“We start sh*t all the time.” (Unknown)

As epiphanies go this one won’t win me any awards but it was kind of funny so I’m going to share it anyway. I took my chain saw to Nuts n Bolts Hardware today to get it worked on so I can use it to destroy three overgrown bushes in the front of my house. It turned out that the only problem it had, was me. I forgot how to tighten the blade. Luckily the man at the service desk wasn’t that busy and he took the time to explain this simple procedure. After he was done giving me a refresher course in chain saw maintenance he asked if he could fire it up, because well, who doesn’t want to hear a chain saw running? I said, “Sure thing as long as it doesn’t scare anybody in the store.” He replied, “That’s OK. We start sh*t all the time.” To which I said, “You should get a sign and make that your motto.” And then it hit me – that’s my motto.

When I was just a little tyke I was very contrary. If the teacher told the class to go stand by the wall and all the other kids chose the east wall, I walked across the room and stood by the west wall, all by myself just to be different. When my Sunday School teacher was sharing her message about the greatness of being with God every Sunday morning, I raised my hand and asked, “What about Superman? He’s pretty great too.” For some reason I can’t possibly explain, my brain always had the opposite thought. Lucky for me, I was cute and funny and nobody ever took my reaction the wrong way. They just laughed and reminded me that when I got bigger I could do it my way.

Now I’m as big as I’ll ever be and it’s still hard to be a contrarian. Yesterday was just one more episode in a long line of times I have gone against the grain and gotten splinters. In my work with foster children I get my schedule a week in advance. I get told who, what, when and where but not much about how or why. I get to fill in the blanks and I spend a lot of time pondering how and why. I can’t give a detailed explanation of the latest crisis because it could get me in more trouble if my boss ever discovered this blog but let’s just say it was monumentally ignorant and I was not willing to risk the lives or limbs of four kids to do the job the way it was assigned.

When I pointed out the fly in the ointment by way of an email on Monday of this week, I got no response, which is par for the course. I always have to ask more than once for help. The tipping point came when I filled out my annual review online and I got to the very first question, “How well do you communicate with others in the company about potential problems and do you always seek better solutions?” Well now I was stuck. I couldn’t answer this truthfully without following through on my immediate problem. So I called again and set off a huge conflagration in my department. I wasn’t there so I only have second-hand accounts of the finger-pointing that went on when the truth came out but knowing the players like I do, I’m sure it was epic and ugly for all concerned.

Here’s my takeaway from my latest epiphany. Nothing in life will ever get better if we don’t start sh*t all the time. It’s as simple as that. Someone has to stand up and say, “I have a question. Why are we doing it that way?” I say this because of what I learned back in church. Jesus was the archetype for all contrarians. He raised questions and gave better answers throughout His whole life. He pointed out the error of our ways with a sense of compassion and an unerring devotion to finding the truth. He challenged every one of the tenets of His Jewish faith and gave us something better to believe in, salvation through redemption. For His good works, He was crucified and died. Then He did the most contrarian thing ever and came back from the dead just to prove His point. His absolute faith, dignity, love and courage changed the world forever.

As my epiphanies go, this one is right up there. Let’s all try to start sh*t all the time and then ask for forgiveness. It works for me but then again I’m cute and funny.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2017. 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 secret of all those who make discoveries is that they regard nothing as impossible.” (Justus Liebig)

I have always been a bit of a loner. I like people but I really like being alone with my thoughts. There is a unique single-mindedness to the way my brain works and it needs peace and quiet to function properly. Even in college, when my friends all wanted to hit the bars, I stayed home by myself more often than not. When I wasn’t in class, I went to the library and found the most remote corner possible and did my work. During the early years of my career in graphic arts, I spent most of my day in the darkroom experimenting with photography and conjuring up techniques no one had tried before. The darkness really helped me focus my thought process and block out the distractions.

It was about 1980 when I read Carl Sagan’s book titled, Broca’s Brain. It was a turning point in my life, especially the parts about Albert Einstein and Sir Isaac Newton. In Einstein’s case, he spent years working out the special theory of relativity while employed at the patent office in Switzerland. The work wasn’t very taxing and it gave him plenty of time to think. In Newton’s time he spent months in a remote location working on his laws of motion because in 1666 the bubonic plague was ravaging most of the cities in Europe. He chose solitude out of necessity but it helped him devote all of his intellect toward his theories. Sagan even wrote about the brain as a muscle that must be used to be developed and how thinking is actually a pleasurable activity for humans. That’s probably why Archimedes yelled “Eureka” when he proved his theory.

