Saturday, October 28, 2006

"My Brain Doesn't Work"

“My brain doesn’t work” was his answer to the question posed by the one person in his world in whom he had a trusted confidence coupled with an affection that motivated a desire to be understood. I sat on the other side of our booth in the tiny restaurant and observed this exchange with over thirty years of accumulated emotion founded in love, devotion, responsibility, invested effort and parental pride. My son was seated next to Annie. To appreciate this scene fully, you must have a sense of my son’s fondness for this young woman… his guest for lunch.

In one of my constant series of created exercises designed to prod and reinforce the development of a brain that cerebral palsy had affected, I made it a “game” to challenge my son with questions that were playfully presented as attempts to catch him unaware. “Well, Son… yesterday I… or let me see… was it yesterday?… what day is this?… Oh… and tomorrow will be?… Oh… OK… so the day after tomorrow will be?…” and on it would go. (I had learned that “sequencing” was one of the functions of his brain that was severely impaired by his handicap.) When he would proudly cut the game short with correct responses, I would “high five” him and say “Wow! Tried to catch you, but you are too sharp for me today” And he would do the “guy thing” and put on a smug smile of victory. So, it was quite in character when (as we were driving toward our daily visit to the workout facilities at the neighborhood YMCA) he asked “Dad! What is today?” I employed a few staged hesitations feigning calculation and proudly announced “Monday!” “Nope!! It’s Annie!” was his response with a wistful smile of romantic anticipation. For, you see, Annie was his trainer at the YMCA. And my son was completely enchanted with his “Annie!” And we were on our way to be with her.

With that understanding, you will appreciate his delight when I asked him who he would like to invite to join us for a lunch made possible by the cancellation of his regularly-scheduled speech therapy. There was not so much as a moment’s hesitation in his reply of “Annie!” Thusly, we were in the company of this lovely young woman of delicate sensitivities and grace on the day and at the time of note. After expressing her happiness that we had the opportunity made possible by the cancellation of his therapy, Annie’s question to my son was, as she called him by name, “Now, why, exactly, do you go too speech therapy?” He looked at her with such a tenderness and sincerity that it is, all these years hence, still fresh in my recollection. And with an openness that projected his desire to be completely understood he responded with the aforementioned “My brain doesn’t work.” Then, after a moment of profound silence, he looked to me with a look that said “Help me here Dad, I don’t know how to explain further.” I was doing my best to maintain my composure. (I must note here that, prior to this moment, my son had never acknowledged… in any way… any level of awareness of his disabilities. And here he was, at over thirty years of age, revealing a depth of awareness that was profoundly complex in its scope. I was torn between the pain of hearing the love of my soul verbalize his burden… and the desire to cheer and applaud this demonstration of a mental grasp that had never before been revealed… but I was in the moment that was his… and my reactions and emotions were secondary to his moment.)

“Well Son… you are a very smart guy. You are quite intelligent. But cerebral palsy has made your brain so that it sometimes doesn’t cooperate. And that is what the speech therapy is helping us to find out… ways to make your brain cooperate when it doesn’t want to… by getting your brain to show us what it has a hard time with. And you are getting better at making your brain cooperate by taking charge of it and showing it that you are the Boss. That‘s why we are going to speech therapy.” “Yeah!! That’s it! My brain doesn’t want to cooperate!” he responded, with a look of victory and discovery that illuminated his Being. And from that moment forward, he and I had a “frame of reference” that gave him a “tool” to use when frustration and exasperation wanted to overwhelm him. He would, frequently, say “Ohhh… my brain isn’t cooperating today!” And he didn’t, any longer, have the concern that he… the person… was flawed. It was simply “that uncooperative brain” acting up again.

So… My Very Dear Reader… why have I subjected myself to the passed nearly-two weeks of pained agony in recollection of the emotions incumbent to the reliving of this event (which has rendered me silent and absent from the usual submissions to this blog)? Simply because I have pledged, to you, my faithful presentation of lessons learned in my pilgrimage that have the potential to be of assistance to you in the walking of yours. And I know that you, just as I, have times when your brain… your subconscious… your self-image… your deeply-held concept of yourself… “doesn’t cooperate” with your wished for… your intended… your hoped for images of who you want to be… what you want to do… how you want to live. And just as was true in the miniscule moment portrayed (in painful detail) for you, you can take control of your “uncooperative” thoughts. You can assume responsibility for the management of your thought processes and take the reigns of mastery of your “mental behavior” just as my son (who lives with a permanent impairment that he could easily fall back on and allow to provide an all-too-easy excuse for irresponsibility) did.

