Archive for January, 2017

January 30, 2017

In what I write below, I’m not seeking agreement. I’m sending this because you are someone I care about, and I would feel like a coward if I tried to hide from you what I think. Whether you agree or not does not matter. We are free in my world to be honest with one another.

Respecting the Office of President

But Not the Current Occupant

2017 by Ed Chasteen

As was the case this time, I have often voted for the losing presidential candidate. Never before, though, has the winner been a person I could not respect. The man now in that office has been made a coward by his dark and dangerous world view. Without consideration of consequences or consultation, he builds Fort America and tells the world they will do as he says.

Hounding his predecessor with the baseless birther accusation, the one now in the white house claims millions of ineligible voters to account for his losing the popular vote and insists that his inaugural crowds were the largest ever. Knowing that his voter claims are not true, he does not call for an official and impartial investigation. And the size of his inaugural crowd matters only to his junior high ego.

Born on third base, he has now scored and wants to be credited with hitting a home run. Surrounded by other rich people, he seems to have made himself believe that he understands and cares about those millions who live pay check to pay check and those other millions who aspire to even that.

Having no record in his first 70 years on this planet of any public service, and being on record as saying and doing despicable things to those with less power and fewer lawyers, this one now holds himself up as one who would lead.

I choose not to follow. When this one was still a candidate, I told all who wanted to hear that any association with this man would demean and degrade. Now that our nation has aligned itself with this man, we all are somewhat less. At least a modicum of individual dignity and decorum may be recovered, however, by publicly disowning the one who masquerades. Still on TV. An even bigger celebrity now.

I am an American. I will not desert my fellow citizens even as the one who leads us does not deliver on promises of a better life and a safer world, even as the dangers we face are magnified.

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January 27, 2017

Casting My Lot

2017 by Ed Chasteen

The rich and powerful do not need my help. To them I have nothing to offer. When they take over my nation’s capital and by their actions harm the weak and vulnerable, I am forced either to remain silent, and thereby appear to lend consent, or speak in opposition and cast my lot with those made targets by hasty and ill-tempered actions.

Not a sledgehammer but a scalpel we need now to address the problems we face. Care and precision can navigate us safely through these troubled waters that, poorly addressed, swamp us. My country will likely little note nor long remember my small voice coming from this place known in private to some of its most ardent and effective members as “this little piss-ant college in this little podunk town.” But having by choice remained long in this place, I cast my lot now with: The Women’s March, Black Lives Matter, The Occupy Movement; my Muslim neighbors, refugees, our fast-food workers; concern with climate change, and other efforts dismissed as “fringe” by those who seek to discount them.

My stance may do little to influence what happens nationally and little to improve the private lives of those dear to me. The soul burden I carry, though, will be lighter, as the last stanza of Robert Service’s Carry On! makes clear.

Carry on! Carry on!

Fight the good fight and true;

Believe in your mission, greet life with a cheer;

There’s big work to do, and that’s why you are here.

Carry on! Carry on!

Let the world be better for you;

And at last when you die,let this be your cry;

Carry on, my soul! Carry on!

January 26, 2017

Sticks and Stones and Porcelain People

© 2017 by Ed Chasteen

“Sticks and Stones may break my bones, but words can never hurt me. So said we all about sticks and stones and words when we were small. Before we had lived long enough to know that from sticks and stones we would recover. But from words? Never! With the weight of giant boulders the smallest word cruelly used mortally wounds our inner selves, crushing our spirit and soul. Expunging joy and spontaneity and trust. Leaving us hollow. Mannequin-like, then, we live. If only existence can be called life.

Not being smart enough ever to glimpse the relationship between those corrosive and volatile words showered upon us and their wilting effect upon our moral and ethical character, we stumble through life as quarry slaves at night, scourged to our dungeon. Having seldom heard an encouraging and loving word, we can hardly even imagine what would have been their outcome in our lives if daily bestowed upon us. So conditioned have we been from long years of living in a hostile verbal environment that all who would remind us we could choose to do otherwise are called dreamers, said to be naive, and not taken seriously.

We who live “in the real world” know that others are out always to show us up or put us down. By the questions they ask and the comments they make, others intend to show that they have better minds or bigger hearts. Other people always have hidden agendas which ill serve us. So long have we lived with such expectations that we come to expect such treatment from everyone. All our relationships have been poisoned by mean words so that after a while we can no longer hear loving ones.

Imagine now that you and every person you meet is a porcelain vase. Porcelain has two primary characteristics: it is beautiful and it is delicate. It breaks easily, and when it breaks, it flies to pieces.

Imagine further that every porcelain vase is filled with nitroglycerin. Nitro has two primary characteristics: it is unstable and it produces a giant explosion when upset.

Now if every person is a porcelain vase filled with nitroglycerin, we would be smart to be very careful. If we should upset one of those vases, a giant explosion would kill them. And us.

Now imagine this. Imagine that we are not imagining. We really are porcelain vases. We really are filled with nitro. An unkind word, a dirty look, a racial slur, an insult, a put-down, any of these can upset us, can trigger our nitro. And we explode!

