“…everyone deserves a chance”
His Holiness The Dalai Lama
Sir Ken Robinson
I started this endeavor with a list of those people, who have influenced my understanding of myself, and how I fit into this existence of who I am. As with many of us, I am pondering my own experiences to gain an understanding of what my life could, and should mean to not only me, but also to my space in time. I truly believe that life is an opportunity to grow and develop into whatever we can perceive for the time and space we’re allowed to occupy. I was born in 1962, and had absolutely no input into that detail. I could have just as easily been born in 1972, or 1862 for that matter. Thus my experiences, and opportunities are contained within the boundaries of my lifetime. All of the aforementioned great thinkers I’ve been blessed to enjoy have somehow touched upon the aspect of what that means for me as I step forward each and every day to capture my part of history. They’ve each given me some insight into how my perception of all this can help to mold me into the future self I hope to become. This is particularly important in developing the understanding of achieving a purpose in life. Scholars, philosophers, scientists, clerics, and the likes have pondered this since, well, at least the beginning of the written word. My hopes are not to simply influence others for my own personal gain, but rather inspire people into looking within themselves, identifying their capabilities, as well as their struggles, so that together we can lift up humanity for the betterment of the whole society of mankind. All of us.
“Win/Win” is the title I’ve given this project, because it depicts my philosophy about beneficial human interaction. I truly believe humans exhibit more “good” than “evil” in the world today, or chaos would rule the world. More people are living a better existence in terms of access to education, nutrition, healthcare, and freedom that at any other period in the modern time. Granted, much room for improvement is available, and there are some pretty messed upped agenda’s being sought by humans lacking in any real capacity any compassion what so ever, but the majority are attempting to get along with one another. I was in Morocco earlier this year, and was engaged in a philosophical discussion with an amazing gentleman named Nour, when I replied to one of his economic points with the phrase “Win/Win”. His eyes lit up as he soaked in the pretext for the concept behind the words. Having grown up in this magnificent country, and having seen its evolution to rise above the struggles of oppression, and having worked in the Peace Corp in his younger years, he saw in that simple double worded phrase, the idea of hope. Nour recognized how when two or more people engage in a transaction that benefits all individuals, there is progress. Not just financially, but culturally, and even spiritually, if a bond of trust is developed and fostered to a better existence for those involved. I certainly didn’t coin the phrase, but it was so apparent it was descriptive of the kind of world I wished to develop. Realizing I lack the credibility, time, and resources to implement such a grand idea, I opted to write about my version of it, so it can be shared with all who are so inclined to inquire. The following is my story, and my view of where we’ve been, where we are, and a target of where we can be. I’m not a scientist, or even a college graduate for that matter, but for some reason I’ve been blessed with the capacity to see the world the way I do. I’ve struggled with the why, now I’m ready to express this capacity of perspective to the rest of humanity. I have no ego driven agenda, so feel free to put your two cents worth into the pot. I’ve come to this place not by dismissing the thoughts of others, but rather by embracing all of those that offer a better understanding of what’s missing from a better life for everyone. Doesn’t everyone deserve at the very least…a chance?
Chapter 1: Me
I was born on a Friday in Texarkana, TX the first child, and the first grandchild on both sides of the family. I started out life with a tuff go of things, as I was a breech birth in an era where fancy kitchen tongs were utilized to retrieve difficult deliveries. Because of my precarious position relative to delivery, my head had been lodged under mom’s rib cage, causing my head to be out of whack and very bruised and contorted, having been folded in half for some time in the womb, my intestines were pinched giving me terrible colic for the first few weeks of my infancy. Once my folks figured out that soy formula was the trick, I developed my current love for food, and consuming it. I tell you all these details to give you some perspective on my perspective of myself and what I’ve developed as my perspective on life and the world within the universe where everyone exists. Mine is only significant to me and those who hold me dear in their hearts, but that too is the story of everyone. Now, back to me. My family, that nurtured me until my consciousness and beyond, is a big part of who I’ve become. My grandparents were all born to obscure poverty from 1911 – 1921 and grew up during the Great Depression. No one involved in their era had the choice of avoiding its effects and life long impacts on their perspectives. None of my grandparents ever bought anything they didn’t absolutely need. Their view of material possessions was so vastly affected by the trying times they all had endured. “Papa Pat” (my mothers father) was the eldest, and subsequently lived the longest, he was abandoned by his mother, after his father had already strayed off to the comforts of booze and loose women, Papa was the ripe old age of thirteen. His older sister married at fourteen, and his younger brother Bill moved in with his uncle in northern Louisiana, not far from Texarkana. Papa eventually went to work for the Martin family, who owned a farm and general store. Papa’s first job, as he told the story, was digging holes and setting outhouses. He claimed to have been paid $5 per outhouse. He quickly realized the benefits of hard word, then moved to delivering newspapers to oilfields on horseback. His male influences were the men his mother would bring around, and the oilfield roughnecks of the early 1920’s. This experience hardened him to a lot of aspects of life, but I never woke a single day without deeply knowing his love for me. He joined the Navy in 1929, and spent a career fighting for his country as a true