Think / Able - and Check out My Parkinson's Facebook Page

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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Ali, Stockdale, Epictetus, and Me!

            Muhammad Ali famously stated “The man who views the world at 50 the same as he did at 20 has wasted 30 years of his life.” I like that quote, and I’ve used it in my class as part of a welcome to the show PPT for both the students and myself to get our heads around the success thing that we all want in life.

I’ve spoken for quite some time now about powerful role models and heroes that it’s almost second nature to extol their virtues. I’ve done this well before the Parkinson’s symptoms and diagnosis, so it’s not like I use it because of that. In fact, now that I have Parkinson’s, I’ll address the elephant in the room that is my tremors in slide 2 (if slide one is the name of the class and the teacher). After that will come heroes, role models, and ideologies like Logotherapy, which help define me.

            In some ways, we are who we’ve always been. Our biological DNA defines some of that, for better or worse. Nevertheless, time changes or should change all things. As Colorado mountaineer Gerry Roach said, “Geologic time includes now.” As it did for Aron Ralston, the slot canyons of Utah changed over millions of years to become as they are. Unfortunately, the day Ralston was there, an 800-pound boulder moved, and it changed his life for the mentally better after rattling him for the physically worse. In a Michael J. Fox way, his disability has left him “lucky,” but it didn’t come for an easy price. He had to cut his own arm off and hike out of a desert prison to have a chance at life after he was trapped for 127 hours.

            This extra price is the point that philosopher Brian Johnson discusses when he elaborate on the Stockdale Paradox on a fascinating Youtube video by mixing Admiral James Stockdale’s experiences and lessons learned with the philosophy of Epictetus to show us how we learn from brutal facts and difficulties that essentially destroy us to build us back up. In this, they’re a lot like Basic Training, which I attended from April to June of 1990 at Lackland AFB in Texas.

Johnson refers to these as “hospital lectures.” By leaving in pain instead of joy, we come to be who we are meant to be. We live out our role, no matter what it is, to be better. We wear our scars, but we carry them with pride to be who we need to be.

            Right now, my role is to write, teach writing, and to inspire people by continuing to do and to not give up being active. I need to be good to people, and I need to spend time with my wife, family, and friends so that I can never lose track of who I really am.

In this journey, I see a lot of people struggling through crap. We’ve all been there. Some of us are working through there. We’re trying to get where we need to be. Some of us are looking back at the times that changed us and gave us our foundations. Being at an older place than we were then might keep us from remembering the man or woman we used to be, but thinking back, feeling reminders of the former self should show us how we’ve changed. We’ve moved on.

            That’s a good thing. Why stay the same? What waste that time? Simply put, choose to live life.

            I think of this today since my time in the Air Force ended 21 years ago today. There were some good times and some tough times. I met some very good people. They saw me through some bad decisions and a job I was never really meant to be in (medical technician) since it wasn’t who I really was. More than that, these people who I served with and befriended were my friends, and they saw something in me that I didn’t even see since they kept me going through the early 1990s and allowed me to learn from college, some powerful books, and life experiences to begin the serious steps that it took to be the man I am today.

            Today, at 45, I’m thankful for the past 21 years. I’m thankful for everything from Lakenheath to Bury St. Edmunds to West Lawn to Mount Penn to Ephrata. I’m glad to have seen this country from ocean to ocean, and I’m glad to be the man I am today and am becoming in the future. We wouldn’t be who we are without going down Frost’s roads without our sighs and misguided journeys.

            We may be works in progress, but we’re good people.

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