Charlie’s Gift

One day, a few years ago, I boarded a jetliner in Houston, bound for New York. When I had stowed my carry-on bag and buckled myself in, I looked over to see who I had for a seatmate. I saw a small, elderly lady, sitting straight and prim in her seat, clutching her handbag and trying very hard not to appear concerned. I guessed this lady had not flown often in her life. I leaned over and reminded her gently that she would have to stow her handbag before takeoff.

“Oh, thank you,” she said. “I’m a little nervous, to be quite frank. I’ve never flown before.”

I asked her why she was travelling to New York.

“Well,” she said with a sigh, “I’m going to live with my daughter. She’s meeting me at the airport. You see, my husband of 55 years passed away recently and my daughter doesn’t want me living alone.”

I offered my condolences and, trying to brighten her up, I said she was lucky to have enjoyed such a long marriage.

“Thank you. Yes, I was fortunate. We had a good marriage, and now it seems like the time went by so fast…seems like just yesterday we were saying our vows.” She was quiet for a long moment, replaying some cherished moments of her married life, before she returned to our conversation.

“And what about you?” she asked. “Why are you going to New York?”

I told her I was in the diamond business and was going there to close a deal on some diamonds.

“Oooh, diamonds!” Her lined face brightened. “Charlie—that was my husband—always said I’d have a diamond one day. When we got married all we could afford were the wedding bands. Then came the children, and with one thing or another we never did have enough money for luxuries. Every anniversary Charlie would say, ‘My dear, next year we’ll get you that diamond!’ But now there is no next year.”

She bowed her head and tried not to let me see the tears, but eventually she had to dab them away with a handkerchief tugged from the pocket of her old coat. In that moment, this sweet woman’s tears revealed to me why I was on that plane, sitting beside her. I asked her name.

“Evelyn,” she told me. “Evelyn Benson.”

“Well, Evelyn,” I said, “my name is Fred Cuellar and I just realized that fate has brought us together. What is your ring size?”

“I—I don’t know, really…” she stammered. “Why?”

“Because I am here to give you your diamond ring. Charlie had something to do with seating us together. I’m sure of it.”

I guessed her ring size at about a six; I had a grin sized extra large at this point.

“But I can’t afford it,” she protested. “We never could.”

“Evelyn,” I told her, “I am not selling you a diamond ring. I’m giving it to you, at Charlie’s request.”

Well, that made her cry even more, but the tears were happier now, and she gave me a big hug when we parted company at JFK airport.

When I got back to Houston I put together a modest, but very nice, diamond engagement ring and mailed it to Evelyn at the address in upstate New York she’d given me. Putting that package in the mail made me feel like a million dollars. No, better than that.

Six months later I received a small package at my Houston office. When I opened it, I found the diamond ring I’d sent to Evelyn Benson. With the ring was a note from her daughter, it read:
“Dear Mr. Cuellar, I’m returning the ring which you so graciously allowed my mother to wear for the last six months. Not a day went by that she didn’t show it to someone, proud as can be. She told people it was a gift from her late husband Charlie (my Dad). I’d never seen her as happy with anything in my life. My mother passed away last week, so I am returning your ring with many thanks for the joy you brought my mother. Sincerely, Jane Adams.”

"Charlie's Gift" Short Film from Diamond Cutters International on Vimeo.

Who Am I, Really?

Remove everything you think you know about me, because that’s not who I am underneath it all.

Take away all the labels and jargon, and all the things that I do. Take away what I look like and all my physical attributes, and what is left?  ME.  The ‘me’ of my soul. My spirit. The part of me that was, before I physically became all those labels and jargon and things that I do. The part of me that had a physical beginning, but will know no spiritual end.

 

But how do I find and recognize that?

 

First I must get myself alone and simply observe. No labels or physical attributes allowed. No jargon, no likes or dislikes, no attitudes or pre-conceived notions. No expectations or societal demands.

 

Then I have to keep removing layer upon layer of descriptors and explanations and experiences that have covered up the core of my non-physical identity.

 

What is at the core? ME

 

But… Who am I?

 

I am love, and energy, and creativity. I am pure, blinding, compulsive joy that knows no bounds and spreads far and wide.

 

Simultaneously infinitesimally small, and beyond comprehensibly vast, who I am has no container if you remove my physical, societal confines.

 

And when “I” meets “You”

and love meets love

and energy meets energy

and creativity meets creativity

and joy meets joy

 

in that chemistry

ME becomes WE

 

So who are WE?  

 

WE are an explosive force to be reckoned with, and the more WE pool together, our influence sets off such a cacophony of incredibly positive energy that its chain reaction reaches farther than we will likely ever know.

 

~Donna R. Carter

Busting Our ‘Buts’

by Donna R. Carter

When thinking about what you want to do, and what you are capable of doing, does your inner voice whine with all the reasons why you can’t?

 

                       
“But… You don’t understand…”

 

           
We all learned how to whine at a very early age. Just think about the numerous toddler temper tantrums you’ve no doubt encountered at one time or another in the checkout lane at the grocery store!

 

           
Older kids whine about homework. Or having to do chores and take on additional responsibilities around the house. “Do I have to??? and they’re always so good at finding something else to do – some “valid” excuse – to avoid what needs to be done.

 

           
Whining extends into adulthood when we complain about all the things we don’t like about our jobs, our home situation, where we live. We bemoan our fates. Why can’t we do what we want to do, or be what we want to be, or live where we want to live? 

 

           
Well? Why can’t we?  I’m sure we can all come up with some classic excuses.

 

“But…  I have health issues… It’s unrealistic. It’s too hard. Too ‘pie in the sky’.”

 

            Nick was born with no arms and no legs – just a little flipper-like foot at the base of his torso – and yet he is a motivational speaker! He chose not to live dictated to and intimidated by his disabilities.  He chose to use those very disabilities to make his life work, and to enhance the lives of others.

           
Cancer had emaciated Judi, in her mid-fifties. Even a slight cough was sufficient to break a rib and cause desperate pain. She was dying. And yet she didn’t let that stop her from taking her little toddler granddaughter to Disney World, or dancing for her as she played piano in their living room. She chose to get past cancer’s obstacles with love and unselfishness, leaving a legacy of incredibly positive inspirational memories behind when her body did, finally, succumb to her illness. She is not remembered for giving in, or for being sick. She is remembered for what she overcame despite the odds.

 

            Joni was your normal, active, athletic teenage girl when she had a diving accident that made her a quadriplegic. Though she struggled desperately and suffered through some deep depression, she learned how to make do with what she had.  She became an author, and an artist – holding her pen, drawing or painting implements in her mouth and directing them with her tongue.

 

            Forbes magazine tells us that almost two-thirds of the world’s 946 billionaires made their fortunes from scratch, relying on grit and determination, and not good genes.  So what makes some people thrive while others wallow seemingly helplessly in the mire? Why do some people seem to have caught the proverbial brass ring, while others have to get off the ride and go back to the end of the line again?

 

           
It’s a matter of mind set. It’s all in the attitude.  Do you really want to succeed in being the best you can be? 

 

           
I’m sure it would have been simpler for Nick to stay behind the scenes and never venture out. He had to face the very real possibility of ridicule and rejection, and the potential for failure at every turn. Judi could have much more easily allowed herself to be overwhelmed by the pain of her cancer and shut herself off from the world. Joni could have capitulated to the temptation of sinking into and dying of self pity.

 

“But… I’m too old. I’m not pretty enough. I don’t have the right background. Life isn’t fair: Why set myself up for disappointment?  I’m not good enough.”

 

           
In early April, the internet was all abuzz with Susan, who was never before really given the chance to let her voice shine. People thought she was ‘too old…’ ‘too frumpy…’ She sounded ‘too  backwoods’ when she talked. She lacked social skills. Surely she had nothing to offer?  Susan  didn’t let the judgment of others redirect her. She boldly stepped into the spotlight and let her light shine: Her beautiful voice reduced the world to tears. She just relentlessly followed her dream. Because of that choice, Susan is now not only seeing that dream fulfilled, she’s inspired millions of people, and taught millions more that one should never, ever judge a book by its cover.

 

“But…  It’s all who you know. I’m not in the right circles… “

 

           
Who you know may know someone who knows someone else. It has been said that everyone in the world is separated by only six people.  Who you know is good – and you can always get to know more people. If you just sit at home and whine about it, how are you going to meet anyone at all?

 

           
But it’s more than who you know. It’s who you are. It’s about what you do with who you are. It’s about being true to yourself.  It’s about finding your passion and letting yourself burn with the fuel it gives you. If you’re on fire – if you’re passionate – you’ll gather a crowd, and in that crowd, or the next… or the one after that… there will be someone in that circle you want to be in who will catch that fire, and the connection will be made.

 

                       
But… I don’t have TIME...

 

           
Time is never on your side. Every moment you don’t move forward in your lives, is a moment wasted.  Every whine is a misused opportunity that you can never get back.

 

            Evan was so bogged down with the responsibilities he felt he had to fulfill -just to get by-  that he escaped, for emotional and stress relief, by playing computer games. At any given time during the day, he could be found at his desk, playing computer games. If it was brought to his attention, however, he justified it.

           

                        “But… THAT is my only means of having fun!…” 

 

           
Wait a second. What? How much time would Evan have to actively pursue his dream [ie. Have Fun], if he didn’t procrastinate?  How focused are you on doing your best? If you really want to accomplish something, why are you putting it off? It takes effort!

 

           
What do you do from the moment you get up, to the moment you go to bed. Is how you are using your time improving your life, and enhancing and uplifting the lives of those around you? Or do you find yourself dreading the mountains of things you have to do, and then wasting time, in order to avoid doing the very things that are taking up “so much of your time”?

 

            Evan was King of his own Whinedom. He was in familiar territory, and he firmly believed in the idiom “Better the devil you know than the devil you don’t.”

 

           
Until he would choose to step outside his comfort zone and make some changes in his perspective and priorities, he would never see the rest of the world – or the potential he had in it – through anything but the distortion of his whine-colored glasses.

 

           
Have you ever noticed that the most successful people you know seem to be extraordinarily busy, and yet still manage to have time for interacting with friends and reading, and leisure activities? Have you ever wondered how on earth they could possibly have a moment to spare with their plate so full? But they do. They have learned to prioritize their time. They have put their work and leisure time into a symbiotic relationship where each feeds their ability to do the other even better.

           

“But … What will people think of me while I’m trying to accomplish this? People who are important to me are unsupportive, unenthusiastic or downright discouraging the process!”

           

           
A myriad of reasons cause people not to be supportive of change.  It could be that they’re suffering the same doubts about their own potential that you have had about yours, but they aren’t to the point of making a break from the negativity and pushing forward in their own lives. They may fear the changes you are making in your own life will require things of them that they are not willing or able to provide. It’s time for you to surge ahead and let your focus and tenacity be the example for them. You may have previously created a pattern of starting and quitting, that has left them having to pick up the pieces one too many times.  This time the pressure is on you to prove that you mean it. 

 

           
Find and surround yourself with people who are supportive. This doesn’t mean you abandon those you love and those who love you. It merely means you stand on your own two feet, rather than relying on them to provide what you need.  Find a way to get your own needs met, in order that you don’t drain their already-depleted resources.  As you proceed forward, they will observe the shift in focus and see the improvement in your attitude and the positive changes in your life and your attitude. In the long run, showing them your determination, you will more than likely not only gain their support, but their respect as well.

                       

“But … What if I can’t actually do it after all? What about all those things I am afraid of doing that I would have to do to get there?”

 

           
We fear getting a chance at total success and failing. It’s easier to be good at average and knowing we can be better, than trying hard and failing miserably at something we always felt we wanted and could do.

