October, 2010


28
Oct 10

Cocktails Anyone?

Hi there.

I have indulged in a lot of philosophical prattle the past couple of blog entries.  I will try to make some sense of it by bringing it all together in what you might call the toxic cocktail of life.

Recipe for Life’s Toxic Cocktail

Add the following ingredients into a container… one single human life.

Initial Ingredients

  • First take a person’s unique likes, dislikes, talents, personalities and tastes
  • Throw in the family upbringing and home environment
  • Sprinkle personal life experiences and significant events

Mix dry ingredients until thoroughly integrated.  Now pour in a healthy dose of emotion and ego until all the ingredients are completely saturated.

Once saturated, quickly pound and pulverize the mix using societal norms and expectations.  Continue this process until a life paste of dogmatic beliefs, values and perspectives is formed.  This concoction serves as the flavor base for life’s cocktail.

Final Step:  the last action in this recipe is the addition of the two remaining ingredients.  It is important to note that the final two ingredients are mandatory… NOT optional.

CAUTION:  Handle with extreme care.  The formally innocent mix now becomes extremely volatile and unpredictable.

Take the life paste concoction and infuse it with a large portion of GOOD and EVIL.

The instability and toxicity level of life’s cocktail is dependent upon multiple factors.  Primarily it depends on the balance and mix of ingredients.  The proper mix of the ingredients determines the amount of good released or evil contained.

The presence of good and evil as we all know is nothing new.  And we have been surrounded by this cosmic tug-of-war.

Good is released and evil contained when there is a basic understanding and agreement about the definitions of each.  For example, when societal norms align with basic Judeo Christian values laws are established and standards enforced allowing good to hold ground and evil kept in its place.

Even with a fairly stable environment there have always been pockets where evil proliferated.  These pockets exist because evil is tolerated and restraint abandoned.

Pockets of evil, although not acceptable, aren’t enough to disrupt the whole.  But if a society looses its moral footing and a distorted sense of right and wrong emerges the toxicity level becomes lethal.

There is the continual encroachment on the definition good.  The natural trajectory to a fallen world is decay and deterioration.

Now from these lofty heights I will attempt to nosedive directly to the issue that started this series of blog entries – the little girl crying.

Thanks for hanging out with me.

See you Monday.  Ciao.


25
Oct 10

When Right is Wrong

Welcome back… I guess? 

This has been a tough day.  First of all this morning I could not get my head around this blog entry and started and stopped several times.  Then I had to up and fly to St. Louis.  So here I sit in my hotel room at 8:30 EST in the evening trying to grind out a challenging blog topic.  I am not complaining, I am just explaining why I am late… but it is still Monday.

Needless to say I am still very antsy about my attempt to tackle such complex and emotionally charged issues.  But I charge forward. As the old proverb goes, fools rush in.

Three blogs ago (10/14) I wrote about a young girl who I saw crying.  I felt deeply that I should dig into the complicated messy issues and dynamics surrounding the situation.  Two blogs ago I copped-out by circling around the girl crying issue with fluff.  And Monday’s blog was the first step in trying to make sense of it all.

Okay, let’s jump into the deep end of the pool. 

I ended the last blog with the troubling statement that our lives, family, community, and society become very unstable when our fundamental beliefs about what is right and wrong differ. 

It is important to note that most differing opinions about right and wrong, although disruptive and messy, won’t break the back of relationships, groups or society. 

But when there are opposing opinions about which core values and beliefs are right and wrong… that is a different matter.  These differences begin to tear the very fabric that unites families, groups or communities.

For the most part throughout America’s history societal norms paralleled fundamental Judeo Christian values.

Side Note: It’s pretty bad when a blog designed to be a forum for light hearted musings uses terminology like “societal norms”.  Uuugh!   This feels weird… and awfully heavy and academic.

Stick with me as we wade through theses heavy societal issues.  Thanks.

 

Let’s face it, there is always some variance or gaps in beliefs or values with any group of people.   This is actually a very good thing.  The natural tension keeps groups healthy and minimizes the possibility of toppling over the edge of gross error and insanity. 

Unfortunately there are far too many examples of groups or societies that spun out of control when fundamental definitions of right and wrong were violated.

Our minds naturally focus on the most obvious extreme in recent history that of the Nazi regime.  A society that believed killing Jews was not only a good thing but necessary and noble. 

