Pretty Swell

Wow, it’s been a little while since I’ve been here, so here is a little bit of an update on what’s been running through my mind as I look out the window over my desk…

The short version is I am in the process of reading all the books pertaining to the history of Victorian Britain and the post-war South in the United States while reading about fallacies in historical writing and argument, writing papers about Native-American history and the Lost Colony in North Carolina, and skimming through footnotes and endnotes and bibliographies in the search for material that will help me find the questions I want to ask for my thesis.

I guess that’s not really a short version. The shortest version is that I began my studies as a graduate student in history last month, and I probably should not be here, writing this, because there is something else I need to be doing. However, as I was reading this morning I began to think about how I haven’t just let go and done any writing just to be writing, and in order to keep developing my writing skills, I need to find the time to do so. So, here I am.

My last post is about my thoughts and feelings concerning Harper Lee’s recently published manuscript, Go Set a Watchman. I won’t go into that more here, other than to say that the core of that book has shown me something that I very much want to investigate, and I won’t go into more of that here because my preliminary thoughts and questions are not fully hashed out, yet, but they will in time. They have to. This is what I want to study and write about, and I will get evaluated and graded on it and have to defend it, so I have to figure it out, and when I know, you’ll know…if I remember to share it with you good people in my little internet universe.

Other things that are going on?

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The hat.

The seasons and the leaves are starting to change. The air is a little more crisp in the morning and the sunrise has more of a golden hue about it. I bought a hat which my wife tried oh so diligently to talk me out of buying, but if there is a hat that is me, this is the hat. See, the hair on the top of my head is migrating to places where it should not migrate, and I needed some protection for the oh so sensitive skin. Presidential campaign politics are getting into full swing a full 14 months before the election next year, and I am trying my damnedest not to get involved. My lavender bush is really putting out some beautiful and sweet smelling flower buds. We bought some rocking chairs for our front porch which are proving to be the best items purchased since we moved into our house last October. Seinfeld is on Hulu and provides much needed levity and brain rest when I need to take a break from books and journal articles and primary sources. I am finding out just how high the stack of library books on my desk can get, and looking some of them up on Amazon and writing down prices because some of them are books that will be purchased in the future, probably near-future. I am trying desperately not to increase my coffee intake; on some days I succeed valiantly and on other days I fail miserably. I am still trying to figure out the optimal work/not work balance and figuring out that the balance moves constantly with no notice whatsoever. This is important because the first all-nighter I have to pull will probably kill me. I am looking forward to finding some time this Fall to get the camera out and take some pictures. The camera is starting to feel neglected in its bag. I am learning a lot which is really kind of the point. It is not easy or fun but I do enjoy it and so does my brain. Few things are more satisfying than when your brain gets pleasure from absorbing the things it wants to absorb and finds questions it wants to ask and finds the answers to them. I guess you could say this is my drug of choice.

I think that about sums it up as far as what’s been happening since July. Another short version is that life is pretty good; you could even say swell.

I better go. Victorian Britain is waiting for me.

An Apathetic Thought

It was hardly twelve hours after the shooting at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church occurred when I jumped online after having my first cup of coffee on Thursday morning. I saw the posted articles and statuses of folks on my news feed concerning the shooting and had a rather guilty thought.

See, the last thing I do most every night before I go to sleep is I tap on the email icon on my phone and have a final glance at any emails that have been sent my way. Usually, they end up being something that I do not read and I delete them, which is exactly what I did that night.

However, I recalled that one of the emails was a breaking news update from the New York Times and that the little preview stated that there was a shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.

I am going to share something with you that I think is strikingly grim and also not altogether uncommon…

My first thought was “oh great, another shooting…” Then I hoped that those I know living in the area were okay. Then I picked up the book I am currently reading, read some, and went to sleep. Then the morning comes…

Within seconds of checking my news feed, I was updated on the carnage that took place in that church in Charleston. A man (and I use the term loosely) gunned down a group of people gathered in worship and fled. The suspected shooter was later identified and found to be white, and the victims were identified and found to be black.

Within hours, really probably minutes, after the shooting, people began arguing with one another over various aspects of the incident they identified as most important such as the following:

The shooter was motivated by racial hate.
The shooter was motivated by hate of Christians and the Christian faith.
The shooter is crazy or mentally ill.

