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Saturday, September 7, 2019

Evil has always existed

I have long been fascinated by the subject and history of WWII and the rise and fall of the Third Reich. Since I am far removed from the time period involved and especially since I did not have any direct connections in my family tree that I know of offhand, it is easy for me to study it in a detached way. This doesn't quite capture it, but consider when we drive by accident scene, we can't help but look, stare and gawk for a moment in morbid curiosity and try to discern what happened. If we figure out how it--the accident--happened. it may help to reinforce to us how not to drive. In any case, what makes Germany of post WWI to end of WWII intriguing is how a 'modern' society in human history allows itself to be the instrument of evil to the extent it did. While I believe that it is possible for evil to fully overtake a society in short order, I believe it is typically a gradual process.


The reason I named this blog as I did is that I believe evil has always existed in all of humankind or the potential or tendency to drift towards it as a society given the right circumstance. Think about it;
  • We see a small wad of cash on the ground, say maybe $100, $200 or more.  Even if we are honest, I believe that most people think for a moment about what they would do with it.  We may even do the honest thing and turn it in to the police or customer service.  But, I believe most people will hope that no one comes by to claim it and they get it to keep it.  I guess the point here is we fight the desire to have what we know is not ours.
  • We see a conflict off in the distance and it is clear someone is being beaten or otherwise wronged in a bad way.  Do we get involved to defend the target of it, do we reach out to the police or some other governing authority or do we just walk or drive away from it?  In question here is our willingness to put ourselves at risk or at least have to deal with the inconvenience of a situation which doesn't immediately involve us.
  • We ignore a law or rule because we think it is silly or isn't that big a deal.  Heck I speed everyday so there's that.
  • As a child we've gotten into or done something that we shouldn't have.  We know if we tell the truth to our parent or caregiver, there will be negative consequences for us.  But, we also know that if we are dishonest about it, there may be a chance that we are able to avoid any consequences especially if they believe our dishonesty.  
In these cases and many others there is the most proper way to act or be and there are less noble ways to act or be.  Think about it, even in an 'upright society' which strongly suggest golden rule values, people fight the right vs. wrong fight every day.  Now consider if a society has leadership whose priorities are out of whack.  As individuals, we face a challenge to exercise our better nature, with some more successful than other in that regard.   We sometimes face the challenge too of recognizing our better nature. Meaning, not just thinking we are doing right, but also recognizing what is right.  Imagine if you have leadership with very corrupt, if not downright evil priorities.  Imagine too that the leadership is good at masking their intentions too at least until it is too late to effective combat it (as in Nazi Germany).


Anyway, given our split nature.  The right vs. wrong and in a more extreme view, good vs. evil, why don't we just serve our 'wrong' nature more when it often seems to be more beneficial.  In other words, what keeps our 'wrong' or 'evil' behavior at bay?  Some of  the things I believe that keep us in check are as follows:
  • Laws/rules that strictly lay out what is poor behavior and likely punishment for it.  In other words, in the short term, poor behavior may seem benefit us, but with rules and laws that are enforced, we realize that poor behavior may not pay.
  • Faith that gives us a code of proper behavior and that indicates that we will be rewarded or punished for good or bad behavior in this life (or sometime beyond).  In other words, a spiritual ledger.
  • People's desire for approval and a society with leaders/influencers approve the good behavior. I believe people are social creatures and as such seek to approval from others.   If those who influence or lead us reward us with approval or acceptance for upright behavior, we are more likely to engage in such.  Inversely, if they seem to approve poor behavior, members of society will likely engage in poor behavior.

In Nazi Germany, over a period each of these 'obstacles' was overcome.  Hitler participated in a putsch designed start an insurrection.  It failed miserably and he was arrested.   After appealing to the patriotism and resentments of those who judge him, he was able to get a light sentence.  Instead of recognizing Hitler for the threat he was or could become, they convinced themselves it was okay to bend the rules and limit the punishment.   Instead of punishing poor behavior, they effectively rewarded it by giving him a light sentence for his crime.  When he rose to power, Hitler continued a pattern of rewarding poor behavior that he approved of, instead of punishing it.   Hitler, through effective propaganda wash able overcome the spiritual ledger by co-opting elements of existing religious structure in Germany and by creating a sort of quasi-religion of his own.  In Hitler's Germany, his leadership sought the approval of the Fuhrer and as such they engaged in behavior which they felt that he would approve us.  Unfortunately, for all involved instead of rewarding morally good behavior, Hitler tended to reward evil behavior.   Similarly, in part fearful and impart wanting to gain approval, citizens would ignore or even justify the poor behavior of leadership in Nazi Germany or even in some cases condoned if not participate in it themselves.

