Tag Archives: philosophy

(un)intentional

stones

Stones. We see them everywhere: stream beds, roadsides, driveways. We use  them in landscaping. The smooth ones feel good in our hands. The rough ones, not so much. We search for the perfect flat stone to skip across the water when we toss it.  Ancient people used them for tools.

Stones are not something we think about very much. They just sit there, being stones. They have their little uses, like the ones I mentioned up there. But, in the overall scheme of things, stones are not that important.

Or are they?

What happens when we hurl them at one another? Or, more precisely, what happens when we use words like stones, throwing them at each other, aiming to inflict the most damage, with deadly accuracy?

Perhaps we don’t even realize we’re doing it. We make some little comment, not knowing that the words we choose have a totally different meaning to us than they do to the person we speak them to. Unintentionally, the damage is done, and we don’t even know we’ve done it.

But sometimes, we know exactly what we’re doing. We choose our words very carefully, with the intention of doing maximum damage, and then we aim them at one another. And when they hit, they hit hard.

And we feel good. Admit it; you know it’s true.

What would happen if we started thinking about our words before they come flying out of our mouths? Ask ourselves this question: “How would I feel if someone said that to me?”

“It’s easier to ask for forgiveness than it is to ask for permission.”

It’s easier to throw an “I`m sorry” or a “just sayin” after our hurtful words are spoken than it is to consider the impact those words are going to have and maybe, just maybe, keep them to ourselves.

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.

I’ve been talking about words, single words. Labels we put on ourselves and on each other, words that can seem harmless. Urban or rural. Northern or Southern. Introvert or Extravert. If we can hurt each other with words like these, what are we doing to each other when we start using emotionally-charged words? Liberal or conservative. Gay or straight. Christian or Muslim.

Just for fun, lets think about what happens when we go from throwing single words at each other to throwing ideologies at each other. We come from different backgrounds, different stations in life, different lifestyles, different levels of education. Single words can sting. Epistles can do permanent damage.

“I really put her in her place.”

“How can any one person be so stupid?”

“You don’t really believe that crap, do you? I thought you were smarter than that.”

——————————

I’ve spent the past week with 28 teens, trying to help them learn to be intentional in what they say, and in what they do. We all know that teens, that kids, can be very cruel to each other. We’ve all been on the receiving end of that cruelty during our growing-up years. But lately, I’ve noticed that we adults can be just as cruel to each other, intentionally or not. I’m guilty of it, and if you’re honest with yourself, you know you are too.

It’s time to be intentional. Be respectful. Be open to other viewpoints. Seek first to understand.

And if you can’t or don’t understand, how about practicing grace instead of vengeance?

things I believe

Been thinking about the difference between “respect” and “tolerance”. I think this quote from wikipedia (the “real” Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Universe) sums it up pretty well:

Respect should not be confused with tolerance, since tolerance doesn’t necessarily imply any positive feeling, and is compatible with contempt, which is the opposite of respect.

For example,   there have been several stories in the news about various high school graduation ceremonies that have been held in churches for years, mainly due to the large number of friends and family that want to attend the ceremony, but there are no facilities available  large enough to accommodate everyone, EXCEPT large church sanctuaries. This was true of my own son’s graduation back in 2008. According to the ACLU, if ONE person objects and threatens to sue unless an alternate facility is found, then the rights of that ONE persons outweigh the rights of the majority of those who are more interested in participating in the rite of passage of their sons and daughters, sometimes to the point of moving the ceremony to a smaller facility which accommodates a very limited number of attendees other than the graduates themselves.  The irony is that it may become necessary to for the offended party to be excluded from the very ceremony he or she objected to, due to lack of space.

Why do I care? I don’t have a child graduating from high school this year. It’s just an example. What I do care about is being respected vs. being tolerated. You may disagree with me, and I may disagree with you. If I tolerate your opinion on a particular issue, I listen, smile and say “That’s nice” and then walk away thinking to myself, “What a stupid way to think.” If I respect your opinion, my reaction should be, “I may not understand your opinion, but I respect your insight.”, with the hope that you, whoever you are, can respond in kind.

