Enlightened Conflict

fall winter and finding meaning in death

December 1st, 2016




“What I fear I avoid.

What I fear I pretend does not exist.

What I fear is quietly killing me.


Would there were a festival for my fears, a ritual burning of what is coward in me, what is lost in me.


Let the light in before it is too late. “



 Jeanette Winterson from “The Green Man”



“Autumn shows us how beautiful it is to let things go.”




(via ginger-and-preppy)





Well <part 1>.


I just read a an article in one of those local papers you can pick up at Healthy Grocery stores which attempted to discuss how this time of the year <October/November/December> is the season of ‘decay and death’ … and how it was a potent time to connect with the dead <and highlighted several celebrations around the world which do just that>.

This thought was combined with the thought we human folk balk at connecting with death because it … well … seems morbid to do so.



and summer regrets

               getting rid

       of winter wishes


summer and i




Well <part 2>.


I balk at the whole concept of ‘decay & death’ as well as the ‘morbid‘ thought.


Simplistically, seasons remind of us the cycle of Life <not death> and that death, in and of itself a sad event, contains at its very core the very simple concept that without Death, there is no Life.


This was immortalized in pop culture by Blood Sweat & Tears in their absolutely fabulous song “and when I die”:



And when I die and when I’m dead, dead and gone,
there’ll be one child born and a world to carry on, to carry on.

I’m not scared of dying and I don’t really care.
If it’s peace you find in dying, well, then let the time be near.
If it’s peace you find in dying, when dying time is here,
just bundle up my coffin cause it’s cold way down there,
I hear that’s it’s cold way down there, yeah, crazy cold way down there.
And when I die and when I’m gone,
there’ll be one child born and a world to carry on, to carry on.



While each Life is a stepping stone for every future generation each death represents a stepping stone for … well … the future.

dialogue with pain


I don’t need any Eastern religion wisdom to remind me of this … I think we all know this.

Now … I will admit that connecting with this thought is much much easier for us when we remove any personalized death and accept it as simply a turning of generations. Therefore … one of the reasons we do not celebrate death is because it can get too personal. And if that is a reason … it sure as hell is a good one.


But death itself?


While death is something we dislike, facing seasons remain something we must face year in and year out. It is a constant affirmation of the turning of time and that some things we may have gained will most likely be inevitably lost in the natural turn of time.


And, yes, as today is December 1st I am reminded that Winter is the time of Life’s strategic retreat and conservation of what gives it all life.


It is not death. And it is not decay.


It is Life’s thoughtful way to insure its existence and survival.


It is the time of incubation and rest and restoration for all things to come in the following year.


I could also suggest that winter is a time of reflection and … well … comfort. In winter’s dark nights the stars are at their clearest and we have the opportunity to see them as the sparks of potential and wishes and dreams and … well … Life. Uhm. And dreaming is never a bad thing … particularly during the ‘ebb tide of seasonal Life.’


I will not argue that as Life recedes in autumn and rests in winter we do, at least emotionally, get closer to connecting with death … but I do balk at thinking of autumn & winter as ‘things associated with death.’


.... a time to Reflect ......

…. a time to Reflect ……

I would argue it actually does a nice job of reminding us we need to let go of things. and, sure, maybe we connect with ‘the dead’ better at this time because … well … it reminds us to celebrate what we had and embrace letting go.


And that is the thing about winter … it demands to not only be felt but also that you meet it on its terms. Even better … Winter demands us to let go of things we most typically hold onto with ragged claws.


You cannot refuse its existence and you cannot ignore what was because what is … is … well … is starkly different. Where Life was once obvious it is now starkly absent.


I would note that all Eastern mysticism and ‘being in touch with the universe’ and the ‘natural ebb of the earth’ and all that stuff, at its core, just suggests that we pay attention. Pay attention to whatever energy seasons give us … and more often than not that energy it gives us is … uhm … just good ole fashioned thinking. It gives us the energy to think about our lives, lives lost and lives yet to be lived.


Acknowledgement of all of that increases your overall connection not just with ‘the universe’ but rather to the eternal pattern of life and invests a sense of energy into pretty much everything <yourself and Life>.


