Archive for category: Uncategorized

H. KENNETH BAYNE 1928 – 2014

26 Nov
November 26, 2014

To the man who watched me jump off the diving board at the country club swimming pool in 1962 . . .watched as I dropped like a rock, then jumped into the pool in his 3-piece suit to save me —

hkb To the person that, nearly every year from 1958-1968, would pack me and my six younger siblings in the back of a station wagon and drive 500 miles to my grandmother’s house in Virginia —

To the friend who never once took a day off from work because he had seven children to feed and send to Catholic schools  (ungodly expensive!) —

To the disciplinarian who marched me into Woolworth’s in 1959, straight into the Manager’s office to return the six ball point pens I’d stolen earlier that day —

To the sports enthusiast who went to every basketball game his son was in, despite the fact I sat on the bench the entire season —

To the Gate Keeper who protected his family 24/7, and when three men showed up at the front door, looking for my brother Gerry, and one made the mistake of saying, “I’d stay out of it old  man,” my father hit him so hard, the  man was launched like a missile off the porch.—

To my guardian who always got up with me when it rained, and helped me deliver my newspaper route.—

To the best friend a kid could have, and when he found out I skipped school and drove to Brooklyn and went deep-sea fishing and was suspended for a week by the Principal, he grounded me for a month, but made sure I had the keys to his new Oldsmobile on Prom Night.—

To my father; I didn’t always understand you, certainly didn’t always agree with you, but said to you on the day before you died . . .”If I had to do it all over again, I’d still pick you for my dad.”

Goodbye Dad. I will miss you.

OTIS — a short story

05 Nov
November 5, 2014

Iron tombs of darkness, mind stealers, paralysis pods – elevators

I hate elevators with an intensity few can muster.

Those hydraulic-driven, iron caskets – like thieves in the night – have taken the things in life most valuable to me: my home, livelihood – even my self-worth.

But it wasn’t always that way.

There was a time I’d wake up in the morning with fire in my belly – afraid of nothing. Born Salvatore Bentino Pasquale (Sal) to a large Italian family in Brooklyn, I worked my way up from the docks and a shabby office on Canal Street to 45,000 square feet of prime, commercial, uptown real estate and an executive suite at Trump Towers.

But that was before. . .

               I checked my watch. The night watchman would leave any minute now. I waited patiently, sitting on the curb, hidden nicely between two cars – the perfect place to keep an eye on the warehouse. I added another sugar to my coffee and waited.

. . .that was before the day I had lunch with Ed Koch.

The former mayor was an old friend of the family’s and lunch had been an annual tradition since the days he had served as a member of Congress.

“Do you get a new limo with every hairpiece, Sal?” he chuckled as he climbed into my twelve passenger coach.

“Let’s get ready to r-u-u-u-m-m-m-mble,” I shot back along with a trademarked Pasquale hug.

“Salvatore, you’re looking well. Grande la passion?”

“No such luck, Mr. Mayor. What’s your pleasure today?”

“I find myself in an erudite, playful mood. You could almost say academic.”

I paused, running my hand over a carefully trimmed beard. “Academia, eh?” I stared out my window at the city I had loved as long as I could remember.

“We’re not talking about Tartar of Bluefin Tuna are we?

I watched the miracle-like transformation from complex, powerful and sophisticated politician to a grinning school boy with a box full of puppies.

“And maybe a little Pate of Muscovy Duck?” Koch said, repressing a giggle.

I turned to my chauffeur. “Paul, it appears the Mayor’s in a Mediterranean mood today. Let’s head over to Terrace in the Sky.”

The restaurant, one of the Mayor’s favorites, was positioned atop Columbia University’s Butler Hall, with a sweeping view of the New York City skyline.

          It had been over an hour since the night watchman had left. The street, located in an old industrial park in lower Manhattan, was now deserted. I walked with measured steps, prepared for the worst, anticipating the best.

          The bolt cutters split the padlock on the warehouse side door effortlessly, and within seconds I was in. I dropped my nap sack and went to work.

 

          I already knew where the elevator was and had researched what type it was, so the shape charges I brought would be the most efficient possible. Charges in places I collected my tools and left the building. Only one more item. I removed three sealed envelopes and placed them under the wiper blades of cars parked near the warehouse.

