Plugged in, or Plugged Up?

 

I’m becoming more and more dependent on electronic gadgetry all the time. It seems that a constant part of my day now, is concerned with the battery levels of my various devices. I am usually trying to recharge my android phone, or my Bluetooth headphones or the portable battery that I use to restore either one of them. Now I have a Smart watch too, that will need juiced every couple days.

I will admit that I’m addicted to these gadgets!

The content though, is what I’m really after. I inform and entertain myself with several podcasts and YouTube Channels. I am a paid subscriber for a Motorsports website and a Political one. I am all the time catching up on their latest video installments.

I don’t watch TV, or do much socializing outside of work and family. My wife and kiddo are asleep when I get home late, so I unwind with some Flat Earth Theory before bed. Without the internet, I would have a major shift in the places I give my attention every day.

I saw a friend this week that is using a flip-phone instead of a smart one. He is possibly the only freshman on the Kansas State University campus with one. He is realizing the simplicity that comes with the lack of connection to the online world in his pocket.

I can remember when those phones were the new thing and yes, we probably didn’t imagine in those days of the flip phone, what was yet to come with the internet in the palm of our hands.

So now is the point of the blog where I’m supposed to condemn this technology and talk about the good ole days. I should preach on the values we’ve lost, and the upcoming generation’s lack of interpersonal connective skills… Well I won’t.

What good does that do? Again we miss the point when we blame the smartphone or the internet or even guns or democrats for everything. All these things exist and can be used inappropriately or for extreme harm, and that is a truth about the world. It won’t change with legislation or attempts to revive our past.

I remember being a kid when computers were new, and some said they were a waste of time, or the ruin of everything. Even if partially true, the wave has come, and it’s here to stay for awhile. No ‘thing’ it seems is permanent. Change is relentlessly cyclical.

Spiritual truths though, are rooted too deeply in the construct, to be moved by the winds of change. This is the realm where we have room to improve, always. As a culture our material fetish and pointing fingers of blame could pass someday, hopefully. Seeing beyond the stuff and tearing each down, we could introspect deeply into the calm embrace of God’s Love. That would bring the heaven we want to experience.

Sure we need action. We need to know where we stand and when to fight. I won’t though apologize for being both in this world, but not completely of this world. I think God has us positioned to benefit from both and be a benefit to both, the material and the spiritual.

I have to admit that internet is an amazing connector. Just this week I had a couple hundred people wish me Happy Birthday through Facebook, Snapchat and Text. Wow that felt really nice, and loving! Thanks everyone for taking the time to say hi!

Until next week, take a minute here and there to reflect. Ask those deeper questions, and make sure your batteries are charged, in case you need to post something profound!

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

My Danged Double Life

It’s the hoo-rah and the ya-hoo of St. Patrick’s Day that proved to me, the value of Gridlock.

Working hour after hour at our bar, on the day when everyone seemed to be letting loose, I was tightening up. All the party people were dressed in green with big smiles and if I had one, it was most likely fake.

A Friday of St. Patty’s is surely the most annoying day ever, to be Sober.

I’ve heard it said that the Framers of our nation’s Constitution, designed Gridlock into the structure of the Republic. They wanted to make it difficult and arduous to make big changes. They saw value in standoffs between ideas. Immobility allows for security even. I felt the pain of that truth while sipping Sierra Mist instead of Scotch yesterday afternoon.

If Gridlock isn’t the default position of our nation’s leadership, then what would be the alternative? I guess it would mean that whatever idea had currently taken hold, could enact vast sweeping change. Any current administration could radically alter and reinvent our country however they saw fit. Without checks and balances, the core construct of the system couldn’t survive.

How could a peaceful transfer of power occur, say from Republican to Democrat, if the probability was that it would never be returned again. We have to hold hope, as a divided nation, that our ideas will have a chance again to be heard, no matter who holds the office today. Otherwise we’d have civil wars, instead of elections.

In my early thirties, I experienced an internal shift of power within my own being. My priorities changed, I wanted to try a new way of living. As part of the new internal personal regime, I began to attempt sobriety from alcohol.

That was 5 and a half years ago, but it seems like just yesterday. Before that moment, I was a much different person. I whole heartedly belonged to the Party of Parties! I was committed and engaged and a die-hard. I loved to drink and socialize and laugh too loud.