And just as Death breaks things down to the bare essence, winter does the same.

And maybe that is the connection.


When things are at their barest, when we are drawn closer to endings rather than beginnings, we inevitably ponder the ‘great perhaps.’


Back in September I wrote this on the first day of Fall:




I think we all seek a great perhaps of “what I know can be”. I think we all know what a better world really looks like. I think we all want to see the beauty that can be found in what is better in everyone.


And maybe it is within Fall and the falling leaves we begin to better grasp that failed plans and failed dreams can beget new plans and new dreams. And maybe it is within Winter where , in ts barest of bare essences, we are forced to begin envisioning what could be in plans and dreams because it is left to us standing in the bare environment around us.




What I do know about all seasons is that they are markers of Time … and poetically speaking … Time is always hungry for many of the things we dearly want to endure and do.


This makes Time both beautiful and doomed. Yeah. Time is beautiful and doomed. And that is where I really believe the whole ‘morbid time of the year’ goes astray.



for it seems all of Fall’s stars

                       have fallen

and often summer and i

run through the last warm days

through the cool grass

       gathering stars caught in people’s dreams

with the intent

           to toss them to Winter

through windows of dawn.


Summer & i




We, especially in the West, hunger for time.

Conversely, time itself <to us Western folk> has a hunger and its hunger is for ‘things.’

It is a nasty emptiness waiting to be filled.




If there is one thing humans are fucking great at … it is filling time and stuffing whatever we can into any emptiness we can find.


Death and dying makes us reflect. It forces us to do so. Just as the bare often starkness of Winter does.

And it makes us reflect on what ‘stuff’ we have crammed into whatever Time we have had.


Oh. Maybe what it really forces us to do is reflect upon time. and that is where death truly makes us feel uncomfortable … not any morbid feeling but rather it’s just being dead livingthat we have been indoctrinated to focus on living … living life to its fullest, not wasting any time, to do lists that never get completed and just doing shit <just do it>.


Nowhere in that list of shit I just shared does death have a place. In fact. Death represents the exact opposite of everything society & our culture almost demands we think about 24/7.


And when forced to face death, or feel a need to connect, we are much less likely to celebrate but rather assess … assess our doing mantra versus ‘stop.’




Most of us don’t purposefully ignore connecting with death and those who have passed away because of sadness <because if it were we would be more likely to actually do it because the opposite of sadness is reflecting upon the inevitable happiness> but rather because death and past lives force us to reflect upon our ‘doing accomplishment’ <as well as it forces us to stop … which compounds the feeling of ‘shit, I haven’t done enough and I am not doing anything now>.



If you can get beyond the ‘doing’ aspect inherently death is more about sadness <loss of something or someone or time> more so than morbidity. Conquer the sadness and you have conquered death.


And all of this is just not that difficult <if you are willing to actually think about it>.


winter-fall-snow-season-change-lifeSeveral cultures do celebrate the autumnal solstice as the time life & death is closest. I would argue it is less a celebration but rather recognition of that which came before, and that which is dying, so that what will be will come forth.

Generations beget generations just as falls beget springs.


Death begets life.


This doesn’t mean we should celebrate impending death but rather recognize, even in sadness, life & beauty resides in the future.


Fall is of beautiful dying.

Winter is of starkness of death.

Spring is of rebirth from death.


This doesn’t mean you can find beautiful things to enjoy throughout any season.  Seasons simply remind us of the fact time does not stand still and no matter how hard we try and fill up the emptiness time offers us day in and day out … leaves fall, winter comes and spring arises.


I believe it is the Celtic wheel of the year describes this time of the year as Samhain … “the veil between the worlds is thin.” Just as several other cultures they use his time to reflect upon “that which was.” In my pea like brain … it is a celebration of navel gazing. It is an intentional event to purposefully explore the valuable relationship not only between Life and Death but the past and the future.


Listen to the cry of falling leaves,

            but winter breaks the silence

and warms us with words

of how to change it all

      before the Fall completely ends.

So, So



reflect brain things


I don’t believe we do not celebrate death and dying because we think it is morbid. I tend to believe we do not traditionally do so because we, as in Western civilization versus Eastern, don’t celebrate reflection.