I do not suggest that this is easy. I do acknowledge that practiced history may shout discouragements that try to drown out the voices of determination and desire. But I, simultaneously, offer the quiet reassurance to you that, even as my mentally impaired son has done, you can experience ever more frequent moments of victory and conquest over the obstacles and hurdles of circumstance. Please try. Please!

While I remain, Your lovingly faithful Friend and constant Servant,


Wednesday, October 18, 2006

We Can

We Can

We can achieve to the limits of what we can express.

We can express to the boundaries of what we understand.

We can understand all that we have the courage to discover.

31 Dec 2003

IMAGE through the gracious courtesy of Jon Sullivan,

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

In This Together

"It is said an Eastern monarch once charged his wise men to invent him a sentence to be ever in view, and which should be true and appropriate in all times and situations. They presented him the words: 'And this, too, shall pass away.' How much it expresses! How chastening in the hour of pride! How consoling in the depths ofaffliction!."
~Abraham Lincoln

This quotation and the comments below were sent to me this morning by Carole, my Very Dear and Darling Friend of several decades. Her gift validated the thoughts that began attacking me at my first waking, early in the day. My first awareness (upon responding to the annoyance of the alarm clock) was the tangible presence of a powerful depression. And I said, to myself, “Oh my, here we go! The first wave of this year’s ‘holiday melancholy.’ " Then I underwent the miserable exercise of forcing myself to function. (Those who have dealt with depression know the awful sensation of moving a weight of what seems like a coating of lead encompassing all of your body as you push yourself through an gelatinous environment of constricting emotional bondage that makes even the most simple of tasks an effort of extremely tiring dimension.)

All through my work I was accompanied by this presence that I am well familiar with. Every year finds me encountering an intensification of the forces of my little gift of chronic depression as the elements of the holidays present their challenges to my idealistic inclinations and predispositions to the fantasies of holiday moments filled with companionship, endearments, affections, and intimate sharings… none of which are to be realized.

I have, in years passed, coped with this crushing disparity of clashing desires and realities by opting for mindset learned from the practices of the Buddhist faith. I have learned that the state of spiritual ‘nirvana’ (ultimate peace) is achieved through the absence of both desire and fear. By desiring nothing and fearing the loss of nothing, the individual spirit is made free of all conflict and distraction. So I have implemented this thought discipline in discouraging myself from allowing any desires for the aforementioned companionships, endearments, affections, and intimate sharings, in my personal attempt to be freed from the pangs of realization of absence of them all from my daily existence. In so doing, I have entertained the hope of less unhappiness and minimalized depression (especially during the holiday period’s intensified focus on all that is not a part of my daily life.)

Unfortunately, my awareness of my life’s shortages of yearned for elements was recently brought to the surface by circumstances that have reminded me of my estrangement from my children, and my inability to be involved with my closest of friends and family due to economic constraints. This awareness has triggered an early onset of the annual holiday war with what I refer to as “The Big D.” And I had its presence as the “welcome” to my day today and my companion through my work this morning. The battle was so fierce that I actually hurried home from work in a near-panic state of need for solitude and isolation from outside stimulus.

I tell you all of this to let you know that all that I share with you on a regular basis is not some assortment of ideological philosophy spooned from a pinnacle of elevated comfort… oh no!… I am engaged in the struggles, battles, challenges, and conflicts of living life… right alongside you. And I am just as much in need of encouragement, uplifting, and support as you are. So, when I received the above-presented quotation along with its conclusions offered below, I was ministered to just as you have indicated that I have ministered to you, in messages past. Remember, My Dear Reader, we are in this thing together… you and I… and I am here for you just as Carole was here for me this morning. And you and I and Carole are making our shared world a little better… a day at a time… bit by bit… you just watch… you will see!

