Simply Human

I walk.  A lot.

I do this to keep a couple of steps ahead of my disease and keep my lungs healthy and strong.  I also do this to reflect on my life and ask, what can I do better as a father and husband; what can I do to make my kids’ world a better place?  More importantly, what can I do to become a better human being than I was at the start of the walk?   Many times, I find no answer, but sometimes a little light gets shed on the subject and make me start to walk down another path from the way I was going, literally and figuratively.  Today was one of those days where I had more to reflect on than usual.  Tomorrow is yet another Chemotherapy session which will find me miserable for a few days afterward; and I have to prepare myself for that and steel myself against it’s inevitable onslaught to me both physically and mentally.  I was also still thinking about Friday’s tragedy and what I can do, or we as a society can do, to try and prevent this from happening again.  And suddenly it came to me in a flash.  It was as if the sun had gone nova and it took that to happen before I could see the light that was blazing so brightly before.

We must be human; and we must be kind to one another.

It sounds so simple and easy; it sounds idealistic; it sounds like a facile solution to a complex problem…but it’s not.  It is the root cause of everything that we as individuals and we as a society need.  If we want better mental health care, then we have to be more human about its treatment and its stigma associated with it as something that is to be hidden and not addressed directly.  I have openly addressed on this blog my own struggles with PTSD from the aftermath of 9/11 and my own diagnosis as having bi-polar disorder.  I am lucky, because I have the insurance that allows me to be a whole person; but many do not have that luxury.  I am able to tell right from wrong, but there are days when quite honestly, the line blurs for me…and if it’s happening to me, just imagine what is happening to those poor souls who do not have the luxury of that privilege.  I KNOW what can go through the mind of someone who has these issues.  I know first hand how easy it is to lose control and just give in to the Darkness.  I also know first hand what needs to be done to maintain control and embrace the Light that comes from others as well as what is inside of me.  But this realization could only happen because I have people who care about me and treat me as a human being.  It makes me want to pause rather than to give in to my base instincts.  There are those who have no one in this life, and they do not have others to show them the way forward.  What these people need is something as simple as kindness and understanding first and foremost even before we as a society can treat their ills.

We have become a culture that embraces the Darkness because we see no hope.  The Mobius loop we are in is the root cause of the problem is that we see no hope because we OFFER no hope.  There are people who see no kindness because they are offered none; and they despair and give into their most primal and uncontrolled instincts and do to others unspeakable things like what happened this past Friday.  We need to offer hope; we need to offer Light; we need to show others that things CAN and WILL get better if they know there is someone to catch them when they fall.  Simple acts of kindness and humanity are the first steps toward one’s own enlightenment as well as the enlightenment of us all.

We can blame video games.  We can blame a culture that embraces the violence and terror as part of its societal fabric.  We can blame many things; but its root cause is offering no hope for the future while letting the present exist in Darkness.  We need to change the way we THINK as individuals before we can act and address the problems that lay before us.  In order for us to be human, we need to embrace the part of us that is like the Universe…infinite and full of wonder; full of hope; full of Light.  We need to renounce the part of ourselves that is complacent in its very existence; the part of us that walks by the beggar on the street rather than help them out with a meal or a new pair of shoes like that NYPD officer did a few weeks ago.  We need to reach down deep inside and pull out the part of us that is a creature of Light; turn our souls inside out if necessary.  We need to be able to do one simple act of kindness before we can do hundreds or thousands of acts of kindness by making this place, this fragile planet become a better place to live.

Be human; be kind to one another.

It is probably the most difficult choice many of us will have to make because quite simply, we exist in a society that doesn’t glorify that kind of behavior or encourage its very nature.  We would rather be a creature of the Darkness rather than a being of Light because we do not promote the very fabric of our Humanity that IS our nature and our destiny as a species.  We are LIGHT.  Once we accept that; once we have that basic concept in our head, then we can begin that which I just spoke of…

Be human; be kind to one another.