Hyperbolic rhetoric ensued on all sides. Exclamation points and capital letters sprouted all around, and people went about doing what they do best; they set up camp by drawing all of those with concurrent frames of mind to their side and made themselves distinct from the opposing side.

I don’t really want to get into the arguments of any side at this point other than to share my two cents put forth in the great social network debate:

There is one thing, and one thing alone, in my humble opinion, that we can glean from the news reports on this kid, Dylann Roof. He’s not crazy. He knows right from wrong. He ran in the hopes of not getting caught. His mental state should not be the focus of the discussion, but rather his motivations.

That was yesterday morning, and as far as I know, the shooter has not come forward and made public his motivations since he was apprehended.

What I want to focus on is my first thought upon learning that there was a shooting in Charleston…

“Oh great, another shooting…”

That was my first thought. THAT was my FIRST thought, followed by the side thought of hoping that those I know living there were okay and unharmed, followed by rolling over and going to sleep.

As I have gotten older and a little more mature (I stress “a little”), I have come more and more to abhor violence. I guess you could say that I am a pacifist, though I am not sure I would label myself as such. Yet even with my abhorrence of violent acts, I was able to rest comfortably and peacefully knowing that there was a shooting in another part of the world.

Why is that?

I am not a psychopath or sociopath. I feel empathy and sympathy. I even work to feel those “pathies” toward others with whom I do not readily identify or associate or know. Regardless of that work, I still find that apathy somehow finds a way into my heart and way of thinking.

One answer to the above question is that violence in some form or another is occurring anywhere at any time or at all times. If I allowed all of these acts of violence to keep me up at night I would never know sleep, or if I allowed these acts to constantly lay on my heart, I would never know peace. So in order to sleep or to find peace, I put those acts out of my mind.

I’d like to think that that is the answer I am looking for, but I cannot help but consider that there is another answer that is more appropriate, like this one:

Violence is occurring all the time in various places. It is part of the human experience, always has been, always will be, so why lose sleep over it?

That is probably a more apt response concerning my state of mind two nights ago, and I am pretty ashamed of it.

Even with the personal shame I feel, that is an all to common response, and it is accepted in society today. Think about it. An individual, such as myself, can willingly choose to feel apathy toward violence or an individual violent act and it is seen as acceptable and justified by another person or a group of people, and I am ashamed of that, too.

Questioning Questions

If you know me or read my writing, you know I ask questions. I ask a lot of questions, sometimes of others, more often of myself. My parents will probably tell you that one of my favorite things to say while growing up was “why?” or “how?” or “what?” or “who?” or “when?”. The answer I remember getting most often is “look it up,” but it isn’t the answer I want to explore in this writing, but rather the question…really any question, and why I ask them.

I went back through my posts and noticed that in the vast majority of them I ask at least one question. Most of the time I don’t get an answer. Sometimes I answer the questions myself in an attempt to explore the idea a question raises. Sometimes the questions are for the readers that grace my posts with their eyes and minds.

What prompted this question about questions, you may ask? Well, I was taking part in a group discussion the other day and it was said that during a dialogue, if one keeps asking questions, then the questioned will eventually be caught in a lie or a dead end or something to that effect; essentially that one’s argument may be found as weak or unfounded. And that is true. Questions, by their very nature, seek truth, but what is truth? This is a question for another time. The question here is about questions, not truth.

Questions need an answer, usually an answer that satisfies a need for better understanding of what has been asked. An unanswered question is something akin to listening to a piece of music and getting to the end of it only to find that the melody and harmony do not resolve, leaving a feeling of want in the listener’s ear.

Maybe better put, an unanswered question is a missed opportunity for the further exploration of an idea, reason, or practice. An unanswered question is a missed opportunity to learn, both for the questioner and the questionee.

Questions drive thought and innovation. Questions drive progress in all areas of life and society. Questions present possibilities and promote probabilities. Questions refine, reinforce, or redefine ideas and/or practices.

Best of all, questions stimulate the mind. They instigate communication and discourse. Questions inspire discussion. Just go to any library or bookstore. Every volume on the shelves is an answer to some question asked.

Back to the question…

Why do I ask questions?

