Monday, July 11, 2016

Making A Difference vs Making Noise

In the past week our nation has yet again been rocked to the core in the wake of two police shootings of African American men followed by the shooting of 11 police officers, 5 of whom were killed, in Dallas.  As it so often seems lately, the divisions in America were again revealed as social media erupted with outrage and emotion over different aspects of these events.   I saw many people on all sides of these events make statements like "I can no longer be silent" or "unfriend me if you don't think like me" as talking heads of television demand change in America.

Anyone who has driven a car on the freeway and accidentally drifted too far off the side of the road knows in that moment it is very important to take corrective action.  But WHICH corrective action is important.  I'm drifting to the right side of the road and I need to go left so the MORE left I can go, the better, right?  But we all know if the driver does what just FEELS like the right thing to do, he or she might jerk the wheel in the opposite direction to "fix" the problem and in doing so flip their car over, causing an even worse situation than before.   The correct action, of course, is indeed to turn the wheel to the left but in a controlled and deliberate manner so as not to make the situation worse.

Social Media has allowed everyone with an Internet account in America to have a voice, and we've all been using that voice lately, mainly to fight with each other and fan the flames of dissension over where we stand on positions and topics.

As a result, in a time where America needs change, we are instead experiencing yelling.  Most of us will do nothing to actually contribute to a solution for Americas ill's but now, we have the power to feel better about doing nothing as we all have "a voice."  And that voice allows us the power to do nothing very loudly.  Sometimes the more energetic of us might participate in a protest.  Protests also make me feel good because they are a great way to burn off some nervous energy, plus, they can be exciting!  It's fun to gather with a bunch of people around a common theme and then demand that SOMEONE ELSE make the changes we think need to happen.  Let's be honest, protesting at its heart is a demand for SOMEONE ELSE to take action.

Now don't get me wrong, protesting has its place, Martin Luther King used protesting to make great gains in our country, but those protests were to enact changes that could be effected with a vote and a signature of a pen.  Tangible actions.  

But how do we protest away something like racism?   Racism along with all the other "ism's" that exist in our world are heart issues, and if protesting could change hearts then we should have peace on Earth by now.  Ask yourself, have you ever had your mind changed by someone protesting the opposite position to something you think or believe?  Just like over correcting on the freeway, protest and using that great "voice" of social media has the power to accomplish great things...they also can do great damage if used in correctly.

Some of the actions we take after tragic events are like scratching a mosquito feels good, but it doesn't really help the situation.   Sometimes before taking action it might be wise to pause for a moment and ask if the action I am taking is really going to help the situation, and if so, how?  If I shut down a freeway in Phoenix, will it really bring about justice in Baltimore?  And if it doesn't then what will it do?  Will it be positive?  Or might it do more damage to the over all cause? It does not escape me that by even writing this blog, I'm doing the exact thing I'm complaining about, and while it will probably make me feel a little better to have written it, I know in my heart that these typed words will make no real difference.  If I want to make a difference I must get back out there and continue to do rather than say.

We are an impatient people, we like to see things happen now!  I want my food fast, I like my results instant, but true change......heart change.......that's slow.  And to be honest...kinda those things need to take place in the mundane day to day activities of those who commit their lives to such change and often don't live long enough to see the fruits of their labor.  It does no good to "speak out" if it is not followed by action.  And a life committed to action has little need to speak out.  It instead is lived out.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

The Sweet Healing Power of BLAME

If you’ve had any access to social media, or any other type of media for that matter, you are no doubt aware of a recent story involving a young child who fell into a gorilla enclosure at the Cincinnati Zoo which resulted in a male gorilla being shot to death in order to save the child.  This incident was tragic on a variety of levels and  led to a viral outpouring of emotions and opinions regarding the matter.  Some blamed the zoo for not having a better enclosure to keep the public from the animals, others blamed the zoo for shooting the gorilla rather than tranquilizing it.  Others still, blamed the parents for not keeping a better eye on their child.  While I don’t really want to grant the event any further attention, I can’t help but see how it so perfectly captures America’s obsession with blame.

We love blame.  Blame provides us a wonderful deposit box for negative emotions.  When something truly terrible happens, and we all hear about it, it is normal to have some strong yet negative feelings as a result.  The problem is that as humans, it's natural for us not to want to deal with or carry these emotions, so we often take the easy way out.  We find someone or something to blame, thus creating a lightning rod in which to focus all of those icky feelings we just don’t like.  The problem with blame is that it often doesn’t do much to fix anything except possibly to help the blamer feel a little better.

I fear we have reached a point in our society where then is no such thing a sad or unfortunate event anymore.  No matter what happens, we immediately begin searching for someone to blame, someone to carry the burden of MY negative emotions so that I may be released of them.  If you want evidence of this, imagine how frustrated we as a society would become if the media stopped releasing pictures of criminals who commit horrific crimes?  We love to see who shot up the school, or murdered a child, or committed a rape or whatever  because it allows us to focus the anger and hatred we might feel on someone specific.  When some idiot cuts us off in traffic, we love to try to catch up simply to get a look at this moron so we can have a specific object of our wrath.