It starts with a simple act of kindness and goes from there. It snowballs into better health care for all of us, and most especially for those who cannot afford it.  It starts with us taking away the implements of destruction that threaten our very lives.  It starts with getting rid of the guns, the assault weapons, the tanks, the nuclear tipped missiles aimed at the very heart of every nation on the face of this earth.  It starts when we say, “Enough!” and act upon that thought.  We need a way to offer hope for the Future and a better Present…and that means getting rid of our old ways of thinking.  We are truly at a crossroads this time, because we can now truly see the sacrifice those young souls made upon our behalf.  They chose to come into this plane to show us the way; 20 Angels and creatures of light who sacrificed their future for the future of us all.  It starts when we understand that they would still be here if we only did one thing…

Be human; be kind to one another.

We can talk about the specifics at another time, but we must all come to terms with this horrible tragedy by embracing the thought that we CAN offer Hope.  We CAN offer a Present AND a Future to anyone who needs it; in fact, we need to all realize this because we must be the ones who light the way.  We must, as a nation, become the shining beacon of hope and freedom that we once were.  We used to be the ones who wore the white hat; we used to be the country that defended and protected the sacred cause given to us by our founders and be the light of freedom and of hope…but we must also be the nation that has seen the ill of its ways and repented upon the altar of History.  We must be the ones who embrace the simple fact that we are the last best hope of mankind.  We ARE the future.  It is going to take some sacrifices, but those are sacrifices that we must make on an individual level and the rest will fall into place.

Be human; be kind to one another.

So many of our prophets and saviors and enlightened souls have been telling us that this is the case for centuries.  We usually turn away from them and kill them even as they tried to show us the way to become, that which is our Destiny.  To be Human is a blessing and a curse all at the same time because we must balance our base instincts with the future salvation of our very soul by forsaking the Darkness that dwells within and embrace the Light that is always there in each one of us, no matter how small.  Even the smallest ember can start a fire, and let this be the incident that lets us know that there will always be someone…even a complete stranger…who has our back and will grasp our arm and pull us up from the mob that is trampling on us (like what happened to me on 9/11).  We must be the ones to lead because those 20 children who died for our sins this past Friday have charged us with the task today and our Founders who did the same 236 years ago.  We must look at them and embrace the better nature of our angels, because within each one of us dwells a being of infinite compassion and caring.  A being that can transcend the very earthly confines we find ourselves trapped in and struggling with on a daily basis.

The true test of a soul is when they are alone in the Darkness and without a candle and when no one is looking.  It is time to light that candle of hope and guide ourselves out of the dark prison we have made for ourselves.  We need to be the flame that lights the other candles of hope because the person we are helping, although a complete stranger is our brother or sister.  They are human beings just like we are.  We must offer them hope and peace.  And there is only one way to do this:

Be human; be kind to one another…for the next hand you grasp may very well be the one who is reaching out to save you.  Take it, hold on to it for dear life…and see the hope love and light that are coming from the Human Being who offers you a chance to have hope and a future once again.

I have found that it is ironic that I understand more about life as I face the possibility of my own premature death.  It’s a shame that it took that to happen before I realized that I had more to offer my children, my wife, my family and friends than I had offered in the past.  It is now time to take whatever knowledge I gleam from this experience and pass it along…so that you may also show others the way that unfolds before me.  And it’s all so simple…and starts with each one of us, and it starts the moment we embrace ourselves, faults and all, and an implement of the will of the Universe.

It starts when we embrace the word “Humanity” as something beautiful and not something to be feared.  It starts when we embrace the better nature of our angels…and we realize that we are the angels who have been chosen to deliver humanity’s calling to the world.

Be the Light; be the change that you seek.  Be the Human Being you know you can be, and that you in fact are.  Only then can we offer the hope needed to change our society and ourselves.


