Blog Archive

Friday, August 11, 2006

Set for Life
I thought Ken Lay killed himself (either by manifesting physically what he felt emotionally or by some heart-failure-inducing drug) out of anguish over the position he found himself in after being humiliated and convicted. Now, since learning what case law predicts for his estate, I know he killed himself.
Apparently, ancient and modern law is replete with cases in which convicts, who died while appealing, were granted, what amounts to, full and unconditional pardons. The case of United States v. Estate of Parsons illustrates the precedent. A.C. Parsons died while appealing a conviction for arson, fraud, and money laundering. An appeals court in Texas ruled that “everything associated with the case is extinguished, leaving the defendant as if he had never been indicted or convicted”.
So, regardless of Ken Lay’s psychological ability, or lack thereof, to deal with the real and imagined horrors of spending his golden years in prison, he could rightly reason that his heirs were better off without him, to the tune of $43 million (the amount his estate stood to forfeit given the likely event of an unsuccessful appeal).
For Ken Lay, the individual, death meant no life sentence. And for Ken Lay, the provider of wealth to his family, death meant set for life (not his of course, theirs).

posted by Lon Langston at 4:28 AM

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Moon
The dog woke me in the middle of the night (as usual). She’s old and needs to go out in the night, either that or she just uses this to demonstrate to me that she's the lead dog in our pack. As I walked toward the back door I could see, through the small cracks in the closed blinds over the glass in the door (and adjacent windows), a bright light coming in from outside. It wasn’t the porch light or a street light or car headlights.
It was the blue light of the moon.
I opened the door. The dog ran past me, out of the cool air condition into the thick warm night, onto the wooden deck and down eight steps into the short Bermuda . I looked out. Then walked out. The whole back yard was bathed in a light, not bright like the sun, but not dim either. The light was intense enough to see everything in the neighborhood.
Th e moon was high and full and small-looking in the sky. But bright. Silvery bright. I got a feeling of transcending my insignificant size and inability to escape gravity and Earth's atmosphere. I could see, in my mind’s eye, the Sun, on one side of the planet, beaming light through the ether * and that light reflected, by the moon, onto the white coat of my prowling dog. Though it was the middle of the night, I could see her, several yards away, clearly.
Later that morning, as I drove west to work, just at sunrise, the moon grabbed my attention again.

This time it seemed low, large, dim and orange.

The earth’s moon, 238,857 miles from where we view it, has been essentially the same for far longer than I can conceive. It certainly was not any different at dawn than a few hours earlier, but from my vantage point, riding on the spinning earth, it looked very different.
From my vantage point.
From my viewpoint or point of view.
From my perspective.
From where I sit/stand.
The way I see it.
In my opinion.
A piece of my mind.

Of course we should have and put fo rth our opinions, particularly if we care enough to have sharpened and polished them. Remember, though, that like the illusion of a large, orange moon hanging just over the trees, opinions are shaped and colored by many real and imagined factors. They are never absolutely right nor absolutely wrong. The degree to which we manage in this uncertainty may be the measure of maturity &

peace of mind

_____________________________


*A theoretical medium through which scientist once thought light traveled in space

posted by Lon Langston at 5:28 AM

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

One

I have worked at a place that is in the glide-path of Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport ever since I was a teenager (though back then Jackson was the mayor not the airport). I have watched thousands of planes approach for landing. The airport is only about a mile beyond, so the aircraft have a lot of attitude and not much altitude by the time they go over the complex were I work. Actually, they used to pass just a bit north until the 5th runway opened earlier this year. Now the jets come thundering directly over, big and low and loud.
There are a lot of people up in arms about the additional decibels. In fact, they are having a meeting about that very thing even as I type. The noise doesn’t bother me. Hence, I’m writing this and not meeting.
When I was a teenager I loved motorcycles – dirt bikes. I confis cated one of my dad’s when I was 13 and bought my own (with money earned working under the landing planes) when I was 14. Motorcycles are loud and the exhaust is smelly. But because motorcycles and riding are such a positive part of my past, the sound and smell still arouse good feelings in me.
I think that’s why the rumble and hum of the big planes doesn’t irritate me. I am fascinated with aircraft and flight. The roar of jet engines is like the fast whine of a 2-stroke Yamaha. My Pavlovian response is excited interest.
When you’ve witnessed a thing done repetitively you develop a sense of what it’s supposed to look like. Without the effort of conscious consideration, you just know. Or, maybe more accurately, you know instantly when it is wrong or different.

Because piloting commercial aircraft is the most choreographed and least capricious kind of flight, it almost always looks the same. The planes come in one after another, regardless of the make, model, or brand name emblazoned on the fuselage, like marching soldiers in lock step. It almost always looks the same. And then there is that rare and supremely enthralling occasion when one comes in a bit differently.
I had just exited the interstate and turned east, into the rising sun, onto a surface street. I looked above the horizon and left out of habit. This is where the endless string of aircraft can be seen entering the busiest airport in the world. On this morning though I looked up and was immediately captivated (not a good thing when your driving) by the site of a Boeing 777-800 out of lock step.


It turned left just a bit. Its 100-plus feet of wingspan tilted off horizontal…then it turned left hard. I thought, “it’s going back around, probably too close to the airliner ahead”. Then a more dramatic and surprising thing happened, the 170,000 lb. giant banked steeply back to the north. This passenger plane was maneuvering like a Cessna 150. I had pulled off the road (it seemed, without ever looking back down to the asphalt).

In a large sweeping motion, with maybe 2 minutes to go before landing, the 777 intersected its original glide-path and, dramatically changing direction yet again, made another hard left maneuver to get back on line with the fast-approaching runway. I watched as its 41ft.-high tail disappeared below the buildings and trees. I waited, maybe even holding my breath, hoping it landed safely.

It did.
Like I said, I’ve seen thousands of planes execute landings. But that ONE I remember vividly. It’s the same way with people. You’ll encounter thousands in the normal course of your daily life (if you live in a major metro area like I do). And, just occasionally, ONE will do something noteworthy – something interesting. He or she will capture your attention – break stride and make an impression. I relish encountering these rare people and/or prodigious acts. Out of all the souls you meet or pass it’s that one unusual person or unexpected behavior that adds spice and interest to life.
I keep a sharp eye out for these anomalous encounters. I’m not talking about a train wreck. I didn’t want to see a plane crash. Really, just the opposite. What’s great to see, and even experience, is a thing that’s unique AND good. Like a pilot really flying a plane.

Like a person really living a life .

posted by Lon Langston at 5:54 AM

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Perfection
I don’t watch any specific television shows. Actually, I don’t watch many television shows at all. What I like to do, when time permits, is prop up in the bed and surf through all the channels. While surfing recently, a show on The Speed Channel captured my attention. This guy named Chip Foose and a team of artisans, which he assembled, were building a custom car . The show was essentially a documentary about the painstaking creation of this one-of-a-kind automobile. The car builder’s jargon for one-of-a-kind is “one-off”.
This particular one-off vehicle is called “GrandMaster”.
The culmination of this exercise was to enter the car in a contest at the Autorama auto show in Detroit (the name Autorama is kind of like the name Rolex. If it wasn’t so prestigious it would sound cheap).
(It should be noted that, even though I watched this show a few days ago, it was recorded in 2002).