I’m not foolish enough to think I belong in any conversation that includes Carl Sagan, Albert Einstein, Isaac Newton or Archimedes but I think I understand their phenomenal ability to focus and think. The world is a fascinating place, full of natural wonders and endless questions that I need to ask. The larger point that Sagan made in his book was that all of us have brains that are far more capable than we might ever imagine. What I read into that idea was the realization that my existence is a product of my thoughts. Every characteristic that makes me unique is in my head and whatever I want my life to be is up to me to decide and achieve. That was my eureka moment but it also gave me a great deal of peace. I wasn’t bound by the rules of the physical world any longer if my brain could imagine more. The end result was the desire to spend as much time thinking as possible and to ask as many questions as my brain could compose.

Of course, in those days most of what I thought about was my business. It’s only been the last ten years or so that my mind has gone off the philosophical deep end. That’s probably my coping mechanism for the dystopian world of foster care that I have worked in for nine long years now. Reality is painful but thinking is bliss. It has also reinforced my faith in God because I believe He created a world that is meant to be explored and understood, if we’re willing to ask the tough questions and accept the answers, no matter how difficult they might be to understand. Revelation is hard for humans because it always includes a fair amount of self-reflection brought on by undeniable truth. Every new truth forces me to give up an old truth and adapt my awareness to new information that is strange to me. Without faith, the search for truth would be unnecessary. Why would we ever bother to learn anything new, if we didn’t believe in all the possibilities of the unknown? Why would we ever choose to make new friends if we didn’t believe in their potential goodness? Anything is possible if we have enough faith.

It’s the mystery of life and the chance of discovery that keeps me going. I never get tired of asking questions and working out problems. My life has meaning because I faithfully exercise my God-given talents every day in ways that benefit the world around me. I know, unequivocally, that there is a purpose to my life and my job is to never stop trying. As long as I keep trying, God will keep revealing the answers to my questions. I just have to have faith that every new revelation will make my life even better. The possibilities are endless for those whose faith is strongest and who make every effort to live their lives seeking the greater good of compassion and understanding. A faith-filled life is the most significant achievement most of us will ever know and it will bring more peace and joy to us than any other endeavor we could ever undertake. I’ve said it before so I will say it again ……….

I will never have all the answers, I just hope I never run out of questions.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2017. 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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“Life ain’t fair and the world is mean.” (Sturgill Simpson)

I saw a commercial recently that made me shake my head in derision. The ad was obviously aimed at the younger generation because it was full of clips of young people doing amazing stunts and recording them on their phones. At the end, the narrator concluded that young people with the right phone could do anything, especially if someone told them they couldn’t do it. Wow, I wonder how the world made it this far before the smart phone was invented?

I started my first business in 1978, long before I bought my first cell phone in 1984. I had to go to work every day and figure stuff out without any WiFi connection or the internet or Google to answer my questions. It was tough and I frequently heard people say that I would never succeed in my quest. I was attempting to perfect a photographic process for reproducing printed circuits so that the design could be accurately reduced to a fraction of design size and both sides of the PC board would line up within .005″. The harder I worked at it, the more people showed up at my door asking me to try their designs and one improvement led to another. Eventually, I was recognized as one of the best in my field by everybody who hired me to do their work. Instead of likes on Facebook, I got paid well and many clients referred me to others. I made a nice living all through the 80’s and then we made the leap to computer generated design in the 90’s, when the internet finally made it’s appearance. The smart phone didn’t arrive until the turn of the century.

Here’s my question to the younger generation, who are so devoted to their phones. What can you do without your phone? Can you find your way from Point A to Point B by reading road signs and a map? Can you cook dinner by yourself? Can you get a date with someone interesting? If not, why not? What’s holding you back from the adventure of life? Millions of people throughout the history of the world achieved amazing things without the benefit of WiFi. Most of them did it by just trying harder than anyone else. Do you know how many times Edison failed in his experiments? He failed way more often than he succeeded. I’m sure his family and friends told him to “Give it a rest, Tom”.

So let’s think about this objectively. Which would you rather have – the light bulb or cat videos? –  electrical power or fashion advice from J Lo? – organ transplants or Apps? – true friends who care about you or likes on Facebook? Go ahead, think about it for a minute, I’m sure this is going to be a quandary. You might even need to Google the meaning of quandary…………………….

