Necessary Nakedness

Posted in Uncategorized on June 29, 2014 by michaelcogdill

“Generosity can buy happiness” Founder of a micro-lending movement

Don’t believe it?

Try it, and it’ll prove itself all over you, like a garment of your favorite color, exquisitely tailored to your favorite body part. (Yes, yes, that one, too) Only this runs far out above the body. Money, sure, is the stuff of the generous. But the spirit kind doesn’t wear Ben Franklin’s picture. It bears yours, and it buys many more miracles. A flirtation with the simplest kindness, a sense of peace in the eyes – these buy for us the ageless style of being fully alive. Mattering. But even more than these, a truly radical fashioning of love changes the world. Radical love sets people to smiling, my despairing, when they turn from our graves.

And the following quote bears this out. It comes from a man who received a transformational brand of love from the micro lending movement.
“I am practicing on being better than I was.” Anonymous prisoner in a class to unlearn the practice of violence.

It is not for us to ask the why or the timing of things, but to participate in the what. Real faith is daring to do what we’re wired in the brain not to dig doing – change ourselves, our circumstances, into greater beings. Like changing torn clothes, shedding garments that are tattered, our old fears and complacency and that sense of “I don’t wanna” have to go. These garments harbor our warmth, our scent, and even when they turn foul, we don’t want to strip ourselves of them. These garments give a certain twisted comforts, like bunching underwear, and we wear them even as they begin to feel like pants full of nails and Steve Martin’s cruel shoes. We too often don’t want to dare go naked a moment, letting Divinity robe us in what we’re truly called to as our spirit style. I’m a boy of the 70’s. But, I don’t wear my Wedgewood-blue leisure suit with the psycho shirt and the red socks anymore. (Ladies, I know what you’re thinking, and I smile all over it). I grew out of those, and the Partridge Family hair. The times grew me into a different time. A time of daring to be generous with the full harvest. A time to practice on being better than I was. If I am truly, madly, daring to give of myself, radically, to Divine generosity, instead of my tattered status quo, I matter more.

I am better than I was. Thank God Almighty, I am better than that leisure suit and the boy in it. By the graceful garment of Divine love, I’ll be better still tomorrow. My soul will be a tad more in fashion with the true needs I find.

“If you have forgiven yourself for being imperfect and falling, you can do it for just about everyone else.”
Father Richard Rohr said this in his fine book, Falling Upward. The book is all about the necessity of the bruising falls we take to bounce us up into the finery we’re called, after all, to wear. He says this, too: “As the body cannot live without food, the soul cannot live without meaning.”

So, let us dare change into our deepest meaning. In doing this, we finally grow into the garments of our inner child — that romping, playful, extravagantly generous little boy or girl we keep stifled under the old clothes.

So, here, now, a champagne toast — raise that spiritual Kool-Aid — to standing naked a moment. Naked, in waiting. See what God wants us to wear for the rest of our lives. Put on that garment, then check the pockets. I’ll promise, in there you’ll find abundance of everything needful, enough for you, and the needful along your way.

A pocket full of generous daring buys our passage to life. It’ll take us a mighty long way! And for the trip, may I add, I’m diggin’ that outfit.

Salute to a Senator, and His Wing Man, 70 Years Since D-Day

Posted in Uncategorized on June 5, 2014 by michaelcogdill

In honor of South Carolina Senator John Drummond, I share this. He told me this one day before we stepped into an event together. I tell it here, filling in the gaps left by his humility.

Flying missions that helped save the French countryside from Nazis ravaging, John Drummond became a young hero, and eventually a prisoner of war. One of his wing men was a 19 year old kid with a name as long as he was tall. No one wanted to pronounce it, so the unit just called him K-Kid. in the parlance of flight, it fit.

Airman Drummond, leading a formation in his P-47D Thunderbolt (with Raid Hot Mama painted on her nose), looked to his right and saw K-Kid’s plane humming sturdy and right where it belonged. He glanced away and glanced back in a matter of seconds. Where the plane had been there was only a spore of smoke, trailing downward. K-Kid was gone. Shot down. Drummond never saw him again.

A few years ago, Airman Drummond, then a lauded senator, a statesman known for building coalitions and other great things, returned to France, where he is celebrated as a conqueror to this day. Parties are thrown for such men. Before the grayed and lively sage came home, he wanted to take a walk. Wanted to step into the hallowed cemetery at Normandy. See if he could find the cross bearing the long name of the lost boy he knew as K-Kid.