“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon…we choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win… “

-John F. Kennedy





Conquerers and Commoners Alike

Friday was one of those days that changes your life forever, and sometimes in the most unexpected of ways.

Prior to that day, I was a full-fledged supporter of the Second Amendment (The right to bear arms and form militias).  I know why it was put in our leaving breathing Constitution: it’s there as a means of protecting the populace against a government that may very well be violating the Constitution.  It is something I believed in very strongly in, although with restrictions on ownership (confined to sane, reasonable people), background checks, closing the gun show loopholes that are wide enough to fit a tank through let alone an AK-47 or any assault weapon that does not belong on the streets and into the hands of sane men and women.  As the reports kept coming in, my heart was tearing itself into little pieces because in many ways my simple belief in that Amendment put me square into a small part of this as an unwilling conspirator.  My belief in that Amendment was a small part of what allowed that madman to have his weapons of doom that took the lives of those children.  I continued to feel the burden of my belief fall upon me, until in a moment…a flash of realization…that I had become (once again in my life) Saul on the Road to Damascus.  The scales dropped from my eyes, and I can now unequivocally state here now for the record that I am of the firm belief that although I believe Human Beings have infinite capabilities to be beautiful, we also have the capabilities of being evil and darkness incarnate.

Some have said it’s because we took God out of schools.  Some have said that it is because our society is so messed up that these events area a reflection of that and we need to do more to prevent crazies from gun ownership.  And the knee jerk reaction from the other side is, “See!  I told ya so!” in many, many ways.  Oh sure, we can get all cute on the Internet with instant pix and memes.  We can try and get our point across letting others choose our words for us, but I don’t have that luxury.  I write.  I have to say what needs to be said, and quite frankly, I do not find that the words that usually flow easily on many things come much slower this evening.  But this is what I do.  Like Ray Bradbury once said, “You must stay drunk on writing so reality does not kill you”.  Well, reality killed 18 children Friday.  Reality allowed those guns to be bought.  Reality is what may have dashed the hopes of one man so that he turned to his darker half and used the very extensions of the darkness to take 21 lives.  Reality is 18 sets of parents who may never celebrate the holidays again.  Reality is that guns are on our streets, they are in our schools, they are in our homes.  And it’s time for a reality check: it’s time to ban all guns from this country.  I cannot say more than that.  All you have to do is look at every name on a list on the front of the Huffington Post and realize those were children.  They will never know families of their own.  They will never know graduations and weddings.  They will never know what life has taken from them in the form of a madman who was allowed to have guns.  That’s the reality…so I’ll keep writing because I need to get drunk on it…

How to we keep going?  How do we move on from this?  I can only offer my own perspective.  I was going to work on a beautiful Tuesday Morning in September 2001 when my world can crashing down upon me.  I was in the middle of the attacks on the World Trade Center.  I was caught in the dust cloud.  I saw people jump and the second plane hit the building.  I ran for my life.  I was trampled on.  And yet, I knew I had to get back to my family…and I did.  I was never the same man as I was when I left home that morning.  PTSD took its toll over me for the next two years, as did a diagnosis of being bi,polar.  But the damage was done, and I was a weak and frightened man.  Slowly I dove into the bottle, and for a straight year I lived there…until I was redeemed, found sobriety, and the love of my children.  Like all humans, I survived when I had to…somehow; I moved on but came out of the experience better for it.  Somehow, we keep going…

My wife and I have had incredible marriage problems ever since then.  We have our good days and bad days, but in the end we care more about our kids than we do about ourselves, or yes, even our marriage.  That took a big hit because of 9/11 and a lot of other things…there’s always enough blame to go around.  I have my share, believe me.  I am no saint; I am more apt to be a concrete angel with clipped wings rather than a glowing light upon the cosmic zephyrs.  But while that is still an issue, and we are working through things the best we can, somehow we keep going…

