“What if this world is just another planet’s Hell?” (Aldous Huxley)

Originally posted on Grhgraph's Blog:

Editor’s note: This is the very first blog I ever posted on WordPress and that was six years ago today. Happy Blogday to me.

That would explain everything. The wars, the greed, death and destruction and why we just can’t get together on anything. Sounds like gloom and doom doesn’t it? And yet I am eternally optimistic and I know that life is good. I want to believe in my fellow man because we are all in this together. The world grows smaller every day and we must find a way to make it work for all of us or else none of us will survive. Hopefully, writing a blog will start a dialogue about the essential goodness of man and ways to make this planet anything but Hell.

In my mind at least, the first thing we have to do is start listening effectively. All I hear these days is…

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“The test of a first-rate intelligence is the ability to hold two opposed ideas in the mind at the same time, and still retain the ability to function.” (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

The sheer stupidity of political correctness reached a new low this week when the University of New Hampshire had to distance itself from something published there in 2013. Apparently, a group of professors and students decided to do the world a favor and list words that they deemed to be offensive and offered substitutes that would be preferable. When the media found out that “American” was on the list, all hell broke loose.

As the chief purveyor of words here on grhgraph, I feel obliged to offer my humble opinion. Political correctness is the single worst thing that has happened to the art of communication since time began. Whoever came up with the concept that words should be politically correct didn’t even have the guts to explain what PC really stands for; it stands for preemptive censorship. They knew that saying it truthfully would not go over well, so they came up with a benign phrase that seems to have good intentions. Nothing could be further from the truth.

Prejudice exists in all facets of life. It is inescapable and therefore it needs to be dealt with, not denied. I don’t know a single person who hasn’t experienced it in their lifetime. I had my share of it daily, when I lived in New York City for 5 months in 1976-77. I was called every name in the book, in languages I didn’t even understand just for trying to do my job as a salesman. After months of abuse, I went to my manager, Ron Forzani, and said, “Why does everybody keep cursing at me?” Ron turned to me and said, “Stop complaining, at least they’re talking to you.”

Ron was the greatest salesman I ever met and he proceeded to offer me this invaluable lesson in effective communication. He pointed out that the worst kind of customer doesn’t say anything and you have no chance to sell that person anything. The good ones share their feelings, both good and bad. He said that overcoming objections and finding common ground was the key to winning at sales and letting New Yorker’s rant was essential. “If you chicken out while they’re yelling at you, then you have no chance.” He said that some of them even expect you to yell back at them just to prove you’re tough.

It was the most politically incorrect lesson I ever learned and it made me who I am today. So much so that, when I was given the opportunity to meet the production manager for the NY Daily News, I used his lesson to my advantage. Before we got to the client, the salesman I was with, took me aside and said, “He’s going to say some pretty horrible things to you but just stand there and take it because this is a really good account.” I walked into his office and was introduced as, “This is Guy Horst and he’s from Kansas.” The client squeezed the crap out of my hand and then said, “Kansas, isn’t that the asshole of the universe?” I smiled and said, “I don’t think so, I thought I was standing next to it.” The other salesman was having a heart attack at this point but the client just paused for a couple of seconds and said, “Hey kid, you’re all right. I was just wondering if you could take it.” He shook my hand again and we became friends immediately.

Do I wish we would have been kinder and more polite to each other? Sure, but the lesson here is that we chose our emotions and the way we reacted. The words we used didn’t cause us to hate each other but rather they gave us a common experience to laugh about. That client was actually one of the nicest people I met in NYC. He went out of his way to help me and I always paid my respects. I learned a lifelong lesson that day. Words will never define me, all that matters is how I react and that is all on me.

If I didn’t have the ability to control my emotions and my reactions to bad words, my life today would be miserable. I can’t count how many times, in the last few years of working with foster kids, I’ve been called an old, white guy. But then I have to remind myself that I’m old, I’m white and my name is Guy, so what part of that description is offensive? I could get mad but to what end? I can’t change my age or my skin color and I won’t change my name so why let it bother me? Political correctness is the coward’s way out and it really is preemptive censorship which is the worst kind of censorship of all. By making certain words off-limits, the self-proclaimed PC censors seek to unilaterally decide what’s best for all of us. Thanks, but no thanks, I don’t need your help. As long as the words being used are truthful, I’m okay with their meanings and I will decide for myself how to feel about them. I, for one, will never accept limits to my vocabulary or to my free speech rights as an American. If that offends someone else, that’s their problem not mine.