           Now it was complete.

As we exited the car on West 119th Street I smiled at my friend of many years, looking forward to a splendid lunch.

We walked into Butler Hall and waited for the next elevator, sharing a personal joke about a particularly rowdy day he’d had as a City Councilman.

But when the next elevator opened, I just froze. I couldn’t move. My heart was beating so hard I thought it would split my chest and I was soaking wet.

“I can’t get on that thing, Ed.” I was terrified. I had never felt such a feeling of panic – of impending doom – in my life.

Ed took me outside, sat me under an oak tree and wiped the sweat off my forehead with his handkerchief. I could hear him talking on his cell phone:

“Josh, you’ll see him NOW, or do I have to remind you that the good folks at the Albert Einstein School of Medicine don’t normally take pre-meds from NYU with 2.5 Grade Point Averages, do they Josh? And if I didn’t love your parents                as much as I did, you little putz, you’d still be working for your Uncle Saul in the garment district. I’m sorry, what’s that you say . . . A cancellation? Gee, thanks.”

The first of more than ten psychiatrists I would see for my terror of elevators.

And things only got worse.

My fear of elevators became so intense that I ultimately had to give up my suite at Trump Towers, and even choose a profession that would make it less likely that I’d have to travel in those… moving graveyards.

And I tried everything: cognitive therapy, serotonin re-uptake inhibitors, meditation, biofeedback, hypnosis, Freudian therapy, snake handling, acupuncture, crystals, but with no luck.

My drinking increased and I became so self-destructive that one night I put a gun against my temple and considered taking my own life.

It was in that poverty of despair that I decided to fight back.

“It seems like it was only yesterday that we drove to Terrace in the Sky, Mr. Mayor,” I said as he slowly entered the limo, nursing a sprained ankle.

I lowered my voice, “Look, Ed, I’m sorry that I haven’t called, but…”

He rested his hand on my shoulder. “You’ve got a lot on your plate.”

“What’s your pleasure today, Mr. Mayor?”

“Hand me your copy of the New York Times, Sal, will ya’, lad

“OK,” he said, now off in his own little world, “well there’s that new Chinese place in SOHO… Oh, look what happened to the Knicks at the Garden last night… Or we could head over to Tribeca and catch that new American restaurant                 with the chef who’s a dead ringer for Gregory Peck, and they say he can cook up… Oh look who died last night.”

There was a long pause, Koch folded the newspaper and furrowed his brow, “Well, the Elevator Bomber is at it again.”

“You don’t say?” I mumbled.

“Yep, says he struck his ninth target in as many weeks. Last night’s was in a warehouse in lower Manhattan. Same MO. Leaves a note at the scene saying he’s grieving over the loss of someone who died in an elevator. Signs it, ‘Of Thee  I Suffer – an anagram for OTIS.’ ”

“What do you think about all this, Sal?”

“Have’t given it much thought really.” I said.

“No, I suppose not.” said Koch.

The Mayor reached over and poured himself a Coke.

“Would you like to hear what I think?”

“Sure,” I answered, “why not.”

“Yes I believe a person did die in an elevator; maybe not literally, but dead nonetheless.”

He raised the paper again obscuring his face. “But what do I know, I’m just an old man.”

As we drove along the Henry Hudson Parkway, the Mayor said, “OK, I’ve got it. Bayard’s, we haven’t been there in a while.”

“Paul, call and see if they’ll squeeze us in.” I said, smiling. Things had returned to normal.

“Warm Peekytoe Crab,” I said, reaching for a Coke and a chilled mug..

“Well you can be sure I’m looking forward to it but…”

“But what?” I said.

Koch gazed out the window at a refuse barge on the Hudson River headed for Virginia. “I could have sworn that lately you prefer most of your dishes served cold.”

I shot a glance at the Mayor, careful to keep my voice steady,  “How long have you known?” I asked.

Until today I wasn’t sure . . .”

“Do you think I’ll do time for this?” I asked, my throat caking as I spoke.

Koch ran a hand over a freshly-barbered head. “”My friend, you are still in the ‘forgiveness stage.’ No one has died in these . .  .these temper tantrums, yet! That will weigh heavily in the court’s decision. But I must warn you; everything I say is contingent on turning yourself in today.”

