Tag Archive | "John Travolta"

Tell Me That It’s Human Nature

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Deeply embedded in our DNA are certain genetic traits that propel our species forward or at least, ensure its continuation.   Every human being possesses the drive, if not the actual ability, to earn, create, or steal his or her most basic survival needs.  On some level, we all share a sense of humor and a profound desire to be respected and loved.  But beyond that, we are uniquely different individuals, as evidenced in the way that we conduct our daily lives, confront challenges, and rise above our basic — and most base — instincts.

Environment, to a certain extent, determines our perspectives upon and responses to life.  But, environment is not the sole criteria.  Some people assume that karma makes us who we are, and determines what we accomplish, in this life.  Simply put, the concept of karma holds that every human being must set to right those wrongs committed in previous lifetimes.  Thereby, we learn the lessons that advance us spiritually, cease the tedious process of reincarnation, and get on to the next stage in our evolution.

But even karma doesn’t quite explain the quintessential differences between human beings.  If we come into our lifetimes without memories of our previous lives, how are to we know — other than through extremely focused meditation/reflection — which lessons we came back to learn?   And even if we did remember, would we all do the same thing under the same circumstances?

Suppose, for example, that humanity was an experiment in some cosmic lab.  If the being conducting the test were to place two individuals into the exact same environment, under the exact same conditions in order to observe the results of a specified stimuli, five’ll get you ten that, minus the introduction of some variable impacting one of the test subjects, the results would still be vastly different.

Why is this so?  Did our Maker imbue each of us with a very specific personality gene?  Or was it a rogue gene placed there just to amuse that Maker?

Whatever it is, I still can’t answer these questions, not even after twenty-plus years of interviewing and working with individuals from all walks of life.

I still wonder, for example, how Christa McAuliffe, the first female astronaut and a teacher by trade, found the courage to enter a space capsule for the first time, a capsule that would tragically explode above the earth before even achieving orbit, due to a faulty O-ring.   I wonder what caused the strange woman on the subway to loudly and hatefully spew her opinion that Christa deserved to die because she should have stayed home to take care of her family instead of venturing into outer space, and what made those of us who admired Christa unloose tears instead of hatred.

I wonder why one child, physically and verbally abused in early childhood, grew up to make gentle, beautiful music, while another treated the same way in his tender years grew up to make violent and misogynistic rap.

I wonder why Tom Cruise, a renowned actor blessed with success and money, never learned to stop making a complete idiot of himself while John Travolta, another renowned actor blessed with success and money, quietly flew his own plane over New Orleans to airdrop critical supplies, on his own dime, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina — while our government sat on its ass and twiddled its thumbs.

I wonder what gave Michelangelo the precision of hand and eye, and the inner vision, to craft something as beautiful and glorious as The David from a lifeless piece of marble. And what causes Puritans the world over to replicate that statue with one major difference: a fig leaf disguising the part of David’s anatomy that shows him to be unquestionably male.

I wonder what caused the highly placed senior executive at a firm that shall remained nameless to flip out one day.  While the man was tossing extremely sensitive documents concerning work that his firm was doing for the government off the roof of the company’s building, and while said executive was giving away bundles of money to every Tom, Dick, and Harry on the street, the “lowly” secretary was not only explaining things calmly to the FBI, she was holding the entire company together until its inevitable collapse.

I wonder how much blood money was enough to assuage the consciences of those in government who took bribes from BP and looked the other way while the fuel company raped our environment and our economy in the Gulf.  And I wonder how, in response to that tragedy, unpaid volunteers give tirelessly of their time and energy to clean up the beaches and the wildlife devastated by the worst oil spill the world has ever seen.

I wonder why one contestant on a reality TV show mouths off to a judge’s criticism, another one bawls, and yet a third laughs good-naturedly in the judge’s face.

I wonder why some teens bully and debase those who don’t march to their drummer.  I wonder why those on the receiving end take to heart the cruelty of those who contribute nothing of value to society, and why the victims suffer irreparable emotional harm and some even commit suicide, while their tormenters blithely go shopping at the mall, take in a movie, and spin the latest hip-hop records without a care in the world for the damage they have inflicted.

I wonder about the mother of one the scuz buckets that blinded and killed innocent animals several years ago, under cover of darkness, in the Popcorn Park Zoo, Forked River, New Jersey.  In court, during her son’s trial, the woman had shrugged and told the judge, “They were just animals.”  I wonder what she’d have said if her son had been murdered in jail — for he was incarcerated for his crimes — if his killers had shrugged and said, “Hey, he was just an animal.”

I wonder why Mario Batali’s recipe for struffola seems to work for him, even with what read to me like an overabundance of flour.  But when I tried Mario’s recipe, it yielded something that our military could easily use as weaponry on the front lines.

I wonder why some of my beloved relatives have passed on, while their earthly possessions remain intact.

I wonder why some of us who live healthy lifestyles are felled by cancer, while some of us who smoke like chimneys and eat like gluttons live well into our 80s and 90s.

I wonder if it was that last fried banana sandwich that truly did Elvis in and if it was more romantic/mysterious to hint that he died of an overdose.  I wonder if Aretha Franklin, one of my favorite singers, who must consume a bucket of fried chicken before every concert in order to calm her nerves, wonders the same thing that I do about Elvis.