Though I do appreciate automobiles and may even call myself a car guy, I don’t have the talent or inclination to build a car. Most television shows about building, rebuilding or repairing cars don’t interest me. The thing that made this show so captivating was the standard to which Chip Foose and his team hold themselves. For them, building cars is about perfection. Every detail receives meticulous attention. So much so that I’m finding it hard to describe the level of excellence that the Foose team demands of itself.
Every component of the car is itself a h and-made piece of art. Not that a laymen could appreciate the artistry, but it only takes a couple of minutes of listening to the craftsmen describe the minute detail and unimaginably small tolerances to which each thread of each bolt, each piece of metal, each stitch in each hand picked piece of flawless leather, and each piece of hand milled glass is honed to gain an understanding of what near perfection is. I say near perfection because no human-made thing can be perfect, but make no mistake; these guys are not aiming for near perfection.
Thoreau said: “Men hit only what they aim at. Therefore, they had better aim at something high”.
These car builders expend every bit of mental, physical, and emotional effort they have in pursuit of actual perfection.
One of the key components of and hurdles to achieving excellence is time. Near perfection often takes money but it always takes time. To quantify the GrandMaster project: It spanned 6 years .
Some of my favorite non-fiction books are based on research projects. The Millionaire Next Door and The Millionaire Mind by Tom Stanley, Built to Last and Good to Great by Jim Collins were each the sum of years of research. Tom Stanley was a professor at The University of Georgia. Jim Collins was a professor at Stanford University. Both men put together teams of research assistants and conducted multi-year studies. After years of work each study produced only one book . But, like the GrandMaster, one was enough. Each book sold millions of copies and made their authors wealthy. They are not university professors anymore.
A guy named Wes Rydell put up the money to create GrandMaster. How many bucks this took was not revealed, but it had to cost millions in salaries alone (remember, Chip Foose hired the best car builders in the world – an all star team of craftsman – and paid them for 6 years).
I found myself strongly affected by the building of GrandMaster. It made me long to have some outlet through which to strive for perfection. To find something, at which to aspire to be perfect, it seems to me, would be a very fulfilling use of precious time .
The award for the best one-off creation at the Autorama is called the Ridler Award. GrandMaster won the Ridler (Chip Foose’s 3rd at the time. He's since won it again).

posted by Lon Langston at 5:28 AM

Monday, August 07, 2006


Spheres

I spent my Saturday in an unusual way. I participated in a 7-hour course to earn an F license from the US Soccer Federation.

I’ve coached my daughter’s soccer teams for 6 seasons now. For all that time the league directors have been encouraging me to get licensed. I resisted and procrastinated unwilling to sacrifice a Saturday. Finally, for a couple of reasons, I capitulated. One, I ran out ideas for developing players. Two, the kid's skill as players is exceeding mine as coach.
I don’t know who deserves the attribution for the following but it is a profound bit of wisdom:
There are those things we know we don’t know and then there are those things we don’t know we don’t know.
Also, there are things you know but make yourself relearn (put on sun screen when you are going to spend 3+ hours on a golf course or a soccer field).
I got an e-mail Friday. It was one of those that circulates around, most of which I delete after a moment’s consideration. This one, however, caught my attention. Having read the book “A Short History of Nearly Everything” by Bill Bryson back in March, I was cognizant of the fact that the grade school models of the Solar system are not to scale. There is a vast differential in size between the planets and a vast amount of space between them.

It is not practical to put a scale model of our star and its planets in a school gymnasium (the common science fair venue). The small ones would have to be too small for the big ones to be big enough (or vise versa) and there is not enough room in a gym to accurately represent the distances between the spheres.
So, I opened this e-mail. And it was a graphical representation (in several JPEGs) of the Solar system…to scale. To scale, that is the cool part. Each planet was represented by a colored sphere, the size of which was correct relative to the others. Very cool.


From the “Short History” book I learned that I didn’t know what I didn’t know about the Solar system. So I then knew what I didn’t know. Now, after seeing the scaled balls e-mail, I know more of what I didn’t know.
Soccer seems very straight forward (especially to us Americans). With the exception of the off sides rule (which no novice understands and experts still debate), soccer appears to be very simple. You and your mates kick this ball down the field one way and try to put it in that goal. And me and my mates will kick it the other way and try to put it in that other goal.
Well, we Americans (generally) don’t know what we don’t know about soccer.

I grew up in a town where soccer was big (unusual in the 1980’s). I went to a college where soccer was a major intramural sport. Still, I didn’t start to understand it until I played in a coaches’ game a couple of years ago. The intensity, the skill, the fitness it takes just to score 1 goal amongst 11 people in 90 minutes is astounding . When you don’t know what you don’t know about soccer your perception is that the teams kick this ball around for an hour and a half and can’t even get it in the goal. The ratio of goals to time played makes the game seem boring to watch. Once you know what you didn’t know though, that very thing makes it intense to watch. The rarity of scores makes even near-misses riveting.

And so it is that in 2 days (Friday and Saturday) I increased my understanding of many spherical objects (several being the planets, one being a soccer ball and one being my sun burned head). The point is that continuously learning makes this life fun and interesting and, since there will always be stuff we don’t know and stuff we don’t know we don’t know, there are never-ending opportunities to learn.