(The conclusion to Carole’s message)

Whatever is happening in your life at this moment, whether it is good or bad, a triumph or a tragedy -- whatever it is -- it soon will pass. When we realize how fleeting each precious moment is, we begin to appreciate them more, accepting the gift or the lesson each brings to us. If it is good we can embrace it fully, knowing it will all too soon be gone. If it is displeasing, we can breathe easy, content that in a moment this, too, shall pass away.

We did not come here to race through our moments, but to live our way through them, gloriously. Each and every one.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

At Set of Sun

We are in a season of electioneering and campaign rhetoric ad nauseam. I find myself wanting to hear some report, some testimonial of any act of caring, generous, and selfless involvement by any candidate for public service. There seem to be countless methods of evaluation and analysis for selection of a person worthy of a vote… all based on political blarney and self-serving resume building. Here I offer a simple and direct method of evaluation that we can all reflect on… At Set of Sun.

At Set of Sun

If you sit down at set of sun
And count the acts that you have done,
And, counting, find
One self-denying deed, one word
That eased the heart of him who heard,
One glance most kind
That fell like sunshine where it went…
Then you may count that day well spent.

But if, through all the livelong day,
You’ve cheered no heart, by yea or nay…
If, through it all
You’ve nothing done that you can trace
That brought the sunshine to one face…
No act most small
That helped some soul and nothing cost…
Then count that day as worse than lost.


If, based on this methodology, you find your day “well spent”… you get my vote!… for Human BEing of Worth and Merit. Serve happily.

IMAGES through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton,

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Buck O'Neil

Today I am venturing into something that I have not, heretofore, done. I just watched an interview on television (something that I taped from PBS whilst I slept last night.) The subject of the interview was Buck O'Neil and I am so impressed with the love that this man has and lives (sadly now, lived is more appropriate) that I am compelled to share him with you. Please take a moment to listen to this gentle spirit. I know that the words excerpted and selected from the several sources accredited will bless you as they have me. Here is a wonderful human being who knew what BEing is all about.

John Jordan "Buck" O'Neil
13 November 1911 - 06 October 2006

O'Neil became the first black coach ever hired by a major league team when he was signed by the Cubs in 1962. From 1948 through 1955, he managed some of the finest Kansas City Monarch clubs, leading them to five pennants and two Black World Series. He managed East-West all-star teams in 1951-54. He had been an excellent clutch hitter and a top first baseman. He led the Negro National League with a .353 batting average in 1946, then hit .333 with two home runs in the BWS. O'Neil was the first officially recognized black coach ever hired by a major league team.

O'Neil spoke at the induction ceremony for the Negro League players at the Baseball Hall of Fame… he, inexplicably, fell short of induction himself, by one vote. After hearing that he had not been elected to the Hall at age 94, O'Neil spoke to about 200 well-wishers who had gathered to celebrate, but instead stood hushed and solemn, telling the crowd: “God's been good to me. They didn't think Buck was good enough to be in the Hall of Fame. That's the way they thought about it and that's the way it is, so we're going to live with that. Now, if I'm a Hall of Famer for you, that's all right with me. Just keep loving old Buck. Don't weep for Buck. No, man, be happy, be thankful“

(excerpt from) O’Neil’s Final Address at the Baseball Hall of Fame
delivered 30 June 2006

And I tell you what, they always said to me Buck, "I know you hate people for what they did to you or what they did to your folks." I said, "No, man, I -- I never learned to hate." I hate cancer. Cancer killed my mother. My wife died 10 years ago of cancer. (I'm single, ladies.) A good friend of mine -- I hate AIDS. A good friend of mine died of AIDS three months ago. I hate AIDS. But I can’t hate a human being because my God never made anything ugly. Now, you can be ugly if you wanna, boy, but God didn’t make you that way. Uh, uh.

So, I want you to light this valley up this afternoon. Martin [Luther King] said "Agape" is understanding, creative -- a redemptive good will toward all men. Agape is an overflowing love which seeks nothing in return. And when you reach love on this level, you love all men, not because you like 'em, not because their ways appeal to you, but you love them because God loved them. And I love Jehovah my God with all my heart, with all my soul, and I love every one of you -- as I love myself.

