We all have to stop being afraid

We all have to stop being afraid

fear, happinessCuriosity will conquer fear even more than bravery will. ~ James Stephen

Everyone is afraid

There is a lot of desolation out in cyberspace, a lot of destructive language.  I mean the idea that Trolls exist is really amazing and horrifying to me.  Think about it, there are large numbers of people in this world whose sole form of connection to the rest of us is to write horrible things on the internet for the sole purpose of getting reactions and hurting people’s feelings.

We are constantly subjected to language and information whose sole purpose is to divide us from our fellow humans.  For political gain political parties, political candidates and apparently even foreign governments put out divisive material.  Under this onslaught of negativity people fall prey to faulty thinking, silly ideas and their own prejudices.  We all know this, we all see it in the comment sections to news articles.  At the center of a lot of this is just fear.

love more fear less

Love more Fear less

I get it, life is hard and there are so many things that you can worry about out.  Disease, war, crime, terrorism, losing your job so many things can go wrong in life.  People can be absolutely awful and often you don’t get treated the way you should be.  So we’re afraid, afraid to die, afraid to fail, hell we are even afraid to succeed.  But fear is a liar.

fear happiness

Fear is killing your happiness

Overcoming your fears

It is important in life to overcome our fears.  Our fears are solely dependent on us for their very existence.  Past our fears is where our dreams live and so to get to your dreams you first have to beat back your fears.  It’s not an easy thing, I know that, but it’s a necessary thing if you want to find happiness.

fear, happinessIf you read this blog regularly you know about the things I’ve done, traveling to the Middle East for vacation, doing a 1000 miles on the Appalachian Trail, and photographing Polar Bears.  I was afraid in some way to do all of those things.  There were legitimate terrorism fears on my trip to Jordan and an ISIS attack occurred when I was there that killed over 30 people.  Polar bears, well hell, they will eat you.  And before I started my hike on the Appalachian Trail I’d never done an unsupported hike of over two days.  So there was fear before every one of those adventures and that’s ok.  But overcoming those fears led to some absolutely amazing life experiences, that’s what overcoming your fear can do for you and why it’s so important. Life is a one-way, one-time trip and you have to make the most of it and find happiness wherever you can.

There is no mystical, magical formula to overcoming your fears, I wish there was.  At the end of the day you just have to have courage.  A quote I’ve seen recently that I really like,is that being fearless when your most afraid is the greatest life hack.  Sometimes you just have to jump, I know it’s hard but it’s worth it in the end.

So my friends, attack your fears, have courage, jump and have a happy day. ~ Rev Kane

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Happiness, Mindfulness & Decisions

Happiness, Mindfulness & Decisions

rev kane

Rev Kane relaxing in the arctic snow flurries

Make bold choices and make mistakes. It’s all those things that add up to the person you become. ~ Angelina Jolie

It’s been a confusing couple of weeks for me, of course it’s also been an incredibly busy.  There is the standard 50 hour work week.  On top of that is my blogging work, my creative writing and of course everything related to marketing my book that just came out Appalachian Trail Happiness.  I’m not complaining, I’ve brought this all on myself as I work toward getting to my goal of transitioning to someone who makes more of my living via writing and speaking engagements.

Also, things are going well.  I’ve picked up two more speaking gigs in the last few weeks.  I’m also very excited to have finally gotten through to the permit lines for Havasu Falls and will be doing a backpacking trip into the fall in April.

Havasu Falls

Havasu Falls

I’m also looking to buy a new camera for hiking, it’s been a few years since I’ve updated my camera equipment and I realized on my Jordan trip that particularly in low light photography the technology has eclipsed what I have currently been using.  Plus I want to go to something lighter than my DSLRs.

There have been a couple of big decisions I’ve been mulling over, one pretty personal that I’ll keep to myself for now.  The second is more career oriented.  As those of you who read this blog regularly know, every five years I leave my job and take off on an adventure.  My next one is creeping up in 2019.  I’m hoping to do a really big trip if I can get sponsorship, the plan is to do a hike on each of the seven continents with a few side trips as well.   Tentatively I’m looking at Everest Base Camp, Mt. Kilimanjaro, Machu Pichu, finishing the Appalachian Trial, the overland trek in Tasmania, the Western Highland and Great Glenn Ways in Scotland and of course any place I walk on Antarctica will be utterly amazing.

