Search This Blog

Saturday, July 11, 2020

Conflict is in the Middle: Black and white thinking avoids the conflict of nuanced thinking.

With Covid-19 and George Floyd's death and the ensuing protests/riots, I've thought a lot more about our society--what's right with it, what's wrong with it and what could use fixing.  While this includes what we can do or be as society, it also includes what I can or be as an individual.   In other words, part of this examination is internal.  As I've gotten older and seen more of the world, I've come to realize more of nuance in my thinking.  For example,
  • I support the right to protest and be heard, but protest has to be orderly.  It has to take into account the needs of others to get to work to take care of their families.
    • Free speech/assembly isn't absolute and unlimited.  Rights come with responsibilities and abiding by the responsibilities can help to preserve that right.
  • Law enforcement needs reformed, but law enforcement needs to be strong.
    • We need to make sure law enforcement is done equally and justly and respect the rights of citizens.  But, erroring on the side of too hands off can embolden criminals
  • Freedom of assembly is important, but it needs to be done in a responsible way during a pandemic.
    • Meeting can be done virtually where possible, but people shouldn't lose their freedom to assemble but should mitigate against risks--limiting numbers, proper spacing and encouraging high risk people to avoid for example.
  • It is important to stand again all who say racially or otherwise charged things, but it is also important to make sure we aren't shutting down free speech by destroying people who WE believe are crossing a line.  
    • People can out of frustration say things WE find offensive, but if we clamp down too hard we  are setting a precedent.  One day, the future WILL be led by others whose take on what crosses the line is different (and possibly absurd or abusive).  
    • If we clamp down too hard on what WE deem is offensive speech, we risk freezing speech as people may not want to risk saying things that could be thought even remotely controversial. 
  • Your words and actions can, in many cases, rightly have serious consequences.  However, where possible, a path back or second chance should be allowed.  
    • This allows people to have the chance to be a positive on society rather than a drain.
    • It also exhibits a good side of humanity -- forgiveness.
    • An absolute unwillingness to do so, can exhibit anger and contempt.
  • You can condemn behaviors of yesteryear, but can also understand some of them were a product of their time.  That doesn't mean excuse them, but that means that realize that like a family, people can grow and learn.   
  • Bad moments in history can be recognized without being celebrated.
  • Most people are neither completely evil or a complete saint.  Even 'heroes' have flaws, but that doesn't necessarily mean they are not heroes.  Likewise, 'bad people' usually have some redeeming quality (or the potential for them).
  • Drinking is acceptable, but not always advisable.
---

I've come to realize that part of the human struggle is wanting to 'getting it right'.  We may do that to be thought of well by others, by ourselves (self-respect) or by our Higher Power (God).   Whatever, the motivation, part of 'getting it right' means treating others well, thinking and behaving righteously and just striving to be good people. 
  
I've come to realize that part of 'getting it right' is recognizing nuances and not being dogmatic.  The Pharisees of old were focused on being righteous by 'following all the rules'.   They may have succeeded in 'following most of the rules', but in their hard hearts they missed the whole point of the Father's teaching.  Jesus and his disciples did many good deeds and miracles on the Sabbath.  Pharisees pointed out that wasn't 'resting' on the Sabbath.   The Pharisees, with their dogmatic, black and white thinking, had no internal conflict.  They just knew that good deeds and miracles were 'work' and weren't appropriate for the Sabbath.  Jesus' disciples may have been raised to understand that and when Jesus led them to 'break' the Sabbath, it might have been out of their comfort zone.  However, it would seem they understood quickly that they were doing God's work and came to understand it was appropriate to do so on the Sabbath.

I feel a bit conflicted on how we can best move forward and how I can best grow to be a better person in today's society.  For me, that isn't necessarily a weakness or failing.  For me, it is like a baby chick trying to break out of its shell.  There is some internal struggle and conflict, but it is a healthy struggle.  I don't think anyone in this life has all the answers, but has shells of ignorance.  I'd like to think that each of us would should try to break shells of ignorance and uncertainty, where they exist, and trying to be a better person.  

We could avoid the internal conflict that goes along with striving to 'get it right' IF we felt like we always had the answers.  We could avoid the internal conflict that goes along with find the right nuance in thinking and actions if were judgmental and always thought in black and white.  I believe part of where we fail in society is ending up in 'camps' where we think and behave in black and white.  Yes, there has to be some absolutes, but I think it is important that we search and strive for the best answers, even if they may not fit our preconceived notions.

