Mind your manners and mix your metaphors

During a rain storm last week, I saw a caterpillar scooting across the sidewalk.  He was trying to get from one rain soaked area of grass, to another.  It seemed like he was going in a new direction to a better, drier place, but he was really going to end up in a location much like where he started from.  Since I was walking there, it was not exactly the safest place for him to be.  But, I happened to be looking down, and he was spared the weight of my 200 lbs on his back.

Someday, if he makes it, he will become a butterfly.  You usually don’t see butterflies moving about in the rain.  Rather, we often see them on a bright sunny day when times are carefree and relaxed.  The butterfly can see where he is going from his view up high, and he has the wings to get him there.  If the wind blows the right way, he doesn’t really have to work much at all to get where he wants to be.  Being a butterfly is pretty sweet.

Maybe you can see the life metaphor within the caterpillar/butterfly example.  It’s not all that subtle, but it is something that might encourage you in the right moment, the next time you feel stuck and see a caterpillar struggling around on its belly like the cursed serpent of the Garden of Eden.  Perhaps the sight of a butterfly will raise your spirits and put a song in your heart when you realize how free you are, just like your winged friend.

It’s lovely and touching.

The only problem is… it’s not always the case with life as we know it.

There are times at the beginning of an endeavor when everything comes fast and easy.  The rails of life are greased with opportunity butter, and you’re coasting at a comfortable speed.  The grasshopper flies around and eats whenever he feels like it, not seeing the need to store up food for a drought or a literal rainy day.  The tiny ant works hard and saves food up for those hard times.  He doesn’t enjoy the beginning of the season when much time is spent searching and gathering, but he does live to eat and survive through the winter.

I promise that I didn’t just watch “A Bug’s Life”.  But my mind was taken to these fables and metaphors because of the stories I have heard and the movies that I have seen.  We are still dealing with bugs, but these stories seem to be painting different pictures of life and experience.

Or are they?

Metaphor, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder.

If you are moved to tears by a song that reminds you of a romantic relationship, and you later learn that the artist was singing about her dog, does that change the authenticity of your feelings?  Individual interpretation happens at nearly every experience of life.  You may even feel differently about an experience in the past just by remembering it now, based on your current knowledge, understanding, and feelings.  Its difficult to say if we can be truly objective about anything.

If a friend’s death causes you to slow down and smell the roses, or get busy with some task that you were delaying, both are constructive and positive.

Very little of life is either/or.  It’s not always black and white.  Some principles are not foolproof and will fail when applied liberally to all of your dilemmas.  There is often an exception that proves the rule.

So as you enjoy today, and experience a metaphor for life, pay attention to how your actions follow your understanding of that metaphor.  If there is a disconnect, then I would guess there to be another stronger principle in your life that is overlapping and overriding what you observed today.  Keep seeking.  Find the principles that are truly guiding your life and your actions.

And remember…. mind your manners and mix your metaphors.

Running into the Future

This is a guest post written by Zac Parsons:

I do not have the body of a runner.  I barely have the body of an athlete.  When I see video of myself in physical activity, I wince like most of us do when we hear our voice on a recording and think “Is that really what I am like?”.  But, for whatever reason, in every stage of my life, I have run.  Today, I ran to the beat of this song, by Panic! at the Disco:

The drum beat has fantastic cadence for my running stride.  I love letting the image of the video run through my mind as I run through the streets.  The Sgt. Pepperish outfits are a throwback to the 60’s, and the song dances back and forth with talk of the past and the future.  Even the title asks some clever questions:  “At what point would 9:00 ever be considered the afternoon?”  and “Is the afternoon the end of your daily rhythm, or the beginning?”

In researching for this article, I discovered the band has since split up since writing and recording this song.  The remaining members (the drummer and the front-man), just released a new single entitled “New Perspective”.  The song doesn’t grab me right away, but the title and some of the lyrics seem to indicate a view towards the future and what could be, juxtaposed with what was.

We’ve all heard the phrase “time marches on”, and it certainly does.  I sometimes wonder if growth and maturity are inevitable based on the ticking of a clock and the movement that must take place in the midst of the march.  In many cases, time does drag or push us into the future, whether we wish it to or not.  And that seems to be the difference: our wishes and intentional movement.  There is a future to be entered into, and it can be our choice of how and where we enter.

I have this picture in my mind myself walking through life in between a set of parentheses.  If I start to feel sorry for myself and sit down to pout, the parentheses keep moving.  Eventually the lagging one is upon me and dragging me through the dirt, forward through life.  It’s when my focus is on the leading one when I am most content and at peace with life.

Hope abounds.

Optimism rains from the sky.

