Joe Cryns and the Ugly Hawaiian Shirt

No more Hawaiian shirts, but what's up with that hat?

“Aren’t all these notes the senseless writings of a man who won’t accept the fact that there is nothing we can do with suffering except to suffer it?”

C.S. Lewis, A Grief Remembered

This man shows up at an early San Diego New Warrior Training Adventure in an ugly Hawaiian shirt and he’s reluctant to make the commitment needed to enter the training.  He struggles but participates even though he has doubts.

After the training this man shows up at the “graduation” celebration in Olivenhain again wearing an ugly Hawaiian shirt.  Once more he’s not sure if he wants to participate, especially in the suggested follow-up groups.  After kicking the dirt and jawing for a while he participates in the celebration.

A week later this man shows up at the warehouse in San Diego where we stored the training materials between trainings and where we conducted the post training Integration Groups (I-Groups).  Again, this man shows up in an ugly Hawaiian shirt expressing doubts about this “work” being for him.  At this point I bribe him and he makes the commitment to participate in the eight week I-Group program.

This man was Joe Cryns.

The world is a better place because Joe made those decisions back in the early 90’s however reluctantly and I’m a better man for having had the privileged of knowing him.  Joe’s passing last week is a blessing in that he no longer suffers from the cancer that was attacking his body and a great loss for his family, friends, and those who won’t have the great joy of having their lives “roughed-up” by Joe.

In a recent Blog Posting, “The River Flows Through Me,” I pass along the metaphor, provided by a recent retreat leader, of our dysfunctions being a raging river that is excavating deep emotional grooves in our souls.  In that article I suggest that what is needed to change the course of that river is someone or something to “disturb” the flow and change the course, radically and in a positive direction.  Joe was someone who could “disturb” your life!

Many of the postings since his death talk of Joe’s irreverence, his mischievousness, or how he didn’t follow the “rules.”  They are all correct, Joe was all of that and more.  Once Joe was able to throw off the shackles of his “ugly Hawaiian shirt life” and discover his true self there was no stopping this man from helping others to do the same.  Joe didn’t “color outside the lines” because he wanted to be an anarchist or nonconformance, he did whatever was necessary to “disturb” the person who was struggling, as Joe had, by finding out who they were and what was working and not working in their lives.  And Joe always accomplished this with joy, humor and compassion.

The compassion and sensitivity of Joe is not often discussed but he had a great capacity for both.  You get past the bravado and elfish playfulness and you find a man that cares about life deeply.  Two stories from past New Warrior Training Adventures in Edmonton Canada paint the picture of this side of Joe Cryns:

Trainings in Edmonton always included several members of the local native tribes and this particular training was no different.  Early in the weekend, probably Saturday, a staff member, a native, came running to me and another senior staff member saying that we had a serious problem, the training participants from the tribe wanted to kill Joe!  We tried to calm the man down but he was serious and he began to educate us “guys from the States” that when someone touches a medicine man they must die.  What?  What medicine man?

It turns out that Joe had gone up to the medicine man who was a training participant and gave him a hug, not realizing that the man was considered sacred and should not be touched.    Joe was attracted to his man by his sacredness and not knowing the “rules” authentically expressed his compassion for the man in his own honest way.  Joe was thinking about the man, not the labels or cultural stereotypes and I’m not sure he wouldn’t have still offered the hug even if he knew the “rules.”  Joe wanted to share his love and passion with this man at any cost.  I don’t remember how we resolved this matter other than the obvious – I do remember how Joe owned his actions and stood up as a man.

The other situation I choose not to elaborate on the actual event other than to say that after another training, or it could be the same one in Edmonton (they all run together for me), a group of us where staying at the late Gordon Walinski’s (I apologize for not knowing the correct spelling) house in Edmonton.  We all had flights back to the States on Monday so Sunday night after the training we decided to “party.”  Again, the details about this night are not important in fact I can’t remember who was there except for Gordon, Rich Grahalva and Joe.  What is important was that I experienced a side of Joe that night that I’d never seen before – the speechless, humbled and sensitive Joe Cryns!  That night I discovered that underneath all the bluster, bravado and masculine joking Joe was a humble and sensitive man with depth and caring that most rarely got to see.  For those of you who knew Joe just imaging him speechless and transfixed, incapable of action and you’ll understand what I’m talking about.