A few years back, we gave the youth at our church an assignment: “This I believe.” They wrote about their faith. They also wrote about the merits of chocolate vs. vanilla (or vice versa), Led Zeppelin vs. Pink Floyd, etc. You get the picture.

I’ve been quiet about a lot of issues recently because I know that what I believe on most of them are politically incorrect, and those of us who hold to any sort of politically incorrect opinion on anything are considered by the “enlightened” to be “knuckle-dragging morons.” That is not respect for a differing opinion, neither is it tolerance. It is the “politics of personal destruction.” It’s easier to say to someone with whom you disagree, “You are an idiot.” than it is to say “I disagree with you because…..” or “I respect your experience; here’s mine.”

Having said all that, here are some things that have been on my mind recently that I’ve kept quiet about, because I know what the response to what I have to say will not be popular. I’ve never been popular, so why start now, right? So…

This I Believe:

The death of Osama Bin Laden: The Americans who heard the news of OBL’s death and celebrated weren’t celebrating the death of an innocent man, or the deaths of thousands of innocent civilians, as were the Muslims celebrating in the streets on 9/11. They were celebrating the death of a mass murderer. I’m OK with that.

Capital punishment vs. abortion: I believe that these two issues are not incompatible because, again, there is a difference between ultimate punishment for an ultimate crime and the taking of innocent life. As I’ve mentioned before, I used to be pro-abortion, until I had a premature baby that could have been legally aborted. That would not have been a decision on what I could or could not do with my body; it would have been a decision on what I could or could not have done with HER body.

Faith: Everyone has faith in something, whether they want to admit it or not. Even an atheist has faith….faith that when he sits down in a chair, that chair will support his weight, unless prior experience has proven that the chair is unable to support his weight. Hopefully he learned something from the experience and won’t make the same mistake twice. Faith is a belief in something “unseen”, but it is also the ability to believe in something “unseen” because prior experience of what has been “seen” lends credence to what may yet be unseen, or not yet experienced. If you kick a dog enough, that dog develops faith that you will indeed kick him again. And that faith will lead to changed behavior: that dog isn’t going to keep coming to you when you call him because, chances are, he’s going to get kicked and he knows it.

Sarah Palin: Why do feminists HATE this woman, passionately? I grew up in the 70’s. Remember this commercial: “I can bring home the bacon, fry it up in a pan…and never once let you forget you’re a man!” or whatever. We girls had it drummed into us that we could do whatever a man could do. Feminists fought for the right to have a career, a family, grab the brass ring. You may disagree with her politics, but as a woman, she has ably manifested a career and a family and is very unapologetic about it. She also chose to bring a special needs child into the world. She had the right to abort that child, but she didn’t. Is that why she is so hated, because she respected her child’s right to exist?

Israel: Does this country not have the right to exist? They are surrounded by people who don’t just want their land; they want the people of Israel DEAD. When other countries, including our own BTW, continually allow or even aid the PLO, Hamas, etc. to attempt to dismantle Israel piecemeal,  isn’t this the equivalent of condoning the Holocaust all over again?

Chocolate vs. vanilla: not open for discussion. Chocolate.

Led Zeppelin vs. Pink Floyd: Rachmaninoff

Citizen Zane vs. Casablanca: yes.

Scariest movie ever: A Face in the Crowd, followed closely by Citizen Kane.

So…..end rant. Have a blessed day, and if the word “blessed” offends you, define what “blessed” means for you and embrace it. I know what it means for me.

P.S. Proof that I do have a sense of humor. Plus, my daddy loved this little ditty, and the Muppets.

P.P.S…those of us raised in the South were taught, “If you can’t say something nice, then say nothing at all.” I don’t necessarily agree with that, but if all you have to say is that I’m a knuckle-dragging moron, then thanks, I already know that.

knuckle-draggin’ Neanderthal…..and proud of it

So, back in October of last year, congress-critter Alan Grayson (D-Fl) called Republicans “knuckle-dragging Neanderthals” for not supporting health care reform legislation begin rammed down their throats, unconstitutionally by the way. Can you say “conference committee”???? I can, and that’s not what’s happening in Washington to reconcile the house and senate versions of the bill.