©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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“If it weren’t for the last minute nothing would get done.” (Unknown)

This is a great quote. I wish I knew who said it because it is so true. How many of us spend our whole lives in one constant attempt to squeeze one more thing into the last minute? And then, when we get to the latter stages of life, the last minute becomes a literal deadline. One minute we’re here and the next minute we’re not.

My earliest memories of working with my father were always about time. We had clocks or timers attached to all of the equipment associated with photography. Tenths of a second mattered more than hours or days. That sense of urgency is deeply imbedded in my psyche and it made me who I am. I’m hard-wired with an internal clock that is so precise I don’t even need an alarm clock. If I set an alarm clock, I will invariably wake up five minutes before it goes off. The only time it failed me was after a 37 hour work marathon that stretched over two days. I woke up long enough to turn off the clock but then I went right back to sleep. Thankfully, I had great employees and one of them bailed me out on the next deadline.

Time is the one thing in life that is completely irreplaceable, yet we treat it like there’s an unlimited supply. I can promise you there is not and making the most of it should be our highest priority, not an afterthought. I know my years, months, weeks, days, hours and minutes are numbered and I want to get the most out of them before the clock stops forever. That’s partly why I chose to work with foster children. For these kids, every good minute is a blessing because they are few and far between. I try hard to give them a little relief from the unrelenting turmoil that comes from broken homes and childhood trauma. No kid should ever have to grow up in a system where time stands still.

The problem for all of us is that time is unpredictable and precarious. We don’t know what is coming and we don’t know how much of it we will have to spend. We wake up every day expecting time to behave rationally and it bites us in the butt. The phone rings, the line at Starbucks is out the door, traffic is crazy, a dozen emails need to get answered and the meeting runs long because someone else has no sense of urgency at all. It’s now 3 PM and the day’s work is just getting started. Where did it go? What happened to our carefully organized plans for the day? All we can do is take a deep breath and make the best of it. We stay a little later to get caught up, we steal a few minutes after dinner to answer more messages and we get up a little earlier the next day to try again. All the while the clock is ticking and your life is too.

My advice to those of us who want to get the most enjoyment out of every single second of our existence is this, don’t let your life become a race to the finish. We all get there eventually but the lucky ones understand the value of meaningful moments along the way. And for me at least, those moments usually include an act of kindness done for someone else. I try to remember to say thanks as often as possible. I smile at people in the store and help little old ladies with their shopping carts. I tell jokes whenever someone needs a laugh. I’m not going to change the future but I can change that exact moment in time into something positive for that one other person.

For me, time is an experience that begs to be shared with as many people as possible. We’re all going through this life together and every connection we make is a precious chance to gather another minute from someone else. When I add my minute to their minute we get two minutes of shared enjoyment. That’s really the best kind. We’re just two people coming together for the sole purpose of expressing our humanity. We get more by giving more.

I want to invest my remaining time in people, nothing else. I want to do things every day that make me appreciate every second and I want to do them with you. Let’s all look for ways to make a difference in the lives of others. Let’s share the joys of life as often as possible with everyone we meet and let’s not wait for the last minute to get this done.

©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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“Lots of sheep, but no dog.” (Guy Horst)

Once upon a time there was a man named Joe. He was an executive for a large company in Chicago. Joe was good at meeting corporate expectations and keeping his boss happy. He rose through the ranks and finally achieved his American dream. Then it all fell apart. His company started a new HR program with 360 degree reviews and Joe didn’t do so well with his own people. He only lasted another year before he was asked to resign and given a severance package. When his wife found out, she left him.

Joe was starting to wonder why this had happened when he finally got some good news. A distant relative had died and left Joe his ranch in Montana. Joe decided that this was just the break he needed, so he packed up and moved to the ranch. His uncle had done well and the house and property were in good shape but Joe still needed a job. There weren’t many openings for senior management in the mostly rural community, so Joe thought about farming. He looked around at the neighbors and realized that most of them were raising cattle, bison or sheep. One of them even offered to sell Joe a flock of sheep to help him get started. Joe paid the going price for the sheep and had them moved to his ranch .