We treat reflection more as  a personal thing and not a larger more public event and celebration.


Should we celebrate reflection? Shit. I don’t know. But understanding that seasons can offer us enlightening thoughts about how we actually think about death & Life & holding on & letting go is surely not a bad thing.


As for Fall and Winter? I do not think of death and decay. I actually think of flowers. Huh?


I credit Mark Strand for making me think Winter is the time to bring flowers into your Life as he describes Winter in his poem called Blizzard of One:


“A time between times, a flowerless funeral. No more than that …”

Mark Strand <Blizzard of One>

Every funeral deserves flowers. Every Winter deserves thoughts of Life.

dreams for storms

August 5th, 2015


watch uh oh shit

“He in his madness prays for storms, and dreams that storms will bring him peace.”

Leo Tolstoy

<The Death of Ivan Ilych>






When I saw this line for the first time I had to reread it … and read again … all the while knowing I loved it … but never really putting a finger on why I loved it.


And I certainly had no clue what I would say when I posted it.



As I thought about what to say I researched storms in dreams <dream interpretation>.



Psychological Meaning Of Storm Dreams:

99 cent dreams

To see an approaching storm in your dream is significant of the future problems that will bring temporary distress until the storm passes over.

To see yourself running and taking a shelter in the storm implies that you will sustain the hardest of troubles and problems in your life.

To dream that you are standing in the path of storm and calling it with wide arms implies that you are prepared for any challenges come what may and want to get rid of it as soon as possible.



Nothing online speaks to praying for storms in dreams and that storms bring peace.

Therefore the answer to why I like it really can only be found in my own head.



Here is what I like.




The implication that someone who not only likes, but seeks, storms … is mad.


impossible mad hatter

Once again … it brings to mind a quote … Kerouac … ““the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”


http://brucemctague.com/the-mad-ones-mad-to-live-made-to-be-saved   >



I admit.


I like storms.



In Life, in business and in weather. The injection of turmoil into an otherwise calm day makes you mad to live, mad to be saved, mad to make it thru the turmoil.


The only mad ones are really the ones to seek to always BE in the storm. I, for one, like to experience the storm. There is a massive difference.



The implication that a storm can bring peace.




I like contradictions … mostly because at their core they are interesting.

Two hands preserve a green tree against a thunder-storm

Calm amidst activity.


Active in repose.


Facing the storm without and embracing the storm within.



I would argue with anyone that peace within oneself is a multi dimensional thing. Peace resides within dealing with some conflict. The conflict of self, or Life, ultimately enables the ultimate level of peace.



The corollary?


Creating peace without storm, without turmoil, is contrived peace.



The implication that storms are good.






I do think storms are good.



I will avoid the whole “what breaks or bends you makes you stronger” and simply suggest that storms are just part of Life. And trying to avoid them is impossible and constantly dodging storms may actually be bad <wasted energy, move from your intended path, etc.>.

dreams walking

I love storms.


I do not seek storms but I certainly do not go out of my way to avoid them … if it is in the path of where I want to go.


I would suggest that accepting the storms in your path … and weathering them as you progress <pun intended> makes Life far more interesting.


As Neil Young said … “a rocky road but far more interesting.”


Smooth sailing is not necessarily good. A storm quickens the pulse and brings your attention to its peak … once you have experienced it I would suggest you want more of that feeling.



That’s it.



I love this line.

I love the thought and how it can make you think about what makes you interesting, what makes Life interesting and maybe you need to be just a little bit mad to make the most of Life and the world.

what will you look at

June 26th, 2015


look attention listen

“No matter what you are looking at, you can find something wrong with it, something imperfect, something that is not okay with you.

Don’t worry, if you look hard enough you’ll find it.

There is also something ‘right’ with everything.

No matter what you are looking at, you can find something right with it, something perfect.

There remains, then, only one question: What are you going to look at? “

Neale Donald Walsch





I have written about how we “see things” before < http://brucemctague.com/seeing-and-well-really-seeing  > but this thought piece is a little different. This one is more about how attitude can affect what we see more than heuristics and real psychological stuff.