But, that’s not the point.

Evidently, the phrase has taken a life of its own. (Notice that this Neanderthal knows the difference between its and it’s.) Anyone who, in any way, thinks that the Tea Party movement might be onto something is a knuckle-dragging moron. Translation: anyone who exercises his constitutional right to free speech, free assembly, or who dares question the motives of those who were elected to represent THEM, and then do whatever the heck they want once in office, who opposes anything happening in the current administration, is a moron. If I remember correctly, it didn’t work the other way. Anyone who opposed anything the previous administration did wasn’t a moron, he was just exercising those same rights.

And I did oppose many things done by the previous administration.

So, being the Neanderthal moron I am, this confuses me. In a city where you can’t smoke a cigarette unless you stand in oncoming traffic, the government is there to help you properly shoot up.

So, I put it to my kids. “Does this make any sense at all to you?” The 15-year-old, without hesitation, said, “Isn’t heroin illegal?” The 20-year-old said, “Are you serious?” I showed him the evidence. Then he said, “Heroin will kill you.” and “I can’t find the words to even begin to express how absurd this is.” I guess he’s having trouble finding words because he’s a product of public school education, whereas the 15-year-old, who immediately wants to know why the government wants to help people who are breaking the law, is now being home-schooled.

Since I’m a moron myself, I’m having trouble finding words to explain all of this. I have a theory, but it doesn’t quite hold water.

Heroin users need to know how to safely shoot up so they don’t kill themselves right away. Granted, heroin overdose, hepatitis C, or worse, might eventually get them. Just not immediately. As long as they’re shooting up safely, they can still pay their taxes. (Notice also that this moron knows the difference between there, their and they’re.)

The reason my theory doesn’t hold water is this: the same folks who write and enforce this kind of legislation also support abortion. How many potential future taxpayers are eliminated in this country every day? Recent estimates are somewhere between 3000 and 3500. Daily. I could do the math and come up with an annual figure, and then estimate what their annual contribution to the tax base at current minimum wage and federal tax rates would be. But that would just be showing off.

If someone doesn’t do something to stop Washington from spending money like a crew of drunken sailors, we’re going to need all those taxpayers! Maybe that phrase should be “crew of congress-critters punch drunk with power”??

/sarcasm off

The truth is sarcastic enough.

And darned scary.

a cure for the global warming crisis

So, this afternoon the family piled into the car (not the big ‘ol van, because its carbon footprint is Sasquatch-sized) and headed to Costco for strawberries and an iPod accessory. When we finished our shopping and headed back to the car we found the vehicle parked next to us with plenty of bumper stickers on the back.

“Another family for peace”

“IRAN(Q)’

OK, everyone is entitled to their opinion on the war. But, the following sticker started quite a conversation in the Cielo-mobile:

“After we rebuild Iraq, can we rebuild our schools?” and had a picture of a child at a desk with his hand raised. Well, where do I start?

Yesterday I heard a report on revisionist textbooks currently being used in public middle-and-high school Social Studies classes in Maryland schools. Here’s an excerpt from the Charlotte Examiner’s article:

Sewall complains the word jihad has gone through an “amazing cultural reorchestration” in textbooks, losing any connotation of violence. He cites Houghton Mifflin’s popular middle school text, “Across the Centuries,” which has been approved for use in Montgomery County Schools. It defines “jihad” as a struggle “to do one’s best to resist temptation and overcome evil.”

When I do an internet search on the word jihad I get this:
  1. Islam. An individual’s striving for spiritual self-perfection.
  2. Islam. A Muslim holy war or spiritual struggle against infidels.
  3. A crusade or struggle: “The war against smoking is turning into a jihad against people who smoke” (Fortune).

