Uniquely Human

I’m in a funny place these days. The past two years have brought so much change, pain, insight, and plain old confusion. Simply put, I’m lost, and when I’m lost, I write. So here goes…

In 2020, we collectively came to terms with a pandemic, ignorance and deadly politics that were unforgivable, in my humble opinion. The start of 2021 came in like a quiet, sleeping beast. Then, January 6th rolled around, and the country lost it’s damn mind! An attempted coup at the Capitol, our sacred, national shrine, paralyzed us as we watched it unfold on live television. I sat then with a sinking feeling in my gut, very similar to the feeling I’ve had for the past 24 hours.

Is it possible that the person responsible for this action, the one that could’ve ended it, will never be held accountable for the damage caused by his malignant narcissism? The deadly events that unfolded did so, and will continue to do so as long as this conman struggles to stay out of prison, not just for this, but for all the crimes he’s committed in his lifetime.

Newsflash: That’s what this is all about: one man’s efforts to avoid prison, and nothing else. Prison will destroy him. I can’t even imagine what would become of him if he ever donned the orange jumpsuit. But I will feel exactly zero remorse. In an effort to stay free, he will run again for office to make himself immune to prosecution. Simply put, if he dies in office, he’ll never go to jail. That, I believe, is the goal – is HIS goal – at any cost. We will all suffer because of it, even his staunchest supporters. He’s not stupid when it comes to himself. That’s what malignant narcissism is: an inability to feel empathy, to admit any fault or deficiency, and to always put himself first, even above close family members. And he will turn on family, eventually, when his feet get too close to the fire. He has to! He can’t help it – he is mentally ill. He is incapable of doing the right thing because the science tells us this.

Don’t believe me? Don’t want to look up the traits of malignant narcissism (and there are more than what I mentioned)? Don’t feel like consulting with a psychotherapist or analyst?

Fine. If you are one of those people who disagrees with me, you will never agree because you’ve dismissed science in the first place. So I can say that Darwinism, which you don’t believe in, will do its thing. That is, sadly, very preventable. Don’t underestimate the power of the natural world.

We humans have the capacity to think, to question, to analyze, to solve, to care for something or someone other than ourselves. This sustains us and our collective continuity. This is why we are still around as a species. We’ve learned how to use our thoughts and reason to cross oceans, to grow crops in massive amounts, to make artificial limbs, to transplant hearts, livers, lungs, corneas, to travel to space, to make vaccines that will combat those forces that can take us out. It’s an adaptation for our survival, the same way that other species adapted their respective abilities to stay alive (like camouflage, the growth of limbs, lungs and thumbs, the development of lethal toxins to ward off challenges from other species, etc.).

And if you believe in God, you believe He/She doesn’t make mistakes. We were given this mental capacity for a reason: to improve our lives and to stay alive!

But we also do stupid things with our innate power of choice. Face it: When was the last time you watched another species (a cow, a dog, a turtle, a bacteria) get in a car and wrap it around a tree because they drank too much? It’s a funny thing to envision, but not funny because we should know better, given our advanced brains. We sure can be so very stupid!

The ability to think, to question, to analyze, to solve, to CHOOSE at this high level exists only in humanity. The ability to destroy, to lie, to neglect, also, only exists there.

Think about it.

I sit here this New Year’s Day morning, typing and trying to make sense of my thoughts and emotions. Yet, I’m still in my funk from last night. My reflection on the past year brings about pain, sadness, loss, and very little hope. I see death everywhere I turn. Sure, there were things that affected me positively in 2021. But they seem so irrelevant as I observe the larger problems all around me.

I will be 53 this year, and it feels to me that growing old means I’m living just to watch others die. My dear, late friend Stanley Kay used to say that growing old meant growing lonely, as you watch dear family and friends go before you.

Death doesn’t scare me. Loneliness, on the other hand, terrifies me!

My New Year’s plea to everyone is to simply use your God-given, very human brains in the upcoming days. Take care of life – in EVERY form – not just the human one. Study history so you know the terrible mistakes we’ve made, and so you can see the warning signs of repetition when they appear! Be proactive when it comes to your community and your health, since that level of involvement IS within your scope of power.

God created humans with all sorts of gifts and talents. Do you think God would approve of you neglecting the fruits of our species’ collective labor?

I implore everyone to get vaccinated!!! Do your homework!

It takes an entire planet – not just a village.