Energy fills my heart and mind, and my body runs toward the future.  I think that this is part of the reason why most children are happy as a default setting in their lives.  With less to look back on, there is the future waiting to be entered into.  I also think this is why the phenomenon of a mid-life crisis is so rampant, and legitimate.  After getting “over the hill”, many of us want to scramble back to the top and enjoy the view.  Or even to climb back down to a part of the trail where the peak is still ahead on the horizon.

Time is marching on.  It’s my responsibility to stay on my feet.  Right now, I’m running.

The Birth of a Neighborhood

This is a guest post by Zac Parsons. Enjoy. – Erich

About a year and a half of an earlier stage in my life was spent in the industry of new home sales.  My experience in ministry didn’t pan out as I would have hoped.  I still found myself in a position to want to help people, but not with all of the political red tape of working in a church.  Since owning one’s own home is seemingly part of the American Dream, being a part of the that dream fulfillment was very attractive to me.

I began as a temp.  A temp is someone who fills in for a full time new home sale associate on one of his or her days off.  It wasn’t good money, but it gave me experience and allowed me to meet people within the new home industry.  I was able to travel around the area, and learn what I liked and did not like about new home sales and the career path of a new home salesperson.  Ultimately, it led me to a builder who was building a community less than a mile from the high school that I graduated from.  After temping with the builder for a month, I was interviewed, tested, and ultimately offered a position as a full time floater for the company.  Now, I would exclusively temp for this builder at all of their locations around town.

After a few months, I discovered that a position would be opening for a new community, just a mile away from where I had first met this builder.  It was a farm that was near to the area in which I had grown up.  I lobbied and applied for the position, and was thrilled when I was given the opportunity to sell homes for this neighborhood exclusively.

I had a sales partner, who had her own clients.  Because of the length of time it takes to build a house, I got to know all of her clients as well.  I answered their questions, demonstrated the features of their new home, and painted a picture of what the community would be like when it was no longer just dirt.  It was a challenge at times to find the right way to describe what the neighborhood would look like.  Some people wanted to perfectly manicured lawns.  Other people wanted to see the streetlights lit up at night.  Everyone loved the idea of people outside, knowing their neighbors, and using the playground and park area.

As the months went by, homeowners would stop back in to check on the progress of the lots sold, the plans for the development of the common areas, and the prices of the homes.  Unfortunately, with our economic situation, it hurt for them to see the prices drop again and again.  It hurt me as well, because I was with them on the journey to fulfill the American Dream.  These homes were supposed to be investments.  They were supposed to provide a base to grow from.  I felt like I was a part of the sadness that they felt.  I was one who advised them of making the decision to purchase.  I wondered what they thought of me, in all of it.  I wondered if they regretted their decision, since the community was still mostly a construction zone, and their homes were worth so much less than what they had paid for them.

About 6 months ago, I left that position, to pursue a career in psychological growth education.  During that time, one of my home buyers mailed me an invitation to attend their engagement part at their new home.  I hadn’t been back to the community in that time, and didn’t know what to expect.  As I pulled into the neighborhood last Saturday, I could hardly believe my eyes.  There were at least a dozen new homes started, where there had been dirt before.  The grass in the common areas was completed.  Three of the streets were completely finished and occupied.  It was amazing.

I could not find a place to park on the street, so I circled around behind.  As I was driving by, one of the young couples that I had sold a home to was standing outside with their dog.  I stopped my car, rolled down my window, and gave them a friendly:  “Howdy!”  Their faces lit up and they practically bounded towards my car to greet me.  They were extremely happy with their neighborhood, their new neighbors, and the fact that they were a part of something at it’s beginning.  The financial implications of buying a home when they did, did not temper their goodwill towards me.  We exchanged phone numbers and email addresses, and I felt great about the good fortune of running into them.

I ended up parking on the other side of the neighborhood, where I knew every one of the homeowners.  As i walked down the street, I remembered putting SOLD stickers on the signs in what was a dirt lot with each different family.  I imagined them living in their homes, eating their meals, playing together, and feeling safe.  As I rounded the corner near the playground, I heard children shouting and playing.  About 20 kids were engrossed in a game of kickball, barely being able to see in the twilight of the evening.  Some parents were talking on nearby benches, peacefully enjoying the weather and the community.

At the party, I was greated with hugs and words of genuine appreciation for my role in helping them build their home.  They spoke of how much it felt like a community now, and how happy they were to have such a place of their own.  I didn’t stay long, but I thanked them for inviting me and gave them a small gift.

There are so many things in life that you cannot see for what they are until to take time to step away from them.  On some level, I knew that I was a part of building a community, but when I was frustrated by slow sales, dropping prices, or other dramas of the industry, I lost that vision.  There was not one moment of the dirt becoming a community.  It was dozens and dozens of moments, many of which I was not in control of.  This is how life functions.  Where you are now is not exactly where you will be one year from now.  Growth will occur.  It is up to you how much you will be a part of that growth, and in which direction it will occur.