Thinking back on these and many other treasured experiences with Joe I realize that I don’t think of him as having been irreverent, mischievous or undisciplined.  I don’t remember just  the jokes, the bravado, the teasing, the playfulness – What I see and will always remember about Joe is that he was a Man, no adjectives necessary and no more ugly Hawaiian shirts!

The River Flows Through Me

Ephesians 2:10

For we are God’s workmanship, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do.

 “Who am I, really?”

“Do I have the courage to find out who I am?”

“If I’m able to discover my true self, will I be able to accept it?”

“How is my belief about who I am affecting my life, especially my relationships?”

Pastor Dave Johnson

These were penetrating questions, challenges really that Dave Johnson, Senior Pastor of the Church of the Open Door in Minnesota, put forth in a series of messages given during the annual Oak Hills Church Men’s Retreat.  During the small group sessions after each of his messages you could tell that his words were striking a cord in the men as they chewed on the question, “who am I, and do I really want to find out?”

Pastor Johnson painted a picture of our lives as a river that flows through us, cutting a groove through our inner core. The longer we ignore who we have become, the judgments we hold about ourselves, the deeper the groove and the more dysfunctional we become.  It’s not until we jump in and “disturb” the “river,” changing its’ course and filling in the groove with positive self images and blessings that we can truly turn our lives around. He taught us that words matter and we need to be blessed by men in our lives if we have any chance of finding and integrating our true self.  He also taught us that it was necessary for us to have intention, relations and the supernatural in order to radically alter our beliefs about ourselves.

  • Intention, the awareness that something must change.
  • Relations, the necessity of engaging with others to achieve transformation.
  • Supernatural, surrendering to the spirit of God.

The teaching was clear, now how do I get there?  How does transformation take place?

This concept of jumping in and disturbing the river seems to be one approach, a radical one at that.  It dramatically illustrates what’s necessary for a man to change his life, he needs to dive in and radically divert the raging waters of his false self.  It takes extreme action by the man if he has any chance to uncover the negative beliefs about himself and to reframe those beliefs!  It’s this action, this disturbing, that is at the core of what’s necessary for men to transform their lives.  In order for a man, or anyone really, to unmask their true identity, to expose and embrace the gift of who they are, as God created them, they need to experience the transformative power of an intentional circle of support that is dedicated to integrity, authenticity and supernatural intervention.

These circles of support need to focus on intention, relations and the power of the supernatural in conjunction with what I call the trinity of transformation – Awareness, trust and action!

  • Awareness:  We need to open our minds to the possibility that we need to closely examine who we are, how our actions affect others and how we are perceived by those around us.  Once we open our minds and begin the study of who we are there comes a time when we must accept that understanding and take ownership of our lives.
  • Trust:  Once I become aware of the challenge do I trust anyone enough to share the journey with?  Am I willing to let another person know my inner-most secrets?  If I share what’s going on will I only be hurt more?  Trust is the life blood of transformation.
  • Action:  This is where intention, relations and the supernatural come together to wash the jagged “stone” of who you are down the river , through the ragging waters until we are smoothed and polished into the “rock” God always intended us to be.

We are blessed at Oak Hills with two exceptional teachers in Kent and Mike and they have been and continue to provide insight and direction on Kingdom living.  Many of you are participating in small groups studying the Word of God and how it relates to your life. The Men’s retreat is another example of how the Church creates opportunities for us to grow and transform.  We can read books, attend lectures and workshops, in fact there is no limit to the opportunities we have to address what works and what doesn’t in our lives.  Yet, how many times after a Sunday service, a group meeting or a retreat do you recognize the importance of the message but have no idea how to actually integrate the value into your life?

It would take a book to fully explain a process for personal transformation so let me share a brief overview of what has worked for me in my journey down that inner ragging river.

Step One: Intention:  Make the decision to intentionally dive in and “disturb” the river within so that you can discover and own who you truly are.  This may mean you need to create a new group or alter the current group structure and process to focus on transformation.

Step Two:  Relations:  Bring together people who share your desire for transformation and who are committed to taking action to fully live in the Kingdom of God.  For men it is a great paradox that they need to have other men to help them take responsibility for their own lives.  This is counter-cultural and may pose a significant obstacle.

