“Obscurity and a competence. That is the life that is best worth living.” (Mark Twain)

First, I would like to thank those of you who responded to my request for feedback. Russ, Connie, Joyce, Becky and my son Thomas all expressed their desire to see me stay the course. Then I happened to watch a YouTube video that showed the acceptance speech John Stewart gave for the 2022 Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. Here’s the link to that if you’re interested, it was great.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4QzUu78IXU4

Then I turned to my favorite source of inspiration, Mark Twain quotes, and found the title of this post. Mark Twain was the very first writer to ever inspire me as a kid. I loved reading his novels about Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn. Twain had the rarest ability to tell a great story, make me laugh and teach me important lessons about human nature. And no, he wasn’t a racist. If anything he was trying to point our the complete absurdity of racism but yes he used the language of his day to do it. At the end of his great life, he went on a world tour giving sold out lectures to discuss his views on humanity and human behavior. I wish I could have been there for that.

As it is, I still feel compelled to carry on his work and this title quote was apparently meant for me. I guess I can claim to be a competent writer even if I’m practicing my craft in near total obscurity and maybe that is a good life. It’s probably a lot less trouble to be able to say whatever I think without worrying about the thought police coming after me. That could also mean that the algorithms are working but that would tend to suggest that the things I say are noteworthy and bothersome to those in power. If that’s the case, then I am making a difference because some poor software engineer at Google has to spend part of his day making sure my words don’t escape into the public domain. That realization makes me want to test the limits of their algorithms by writing stuff that sounds good to them but is clearly nonsensical to the rest of us like, “Google is clearly the standard bearer for factual content and is recognized by sea turtles as such. I wonder if algorithms can overload to the point of passing out virtually? That would be fun to watch.

The uneasy truth is I miss all of you who read my blog. If this is the only connection we have left, then I will just have to adapt to that new reality. I wish the internet was better able to give people what they really need, which is human contact. My friend Connie and I spent one week together in Minnesota in 1968 and fifty years later she found me again because of this blog. I have only the internet to thank for that small miracle and the fact that she was unforgettable. All of you are unforgettable in your own way and that’s probably why we stay connected through this blog. Apparently my job is to write things that keep that fire burning and brings warmth to all of our souls. I can still do that occasionally and I promise not to ever write anything that doesn’t move me in some special way. I won’t ever write drivel but I may fall back on my bizarre sense of humor occasionally, so prepare yourselves accordingly.

It has also occurred to me that going back to the beginning and reposting my favorites might be appreciated by those of you who haven’t seen them all. Maybe I should try to update them or see how much my views have changed in the interim. That would be an interesting experiment in self-reflection.

Thanks again for all of you who are still a part of my life. Time and distance may separate us but maybe this blog can bring us all a little closer. I can live with my obscurity as long as you all think I’m still mostly competent and worth a view every now and again.

Please take this opportunity to stay in touch with me by sending me your contact info at my Gmail address: grhorst54@gmail.com. I look forward to hearing from you soon. Have a blessed day.

Guy

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“The right to speak out is also the duty to speak out.” (Vladimir Pozner)

I may have reached a turning point in my blogging career. After 13 years, 333 posts and 459,000 views I find myself struggling to find meaningful themes that challenge me and frankly my efforts haven’t led to anything measurably positive. Based on the statistics I get back from WordPress, very few people are taking the time to read my thoughts. So I have to face the reality that maybe I’ve lost my edge or quite possibly the stuff I care about doesn’t really mean much to the world at large. It is quite possible that the world has changed so much in the last 13 years that my way of thinking is just a relic of history. But there is another possibility that has my crept into my mind lately. Maybe I write too much about the need to question authority and challenge the status quo. If so then some computer engineer at Google or Facebook has probably seen my blog pop up in the algorithm that is assigned to minimize negative opinions of Google and Facebook. This is definitely a possibility because I have posted numerous times about my lack of faith in tech companies and the government and the media.

I may also have to face the fact that there aren’t very many people who can relate to the worldview I have acquired through great difficulty over nearly seven decades. I think free speech is the most important human right of all time and no other human rights would exist without it being first and foremost. But I also believe that human rights aren’t guaranteed unless we are willing to sacrifice everything to keep them. Now we’re back to the title of this post, “The right to speak out is also the duty to speak out.” Free speech comes with an obligation, to speak out about injustice. We don’t have freedom of speech is we’re too afraid to ask tough questions. What I have witnessed over the last ten years is an attack on free speech to the point where most people are too intimidated to voice their concerns, much less challenge authority. It’s much easier to stay quiet and hope for the best than it is to speak out and deal with the worst.