The changes I’ve made have been strong enough to keep me dry up until today. However, there is still a democracy battling for power within. The proverbial angel on one shoulder and devil on the other, are at war in the space between. They are both tough. They both fight hard. Their blows and punches at each other can wear me out.

St. Patrick’s Day left them both bloodied and bruised, neither seeming to gain ground on the other.

This Gridlock must then somehow be healthy. Without the vote and voice of my better self and my baser self, I surely wouldn’t be here today. I couldn’t have tried out sobriety, as a life sentence. The way I approach it is that I just skip drinking for today. And that method invites temptation to bark at the door, to scratch and paw, to break in, and attack in beastly ways.

Work is involved. Daaaaaaaammit.

The battle isn’t on my shoulders and out of my control. It’s all within my own jurisdiction. It’s up to me, to feel disdain for this jolly holiday, or to join it, and let go of my personal achievement.

I have to thank God for the help, but God isn’t pardoning me from any responsibility. That’s not real help. He didn’t give me this fish. I have to get my freakin’ pole out every day and cast a line.

So there. I truly hope you had a great St. Patty’s day. Whether you imbibed or abstained, I hope it was fun. Luckily for me, even though it didn’t feel fun, I was supported by my loving wife. She could tell I fought hard to stay straight. I appreciate her so much.

So, the Gridlock paid off again. Any amendments to my personal constitution are going to take more of a challenge than green beer.

Until next week my friends; be well. I wish You the very best.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

These moments remind me of this poem I learned from my Uncle Steve.

The Double Life

How very simple life would be
If only there were two of me
A Restless Me to drift and roam
A Quiet Me to stay at home.
A Searching One to find his fill
Of varied skies and newfound thrills
While sane and homely things are done

By the domestic Other One.
And that’s just where the trouble lies;
There is a Restless Me that cries
For chancy risks and changing scene,
For arctic blue and tropic green,
For deserts with their mystic spell,
For lusty fun and raising Hell
But shackled to that Restless Me
My Other Self rebelliously
Resists the frantic urge to move.

~ by Don Blanding

 

Too free of speech

“Damn, dilution is a powerful force.” I thought that as I watched pages of neon paper curl out of the laser printer in our office, one by one, this evening. These kids’ menus will be important sheets that show off chicken strips, hot dogs and cheeseburgers along with crayon artwork. It took about 5 minutes for 150 of them to pile up…

Back in the late 90’s I went to school to learn about graphic design. In those classes we were taught some now extinct skills. We used stock pages of photo-ready lettering and artwork to literally cut (with scissors or knife) and paste (with the hot wax roller) together a newsletter layout. The result of our paper surgery was laid on a vacuum plate in front of a process camera. We shot and developed the large-format film. Then the negatives were exposed onto metal plates covered in light blue emulsion that we rinsed away in a solvent bath…

Then we were able to mount the plates onto a basic sheet-fed one-color offset printing press. When powered on, the metal plate would spin and clunk and click in rhythym while beginning to cover the rubber drum with a sticky wet inked image. Pull a lever and the suction cups would lift and deliver the top sheet to the spinning cylinders. A quick ride around and out the other side, the 8 ½” x 14” page would arrive with our newsletter on one side.

If you wanted to have a back side to it, you could start the whole thing over again from the beginning.

A very complicated process like this actually changed the world in the 1400’s… That was when Gutenberg printed the Bible. It was the beginning of a massive shift and it happened because words could be reliably ‘painted’ onto thin leafy vellum.

Today, I’m guessing that almost every single person reading this blog has a ‘printing press’ in their own homes. Our inkjet or laser printers are so incredibly more advanced, simple and accessible than their great-great grandparents, the screw press with movable type.

Is everyone with a ‘printing press’ in their home changing the future of humanity with it? Do the machine’s capabilities automatically translate into transformation for our culture?? It seems almost the opposite doesn’t it? Printing presses are one of the most common office or home items and yet huge breakthroughs don’t spit out of them all.

When there was very few machines like this and it took a lot of work, The Bible, the word of God, made history. It’s the content on the page, not the page itself or even the breakthrough process that did.