Step Three: Supernatural:  Here is where our faith, our knowledge and our words matter most.  You’ve created an intentional circle with people who share your vision and commitment, it’s time to wade into the “river” and explore the gouges in our souls, the recesses of our heart, and you begin by asking these questions:

 “What’s not working in my life?”

“What do I get out of acting as I do?”

“Where did I learn this?”

“ What is my ‘negative’ behavior hiding?”

“Who am I, really?”

“What needs to change?”

Notice that I didn’t ask “why.”  It is vital to understand that navigating this “river” is more like rewriting a play as opposed to solving a puzzle.  I’m not trying to “fix” myself or anyone else, I’m trying to discover who I really am, deep within the protective armor that I’ve built up over my life to protect myself from the pain of the world. I’m empathizing with the person and helping that person navigate the swift currents of their emotions ever deeper into the depths of who they truly are so that they can gain clarity about the power that God has placed at their core.

 I once was full of self, and proud

Just like a Pharisee,

Until one day, quite by surprise,

I caught a glimpse of me.

Hawthorn

As the members of the group begin to answer these questions and as they discover how their actions actually affect the other people in their lives they will be encouraged to change the behavior, to become authentic. With awareness and practice they can rescript how they react in difficult situations, how they can make a positive impact on the world.  The group can help each other accomplish this by following-up with each other during the group to explore how the “new” behavior worked or didn’t work and how they feel about that.

As I stated earlier a book would need to be written to fully define how to create intentional circles of spiritual transformation and what I’ve provided here is at best an outline, a general direction to follow.  The key lies with the awareness that change is necessary, trusting that God will guide you and the courage to take action!  I pray that this will empower you to follow the ragging river to the headwaters of the person that God always intended you to be!

 James 4: 7-10

Submit yourselves, then, to God.  Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.  Come near to God and he will come near to you.  Wash your hands, you sinners, and purify your hearts, you double-minded.  Grieve, mourn and wail.  Change your laughter to mourning and your joy to gloom.  Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up.

Colossians 3:1-4

Since then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.  Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things.  For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God.  When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.

The Second Emancipation

“America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves.” Abraham Lincoln

English: Abraham Lincoln, the sixteenth Presid...

Image via Wikipedia

Over the course of the past year I’ve written several articles related to what it means to be a father, to be a man.  I’ve explored the influences on our character, the need for mentorship and blessings and that we have a responsibility to step up and lead our families.  Well, the time is now for authentic men and women to rise up and reclaim America, or risk losing our liberty, forever. Our liberty and freedom are under assault, not by force of arms although that may follow if the tide isn’t turned; but instead by legislation, regulations and the systematic erosion of morality and values.

The daily headlines tell the story:

  • The Obama Administrations’ attack on the conscience clause and the Constitution by requiring religious based organizations to offer contraceptive and reproductive treatment and services within their healthcare insurance programs.
  • Planned Parenthood’s blackmailing of the Susan G. Komen For The Cure Foundation because the Foundation initially dropped Planned Parenthood from their grant list.
  • The holiest of holy Liberal values, class warfare.

And these are only the attacks that have surfaced this past week!  Throw in mandated healthcare, the “Dream Act” for illegal aliens and the 9th District’s determination that California’s ban on same sex marriage is un-Constitutional and the path to tyranny and the lose of our liberty becomes clear.  You know when a Supreme Court Justice tells other countries to ignore the U.S. Constitution as a model we are in deep trouble.

I find it difficult to understand how educated, intelligent and creative people can support the entitlement policies of the Obama administration that have led to increased dependency on the Federal government in a way that enslaves over half our citizens.  I’ve stood shoulder to shoulder with men teaching other men how to take responsibility for their lives, to be authentic, and to live purpose driven lives of integrity yet many of these same men strongly support Obama, even though his policies rob the citizens of their responsibility and freedom!  It’s my opinion that it’s hypocritical to help a person embrace responsibility for their life and actions and then tell them what light bulb they must use; what car they must drive; what health insurance they must purchase; or their religious beliefs are irrelevant when it comes to reproductive control.

Is it right and fair for the Federal Government to demand that health care policies provide for contraceptives and other reproductive services, including abortions,even though these services conflict with my religious views?  Under what authority does the Federal Government have the right to require me to purchased anything?  Do you see how dangerous this policy is?  Once the Government has this power where does that power end?