It took a while, but the walk paid off, and well. Soon, Senator Drummond stood on his knees on K-Kid’s grave. Knelt in the quiet and grieved. He grieved his friend in ways years will never intrude upon. In a union of souls. A man above, a man below, not fully separated by the ground. They had a time of it, saving the world. In that grief, I believe time was set aside. Surfing an aged man’s tears, they were boys again.

Time is run amok on those World War II boys. Stealing them from us by many hundreds each day now. The time for final salutes is now.

Friday, June 6, 2014, the world turns eyes and ears to Normandy for the 70th anniversary of the D-Day invasion. That cemetery will feel the feet of honored guests, who will look across the white markings of lost boys who served as men. Who sacrificed the remainder of their manhood so that we may be where we are, as we are, this minute.

But the guests of true honor walk that sanctuary ground in spirit. They haunt us beautifully. To us, in the sea whispers rising off the beach far below, I believe the ghosts of those boys thank us for living up to what they did. Their lives ended so that we may have one.

What we do with that life now, how we use it with honor, is freely up to us. Ours is a legacy, free for the making. Our freedom, of every kind, should ring in our daring fully to LIVE.

Thank you veterans. Thank you all, for what you did, what you were willing to do, and thank you for what you live with. Normandy went home with many of you. Normandy and many other then-awful places and times, you carry the bloody ground of these with you. May you know peace. Gratitude. May the love of many grateful nations hunt you down, find you, and salute you. Embrace you. Listening for what echoes in the hollows of your hearts.

The Miracle of Intuition, By Any Other Name

Posted in Uncategorized on April 18, 2014 by michaelcogdill

Read the comments under that story I’ve linked to below. Taken in total, what do they say to you? What’s their message, from humanity about humanity?

Before you answer, read on here. Indulge me a moment.

Good Friday is perhaps the most deeply human of holidays. It calls us into the tomb of our own mortality, with the expectation that we are, after all, made to harbor Love and not Death. Love as our raison d’etre. The very reason we’re all here, cutting a path through this wilderness life.

People will act, and speak, and tempt us to react, with twin-barrel hostility. Instead, with accountability made of steel, may we shut our mouths. Listen in the quiet. Hear that? That inner voice? It’s the one we hear only when we stop adding to the noise.

That quiet voice is intuition. We all have one. In his brilliant book, Blink, the great Malcolm Gladwell reminded us of this, and made these statements about that inner voice we so often ignore:

“The key to good decision making is not knowledge. It is understanding. We are swimming in the former. We are desperately lacking in the latter.” Malcolm Gladwell.

“In the act of tearing something apart, you lose its meaning.” Malcolm Gladwell.

To understand the significance of something — a relationship, a life decision, or the death of a stranger — we live best when we live by that intuition. Hear it. Trust it. Trust its radical wisdom, especially in the face of WANTING things to be true, as we imagine them.

On this Good Friday, and the days hence, regardless of your faith or the lack thereof, know that whisper is a gift. A human one. A companion within, urging you toward feeling your way through life rather than over-thinking, and reacting. It is a mortal gift of immortal power. It reminds us we are never alone. That we are more than our thoughts.

Listening to our intuition reminds us we think and act best when the mind and spirit truly get it on, inside us. When we let them be together, and dare I say it, make Love.

So, with that image burned into your Good Friday, perhaps you’ll eventually wonder as you read on here, what does intuition have to do with a body found on a Tennessee Easter Egg hunt, and the comments under the reporting on it? What’s it say about Easter?

To me, it speaks of the supernatural nature of this holiday. The story below whispers reminder that the WOMEN who came to the tomb followed an intuition, while the men who’d followed — and betrayed — the Jesus lain into a borrowed tomb had locked themselves away, full of cynicism and worry, thinking they’d seen the end. The woman felt, intuitively. The men thought, fearfully. The Easter story is a revelation first to womanhood. Women get much credit, richly deserved, for their intuition. Men, you have one, too. Listen to it. Show the mettle to act upon it.

A single human death, no matter who, no matter where, calls us to the truth of John Donne, as he talked about Death tolling for us all. We are all lessened by the loss of one another. But my intuition tells me a single death sets off an eloquent reminder that we are equally mortal. A common humanity of uncommon beauty. Humans not measured by money or status or place of birth, but by the fact we each harbor the same inner voice. An intuition.