 

           
We fear not being good enough to do it… or doing it wrong, even when given all the tools – because at that point, what do we go back to? What we used to do? We weren’t happy with it before, why would we be happy with it now? We have to figure out what we’ve learned in the process of getting to where we got, and either find a new passion, or reroute the passion we’ve been following.

 

 

            Eunice Kennedy Shriver traveled the U.S. in the late 50s and 60s, visiting institutions for children with intellectual disabilities. Having grown up with sports being an integral part of her life, she was disturbed to note that children with intellectual disabilities were being left out of athletics in school. They were not even being allowed to attend summer camps. She took it upon herself – in her own back yard – to open up a summer camp for children with intellectual disabilities. That first summer, in 1958, there were 75 children who attended the camp. One camp grew to five in and then by 1968 five had turned into 40 across the country.  Her passion for the cause didn’t waiver and those forty camps became the nucleus of the Special Olympics. By following her passion -by not giving up- she changed the lives of more people than she probably will ever know.

 

           
Many people are afraid they’ve set their sites too high. Afraid that once they reach their potential, they will realize they weren’t capable of being as good as they wanted to be. But you can’t be so focused on the process that you lose sight of what’s going on within the process. Find people with the skills you wish to acquire. Ask questions! Admire their work! Study what they did to get where they got, and apply those skills and attributes to yourself and what you are attempting to do.

 

But… The beliefs I was raised with conflict with what I feel I would have to do in order to become who I believe I am, and I feel guilty with every step I try to take! I just know I will disappoint those I love, if I follow through. They won’t like the results, because it will be in direct opposition to their beliefs.”


 

           
In the long run, are you truly willing to be false to yourself, in order to please others?  When it comes right down to it, then, are they not loving a lie?  Well-known author, Hugh Prather put it well when he said “Some people are going to like me and some people aren’t, so I might as well be me.  Then, at least, I will know that the people who like me, like me.”

 

          
  You cannot be true to yourself, if you are lying to others about who you are. If you are true to yourself and others cannot handle it, you must realize, lovingly, that their inability to accept you is their problem, and not yours. If you can help them handle it, then that’s great – but being untruthful is only feeding their fantasy about who they’d like you to be, and it doesn’t allow them to learn to grow and love and accept what may not be what they want, but is who you are.

 

But… Their problem is my problem if I created it.

 

           
On the other hand, you may find that, in being true to yourself, others will come to accept and love you even more. There may be those who cannot get past the disappointment, but as long as you are willing to be loving and accept where they are coming from (even if you don’t choose to change for them) their choice to let it become a rift between you will be their choice. You need not let it be yours, or drag you down.  At least you know you are being truthful, and they know who you are, and you will know, if and when they choose to accept you, that they are accepting the real you.

 

                        “But… That hurts, if they reject me, because I love them.

 

           
If you keep yourself wrapped up “safely” in a cocoon of untruths, are you really benefitting anyone, including yourself? If these people reject you for being who you are, at least you will know the truth from them as well. Far better a painful truth, than a positive lie. You are then, at least, dealing with reality. Someone once told me, “There is no growth without risk, or pain.” 

 

 

           
Some of our excuses feel very legitimate, but does that mean we cannot figure out a way around the obstacle?  Everywhere we look, if we’re willing to look, there are people in the world who have overcome every obstacle we can put forth in our excuses as to why we cannot do what we are potentially capable of.  But they did it…

 

           
Do we really want to achieve these things we complain that we are unable to achieve for whatever reason? Or are we lying to ourselves? If we gave it any serious thought, and we truly wanted to achieve our goals, we could just as readily argue against our very own excuses. 

 

           
So, let’s be honest. Let’s take it that step further: What is really stopping us? Only ourselves.

 

           
Now that we’re past that acknowledgment, we have two options: Accept where we are, that we’ve chosen to be there, and stop whining and wishing, or Figure Out how to make the necessary changes in ourselves to become who we are capable of being and who we want to be. If we can’t figure it out, we need to find someone who can help us figure it out, so we can move forward.

 

         
   If we want ‘whiner’s rights,’ maybe we need to be putting forth our best efforts to get where we want to be.  But if we’re doing that … we won’t really have time to whine. We’ll be too busy finding solutions to the excuses. We will be too busy figuring out what we have to do to destroy, or at least diminish the obstacles – the excuses – that we have put in our own paths, so that we can continue to move forward.  We’ll be too busy getting there.

 

           
We have to admit how many of our excuses are our own walls (and then we must figure out why we are putting up those walls to prevent our own success!)

 

           
How strange, that we fight so hard to stay mediocre. What does mediocrity give us? We gain nothing from it.  It only makes us feel depressed and without hope. We are not content with who we are, but we resist change. We whine because it’s difficult, and because we have to use self discipline, and it will take a bit of effort to improve our lives. 

 

           
All change – Even good change, can be difficult and takes effort. Something you were once familiar with is being left behind for something new, and different, and unfamiliar. 

 

           
Becoming who you are capable of being is a lot more important than being comfortable with being average. Because… you’re not really comfortable with being average.  That you are comfortable with it, is part of  the lie.  Don’t accept that lie anymore. Expand your horizons, and step outside that comfort zone.  Burst the toxic bubble of mediocrity and untruth.

 

           
Don’t wait until Monday, or the first of next month. Do it now! Every day is a fresh start. Every moment is a brand new chance to be doing something positive! That means you have 60 opportunities this hour – 1,440 opportunities today — 10,080 opportunities this week – 43,680 opportunities this month – and 524,160 opportunities this year. WOW! What a lot of chances! Don’t waste a moment of opportunity to make the most of your time! Spend it doing your best! All that time, is time to become who you are meant to be!

 

Time to get off your ‘But’!

The Last Days of Cubicle Life

Thursday, May. 14, 2009


By Seth Godin


When Frank Lloyd Wright unveiled the Johnson Wax Building in 1939, it showcased a new way of looking at work. One room, covering half an acre (0.2 hectare), was filled with women, lined up in rows, typing. Work didn’t necessarily mean loud, dirty factories, but it still involved sitting in orderly rows, doing orderly work for a finicky boss.

In order to understand what your workplace is going to be like in five or 10 years, you need to think about what your work is going to be like. Here’s a clue: employers no longer need to pay you to drive to a building to sit and type. In fact, under pressure from an uncertain economy, bosses are discovering that there are a lot of reasons not to pay you to drive to a central location or even to pay you at all. And when work gets auctioned off to the lowest bidder, your job gets a lot more stressful. (See pictures of cubicle designs submitted to The Office.)

The job of the future will have very little to do with processing words or numbers (the Internet can do that now). Nor will we need many people to act as placeholders, errand runners or receptionists. Instead, there’s going to be a huge focus on finding the essential people and outsourcing the rest.

So, are you essential? Most of the best jobs will be for people who manage customers, who organize fans, who do digital community management. We’ll continue to need brilliant designers, energetic brainstormers and rigorous lab technicians. More and more, though, the need to actually show up at an office that consists of an anonymous hallway and a farm of cubicles or closed doors is just going to fade away. It’s too expensive, and it’s too slow. I’d rather send you a file at the end of my day (when you’re in a very different time zone) and have the information returned to my desktop when I wake up tomorrow. We may never meet, but we’re both doing essential work. (See pictures of office cubicles around the world.)

When you do come in to work, your boss will know. If anything can be measured, it will be measured. The boss will know when you log in, what you type, what you access. Not just the boss but also your team. Internet technology makes working as a team, synchronized to a shared goal, easier and more productive than ever. But as in a three-legged-race, you’ll instantly know when a teammate is struggling, because that will slow you down as well. Some people will embrace this new high-stress, high-speed, high-flexibility way of work. We’ll go from a few days alone at home, maintaining the status quo, to urgent team sessions, sometimes in person, often online. It will make some people yearn for jobs like those in the old days, when we fought traffic, sat in a cube, typed memos, took a long lunch and then sat in traffic again.

The only reason to go to work, I think, is to do work. It’s too expensive a trip if all you want to do is hang out. Work will mean managing a tribe, creating a movement and operating in teams to change the world. Anything less is going to be outsourced to someone a lot cheaper and a lot less privileged than you or me.

Godin is a popular blogger (sethgodin.typepad.com) and the author of 12 international best sellers. His most recent book is Tribes

See which businesses are bucking the recession.

Click here for original article.

Article of the Month – Ego: The False Center

From Beyond the Frontier of the Mind by Osho

     
The first thing to be understood is what ego is. A child is born. A child
is born without any knowledge, any consciousness of his own self. And when
a child is born the first thing he becomes aware of is not himself; the
first thing he becomes aware of is the other. It is natural, because the
eyes open outwards, the hands touch others, the ears listen to others, the
tongue tastes food and the nose smells the outside. All these senses open
outwards.

          
That is what birth means. Birth means coming into this world, the world
of the outside. So when a child is born, he is born into this world. He
opens his eyes, sees others. ‘Other’ means the thou. He becomes aware of
the mother first. Then, by and by, he becomes aware of his own body. That
too is the other, that too belongs to the world. He is hungry and he feels
the body; his need is satisfied, he forgets the body.

     
This is how a child grows. First he becomes aware of you, thou, other,
and then by and by, in contrast to you, thou, he becomes aware of himself.

     
This awareness is a reflected awareness. He is not aware of who he is. He
is simply aware of the mother and what she thinks about him. If she smiles,
if she appreciates the child, if she says, “You are beautiful,” if she hugs
and kisses him, the child feels good about himself. Now an ego is born.

     
Through appreciation, love, care, he feels he is good, he feels he is
valuable, he feels he has some significance.

     
A center is born.

     
But this center is a reflected center. It is not his real being. He does
not know who he is; he simply knows what others think about him. And this
is the ego: the reflection, what others think. If nobody thinks that he is
of any use, nobody appreciates him, nobody smiles, then too an ego is born:
an ill ego; sad, rejected, like a wound; feeling inferior, worthless. This
too is the ego. This too is a reflection.

     
First the mother – and mother means the world in the beginning. Then
others will join the mother, and the world goes on growing. And the more
the world grows, the more complex the ego becomes, because many others’
opinions are reflected.

     
The ego is an accumulated phenomenon, a by-product of living with others.
If a child lives totally alone, he will never come to grow an ego. But that
is not going to help. He will remain like an animal. That doesn’t mean that
he will come to know the real self, no.

     
The real can be known only through the false, so the ego is a must. One
has to pass through it. It is a discipline. The real can be known only
through the illusion. You cannot know the truth directly. First you have to
know that which is not true. First you have to encounter the untrue.
Through that encounter you become capable of knowing the truth. If you know
the false as the false, truth will dawn upon you.

     
Ego is a need; it is a social need, it is a social by-product. The society
means all that is around you – not you, but all that is around you. All,
minus you, is the society. And everybody reflects. You will go to school and
the teacher will reflect who you are. You will be in friendship with other
children and they will reflect who you are. By and by, everybody is adding
to your ego, and everybody is trying to modify it in such a way that you
don’t become a problem to the society.

     
They are not concerned with you.

     
They are concerned with the society.

     
Society is concerned with itself, and that’s how it should be.

     
They are not concerned that you should become a self-knower. They are
concerned that you should become an efficient part in the mechanism of the
society. You should fit into the pattern. So they are trying to give you an
ego that fits with the society. They teach you morality. Morality means
giving you an ego which will fit with the society. If you are immoral, you
will always be a misfit somewhere or other. That’s why we put criminals in
the prisons – not that they have done something wrong, not that by putting
them in the prisons we are going to improve them, no. They simply don’t
fit. They are troublemakers. They have certain types of egos of which the
society doesn’t approve. If the society approves, everything is good.