posted by Lon Langston at 5:03 AM

Friday, August 04, 2006

Has the world become too nice?
There are places in the world where life and death struggles take place daily (including places where American soldiers are at risk). This posting is not about those places or people (God bless them). It is about the regular Jane and Joe who go to a regular job in a regular city each regular day.
As I sit at my computer typing these words my daughters are sword fighting in the living room. With concentric-sectioned, retractable, plastic, flashlight-powered light sabers they are doing mock battle. From fighting wild animals (to eat or avoid being eaten) to gladiators in the arena, to world, civil, and sectarian wars, violence has been a staple of the human experience. Winston Churchill said, “War is the natural state of things”.
I am for peace. I subscribe to the peace through strength doctrine. Yet I have to wonder, are there so many wars (past and present) because we crave the fight – because in the modern world our “natural state” has no outlet for expression? Humans have had violence ingrained into our psyche since the beginning of time. Do we need it? Do our civilized lives deny us what we crave? We watch scene after disturbing scene of graphically-depicted violence on television every night. Why does this appeal to us?
We drive to the office on paved roads in air-conditioned, GPS-guided, fuel-injected, and otherwise technologically-amazing vehicles listening to family friendly stations on satellite radio. We sit in prefabricated cubes at ergonomically-engineered workstations in orthopedicly-optimized chairs and stare at high-res, flat panel monitors attached to 64-bit, dual core, 3.73 GHz processor, 64GB memory desktop computers with broadband access to every other human and piece of information in the known universe. We decide day after day at which FDA-inspected, sanitized, generic restaurant to hunt down some food for lunch.
We love sports for the competition, but also for the violence. Many more Americans watched the World Cup (soccer) matches this year than in the past. The way-cool, NFL-style, up close television camera work left no doubt but that soccer is a tough and violent game. Like American football and even baseball when the catcher blocks the plate or auto racing where “rubbing is racing”, World Cup Soccer gave us one more outlet for our need to know violence.
The popularity of paintball is another testimony to our longing to use the instincts and skills God gave us for survival. Lest you think paintball is only played by frustrated military wannabes: I, a soft, suburban, essentially non-violent, middle-aged professional, have spent many hours clad from boot to bandana in Mossy Oak camouflage toting a semi-auto 68 Spyder Shutter paintball gun (bought on e-bay) through the trees and brush.
I vividly recall lying motionless on the ground in the woods in the cool late-afternoon fall air feeling my own hot breath deflected back onto my face by my black plastic face protector, aggravated by the accumulated condensation that kept the tip of my nose and chin uncomfortably wet and cold. I had the realization that I was a (then) 36-year-old, otherwise boring, responsible adult lying on the ground in the woods. What a contrast to the rest of my well-manicured life.
The first time I staked out a defensive position, guarding my team’s flag and awaiting an onslaught by that day’s enemy, I was shocked at how it affected me. Long before I saw them, I heard them moving through the woods some distance away. This alone inspired my heart to imitate a 16x18 floor tom (big drum). But that was only a fraction of the emotion I felt when the five camo-covered aggressors’ converged on my position from as many angles. I guess I knew this was an essentially harmless game, but there was no way to summon that knowledge at that moment. It was pure fight or flight. It had every bit of the intensity of Sordo’s last stand. Alas, my adventure ended like El Sordo’s. I got one of them and the others got me.
Paintball can provide a huge rush of adrenaline – a heightened awareness of each second. Like driving fast towards your opponent’s goal, taking the bumps and blocks and, off balance, shooting, across your falling body, to score a goal for your soccer club. That’s how it must have felt to chase down dinner or defend your family from a wild animal.
Maybe we don’t spend our days trying to kill each other over essentially small disagreements in the "civilized world" precisely because we have football and soccer and rugby and NASCAR and violent television programming (including 24 hour news).

posted by Lon Langston at 5:22 AM

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Everyday Everyday Everyday
Well guys I finally conceded. All day I’ve been trying to muster the time and talent to put forth a profound posting. But alas, I’ve not been able to finagle it. So, the lofty goal of posting every weekday is lost.
Thanks to many of you for encouraging (or was that taunting) me this morning when you awoke to find no new post. I appreciate you caring enough to check the blog and read the stuff I write.
I have rediscovered what I already knew – relearned a painful lesson once more. Perfection is beyond my reach. Nevertheless, I will continue to strive – continue to enjoy the journey. And I will keep the goal of posting daily, despite today's stumble.
Hey, this is a blog posting. So I didn’t really miss a day.
Cool.

Hope to see you here again tomorrow. Thanks for your time.

posted by Lon Langston at 3:26 PM

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Respect

My family is blessed to be friends with this other family. It’s one of those great situation in which the Moms are friends, the Dads are friends, and the kids are friends. We go on vacations and excursions and out to dinner together. The kids go to the same school and spend the night (and many days) at each other’s houses.
One of the reasons this family friendship works so well is because of the great kids our friends are raising. They are intelligent, witty, outgoing, interesting and interested.

A couple of weeks before school started this year both my daughters decided to get haircuts. I mean lots of hair cut. My wife called me to say that, unless I specifically vetoed it, my younger daughter intended to dramatically shorten her do. I didn’t like it but I didn’t veto it. As schedules worked out, I was to pick the girls up from the haircutting place while my wife remained to get whatever she has done to her hair done to her hair. I arrived at the shop and the first thing I saw was my older daughter with her hair cut at least as short as I had envisioned the younger one’s would be. This shocked me. I was only prepared for one daughter to go short an d it was not this one. That was only the first jolt though. Microseconds later I noticed the person, standing with her back to me, a few paces away, was my other daughter. The best way to describe the length of her locks is to say they were dramatically shorter than the first daughter’s and unbelievably shorter than an hour before.
At pick-up from Kids’ Church the next Sunday the Dad from the aforementioned family saw my kids sporting their new haircuts. I listened as he complimented and admired each girl’s hairdo. The way he did it made an impression on me. I realized, after thinking about it later, that what he was doing so right with my kids is what he does with his and what makes them great kids. He was talking to them like people not like children. I don’t mean he was talking to them like adults. He was mindful to be age-appropriate, perfectly so, in fact. It was about respect. He demonstrated equal amounts of genuine interest and respect for my daughters, age notwithstanding.
I’m facilitating a class on parenting elementary children at our church starting in a few weeks. Seeing this interaction between an adult and my kids told me clearly that one of the key points of the parenting class will be to treat kids like people – to treat them with respect.

posted by Lon Langston at 5:31 AM

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Infill development
I intentionally arrived early a couple of the days last week to pick my kids up from Zoo Camp. I wanted to run in the park and on the streets around the z oo. The zoo is not in a nice part of town; at least it hasn’t been nice for many years. Or so I thought. As I walked and ran just a couple of blocks from the zoo I found, much to my surprise, dozens of


$200,000-and-up condos. Wow.


I have always lived in the suburbs. You know: 3 bedrooms, 2 baths with a garage and a yard. I have been concerned, watching the explosive growth of suburban Atlanta, that we are destroying too much land for too little gain – thousands of shabbily-built houses on tiny lots at the expense of trees and animals and open spaces. .
Metro Atlanta consistently ranks as one of the worst cities in the country for commute times and air pollution. Sitting in the car for 2 hours a day is robbing our best workers of time they could be producing at work or, just as importantly, contributing to the health and happiness of their families, their communities and themselves. The solution to many of our urban and suburban problems, and our individual and family problems is not to find better ways to move people dozens of miles from home to work and back (expanded freeways, car pooling, high fuel economy, low emissions vehicles, commuter rail). It is for people

to work and live in the same place.

Part of this solution is to develop (redevelop) attractive, affordable housing close to work. Many south Atlanta neighborhoods are replete with run down houses, broken down cars, and down and out people. The key to accommodating an expanding population and enabling an expanding economy is not to level more forests and pave more cow pastures. It is to retake these valuable spaces that were once nice neighborhoods and can be again.
Obviously, others have been thinking and acting on this infill development idea for some time. I’m late in jumping on this band wagon. I’m certainly behind the first wave of people to understand the benefits of infilling – the liberal, green crowd. But I’m among the first in the second wave –

the conservative pro-development set.

posted by Lon Langston at 3:49 AM

Monday, July 31, 2006

Techno-runner
During a run last week I passed something interesting (see “Myopia” posting below). When I got to the car I grabbed a camera and backtracked to take some photos. After getting the shots I wanted, I started back to the car.