OK, time’s up. What’s it going to be for your generation? What are you going to contribute to the world at large and when are you going to start? Here’s my challenge for all of you. Do something that helps someone you don’t even know. I know for a fact that there are thousands of foster kids who need a home. I know for a fact that there are thousands of people in Third World countries who don’t have enough clean drinking water. I know for a fact that malaria still kills more people each year than any other illness. I know for a fact that sitting in a car waiting in line at Starbucks is contributing to global warming. I know for a fact that unless we start caring about the person who lives next door, none of us is going to have a bright future because selfishness is the root of all evil. I dare you to make a difference for no other reason than it’s the right thing to do.

Yes, that’s right, I just made a clearly moral declaration. It’s not a moral dilemma either. It’s an absolute truth. If we don’t figure out a way for everybody, everywhere to live together as one, then each of us is to blame for the horrible fate that awaits us in the not too distant future. The younger generation has more ability and more tools at their fingertips than any other generation in the history of the world. So let’s see what you’ve got. It sounds to me like you just need to be challenged. To help you get started, here’s some good advice from one of your own generation. According to Sturgill Simpson “Life ain’t fair and the world is mean.” Consider yourselves challenged.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2017. 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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“Forgiving our enemies has the same refreshing effect upon our souls as it does to confess our sins.” (Josh Billings)

Editor’s Note. I wrote this post three years ago but since Easter Sunday is tomorrow I thought I should share it again. Forgiveness is the single most powerful action we can take to make our lives better because it always leads to redemption. I sincerely hope everyone who reads this will take it to heart. Happy Easter!

Here in Kansas, spring is the season we burn the tallgrass prairie so it can renew its root system and return to its natural state. Big Bluestem is the native prairie grass that covers most of the Flint Hills and can grow as tall as a man. Burning it off in the spring helps destroy the weeds that compete with the grass for the limited rainfall that comes later. A month from now the Flint Hills will look like God’s own golf course with emerald green hills as far as the eye can see.

A hundred years ago this all happened naturally, with lightning as the firestarter. The Plains Indians used the fires as a guide to follow the migratory herds of bison. The herds ran from the fires but they knew to return shortly thereafter to feast on the new grasslands. The Indians depended on the bison, the bison depended on the grass, the grass depended on the fires and life on the prairie kept to its cycle. There was a wonderfully simple balance at work in those days and it all started with renewal.

I think our existence today would be infinitely better if we managed our lives and relationships in a similarly simple pattern. To me, the spring burning season is a great metaphor for the act of forgiveness. By setting fire to the old, weedy parts of our existence we give our relationships a better chance to grow strong again. Forgiveness is the action we take to let go of hard feelings, envy, doubt and enmity toward others. All those negative thoughts are just excess baggage that weighs us down and keeps us from the real joy that is found in friendship and loving relationships.

Recently, I drove through the Flint Hills and I was treated to an incredible panorama of color and activity. As I drove north, there were fires sweeping down the hillsides to the east and to the west there was a majestic burnt orange sunset that took forever to reach twilight. It was then I realized the power of forgiveness and the symmetry of nature that is present in all of our lives every day. When the sun sets, that is the perfect time to forgive that day’s worth of grief. Don’t let it build up even one night. The sooner we let go of our negative perceptions, and frankly most of our problems are self-imposed, then we can grow as emotionally healthy individuals. Wasting time with selfishness and arrogance just makes it inevitable that some day we will have to take the more drastic step of burning down our prejudices and setting fire to our negativity in order to grow again.

When I see those gorgeous green hills, just weeks after the burning season, I am reminded how well renewal works in nature, and moreover how much we need it too. Forgiveness is the greatest tool we possess for making our lives the best they can be and by humbling ourselves every day at sunset I believe we will all see a bright and beautiful future. So, each time you look to the west, just let your heartache go with the last rays of sunlight. It works for me and that’s one secret I will gladly share with anyone.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2017. 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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“Not a day passes over the earth but men and women of no note do great deeds, speak great words and suffer noble sorrows.” (Charles Reade)

The older I get the more I realize that I have very few days left to do great deeds and speak great words. The suffering noble sorrows part is overflowing with opportunity, given my work with foster children. Every day with every new child is another chance to make a difference and leave the world better than I found it.

Recently, I have been keenly challenged by a little three year-old boy. He is obstinate all day long and way behind in his development. His parents failed him miserably and now it’s my turn to be the male role model he never had. I’m hard on him. I expect a lot more than he’s used to and he gets mad pretty much every time we’re together but do you know what else happens, he runs to greet me every time I pick him up at daycare. He’s happy to see me even though he knows we’re going to butt heads. I might be the first man in his young life who ever gave him high expectations and always came back again to push him up the ladder even higher.

