That happiness thing

“Success is not the key to happiness,
Happiness is the key to success.
If you love what you are doing,
Then you will be successful.”

I do not know the author of this quote, but we have it hanging as a beautiful banner in a hall. I believe it is important to be the best you can be at whatever endeavor you embark upon. But, it makes it far more rewarding if you enjoy what you are doing.

I am reminded of the successful producer of movies who, after closing on his beautiful home, realized this did not make him happy. He decided to make a documentary movie which he called “I Am,” about what makes people happy. After interviewing a number of sociologists, philosophers, doctors, religious leaders, etc., his conclusion was money did not buy happiness. But, the absence of money could cause unhappiness.

Using economic terms to describe this, as people earn money beyond funding basic needs of food, shelter and health, there is a “diminishing marginal utility” to having more. Once you have enough to survive with comfort, having more does not make you happier. This documentary reinforced doing something that gives you purpose.

Having said that, many of us cannot afford to do what we want. We have to do what we can to make ends meet. And, sometimes the ends don’t meet. So, find joy where you can be it work, volunteer work, helping friends and family, attending classes at the community college, hanging with your mates, practicing your faith, etc. Don’t let your job define you.

At almost 59 years of age, I can attest life can be hard. It can beat you up. So, laugh, sing and dance more and often. Be a friend and listen with both ears and help when needed. When times get rough, take it a day at a time and do what you can.

Billy Joel sang that it iseither sadness or euphoria” which defines our moments. I think we live most of our lives in between those two extremes. If we find ourselves leaning toward sadness, we need to change the scenery. When euphoric, we need to remember well those moments especially when the sad ones intervene. We should recognize euphoria is fleeting, so find contentment where and when we can.

In another old song, Bob Dylan offers the simplest advice to our complex challenges. Just “keep on keepin’ on.” It beats the alternative and helps us navigate those rough waters.

 

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The Renewable Energy Train continues to board former skeptics

I have written before the renewable energy train has left the station. The current White House incumbent’s position on climate change and promoting more fossil fuel development, can slow the train, but he cannot stop the market forces that are driving it down the track.

A newspaper story reprinted today supports this thesis and illustrates how more unlikely folks are getting on board the train. An editorial from the Fayetteville (NC) Observer entitled “Solar turning a corner in NC?” noted the opening of the largest solar farm east of the Mississippi. But, a new solar farm in NC is not news, as NC trails only California in solar energy.

What I found newsworthy beyond the size is the attendance at the grand opening of at least two Republican politicians – US Representstive Robert Pittenger and State Senator John Szoka. Szoka had spearheaded a renewable energy support bill, which is ironic since he was a previous skeptic. He noted “What changed my opinion is facts. Facilities like this are drawing down the cost of energy.”

But, these folks are not alone. There are groups like Conservatives for Clean Energy that are helping to propel the train. There is the work in several red states that have developed wind energy into a sizable part of their energy portfolio. These plain states like Texas, Iowa, Oklahoma, e.g. are investing heavily in this increasingly cheaper source, with Iowa getting 1/3 of its electricity from wind energy.

I highlight the Conservatives who are jumping on the train, as unfortunately, climate change and renewable energy have been made a political issue. The people who have made it so are the fossil fuel companies who continue to wield their powerful influence to garner more profits. The White House incumbent and his cabinet are perpetuating this influence, but fortunately they are on the wrong side of the tracks and market forces and other political, business and citizen leaders are moving the train forward.

Strange Fruit is the Monument we need to guard against

The question on whether to remove monuments built to honor Confederate leaders is a distraction from the real issue that unfortunately lingers on. The real issue is those who feel that other citizens who look, act or worship differently do not have the same rights in our country. These white supremacists are perpetuating bigotry and hatred that ran amok during the Jim Crow era. Sadly, this Jim Crow-like   oppression has resurfaced in the eyes of too many.

The real monuments we need to remember and guard against are captured in the song “Strange Fruit*” powerfully and mournfully sung by Billie Holiday. The monuments that should scare us are young black bodies swaying in the wind hanging from trees. As Holiday sings, this “strange fruit” is a painful reminder of what bigotry and hatred can do.

“Southern trees bear strange fruit
Blood on the leaves and blood at the root
Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze
Strange fruit hanging from the poplar trees

Pastoral scene of the gallant south
The bulging eyes and the twisted mouth
Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh
Then the sudden smell of burning flesh

Here is fruit for the crows to pluck
For the rain to gather, for the wind to suck
For the sun to rot, for the trees to drop
Here is a strange and bitter crop.”