But there are extremes on a much smaller scale that invade small groups, companies, or communities.   What about examples like:

  • Enron where corporate culture dictated deceit, winning at all costs, arrogance and excess. 
  • The Christian communities that spew hate in the name of the Lord.
  • Add your own example

I know I have used this quote before in one of my earlier blogs but it is most relevant here.

“A country cultivates what’s honored there”

   – Plato

 

What a powerful true statement!  It is a sobering exercise to look at what’s honored in your family, group, club, office or community.   You ought to  try it sometime.

Pandora’s Box

But there remains a fundamental question.  What is the basis or measure by which we calibrate what we believe?

It has to be something beyond the individual.  If not, then anything we deem right is ok.  And if enough people believe the same way then that becomes the standard for right and wrong in the group.

I believe that God has instilled a basic sense of right and wrong in us all.  This has nothing to do with Christianity.  It is part of the DNA of the human spirit.  I know there are atheists for example who believe in honesty, goodness and treating people right.

But I also believe there is evil in the world.  So we are constantly pulled between a higher nature and baser nature. 

So on one level we are all players in this cosmic push and pull and the outcome in the world is manifested in our collective individual adherence to one side of the equation or the other.  So when people of basic like mind come together then things move in that direction, good or bad. 

Whew!  This is getting too heady.  I just hope I am making some level of sense.  Believe it or not I am going to bring this around to the specific situation with the crying girl. 

See you Thursday


21
Oct 10

Unique, just like everyone else

Hi there.

As promised, I plan on digging into the morass of issues I surfaced two entries ago with the story of the young girl I saw crying.  As I mentioned, these issues are so complex and emotionally charged that I feel like a fly on an elephant’s butt.  But… here goes.

To begin to bring some sense to the enormity of the dynamics at play I personally have to make issues as basic and simple as possible.  I feel that if I can begin wrap my arms around the fundamental core concepts then I can move out from the center and tackle the more specific dicey situations.

The path I plan on taking is to start with identifying some basic principles of individual human nature.  After which I will attempt to apply these principles to society and our world in general and then from these lofty heights nose dive directly to the crying girl.  Whew! (Oh my, what have I gotten myself into?!!)

Human Nature

It’s interesting to me to find that people are so very different yet fundamentally very much the same.

It is said that variety is the spice of life.  I agree totally.  Life is a joyous adventure because people have different interests, talents, and personalities manifested in the staggering variety of music, entertainment, decor, foods, styles, humor, etc.

Principle # 1:  People are Different

(I know, I know… duh?  I didn’t say I would be profound in these writings.  But I do believe there is profoundness in simple truths.)

As you already know… I believe variety is a good thing, in fact a great thing.  I also believe this is a God thing.

God is a God of variety and creativity and we all possess this divine DNA in our nature.  To suppress this is to suppress something holy and good.

Christian Alert: I will be sharing some of my beliefs that are founded in my faith.  I am in no way trying to make you believe what I believe.

I do think that although we may look at it from different vantage points and use different terminology, we will find that on the whole we are on common philosophical ground.  What I’m asking is that you not automatically or arbitrarily discount what I am saying because of my faith.  Thanks.


I believe that we must encourage individual exploration of one’s unique mix of tastes and talents to find who we are and what God intended us to be.  But I have a warning.  This, like every other principle, is a double edged sword.  This will become more evident as we peel the layers.

Everyone is ok with this exploration and variety thing as long as we are playing in the same sandbox of likes and dislikes, tastes, and beliefs.

It starts to get messy when importance or worth is assigned to the different variations of things to explore.  What follows are value judgments as to the worthiness and acceptability of different things.

I believe judgment starts with the seemingly benign assignment of “good” to things that match our tastes and “bad” to those things that don’t fit our thinking.

Important Note:  Be careful not to jump ahead of me.  I am still talking about very mundane simple differences in opinions and tastes.  We haven’t even dipped our toe into the dark swift choppy waters of morals and values.

The more we like something or dislike something the more value we assign.  If not careful, this increasing intensity of the opinion pierces the veil that separates the object from the person.  The value we hold toward the object is then assigned the individual.

