Month: April 2012

Unleashed: A curious bit of follow up.

I want to be upfront about something. The post, “It’s a Curious Bit of Culture,” from the inception of the idea, worried me. When I conceived the first sentence all the way up until when Laura, my wonderful wife and editor, read it. I knew that I was self-editing in the extreme. What’s wrong with self-editing? I left a lot of myself on the cutting room floor out of fear of what my audience might think.

This is possibly the first time that I thought self-editing was a bad thing. I was surprised by the number of readers, friends and people I didn’t even know who were reading my blog who responded either directly or via comments on Facebook. The comments and reactions were enlightening. I am very new to this, making an effort to put myself and my writing out there for the world to see. It’s hard not to be afraid of the reactions that I’ll receive. It’s not unlike stage-fright and as a writer; you tend to hold back at first.

This Tuesday, I had the good fortune to hear a young woman, Olivia Rusk, speak about her challenges growing up with a disorder that causes her to lose her hair. Olivia is a teenager that speaks against bullying and talks about being who you are, instead of worrying about what other people think. I thought, if this teenager can do it, why am I afraid of being myself?

If you haven’t yet read, “It’s a Curious Bit of Culture,” please do so now. And without further preamble, the author’s reaction to his fear and what the post should have expressed.

Let’s start at the words “Why is that?” and move forward.

How else do we know how well we’re doing, if we don’t have a yardstick by which to measure? We do have a way to measure ourselves. We all do. It’s built in equipment standard on every human model, with the exception of sociopaths and other mentally ill fragments of society. We refer to it as a conscience, Super Ego, Karma, or simply the knowledge of good and evil.

The problem with the word “evil” is that people tend to argue semantics. What is “evil?” When people think of evil, they think Nazis, they think Osama Bin Laden, and in other countries they think Americans. I personally think of Teletubbies.


Behold, evil in all it's colorful glory.
Behold, evil in all its colorful glory.


Merriam – Webster Dictionary Online defines evil as the following:

1)      Evil

  1. Morally reprehensible: sinful, wicked
  2. Arising from actual or imputed bad character or conduct

2)      Evil

  1. Archaic: Inferior
  2. Causing discomfort or repulsion
  3. Disagreeable

3)      Evil

  1. Causing harm
  2. Marked by misfortune

We, in this society, as a general rule tend to associate the word evil with the very first definition “morally reprehensible.” If you can muster the courage and strength to accept that beyond the accepted definition the word actually means much, much more.

“…while the truncheon may be used in lieu of conversation, words will always retain their power. Words offer the means to meaning and for those who will listen, the enunciation of truth. And the truth is, there is something terribly wrong with this country, isn’t there?” ~V, V for Vendetta

That’s the point isn’t it? A word can, by itself, inspire extremely strong emotions. They don’t necessarily have to be strongly negative either, such as the many colorful and clearly intellectual words used to describe someone of another race, they simply need to evoke emotion.

What if I were to tell you that you’ve done something evil? The blank look on your face most likely represents your social conditioning to the aforementioned accepted definition of evil. I’m not saying you’re satanic, that you have any interest in the genocide of an entire creed of people, that you’re a terrorist or that you’ve tortured me with children’s television programs. No. However, you have caused harm, discomfort or been disagreeable at some point. We’ve all done it.

We are both culturally and evolutionarily programmed to be self-centered and yet, interestingly enough, despite this fact we rarely make an effort to measure ourselves with the slightest regard to how we affect others. We measure our rank in society. We measure our reach on social media.  We measure how many friends and followers we have on Facebook and Twitter. How about measuring the good you have personally done in this world against the bad? That’s right; I’m telling you that life is not a zero-sum game. A zero-sum game, if you are unfamiliar, is the idea that if you add the losses and gains of two opponents then the resulting number is zero.