After a short while, it became apparent to Joe that sheep weren’t all that smart. They just ran away every time he went out to feed them or tried to round them up. A few of them were always trying to get away and they got caught up in the barbed wire fence. Some even succeeded but inevitably got killed by the coyotes. Joe mentioned this at the local co-op one day and another man offered to sell Joe some smart sheep. He assured Joe that his sheep were much more intelligent than the average sheep and they would lead the dumb ones Joe had. Joe bought a dozen of these smart sheep to manage the flock but soon realized he had been taken. The smart ones would come in for food and could be herded into a pen for shearing but they had no effect on the rest of the flock.

In desperation, Joe went to the county extension office and explained his problem. The county agent came out to visit and after looking around for a few minutes he said, “Well Joe, here’s your problem. You’ve got lots of sheep but no sheepdog.” Joe looked puzzled and said, “Why do I need a dog? Wouldn’t a dog just kill the sheep like the coyotes do?” The agent replied, “I don’t think you understand. A sheep dog, like a Border Collie or Australian Shepherd, is specially bred and trained to manage a whole flock of sheep. They protect them from predators, they keep them moving so they don’t over graze a pasture and they keep them from running off. They will even bring them right into your pens when you need to shear them or feed them. Sheep dogs are good at what they do and every flock needs at least one.” Joe asked, “Where can I get a good one?” The agent said, “The county fair starts next week and sheep herding is one of the events. There will be lots of good dogs with their breeders. I’m sure you can buy one there. You should come. It’s a lot of fun too.”

Joe was there on the first day of the herding event and he was amazed at the tenacity and intelligence these dogs displayed. One dog could move a hundred sheep by just barking and nipping. The sheep did exactly what the dog wanted and the dog made it look easy. Joe settled on an Australian Shepherd named Jack and he went home that night convinced he was on his way to being a successful rancher. The next day he let Jack out with the sheep. Jack paced around nervously and kept looking at Joe. Joe never said anything so Jack sat down in the shade. Joe grabbed his cell phone and called the breeder to demand an explanation. The breeder listened to Joe’s rant and then said calmly, “Joe, he’s a dog. You’re the boss. Did you tell him what you wanted him to do? He’s smart but he still needs a master who gives him good directions. If you would bring him by my ranch, I will tell you what words and hand signs to give him to get him to work for you.”

Joe and Jack got the training and started working as a team. Whatever Joe needed, Jack was eager to do and they thrived together. Soon enough, Joe was making a good living and he owed it all to Jack. When Jack finally died, years later, Joe placed a sign over his grave that said, “One good Shepherd is worth more than a thousand sheep.

©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 two most common elements in the universe are hydrogen and stupidity.” (Harlan Ellison)

I always thought that winning a Nobel Prize was an incredible accomplishment, that only the best and brightest could ever achieve. It turns out I was wrong. Apparently, Nobel Prize winners can be just as ignorant and foolish as the rest of us. This week, it was revealed that a Nobel Prize winning scientist named Tim Hunt is actually one of the most clueless men to ever walk the planet. Here’s the link to the article for background purposes.

https://www.yahoo.com/health/female-scientists-share-distractingly-sexy-121320623177.html

I’ve been around now for 60+ years and my opinions are based on real life experiences, both good and bad. So let me just say this once and for all. I would rather work with a department full of distractingly sexy women than one, Tim Hunt. Here’s why. Arrogant and insensitive men, like Tim Hunt, are a pain . This is just my opinion so please don’t waste your time trying to disprove it. Are their arrogant, insensitive women in the world? Absolutely, but they’re outnumbered 10 to 1 by men like Tim Hunt. Mr. Hunt thinks women cry too much. Maybe that’s because they have to work with men like him. It’s called causality, Tim. It’s a science term you should know by now.

The part of this story that makes my point is the way the women reacted. Taking photos and demonstrating their distractingly sexy side was absolutely the best response possible. They didn’t cry or complain, they just outsmarted him in a way that convincingly refutes his thesis. They didn’t even resort to calling him names, which is usually the go to response for most people in a similar situation.