Some examples:

  1. A person hates NASCAR and thinks that it is a stupid sport.  Therefore people who like and attend NASCAR are stupid rednecks.
  2. Opera is silly highbrow music.  Therefore opera goers are elite snobs.
  3. Pittsburg is an obnoxious ignorant town.  Therefore Steelers fans are obnoxious and ignorant.

I’m sure you see absurdity of the first two statements.

Now, now Steelers fans don’t get your panties in a wad.  I’m sure there is a nice fan out there… somewhere.

OK, back to business.  This natural migration of likes and dislikes to “good” and “bad” enters a darker realm if not stopped.  The unhalted progression evolves into an issue of right and wrong.

This is when things get really messy.

Right and wrong elevates the significance of something.  We have now moved the issue from the head to the heart because now it has become a value.

The rub comes when people assign the weight of right and wrong to something that is neither… just different.  Don’t get me wrong, there are some things that are definitely WRONG.

This is the crux of the matter.

Our lives, family, community, and society become very unstable when fundamental beliefs about what is right and wrong differ.

This is where we need to dig a little deeper next Monday.

Later.


18
Oct 10

Stop or Cop-Out

Hi there. 

Just so you know from the get go, I am not looking forward to writing this blog today.  I write it very reluctantly… but I must.

If you haven’t read the last blog entry you will need to take a look at it because this entry won’t make much sense if you don’t. 

Side Note:  Go ahead and read it.  We’ll wait on you.  We’ll just hang out here while you backtrack.  Maybe I’ll tell a joke while you’re gone.  Just be quick about it. 

 

Joke:  Did you hear about the scientist who got deeply depressed because his experiments continually failed?

He tried to cross watermelon and cauliflower and all he got was melancholy. 

Sorry.  Pretty bad huh?  I actually made that joke up. I know, I know, don’t worry, I won’t try that again.

 

Welcome back!

I honestly believe I made the first part of this blog light and trivial because, as I mentioned, I really don’t want to write on the topic.

As you read in my last blog I saw a young girl really hurting… my heart broke for her.  I didn’t feel I could do anything for her because of the dynamics I mentioned and so I just drove on. 

I want to drive on now but this time there is nothing stopping me.  If I keep driving now it is out of cowardice.  So I stop my usual blog blather and attempt over the next few days to unpack the event.

I have no illusions that my feeble perspectives will change the world.  It is not intended to.  Steve Jobs founder of Apple said that he wanted to make a ding in the universe.  I believe he has.  I do not have such lofty goals.  BUT… I do want to make a ding in you.

If we make enough dings in each other then maybe collectively we can move the world mean-o-meter down a notch or two.

There are a couple of things I need to say before I proceed.

  1. This blog is not intended to be (nor will be) a social or political commentary.  God knows we have enough of that.
  2. I feel totally inadequate tackling such complex and pervasive issues.  There are no new insights I can provide on this topic.  But I can share how it impacts me personally, just one person.  Just maybe it will be something that resonates with you.  When enough people resonate on the same frequency, the world vibrates.

 

Oh thank goodness… I am to the end of the computer page.  I usually type one page single space per blog entry. 

Side Note:  I asked my wife to read this and tell me what she thought.  She said it was good overall but the ending was a cop-out.  Yep.  Correct.  It is a cop-out.  Sorry if I disappointed any of you in me.  As you can quickly tell I’m not perfect. 

 

But the reality is, even if I may be able to put off the topic one more day, I must stop and engage.

Just to get your mind set in motion, in the next blog I plan on talking about the foundation or core of the issues… Evil. 

I will need my rest.  I think I am in for some heavy lifting.

See you Thursday.


14
Oct 10

Heavy Load for a Little Girl

I saw a girl crying today.  It was sad.

On my way to work this morning I drove through a residential area.  There were lots of kids walking to the bus stop loaded down with their school backpacks.  Pretty normal stuff.  The little boys were pushing each other and making faces.  The girls were in pairs or clustered in groups all animated and chatty.

A girl away from the other kids caught my eye.  She was walking alone carrying her books.  I guess her to be about age twelve.  Her head was slightly tilted down and her posture broadcasted a heavy load… a load more than books.

As she slowly moved, her distant eyes were a fixed gaze on the cement sidewalk just ahead of her feet.