“The more complex societies get and the more complex the networks of interdependence within and beyond community and national borders get, the more people are forced in their own interests to find non-zero-sum solutions. That is, win–win solutions instead of win–lose solutions…. Because we find as our interdependence increases that, on the whole, we do better when other people do better as well — so we have to find ways that we can all win, we have to accommodate each other….” ~ Bill Clinton

You can’t win a game when the rules aren’t set. There are far too many variables controlled externally from yourself. You don’t “win” at life, unless you’re talking about Milton-Bradley’s Game of Life. Although, I think winning at that game leaves you feeling almost as hollow as actually attempting to win at real life. The Milton-Bradley’s Game of Life was initially created in 1860. It wasn’t until 1991 that they added “rewards” for doing good things in “Life” such as recycling, helping the homeless, etc. I think that says something about the goals of people. A game designed around “winning” at life is scored by getting married, having kids, doing what everyone expects of you and ultimately retiring to either “Millionaire Acres” or “The Poor Farm.” That’s right. The 1960s version of the game says you lose unless you’re a millionaire.

That’s utter crap, by the way.  You don’t need to measure bank accounts, progress, jobs, clothing or any of the useless “fruits of our labor.” We need to measure the good we do. What needs to occur is balancing of the karma checkbook, and let’s be honest, many of us have balances that are unjustifiably in the red. Pay attention, today, of all days, while this is fresh in your mind. Be honest with yourself, write down every act of “good” and every act of “evil.”

How would you measure up? Keep a journal of your actions that impact others. I’ll do it with you. I admit I’m an asshole. The best of my friends will tell you that being friends with me is like trying to cuddle a porcupine. I could be better. I’ll even get you started with a few lines from today’s journal.

1.  Carefully challenged a person’s belief on Facebook (Good)

The reason this classifies as good is because instead of telling the person they were inferior or just bashing their belief system. I presented my point in a relevant and hopefully meaningful way.  You could argue that it’s evil to argue with someone, but I believe discourse done respectfully is always a good thing.

2.  I wrote this post (Good)

I feel no ill-will towards anyone with the creation of this post. It is my observation and for that I expect to be challenged, respectfully.  This post is meant to hopefully inspire people to take a look inward and to measure within instead of without. How can that be a bad thing?

3.  I argued with my wife (Evil)

As many of the married people in the audience can tell you it doesn’t matter how you fight, it’s usually a bad thing. There is nothing worse than watching the person you love cry, whether or not you’re in the right. Laura and I have a great relationship. We don’t often fight, but when we do it’s rarely handled well. We all have areas of opportunity, this is one of mine.

That’s all you get, this is about all of us. Not just me.

Do it for one day. Do it longer if you’re brave enough. But above all, be honest with yourself.

Watch those things you do without really thinking. Do you drive aggressively? Do you carry a bit of a chip on your shoulder? Do you participate in passive racism, classism, etc? Do you act as if you are better than others? Do you complain about your co-workers (even if they deserve it or make your life difficult)? Do you treat any particular people badly? Do your self-centered behaviors impact others negatively? I’d love to see the results of anyone’s journal. Please send in any that you feel comfortable sharing.

For each item in your journal, as I did, note Good or Evil. There isn’t a gray area. You know which category something fits into. Now count them, how does it measure out if you were completely honest?  This might be tough for some of us, it’s hard to see some of the things we take for granted that are negative to those in our wake. That’s also not to say that one good = one bad. To be clear, I’m not saying help an old lady across the street and then push her in front of a bus and you’ll even things out. You’ll know what items really weigh more than others. How are you to know if you’re not used to looking at yourself with a microscope?

One of the things I’ve come to enjoy about the organization that I currently work for is their adoption of a code known as “The Four-Way Test.”

  • Is it the Truth?
  • Is it fair to all concerned?
  • Will it build goodwill and better friendships?
  • Will it be beneficial to all concerned?

I’m still not here to tell you what the “right thing” is. What I can tell you is that our observable culture is driving us to madness in the pursuit of money, fame, fortune and having a bigger and better pile of useless trinkets than the next person.

Despite what some people may tell you it doesn’t matter how hard you work. You will not pull off a so-called success story where you rise from the depths of poverty to be the owner of some ridiculously profitable empire. If we were paid by the amount of hard work we do, this country’s factory workers, retail, service and custodial workers would be the billionaires.

You may not be able to afford to throw money at a problem. You may not be able to save everyone. You may not be able to feed your own family from week to week. You are still very much in charge of the amount of good you do in this world. Keep track, that’s what they always tell you right? Winners keep score. I firmly believe that if you are honest with yourself, you’ll find that you’ve got some work to do. I know you can think of some good to do in this world, even if it’s only for your family, to console a friend, to a give a hug when one is needed, whatever the case may be.