“I don’t think I could handle prison, Ed,” I said, feeling a wave of nausea pass through me.

“Sal, let’s enjoy the hors d’oeuvres before we worry about settling the check.”

That was our last conversation.

At my arraignment I was held without bail and remanded to Rikers.

And  despite the horror stories I’d heard about the overcrowding and violence in New York City’s largest jail, I have yet to see a single elevator.

Story Telling

28 Oct
October 28, 2014

Lyons

In 1999 Dr. Bill Thomas and I were invited by Chief Oren Lyons to visit The People of the Six Nations, also known by the French term, Iroquois Confederacy. The Native Americans call themselves the Hau de no sau nee (ho dee noe sho nee) meaning People Building a Long House.

The purpose of the visit was to discuss long-term care options with the elders of the Six Nations.

Located in the northeastern region of North America, originally the Six Nations was five and included the Mohawks, Oneidas, Onondagas, Cayugas, and Senecas. The sixth nation, the Tuscaroras, migrated into Iroquois country in the early eighteenth century. Together these peoples comprise the oldest living participatory democracy on earth. Their story, and governance truly based on the consent of the governed, contains a great deal of life-promoting intelligence for those of us not familiar with this area of American history. The original US representative democracy, fashioned by such central authors as Benjamin Franklin and Thomas Jefferson, drew much inspiration from this confederacy of nations.

And although I drew great inspiration from the ceremony and camaraderie that day, it was not the Native Americans who proved to be the most impressive – but rather Bill Thomas.

As a lunch of buffalo finally settled in an otherwise courageous stomach, and the winter sun began to drop behind the mountains, one of the young Native American women who had attended the event stood, pointed her finger at me, and with a pronounced scowl, demanded to be recognized.

You could have heard a tobacco pouch drop.

Seconds later she launched into an indictment of “the evil white man” circa 1700-1970. It wasn’t pretty.

And the more I tried to extinguish the fires of anger, the uglier it got.

Suddenly, from behind me, a firm yet forgiving voice cut through the angst and confusion with five simple words: “Let me share a story.”

Then, with a unique mix of Mark Twain and Rumi, Bill Thomas wove a short narrative into a tapestry. Even the tribal elders, who spoke no English, were smiling at each other. Truth is, I don’t think I ever adequately expressed my appreciation. So, “Thanks,” Bill – for everything.

Post Script: What follows was culled from an interview I had some months later with Chief Oren Lyons.

“Martin…We’ve always been a very spiritual people. Much of our culture revolves around ceremony and thanksgiving, and when an elder speaks they carry an authority and wisdom that only comes with age and experience – when the sharp emotions of youth are worn down and rounded. 

There is a standard in the Natural World, where the elders always are, in which they are perceived as leaders. In a buffalo herd, the eldest is the leader. In the forest, the oldest, largest trees are the most fruitful and productive. They are the great seed bearers. If you look only to the Natural World, you will see the value that nature places on aging.

There is a standard of law and authority that we live by, and we call it the Natural Law, and that law prevails. And we understand this.

In many of today’s industrial nations, they generate their power and authority from youth – they build their foundation on the strength of their young, and this is a great loss; a great disconnect between that society and their elderly”

Oren Lyons, Faithkeeper, Turtle Clan, Onondaga Nation, Haudenosaunee, Six Nations, Iroquois Confederacy – 2000 interview

 

ISLAM – a primer

18 Oct
October 18, 2014

NOTE: With the memory of 9/11 still in the American collective subconscious, and the recent homicidal, horrific violence of ISIL, Islam and its greatest prophet – Muhammad – are often the subject of intense discussions. Thus, I’ve created a small “primer” on the subject, in an effort to aquatint the reader with a brief, but comprehensive introduction.

mosqueIslam Demographics

There are an estimated 1.6 billion Muslims around the world, making Islam the world’s second-largest religious tradition after Christianity, according to the December 2012 Global Religious Landscape report from the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life.

Muhammad (prophet of Islam) 570–632, the name of the Prophet of Islam.

