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
Chief of the Angelic guards
He ended, and the Son gave
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.
One-upping Forrest Gump
Written by Donald Hughes, Feb 2018
Google-search: “life is like…..”, and you’re likely to see the first thing to come up is the famous line from the 1994 film, Forrest Gump: “Mama always said life was like a box of chocolates. You never know what you’re gonna get.” As simple and true as that may be, I recently heard a wonderful analysis of life that takes that a bit further.
During church services recently, a woman shared a dream she had late one night during a time when she was fighting depression, and recounting experiences that left her emotionally scarred from when she was young. This is, I think, a common occurrence with all of us at one time or another. We have all had experiences that have shaped us, and made us who we are. I really thought her dream was something that should be shared.
She dreamed the Savior spoke compassionately to her in a dream. She understood that life is like a Trail Mix. That’s right, a trail mix. This was in and of itself an interesting approach, since this particular child of God enjoyed, among other things, the great outdoors and hiking. It gives great insight to how well our Heavenly Father knows us on such a personal level. She understood further:
A standard trail mix is made up of those wonderful little chocolate M&M’s, a good mixture of nuts, and of course the raisins. We all like the M&M’s the best, admit it. We also like the various nuts and their wholesome addition to the mix, providing the protein and energy any good hiker needs. But the raisins always appear in a handful and have to be dealt with.
Her understanding of the metaphor was clear. Each of us are born into this world with an empty bag for our personal trail mix. All of the good, happy and wonderful experiences are represented by the M&M’s and go into our bag. The crazy events of our lives, and the crazy relationships, and the unexpected events are the mixed-nuts. Some are good, some not-so-good. The bad and sometimes terrible events are the raisins. But they are always in the mix. The challenge is to look at those particular moments in a different way: those raisins are actually a little sweet, and offer their own nutritional value to the mix. If we look at the bad things in life as learning moments, or times when we needed to rely on our faith and on God, or when a new open door was discovered, or a relationship strengthened, we can often find the sweetness in the event. She understood that the Savior’s grace for us is sufficient to hold us up and sustain us not in spite of the mix, but because of the mix of good and bad. She also understood that the Lord loved her no matter how the ratio of M&M’s to raisins might be, but to strive for adding more M&M’s by experiencing more good things, like love and humor, acts of service and generosity, faith and courage. These are all things we can control and add ourselves.
I will never look at a simple trail mix the same as before. To me, it will now always remind me of just how mixed up our individual lives are, but also how unique and full of experiences our bags are. And, as each new day brings both M&M’s and raisins into my life, too often than not there are an abundance of nuts too. When my life is over on this earth, I hope my bag is so rich and full that it spills out to fill other’s bags and in turn enrich and strengthen them too.
Sometimes, things seem much worse than they really are. Our brains absorb an infinite amount of data every day, and a lot of it comes from sources that make their living on presenting the worse of human nature. It is difficult to find positive “news” at any given time, and the true magnificence of human achievements are often hidden, and only uncovered by diligently seeking.
Mankind is living in the most prosperous, expansive and efficient time in all of recorded history, and yet we struggle with depression and anxiety at an all-time high. There is a tide that is moving all of us: innovation and technology. With that, change is inevitable and we will be witnessing some truly amazing things yet in our life time. Shakespeare once said, “There is a tide in the affairs of men, which, taken at the flood, leads on to fortune; Omitted, all the voyage of their life is bound in shallow and in miseries. On such a full sea are we now afloat, and we must take the current when it serves, or lose our ventures.”
Let us embrace the technology and the wonders that it brings. Let us embrace change, and try to ride on top of the tide, and not underneath where the silt and grime is found. This is a time of flood, and not drought. Ideas and inspiration are flowing at an alarming pace, and opportunity to improve and better one-self can be found literally in the palm of one’s hand.
A wise man once said, “We believe in all things, we hope all things, we have endured many things, and hope to be able to endure all things. If there is anything virtuous, lovely, or of good report or praiseworthy, we seek after these things.” Paul, the Apostle. There is good in change and in the technology at our finger-tips. Mankind is good. Human nature is good. Don’t be bound in the shallows and the miseries of what is often seen and heard. Rise with the tide, embrace your divine nature, and find joy in the coming New Year. Seek after those things that are really important in life: family, friendship, loyalty, love and service. Oh, and hold on, it’s bound to be a wild ride!
MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR !
Donald Hughes, 2017