Searching for the best answer can result in nuanced thinking.  President Nixon has campaigned on being a hardline anti-Communist.   He could easily have kept the hard line and not made overtures to China.  He was probably counseled by some in his circle against it.  Even he may have had his doubts if his actions would yield positive results.  He was in an election year and the comfortable 'election' position would be the hardline against China.  But he chose to try to find some middle ground with them.  This came with conflict, both internal and external.  But, he had enough nuance in his thinking to realize that a) we could benefit with a better relationship with China and b) it could be a hedge against Russia.  In our relationship with our own kids, we have rules, but we don't inflexibly stick to every rule indefinitely.  We adjust where it makes sense, where we feel like we can get better results and proven responsibility on their part dictates reconsideration.

I believe part of maturing is understanding and being willing to go through conflict that comes with finding the 'right' (often nuanced) answer.   We could stick dogmatically to the same answers, same positions, and same rhetoric and be very comfortable and self-righteous with it.  However, I think it is critical in our own lives, the lives of our family and of our society that we be willing to consider nuances.  After all, if Jesus has the nuance to realize that he should dine with the tax collectors and 'sinners' as that was the way to reach them.

Speaking of Jesus, that brings me to one final and probably the most insignificant point.  Jesus was able to reach out to and relate to sinners* and not scorn them like the Pharisees, because He wasn't caught up in His own pride.  The Pharisees however were.  To change their dogmatic position to a more teaching, understanding forgiving position would have required them to essentially admit they had failed in how they executed their role.  In essence, they'd have to own up to their own failure and/or lack of understanding of their role in helping others get to know and follow God.   

I think part of the block of being willing to adjust our thinking to a more nuanced position is PRIDE.  When we take time to reflect on our positions and thinking we open ourselves to the possibility that we've been wrong.  Unfortunately, it isn't necessarily just mildly wrong. It can mean completely wrong.   Who want's to acknowledge to themselves and/or others that they could be greatly mistaken or totally missed something?  Admitting to yourself (and possibly others) that you are or were wrong is effectively humbling yourself.  We revere the apostle Peter, but he wasn't always the Peter we have come to appreciate.  He used to be a Saul and he used to actively undermine God's work.  The Lord literally had to call him out Acts 22.  He was so self-assured of his righteousness, only a complete humbling of him would cause him to change his position to be a more nuanced thinking loving man.   Overcoming pride to see a more nuanced position, can be a very conflicting (and humbling) experience.

Yes, there are definite right and wrong in this world, but I feel like there is plenty of nuance and sometimes getting to the right nuance can be stressful.  It can be easier to just stay in the black and white thinking, but it is important to be willing to adjust that to more nuanced thinking where led.

Just some deep thoughts for the day,
Rich


* I used the term sinners to represent those who were known to break God's laws and the 'religious rules' of the day and had the capacity to recognize their failings.  In actuality, "All have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God...".



Tuesday, July 7, 2020

Being my brother's keeper: A guide to honoring society as our family.

I suspect that recent unrest in this country has a lot of people thinking and reevaluating their perspective on society. Given the sharpness of the unrest, I have found it hard not to. I have taken some time to break down my perspective or thinking on society including race. I don't necessarily think I've had a major shift, but I think I have focused me better on how we should treat each other.
In this (reevaluation) process, it occurred to me that a helpful perspective or lens to view society through is that of family. Whether we like it or not, as a society we are a family. For a family to function in a healthy peaceful way, each member has to consider other members of the family. We have to consider where they are, not where we think they should be, but where they are. For example, we could get into a debate on how far we've come with regard to race relations and how much progress we've made as a country, etc. Different people and different groups would tend to have a different points of view. Some would believe that since we have solid enforceable laws in place and integration going on for decades, that 'society' has done its role. Some people believe we've basically made no progress. I tend to believe somewhere in between those two perspectives. Yes, we could get into a precise debate on how far we've come or haven't come, but I think it misses the point.

For me, if my brother or sister is upset and feels like he or she hasn't been heard or been treated equally in the family, what would happen if I told him or her: "Yes, you have been heard" and "Yes, you have been treated equally in the family."?
You Got It: We'd have a big blowup. This is especially true if historically his or her point of view is valid. If he or she had been mistreated or marginalized in the family previously, to dismiss his or her concerns now would be insulting. Even if I can't see his or her perspective at this juncture, what good would it do for me (and the family in general) if I rigidly stuck with an opposing position? While I might feel satisfied that my position or perspective is justified, I can kiss any semblance of family harmony goodbye with that pose.

