“All things are possible to him who believes.” (Jesus)

A new friend just commented on an old post titled, “The true meaning of life is to plant trees under whose shade you do not expect to sit.” This is one of the first things I ever published here on WordPress and it continues to be a popular post still today. This particular friend plants trees for a living and she understood exactly the point I was trying to make.

There is something genuinely spirit-filled about planting a tree. It is the ultimate expression of faith in the future of humanity. It is belief in action. Why else would anyone bother to take up this huge project? Every sapling needs a lot of care to survive that first year and establish its roots. Without a firm belief that the future will be worth living, why would we bother to plant a tree? My grandfather was in his seventies when he started his tree farm. He had no chance of seeing the fruits of his labor but he did it anyway because he believed in me and my cousins. He knew we would take over after he was gone and finish the job.

I can’t tell you how good that makes me feel. Every time I walk through that grove of white pines I am reminded of my place on this planet. I was put here to do my part to make this earth better for everyone by taking care of plants, animals and other humans. I believe my life has purpose and my death will have meaning because I accepted the great commission, to love thy neighbor as thyself.

At a point in history, when loving thy neighbor has become a ridiculous notion and hatred abounds, our faith is being tested like never before. It almost seems like the future is impossible because we struggle to believe in humanity and some people seem to be hoping the end is near just to prove they were right about their particular beliefs. That’s not faith, that’s selfishness and conceit brought on by hubris. It is only by holding on to each other as faithful beings that we will have all the possibilities Jesus promised us centuries ago. We have to trust each other and plant the seeds of humanity for one and all. How much faith we place in each other will determine our future, not the threat of Armageddon.

Every time someone new reaches out to me on this blog it gives me hope. Hope for tomorrow, hope for humanity and hope for our children. We should keep planting trees for our kids to sit under. We should plant flowers for them to smell and admire. And most of all, we should plant kindness into the hearts of everyone we meet. I will never stop believing in the future Jesus wants for us and I will gladly do whatever it takes to fulfill his expectations. All things are possible, to those who believe.

Would you dare to believe with me?

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“The fewer the words, the better the prayer.” (Martin Luther)

“THANKS! Amen.”

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“I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” (Voltaire)

As your professor of remedial studies of things that matter, I have frequently blogged about events with historic significance as they relate to today. I just never thought I would have to explain The First Amendment and Freedom of Speech to a bunch of Ivy Leaguers. That’s right, the current crop of undergrads at Yale has failed Civics 101 and that leaves me no choice but to give a refresher course in the most important part of the Bill of Rights.

Let’s start with this simple explanation given by Justice Louis Brandeis… “Those who won our independence . . . believed that freedom to think as you will and to speak as you think are means indispensable to the discovery and spread of political truth; that without free speech and assembly discussion would be futile.”

Now let’s hear from Justice Abe Fortas who explained the importance of free speech on campus… “First Amendment rights, applied in light of the special characteristics of the school environment, are available to teachers and students. It can hardly be argued that either students or teachers shed their constitutional rights to freedom of speech or expression at the schoolhouse gate . . . . Schools may not be enclaves of totalitarianism. School officials do not possess absolute authority over their students. Students . . . are possessed of fundamental rights which the State must respect, just as they themselves must respect their obligations to the State.”

Now listen closely children. Free speech is for everybody. Any American can say any damn thing they want and the Constitution protects that right. If the other Ivy League students want to make fun of foolish Yale students, they can and they will now that you demonstrated your complete ignorance of the First Amendment. Exactly what part of the word FREE tripped you up? It means unrestrained, uninhibited and unforced. It is the single most fundamental right any human being can possess and the Founding Fathers put it at the top of the Bill of Rights, which is exactly where it belongs. Maybe you should read the Constitution just once before you try to invoke rules you know nothing about.

The great thing about Free Speech is that it cuts both ways. The more you talk, the more opportunity I get to respond. Telling me to shut up is telling yourself to shut up. You can’t have it both ways. Either we all get to speak our minds or no one does. That’s probably the part you find problematic. After years of being told you were special and given awards for breathing you now have to face the reality that some people have different opinions than you. Truth be told, a whole lot of people have different opinions than you and when you leave your little island of security at Yale you are going to start meeting them every day. Mom and Dad may not be able to protect you then and asking people to please not talk isn’t going to get you anywhere. You’re going to hear words and concepts that are completely foreign to your tender ears and some of them might hurt your feelings. Some of them might even make you question your beliefs. OMG. Welcome to the real world, you just joined the rest of us as fully functioning human beings. Thus endeth the lesson.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2015. 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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“Grey matters.” (Guy Horst)

Most of my years in the printing business were devoted to putting black ink on white paper. That probably sounds boring. It was anything but boring. The fact is there are 99 shades of grey between black and white and I studied all of them. So much so, that when I thought about publishing my own company newsletter, I chose Grey Matters as the name. It was a play on words with a double meaning. Grey matter is another way to describe the human brain and Grey Matters was my subtle attempt to distinguish myself from the competition. I never found the time to publish anything but now that I’m blogging it seems like a good time to revisit my original idea with a current events twist to the story.

