If I’m remembering correctly, the group’s discussion topic was,
What inspires you?

Mike II’s response was something like,
Watching people with passion.

Seeing them do something they love passionately.

I thought to myself instantly, That is when the soul is most naked – clear of ambiguation by an egoic mask or defensive wall.

And nothing matches the inspiring beauty of a soul.

Fred was the team’s best player, without question. His unmatched skills were an inspirational delight to watch. He was quick and precise, but artistically so.

His size was neither imposing, nor exceptionally small in the way that would make him stand out as a delightful surprise.

Like celebrity athletes, his charm wasn’t boastful, his prowess was readily evident, his physical stature was average, but his generosity and teamsmanship – when added to his exceptional skills – was the root of his charisma. When he was involved in the play, you couldn’t take your eyes off him, anticipating what genius might transpire.

Fred had that balance that threads the needle successfully between pure humility versus pure lust to be a playmaker. He believed in himself.

That is inspirational.

That raises teammates to their better – at least, the inspired ones who cared to perform better; this was a high school sport, so each had their own motives for participating, especially since they were a newly formed club, and their predictable (and mounting) losing record meant the members weren’t there for the glory of championship. Not at all.

So the soup of motives was predictable. Camaraderie, self challenge, social popularity for being part of a novel venture, a more promising alternative to other sports of the season in which satisfactory playing time was unlikely, a remedy to boredom, another friend who wanted to play, a coach’s son, recognition… And perhaps a sprinkling of passion, as Fred exemplified.

You could see Jenke’s confidence wax and wane in a moment – after an errant fail, as his shoulders deflated or his head sagged or shook to and fro. A moment later, he hustled to recover, re-tapping his passion – instantly recalling that he was here not to win, not to play perfectly, but simply, to play.

For the joy factor alone.



If his team recovered possession, he was recognizable, sprinting the other way. He was large – not the largest on the team, but above average. And he was fast. Notably faster than others of his size. It was effortless to spot him in the game.

He had a presence.

Surely attributable to his large stature and foot speed.

A few were larger.

Few were faster.

But there seemed so often to be space around his presence, making it easier to spot him.

You could sense that – in moments when opponents invaded his space – they did so with a slight hesitation.

These hesitant challengers did not seem to cower from the threat of his skills.

His size and strength, indeed, commanded some respect for his space. But it was more than that.

Yet Jenke did not have an aggressive personality. And the efforts of coaches and others to encourage more aggression from him were largely unproductive.

Were he more aggressive, he perhaps would have commanded more fear within his space.

But that was by no means certain.

His presence was already commanding, and his aggression only average.

I came to believe that – although his strength could make a challenger pay – that was not the deepest or full explanation for respect of his presence.

It was clear that his fury or aggression were not directed at other players.

It was his passion.

His passion is what was felt by challengers.

And seen by onlookers.

He was not a fearsome threat. That is not what caused an instant of respect from his space invaders.

Would-be invaders paused for an instant not because of the specter of personal aggression directed at them. Instead, in the air around him, it seemed those invaders could smell his passion: He was there, doing whatever he was doing – because he wanted to be.

Because he loved it.

Inspiration is infectious – demanding notice.

Only challengers with passion equal to his own would dare.

And that is what Mike II was talking about. Jenke had an aura of passion noticeable to our sixth senses. Like the mad skills and charisma of celebrity athletes, his whereabouts in the arena was felt, even distant from the action.

Inspired teammates, coaches, and fans willed him to do better. As did I.

[Disclosure: I was biased. I did not in the least mind traveling to see him play in the rainy cold, or scorching sun. Jenke was *my* brightly-burning solar soul, inspiring, passionate sun, and my son, Joseph.]

Neil D. 2022-04-04

Shame on white American males

I have multiple addictions and countless character flaws, but nothing shames me more than being a white male. And more specifically a white AMERICAN male. It is a stigma more than any badge of honor. Countless THOUSANDS have likely died merely trying to reach our borders. Nameless human beings with the same worth as I.

This is a stereotype, yes. Our white male ancestors may have worked their asses off to make our country a better place. And, oh my, they have succeeded, beyond doubt. But they were not the only people working to make our country such a better place. And nearly all of us white males today haven’t done shit compared to them.

White males occupy the highest echelons of power, and look at them. I’m infinitely more proud to be bald than I am to be a white male in my country today. Pointing at one another across aisles, and across poles from ult-this and ult-that. No one can approach the hatred there is between opposite tribes of white males. The depth of that seething rancor is proportional to our shame. Every non-white-male-American sees it plainly. But white male Americans don’t. Instead, we project our hideous Shadows onto all others who are not white male, while they scratch their heads about how obvious is our collective head in the sand.

On the whole, white male Americans don’t give a shit how we are seen by anyone except other white males. Which makes the shame even deeper, so our efforts at repressing it have to be deeper. Infinite denial takes myriad expressions.

I can’t think of any way to redeem this monstrosity, other than listening to, supporting, and voting for any human being who is not a white male. We’ve had thousands of times our fair shot; step aside. And shut the hell up. Hearts less burdened by deserved shame have something useful to say. Even – and especially – to our Shadow of shame.