If a family member feels like he or she is disempowered relative to the rest of the family and I'm the 'head' of the family, shouldn't I see that keeping a rigidly opposed position is harmful? Wouldn't it make sense for me to really listen to why my brother or sister feels that way? Wouldn't it makes sense for family harmony to see what we could do to make my brother or sister feel empowered? For example, if my brother or sister has been bullied in the past within the family and survived it, I could say, you know, "It happened and you are stronger person for it, so let's just move on for the sake of unity". However, chances are that attitude would cause problems. Yes, it is good that he or she survived the bullying and it toughened him or her up, but that doesn't mean it had no long-term negative effects or damage. Nor does it mean that it could be ignored or pushed aside casually out of convenience. Sure, I might not be responsible for the bullying that happened. I might not have even been there when the bullying happened, but that doesn't mean that it's fine to avoid a role in the family healing process. Maybe there have been overtures from the bullies in the family towards my brother or sister. That doesn't mean that I can say, "well they've dealt with it and it's all good now". No, as a leader of the family, I should willing to dig deeper and look harder at the damage. If my brother or sister still feels hurt or marginalized, I should be willing to see how I could lead an effort to make him or her feel included and protected.

Switching gears for a moment, I realized a few years ago you can't easily fix everything. That doesn't mean you can't fix anything or shouldn't try. Instead of throwing our hands up in the air or saying what's the use, shouldn't we attempt to work on that which we can fix or improve? If we value family harmony, shouldn't we work to find a way to make sure everyone in the family feels equally respected and valued? In the case above, equally respected and values includes addressing the bullying that occurred. In a sense, we when we address issues like that, we are taking on the role of our brother's keeper.

Brother's keeper role:
  • That doesn't mean we do everything for our injured or marginalized brother out of pity for the hurt or unfortunate circumstances he has found himself under. But, it means giving of ourselves where we can and it would be helpful. It means making sure our brother has the tools available to help him help himself. For example, if I make sure my brother has access to a good education, I am helping to do him right in the long-term.
  • That doesn't mean that we absolve our brother of any responsibility for his role in the family or of any expectations. Instead, as a family, we can seek to find a healthy and strong role in the family for our brother. We should encourage him to have high expectations for himself and seek to make sure he has all the tools available to achieve that. That may include giving of our own tools.
  • It means we take a role in making sure our brother feels like he has an equal stake in the family. He needs to know that his input matters. He needs to know that his contributions can lead to him reaping the rewards that the family yields. If he feels empowered, it will help him and help the family as a whole. If he feel disempowered or hindered, the whole family suffers and he likely feels alienated.
  • It means we work to make sure that our brother feels like he has an equal voice in the family. In the example above, part of this process includes addressing the bullying and working to make sure that doesn't happen again. After being bullied he may not feel that he has a equal voice, especially if it appears like the bullying never went away or that he feels he might still be subject to it.
  • It means realizing that even if our brother makes a mistake that our brother is not a mistake and not to treat him like one. In other words, showing compassion and forgiveness. Each of us are imperfect and make mistakes, but that doesn't mean we can be marginalized. Similarly, we shouldn't marginalize family members when they make mistakes.
Ideally, if we all seek a role as our Brother's--or Sister's-Keeper, we will have each other's back and hopefully will have an empowered family. However, if we ignore our role as our brother's (or sister's) keeper and let our brother or sister feel disempowered without trying to remedy that, our family will not be as strong as it should be and ultimately it is at risk of collapsing.

--

I could have spoken of race relations directly in this blog post, but I feel sometimes we get lost in the 'black and white' literally. Meaning we get lost in tribalism or a camp and can't see the bigger picture. Historically African Americans have not been treated well in this country. Slavery, lynching, Jim Crowe, etc. are a huge stain on our country which only through cooperation we can fully move forward from. By move forward from, I don't mean to ever forget, but I mean to row in the same direction. If we keep fighting the same battles over and over again, we are rowing in the opposite directions and will not get very far. If we find a way to row in the same direction, we work towards rowing to a happier and more spiritually healthy destination.