It was then that I noticed.
A Cannon EOS Rebel XT DSLR was carefully cradled in my left hand with my left index finger extended and pressing against the center of the ill-fitting, aftermarket lens cover (I lost the original) to insure it held on for the ride. Just above this, around my wrist, was a Timex Ironman Triathlon CR2025 GPS enabled, time and distance measuring watch. Tracking further up my left arm a, traditionally white, iPod Photo in a black case was strapped around my bicep and cabled through the sleeve and neck of my moisture-wicking Nike running shirt to a tiny speaker in my left ear. Looking down, I saw a Motorola V710 cell phone clipped to my Russell black mesh running shorts. Further down I saw a pair of size 45.5 (11.5 US) gray New Balance 707 (though I prefer 83s) AT (all terrain) running shoes pounding the old broken concrete sidewalk.

I wondered what I did prior to the availability of all this technology.


I’ve read many articles and blogs that began as this one has but which, at this point, follow a course of criticizing and chastising dependence on technologically. That is not what this posting is about. In fact, I love all the technology that, by the good fortune of living in this era, is available to be employed for ease and entertainment. It is worth noting that none of this stuff is exorbitantly expensive. Anyone with an average income and the inclination could be similarly equipped.
With all the above mentioned stuff, I’ve captured 100’s of images and as many ideas (voice memos to self) that would have otherwise been lost forever. I’ve absorbed information and entertainment from dozens of podcasts and audiobooks for which time would not have allowed. I’ve improved my running performance (what gets measured gets done) while enjoying much more comfort than was possible before modern shoes and clothes.
A case can certainly be made against technology, but, for me, the improvement in quality of life technology affords far outweighs its drawbacks.

posted by Lon Langston at 5:55 AM

Friday, July 28, 2006

Myopia
My kids went to “Zoo Camp” last week at Zoo Atlanta. Their mom dropped them off each morning and I picked them up. In the meantime they learned about animals and went behind the scenes. Since it was my job to retrieve the kids each afternoon, I decided to drive up an hour early and go running around the zoo and Grant Park. For those who are not familiar with Atlanta proper:

Grant Park

The Atlanta Cyclorama

and Zoo Atlanta

jointly occupy a piece of land in southeast Atlanta.


It seems that in the late 1800’s a traveling circus was in possession of the 15,036 square foot "Battle of Atlanta" oil painting that is now the main Cyclorama exhibit. This circus’ economic viability ran out in what is now Grant Park. The huge painting and the circus animals stayed put. The Cyclorama and Zoo Atlanta were thusly born.

As I ran and relistened to an audio version of the book “On Writing” by Stephen King on my iPod, I past a surprising sight. On the Cherokee Avenue side of the park there is an abandoned, dilapidated and once grand park entrance. This overgrown and unused entrance consists of walls, benches, walkways, plaques, and a fountain variously made from carved granite, marble, and brass.
The zoo, the park and the cyclorama are fully functional and host thousands of visitors each year. Yet a potentially impressive and historical entrance is left to ruin. Why?

My daughter and I are equally nearsighted, without corrective lenses neither of us can see clearly more than a couple of feet. I suspect an analogous myopia is the culprit in the neglect of the Cherokee Avenue entrance of Grant Park. Whoever is charged with the operation of the park does just that, operates it. No one has (so far) had the vision to see what could be, if the best of old and new were properly cared for and used.

posted by Lon Langston at 7:34 AM

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Pessimism

Ignoring the fact that the 4th of July represents an amazing and unlikely first step of an infant nation that became a giant, and ignoring that the 4th of July provides for a day off work (with pay for many), and ignoring the fact that the 4th of July affords the possibility of fun and fire works with family and friends, in a statement so pessimistic I had to laugh out loud, a woman I’ll call Penny (that’s her real name) said, speaking of this week with this holiday on Tuesday, “this week had two Mondays!”
Have a great weekend. At least next week only has one Monday.

posted by Lon Langston at 5:16 PM

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Gravitational Miracle
I often think and sometimes say: Thank God for big dreams and small miracles. It’s pretty clear what big dreams are. We each have our own big dreams. And that’s an interesting subject, but this posting is about small miracles. The first step in being thankful for small miracles is to recognize them in our daily lives. One would think that if a miracle showed up we’d notice. We don’t though.
An indisputable force of nature is gravity. You cannot live on this planet and deny gravity. Its effects will not be ignored. I have yet to meet anyone who, regardless of piety or delusion, could overcome the indentation that the earth’s mass presses into the fabric of space-time.
It would certainly be a miracle if a human were to negate the effects of gravity while still on the earth. I was reminded that the caveat “still on the earth” is necessary when I met an astronaut Saturday afternoon. Commander Brian Duffy made four trips into space aboard various Space Shuttles – piloting two missions and commanding two others. I had the pleasure of hearing him speak and marveling at his accompanying PowerPoint and video clip. Seeing men and women floating about in zero g (what astronauts call the absence of gravity) reminded me that gravity overcome by $2.5 billion and 6.425 million pounds of thrust is very cool but not a miracle in and of itself.
On earth, however, overcoming the daily reality of g-force would be a miracle. Gravity is an indisputable law of nature. Gravity limits how high we can jump, how far and fast we can run, the flight and velocity of our baseballs, footballs, and golf balls, how much we can lift and carry, and many other physical activities. It also injures and kills by causing man and beast to collide with the earth’s surface.
So, if we could decrease gravity’s power, we would be faster, stronger, safer, and more able to do all kinds of physical activities including, not incidentally, amazing things on the sporting field. And since defying natural law is the definition of a miracle, this would be miraculous.
Now let’s change subjects for a minute and talk about physical fitness. Physical fitness is, at least in part, to have low body fat and high lean muscle mass – to have powerful muscles relative to total body weight.
What are the effects of being physically fit? With more muscle and less fat we can jump higher, run farther and faster, lift and carry heavier stuff, and execute various kinds of amazing sports feats. Additionally, the physically fit fall less often and experience fewer and less severe injuries in the battle to move about on the earth’s surface.
So, increasing physical fitness has exactly the same net effect on your life as decreasing the power of gravity. Therefore, being physically fit is a small miracle.

