“A lie can travel around the world and back again while the truth is lacing up its boots.”—Mark Twain

Written by Donald Hughes, March 2021

Truth is an interesting phenomenon. It is, I believe, one of the basic forces of nature that can never be extinguished nor eliminated from existence. Sure, it can be stretched, hidden, undiscovered, banned, lost and even diminished, but never eradicated. Somewhere, some place, some time, the truth is always there. We may not want to believe it, or accept it when it is revealed, but it will be revealed when pursued. All of humankind can believe the world is flat and the center of the galaxy, teach it in all levels of education, preach it in all circles and in all disciplines, and even persecute those that don’t agree, but still it does not alter the truth. The truth maybe so small, so quiet and obscure that only one person believes it, sails around the globe, and reveals it. Then in one brief reveal, it totally upends man’s limited vision. Sometimes with life-altering consequence.

The truth of something will remain hidden if never pursued. It takes a great deal of tenacity, courage, determination and sacrifice to bring it out into the light of day. In my opinion, those things are an undeniable clue that something is the truth. A lie, by contrast, is easily spun and accepted, with little resistance and very little effort. Some become experts and creative geniuses at establishing a lie as gospel truth.

Today, it is even becoming more difficult to navigate through the countless seas of deceit and lies to find the safe harbor of truth. From politics to science, history to education, the truth is not only well hidden, but also often disdained and hated. Only the most dedicated and faithful can and will uncover the truth of something, knowing well that the reveal may be mocked, scorned, questioned and ridiculed. In addition, the storms of pushback will be intense.

Truth is not always pretty, and because of that revealing it is a daunting task. I so admire those from our past that were such stalwarts of the truth, and gave so much to bring it to light and defend it. Our civilization has evolved to a higher plane because of it. Their names are forever remembered while those that so vehemently fought it are but a hiss and a by-word. Let us not allow the truth to diminish in its importance, no matter the subject. It is a precious thing we need to nourish, develop and learn to appreciate as much as our fore bearers did. To do otherwise is to die out and hope for a future generation that will discover it, uncover it, and light the world.

Written by Donald Hughes, 2020

We all know the beloved character portrayed masterfully by the late Leonard Nimoy, the ever stoic Spock. As the first officer on a galaxy whizzing spacecraft, Spock was always exploring not only worlds unknown, but also the logic behind the ever-changing circumstances that he and the crew found themselves in. And unknowingly to his many, many fans, it was not only his persona that was truly “stoic”, but the overall way in which the crew of the Enterprise survived the countless adventures that was at the heart of the series, and real examples of “Stoicism”.

Today, we define “stoic” as “a person who is seemingly indifferent to or unaffected by joy, grief, pleasure, or pain.” Or, someone who, like Spock, shows little or no emotion. But the true stoic goes much deeper than that and much further back in time. To the ancient Greek and Hellenistic philosophers, around the 3rd century BC, “Stoicism” was born and founded by Zeno of Citium in Athens.. It is a philosophy of personal ethics informed by its system of logic and its view on the natural world. According to its teachings, as social beings, the path to true happiness, or eudaimonia, is found in accepting the moment as it presents itself, by not allowing oneself to be controlled by the desire for pleasure or fear of pain. By using one’s mind to understand the world in which one finds themselves in at the moment rather than allowing emotions to rule.

Often times, people are suddenly thrust into an environment totally foreign to them, often harsh and unforgiving, and without any of the modern-day conveniences we are all so accustom to. These people are suddenly faced with the reality to survive, or to perish. Whether it be due to a car breaking down, or an airplane crashing, or getting lost in the woods on a weekend camping trip, the world around them is completely different, new and unknown. Experts who have studied those that survive and live to tell about their experiences, have a few key things in common. First, they have the ability to stay calm in the face of whatever life may throw at them. They do have fear, but have the courage to face the fear. Second, they become experts in improvisation. They can find a use for everything around them. They make fire without matches, find water where there are no faucets, and find food where there are no stores. Third, they become DYI experts. They are the ultimate “tinkers” and will be able to find a way to fix something that has broken before trying to find a Walmart to replace it, and fourth, they are great leaders. They know how to make tough decisions, and how to assess a situation before panicking, and they know when and how to take action.