Now I’m left with three different possibilities. I’m no longer good at writing. My experiences and worldview are shared by almost no one else. Or I’m making some people very uncomfortable with my honest opinions. The difficulty that comes with these alternatives is that I have no good way to test their validity. I get almost no comments anymore about new posts which means I don’t get feedback of any kind, either positive or negative, so I can’t really improve much when working in a vacuum. That’s one of the worst parts of the internet, there are no honest reactions in real time. It’s really not a good way to communicate because so much context is lost. That’s why it’s so easy for people to become jaded by their own beliefs. The brave new world of the 21st century is one where too many people would rather live in their own tiny world of incredibly isolated beliefs than strike out into the open where every idea gets tested and the internet makes that choice quite tempting.

As I have recently contemplated my writing fate it has become clear to me that I need to either rise to the challenge once more or just call it a day. I don’t have any great sense that I will be missed if I just stop posting but on the other hand I still enjoy the process and the storytelling aspect of blogging. For me at least, the underlying motivation for writing was to leave something for my grandchildren to be able to read that would help them know me better, especially if I happen to die sooner rather than later. Having spent nearly 10 years of my life working with foster children it seems pretty important to share my stories with my own flesh and blood. The next generation desperately needs a deeper connection to their family history and less of a connection to social media. That’s an obligation I take very seriously but if I have lost my edge then what’s the point. And for that matter, even if I haven’t lost my edge but the algorithms are all stacked against me then it’s just a truly futile gesture and a waste of time. At my age, time is extremely precious.

So now, those of you who are still interested and the others who just happen upon this post, all ten of you, you get your chance to give me your honest opinion. Should I stay or should I go? And don’t forget, just commenting here might get you flagged by Google or Facebook. I await your honest feedback. Consider it your duty to speak out.

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“Society can only be happy and free in proportion as it is virtuous.” (Mary Wollstonecraft)

Mary Wollstonecraft made this declaration some time in the 1700’s when the world was just beginning to understand the concept and importance of virtue in a free society. Prior to the founding of the United States of America there had never been a free country with a Bill of Rights. The entire concept of freedom hinged on our ability to act virtuously in the best interests of the greater good, specifically the whole of society. Without virtuous citizens a free society would never survive in a world where despotism reigned everywhere else. John Adams tried to emphasize the importance of virtue when he said this, “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”

It’s now a couple centuries later and virtuous is a word we hardly ever hear anymore. I honestly can’t remember the last time I heard it used to describe anyone, much less our leaders. This is not good. If Mary Wollstonecraft was right, our happiness and freedom are at risk like never before. We seem to have replaced virtuous with virtual and we just fake it now. We have the ability to go online and create a virtual persona that probably can’t exist in reality but is perfectly acceptable to our fellow online personas. Actual virtues aren’t necessary in the virtual world that Mark Zuckerberg is promoting on Facebook. Herein lies the problem, reality is hard.

Reality is what makes the virtual world even possible. Reality is where the work gets done to supply the world with the essentials of life like food and shelter. You can’t eat virtual food or live in a virtual house or pet a virtual dog. You can try to replace all those parts of your real existence but I feel sorry for anyone who thinks that’s a good life. It’s not. It’s hollow and meaningless. And it’s not free. You’re going to have to sell your soul. Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t care about your happiness, he just wants your attention so he can sell you more stuff. That’s the same business model that Google, Disney, Amazon and Twitter all use.

On the other hand, being virtuous will make us happy and free. That’s what the founders of this country understood and worked towards creating – a sustainable society where free individuals worked together to accomplish more than anyone had ever imagined before, a better world. In almost every way, the world has gotten better in the last 200 years and I would argue that’s only because America breathed life into a whole new reality of existence. One where freedom is sacred and worth any sacrifice. One where people choose to help each other because two can always accomplish more than one. One where overcoming obstacles is the highest virtue and the most rewarding. One where everyone has a chance to achieve their goals. One where despotism will not survive.