You may be thinking that people often get upset with no deadly aftermath. That’s true only in the short-run. Not all porcelain has the same breaking point. Some break the very first time. But those who don’t are made more vulnerable, and when they finally blow, that first upset is as much to blame as that last one. Cumulative insults eventually produce an explosion. And it may just be the case that repeated insults increase exponentially the destructive power of that explosion.

The only safe course of action is never–not even once–to upset one of these porcelain-nitro people. Our goal in life is never to crack the porcelain and set off the nitro. But that’s the negative statement of our life’s ambition. Put positively, our goal is to become World Class Persons, able to go anywhere at anytime and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe. None of us is likely to fully become World Class, but any of us can move in that direction. And as we move up that road, we meet others going our way. Their stories and example will inspire and encourage us and help us go farther than we could alone.

January 22, 2017

Sapphire College

Jewel of a Place

© 2017 by Ed Chasteen

A college campus is a mythical and magical place where live ancient Greeks, English poets, black holes, string theory, Don Quixote, Adam Smith, Mark Twain, Beethoven, idealism, imagination and ideas. Right from grad school I came years ago to a hilltop campus called William Jewell in a small town called Liberty and became colleague to some of the finest teachers I ever would know.

More than 50 years now at Jewell, I never for a day have considered it a job. “I just do what I love. And they pay me for it” So I have said more times than I can count. So good for me has been my time at Jewell that I have dreamed another college and given myself another name. Phillip is my name and Sapphire is the college.

For years at Jewell, I taught my students the Thomas theorem: “A thing defined as real is real in its consequences.” So lives Sapphire College in my mind. And from my mind to the place I know as Greater Liberty. Phillip of Sapphire College is my book available to anyone free of charge on line.

When a Klansman was elected to the Louisiana State Legislature in the 1980s, the governor invited my students and me to come help the state redeem itself. We wrote a song, designed a T-shirt, dubbed ourselves HateBusters and went to Baton Rouge. Now a 501 c-3 non-profit, HateBusters teach people how to like people and how, when, where and why to oppose hate.

Now I am custodian of Sapphire College, a creation of HateBusters. Using the model described below, Sapphire College offers a strategy designed to let loose the World Class Person who lives within each of us.

Neither Gallop nor Google shows Sapphire College or Greater Liberty on their maps. Like Brigadoon and Camelot, these are not so much places to be found as principles to bring us higher.

We all have Greater Liberty than we ever know to live above and beyond all the labels that other people apply to us. Each of us is more than our color, our culture, our creed, our age, our gender. Each of us is at our core a World Class Person, able to go anywhere at anytime and talk to anyone about anything and feel safe. To let loose the World Class Person in each of us is the sole and soul objective of Sapphire College.

Sapphire was born from all the good things I experienced at William Jewell, a place high on a hill in a town called Liberty. I rode my bicycle for years from my home in Liberty to my office at Jewell. One summer I rode that bicycle from Orlando to Seattle to Anaheim, and on my longest days I would ride 125 miles. So when I was home, I drew a 125-mile circle around our town and called it Greater Liberty.

North to Creston, Iowa and south to Carthage, Missouri; west to Manhattan, Kansas and east to Columbia, Missouri. Parts of four states with 104 counties, some three million people. All no more than a day’s bike ride apart. People of all colors, cultures and creeds as neighbors.

Sapphire College meets inside every mom and pop cafe in every county-seat town in Greater Liberty where two people sit across from one another for breakfast. The college comes to life when these two have read on line their free copy of How To Like People Who Are not Like You; and, after having done so, ask each other by email/phone/in person the seven sets of questions given to them by Sapphire College. The seven sets of questions appear below, just prior to the list of 104 Greater Liberty county-seat towns.

Go to www.hatebusters.com and click on “books” to download your free copy of How To Like People Who Are not Like You. You may also download other books. Any. Or all. Free.

Sapphire College Students

Open to all

Tution free

A desire to become a World Class Person the only requirement

Work at your own pace

Seven Sets of Questions

First conversation

Name of your parents, grandparents, brothers, sisters.

Where were you born?

Where did you grow up?

Where did you go to school?

Why did you want to be part of this project?

Second conversation

What are some of your earliest memories?

What was it like growing up?

Where do you brothers and sisters live now?

How important to you is your family?

Third conversation

What was the role of the husband and father in the family you grew up in?

What was the role of the wife and mother in the family you grew up in?

What is the role of the husband and father in the family you are a parent in?

What is the role of the wife and mother in the family you are a parent in?

Fourth conversation

What do you like to eat?

What is your very favorite food?

What kind of jobs have you had?

What is your present occupation?

What is your religious faith?

What religious organizations do you belong to?

How often do you participate in activities with these organizations?

Fifth conversation

What are the important books and other writings that have shaped your life?

Could you tell me what you believe about how your faith relates to other faiths?

Is your faith related in any way to the food you eat?

How important to you is your faith?

How do you think the different religions and races in America relate to each other?

How do you think they should relate to each other?

Sixth conversation

What are the important days in the year to you?

How do you celebrate the important days in your life?

How would you describe the way you live your life?

What do you hope will happen in your private life over the next three years?

What do you think will happen in the world in the next three years?