     
One man kills somebody – he is a murderer.

     
And the same man in wartime kills thousands – he becomes a great hero.
The society is not bothered by a murder, but the murder should be commited
for the society – then it is okay. The society doesn’t bother about
morality.

     
Morality means only that you should fit with the society.

     
If the society is at war, then the morality changes.

     
If the society is at peace, then there is a different morality.

     
Morality is a social politics. It is diplomacy. And each child has to be
brought up in such a way that he fits into the society, that’s all. Because
society is interested in efficient members. Society is not interested that
you should attain to self-knowledge.

     
The society creates an ego because the ego can be controlled and
manipulated. The self can never be controlled or manipulated. Nobody has
ever heard of the society controlling a self – not possible.

     
And the child needs a center; the child is completely unaware of his own
center. The society gives him a center and the child is by and by convinced
that this is his center, the ego that society gives.

     
A child comes back to his home – if he has come first in his class, the
whole family is happy. You hug and kiss him, and you take the child on your
shoulders and dance and you say, “What a beautiful child! You are a pride
to us.” You are giving him an ego, a subtle ego. And if the child comes
home dejected, unsuccessful, a failure – he couldn’t pass, or he has just
been on the back bench – then nobody appreciates him and the child feels
rejected. He will try harder next time, because the center feels shaken.

     
Ego is always shaken, always in search of food, that somebody should
appreciate it. That’s why you continuously ask for attention.

     
You get the idea of who you are from others.

     
It is not a direct experience.

     
It is from others that you get the idea of who you are. They shape your
center. This center is false, because you carry your real center. That is
nobody’s business. Nobody shapes it.

     
You come with it.

     
You are born with it.

     
So you have two centers. One center you come with, which is given by
existence itself. That is the self. And the other center, which is created
by the society, is the ego. It is a false thing – and it is a very great
trick. Through the ego the society is controlling you. You have to behave
in a certain way, because only then does the society appreciate you. You
have to walk in a certain way; you have to laugh in a certain way; you have
to follow certain manners, a morality, a code. Only then will the society
appreciate you, and if it doesn’t, you ego will be shaken. And when the ego
is shaken, you don’t know where you are, who you are.

     
The others have given you the idea.

     
That idea is the ego.

     
Try to understand it as deeply as possible, because this has to be thrown.
And unless you throw it you will never be able to attain to the self.
Because you are addicted to the center, you cannot move, and you cannot
look at the self.

     
And remember, there is going to be an interim period, an interval, when
the ego will be shattered, when you will not know who you are, when you
will not know where you are going, when all boundaries will melt.

     
You will simply be confused, a chaos.

     
Because of this chaos, you are afraid to lose the ego. But it has to be
so. One has to pass through the chaos before one attains to the real
center.

     
And if you are daring, the period will be small.

     
If you are afraid, and you again fall back to the ego, and you again
start arranging it, then it can be very, very long; many lives can be
wasted.

     
I have heard: One small child was visiting his grandparents. He was just
four years old. In the night when the grandmother was putting him to sleep,
he suddenly started crying and weeping and said, “I want to go home. I am
afraid of darkness.” But the grandmother said, “I know well that at home
also you sleep in the dark; I have never seen a light on. So why are you
afraid here?” The boy said, “Yes, that’s right – but that is MY darkness.”
This darkness is completely unknown.

     

Even with darkness you feel, “This is MINE.”

     
Outside – an unknown darkness.

     
With the ego you feel, “This is MY darkness.”

     
It may be troublesome, maybe it creates many miseries, but still mine.
Something to hold to, something to cling to, something underneath the feet;
you are not in a vacuum, not in an emptiness. You may be miserable, but at
least you ARE. Even being miserable gives you a feeling of ‘I am’. Moving
from it, fear takes over; you start feeling afraid of the unknown darkness
and chaos – because society has managed to clear a small part of your
being.

     
It is just like going to a forest. You make a little clearing, you clear
a little ground; you make fencing, you make a small hut; you make a small
garden, a lawn, and you are okay. Beyond your fence – the forest, the wild.
Here everything is okay; you have planned everything. This is how it has
happened.

     
Society has made a little clearing in your consciousness. It has cleaned
just a little part completely, fenced it. Everything is okay there. That’s
what all your universities are doing. The whole culture and conditioning is
just to clear a part so that you can feel at home there.

     
And then you become afraid.

     
Beyond the fence there is danger.

     
Beyond the fence you are, as within the fence you are – and your
conscious mind is just one part, one-tenth of your whole being. Nine-tenths
is waiting in the darkness. And in that nine-tenths, somewhere your real
center is hidden.

     
One has to be daring, courageous.

     
One has to take a step into the unknown.

     
For a while all boundaries will be lost.

     
For a while you will feel dizzy.

     
For a while, you will feel very afraid and shaken, as if an earthquake
has happened. But if you are courageous and you don’t go backwards, if you
don’t fall back to the ego and you go on and on, there is a hidden center
within you that you have been carrying for many lives.

     
That is your soul, the self.

     
Once you come near it, everything changes, everything settles again. But
now this settling is not done by the society. Now everything becomes a
cosmos, not a chaos; a new order arises.

     
But this is no longer the order of the society – it is the very order of
existence itself.

     
It is what Buddha calls Dhamma, Lao Tzu calls Tao, Heraclitus calls
Logos. It is not man-made. It is the VERY order of existence itself. Then
everything is suddenly beautiful again, and for the first time really
beautiful, because man-made things cannot be beautiful. At the most you can
hide the ugliness of them, that’s all. You can decorate them, but they can
never be beautiful.

     
The difference is just like the difference between a real flower and a
plastic or paper flower. The ego is a plastic flower – dead. It just looks
like a flower, it is not a flower. You cannot really call it a flower. Even
linguistically to call it a flower is wrong, because a flower is something
which flowers. And this plastic thing is just a thing, not a flowering. It
is dead. There is no life in it.

     
You have a flowering center within. That’s why Hindus call it a lotus –
it is a flowering. They call it the one-thousand-petaled-lotus. One
thousand means infinite petals. And it goes on flowering, it never stops,
it never dies.

     
But you are satisfied with a plastic ego.

     
There are some reasons why you are satisfied. With a dead thing, there
are many conveniences. One is that a dead thing never dies. It cannot – it
was never alive. So you can have plastic flowers, they are good in a way.
They are permanent; they are not eternal, but they are permanent.

     
The real flower outside in the garden is eternal, but not permanent.
And the eternal has its own way of being eternal. The way of the eternal is
to be born again and again and to die. Through death it refreshes itself,
rejuvenates itself.

     
To us it appears that the flower has died – it never dies.

     
It simply changes bodies, so it is ever fresh.

     
It leaves the old body, it enters a new body. It flowers somewhere else;
it goes on flowering.

     
But we cannot see the continuity because the continuity is invisible. We
see only one flower, another flower; we never see the continuity.

     
It is the same flower which flowered yesterday.

     
It is the same sun, but in a different garb.

     
The ego has a certain quality – it is dead. It is a plastic thing. And it
is very easy to get it, because others give it. You need not seek it, there
is no search involved. That’s why unless you become a seeker after the
unknown, you have not yet become an individual. You are just a part of the
crowd. You are just a mob.

     
When you don’t have a real center, how can you be an individual?

     
The ego is not individual. Ego is a social phenomenon – it is society,
its not you. But it gives you a function in the society, a hierarchy in the
society. And if you remain satisfied with it, you will miss the whole
opportunity of finding the self.

     
And that’s why you are so miserable.

     
With a plastic life, how can you be happy?

     
With a false life, how can you be ecstatic and blissful? And then this
ego creates many miseries, millions of them.

     
You cannot see, because it is your own darkness. You are attuned to it.

     
Have you ever noticed that all types of miseries enter through the ego?
It cannot make you blissful; it can only make you miserable.

     
Ego is hell.

     
Whenever you suffer, just try to watch and analyze, and you will find,
somewhere the ego is the cause of it. And the ego goes on finding causes to
suffer.

     
You are an egoist, as everyone is. Some are very gross, just on the
surface, and they are not so difficult. Some are very subtle, deep down,
and they are the real problems.

     
This ego comes continuously in conflict with others because every ego is
so unconfident about itself. Is has to be – it is a false thing. When you
don’t have anything in your hand and you just think that something is
there, then there will be a problem.

     
If somebody says, “There is nothing,” immediately the fight will start,
because you also feel that there is nothing. The other makes you aware of
the fact.

     
Ego is false, it is nothing.

     
That you also know.

     
How can you miss knowing it? It is impossible! A conscious being – how
can he miss knowing that this ego is just false? And then others say that
there is nothing – and whenever the others say that there is nothing they
hit a wound, they say a truth – and nothing hits like the truth.

     
You have to defend, because if you don’t defend, if you don’t become
defensive, then where will you be?

     
You will be lost.

     
The identity will be broken.

     
So you have to defend and fight – that is the clash.

     
A man who attains to the self is never in any clash. Others may come and
clash with him, but he is never in clash with anybody.

     
It happened that one Zen master was passing through a street. A man came
running and hit him hard. The master fell down. Then he got up and started
to walk in the same direction in which he was going before, not even
looking back.

     
A disciple was with the master. He was simply shocked. He said, “Who is
this man? What is this? If one lives in such a way, then anybody can come
and kill you. And you have not even looked at that person, who he is, and
why he did it.”

     
The master said, “That is his problem, not mine.”

     
You can clash with an enlightened man, but that is your problem, not his.
And if you are hurt in that clash, that too is your own problem. He cannot
hurt you. And it is like knocking against a wall – you will be hurt, but
the wall has not hurt you.

     
The ego is always looking for some trouble. Why? Because if nobody pays
attention to you, the ego feels hungry.

     
It lives on attention.

     
So even if somebody is fighting and angry with you, that too is good
because at least the attention is paid. If somebody loves, it is okay. If
somebody is not loving you, then even anger will be good. At least the
attention will come to you. But if nobody is paying any attention to you,
nobody thinks that you are somebody important, significant, then how will
you feed your ego?

     
Other’s attention is needed.

     
In millions of ways you attract the attention of others; you dress in a
certain way, you try to look beautiful, you behave, you become very polite,
you change. When you feel what type of situation is there, you immediately
change so that people pay attention to you.

     
This is a deep begging.

     
A real beggar is one who asks for and demands attention. And a real
emperor is one who lives in himself; he has a center of his own, he doesn’t
depend on anybody else.

     
Buddha sitting under his bodhi tree…if the whole world suddenly
disappears, will it make any difference to Buddha? -none. It will not make
any difference at all. If the whole world disappears, it will not make any
difference because he has attained to the center.

     
But you, if the wife escapes, divorces you, goes to somebody else, you
are completely shattered – because she had been paying attention to you,
caring, loving, moving around you, helping you to feel that you were
somebody. Your whole empire is lost, you are simply shattered. You start
thinking about suicide. Why? Why, if a wife leaves you, should you commit
suicide? Why, if a husband leaves you, should you commit suicide? Because
you don’t have any center of your own. The wife was giving you the center;
the husband was giving you the center.

     
This is how people exist. This is how people become dependent on others.
It is a deep slavery. Ego HAS to be a slave. It depends on others. And only
a person who has no ego is for the first time a master; he is no longer a
slave. Try to understand this.

     
And start looking for the ego – not in others, that is not your business,
but in yourself. Whenever you feel miserable, immediately close you eyes
and try to find out from where the misery is coming and you will always
find it is the false center which has clashed with someone.

     
You expected something, and it didn’t happen.

     
You expected something, and just the contrary happened – your ego is
shaken, you are in misery. Just look, whenever you are miserable, try to
find out why.