We have to identify where we've made progress and where we need to make progress. We all--black, white, brown, yellow and red--have to be part of the solution. We have to be willing to to adjust where we find ourselves part of the problem. For our country to survive long term, I believe we have to view each other (by group and individually) as members of a larger family called SOCIETY. I cannot control what was done before me and/or by others, but what I can control is pushing to make sure that people as individuals, a group, a resident of my state and as a U.S. citizen are:
  • Treated justly
    • Under the law.
    • Under my faith. (Think golden rule)
  • Treated fairly.
    • Making sure that all have a legitimate shot at the dream.
    • Includes doubling down to make sure those who have historically been disadvantaged and underserved have a legitimate shot too.
  • Treated equally.
    • We should strive to treat people as even-handedly as possible, even when their circumstances differ.
    • It doesn't mean we don't reward excellence. On the contrary, it means push for excellence for everyone.
  • Treated respectfully
    • Essentially treated each other as one of God's children.
    • Love all people as my neighbor and help where I can.
It's funny I was listening to TLC the other day and read up on them. I didn't realize that they were the 2nd largest selling all-female group of all time and the largest selling American one. In other words, their music crossed over everywhere. Obviously, I come from a different background than them. I'm sure how I express myself in word and in message is different in many ways. However, I realize that they are part of the fabric of our society. When I listened to them, I realize that I wasn't listening just listening to three young women singing R & B music, I was listening to three young women singing American music whose accomplishments I think deserve to be honored in our Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They captured a moment in the 1990s breaking down gender and race barriers. They are not just the best selling African-American all female-group of all time, but they are the best selling AMERICAN all-female group of all time. They are part of the fabric of our society. Part of our healing is making sure that each of us, independent of race or starting point, feels like they are part of our society. We are very diverse it is not always comfortable for all sides, but we have to find a way, to find a middle ground where we can respect each other properly and not point fingers. We have to find a way where we can appreciate what everyone brings to the table instead of isolating.

I dunno, just some thoughts.




Friday, June 26, 2020

How To Give Up Power Gracefully: Accepting the Possibility of Failure

Recently with the Coronavirus Pandemic raging, I had custody of my daughter for about five weeks.  My daughter was just finishing spring break when her school was shut down for Covid-19.   I had/have been working from home since that time myself.  Until recently her mom wasn't able to do so.  So, she wasn't in a position to do anything except call her during the day to make sure she was on track.  Beyond that her mom works at a hospital, so there was initial fear that her mom could get the virus at work and spread it to my daughter.   After about 4 weeks of work full-time/homeschool, I was getting stressed out.  At that point, her mom asked wanted to switch custody.  This would give me a break from working full-time/quasi home-schooling my daughter.  Obviously, giving my daughter a chance to see her mom and vice versa was a big part of the equation.  However, I paused for a moment and was silently screaming, but I can't give her up now, we are just getting untracked with her e-learning.  I knew that wasn't the answer I needed to say.  So, I said let's work on a transition.

I felt like over the previous weeks, that we had a system in place that could potentially maximize her productivity.  Also, I knew I could help her in some areas which my background is very strong.   For example, math is a very strong point of mine.  Mostly, I felt like I had a beat on her productivity.  I was afraid that she would lose the momentum that she gained with me.  In short, I was concerned I was afraid of losing control.  My intentions were noble.  I wanted her to do well with e-learning and I didn't want her to lose momentum or ready access to my help.   My heart was saying 'no', but my mind was saying, 'you really should transition her'.  

In my brief flirt with control on the issue (and the lingering feelings), I verified a few things I knew and learned a few more about power and control. So, what did I "learn or relearn" about power, control and human nature.

Power/Control Observations.
-----------------------------------
  • It is often driven by fear--a fear that you are the only one who can do 'what needs to be done' properly.
    • Your assessment may not be accurate.  Often times there is more than one good solution to a problem.
    • Your assessment and actions may discourage others from trying to help.  Why fight someone who thinks they act as if they are the only one who can do something right?
  • Uncertainty or inability to 'read' others whom you would be yielding control to.   It sometimes doesn't matter if others have shown the capability of being responsible, just the chance that it might not be done right, is enough to 'not risk it'.
    • When I'm driving, I know what my intentions and what my capabilities are.   When you are driving, I can't tell if you are aware of 'how close you are' to the person in front of  or if 'know you need to get over'  So, I might harp on you about your driving even when you know you have it under control.
    • When I'm driving, I know where I am going and I know the route to get there.  If you have told me where it is and aren't sure if I know, you might to try to back seat drive.  The fact is, I might actually have a good idea how to get there and haven't really said anything or asked because I knew how to get there.  But your uncertainty might cause you to feel like you need to 'control' the situation and "make sure" I know.
  • The goal can be or seem noble or selfless.  
    • I just want to make sure it all turns out for the best, especially if I'm very experienced at it.
    • I'm looking out for 'your' best interest and I'm am willing to help or do the heavy lifting.
  • The impact however can be negative.
    • It can discourage the other person from even trying.  If you feel like another is micromanaging you and always taking charge on their schedule, it feels like too much trouble to fight assert your role or try.
    • It can remove the opportunity for the other person to learn from trial and error.
    • It can remove the opportunity for a solution that is just as good or better to be discovered.