The trip has been tentatively settled in my mind for a time.  The question I’ve been struggling with has been related to what position I come back to after the trip.  I’ve been sitting on the fence between, dropping into a program directorship or faculty position, jobs that would give me more personal satisfaction.  Or, come back to larger higher paying positions that have less student contact.  A lot of what has been driving my decision is how it will impact my pension at retirement based on when I’d like to retire.  After wrestling with this decision I’ve decided that the higher paying positions make more sense.  I think I’ve been at this decision for a time, but now I’m finally comfortable with it.

This is the dilemma we all deal with, we all have that idea of what would be a perfect career, but reality gets in the way and it’s hard to get to where we want to be.  The answer is to have a clearly set goal, to be patient and make progress, constantly make progress until you can finally jump fully into what you want to do.

happiness, everest

At the Everest Rock Bar after the white-knuckle flight to Lukla on the trail to Everest

So I’ve had all of this on my mind and I’ve been really busy.  This has led to me also being really scattered, not paying as much attention to my health and that has messed with my sleep a bit.  Which all means it’s time to do what you always have to do when you are out of sorts and come back to basics.  Sleeping right, eating right, exercising and being more mindful.  So I’ve started eating better, starting meditating as well and started focusing on being more mindful.  That point was especially driven home when a friend thanked me for the signed copy of my book I sent him, just one problem, in my scattered state I forgot to sign it.  Coincidentally I had just done a post on mindfulness so that worked out well.

I’ve also ramped up my workouts, because in a little over four weeks I’ll hit the trail to Havasu and I really can’t wait.  Tonight my friends I hope you are all busy as well, I hope you are making progress on your goals and having many happy days ~ Rev Kane

Other Posts You Might Enjoy!

My Everest Base Camp Travelogue

Happiness and the Benefits of Gratitude

Fear is Killing Your Happiness

Happiness is a Choice

Writing Away the Darkness

Appalachian Trail Happiness, Where to buy the Book

My Polar Bear Adventure

 

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What is Happiness?

What is Happiness?

Simple Joy

Simple Joy

Be happy for this moment. This moment is your life.  ~ Omar Khayyam

So I sat down tonight to do my weekly post and I hit the wall that is writer’s block.  I played some of the mental games I normally do in this situation and nothing seemed to help.  Nor did cooking a pot of curry, a shower, a fire or anything else.  Finally, in a last attempt to stir my brain I Googled happiness and the first thing that popped up was a definition.  So I decided tonight that I should answer that most basic of question, what is happiness.

Let’s start with the dictionary definition:

Happiness is a mental or emotional state of well-being defined by positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Happy mental states may also reflect judgements by a person about their overall well-being.

unaka quoteOne of the places, as the quote suggests, where I find happiness is in nature.  I love hiking and just being in nature.  Natural quiet is something I seek out as our world becomes ever louder.  To be able to sit in the sun and hear nothing but natural sound brings me incredible contentment.

We all have those moments and times where we find joy, pleasure or contentment.  But we do not survive on just those moments, they provide temporary sustenance for our souls but my goal is to live in a state of happiness.  I’m not naive, I realize that no person is happy every single second of their life.  Things happen to us, those close to us are hurt or die.  We make the wrong choice and get our hearts broken and sometime the vagaries of chance claim our day.  Yes, these things will happen to all of us, they are unavoidable.

This is why I’d like to add something to the dictionary definition of happiness.  Resilience, happiness is about feeling joy and contentment, but it’s also about resilience.  Resilience is your ability to bounce back after a set back or even tragedy.   First, it’s important that we know what happiness is, that we experience joy and contentment so that we know what state of being we’re chasing.  Second, we need to become stronger people, we need to understand that we can survive the things that happen to us.  We can not only overcome and get past them, but that we can be happy again.  You can learn how to build all four types of resilience.