White supremacists, neo-Nazis and the KKK must be condemned for their bigotry and hatred. It is that simple. We should not have tolerated it then and we must not tolerate it now. And, since the President won’t condemn such behavior and his past and current words have emboldened these white supremacists, we Americans must take up that mantle and say this is not right.

* Written by Lewis Allan, Maurice Pearl, Dwayne P Wiggins

Vehement and attacking denials

I watched the first of two episodes on the PBS news series “Frontline” regarding the NFL’s cover up of concussions being caused by the money-making game of professional football. Having seen Will Smith star as Dr. Bennett Omalu, the Nigerian born and well schooled forensic-pathologist, who broke the story in the movie “Concussion,” this show caught my eye.

In short, autopsies performed on several deceased players, who had died before age fifty, revealed recurring concussive brain injuries that led to Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE) which caused dementia in these players. Yet, the NFL went out of its way to deny, denigrate and demonize this man and his findings. The NFL conducted its own studies and were able to get them published even when they did not measure up to scientific peer review standards. As a result more players got hurt. Eventually, the NFL settled a lawsuit for $1 Billion payable to the players. This settlement was upheld by the Supreme Court last December.

I mention this story as other entities have followed the vehement and attacking denial approach. You may recall the tobacco industry denied for years that nicotine was addictive, when they had studies in their files dating back to 1964 that told them it was. After years of denying other studies, often denigrating and demonizing the group doing the study, eight CEOs of tobacco companies testified under oath to a Congressional Committee that nicotine was not addictive. That bald face lie was too much for some and insiders began to tell the real story. In 1998, the big four tobacco companies agreed to a settlement with 46 state attorney generals for $206 Billion, payable over 25 years.

President Richard Nixon used a similar approach to attack The Washington Post, in particular Carl Bernstein and Bob Woodward, for their investigative reporting which linked the Watergate break-in to the White House and the detailed cover-up of various crimes. Nixon threatened them, the publisher and editor attacking their credibility. And, when Special Prosecutor Archibald Cox was getting too close, he had Cox fired, but only after the Saturday Night Massacre, when two of Cox’s superiors refused to fire him – Elliott Richardson and William Ruckelshaus – and resigned. While Nixon was pardoned after resigning, over twenty of Nixon’s staff went to jail.

Today, we have two entities that are following suit. Exxon Mobil has attacked critics and scientists for years on climate change using the same PR strategy and firm that the tobacco Industry used. Apparently, they did not read the ending. They dared scientists to look at their data. A Harvard group of scientists did and found that 83% of the scientific papers done by Exxon Mobil’s scientists confirmed that climate change is an existential threat and is man-influenced.

Not ironically, management’s public positions said the climate change science is unclear 81% of the time, the exact opposite conclusion. Exxon Mobil denigrated the Harvard scientists who just completed their work, but are failing to remember a current class action suit by employees and another by shareholders alleging the company is undervalued due to management’s misrepresentation of climate change impact. Right now, two state attorney generals and the SEC are investigating this very issue. If the AGs and SEC find Exxon Mobil did mislead shareholders, Exxon Mobil will be guilty of the crime of securities fraud.

The other entity is one Donald J. Trump, the current occupant of the White House. He has attacked everyone who dares criticize him or suggests that the Russians not only hacked the election, that he may have culpability in colluding with them. Trump says routinely and often the media is lying and consists of bad people. Senators, Congress members, and others, even from his own party, are met with some negative attack, if they dare be critical of him. Like Archibald Cox, there is a very capable Special Prosecutor named Robert Mueller who is investigating further into all the President’s men and women. Like these other entities, the attacks are vehement and brutal. Like these other entities, the stories seem to change as more details come out. And, like others, I believe the President is guilty of collusion. Why? His history, first and foremost, but if he was not guilty, why is acting so guilty?

So, the story line has yet to be written, but the more vehement, relentless and negative the attacks are and the more the denial stories change, the more likely the party doing the attacking is guilty.

An Inconvenient Sequel

I watched the documentary sequel to “An Inconvenient Truth,” earlier this week. The title is aptly named “An Inconvenient Sequel,” and is truly a must-see movie with Al Gore leading the charge to discuss battling climate change. Former Vice President and Nobel Prize winning Gore is one of the few people who walks the talk on any subject.

He is out there teaching countless others and bringing leaders together to look to our future. His expertise as a non-scientist is unparalleled and the respect he is genuinely afforded by world leaders is in evidence. Many of the folks he has taught, usually in groups of 600 or so people, have gone on to lead efforts in other countries. From the movie, he played a key role in getting India to the table with financial commitments to build solar farms rather than a devastating 400 coal plants.