That said.





I am not an optimist.


Nor am I a pessimist.

optomist hope


I tend to believe I am a cynical optimist.



I love hope.


I love pragmatism.



I am pragmatically hopeful.




I decided to begin that way because I love this quote.



We choose to see what we desire to see.




Maybe not desire … but what we expect to see based on out attitude toward Life <not just visual cues we have stored up in our heads>.



Life does not make it easy for us to see what is actually there because it rarely makes something simple for us.



Most things are complex.




In all there is bad and good.



In all there is wrong and right.



I don’t believe what I just wrote is an epiphany to anyone.






I do believe not enough people think about it and how our own personal attitude can skew what we actually see.


seeing is seeing eyes-are-useless

Many, maybe most in today’s world, people see wrong …. and focus on wrong <albeit we may do the infamous ‘say something nice first’ before becoming maniacally focused on what we have identified as  ‘wrong’>.



And a smaller group of people, who hate those people who focus on only the wrong, become blindingly oblivious to wrong and talk about sweeping hope and the inherent goodness to be found within everyone.



Both options are bad. It is like only have an ‘on/off” switch when most of us should have an attitudinal dimmer switch.







For most of us … no matter what you look at … you will choose to see what you want to see.



The one thing I can guarantee you will NOT see?



A completed puzzle.



Life, the one around you or even your own, remains a puzzle yet to be put together.


It is a puzzle with pieces which can be pulled out and replaced … it is a puzzle with pieces yet to be found … and even with pieces yet to be made.

Attitudinally I believe we all know this but … well … we hate it. A work in progress is difficult to judge because you never really know where it is on the progress scale, therefore, we like to view things & people as ‘almost finished’ or even ‘main puzzle pieces are in place.’



We are wrong to do so … and most of us know so … but it is still natural for us to do so.




“Things are pretty terrible but then again you don’t buy a puzzle that’s already put together.”

a tweet Jonah Green




That all may sound terrible.


And it may sometimes even look a little terrible around you.



But .. is it really terrible? Are you looking at the wrong things or are you simply seeing what you want to see?seeing is seeing tree



All I can suggest is to look … really look … because sometimes the obvious is not really obvious and what you are shown is not really representative of what could be seen if you push what is being shown to you off to the side.


And, maybe most importantly, you need to push your attitude off to the side and try and see what is as … well … what is.




In the end …. all I can ask is … well … what will you choose to see?

the limits of the world

June 24th, 2015

== i do not know list


“Every man takes the limits of his own field of vision for the limits of the world.”

Arthur Schopenhauer


“Nothing is lost if one has the courage to proclaim that all is lost and we must begin anew.”








We all have limits.


Limits as to what we can do, what we are capable of and what we know.




limitations ignoreSorry.



I believe what I just wrote is contrary to pop psychology wisdom. We are supposed to believe the only limit we have is in our minds and that if we believe in something and work hard enough anything is attainable.









Let me focus on one aspect of this “limits versus no limits” discussion which is infringing upon our typically sane way of thinking in business <and Life I imagine> … and that is the use of “I don’t know.”



There is a wacky new coaching perspective suggesting that it is not good to say “I don’t know” in business … or, if you do, you always need to attach “but I will find out.”




Wacky in fact.




There is a limit to what anyone can know. And when you arrive at that limit <which can even be attached to something as specific as a task or project> you just … well … don’t know.





Let me discuss “I don’t know” for a little bit.



“I don’t know” when used truthfully is simply a measure of a limit. A boundary for which the things you do know … stand at. I also assume most of us want to cross that boundary in search of what you don’t know.i really do not know



But, suffice it to say, in general … not knowing, or “I don’t know” is at best an uncomfortable feeling … at its worst?






Things you don’t know:


<about curiosity>in a




Scary for a variety of reasons but it is scary the most because basically it reflects your current “limit” in a very clear line.





Here is where all the wacky advice starts coming in:




“‘I don’t know’ is not an answer.

The correct answer is, ‘I don’t have enough information to answer your question.’”





This is basically the whole “don’t just present a problem but offer a solution” type advice everyone is given.


