3/25/2012

You may not own anything to anybody. But to some you may be indebted


 Downtown in Omaha, Nebraska: Still standing and built on many visions of the future.


What The Second City improv theatre was for Tina Fey of the Saturday Night Live and 30 Rock fame, for some of us a life in and with church may be.
     "It was like a cult," she wrote in her biography, Bossypants. "Studying improvisation literally changed my life," she confessed. "It changed the way I look at the world."
     Then this statement: "What has your cult done for you lately?" For her, she gained a worldview. She also found a husband.
     On reflection, there is much that I am grateful to a variety of spaces, times, and people groups I could name as chief influencers of the world-according-to-me. What follows is a goulash of reflections with a dose of personal spice. It won’t be conclusive, but it was exhausting to mix it up!
     In my early years the family was the obvious influencer. Consider my sister, Izabella. She tried to scare me, and my brother Jan with ghost-will-get-you-tonight craziness, as she made noises that suppose to have been ghost-like. Such memories are etched in my head. They shaped my aversion to treat reality as something predictably obvious, and those reminders still keep me scared of my 60-years old sister!
     But seriously, it was the push into the in-between world of freedom and restrictions that made an impression on me. All at once it was administered by both my mom and dad, and - to make it equal - dad and mom.
     My father was a churchman. He dished out from an assortment of thou shalt not or thou shalt do directives which he had to offer. Actually, there was plenty of wise counsel, too. Spiritual life was frequently referred to. But, for instance, he also spoke about determination and hard work (later in life, he repeated a couple of times that I achieved what he only dreamt to accomplish; this could be considered as a compliment, I guess?). A post-World War II Poland's reality builder and economist in him often reminded my siblings and me that we should value every penny that comes our way. Don’t just spend it. Keep it. Save it. Oh, well …
     My mother, on the other hand, took me to enjoy theatre plays. As I frequented many a theatre, I was told - You will get somewhere when you embrace the Big World. I think she meant that living with and within the surrounding culture would bring best out in who I was. So, I tasted eclectic music and Niemen, the country's iconic musician, composer and singer topped my personal contacts. My journalistic pursuits established a life-long friendship with Bogdan Loebl, a poet known for blues lyrics. Even today, music serves me best when I merge it with literature. It is most satisfying when a hardback with poems is in my hands. As I was meeting different culture-animators I was also learning not to take myself too seriously.
     Then, enter the church itself. The early days were submerged is issues of a Protestant minority keeping its head above the sea of Roman Catholicism. We had a common enemy to deal with, but also had to carve out our own identity and social acceptance. The impact of those days showed itself richest when truth was expressed freely. My convictions were established as I learned to respect diversity of opinions. To top it off, a carpet became most useful when walked upon. Sweeping stuff under it was hardly a way to live.
     Later, as religious communicator, I was always dealing with labels. Being involved with my faith community's corporate public image, I had to be aware of the conservatives, liberals, sectarians, cultist, fundamentalists, and pagans ...
     From my experience, unless you closed your eyes and plugged your ears, you may have actually discovered that your religiosity would often be measured by how many religious words you used in your speech. But it was the warmth of an embrace that my brothers and sisters shared with each other made a difference in my childhood.
     It was in my church milieu where I also learned the meaning of Christian hope. It started with my grandma. On her deathbed she concluded, in a frank friend-to-friend conversation, that Jesus knew timing better than she did. Second coming will happen in His time, not mine, she said. [My faith community taught me to capitalize He when referring to Him. Several theologians also taught me to stick with the Gospel, and not an interpretation of it.]
     My church also gave me such concepts as, "do unto others," "love your neighbor," and stand up for the rights of the poor and everyone else who is treated unjustly. It also helped me discover a “1 out of 7” approach into time management. Sabbath day was created for me from the outset of our human history, I learned. That’s what I got from the Holy Word. It works for me. God loves to rest, too.
     Moving on, some other lessons from many a wise life-sojourner include not accepting mediocrity in any shape or form, using imagination, acting creatively, being bold and using risk as the currency that actually has value. Ignore the company of naysayers, became a commandment No. XI.  
     Today is not yesterday, was another gift of knowledge I cherish from encounters with assorted gurus. The wise members of various and diverse clubs taught me not to mistake my future for what is over already!
     My faith community introduced me to my wife, Grazyna. [Ms Fay, I resonate with your story about the improve days!] The gift multiplied and we were awarded a life of wonder and pride with Michal, our son. 
     So, my own family life teaches me to keep on refining the journey I am on. Live to the fullest, take one day at a time; practice generosity and affirm people in their own quest to life's fullness; engage in healthy living as the best investment in healthcare; and of course stand-up to the Big Pharma and the capitalist greed.
     To say more will require another cup of tea. 