posted by Lon Langston at 8:48 PM

Friday, April 28, 2006

A Million Steps
If you’ve read many of my previous blogs you already know that I am a runner. I started running in 1978 on the track at Southwest Dekalb High School in suburban Atlanta. My dad and a buddy of his decided to start running for exercise. Being night owls anyway and it being mid-summer in the south, they decided this running should take place at night. As is my dad’s way, he soon had my family and his friend’s family involved. I don’t recall the frequency of these excursions, but at some interval the 9 members of our 2 families would load up in cars and drive to the high school after dark and start running.
I did not fall in love with running at first sight. I was, by no means, gifted at it. I was, nonetheless, drawn to the challenge of pushing myself. I was interested in seeing how far I could run. This was measured at first in laps (each being a ¼ mile). Starting at such a basic point, improvement came quickly. Soon the track gave way to the streets and miles succeeded laps as the metric. Fall weather finished the running for 1978. It would be many years before I learned to enjoy running in the cold.
Something unexplainable has, since that first summer, compelled me to run. Avoiding exercise is much easier than doing it. But for me, with running, that natural law is reversed. It is easier for me to run than to not. If a week or so passes in which there is no opportunity to run I get anxious. My mood deteriorates. Physically I feel weakened.
As is the case so often, an additional, seemingly unrelated circumstance conspired to add fuel to the running fire. My family moved to a new neighborhood, in a different suburb, in December of 1979. I started a new school and made new friends. The best of these new friends, I learned to my dismay, in the Fall of 1980, decided to go out for our high school cross country team. This was disconcerting to me because I was left to wander the neighborhood alone every afternoon while he was at practice. After too many weeks the cross country season ended. My problem of companionship after school would soon reoccur though. When spring rolled around my friend announced that he would be going out for the school’s track team. Well, not to be left out again, I did the same. That was the beginning of a very useful education in running. I ran cross country and track every season from that point until I graduated.
Running for a team, for a coach, for a school, is different from running for yourself. Knowing what I know now and being who I am now, I would enjoy the competition more than I did then. But at every age running for me has always been much more about meditation than racing. At any rate, we had a pretty decent high school coach and I learned a lot about running. It seems such a natural thing to do, but if you are to be good at it, or even enjoy it, knowing the techniques and tricks is most helpful.
In high school I measured running performance against other runners. In college I measured it against the clock, trying to beat my own PR (personal record time). After college I measured it in miles, how many I could run in a session or a week. Now I measure running performance in years. That is: How many years can I keep running. It doesn’t matter anymore how fast or even how far, and it certainly has nothing to do with beating any other runner. It is just about being able to run. Being able to get out there and enjoy the meditation. I’ve had a lot of running injuries over the years. While relatively minor, several have sidelined me: Shin splints (a few times), a knee, a hip, lower back, a foot, a toe. The time off these injuries imposed upon me taught an important lesson. If I can go out and just run, which I can and do, then I am grateful to God. I don’t have to run fast or far (although sometimes I can and do). Just to run is bliss.
What’s the point? I don’t know. Running is a microcosm of life. Running analogies could illustrate any number of life lessons or natural laws (fodder for future postings). For now let’s just say it’s about perseverance. Measure your progress in years. Most of your time is spent on the journey, not at the destination. There are a lot of steps between the start and the finish of a run. Only one of them is over the finish line. Don’t waste all the moments of your life thinking you’ll be happy when you get there, wherever your THERE happens to be. Most things in this world are accomplished by a million small steps. Organize your life and mold your attitude to enjoy the process – the small steps.

posted by Lon Langston at 9:53 PM

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Mind Games
We humans like to push ourselves. We want to see what is possible with these bodies. The same is true of these minds. We want to see how deeply and quickly we can think and convey thoughts. Debate - Dialogue - Discussion, these are sports for the brain. One of life’s greatest pleasures is to engage in a fast-paced exchange of ideas. The experience provides the same excitement, exhilaration, and satisfaction as any physical contest. And it is wonderfully entertaining, edifying, and enriching.
The challenge is finding formidable players with whom to engage in this brain exercise. It takes people who are not just smart, but knowledgeable and passionate. It also requires a common interest. Its only fun when you are one of two (or more) who are well-versed and fascinated about the same thing.
This is a sport for the mentally fit to be sure, but that’s not enough. To make it exhilarating intensity and articulation are also necessary. Enthusiasm and quick, clear communication are just as important as intelligence.
It is worth noting that, for me, camaraderie is essential. I don’t relish an argument for its own sake. I enjoy the exchange of deep thought that can be achieved in a discussion with someone who has your best interests at heart.
Don’t misunderstand, I’m not just talking about productively debating and disagreeing, this is more than that. I’m referring to any interaction that heightens your awareness and deepens your understanding. As often as not, this happens while you are agreeing as fast as you can. That is, as a new idea or perspective is being presented you are in agreement (as far as you can tell) but struggling to absorb at the pace and volume of the offering.
Given these several parameters, qualified participants are not easy to find. There used to be a sign in my office that said: “Only those who bring compelling conversation need enter”. But alas, those less interesting souls ignored the sign. I am fortunate, though, to have a few friends who challenge me mentally. When I’m with these people I feel like I've stepped into a sporting arena for the brain.
As with everything that rewards performance, focus is supreme in this mental volleying. To do it effectively you have to get into a mindset, a zone, a place where you are blind and deaf to everything except the topic and person immediately at hand.
My brother is a professional public speaker. He sometimes delivers several talks in one day. I learned from him that achieving and maintaining the focus level necessary to grab and hold an audience (of 1,000 or just 1) is draining. Multiply this times 2 when you are delivering and receiving thoughts simultaneously. Thus, the time you can effectively engage in a high-level, high-energy conversation is limited. Downtime is required to fully comprehend and assimilate new angles and ideas.
This kind of mind game is demanding and, done well, fantastically fun. There is an enhanced state of being that can be achieved merely through words, if the words convey deep and powerful thoughts.

posted by Lon Langston at 6:22 AM

Sunday, April 02, 2006

Those of you who watch golf know that Phil Michelson put on a golf clinic at the BellSouth Classic at Sugarloaf Country Club. That is to say, he played so well that his performance could be a textbook titled: How to play a golf tournament.
Watching golf played on TV is about as interesting to some people as watching the grass grow on the course. But to me it’s great. Golf is subtle. In this way it’s much more like baseball than football or basketball. There is action and drama in a PGA golf tournament, but it is mostly below the surface.
Phil Michelson is playing better than he has ever played – Maybe as good as anybody has ever played.
Phil is probably most famous for being not quite as good as Tiger Woods. In fact, if fate had not put Tiger and Phil in the same era, Phil would be the most dominate player of the last decade.
Tiger is known for his obsessive practice regimen, but he is just as obsessive about fitness and conditioning. Tiger is certainly the best conditioned man ever to play professional golf. His success has, I’m sure, caused countless other players, PGA and otherwise, to improve physically in hopes of duplicating his success on the course. In fact, Phil Michelson was one of them. Phil has always had a propensity to be overweight. But, after being beaten up by Tiger for several years, Phil lost weight and got into, what appeared to be, pretty good shape. His play however wasn’t necessarily any better (or worse).
Over the last four days, in Duluth, Georgia, Phil put on a demonstration of golfing excellence that was amazing to watch. No other player had a chance. He bested the course record by 10 strokes while beating the next closest competitor by 13 strokes. Most of the tournament Phil led the field by twice as many strokes under par as his nearest pursuer. Phil produced this performance – probably the best of his career – while carrying the most weight of his career. He is what could only be characterized as out of shape. He’s huge (compared to his previous size).
For Tiger being in awesome physical condition is part of being the best golfer in the world. But for Phil being decidedly heavy seems to be more conducive to playing great golf. Maybe Phil should maintain better control of his weight for overall health, but not for his golf game.
Phil tried Tiger’s formula for success. He slimmed down, got into shape. He didn’t really play any better. But when he resolved to be the best (and the biggest) Phil Michelson he could be – when he decided to be himself – the results were exemplary.
Phil’s hair is as long as I’ve ever seen it also. His weight and haircut are external indications of an internal change. Phil is being himself. He has stopped conforming to what he thought the world wanted him to be. He has stopped trying to duplicate Tiger’s success via Tiger’s formula. His physical appearance is a statement of his individuality. And finding that has made him supremely confident and competent.
To paraphrase Thoreau: “Be independent of the good opinion of other people”