We must develop the tools and habits in our life to make sure we can attain happiness when things go wrong.  We have to associate ourselves with people who make us feel good about ourselves.  We need to smile, choose to be positive and to take the best side of any situation.  We need to be grateful for what we have and express that gratitude.  At a most basic level we need to stay healthy, we need to sleep enough, avoid stress, exercise and eat right.

If we do these things we can be happy, we can stay in a state of contentment and find joy and even when things go wrong we can find our way back and have happy days my friends ~ Rev Kane

Other Posts You Might Enjoy!

Happiness and the Benefits of Gratitude

Fear is Killing Your Happiness

Happiness is a Choice

Writing Away the Darkness

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Happiness and Being Single

Happiness and Being Single

zMy alone feels so good, I’ll only have you if you’re sweeter than my solitude. ~ Warsan Shire

I have never been married, so funny how that feels like a confession of some kind of sin in America.  The expectation of this society is that at some point in early adulthood you should marry.  You know, settle down, have some kids and being a good little cog in society’s wheel works.  I don’t say this lightly, there is an immense pressure in America on single people to marry.  The pressure is even more so on women and there is an even greater pressure on them to have children.  This is the script of American society and we are all expected to play by the script or be cast out to the edges of society, made to feel different.  Never underestimate the potency of making someone feel like they don’t belong.

People very often succumb to this pressure and marry the “best” person they can find, the one that most fits their idea of what society wants for them when they hit the point they think they should marry.  Safety, security, the right looks, a nice enough person, an attractive enough person.  I know I sound utterly cynical but the simple statistic that 50% or more of marriages fail would seem to back up my thoughts on the subject.  Don’t get me wrong, I know of some fantastic marriages.  One of my best friends has been married nearly 30 years and has a wonderful marriage.

In talking one time to a good friend, she was utterly confused as to why I wasn’t married.  In her opinion, I was attractive, smart, fun a good person, successful and I had dated a number of women.  In questioning me she finally came to a conclusion, “you won’t settle.”  She said this to me with a mix of surprise and revelation.  No, I won’t settle, to me there has never been an imperative that I should marry.  If the circumstances are right, then sure, I’d be happy to marry.  But if marrying someone won’t make me happier than I am alone, why would I marry just to fit some societal script, or to alleviate the fear society beats into us of growing old alone.

I am not alone in this thought.  This past weekend I had long conversations with two single female friends, one never married, one who is divorced.  They have similar ideas about being single and both are incredible women.  Both, as I, have made a decision that being happy is more important that meeting societies expectations.

But all choices have their consequences

It is not easy living outside of societies expectations.  There are some huge upsides to being single, the independence, the control over your own life and decisions, but there are down sides as well.  At times, particularly if you’re not well, it can be lonely.  There is no one who will automatically be the person to pick you up at the airport or from a medical procedure, especially if you have moved to a new place, or live where there is no family nearby.  You rely on your friends and sometimes that can be awkward.

In talking with my friends, and I’m in agreement with them, I do not regret the choices I’ve made or where I find myself in life.  You make the most of the situation you find yourself in, wherever you are at.  I would have liked to have had children, but it would have never been acceptable to me to have been an unhappy parent.  Had the situation and the timing been right, it would have happened, but it didn’t.  So now I get to spoil my nieces and nephews like they are my own.

Happiness is a choice and an attitude, you need to be happy with what you have.  You need to make choices that make you happier regardless of what society expects.  So be good to yourself, true to yourself and you’ll have happy days my friends ~ Rev Kane

Other Posts You Might Enjoy!

Happiness and the Benefits of Gratitude

Fear is Killing Your Happiness

Happiness is a Choice

Writing Away the Darkness

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Happiness is Hiking

Happiness is Hiking

pct-4In every walk with nature, one receives far more than he seeks ~ John Muir

It had been far too long since I’d been on the trail.  Having moved to the desert and started a new job, a combination of being busy, fires in the mountains and blazing heat kept me trapped in the valley.  This past weekend I finally broke out.  It has been almost a year since I left the Appalachian Trail and almost six months since I did any hiking.  I decided to head up to the Pacific Crest Trail (PCT), specifically to Kennedy Meadows.  Most people know Kennedy Meadows from the movie Wild, Cheryl’s arrival at the General Store there is a fairly memorable scene.