That’s our new reality. We can have a better real world but it’s not going to be online. It’s going to be one where we rely on each other for emotional support, human contact, compassion and hugs. The virtual world has none of that and that’s the obstacle we have to overcome now. We can’t let the internet become the enemy of freedom. We have had two mass killings in recent weeks and both of them were done by young men. In their very short lives they had become so empty spiritually that they came to believe that killing others was a viable part of their existence. I would be willing to bet they spent an inordinate amount of time online seeking validation for their poorly constructed worldview and it was easy to find. Nothing about their lives was virtuous and now all of us get to share in their unhappiness.

I don’t have a miracle cure for the paranoia that is so readily available online. I can only suggest we find better things for our kids to do as they grow up. Time spent online should be the last thing on their daily to-do list and human contact should be the first. We all have to do better. There is no other way out of this malaise we have created for ourselves. Let me sum this post up with something Seneca the Younger said a long, long time ago…”Virtue depends partly upon training and partly upon practice; you must learn first, and then strengthen your learning by action.” I guess reality hasn’t really changed that much in 2000 years. Please help me bring back the value of being virtuous. We need it now more than ever.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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“The ultimate test of a moral society is the kind of world that it leaves to its children.” (Dietrich Bonhoeffer)

It was 77 years ago today that Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life came to an end. He was executed by the Nazis just two weeks before the end of WWII. He was just 39 years old and had spent the previous 12 years of his life openly criticizing Adolf Hitler for his treatment of the Jewish people in Europe. His words and deeds cost him his life but those who witnessed his execution were stunned by his faithful demeanor and were moved by his willingness to accept his fate.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer probably did more to save the world from Nazi tyranny than any other person on earth. From the moment Hitler became chancellor of Germany, Bonhoeffer spoke out about the danger ahead. He was relentless in his efforts to save the Jews from the Holocaust that soon began after Hitler took office. It wasn’t just Jews that Bonhoeffer tried to defend. Hitler began the Holocaust with men, women and children that he considered inferior and unworthy in his Aryan worldview. Bonhoeffer recognized the evil that was being promoted as purity and did all he could to stop it. He left the world in a much better place and passed his own test of a moral society.

I can’t really find the words to express my thanks to Dietrich Bonhoeffer for all he did to save the world. I just thought it was important to remember this day in history and keep telling his story. And as I contemplate all the recent world events and reflect on the way Bonhoeffer lived his life, I think it’s extremely important that we make every effort going forward to follow his simple directive, “Comfort the troubled, and trouble the comfortable.”

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“Our relationships with one another are like a stone arch, which would collapse if the stones did not mutually support each other.” (Seneca the Younger)

As I look back on 13 years of writing this blog, I find it ironic that the most noteworthy thing I ever wrote wasn’t here on WordPress. The closest I ever came to achieving any sort of recognition for my ability to string words together into something meaningful and valuable was just an online quote I posted on the Harvard Business Review 10 years ago. If I recall correctly, the article I was commenting on was about the importance of ethics in business and my take on it was that every business should value their stakeholders over their shareholders. The day after I posted my comment, I was contacted by the editors of HBR and asked if they could use my quote in an upcoming publication. I agreed and was rewarded with a direct quote in the next month’s issue. One might think that sort of notoriety might be worth something but apparently my bright idea wasn’t that great and I never heard anything more about it.

And clearly stakeholder value never caught on in the business world. Which brings me to the world of today and my latest attempt at promulgating a radical new concept. The 21st century has brought with it a fearful new world. One where war is good for business but that business model is bad for the planet. One where shareholder value is the only thing that matters and stakeholders don’t matter much at all. One where democratic principles are anything but democratic and the very few fortunate shareholders rule the planet. In my opinion, the arched bridge of our relationships is about to collapse.

Let me explain why I feel this way. First, let’s start with my definition of a stakeholder. When I owned a business, I firmly believed that stakeholders were more important than shareholders. Given that I was the only shareholder that might seem a little odd but it just made sense to me. My stakeholders were my employees, my suppliers, my customers and myself. All of us had a vested interest in the success of that business. I couldn’t run it by myself. I was dependent on my employees to do the vast amount of labor that needed to be done. I contributed frequently to that effort but most of my time was spent working with the customers and managing the business. I was also dependent on my customers and their successes meant more work for us. I was also dependent on my suppliers and their ability to give me the raw materials I needed to create the finished products. I needed them to be successful and able to do their part. I also needed a good bank and a good accountant and a good lawyer to help me navigate the financial aspects of the business. All of us were stakeholders to a greater or lesser degree in Horst Graphics, Inc. My shares were worthless without all of those others who had a stake in the business.