     
Causes are not outside you. The basic cause is within you – but you
always look outside, you always ask:

     
Who is making me miserable?
Who is the cause of my anger?
Who is the cause of my anguish?
And if you look outside you will miss.
Just close the eyes and always look within.
The source of all misery, anger, anguish, is hidden in you, your ego.

     
And if you find the source, it will be easy to move beyond it. If you can
see that it is your own ego that gives you trouble, you will prefer to drop
it – because nobody can carry the source of misery if he understands it.

     
And remember, there is no need to drop the ego.

     
You cannot drop it.

     
If you try to drop it, you will attain to a certain subtle ego again
which says, “I have become humble.”

     
Don’t try to be humble. That’s again ego in hiding – but it’s not dead.

     
Don’t try to be humble.

     
Nobody can try humility, and nobody can create humility through any
effort of his own – no. When the ego is no more, a humbleness comes to you.
It is not a creation. It is a shadow of the real center.

     
And a really humble man is neither humble nor egoistic.

     
He is simply simple.

     
He’s not even aware that he is humble.

     
If you are aware that you are humble, the ego is there.

     
Look at humble persons…. There are millions who think that they are
very humble. They bow down very low, but watch them – they are the subtlest
egoists. Now humility is their source of food. They say, “I am humble,” and
then they look at you and they wait for you to appreciate them.

     
“You are really humble,” they would like you to say. “In fact, you are
the most humble man in the world; nobody is as humble as you are.” Then see
the smile that comes on their faces.

     
What is ego? Ego is a hierarchy that says, “No one is like me.” It can
feed on humbleness – “Nobody is like me, I am the most humble man.”

     
It happened once:

     
A fakir, a beggar, was praying in a mosque, just early in the morning
when it was still dark. It was a certain religious day for Mohammedians,
and he was praying, and he was saying, “I am nobody. I am the poorest of
the poor, the greatest sinner of sinners.”

     
Suddenly there was one more person who was praying. He was the emperor of
that country, and he was not aware that there was somebody else there who
was praying – it was dark, and the emperor was also saying:

     
“I am nobody. I am nothing. I am just empty, a beggar at our door.” When
he heard that somebody else was saying the same thing, he said, “Stop! Who
is trying to overtake me? Who are you? How dare you say before the emperor
that you are nobody when he is saying that he is nobody?”

     
This is how the ego goes. It is so subtle. Its ways are so subtle and
cunning; you have to be very, very alert, only then will you see it. Don’t
try to be humble. Just try to see that all misery, all anguish comes
through it.

     
Just watch! No need to drop it.

     
You cannot drop it. Who will drop it? Then the DROPPER will become the
ego. It always comes back.

     
Whatsoever you do, stand out of it, and look and watch.

     
Whatsoever you do – humbleness, humility, simplicity – nothing will help.
Only one thing is possible, and that is just to watch and see that it is
the source of all misery. Don’t say it. Don’t repeat it – WATCH. Because if
I say it is the source of all misery and you repeat it, then it is useless.
YOU have to come to that understanding. Whenever you are miserable, just
close the eyes and don’t try to find some cause outside. Try to see from
where this misery is coming.

     
It is your own ego.

     
If you continuously feel and understand, and the understanding that the
ego is the cause becomes so deep-rooted, one day you will suddenly see that
it has disappeared. Nobody drops it – nobody can drop it. You simply see;
it has simply disappeared, because the very understanding that ego causes
all misery becomes the dropping. THE VERY UNDERSTANDING IS THE DISAPPEARANCE
OF THE EGO.

     
And you are so clever in seeing the ego in others. Anybody can see
someone else’s ego. When it comes to your own, then the problem arises –
because you don’t know the territory, you have never traveled on it.

     
The whole path towards the divine, the ultimate, has to pass through this
territory of the ego. The false has to be understood as false. The source
of misery has to be understood as the source of misery – then it simply
drops.

     
When you know it is poison, it drops. When you know it is fire, it drops.
When you know this is the hell, it drops.

     
And then you never say, “I have dropped the ego.” Then you simply laugh
at the whole thing, the joke that you were the creator of all misery.

     
I was just looking at a few cartoons of Charlie Brown. In one cartoon he
is playing with blocks, making a house out of children’s blocks. He is
sitting in the middle of the blocks building the walls. Then a moment comes
when he is enclosed; all around he has made a wall. Then he cries, “Help,
help!”

     
He has done the whole thing! Now he is enclosed, imprisoned. This is
childish, but this is all that you have done also. You have made a house
all around yourself, and now you are crying, “Help, help!” And the misery
becomes a millionfold – because there are helpers who are also in the same
boat.

     
It happened that one very beautiful woman went to see her psychiatrist
for the first time. The psychiatrist said, “Come closer please.” When she
came closer, he simply jumped and hugged and kissed the woman. She was
shocked. Then he said, “Now sit down. This takes care of my problem, now
what is your problem?”

     
The problem becomes multifold, because there are helpers who are in the
same boat. And they would like to help, because when you help somebody the
ego feels very good, very, very good – because you are a great helper, a
great guru, a master; you are helping so many people. The greater the crowd
of your followers, the better you feel.

     
But you are in the same boat – you cannot help.

     
Rather, you will harm.

     
People who still have their own problems cannot be of much help. Only
someone who has no problems of his own can help you. Only then is there the
clarity to see, to see through you. A mind that has no problems of its own
can see you, you become transparent.

     
A mind that has no problems of its own can see through itself; that’s why
it becomes capable of seeing through others.

     
In the West, there are many schools of psychoanalysis, many schools, and
no help is reaching people, but rather, harm. Because the people who are
helping others, or trying to help, or posing as helpers, are in the same
boat.

     
…It is difficult to see one’s own ego.

     
It is very easy to see other’s egos. But that is not the point, you
cannot help them.

     
Try to see your own ego.

     
Just watch it.

     
Don’t be in a hurry to drop it, just watch it. The more you watch, the
more capable you will become. Suddenly one day, you simply see that it has
dropped. And when it drops by itself, only then does it drop. There is no
other way. Prematurely you cannot drop it.

     
It drops just like a dead leaf.

     
The tree is not doing anything – just a breeze, a situation, and the dead
leaf simply drops. The tree is not even aware that the dead leaf has
dropped. It makes no noise, it makes no claim – nothing.

     
The dead leaf simply drops and shatters on the ground, just like that.

     
When you are mature through understanding, awareness, and you have felt
totally that ego is the cause of all your misery, simply one day you see
the dead leaf dropping.

     
It settles into the ground, dies of its own accord. You have not done
anything so you cannot claim that you have dropped it. You see that it has
simply disappeared, and then the real center arises.

     
And that real center is the soul, the self, the god, the truth, or
whatsoever you want to call it.

     
It is nameless, so all names are good.

     
You can give it any name of your own liking.

     

Click here for original article.

Across the Great Divide

By Donna Carter

19-year-old Emily thanked me, as she handed back a few pages she had filled with her answers to my questions. “That was empowering!” she said.

 

It was similar to a majority of the responses I got from the 18-22 year olds to whom I had asked to give me their opinions about Life, Love, Beliefs, and the American Dream. Some of them wanted to talk, others preferred to write down their answers.  All of them had something to say. All I did was give them a chance to be heard.

 

“Empowering,” “Thought-provoking,” “Deeper than Expected,” “Thank you!” were all responses I got. They appreciated the opportunity to speak their minds.

 

It gave me pause. How many, my age and older, have simply written them off, completely unable to understand where they’re coming from, or what they are looking for? Based on appearances, the ‘music’ they listen to, or the manner in which they communicate, how many of us have turned a blind eye, and a deaf ear to the next generation?

I was at the mall Sunday afternoon, waiting my turn at the sales counter. Ahead of me were two teenage girls, also waiting. I watched as another attendant arrived at the counter, and although the girls reached forward with their receipt in hand to be assisted, the attendant served the woman behind them.

 

The girls’ frustration was evident – and not without reason. I commiserated that it wasn’t fair, and it appeared that the attendants were overlooking them. The only reason I could see was the age factor.        The girls waited: polite, but frustrated.

 

“They don’t seem to have enough attendants,” I said, opening up a conversation with them.

 

 

“We’re just here to pick up a pre-purchase for my mom!” one of the girls replied with a bit of exasperation, but not whining,  “Just pick it up… That’s all.  We were here before anyone else was. We were on the other side and the attendant said we had to come over here, and then she went over to help that other woman first… and then this one… ” they indicated the woman who was presently being assisted.

 

“That doesn’t seem very fair,” I acknowledged. “You are just as much a customer as any of us. I’m sorry they haven’t helped you yet.”

 

The first attendant finished with her customer, and she turned to serve me.  The girls and I were far apart enough to obviously not be together, and they had been there long before I arrived.

 

I tilted my head toward the two girls, “They were ahead of me,” I said. The girls were surprised and thankful, handing her their receipt. The attendant helped them, and they were on their way.

 

It made me wonder about other things the generations behind us have to deal with coming from the adult world they are growing into.  Here they are, on the cusp of adulthood, learning where they are in the world – what they believe, what they hope, what they dream – and attempting to see these things in light of the reality around them. It is no wonder their responses to my questions were often jaded.

 

I saw considerable thought and frustration coming off of every written page returned to me.  The American Dream, they said, was pie in the sky. An unrealistic fantasy. Nice to think about, do what you can to achieve it (or your own personal version of it) but don’t expect it to bring happiness.

 

Happiness, for the most part, came from their families and friends, and time spent with people –  doing things together, making other people happy, and being productive. Listening to music gave them joy – and escape.

 

“It doesn’t have to be something big” one girl said.  Others agreed: hot chocolate, a friend’s face, a smile, a good book, dancing, were added to the ongoing list, amid nods and laughter.

 

Talk of happiness morphed into love, which was defined as a feeling – a sentiment that varied according to whom it was applied: Parent/Child, Significant Other, Friends, Pets, objects… but “True Love” was unconditional, and required commitment, mutual respect, patience, and understanding.  Lauren (21) wrote, “I want someone who loves every part of me – flaws included – but can also guide me and give me constructive criticism when I need it, and can accept that same love and guidance from me.” Everyone agreed with Michael (19) who said that love “feels damn good,” and that it was best when reciprocated.

 

Spiritually, their beliefs range all over the map. For some, God was the ultimate reason for their existence and there were no answers without God being a part of that answer or being the answer altogether. For some, God was not a part of their picture at all. Life was life – you live, you die.  God either didn’t exist, or simply didn’t matter. For the majority, however, their beliefs were more amorphous in nature:  God was not what is taught in church or parochial schools. God was more a spiritual force than a religious being: An higher power – the essence of life, and a very real and important part of their lives.

 

Their dreams focused on education and job opportunities, laced with some frustration about the economy making the situation almost impossible on all fronts.  They are struggling, attempting to find ways to follow their dreams, but feeling lost and alone.  “Life will be what I make of it.”  “I don’t expect it to be easy”

 

All of them feel they’re being left a pretty big mess to deal with on every level, and yet they want to see the world become a better place. Most of them agreed that simply being more unselfish, and genuinely caring about others and their environment would help immeasurably – but despite their willingness to do their part, almost to the last one, they felt that no one else was willing to pitch in alongside them. They know that the single drop from their efforts to improve things will never fill the parched void of their world that so desperately needs to be saturated with positive change.

 

“It can’t be done alone!” They said, “I can only do my part!” “It’s impossible!” “Only God can change things!”

 

My thoughts are drawn back to the two girls at the sales counter. Surprised and thankful. How sad that it surprised them that someone would care to extend them some common courtesy.