pct-6It was a great drive up the mountains slipping out of the high desert at 3000 feet to climb up the Sierras to over 6000 feet.  I made a stop at the General Store and picked up a map of the area.  Heading over to the Kennedy Meadows Campground I parked and headed out on to the PCT.

pct-5It felt so good to be wearing my Merrill’s to have a little bit of weight on my back and my walking sticks in my hands.  It’s not the best time of year to hike this part of the Sierras, there’s no water in the streams, the landscape is pretty brown.  On the way up I drove through one of the recently burned out areas, it’s sad to see so many trees standing black.  But there were some plants flowering in the meadows and it was warm but not hot.

pct-1I did a short hike, it was only a four mile out and back and I hiked out at a really leisurely to the bridge crossing the dry southern fork of the Kern River.  A few things hit me right away on the trail.  First, it felt so good to be back on a trail, it felt like I was free again, that I didn’t have a job and responsibilities and all of the inanities that come with our work lives.  Recently I’d been thinking a lot how much faster time goes by when you are working, the get up, go to work, go home, go to bed, rinse and repeat of it all flies by far too fast.  But my two hours on the trail felt like two full days at work, it was wonderful.

pct-2I stopped by the bridge and had a snack, did battle with a hornet who really wanted some of my peanut butter and just enjoyed being in the mountains and in the quiet.  Just flat-out being happy in the moment.  The walk back I decided to pick up my pace and make some time heading back.  Stretching myself a little felt good, there were moments it almost felt like I was back in hiking form.  Of course the nap I needed once I got home showed me I wasn’t, but I laid down on the couch with a smile on face and dozed off for a time.  So my friends, get outside, do a couple of miles and have a happy day.  ~ Rev Kane

Other Posts You Might Enjoy!

Appalachian Trail Happiness: Readers’ Favorite Posts

Appalachian Trail Happiness: The Book

My Appalachian Trail Resources Page

Appalachian Trail Happiness: Trail Community

Appalachian Trail Happiness: Precious Moments

Appalachian Trail Happiness: My Favorite Little Hiker

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Are You Happy?

Are You Happy?

me drink“You have one job, to lead an extraordinary life.”  I’ve seen this quote attributed to a number of people, I’ve also seen it in several different forms so I’m not quite sure who to appropriately attribute it to, but I love it.  It’s my philosophy of life.

Now I’ve had plenty of people, when I bring this idea up, that start immediately writing it off and pointing out that without kids, or a wife I am more free than they are, so I can think this way and they can’t.  They my friends, are wrong, I consider it a lack of imagination.  I know what I’m talking about, I’ve seen it.  What is it?  Well in my journeys and on my adventures I’ve seen every type of human in every relational configuration out doing the same things I have done.  You see we all have responsibilities, we all have limitations but the limit that holds us back to the most is our own brain.  Whether it is buying into society’s script or our own limited imaginations, we are in control of our lives. We decide what we can achieve and how happy we can be.

The Eagles said it best, from Already Gone, “so often times it happens, we live our lives in chains, and we never even know we have the key.”

I didn’t always know this my friends, I wasn’t born with this insight, nor was I always as happy as I am today.  It took a long time to learn this idea, not intellectually but in my heart, it took time to internalize the concept.  I had to have to experience to truly believe that the more I stretched myself, the more adventures I went on, the more I followed my own script,  the happier I became.  So be yourself, love yourself, stretch yourself, take the road less followed and you might just find more happiness.  So tonight’s main point, a simple question.

Are you happy my friends?  No, not that quick nod, stop for a minute, sit back in your chair and really think about it, are you really happy?  If not, what would make you happy, if you are, what would make you even happier?  That’s the goal, those things, whatever they are, are the items for your bucket list.  But not for off in some distant future,  soon for those items that need planning and resources, NOW for the easy ones.  Even if it seems a little crazy, bring your kids, bring your parents, be a little crazy as the old commercial used to say, try it, you’ll like it.  You might just find a smile you haven’t seen in a while, you might become a bit happier than you are right now, you might even change your life and have many happy days my friends ~ Rev Kane

Other Posts You Might Enjoy!

