Sunday, December 4, 2016

Safe Spaces: Sometimes We Need to be Protected

This post is part of my Kindness Project. Instead of criticizing my subject, it seemed like the right thing to do was try to understand it, first.

It's been a few years since this "safe space" term has invaded our collective mind, so this morning I finally sat down to investigate. I was just as inclined as all of us to be fairly annoyed and dismissive of the ridiculous idea...but these days I play the game a little differently. Whenever I hear something that I don't like, or makes me want to ridicule someone, or get angry at them, I instead pull out this little intellectual tool that I try to keep as sharp and honed as possible—I call it Suspending Judgement Until I Know More.

This allows me to move on with my day—I don't have to make a snap decision that what I just heard about is DUMB and now someone needs to be told so. They can be punished with a tweet, a post, a text, a comment—but most often we punish them in our minds, "what an idiot."

The problem is, we don't get to have these thoughts for free. Everything costs something. The judgement infiltrates our mind—it does things to us. Our thoughts are not consequence free. Snap judgments breed more snap judgments. Judgement separate us from those we judge. Which is not to say that it's wrong, we can't survive without judgment—but it's probably a good idea to make sure we are wielding the tool correctly.

So, having Suspended Judgement Until I Know More, I've moved on with my day. If, over the course of time, the need to judge that stupid thing, like a Safe Space, creeps into my brain's need center again, then I am motivated to move on to the second part of the directive—I'm tired of suspending my judgement—I want to know more now, so that I can proceed with getting to exercise my judgement, which just feels so good.

So I did my "deep dive" on Safe Spaces. Let me share with you what I learned:

Not many of us really "get it."

Safe Spaces primarily exist on university campuses. A space that is usually occupied by something else is filled with comforting items—Play-Doe, coloring books, pillows, etc. And usually only people with "like-minded beliefs" are asked to come in.

When they are opened they are not flooded. A few people trickle in here and there. They are not gaining popularity, there is not a wider movement to expand the notion and practice beyond campuses—and nobody really sticks up for them or likes them or thinks they are a very good idea.

For proof, here are a bunch of pieces that critique and criticize the practice, from either mainstream or liberal sources:

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/03/22/opinion/sunday/judith-shulevitz-hiding-from-scary-ideas.html

http://www.rollingstone.com/politics/news/college-kids-arent-the-only-ones-demanding-safe-spaces-20160406

http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2016/08/silencing-religious-students-on-campus/497951/

Conservative media is exaggerating the phenomena to get a rise out of you.

If you listen to Sean Hannity (and I do not recommend such a thing), you would think that every single Hillary Clinton supporter after the election was in a safe space during the day (Play-Doe in hand and completing a coloring book per hour), and was protesting in the streets and breaking things at night.

You don't hate the phenomena of safe spaces because the phenomena doesn't really exist. We don't concern ourselves with what perhaps a few thousand people across this country of 300,000,000+ do. We don't think about or criticize crazy organizations like the Flat Earth Society, because we know there are all kinds of ridiculous groups of people that advocate for absurd things, but if their movement is isolated, small and not growing we don't waste our time.

You're not angry with people—you're angry because of a wildly exaggerated phenomena you've been fed by people who benefit in ratings and dollars by fanning the flames of your outrage.

Perhaps you would feel more sympathy for those few people who need Safe Spaces if you realized you flock to them all the time.

Talk Radio is a Safe Space. Rachael Maddow is a Safe Space. Sean Hannity is a Safe Space. Church is often a Safe Space. People frequently turn their home into a Safe Space. This is not to say that all of these things are horrible—just that we prefer to be in the company of people who agree with us. We prefer to hear things we agree with, and we are uncomfortable when our orthodoxy is challenged.

I would articulate further on this point—but I stole the idea from this Rolling Stone piece, and it articulates far better than I am capable of doing.

After spending a little time thinking about it, I started to wonder why I, or anyone, would ever criticize someone who felt like they needed a Safe Space. And I don't think it's so much that these several hundred people are asking for finger-painting, sitar music and Koosh balls, but probably more so that these silly things were offered and the ones who needed it were appreciative of the aid and comfort.