Now, I want you to do something for me. I’m fixin' to get off this stage now. I think I done my six minutes. But I want you to do something for me. I want you to hold hands. Whoever’s next to you, hold a hand. Come on, you Hall of Famers, hold hands. All you people out there, hold hands. Everybody hooked up? Everybody hooked up? Well then I tell you what. See, I know my brothers up here, my brothers over there -- I see some black brothers of mine and sisters out there -- I know they can sing. Can you white folks sing? I want you to sing after me:

The greatest thing -- come on everybody --
The greatest thing in all of my life is loving you.
The greatest thing in all of my life is loving you.
The greatest thing in all of my life is loving you.
The greatest thing in all my life is loving you.¹

Thank you, folks. Thank you, folks. Thank you, folks. Thank you, folks. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Now, sit down. Now, sit down. I could talk to you 10 minutes longer, but I got to go to the bathroom.

My very Dear Friends, I do hope that the spirit of this remarkable man will resonate within you and leave you with the gift of a more loving, accepting, and gracious willingness to embrace whatever your personal world brings your way today. It is with that hope and my thanks to the following sources of this offering that I remain, as always, your loving Friend and willing Servant,


Sources: Hall of Fame speech: American Rhetoric; ¹ = from the contemporary Christian praise song, The Greatest Thing by Mark Pendergrass, Sparrow Records (1977); Others: Negro League Baseball Museum, Wikipedia, Baseball Library, PBS

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

For You

“So… go ahead… end it all. If you want to carry the knowledge that you had something to offer someone, but you selfishly chose to terminate your temporary discomfort and inconvenience at the expense of all of those whose betterment you are willing to discard… go ahead. But remember… this deal is an eternal business. It goes on beyond this immediate set of circumstances. And all of those who had what you could have given them taken away by your self-focused cowardice are eternal too. If you want to carry the awareness that you took away what I… Life… had entrusted in you, for them… that is your choice to make. If you think that you are miserable now… make that stupid choice… and find out what miserable really is. You have a free will. The choice is yours to make. Your puny, insignificant wants… or the needs of others whose life experience could be enhanced by what you have entrusted to you, for them.”

This was the response of Life to my repeated bemoaning many years ago. I didn’t know that I was bearing the load of clinical depression that had weighed me down all of my life. I had no knowledge of or even awareness that there even existed such a thing as an Idealist Temperament… or that I was an extreme introvert by nature. I only knew that everything that I encountered in my life turned to… well, for want of a socially appropriate term… doo-doo. And I was tired of being tired (something that you will always hear from those who are struggling with the debilitating forces of depression.) I just wanted it all to be… over!

And no!… this was not an isolated event in my life. I have faced this wall of confrontation several times in my past. And the forces of that conflict are still, to this day, present in my awareness. But I have made the conscious choice to remove my focus from myself and to place it, in trusting faith in the omnipotence of Life, in you. That’s right! In You. Even if we do not know each other, Life knows us both. And you are reading these words typed by my hand, in response to the thoughts and impressions that I sense in my inner awareness of Life’s leading. Thusly, I am speaking directly to You… specifically. And you cannot say, after this reading, that Life never answered you. Even if you stop reading at this juncture… you now know… Life responded to you… through me. For you are the only reason that I choose to continue to exist. To offer you whatever there is of me for you. That is my chosen purpose… to focus on you… and intentionally put myself aside.

I have no idea (nor is it important that I know) what there may be in this message, for you today… at this moment. But whatever it has for you… or for your understanding of others… here ’tis!… because of Life’s direction in my life and my choice to be here for you. And to the end that you may, in some way, benefit from it, I remain, your Friend and Servant,


Sunday, October 08, 2006

You Hold the Key

All of your life's possibilities are securely held in the strongbox of your control.

And you... only you hold the single key to accessing the treasure of your individual potentialities.

Only you can choose to use the key of your free will in the lock of your self-determination.

You can keep all of your talents and abilities securely stored... safe from exposure...

Or you can unlock them and engage on the dynamics of self-investment in your life.

Your willingness is the key.

