I'm still hovering over the words of retired Minnesota Supreme Court Justice Alan Page: shed light, not heat. For me, "light" comes with a smile — not a passive-aggressive one but one that radiates from the heart. It involves a big-picture outlook, fueled by open-mindedness, patience, understanding and compassion. And "heat?" I see it as puffed-up, tight-jawed, anger-based reactivity. When it comes to aspirations, shedding light must be a worthy one.
The Presidential Medal of Freedom was established by President John F. Kennedy in 1963. The idea was to honor Americans who have made significant contributions to our national interests — everything from world peace to various aspects of our culture. Recently the medal was awarded to Alan Page, a former football star and the first African-American to serve on the Minnesota Supreme Court. I have encountered Alan Page on two occasions. The first was during a marathon many years ago. By "encountered" I mean I saw him as I chugged along and he ran past me.
One of the keys to a democracy: law enforcement based on the rule of law and not on the wishes of those who hold the power. Whether it's the municipal police, county sheriff, a state's Department of Justice or the U.S. Department of Justice, law enforcement officials must remain neutral as they investigate crimes and uphold laws. Otherwise, we'd be living in either a dictatorship or some other version of an unstable country.
"I get those fleeting, beautiful moments of inner peace and stillness — and then the other 23 hours and 45 minutes of the day, I'm a human trying to make it through in this world."—Ellen Degeneres What do you most desire — way down deep inside? For me, that would be inner peace. "Inner peace" might come across like a worn-out hippy phrase, but I think we all know when we have it. And when we don't. For me, a metaphor for inner peace is the image of a boat on still water.
Ry Cooder came out with a new album recently. One of his songs has Jesus talking with the late singer-songwriter Woody Guthrie ("Jesus and Woody"). As they lament the rise of hatred, Jesus says to Woody: Well, I've been the Savior now for such a long time. And I've seen it all before. You good people better get together, Or you ain't got a chance anymore. (For purposes of this column, I define "good people" as those who prefer love over what someone has described as hatred's milder cousin, resentment).
Can something be both heartbreaking and ugly at the same time? We now know the answer is yes, as we witness the brutal confirmation process of Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh grind on. As I write this, that nomination is on a one week "pause" as the FBI looks into sexual assault allegations from Judge Kavanaugh's past.
Last June, the U.S. Supreme Court issued a decision in the Wisconsin gerrymandering case. A brief review: "gerrymandering" is the convoluted re-drawing of voting districts, by one party, for partisan political advantage. Both parties are capable of this shenanigan. The issue in the Wisconsin case was whether Republicans went too far when they re-set district lines following the 2010 census. But instead of addressing that issue, all nine justices concluded that the plaintiffs (those who brought the suit) had not proven they had "standing" to make their claims.
Mike Farley, who died recently, was one of the more remarkable people I have known. After a successful high school coaching career, he was named head football coach at UW-River Falls in 1970. It took a few years for him to get his program rolling. In Farley's first four years, the Falcons won a total of 12 games. And then the program took off like a bird of prey. In the final 14 years of his career, Farley-led teams won 106 games and lost 44. (Two ties.) The Falcons won conference championships in 1975, 1976, 1979, 1980, 1984, 1985, 1986, and 1987.
When there is no enemy within, the enemies outside cannot hurt you.—Winston Churchill. Sometimes it feels like our political environment is just another television "reality show." It can have that effect. Actual reality: like a nasty infection, divisiveness continues to spread across our nation. The great mystics recommended love and union as the bottom line in life, but it seems that we are increasingly turning our backs on that wisdom.
One of my high school teachers, Dick Durner, was known as a builder of school spirit. The smiling Mr. Durner liked to run out onto the basketball court before home games, cup his hands around his mouth — megaphone-like — and shout out to the student cheering section — "Is everybody happy?" This came to mind while reading the most current "World Happiness Report." It's a global ranking of happiness in 156 countries, produced by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.