Early Life

Muhammad was the son of Abdallah ibn Abd al-Muttalib and his wife Amina, both of the Hashim clan of the dominant Kuraish (Quraysh) tribal federation. Muhammad was orphaned soon after birth, and was brought up by his uncle Abu Talib. When he was 24, he married Khadija, a wealthy widow and merchant, much his senior; his position in the community became that of a wealthy merchant. Muhammad had no other wife in Khadija’s lifetime. Khadija’s daughter Fatima was his only child to have issue.

Call to Prophecy

When he was 40, Muhammad felt himself selected by God to be the Arab prophet of true religion. The Arabs, unlike other nations, had hitherto had no prophet. In the cave of Mt. Hira, N of Mecca, he had a vision in which he was commanded to preach. Thereafter throughout his life he continued to have revelations, many of which were collected and recorded in the Qur’an. His fundamental teachings were: there is one God; people must in all things submit to Him; in this world nations have been amply punished for rejecting God’s prophets, and heaven and hell are waiting for the present generation; the world will come to an end with a great judgment. He included as religious duties frequent prayer and almsgiving, and he forbade usury.

Enemies and Converts

In his first years Muhammad made few converts but many enemies. His first converts were Khadija, Ali (who became the husband of Fatima), and Abu Bakr. From about 620, Mecca became actively hostile, since much of its revenues depended on its pagan shrine, the Kaaba, and an attack on the existing Arab religion was an attack on the prosperity of Mecca. While he was gaining only enemies at home, Muhammad’s teaching was faring little better abroad; only at Yathrib did it make any headway, and on Yathrib depended the future of Islam. In the summer of 622 Muhammad fled from Mecca as an attempt was being prepared to murder him, and he escaped in the night from the city and made his way to Yathrib. From this event, the flight, or Hegira, of the Prophet (622), the Islamic calendar begins.

Muhammad spent the rest of his life at Yathrib, henceforth called Medina, the City of the Prophet. At Medina he built his model theocratic state and from there ruled his rapidly growing empire. Muhammad’s lawgiving at Medina is at least theoretically the law of Islam, and in its evolution over the next 10 years the history of the community at Medina is seen.

Medina lies on the caravan route N of Mecca, and the Kuraishites of Mecca could not endure the thought of their outlawed relative taking vengeance on his native city by plundering their caravans. A pitched battle between Muhammad’s men and the Meccans occurred at Badr, and the victory of an inferior force from the poorer city over the men of Mecca gave Islam great prestige in SW Arabia. More than a year later the battle of Uhud was fought but with less fortunate results. By this time pagan Arabia had been converted, and the Prophet’s missionaries, or legates, were active in the Eastern Empire, in Persia, and in Ethiopia.

As he believed firmly in his position as last of the prophets and as successor of Jesus, Muhammad seems at first to have expected that the Jews and Christians would welcome him and accept his revelations, but he was soon disappointed. Medina had a large Jewish population which controlled most of the wealth of the city, and they steadfastly refused to give their new ruler any kind of religious allegiance. Muhammad, after a long quarrel, appropriated much of their property, and his first actual conquest was the oasis of Khaibar, occupied by the Jews, in 628. The failure of several missions among the Christians made him distrustful of Christians as well as Jews.

His renown increased, and in 629 he made a pilgrimage to Mecca without interference. There he won valuable converts, including Amr and Khalid (who had fought him at Uhud). In 630 he marched against Mecca, which fell without a fight. Arabia was won. Muhammad’s private life—the fact that he had nine wives—has received a vast, and perhaps disproportionate, amount of attention. His third wife, Aishah, was able and devoted; he died in her arms June 8, 632.

Legends and Veneration

The traditions concerning Muhammad’s life, deeds, and sayings are contained in the hadith. Islamic dogma stresses his exclusively human nature, while presenting him as infallible on matters of prophecy. He is considered by most Muslims to have been sinless, and is regarded as the ultimate subject of emulation. Many believe that he will intercede for the Muslim community on the day of judgment. Muhammad is probably the most common given name, with variations including the W African Mamadu and the Turkic Mehmet. He was known to medieval Christianity as Mahomet.