Today, many of us are finding ourselves in new, uncharted territory. It could be as a result of a failed marriage, or a loss of employment, or the strange new world of pandemic outbreaks. Our world is suddenly different from what we are accustomed to, and it may be full of fear and anxiety. This is not new, and the ancient philosophers recognized that very thing. Should we choose to fight the change, to look at our new circumstance as overwhelming and unacceptable, or try to focus on why this change happen to us we will fail. Those that don’t make it when lost in the woods, for example, are often found only a short distance from where it began having given up, sunk to despair, and waiting for rescue that never comes. The ancient Stoics also believed that our natural world would always present challenges and change, some we can control and others beyond our control. For the latter, they understood that to accept that change, one must adapt, improvise and make decisions using logic and reason. I watch old episodes of Star Trek and realize that the crew were indeed stoics, and that “guy” was going to die before the episode ends because he refuses to recognize and adapt to the new hostile environment.

I like to think of myself as a true stoic; I have overcome many changes and always looked at them as challenges. I have been suddenly thrust into a new world, and having to use my mind, heart and soul to reach for higher ground. I have had to find the courage to keep moving, to get up each time I fell, and to find my way out, and emerge a better, stronger and smarter person. I know from experience that there is no one coming to the rescue, that very few can be relied on, and that God has blessed me with an insight to see the true snares of life. I have come to understand that the combination of the stoic Spock, and the intrepid Captain Kirk is the perfect balance for happiness, joy and survival.

Res audita perit, litera scripta manet. This is a Latin proverb, which translates to “a thing heard perishes, the written letter remains”. This is ancient, however still so pertinent to our day. In the not-so-long ago past, when an opinion or statement of importance and relevance was forth coming, it would be printed and endorsed by the author for all the world to vet. The author could not hide, nor the research to back the claim. Today, anyone can opine and vocalize without the burden of proof, validity or accountability. Whether on the internet, tweets or texts, anyone can say what they want with total anonymity. And all too often, it sets a narrative that starts a following even though it may be totally false. And, thankfully often easily forgotten. By contrast, when the narrative is written, and the author identified and known, it remains to be researched, digested and referred to as often and necessary as needed. And not so easily dismissed or forgotten. The day when the written and published word is no longer deemed necessary for mankind to communicate, that will be the day when all truth will be forced into obscurity, and the foundation of a civil world will perish.

Where to Live
Written by Donald Hughes, 2019

My wife and I have lived in several houses over the years. One of the joys in our journey through life and marriage is to be on the lookout for another place to fix-up and return it to its former glory. Even now, when we are not actively seeking out another project, we find ourselves looking at houses just for the enjoyment of it. We like to see what others have done to improve their property, or we get ideas on what we can incorporate into our own home. Over the years, and many houses later, I have come to realize that the actual practice of seeing an old, dilapidated house as something more than worn siding, loose railings and broken windows is very rewarding. Seeing what the house has the potential of becoming, and show casing the pride that the original builder or artisan had envisioned when it was being built takes effort. My wife is especially gifted at this talent.

The more I think of it, the more parallels I see between these houses, and individual lives I have come to cross paths with over the years. How many houses do we drive by on any given day, and not really look at them or pay attention to them? In addition, if we do, do we only see the grass not mowed, perhaps an un kept yard, porches that lean or clutter and other negative things? Or, do we see the character in the roofline, or how the shape of the windows reflect the sunlight, or the unique way the builder designed the porch? Do we see the potential and the beauty of the craftsmanship in the house, or do we just see another property in a cluster of countless others?

And so it is with people. First of all, do we actually notice them in our busy lives, or are they just another life in the cluster of others? The mini-mart clerk, a waiter at the cafe, or the girl in the drive up window. And if we do, do we only see un kept clothing, maybe un brushed hair or a tattoo we find offensive. Or do we see them as their Maker see them? Each person has a story, a history and a life that has been through trials and experiences both good and bad. And like a house, bears the scars of weather and time, of perhaps abuse and neglect, and maybe even rambunctious teens and children all taking their toll on the fascia. But underneath is rich mahogany flooring, cast-iron railing and rock solid foundation. You will not see it until you see it. But it is there, underneath layers of dust and years of living life.