Oh, another bumper sticker from the same vehicle was the chestnut “If going to church makes you a Christian, does going to the garage make you a car?” Little girl didn’t quite understand the logic of that one, so we started explaining it to her in terms she could understand.

Mom: Remember the report on Seattle’s proposed ban on bonfires because they contribute to global warming? It’s that kind of logic. If bonfires on the beaches of Seattle contribute to global warming, then doesn’t it stand to reason that forest fires contribute even more to global warming?

LG: Oh, yeah. I get it now.

Well, we decided to push that logic to it’s inevitable conclusion and Ta-Da! we solved the global warming crisis. Really, we did. Follow me here.

Yes, it is true that forest fires contribute more to the crisis than Seattle’s bonfires. Most forest fires are started by lightning. So, logically, shouldn’t we ban lightning too?

But, we can’t ban lightning until we ban thunderstorms, because they are the generators of the electricity that manifests itself as lightning, causing forest fires that contribute to global warming.

But, we can’t ban thunderstorms until we ban condensation, because it creates the storm clouds that generate the electricty that manifests itself as lightning, causing the forest fires that contribute to global warming.

But, we can’t ban condensation until we ban evaporation, because the water molecules that condense into the clouds that generate the electricity that manifests itself as lightning, that causes the forest fires that contribute to global warming, must first evaporate.

Well, how do we ban evaporation? Seems to me like we need to ban water, and the world’s limited water resources are recycled through the circle of rain, evaporation and condensation. Everyone knows that rainforests act as the world’s thermostat by regulating temperatures and weather patterns. But how do they do this?

Well, trees in the rainforest breathe carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (that’s good, it’s using some of the CO2 greenhouse gasses) and give off oxygen into the atmosphere. That oxygen combines with hydrogen to create, WATER. The water then evaporates into the atmosphere, where it condenses, forming thunder clouds that generate electricty that manifests itself as lightning that strikes the earth’s surface, starting forest fires that contribute to global warming by putting CO2 into the atmosphere. 

Of course, the rainforests are supposed to remove that CO2 from the atmosphere, but since they helped put it there in the first place, (see logic above) then, if we remove them they can’t participate in the great circle of global warming contribution.

SO, LOGICALLY, if we ban rainforests we’ll be well on our way to solving the global warming crisis.

Under normal circumstances I would be donning my flame-retardant suit in anticipation of the flaming arrows that are inevitably coming my way as a result of this post. But, before you launch one in my direction, remember that fire contributes to global warming.

Insane, isn’t it? But no more insane than making sweeping generalizations about a war that began in 2003 causing the destruction of our school systems, when public school education has been in decline for, oh, at least 40 years prior to the beginning of the war that started in 2003 that has destroyed American public education. Or the sweeping generalizations about what does or does not make someone a Christian.

Back to the revised definition of jihad. While it is technically true that one of the definitions of jihad does not contain references to violence, one must also look at the meaning of the word in the context of its application. The jihad applied to New York and Washington that caused the war was certainly NOT non-violent. When we don’t use context to understand the world around us, we wind up with stupid arguments over warped logic.

Here’s another bumper sticker: “Am I liberal, or just well-educated?” You mean I can’t be well-educated if I disagree with everything liberal?

Where do I start?

 

Walking in this World

Got an email from an old friend last week. He’s getting ready to facilitate a “Walking in this World” group. WitW is a book by Julia Cameron. She wrote it about 10 years after her defining work, “The Artist’s Way.” I did the AW experience in fall of 2003 and it was quite an eye-opener for me. Several of us felt like we needed to repeat the course, or attend an “AW for Dummies” version or something. Well, here’s my chance. WitW starts in March. The premise is simple: we are all creative beings, built with a desire to create inherent to our very natures, put there by the ultimate Creator. Julia proposes that those of us who used to be very in tune with our creative nature because disillusioned or frustrated or just plain afraid to “put it all out there for everyone to see”, sort of hiding our lamp under a basket. She says a lot of things that make sense, and it’s easy to think about reconnecting to that creative side of ourselves, of myself, but it’s much more difficult to actually do the work.