Happiness and the Benefits of Gratitude

Fear is Killing Your Happiness

Happiness is a Choice

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Happy Travel Stories: Petra

Happy Travel Stories: Petra

petra, jordan, travel

Rev Kane at Petra

Wherever you go, go with all of your heart. ~ Confucius

So I’ve been thinking recently about starting a new series of posts.  I have lots of little stories from my travels, things that happen that are too long for a Twitter (@ministryofhappy) post, not quite able to be captured on Instagram (@reverendmichaelkane) and not a full blog post by themselves.  But they might make for some nice small blog posts now and then.  And since tonight I’m fighting with a head cold and a bit low on energy I’d write a smaller than normal post and test run this idea, so I hope you’ll bear with me.

Entering Petra you walk through a long canyon known as the Siq.  As we entered at dawn the rose-colored rock in the early light was truly spectacular.  We spent an amazing day in the city, I wrote about Petra in a previous post.

Within the city there are many Bedouin people, they live in Petra and make a living hustling the tourists so we had our fair share of approaches.  In the morning, the Bedouin who rented us the donkeys we rode up to the Monastery conveniently ended his ride at his sisters “store” on the side of the climb.  She was really interesting and we sat and had tea while they tried to sell us at least 20 different items.  One of the things that you are offered multiple times throughout the day are ancient coins found at the site.  While there certainly have been people n Petra for 2300 years and most certainly there are likely ancient coins to be found, it’s not likely that there are the hundreds available for sale each day.  As such, I was very leery of anyone who was offering to sell me rare coins.

As the day ended and we were leaving through the Siq we encountered a very old Bedouin.  His English was not great and of course he was offering to show me some coins.  I smiled and politely declined, I even considered buying one since he was such a pleasant fellow and I’m sure not able to hustle like the younger Bedouin.  But in the end, I thanked him and started to walk by, but he stopped me and pointed to the wall of the Siq and said, “Camel.”  At first, I didn’t understand and so he pointed more closely and I saw it, and as he pointed to some more I came to realize something really amazing.  The entire Siq, all of what had to have been at least a mile of canyon walls, had at one time been completely carved.  As we looked more closely, we could barely make out, caravans with camels, elephants and all manners of carvings.  I would have never seen it if it wasn’t for this old Bedouin.  I thanked him profusely and then decided to buy a coin from him.  But he smiled and this time he declined, then he took a coin and placed it in my hand a wished me well.

Now maybe he gave me a 2300 year-old coin, maybe he gave me a ten-cent fake, but the kindness he showed me was worth more than either.  This is one of the reasons I travel, just for these type of amazing little interactions, in small corners of the world.

Have a happy day my friends. ~ Rev Kane

 

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Happiness and Missing Some Perfect Days

Happiness and Missing Some Perfect Days

fix utah silouhetteI don’t like nostalgia, unless it’s mine. ~ Lou Reed

Today I’m allowing myself a bit of nostalgia, I’ve been back in the default world for a little over a month now.  I’m adapting, I’d be lying if I said it hasn’t been hard.  I’ve been working through the final edit on my book, Appalachian Trail Happiness, and it’s been making me miss my time on the trail.  But that’s not what I’m specifically nostalgic for today, today I’m dreaming about my time in Utah.  When I took my first break from work a little over ten years ago my big trip was to spend 22 days hiking the high passes of the Himalayas.  In order to prep for that trip I needed to spend some time doing a little altitude training.  I’m lucky that my family has a cabin near Bryce Canyon National Park and I stayed there for three months.

fix utah red rocks

fix utah navajo 2My time in Utah was an idyllic experience, my days were absolutely perfect.  I would wake in the morning, cook breakfast, pack a lunch and then spend several hours hiking in one of the national or state parks in the region.  I’d return home, work in the yard a bit, eat a meal, read for a time and then take a late afternoon nap in my hammock.  I’d wake up, watch the sunset, eat dinner then sit down to write for a couple of hours before bed.  It was a wonderful and simple time.

fix navajo queen

fix kodachromeSo a short and simple post tonight, a little nostalgia as the default world grinds me down a bit.  But never fear my friends, I have a plan and things are moving forward and I’m having happy days my friends, I hope you are as well.  ~ Rev Kane

Other Posts You Might Enjoy!