The whole of Earth is now flooded with printing presses. With this kind of dilution and overloading of the ability to embed words onto paper, we seem to be doing less importance with it. The normality of the astonishing technology at our fingertips renders it weaker than ever.

The deluge of information coming across our screens and therefore eyes, washes away the value of the headlines, the posts and the sentiments we are consuming. Doesn’t it?

Maybe if it took hard manual labor for weeks on end to record and publish an idea, we would invest more effort into it. Here, in this example, I just plopped down for an hour and fifteen minutes in the middle of the night to string together some words for you and for me.

It’s probably too easy, to really make a difference, and that may be the problem itself.

Until next week, be amazed my friends, and be vigilant in case the next big shift wants to arrive through You.

God Bless 🙂

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

I tri, a scalene blog post

Another thing that happens in the daily bath with my daughter is this:

She plays in the stream from the faucet. A plastic cup, or the pudgy blue Nettie Pot catches the water. She pours it on herself and laughs. Crammed up at the end of the tub, she’s piled around with toys and having fun.

Then I decide to twist the knobs and shutoff the flow.

Whaaaaaaa! Daddy! She cries. She’s mad. I messed up her good time…

It takes a second, but I remind her to turn around and see the tub full of water. She has a literal swimming pool to splash in. She likes that too. Wiggling on her belly, blowing bubbles with a straw. Bath time continues.

How often, do I get focused in on the little stream of new blessings in my day. I stare at it and play. I might think it’s the only thing that is nourishing my life. This trickle is keeping my spirits up… If it happens to stutter or slow down to a drip, I panic… If my message to JoJo were to myself, I’d say, ‘Turn Around. Take a Look Back, There are PLENTY of Blessings to sustain to you, for now, and for a long time to come, even if they aren’t gushing in 24-7.’

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I didn’t do what my wife asked me to do. She’d bought an organizer to hang on the bathroom wall. I noticed it sitting in the box for a couple weeks, and then she finally installed it herself.

The picture on the package, showed a hairdryer, maybe a brush too. Ours now sit in the cradles of curly metal, but it doesn’t look quite like the box. Any real hairdryer has a long cord. It dangles in big loops along the wall. The picture didn’t show that.

My favorite band posted a new music video online. It’s a clean black and white theme. In solo shots they each rock out with their instruments to the song… I’ve seen them play a bunch of times in person, and the guys never look like in this video. The guitars are missing their wire leading to a vintage amp. There are no effects pedals on the floor. The drums aren’t mic’d and the electric piano appears to work without electricity also. None of their instruments are plugged in…

Why aren’t they there? How are they left out? How can the music play without the power?

The photoshopped product packaging looks better without dangling cords, right? The band too, it’s presented sans wires, it’s more ‘elegant’.

Someone must’ve thought the Heathens’ image would be cluttered with wires running all over the stark white movie set. In their concerts, the cables and amps and extra guitars hanging on racks are almost another member of the band. These guys are musicians, and their gear covers the stage like thick black spaghetti.

Real life has wires. It’s crowded with them. They are necessary and vital and yeah, kinda ugly to look at. When we let ourselves forget that real life is messy and not pretty from every angle, we can get discouraged by that truth. At least I can.

——————————————

I heard on the radio the other day that a log cabin on the homestead of Little House on the Prairie is needing repair. In this article, you can find out that the cabin was built in the 1970’s. It’s not the original one. Anyway, it’s a tourist attraction for fans of the books, and a Gofundme campain is underway.

This log cabin and an outbuilding is estimated to cost around $48,000 to build.

I think I can remember reading all of those Little House Books. I was in awe at the simplicity and the suffering of pioneer life. It was a long time ago when I read it, but didn’t she mention her current day prices of goods. I think they were extremely different than now. She was even excited about simple Christmas gifts like an orange or a penny.

I think they were buying bolts of cloth, mules and land for what we spend on a nice dinner out. $48,000 now will only buy the cabin and a shed. I wonder what Laura Ingalls Wilder would think of that?

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Until next week my friends, be mindful of the bounty of blessings in your life. You are probably swimming in them.

But don’t forget, that real life is messy, when someone is trying to sell you a sanitized version instead.