Sometimes these things, and things like them, keep me up at night.  Sometimes I think that Sting was right when he penned the line, “History will teach us nothing.” Sometimes I think that yes, God must have implanted us all with that rogue gene, just to keep things interesting — if not supremely perplexing! 

Money Talks

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Despite the concept that all people are created equal, some feel that they are entitled to special treatment.  As you may have guessed, many of these folks drive luxury automobiles loaded with state-of-the-art technology, and look down their noses upon those of us who don’t.  This attitude is ludicrous because we “poor folk” are typically smarter and more independent than our wealthier counterparts.  At least we know which side of the car houses the gas tank and the proper way to refill our windshield washer fluid.

I had the opportunity to observe a hoity-toity customer as I shopped in a convenience store recently. The lady in question was complaining rather vociferously to the cashier about having to step out of her car to enter the store to buy oil for that vehicle.  She said she was driving a Porsche and had no clue as to the type of oil she should buy.  She wondered why the oil was not stored outside, and then added that one of the guys working the gas pumps should fetch the oil for her.  As I recall, President Lincoln abolished slavery well over a century ago.  This snooty customer sounded like the type of person who enjoys making others’ lives miserable by assuming that her wealth entitles her to a higher social status than the men pumping the gas.

I am not saying that all rich people act rudely and pompously.  John Travolta, for instance, was brave and selfless when he flew desperately needed supplies to New Orleans in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.  He performed similar humane deeds in assisting the people of Haiti after the earthquakes of several weeks ago.  Travolta’s actions seem to reflect the heart of one who genuinely cares for his fellow human beings, instead of acts of self-aggrandizement. Although this man has made millions of dollars, his compassion for others paints him as one of the good guys who does not have a superiority complex.

Financial situations can change in a heartbeat, particularly in this economy.  Instead of giving orders, the rich could be taking them in the future.  The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away — sometimes, right quick!  With people losing their jobs faster than a speeding bullet, the rich cannot count indefinitely on their elevated status.

While I don’t hate the people who possess wealth, I think they should treat the rest of us with dignity and respect.  I do, however, dislike the practices of name-dropping and the slapping of American Express and Platinum cards on the counter, as if such behavior will earn them better service.  It tickles my funny bone, though, to know some of the wealthy are really cheapskates.  Some try to hoard points for a free trip, and then turn around and say that they wouldn’t travel less than First Class!

Self-entitled people seem to be more critical of everything.  Nothing seems to satisfy them.  How can it, since they already own everything?  They keep up with the Joneses with the latest fashions, jewelry, expensive cars, and bigger and better homes, breathing, “I so deserve this!” to anyone willing to listen.  How does one determine who really deserves what in this world?  It has been my personal experience that you get what you get, and that there are no guarantees in this life.  This is a lesson that we would all do well to learn early on in life.

Instilling children with an attitude of superiority is not the proper way to raise them.   Kids have to learn the value of things, and how to support themselves.  As they grow into adulthood, spoiled little rich kids have a tough time finding mates, since their expectations are so high.  Some real life Romeo and Juliet couples never make it to the altar due to mismatched financial backgrounds.  What a shame, if those couples are truly in love. Money comes and money goes, but finding a soul mate is not an easy task.

Another problem is learning to take care of oneself by managing one’s own assets and, of course, earning those assets in the first place.  Anyone who has seen the movie Ground Hog Day knows how grueling it can be to wake up and repeat the same things over and over again … such as going to work!  Work, however, produces that rewarding and oh so necessary paycheck.

If someone else gives us wads of cash without asking, in return, exorbitant interest rates or even that we pay the money back, we might not refuse such a generous offer.  However, when we get something for nothing, there is no sense of real accomplishment.  Once we understand that our ability to achieve our goals lies within ourselves, our self-esteem soars.  When I was young, there were not many opportunities to make a little money, unless my siblings and I did some chores around the house, such as washing the dinner dishes, dusting, cleaning the windows, or babysitting the younger kids.  So, when I was able to save up the small amount that I had earned, it was a wonderful feeling to purchase some little trinket.  Knowing that I had worked made the object so much more valuable to me.

Our true value is not monetary; rather, it is how our lives unfold and what we give to this world for the greater good.  It’s nice to collect beautiful things and possess expensive objects, but don’t let want of material items eat your soul if you cannot afford them.  If you give in to greed and jealousy, you develop a cruel and hard edge; you will never understand the art of appreciating what is really important. 

So do yourself and everyone around you a favor, if you are well off.  Don’t act as if you are more deserving of rewards here on Earth than the next person.  There is a karmic reason why you were born into your current circumstances.  The same holds true for working class men and women: we were born into our own circumstances in order to learn life lessons and thus evolve.  If you were born into the latter category, your situation can be a hard pill to swallow.  If this helps you to get through the day, just think of how many wealthy people are not happy.  They may be addicted to drugs or pull stunts like some rich and famous people, as cries for attention.  As the Italian saying translates, “Money does not buy happiness, but it does calm the nerves.”   To this motto, I am adding, “Providing it is not used to denigrate others less fortunate.” 

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