When you decry Safe Spaces, and indulge in the disgust, it's a good idea to remember: You. Are. Talking. To. People. Flesh and blood and feelings and contradictions and fragilities and emotions. You're not talking to a concept: a Millennial, a Conservative, a Progressive, a Political Supporter, an "Other". Acquaint yourself with the radical concept that the person you're spewing venom against is your child, your family, your coworker, someone you love.

Hating people who need Safe Spaces proves why they need a safe space.

So, have I come out in defense of Safe Spaces, or have I criticized them? Yes. 

It's called nuance—you don't really get it from the media you consume, but nuance, vagueness and shades of gray are much more reflective of reality than the black and white diatribes you are assaulted with that stoke your massive stores of indignation and outrage.

This is an example of a failure of imagination: The easiest thing in the world to do is to portray your opponents position as untenable. Your followers won't question you, making it that much more easy, safe, and enticing. This cartoon is a very Safe Place for a conservative.

Saturday, December 3, 2016

My Special Purpose

I think I've finally found it. For years I have tarried and toiled in the intellectual wilderness. Armed with a sense that I need to say something, poised before an open page, ready for gold to issue from the pen--I have mostly felt stifled, empty and desperate to write the words that needed to be written--having little to no idea what those were.

Enter President Trump.

Trump's election has exposed a plague on the American psyche. It's a plague I've been noticing for a long time, trying to move against it, fumbling through the dark, feeling for its edges so that I could wrap my arms all the way around it, wrestle it to the light, so that I could see exactly what it was. I had a vague sense we weren't working--I didn't know why, I didn't know when, I didn't know what much to do about it, but I knew there was something wrong.

Trump's election has fully exposed what many of us have us have been noticing for awhile now--we don't like each other. Liberals don't like conservatives, red states hate the blues, boomers berate the millennials--and we're not shy about returning the sentiment, and we're not kind or tactful about expressing our disagreement. That's mostly what we have between each other--disagreement. Fueling the fire is a fully formed bubble we can step into to have all of our beliefs and biases completely confirmed for us. We can carefully curate our tv/radio station/website/magazine/circle of friends so that we never have to hear or think about anything we don't want to. We are neatly and ritualistically provided with our own facts, opinions and intellectual architecture that we perceive to be cryptonite to those we disagree with.

What do you think that does to us? The extent you find it difficult to understand someone's point of view is directly proportional to your sense of disgust you feel for that fellow human being.


So that's my new mission, my new life's work--I have the humble task of getting us to be kinder to one another, dammit. I must persuade us all to embrace our own inner Mr. Rogers. Mr. Rogers--so kind, thoughtful and accommodating. He's there, lurking in all of us, and with the right media diet and intellectual exercise, he can be coaxed out of the dark internal cave most of us have driven him to.

The goal is perhaps ambitious, but the payoffs are worth the effort. Imagine a people inclined to kindness instead of judgement as their first reaction to something they don't like. What doors does that open? What might we learn about each other if we are more interested in understanding the other than we are in protecting our own pristine worldview? What beliefs might we find we need to let go of, what others might we embrace? What if some of our beliefs are holding us back, hampering our lives, and keeping us from a fuller realization of human flourishing? Spoiler alert--you have lot's of those. So do I.

Liberals, I love you. Conservatives, I love you. Libertarians, I love you. Atheists, I love you. Come, let us all reason and make merry together. We're going to piss each other off, but perhaps, and just maybe, we can keep some good humor about us. Maybe if we know that our interlocutor is not out for our scalp...maybe that can help us relax. Maybe we have the freedom to be wrong, or at least look wrong, and that doesn't have to bother us. It doesn't have to bother us because maybe we realize that all of us are wrong, everyday, about a lot. If that's true, then what's one more errant political stance, false notion or wrong conclusion that was jumped to?

So I'll be over here, exploring and experimenting with my new life's purpose--which is to get all of us to embrace our inner Mr. Rogers, infiltrate him into the confines of your unique personality, and get ready to feel the love.