Which brings me to the main point I would like to make. When are we ever going to stop generalizing about humanity? Every time someone utters this kind of nonsense it is immediately recognized as a completely irrational statement. In my experience, there are few, if any, absolute character traits that define the sexes and the same could be said for ethnicity and nationality. For every single idiotic generality I’ve ever heard, I can give a dozen examples of why it doesn’t make sense. In the end, the only thing we ever learn about humanity is that we are all equally capable of being clueless when it comes to understanding human behavior. Frankly, I would rather spend my time enjoying my relationships than wasting a minute in some futile attempt to categorize character traits. Maybe we should have a Nobel Prize for Stupidity and they have to pay the money back.

©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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“Integrity has no need of rules.” (Albert Camus)

This is one of my favorite quotes and somehow it finally found its way into my subconscious dream last night. It’s probably the result of too many times lately when my integrity has bumped up against the rules the state has instituted for the care of foster children. If we all had enough integrity, we wouldn’t need rules to govern our behavior. Unfortunately, integrity is in such short supply that we are left with rules for everything. Here’s how the collision of these two opposing forces exploded in my dream last night.

I woke up this morning not rested at all and with a headache to match. As I sat down for breakfast and popped open my laptop, I was surprised to find an old TV test pattern on my screen and it kept repeating the same audio message, “Stay tuned for an important public announcement at noon today.” I could do nothing to remove this virus from the computer so I went to check my phone. It had the same message and it wasn’t working either. Then I checked the TV and it was no different. I even tried my one TV with an antenna and it was there as well. With my head still reeling from the pain, I went back to bed and set my clock for 11:45.

I tossed and turned for a few hours but I can’t say it helped. Finally, I got up, took a shower and got dressed just in time for the big news. I sat down on the couch and turned on the TV just in time to see the test pattern slowly fade to black and the same voice begin to speak.  “Greetings people of Earth, this is your Lord God Almighty speaking to you in every language so that all can hear my words. I come to you in person today to clearly communicate my plans for your continuing existence on this planet. It has become abundantly clear to me that the evolution of the human race has reached a critical point. And yes, evolution is part of my plan. It’s the natural outcome of having free will and you all have taken full advantage of that. You now stand ready to take the next great leap forward in your development, if you freely choose. There’s just one catch. This time you will go it alone. I won’t be there to save you if you make the wrong choices. That is what you wanted isn’t it, the right to do whatever makes you happy?

You now have the intellectual capacity to reason, to decide and to act on your best interests so why would you want me around anyway? I could have made you into slaves that blindly followed my every whim but then faith wouldn’t mean much would it? No, I gave you free will and asked you to believe in me without any real proof of my existence. Some of you have been faithful but most of you have chosen to ignore my expectation to “Love one another as thyself.” That’s your right and I’m only a little surprised you made that choice. Free will works both ways and having control over your own destiny is a powerful motivator in the evolution of humans.

If you ever tried to understand my intentions you might have noticed that I really didn’t expect that much. Thou shall not kill, lie, steal, cheat, envy or have any other gods before me seemed to me to be a fairly reasonable request but again some of those can conflict with your desire to get ahead in life. Having a conscience and a higher purpose in life does make it a lot harder to be successful, so I can see where my expectations have met with the most resistance. Again, it was your choice and I respect you for making your own decisions. It’s just that my expectations are kind of essential to humanity as a whole. When you put your wants ahead of others needs you make it really hard for someone else to have enough to survive. I was hoping that fairness and a sense of togetherness would be self-evident ways to live as opposed to the mantra of me first, last and only. That’s the problem with free will, it’s unpredictable, even for someone as omnipotent as I. I chose not to control your every thought and I still believe that was the right decision in spite of the many great tragedies that mankind has brought on itself with avarice, hatred and the lust for power. You all made the choices and you all paid the price. It’s not what I wanted for you, but you didn’t ask me for advice.

Now it’s time to make another individual choice, and this one’s the biggest one yet. I am preparing another planet like Earth, in a parallel universe, and I am looking for people who would like to start a new life there. The people who go there will have an entirely different expectation this time around. This time the expectation will be absolute and undeniable. You will love one another as yourself or else you will be put to death immediately. It’s just another theory I want to test that given the highest possible expectation of existence, most true believers will easily accept this responsibility because the benefit far outweighs the cost. By establishing a new world where fairness and equality are the greatest achievements anyone can hope for, all of the bad parts of humanity will be eliminated. There will be no need for armies or policemen to enforce the power of the few over the many. There will be no need to legislate an endless supply of rules that govern all human interactions. On the other hand, there will be unlimited time to educate everyone, to fulfill every individual’s capacity for humanity and to share the joys of life.