As for me, I believe that voice is Divine, wise beyond words. Yes, even beyond the language limits of religion. It calls us to find some quiet. Dare our way into the inner tomb field of our mortality, and then listen. Especially there, in the chill of our humanness, our brokenness, LOVE is in the air.

Peace, y’all. Dare a man say, peace, love and Intuition?

Your Own Worst Critic? Fire The Little !@$%^

Posted in Uncategorized on April 17, 2014 by michaelcogdill

When did you last put yourself down in the privacy of your own thoughts?

As someone whose job is to interview people and turn out their innermost thinking, I can say, there is no such privacy. When you demean yourself to yourself, people know. The hurt rises into your eyes and overflows your life. Easy to witness.

The cinders of self-abuse fly all over the place. They spew, lava hot, off tongues in Wal-Mart lines. Flare in the words of internet trolls. Anonymity on a message board is folly, after all.  Our words identify us.  A soul’s inner roiling always shows. The words brand us. Self abuse is a scarring tattoo, destined to peer above the waistline of how we’re seen by the world.

And, sure, self-bullying is nearly always rooted in what someone else said. Even from a long time ago, the words of another bounce around in you, even now. Still scalding hot. Only now, likely, in your own voice.

Consider this. You get to choose what to believe. People can call you anything. You can call yourself anything, even in silence. But only you get to mediate it. Only you get to decide what’s true, even of yourself.

So much of the news I report draws life from this truth, often tragically so. A gentleman once railed at me in a Home Depot store that he wanted some good news. I challenged him to go make some. I’m sure he’s learned by now it’s much easier to make bad news than good. We wired to believe the negative and doubt the good. Even its very existence. Something in us yearns to act out the grim.

But goodness lives. Thrives. Makes news. From Mother Teresa to Desmond Tutu to the group of kids rallying around a classmate or teacher in crisis, the beautiful DO make news. They’re as human as we are, these news-makers. They harbor dark sides. Their minds echo with criticism. But they are believers in something else, something virtuosic and beautiful, even about themselves.

And they are calling to you and me. Their words, their very selves, trying to chase away that inner critic.

Believe them. Believe in your true self. The one that inner critic has yet to meet.

The Folly of Saving Your Life

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on April 17, 2014 by michaelcogdill

My father was a conservative — with a small c. He lived as a starving boy of the Depression his entire life, no matter how much he earned. He was afraid to live. Terrified all the things he earned would be the last things his times would drop into his world. If he could have horded life — and its girlfriend, Precious Time — he would have held them captive. Kidnapped them for the ransom of not being afraid they’d run out on him.

Alas, my father gone. Life and that girlfriend — Precious Time — caught the last train for the shore my father loved, but never fully walked. They left him behind. He’s in his grave, having left too much of himself unspent.  My father now knows saving time hording life is folly.

Life isn’t made for hording. It’s built for doing. Time is made to get spent. Get conservative with either at the risk of wallowing on spiny-as-hell deathbed regrets.

Spend yourself. Afraid? Then ask, for what — and whom — am I conserving my life? My time? Knowing that Fear will steal both, right out from under us.

Poverty 101? Take An Incomplete!

Posted in Uncategorized on April 8, 2014 by michaelcogdill

After I spoke at an event this morning, the mom of an Auburn journalism student approached, naturally incandescent with pride in her daughter. Proud, but a tad troubled, I could tell.

Someone, or a group of them, at Auburn has been filling her daughter’s head with gloom speak about her chosen profession. You’ll make nothing. Brace for poverty. Steel yourself for a life lush with canned beans and government cheese. (Not a thing wrong with either, by the way).

There is, however, something wrong with educators trying to cap the expectations of a student. Education is about broadening, not narrowing, expectations. No, that’s no sturdy realism they deliver. Nor is it refining pragmatism, teaching a kid she’ll be poor. It is, I believe, a rant of quiet resentment. A seething desire not to see the student out-soar the instructor.

In my college experience, at Georgia and North Carolina, rare was the professor who tried to cap me with low expectations. Those who did, I don’t remember. I recall only those who said, yes, get after it. Your dream is up there. Here are the afterburners of learning. The tools. Light ‘em up and get the hell after it. Work hard. Get there.

I am a student of the liberal arts, and I celebrate this. Yes, I studied journalism, great literature, the humanities that make us human. I did the math, too, sure. But language lit the air of my heart. It’s still my electrical charge. And I am not poor! Not by any definition.  Thank God, I am anything but poor. I have a tremendous lot, and many to thank for it.