Grey matters today because our society is being torn apart by racism, sexism, ageism and every other ism. I’m convinced it’s not nearly as bad as the media would have us believe. That’s not to deny that prejudice is a real problem but maybe we need to be asking to what degree? I deal with all races, faiths, genders, ages and belief systems every day. My experience tells me that we get back exactly what we give to others. If I am respectful and treat others with kindness and honesty, that’s what I get back from them. That’s about 90 percent of the population, the grey area between total black and absolute white. Have I met people who didn’t like me just because I was white, absolutely. Have I met people who didn’t like some of the black children that were with me, yup, it happens. In both cases, it’s pretty rare that it is that pronounced.

The vast majority of people I encounter don’t want anything to do with media generated labels and politically correct speech. They just want to get on with their lives. I made a new acquaintance today at Mark Twain Elementary School in the inner-city. (How’s that for irony? The most politically incorrect American author of all time gets a predominantly black school named after him?) She was brown and she was wonderfully helpful to me and we had a great conversation about her job as school secretary. I am absolutely certain we could be friends, given our shared love for working with children. We had far more similarities than differences and it would be my pleasure to call her a friend. Later this evening, I dropped off a white foster child at a black foster home. The foster dad and I shared a laugh about how much the little girl likes to talk. (Six hours of uninterrupted chatter. It was a new record.) I thanked him for his service.

Grey matters because that’s where the majority of us live. We’re not black or white, we’re just people trying to get through life with the least amount of worries possible. But that kind of life doesn’t play well with the media. They want confrontation and hatred and if they can’t find it readily available, they will manufacture it to get our attention and drive their ratings for all the advertising dollars they are worth. They’re using us against each other for their own selfish purposes, not to change the world. It is only the most extreme examples of prejudice that get reported, not the 90% who get along fine every day. We’re not newsworthy because it doesn’t fit the narrative. Nobody wants to hear about me making friends with two black people today. Why not? Given all that’s happening wouldn’t that be a nice reaction to the animus on display at the University of Missouri? White man befriends two blacks in Kansas City and lives to tell about it. There’s a headline you will never see.

Grey matters because we have to use our God-given brains to make the world work better for all of us. We need to focus on each person we meet as a unique individual and find a way to share that moment of our mutual existence in a positive way. I really don’t care what shade of humanity God gave you. All I care about is what your heart says about you. Do you care about others? Do you work hard? Do you accept others for who they are? Do you show me respect? If you do these things, then we have a lot in common and where we are on the black to white continuum really doesn’t mean much. I’m not about to judge people based on any amount of media hype and neither should you judge me. Give me a fair chance to prove myself and we can be friends. It’s not complicated but it is difficult to overcome fear and fear is exactly what the media is selling.

But I’m not buying anymore.

Maybe Henry David Thoreau explained it better than I can, “It is never too late to give up your prejudices.”

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2015. 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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“Let every nation know, whether it wishes us well or evil, that we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of freedom.” (John F. Kennedy)

For those of us who live in the Kansas City area, yesterday was a special occasion. Our professional baseball team won the World Series after a thirty year drought and the fans poured into downtown to watch the Royals parade through the city. What they had to overcome, after so many years of losing, is miraculous and the perfect metaphor for a larger theme I would like to share with you. What the Royals did is just a microcosm of what America needs to do and the perfect example of how to do it. Let’s examine how this success story came about.

The last time the Royals won the championship of baseball was in 1985. They never even made it back to the playoffs until last year. Abysmal is the only word to describe what kind of baseball was played here for many, many years. When David Glass bought the team, his first reaction was to run it like he ran WalMart, by the numbers. It seemed his only goal was to not lose money. I guess that’s why he’s got billions. Eventually the losing got to him and he made a monumental decision to stop listening to all the bean counters who kept telling him that a small market baseball team was a terrible investment. He found himself a bright young guy named Dayton Moore and gave him his marching orders, win a world championship. Mr. Moore took the challenge and promptly spent a lot of the money Mr. Glass had made at WalMart. The process was painfully slow and quarterly earnings were nowhere to be found as the years of losing continued. They even traded away their best player, who wanted out of KC. In return they got some prospects who later became American League Championship Series Most Valuable Players these last two seasons. And then, they won it all by defeating the NY Mets in New York City last Sunday night. This is a classic example of rags to riches made possible by a bunch of relentless midwestern people who just refused to give up in spite of all the naysayers. It would be a great movie but we just got to see it in real life.