Monday, October 3, 2016

The Benefit of Treating Your Spouse Like A Small Child

It's ok to just curate some times. If you're married, you won't regret reading this. If you're not married, you won't regret reading this, and tucking it away for future use.

http://www.mbird.com/2016/09/the-benefit-of-treating-your-spouse-like-a-small-child/

Friday, April 29, 2016

A Fowl Takeover



What if the mob were run by an empire of ducks? More to the point, mallards. If we awoke tomorrow to this new reality how would that change the face of the mob industry? Interestingly, no group of ducks, or any fowl, as of this writing, has ever come together to successfully form a shell corporation, such as a cement company, that is actually a front for fencing and other mob-like activities. So this is surely a challenge that should not be taken lightly. Although the mob is essentially by definition illegal, a fair amount of business and legal knowledge is required to affect the appearance of an above the board commercial operation. Mallards are not known as a particularly scholarly animal, so really only the most fiercely intelligent among them would be able to complete the schooling necessary to gain that knowledge. The best they could probably hope for is to truly rally around their brightest one or two, scrape up enough funds to allow them to take a few night classes at a local community college, and hope that the always evolving tax code and regulatory burdens would not be too great to overwhelm the newly enlightened mallards. If the intellectual burden was too much, alcoholism or some other addiction would surely surface within months.

Next to consider is the mallard’s lack of opposable digits. The problem would assert itself in a number of areas: signing important documents, holding a microphone at a karaoke party, or passing the time by twiddling your thumbs while you wait to confirm a car bomb goes off are some that immediately come to mind. Where it would most acutely show up is in the fact that the mallard would find it very hard to wield any type of weapon. It varies by region, but mobsters tend to need to employ the use of the occasional Tommy gun or greased rubber mallet--the mallard has a lot of ground to make up in this tactical arena. Butterfly knives are of course also a weapon of choice, and while the mallard would appreciate the creature reference, trying to operate such a contraption would surely be more than a nightmare for the mallard.

Another glaring obstacle is that mallards, whether rightly or wrongly, tend to be known for their nobility. There is a regality that they either carry innately, or at least project well enough so as to fool their peer species, so infiltrating an organization as dubious as the mob is certainly not a logical conclusion for the mallard, and has a sizable potential to land with a thud.



But getting back to the mallard’s inability to effectively wield a weapon: surely workarounds are possible. The animal kingdom, and all its inhabitants, are endlessly resourceful, but it would seem that there are just some obstacles that are too great to overcome. Even if the mallard could rig up some type of lever and pulley system so that it, and maybe a few of its cohorts, were able to pull the trigger on a Tommy gun, their height is an obvious impediment to the whole operation. When a human shoots a gun it is easy and natural to hold it around chest height, aiming at chest height, to do the necessary damage. The mallard’s natural resting height, however, will have them aim directly at their adversaries ankles, or thereabouts. This would have the effect of achieving some level of menace, but the target will most likely be able to do some fast and not overly complicated footwork to evade the rapid fire assault. It is also fairly simple for a human, if properly squared up, to just pull their dominant leg back, and with a firm plant foot, just punt a mallard a good 15 to 20 yards, of course adjusting that estimate accordingly for prevailing winds and barometric pressure. The mallard will have to be ready for this type of onslaught if he really intends to do a proper ambush-style mob hit. The discerning mallard will probably come up with some type of portable, wrought iron turret it can ensconce itself in to evade angry, vigorous punt attempts, but still be able to poke the muzzle of his machine gun out of the slat, to inflict maximal damage.

All of this is mere child's play in comparison to what would surely be the most challenging obstacle to the mallard’s ability to fully assume the role of mobster: cement shoes. Probably just the mention of the clumsy but devastatingly effective practice would drive any team of mallards to a bout of severe heartburn. Many challenges have been overcome by the mallard, but one would think that the cement shoes would be the great third rail, as it were, of mallard-cum-mobster operations. The heart of the problem lies in the fact that, assuming they were able to come up with some system to make, mix and pour the shoes, the process of picking the victim up, adding to the already large, probably 200 plus pound frame of the quaking victim, are these monstrously heavy shoes. The strongest mallard on record was only able to dead-lift 58 pounds (and even that event is somewhat contested), so a quick estimate indicates that about 30 mallards would be the bare minimum needed to hoist a stool pigeon the few feet needed to get to the end of the dock to drop the snitch to his watery finale. Now this is where things get complicated: mallards are notorious for their lack of teamwork. Nature has bred them to stand out amongst their peers. Their vibrant colors only help to reinforce their desire to set themselves apart, prove their gusto and prowess, and thwart even their own brother if it means winning the affections of the female. Even when not in a mating situation, you can well imagine the posturing and showboating that goes on among a skein of male mallards. Even if 30 or so mallards could be arranged around the blubbering goon, the urge would be too great for the individual mallard to not put forth the requisite effort, so that he could blame his fellow mafiosos for their lack of upper-wing strength.