Fixing broken children is a slow and deliberate process made even more difficult by the world at large. It’s also lonely work because foster children are often forgotten in their struggle. They suffer their undeserved noble sorrows in isolation with guys like me who show up once a week and take them by the hand for a few short hours. When this little one runs to meet me, I smile and ask him how his day went because he always has his report card with him and it’s usually not great. Then I tell him what my expectations are and they are always beyond his ability. I will never settle for less with him and he just keeps coming back for more. I’m going to put him back together even if it takes my last breath. I owe him my greatest deeds yet.

Here’s my takeaway from this short story. Whatever you do in life, do it with all the ability you have and with your whole heart. Set high expectations for yourself and those around you. A meaningful, purpose-filled and wonderful life isn’t going to happen by chance. Great deeds are required and noble sorrows are inevitable. We don’t get one without the other and every great moment of our existence happens with other people. A self-centered life will never be a great life because life is meant to be shared with as many people as possible. That doesn’t happen if we never leave the house or put down our phones.

The more I work with children the more I realize that we will never raise them up if we just keep lowering the bar of achievement. I’m tough on these kids and most of them appreciate it. The older ones, who have already been sucked into the mindless vacuum of the internet, are nearly impossible to motivate and they are headed for sorrows that are much less than noble. I feel sorry for them but arguing with them is a waste of time. I have to focus on the ones I can change. Right now my focus is on one little boy who still wears diapers and speaks almost no words. His sisters talk to him like a baby and they hear it from me when they enable his behavior. I expect him to speak plainly and behave willingly. I’m not doing him any good if I let him slide back to infantile actions.

That’s my greater point to all the adults who are reading this post. WE are not doing our job if we let the younger generation slide back into selfishness, conceit, distraction and no real sense of achievement. WE need to raise the bar higher every day and then be there for them to coach and encourage them to do whatever it takes to make that leap. I don’t really care if my work is ever noted in history but I do care that I tried to make a difference and I gave it my best effort. If anyone out there considers the words I have written here to be great then I have God to thank for giving me that opportunity. All of my noble sorrows have led me to great deeds and for that I feel truly blessed.

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2017. 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 truth never arrives neatly wrapped.” (Thomas Powers)

What is truth? The dictionary gives this definition, “a verified or indisputable fact”. The dictionary also gives this one, “conformity with reality.” But what if we went back in time and talked to some of the great minds of the ancient past like Euclid, Pythagoras and Archimedes. What if we asked them this simple question, “Is the world round?” How do you think they would respond? Their truth would have been that the world was flat because that explanation would best conform with reality. The truth that the world is actually round hasn’t been the truth for very long at all in terms of the entirety of human history. The idea that Earth was the center of the universe was the only acceptable truth for most of that time as well. 

Now we have a completely different truth. The world is round and we live in a distant corner of the universe, which is infinite. None of us is able to explain infinity in a way that makes it an indisputable fact but it sounds good in theory. It also raises more questions than it answers which is always the problem with truth, what we know for sure is minuscule compared to what we don’t know at all. But humans are full of hubris when it comes to knowledge and our acceptable truth becomes all-consuming in our rush to judgement. And ultimately, judgement is the end game for most people. Our truth enables us to judge the untruths of others. The pope wasn’t very happy when Galileo pointed out that Earth wasn’t the center of the universe. It was 1992 before the Catholic Church apologized for the way he was treated.

My thesis for this blog is simply to point out that whatever truth we believe in now may yet be proven to be totally foolish in the future and subjective truth is the most susceptible of all. When we take the tiniest amount of truth and expand it into an ideology, we risk everything and humans do this all the time. The political correctness nonsense that permeates society currently is the perfect example of subjective truth. Imposing their perception of truth on people who do not share their views is no different than what happened during the inquisition. Now, no one is being physically tortured in the dungeon but a whole lot of people are being convicted of being racists, homophobes and misogynists in the court of public opinion known as the internet. The only difference this time is that the accusers do their injustice anonymously, which is to say with absolute cowardice and without due process.

Aldous Huxley once said, “Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.” The fact is humans are the most complex creatures on the planet and generalizations are completely useless when it comes to explaining human behavior. For every prejudicial claim I have ever heard about race, faith, gender or political belief I can give a dozen examples of why it makes no sense. Are there people who have these horrible proclivities? Absolutely, but they are just a tiny fraction of the entire population and not nearly the threat they are believed to be. Generalizations are completely fabricated falsehoods intended to spread the ideology not increase our self-awareness or even affect change. All the academics who believe their way is the only way to live are always going to be proven wrong by human nature. Humans have too many variables to ever be quantified in a lab. That’s a good thing because freedom of thought is what leads to more truth and the evolution of the species as a whole. If we stop thinking for ourselves and succumb to the group thinking pattern that political correctness espouses, we are in serious trouble. I would rather be dead than living in a world where everyone has the same opinion and no one is willing to speak freely.