Now, let’s look at the world of today. We all live on a spinning globe made up of roughly 2/3 water and 1/3 earth. We all breath the same air, drink the same water and depend totally on this planet’s ability to sustain life on earth. This is it for all of us. I can’t think of any higher stakes than life and death. In this case the word shareholder and stakeholder are almost synonymous. We share everything about this planet and we all have an equal stake in its future. But do we act that way? I don’t see much evidence of that mindset at all. As often as I hear the word inclusive being tossed about by the media and every PR department, I still don’t see it happening. It’s a feel good term that frankly invokes strong feelings of exclusivity, in my opinion. The underlying message seems to be, “If you’re not with us, you’re against us.” That “Us against Them” mentality has led to more horrible human suffering than all of the diseases in history. Just Google the history of war if you have any doubts about my opinion.

You really don’t need to search very hard to get my point. America just got out of Afghanistan after 20 years of pain and suffering with absolutely nothing to show for the effort except a lot of damaged people on both sides of that conflict. On the other hand, a lot of shareholders got some nice returns on their investments in the military industrial complex that America does so well. I wonder how many of those investors sent their own children off to risk their lives. Probably not many. But there’s always the next war to invest your children in, like the one in Ukraine right now. It’s interesting how few shareholders actually want any part of being a stakeholder. It seems to me that risking one’s life should give the highest return, don’t you think? Apparently, not in the world of the 21st century.

Let me be absolutely clear, I’m not advocating for some left turn into socialism. That’s the worst example of “Us against Them” and 100,000,000 people have already died from that failed experiment in totalitarianism. What I am advocating for is a new mindset of fairness and morality based on our shared stake in the planet. If we don’t find a way to make this work for all of us, it’s going to end badly for each of us. Even Jeff Bezos isn’t going to avoid this fate on his private yacht if the ocean is boiling from volcanic eruptions caused by a nuclear holocaust. He might be the last to go but that just means he’s going to suffer the longest. Is that the kind of world we want to have? I sincerely hope not but I’m not encouraged. We can do this better but we have to share the pain that comes with progress.

Let’s start looking at the world as stakeholders not shareholders. Let’s put some faith in each other to do the right thing and take care of the planet first and foremost. Let’s stop the finger pointing and the ensuing rush to judgement that just causes more division and pain. Let’s treat each other with respect and make the word humanity mean something truly special. I still think this planet is worth saving. I think the vast majority of people are truly decent people who just want to be happy where they are with what they have. We’re not asking for yachts. We just want a planet with a future that includes all of us.

And maybe this time my words will get noticed by everybody. That would actually be inclusive, wouldn’t it?

.©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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“If I had known I was going to live so long, I would have taken better care of myself.” (Eubie Blake)

Now that I have lived so long that I no longer want candles on my birthday cake for fear of setting the house on fire, I’m beginning to question some of the choices I made in my younger days. And I’m not going to try blowing out 68 candles on that cake this Sunday, just to be clear.

My childhood was a lot like a game of billiards. I bounced off the walls and crashed into other things on a regular basis. I was an accident waiting to happen pretty much every day of the week. Of course it didn’t help that as an infant I was dropped on my head on a concrete floor by the six year old girl who lived next door. She thought I was cute and wanted to hold me. It didn’t go well. She just wasn’t strong enough to hold on to me when I wanted no part of her hugs so I guess I’m partly to blame. There was also the time my own sister Marilyn pushed me down a flight of wooden stairs because I refused her demand that I leave her room immediately and again I’m partly to blame for not listening closely enough when she said “LEAVE OR DIE.” She did give me fair warning and at five years old I did understand English. At least I had my first tumbling lesson that day. That was useful later in life.

Once I was able to get out of the house and explore the neighborhood, I was on my own to make choices about the risks I would take. I remember specifically the day my friend Mark and I were using the two man swing on the swing set in the backyard. My mom came out to warn us that if we went too high it could flip over and hurt us both. As soon as she went inside we both knew what we had to do. Two minutes later we were buried under the swing set after it tipped over on us. We were bruised but not bleeding and honestly, we both thought it was hilarious.