Do it today.

~Don Sedberry, unleashed.

It’s a curious bit of culture isn’t it?

You probably know someone who is an asshole. Pardon the expression, it may be brutal, but it’s necessary. We all know one. It is said that there is one in every group. I have even heard the addendum that if you don’t think so, you’re probably it.

You’ve probably experienced this thought a time or two on your daily commute. “Wow, what an asshole!” This is usually in reference to the driver that rode your bumper, sped around you, cut you off and then slammed on his/her brakes upon realizing that you were going slow because of the people in front of you.

How about this one? You’re moving towards a line in the grocery store, you’re less than 3 feet away when…some cranky old lady decides to move from one line to your line because she’s afraid you might make it out of the store two nanoseconds before she does.

What about retail? Have you ever worked retail? If you have, perhaps you recognize this customer asshole. A customer calls to yell at you about <<insert policy here>> and you repeatedly inform them that unfortunately that’s the company’s policy and as you are an employee you have no power to change <<insert policy here>>. The customer proceeds to scream at you, ask for a manager, to which you reply calmly, “My manager is going to tell you the same thing I am telling you, as we are all bound by the corporate policies.” You hand the phone to the manager and the manager caves into the customer after 5 seconds of listening to them. Yep, that’s right. There are two assholes in this example.

“How many assholes do we have on this ship, anyway?” ~ Dark Helmet, Spaceballs

"I knew it. I'm surrounded by assholes!"

What about the person who walks past an African American teenager and edges away, averts their eyes as they try to stay as far away as possible? Because you know that teenager could be a dangerous “thug.” What about the person who walks past a homeless person begging for change and never makes eye contact, never responds when the homeless person says “good day” and then just pretends that the homeless person doesn’t exist? What about the person who says that homeless person should just “pull themselves up by the bootstraps” and thinks that they’re lazy and useless to society, without actually acknowledging the situations that brought them to the state of being homeless?

How about the person who claims they have the right to control what a woman does with her body? What about the politician who tells you how you should live your life? What about the person who says you’re wrong because the person you’re in love with is the same sex as you?

What about the person who tells you that your religion is wrong because theirs is different? The person who claims to be a Christian on Sunday and reports to Satan on Monday? What about the person who talks about how devout they are while hating everyone who isn’t like them?

What about the person who talks about their “rich people” problems to the people around them who aren’t as fortunate in their own lives? How about the person who smokes right outside the door to a building so that there’s no way to avoid smelling their filthy habit?

What about the person who complains that everyone else isn’t doing their fair share? What about the elected politicians who allow their opinions to be swayed by big business as opposed to those of the constituents? What happened to “We the People?” What about the people who sit idly by and make no effort to change this system? What about the people who sit on their pedestal and judge others for the money they make, the clothes they wear, the words they say, the way their pants droop, the bag of candy they carry, the baggy jeans, the ridiculous shades and the way they walk?

What about the guy who wrote this post? Man, what an asshole he must be.  The truth is, there is something very wrong with the way our culture is. We have shows like American Idol, Dancing with the Stars, The Voice and America’s Got Talent teaching us that there’s always someone better and focusing on judging every single person with the guts to stand up and be who they dream of being.

Why is that?

Don’t say you don’t think you’re better than someone else. I know you’re thinking it.  It seems to be human nature to measure ourselves in comparison to those around us. How else do we know how well we’re doing, if we don’t have a yardstick by which to measure?

Do you really need to measure against someone else in order to feel that you’ve done right by yourself? Truthfully, I don’t think you do. I think doing the right thing feels good. You know when you’ve done the right thing. You can just feel it, even if there’s a repercussion; you know that you’ve done the right thing.

I’m not here to tell you what the right thing is. I’m not here to preach, I’m just as guilty as everyone else. What I have hoped to accomplish in this post was simple. I want to draw your attention to the need for change in our culture. Our culture is poisoning us, our culture is leading to terrible television, subdued and depressed workforce, the inability to rise up and change for the better and something I dread more than anything, acceptance of this as the norm.


Echoes of November (Originally Published July 2010 in “From the Well House”)

When the dark night falls ashen on the curtails of our dreams,
It is with simplified understanding of the haste in which we live.
What is this furious passion, quick and object-oriented,
Where do we draw the line between the needs of self and obligation to give?