What bullshit.



bullshit detectorIt is such a crazy answer that if someone gave it to me I would start smelling ‘bullshit’ in the air … and thinking asshole thoughts about attacking the silly indirect answer with something like “well … why don’t you have enough information?”



Suffice it to say we are starting to coach our business people to think that in business there should never be an “I don’t know answer.”



This is crazy.


I would almost suggest “fucking crazy.”



Somehow saying to people that you don’t know something or aren’t an expert in it is seen as a sign of weakness.

Holy shit … nothing could be further from the truth.



If you are seen as taking your work seriously and you are responsible … saying “I don’t know” is responsible not weak.



If you do not know you do not know.



That doesn’t mean you aren’t capable of knowing nor does it mean you cannot go running off and “know” at some point … but it just means in the here and now … well … “I just don’t know.”



And while I would love to point a finger at some wacky business coach or business expert I am actually going to point my finger at something I very very rarely blame – society.



We are completely out of whack culturally and in society with regard to “I don’t know.”



As soon as something happens someone gets skewered for “not knowing” … or gets jabbed over and over again with “why didn’t you know?”








There is a limit to what you know.



I don’t care if you are a National Security expert, email storage expert or any expert … there is a frickin’ limit to what you know.


But today … if you say “I don’t know” you immediately lose your expert status.



“How can you be an expert if you don’t know?” people scream.





“you are incompetent and should be fired if you don’t know!” people scream.




<note: I don’t have enough fingers on my hands, and yours, to count the number of times I would have been fired if “I don’t know” actually equaled “incompetence>



Society has made it almost impossible for the best people to honestly say “I don’t know.”






Politicians are the worst.


“I don’t know” becomes grounds for some witch hunt for someone to blame or someone to explain why someone didn’t know <something that was mostly likely difficult to know in the first place>.



And, we the people, are buying it. we stand in line waving our pitchforks screaming for the blood of anyone who says “I don’t know.”limits simpsons-villagers-pitchfork-torches




This whole bullshit thought process has bled into the business world.




The moment you say “I don’t know” someone in the room starts smelling blood … you are weak … you are incompetent … you aren’t prepared … geez … the truly crazy thing? … if you say “I don’t know” you may actually be the most confident practical ‘stand up’ person in the room.






All the “never say I do not know” advice may sound fabulously appealing to business people with a desire to lead or rise in an organization … but teaching this answer soon grows into an urge for you to ignore or dance around ‘truth’ in all your answers and responses.


I call it the slippery slope of mediocrity <or bullshit>.



I personally believe “I don’t know” is powerful.



I call it a ‘period’ type statement.


i do not know fence

I don’t know … period.


It is a statement with no bridge word.
It is declarative of your comfort in what you do know and what you will honestly assume responsibility for. It does not mean shirking responsibility and it doesn’t mean avoiding finding out what you don’t know.



What it does mean is you own the statement … place the period … and I can guarantee you own the space immediately after an “I don’t know.”





Waste the space at your own peril.


Own it and people will look at you as honest, confident and reliable <not a bullshitter>.



I am not reconciled to what seems like the inevitable decline of ‘I don’t know’ in business



I do think it will be difficult because society doesn’t seem in a rush to release their stranglehold on ‘I don’t know’ witch hunting.



what do i chooseBut business, in general, needs to get out of the over thinking bullshit business and focus on integrating some authentic honest dialogue in business <not posturing>.



I believe this whole “never say I don’t know’ bullshit is just one more aspect of the “you always have to have a clear stance, an idea or some valuable words to share.”




“Why always expect a definite stance, clear ideas, meaningful words?

I feel as if I should spout fire in response to all the questions which were ever put, or not put, to me.”

E.M. Cioran






I am certainly no wilting flower in a business environment.


And I certainly do not advocate saying “I don’t know” every minute to every question.



But let’s be clear … an honest answer always wins.



Really ? <you say … because it sometimes does not seem that way … >i dont know post it





Because you win.

You have no bullshit stuck on the bottom of your shoe for the rest of the day and you have your sense of self to fight the fight the next day with your ground rules established.



Bottom line.


Just say “I don’t know” when you truly do not know.

Enlightened Conflict