posted by Lon Langston at 8:46 PM

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Web of wood
“In the middle of difficulty lies opportunity.”
-Albert Einstein
Occasionally you come to a point on the path of your life where you don’t have the option of looking for the best way to proceed. Instead of two roads diverging in the wood you find there is no road. You look ahead at the path, or lack thereof, and wonder if it is even possible to proceed. Is this an intractable problem, an insurmountable obstacle? Navigating these special dilemmas is an essential part of becoming all you were meant to be in this life.
I was running in the woods on a path I had run many times before but not in a couple of years. Well, as it turns out, a tornado, that I knew had gone through this area a few months ago, had in fact cut directly through the woods in and out of which my running trail previously weaved. So I found myself standing still just short of where dozens of huge trees lay across what used to be the path. These trees had been toppled at the root. Huge root balls stuck high out of the ground at one end of each fallen tree while a spaghetti-like entanglement of branches covered the land (and 10 or 12 feet of airspace) at the other end.
I was quite beyond calculating the best route through this web of wood. I was standing there almost sure there was no way to the other side, much less a best way. Oh and incidentally, one of the most daunting things about my view was that there were so many of these downed trees that it was not possible to see where the damage ended and the trail picked back up again, if it did.
After the initial reaction of thinking I’ll not be able to traversing a big obstacle (in the physical world or otherwise) I soon move to an attitude of expectancy – an excited anticipation of conquering the impediment. This, by the way, is a learned response. I didn’t always have it. A lot of people don’t have it and don’t find it. You can. Do. It’s necessary to realizing your potential.
Okay, back to the running trail log jam. After a few seconds of looking and thinking, I began climbing up on, tight-rope-walking along, jumping across, and generally pressing through the maze of tree trunks and limbs. After quite a while, this damage turned out to go on for maybe 50 yards, I finally emerged on the other side, back on a relatively tame trail, better for the experience.
Overcoming seeming insurmountable odds is essential to realizing your potential. Cultivating an attitude of expectancy instead of fear or defeatism is the key.

posted by Lon Langston at 6:37 AM

Sunday, March 05, 2006

Courtesy

Twelve years ago my new bride and I moved from bustling metro Atlanta to a rural county some miles farther out. In December of 1993 we moved into our first home in a small subdivision of just 26 lots (none of which were yet occupied). The little 2-street neighborhood, called Crown Corners, was surrounded by cow pastures, woods, and horse farms. There was not so much as a convenient store for 5 miles in any direction. The exit we used to access the series of county roads which led to our home had a 2-lane bridge over the Interstate, which itself was only 2 lanes in each direction. There was not a traffic light at any intersection along the eight miles from the Interstate and our house.
In the years since, our county, Henry County, Georgia has been one of the fastest growing counties in the country. This growth has outstripped the local government’s ability to build infrastructure. The roads, bridges, and schools continue to be inadequate despite perpetual building and improvement. Since my children are not in public school, the overtaxed road system is the symptom of this virtually uncontrolled growth which most impacts my family.
Today that same exit has an 11-lane bridge, yes eleven! There are more traffic lights than I care to count (approximately 9) along the enlarged and improved roads to that house. Within ½ mile of Crown Corners (I’m serious) there is a Kroger, an Eckerd’s, a Blockbuster, two gas stations, 7 restaurants, and all the strip-mall-requisite businesses.
Despite unbelievable changes in the infrastructure, the demand for road space still far exceeds the available asphalt. Additionally, most of the county’s roads and intersection have not been so improved, or worse, are in the process of being improved. Thus speed limits are largely an academic consideration. Actually reaching, much less exceeding, one is a rare joy. More typical are people in their modern automobiles moving at speeds equivalent to those that could be achieved by the people less the cars.
We human’s are adaptable creatures to be sure. Just a couple of years ago I would have been driven mad by anything that impeded my ability to obliterate the speeding laws. Now, if the traffic is simply moving I’m completely satisfied.
What’s the point of this dissertation on traffic? Well, to shock and amuse those of you who don’t live in this kind of transportation crisis. And, more importantly, to illustrate that human nature is good. You see, in Henry County, Georgia traffic would immediately and permanently gridlock if not for one amazing phenomenon. People are courteous. It’s 2006 and people are nice. At most intersections there still are not red and green lights to force those traveling in one direction to allow those traveling in another to cross or merge; not even 4-way stops. Down here in Henry County our traffic flow depends on something that could feasibility put transportation engineers and traffic cops alike out of work.
What I’m talking about are people with the right-of-way stopping and motioning or flashing lights to allow people without the right-of-way to merge or cross. And this is done with an abundance of smiles, exaggeratedly mouthed “thank you’s”, much hand waving, and even the occasional two-fingered peace sign.
And what’s more, this courteous conduct is not just Mom’s in SUVs. It’s virtually ubiquitous. Rednecks in monster F-350s let in kids in street racers just as quickly as businessmen in mac-daddy Lexus Ls let in the economically challenged in beat up old Buicks or senior citizens in Chryslers.
The considerate way in which people in Henry County conduct themselves on the over-crowed, inadequate roads is wonderful proof that kindness, neighborliness, and common courtesy are alive and well in the year of our Lord two thousand and six.