Since my childhood was spent in the late 50’s, I was given so much more freedom than any kid today. By the time I was five I was allowed to leave the house to play, as long as I stayed on our block. I climbed trees to thirty feet in the air. I rode on the bumpers of cars passing down the street and I hung out with a couple of delinquent seven year old’s. Both of them were named Bobby and since Robert was my middle name, we had an instant connection. That little gang didn’t last very long though because they got me to try smoking cigarettes. They stole a few from their parents and we all went down to the corner where the storm sewer was being built so we could hide out while we experimented. They gave me the honor of going first, since I was the youngest. I knew nothing about tobacco except for all the commercials on TV so I tried to inhale the entire cigarette in one breath. It didn’t go well. Frankly, I thought I was going to die right there in the sewer, which would have been the worst possible obituary of all time if I had. My friends thought it was funny as hell and couldn’t stop laughing as I crawled over the wall and headed for home. When I got there, I just collapsed at the front door until my sister Karen came to find me. She smelled the stench of tobacco, left me there to die and just yelled out, “Mom, Guy’s been smoking cigarettes!” When my mom finally got there and realized what had happened, she said, “Well that’s what you get.” I never smoked again and I got new friends.

We moved to a bigger house shortly after that but my decision making didn’t really improve in my new environment. When I was in the sixth grade my school allowed us to go home for lunch if we could make it there and back in 45 minutes. I only lived a mile away so that just made it more of a challenge, which of course I couldn’t resist. Going home was mostly an uphill ride on my bike but the return trip was one long coast at maximum speed. At the bottom of the hill was a stop sign, which I obeyed regularly for no good reason because there was never any traffic. So one day I was a running behind and decided to blow right through that stop sign. It didn’t go well. Just as I passed the sign, a Buick came out of nowhere and I slammed right into the driver’s door. I bounced off the car and fell hard on the street. Luckily, the car coming from the other direction saw the accident in time and was able stop a few feet short of my lifeless body in the road. I had another concussion and some bruises and my bike was DOA but I picked myself up and started to carry my bike back to school. The lady in the Buick insisted that we should go see my mom to make sure I was alright, which was nice of her. She also wanted to get something called insurance to pay for the damage. My parents were glad I was alive but then the bill came for car repairs. I never disobeyed a stop sign again and I got to meet my first insurance agent.

In junior high school I confined myself to sports and girls for all of my risk taking. That gave me torn cartilage in my right knee, a broken collarbone, a couple of minor concussions and several broken hearts. Luckily, when you’re young, broken hearts can be mended pretty quickly because there’s always more cute girls to chase after. I made a complete fool out of myself in just five days in Minnesota during the summer of 1968. Her name was Connie Larson and I fell really hard for her the first time I saw her at my grandparents resort. I did everything I could to win her over but a week later she left and we never saw each other again. I was sure she would never forget me but about fifty years later she found this blog and contacted me. I was stunned to hear from her and overjoyed that she remembered me. It didn’t go so well after that because she said that she only remembered my grandparents resort and not me. After that summer at the lake, I gave up football and tried a lot harder to make sure girls would always remember me. Seriously Connie, anything?

I dated a little bit in high school but I was too hellbent on being a crazy teenage boy and most of the girls thought I was out of control. I was and I didn’t care what anybody thought about me. Just hearing the words, “You probably shouldn’t do that,” just made me want to do that. I jumped off a cliff in the Ozarks into a river without knowing how deep the water was there. I didn’t get hurt and all of my friends were duly impressed but looking back now, that was monumentally stupid on my part.

The reality is folks, I’m lucky to still be alive at 68. I think getting married and becoming a dad saved me from a tragic fate. I have had some close calls with impending doom over the last few decades, especially all those years when I worked in foster care and drove 70,000 miles a year but for the most part I finally realized that life is short and the choices we make every day will drastically affect our lifespan. And the older we get the more those bumps, bruises and emotional trauma add to the weight of aging. Getting older is no cakewalk. It’s hard. The arthritis in my hands makes typing this blog a challenge. Shoveling snow in sub-freezing weather is agony but I’m blessed to have a younger neighbor, Jason Wright, who did that for me yesterday with his snow blower.