American hero. His collection of medals for his bravery are posted on the wall in my office today. “Grandad” my dad’s father, lost his father and most of his siblings to the influenza epidemic of 1918. He was a small child at the time, but his mother remarried a man, who was horrible to Grandad for the remainder of his childhood. He went on to eventually attain a Masters Degree from the University of Arkansas as an adult, and was a High School principal in Texarkana during the 60’s and 70’s, when there was tremendous social unrest among the students of that particular era. He wasn’t as warm as Papa Pat, but he constantly educated even his grandchildren to his understanding of the world he knew. What I admired most about him was his work ethic, and acceptance to the responsibility he attained. He worked administering civil service exams until he was 87, not because he needed the income, but rather, because he needed to educate. My grandmother’s were arguably the most amazing women I’ve known thus far in my life. Papa’s wife, “Granny Bug”, graduated High School on a Friday night, married a Navy man on Saturday, and hopped on a train to California on that Sunday. She matured into her role as an adult around other Navy wives, as she lived all over the country, and even in the Pacific after the war, raising children and supporting the man she loved. Many of those lessons were handed down to me during my childhood and even into my adult life, as all four of them lived up until my early 40’s, having an influence on not only me, but my children as well. Grandmother, Grandad’s wife was arguably the sweetest, dearest person I’ve ever known. She grew up in the best circumstances of all the grandparents, having come from an industrious family, that were entrepreneurs in many ways. Her father was one of five brothers, who all managed to achieve financial success during the depression, by working hard, and identifying the opportunities that arose from such a bleak era. She once told me her mother sat an extra place setting at each dinner meal for anyone passing through looking for work. Grandmother never complained about anyone, or anything. She got her education alongside Grandad, and taught the fourth grade in Texarkana for over 30 years. Being a career woman during my early childhood, she wasn’t the best cook in the family, but kept a stool in the kitchen for me to stand on, so I could help. There again, I never knew a moment while they were alive, that I didn’t feel in every way…loved. The blessing for me and my younger sister was being the eldest, as well as living the closest to our grandparents, we spent the entire summer every year in Texarkana with them, from the time we were old enough to, up until we were old enough to choose not to. Now there are so many complex factors involved in raising and influencing a child through early developmental years and beyond into adolescence and adulthood, but family influences are incredibly strong. Most other influences don’t have the benefit of starting from birth, and staying in tact throughout that whole time frame. I will touch on this significant impact in a later chapter, but for now, I simply wanted to indicate what a meaningful part of who I am was derived from something I had little to no control over. A blessing, not an entitlement. My parents were prototypical for their era, marrying right out of high school, starting their family shortly there after. My father went on to graduate from the University of Arkansas with a civil engineering degree, and mom was the dutiful wife working to support them through school, so that once he graduated she could just be a full time homemaker. My sister came along two years after me, and we were good to go, a very average American family, or so I thought. Looking back, I sometimes wonder what brought them together, given their distinctly opposite perspectives on the world, and life in general for that matter. Mom grew up living in many places, exposed to diverse influences from Papa’s navel career moving them from place to place, then settling on a farm just outside Texarkana. All circumstances beyond her control. Dad grew up in and around Texarkana, having spent his early childhood on a small farm, but moved into the city as a preadolescent teen, only to begrudge Grandad for many years over that decision. Mom was a rule follower, Dad a rule breaker. Mom wanted a suburban life, Dad wanted a rural one where he could hunt and fish, and live the nonconformist existence he always dreamed of. They both got exactly that, during their second marriages. Their sixteen years of marriage to each other only grew them further away from whatever spark had brought them into it. After living in Fayetteville, Sylvan Hills, Rogers, then Little Rock, my brother came along unexpectedly, when I was eleven. That was the year we moved to West Memphis from Little Rock, at the start of my sixth grade year in school. It was the first year for court ordered desegregation bussing for the city of Little Rock, and violence and protests were a daily fixture on both local and national news. It’s hard to truly imagine what that was like back then, because then, it was so common place, and today they’re still plenty of elements of social tension over a variety of issues. I guess that’s a big part of what’s brought me to writing this book. While so much has improved in my lifetime, so much more remains to be seen. It would take several years of mistakes and not living up to my potential to realize my path was headed down the same road as my father. I idolized my father growing up, and having him abandon me and my siblings was tough to overcome. I was fortunate enough to have reconciled much of that devastation during my early twenties, by going to live with him after dropping out of college, and not only gaining respect for myself, but seeing him recover much of what he lost within himself over the same period of time. My sister, who possesses many of the same personality traits as our father, also salvaged a major part of what was lost during his absence, during this same period of time, while attending college and getting a degree in chemical engineering, that Dad paid for. His absence had caused emotional wounds, his reemergence into our lives had healed so much. The unfortunate story from all this was Dad and our younger brothers inability to reconcile their differences, issues that still exist today for my brother. Our father fell over dead from a heart attack in December of 1995.