posted by Lon Langston at 9:40 PM

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

28
Since before I can remember, I have had a special affinity with the number twenty-eight (28). This has no practical root that I’m aware of. It wasn’t my jersey number on a sports team. It’s not my birthday. It’s simply my favorite number. Now, having a favorite number is of absolutely no practical use (especially since I don’t gamble). Well almost no practical use. In fact I have fabricated a very practical, even life-changing use for my beloved 28.
Hey, while we’re talking about 28, there are some coincidental ways it has showed up in my life. I was married in July of 1993. Twenty-eight months later my first child was born, and then 28 months after that my second child was born.
For whatever reason this number, 28, likes me and I like it. So, I decided to put it to work; to give it a job; to make it somehow useful in my life. Let me make it perfectly clear that I don’t now nor have I ever believed that the number 28 (or any other number) has any significance other than what you or I may assign to it. It just happened to get stuck in my head so I found a handy use for it.
Twenty-four times each day it is 28 minutes past the hour. As in 1:28, 2:28, etc… The utility I found for 28 is that whenever I see a 28 on a clock I stop and clear my mind. I thank God for all the good stuff in my life. I do a mini-meditation. I do nothing (see previous blog postings) just for a few seconds. If I’m working I pause. If I’m driving I turn the radio off. If I’m at home I stop whatever I’m doing.
Experts on stress reduction tell us that stopping the rush of normal life at intervals during the day is a stress-control tool. If, just for a minute, peace replaces pandemonium, our health and our enjoyment of life is improved.
28 is a trigger. It reminds me to step back or rise above or disconnect for a moment. After an interlude of stillness I find it easy to regroup and address the issues of the day with a fresh perspective and clarity.
This is how 28 works for me. I would encourage you to find and use your own stillness trigger.

posted by Lon Langston at 5:39 AM

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Do Nothing
Part 2
Sit quietly in a room alone with no external distractions. Turn off the TV and phone, put the cat out, and choose a time when and place where you are unlikely to be disturbed. First spend several minutes physically and mentally relaxing. Release all of the stress and tension that you can from both your mind and your body. Then focus on your thoughts. Think any thought that pops into your mind. Don’t dwell on any single one. Just let them come and go at whatever pace and in whatever order they wish. Be an observer. Step back from yourself. See yourself from a perspective of detachment.
After allowing your thoughts a stage for several minutes, begin to push them off that stage. Okay, now we’re at the difficult part. Begin to clear the room of your mind. You may push the thoughts to the side or you may see yourself moving away and leaving them behind. It doesn’t really matter as long as you separate yourself from all thought. How can you separate yourself from all thought? Is that even possible? It is. You can do it. But, like an athlete, you may have to practice and train to make it possible.
In addition to removing all of the visual thoughts from your mind, also mute the volume of thought. Intentionally turn off the chatter which is a normal part of brain activity. Create a completely empty and silent space in your mind. Climb inside that space.
Pictures and sounds will try to enter your empty space many times before you reach a duration of even a few seconds of stillness. Be patient but persistent. Continue to clear and quiet your mind until you finally get to a moment of complete stillness. Maintain the stillness as long as you can. This will not be long at first, but that doesn’t matter. Once you’ve reached the point even for a few seconds you will be positively impacted.
Repeat this process often. Go back to the stillness daily.
Why go to all the trouble to learn to completely clear my mind of thoughts? This is difficult after all and I am busy. I have lots to do. There is an opportunity cost to using my time. I could, at the very least, being catching up on my sleep instead of sitting here doing nothing.
The answer is:
Because your life will work better than you ever imagined.
Because things in and out of your control will turn in your favor.
Because stillness brings clarity and vision.
And most importantly, because this is where you find yourself and your God and the only true and real peace.
Bonus: When you find true peace you also find that the things you used to chase after now chase after you. As illustrated by this story:
There once was a young kitten and an old cat. They were talking one day about success. The young cat said that in cat school it was taught that success is in a cat’s tail. And so if a cat sought to achieve success he should put a great deal of time and effort into chasing his tail. The old cat replied: “I have not had the opportunities which you have had. I did not get to go to cat school. But in my lifetime of experience I have, like you, learned that success is indeed in a cat’s tail. However, unlike you, I have further learned that if I go about my life filled with peace my tail and success follow me wherever I go.”
[I did not write this cat parable. I heard it from Wayne Dyer.]

posted by Lon Langston at 6:52 PM

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Do Nothing

Part 1
There are a few keys to happiness. Not many, but not just one either. However, one is more important than the others. In fact, the others are predicated upon the one. “The one” is to be very good at doing nothing at all. In order to realize the full potential of your life you must learn to do nothing. On the way to learning to do nothing you will need to pass through a stage in which you do nothing but think. Then, from there, you will, if you’re fortunate, take the next and biggest step. You will go from sitting quietly in a room alone thinking to sitting quietly in a room alone not thinking. As an introduction to this concept, right now, stop reading for a minute. Sit idle in front of your computer with your eyes closed without a single thought in your head. This was probably very difficult. In fact, almost no one can do it. That is, however, exactly what must happen in order to achieve your ultimate goal in this life.
Our action-oriented culture tells us that working harder, participating in more activities, multi-tasking every waking hour, and being generally driven to succeed are essential to realizing happiness. In fact the opposite may be true. What is the ultimate goal of every human: Money? Popularity? Career Success? Acclaim or fame? These are oft aspired to goals. But what gift do they have that we so frantically seek? They have no gift. They are not the facilitators of happiness, but instead mere distractions. They are only the means to an end. The real goal of every person is peace (sometimes called peace of mind). What do we think money, recognition, fame or any achievement will bring us? We think they will bring us peace.
The dangerous thing is that all of the stuff of this world, both negative and positive, that we pursue in search of peace does give us temporary solace. It’s this ability to get to pseudo-peace that often keeps us from finding true peace. We get caught in a loop of doing whatever we think will bring us peace – enjoying the temporary high, despising the inevitable decline, and repeating the process. This cycle in itself probably would keep us relatively happy, or at least busy enough to suffice, if not for the fact that it is a downwardly spiraling proposition. The cycle degenerates. The lows grow increasingly lower as the highs satisfy less and less. This downward spiral explains why people who “have it all” make choices which screw it all up. This also explains addiction. People become addicted because a substance or activity produces the sought after high (peace) very effectively in the beginning. By the time the height of the high declines the addict is caught in the cycle; desperately trying to recapture euphoria by pouring more and more energy into the addictive behavior.
If we are honest with ourselves we find that all we want and all we have ever wanted is peace; that ultimate feeling of fullness and wellbeing. That totally relaxed and relieved state of internal harmony. All human accomplishment and all human destruction are by-products of a quest for peace. Every human activity is undertaken in an attempt to get to true inner peace. The irony is that no amount of successful effort will ever take you there.
Only by learning to do nothing will you ever find real peace.
You just read Part 1 of my first 2-part blog.
Stay tuned for Part 2 - A Lesson in Doing Nothing. Coming soon to this space.