Even when we achieve more scientific truth there will always be philosophical truth that needs to be learned and disseminated as well. Philosophical truth is the truth of our existence and it is almost impossible to quantify or qualify in terms of a formula that accurately predicts future behavior. It would be a fool’s errand to think human behavior will ever be completely predictable but that doesn’t mean we stop trying to educate ourselves and bring meaning to our lives. The purpose of our being should be to grow our humanity, compassion, understanding and courage as individuals that care about all of mankind and are willing to do whatever it takes to make life on Earth better for all of us. The formula for successful human evolution was given to us by Jesus when He gave His sermon on the mound. No one since has ever been able to improve upon His deeply philosophical truth.

Truth is never going to be whatever we want it to be. Far from it…it’s uncomfortable, unnerving and uniquely applied to each of us because we all have free will. Freedom to choose, freedom to think for ourselves, freedom to act on our own best interests and the freedom to express our opinions are the essence of truthful humanity, not ideology. Every time we give in to ideology, we give up our humanity and the world gets a little darker for all of us. I will never let that happen. You can love me or you can hate me but you will never stop me from doing what Jesus asked of me…“Love thy neighbor as thyself.”

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2017. 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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“Give all you can.” (Cody Jinks)

I sat around all day waiting for the inevitable phone call. I don’t really get days off because there’s always another kid somewhere who needs help. Yesterday it was four siblings who just became orphans but their relocation got held up in court so I missed out on meeting them. Today I was all set to move a five year old after he wore out his welcome but that fell through for reasons I will never know. As the evening began, I was beginning to think I might be able to avoid the inevitable but that’s why they call it that. My good friend John called me and gave me the news, another five year old boy was going to the psychiatric unit after doing something pretty terrible to a sibling. I don’t usually get many specifics and I’m okay with that but I do like to hear about the potential for bad behavior in the car and this kid likes to unbuckle himself and stand up while the car is moving. I managed to keep him busy by talking about dogs and giving him snacks to munch on for the hour we drove together. He did great until we turned into the parking lot of the hospital. Apparently, he had been there before and the memories weren’t good because he pleaded with me, “Take me anywhere but here, please anywhere but here!” We sat in the car and waited for the staff to come outside while I endured the most emotional pleading I have ever heard. Probably the longest ten minutes of my life. The hospital workers were great as always and they carried him in and out of my life. Well, at least physically, but I will never forget his cries and the reality that I delivered him back to a painful place.

I know I’m not to blame for this kid’s trauma but it sure feels like I didn’t do enough. When I hit bottom like that I usually turn to music to help me deal with the darkness of what I do. Sometimes it helps me feel better but tonight it just reminded me that God works in mysterious ways and I don’t always get to know the plan ahead of time. So tonight Cody Jinks explained it to me with this verse…When you give all you can, give some more … Till you spend all your time Till you spend your last dime … Tell me brother, what are you living for? What are you living for?

If you haven’t heard of Cody Jinks you should get to know him. He writes wonderful lyrics and songs like I Cast No Stones and I’m Not the Devil are amazing performances. They may seem a little dark but that’s just because they’re incredibly honest and bittersweet. Kind of like my life right now. What I do is about as brutally honest as it gets and I have to make myself find the good in what I do just to make it seem bittersweet. As I listened to him sing.. But I like to stop… at the end of the day…and I pray that I hurt nobody… and somebody new found their way, it began to sink in that helping people isn’t easy and sometimes all I can do is help them find their own way. At that point I really wanted to go back and tell my young friend that.. I’ll spend forever… do all that I can… to prove I’m not the Devil… you think that I am. Unfortunately, I only get one chance with most of these kids. I have to live with my regrets when it comes to the things I didn’t do or say.

Someone once said, “It’s always darkest before the dawn,” and now I know what they were talking about. We all have to reach a point in our lives where the truth of our existence is undeniable and often uncomfortable before we can begin to grow spiritually. I get to see the most unfiltered version of the truth every day, with every new kid I meet and I have to get better at reaching out to them in ways they can understand, even at five years old. If I’m lucky, I may even be with them at their darkest moment but if I hold on to them long enough we may get to see the sun rise together. I look forward to those moments.

Maybe I should write that song….

©Guy R. Horst and grhgraph.wordpress.com, 2017. 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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