Great Hikes & Treks

Happiness is Taking Risks

Fear is Killing Your Happiness

Happiness is a Choice

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Sometimes Happiness is hard…

Sometimes Happiness is hard…

sad smiley
You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty. ~ Mahatma Gandhi

This is not my normal type of post for the Ministry of Happiness, but these my friends are not normal times, or maybe they are, and if so, then I’m really sad.

I had a hard time getting out of bed this morning.  It started with the fact that I’ve tweaked some muscles in my neck and it eases up during the day but stiffens overnight.  So raising my head this morning to get up was a painful proposition.  So I laid back down and got lazy and grabbed my phone and procrastinated getting out of bed.  I quickly encountered the news about the officers who were shot in Dallas, there was information about a black man found hung in Piedmont Park in Atlanta.  It was quickly deemed a suicide, too quickly some believe and no autopsy is too be performed.  It’s hard right now to simply just trust the authorities after the recent news about the deaths of more black men being shot on traffic stops or while selling CD’s in front of a store.  I don’t want to have that distrust but these days it is pretty hard not to.

The news hit me harder than I expected, I laid in bed for a while feeling what I can only describe as despair.  Sure, I got up, I went to work and while engaged in all of the busyness of my job I was distracted and felt ok.  But once that ended it was back, throughout the day via Facebook I saw posts that made me hopeful, posts about hope and unity going forward.  But I also saw far too much hate in the responses of people to the events that have happened and it filled me with despair.

I’m a lucky man, I have friends of all types scattered all over the world (I wish they were nearer).  My selected family is composed of a wonderfully diverse set of humans and this set includes conservatives, deeply religious Christians, Atheists, Buddhists, Muslims, flaming liberals, libertarians and people who really don’t care at all about politics.  I have gay, straight, bi and trans friends, I have monogamous happily married friends, swinger friends, even polyamorous friends.  These friends come in every shade of human and within all of those sets and there are some combinations of descriptors that make for some seriously lovely and unique humans.

In the last few weeks, we’ve seen a lot of the communities my friends exist in get attacked, from Orlando to Minnesota, from Baton Rouge to Dallas, yes I have family and friends who are cops as well.  I’m sick of it, I’m tired of the hate, the ignorance, the political polarization, the myth of an exceptional America.  An exceptional country does not harbor the levels of disrespect, hate and racism that exist in this country.

We have to change, for the savior of our country and our very souls we have to do better.  These issues are not the fault of liberals or conservatives, the media is not the problem, President Obama did not cause this.  We are the cause of all of it and that is both the good and the bad news.  The good news being that if we caused it, we can fix it.

unityWe have to get off of the stereotypes, but we also have to correct the problems of bias and racism that are cooked into the very structure of our society.  Let me tell you how I learned about white privilege in fourth grade.  In our elementary school locker room we had baskets we left our clothes in when we changed for gym class.  Some idiot flipped a bunch of baskets over while we were in class and our clothes were jumbled.  No big deal, there were three of us and there were three pair of underwear.  One generic pair that were pretty ratty, and two pair of Fruit of the Looms, one pristine, one in good shape but with a little split near the tag.  The three of us, one white, one black, and one brown.  Now two of us were middle class, one was very poor and as such he immediately and accurately was given the non-Fruit of the Loom pair.  That left two of us and I honestly believed that my underwear had no damage.  My friend Joe, also believed the same thing.  The gym teacher came in, heard the claim and without blinking gave the split pair to the black kid and gave me the pristine pair.  I felt vindicated until walking down the hall a little while later I remembered, mine did have a split.  For a long-time I didn’t understand why I was automatically given the best pair.  It took me being older and reflecting on it to realize it had simply been the color of my skin.

The way people look should not be how we determine how to treat them, but it is.  We treat white, black and brown people different.  Beautiful people are treated better, I get far better treatment in my work clothes than I do on the weekend in a pair of jeans.  If we determine someone looks gay, whatever the hell that is supposed to look like, we treat them differently.  Dressed like a hippie, have a big beard, be anything but 1950’s normal white in this country and you are treated differently.