As I write this, Obama is trying to back off the point by saying that if you are a faith-based organization you will be exempted from the requirement!  What the…?  What about my faith, my beliefs?  The government does not have the right to prescribe this coverage in the first place so exemptions are not necessary because the requirement is unconstitutional!

Obama and his supporters foment “Class Warfare” by proclaiming immoral the extreme disparity between the rich and the poor.  The Liberals use this disparity to argue for more funds to spend on more programs to assist the least among us.  And regardless of the billions spent on welfare we still have people in this country that are poor and have less than others.  The issue isn’t that one percent have the majority of the wealth and therefore the 99% are poor?  The true issue is that we are not teaching our brothers and sisters how to take care of their lives, how to cultivate their God-given gifts to support themselves and their families.

The people who support big government programs will scream, “Where’s your compassion?”  And I say government hand outs are not compassionate.  If you are concerned about someone and their plight then step up and go help them. Gather like minded friends and make a true difference in that persons life as well as your own.  If you think wealth should be equalized then find a group of people who have less than you, combine your resources and divide them equally.  Be accountable.

Taking from the rich and giving to the less fortunate is immoral!  Creating entitlement systems and programs that enslave the less fortunate is immoral!  Empowering the Federal Government to control our lives is immoral!

Government programs have not and will not improve the lives of the citizens.  Prosperity, freedom, liberty and mentoring will.

Government programs have enslaved 50% of the population.  Continuing to support the growth of government will enslave us all!

In 1863, at a pivotal point in our Nation’s history, President Lincoln issued the “Emancipation Proclamation” setting in motion the events that would eventually lead to freeing of slaves in America.  We are once more faced with a challenge that requires no less than a Second Emancipation Proclamation – an emancipation from the tyranny of an overreaching government!

The Second Emancipation will occur the minute we stop looking to the government to effect change in the lives of people and step up and take action ourselves!  The moment we take responsibility for the quality of life within the society then we will be back on the Founder’s road to liberty and freedom!  Imagine the good that could be achieved if you, personally, reached out a helping hand to someone less fortunate, as opposed to a government hand out.

Let the emancipation begin.  Drive out the big government, entitlement obsessed career politicians, of either party; Dismantle all departments and agencies that are not supported by the Constitution; Replace the current progressive tax system with one that is fair for all; and Restore fiscal responsibility.

Let’s celebrate and empower each other!  Let’s stand up for FREEDOM!

 “I say to you today, my friends, so even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream. It is a dream deeply rooted in the American dream.

I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident: that all men are created equal.”

Dr. Martin Luther King

WE THE PEOPLE of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

Stepping Up

Are you a man?

Are you a father?

Are you a grandfather?

Are you an uncle?

If the answer is yes then you must read “Stepping Up” by Dennis Rainey! No arguments, no hesitation, no excuses, you must read this book and read it now! I’ve read many books about manhood, fathering and what it means to be a man but this is the absolute best and simplest presentation I’ve come across. Mr. Rainey’s faith-based program for putting our selfishness aside and stepping up in the lives of the young boys and men in our lives is convicting. As I finished reading this short but profound book I found myself flat on the floor, metaphorically, ashamed that fear has keep me from stepping up and mentoring the young men in my life.

I’ve been on a journey (consciously) to discover who I am and what it means to be a man since August of 1990. That August I attended, survived might be a better term, a “men’s” retreat known as the “New Warrior Adventure Training.” My life changed that weekend and since then I’ve been on the quest to become the man God always intended me to be. I’ve written about that experience in a previous post (“An Awakening”) so I won’t recount the experience here, I’ll just say that “Stepping Up” crystalizes everything I’ve learned on this journey – Men must be courageous and take responsibility for their lives and the lives of their families!

“Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point.” C.S. Lewis

Mr. Rainey provides a straightforward program for learning to step-up in your life and the lives of young men. At the heart of this program is that men must have the courage to face their fears, sinfulness, limitations and ironically their strengths. To do this men need to trust God and surround themselves with other men to be challenged and mentored. This support shouldn’t be solution based, the mentors shouldn’t be tying to find answers to the problems in a man’s life. Instead the support should focus on what’s working and not working. What does it mean to be an authentic man and what stands in the way of realizing that authenticity in your life? And Mr. Rainey drives home the importance of this by reminding us that our sons and daughters are watching, intently.