I have noticed also, that when looking at various properties, it is easy to see them in one of three time zones. The past, the present, or the future. You can see what it was, and what the past has done to the structure or the face of the property, or you can see what it looks like now and see the good in it and what needs immediate attention, and you can see what it will be or could be with proper care and concern. If you just let it continue to exist in the past, it will never be improved upon and continue its decline. If you just let it exist in the present and not repair and maintain its foundation, plumbing, electrical, roofing, and other details it will never appreciate to its potential. And, if you just hope that it will have a bright future in an unpredictable market, or worry a tornado might come along so why bother, it will never be lived in now and enjoyed. So it is with each of us.

We can choose to live in one of those same three time zones too. We can continue to live in the past, bitter and sad, remorseful or angry at choices we made, or how we were treated. We can dream about how things used to be, or should have been. Or, we can choose to learn from mistakes, repair damages that were done, repent of hurtful actions and improve on good foundations and choices. We can choose to invest in ourselves, find our potential and capitalize on our strengths. Or, we can do nothing, and hope that we will win a lottery in the future and life will not be grand until we do. Or, we can worry we will get hit by a bus crossing the street or get sick and die before enjoying retirement and the grandchildren. By living in the past, we stay stuck there and doomed to experiencing the consequences of the past, never really enjoying what can be accomplished today. By living in the future, we are doomed to constant worry and fear of the unknown, or to storing up and investing our allotted time today for some event in life that may never happen. But by living today, seeing the past for what it was and making the necessary changes, and realizing that there are no guarantees about tomorrow but hope and potential, and not letting either time zone consume the only one we really have control of, the present.

So, next time you drive by an old house, and an old neighbor, look past the decay and into the windows and eyes and enjoy what the master builder had in mind with His creation. See the potential; see the grand lines and strong pillars, the firm foundation and maybe you can even find something to incorporate into your own back yard of life that is of great worth.

By Donald L Hughes, Aug 2019

We hear a lot about freedoms lately. There are many forums and a lot of discussion about what our rights and freedoms should or should not include. Our Constitution is under constant scrutiny and debate, and everyone seems to have an opinion about who and what should be accepted and free. But freedom, whether individual or collective, does not come from any third-party “giver”, and is not something that can be given by a governing body, an act of Congress, a sympathetic over-lord or a religious leader. Freedom is something that comes from the individual seeking it. It comes from a commitment to a way of living that frees one from all of the previous listed “givers”. It is a way of living so that one does not rely on another for granted freedoms, creating an existence that is truly free, but it is also a way of living that requires constant effort, focus and dedication. It is life we create for ourselves, what no one can give or take away, because it is a way of personal living, personal choices made each and every moment of every day, and taking responsibility for our actions. Like creating anything tangible, it requires planning, vision, and assembly. Our dedication to a wonderful life of freedom should be no less of an effort than building any thing: the plans should be drawn up and the tools assembled and vision supplied until a finished product is created. Here are the plans and tools that require individual freedom; the vision needs to be supplied on your own:

• Embrace this day with an enthusiastic welcome, no matter how it looks. Realize that nothing is impossible today.
• When you are physically sick, tired, or in despair, steer your thoughts away from yourself and direct them, in gratitude and love, toward God or service to someone else.
• In your life there have to be challenges. They will either bring you closer to God and make you stronger, or they can destroy you. But you make the decision which road to take.
• Don’t let anything distract you from being aware that you are a Child of God.
• Put all of your frustrations, hurt feelings, and grumblings into the perspective that you are and eternal soul, that “all things shall pass” and are temporary. You are not.
• You are not perfect, and neither is anyone else. Look for ways to improve yourself each day.
• Pray. God knows better than you what you need. He always attempts to speak to you. Unclutter your life and mind so you can hear what is being said, listen and follow the promptings. Everything will fall into place.
• Make fear your worst enemy; rise above worrying about things beyond your control, what may or may not happen tomorrow, and don’t let fear prevent you from growing.
• When you cannot love someone, look into their eyes long enough to find the hidden rudiments of the child of God in them. It’s there, no matter how hidden or hardened.
• Never judge anyone. When you accept this, you will be freed.
• If someone hurts you, forgive and you will be free again.
• Avoid at all costs any pessimistic, negative, or criticizing thoughts.
• Avoid rush and haste and uncontrolled words or actions. Divine light develops in peace and quiet.
• Whatever your task is, do it with all your heart, might mind and strength. In thoroughness is satisfaction.
To live a life that is truly free, free of the bondage of addictions, free from the burden of guilt and remorse, free from worry and frustration, free of anger and sorrow, free from others expectations and free from fear all require action from us, not someone else. How we choose to greet, handle and live each moment of each day is directly proportionate to the amount of freedom we enjoy.