Overall, wherever we are in this crazy world, there is no way to imagine how it will all be valued out into the future. So today do something that you’ll glad you did tomorrow.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

 

 

Protesting, The Wall, Being a Dirty Baby

So my daughter is a protestor. It’s so trendy now, even for the littlest of kids. I guess it’s bound to happen, with the cultural climate, as it is. Luckily, her objections that I’m writing about here, aren’t as militant as some can be.

Every morning lately, during her bath time, I announce that ‘It’s Time to Wash UP!’ As I am preparing her pink scrubby with watermelon soap, she is mounting the protest. It’s a peaceful one, almost without any noise at all.

On my ‘wash-up’ cue, she has begun a pattern of grabbing the shower curtain, and ducking underneath it. Then she is sheltered between the inner and outer curtain. She just sits still in quiet defiance of the wad of soapy suds I’m wielding at her. It’s a pretty cute actually, and it made me realize something today.

JoJo is exercising and expressing her individual preference in relation to the washing portion of bath time. She has no problem with the beginning of the process. She is usually happy to be stripped down and plopped into the tub. She plays and carries on for awhile without issues. After the scrubbing and rinsing, she is back to blowing bubbles and splashswimming in place.

It’s easy to understand she won’t participate completely willingly in the cleaning. She also doesn’t completely melt down, but a few wimpers and squeaks will be her only cries. At least for this last few day period, she submits to it, but is clearly showing me her feelings on the matter with her, insta-hiding tricks.

For our entire lives, we curate and develop an intricate web of personal boundaries. The beginnings of which probably look something like this example with our kiddo. We are the ones who ultimately choose the flexibility or rigidity of our boundary lines, when it comes to actions we engage in. We have tons of control and therefore responsibility to make split-second or long-term decisions on what we will participate in, endorse, allow, require or fight for and against.

Maybe one definition of our personality would be a long list of these boundaries and choices that we have created a unique pattern with, and that others know us by. It is fun to watch this little human grow in front of my eyes and show me truths about the larger concepts of consciousness and existence.

We obviously start young with the development of expressing our opinions to world. I wonder about my own life and inner stances. Do I hold myself highly accountable to examine my boundaries? Where and why, do I tend to protect and stand fast? Where do I let blow free in the breeze, my own involvements and interactions?

I think Joella is probably just doing now what feels good. It feels fun to play and splash. It’s less pleasant to be swabbed all over and then soaked down with a shower wand, like the family dog. I get that. It’s not the most enjoyable part of bathing.

However, it’s also necessary and healthy to be cleaned up once in a while. It’s probably more fun in the big picture to be a sweet smelling clean-faced little tyke, than a stinky tot covered in sticky breakfast goo from head to toe.

Right now, I help her make those decisions. I do what I think is best, even if she’s showing me it’s not her thing…

For myself though? I might not always look close enough at the consequences. I might fall into a trap, and act like my little girl. I might choose to do what feels good, instead of what is good for me. In fact, I know I do it. Probably more than I care to admit.

As far the things I protest against? Hmm… how about giving up my selfishness, being the most helpful husband I can be, or letting another peanut M&M remain in the bright yellow heavy plastic sack. Although I’d like to tell you that I hold tight to my disciplines of goal setting and life-mapping and spiritual development, I’d be lying to claim it.

These are just a few examples of boundaries that I need to re-evaluate. Some walls need built and reinforced at all costs. Some need torn down and removed altogether. But that’s just me, just the choices I’ve made up to this point, and it can and will change soon, it always does.

Just as our darling daughter shows us, the change is rapid and unpredictable. Maybe this time next week, her protesting will be overpowering. If you see her hair matted in oatmeal and the remnants of toast crumbs and jelly on her cheeks late in the day, you’ll know what is going on. 🙂

Until next week my friends, invest energy in the examination of your own boundaries. Reestablish your personal sovereignty. Remind yourself, that you have lots of choice in this life. Not as master of circumstances, but of your responses to them.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

A teacher breaking the rules, thankfully

In a middle school math class, the teacher broke some rules. I was confused at first. It was like she wasn’t following her own instructions to us. She acted like certain mathematical details in the problem didn’t matter… What? How can that be?

