“Who am I? Why am I here?”

Santafe.com - July 5, 2011

"I was looking for an environment where 'people cared by not caring.'"

To address a question I’m frequently asked, no, I’m not related to Admiral James B. Stockdale. If that name doesn’t ring a bell, he was the most senior POW in Vietnam and recipient of the Medal of Honor. Unfortunately, and more infamously, he was H. Ross Perot’s choice as a running mate in the 1992 presidential campaign. Stockdale’s introduction to most Americans came during the vice-presidential debate when he introduced himself with the rhetorical questions, “Who am I? Why am I here?” His seeming senility was brutally parodied on “Saturday Night Live,” and most people remained ignorant of his heroic resume.

With that out of the way, I do believe those two questions are appropriate to answer at the outset of this new blogging venture.

Who am I? Well, I've never been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a pawn, or a king. But I've written a poem. I’ve played six sports, the clarinet, and a scientist. I've saluted, navigated, proposed, presented, reported, designed, coded, developed, researched, organized, solicited, taught, read, studied, and written. I was born in New Mexico, bred in Texas, educated in Colorado, trained in California, served in North Dakota, married, parented, and divorced in Texas.

Things that float my boat: authenticity, originality, individuality, nonconformity, creativity, cooperation, perspective, and sportsmanship. Things that light my hair on fire: lemmings, posers, deceivers, dividers, hypocrites, image-is-everythingers, conventional wisdom worshippers, Elmer Gantrys, born-yesterdays, and just-win-babies.

Why am I here? Well, I’m here in Santa Fe because in 2009, I decided I wanted to be someplace different to begin my Act V. I was looking for an environment where “people cared by not caring.”

That’s a phrase my daughter came up with on her first trip to New York City in 1999. We had flown up to see “Rent” and visit one of my best friends from high school. One morning we had breakfast in a sidewalk café on Union Square. All varieties of the human condition were on display. My daughter, about to turn 16, observed how these people "didn't seem to care" what other people were doing, or how they were dressed, or which language they spoke. She noted that nobody stood out as “different” because there wasn't really a common “sameness.” Which led to her rather profound, if paradoxical, insight about tolerance:  “It’s kinda like the people care by not caring.”

Why am I here? Well, I’m writing this blog because those boat-floating and hair-on-fire things listed above are consequential to me. I believe in the wise old observation that “we discriminate against people to the degree we fail to distinguish between them.”  I consider myself a conscientious differentiator, a deliberate discerner, and a difference detector, if not maker.

Sometimes the differences that make a difference are serious, such as issues related to Christus St. Vincent Hospital operations. Sometimes they’re weird but enlightening, like the cataclysmic concerns by some people about wireless and WiFi. Sometimes they’re semi-hilarious in their insight and directness, such as the sentiments expressed in bumper stickers like, “Focus On Your Own Damn Family” and “What if the Hokey-Pokey really is what it’s all about?”

So my objective will be to highlight differences that make a difference in the City Different. I’ll endeavor to avoid the common, the conventional, the usual, and the trite. I’ll do my best to share what I can along the trail from here to discernity.