 

The next generation is not angry, way underneath it all. They are frustrated. They are having to fight to be heard, so their voices have become harsh and brash and angry to break through that silent barrier – the blind eye, the deaf ear – the barrier that we – not they – have erected between us.

 

They’re clawing at that wall. It’s a lot easier for us: We only have to reach through and grab their hand to breach the gap.

Why?

Why? It’s a good question. Like why am I here? Why is there famine? Why do people hurt people? Why is there hate? Why do bad things happen to good people? How do you explain the unexplainable? If there is an all-loving compassionate God, why would He let small children die of starvation? Why would He allow thundering earthquakes to bury people alive? Why would there be murder, rape, incest, the homeless? Why?

It doesn’t seem fair to me that some are born to a life of privilege and wealth while others are born into dysfunctional families where stepfathers come and go as often as the sun sets. Children having children and being asked to grow up and be role models before they know who they are and where they are going.

I could go on, I could list a thousand injustices that occur everyday. But what would be the point? I wouldn’t be telling you anything you haven’t heard before and tomorrow when you turn on the evening news you’d probably still hear about the seventeen-year veteran of the police force that was shot to death pulling someone over for a routine traffic ticket. How he left four small children and a wife who is only left repeating over and over… Why? Why? Why?

I don’t begin to pretend to have the answers, but there are a few things I have figured out. A few things that let me live my day instead of just survive it. To wake up every morning with a sense of wonder instead of disillusionment. I hope my insights help you.

1.) Experience is a teacher that we must use to guide us to be the person we strive to be. Deny our past, then we are destined to repeat it till we embrace what lessons it has to offer.

2.) We are constantly in a mode of self-creation. Just because we want to better ourselves and our surroundings doesn’t mean our today and now isn’t any less magnificent.

3.) Realize every moment has a birth and an ending. All things are in a constant state of change. Life is change. Accept that and half the worries you’ll have in your life, you’ll be able to let go.

4.) Love is not a weapon, a tool, deception or a burden. When true love enters your life, it won’t be cloaked in secret or lies. It won’t have rules or guidelines. It will just be. As a matter of fact, true love cannot be lost or wither away. Deceptive love always has an excuse and tries to turn you away from the light and make you into something you are not. True love accepts. False love restricts.

5.) There are no coincidences! Everything happens for a reason. And the reason is the reason you give it. Want to play the part of a victim it will be easy. There will always be those in your life that would love to use you as a doormat. Only you can stop them. Only you can say no.

6.) You can’t make everyone happy so don’t try. Happiness is something within each and every one of us that is a personal decision. What we feel is determined by what we choose to be. Try to save the world and you’ll save no one. But if you take one person at a time that enters your life and be an example of a person that is trying to do their best you’ll be amazed how many smiles show up on the faces of the ones you love.

7.) Give everyone the benefit of the doubt, at least once. You can go through life judging everyone and wondering if they have hidden agendas but you will make yourself sick. Listen to your heart, be loving. There are a lot of kind people just like you are out there who would love a friend and someone to share their life with.

8.) When crisis knocks on your door and it will, instead of asking, “Why me?” just know you’re being given an opportunity to grow, to learn, to remember that darkness visits us all. And I’ll bet if you took just a second to think about it you could come up with at least half a dozen people who have it worse than you. Be grateful, it always could be worse.

In closing, I don’t know why certain things happen but I do know I have the power to interpret them any way I please. (That is the power we were all blessed with whether we use it or not.)

by Fred Cuellar the Diamond Guy®

What Ever Happened?

What ever happened to children playing in the front yard and front doors that could be unlocked?

What ever happened to deals made on a handshake and your word was your bond?

What ever happened to being a gentleman who opened doors and stood when a lady entered the room?

What ever happened to politicians who cared more about their country than they did for their own pocket book?

What ever happened to our justice system that believed it was better to set one hundred guilty free than to imprison one innocent man?

What ever happened to the family where a home cooked meal wasn’t vacuum packed and sealed for freshness?

What ever happened to rooting for the good guy and underdog and belief that honor and integrity weren’t for saps?

What ever happened to memories and keepsakes or does everything have its price on the auction block?

What ever happened to accepting responsibility for your actions regardless of the consequences?

What ever happened to “Honor, love and cherish till death do us part?”

What ever happened to us?

by Fred Cuellar the Diamond Guy®

Silent Halls

Thirty years ago in May of 1971, a young songwriter walked into the Record Plant in New York City along with buddies: Paul Griffin – piano; Mike Mainieri – marimba; Ray Colcord – electric piano; Roy Markowitz – percussion and Gene Orloff – concert master. This songwriter laid down a track that would awaken a nation deep in the throes of the Vietnam War and just over two years away from its President resigning. The songwriter was Don McLean and his ballad was “American Pie.” Its prose started off innocent enough with:

A long long time ago
I can still remember how that music used to make me smile
And I knew if I had my chance
That I could make those people dance
And maybe they’d be happy for a while
But February made me shiver
With every paper I’d deliver
Bad news on the doorstep
I couldn’t take one more step
I can’t remember if I cried
When I read about his widowed bride
But something touched me deep inside
The day the music died

Don made the circuit of the talk shows including Merv Griffen where he was asked what he was trying to say. Don dodged the question by saying, “Everyone’s got a spin on this thing, from the pop psychologists to the music critics.” They say that “American Pie” is a metaphor for the American dream and that our society has lost its innocence. That we are manipulated by a government with no morals that is trying to change us from a society of free thinkers to a society where our basic right to pick and choose are regulated by the popular decision of the masses. Uniformity should extinguish individuality. That the line “the day the music died” is a direct correlation to the death of our spirit. Others just say it’s a simple song about Buddy Holly, The Big Bopper and Ritchie Valens dying in a plane crash February 3, 1959.” Coincidentally enough, the plane’s name was “American Pie.”

The truth probably lies some place in the middle. Don went on to write other hits like “Vincent” but none captured the imagination that “American Pie” did. The art form, whether expressed in music or on stages from community theatres to Broadway is dying; it’s becoming extinct. Producers care more about the bottom line. Pablo Picasso was once asked why he chose to be a painter. His reply, “I didn’t, it chose me. I don’t paint to live, I live to paint, I live to create.”

The artisans of today — the poets, the actors, the painters and writers — do what they do because they have a gift and because they have no choice. Their ability to see what no one else can and present it to us in such a way that we are forced to think outside the box and accept that dreams can come true and nothing is impossible. And that, all by itself is the greatest gift we can receive. But, one by one we are losing our storytellers. Not out of a lack of commitment from the artist but from a society that is turning its back on the performing arts. In our schools funding is being cut back so much that a child can’t even discover whether he’s going to be the next Olivier because the drama department has been closed. Community theatres, most of which are non-profit are closing in record numbers due to lack of attendance, private donations and the disappearance of grants.

In Don McLean’s song “American Pie” he asks, “Do you have faith in God above?” and if we do, “music can save our mortal soul.” The arts are our music, don’t allow anyone to silence our halls. Visit your town theatre this weekend instead of a ninety-minute prepackaged sequel at the multiplex. Donate your time and money to a child that deserves all the choices possible so they can make their dreams a reality. Give back to all the voices that cry out to be heard. Otherwise, we’ll wake up in a world where original thought and creativity are replaced with the sounds of silence.

by Fred Cuellar the Diamond Guy®

Self-Discovery

In search of me
I fell victim to the stereotypes of others
I looked past the shores of circumstance
To find substance where truth and fiction
Change places at a whim

I reached out for answers
To questions that didn’t exist
To find meaning in the ones that do
I evolved not out of chance nor fear
But to recognize my face in the mirror

My actions didn’t always coincide
With the things that I believe
My convictions were occasionally afterthoughts
To the things that I achieved

But as my path outlined my direction
I find that I’m coming back home
My past becomes my present
My dreams no longer alone

As I reach beyond my grasp
I view an endless sea
I’m right back where I started
In search of me…

by Fred Cuellar the Diamond Guy®

Newlywed’s Prayer

Lord watch over us as we
venture into uncharted seas.

Protect and guide us to live in your glory
and be an example of your love.

Watch over our families that have become one through our union.
Give us the patience and understanding to weather the storms that test every alliance.

Be our shelter when we are homeless
and our compass when we have lost our way.

Lord let us always be forever grateful
for the gifts you have bestowed upon us.

So that never a day goes by that we take for granted the love we share now.
And let the everlasting love we will share together always fill our hearts.

by Fred Cuellar the Diamond Guy®

Mom

Have you ever met someone who could light up a room? Who could make others feel special just with their presence? Who would cook you chicken soup when you were sick, be the first one to wish you happy birthday, be the one who tucked you in at night? Have you ever met someone who let you lick the frosting from the spoon while making a cake, promise not to tell your dad when you got in trouble, sneak a meal to you, when you were grounded? Of course you have, they’re Moms.

Moms make a deal with God during pregnancy that if they can have a healthy child they will spend the rest of their lives putting themselves second to their children. They bring us home incapable of doing anything and teach us everything. How to tie our shoes; comb our hair; brush our teeth. They teach us invaluable lessons like: look both ways before crossing the street, don’t talk to strangers, be fair, be courteous, and mind your manners. Moms bring us the world in small doses.

Then life goes on, birthdays pass, parent-teacher meetings, first dates, broken hearts, first crushes, graduation, life. Till you have a family of your own and the cycle begins again. I’m writing today not just because it’s Mother’s Day (or at least it was when I wrote this) but because I don’t think very many of us realize what a sacrifice our mothers make when they make their pact with God (Always to be second; always to put our needs first).

Moms (not necessarily birth mothers; there is a difference) in some cases put their own hopes and dreams on a shelf to gather dust just so they can see us smile, laugh, cry. The great ones would give their life for us, many have. If you go to Washington, DC you’ll see a tomb for the Unknown Soldier and the Washington Monument, but where’s the monument to Moms? It’s a funny thing about Moms, most of the time they’re not even looking for any credit. They just want to stay involved, want to be a part, want to share a life with us. Moms just want to make us better. Better enough so that we can stand on our own two feet and make a difference in this world. Moms are the generals that prepare us for life. Let’s not forget it.

We all have our time in the sun but let’s never forget we are the sons and daughters of someone who made a choice the day we were born that we came first. Love your Mom. They won’t always be around. So when they’re gone and the phone doesn’t ring on your birthday and you don’t have someone to hug to tell you it’s going to be okay, you won’t have any regrets. Love your Mom.

In loving memory to Mary Ann Antona.

by Fred Cuellar the Diamond Guy®

Living in a World Without Gray

In simplistic terms it is not difficult to argue the existence of darkness and the light from the rising sun. In darkness, we are able to move without being noticed, accomplish without being criticized and blunder without falling. In the light we are awakened to the scrutiny of our peers, the gravity of our dreams, and the stark reality of our mortality. Many teeter back and forth from light to darkness, from black to white, oblivious to the shadows that hide behind the crevices of our lives, oblivious to gray. Then there are the teachers, the fathers, the mothers, the sisters and brothers that protect us and guard us from the shadows. They provide us with the illusions where love conquers all, good defeats evil, the truth shall prevail, and nothing is impossible.

We are sent out believing in justice and we create a moral code that we use as self-definition for the person that we let take center stage. Sometimes to the roar of the crowd and sometimes to the view of empty seats, but still we go on. Whether our driving force is survival or gratification we live in a world of our own creation; a world of illusions. For many the illusions become a reality and the illusions are lost among the many daydreams we had as a child.