ROBIN WILLIAMS 1951-2014

15 Aug
August 15, 2014

Now cracks a noble heart,

Good night sweet prince

May flights of angles sing thee to thy rest

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The Nine Principles of Dynamic Kindness

04 Aug
August 4, 2014

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THE NINE PRINCIPLES OF DYNAMIC KINDNESS

With gratitude, both “good” and “bad” become capable teachers.

With generosity, even small stones can create great ripples.

With tenderness, we turn the stream of compassion within.

With stillness, we sit quietly in the center of the cyclone.

With insight, we accept the change of life’s seasons

With courage, we move forward – despite our fear.

With service, no time to ask, “Why am I here?”

With forgiveness, we discover true freedom.

With faith, we learn to surrender.

Caregiving is often a multi-layered, emotionally exhausting, physically challenging series of daily, and 24/7 implementation of care plans, statuatory regulations, federal guidelines and (lest we forget), the needs and wishes of those receiving the care.  There is also the ambient despair that is part of a life of disability, depression, dementia and death. I know. I have been on both sides of the care-giving fence for more than twenty years.

What have I learned during those years?

I learned that of all the techniques, healing systems, protocols, clinical trials, methodologies, and treatment plans, what works most reliably, most consistently, with the greatest rate of success is simple kindness.

The list of Dynamic Kindness pre-cursors is listed at the top of this page.

Study it well: let the words flow into that part of you that is birthless and deathless.

You will never regret it.      Martin Bayne

 

Turning the Other Cheek

27 Jun
June 27, 2014

slap

Matthew 5:39
But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also.

Luke 6:29
If someone slaps you on one cheek, turn to them the other also. If someone takes your coat, do not withhold your shirt from them.

“The drama (of human life) is this. We came as infants “trailing clouds of glory,” arriving from the farthest reaches of the universe, bringing with us appetites well preserved from our mammal inheritance, spontaneity wonderfully preserved from our 150,000 years of tree life, angers well preserved from our 5,000 years of tribal life–in short, with our 360-degree radiance–and we offered this gift to our parents. They didn’t want it. They wanted a nice girl or a nice boy.” – Robert Bly

Bly sets the stage for why many of us are already at war with ourselves by the time we are teenagers. And as the responsibilities of our lives increase, and the demands of the marketplace intensify, the war expands and the weapons become more sophisticated.

Self-contempt drills down deep into the psyche; we cover the wound with a patch: money, romance, power, notoriety, but the patch never holds and we cannot stanch the hemorrhage.

Yet, scabs are unsightly, and we hide the wounds under silk shirts and satin sheets. It is only when we stand and watch in horror as a “bleeder” walks out of his high school lunch room with a nine millimeter automatic and a trail of bodies behind him do we  roll back our own bandages …..

Why does this happen? Each of us has a dominant inner voice – it’s part of being human and having an ego.

That voice “speaks” to us thousands of times a day; for some, the tone is generous, supportive and playful; for most, however, the conversation invariably turns ugly: “You’re not living up to your potential, you could be doing more,” and “you should feel ashamed or embarrassed about ______,” or “why can’t you be more like ______?” When you hear someone use the expression, “If you only knew the real me…,” they are almost always referring to their Raging Voice.

And so, for 20, 30, or 90 years we play a game with ourselves. We pretend to ignore the voice. We fill every waking, conscious moment of our lives with noise and motion. We drive our cars with the radio on; we eat our lunch or make the bed with the TV on. Anything to avoid coming to a stop in silence.

For it is there, in the silence of non-movement, that we are left alone with our voice. And the thought of being alone with that Raging Voice terrifies us.

I smile now as I write these words, but forty years ago – as a Soto Zen Buddhist monk – I would quickly make my way to the Zendo each morning at 5 AM to join the rest of the community for what turned out to be my first introduction to the Raging Voice. Through the practice of zazen – a form of meditation where the monk sits mindfully in front of a wall – you set aside all distractions and opinions. It’s just you and “your stuff,” your Raging Voice.

The years at the monastery were invaluable – I could now easily identify the Raging Voice – but that’s as far as I got.
It took another 25 years for me to realize that, despite using every weapon imaginable, defeating the Raging Voice was impossible.