I think that’s the message I wanted to share today. I took chances for no good reason, just to see what would happen. Now I take risks only if it makes a difference for those around me like my neighbors, friends and family. I have no idea how many more birthdays I’m going to get but I’m not going to waste my time making selfish choices. I can look back now and laugh at my ignorance and arrogance but that’s only because God still wants me to be here. Clearly, He has a plan for my life and as long as I keep trying to do it better, I will get more days, months and maybe years. If you’re reading this post, please take my advice. Don’t be selfish. Be a positive contributor to the world at large. Find ways to make others happy and share the burden of making the world a better place for all of us. Taking that chance is worth the risk, trust me. Here’s one more quote that really sums up where I’m at in my life. Albert Camus said this about aging, “To grow old is to move from passion to compassion.” That’s me, finally

.©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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“Remember when the music was a rock that we could cling to so we’d not despair…” (Harry Chapin)

As I count the days to my next reminder of the incredible brevity of life, my 68th birthday, I find myself seeking out the music and stories of my younger days as a way to reinforce my commitment to making a difference with whatever time I have left. I ran across this wonderful YouTube video recently and I thought the sentiment expressed by Bruce Springsteen about Harry Chapin was one that needed to be shared. Here’s the link – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BMSaVEbHt-U Watch it and then read on.

If you’re too young to remember Harry Chapin that’s sad and you missed one of the great songwriters of all time. I can still remember the first time I heard Taxi on the radio and the impression it made on me as an immature teenage boy. I had never heard a song that told a story so vividly and it was unlike anything else on FM radio. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c5dwksSbD34 It was probably a few more years of getting my own heart broken before the essence of that song became clear to me but that’s just how life works. We don’t get the pleasures without the pains.

The thing I want the younger generation to learn is this part of the song Chapin wrotefind something you can cling to so you’ll not despair. For me at least, music was that rock and it got me through some very lonely times when I was away from home, on my own and not doing well emotionally. I didn’t have a smartphone that was readily available for instant gratification or even to answer my everyday questions about how to get through the day. I just went out and did ignorant things and suffered the consequences, just like everybody in the history of the world before me.

But I didn’t fall into the pit of despair that nowadays has become a canyon. I meet so many young people today who act like they have nothing to live for and haven’t found any joy in their lives. That breaks my heart and it makes me want to help them see the light. Unfortunately, I can’t compete with social media. One old man who is telling them to get over it and try harder has no chance against 20 likes on TikTok. Lately, I’ve been taking my homemade chocolate chip cookies to work so I can bribe them to spend a few minutes listening to my well earned philosophy of life. I keep it as simple as possible when I tell them to do something better every day and to make a difference for somebody else.

After almost 70 years on the planet, I know that this one principle is absolutely sound advice, “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Happiness most often comes from making other people happy first and genuine friendships are reciprocal in every way. When we become the person that other people know they can trust, then we will have a wealth of friends and the happiness that comes with healthy relationships.

Your phone is not your friend. It’s just an electronic tether to Corporate America that allows them too much access to your life. Don’t let them make you unhappy. Put the phone down and look up at the person in front of you. Then smile and start a real conversation. If you do this from now on, I can promise you, your life will get better.

I think Bruce Springsteen explained it perfectly in the video, “Do something and may his song be sung.”

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2022. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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“He was my opponent but not my enemy.” (Bob Dole)

The world lost another great man this week when Bob Dole died. As I watched several YouTube videos about his life, I was reminded of his humility and self-deprecating sense of humor but the comment I admired most was this simple observation about his relationship with President Clinton after the election in 1996 that Dole lost to Clinton. He could have been bitter and chosen to avoid the spotlight but instead he went on David Letterman’s show just days after the election and expressed his feelings toward President Clinton.