Seventh conversation

What would you say is your greatest fear?

What would you say is your greatest joy?

How would you describe America?

What do you think America’s role in the world should be?

How would you like to be remembered?

What does your faith teach about how we should live our lives?

What does your faith teach about life after death?

Greater Liberty County seat towns

Albany, MO

Alma, KS

Atchison, KS

Auburn, NE

Beatrice, NE

Bedford, IA

Bethany, MO

Bolivar, MO

Boonville, MO

Buffalo, MO

Burlington, KS

Butler, MO

California, MO

Camdenton, MO

Carrolton, MO

Carthage, MO

Chillicothe, MO

Clarinda, IA

Clay Center, KS

Clinton, MO

Columbia, MO

Columbus, KS

Corning, IA

Corydon, IA

Cottonwood Falls, KS

Council Grove, KS

Creston, IA

Eldon, MO

Emporia, KS

Erie, KS

Eureka, KS

Falls City, NE

Fayette, MO

Fredonia, KS

Ft. Riley, KS

Ft. Scott, KS

Gallatin, MO

Garnett, KS

Girard, KS

Grant City, MO

Greenfield, MO

Harrisonville, MO

Hermitage, MO

Hiawatha, KS

Holton, KS

Huntsville, MO

Independence, MO

Iola, KS

Jefferson City, MO

Kansas City, KS

Keytesville, MO

Kingston, MO

Kirksville, Mo

Lamar, MO

Lawrence, KS

Leavenworth, KS

Leon, IA

Lexington, MO

Liberty, MO

Linneus, MO

Lyndon, KS

Macon, MO

Manhattan, KS

Marshall, MO

Maryville, KS

Maryville, MO

Maysville, MO

Mexico, MO

Milan, MO

Mound City, KS

Mount Ayr, IA

Nebraska City, NE

Nevada, MO

Oregon, MO

Osceola, MO

Oskaloosa, KS

Ottawa, KS

Overland Park/Olathe, KS

Paola, KS

Paris, MO

Pawnee, NE

Platte City, MO

Plattsburg, MO

Princeton, MO

Red Oak, IA

Richmond, MO

Rockport, MO

Savannah, MO

Sedalia, MO

Seneca, KS

Sidney, IA

St. Joseph, MO

Stockton, MO

Tecumseh, NE

Topeka, KS

Trenton, MO

Troy, KS

Unionville, MO

Versailles, MO

Warrensburg, MO

Warsaw, MO

Washington, KS

Westmoreland, KS

Yates Center, KS

January 7, 2017

First Watch

1-7-17

by Ed Chasteen

The sun is out. The sky is blue. My car themometer on the way here said 3 degrees.

8:30! And here I sit at the community table, just inside the front door at First Watch. Facing the door. Waiting..

No one I know comes. Hardly ever have I been here without unexpectedly seeing someone I know. I’m tempted to say I’ll stay here until I see a familiar face.

Five other folks come to sit with me. We say hello. Nothing more. What stories could they tell? I wonder. Maybe if we sat across from one another. Just the two of us.

It’s 9:15 now! No one I know in the place. Except Kai. She has been our waitress for years. Makes everyone at home. Gives this chain restaurant the feel of a mon and pop small towm cafe.

Now comes a daughter and father to sit across from me. After they have settled themselves and a few minutes have passed, he sees me writing. He comments on what I’m doing.

Kevin Perry, he tells me is his name. This information coming after I explain that we had been planning to bike here to breakfast and he tells me he has seen us here before. Lives in Gladstone, he says. Next door to Terry Sharp, one of our riders, I learn a little later. “I call Terry F-111 because he goes real fast real far.” Kevin says.

Kevin is a retired Air Force pilot, teaching now at Fort Leavenworth. Grew up in Wyoming. Graduated from the Air Force Academy. His daughter, Sydney, is a student at North Kansas City High.

Listening to someone’s story is what I hope happens every time my bike brings me to breakfast. My bike today is in my car, outside in the parking lot. I brought it today. On more congenial days, it has brought me. Years ago, though, I discoved that listening is a process I must wait for another to begin. So without knowing who it might be, or even if that person would appear, I was, in fact, awaiting Kevin.

And going back 30 years in my mind, I’m riding down a street in Eugene, Oregon and, passing a vegetarian restaurant, feel this overpowering urge to go inside. I prop my bike just inside the door and take a seat near the only other people in the place. These people must be my reason for coming here. This thought won’t leave me. But I have no right to intrude. I say nothing. Time passes. I feel defeated.

I pay my bill. And prepare to roll my bike out the front door. “I’m sorry. We’re closed now. You’ll need to take your bike out the back door.”

To do so, I roll past the five folks sitting at the one table. “That’s a good looking bike,” she says. A short time later I’m sitting in her living room with all five, listening to Norma Corr tell her life story when, out of nowhere she asks, “Do you know Peace Pilgrim?” In that instant, I know why I had to stop in that restaurant. This cross-country bike ride of mine had been inspired by two meetings years ago and years apart by two meetings with Peace Pilgrim.

Showing up. Listening. Wondorus things happen. Sounds too simple to sell.