“A Little Fellow Follows Me

A careful man I must always be;
A little fellow follows me.
I know I dare not go astray
For fear he’ll go the self-same way.
I cannot once escape his eyes;
Whate’er he sees me do, he tries,
Like me, he says, he’s going to be,
This little chap who follows me.
He thinks that I am good and fine;
Believes in every word of mine.
The base in me he must not see,
This little chap who follows me.
I must be careful as I go
Through summer’s sun and winter’s snow,
Because I am building for the years to be
This little chap who follows me.

Lee Fisher, as cited in Wooden and Carty, “Coach Wooden.”

Another important point made by Mr. Rainey is that it isn’t enough to be aware or conscious. For a man to be truly authentic and effective he needs the moral compass that can only be provided by God. After all if I don’t have a source greater than myself what is right and what is wrong? If there is no God then moral concepts are subjective not objective and therefore meaningless. And it is this connection and appreciation of God that a man needs to foster in the young, otherwise within a generation or two the values will decay and the culture will die.

Mr. Rainey tells the story of when he was a young boy, about 12-years old, he was helping his father paint the house when he became bored or impatient and wanted to quit and go play. So the young Dennis went to his mother and asked if he could go play with his friends and his mother agreed. Just as young Dennis was convinced he had been saved from the labor his father came in and asked what was going on. When Dennis’ dad heard the pleas he said the following:

“That boy one day is going to be somebody’s husband and somebody’s father. There are going to be people depending on him. He has got to learn how to do what he has to do and not what he wants to do.”

To his credit and the credit of his mother, Dennis returned to his labor, learning a life lesson in the process.

One of the key lessons I’ve learned on my own journey is that the answer to the question of what it is to be a man isn’t contained in a book, even a book as good as “Stepping Up.” The answer is in the hearts of authentic men that courageously step up and challenge, support and love the next generation and the insight and wisdom of Mr. Rainey caln helps us all get there.

“A real man rejects passivity, accepts responsibility, leads courageously, and expects God’s greater reward.” Robert Lewis, founder of Men’s Fraternity.

So, what stands in your way? What stands in mine?

An Awakening

Some “New Warriors” on their way to a Network meeting in Northern Minnesota. Phil “Bo” Bocanowski is the second man from the left.

“What the hell have I gotten myself into?  I’m going to have a serious talk with Bo when I find him.  What was he thinking, convincing me to sign up for this ‘Men’s weekend’?  I need to find a way out of here and quick.  This is a crazy place!”

These thoughts and a thousand others, many that I can’t share here were streaming through my head, at light speed, as I stood there amongst a group of men, men I didn’t know, in a large space within an abandoned nunnery located in southern Wisconsin near the Illinois border.  It was a Friday evening, August 3, 1990 and I had traveled from San Diego at the urging of my employer, Phil Bozanowski (Bo) because he thought the experience would be good for me.

“What was I thinking!!!”

I’d only been working for Bo a short time and I didn’t really know him.  All I knew was that he was a successful real estate developer, a bit eccentric and that he was very persuasive.  He had taken an interest in my life and me and he was certain that this “men’s retreat” was just what I needed.  On that Friday night twenty years ago I was scanning the faces of the men, the retreat staff, that surrounded myself and about twenty other suckers who had paid good money to participate in this “experience.”  I finally found Bo, who was on staff, standing next to a man that appeared to be the leader.  I was really angry and I wanted to lock eyes with Bo so that he knew how mad and disappointed I was with him, but he just stood there motionless, staring straight ahead as the “leader” began the process.

I was thinking, “Bo, you wait until I get the opportunity to confront you.  I’ll give you a piece of my mind!” Which was a crock considering that Bo would mop the floor with me if we had had a confrontation.  So I just stood there waiting for an opportunity to escape the madness when suddenly the “leader” called my name, “Oh no!”

That Friday night and the next two days proved to be one of the most significant experiences of my life, an experience that allowed me to become the man that God had always intended (To paraphrase Dallas Willard).  I’m not overstating the situation to say that that night I made a decision to save my life when I answered the call instead of running.