We self-promote ourselves to roles of superior and judge forgetting the steep cliff we have placed ourselves on from the mountain most high. “I live in a world without gray,” declares the blind fool who takes office and tries to rule. But in gray is found compassion where the rules don’t apply; where you don’t have to answer the questions and tell a truth from a lie. In gray, right is wrong as often as wrong is right. The sun shines as often during the day as it does at night. So before you reach down to cast a stone, know we all have closets that are littered with bones. Let the judge be the defendant and the ruler be the accused. It isn’t time for being amused. A world without gray is as bad as a world without black and white. It’s only by accepting all will we truly take flight.

by Fred Cuellar the Diamond Guy®

It is Finished!

There once was a man who for every reason should not have made a mark on society. When he was born his family was homeless and his parents had to rely on the charity of strangers in order to help feed and shelter him. His dad was a day laborer and took odd jobs where he could find them. At an early age in a market place his mom turned around and realized he was missing. In a frantic pace she searched all day looking for her lost boy only to find him playing with others in another part of the city. Furious, his mom asked him never to wander off and get lost again. To which he replied, “Mother, I was never lost, I always knew where I was.” He still got grounded.

As a teenager he would learn his dad’s blue-collar craft of making furniture and was quite good at it. Some might have thought this man to be a commoner but when asked why he didn’t aspire to higher ambitions he would reply, “A chair that I make with my two hands will give rest to my bretheren, how can giving comfort to my fellow man not be seen as a noble endeavor?” You have to admit the kid could put a nice spin on just about anything he did. As he grew older he got restless and decided to travel, so he left home.

Being a pretty vocal fellow he would always take notice to what he felt the injustices of the land were and spoke his mind. If he thought taxes were too high, he’d speak out on that. If he saw someone in trouble, he would come to their aid. More than once he landed himself in prison for his beliefs. When told if he didn’t renounce the things he believed in he would be put to death, he stood his ground.

So this inquisitive bright child, blue-collar laborer and speaker of the people wound up a convicted felon on death row. Later he would be put to death for the crimes his keepers said he had committed against society. The day of his execution he made no excuses and stood with his head held high. When the guard lanced him with his fatal wound, the last words that were uttered by this man were, “It is finished!”

I can only speculate that he wasn’t referring to his life being finished but his task on earth. This child of humble beginnings had decided on a course in his life, took it, stuck with it and finished it. How many of us can say that? That we finished everything we start to the best of our abilities? That we would fight and die for our beliefs, that when we are on our deathbed we will be able to say our task is finished. Not many I guess. But isn’t it a nice goal to strive for? Wouldn’t this world be a little better off if we took pride in who we were and what we did and stopped along the way to help a friend or stranger? I think so….

By the way, if you’re wondering whom the young man I made reference to earlier was, most refer to him as the Son of God.

by Fred Cuellar the Diamond Guy®

How Ya Been?

The other day I bumped into an acquaintance and before I could form a thought I found myself saying what I always seem to say to someone I know and run into by accident, “How ya been?”

We say it all the time to people on the street, people we meet standing in line, to old friends we haven’t talked to in years, to friends we saw last week. It gives us time to formulate other ingenious statements like, “You look great. Have you lost some weight? We should get together for lunch. Don’t be a stranger.” We go through life having small, inconsequential conversations with strangers, family and friends, pausing just long enough to not interrupt our made up schedule to get where we believe we need to be. For most people, life isn’t about what we put into it but what we get out of it.

I hadn’t seen Candice in two weeks. Last time we saw each other I heard about her husband’s promotion, her new Mercedes Coupe and her ski trip coming up to Squaw Valley. There wasn’t enough time to do all the things in her busy schedule. She was rushing. Almost so fast she couldn’t see herself coming or going. It had only been two weeks.

“Hi Candice, how ya been?”

“Fine, I guess, no, not really; it’s been kind of tough.”

Her statement caught me by surprise. “Oh, I’m sorry, what’s up?”

“My brother was carjacked the day after I saw you last.”

“My God, is he okay?”

“His funeral was last week. He was only nineteen.”

“I’m sorry, is there anything I can do?”

“Yesterday I was with my mother, she was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer, her oncologist says all we can do is make her comfortable.” Suddenly, Candice’s schedule wasn’t so busy. At least not with planning ski trips or spa appointments or galas. Her made up schedule of important things to do was now filled with the reality of life, the reality of death, the reality of loss. Most of us have busy schedules of our creation. Sometimes life reorganizes it. On September 11th, 2001 everyone’s schedule came to a halt and we were all forced to be on the same page, face the same truths, the same fears, the same realities. We all became one. We had real conversations for the first time in years. Divisions fell, hypocrisies melted, bigotries were set aside. As a nation that was coming apart at the seams, we were suddenly sewn tighter than ever as we became a country united. It took the loss of thousands of lives to wake us out of our slumber and staged conversations as we were caught sleep walking through our lives. Not realizing what was important from what wasn’t.

Candice reminded me that since September 11th, not all at once, we were slowly falling asleep again. Creating false priorities, false promises, and false realities.

In less than six months we were forgetting the valuable lessons that 9/11 had to offer. We aren’t going to live forever. There is only one of us. Love shouldn’t be rationed out and there isn’t anything that we can’t do if we work together.

Candice left my office almost in a daze. A daze we all go through when life makes us go left when we thought we were going right. My question is does it really take a tragedy for us to appreciate the things we’ve always had in our life but forgot were there? Does it really take a catastrophe for us to tell the ones we love how lucky we are to have them in our lives? I hope not. My wish is for all of us to slow down, throw away our “To Do” lists and realize we all have everything we ever needed to be happy. Ourselves!

by Fred Cuellar the Diamond Guy®

Disunity

Can true harmony be realized through the dysfunction of unity? If it is possible for love to prosper we must cycle past dependence and return to independence to feel the exhilaration of passion. Is it through passion that our soul soars or is it down the road most traveled that gives us the peace of mind to carry on? Opportunity lost can be a horrible thing but what may be more treacherous is the constant familiarity of a mate and death of the spark that unites two souls. Even the greatest flame will extinguish if it is allowed to be smothered. There are few things in life besides the air that we breathe that require our constant attention. For growth to occur there must be space to grow. For there to be space there must be separation. Unity cannot succeed without disunity. Love cannot grow without freedom.

The conundrum is not to walk so far away from the blaze that we can’t find our way home and not to venture too close that our only sensation is to burn. Often we let experience be our guide to the realization of an outcome we believe will be most cherished. But what if all the paths we’ve tried up until now were nothing but dead ends? Can misguided adventures that had no substance stand as a true testament to deliver a destination we can revel in? Even a recipe perfectly executed will prove to be a failure if the recipe itself was flawed from its inception. Disunity is the concept of oneness with the soul, not separation of the spirit that most would have you believe.

Because in order for a division to take place the divider must return or go somewhere. The divider must return home. To the roots that allowed him to venture out in the first place. Disunity reminds the soul of its purpose and goals not disillusionment or respect of others. For any house to stand its two supporting columns must remain separate but united. Neither relinquishing its own identity for the umbrella support of the other. Unity may bring us together but disunity keeps us whole.

by Fred Cuellar the Diamond Guy®

Don’t Squeeze the Charmin

From the time your eyes pop open in the morning till the time your lids slam shut at night we are bombarded with data, information, observations, quotations, statistics, predictions, news, weather, infomercials, commercials, billboards, magazines, facts, figures and opinions. Everybody has something to say. Not always original often misquoted but go up to anyone in this world and you’ll find someone whose got something on his or her mind. Usually a complaint rarely a solution. Usually an attitude rarely expressing gratitude.

My father once said, “The world belongs to the curious.” I like that. It’s original. For it’s the curious that ask if there’s a better way, it’s the curious that search out the truth, it’s the curious that won’t sit idly by and watch the sun rise and set with out figuring something out. We owe a lot to the curious. Inventions, manuscripts, plays, musicals, works of art, literature are all products of the curious mind. Curiosity did not kill that cat! Curiosity breeds experimentation and experimentation breeds experience. Without experience we don’t grow. We don’t evolve. We don’t become that person at the end of our lifetime that we strive to become. A person who has lived.

Believe it or not when I started this article, “Don’t squeeze the Charmin” I was going to try and figure out (be curious) as to why in a recent poll reported by Jayne Magazine that those individuals in this world that are loyal to a particular brand of toilet tissue have 50% less sex than those that don’t. That’s what I was going to be curious about. But as I tried to close my intro I found the subject of curiosity more interesting than how anal someone is about toilet tissue (no pun intended). As a society we are not curious enough. A former professor of our President Bush was asked if Bush is smart enough to be a good President. The reply, “I think so, but I don’t think he’s curious enough.” That’s sad. We all need to be more curious. We all need to ask more questions.

As far as us Charmin lovers and why we apparently aren’t “knocking boots” as much as some, well maybe quality is better that quantity and being a little pickier will allow us to experience the finer things in life. Sometimes more is less and less is more. Be curious.

by Fred Cuellar the Diamond Guy®

Champion

I was awake while others slept
I chased perfection unafraid
I persevered when others quit
I got up to embrace the day

I ran when others walked
I delivered when others talked
I achieved when others gave out
I believed in the face of doubt

Regardless of the circumstance
I left no option to chance
To be the victor I became focused
On the single task at hand

When my proponents became my critics
and my allies my foes
I did not waver in my convictions
I was steadfast in my goals

I stood tall in the darkest night
I never backed down from any fight
Win or lose I get to choose
Because I have the heart of a champion

In honor of the Colorado Avalanche
2001 Stanley Cup Champions

by Fred Cuellar the Diamond Guy®

Keeping a Promise

In the summer of 1996 I found myself in Palm Springs meeting with Pierre LaCroix the General Manager of the Colorado Avalanche. It was their inaugural season and they had just won the 1996 Stanley Cup championship a week before. I was talking to Pierre because my company was a new contender in the making of championship rings. Having made the previous Stanley Cup rings for the New Jersey Devils and the Super Bowl rings for the Dallas Cowboys we were trying to extend our winning streak to include a ring for the Colorado Avalanche. As I spoke to Mr. LaCroix I was immediately struck maybe for the first time, what it felt like, the true after-glow of not only a job well done but perfection. The Avalanche had achieved what no inaugural NHL hockey team had ever done, won the Stanley Cup championship and in sweeping fashion no less. I asked Pierre what was his most exciting moment and he told me that it was when he raised that cup above his head and then realized Rene Angelil, his best friend and husband to Celine Dion had snuck in the building to be there for his buddy. Win or lose he wanted to be there. True friendship can’t be replaced for a million dollars!

Subsequently, we were awarded our second Stanley Cup ring account. At the time of the closing I told Pierre that I was moved by what his friend had done and promised that when he found himself in a similar position to win the Stanley Cup I would be in that arena to watch him raise the cup over his head.

Flash forward to Thursday night June 7, 2001. The Avalanche have just staved off elimination and forced the New Jersey Devils to game seven back in Denver. I frantically confirmed all my reservations to make sure there weren’t any foul ups and went to bed. It would be my last good night’s sleep for 63 hours.

Friday, 6:00AM I got up, exercised and headed off to work. I was trying to get caught up on all my paperwork because our General Manager and I had 6:30AM flights on Frontier Airlines out of Houston Saturday morning. By 10:00AM I had contacted Charlotte, Pierre LaCroix’s assistant to confirm tickets to the seventh game. “Hi Charlotte, this is Fred.” “You going to make it?”, Charlotte asked. “Of course, I gave Pierre my word. I’m going to be there no matter what, I don’t care if I have to go through hell and high water but I’m going to be there.” (I had no idea how those words would come back to haunt me.) “Don’t worry.” Charlotte said, “I don’t know how I’m going to pull it off but you’ll have two tickets at will call. I have to go, have a safe trip.”