I ask questions because I want to know. I want to come to a better understanding of what I know, or I want to know about something I did not know about before. I want to know what other people think. I want to know why people think the way they do. I want to come to an understanding about things I don’t understand. I want to ponder possibilities and consider probabilities. I want to know that I am right and why. I want to know why I am wrong so I can be right in the future (nobody wants to know they are wrong, especially me.).

I want to know. I want to learn. I want to understand. And I never want to stop.

An Evolution of Faith

A thought crossed my mind a few days ago. It continues to float in, wander around, and float out again. Last night I ran upstairs to jot down a few notes so that I would be able to somewhat clearly remember the jumbled thought, and, hopefully, organize it and make it a little more coherent. As I start to write this I can feel my heart beating a little faster because I tend to keep thoughts like this, thoughts concerning my faith and understanding private with the exception of a very small number of people.

Perhaps a little back story is required…

When I first began to read the Bible and other texts concerning the Christian faith in earnest, I was struck by the image of Jesus’ openness and vulnerability in the garden of Gethsemane. It was just him and God. There he prayed, alone, and asked God “may this cup be taken from me,” (Matt. 26.39 NIV). Alone, in solitude with others watching outwardly in order that he not be disturbed during such an intimate act. Also, he, himself, directs that prayer is an act to be performed in private in Matthew 6, “But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father who is unseen,” (Matt. 6.6, NIV). Long story short, I rarely, if ever, pray in public. When I do pray in public, either in church, at the dinner table, or reciting the Lord’s prayer before an athletic event in high school (in my youth), it does not feel the same. There is a lack of intimacy, a lack of depth. It is not empty, but definitely not full either. Does that make sense?

I also take very seriously words from earlier in chapter 6 of Matthew, verses two through four, “So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you give to the needy, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your giving may be in secret,” (NIV).

As I said, I keep my thoughts private, probably to an extreme. I keep my actions concerning my faith private, definitely to an extreme.

There are other reasons, well really only one reason, why I tend to keep quiet concerning my faith, and that is because when it comes to the very loud and outspoken conservative evangelical point of view, I have always seen myself in the minority and did not want to attempt to defend my thoughts against an overwhelming number of people driven by an unwavering opinion, belief, or faith in their rightness over others. And I am not just referring to more conservative Christian points of view, but also atheists and agnostics that are just as fervent and unmoving in their opinions and/or beliefs. It hits harder, though, coming from a fellow believer, because a fellow believer will tell me that I am missing, or have missed, the point, attempt to correct me, and then tell me that because I do not agree that I am lost and going to hell. Though those closest to me may never tell me that to my face, they do support and follow those that proclaim such, and, I won’t lie, that stings. That stings a lot.

So where am I going with this?

The thought that crossed my mind the other day was this. Grace vs. legalism. That’s it. One word against another, but oh, isn’t it so much more complex. A couple of definitions to start:

Grace- (in the Christian belief) the free and unmerited favor of God, as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings; a divinely given talent or blessing; the condition or fact of being favored by someone.

Legalism- excessive adherence to law or formula; theology dependence on moral law than on personal religious faith.

(Both definitions come from the handy-dandy New Oxford American Dictionary app on my computer)

Grace is further defined by Philip Gulley and James Mulholland as “God’s unfailing commitment to love,” (If Grace is True: Why God Will Save Every Person, p.7).

Those that read, study, have read, or have studied the Bible know that both legalism and grace are within it. Grace tends to abound in the New Testament, and legalism is firmly rooted in the first five books of the Old Testament, especially Leviticus and Deuteronomy. Why is that? The simple explanation is that Jesus came as the Messiah, or Savior, and fulfilled the old law (Matt. 5.17), bestowing upon the world God’s grace (John 1.17). There is more to it than that, especially if one reads the Torah (the first five books of the Old Testament: Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy) while considering what the Israelites living under the law were doing.

Think about it. These men, women, and children were freed from their bonds of slavery after generations. They had no real identity as a free culture. Little set them apart as God’s chosen people and descendants of Abraham from those other Middle-Eastern cultures surrounding them. They wandered to and fro seeking land to establish themselves. Not only were they seeking land to establish themselves as God’s chosen, but also they needed a law or code to set them apart, or sanctify themselves, from those around them that did not subscribe to their one God.