I have to wonder how much the blame game adds to the reluctance of people to take any responsibility for mistake they might make?

In addition I also wonder if perhaps we have become a society that is so childish, that we no longer possess the maturity  to be able to handle the fact that sometimes bad things just happen?  Sometimes we have to deal with difficult realities in which there is no real villain so to speak.  But perhaps the that’s too hard….maybe it's much less effort to simply take the easy way out and take advantage of the quick relief found in creating a villain so as to access that sweet outlet called blame.        

Sunday, April 24, 2016

The Way Things Are VS The Way Things Should Be

"You cannot simultaneously prevent and prepare for war" -Albert Einstein

Against my better judgement, I'm going to question one of the most famous quotes from one of the world's most intelligent men.  It seems we are living in a world that is more and more absolute, not in agreement but absolute in stance.  As a culture once we decide where we stand on an issue, we are quick to dismiss anyone who thinks differently as narrow minded idiots for not seeing the world our way.  We see it all the time, recently we've seen it with the whole gender bathroom issue.  One side says we need to be all inclusive and get over our fears and bias while the other recognizes that those would have bad intentions will take advantage of the opportunity to do harm.  Another might be the gun control issue.  One side sees weapons as a source of harm to society, while the other sees it as a source of protection.  We could go on and on, border security, abortion, terrorism, etc...

In my experience, it seems that most of us fall into two basic categories: the realist vs the idealist.  Since there are clearly very intelligent people who fall into both categories it would make sense to me that there are valid pros and cons to almost every topic meaning, intellectually, most topics are pretty complex.

But the pattern that seems to keep emerging to me is the idea vs the real.  The realist will view the idealist as a head in the clouds, naive fool who sees the world as full of rainbows and unicorns.  The idealist on the other hand seems to see the realist as a jaded, pessimistic, knuckle dragging caveman stuck in stone aged thinking.

What if falling squarely into either camp is a detriment?  If one only sees the world for what it is and lacks the capacity to dream of what it could be, then the possibility of a one day better world is lost in that we will never obtain what we fail to strive for.

On the other hand, to see the world strictly from an idealistic view point and ignoring the real evils that exist in the world also threatens the possibility of an ideal world in that there are simply some people who are hell bent on killing, stealing, and destroying.  They will use the passiveness of the strict idealist as a doormat to their own selfish ambitions.

So...what if?  What if the path to a one day utopian world is one where we both strive for love and peace while at the same time recognizing that times may arise where we must stand against those who would threaten those ideals?  One where we stop seeing each other as idiots for not seeing the world the same way but can at least acknowledge and appreciate each others different perspectives.


Friday, March 25, 2016

For They Know Not What They Do

Good Friday......a day the Christian community holds as one of their highest holy days.  A day, the suffering and crucifixion of Christ is remembered.  But of course, the suffering and crucifixion of Christ were necessary in order to make way for the greatest miracle of the Bible.  For many that was the resurrection of Christ.....but for me......I'm not sure anymore if that's the case.  Yes, the resurrection was impressive, but I've come to the conclusion that even more impressive than that was the uttering of these words on that very first Good Friday:

"Father forgive them for they know not what they do."  

I've read over them a thousand times.....a permanent  part of the Easter story, so common in fact, their profound meaning often get lost in the story.  As I now sit firmly in the period of my life that most consider "middle age" I find myself starting to see things a little differently.  I'm sure suffering and mistreatment of others has always existed, but for some reason, I seem to be more aware of it now.  From my current vantage point in life, I can look back at my younger years to specific instances and wish I had acted differently toward people.  At the time, it may have seemed like the thing to do, but now, today, if I could go back in time, there are a number of things I would not do the same when it comes to how I treated others.  I would like to credit these changes to the simple idea that I know more today than I knew back then.  Life has since taught me to have more compassion and empathy than I did before.

Now, no matter how much anyone knows, I think it's a pretty safe assumption that there is more that they don't know.  I find it interesting that while in the midst of being tortured, Jesus did not ask God to forgive the people for what they knew, but instead appealed to God on behalf of what they didn't know.  The assumption here is that IF THEY DID KNOW they WOULDN'T HAVE DONE IT.  Jesus gives those who were wronging him the benefit of the doubt, and attributes their evil actions to their ignorance of the situation and it is in that awareness of their ignorance that He finds the power to forgive.

Which leads me to this........ today, I act differently (or at least try to) than I did when I was young because today I know more than I did then.  Hopefully, 30 years from now, I will be even more aware and act differently then than I do today.  Either way, my actions are guided in part by what I know, but even more by what I don't know.

In a world that seems as divided as ever, where we protest one another, slander each other, belittle others, and yes, even kill and war with each other.  Perhaps the root of all of these terrible things are not all that we know....but instead all that we don't know.  And if there is ever a lesson to learn from Good Friday, perhaps it might be to give people the benefit of the doubt by assuming if we truly knew and understood all the implications of our actions, maybe there are a number of things we would all do differently.  Perhaps part of the path to peace on Earth is learning to forgive......for they know not what they do..