In my story, in my mind, 
  • I was afraid of my daughter losing her progress or momentum.
  • I was afraid of letting another be in charge of the seeing to it that she got her homework done or the help she needed.
  • I assumed that my way 'would work indefinitely' and not have it's own drawbacks.  
    • Such as me getting burned out or her resisting my pressure/steps to keep her on track.
    • Such as she needed not seeing her mom and pets on her mom's side would have no ill effects even if it was just for a few more weeks. 
  • I assumed that no one else could find a similarly effective path towards making sure she was on track.
  • I had the hubris to think to for a moment to assert that it was MY role as opposed to a shared role.  Even if what I felt was true that I might have a little bit more effective way of keeping her on task, I had to accept that the need to exchange custody was greater.

In a matter of moments, I had given up 'control' of keeping her on track (and keeping custody).  At first, because I knew I had no right to ask to keep custody so I could oversee her e-learning I acceded quickly to her mom's suggestion.  However, I came to realize soon thereafter that it was, for me, a control issue.  I hated give up custody.  Also, I was nervous that her e-learning momentum could be lost, but I realize that I had to accept the possibility that my daughter would 'fail' at keeping up her e-learning momentum.  I realize a number of years ago that "I can't fix everyone", nor should I try.  Similarly, I had to accept the fact that I couldn't guarantee what I deemed a 'successful' outcome.  To not understand otherwise would be not to understand the idea of letting go of trying to 'control'.  I had to let go and let God.    I was sad to be giving her up a few days later and I was a little nervous, but I knew in my heart that I was accepting the role that laid out rather than trying to be a control freak.

Just some thoughts,
Rich 


Wednesday, June 10, 2020

I will be waiting (brick by brick)

I remember right after 9/11, events were being cancelled, and the things closed up for a period of time, not like with Covid-19, but still. Anyway, the nation was still in shock, we didn't really know what was going to come next and life just seemed surreal. Anyway, 9/15/2001, I went to a Matchbox 20 concert and there was an eerie seriousness in the crowd. The lightheartedness and banter that usually proceed a concert were not there. You could almost cut through the stunned silence. So, the curtain finally raised and what song did Matchbox 20 choose? Why, Time After Time. It was odd choice to me, but strangely appropriate. I think as a nation we were a little lost in the moment and we needed to hear something reassuring. You could almost feel a bit of a shift in the mood. Maybe people held each other a little closer, just realized that they weren't alone in the moment. To me that seemed like one last time we came together as a nation. We can go back and forth as to who is to 'fault' for losing the moment. Maybe, it was unrealistic to move forward indefinitely with that sense of unity and purpose?


I hope one day we can have that sense of unity and purpose again. We can debate whether a (D), (R), (L) or (I) is responsible. We can debate why we lost that moment.  We can debate whether a Police Chief, Mayor, Governor, Representative, Senator, Alderman, President or the constant drumbeat of negativity in the news  is 'at fault' for why we are where we are at this point. But, ultimately it comes back to each of us. Brick by Brick, House by House, Building by Building, School by School, etc. we can either choose to build up or tear down. We can choose to be part of the problem or can choose to be part of the solution. We have to take personal responsibility for loving our neighbor. Our neighbor may have a brick, maybe we can see if they could use help building with that brick, instead of assuming that they that brick is meant for a window? Maybe if more people asked our neighbor if they could help them build with the brick instead of assuming it is meant to tear down. Maybe we can see if they are lost and looking. Maybe if we are open to it, they can find us 'helping hand' in us, literally "Time after Time".


Bittersweet... You may say that I'm a dreamer, but I'm not the only one...



Friday, June 5, 2020

Missing the Middle Ground - Finding answers the hard way.



I know everyone who reads this won't agree with this, but I write in good faith and with good intentions. I don't claim to know everything and I don't claim to be right on everything.  Also, some things I write about, I realize my perception isn't complete.  In other words, maybe I am only seeing part of the story or don't quite 'have it down yet'.   So, where am I going with this?  This is a follow-up to Stereotypes are often not Stereo, but instead Mono.  It was a reflection on the Michael Brown case initially, but ended up being largely about my father.  I guess I just need to reiterate the general concept.