I was forty-two years old when I experienced the “New Warrior Training Adventure” in that old nunnery in Wisconsin and I didn’t know it at the time but my life was in shambles.  I was unaccountable, I was constantly afraid, I was shy, I was repressed emotionally and I didn’t really know what it was to be a man.  I took advantage of people to keep myself “safe” and I was failing as a husband, a father and as a businessman.  I was at the end of my rope and Bo recognized this and kept after me about this “experience” he had had that made such a profound difference in his life.

So as I stood there on that hot muggy Friday night and I heard my name called I made a choice, based on what little trust I had for Bo, to answer the call instead of running which would be my typical reaction.  I stepped up and allowed myself to be exposed to these men and to see through their eyes, through their hearts, through their courage what it really meant to be an authentic man, to be Bob Petersen.

Through that initial experience and all the subsequent experiences with the New Warrior Training Adventure I learned what it means to be accountable, to be responsible for my actions, that my actions have consequences that affect other people, especially people I love.  I learned how to live a life of integrity, honor and courage.  I became emotionally literate and most of all I discovered my true self and that I had a purpose here on earth.

Sitting here in a San Francisco hotel room on the twentieth anniversary of my initiation into manhood, I’m feeling connected with all the men and all the experience I’ve had over these past two decades.  And I’m especially thankful for the opportunity that Bo gave me, both professionally and spiritually. I’m often asked why I continue to donate my time and talents to help men find themselves.  My answer is that I’ll never be able to repay the debt of love and gratitude I owe for the opportunity I was given to save my life  on August 3, 1990.

Thank you Bo, my brother from another mother.  I hope and pray that you hear and feel my love and my gratitude.

“Hey Occupy Wall Street, Who is John Galt?”

The “Occupy Wall Street” demonstrations and encampments provide a fascinating and clearly defined illustration of the dramatic difference between Liberals and Conservatives – the Left feels entitled and the Right believes in freedom and personal responsibility.

The name itself, “Occupy Wall Street” tells the story.  The OWS crowds don’t just demonstrate they occupy and seize private and public property, and they defend this seizure by stating their bedrock belief that they are entitled!  The government  they say (that’s you and me by the way) owes them certain basic economic needs, housing, health care, jobs, education, and robust salaries.  They bemoan the the wealth gap between the 1% and the 99%.  They’re owed all this free stuff just because they are alive and they have the right to take anything they want because it’s unfair that some people make more money than they do!

The Left believes that the government must make decisions for the citizens to create fairness and to provide for everyone the “basic” needs of life.  They’re not concerned about how much this costs or if there are revenues to pay for the services, after all  “compassion” trumps common sense and the realities of economics.  In sharp contract the Right believes in the freedom to make personal choices, to succeed or fail by your own skill and effort.  The Right believes that “safety nets” for the less fortunate are good and needed as long as they work and they can be paid for.  Government should provide a safe environment for freedom to flourish and afford a helping hand, not a hand out, when needed.

A book that illustrates the great divide between Liberal and Conservative policies, and does this in a powerful and entertaining manner is “Atlas Shrugged,” by Ayn Rand.

I finished reading this tome while the OWS phenomenon was taking place and I was taken aback by how prescient Ms. Rand’s 1956 insight was to the events of today.  The anarchy, the seizure of power by the federal government, the destruction of the economy due to that seizure and the erosion of the human spirit due to the lack of any hope are artfully and forcefully told in this story of the conflict between collectivism and personal freedom.

Pundits and critics of Ms. Rand dismiss her philosophy as a glorification of the self-centered and the selfish.  That greed is good and compassion is bad.  That rationality is short sighted and feelings are paramount for a fair and just society.

Contrary to the pundits Ms. Rand glorifies personal freedom and the right to personal property.  The thesis presented is that the State has no right to seize your personal property, either physical or intellectual.  She believes that each individual is responsible for his or her success or failure and should reap the rewards or consequences accordingly.  If you develop a cure for cancer, or produce a better product than your competitors, if you  invest your time and money to accomplish this then you should profit from your skill and effort.  And you should profit as much as the market will bare.