People look back on Nazi Germany and think evil like that couldn't happen in a modern society these days.  But, with our individual battles to always do the right thing, to resentments or prejudices many have, to our desire to gain approval which can be flipped and our desire to the do morally right thing which also if we are not careful can be flipped as well, I do believe great evil is a risk even in our more modern society.   Jim Jones, David Koresh and many others have shown that even 'good' people can be corrupted, all the while they think they are doing right thing.

I believe we always need to be on guard individual, as groups and as a society and examine:
  • Are we willing to or honest enough to properly recognize upright behavior?  If so, are we willing to reward it when it occurs--recognizing good deeds and honesty?  
  • Are we willing to or honest enough to properly recognize poor behavior?  If so, do we have the stomach to punish poor behavior appropriately or do we ignore it because punishing it might have a cost? 
  • Are we tailoring our beliefs of what is upright behavior to fit our lives OR are we willing to admit when we fall short and not change the definition of what is upright behavior to rationalizing our falling short?  In other words, are we adjusting our 'faith' to fit the circumstances?
  •  Are we putting the need for approval over the need to always do the right thing?
  •  Our motivations for our  decisions, choices and our behavior.

I believe evil has existed since the dawn of man and will exist as long as humankind, as it is, exists but we don't have to give into it.   However, we must be mindful of the tendency for good and bad in all.  We must also be determined to self-examine and be willing to do the right thing or behave in way that we know in our heart is the right way.

Just my thoughts. I don't claim to have anywhere near all the answers, but I enjoy being part of the conversation and hope my posts spur others to think about the things which I write on.   Take what you need and leave the rest.

- Rich

Monday, August 19, 2019

Certain about Certainty...

I had a relatively certain life for the first decade of the 2000s.   I had my first house for most of the decade, I had steady employment for whole decade, all of my immediate family was still alive and I would regularly hang out with the same set of friends and my credit was good, and when I had my daughter in 2007, I saw her every day.

One by one, each of the dominoes fell, first my company announced they were closing down the local office, the my first marriage was disintegrating before my eyes, then my brother took his life,  my marriage for all intent and purposes ended shortly thereafter leading to the loss of seeing my daughter daily, the loss of my house, eventual bankruptcy and the passing of my father and mother as the 2010s got well under way.   Suffice to say, my sense of certainty had been shattered.   I've had other periods of uncertainty in my life which I can draw upon as well, but I digress...

I've heard from, observed and read about others about certainty and uncertainty in their lives and I've come to realize not everyone responds in the same way to certainty.  Likewise, not everyone responds the same way to uncertainty.
  • If your life has been riddled with uncertainty.
    • You may long for certainty and become comfortable with it and finally at ease when you feel it.  Some people just long for the 'day' in which they can feel stability.
    • You may be very uncomfortable with certainty and struggle with accepting or believing it is authentic.  In other words, adapting to it may prove difficult.  
      • The ironic thing is often the ones who longs for certainty may be the same people that don't believe or recognize it when they start to experience it. 
      • It is almost as if they've faced uncertainty for so long that they are just waiting for the other show to drop.
      • In some cases they can sabotage the positive certainty they have so that they are left with the the 'certainty of uncertain' or negative certainty that they are used to.
    • It may feel like the 'normal pace of life'.  We can be comfortable with what we know even if it is far from perfect--like a well worn shoe.   See the third point about sabotage.
    • It may feel like a positive driving force.  Uncertainty can be a motivator. 
  • If you have always had certainty
    • A lack of it at points may be scary or threatening.
    • It can lead to feelings of  monotony, boredom or purposelessness.  That is it may feel same ole, same ole and/or stale.  
    • It may feel like you've never really taken a chance or risk.
      • You might be too afraid of upsetting what you know to take a chance.   Another way of saying this is you might become too complacent.
      • You might feel the need to take a chance before the opportunity slips away.
    • Spontaneity or uncertainty may feel like an exciting change of pace.  
      • It may make you feel like you are truly alive as opposed to just living.
      • It may feel like 'stepping outside the lines' or moving the boundaries rather than just 'coloring within the lines'.
  • If you've had a life-changing events which shattered your certainty.
    • It could either push you harder to seek or keep certainty in other areas.
      • In my life, my daughter saw less of me due to a divorce.  When she was around me, she stayed close for a while rarely straying too far from me.  She had terrible separation anxiety when I dropped her off at child care.
    • Situations that previously would have appeared to have certainty, you would tend to question their certainty (or relative permanence).
      • You have a loved one unexpectedly die, the other things you took for granted as 'permanent' such as living somewhere, you may expect that will change as well.