Resolve that Chord!
Written by Don Hughes, Christmas 2018

During this time of year, it is so good to hear the traditional Christmas hymns performed in a variety of venues, by various artists and musicians, and by local congregations throughout the land. It has always been an important part of my personal worship this season, and each year for many years I have attempted to take the time, to sit and ponder, and write a Christmas song.

I remember many years ago, being invited to play my trumpet at a small Baptist church house in Cheyenne during a Christmas service. It is a small, white church house on a corner, and the congregation was very small. There was a choir loft in the rear of the chapel, and I stood up there and played out across the tops of the people as they joyously sang Hark! The Herald Angels Sing. I felt like Gabriel playing the trumpet to usher in the resurrection!

Betwixt these rockie pillars
Gabriel sat
Chief of the Angelic guards
He ended, and the Son gave
Signal high
To the bright minister that
Watch’d, he blew
His trumpet, heard in Oreb.
From Paradise Lost by Milton

As any musician knows, music is a universal language, and perhaps the only thing that transcends both time and space. It has been a part of the human experience since the dawn of time, and sometime during the medieval times the discipline of music became the basis of our modern tuning systems, and the “rudiments” of making music. Notation, key signatures, time signatures, rhythmic notation and mathematical progression of “notes”. A chord in music is any harmonic set of three or more notes that is heard as if sounding simultaneously. And these notes move about within a scale of pitches, and even the untrained ear can hear when a note is “off key”, or in other words played or sung outside of the signature scale. Perhaps this natural ability to recognize a note, or subsequent chord, as out-of-place is instilled in our memory of a pre-mortal life where harmony and music was an integral part of our existence. I had a music theory professor who would turn his piano so as not to see the keys, play a scale or chord progression, and make us identify not only the key is was in, but what the next chord to play should be. After a while, it was easy to “hear’ the natural progression. To this day, I’m not sure where that natural progression comes from, perhaps somewhere deep in our psyche. If you ever listen to a song, or phrase in a song, and the final chord is left “hanging” and not resolved, it may drive you insane until someone plays it and brings it to a close. You have to hear that final note, otherwise it haunts you. “Mary had a little lamb, little lamb, little lamb, Mary had a little lamb, its fleece as white………” You get the idea.

This pattern of “chord progression” seems to not be mutually inclusive to the realm of music. In our everyday life, we sense when an act, or a thought, or a problem seems to be “unresolved”. Usually, we can only find peace with ourselves, and perhaps others, when such issues do finally become resolved.
At the close of yet another year, may each of our lives complete all un-resolved issues, whether it be with family, friends or with ourselves. Life is too precious and short to leave things “hanging”. Like music, only when the final note and chord is played does the song finally, truly end.

If I Were the Devil
Written by Donald Hughes, 2018

If I were the devil and wanted to win the souls of man, here is what I would do……

