong with it.”, he says.
“BUT.. I JUST TALKED TO YOU four hours ago.. remember??!” I’m not sure if I was shouting at this point yet.
“Oh yes.. I remember you.”, he says.
“So.. when I told you back then that I was here to pick up the broken computer.. you said you didn’t know anything about it. What was that all about?”
“I don’t know, but my computer is broken, can you fix it?”, he asks.

I try to calm down and figure at least the last four hours will result in finally picking up the computer. So I re-focused, took a deep breath and said, “Yes.. I can fix it. Do you have it here or is it in your car?”

Now.. I couldn’t believe it. This is the God’s-honest truth. He tells me, “Oh.. I forgot to bring it. It’s not here.”

I wanted to leap right through that window so bad.

“But..”, he says, “I have it at my home.”

I’m thinking, I’ve come this far, I’ll go to his home and pick it up. So I ask him, “Is there someone home so I can go pick it up?”
“Yes.”, he says.
“And what is the address?”
“It’s right over there.”, he says as he points somewhere in the general South-by-South-West vicinity of the planet.
“Well, but I mean.. where is the address? So I can drive over there.”, I ask again.
“Oh.. it’s not far. You just go over there..”, again he points, “..and you will see it, you can’t miss it. It’s my house.”
“And the address is??”, I ask one more time.
“Right over there, you can’t miss it. It’s just on the other side of town, past the big street.”

That’s when I finally gave up. Four and a half hours to find out I should go somewhere in the general direction of the ocean and pull up to a house that I apparently, “..just can’t miss.”. Nope, I’m done.

“Or, you can come back tomorrow.”, he says.
“No.”, was all I could say.
“Why not?”
“Because I won’t be driving out here again.”, was all I could say.

I did get his phone number and told him next time I’m in the area I’ll give him a call. Or he could just meet me at a Starbucks some day after he gets off work.

And when he asks me which Starbucks I should meet him at, I’ll just point in a Northernly direction and say, “The one over there.. you can’t miss it.”

A Life Without Regrets

“Omnia Vanitas”. This is the recurring phrase in the Latin translation of a very short book titled, ‘Ecclesiastes’. Though some may differ, it is my opinion (and there is good evidence for my position) that this book was penned by none other than Solomon the Wise. I’ve read this book repeatedly over the years because when the man considered to be the wisest of the ages takes time to write something down.. I want to understand what he wrote. Translated, he repeats this theme in his accounting of all that goes on in the lives of men as they toil under the sun.. “All is in vain.”.

He further goes on to say, “there is nothing new under the sun”. We have our own ideas of what is ‘new’. We hear about ‘new’ detergents, new automobiles and new technology. But under the grand view, they are nothing more than tools for daily life. However, the writer’s emphasis was not to discuss the tools we use to move about, heal our bodies or communicate. He was looking at the endeavors, motives and the very purpose of our lives. Our lives. Not the shiny objects or playthings we pass the time with, for all these things wear out with the using.

So what does this have to do with a life lived without regret in this year we are living in? Think, for a moment, about your life as you’ve known it thus far. As if seeing a timeline from overhead.. see a line stretching back in time through the years until it comes to a sudden point.. the day you were born. From that point to today is a line that covers every experience, every thought, every place, every person you’ve spoken with and.. every decision you’ve personally made at any moment along that line.

Like a silent dream, we find ourselves in this world at birth. A specific city, specific parents and all within a wide matrix of possibilities. Some of us born wealthy, some poor. Some given out for adoption, others not. Some born to decent, loving parents, some born with drugs already coursing through their veins. A favorite song of mine, originally a medieval poem but only until about 80 years ago was turned into a musical composition titled, ‘O Fortuna’ contains the following lyrics which are sung by chorus in Latin;

“O Fortune, just as the moon
Stands constantly changing,
always increasing or decreasing;
Detestable life now difficult
and then easy
Deceptive sharp mind;
poverty, power
it melts them like ice.”