In these sighing nights and the moments before we sleep,
We cannot relax, no way to drink in the day and seek reprieve.
You’re never too old, and it’s never too late,
No matter what you say or in your mind, silently deceive.

The dreams you have, these words you speak, these thoughts in your mind,
The sweet abandon of a summer lost, and the wayward souls of the dearly departed.
During what restless un-slumber do we saunter through this life unfulfilled,
Sleep walking, dreaming, toiling, and never taking the time, life never started.

You choose these paths among the rows of books and cobwebs in your mind,
You choose whether or not to believe that you can find room in your planetary stay.
It’s never that you’re too old, and it’s never too late,
There’s fear in your heart and dreams in your face, passed over for just one more day.

The world begs and beckons us onward, further, frightened for loss of status quo,
We build and burn, collect and squander, develop and undo, dream and lack of changing will.
The path to wealth is paved in almost certain disappointment, gleaned free of dreams,
As life winds forward into a career and dream, did you follow those reasons or ignore them still?

Your life, and your sons and daughters now, wavering still on the brink of repetition,
Failing to acknowledge the mistakes of a life lived with supposed impunity to your dreams.
You heart tells you that it’s getting old, and you mind tells you as yet… it’s not too late,
You keep life busy, full of soccer games and laborious work, all while your inner child screams.

The dawning morning of a later life, the weakness of brittle bone and sullen thought,
The children of yours, children no longer, they continue the toiling cycle and so it goes.
The world has become smaller now, able to travel less day by day, muscles weak and harsh,
The short glimmers of the hope of childhood dreams forgotten amidst the aging echoes.

Your dusk is coming soon and darkness sweeps across the landscape of your life,
Your body weakened and unable, both laboriously and indignant, falls silently to bed,
It’s absolutely now, that you’re too old, you now know, that it’s too late.
Your heart is no longer crying, no there’s no energy for that, the futile loss of the dead.

The silence of the night stirs the sullen ash of lives gone by burned brightly,
Brightly in haste and toil, demanded and strongly used, without regard to self.
These are the passions of the world, the objectivity or lack thereof, of our nature,
Where truly all our hopes and dreams, life ambitions, only abide on the dark empty shelf.

The Evolution of a Story – Bernard’s Story

As you may have seen in my previous post, I laid out the framework for a story. This post is to show how a series of bullet points grows into story of it’s own accord. I attended Indy WordLab on Monday night and found myself inspired to go back and take another look at the Bernard story. I feel it truly has potential to be a great story and merely requires I take the time to tell it.  Please comment fervently.

 Working Title: Bernard’s Story

The old room smelled of wood aching to see sunlight but falling repeatedly short of success. This space had always existed to serve as a place of mediation. The ancient table ran long across the floor that creaked the arrival of the two seeking resolution. Bernard took his usual seat on the barely lit side of the table. The other man slid to the opposite side and settled, arms crossed, into the padding of his chair.

Bernard peered over his glasses at his companion. He coughed out a “hem ahem,” clearing his throat. Before he could speak, however, the fellow across the table began the conversation.

“I think you are wrong about them, Bernard,” he stated, in a voice raspy with age and wisdom, but yet a depressing quality rang through every word. “I think you underestimate them,” he continued.

“You can’t fault me, for having faith,” Bernard retorted in a matter-of-fact tone.

After a long and yet suitable pause, Bernard’s companion simply stated, “Perhaps not, Bernard, I truly hope that I am wrong, for their sake.” At this, Bernard solemnly nodded.


The office of Gary Davis was on the eighth floor. Gary held dominion atop a building bearing his last name. A cup of cappuccino was steaming aromatically while it waited for Gary to finish the morning paper. He picked up his mug and moved towards the window. He started every morning at his window. There was something relaxing about watching the city rise from its slumber.

Gary’s gaze drifted slowly across the skyline of the city until finally his eyes came to rest on the street below. The street was alive with the walking masses of pedestrians. The sidewalk looked like a flowing stream that cascaded around a bus stop that contained a bench, like it was some lost island. The whirlwind of grays and blacks created by the people walking in either direction was broken only by the occasional brightly dressed individual. Up in his office, Gary was sporting a very similar gray suit. Gary, having finished naval-gazing, brought his attention back to the avenue below.