It’s true. Doing the actual work of reconnecting with the creative self is scary. You have to be willing to start over, to be a rank beginner again, to possibly learn to do things differently than you used to, or even to do something totally different than what you used to do. I had that experience in AW. I walked in as a non-playing musician. I left 12 weeks later a fledgling writer, leaving several stupefied classmates behind, folks who could not believe that I was in reality a computer geek, and not a writer or actress or lounge singer or something. Go figure.

I’ve spent a lot of time thinking the last couple of years, of wondering what I’m meant to be or do. And I don’t have any answers. I read blogs and first novels and poetry and then look at what I might have to say about, well, anything, and think to myself that I have absolutely nothing worthwhile to say about anything. My life is not about self-sustaining agriculture, or the size of my carbon footprint, or how my career gives me the opportunity to travel and see and do things that I wouldn’t have otherwise. Right now, today, my life is about trying to get my 18-year-old son to grow up, to be independent, and responsible, and trustworthy. And it’s about helping my daughter realize that it’s ok to be a tomboy without giving up being a girl, and that it’s ok to get frustrated and say no to people when they intrude on her privacy or try to take advantage of her generosity. And it’s about helping teenagers trust adults when they’ve lost the ability to trust their parents for whatever reason. Just everyday, ordinary things.

And my life has become focused on creating useful things, like socks that fit my feet perfectly because I made them to do that.

None of these things are earth-shattering. The future of our planet does not hang by a thread of anything I’m trying to weave together to make that thread stronger. And for that reason, I feel silenced by this writing. What difference is there in my choosing to record the mundane experiences of living in rural/suburban central North Carolina in 2008? If I’m not doing anything to fit into the media and political mold of world change, why do anything at all?

Do I really want to walk in this world?

I don’t know.

Whistling in the Dark

This is a little ditty I wrote yesterday. It actually wrote itself, I just copied it to paper. And it’s a little on the dark side, but whatever.

A Virtual Life

Virtual conception, procreated in a Petri dish, possibly from virtual parents who’ve never met. Virtual birth, broadcast live over the ‘net so that virutal family can share the ecitement of the blessed event without the inconvenience of travel of the annoyance of human interaction with real people.Virtual childhood: computers teaching pre-schoolers their ABC’s and 123’s, virtual playments living in the virtual world of the computer game.

 

Virtual education, from pre-school to post-doctorate, with teachers, professors, students, colleagues from the four corners of the world, all gathered in front of cameras and computers, sharing virtual ideas and imparting virtual knowledge, without ever having shared the same space, or breathed the same air.

Virtual communication with virtual friends: voice mail, e-mail, test messages sent and received without ever having met the real person behind the virtual images and virtual words.

Virtual friends, virtual lovers, virtual marriage, virtual sex, virtual entertainment, virtual addiction, virtual crime…virtual prison?

Virtual death: online condolences, paid by virtual acpuaintances who have no time or desire to physically comfort those who suffer an all-to-real grief.

Perhaps we just live forever, our virtual selves floating in virtual reality, with virtual pieces of our virtual existence roaming from one server to another without ever being purged, “ghosts in the machines.”

George Orwell wrote of the viewscreen, of the power it would have over society. And here we are.

Is there a real cure for our common virtual disease?

Does it even have a real name?Are we living a virtual life in a virtual world, or are we dead already?

Not Exactly Non-Negotiables

There are times when I really miss my brain, and the past week or so has been one of those times. The harder I try to put words together, the harder they are to find. However, I did find some words on a bookmark the other day that sort of fit in with the list of non-negotiables, so here they are:

Speak to people.

Smile at people.

Call people by their names.

Be friendly and helpful.

Be cordial.

Be genuinely interested in people.

Be generous with praise–cautious with criticism.

Be considerate with the feelings of others.

Be thoughtful of the opinions of others.

Be alert to give service.

OR, as my dad would say: Be alert; the world needs more lerts.