I saw a post from someone today about how they were incorrectly pulled over and they listened to the cop and nothing bad happened.  The person that wrote it was white and the implication was clear, that if black people just behaved themselves they wouldn’t have any problems, wouldn’t get shot.  The post made me incredibly angry, this person’s world view is myopic and bigoted whether they realize it or not.  It made me sick that people liked the post.  I don’t fit the 1950’s stereotype of white America, I have been pulled over for driving while looking like a hippie, this past year a cop admitted that the way I looked was the reason for the stop.  I have had cops try to do illegal searches on these stops, I’ve been roughed up, I once had my driver’s license whipped into my eye.  Black and brown drivers have it way worse than I do.  So no, just obeying the law and doing what your told sometimes isn’t protection against harm, and when it happens often enough to a person, they understandably get frustrated and angry.  None of this justifies being unjustly shot by a cop and as horrible as the ingrained racism in our society is, the reaction can’t be to start shooting cops that’s equally unjust.

stewartI’m afraid for my country tonight, a hot summer Friday night with passions running high and protests in many, many places.  We may be seeing a return to the type of violence and upheaval we saw in the late sixties.  I would have hoped we could have gotten to the kind of positive change we saw after that period, without the violence, but it doesn’t look like that will be our path.

What can we do?  You’re one person, you can’t fix society, end institutional racism, de-polarize America’s politics by yourself, and you’re right.  But there are things we can do, simple things that may seem silly but may have more of an impact than you imagine.  First, smile at people, especially people who don’t look like you, especially people who are likely on the margins of society, hell go crazy and say hello or have a nice day for no damn reason, hold the door open for them, thank them if they hold a door for you.

Call out the bullshit in your world, if your friend or family member expresses an idea that is bigoted call them out.  Ok, you’re 90 year-old grandma gets a pass, but no one else. There is no need to do it publicly and start a fight, delete the comment, message them directly and have a conversation friend to friend without name calling or anger, the purpose is for everyone to understand each other, to understand the impact that our words have.  If someone can’t do that, do you really want them as a friend on your social media account?  I realize confrontation sucks, but allowing bigoted remarks to stand on your page is tacit approval of what’s being said.

Watch your assumptions.  I see people jumping on each other because they assume intent that may not be there.  Not every black person hates white people, not all whites are racist.  Just because someone supports Black Lives Matters it doesn’t mean they don’t think other lives don’t, don’t assume they do.  Equally, don’t assume that whites who feel frustrated or feel under attack are racists, you can feel the pressure of change, you can feel embattled and not turn to hateful thoughts.  We all must find a way to put ourselves in other people’s shoes.

Actually talk to people.  We have to talk to each other about these issues, not on social media, not in sound bites, but face to face.  We have to have discussions about the issues in this country, those conversations can be uncomfortable as hell.  But if they are done with open hearts and open minds, if we are respectful of one another’s feelings, we can do it and foster understanding and empathy.

My friends we have to try an understand each other, we have to care about each other regardless of whether or not we share a religion, a skin color, a sexual orientation or a political party.  Almost every person I know has either a religious belief or a philosophy that they adhere to in life.  I’ve made a point in life to be familiar with most of these and from Islam to Christianity to Taoism, to agnostic ideas of right and wrong none of these philosophies espouse hate as a way to a better life.  Sure, none of them are perfect, they can be interpreted in ways to create the “other” or outsiders.  However the core message that Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, Lao Tzu, Martin Luther King Jr., Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, Mother Teresa, Khalil Gibran or any of the other philosophers of life we read espoused was simple, love one another, be good to each other, don’t kill each other.  If we could just do that, we’d all have happier days my friends. ~ Rev Kane

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Happiness is Independence

Happiness is Independence

flyI ask only to be free.  The butterflies are free. ~ Charles Dickens

I thought, given today is Independence Day in the United States, I would write about being free.  If you read this blog you know that I’ve recently gone back to work after an 18 month vacation.  The comment I get from folks when they first hear about that is, lucky you.  But it’s not luck.  Once I say that the conversation often turns to the fact that I’m not married.  There is some merit to that discussion but it’s not really about me not being married, what it is about is me being less encumbered than they are in life and that’s a choice.