The lesson she showed us in this casual yet powerful moment of class, I still use almost every day. It was about more than just basic math. It’s an important thing to know that we don’t HAVE to always stick to the rules… I liked that!

This example happened a long time ago, so I may not have it all perfectly recollected, but it went something like this:

Mrs. Mackie issued the class a handful of multiplication problems.

What’s 49 times 61?

How about 24 times 11?

Or 93 times 5?

I can recall trying to write down my numbers and start to work the problems as we’d been shown before. (I always had instant anxiety at these moments, not wanting to be slow to figure it out.)

She stopped us in the middle of scribbling and said something like: “Don’t make these harder than they are. Just get close. C’mon, somebody give me an answer.”

Huh? Just get close?? What? I thought this was MATHEMATICS and specific answers with numbers were like IMPORTANT! In fact, that’s the only way I’d experienced math. I was given a problem and had to report my work as an exactly correct numerical expression. In math, it’s either exactly right, or exactly WRONG… right?

Well on this occasion, my mind was stretched and opened up. I clearly remember the specific feeling of that. Mrs. Mackie said it was okay to just get close by rounding things off. You know, make it a quick and simple thing in your mind to just get in the ballpark.  She was rattling off some answers within seconds.

But the solutions weren’t like we were used to hearing in math class. Instead of the number itself, she spoke in sentences and stories.

“Well 49 is close enough to 50, so lets’ just use that. 61 is close to 60. Break that down to 5 times 6 and then add the zeros back in. So 5 times 6 is 30, with a couple zeros more it’s 3000.  And that is a ballpark answer to what is 49 x 61.”

“Same thing for the other two problems.  24 x 11 would be close to 24 x 10 which is really easy, then add another 24 to it. So 240 plus 24 is 264. She said that 93 x 5 is going to be between 450 and 500 because 90 x 5 is an easy calculation of 9 x 5 (45) plus a zero and 100 x 5 is 500.”

What?? Umm… Wow. These were not the kinds of answers I was used to hearing when it came to this anxiety-inducing specifically detail-oriented subject!

Teaching Estimation and Rounding isn’t the cutting edge of complex mathematics. It’s probably common for lots of middle-schoolers.  The impact came from the way she presented the material. It really crystallized the concept for me. I could see the bigger picture utility, and it was about more than just math. It was a method to deal with life itself.

Her point was that it’s okay to generalize sometimes. She showed me that problems can be tackled from different perspectives. We can deconstruct things, round off and choose easier more familiar methods to work on them. In fact, there isn’t just one exactly correct way to handle an obstacle before you. There are several options and it depends how exact the answer needs to be.

This is real education. It’s something I’ve used almost every day since I learned it. It’s a mental tool passed down from a mentor. She taught me a way to use my own mind that I didn’t know existed before. I received transformation, not just information.

Thanks Mrs. Mackie. I appreciate to this day, the mind-stretching moments you delivered many years ago.

Until later this week my friends, go back to middle school if you have to. Don’t get stuck too deep into exact details. It’s okay to round it off and call it good. Estimate a generality of your goals, at least that’s better than skipping them altogether. Get yourself in the ballpark. It’s probably easier than you think.

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

Gimme Some Lovin!

I get a warm fuzzy feeling when I see my glowing pregnant bride mothering our child. I get almost teary when I when I consider how blessed I am to be with Lindsay. My wife is truly the most astoundingly amazing thing I’ve ever gotten in life and that in a nutshell explains my Love for her…

Except that definition of Love is a problem… I’ve got it wrong, if that’s all I think

One of my spiritual mentors (Rabbi Daniel Lapin) explained in a podcast that there is an important origin in the Hebrew definition of love. He showed how our current culture ‘loves’ to use that word to describe our ecstatic jubilant emotional responses to experiences in our lives. He said we misuse the word all the time.

This is of course another example where I was convicted as soon as I heard his wisdom. He said that as people, we aren’t always correctly choosing our words when we tell our spouses we LOVE them. We might say this with the same enthusiasm that we would use to describe a most succulent and delicious steak dinner that completely satisfies a hungry appetite. When we feel contented, affectionate and happy within a moment, we might say ‘Honey I LOVE YOU!’ but that’s not the correct usage… hmmm

The word Love in Hebrew has nothing to do with our own personal fulfillment. This deeply layered ancient language actually matches the root for ‘Love’ with the word ‘Give’. In the Hebrew sense of the word, to tell my wife I Love Her, would actually mean I Give to Her…

Dang.