Ms. Rand is unapologetic about the wealth generated by the industrialists of her story.  Again, she isn’t a champion of greed, she’s a champion of freedom.  Ms. Rand creates a tension in the book between the “producers” and the State.  The State is run by champions for “fairness,” for the right of every citizen to receive his or her fair share, regardless of their talents, efforts, or capabilities.  What’s truly discouraging is that the scenarios and the outcomes presented in “Atlas Shrugged” are happening today and the OWS is just the initial exposure of the disease of entitlement that is destroying this country.

 

 “Only a ghost can exist without material property; only a slave can work with no right to the product of his effort.”

In the interest of “fairness” the State is controlling more and more of society and the economy.  As the restrictions, taxes and regulations increase more and more of the producers, the wealthy, stop producing and abandoned the market leaving the State with the responsibility to provide the products and services demanded by the citizens.  The result – an accelerating slide into anarchy and chaos – as the people start to “occupy” the property of others in a futile attempt to provide their basic needs.

It’s this futility that echoes throughout “Atlas Shrugged.”  The futility of the State and the intellectuals to central plan  the society.  Another good source for insight on this subject is “The Road to Serfdom,” by F.A. Hayek which was written near the conclusion of World War II and Great Britain was struggling with how to address their economy after the extreme cost of the war.  Mr. Hayek’s basic argument is that it is impossible for a Central Planner to effectively control the millions of transactions that occur within the economy on a daily basis, therefore a free market is the only viable economic solution.

 “Thus, the more we try to provide full security by interfering with the market system, the greater the insecurity becomes.”

Unfortunately many of the “industrialist” of today don’t have the integrity of their counterparts in “Atlas Shrugged.”  Today the wealthy support and encourage the State and the Central Planners in the “interference “ with the market because they want to influence the system to their advantage.  What the producers of today need to do is to take a lesson from Ms. Rand and be proud of their accomplishments and if the State doesn’t want to stop interfering in the market then they should leave the market and let the State try to figure out how to provide basic goods and services to the citizens.  The result would be anarchy, but out of the ashes we would return to the original founding principles of this great country.

 “We’ve heard it shouted that the industrialist is a parasite, that his workers support him, create his wealth, make his luxury possible – what would happen to him if they walked out?  Very well.  I propose to show to the world who depends on whom, who supports whom, who is the source of wealth, who makes whose livelihood possible and what happens to whom when who walks out.”

The Occupy Wall Street folks are attacking the wrong statistic.  Instead of being concerned about the wealth gap between the 1% and the 99%, they should be focused on the fact that close to 50% of Americans are dependent on or receive some major economic assistance from the Government!  That’s means you as a gainfully employed, responsible citizen are fully supporting one other person beyond your family!  I don’t begrudge the Bill Gates of the world their wealth, they earned it.  I do take exception to one half the population being subsidized by the other half.  This is more than an economic disaster, it’s a  human tragedy!

The supporters of OWS and Liberals in general would be well served to read “Atlas Shrugged” to learn what is in store for this country and the world if the current entitlement mind set is not abandoned!  And this brings me to my final point regarding the relevance of “Atlas Shrugged” to the events of today – Accountability and Integrity!

My recent blog postings have focused on the responsibility of men being fathers to their children and the current state of the culture is the consequence of that abdication by men.  For the entitlement mentality to take hold people must surrender their God-given freedom to others so that they don’t have to bear the responsibility for their lives.  The participants at the OWS events are chanting that they want their needs to be taken care of by the State, thereby avoiding the responsibility for their own lives.

The OWS crowd and Liberals in general refuse to be accountable for their success or failure in life.  They project the accountability on to the State which means that the rest of us are saddled with their care.  This approach is unsustainable and will eventually lead to the destruction of this country unless men of integrity stand up and say no to the growth of the Nanny State!  And this is the pint that Ms. Rand is making.  That by letting the government continue to erode our freedoms, by not demanding that they stop, by just “shrugging” and hoping for the best, we are complicit in the destruction of the economy of the culture of the nation!  We must be accountable and we must stop the march to Statism!

True compassion is for men, and women, to teach their children to be responsible for their lives and not to look to the Government accept in extreme circumstances.  We need to model integrity and accountability in our own lives so that our children learn the hard truth that each of us must be held accountable for our actions, that there isn’t a “get out of jail free” card in an honest and free society.  So, I encourage everyone to read, “Atlas Shrugged;” watch the movie that was released earlier this year; read Thomas Sowell; read F.A. Hayek; read the Constitution and Declaration of Independence; study the history of this great country and teach your children to be accountable!