So there they were, a small, wandering tribe of people with little cultural identity to set them apart and a belief system that was completely alien to all of the other cultures around them. What better way for God to set them apart than to give them a strict code of law to follow and attempt to fulfill? A strict code that would not only keep them safe from natural harm (it protected them from eating spoiled shellfish, parasite ridden pork, and other harmful things (Lev. 11) ), but also directed the propagation and growth (the classification of homosexuality as an abomination/sin (Lev. 18 and 20), etc…) of the small tribe into a larger, established society dedicated to continuing its sanctification.

The Israelites eventually settled on a piece of land and continued to grow through observance of their God-given law. In this way, legalism served a positive purpose. It gave a group of people a direction for positive growth and security. It helped them establish a stable society in a time when the state, as we know it today, did not exist. As all of this was happening, they continued to live in anticipation of their Messiah who would save them from the perils of the surrounding world.

They did not follow the law word for word. How could they? It would take a true act of God for anyone to be able to follow such a strict and regimented code without falter. They did, however, follow it well enough to continue to multiply and reestablish themselves after being conquered and moved and resettled again, and being hellenized by the Greeks and later ruled by the Roman state (though different than the modern nation-state, a state nonetheless).

Seeing that His people were set apart distinctly from those surrounding them, and that their society was stabilizing and that the world around them was growing more organized and stable, God felt the time was right to bring forth a new law, one different from the law under which they lived that promoted outward sanctification, but inward sanctification. A law that would not only provide for their salvation but also the salvation of those with whom they lived and interacted, namely Gentiles. Thus enters into the world, Jesus.

Arriving in a time of Roman rule over the kingdoms of Israel and after the hellenization of the region by the Greeks, with trade routes and roads coming together and stretching to the limits of the known world, Jesus knew that the time had come for the law to change and that the gospel could and would be spread to the corners of the earth, allowing for the salvation of all people under his new covenant, regardless of their lack of observation of the old one. The Hebrew people had managed to maintain their society and culture under foreign rule and that through peace, they could continue doing such.

The law became one of spiritual sanctification. Followers were to no longer set themselves apart with action and behavior governed by law, but through their faith and their behavior as guided by that faith, with the complex old law being reduced to one phrase, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets,” (Matt. 7.12, NIV). Followers were also commissioned to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you,” (Matt. 28.19-20 NIV).

The law became one of internal observation rather than observing that others were keeping the law. It became a law of forgiveness of others and bestowing grace and love on others, because we, ourselves, are inadequate to fulfill the old law. Through the same forgiveness shown to us, and the life given to us, we can forgive others and live a life of love, free from the judgment and punishment of others. In short, the law became love, and that love is shown through grace and mercy.

The writer of James said it well. “Speak and act as those who are going to be judged by the law that gives freedom, because judgement without mercy will be shown to anyone who has not been merciful. Mercy triumphs over judgement,” (James 2.12-13 NIV).

We all think of the impossibility of following the legalism of the Old Testament and the kind of discipline that must take. Little is ever said of how incredibly difficult it is to live under the covenant of the Gospel. How much more infinitely difficult is it to “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you,” (Matt. 5.44 NIV). Remember the “love” spoken of by Paul in his first letter to the church at Corinth? The love that is “patient” and “kind”? The love that “does not envy” or “boast”? That “is not proud” or “rude” or “self-seeking” or “easily angered”? That “keeps no record of wrongs”? That “does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth”? That “always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres”? That is a hard love to give, even to ourselves and those we love. Imagine showing our enemies that kind of love. Imagine the kind of grace it takes to give that kind of love.

I have read those words many times in private and a time or two at weddings and one funeral. Yet, it still hits me at how difficult it is to show that kind of love, and I imagine it is just as difficult for all of us. I don’t just imagine, I know it is. It is infinitely easier to show contempt toward those with whom we disagree or disapprove. It is easy to show disapproval. Replacing that contempt and disapproval with love and mercy is our calling. It is what we are supposed to do, “A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another,” (John 13.34 NIV).

It is an endless road to walk. I know I will spend the rest of my life attempting to learn how to love the way in which we are instructed, and I will likely not ever get it completely right. I suggest we all do a little walking ourselves before we try to tell others where and how to walk. That is the whole point of the Gospel, not how, or about what, my neighbor thinks and lives, but how I think and live, and do I live and walk a life of love.