This book isn’t about my life, but rather just enough of myself for people to find something to identify with. There are far too many little details to include in the brief allotment for that portion of the manuscript. As I type away at this portion, I realize more will be added about me at some point, but I’m compelled to move forward to the real meaning of my thoughts and work. How can we as a species do better than we currently exhibit in the world today. What is the formula for more “Win/Win” encounters and transactions among a larger group of the total population? Somewhere in our collective future, we must bind together in a family like cohesiveness. I contend that the word family cans extend far beyond DNA compatibility, and friendship at the deepest level satisfies all the criteria other than genetic bonds for identifying someone as such. That requires opening up in a way most people reserve for a very select few, to even more people than were comfortable confiding in. Allowing yourself to be vulnerable on purpose crosses the line for the vast majority. The ego despises that way of thought, and fights vigorously to avoid its presence. Yet, it’s through the belief we all belong to the same team, the human race, compassion can be born. It’s taken me up to this point in my life to realize such, and guiding others to the shortcut just seems to make sense in my mind. This is a key component in my thesis, given that the vast majority of all human conflict starts with a quest for some form of control and/or advantage. Someone wins, someone loses, just don’t let it be me? We don’t consider life in this way, mostly out of denial. If we get what we want absent of having to watch or know of someone else giving up something, we’re fine in not knowing. Jewelry and precious stones best exemplify that relationship. Rocks that don’t lie around on the ground at our feet, and must be discovered in their limited natural locations, by intense expensive extraction methods fetch an amazing price at the local store. Very few people extract the cost along the supply chain, examining the various levels of profit distributed along the way. The artistically formed metal encasing the precisely cut stone makes us feel special. It a sign of something, love, respect, financial status, appreciation for years of service. How does the person providing that metal and stone come out? I’m willing to suggest, if you had to live with this person for a week before acquiring the fruits of their labor, your experience and perspective would shift. But now I digress, I’ve been attempting to keep thoughts in chronological order, and they don’t seem to flow from my mind in such a way. Today my focus gravitates toward the equality of the human experience against the reality of how that continually plays out today. How can any biological organism deserve more than any other like/kind organism? How can any one person expect to benefit at the expense of another person, and be alright with that, while claiming all the while to have faith in some type of higher existence? The title I’ve derived for my collection of thoughts and ideas addresses this disconnect. Capitalism defines the value of our time verses the free market, yet the opportunity to participate denies so many from fair value. The United States represents 5% of the global population, yet we consume a disproportionate amount of the global resources and supply chain. Much is debated about the effects of modern day globalization, but the results are driven by a grand society striving to achieve a higher standard of living for everyone, even though the value of their time doesn’t align with their ability to provide such. This mismatch of materialistic want and value of time means that in order for those at the bottom of the socioeconomic food chain to feel as though their lives are progressing, someone, somewhere must live their life at an even lower value expectation. This linear progression of capitalism plays out in a very negative unintended way. People become complacent about improving their personal value proposition, and they are soon replaced by someone more aggressive in this race than themselves. Without adversity to challenge us to grow, our view of ourselves gets distorted, and our world begins to shrink. I know I eluded to the title in the very beginning of this rant, and I haven’t lost that thought. I realize all this is confusing to follow, but bear with me. If your personal value proposition aligns with your existence, one suddenly considers all those aspiring to improve that for themselves, and appreciation for everyone’s efforts takes precedence over gathering more stuff to ease the pain of not doing your best. What if the value of all our stuff truly represented the value of the lives behind its existence in a fair and equitable fashion, thus everyone involved, wins…”Win/Win”! Government is a lousy way to mandate that, and the free market only seeks to offer up losers to provide for winners. This entire concept of mine only comes from a change in the way we as individuals see ourselves relative to everyone else, without the fear of seeing everyone else as a threat to our materialistic aspirations.