Ultimately, I believe at some point we all realize life is full of uncertainty.  Even when we think we have it figured out, we eventually will get thrown a curveball which will give lie to the myth of certainty in our lives.  As a Christian, I believe we have hope for ultimate certainty if we accept God's will, way, and grace in our lives.  We may not have the certainty we wish for in this life, but I believe that in the next we can have that.  But, in the meantime, we have to learn to accept and perhaps live with the uncertainties in this life.   Of this, I am certain.



- Rich

Sunday, July 21, 2019

Has It All Been Done?

Recently I went to a concert where Barenaked Ladies opened up for Hootie and the Blowfish. After the concert, while waiting for traffic to file out of the parking lot, I put them on rotation on my iPod touch. One song of theirs caught my attention. It was called It's All Been Done. In the song, the lead singer sang about the different stages of a relationship. It was memorable because he absurdly put it in a history of the world context. He met this lady during the fall of Rome, he next runs into her 'Before the West Was Won" and ultimately he expects to see her again (at least on TV) on the 30th Century "Price Is Right".  He wonders how he'll react as she runs down the aisle--will he cry or smile? I have found that memorable stories often has a bit of dramatic flair, absurdity or exaggeration to it. It tends to make the story more engaging and memorable. Anyway, in his musical/lyrical way, he did bring up a good point. How do you know when a friendship or relationship has been played out?

Sometimes it is as clear as the ocean water on a sunny day. I remember one time ago, I was in one of my first serious long-term relationships and I hear the song, "Breakfast At Tiffany's" by Deep Blue Something. I had dated before that, but I hadn't really had what I call a long-term relationship. Anyway, I remember being overcome with sadness and a few tears. The song had crystallized what my heart and soul had been slowly putting together. The relationship I was in had pretty much run its course. Interestingly enough after I saw her with someone else, I cried for a moment. But, a funny thing happened after that: I slept on it and woke up and my heart and soul felt lighter. Sometimes I hear the song and it might bring me a little sadness. But, I realize the sadness is not a pining for a 'lost love' so much as remembering the general pain of that moment years ago. Hindsight had long ago brought me to the conclusion that she was definitely not matched up well for me and that I was as more in love with the idea of being 'in love' than I was actually in love with her. I'm sure anyone who is remotely romantic and has had any experiences with relationships can relate. Interestingly enough, she moved to Texas, but before she did she had a baby with her new guy. She called out of the blue and let me know and invited me to see her child at the hospital. I could have cared less at that point, but you know, it's one of those things. At that moment, I wasn't busy, I wasn't dating anyone, and she seemed to want to share the news with 'friends'. She didn't seem like she had many friends, so I thought what the hell. Anyway, that's the last time I saw all three of them. It was cordial enough, but one thing I remember thinking is this: I wonder what the boyfriend thought about her inviting me? She still thought of me as a friend apparently, though I had long ago moved on past even that. In any case, I felt like I did my good deed for the day and moved on.  Back to the song, it had been clear when I heard it that we were over and that all that was left was one of us saying, "let's be friends" which to me usually means I am being too polite to say, "I really don't want to see you much if ever again".

 Back to the main point at hand? When do you know a friendship or a relationship has played out? I guess for me, here are some tells, IMHO.
  • When you struggle to find things to talk about.  
    • I realize that relationships aren't about constant conversation, but it is not about awkward silence either.   Though the ability to hang out together comfortably, talking or not is most important, conversation is important an necessary. 
    • I felt that way one time with someone I had dated.  I felt like when we talked on the phone, I had to carry the whole conversation.  In other words, if I was quiet, there was more often than not an awkward silence.  Unfortunately, this was a reflection at large of the relationship.
  • When there is never a happy middle ground.
    • Always fighting can get in the way of reaching it.
      • Aggressively advocating for your POV isn't a bad thing and if it is called fighting, that's not necessarily a bad thing.  I mean fighting without downtime or just fighting because you don't want to concede to the other person.
    • One party completely checks out and doesn't ever get their way.
      • One party feels defeated and doesn't fight for his or her position.   
      • This may at first appear to be a 'victory' to the other party, but it eventually shows up as a disconnected relationship.
    • Both parties check out and neither really get their way.
      • At this point it is more of a peaceful coexistence, not a partnership.
      • This situation if left unchecked will lead to a complete drift and eventual breakup.
  • When the goals of the relationship are too different or there is an unwillingness to at work with or engage.
    • In the song, he wondered if "she'd be bored if he played the same three cords".  This spoke to me that there was a contentment on his part for status quo, whereas he felt that his partner might get bored with the status quo.  In other words, each person wanted something completely different out of the relationship at that point.
    • People can have different relationship goals, like but if there is an inability or unwillingness to engage at least some of the other person's interests or goals, then they really are pursuing their own separate lives.
    • In other words, they have different expectations of what they want out of the relationship and they are pretty well disengaged in the other person's life too.
I'm sure others can come up with signs that a relationship has been played out, but those are three signs that come to mind for me.   In keeping with this, I don't think that necessarily being 'too different' can kill a relationship, it is an unwillingness to find common ground, meet your partner somewhere in the middle or engage what is important to them that would ultimately make a relationship be played out.