I will give you all 24 hours to make your decision. I promise that the new planet will have all of the natural wonders that Earth does and your lives there will be every bit as good as the best parts of this planet. I also promise to remove every vestige of my name from the Earth, when I go. After tomorrow, there will be no recollection that God was ever part of this planet’s history. Every building and institution that ever used my name will be removed and the space will be taken up by green grass. I will also take with me the Constitution of the United States because it was written with my influence. There will be no printed money in any country of the world because most of it has my name on it. You’re all pretty good at printing lots of that so it shouldn’t be a huge problem to replace it. There will be no laws of any kind in your new godless world but since you are all so good at making decisions that best serve you, it should be easy to make up some new ones. The good news is that you really don’t need that many, this time around. Free will makes rules pretty irrelevant. I mean, if it feels good, you should be able to do it and without faith based morality to get in your way, there will be no absolute rules to argue with anyway.

Those of you who prefer to stay here will get everything you truly deserve, I promise that too. I will not intervene in any way to alter the future of Earth based on the choices you make as individuals going forward. This is truly the opportunity of a lifetime for those of you who prefer free will over faith. I am excited to see exactly how the two Earths progress from this point forward. And finally, I will get to test the theory put forth by Albert Camus that, ‘Integrity has no need of rules’.”

©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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“A dog is a man’s best friend PERIOD”

When I write this blog I try to be an objective observer of life and as rational as possible. Today, I will be neither objective nor rational so you’ve been warned. I just finished reading this article on Yahoo. Here’s the link and if you don’t read the whole article then don’t bother reading this post.

https://www.yahoo.com/politics/the-u-s-military-is-failing-its-canine-veterans-117867436181.html?soc_src=mags&soc_trk=copy

Reading this story was painful for me and I’m sure those of us who have a normal amount of compassion as humans will be just as enraged as I am. If this is the best we can do for our canine companions, we should all be ashamed. Considering all the wasteful spending that Congress has approved over the years, wouldn’t you think just once they could get one right? Taking care of dogs who were drafted into the service of their country, who risked their lives protecting presidents and politicians, who saved an average of 150 lives, who saved the taxpayers countless dollars by doing their jobs relentlessly should be the easiest decision any Congressman could ever make. They did none of that. The bill they passed was worded in such a way that it means nothing.

This shall not stand. We cannot do this to the world’s greatest animal. What dogs have done for humanity is second to none. Protector, companion, hunter, friend, guide… there aren’t enough superlatives in the English language to describe them adequately but the government lists them as equipment? They didn’t even ask for the job they were given and they never got paid for risking their lives. Would any politician ever do that?

So then, if the government is just that corrupt or stupid or dysfunctional that they can’t even take care of dog veterans, well then it’s up to us to do it for them. We the PEOPLE of the United States of America owe it to them big time. This debt is greater than that other one no one wants to talk about either because this one is all about humanity and compassion which are the character traits that define these dogs. Dogs don’t expect anything from us except our love and our time. They would die for us without hesitation and if we can’t figure out a way to return that compassion to them then we have no right to call them our friends.

If you’re still reading this and you’re not crying or as furious as I am, then I need to work on my writing skills. If, on the other hand, you believe in humanity and realize that we’re being tested by this crisis, then here’s what you can do. Write your Congressmen and tell them in no uncertain terms that wasteful spending for their pet projects will get them voted out of office if these dogs aren’t taken care of after their service is over. But please don’t stop there. Even if Congress decides to do what’s right, it will take months for them to actually do it. These dogs can’t wait for the molasses in January way that Congress moves. If everybody gave up one cup of drive-thru coffee in favor of making a donation to any of the organizations listed in the Yahoo article, then these dogs would be taken care of forever. One cup of coffee in exchange for the greatest companion ever known to man? That’s nothing and so far that’s all we’ve ever done for these dogs. Come on America, let’s show these dogs how much we care and how grateful we are that they share this planet with us. It’s called humanity for a reason and this is our chance to prove it.

©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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