How often do I Hebrew-Love my wife vs how often I want to use the modern day version that means I’m GETTING something from her? It’s probably much too often; if I’m honest.

So Valentine’s Day is almost here and I want to practice the art of loving her in the Hebrew way, God’s way, the Giving way, as much I can. Wish me luck. All I have to change is just about everything.

She’s truly Loved and Given me so much… Not as repayment, but as a most worthy use of my energy, time, commitment and service, I want to Give to her, My Love.

Until next week… to all you love birds out there, get some givin’ goin on!

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

 

Almost a Hammer Blow to the Face

My only self defense weapon was a hammer; I kept it under the driver’s seat. On one occasion, I felt myself reaching for it, on another; I’d wished it fired bullets. Both were in Oregon, both times I ended up not needing it… Thank God.

Back in twenty-ten, I drove across the country and back on an epic personal journey. Little moments from that trip pop out from the dark cobwebbed-corners of my memory as I’m falling asleep sometimes. Last night, a vivid image flashed onto my inner eyelids. Just like the first time I’d seen it, warm tingly fear washed all over my body… Here is the story as best as I remember…

After a too-quick tour of Yellowstone, I’d spent a long day droning across Idaho, looking at nothing but grey and brown rock.  Another 12 or so hour day behind the wheel and I was glad to see the green irrigated fields near Vale, Oregon, it was just across the state line. My big road atlas showed the tiny green triangle of a campground just adjacent to town.

It was mid-evening when I talked to the elderly couple who had been caretakers at Bully Creek Reservior for over 25 years. They asked about me and where I was from. They proudly gave a short history of the lake. They probably offered a cup of coffee in the morning, but overall it was the trees they went on and on about. They told me how the desolate area had been dammed up by the city. The rocks of the high desert gave way to a vibrant lawnscape with shrubs and over 200 trees. They had done all that work themselves and they were outwardly proud of their accomplishments.

After meeting them, I picked the site and began to setup. My campout routine in-progress, I walked the dog and made the bed. This night I chose to drive back to town for dinner. I pulled into the dated Star-Lite diner, where they were packing up the buffet and getting ready to close. A decent plate of homecooking later, I was headed back to camp, feeling quite content with the small-town hospitality overall.

The campground had quieted down and I plugged in my computer next to the tent. I uploaded pictures and wrote a little blog about my day and all was well. It was just after that, when I decided on a hot shower before bed…

I entered the concrete blocked cube of the shower house with my bag of soaps and a rumbly tummy. It was probably dark outside and there might have been one of those yellow sodium lights drenching the room in a weirdish glow. I was the only person in there, and I felt just a little awkard for some reason.

I dropped my clothes bag on a shower bench and then headed for the metal-partitioned toilet stall. I entered, turned around, began to sit down, and swung the door closed right in front of me. I would normally have been reaching for the lock, but I was caught staring in shock at what I saw.

In very large, very black and VERY deliberate handwritten letters was the phrase:

YOU WILL NOT ESCAPE!

“Umm… okay… ha, I mean… huh, that’s a different form of bathroom vandalism…” My mind was trying to rationalize, while my body had instantly expressed a layer of cold sweat all over. “Umm, yeah, so that’s funny and strange, and some punk kid would laugh if he saw me right now… right?”

I was so set on not being bothered by this message, that I determined to continue with my bathing and dressing in fresh clothes. I did my best to efficiently make quick work of it all with my ears tuned to every click of a cricket, and my back to the cinder-block walls.

Yeah, I was a little bit bugged by those words…

Striding cleanly across the lawn to my tent and my tied-up dog, I contemplated tossing the whole campsite into my truck and peeling out in a cloud of dust…

Nothing seemed to be out place when I got there. Roxy was calm and the neighbors were too. I was parked in an open clearing with good visibility. I was trying to ease my racing thoughts and laugh off this little prank.

I wondered though, as I tucked into my sleeping bag, if I was being foolish for staying around here.