In the end we find that, although a tantalizing thought experiment, it does not seem likely there will be a shift in the power dynamics of the mob from man to mallard. Although, this has only been a very brief and quite unexamined look at the possibility, so one should not be too hasty in blithely concluding that this will never happen. The possibility certainly warrants more research, but grants would be necessary, and the current culture in academia is surprisingly anti-mallard, for reasons that are not clear upon first glance.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Problems You Can't Solve

When I sit at the keyboard the bad feelings descend. They are roused to combat by me writing. It’s a problem. It’s a big problem. A problem that, in a way, doesn’t exist. I give myself the pep talks. I tell myself that the worst sin is not trying. 

I have to remember that problem solving is often non-linear. Abstract problems are solved abstractly. Abstract problems are not solved by battened down, power right-brain effort. If you’re afraid that definitely monkeys with knives between their teeth are poised to bust through your window, ransack your room and take your wife, then a dissertation on why that couldn’t possibly happen, complete with spreadsheets, probability tables and well-configured diagrams are not going to alleviate the problem.

Staying at the wheel when it’s the last thing you want to do is the only thing you can do. Let the tears flow. Let the darkness swell and the inferiority writhe like a poisoned worm in the middle of your soul.

If I have a problem with my budgeting figures then I have to take a good look at my spreadsheet equations and data entry. If I have a problem of the mind, writers block, what do I do with my life, oh god, what do I do with my life--the solution to the problem, if there can ever be one, will come from a sideways, “oh wow I didn’t see that coming,” angle. If that is true, then it will not occur to you by sheer force of will. You are at the mercy of the pounding chaos of the infinite universe. Wizards and dragons, gods and demons, whatever it is that lies beyond the great veil of your five senses, it is from there that your answers await to tumble forth. You are powerless, in the meantime. 

Well, you are almost powerless. There is power in showing up when you don’t want to show up. It's a little grace you can give yourself, while you wait for the greater grace of the inscrutable beyond to be gifted to you.

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Just Words Clumped Together: A Poem

Writing a bad poem
can be just as
hard as writing a good one.

One way you could do it is
write a bunch of prose,
and then pass it off as poetry.

But, see, that's kinda genius and
this turned out to be a pretty good little
po
em.

That last little trick right there
with the "po em" is just for
effect--there are no rules in poetry,
you see,
none at all,
tweedle-dee-dee.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

The Artistic Commute

Proof that I was on a bus--and that I'm no photographer!

Every once in awhile I try to hold myself hostage by making a public statement that people can hold me accountable for.

I'm dumping my commute and trying to ride the bus again to work. Seattle Metro got their act together and gave me a bus line that is a straight shot a block from my work, downtown, to a spot in West Seattle, not a 10 minute drive from my house. The buses are equipped with wifi--it even works sometimes, if you can believe that. So for roughly 50 minutes, each way, I will have a blank canvas to do what I want with. I have a Chromebook, which is definitely light and small enough to be able to type in my lap and not be a burden to my inevitable seat-mate. I also invested in big, heavy-duty head phones that say "look elsewhere for your chitchat." I'm an incorrigible introvert when it comes to mingling with strangers, especially on public transport, so I have no problem at all with appearing as an anti-social pariah.

I'm still trying to figure out what I want to do when I grow up. I like to write, I like to be funny, I like to podcast with my buddy. It's quite possible that if I put some actual blood and sweat into any or all of the above, that something actionable might come of it. And two hours a day is not a bad start--if I actually use it.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Quitting the Engineering Business

Phil Hendrie & myself. I asked him if we could do deadpan, and he more than complied.