He demonstrates some of the predictions made in the first movie in 2006 have come to fruition. A particular example was the prediction of the flooding of lower Manhattan if a hurricane met up with warmer oceans and came ashore. He was criticized after the first movie, but Hurricane Sandy did indeed flood the area getting into the 9-11 monument construction, as forecasted.

He also waded through the streets of Miami Beach with the Mayor and others as flooding routinely occurs at high tide, even without storms. The Mayor was very clear that climate change is happening and it is right here. It should be noted this is in a state where the Governor refuses to meet with people to discuss climate change and has forbidden discussion of climate change by his staff. That is the power of the fossil fuel industry where a Governor of a state surrounded on three sides by water cannot bring himself to discuss the flooding of his biggest city.

The movie spends some time on the lead up to the Paris Climate Change Accord and the excitement there. It was very interesting seeing Gore help broker a deal with India and a solar energy company and investor capital. Coming to an agreement was a major victory for the world, even though our current President has back tracked on what was committed. Fortunately, as I mentioned in the post on the book “Climate of Hope,” cities, businesses and citizens are leading the way, leaving Washington behind.

In the movie, Gore highlights the significant efforts in places like Chile as they exponentially increase solar energy development in dramatic fashion. Even in our own country, solar and wind energy are going like gangbusters with double-digit job growth and surpassing earlier forecasts. Progress is being made, but we cannot backtrack. The current President is throwing water on the fire, but the fire is too big for him to stop the changes.

Please spread the word about the movie and go see it yourself. It is that important.

 

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Comfortable in a role – Tommy Lee Jones

I was watching for the umpteenth time one of my favorite movies, “The Fugitive,” starring Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones. While Ford is the lead as the fugitive, the movie belongs to Jones, who plays a US Marshal.

Jones is so very comfortable and believable in the role. But, he is like that in many roles he plays, from Loretta Lynn’s husband in “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” to the adventurous movie I first saw him in “Nate and Hayes,” to his playing a talented and irascible man in “Cobb.”

The best line of “The Fugitive,” was not written by the screenwriters and was an ad-lib by Jones in character. When Ford is first cornered at water storm drain, he said to Jones’ character, “I did not kill my wife.” To which Jones responded, “I don’t care!” The line resonated so much, Ford’s character reminded him of it later in the movie after the Marshal saved him and proved his innocence.

Whether he is playing a hero, anti-hero, misunderstood person, villain or antagonist, Jones eats up the screen. In “Blown Away” and “The Package,” he plays the villain that needs to be stopped. In “The Client,” he is an attention seeking prosecutor who is the antagonist to Susan Sarandon’s young client. In “JFK,” he plays a wealthy gay entrepreneur who may know something about the assassination.

But, I enjoy him most when he plays the anti-hero roles where he does his job and cares little about rules and more about the truth. “The Fugitive” and his spinoff sequel “US Marshals” fill this role. I also enjoy “Space Cowboys” with Clint Eastwood and “In the Valley of Elah” with Charlize Theron.

Just mentioning these co-stars, reminds me he seems to be in movies with other big stars, which is telling – a few more include Sissy Spacek, Gene Hackman, Jeff Bridges, Donald Sutherland, James Garner, Kevin Costner, and Will Smith.

What are some of your favorites? I did not see the “Men in Black” movies, so I cannot  offer comment.

Two favorite memories

Many moons ago, my wife and I drove to New York City with her parents. Our mission was to visit her sister’s family on Governor’s Island, since, her brother-in-law was in the Coast Guard stationed there. The trip was eventful and a lot of fun, but two memories linger on as favorites of mine.

The first memory is of a kids play area which overlooked Manhattan. We would sit on benches as our niece and nephew played in a huge sandbox with the skyline across the river. In the early evening after dinner, it offered such a relaxing view and allowed easy conversation. I should note the Coast Guard moved off the island and those two kids are now married, one with two of her own, and the other expecting a first.

The second memory was on the ride home. While we split the ride into two pieces on the way there, we decided to drive the fourteen hours home in one day. But, that set the stage for the memory which was my wife’s parents singing old songs in the backseat after sunset.

My father-in-law was a good guitarist and singer who tried to make a living early on in a band. Unfortunately, he was unable to make a living, so he limited his singing to church and retirement homes, as he got a more mundane job. So, he knew lots of songs to sing on our journey home. We heard Sinatra, Bennett, Como, Clooney, Martin, Cole, and many others.

They are both gone now, but when I think of them, this memory comes to mind. What a nice trip. Thanks for the memories. What are some of yours?