It was tough to sleep that night. I thought back to my conversation with the almost-too-nice older couple. I noticed the quaintness of the little lake next to the Norman Rockwell town. I started to make up crazy stories in my head, and I might have started to believe them.

The caretakers’ stories about those trees seemed to be central to something. They kept mentioning the numbers of those things. Was it 224, or 218, or maybe 256? Anyway, the exact number was their point…

What did that number mean? What could I possibly NOT ESCAPE from? Don’t tell me there is something sinister buried at the base of these lush green trees dotted around this mini oasis in the desert??

I had the hammer next to my pillow, but I was wishing that damned thing was a gun!

I don’t even remember packing up that morning, I just know I did it really early. I might have grabbed a few minutes sleep at most. I did wake up alive though. I’d made it till morning at least!

My heart sunk again as I motored out of camp but realized that my gas tank was dry. I would have to go back into Vale and stop there to fill up. Was it not the lake that I couldn’t escape? Was it maybe this little picture postcard community itself?

I drove up next to the pumps at the mid-town station under a faded Sinclair dinosaur sign. Even before I’d stopped, I noticed a stoutly built man eyeing me and my truck. I didn’t want to let my nervousness show, and those words YOU WILL NOT ESCAPE, kept circling my consciousness.

Sitting in the driver’s seat I’d pulled out my log book to write down the mileage. I also watched the man moving among the cars around me, and I was remembering where I’d stashed the hammer. Sure enough, he was almost instantly inside my open driver’s window with his large face close to mine. I wrapped my fingers around the worn wooden handle. I began the yank from under my seat, pulling-up the heavy-ended tool when I realized what he was saying.

His barking words were about gasoline and what kind I wanted. I was shocked and stirred-up from the night before, and it took me a second to comprehend. He was there to pump the fuel. I didn’t expect that. I almost had just attempted to swing a hammer at close range, into this stranger’s face. Thank God, it wasn’t a gun!

I was probably shaking as I paid the bill and grabbed a bag of ice to deal with later. I was ready to get the hell out of Vale, Oregon. I just wanted it to be a tiny speck in my rear view mirror! About 5 or six miles west of town, I started to realize that things were probably ok. I was a couple hundred miles into the barren rock landscape of eastern Oregon, before I truly calmed down…

Maybe it was a prank. Very likely somebody had a good laugh thinking about freaking people out, just like me. I’m sure everything was fine the whole time… right? I mean, I did leave that place in one piece. I did make my ESCAPE. There isn’t any new tree to add to the orchard next to the shores of Bully Creek Reservoir with my name on it… right?

The mind is powerful my friends. It is our best friend, or worst enemy. Maybe even worse than the dangers of the ‘real’ world… and I’m not sure if we can truly ever Escape from it, can we?

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

In Truth we Trust

I can be completely captivated by a two hour debate that attempts to define and flesh out the concept of a profound five-letter word. In fact, these kinds of deliberations are so interesting to me, that I’ve filled my days with them lately.

I love podcasts and one I heard this week was all about the word Truth.

This kind of topic is right up my alley. I am fascinated anytime I can hear people discuss such a fundamental concept.

In this exchange, the intelligent atheist host had just begun his program when he and the guest found a divergent opinion on the definition and application of the idea of Truth.

I won’t go into each person’s argument and attempt to make interesting reading out of somebody else’s verbal chess match. I will say however that I LOVED the fact that they locked horns and dug so deeply into this deceptively simple notion.

I’m sure that we’ve all thrown the word Truth around in our lives, usually in order to cement an observation, recollection or prediction. We may even judge others in their behavior and claim to have some inside track on the Truth behind their ways.

In any case, I know that I don’t have a PhD in the usage of every word or phrase I spout. Therefore I find it so interesting when two people wear themselves out in argument over something as fundamental as this.