Suddenly a ripple in the stream appeared and seemed to emanate from the bus stop bench. The effect continued to widen around the bench until the source of the disturbance was visible. A stumbling man had interrupted the flow and then staggered, lost his balance, and collapsed against the bench.  The front of his shirt was drenched in a deep shade of red and his hands, also covered in blood, clutched his side.

Gary stopped sipping from his mug and a look of mild concern stretched across his face. He looked as if he might do something, but then looked around as if checking for someone watching him and brought the steaming cup to his lips once more.


James Wilhelm was a family man. The pictures his daughters had given him were attached to his visor. Jasmine and Serenity were written in girly flourish on each picture. He looked at the pictures of them and then straightened his tie in the mirror. A look of intense worry creased his face and he checked the pile of resumes on the seat next to him again for perhaps the hundredth time that car ride.

The car in front of James looked like it was having trouble. It had begun to jerk and then slowed to stop. The driver had tried to nudge over to the side of the road but hadn’t gotten very far.  James glared at his watch in frustration. He swore loudly and exclaimed, “I don’t fucking have time for this.”  Leaning back against the seat, he closed his eyes and stared upwards into his eyelids. He took a breath and then began checking his rearview mirror for a suitable opening in the massive traffic jam that lined the road next to him. As the horns began to emulate their owners’ disgust, James closed his eyes for a moment and tried to relax.

The car door opened and a man climbed out, he smiled but had a look of embarrassment cast over his face. He popped the hood and moved to the front of his car to poke around.

James grunted out a polite wave before the man was out of sight. A gap opened in the traffic and James jerked the wheel with a frustrated movement. He looked at his watch, he sighed and muttered, “I have to get there.”



Bernard and the Shadowy Figure

Below, you’ll find a very short story. I hope you enjoy!



Shadowy Figure: Oh, I think you’re wrong Bernard. I think you underestimate them.

Bernard: You can’t fault me for having faith.

Shadowy Figure: Perhaps not. I truly hope that I’m wrong Bernard, for their sake.


<<Setting Change>>

The scene changes to a street level view of a busy city street. There are many people bustling across the scene on this chilly spring morning.


<<8th Floor Office, Window facing the street>>

The nameplate on the desk reads Gary Denver. Behind the desk Gary is lifting a coffee mug to his lips. He is staring out over the street. He appears to be studying the late arrivers. He’s always early.  He’s always there before everyone else. Gary follows his gaze back down to the sidewalk pedestrians.



The scene seems perfectly normal. Until a man, stumbling and bumping into the others as he moves through the crowd, begins to crumple to his knees in front of a bench. After a brief shudder, he sprawls to the ground with his hands sliding out from under him. His hands come away from his body drenched in red.



Gary slowly pulls his coffee away from his lips which are creasing into a look of concern.  He resigns to watch to make sure that the man gets help but doesn’t move from the window or make any effort to retrieve his phone.



The masses of people divide around the fallen man and converge on the other side. No one stops; they all just make as much effort as possible to avoid the man and still stay on the sidewalk. Everyone pretends to not notice him with an equal amount of effort exerted to avoid him.



Gary watches with a stoic sureness, the look on his face shows that he is absolutely certain that there is one Good Samaritan among them. Though, as Gary continues to watch it is clear that his worry is betraying his certainty.



Several minutes have passed and the color is draining from the fallen man’s face. He is clearly dying. The crowd continues to weave around him as though he were an island in a stream.



Gary’s resolve weakens. He leaves the window and heads for the phone on his desk in disgust with the people below. He dials 911 and speaks to the operator and hangs up after giving the location.

Gary returns to the window and looks below. He no longer sees the man below. The crowd is no longer parting. He relaxes and assumes that someone had in fact called for emergency services. The paramedics must have arrived and carried the man away while he was on the phone. The look on his face shows that he believes all is well. He slumps into his office chair, a disgusted looking expression sliding on to his face. He calls a friend and complains of the audacity of the people on the street.


<<Bernard and the Shadowy Figure Conversation>>

Bernard: I admit it, you were right and I had such hopes for them.

Shadowy Figure: I never thought you’d admit defeat. Is it time then?

Bernard: <gloomily> Yes. You’re free to pass judgment. They are clearly not what I hoped they’d be.



I hope that you enjoyed it, I welcome your comments.