And there were the tears.  These were not bawling tears that pour out because an upset adolescent is forcing a cry because she didn’t get to wear her favorite blouse.  But it was a large single wet path down her cheek to her chin.  The kind of tear that signals a heavy press.  You could just feel the heaviness.

My mind flew through a hundred different scenarios to assign cause for her pain.  None were good and some unthinkable.  To assume anything would be unfair and presumptuous.

I felt sad and helpless.  This made me angry.  It made me angry that in our society the default assumptions of a man approaching a young girl are questionable at best.  It made me angrier that our world is such that this scenario is magnified a 100% more because of race… she was black.

To me personally there were no gender, age or race issues.  Only that a hurting kid needed some encouragement and I couldn’t help.  It angered me.

Yes, as any good Christian… I prayed.  I prayed quite a bit.  But frankly, I felt bereft.

Now don’t get me wrong.  I believe in praying and that prayer does impact.  But it still felt somewhat hollow without some action.

Some of you may say I should have stopped regardless of the situation.  I don’t know… maybe.

I do believe that keeping going and not stopping was the right thing to do given the above mentioned realities.

Now the question is what am I suppose to do with this?  I really don’t know.  I write about it… so what?

I am trying to decide whether I want to unpack this in more detail or just move on.

Sigh!   I’m not sure.

I guess you will find out on Monday.


11
Oct 10

Moody Blues

Hi, welcome.  But before you get too far along in the blog I need to give you a heads up.

Fair warning… I’m in a crappy mood today… really crappy.

Don’t ask me why.  I just am.

It’s one of those days that almost everything irritates me… traffic, noise, work, smiley people, and kittens.  Pretty bad huh?

You ever get that way?  This doesn’t happen to me very often.  Usually I am in a fairly good mood and all is well… except today.

Side Note: I think I will blame it on the anesthesia from my surgery almost two weeks ago.  It’s probably not the anesthesia but it sounds good and it’s hard to argue with a fellow fresh from surgery.

A weird thought just crossed my mind.  I wonder if Jesus was ever in a bad mood.  He was human after all.  Yes, he was sinless but it doesn’t mean he didn’t have a bad day.  Having a bad day isn’t a sin.

Think about it.  It would be tough hanging out day in and day out with smelly fishermen and not get irritable.

You think I am writing this to get a cheap chuckle (of which I have been known to do).  Actually I am pretty serious about this.  Was Jesus ever in a bad mood?

Frankly, if he did have bad mood day it would not impact my view or perspective of him one iota.

Side Note: It’s weird how writing goes.  Going down this topic path was not even a thought when I started typing.  It just popped into my brain.  I know… scary.

I think it is hard for us to see Jesus as a human.  Yes He is God but human too.  He was a baby who nursed, spit up and pooped.  I personally believe that he probably argued with his brothers and sisters and had the normal raging hormones as a teen.  So why not a bad mood?

Have you ever done anything dumb and called yourself a stupid idiot?  Do you think Jesus ever made a mistake (not sin)?  If Jesus did make a mistake and called himself a stupid idiot would he be blaspheming?

Speaking of Jesus when He was younger, personally I think it would have been tough being the brother or sister of Jesus.  I mean… how would you respond if your mother asked (in some moment of exasperation like all mothers) you why can’t you be like your older brother?

On a serious note, I had never really thought of it before but I do think it had to be odd and a challenge growing up the half brother of Jesus.  No question it was odd for the entire family.

Does it make you feel uncomfortable reading this description of Jesus?  It wouldn’t surprise me because it feels a little odd and uncomfortable writing about Him this way.

Typically when I think of Jesus I tend to think of him in light of his ministry.  But He was a baby, toddler, child, teen, young adult.  I feel odd because I’m not used to seeing him in these forms.

I really don’t believe He minds us speculating about his early life.  He’s probably smiling.

Ok, ok, enough of the weird blather.

Question:  How do you handle your crappy moods?  Any suggestions?

I am sure I will be fine tomorrow.  I feel better all ready having made a complete fool of myself with this strange blog.  But any thoughts or suggestions would be nice.

See you Thursday.


7
Oct 10

Something’s Burning

I’m back… well sort of… all of me less one gall bladder.

I have chalked this whole medical surgery thingy up as another chapter in my life.  This experience has changed my perspective about some things and rooted me more deeply in others.

Just so you know, this was a significant event for me.