The Quest Begins
I left my office around 7:00PM, went to Luby’s for a quick bite and home to pack. On my way home I noticed some dark clouds out in the distance. I paid them no heed. Once home, I relaxed and was upset that my favorite shows on ABC kept being interrupted for thunderstorm warnings. My satellite signal kept breaking up and I was forced to go to local reception. The rain kept falling 8:00, 9:00, 10:00, 11:00. The weatherman said that the remnants of tropical storm Allison, which had gone through Houston on Tuesday, had stalled and slipped so quietly, back over Houston and was getting fed by feeder bands from the Gulf of Mexico. The rain was not expected to stop any time soon. Road closings were beginning to show up at the bottom of my television screen. I dialed up Rick Antona, our General Manager. “Rick, this is Fred, this rain is starting to look serious.” “Yeah maybe”, he replied “But it will have long stopped by the time we need to head off at 4:00AM.” “Yeah maybe you’re right.” “Look Fred I need to catch a few winks.” “Alright, alright, I’ll see you in the morning.”

Sleep sounded pretty good to me. It was approaching midnight and I would need to be up in three hours anyway so I turned off the light and the TV. Crash!! No sooner had I turned off my bedside light when a great roar of thunder made me sit straight up in bed. My heart was racing and I knew I was in trouble. My street was starting to flood and the minute I turned on the TV, I heard reports of not only roads being closed, but major highways. I called Rick again but now he was up too. “My God Fred have you seen this? It’s a mess! We might not be able to go to Denver.” “What! Are you kidding me!! We are going to Denver! It’s just we’re going to have to leave a lot earlier than we expected. If this keeps going on, we are leaving at 2:00AM.” You’re nuts Fred!” “No, I’m not! You be ready, I’ll leave to come pick you up at two.

16 Hours Before Game
My dad had made fun of me when I had bought my Range Rover saying that it was too much machine for a city fella who had no intentions of climbing mountains or going to the outback, but now I felt vindicated. This was going to be my ticket through the rain to the airport, to the seventh game of the Stanley Cup Finals. I was off.

Our general manager lived in a low-lying area of Houston near Memorial Park. There were two ways to get to him Loop 610 to I-10 or down Memorial road. When I left I had no idea I-10 had been closed in both directions off of Loop 610 and Memorial road was 30 feet under water in some sections! After six hours, two rescues of other passengers that were stranded I still didn’t have my GM and my telephone portable was running out of juice. I made two phone calls before it died. One to my GM to tell him I was going at it alone and one call to my father. He told me to be careful, to please be very careful.

Flood Waters
Since the rain had started Northwest of Houston and moved Southeast through the night, I felt my best bet at getting to the airport was to stay on Loop 610 (the highest road around in most places) then move on to the Hardy Toll road (also high elevation) to Bush Intercontinental airport. My plan seemed to work flawlessly. The feeder roads and access roads were closed but the loop was clear sailing (no pun intended). Then traffic suddenly stopped at Market Street and Loop 610. There had been an accident and now my highway to heaven was shut down.
As I sat in my truck knowing it could be hours before it would clear up and seeing perfectly unused highway on the other side I looked to my right, at a small river which used to be called Market Street. Light bulb! I’ve got it! I’ll slide off the overpass, cross Market Street, jump back on the hill of the overpass and ride up. I could be on the other side of this traffic. The only question was how deep was the water? (I should take a moment to point out that there is a fine line between clever and insane. I was about to find out what side of that line I was on.)
As I made my way down the overpass and into the water I kept reminding myself of the sales pitch the salesman at Land Rover had told me, “You can climb Mount Everest, cross the Panama Canal and the Sahara Desert all without batting an eye.” We were about to see how right he was. When the hood of my car was under water and I was still moving swiftly along, I felt a sense of exhilaration. Wow! This thing is a tank! I can go anywhere! I can do anything! I can … that’s when I saw it, a Range Rover 4.6 floating 20 feet ahead of me!! I panicked!! The other side of Market Street was 10 feet away and so too was the hill to the other side of the overpass. I turned my truck slightly and headed for higher ground. Ten seconds later I made it, two minutes later I was on the other side of Loop 610 East heading unimpeded to the Hardy Toll road.

Smooth sailing again till I got to almost exact the situation I had just bypassed. Traffic accident at Loop 610 and I-45. I was one mile from the Hardy Toll road according to “James” my in-house Global Positioning system. (At no time did James ever lose his composure.) To continue I would have to repeat my little maneuver but this water looked deeper. I was terrified. On the radio I was already hearing of reported deaths. There would later be twenty-two. I had to ask myself, “Is a silly seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals, a promise made half a decade ago worth losing my life?” “Hell yeah!” and I was off!

When I got off Loop 610 and stared at almost two football fields of water I began to have second thoughts. Just then an 18-wheeler came barreling through like a bat out of hell! As he parted the water I saw land created behind him in his wake. This was my chance!! I tucked in behind him and we were moving. About thirty feet shy of the edge of the overpass that I would need to climb, the 18-wheeler stalled out! His wake slowly but surely began overtaking me and my green little Range Rover. Within seconds I was almost entirely under water. I swerved left and headed for the overpass; time stopped but my Range Rover didn’t!! I made it to the overpass and back on to Loop 610 to the Hardy Toll road. I had cheated the flood gods a second time.

As I rolled down a relatively dry Hardy Toll road, “James” in his distinct English accent informed me that we would soon be exiting the motorway. I was just a few miles from the airport. I had two choices; leave the Hardy Toll road for a quicker entrance down Beltway 8 or stay on the Hardy Toll road and take the back entrance. I decided to take the short cut. In my mind I had waited long enough and needed to get to the airport.

As I exited to Beltway 8, I saw waters similar to what I had encountered on the feeder roads so I though nothing of it when I slowly began to go under. Fifty feet ahead I saw something floating on the water. It was the traffic lights. I stopped immediately, got back up on the Hardy Toll road and on to the airport. Not knowing if more rain was coming I parked on the roof. I had slipped by the flood gods a third time on this fateful day.

The Airlines
At the terminal all I saw was red cancelled notices next to flight after flight on the departure boards. The agent at Frontier informed me that the flight crew had not shown up for my flight so it had been cancelled along with the rest of the day’s flights. “Attention. Attention. Due to the flood, Bush Intercontinental Airport will be closing in 45 minutes.”, the man on the loud speaker informed the stranded passengers at the airport. I couldn’t believe it! No way was this ending here. I asked the agent, “What about Continental? Do they have any flights?” “Nope, sorry buddy you’re not going anywhere, all the flights are cancelled.” As I walked away in disbelief I noticed a long line at American Airlines. Why are they in line? To get a quick answer the back of the line was not the solution. So I got in the first class cabin line.

“May I help you?” the flight agent said with all the smile she could muster. “My name is Fred Cuellar, (I laid out my business card, driver’s license and platinum American Express down in front of her.) I am the jeweler to the Colorado Avalanche and I need to get to Denver for the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals, please help me!” “Sir, we don’t have any direct flights but let’s see if we can get you to Dallas and make a connection there for you to Denver. Yes, that we can do. We have two flights left and I think I can get you on one of them, just give me a second.” Kapow!! All the boards to American Airlines went dead. One by one I heard all the agents say to their passengers, “I’m sorry but we will no longer be able to assist you.” “What, you can’t get me a ticket?” “I’m sorry my board is out.” “Look there has to be something you can do, someone you call, please.” “Wait, call…hmm. I got an idea.” She picked up the phone and dialed another airport and asked can they enter me into their computer? Within ten minutes I am in American Airlines’ database and have a handwritten ticket. “Look”, she tells me, “This isn’t an official ticket but you’re in the system, just show this to the gate agent and you’ll get on.” “Should I wait for your system to come back?” “No” she said, “You have to hurry, they are closing security in five minutes!” I thanked her and ran. When I got to security I was one of the last people allowed through but only after practically a strip search where my belt, phone, watch, keys, pen, money clip, change had be removed because I kept setting off the metal detector. But I got through and on the flight.

Once on the flight the captain told us that clearance for take off was being delayed due to the weather and he would keep us notified but lo and behold an hour later we were up and away. Now, not having a real ticket, I had no idea what time my connecting flight left for Denver. When I got off the plane in Dallas, I saw that my flight was leaving in six minutes and was currently boarding! I ran and I ran. I had 36 gates to cross! As I passed the half way mark I was convinced my heart was going to burst! Sadly, I had not visited Mr. Treadmill enough. Within five minutes I could spot my gate. They were closing the door. All I could think was no, no, no! Wait, don’t leave without me!! When I got to the agent I couldn’t breath much less speak. “Me, plane go, Avalanche, please, help. “I’m sorry, sir we’ve just closed the doors!” “No, me plane, go, Avalanche.” “Okay, calm down.” She called the plane and told them to wait a second that she might have one more passenger. “Can I see your driver’s license and ticket?” I handed her both. “Nope you’re not in the system and this is not a legal ticket.” “What!?” She picked up her little white phone and told the plane to leave! “Look again, I’ve got to be in there! I’ve got to get to the Stanley Cup finals, I’m the jeweler to the Avalanche, I promised Pierre LaCroix five years ago and…” “Oh, here you are I’m sorry, you’ll have a ticket.” “Okay, then, now that’s better.” A few minutes passed, “Alrighty, then you’ll be leaving out of gate 37 in about one hour.” “One hour, what about this flight?” “Oh, I’m sorry sir it’s gone.” “Aghh, when does my next flight get into Denver?” “3:30 Mountain”, she replied. Okay, all right I’m gonna make it. Once I land I’ll still have two-and-a-half hours to game time.

Flight 1667
My flight to Denver boarded right on time. I couldn’t believe it. Everybody was in their seat, no late arrivals everything was perfect. Then… whirr, whirr, whirr, pop! went the engine. “What was that?” I said out loud. The captain came on immediately, “Good afternoon folks, it appears we have a problem with our rear thruster. We’ve asked maintenance to come out and take a look at it. It should take about 30 to 35 minutes. We’ll keep you informed.” “I’m cursed!” I thought to myself. All right don’t panic, if they fix the engine I’ll still get there a little after 4:00. I’ll still have two hours.

“Hello this your captain again, it doesn’t seem like we can fix this rear thruster problem, but as it turns out we don’t need it for take off. So we’re going to just stick a pin in it so it doesn’t come on during flight and we’ll be ready for take off. By the way, since we’ve used up a little bit of our gas sitting here we’ve requested that our tanks be topped off. We should be under way in about 30 minutes.” Thirty minutes! The best we can do is get there by 4:30, I am running out of time. My mind kept racing on the exact time it would take to get to the Adams Mark Hotel, change and get to the Pepsi Center. It can be done in an hour and a half.

Ninety minutes into the flight my mind had finally gone on auto pilot and I was about to get my first minutes sleep when suddenly…check, check “This is your captain speaking, I’ve just gotten a report that they have closed the Denver airport due to some bad weather and funnel clouds, we expect to be re-routed back to Amarillo in a couple of minutes. I’m sorry we are currently 120 miles from Denver.”