IMAGE through the gracious courtesy of Jon Sullivan,

Friday, October 06, 2006

Live... Now

When the Instructor had himself situated in front of the waiting class, he looked over the group and asked for a show of hands in response to this question; “Who, among you, has either implemented or made an attempt to implement all that we have discussed in our sessions up to this one today?” Finding himself want of so much as a single hand raised amongst the group, he continued “It is obvious then, that we are in need of no new instruction, inasmuch as you have not made use of what has been given thus far.” He then made a deliberate step back from the rostrum and looked out at us… silently. His lesson for that day was satisfactorily communicated. Every member of the class had his or her own personal indictment. We had been accumulating a prodigious quantity of information… to no beneficial end.

On another occasion, and from another instructor, I was handed a tool that has proved invaluable, over the course of many passed years, in the business of living. This instructor simply asked “Is what you are doing emotional tension relieving… or is it primary purpose achieving?” We were then asked to reflect on our daily activities and determine if there had been any times when we found ourselves “tidying up” the clutter of our desks or workspaces in the guise of making ourselves ready to work more efficiently… when the truth was that we were merely practicing an avoidance of some task of primary importance that seemed daunting, unpleasant, challenging, or some combination of any of those. Were we doing what relieved the emotional tension created by some visual or circumstantial clutter while hiding from the demands of those things that required our attention for meaningful purposes? And did we then, at end of the day, find ourselves wearied by a day of activity spent in “busy work” … still facing the now-larger (for want of timely attention) monster that had intimidated us away from addressing it?

Yes, My Dear Reader, I do know something of the barriers to moving ahead that we all must contend with. Yes, I do understand the debilitating power of fear. I am intimately familiar with the force of scale when perceiving myself as the ‘David’ of mere mortal abilities confronting the ‘Giants’ of life’s challenges. So my heart was ready and receptive when I discovered the teachings of Ann Kiemel as she presented examples of her own life walk. Thus, when she repeatedly spoke of the times that she presented herself to settings that required more of her than she and the attendees of the moment thought possible, she had taught herself the power of the truth in her well-practiced declaration “I am just a small person in a great big world… but I have a giant of a God in me, and He, and I, and Love are changing my world… one day at a time… one challenge at a time… You just wait… you will see.” And I found a way to contact this demure and seemingly-delicate young woman to express my appreciation for and admiration of her and her demonstration of the power available to us all.

So, Dear Friend, I offer you this encouragement. You have all of the powers available to you that have, from the commencement of time, been available to anyone. So, let us, you and me, agree together to stop this business of “getting ready… to begin to prepare… to start to get ready… to live”… and simply LIVE! Ask yourself those questions… “Am I implementing what I already know?”… “Is what I am doing AT THIS MOMENT simply emotional tension relieving… or is it primarily purpose achieving?” Tension relieving or purpose achieving? “Am I changing my world with the combined forces of all of my spiritual and physical resources combined with the directional navigation of love… one day at a time… starting right now?”

These considerations have served me well over many years… I trust that you will realize the same benefits from your own thoughtful reflection on them… as I remain, always, Your faithful Servant and Friend,


Monday, October 02, 2006

The Third of More Than Three

The Next Step

As one of the 24% of the world’s population that processes life’s information in a holistic manner (as opposed to the 76% who process elements of life’s input in a linear fashion) I had been, for all of my (at the time of my son’s diagnosis) thirty years of life, challenged by the consuming (though not understood) need to “see” the “big picture” of every situation before proceeding on with involvement in it. Holding in my arms that trusting and loving little person, whose every moment was a developmental happening, negated all possibility of my finding a comfort level for functioning. The immediacy of his needs required instant provision of attention that I knew nothing about satisfying. I had no template… no model… no mental image… no mentor, advisor, nor counsel to guide me in meeting the challenge presented by my son’s unknown psychological, physical, temperamental, and even spiritual needs. So… How to proceed?