Sunday, July 14, 2019

It's Hard to Say I'm Sorry


I realized something about my dad and I think this is something that many people have problems with, including me to some extent me: Difficulty in saying I'm sorry.  By that I don't mean difficult in feeling contrite or an inability to understand when they've negatively affected or caused pain or problems for another. What I mean is difficulty in acknowledging contrition, regret or sorrow to another.

A little backstory. My dad had a difficult childhood growing up. I don't know much because he didn't talk about it. But from what I know from my dad was that his dad was a deadbeat dad and he was taken from his mom and at early age. He was shuffled around in foster until he finally found a 'permanent' foster family during the 2nd half of his childhood. He was raised by an old school, old German heritage dad. By that I mean, was very demanding, very domineering, very much into making sure a boy was toughened up.  In other words, his foster dad was not particularly nice and very sparing with approval. In any case, my dad learned at an early age not to rely on others, that he had to be a tough guy, and apparently to have an unhealthy outlet for his angst. I surmised based on a conversation I had with him near the end of his life that he was sexually abused as a child too. Anyway, my dad was domineering, prone to deal using alcohol and other outlets, and had an angry streak that all of us and especially my mom had to face. I got the sense in his later life that he regretted some of his behavior, especially where my mom was impacted. My dad would ask how my mom was doing later in his life, so clearly he still cared about her. Anyway, my dad had a hard time opening up and I think he didn't really 'know' how to say I'm sorry. Maybe it was facing up to the impact his actions, maybe it was shame? In any case, it occurred to me why he had a difficult time talking about and acknowledging where he had harmed others.

The two biggest culprits from what I see are
  • Fear of appearing/being weak or diminished.
  • Shame

Fear of appearing/being weak or diminished
  • When you are in a position of authority it can be very difficult to acknowledge harm to others for fear of your authority being undercut.
    • A person in authority is 'not supposed' to make mistakes, especially ones that hurt others.  They are supposed to be above human frailties.  Much of their authority is thought to come from their wisdom and strength, including strength of character.   To acknowledge mistakes that harm others, can be to some effectively admitting they are no better than the average person.  When their position in the family or society 'demands' that they are to be held to a higher standard, to acknowledge mistakes is to effectively to say that aren't fit for their position of authority.  So, by ignoring the need to acknowledge their mistakes (even if they are the worst kept secret)-- imagine Harvey Weinstein--they are effectively trying to artificially hold on to a level of authority.
    • The irony of it is that sometimes by admitting mistakes a person in authority can actually improve their authority.  Good leaders lead by example, both in the good and bad circumstances.   A good leader for example shows grace, shows kindness, shows toughness, but a person can be a good leader by leading the way in showing contrition to another.  Open contrition when you've harmed another can be difficult.  If you see others you look up have the strength to show contrition publicly even at the risk of their authority, it can make it easier for the average person.  After all, if my 'heroes' aren't too big to admit they are wrong, why should I be?
  • When you admit to others you have harmed that you have harmed them (and show contrition), it can change the dynamic of the relationship. 
    • The power dynamic can flip.  For example, no longer are you the safe, strong parent/friend/sibling/spouse to listen to, but someone who can cause them harm.  In other words, "why should I listen to you, you are not safe?".
    • In fact, one who acknowledges harm can be the 'jerk' who is striving to be accepted again.
    • You may have had some legitimate issues,complaints or concerns with another, but acknowledging harm to them can undercut your ability to advocate for yourself.   If you have proven to be hurtful to another, they might be like why should I care if I've harmed you?

Shame
  • If you already don't feel worthy or worthwhile, then the shame of acknowledging harm to another can be hard on an already damaged/fragile esteem. 
  • Sometimes the embarrassment or humiliation of owning up to your harm can be hard to swallow.  I believe this is especially true when you are acknowledging harm to someone you perceive as hard to gain approval of, difficult and/or unforgiving.
    • To me personally, as a child, I faced the humiliation associated with a deeply dysfunctional house.  So, I was trained early on the avoid situations that could cause me humiliation.  In some case, that included acknowledging mistakes or being hurtful.