Now, let me explain why America needs to follow this example. We’ve been in a slump for a long time. Leaderless government, political infighting, societal problems and a dangerous world have been a dark cloud hanging over us for many decades. The media experts and the bean counters all think we can’t be the America of our forefathers. They’re wrong. They think we will never be winners again. They’re wrong. They think we don’t care anymore. They’re really wrong. Hell, if the KC Royals can get up off the mat and get a knockout victory, so can America.

Here’s how we did it here in KC and now we’ve proven the prototype works. We need the investor class, the 1%, the rich folks to step up and bet on the future of this country. They’re going to have to forget about their quarterly earnings for a few years but the long-term potential is out there. They need to invest in things like infrastructure and alternative energy solutions and companies that make things. They need to hire more people and pay them a living wage so those workers can become customers who drive the economy. We need the colleges to teach practical skills that America’s companies desperately need and at a price that all good students can afford. Then the middle class will do our part to keep it going. The middle class doesn’t want a hand out, we just want to work hard, take care of our families and be able to pay our own way in life. We want to be part of something greater than any of us can achieve by ourselves and we want to participate in the American dream. Government should exist to make that possible for all of us. We just need to know that we’re all in the game together. We will cheer for each other every step of the way because that’s what being a team is all about. America works best when we all do our part. The rich invest, the middle class does the work and eventually even the poor get raised up by a rising tide of prosperity. And one more thing, what do you suppose the Royals are worth now to Mr. Glass?

Trust me, this is entirely possible but it’s not going to happen overnight. There will be pain and hardship and much patience will be required but isn’t the future of this great country worth it? Don’t you want to be part of the most amazing turnaround in the history of the world? Listen to those words President Kennedy used to inspire us – we shall pay any price, bear any burden, meet any hardship, support any friend, oppose any foe to assure the survival and the success of freedom. Freedom is what makes America great.

Let’s go, America. We can do this.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2015. 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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“Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country.” (John F. Kennedy)

In the history of the world, the United States of America is unique. We are the first people who ever attempted self-government and to this day it is still the great experiment in human development. We do everything the hard way. We fought our way through the War for Independence. We struggled to come up with a workable Constitution and Bill of Rights. We conquered a vast land mass at the expense of the indigenous people who were here before us. We fought a Civil War to keep the Union together and free the slaves. We fought two World Wars to defend our freedom. We accepted people from all corners of the globe, if they accepted our American values. We made it work for 239 years because what we have is worth every sacrifice.

The history of this country is brutal because humanity isn’t humane. We have struggled mightily to overcome our innate selfishness and form a more perfect union. That union is made possible by our willingness to make self-government work for all of us. It’s not a perfect union without mutual agreement but achieving that goal is supremely difficult and it always will be. Millions of Americans have died defending our freedom and that will never change because many other people in the world hate us for being free. There are few, if any, people who seek to immigrate to countries run by dictators and those dictators would love it if America didn’t exist to challenge their authority. We are the bastion of freedom for the oppressed and the mortal enemy of the oppressors.

America is a melting pot of people and ideas. We’re far from perfect because we are an ongoing experiment in humanity. The very nature of experimentation is one of repeated failures. We have to go through the bad parts to get to the good parts but we can only achieve greatness by never giving up. This is what President Kennedy was talking about when he said these famous words. What are we willing to do for our country? Are we willing to test our ideas, our values and our Constitution against those who would seek to end our experiment and are we willing to do whatever it takes to keep moving forward, no matter how painful the experience?

As we approach another election year, I sincerely hope we all evaluate the candidates on the basis of their ability to solve problems and inspire us to greatness. Politics is not government and those who put their political party first should not be elected at any level of government. President Kennedy gave his life for his country. Now ask yourself, which one of these candidates would do the same? And then ask yourself, would you give yours? If we’re not willing to give the last full measure of devotion, that President Lincoln spoke of in the Gettysburg Address, then we have no right to call ourselves Americans and there will be nothing our country can do for us.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2015. 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 world would not be in such a snarl, if Marx had been Groucho not Karl.” (Irving Berlin)

The title of this post has nothing to do with my theme but I really love the word play Irving Berlin came up with to celebrate Groucho Marx’s birthday in 1966. Great quotes, like this one, give me aspirations like the idea that came to as I slept last night. As much as I love writing words, I hate giving speeches so it’s pretty odd that my dream was about giving a speech at the Ogallalah Festival. It’s even weirder when we consider there is no Ogallalah Festival, YET!