(You’ve likely heard the song, it has been used commercially since then many times.) In this song the writer sings of Fate’s fickleness and whim in regards to the lives of men.

So, now.. back to the timeline of your life.

After birth, comes childhood. At this point we begin to communicate with the world around us. We begin to formulate ideas. By instinct we are searching to know, “How does this World function?”. We rely upon parents to give us this information. We gather data from touching, smelling, tasting the world around us. As we get even older, we progress from simply receiving information to formulating and developing our own ideas about how to function in this World. By the time we get to our teens, we are so anxious to leap into the unknown territory of approaching freedom that we convince ourselves we have surpassed any and all knowledge our parents could possibly have fathomed. Finally.. as young adults, we launch into the World certain that we are far more prepared to not only survive but to make a monumental impact upon the World.

When it comes to the lives of one generation after another along the greater timeline of history.. there is nothing new under the sun.

Perhaps you are young. Perhaps you have lived for three or four decades. And perhaps still you have lived to see seven decades of life as you read this. As a young man in my 20’s, with all confidence and resolution I made a promise to myself that I would end my life looking back upon a life without any regrets. Let others regret their decisions in their old age. But I would not be one of them, for I was better and smarter than my predecessors. I would leapfrog over other generations by learning from the mistakes of others. And so I voraciously read biographies of people from many walks of life. I read the biographies of Mother Theresa, Mohammed Ali, General Custer, Al Capone, St. Augustine, Martin Luther, Jim Morrison, Hunter Thompson, Jesus, Buddha, Edgar Allen Poe, Ernest Hemingway, Ted Bundy, Henry Ford, Solomon, Moses, King David, Jackie Chan, Charles Manson, Charles Spurgeon, Charles G. Finney and others. I wanted to know how they succeeded, how they failed, how they lived and how they died.

And so, just like yourself, I ventured into this world. I continually watched and continued to read and listen to the experiences of others. And just like yourself.. I was called upon to make decisions. I found that sometimes ‘big’ decisions were exactly that, with obvious and great consequence for good or bad upon my life or others around me. What I also found was that decisions that I thought were ‘small’ were also of monumental impact. Something as simple as being 45 minutes early for a date changed the course of my life because of how I chose to spend that short time. So many decisions.. so many outcomes and consequences or benefits. But there was even more at play than I’d calculated upon.. Chance.

In Ecclesiastes, (Solomon) writes; “I have seen something else under the sun: The race is not to the swift or the battle to the strong, nor does food come to the wise or wealth to the brilliant or favor to the learned; but time and chance happen to them all.” That really blew my mind. At first I refused to accept it. But as the years rolled by, I witnessed the truth in it. Solomon was right, and I had been wrong.

And so the years rolled forward. Decisions about education. Marriage. Kids. Career. Divorce. Obligations. Promises. There is no escaping the constant decisions that make up our lives. Even the choice to no longer make decisions and let Fate have it’s way with us is a decision in itself. Do we run the yellow light at the intersection or wait? Do we strike out in anger with our words or hold our tongue? Do we say ‘yes’ or ‘no’ to dating the person we just met? Do we leave the job we have to take what looks like a better career? Do we experiment with that drug we know might be our ruin? Do we in passion have sex that may or may not mean a new child in our life? Do we truly make time for our child or rationalize them away? So many, many decisions with no guarantee on the outcome or the impact that will come of such decisions! And so I in my life, as I’m sure you in yours, sought to do the very best that I could with the knowledge available to me. Most of the time.

For even though we may know the ‘right’ decision to make at the time.. something in our nature takes delight in “throwing caution to the wind” every so often. Take that chance. It goes against all reason, but do it anyway. Like the fruit from the forbidden tree.. it is the fruit we can’t turn our eyes from. The decision to break away from the hum-drum safety of what ‘makes sense’ is one that repeatedly finds it’s way into our path. And sometimes with dire, even deadly consequences.