“He is the man who became the symbol of the idea that need, not achievement, is the source of rights, that we don’t have to produce, only to want, that the earned does not belong to us, but the unearned does.”

“I swear – by my life and my love of it – that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”

“The only proper purpose of government is to protect man’s rights, which means:  to protect him from physical violence.”

“When you work in a modern factory, you are paid, not only for your labor, but for all the productive genius which has made that factory possible:  for the work of the industrialist who built it, for the work of the investor who saved the money to risk on the untried and the new, for the work of the engineer who designed the machines of which you are pushing the levers, for the work of the inventor who created the product which you spend your time on making, for the work of the scientist who discovered the laws that went into making of the product, for the work of the philosopher who taught men how to think and whom you spend your time denouncing.”

Fathers Need to Fight For Their Children!

Rock-em, Sock-em, Biff, Boo, Pow!

What a fight we’ve witnessed here tonight.  A classic, a contest for the ages, the battle between the world champion and an unknown, under-rated contender.  The classic David and Goliath battle.

No this wasn’t a classic Gillette Friday Night Fights on the snowy black and white TV in the 50’s; it wasn’t Ali/ Fraser – the Thrilla in Manilla; it wasn’t Rocky.  It was Atom versus Zeus in the World Robot Boxing championship.  This is the climax of a very good movie, “Real Steel” starring Hugh Jackman and Evangeline Lilly (“Lost”) and produced by Steven Spielberg.

What?

“Real Steel” is an entertaining, exciting and creative film that would be worth the price of admission just for the “transformer-like” thrills.  But that’s not why I strongly encourage everyone to go experience this movie and that’s why this isn’t merely a movie review.

“I want you to fight for me!” was the plea of the 11-year old boy (Dakota Goyo) to his estranged father (Hugh Jackman) when his father asked what the boy wanted from him. The truth spoken powerfully by a child! Do we all have ears to hear?  This request, this demand by the boy comes at a time in the movie when the father is giving up.  He’s started to build a bond with his son after 11-years of abandonment and the father still can’t face the ultimate responsibility of loving the boy so he’s giving him up to his aunt (His mother has recently been killed in an automobile accident).

One of my favorite authors, Stu Weber points out, that fathers need to be fathers and they need to stop making their children responsible for the relationship (I need to reread “Linking Arms” and “Tender Warrior” to find the exact quote).  In “Real Steel” the boy is doing all the work while the father continues to let his dysfunctions and his own negative self-image control his behavior, especially with his son.  This is just wrong, yet so typical, unfortunately.

Men, we need to fight for our children.  We need to be authentic and we need to take responsibility for our actions in the world, especially when we co-create  a new human being!  I don’t know if this was what the producers of this movie were intending but it certainly is the message that comes through to me.  Too often men plant their “seed” and are never heard from again; they don’t participate in the support and care of their children; they don’t pay their child support; they abuse their children;  or they abandon their children either physically or emotionally.  Look at the problems in the minority communities, especially the communities of African decent.  The absence of fathers is epidemic.  What chance do the fatherless children have?  Sure, some will be lucky, but most will end up in prison or dead because they don’t have strong men in their lives, they don’t have fathers to fight for them.

I relate to how the boy in the film feels because I was abandoned by my father.  I know first hand what it’s like not to have a father around as I struggled with the issues of growing up.  It was the memory of this pain that defined my actions as the father of my own children.  I worked hard to be there for my two beautiful daughters and when times were the most challenging it was the awareness of the needs of those girls that kept me focused on the bigger picture, kept me fighting for them.

I wasn’t perfect at being the father I wanted to be for my children. It wasn’t until my oldest daughter was 10-years old that I first became aware of my own “junk” and started to transform my life and behavior.  This transformation continues today and I know that my imperfection has harmed my children and step-children and I regret every time this has happened.  However, through it all I continue to do everything I can to help and protect my children, and I always will…I’ll continue to fight for my children!

 Ephesians 6: 4: Fathers, do not exasperate your children; bring them up in the training and the instruction of the Lord.