Don’t we too often take for granted wide swaths of understanding and assumption, when talking with ourselves or others? Don’t we just speak through a conversation like a drive to store and back home. Trying to get to the point and return as quickly as possible without expending real capital? Can you remember a time when you had the substructure of your very conception of a core value challenged openly and gentlemanly, with a chance to rebut? I really don’t find myself in these mental MMA matches and it’s a good thing too. I probably would tap out pretty quickly…

Hooray though, that we aren’t all just zombified, caring only about the next basketball game or Tee Vee Show. It does seem that as a culture we’re waking up more to questioning reality, politics and being outwardly opinionated. Many are constantly outraged and terrified too. I find it just a little disheartening though, to see so much barking and exclaiming online. It’s as if these clipart ideas are skipping across the top of the pond like stones flung with fury, but barely touching the surface.

I prefer the deeper dive. My heart was warmed to hear these two agents, staunch in their positions, trade blow after blow in defense of their idea of the concept named Truth.

It’s paramount that their discussion didn’t proceed beyond this little hiccup of difference in opinion, because that one little difference colored everything else that could be said afterward.

Our core beliefs are the womb that births all. If you and if I have opposite root perspectives, we will be spinning our wheels talking about situations and observations of life. The color of the lens that we see everything through, will convince us and solidify our opinion, in ways that another person can rarely alter.

So then, an in-depth study of the tiniest kernel of our ‘come-from’ and ‘inner stance’, is really the only conversation to have. It’s the thing, that will create all the other things that we have to say.

I will link to the podcast here. If you are like me, on a search for Truth, or find interesting the debate over an acceptable definition of the concept of the Truth, have at it. Otherwise, just take a moment to reflect on the last time you questioned yourself to the core. Could you articulate to someone else, and communicate on the nature of your human experience of life itself?

I haven’t tried to do that in any conversational debate. Maybe though, I’m hinting at it through the words you can read here. I’m compelled and provoked by stuff like this and maybe some of you are too. You must be, otherwise, why would you have read this far?

Until next week my friends, dive deep. Unpack and dissect the profound. I can’t wait to hear or see your Truth, so please share. 🙂

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

PS: if you want my take on the podcast I linked to, I tended to agree with the guest, rather than the host, on his interpretation of Truth. I appreciated the whole coversation however, obviously 🙂

The trouble with kids, when will they learn!

Better not set anything fragile or important on the end table. Surely it’ll be sent off with a zing, flying fast to the floor! Our little Angel is quick to dismiss a couple remotes, and a book or baby that she’d already put there before. We don’t let anything important rest on the end table anymore…

A one and almost a half-year-old can be a whirlwind to a tidy living room. Just this morning she instantly cleared a shelf full of books as soon as the babysitter arrived. They probably read at least a couple of them 🙂

The end table though is different. She doesn’t empty the top of it just for fun. Actually, I don’t think she is aware that it is a table at all. She is too young to understand the standards of livingroom furniture function. She doesn’t get it, and it may be awhile before she does!

It seems to be that she actually considers our solid oak end table to be a piece of gymnastic equipment. It happens to sit between the couch and the rocking recliner. To her, this slick flat wooden top is just perfect for belly sliding across. That’s it! There isn’t another reason for it to exist to her. She seems to think it’s just another part of the amusement park of our house.

In this child’s world, everything can be made into a game or a tool or can be torn apart, or fed to the dog. There are no ‘supposed to’s’ yet built into the way she interacts with life itself.

Along the same lines, she finds new families to join up with at our restaurant every evening. Any group of people with other little kids is fair game to her. She just climbs up on the Mom or Dad’s lap, and makes herself at home. Sometimes it goes too far, when she digs into the macaroni and cheese bought by our guests for their own kids. And for now, she’s cute enough to get away with it.

Luckily for me, I almost NEVER attack my day with same reckless abandon and pure intent on having silly fun at all expense. I am MUCH too adult for that! Yup, I know a lot more about the supposed to’s, the expected social norms, and the highly important opinion of other people! I won’t be making mistakes like my daughter, and enjoying myself just because I can!

Rest assured, that even though I’ve noticed my daughter acting ‘crazy’, I’ll try and stick to the upright and prudent script of ‘normality’, as best I can. And anyway, it’s not easy to just make everything into smiling funtimes, right? She must be too young to maturely understand ‘the real world’ yet…

Actually… now as I type these words… I’m beginning to think that I hope she never does…

Until next week my friends… Do Some Belly Sliding!!!

Sincerely,

Aaron Nichols

“Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.”
– Mark 10:15