posted by Lon Langston at 8:23 AM

Sunday, February 12, 2006

Take Action
One of the immutable laws of this human existence is that the opposite of action is not inaction but atrophy. It’s analogous to having a goal of going up while standing on a down escalator. To achieve the goal you have to take action. Standing still is paramount to failure.
Running up a hill is difficult and challenging. Running down a steep hill is difficult and challenging. But running down a slight slope is easy. When faced with the inclining hills or the severely declining hills of life we adjust to meet and overcome the challenges. When we see that our goal lies at the top of a hill we do the things necessary to effectively climb that hill. When we find ourselves traversing a steep decline we do the things necessary to reverse the momentum. When circumstances conspire against us we buckle down or buck up but we take action. However, when we are running gradually downhill we tend not to notice. We tend to enjoy the coasting effect. We don’t react because the descent is subtle. We think we are coasting level. The insidious thing though is that there is no level ground on which to coast. If coasting then by definition it’s downward, even if imperceivablely slight.
Don't complacently coast. Run up the escalator. Avoid the unwanted uphills and the unnoticed downhills by choosing your hill. Boldly set your goal atop a big hill and scale it enthusiastically.

posted by Lon Langston at 10:46 PM

Thursday, February 02, 2006

Many things are never tried. Many would-be accomplishments are left unrealized. Many goals not achieved. Why?
A primary reason for not succeeding, or worse, not trying, is self-consciousness – the fear of looking bad in the attempt. It is easy and incorrect to assume that everyone who is good at a thing was granted a special talent or insight that you don’t have. Somehow others have innate talents or skills or knowledge that makes the gap between your potential performance and their awesome display of competence like the Grand Cannon.
While it is certainly true that some people have extraordinary talent for specific things: sports, music, public speaking, writing, math, etc, astonishing ability is the exception not the rule. When you hear the real story of individuals who’ve enjoyed success you learn that, almost invariably, each has expended enormous time, effort, and mental anguish on the climb to proficiency. And during that climb, be assured, that they had plenty of moments of looking very bad in attempt after attempt. Incidentally, even people who have great gifts have to train and practice and work at their craft. The stories of Tiger Woods’ practice and fitness dedication and of Bill Gates obsessive work habits and of Steven Kings’ reading 70+ books per year to keep his writing skills sharp are well-known and indicative of how most successful people do it.
Dennis Waitley said, in one of his simplistically profound poems, “You can be a total winner even if you’re a beginner”. You will have to be willing to look bad between beginning and winning though.
And here’s a bonus for you: Once you are good at a thing everyone, including you, will forget you were ever bad (It is advisable however to keep this memory tucked away in your mind lest you loose your humility).

posted by Lon Langston at 11:35 AM

Saturday, January 28, 2006

There are obvious and well-known, or at least well-publicized, benefits to exercise, education, meditation, prayer, healthy eating, etc… But the secret is that these known benefits are only the smallest part of the payoff for becoming addicted to the good things. If you choose to give your body, your mind, your heart, and your soul what they really need and desire you will experience peace, love, and joy unimaginable. If this sounds like something your preacher would say about your relationship with God. It is. It is the same thing. I am talking about treating your body, mind, heart, and soul the way God intends for you to treat them.
Your body desires exercise and healthy sustenance. Your mind desires challenging and continuous learning. Your heart desires love of your God, your neighbor, and yourself. Your soul desires prayer and meditation. If you are in a place in your life where you cannot see that these parts of you want these things, if you think your body wants alcohol, and a recliner, if you think your mind wants reality TV and malicious gossip, if you think your heart wants envy and revenge on the various people who you perceive to have wronged you, if you think your soul wants isolation and narcissism, then you are living in a small, dark world. You probably believe, and rightfully so from your experiences, that your world is THE world. In fact, this couldn’t be further from the truth. Each of us exists, to a great degree, in a world of our own making.
The archaic definition of enlighten is to illuminate – to light. People who fulfill the true desires of the body, mind, heart and soul live in a large, light world. People who ignore these live in a small, dark world. There is a universal law which makes living in a small, dark world even more horrible and which, conversely, makes living in a large, light world even more brilliant. It is the law of constant motion. A small, dark existence, if not resisted, becomes increasingly smaller and darker. Resistance can retard this implosion. But it requires a huge amount of effort. And even Herculean effort can only slow the downward spiral – can only provide the feeling of barely holding on to the status quo. Equally but opposite, a large, light existence, if not resisted, becomes increasingly larger and lighter. In this case, not resisting allows you to become increasingly better – to expand the significance and enjoyment of life.
Choose the light by giving your body, mind, heart and soul what they really want. And live in a world where, because of your choice, you are carried by a swift current of expanding peace, love, and joy.

posted by Lon Langston at 4:27 AM

Wednesday, January 25, 2006

Good friends give you books.
I made this observation after piling on the kitchen counter the books a couple of friends loaned or gave me to read. People who genuinely care about you want you to grow and improve. Books are still, in this modern age of technologically delivered information, essential to increasing knowledge and awareness. There are important ideas and information in books that can be gleaned from no other source.
The phrase “good friends” used here has two meanings. The first, as I indicated above, is people who care about you. The second is people with whom it is beneficial for you to associate yourself. The choosing of friends is vital in realizing your potential – in becoming everything you can be in this life.
Peer pressure is almost always talked about as the negative influence of one’s peers. Peer pressure though is just as strong of a force when used for good as for evil. Well-chosen peers can improve you and your situation just as surely as ill-chosen ones can deteriorate the same. People who value reading and the accumulation of knowledge naturally loan, give, and recommend books to their friends. These are the people with whom it is good to be friends. They will influence you, at least, and inspire you, at best. The encouragement of friends is a powerful motivator.
As evidenced by the friends who inspired me to write this blog.

posted by Lon Langston at 7:06 AM

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

It’s my 41st birthday today(Jan 24). For some reason turning 40 was cool but turning 41 seems less cool and more old. Over the last year I have answered the question “how old are you?” a half dozen times or more, proudly saying 40. It didn’t seem to have anymore psychological impact than did saying 39 or any of its predecessors. But FORTY-ONE, that sounds much older than all those lesser ages. The truth is, fortunately, that today is much better than those 14,965 days of practicing to be 41 that preceding it. For me the good old days are here and now. I’ve never been able to relate to the common definition of “glory days” (that is: late teens or early twenties). Sure I had fun in high school and college, (especially college). But for me, then wasn’t nearly so glorious as now. Maybe I’m unusual in this way because of the particular skill-set the Lord saw fit to bless me with.
At 41 reading and learning is glorious. In school, some combination of learning differences caused my academic performance to be decidedly not glorious. At 41 physical fitness and condition are unique - more a result of persistence than genetics. In school my physical prowess was unspectacular. At 41 being blessed with two great daughters and an amazing wife is more than anyone could ask or expect. Prior to being a husband and father I didn’t know I could care about someone else more than myself. By 41 people you talk with tend to talk about interesting things. By 41 people you talk with tend to be capable of talking about interesting things. And probably most importantly by 41 bravado, moxie, and ego are sufficiently worn down to allow an appreciation of these glory days.
Thank God for 41. It’s far superior to 14 and even to 18 or 21. Well, at least for me.

posted by Lon Langston at 5:28 AM