Insa-dong, Seoul, Korea: Aroma and meaning in one cup of tea.

3/13/2012

Guest blog piece: Living Bodies, Living Foods or You Are What You Eat



Grażyna and I are enjoying good health these days. A statement like this begs an explanation.
            A few years ago, somewhere around 2004, my physician suggested that in order to maintain quality of life, I should slow down. My heart would work better. Then, after having a comprehensive health check-up, it was determined that there is a need to deal with a prostate cancer. I did that.
            A careful change in lifestyle, taking care of quality nutrition, exercising, and taking a day at a time – in my case – was matched, and even encouraged by Grażyna’s passionate embrace of learning and adopting healthy living, including putting on our table organically grown foods.
            Thus the Dąbrowski household life of healthy choices was born and turned into a conscious modus operandi.
            What follows is a guest blog entry by … Grażyna. She is working in Client Care Services at Adventist Risk Management, Inc. Here is her article, "Living Bodies, Living Foods," published today, March 13, in her company’s Solutions Newsletter (See: http://bit.ly/wy95Im - Reprinted by permission).

What started as a personal experiment, turned into a seven-year passion as I have journeyed the road of discovering raw foods and their benefits. In the spring of 2005, along with a group of my close friends, I embarked on a 21-day juicing and cleansing diet.
            Each of us did this for different reasons. Some dreamed about getting into their swimsuit before a summer beach vacation. Others, feeling stressed and unable to cope with demands of everyday living, looked for the promised energy increase, improved sleep, clearer thinking, and better concentration. Yet others, dealing with a particular health challenge, hoped for a cure. Each of us had different reasons for staying on the program, and in some way we all benefited from the results.
            During the cleansing and follow-up portion of the diet, only organic fruits and vegetables are used to get a maximum of nutrients. Plenty of pure, living spring water is also a must, to ensure removal of toxins and products of metabolic waste. (You can find a free spring water supply in your area, by going to www.findaspring.com)
            I recall my friends who took part in that adventure proudly displaying their thinner bodies, glowing skin, feeling healthier, energetic, and with more positive attitude.
            Although many of us found it hard to stay on the program the entire 21 days, the diet enabled us to change our eating habits. Some of us never went back to the way we ate before. Some included more fruits and vegetables in their diet. Others may have fallen of the wagon, but have never forgotten how to go back and reclaim the feeling of well-being.
            During this process I felt compelled to find out more about superfoods (goji berries, noni fruit, mangosteen, maca root, cacao beans, sea vegetables, marine phytoplankton, coconut oil, spirulina) and superherbs such as holy basil, turmeric extract, mucuna, rosehips, horsetail, stinging nettles, gingko biloba. I wanted to share with others how to strengthen and beautify their bodies.
            In the winter of 2009, I enrolled in the David “Avocado” Wolfe’s Ultimate Raw Nutrition Certification program, offered by the BodyMind Institute in Alberta, Canada. In December of 2011 I completed the curriculum. I have learned how to live naturally, sustainably and successfully in this world.
            The Greek philosopher, Hippocrates, who is also referred to as the father of medicine, famously said, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” A doctor-recommended five daily servings of fruits and vegetables might be hard to eat, but throwing it all in a blender, and drinking a nutritious green smoothie makes a much easier routine to follow.
            In my quest for staying healthy, I continue to be curious about how I can best nourish my body. Everyone knows the saying, “You are what you eat.” But how many of us take it seriously and make food choices that can affect us on the physical, emotional, and spiritual level? In all aspects of life – our work, exercise program, or nutrition – the little things add up. Health benefits are not achieved by something that is only done now and then. Consistency in healthy eating, exercise, and other choices is what makes the difference.
            An excellent customer service rule is based on three “C’s” – Consistency Creates Credibility. How about applying this golden rule to your living body? It will also lift your spirit up! –Grażyna Dąbrowska

NOTE: Be sure to consult your physician before making any changes to your regular diet or health care program.


