Kurt Bell

A life of courage, joy and independence.

Change


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So many lives
In a single lifetime


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Relevance departs like life


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Slipping now
Past the common ground
Falling faster
Away and into the dark
I see lights and recall what was
Confusion here
Without despair
Acceptance
And welcome
A good life


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My wife and I are about to throw our daughter head first into the deep end of America. With this fact near and apparent, I’m always eager for reconnaissance from those who have gone before. Today I met another American adult who told me their story of teenage transition to life in the USA.

Becky was 14 when she arrived with her family from Mexico to settle in Los Angeles. She didn’t speak any English when she entered high school here, and she described the first six months as very difficult. She found America to be a scary place compared to the familiar safety of Mexico. And at first she was sad and dreamed daily of going home. Eventually the new words, new ways and new faces started to make sense, and within the first year she had acclimated and was happy for the change. Becky said the one thing which held her back was the fact that Spanish was spoken exclusively at home. She said this was a good thing in some ways as it helped her retain and develop Spanish, which she now describes as her primary language and the language she dreams in. Despite this fact Becky suggested our daughter’s coming transition will be more swift and complete if we adopt English as our home language. To help Emily retain and develop her Japanese, Becky recommended sending Emily to a Japanese school for supplemental language training. I’m truly grateful for these chances to learn from those who have gone before and who can recommend how best Yumiko and I can help our daughter become an adult with a Japanese heart and an American spirit.


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My time in America before my family
Such a sieve
Such a filter


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There’s something to be said for the fact of having an immediate, and responsive audience to creative output which compels one to produce and provides that nice sounding board to observation. Since leaving social media my output has plummeted. Facebook was my main venue and my content production there was endless and prolific. There was certainly a lot of “ore” in my postings though from time to time I found a “nugget” worth collecting and keeping in my private journal. There’s something to be said for that process which seems to be enlivened and enriched by the fact of audience. My private musings are certainly free of *most* self-imposed censorship though also these are less frequent or interesting. I guess in a sense I’m driven by the fact of consumption though I don’t prefer to interact much with those who are doing the consuming. It’s a rather selfish way to be though frankly I don’t give a damn about what others think of what I think. For the most part I don’t even care about their opinions unless what they are bringing to the table is objective proof that I am wrong. That, I am very interested in. But most of the time the feedback I receive is that nonsense human comfort and reinforcement which does nothing to further the cause and only makes us all feel a little better sitting around the campfire at night while the beast growl and prowl nearby in the dark. The only feedback I really care about is when someone grabs a stick from the fire and invites me to do the same and walk boldly with them into the dark to meet the beasts. There’s sadly so little of that on social media or anywhere. Frankly, I’m scared of the dark too. Though with my time nearly up I’d rather step away from social media to spend my evenings and weekends with my people, making something worthwhile in human terms, while struggling to muster the courage to walk into the dark with or without a torch.

The other reason I’ve withdrawn from social media is because I’ve already lost almost an entire year with my daughter and I don’t want any unnecessary distractions when she gets here. Already since leaving Facebook I’ve interacted more often and better with her than anytime in the last year. I guess I needed a year to wean myself from social media and back on to family. In a way, I’m grateful for this year apart for that very fact as I hope to be a better man to the people in my life as a result.


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As a young man I sought a good place for life. A situation of challenge, opportunity and interest. As an older man I want only a place of peace. Somewhere comfortable and out of the way. Where I can be forgotten by society, to be with my family, together with my thoughts. To die then with my eyes wide open.


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I think it’s possible to overwork the soil of life such that her yield and productivity diminish like the farmland of the Dustbowl. Better sometimes to load up the jalopy with what’s left, hoist grandpa on back with the kids and strike out for a new world. Do you remember that passage in The Grapes of Wrath when grandma burned the family photos?


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There are different ways of becoming lost. In the most common sense this refers to losing ones physical way, becoming disoriented and unable to discern the right path. Being lost can also describe the mental experience of losing faith in what was previously assumed true, of doubting our core principals and moving with cautious confusion into places where new ideas and ways of thinking threaten like exotic beasts in an unfamiliar land. That’s the sort of lost I seek. The explorer’s lost. The lost of moving away from the familiar, into regions of the mind where there are no landmarks or maps.


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Every day after work I get in my car and drive north. When my family arrives I’ll drive south. I dream of driving south.


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Confidence deceives
I’d rather have courage without it


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Dissatisfaction is such a powerful catalyst of change. I wonder where our species would be today if we never got fed up?


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Early in the novel The Grapes of Wrath there’s s scene when the man in the bulldozer strikes the Joad family home on the side, knocking the structure askew and off its foundation. It’s that moment when the family knows their world there is at an end, and they must look and move into the future. That’s a little what it’s like to go away and come back. The world here is knocked forward by time and different. I can’t expect the same life. And must instead hoist my bags and move again to the new life.


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Midlife Relief is the awakening gratitude that the dreams of youth never came true.


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Mental quiescence and physical ruin. A midlife juxtaposition.


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One of the best things about getting old is having a rich and deep pool of memories to swim in when there’s nothing else to do.


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The incline of years provokes more deliberate motion. Each effort becomes more sincere, less wanting in original purpose, and a better end in itself than the more careless movements of my youth.


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When you can perceive
The slow dissolution
Of atoms
You may lose interest in
Building castles of sand


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It’s an ironic thing that both the best and worst part of new beginnings is the fact of starting over.


 

Good living requires space and wide margins. Pages should be turned. Old journals put aside when the writer becomes someone new. How can I swear allegiance to thoughts which are no longer my own. Ideas I’ve outgrown. Move on from that page of cluttered nonsense. Begin again.


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The next generation’s mandate is not to continue what we left off, but to carry on where we left off. I think this distinction explains so much of the discontent I read from older Americans regarding the state and condition of the younger generation. They’re gonna do just fine without us, in a world we couldn’t possibly tolerate or understand.


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I left for Japan craving something. And returned to America craving nothing. Such a change.


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The next generation’s mandate is not to continue what we left off, but to carry on where we left off. I think this distinction explains so much of the discontent I read from older Americans regarding the state and condition of the younger generation. They’re gonna do just fine without us, in a world we couldn’t possibly tolerate or understand.


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Living overseas I saw America as through the wrong end of a telescope. Everything was small, distant and indistinct. Eventually, what was happening here became hardly relevant. News of an alien world. Now that I’m back, events are full, crisp, lively and bursting with relevance, as well as a biting and immediate importance. But it wasn’t like that for me before I left. I wonder if it’s maturity, the fact of leaving, or both, which have made the difference?


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Our Japanese next door neighbors moved our. We’ll miss them. Even though we never met them.


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While riding my motorcycle to the beach just now, I passed an enormous mega-church holding a fair in their parking lot. There were dozens of vendors attending hundreds of happy people. I marveled at the fact of this large community, organized around a beloved and shared common belief. And then my mind expanded to consider that such communities, large and small, literally fill our nation, defining much of our shared culture, tradition and way of life. I thought to myself “this force is immense, definitive, and permanent. What could ever counter such an organized, well established system, grounded in tradition, rooted in faith?”

I then thought of the numbers, and the fact that Americans are steadily departing such institutions; striking out on their own, giving up the communities of faith in favor of nothing else; adopting, if not embracing, a position of non-belief. But how can this be? What force could possibly counter the warmth and beauty of a hometown church, the supporting like-minded believers, the love of a living God? And I realized it was the Internet; which like the sea is a force greater than any edifice. The Internet is driving this decline, fueling the erosion of belief, undermining the credulity which is the bedrock of faith

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