I partially stole the title of this piece from Philip Gulley’s book The Evolution of Faith. It’s a pretty good book and one that I will likely flip through again.

History: Getting All the Books, Reading All the Pages, Learning All the Stories

I am over 500 pages into the reading lists I have received from professors for the courses I am taking in the upcoming Fall. Mercifully, the professor for my summer class responded to my email asking him about a reading list stating that he would be sending out course information and readings (mostly journal articles) a week or two before class starts in late June/early July.

Over the weekend, we took a trip to the bookstore and I happened upon another title on my reading list and scooped it up, increasing the page count to over 3,000 with a few more titles to find before August arrives.

It’s always exciting reading history. No matter how much one may read on a given topic or period something new always pops up and adds to the narrative. Learning something new about a particular idea, person, or place adds to the understanding one has and adds color to the picture that has already been painted, making it a little more vibrant and adding a little more depth.

It’s a rainy, dreary day, so I am going to try and knock out a couple hundred more pages today. Though I am not particularly excited about the period into which I am currently delving, it is a period crucial to the understanding of other periods which I do find interesting. It is fascinating to see and to learn how the stories of some continually impact the lives of others that do not live in the same place or time.

History is an excellent reminder that we do not live our lives in seclusion. We are in it together for the long haul, and just as stories we act out day-to-day are influenced by past characters and ideas, so, too, will be the stories written in the future along with the narratives we leave behind.

Fascinating? It should be.

Kleenex, Snow, and Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day…

I cannot begin to tell you how excited my other half and I were that we were finally going to have a Valentine’s Day where neither of us had to work. We had no engagements of any kind. The first Valentine’s Day that has happened, not since we got married, but since we started dating.

With that, we decided that it was going to be a quiet day and evening.  We were going to cook dinner together. That was the plan. That was the only plan. Dinner. Cooking dinner together, because, apparently, the couple that cooks together stays together, right?

Right.

Then…

Nature happened. The sniffles hit me about Tuesday. Four days later, my nose is raw. I’m pretty sure that I have a permanent cloud of Vick’s following me around the house, along with a trail of tissues and empty blister packs where the cold medicine used to be. She even accused me of getting sick “on purpose,” playfully, but an accusation nonetheless.

But, let’s get back to this thing about how the couple that cooks together stays together. Before we do that, a little background on me and the kitchen…

The short version is that I do not like for people to get in my way while I’m in the kitchen.

The long version is that I have my ways of doing things, especially, maybe only, in the kitchen. There is a system in my head while I’m getting things together and ready to cook, a mise en place, so to speak. It was the same way when I worked in kitchens, especially the last kitchen I worked where there was some latitude in how my station was set up and how I could run it. I rarely, if ever, ask for help, because if I have to ask for help, I have to explain where the help is needed, and if I have to explain where the help is needed, I may as well take that time I used explaining and just do what I needed help with anyway. Impatience abounds, I become a raging asshole, and nothing good comes out of the situation.

Back to “the couple that cooks together stays together.”

We were going to cook dinner together. I had a menu all worked out. Two different entrées, because, well, I wanted a steak and she, strangely enough, does not eat steak (I know. I know. I’m wondering the same thing.), bacon wrapped scallops, some delicious cheesy mashed taters, and some kind of vegetable, because every meal needs a vegetable, so they say.

I had the plan set in my mind in how everything was going to be prepared so it all timed out well.

Then, the sniffles happened, and my love said this morning, after going and getting us breakfast, that we did not have to cook a nice meal tonight because I can’t taste anything.  She loves me, but I think it was after she asked me if I enjoyed the breakfast bagel she got for me. I told her, I guess it’s pretty good. I can’t taste it, though. So, she gave me a rain check on cooking the meal. She’s pretty swell.

However, I cannot help but feel like we avoided disaster tonight. We had take-out, and that works. We avoided the storm that would have been me being jumpy in the kitchen, her wanting to help, and having my system interrupted and thus (in my mind), the meal ruined.

All-in-all, it has been a quiet day and evening, which is what we both wanted. Snow is falling and it looks nice out the window. So, sniffles and kleenexes aside, it has been a pretty swell Valentine’s Day.