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Letters from Home

I thought I’d be okay. After all, it’s been nearly three weeks since he passed. But I couldn’t make myself open even one of the letters. They were written on his signature yellow legal-pad paper. As I stared down at the pile, I could see the backward-slanting, strangely beautiful writing through the folded paper. I know his writing won’t be much easier to read once I open the paper and peer at the forward-slanting, always first-written inked words: “Dear Liesl”.

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Telling on myself

I am a white middle aged woman. I’m a daughter, sister and mother. I’m an active duty soldier. I’m an animal advocate. I’m a jazz musician. I’m an empath. I’m a recovering Catholic who loves the art and ritual but hates the learned guilt. Continue reading

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“The victim wasn’t wearing a seatbelt”

“The victim wasn’t wearing a seatbelt”

How many times have we read that line at the end of a fatal accident report? When you read it, your lips purse, and the thought goes through your head, “Why didn’t they just buckle up? It would have been so easy.” We put our seatbelts on every single time we get in the car for many reasons. It’s the law! It took a long time and thousands of deaths before people listened to the science and statistical data, and enacted mandatory seatbelt laws. Some of us remember the days when we were freely tossed into cars as youngsters. My sister has a permanent inch-long scar on the side of her face because she wasn’t wearing a seatbelt in the back of our Griswold station wagon. My mom had to slam on the brakes suddenly, and her tiny body was thrown into the back door. I don’t remember why she didn’t have it on, but I don’t think any of us six kids were wearing seatbelts. It wasn’t the norm. It was inconvenient, especially for large families like mine, to make sure everyone was strapped in all the time. And, even with the best made plans, kids sometimes take their seatbelts off for no good reason. But the fact is that seatbelts save lives. We know that now. So why do people still get into cars and skip this step? Continue reading

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Gratitude…It’s Enough

If we all belong to the Infinite, then we need no further justification for our existence. Explaining the miracle of life is impossible for our limited genesis. The spark that lit us up from the moment we came to be has never been recreated from an empty human page. Therefore, we are part of what has always been from the beginning, created by a Power that we are incapable of wrapping our heads around other than knowing It exists. Continue reading

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Diva with Nancy Wilson

It’s hard to believe this is nearly 17 years old.  I hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Forever, a legend, Ms. Nancy Wilson…

The Incomparable Nancy Wilson

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The Rinse Cycle

When I think back upon the misadventures of my life, I have been slow to attach labels to the things that I felt in various stages.  After all, once we attach a label to something, we rob ourselves of the freedom to describe it any other way.  We build a box around the thing to which no other identification shall seep.  Perhaps it’s easier for us to digest truths when we decide to understand them by giving them a name – an example of our very human need to be in control. Continue reading

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The Power of One

I began blogging in 2012 after several exchanges with a newly found friend via email as I toured the country with the Jazz Ambassadors. The correspondence started as friendly banter but quickly developed into a sort of personal discovery as we grew a friendship across the miles. While touring presented opportunities for growth and study, it also created an environment of danger for someone like me: a prisoner of abysmal loneliness in the absence of my family and despite the presence of my peers. My friend, based in New York City, encouraged the daily conversation that I needed at the time. I don’t think he knew what a simple gift he so selflessly provided. To say I was grateful would be a complete understatement, now. Continue reading

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In Full Retreat…

“The worst of life looks beautiful, as it slips away in full retreat.” – Bonnie Raitt

Winding down another tour with the Jazz Ambassadors, I’m reflecting on the roller coaster of emotions we’ve ridden since this trek began. Losing one’s spouse suddenly is not something that anyone ever anticipates, but that’s exactly what happened to one of our musical brothers in the hours after we left Fort Meade for this 37-day tour. Stolen from him in a moment, our dear colleague’s wife and soul mate was gone, and his future, forever altered. How does one recover from that? Continue reading

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29 DEC 2012 – New York City

Liesl Whitaker

I’m sitting in a small, one bedroom apartment on the West Side of Manhattan.  Snow is blowing by the window, giving the room an even cozier vibe.  I’m under blankets, in my jeans, truly just hanging out.  I just finished drying my hair after venturing through the weather in the name of nourishment.  I found a small Irish pub owned by an elderly Irish couple.  I was the first and only customer, as I’m sure this weather has bound many people to their living rooms.  I made a little small talk with the owners, sipped a pint of draught, and dined on her homemade chicken and vegetable soup, all in the glow of a dark room, lit only by the black and white movie coming from the TV behind the bar.  It was a truly cozy hour spent in the company of a lovely couple and Jimmy Stewart.  A real…

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