Kids bicker among each other and to their parents and at their parents.  Yes, much of it "I shouldn't have to do this" or "life's difficult" or "Joey hit me" or "Sally made fun of me" or "You don't care about me" or similar.   Frankly, adults do this too, but it doesn't necessarily take the same form, but  I digress.   This can be tiresome for a parent and even grating.  As such, it can easy to throw out the baby with the bathwater.   Lodged inside the bickering and gripping often are points or legitimate concerns.   Now, as a parent you can't just let a kid bully or shame you until you get their point.  However, at the proper time--maybe when the dust settles--it is important to acknowledge their underlying point.  It is also best if you can direct them to do their best to get to the underlying point sooner, make it more clear if possible or not to add dramatics to it.  However, some parents will never get it.  Additionally, some parents don't seem to care if they ever get it as they have in their mind THEIR idea of how kids should think, behave, etc.  Anyway lodged in this process of theatrics is a middle ground.

As a country, we seem to miss the middle ground.  We have a problem, an issue, we overcorrect.   We elect a politician who is significantly on one side of the political spectrum and that person drags the country or state heavily in one direction, sometimes too much.  So, what do we do after we realize that?  We elect someone who is far on the opposite side of the spectrum.  In other words, we overcorrect.  What seems to get lost is the middle ground.   We have a tragedy unfold before our eyes in Minneapolis as caught on video.   That was a good moment for raising our voices to be heard and reflecting on where we are as a nation and where we should be without steamrolling everything in the process.  Unfortunately, for many that wise middle ground has been lost.   In a number of cases, what are legitimate and righteous protests have been overshadowed by clashes, rioting and looting with many injuries and death along the way.  I realize that some say that that's the only way that they'll be heard, but really is that what we are shooting for?  I feel the message is getting lost in the optics of the situation.  What I see is many people are largely taking two camps again.
  • You need to literally tear everything down to make your point.
  • If you don't take the stand that I think you should, you are okay with the status quo.
OR
  • Protesters are just trouble-makers,
  • Why should we listen to the message when some take it too far?

In the moment, we have lost much of the middle ground.  Instead of constructive dialog and a serious push for necessary change, it seems like we are just retreating into camps.  To me, it's sad it has to come down to this.  There has to be a good middle ground where concerns are heard and acted on rather than letting them fester and build up.  There has to be a good middle ground where we can push for justice without destroying everything in the process.  

Whether it is in our families, our schools or in our society, we have to find a way to break through.  We have to find a way where we can hold people accountable where necessary, but also not go in assuming that others who aren't fully with us, are acting in bad faith.  Often times unnecessary fights flare between those who could get along.  I think this happens because there is an underlying assumption that the other party doesn't have our interests in mind.  In other words, the other party has their own interests in mind and will not yield for my interests at all.  That is, they are only interested in themselves and their interests and at best could care less about how their stance affects my interests.

Yes, we have to break a few eggs to make an omelet.  However, when we start slamming cartons of eggs on the table, we are left with more of a mess than an omelet.   We have to be know about how many and which eggs to break and how to break them to effectively make an omelet.  If we just recklessly break eggs just because we are impatient for an omelet (change), even if we end up making an omelet, it will be a poor quality one and will probably have a lot of egg shells in it.   In other words, if we push recklessly for change, we may get change, just not the change we need.

I'm always for self-improvement as an individual and a society, but we have to be wise about it and avoid going to extremes when there is a good solution that can be had in the middle.  In other words, pick out the eggs that we need to break (the old ways that need to be broken), break them in a constructive way (in a way that doesn't destroy everything else in the process) , add the proper and proven 'change' ingredients from recipes (good replacements for the bad ways) and have a seasoned chef guiding the making of the omelet (trusted leadership overseeing change).  It may feel good to just start cracking the eggs, winging it and saying we don't have time to make it properly.  But, when it is time to serve the omelet, if it is not made properly, their will be additional cost (more pain) to remake it.

I hope as a nation we can find a way to listen to each other and not just talk past each other.   I hope as a nation we can come to a good consensus for necessary change.  I hope as a nation, we can find the moment and seize it, and not use the moment to push without compromise or discussion our position as the only right, complete and proper way.   We don't need to sellout and capitulate just to get a few crumbs, but we can seize the moment and seize the common ground, realizing a win means taking what is there.  The battle for self-improvement as a society will not be fought and won in one day.  We can't tear each other apart if we aren't in complete consensus.  We can't have it be all my demands be met everything gets 'blown up'.   We can't take that extreme position.  If we do, we risk blowing up the message in the process. 