Often times, we believe that the reason we can’t do the things we want in life, the things we dream about doing, is that we have all of these things holding us back that we can’t do anything about.  Of course what we often forget is that we placed most of the chains that hold us down on ourselves.  There are few obligations that we have in life that we didn’t place on ourselves.  Marriage, kids, a mortgage payment these are all choices we make in life.  Where we live, how we live, what job we have are all choices we made.

Sometimes it seems like these aren’t choices at all, society’s expectations, love, the fear of being alone leads to marriage.  We have kids because we want to, because our partner wants to, because our parents want grandchildren, for the survival of the species, because it’s what’s next.

The reasons are somewhat irrelevant, we love our partners, we love our children, we do our best to be good people.  We do what we think is right often without a thought to the consequences down the road.  We’re human, imperfect and that’s ok.

The message I want to send in this piece my friends is that no matter where you are now, those dreams you have are not out of reach.  This is not a theoretical proposition, during my travels over the last couple of years I encountered people at every level of their lives chasing their dreams.  I met retired folks following society’s script, people who dutifully waited until they had retired before they chased their own dreams.  I also met people who waited with their partner’s for that day, only to have their partners die before they could enjoy their time together.  I met families with young children chasing their dreams together.  I met husbands and wives pursuing their dreams with supportive families at home.  What I’ve learned in the last couple of years is that the old adage, where there’s a will there’s a way is true.

You can do it, you can chase and achieve your dreams, you just have to increase your level of freedom.  How do I do that you ask, when I have bills to pay and people who depend on me?  There are a few steps  The first, the biggest and absolutely the hardest is that you have to decide to do it, to commit to following your dream.  Whatever IT is.  Once you have decided that you will do it, the rest is logistics.  Planning is the obvious second step, along with a healthy dose of patience.  Reality does get in the way, initially you may not be able to fully accomplish your dream but you can make steps towards it that can make you happier.

For me, my dream is to be a full-time writer and traveler.  I may not have a wife and kids but I do have people who depend upon me, people I feel obligated to be there for when things are tough.  I’ve also encumbered myself with my choices in life.  I have significant student loan debt, my possessions are an issue, without a wife or children, I’m basically on my own in retirement.  All of these things create obstacles to me just walking away from my current life and becoming what I want to be.

So I’ve committed to getting there and I’ve started planning.  Several years ago when the housing market crashed I bought a house, turned it around and sold it when the market came back.  It paid for my 18 months vacation, what that time was, besides absolutely wonderful, was a test run.  The process of stepping into a completely new life was complicated.  How to you cover your monthly bills?  How do you keep health insurance?  What do you do with all of your possessions?  Learning how to do all of that was a vital step toward reaching my dream.  I’m finishing up editing the book I wrote about my time traveling, another learning process.

I wish I was closer to my dream, I’m still years from getting there, but I know I can now.  It’s not a theoretical construct anymore, it’s a process that has steps.  Currently, working again is actually one of the steps, coming back to California and working keeps me in the retirement system, that pension is a piece of what I’ll need to put together to make my dream workout.  I’m also taking other steps, getting my debt taken care of, and reducing the amount of my possessions.  If you are traveling you have to store your stuff, the less you have the cheaper it is to store things.  I once read that if a possession isn’t something you frequently use, or adds to the beauty in your life, it’s not worth keeping.  I’m currently employing that filter.

I relate these personal details to show you that you can do it, you can pursue and achieve your dreams, you can make them real.  Your circumstances are not mine, the things that you need to overcome will be different, maybe harder, maybe easier but you can make them happen.  We live once, this isn’t a practice run, make your dreams happen or they never do, that’s just the way it is.  This is why I write this blog, I want you to be happier, I want you to fulfill your dreams.  If one of you reading this take these steps, gets closer to your dreams because of these words, then I’ve succeeded and my days and yours are that much happier my friend. ~ Rev Kane

Some Other Posts You Might Enjoy!

Fear is Killing Your Happiness

Our Best Happiness Posts for 2015

Revisiting Some of Our Best Posts & Pictures

Readers Favorite Appalachian Trail Posts

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