Just to be clear, there is an Ogallala Festival in the town of Ogallala, Nebraska which shares its name with the Ogallala Aquifer. For those of you who don’t know much about the Great Plains of America, all you need to know is that the aquifer is an underground reservoir of water that dates back to the last Ice Age and makes living on this part of earth possible. About one quarter of irrigated American farmland exists because the Ogallala Aquifer provides the water needed for farming. There would be no breadbasket of the world without the Ogallala. It has been estimated that when the Ogallala Aquifer finally runs out it will take 6,000 years to replenish it.

I think this ancient life-sustaining reservoir of water is the perfect metaphor for my thesis. Words are like rivulets of water that flow into the reservoir of the collective consciousness of humanity and it needs to be replenished as often as possible by people who deeply care about communication like myself. Many of the posts I have written in the last six plus years are just recollections of my life experience. I try to share stories that have meaning for all or are at least worth laughing about. I don’t profess to have any exceptional insight into the meaning of life but I do try to write stories that may be meaningful to others around the world. The last time I counted, this blog has been read by people from more that 150 different countries. I’m not sure how my words are being taken in Botswana but I’m humbled by that possibility.

My subconscious mind works overtime and it never shuts off because I dream a lot. Last night it was a vivid tale of giving a speech about my life in 1975. That was a turning point year in my life and I will never have another one like it. I moved out of the fraternity house that spring. I turned 21 in February. My roommate and I won the All-University Doubles Horseshoes Tournament that March. I played on the Big Eight Club Soccer Championship Team for K-State. (That one’s a bit of a stretch because I never saw the field during a game but I was the designated driver to all the away games that year.) I took my favorite college class, American Folklore that spring semester. My best friend Clark married his wonderful wife Adenia and I made the first of many trips to Oregon to see them, that summer. I changed my major from journalism to social science that fall because I hated writing articles for the school paper. As a result of that decision, I took up writing a journal just to prove I could write. I kept that up for about three years until I met my future wife and life happened.

It’s been forty years and life has happened again and again. Now I’m desperate to find the true meaning of my existence before I die. After 200 blogs and several book ideas, I think I might be on the right track. As much as I love the written word and God knows I spent a lot of years devoted to putting ink on paper, I find myself finally realizing that oral communication is the part that’s been missing. Emails, texting, Facebook, Twitter and Instagram all lack the human response that comes from conversation. Without the opportunity to receive a genuine real-time reaction I have no good way of knowing how I’m doing. I’m just writing in a vacuum and only infrequently do I even get a comment. I know I can do better that that and therefore I am committed to starting the Ogallalah Storytelling Festival. I had to misspell it so it won’t get confused with all the great things that happen up in Nebraska every year. If those fine folks would like to participate in this idea, I would be happy to listen.

I just think we need to bring back oral history. Storytelling festivals are not an original idea so I’m just adding another voice to the chorus but maybe this time it could be stories from this era. I think the Old West was an amazing time to be alive, if you could survive all the hardships, but I also think the world of today is pretty incredible and as such it deserves our best storytelling efforts. I meet so many kids today who have no idea who Stevie Wonder is or who never heard of the Beatles. That’s just sad. I’m sure they all think their music is the best ever but that doesn’t mean they can’t appreciate songwriters like Stevie Wonder and Paul  McCartney.

So, now I’m asking. Is this an idea worth pursuing? I’m going to need lots of help and I should probably try crowd-funding sites like Kickstarter or GoFundMe but I’m not going to waste my time if everyone else out there thinks this is stupid or useless. Those of you who continue to follow this blog must believe that I’ve done something worthy of your time. I sincerely hope so and I will continue to do so but I think it’s time for me to try my luck in a new arena. I see no way this will ever make me a living so I plan to keep working but what if we were all part of the revival of humanity caused by a few people who just came together to share stories and express the joy found in our common humanity? I want to see your smiles, I want to hear you laugh and I want to be able to thank you in person for being part of my life. WordPress will never be able to give me that experience and without it my life will be less that it could have been.

Words are meant for a higher purpose and we all need the encouragement they can provide. I’m going to keep writing forever but now I realize that my keystrokes just aren’t enough to give my life the meaning that I seek. Some how I will find a way to make this happen, so mark this date on your calendar. This is the day the Ogallalah Storytelling Festival was created. Feel free to tell me I’m crazy, that will make me try even harder.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2015. 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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