Oh oh, oh oh oh--I heard something profound the other day. It's probably a good idea to write down the things that are profound to you, as this helps you encode and solidify them into your long-term memory. I'm not a doctor or scientist, though, so don't believe what I'm saying. Just file it in the "interesting things I've heard that I need to research & verify if they are backed up by hard science" drawer.

So I was listening to the WTF podcast (and lately, podcasts are all the cultural input I am taking in) and Marc Maron did a re-air of his Gary Shandling interview because Shandling died last week. So it was a wonderful interview and Shandling sounds like a wonderful, thoughtful, understated and offbeat personality (much how I imagine my ideal self, which may bear little to no resemblance to my actual self, mind you).

Shandling said many wonderful things, so you really should just listen to the whole thing for yourself, but here is the thing he said that's forcing its way into this post. And instead of just posting a transcript of what was actually said, partially due to laziness, I'm going to recount it from memory. This also serves to show you what I took away from it, rather than show what was actually said, which is an interesting distinction, if you think about it. Anywhere, here it is:

Maron mentioned that he had (or almost had) an opportunity to play basketball with Shandling in Maron's early days as a comic. But Maron expressed something like relief that it didn't happen, because he would have been extremely nervous to meet Shandling, and what if he didn't like him, etc. And Shandling, without missing a beat, said, "well why would you have treated it like that? Yes, you would have been weird if you approached it like that--why wouldn't you have just treated it as 'This is just another life experience'?"

So that stands on its own and needs no further elaboration. Feel free to stop reading here. What follows is only my reaction to that statement.

You're still here? Ok, good, I hoped you would stay. I only said you could leave because I was worried that's what you secretly wanted to do, and I don't need your charity. Yes, I'm outing myself as incredibly needy, but if you didn't already know that then you weren't paying attention.

It spoke to me because this is me in most of my life. Instead of living my life as it comes to me, I negotiate my life from a distance. If I have a big moment coming to me I will endlessly analyze and strategize, and otherwise plan for scenarios that could never hope to play out. A few examples: I went to an author reading with Chuck Palahniuk, the guy who wrote "Fight Club." I wrote him a letter, that included my email address with a hopeful plea for response, and slowly slipped it across the table to him when it was my turn for my 26 seconds and a signature. Next: a radio host that I listened to religiously, Phil Hendrie, was doing a listener event in LA. So I flew there, slept in the rental, then went to the show. It's not weird to go to the show--it's weird that I had built up this otherworldly expectation that Phil was going to recognize me for the special human that I am, connect and bond with me. Then probably offer me a job, or announce that I was his heir apparent to his massive stash of talent and audience. Did I really think that was going to happen...no...kinda...kinda yes.

I was helped out of this trap, somewhat, by an interview that David Foster Wallace gave, where he and his interviewer talked about those unfortunate people who show up to readings expecting more, expecting a relationship to form, or at least a deeper conversation to take place. And their comment was that a book signing is not a space designed and set up to foster such a possibility for anything other than quick chit chat. So that was very helpful--and this Shandling comment just pushes me that much more down the road to normalcy. It's a road whose end I won't reach, but it's nice to make a little progress. The message: Stop trying to engineer these moments--just take what the world is offering you, and respond proportionally.

Sunday, March 20, 2016

Killing Distraction

I don't know how to do it, this post is only a lament of the problem. I squirreled myself away probably about a half an hour ago to write a blog. But I started with checking out the news, then I remembered somebody and I wanted to lurk on in Facebook, then I wasted way too much time trying to find a quote that was really going to make the post. Then I remembered a few things I needed to return and buy on Amazon, half did those things but stopped because I was feeling guilty for not devoting my time to writing.

The internet is a killer. Kills time, kills your attention span. I mean, it's also really great. But man, it's a killer.

I am a man of little free time--but usually when I end up with it, I end up blowing it. It's clinical. I actually have a theory on that one. If your life is constantly punctuated by all of the needs you would expect of a demanding full-time job, significant commuting time, a household of a recently pregnant wife & three kids six and under--free time, as in useful time for you to read, write, work on something--basically feels like an illusion. I can get started on writing or something, but I know it's only a matter of moments before a kid kicks a candle over and I have to put out the curtain fire, again.