Bob Dole was a class act for all of his 98 years on Earth. He left college early to join the army and fight in WWII. He almost died in Italy and it took him years of pain to complete his recovery, finish his education and begin his career in politics that lasted 40 years. As I watched him speak about his life, it became clear to me that he felt blessed not bitter. This was a man who knew exactly what an enemy was capable of doing but instead he chose to see his political opponents as capable of better things if everyone pulled together. He didn’t let himself become a bitter partisan. He found ways to get things done, like the Americans with Disabilities Act that was instrumental in getting public assistance to so many veterans and people born with physical limitations. ,

That’s what great people do with their best years. They serve others and work for the common good. Bob Dole was a poor kid from Russell Kansas who helped save the world from unspeakable evil, gave up the use of his right arm for the rest of his life, worked his way up the political ladder in Washington, lost his last election and retired a happy man. I don’t think any man could have done it better. I think his farewell letter was one of the best I have ever heard…

“As I make the final walk on my life’s journey, I do so without fear. Because I know that I will, again, not be walking alone. I know that God will be walking with me. I also confess that I’m a bit curious to learn and find if I am correct in thinking that heaven will look a lot like Kansas and to see, like others who have gone before me, if I will still be able to vote in Chicago.”

When amazing people like Bob Dole pass away, it’s up to the rest of us to pay homage to their passing by learning from their experience and applying those lessons to our lives. In this case, let’s stop being so partisan when it comes to politics. Let’s stop being afraid to even try to find common ground. Let’s meet in the middle where the greatest good can still be achieved for all of us. And most of all, let’s not forget all of those great men and women who came before us and sacrificed so much so we could live in the best country on Earth.

Rest in Peace Senator Dole.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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“Won’t you help to sing. These songs of freedom. Redemption songs.” (Bob Marley)

I think Bob Marley sang the greatest acoustic solo of all time when he recorded Redemption Song in 1980. Here’s a link to a YouTube video of the song with the lyrics.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kbyUPJooBfU

The back story to this particular musical miracle is that Marley was suffering from the cancer that would eventually take his life, when he wrote and recorded this song. I think he was trying to tell us something very important about life and the way we should live it. He quoted Marcus Garvey who spoke these words in 1937, “We are going to emancipate ourselves from mental slavery because whilst others might free the body, none but ourselves can free the mind. Mind is your only ruler, sovereign. The man who is not able to develop and use his mind is bound to be the slave of the other man who uses his mind.”

It’s been forty years since Bob Marley left his legacy of musical genius and his lyrics are more meaningful now than ever before. We live in a world where mental slavery is the most pervasive problem facing society as a whole. Mental slavery is the direct result of willful ignorance and taking the easy way out in life. Ignorance can be blissful but not for long. Eventually, all the things we choose to ignore about ourselves like prejudice, hatred and envy will turn into mental slavery because we let it happen. It’s easy to just go along with the crowd and social media has amplified the crowd noise to a level of ignorance never heard of before.

In that respect, I’m glad I’m old. I gave up on Facebook many years ago and my time online is mostly spent watching lectures and music videos on YouTube. That’s what prompted this blog post. Watching Bob Marley play Redemption Song live brought back many fond memories of that time in my life and what a difference that song made to me at the time. He sang about his hand being made strong by the hand of the Almighty and going forward triumphantly. Given his failing health at the time, it seems pretty clear to me that he was making peace with his fate. He refused to give in to slavery of any kind and he understood the power of freedom to make life better for all of us. That was a transcendent moment for me that I will never forget.

This last weekend, I had another transcendent moment I will never forget. Early on Saturday at the store, a group of high school students came in to bag groceries for tips. They were trying to raise money for a trip to Florida to attend an orchestral competition. As soon as I realized who they were, I walked right over to their adult sponsor and suggested they should bring their instruments and play for all of us. I didn’t get permission from my boss to do this and I took responsibility every time some employee asked me who arranged this. I knew it was going to be great and I didn’t care if I got in trouble for making a decision on my own. By the end of the day they had raised $1200 for their trip and the mood in the store was the best it has ever been on a Saturday afternoon before a holiday. One young lady was particularly talented on the violin and she played her heart out.

If I was suffering from mental slavery, I wouldn’t have taken that chance. I would have just kept doing my job and letting a wonderful opportunity slip away. I have never been that way. I take chances all the time. Some of them work out wonderfully and others crash and burn but I learn something new from every experience. The thing I want us all to remember and the reason I’m writing this post is to encourage everyone to free yourselves from mental slavery. Feel free to do things that could possibly make the world better. The Almighty will strengthen your hand every time you try harder to make a difference. It’s worth the risk, trust me. I saw more happy faces in that store this weekend than at any other time in the last three years that I have worked there. If we start doing little acts of kindness every day, we will all go forward together triumphantly. Won’t you help to sing?