It was at that point I gave up. To be more precise I surrendered. To be exact, I asked the Raging Voice to join me at a Peace Summit. To my utter astonishment, He agreed.

That first Peace Summit was the most gratifying moment of my life.

And that which I had feared the most — actual “voice” itself? — a collage of childhood personas that simply wanted attention and recognition, like any child. Once I recognized that these schoolyard bullies were as confused and vulnerable (and afraid!) as I was, it was like meeting old friends after a 45-year sabbatical.

Finally, there’s the issue of the two biblical passages I left dangling in the wind.

Are you able now to see them in a different light?

“It’s rather elementary,” dear Watson . . . We are both the person who slaps and the person being slapped.

See this fundamental truth with your own eyes, and the gates of heaven are revealed.

Pope to Mafia: Bafangool !

23 Jun
June 23, 2014

headvisblog07ENmm

 MASS IN SIBARI: THOSE WHO TAKE THE PATH OF EVIL ARE EXCOMMUNICATED

(POPE EXCOMMUNICATES ITALIAN MAFIA!)

Vatican City, 21 June 2014 (VIS) – During his journey from Cassano all’Jonio to Sibari, a distance of slightly less than twenty kilometres, the Pope stopped in the parish of San Giuseppe where, on 3 May last year, the priest Lazzaro Longobardi was murdered. Bishop Nunzio Galantino, secretary of the Italian Episcopal Conference, described him as “a martyr to charity”.
The Holy Father arrived at Marina de Sibari at 4 p.m. and, after greeting the numerous faithful awaiting him, he celebrated the Holy Mass of Corpus Domini, commenting that while on Holy Thursday we celebrate the institution of the Eucharist in the Last Supper, Corpus Domini is a feast primarily of thanksgiving and adoration.
“Indeed, the procession with the Most Holy Sacrament is traditional on this day”, he explained. “Adoring Jesus Christ and walking with Him. These are the two inseparable aspects of this feast day, which characterise all the life of the Christian people: a people who adore God and a people who walk, who do not stay in one place, who walk!”
First of all we are people who adore God. We adore God Who is love, Who in Jesus Christ gave Himself for us, Who offered Himself on the Cross to expiate our sins, and through the power of this love, rose from the dead and lives in His Church. We have no God other than Him! When, instead, we substitute adoration of the Lord with adoration of money, the way opens to sin, to personal interest and abuse; when one no longer adores God, the Lord, one becomes an adorer of evil, like those who live through dishonesty and violence. Your land, so beautiful, knows the signs and the consequences of this sin. The ‘ndrangheta is this: adoration of evil and disdain for the common good. We must fight this evil and expel it. We must say no!”, he exclaimed. “The Church, who is so committed to educating consciences, must make increasing efforts to ensure that good may prevail. We ask this of our boys and girls, our young people in need of hope. To be able to respond to these needs, faith can help us. Those who follow this path of evil in life, as the mafiosi do, are not in communion with God: they are excommunicated!”

How to Come Awake

18 Jun
June 18, 2014

Silhouette of a tree during an orange dusk

Most of us go through our lives, from day to day, completely asleep.

Suffering can wake us up.

You might think this story is about my friend Martin Bayne. He once had a career selling long term care insurance. Then, in 1994, he was diagnosed with early onset Parkinson’s.

It woke him up. He became an advocate for buyers of his insurance as Mr. Long Term Care. Even when he himself came to need full-time care, he didn’t give up, becoming an advocate for patients. And, now, for that pig making its way down the full length of the python, the tens of millions of baby boomers facing their own (our own) decline, decay and death, he is our advocate, our guide, and our friend.

Martin’s not alone. Michael J. Fox has done most of his best work since being diagnosed with Parkinson’s.  Mohammed Ali has had Parkinson’s for years, and Janet Reno served as Attorney General with it. They are all great examples to a new generation of sufferers, like singer Linda Ronstadt, fight trainer Freddie Roach, and basketball player Brian Grant, all of whom have “woken up” to the angels of their better natures after being diagnosed.

But you don’t need Parkinson’s to get the wake-up call. Any intimation of mortality, or infirmity, can make any of us connect our minds to our bodies and start changing.