• Target the family for destruction by: putting the mothers into the work-force and making them believe worldly success is more important than raising a child at home, and then making them feel inadequate and unable to meet the demands and expectations put on them;
• Target man-hood by making the men appear less capable, insensitive, un-understanding, shallow, violent and crass, unrefined, immature and sex-crazed. And them make them more feminine in nature and appearance;
• Make the children believe that competition is cruel, and winning just makes others losers.
• Make mothers believe that children should be protected from any and all mistakes, failures or dangers at all times;
• Make seniors appear to be a burden, placed in facilities “out of sight and mind” as to not disturb their children’s life or routines;
• Make pornography as easily accessible as possible, in the name of art and freedom of expression, and protected under the 1st amendment of the constitution;
• Alter history to appear more evil, violent and racist in every major accomplishment of mankind;
• Make organized religion appear to be too constraining, too radical and too corrupt and make the faithful followers appear to be mindless and backward, while making government appear to be the best choice to take care of moral issues;
• Make uncontrolled sexual behavior appealing and acceptable in movies, television, and all other entertainment venues. Then make abortions legal and promoted under the guise of family planning and women’s health care;
• Make marriage unpopular, easy to discard, and ridiculed as unnecessary in modern society to live with someone, and unnecessary to bear children;
• Make lotteries appear to be fun, exciting and the answer to making dreams come true, then make playing easy and accessible with child-like games. Promise to make the funds go toward education, roads and parks, and other things our taxes should be paying for;
• Raise our taxes by taxing everything from our income to our utilities usage, and then spend the money on programs that enable the weak, keep poverty and subsequent crime high to create and maintain a dependent social class, and then make them want to buy lottery tickets to better their circumstances, or elect leaders that support such programs;
• Make every social and community event more appealing by offering alcohol, and make the drinks more appealing with bright colors, cleaver names and aggressive, entertaining advertising;
• Make social media the best way to interact with others, making it easy to deceive, influence and opine without consequences and without accountability;
• Make video games, movies and other venues more and more violent, and then make the violence acceptable entertainment. Make language more vulgar, clothing more revealing, and actions less consequential, and start it as early in youth as possible.

In other words, if I were the devil and wanted to win the souls of man, I would keep on doing what he’s been doing.

Inspired by the late Paul Harvey, journalist and broadcaster

The Lost Art of Art
Written by Donald L Hughes, 2018

During a recent trip to San Simeon, California my family and I had the opportunity to tour the famous estate of William Randolph Hearst. As expected, the massive home and surrounding acreage was impressive and beautiful. From the grand entrance to the luxurious Neptune swimming pool, the estate was a massive expression of Hearst’s love for his boyhood home and family ranch. And perhaps more than that, his love of and passion for the things his mother showed him as a boy: culture and art.

I have visited and toured other massive homes, such as The Breakers (Vanderbilt Estate) in Rhode Island, and The Marble House and Miramar to name a few. And although these homes were also impressive, they were built for show and mainly to flaunt wealth. The difference for me with San Simeon was the personal roots of the estate, not only in terms of the land and its early founding as a working ranch, but also in the growth of William’s appreciation for art, and what art represents. Art is inseparable with culture, and one cannot and will not survive without the other.

To really understand our culture, and indeed the cultures of others, and the cultures of the past, one need only to look at the respective art. From oil paintings to tapestry, and hand-carved ceilings to chairs and tables, the artisans have given a part of themselves. Their hands have carefully moved along the canvass, or weaves of fabric, or edges of deep colored wood, and along with it have poured a part of their souls into their work. Somehow, that resonates throughout the home where such art is found. When created, the artist’s dream would have been to have their work displayed in such a way that Hearst was able to provide: walls and floors, rooms and ceilings in a living environment, to weather naturally like the artist themselves, growing old and full of character and value beyond monetary. To view a wooded beam from the 17th century, or a statue from ancient Egypt is to view the artist slowly carving, etching and smoothing its surface. And when surrounded by the structure of what becomes a home, a feeling of life and energy permeates from the art.

Contrast that to today’s world. Even the very wealthy, although financially able, have few if any resources as did Hearst on finding those types of hand-crafted works. Most items collected today are displayed in a controlled environment, put up for viewing but not a part of the fabric of the home. To see the art of San Simeon as an integral extension of the home and life of its owner, is to see it as it has always been intended to be seen. Like the whales and seals living just off the coast of the estate, to see the same in a controlled setting like a zoo or aquarium diminishes the soul, spirit and essence of those magnificent creatures. Standing on the shore, looking out and engaging all senses, from smell to touch, and seeing a whale’s spray out on the horizon is just what the artist wanted you to experience when viewing their masterpiece. You can’t get that in a museum, a wealthy man’s summer house, or a zoo. But in a home. A home where people live, love, laugh, cry and eat.