I believe in the case of my dad, I don't think it was that he was unaware of the affect of his alcoholism and mistreatment of family members including my mom had on the family.  I don't think it was that he didn't feel regret or remorse.   I frankly don't think that he was ever equipped with the tools to effectively deal with the emotions and psychological issues that fully acknowledging mistakes he made and harm he'd done to others would have forced upon him.  I believe not only wasn't he equipped, but in some ways it was reinforced to him that showing emotions was not what a man does.

I've been hurt and I've hurt people in my life.  In some ways, I guess in varying degrees that is the story of most people's lives.  While we see on crime shows, people who appear remorseless, I believe most people feel regret, remorse or contrition at some point in their lives.  Ultimately the question is can you acknowledge "your side of the street" as they say in AA?


Thursday, July 4, 2019

Chasing the Elusive Cup

Anyone who is familiar with sports in general and hockey in particular realizes that the Stanley Cup is the possibly the hardest championship hardware in sports to win.  Literally some teams have gone decades without winning the Cup.  My team, the St. Louis Blues, just ended the longest Stanley Cup drought in the NHL by winning this year (2019) and it wasn't for lack of trying over the years.  Anyway, it has been a few weeks since they closed out the series and hoisted the Cup and I have been jazzed up about it since.  If I am having a bad day or just sad, I just go to clips from game 7, read one of the personal interest stories or watch a little of the parade and that's like a bit of an adrenaline shot into my arm.  The mood lifts for a bit.  So, it occurred to me, the elation of their victory and everything associated with it, IS my current drug of choice.  As I've been a huge fan of the Blues for decades, I have devoted countless fan hours, fan passion, fan intensity and in many cases fan cash into the team.  While fans love their team, let's face it, we all seek to see them win a championship.  We devote more time, energy, intensity and money into our team when they are winning.  We do it for love, but we also do it for the ultimate high of reveling in our team's championship run and victory.  For the most part, this is a healthy 'drug'.  But, it got me to thinking...  Are we chasing the elusive Cup and all it promises?  Have we got a taste of the Cup in our lives and are we seeking it at a high cost?

It's very simple from what I see...

Chasing the Cup
  • We are chasing the ultimate high, the ultimate lift, the ultimate diversion, the ultimate medication.  We are chasing a dream and all its promises.  Sometimes it lives up to the promises, but sometimes it doesn't.
  • We spend countless hours in pursuit.   With our favorite hockey team, we attend games, we listen to/watch broadcasts,  we follow the team, we read the stories, and we just generally think about how we'd love to see them win it all.   In other words, we sacrifice monetarily, timewise, emotionally and in other ways while we ride our team's journey in hopes of getting the ultimate high, the Stanley Cup.  If drugs, alcohol, gambling, sex, shopping, obsessive eating or something similar is our "Stanley Cup", we will pursue our Cup usually sacrificing much (or in some cases all) in hopes of 'capturing the elusive Cup' high.  
  • The first Cup, like the first buzz for an alcoholic, like the first high for the drug addict, like their first love for a love addict, can be the ultimate high.

Trying to recapture the Cup
  • Once we've had a taste of the 'Cup' and we've receded from the high back to the stresses, the worries, and the daily grind of our lives, we wish to taste the Cup again.   We wish to live it again.  We wish to have the good feelings, the good vibes, the thrill and ecstasy of victory.  In short, we wish to replace the feelings we have with the high.
  • The Cup gave us an illusion of what it could always be IF only...   In our mind, we know we can't live the Cup.  We know there is no shortcut to happiness/contentment except living the life we are supposed to.   In other words, we can't seek the feeling of the Cup in our lives with shortcuts like drugs, alcohol, etc.   We have to accept that life is work and there are some nice points.  We have to enjoy the nice points, but we can't live in them, demand them or just seek them the wrong way.
  • We can't throw everything else aside in our pursuit of the Cup.  It is a noble goal to pursue the Cup in our daily lives, but we can't sacrifice everything else in hopes of capturing that elusive feeling, that fleeting high.  It doesn't mean we can't pursue the high points, but we've got to enjoy the journey along the way and make sure we aren't sacrificing too much in the process.   
  • It's nice to have those good feelings--the first/teenage type love, the unexpected good night playing the slots, the vacation in paradise, celebrating with a night on the town.  But we have to keep things in perspective.  Some experiences in life come only once, come rarely and/or randomly, or are costly/unhealthy to grasp for.   If we celebrate a little too hard the Stanley Cup and we feel really good in the process, we need to accept that we can't live the celebration.  If we win at the casino, we have to enjoy our good fortune and not come to expect that it will happen readily.  If we enjoy our trip to Cancun, we have to realize that is something we can't just try to seek yearly.  If we remember our first love and how good that felt then, we can't seek to duplicate it, when the responsibilities of adulthood, family and relationships become work.
    • That doesn't mean we can't have the good feelings again.
    • We just have to have perspective and the bigger picture.
    • We have to realize that some things cannot be repeated no matter how much you want to.
    • We have to realize that some good feelings, experiences will happen again, it just may not come in the time, form or certainty that is hoped for.