Last December 19th, an abnormality showed up on a routine x,ray.  It was lung cancer.  I have plenty of blame for that one: I smoked for years.  I was in that aforementioned dust cloud on 9/11.  I have gone through extensive chemo, radiation, and an operation.  It is difficult knowing that every day you either look up at the sword of Damocles above your head or the stars in the sky.  There are days when I vacillate between the two, and then there are those magnificent days where all I see are the stars.  Those are the days when I feel life more than I ever have.  Those are the days I love my wife and kids more than ever.  But those days are here and there, and I just hang in there until one comes around.  When you are told you are dying, you tell them you are not.  You tell them that you are going to live to see your grandchildren, and those are the days you see the stars…but there’s always that sword.  I’m training myself not to look at it and see only the sky.  I do that because somehow, I must keep trying…

And that is what we must do here.  We must keep going on, we must keep trying no matter what stands in our way.  There are a lot of future kids’ fates riding on what we decide to do in the coming years.  Although our hearts break, they are not made of glass.  The heart never is; it is always flesh and blood and can be remolded and taught to love again.  It can be taught to do the right thing.  It can be taught to somehow, it must keep going.  We must come to the realization that if we are to survive as a people, as a nation, and as a planet…we must end the culture of guns NOW.  Those kids could have been yours.  They could have been mine.  Next time something like this happens, and we all know it WILL happen again, we’ll all pontificate and do what we have been doing to fight the violence and end the death…nothing.  We’ll all still send our photos and memes on Facebook.  We’ll all feel sad for a couple of days, and we’ll just go on living like we usually do.

But this time, it HAS to be different.  This time we need to honor the memories of those children and adults who perished in a sea of bullets that were bought and paid for by all the lobbying money that the National Rifle Association could muster.  This time we have to do something…anything to stop the violence and death.  That begins with a dialog.  That begins with enough of us writing to our Representatives and Senators and even marching on Washington to try and end this senseless violence and culture of guns.  That begins when one of us says “No more guns” and another and another and another follow until we can finally rid the land of the weapons that are holding us hostage by the presence of their very existence.  This reign of terror must end.

It is often said that a revolution begins with one man.  Let this piece be the first words of that revolution.  Let these words be the beginning of the end of the presence of guns in our homes, in our offices, in our schools, and in our streets; so that our children will never have to face this again, or that people will be able to go places and not live in fear that the next shooting may involve them or their families.  Let it be a reason to carry on and believe that this is not about taking away your right to own a gun, as much as it is my right to live another day and to see my children do the same.  It’s about freedom from fear.  It’s about freedom from the NRA.  It’s about remembering all those souls we have lost on Friday, and a few months before in a movie theater, and a few years before at Columbine.   It’s about somehow, us finding the courage to do what is right.  It’s about us somehow, going on and getting the job done.  It’s about us not merely saying, “no more guns”; it’s about us believing that liberty and freedom come from the soul more than they come from the point of a gun.  It’s about us believing enough in ourselves that we can do this.

This nation may have been born with a shot heart ‘round the world, but it will die a slow and painful death if we allow the culture of guns and violence to take over our streets and our hearts.

In loving memory of:

Charlotte Bacon, Daniel Barden, Rachel Davino, Olivia Engel, Josephine Gay, Ana M. Marquez-Greene, Dylan Hockley, Dawn Hochsprung, Madeleine F. Hsu, Catherine V. Hubbard, Chase Kowalski, Jesse Lewis, James Mattioli, Grace McDonnell, Anne Marie Murphy, Emilie Parker, Jack Pinto, Noah Pozner, Caroline Previdi, Jessica Rekos, Avielle Richman, Lauren Rousseau, Mary Sherlach, Victoria Soto, Benjamin Wheeler, Allison N. Wyatt


“Like the wind crying endlessly through the universe, Time carries away the names and the deeds of conquerors and commoners alike. And all that we are, all that remains, is in the memories of those who cared we came this way for a brief moment.” – Harlan Ellison