Here I was, a person whose inner turmoil was best summed up in what I had long-since elected as the prophetic biblical summation of all that I was. It was stated by the apostle Paul in his letter to the Romans (Ch 7, Vs 19), to wit: “For the good that I would, I do not; but the evil that I would not, that I do.” And that perfectly stated how I had always felt about my abilities and my performances in life. I was a jumble of insecurity and confused uncertainty… and I had, in my hands, the immediate and future happiness of this little human being… who was relying on me to understand what his damaged brain could not understand… who needed me to communicate to his subconscious comprehension (at whatever level that might be possible) as well as to the world outside of him, an understanding of who he is… who was dependent on me to sort out years of medical and educational theories and conjectures to glean from them the applicable and appropriate specifics for his particular needs… who was counting on me to create a comfortable, encouraging, pleasant, and happy life environment in which he could have the very best chance to thrive and blossom. And I was a bundle of fear and uncertainty… ignorance and hopelessness… inadequacy and timidity. But there was no alternate Dad waiting in the wings. I was elected. The job was mine. And, by God, I was not going to let that little guy down.

So why do I share all of this with you, My Dear Reader? Because you (many, many of you who have communicated with me) are confronting your own daunting and overwhelming set of options, choices, possibilities, elections, demands, and responsibilities. And you feel so incapable of taking the first step. Your fears are palpable. Your doubts are without bounds. And I write to you to give you some insight and comfort in the experience that I share with you now. What are we (me, all those years ago… and you, right now) to do? The answer for me was provided, in part, by good old Albert… you know… Al Einstein. A pretty fair fellow in the area of thinking about the “big picture”, wouldn’t you say? And what did Albert Einstein have to contribute to our shared life dilemmas? He simply said “God did not create the universe to operate at the role of the dice.” He was saying, My Dear Friend, that none of this stuff of life… in the miniscule elements of our immediate circumstance, or in the balance of the galaxies of the universes… is out of the control of the One who created and maintains it all.

Now I have already told you about my awareness of my own limitations and inadequacies… and of the immediacy of the demands of my son’s needs… so I required someone else’s wisdom to count on. One of those “Someone s” was Albert Einstein. Another fellow with whom I was impressed was the Author of the biblical book of Proverbs. In the third chapter of that book and the fifth through the sixth verses of that chapter I discovered an insight that I was willing to hitch my wagon of life to. It reads “Trust in your Creator with all of your might… lean not on your own understandings… in all of your ways acknowledge Him… and He will direct all of your paths.” So, I had Einstein telling me that he was confident of the controlling and maintaining force of the Creator of all of life. And I had the wisdom of Solomon telling me to “trust.” So I did! I took one trusting step at a time. I began an odyssey of faith and trust in the guidance of the voice of that “still, small Presence” that spoke to me and said “OK” when I needed to take that next step. I moved ahead with the understanding that if I put each tiny part of the project before me into place with all of my best intention and loving care… a satisfactory and beneficial “product” would emerge at some unknown time and in some unforeseen place. I began a daily reliance on my innate (though not understood) abilities to respond to the requirements of each unfolding moment. I trusted in something (that was, in fact, the active interaction between all of what I knew, was learning, and was capable of by virtue of accumulated knowledge and skills) beyond my perceived limitations. I responded to a focus on someone outside of my sensitivities. I was taken outside of the boundaries of my “Idealist,” “Right-Brain-Dominant,” natural function and forced (by my election to defer to my son’s priorities and needs) to take steps that would have, otherwise, been impossible.

My message to you then is… “Place your focus on that person who is counting on you… right now… and take a trusting step of faith in Life.” And… most assuredly… that person could be, and should be YOU, first. For you are most responsible for Yourself. And you, Dear One, hold in your hands, the immediate and future happiness of You. Life holds you accountable for what you do with You. You will hold yourself accountable for what you do with You. You do not need a third person, cause, position, or any other consideration, to move forward with a step of responsibility for the development and growth of You. With the same sense of immediate urgency and necessity that motivated me to march forward for my son’s benefit… march forward for the benefit of Yourself and all of the lives that that healthy and fully-functioning Self will touch and affect.

To the end and in the hope that there is a spark of benefit for you in your personal pilgrimage in these thoughts and reflections shared… I remain, as always, Your faithful Friend and Servant,

Creative Commons License
Unless expressly stated, all original material, of whatever nature, created by J. Michael Brown (John-Michael) and included in this weblog and any related pages, including the weblog's archives is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.5 License.