Side Note: I’m sure for many of you a gall bladder attack and surgery would not come close to registering on your significance scale.  For me… let’s say it got my attention.

It was significant because I have been very very blessed to have excellent health.  It was the first time in my life that I really got a whiff of my mortality and the vulnerability of our bodies.  I can’t speak for you but my mortality has always been neatly tucked away somewhere behind the mental curtain that separates the black hole of the mind and conscious life.

You always know that you’re not going to live forever but for me the reality had never peeked around the edge of the curtain, thus… the significance.

The big question for me now is, what do I do with this new information?  It’s kind of like finding out as an adult that you have a half brother that you knew nothing about… what do you do with that information?

I tend not to over react or jump to immediate conclusions.  I usually let things simmer and bubble on the back burner.  Eventually it will get tended to because the tantalizing aroma routinely draws you to taste the stew or the smell of something burning demands attention.

As I said, I have to let it simmer but one thing crystallized quickly.  This event solidified the fact that I’m not really afraid of dying.  Don’t get me wrong, I’m not ready to go over the rainbow with Dorothy and Toto.  But having mortality catch my eye as it peeked around the corner confirmed that I’m good as it relates to eternity (very nice feeling).

Side Note: I did ask God that I would prefer that I not die on a ship.  (I was on a cruise)

There are four other things that I quickly learned from this health scare.

1. It’s also nice to know that you’re loved.  I found out that my wife isn’t too anxious for me to take up residence somewhere else.  It was a good feeling to know that she was really concerned when I had my attack vs. being of the mindset of beginning to place furniture as they say.

2. To be more empathetic to people’s health issues.  It wasn’t that I didn’t care it was that I was unaware.  You don’t know what you don’t know.

.
3. Learned better how to deal with friends that may be sick or going through issues.

Historically I would be somewhat tentative contacting a person or engaging when they were sick.  I have pretty good awareness so I know I won’t hover or bug people but I won’t be as reticent to call or engage.  I really appreciated the calls and efforts friends made to engage.

4. I have an ego to protect.  This is a weird one.

I had the gall bladder attack, as I mentioned,  while my wife and I were on a cruise.  They thought it was a heart attack at first.  The morning after the attack we were docked and the Doctor told me he had an ambulance ready to take me to the hospital.

I hate to admit it but the first thing I thought of and said was that I wanted to walk off the ship.  I was not going to let myself be wheeled off.

I am still unpacking this one.  My immediate response surprised me.

Well, I’m gonna put the pot on the burner and let it simmer.

Talk with you Monday.


4
Oct 10

Here, But Not All There

Howdy.

It will be pretty easy keeping up with me today.  I’m still moving pretty slow from all the poking, probing, cutting, piercing, sticking, pushing, pulling, and restraining… and that’s just from me shaving this morning, little lone the surgery I had last week.

I feel like a rusty 1983 Oldsmobile that runs on 3 cylinders with smoke pouring out the back and owned by a family of twelve from the hills of Kentucky.

I know, I know, I just offended a lot of Oldsmobile lovers out there.  Sorry about that.

So you can quickly see that I am not at full throttle today.

I am at a weird point in my recuperation.

  • I am getting bored but too distracted by my body to do anything productive.
  • I don’t hurt much and then move too quickly
  • I feel guilty not doing much then can’t focus well to get anything done
  • You can do a few things on your own but not enough to not be dependant on someone else at times
  • You don’t want anyone to hover but you don’t want to be left alone
  • Too out of it to read but tired of TV

Side Note: Speaking of TV, you know you’re watching too much TV when you have seen all the reruns (twice), you have 200 channels and nothing interests you and you begin to believe Oprah is actually talking to you.

So you may be asking, how can you write a blog when only half of the circuit board if functional?  The answer is slowly.  I type and rest, read and delete then type and wait.  And then you just hope that the sentences are somewhat coherent and the thoughts responsible.

Usually when I write a blog I try in some way to turn my thoughts and insights back on you in the hopes that you are stretched, moved or challenged.  Not today.  You’re on your own.

If you happen to pull out anything that is meaningful from today’s blog then you’re a better person than I am.  Or you may have a little too much time on your hands and you might want to consider backing off of your medications a bit.

Thanks for hanging out with me… but not hovering.

See you Thursday.