3/04/2012

Democratically sanctioned flip-flopping



Like it or nor, anything you say or wear makes a political statement. Ever-since the fig leaf, one’s attire could be regarded as proper, elegant, avant-garde or sloppy, dependent on whatever occasion. These days you do not have to be a politician or an artist to make political statements. Just being on Facebook or tweeting your random thoughts is enough to become a subject of public notoriety.
            For some of us, it's our face that creates a commentary. In a sense, as the Polish writer, Witold Gombrowicz, mused, that you cannot escape from the face you already have.
            A few years ago, I recall, as I walked into our corporate office one humid August day, the security guard offered a comment, "On holiday, are we?" I happened not to be wearing a tie. These days, wearing a tie to work is an option. So, you were somebody, and it was expected you behaved in agreed way. If you didn't, someone felt obliged to offer a corrective reminder.
            In mid-February, Rep. Roscoe Bartlett, one of Maryland’s Republican politicians running for another term propped-up his election notoriety by allowing his office release information that appeared to support a legislation for a tax break for those who are sporting mustaches. If your political platform does not offer quality of public service, you opt for raising your profile in a PR fashion.
            Recognizable by his ever-present mustache, Bartlett – through his office - declared a denial: I didn’t do it. But his press secretary affirmed that the congressman is “Pro-Stache.” She looked at a legislation proposal sent by The American Mustache Institute, thought of it as a joke, yet for fun and without further endorsement from her boss she passed it up the congressional food chain.
            There must have been something to it, right? Far from a political endorsement, I tweeted that I am in support of a tax break for my mustache! My reasoning: tax breaks are good for at least 1% of the wealthy citizens!
            These days, there seems to be a common agreement that some politicians seem exempt from telling the truth, and prefer flip-flopping on their positions as their modus operandi. It is said that flip-flopping dates back to mid-1600s. A contemporary version of a flip-flop moment can now be measured in romneys, a designation offered by Jon Stewart of the Daily Show last week. According to him, a romney is a time-measure unit (3.5 hours) needed by a presidential aspirant Mitt Romney to change his view or position on a given topic.
            If politicians change their minds they seem to be exempt from being called liars. These days one can change a public stance on a moment's notice, based on one’s ability to have honesty or memory lapses. So, we – the public - forgive and forget. We accept the confusion as par for the course.
            Observing the presidential race of 2012 in the United States, we feel being fed with a reality of confusion and dis-functionality in which authenticity is at a premium. The candidates often serve us with their declared beliefs as being authentic and destined to receive democratic sanctioning.
            Traversing between my ancestral Polish pedigree and my current US reality, I note a common discomfort with the way political discourse in Poland is conducted. Many a citizen feels being pushed into making choices between two or more ugly realities. Whether here or there, we resolve to support the lesser option of what we would wish to have.
            My communication experience invites me to appreciate those who know how to make us believe in ... make-believe. Some of them are masters in making us “imagine as in play,” as by one definition.
            Take Janusz Palikot, a wunderkind of the Polish political milieu, a master of political PR. In a recent interview in Polityka weekly (Feb 29, 2012), he commented that no matter what he does, he lands with some kind of a face. "In a reality of politics, one cannot be authentic. One cannot be oneself to the fullest. I am at peace with it," he frankly stated.
            For Palikot, a leader of a movement that stunned the national scene with a huge parliamentary outcome for a movement named after his name, wearing a yellow jacket is just fine, and colors he uses have a theatrical dimension. So, he cuts his hair and puts on glasses, symbolically expressing a political change he noted in a political adversary, Jaroslaw Kaczynski after he lost his brother-president, Lech, in an air crush. 
            Mr. Kaczynski’s chameleon-like behavior issued a license to others to do likewise. Palikot said he "needed to disguise” himself in order to save his political chances and not become a sacrificial goat in someone else’s political play.
            We don’t have to imagine living among chameleons. We all play make-believe games with greater or smaller roles in them. Some of us excel in a Venetian carnival of masks. Wearing colorful, artsy masks, we hide behind a make-believe dance of pretense. Yet, when a failure comes along, it takes time to admit that it was so.
            Yet, we love the attention we get.
            My own romney-moment gets it’s hearing in a reality of my own, personal authenticity. It is far deeper than being seen in wearing Levis’ to a church service, or to opera, but in realizing that the cash I spend is play money.
            Jesus did not restrain himself in calling his hypocritical adversaries, who were the masters of moral make-believe of his time, by their own name: “You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside.” [Read: Matthew 23: 27 NIV].
            So, I pause. Will 3.5 hours be enough to recognize a need to change my mind about what I just wrote?
Pretense alive and kicking: Festival parade dancer wearing a Pinocchio-like mask in Cuzco, Peru.