Now before I wrap it up, I don't want to leave with the impression that we need to kiss all happiness, good times, experiences, or certainty to the curb.  We can still go to our favorite restaurants or watch our favorite movies from time to time, for example.  We can still have the joy that the certainty of repeating pleasant experiences will bring us.   It is more an understanding that of cost...
  • Which experiences are healthy to seek repeatedly?
  • Which experiences can we 'afford' to seek repeatedly?  (cost is not always just money)
  • Will we be willing to accept when it is time to switch it up and not try to hang on for dear life to the known?

Just some thoughts.   It is good to seek the Cup and if you get your Cup, much of the time it is okay to seek it again.  But, don't be blind to everything else in pursuit of it.


Wednesday, June 12, 2019

"Greedy Point" and Entitlement

I was having a discussion the other day with my wife and we were talking about how deaths sometimes bring out the worst in people. Sometimes people who had little to do with the deceased while they were alive will show up and try to get 'their helping' of the spoils of the estate.  Sometimes someone who was there only at the end--and not all along--gets the lion's share  In the 'fog' of activity or distraction that follows, items that were meant for a specific survivor sometimes have a way of disappearing. But, sometimes it's not even that subtle. Often the attempted money or material grab will happen right out in the open as the dubiously entitled survivor will have convinced themselves rightly or wrongly that they should be the one to get the money and/or items in question. Obviously, when a will leaves any wiggle room on matters of the estate, the 'entitled' survivor will likely exploit it as he or she feels a right to the spoil(s) in question. However, the 'entitled' survivor doesn't always necessarily defer to the will even when the will is very clear in what I've seen. Often they will claim that the the deceased 'meant to' included him or her, or that the deceased 'was not of sound mind' when the will was made or altered. Even if he or she accepts the legality of the will, the 'entitled' survivor will find a way to try to pressure the executor and/or the recipient of of the spoil(s) in question into effectively giving up some or all of their rights. For example, say in a person's older years, a supposed friend or companion, 'befriends' or 'helps out' the deceased in his or her later years. The 'friend' may have convinced themselves that they were they are entitled to the spoils, even regardless of indications to the contrary--in writing or understood. Depending on the circumstance(s), he or she might have a legitimate point, but then again, laws aren't necessarily based on what is 'fair'. However, the person in question might be hitting what I call a 'greedy point'. In other words, their covetousness has overwhelmed them. In other words, they so want a particular part (or all) of the spoils, that they have convinced themselves somehow they are entitled. It is at that point they (may) lose:


  • Moral clarity
  • The high ground
  • The better judgment
  • Respect for the process
  • Respect for rights of others in the process
  • Respect for the intent of the deceased.

I write this as food for thought.  When you are in the process of dealing the estate of a loved one and someone in his/her sphere that you think may have hit that 'greedy point', it is best to consider for the situation at large and your own mental health, the following (regardless of what the will says or how the law comes down):
  • Was it your loved one's clear and "of sound mind" intent to leave the 'entitled' one the money or items in question?  
  • Did the person in question add benefit to your loved one's life?
  • Was the person in question's interaction with your loved one colored by the best interest of your loved one or by what he or she could or would get from them upon their passing?  Can you answer this question objectively and/or definitively?
  • If you were in the person in question, how would you feel?  In other words, check your own motives.  Perhaps, your outlook could be colored by your own feelings about that person.
  • Is the point of contention that big of a deal?  In other words, is what is being fought over that significant monetarily or sentimentally?
  • Will conceding on the given point lead to other problems?   Would it be a seen as a sign of weakness by the 'entitled' party?   Would it lead to larger problems with the family at large.
In my own life, my dad had as a benefit a government policy that paid out upon his death.   When going through his paperwork, I stumbled upon this.  Anyway, I thought it might pay out to his kids, so I called and checked on it.  I was told that it had been paid out already.  As his executor and power of attorney, I'm confident that I would have known if it had paid out to family.  It would have paid out to me or all my siblings, but as I hadn't heard anything from my siblings, I was almost positive it paid out to someone outside the family.  This person had not been with him for years and didn't have his best interests in mind.  I was upset.  It wasn't much in the scheme of things--maybe 10K.  I didn't eagerly await my dad's passing to get any 'goodies'.  That being said, I thought it was screwed up who probably ended up getting it.  So, I was bordering a 'greedy point'.   Ultimately, I had to let it go as a) being mad about it wasn't going to change it and b) my dad in a settlement with this person had conceded to letting them be the beneficiary.  But, I can see where people get all bent out of shape.  Part of me was feeling 'entitled'.  After all, I had been there for him for most of his life, helping him run the house after him and my mom divorced when I was a teen and at many points in my adulthood.