But more than this, I am not measured by my wealth, nor by poverty. I take my measure by the capacity to scatter some worth about the place, especially to those on the downside of advantage. That’s wealth. That, in the end, is what this essay is about. That value set should forge its way off the tongue of those professors at Auburn, and every college and university around the globe.  Teach it.  Demand the mindset from your students.  Inspire them, after all.

Students, don’t believe the drivel of little minds with big pedigrees who say because you study this, you’ll never amount to some significant that. You get to choose whether to believe the doomsayers who, so often, were too afraid to dare. Don’t believe them. Haul off and dare. Dare grandly.

It’s up there. You can reach it, with work. What you love will give you the ride.

Anything For Love? Really? A Thought Born of The Bachelor

Posted in Uncategorized with tags , , , , on March 18, 2014 by michaelcogdill

I admire the one Juan Pablo rejected.  Clare Crawley turned resolute after all.  Stood for her womanhood, not a famous bachelor’s feminine ideal.

Yet something troubles me. Clare told the TV audience when she loves, she loves 1,000% and would do ANYTHING for that love.

Anything? Really? In the fullest defining of the word “anything?”

That anything rattles awake my voice as an advocate for female sovereignty against domestic violence. It shakes me at my core as a man advocating for women to see their individual strength, apart from men.

In the helicopter, Juan Pablo (and there’s no evidence he’s violent at all, by the way) said something that troubled Clare deeply. He hit a trip wire of her intuition. Yet the bomb of self-protection didn’t go off. She showed up the next day to get a proposal from that same man. The one she told off with brilliant power moments after he rejected her.

And in that angry repudiation of him, her intuition was showing. She revealed that there was much she didn’t even like about the man, much less love.

I believe in that moment, Clare learned something about the deceitfulness of the cultural undertow that yanks far too many strong women down to drown in the folly of absolute devotion to being a princess bride. I hope many women learned it. Women AND men.

Last night, as I keynoted an event about domestic violence, I had the chance to talk directly to some very young women in the audience. They’re early to mid teenager — the age when so many women begin to feel the pressure to scan the horizons of their lives for a wedding cake. To pair off. To get validated by their peers with the very idea that they have a man in their lives. For them, likely a boy masquerading as a man.

To the entire audience, with focus on the very young, I said something I’ll echo here: You are a sovereign woman in the making. Ever evolving. A singular human being adored by God. You need NO man to validate that. No man to impress your girlfriends with your capacity to catch a dude. You are a life to get celebrated and lived daringly, with courage and independence. NEVER sacrifice this in the name of pleasing, or catching, a man.

You know this, of course. Deep within. Men who set off that intuition about your sovereign womanhood call you to speak up, to walk away, to seek your relationship fortune elsewhere. Seek it apart from the bravado of boys. Demand of your relationship only the most caring machinery of real men.

Real men celebrate and cherish the sovereignty of womanhood. They are never threatened by it. Anyone who slings around the Philistine notions of male dominant machismo is a threat to this truth. Oppose that threat by leaving it in the dust of your fast feet. Those who wave the scriptural codes of “submit to your husband” abuse holy writing. This is narrowness, ignorance running amok, and a contributor to abusive relationships everywhere. Run. Flee for you life. Your life is waiting. Split it wide open with your great self.

Now, before the hell raising starts about me as an opponent of marriage, know this: I’m a celebrant of relationships that are forged in mutual respect, adoration, the highest embrace of the sovereignty of the individual. There’s beautiful, authentic love in such weddings of the spirit. On the other hand, there is no God who will ever love your relationship more than God loves you. God never wants you absorbed into one that wounds. That stifles the real you.

Okay, reader, by now the song is surely an ear worm. Yeah, that one. That Meatloafian idea of “I would do ANYTHING for love.” Remember the whole of the lyrics? The song says “But I won’t do that” after all.

So ladies, ponder what that means to you. Under your personal rubric of “I won’t do that” for love, list for yourself what you won’t tolerate. Write down and settle up on the abuses you will never take. List how many ways you refuse to get yanked down by that undertow of romantic idealism that says “If you don’t have a man, you’re less a woman.”

And men, this is a calling to us all. Real men never abuse women. Not in ANY way. Our hands, our words, and our mindsets ought never resemble some Sasquatchian cad. If yours do, shave that bad boy Yeti off yourself. Let the fur fly. There’s a real, truly strong and gentle man under there somewhere. But the discovery of him? That’s your work to do.

Not hers.


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