IMHO, MLK was effective because he understood that that unfortunately as a nation that we weren't completely ready, but that we could be moved dramatically in the right direction.   He knew that it was a process.  He could have got frustrated at the pace of progress and pushed more forcefully for change, but he knew it would be best that he find a middle ground, both in tactics and in outcome.  The country wasn't going to change overnight.  So, he took victories when and where he could and continued to peacefully push the envelope.  He knew the path to success wasleaving the agents of status quo no option except to risk looking like extremists while his movement showed peaceful resolve.  

As a nation we still have work to do and I believe in light of the case of George Floyd the moment is available.  I believe however, ugliness of some to tear everything down potentially sets back that moment.   The ever growing list of demands OR ELSE are not conductive to a healthy path forward.  We are losing the middle ground IMHO.   Unfortunately, just like parents who get bullied by their kids the moment is at risk.  I fear that instead of coming to a healthy understanding and path forward, we risk further dividing.  Unfortunately, that means we risk only coming to the answers that hard way..


Just some thoughts,
Rich





 
 

Saturday, May 23, 2020

What's really important: one person's opinion and a soulworm.

 

We are now well into the pandemic season that has shut down much of the U.S. and the world.  States and countries are starting to relax their restrictions and life is to a degree getting back to normal.  However, we are still far from in the clear.  Regarding pandemics, I've always thought of them in terms of an out of control contagion literally striking down everyone it comes across.  In other words, I hadn't really thought about it much.  What I thought was more like the Hollywood depiction of it.  What I've come to realize is that like earthquakes, there are magnitudes of disaster in pandemics.  Just like each earthquake isn't the 'big one' like the 1906 one that destroyed San Francisco, every pandemic is not the Spanish Flu or Bubonic Plague.  Covid-19 may not be the Spanish Flu or Bubonic Plague, but it is a game changer in some ways for sure.  Hopefully, it will be seen as a warning shot that we heeded for that day we might face an even more deadly and contagious flu or plague. 

What got me to think about all this was the movie Contagion.  It depicted a deadly pandemic originating out of Hong Kong.  By the end of the movie, we are told that it would infect 12% of the world with a 20-30% fatality rate before a vaccine would be widely distributed. In other words, deadly on a scale worse than WW2.   The movie opens up with Gweneth Paltrow's character exhibiting a rough cough.  She was on her way home from Hong Kong.  A few days later in dramatic fashion, she literally dies before her husband's eyes.  Her son--his stepston--dies also passes on from the deadly virus shortly thereafter.  This was just the opening sequence.  As we see during the movie, people are dying left and right.   This leads to chaos erupting--stores, pharmacies, banks, ect. are looted, mobs forming, fighting breaking out for limited supplies, states totally shutting down their borders and the government hiding out from the virus.   While, this is happening, her surviving spouse--played by Matt Damon--and his daughter are navigating their way through survival.  He's immune, but his daughter may not be.  So, it is his responsibility to protect his daughter's health and survival.  That means her and her boyfriend can see each other until there is a vaccine as he could theoretically pass it on to her.  

By the end of the movie, the vaccine had been developed and slowly being distributed.  Shortly after they receive the vaccine, Matt Damon's character relents and lets his daughter and her boyfriend get together at his (Damon's) place.  It is prom season and the we see that the family room is decorated for the occasion.  The young couple is in their prom finest.  In any case, before the boyfriend arrives, Damon's character notices on his camera pictures of his late wife and finally breaks down.  The movie closes out to the young couple dancing in the family hauntingly to All I Want Is You by U2.  It was the perfect close.  

Literally society and they in particular were impacted by the pandemic and their world was changed forever.  They lost loved ones close to them and a cross section of the population was gone forever.  There is no telling what all they lost during the pandemic:
  • Part of their family and likely friends.
  • Freedoms
  • Relative sense of invincibility.
  • Everyday things we take for granted.
  • Loss of the life they knew it.
The time before the vaccine was hard and they lost a lot. However, the remaining family--the dad and the daughter and the daughter and her boyfriend--had not lost each other.  It was a bittersweet time, but hey had kept their dignity, sense of right and wrong and most importantly kept each other.