While I have centered this post on the risk of greed and entitlement with regard to a love one's estate, it can clearly spill over into other areas.

At one point in my life I was got a settlement.  I wasn't 100% sure that I was entitled to it.  Now we are talking in the hundreds, but still..  Anyway, I wasn't 100% sure on it.  In getting the point of determining if I was entitled, I felt a pull to answer questions in a way that would maximize my chances of getting it or getting the full amount.   Looking back, I probably was entitled to it, but I could feel the 'greedy point' kicking in.

I think another common 'greedy point' is with taxes.  There is a push or incentive to maximize claims of deductions.  It would be easy 'justify' claiming a deduction you aren't necessarily or sure if you are entitled to if there is a little wiggle room on the tax statute in question.  So, I like countless other taxpayers, have to check myself on it.  We have to make sure not too 'excited' when we think there may be a possibility to claim a deduction.  To ensure that I am not over-claiming, when in doubt, I do all the research I can on it until I get a definitive answer, good or bad.  The IRS may not catch all incorrect deduction claims and perhaps they'd miss out on a claim that I had convinced myself that I could take or was entitled to, but for me, it is more important to be accurate with them.  Sure I could justify in my mind doing otherwise by pointing at the inherent unfairness of the tax system.  In the end, even if I had a legitimate point, whom would end up being hurt the most?  Not the IRS and not others.  


A few parting thoughs...

  • Do not let your self-interests get in the way of your better judgment.  While your conscience can be misguided or oversensitive, it can also be a powerful tool on your behalf.   Listen to it.
  • While you need to protect your interests, don't assume someone who seems to be opposed to your interests is just being greedy or selfish or trying to screw you over.   Their POV may have SOME validity to it.  Try to learn/understand their perspective.  You may find that they have legitimate points and it is time to find a middle ground.   If not, then at least you know better what you are up against and whether it is driven by actual greed or an inaccurate perspective.
  • While sometimes you have to fight on principle for your interests and to ensure other parties know you are serious about protecting your interest, often times fights devolve into who gets the worthless trinket or something on that level.   In other words, choose your battles.

Hopefully, this post helps give food for thought for those involved in (or who will be involved in) a current or future fight over an estate, food for thought into whether their motives or pure and food for thought into other perspectives.

That's all for now.

Peace,
Rich


Saturday, June 1, 2019

The reflection across the pond: Hello from the Other Side

You know sometimes, you are just minding your own business going along with your life and you hear something which you may or may not have heard before and it hits you like a ton of bricks.   I've heard the song Hello by Adele before.  I knew it was powerful the first time I heard it. I knew she was saying something profound and there was regret imbued in it.   But, I heard it again on a calm and extended drive home from work.  There was no trying to rush into work, no trying to beat traffic, nothing hanging over my head from work or the like.  In other words, I had a pretty clear mind at that point.

So, I hear her song and it seems to be about a relationship and regret.   I've read where she indicate that was it was about being on the other side of childhood including regret about missing things from earlier in her life.   But, as I was listening to it, I realized that it really can apply to numerous circumstances or situations.  Dennis DeYoung had a falling out with Styx and he no longer is part of the group, yet I've heard him express time and time again wanting to be part of the mix with them.  He's had a good life overall so far and has had a good marriage, but there seems to be something missing.  For fans of Styx, it really is a tragedy as the band is so much more complete with him.   I can imagine current day Dennis DeYoung talking to his younger self, telling himself to back off and later his bandmates from the future expressing what he'd learned from over time.  I kind of reflected on the situation in Heartache: Wanting the one thing you can't have.