“That’s it!” I screamed at the top of my lungs to the rest of the passengers in the cabin. “I’ve had enough!! I can’t believe I’ve come this far to end up in Amarillo! God I’m talking straight to you now, split the skies, do what ever the hell you have to and open up that Denver airport!” “I am the jeweler to the Colorado Avalanche and I have to be at the seventh game of the Stanley Cup finals!” Everyone in the plane was silent, you could hear a pin drop when a young man from across the aisle quietly said, “You’ve got tickets to the Stanley Cup finals?” I nodded yes. “Do you have an extra ticket?” I nodded again yes. “Can I go with you?” Before I could respond his wife smacked him. “What are you talking about, we have to drive three and a half hours home once we land, we’ve got no time for you to go traipsing off to a hockey game!” “Honey it’s not just a hockey game it’s the hockey game! Bourque after 22 years can finally raise the cup. Patrick Roy the most winning goalie in history could win his third Con Smythe, the Avalanche for the first time can win the Stanley Cup on home ice!!” “Honey please!” Then there was a whisper between them and he said, “My name is Rusty, this is my wife Kathi. If I did go, my wife doesn’t have anywhere to be.” “Look,” I said “If by some miracle we end up in Denver versus Amarillo your wife can stay in my hotel room.” “See honey it will work out!” They began to whisper again, “Sir” “Call me Fred.” “Fred what do you want for the ticket. We can’t afford very much, I’m a professional skydiver and money’s a little tight.” “Rusty, like I said before, if God will see his way to get us to Denver you can have the ticket, no charge. You’re the type of person that should be at the game, a real fan!” Check, check this is your pilot speaking. “Folks you’re not going to believe this but the storm center has just moved and they’ve reopened Denver airport!” “Rusty promptly threw up from the excitement of the prospect of his first Avalanche hockey game.
By the time we landed I had an hour to make it to the hotel room, shower, change and get to the Pepsi Center. We made it 36 seconds before the Avalanche took the ice. Rusty threw up again from the excitement! Pierre LaCroix had gotten me seats on the 50-yard line (center ice) 13 rows up. It was magic.

At the end of the game when Bourque was skating around the rink with Lord Stanley’s Cup over his head Pierre was just taking the ice. He looked up at me and smiled. A promise made is a promise kept.

by Fred Cuellar the Diamond Guy®

Forgotten

Experience: That which is perceived, understood and remembered. Well at least that’s what Webster defines as experience. I’m not going to challenge it, it makes sense. But what if we experience something and then forget it? Do we also lose the benefit the experience had to offer? Or how about this, we do something grand, make a big splash but then everyone forgets. Does a task or accomplishment lose its luster if it’s forgotten? Can a thing that is not remembered have any significance in the first place?
The motion pictures would have us believe that any life regardless of how insignificant must affect the fabric of humanity. Just wait around till Christmas, somebody will be airing “It’s a Wonderful Life” to remind us all how one man can make a difference and how an angel gets his wings. But that’s short term, what about long term… one hundred, two hundred, three hundred years from now? Will the things we say or do now which will probably be forgotten have had any point?

For a search for an answer I first turned to some of the greatest thinkers to ever ponder the question, “Why are we all here?” or better put, “What is the meaning of life? Plato’s take on life was short and to the point, “The life which is unexamined is not worth living.” Translation: if we arrive on this earth and do not leave a footprint in the sands of time that others may either follow or disregard than we have not lived a life but wasted one. Tough character! Aristotle when posed the same question responded, “The condition of a thing whose essence is fully realized is a life that had meaning.” Hmm…essence fully realized, sounds like the Army’s old battle cry, “Be all that you can be!”

If we turn to faith-based religions they would have us believe that goodness and kindness on earth are our ticket to salvation. That when our body dies we move on. Earth is a place for us to reinvent ourselves, better ourselves, learn and remember who we are. But if that’s true why does it say in 1Timothy 6:7, “For we brought nothing into this world and it is certain that we carry nothing out.” Well, if that includes our experience then life cannot be a lesson to be learned if it’s forgotten.

Who’s right? On one hand you’ve got the philosophers saying make a difference or perish and on the other the Bible teaches us that we are to learn from our time on this planet to prepare us for the after life; even though it seems to contradict itself in 1 Timothy.

To further confuse us, in Ecclesiastes 9:11 it states, “I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favor to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all!” Wow! Like that doesn’t blow your mind! That regardless of how smart, talented, gifted, intelligent or wise if you’re not lucky at the right time forget it! That stinks! But don’t we all know how true it is. Time and time again at the Olympics we’ve witnessed the favorite, the best make one slight mistake and falter. The best and the brightest don’t always leave their mark. There are no guarantees. But what kind of life would we have if there were? Doesn’t the element of chance or loss not sometimes teach us our most valuable lessons? I think so. But back to the original question, can a life forgotten have meaning?

Believe it or not the answer was never that difficult. Let me phrase it another way. Can a life without meaning be forgotten? Guess what? All life has meaning. Whether we discover it or not! Every decision we make or don’t make will affect others and therefore will automatically create our footprint in time. With that said, it does leave us with one question unanswered, is there a universal meaning to life? This is the best I’ve been able to come up with:

To be, to create, to alter the existence of not just
oneself but in the perception and reality of
others. Life cannot exist without observation
and therefore it can only have meaning through
interaction. This interaction must begin with
oneself and find safety before it can venture
out to the comfort or displeasure of others.
But just in case —- be lucky!

by Fred Cuellar the Diamond Guy®

Importance of Nothing

It’s unfortunate that most of us don’t give “nothing” a second thought.

• It’s nothing.
• Nothing matters anymore.
• All I’m left with is nothing.
• Nothing from nothing leaves nothing.
• I feel like nothing.
• He started with nothing.
• He’s got nothing but time.
• I’ve got nothing left to give!
• You mean nothing to me!
• It’s all or nothing!
• He’s done nothing with his life!

For most of us “nothing” represents that feeling inside when we haven’t done our best; that bank account balance when we wrote one check too many. In our attempt to achieve something, to buy something, we created “nothing”.

Every day each and every one of us gives up our most valuable asset (time) in exchange for something we believe, hell, know we want. Maybe it’s for a big fat paycheck that we put in sixty hour weeks. Maybe it’s for the 9 to 5 job that keeps a roof over our head and food on the table. Maybe it’s because we want to climb Mount Everest or run a marathon. Maybe it’s in search of our “soul mate”. But in the end I promise you you’re going to be holding “nothing”. Every beginning has an end, every object can be broken and no one lives for ever.
Of course you could opt to stay in bed this morning. “Hey Sam. What did you do this weekend?” “Ah, nothing. Just stayed in bed and took it easy.” “Wow, lucky you! I had to work a double shift.” For many of us “nothing” is our reward when we’ve done a lot of something. “Whew, I just want to veg out and do nothing, I deserve it.” We don’t seem to know how to treat “nothing”. If someone does “nothing” all day, day in day out, society calls him a loser. If however, we go to a job and punch a time clock to make money to buy things we probably don’t want or need anyway so we can have “nothing” in our pockets, we’re said to be normal.

Sounds crazy, doing something you believe you have to do to buy things you’re eventually going to lose, break, give away, throw away or treasure so much you lock them up in a safety deposit box to keep them safe. Then you die and lose them anyway. Does the guy who doesn’t want to get out of bed got it right? Maybe, but eventually he’s gonna get hungry and have to crawl out of that bed. Heck, try this experiment next time your boss gives you your two week vacation, try to spend it all in bed. I mean every second. Have someone bring you food and change your bed pan. Trust me when I say this, but doing “nothing” as a job will kill you. In fact, it’s harder to do than something. In a recent study boredom was the #1 cause of depression. Sunday, our day off, our day to do “nothing” was the #1 day people “off’d” themselves. They went from people with “nothing” but time to “nothing” more than a statistic.

Someone once said when something becomes “nothing” it becomes something. Translation: when we lose something or have it taken from us it has meaning to us. Wouldn’t it have been better if we didn’t have to lose it to appreciate it? We should give “nothing” its rightful honor on a pedestal to remind us to be grateful for what we have and those we have to share it with. Please don’t get caught having to take “nothing” off its pedestal to remind us how lucky we used to be. Leave it on its pedestal to remind us how lucky we are now. Don’t dwell on what you used to have and wish for it back because before you turn around there will be something else you have or love that will be gone. Love now. Appreciate now. Be grateful now.

“Nothing” is our reward for too much something. “Nothing” is our punishment for not enough something. “Nothing” is a gift to remind us how lucky we still are to have the things and people in our lives before they are gone.
Never again forget the importance of “nothing”.

by Fred Cuellar the Diamond Guy®

Divorce

(The cold hard facts*)

Fact #1: 53.8% of all men in the United States will marry only once.
Fact #2: 12.6% of all men in the United States will marry only twice.
Fact #3: 3.1% of all men in the United States will marry 3 or more times.
Fact #4: 30.6% of all men in the United States will never marry.
Fact #5: 59.9% of all women in the United States will marry only once.
Fact #6: 13.4% of all women in the United States will marry only twice.
Fact #7: 3.1% of all women in the United States will marry 3 or more times.
Fact #8: 23.6% of all women in the United States will never marry.
Fact #9: 37% of Black men ages 35-39 are single in the United States.
Fact #10: 17% of White men ages 35-39 are single in the United States.
Fact #11: 20% of Hispanic men ages 35-39 are single in the United States.
Fact #12: 34% of Black women ages 35-39 are single in the United States.
Fact #13: 11% of White women ages 35-39 are single in the United States.
Fact #14: 13% of Hispanic women ages 35-39 are single in the United States.
Fact #15: 29% of Black men ages 40-44 are single in the United States.
Fact #16: 12% of White men ages 40-44 are single in the United States.
Fact #17: 16% of Hispanic men ages 40-44 are single in the United States.
Fact #18: 8% of White women ages 40-44 are single in the United States.
Fact #19: 25% of Black women ages 40-44 are single in the United States.
Fact #20: 9% of Hispanic women ages 40-44 are single in the United States.
Fact #21: 81.6% of all people who marry will celebrate their 5 year anniversary.
Fact #22: 65.2% of all people who marry will celebrate their 10 year anniversary.
Fact #23: 52.1% of all people who marry will celebrate their 15 year anniversary.
Fact #24: 33.1% of all people who marry will celebrate their 25 year anniversary.
Fact #25: 19.6% of all people who marry will celebrate their 35 year anniversary.
Fact #26: 4.8% of all people who marry will celebrate their 50 year anniversary.
Fact #27: 66.8% of all people who divorce are 25-44 years old at the time.
Fact #28: 11% of those that divorce have less than a high school education.
Fact #29: 76.1% of those that divorce are high school graduates or have some college education.
Fact #30: 17.4% of those that divorce have a bachelors degree or higher education.
Fact #31: 89.4% of those that divorce live above the poverty level.
Fact #32: In the year 2000, 2,355,005 people got married in the United States.
Fact #33: In the year 2000, 957,200 divorces were finalized.
Fact #34: 79.6% of all men that marry will never divorce.
Fact #35: 77.8% of all women that marry will never divorce.

Summary

We hear everyday that approximately 50% of all marriages end in divorce. Most people’s natural conclusion is that it means 50% of all people that marry will divorce; it’s not the same thing. Since some people marry more than once it skews the averages. The most important of all facts to embrace are facts 34 & 35. They show that 4 out of 5 people that get married will never divorce! It’s the one person out of five that’s getting divorced over and over that is making the rest of us that have found true love look bad.

Smile, the odds are on our side.

* Facts were obtained by the current population reports by Rose M. Kreider and Jason M. Fields of the U.S. Census Bureau issued February 2002.

by Fred Cuellar the Diamond Guy®

What We Fear the Most

Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate,

Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure,

It is our light not darkness that most frightens us,

We ask ourselves, who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented
and fabulous?

Actually, who are you not to be?

You are a child of God.

Your playing small doesn’t serve the world.

There’s nothing enlightened about shrinking
so that other people won’t feel insecure around you.

We were born to make manifest the glory of God
that is within us.

It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone.

And as we let our own light shine,
we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.

As we are liberated from our own fear;
Our presence automatically liberates others.

by Nelson Mandela and Marriane Williamson