That's why the smart phone is such a terrible/wonderful tool--it's happy to kill you 30 seconds or 30 minutes or 3 hours--it can entertain in as much or as little time as you devote to it. So my environment predisposes me to not want to really sink my teeth into anything, because I can't trust I'll actually be able to do it.

Of course the answer is, as it usually is--life is tough, quit your whining and JUST DO IT (whatever your "it" is). And of course it can be done.

Do you have any tools for beating the distraction monster?

Saturday, February 13, 2016

Why I'm Done With church

Well, today is the day that I finally broke.

That's probably not true. Today is the day that I realized that I finally broke. I'm sure I broke a long time ago.

If you follow this blog with any kind of regularity, you can look back on the posts over the years and see that I have been pawing towards this conclusion. I think I didn't want to come out and accept it because I've spent my life in the church, spent my life apologizing for the church (in all senses of the word). My family and friends are in the church, I met my wife in the church. I'm kind of invested.

So I don't take this breakup lightly.

But it's time for me to check out: to check out of worrying how my words will be received, worrying about keeping up a front, a face, a good witness for the cause. I have been laboring under the illusion that church is a place on earth, an institution, where God and his will dwell among those people and their purposes.

I'm done with that. Church is an institution, like rotary, education, professional sports, and is fine as far as it goes. The problem is that church, for a long time, I have no idea how long, has been writing checks that it can't possibly cash. The offer: an honest, open and supportive environment where you can be vulnerable as you seek to connect with God in a community of like-minded brothers and sisters.

To the extent that you have been involved in church, and especially in anything even approaching leadership within, is the extent to which you are chuckling along, painfully, to my description above. Church experience falls woefully, painfully short of its promise. Which is fine and understandable, because the church is just a conglomeration of broken human beings, same as all other institutions--the church just goes further than any other to cover up this fact with a metric ton of fig leaves, clever smoke and mirrors. If this hasn't been your experience with church--wait awhile. Sometimes it takes decades, but it eventually comes.

So the church has been doing this for God knows how long, maybe 2,000 years or so, I don't know, but the facts on the ground have radically changed. The world has always been, and probably always will be, a severely religious place. There is this aberration in the West that we have been living under for the past 200 years or so, where religion has been dethroned as the chief institution and culture maker of society, but this has certainly not been the norm, at least in the last few millennia.

The Western church has not taken this well. I personally am happy, thrilled in fact, for the church to be out of vogue, because I think the farther away from institutional, rational power you are, the closer you are to God. And if you spend any time reading His book, you might notice that theme, but that's another topic. The Western church feels like it's trying to wear an old coat that doesn't fit anymore. We are speaking a dead language.

I don't want my children to grow up obsessed with morality, and judgement, and deciding who is right and who is wrong. I don't want my children growing up viewing people primarily in terms of their final destination, which they couldn't possibly know, which none of us know. I don't want them being taught theology that is much more a product of human imagination, dependent on the prevailing winds of the age, rather than a rational subject with rules and immutability, like math. I don't want my children thinking that Christianity is easily translated into a political platform, wherein the conclusion is axiomatic, that if you are a decent X then you will vote as a decent Y.

I don't know if you have noticed, but I have been using the word church with a small "c"--this has theological significance. Please allow me to nerd out on you for a moment. The Church are all of those people that God has called to Himself. I have no doubt that this group, The Church, spans all social/political/religious categories, and may just include everyone. Yes, I am holding out for universalism, but that call is above my pay grade. I believe in God for the very simple reason that my soul responds within me when the subject is raised. Sure, it's more complicated than that, but for me, it can also be as simple as just that. Belief comes easy to me. And my belief has not been shaken by a thousand books written "debunking" Christianity (of which I have read a few, just to make sure I'm not being taken), or a thousand insinuations that religion is for simple folk, is a crutch, etc. I look at the alternative, an ultimately meaningless universe, and that gives me the willies. So even if I'm only kidding myself about a God for 80 or so years, I'll take it.