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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“This too shall pass.” ( 2 Corinthians 4:17-18)

So, I made a lot of new friends this week. I doubt that I made a great first impression, given that I was writhing in pain on a hospital bed at Olathe Medical Center but the doctors, nurses and staff were amazingly caring and I will never forget what they did for me.

I was in excruciating pain caused by a kidney stone. I’ve heard horror stories about these little devils but it was even worse than I ever imagined. I was given pain meds which helped and I was told the stone was small enough that it would pass by itself given enough time. I felt better for a few days and then tried to go to work on Sunday morning. I only lasted about two hours before I knew it was time to make more new friends at the ER. We repeated the same process and I went home again later that afternoon. Two hours later I was kneeling on all fours in the waiting room because it was too painful to sit in a chair. At this point, they gave me more pain meds, got me into a room by myself and tried to calm my heart rate down to something manageable.

Later in the evening, the doctors decided I needed to have an operation to remove the stone because it wasn’t moving anymore. I had the surgery on Monday and spent another night recuperating. By Tuesday morning, the painful stone was gone but my reaction to anesthesia was just getting started. I don’t do well with pain meds. They scatter my thoughts, make me anxious, make me vomit and generally create more problems than they solve, so I stopped taking them altogether. I was hoping to get some rest but the noise level in a hospital makes that a huge challenge for someone like me who reacts to every possible sound. I finally convinced my doctor that getting me out of there as soon as possible would be the best possible choice for my chance at recovery. I came home Tuesday night and slept for almost 12 hours in between trips to the bathroom.

It’s now four days since the worst day of my life. As I have had time to reflect on what brought me to my own version of death’s doorstep and having searched for “what causes kidney stones” and having to face the reality that my lifetime of Coke consumption probably got me here, it has become painfully obvious to me that we humans are somewhat fragile creatures who can be brought down by something the size of a single grain of sand that just happens to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. And then, the last part of my discharge papers pointed out that I am now 50% more likely to have another kidney stone in the next 5-7 years. That six pack of Coke by the fridge may be there a very long time if I can summon the courage to kick that habit. I have no one else to blame if I can’t make that happen.

The one positive outcome that came from this worst week ever was the realization that there are many wonderful people who choose to become healthcare workers, which has to be the hardest job on the planet. I can’t say enough good things about the staff at OMC. I could tell how much it affected them to just watch me suffer. They had to follow all the correct procedures and it takes time to do it right but I know they were hurting right along with me as they did their jobs. I can’t even imagine what kind of emotional discipline it takes to do that job when you know every day is going to be somebody’s worst day ever. My daughter-in-law Leah is an RN and my son-in-law Bob is an MD so I have family ties to the profession but I never had much first hand experience till this week. Now I can fully appreciate their dedication, compassion and willingness to do whatever it takes to help someone they may not even know. I’m truly blessed to have them as part of my family.

To the staff at OMC, all of you are amazing people. You care, you work extremely hard, you do jobs that most of us are completely unable to do, and you do it all with a moral purpose – to help those in need. I can’t think of a higher calling and the rest of us owe you a debt of gratitude we may never be able to pay. My hope is that each and every one of you who helped me get through my ordeal will find this blog and realize the sincerity of my words. And to the larger community of caregivers in the world, THANK YOU! You have all been blessed with God-given abilities like none other. Your willingness to do this work every day speaks volumes about your value as a human being. By placing the wellbeing of others before yourselves, you have demonstrated a level of compassion not often seen in these troubled times, we currently live in.

If there is a young person out there on the internet who is searching for a purpose that will give their lives more meaning, please consider the medical profession. Millions of likes on your Facebook page will never come close to equaling the joy you will receive from helping just one human being who is hurting. You will never find true happiness or self-satisfaction until you understand this defining principle – you have to give everything to get anything out of life. If you still don’t understand what this means, find a doctor or a nurse or anyone who works at a hospital and ask them to help you understand and then thank them again for being willing to share. They willingly share in other people’s pain every day because they get this principle. They’re self-worth comes from making other people happy. Once you achieve this level of humanity, your life will never be the same again.

Thanks again to my new found friends at Olathe Medical Center. I wouldn’t be here without you.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2021. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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