I’ll leave you to be honest with yourself, silently within your mind. For myself, after what is soon to be my fifth decade in this World, I will simply share with you my perspective in this matter. One which I have given much thought to over many quiet nights as my mind pondered and analyzed to make sense of the workings that govern this Universe which I happen to find myself in.

As I look back upon my life, and it’s countless decisions, I could be brash as some are and say, “I regret nothing.” Some justify this by saying, “I don’t regret anything that I wanted to do at that particular time.” Fine, rationalization has no need of reason. Let each do as they will. But I personally refuse that rationalization. For, in every decision we are called upon to make, we are making our decisions based upon the Result that we hope to achieve. And if, in all honest and objective observation, our decision leads to the opposite of what we desired.. regret is the result.

We are imperfect. Each one of us. As imperfect persons it is foolish to believe that we have managed to make 100% of our decisions correctly along the years of our lives. This is not to say we are unhappy necessarily with our current lot in life. We adapt very well and have a keen ability to “make the best of it” as we go along. When one door closes, we search for another. When a plan, decision, commitment, marriage does not continue or end as we’d hoped and planned.. we recover and make a new plan. We seek out what ‘good’ came of the decision and we cling to that. We look at the failed marriage and regret that it ended the way it did.. but we focus on the wonderful children that were a result of that decision. What we regret is not the past decision to marry (necessarily), but we regret that somewhere along the way the commitment went awry and that was not the result our decision was based upon. No one buys a lottery ticket with a desire to lose. They harbour some small glimmer of hope that against all odds there is a small chance they may ‘win’. The job change. The move to another city. We take joy in the decisions that come out as we’d hoped. We tend to block out the decisions that we later regret.

And so, I can honestly share from my own life that as I look back on my experiences thus far there are some decisions I can look back upon and can truly say, “Wow.. I can’t believe I actually had the courage or fortitude or honor to actually carry out that decision. I managed against all odds to do a great thing for someone else at sacrifice to my own self”.

I can also say, with all honesty, “I cannot believe I was so foolish or so wicked to make that other decision. I brought ruin and hardship into play solely due to my own choice. How could I have done such a thing? I truly regret it.. I wish it had never happened.. I would undo it if I could.”.

If you can relate to the first statement above, but cannot relate to the second, then perhaps you are a much, much better person than I. Or perhaps, too young or prideful to take such an unflinching, unedited look down the corridor of time that you know as ‘Your Life’. But I say this not to fault anyone, only to observe what is real. My final summation is that in this imperfect life, whether we are willing to face our past decisions or not, somewhere the truth of the matter is that there is no such thing as a life without regrets. There are lives without conscience. I’ve read of serial killers who have no remorse or regret over snuffing out innocent lives. Wife-beathing men who regret nothing. But their inability or unwillingness to acknowledge regret is a sign that they have stepped away from the path of humanity and strayed into that of a brute beast.

For the rest of us, as I mentioned.. we adapt well. We know how to rationalize and even re-invent the past. Failing that we know how to block it out completely. But I believe, from experience, that regret is a Good thing. When we truly, down to our soul finally regret the pain we have caused ourself or those we love.. only then is our resolve to Never let it be our decision ever again made stronger. Just as pain from sticking our hand in a fire reinforces a new wisdom for our future incidents with fire.. the pain of regret likewise offers us a better character. To become the sort of person who learns from past mistakes, past regrets.

Hunter S. Thompson wrote, “He that makes of himself a beast relieves himself of the burden of being a man.” Any brute beast can mindlessly pass through time with no thought or care to it’s decisions or consequences. Such is a life lived in vain. But character requires making use of the memory and intellect we have been given. It is painful at times. It is a process that can cause sorrow to well up from our very bones as we look unflinchingly at our past dealings with others. But if we will let it do it’s work, regret can grant us a strengthened resolve to make better decisions both presently and in our future.