So yes, I will continue to go to church, but I will no longer make the mistake of thinking that God is any more inside of that building or the people than he is on the outside, or in those people. That, my friends, is the difference. The Church is all of us or none of us, or some of us, scattered out into the world, like a handful of sand flung into the air. The church, on the other hand, is a conglomeration of people, Church and/or church, trying to cobble together some meaning. The institution of church has done this better and worse, throughout history, and I happen to think that the Western church is doing it so badly that it is practically unrecognizable, when compared to its original intent, to the extent that I am waiting around for a third Reformation. And until that day comes I will be haunting the outposts of a broken machine, trying to figure out what it looks like to be a part of the solution, instead of just bitching about the problem. Oh, but it's just so easy to bitch about the problem.

About the Post I am About To Publish

I really struggled with this one.

Well, I suppose there's nothing strange about that--struggle is my game. Self-doubt, cynicism and lack of confidence are my drugs, and I both pedal them and steal from my own stash. But this one was different because, for a little while, I was thinking that I was making a declaration, that I was making a pronouncement on an entire subject--an entire religion, no less. So I did what I do--"oh, who am I to say? I don't know anything, there are far smarter people who have put far more thought into this, and I'm just going to sound like an idiot."

But then I came to my senses. I'm not offering answers. I am not telling you the way that it is. I am not telling you the Truth With A Capital T. I'm only offering you one thing--my perspective. And my perspective is only worth whatever it is worth to you, which is only subjective. I offer my perspective on the world because I like hearing other people's perspectives. Some I agree with, some I disagree with, some bore me to death--and some change my life. I don't need to worry about misleading some, or being wrong. All I have right now is my perspective, and I feel like floating it out into the world. I may come back to it in five years and laugh at how wrong I was. Or not. It doesn't really matter. Life is a wardrobe--it takes a long time to find the perfect outfit.

Monday, February 8, 2016

My Buddy, Cam Newton



For some weird reason at some point many years ago I got tired of hating people who disagreed with my politics or my religion.

And then that tiredness extended to being tired of enjoying the judgement and ridicule of celebrities that the tabloids and talk shows made fun of. 

For some reason all of this judgement that the media, magazines, talk shows and gossip circles practically seduces all of America to partake in suddenly lost its allure.

From somewhere in my mind a principle asserted itself--think of every single person, which includes every single celebrity--think of them as your friend. Process the judgement that is being poured out upon them through that lens. 

When a friend of yours screws up, does something stupid, or faces criticism, what are the things you say? Things like: that doesn't define them; there is so much more to them than that one act; it's complicated; they've stood by me in my darkest hour, and I'll stand by them; even though they were wrong, they are still my friend. You do things like give them the benefit of the doubt. You consider their circumstances. Your knowledge of who that person is causes you to see all of their actions in a deeper context, in a different light. 

I don't know Cam Newton, I've never met him before, I'll never meet him. I don't know what he's like--and any amount of ESPN clips I can see of him will not get me any closer to actually knowing him. In fact, they get me further away, because it's such a distorted image. Put a camera or a microphone in front of my face and I can barely remember my own name, let alone conduct myself as I do day in and day out in my familiar context.

Cam Newton doesn't need to be Russell Wilson. Cam Newton was not gracious in defeat. Being gracious in defeat is a great personal strength to have. Do you have all of the character strengths that exist? If Cam Newton was my buddy, I can imagine saying something like, "Nope, Cam doesn't take a loss very well, he's too fixated on being the best, on pushing himself, and it's hell for him to go through a defeat. But he's the first one to be there for me when I'm down on myself."

Maybe we saw Cam Newton in an immature moment, and it's something that he will grow out of. Maybe we saw Cam Newton as who he is and always will be--someone who can't take a loss well. I have never said anything in my life with more conviction than this--so what? I'm not perfect, my friends aren't perfect. We all have flaws that we will never overcome, we somehow find a way to put up with one another, and love each other anyway. 

I don't want to ever pretend I know enough about someone I've only met on a TV screen to say I know the first thing about that person, that I'm qualified to pronounce a judgement. In the meantime, unless I know otherwise about you, I'd rather just think of you as my buddy. I'd rather work my charity muscle than my judgement muscle.


Thursday, January 21, 2016

What It Takes

You know, it takes a lot of balls to walk back to a blog that you barely post at anymore, and do a post.

Wish I could be that guy.

(p.s.--Can you tell I loathe coming up with titles. "What it takes,"...I might as well have said "watching paint dry."