--

Anyone who has experienced tremendous upheaval in their life, realizes that eventually that they following can be survived or replaced:
  • Job loss
  • Friend loss
  • Pat of your income.
  • Much of your material belongings
  • Bankruptcy.
  • Loss of part of the family
What ultimately matters is that we find ourselves left with ones who love and value us and that we keep our faith throughout it all.  They likely lost a lot, even part of their immediate family, but they hung in there and didn't lose each other.   I've heard that people are a social creature.  We aren't meant to be alone and unloved.  Heck, even in the Bible, God saw that Adam was lonely and made him a mate.  Now, there were problems in that relationship that led to the loss of Eden, but still the point remains.  Adam needed a mate.  So, I think what really matters is keeping those we love close, striving to treat each other well, valuing each other and the time we spend together and appreciating that we all are God's children. 

I've heard a song that you just can't shake to be an earworm.   Contagion and the way it ended were like a soulworm for me. I can't shake it.  The song it closes to, All I Want Is You, is desperate pleasing by Bono of really matters: You*.  An earworm, is a just something that captures you ear.  But, sometimes stories, events and circumstance just capture your imagination in a profound way, which to me is a soulworm.

During this pandemic, I hope and pray my loved ones and my readers and their loved ones keep are safe and keep remembering what is really important.

Peace out.


-- Rich
 
* It was a love song to his wife.


Friday, May 8, 2020

Nostalgic for the good times I never had.

         
Recently I watched Days of the Future Past.  It was a very intriguing X-Men movie with humankind and mutants fighting for their very survival against an Sentinels determined to wipe them out.   One of the mutants is able to project the mind of a mutant into their body in the past.  This would allow the mutant whose mind was projected into the past to effectively alter the past.  The idea was to project a mutant
mind back fifty years before the Sentinel program started.  Effectively, they'd try to halt the program in its tracks.  The Wolverine got projected around fifty years into the past into the body of a younger Wolverine.   In trying to change the past, The Wolverine needs to help from other mutants.   One of the mutants he needs is Quicksilver.  As you might guess has name implies that he can move at superspeed.   They need this power to get past security at the Pentagon where they were breaking out Magneto to help them on their quest.  During the rescue, the mutants are confronted by armed security who fire on them.  Quicksilver uses his superspeed to outrun the bullets and knock them away harmlessly and to disable the security.  This scene was played to "Time In A Bottle" by Jim Croce.

Later I looked up the song on YouTube and was looking at the comments.  One of the posters said the song made him "Nostalgic for the good time I never had."   That first struck me as funny, but then kind of bittersweet and tragic in a way.   I thought about it a bit more and realized what he might have meant.  The poster probably misses the 'old days'.  Not because they were perfect, but because he had his future ahead of him.   In other words, though the old days had their dysfunction there was a sense that there also opportunities, there were chances.  In other words, the future lay ahead of him.  What I hear in an echo of his words was a regret that things didn't turn out like they could (or should) have.  So, he's nostalgic for when he felt like his whole life lay ahead of him.  Mix that in with a little conflict that perhaps that maybe within the middle of the dysfunction, there were some good times in the distant past.

Future (looking forward from the past)
  • Is uncertain but there is plenty of opportunity.
  • Is something that we can look forward to hopefully when the present isn't satisfying.
  • Is limited only by our ability to dream.

Past  (looking backwards from the present)
  • Is something we grade based on what we thought we should have done or accomplished.
  • Is how things actually turned out rather than how we hoped they would.
  • Is limited by our inability to see good even when it appears none existed.

I think it's important to remember a few things about nostalgia.  Things weren't as good or bad as we remember them.  There may be good that we failed to see because we were focused on the hard times.  Alternatively, we may have failed to see that things may have turned out as good as (or even better than they should have).  You can speculate on what is the proper path, but you speculation is only as good as the information you have.  Similarly, you can speculate on what obstacles you may have to overcome, but life has a funny way of throwing you unexpected curveballs.  Just like at 2020 so far...   So, it is best to look for the hidden positives when looking back.  Similarly, it is best making the best decisions that you can with what you know and turn it over to your Higher Power.  With additional information that makes itself evident over time, you may realize there was a better way.  However, it is pointless to focus on it after the fact.  Beyond that, decisions and events don't happen in a vacuum.  Even if you could choose the other seemingly better path, there is no guarantee that the new path will not have new and harder obstacles.  For example, the car wreck you avoided might now be the car wreck you get into due to timing.  
 
So, like everything else, nostalgia can be a good thing, just don't live in it.