From my life, the lives of others around me and having a front row to society here is a list of those who you can say "Hello from the Other Side" to (not in any particular order)

Hello to
- Your childhood and yourself
- Your friends
- Your family of origin
- Your exes, significant other
- Your children
- Your Higher Power
- Your strangers
- Your teammates
- Your neighbors/community/society


HELLO TO:
  • Your Higher Power
    • You didn't trust your Higher Power when the opportunities was presented and obvious.
    • You didn't listen to your Higher Power when you were being 'spoken' too.
    • You didn't value your Higher Power's role in your life. 
    • You blamed your Higher Power instead of understanding that your Higher Power is not there to save you from every possible bad outcome or circumstance.
    • You treated your Higher Power as if your Higher Power's purpose was to serve you rather than to guide as deemed best.
    • You may have cared about your Higher Power, but didn't necessarily love or showed that you did.
  • Your neighbors/community/society
    • You treated them as if they were there just to serve you rather than you being a contributor.
    • You treated them as if you didn't have to follow the rules or etiquette. That is to say you thought that 'rules are for others'.
    • You didn't accept or appreciate your role in the neighborhood/community/society.
  • Your strangers
    • Kind of like society, but on a more individual level.
    • You were abusive and took advantage of others expecting you wouldn't face consequences or have to interact with them.
    • You didn't extend a hand of kindness or friendship when you could have, but instead looked out for your own needs.
  • Your teammates
    • This could apply to whatever team you are part of (band, sports, etc.)
    • You didn't take your role as part of the team seriously.  You were more interested in how your needs were or weren't being met.
    • You didn't appreciate how your teammates were looking out for you and had your back even when you didn't necessarily 'earn' or 'deserve' it.
    • You weren't there for your team the way or time needed: Especially when they needed you the most.
  • Your childhood and self.
    • You were so critical on yourself. 
    • You judged yourself against a higher standard than you were capable of.  
    • You acknowledged the barriers you faced (at least rhetorically), but your actions showed that you treated them as well you should have been able to hurdle them anyway, no matter how high they were.   You acted like you should have been able to deal with anything and everything as if you had an adult's understanding and maturity.
    • You blamed yourself for things that were beyond your control.   When you were hurt, you blamed yourself for allowing it.  You were imperfect and condemned yourself.
  • Your friends, exes and significant other
    • You took them for granted and didn't value them properly.  You expected them to always be there.  Even sometimes ignoring warning signs.
    • You expected more from them than they were capable of and got upset when they, like you, proved to be human too.
    • You didn't always hold up your end of the relationship and sometimes seemed more concerned about what you could get out of it.
    • You didn't bring them in, when you could have or should have.
  • Your family of origin
    • You weren't always the best brother, sisters, son, daughter, or other 'family' that you could have been.
    • You took others in the family for granted, because honestly, well they would always be family.  In other words, you have to accept me because I'm your family.
    • You were too worried about your own 'needs' and didn't take the time to discover, to embrace, to cherish or to even just be part of your family.
  • Your children
    • You treated them like they were a mistake
    • You treated them is if they were there to be seen only.
    • You treated them as if their needs were not serious as only 'grown up' needs matter.
    • You didn't take the time to get to know them.
    • You treated them as if they were there to reflect well on you and not as if how they felt mattered.
    • You were abusive to them and not understanding.

It can be easy to acknowledge on a surface level failures, mistakes and hurts (to you and from you), but really acknowledging your role can be difficult, especially when you aren't necessarily the only culpable party involved, you've been hurt too and life circumstances have led to distrust of others.  My dad made some mistakes as a person and a parent and found it exceedingly difficult to directly acknowledge them or to open up about himself or give background of any sort.  I know he grew up mostly in foster care, was let down by many, had super strict (possibly to the point of abusive) foster parents, probably was judged vary harshly including by himself and just found it hard to trust others.  I've had my own abuse as spoken about in #MeAsWell: For What It's Worth and in being bullied in my adolescence.  I know having to deal with that helps to make you guarded.  Unfortunately part of being guarded means that you don't always acknowledge your role out of distrust how it could be utilized against you.    

To me her song is about realizing, understanding or accepting how the role you have played in the lives of yourself and others.  It is about being willing to really acknowledge and apologize where appropriate for your role in how things have unfolded.  It is about realizing that ultimately that it shouldn't be about you past acknowledging your role.  It is a clear reflection and expression of remorse, regret and sorrow where appropriate.  Sometimes, frankly regarding the time that we are reflecting back on, we think we are doing the right thing(s) with the right motive(s).  Sometimes, you are acting with the best of intentions too.  Sometimes, in reflection, it is clear that we were wrong and that we couldn't have known.  Sometimes, in reflection, we should have known better.  Sometimes, in reflection, we can honestly say we did no better.

While much of this doesn't necessarily apply to my situation, some of it does.   To that extent, to those who I've ever played a negative role in their life (including myself), I'm sorry and I give a big Hello from the other side, realizing my role, failure or mistake.  I hope someone finds these words as meaningful as I have.

Thanks,
Rich