After touring San Simeon, it made me appreciate how the finer things in life are those things that reflect who I am, what I love and have a passion for. And to look for the lost art in even the smallest of places, not just the San Simeons of the world.

The Old Man and the Song
Written by Don Hughes, Aug 2018

The old man sat down on his stool,
And pulled the worn leather strap about his back;
He pulled his guitar close, his best friend and his tool,
Its neck slightly bent, it face gently faded to black.

His voice was gravely now, worn out like his strings,
And no longer loud, but soft and warm like his song;
Life makes great music, with the struggles if brings,
And lyrics are made from choices we make, right and wrong.

I listened intensely to the songs he sang,
And watched as he continued to play;
As he strummed and picked, the old guitar rang,
Some chords dark, others as bright as day.

As the music continued, and he struggled with age,
One great song would stop, and quickly another one would start;
I realized after a while, why he was still performing on that stage,
It was the love of the song, and the beat of the performance was the beat of his heart.

We tend to live as long as we have passion for something,
And once that dies or is taken, we too pass away;
The old man was a lot like me, and as long as I can play and sing,
I’ll keep this old ticker beating for just one more day.

This poem came to me the night after I went to a small-venue concert at the Minneapolis Zoo to watch Jerry Jeff Walker perform. The evening was beautiful, and because of his age he made many mistakes during the performance: forgetting lyrics, missing chords, etc. But his fans didn’t care. His music, like so many others, touch people’s lives and bring back memories and feelings long forgotten. In a world that has littler tolerance for error or mistakes, it is precisely those things that make up our reality and who we are. I’ve made plenty of both in my life, but many right choices too. It is my hope I always find passion.

The Big Picture
By Donald Hughes, 2018

“Therefore is the kingdom of heaven likened unto a certain king, which would take account of the servants:
“And when he had begun to reckon, one was brought unto him, which owed him ten thousand talents.
“But forasmuch as he had not to pay, his lord commanded him to be sold, and his wife, and children, and all that he had, and payment to be made.
“The servant therefore fell down, and worshipped him, saying, lord, have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
“Then the lord of that servant was moved with compassion, and loosed him, and forgave him the debt.
“But the same servant went out, and found one of his fellow servants, which owed him an hundred pence; and he laid hands on him, and took him by the throat, saying, pay me that thou owest.
“And the fellow servant fell down at his feet, and besought him, saying have patience with me, and I will pay thee all.
“And he would not; but went and cast him into prison, till he should pay the debt.
“So when his fellow servants saw what was done, they were very sorry, and came and told unto their lord all that was done.
“Then the lord, after that he had called him, said unto him, O thou wicked servant, I forgave thee all that debt, because thou desiredst me;
“Should not thou also have had compassion on thy fellow servant, even as I had pity on thee?
“And the lord was wroth, and delivered him to the tormentors, till he should pay all that was due onto him.”

This parable is found in the 18th chapter of Matthew. Although it has a great deal to do with forgiveness, it has another profound meaning: it is unclear what the exact value of a “talent” was, or a “pence”, but what is clear is the ratio between the two. Put into today’s monetary reference, say the “hundred pence” were $100. The “ten thousand talents” debt so freely forgiven, would approach $1 Billion! A totally incomprehensible amount of debt to be owing, much less forgiven. Yet the lord of the servants did just that. The servant who was forgiven had no vision of the “big picture”, but only able to see the small amount that he himself was owed.

In today’s world, we often have our sights set on what we feel we are owed, how we have been transgressed upon, or offended by. The lord in this parable wanted to illustrate how insignificant our problems are, how ungrateful we are, and how short-sighted we have become compared to the big picture. We are facing great challenges and problems in our times, yet we seem only to focus on what affects us personally, how someone offended us, what someone said or did that made us uncomfortable, or what we feel is unfair treatment. In this parable, ponder the big picture and ask yourself, am I the lord of the servants, the first servant, the second servant, the fellow servants, or maybe the tormentors? Only you can decide.