I didn’t start taking care of myself until being diagnosed with hypertension in 2000. My wife finally got on the exercise train after tearing a meniscus ligament in her knee a few years ago.

You may want to do the same.

What does being “awake” mean anyway?

It means living a full life, every day, in every way you can. It means smiling through your troubles and not giving in to despair. It means caring about others more than yourself.

That can be hard. My mom, who is 90 years old, was recently moved into a personal care home and I can hear the struggle in her voice, each day I call. “I want to go home,” she says. But incontinence and the onset of dementia mean she needs 24 hour care, care me and my relatives can’t provide for her.

Will her struggles awaken her? Or will then send her down for the last time?

No one knows until they face that music.

Of course, there is another way to wake up. When you reach the top of the mountain, look down, and see the trash littering that mountain, it can wake you up big-time.

I knew Bill Gates, as a technology news writer, back in the 1980s. He was a nerdy, driven, focused marketer, so asleep to the world outside himself that some of us journalists felt sorry for him.

Then, as he achieved his own goals, a strange thing happened. Maybe it was his wife Melinda. Maybe it was having kids. Maybe it was finding he was the world’s richest man, but that it was making him the king of a dung pile.

So he transformed himself. He took a small foundation he’d started in 1994, with some vague ideas about global health, combined it with a foundation he and his wife had started for giving libraries Internet access, and threw his whole fortune into it.

The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation isn’t just a giant pile of money. It is $38.8 billion, and climbing, dedicated to wiping out dread diseases like AIDS, tuberculosis, malaria, and polio, some of which are coming back because ignorant, sleeping Americans refuse to vaccinate their own kids. It is not just his fortune, but that of mega-investor Warren Buffett as well.

And it’s not just a foundation. It’s the family business. Bill, Melinda, and Bill’s father, a former lawyer whose name he shares, have become immersed in the work, traveling the globe to see what their money is doing and what it still needs to do. When Bill Gates lands in Seattle now his skin is crinkled from days in the hot sun, but his eyes are bright, alive, and shining. His kids won’t join the class of the ultra-wealthy, because in his example they will have something much richer.

The city where I live, Atlanta, was built by men like this. Robert Woodruff, the legendary chairman of the Coca-Cola Co., gave millions of dollars anonymously and didn’t let his role be revealed until near the end of his long life. He did more for the world after his 1955 retirement than he did in building the company. Jimmy Carter transformed the office of ex-President when he left it aged 58, turning the Carter Center into a leading voice for democracy and charity.

Whether you wake up in the pit of despair or on top of the mountain, it’s the waking that matters most. People who are awake go through each day with a smile on their face. They have something to do, their days and lives matter, because they have chosen to make it so. Bernie Marcus created the city’s largest tourist attraction with the money he made as CEO of Home Depot, and has focused his own foundation on the fight against autism.

You can join them. You don’t have to reach the top or see the bottom to do that. You just have to commit to it. Seek meaning over money, value people over wealth, do your part however you can, from wherever you are.

Just wake up.

 #####

Dana Blankenhorn has been a professional journalist since 1978, so he has yet to work a day in his life. He turns 60 in January, and knows he is luckier than most people.

 

15 QUESTIONS

07 May
May 7, 2014

15 QUESTIONS

YOU NEED TO ASK WHEN LOOKING AT ANY LONG-TERM CARE FACILITY

 Martin Bayne and Joy Loverde

1.   What is a reasonable response time from your staff for medical alert devices?

2.     In an industry known for its extraordinary staff turnover, how do you manage yours?

3.      How do your residents and staff keep up-to-date on assistive and accessible technology?

4.      How do you support residents and their families during an end-of-life transition?

5.      How do you integrate new residents into the community? (eg. Welcoming Committee)

6.      What customization do you offer residents regarding food choices?

7.      What off-site transportation services are offered?

8.      What is your average Personal Care Assistant-to-resident ratio?

9.   How often do residents get a comprehensive pharmaceutical audit?

10.   How frequently do you hold resident council meetings?

11.    What provisions have you made for residents who wish to exercise regularly?

12.    What is your policy regarding an overnight guest?

13.   What one book would you recommend to residents?

14.   Give an example of an activity that you are especially proud of?

15.   What one question do you want to ask me?