Neil D. 2022-03-22

Marriage as monument

[Personal preface here – 2 minute read]

In this article, the author describes how a movement which becomes institutionalized into a religion, becomes a monument. I have replaced this reference to religion with an individual “marriage,” for an interesting exercise…

In The Wisdom Pattern, Father Richard summarizes five stages of change that take place in marriage. He calls these stages the “Five M’s”: human, movement, machine, monument, and memory. This week we explore these stages as inspiration for marriage renewal.

It seems that many great things start with loving a single human being. If a person says/does something full of life that names reality well to a partner, the message often moves to the second stage of becoming a movement. That’s the period of greatest energy. A marriage is at its greatest vitality as a “Love Movement,” and marriage is merely a vehicle for that movement. The movement stage is always very exciting, creative, and also risky.

It’s risky because partners’ movement in marriage is larger than any culture, or any ability to verbalize it. We feel out of control in this stage of romantic love, and yet why would anybody want it to be anything less? Would we respect and love a spouse that we could control? I don’t think so! Yet we move rather quickly out and beyond the risky movement stage to the machine stage. This is predictable and understandable.

The mechanical or machine stage of a marriage will necessarily be a less-alive manifestation of the love between partners. This is not bad, although it is always surprising for those who see marriage as an end in itself, instead of merely a vehicle for the original vision. We need “the less noble” parts to keep us all growing toward love (1 Corinthians 12:22–24). There is no other way; but when we don’t realize a machine’s limited capacities, we try to make it into something more than it is. We make it a monument, a closed system operating inside of its own, often self-serving, logic. By then, it’s very hard to take risks for/towards our spouse.

Eventually this monument and its maintenance and self-preservation become ends in themselves. It is easy just to step on board and worship a monument without ever remembering the risk-taking love that originated it. At this point, we have jumped over the human and movement stages and have become “frozen people.” There is no hint of knowing that we are beloved by spouse and invited to inner journeys. In this state, marriage is merely an excuse to remain unconscious, holding on to a memory of something that must once have been a great adventure. Now marital love for our partner is no longer life itself, but actually a substitute for life or, worse, an avoidance of life. The secret is to know how to keep in touch with the human and movement stages without being naïve about the necessity of some machines and the inevitability of those who worship monuments. We must also be honest: all of us love monuments when they are monuments to our human, our movement, or our machine.

Neil D. 2022-03-06

You are bigger than you think. And, the artist formerly known as Prince

I like to yap about how unfathomably enormous each human being is. You are more than what others ever give you credit for. And more profoundly, you are more enormous than you yourself are aware.

But these are gigantic ideas, expressed in hyperbole. Still, I think we can grasp them in tiny nuggets at a time. That’s what I’m thinking after reading this New York Times article and watching the video to which it refers, at a link I’ll share below.

If you are a parent describing your child to someone, it is a woeful snapshot. You may marvel at your child every day, but can’t express that in a brief exchange.

If you are the child of a parent – as we all are, duh – your mind may hold a tidy summary of your parent. Be honest: You don’t have the foggiest idea how enormous your parent is – who they were before they were a parent, and what they do when they are not parenting you, and what they may have done after you have flown the nest. Same for a parent – about your child – if they have flown.

If you have a romantic partner, you really cannot account for how outrageously remarkable they are in the times that you are not by their side. Others might snapshot that for you, but it’s only a snapshot. “Tell me about your day,” only skims the surface.


So, enough grandiose ideas for one blog article. Let’s just enjoy a nugget together, from the New York Times, “The day Prince’s guitar wept the loudest.” Almost all of us know Prince or “the artist formerly known as Prince” as a phenom. Of course, he wasn’t born that way, and didn’t grow up that way. That reverence was earned, not just some fluke; he’s a legit musician. I am no avid Prince fan, but I sure have liked his music.

So … as the NYT writer says, “This was Prince the Lead Guitarist…” (not the massive celebrity persona “snapshot” transcending his isolated guitar skills). See what I mean about what we don’t know about the hugeness of every other human being (and maybe about our own selves)…

If you can’t access the full article, but want it, just let me know (it’s the New York Times; the artful wordcaft ain’t shabby). But if you just want to view the 3 out of 6 minute video it is written about, you can follow that link below for free instead (no New York Times access required).

The article:

The video starting at the salient time, where Prince reminds us that he was a mere asskicking guitarist before he was a brand name:

The full video:

Neil D. 2022-03-02

WISDOM DIALOGS 1 – “I’ve done those things…”

[45-second read]
“I’ve done those things…”

Jane: “I was reading that that kind of person tends to X, Y, and Z…”

[Long, pregnant pause]

John: “Jane… I’ve done most of those things…”

Jane: “I know… John, maybe your self-awareness is what we mean by wisdom and compassion.
By the time we get to midlife, we’ve done a lot of things.
I bet, 10 years ago, we would look at a list of traits like this and say – ‘Well, I certainly know people like that. I’m not like that. I’m a *good* person, or smart person or kind person’ – or something like that.
Now, when we look at a list like that, we are looking for, ‘*When* have I been this, or done that? *How* am I still this or that?'”


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Neil D. 2022-02-20