The Only Thing We Have to Fear…

It is a beautiful day, which is pretty fantastic since the weather over the past couple of days has been down right atrocious. I cannot remember the last time I saw so much wind and rain. Needless to say, I’ve missed the weather we get up here in the High Country. Like I told my wife, the bad weather days make you appreciate the beautiful days that much more, and when the weather is beautiful, it cannot be beat.

Fall is in the air. The leaves are in the midst of changing, well the ones that are still on the trees after the blustery weather of the past two days. The ambers, oranges, and yellows mixed with the still green oaks and pines covering the hillsides are beautiful and quite a sight to see. Set against the crisp blue sky, there are not many landscapes or portraits that can approach the level of splendor afforded to us during this change of seasons.

There are some things, however, that never seem to change, and are altogether ghastly in comparison to the beauty of the natural world around us. We are in the midst of an unpleasant and obnoxious midterm election season. Time is winding down to election day and the campaigns for, and against, those that hold elected office have been trudging along since the last general election nearly two years ago.

Luckily, we do not have traditional television. We stream all of our television over the internet via Netflix, Hulu, PBS, and other outlets. This has sheltered us, somewhat, from the nastiness that plagues regular television during this time of even numbered years. The campaign advertisements are endless from both of the mainstream candidates vying for the Senate seat up for grabs in North Carolina. Interest groups and PACs are shoveling money into the race as well with ads pitting different points of view into, seemingly, an all out war against one another. Watching these ads, one unfamiliar with our political culture would come to the conclusion that life itself hangs in the balance; that the human race is doomed, and that the planet is heading down a path toward irreconcilable destruction. I do not subscribe to newspapers or popular magazines, so I cannot say much concerning advertising that goes on in print media, but I doubt it paints any more of a rosy picture.

Speaking of the precarious position of life as we know it, I posted a little observation on Facebook the other day…

“Terrorists, illegal aliens, tyrannical government, ebola…seems there is always something we are supposed to fear. Those cashing in on the mass paranoia being spread through the media and social networks are only fearful of one thing…that we will, one day, stop being afraid. Until then, they are going to keep laughing all the way to the bank while everyone else huddles together in small, divided, fearful masses.”

There are other fears that I can add to the list including, but not limited to, climate change, recession, depression, gay marriage, AIDS, guns, gun control, war, Republicans, Democrats, Christians, Atheists, Agnostics, believers, nonbelievers, Muslims, the Illuminati, the one percent, the 99%, the 45%, the welfare state, the military-industrial complex, homosexuals, heterosexuals, bisexuals, transgendered people, corporations, multinational conglomerates, the New World Order, the Trilateral Commission, the World Trade Organization, the Federal Reserve, Capitalism, Communism, Socialism, Fascism, and so on and so forth.

There is a lot of shit of which to be afraid…a lot, and those seeking power bet on the fact that if they can harness that fear and disseminate it among the populace, then they can achieve power.

The worst part concerning all of this is that we allow it to happen cycle, after cycle, after cycle, after cycle. Can we blame them? Fear is an incredible motivator, probably the greatest motivator. Fear of death, fear of discomfort, fear of the unknown. Fear is motivating, but can also be paralyzing and irrational. It can promote good decisions and poor ones.

Sure, there are real fears in the world around us. We all know what it is that scares us. It is time we stop letting others tell us what it is that we need to fear. Life is too short and the world is too magnificent to do otherwise.

A Principled Solution

Regardless of what I may think or say, I am not always right. I think those are some of the most difficult words to say. I’m usually right, anyway. Well…sometimes I’m right. My wife will give me that much.

And those times when I am right, I thoroughly enjoy. Being right is one of life’s great pleasures. It does not matter why I am right or what I am right about but just the fact that I am right brings loads of happiness and delight my way.

Sometimes I am wrong, but that’s done on purpose. It’s good to spread the right around from time to time. You know…just give ’em a taste, get ’em hooked, and they’ll come back wanting more.

Being right is addictive. It is to me anyway. I may have a problem, but that is for another post. I spend my life looking for the right answers, and it seems like a neverending quest. Searching, searching, searching everywhere. Looking for the elusive right answer that will solve a given problem. Looking for the solution that will come without a conflicting response or opinion. I look for these and when I cannot find them, I try desperately to develop them in my mind. When that does not work, I go to like-minded souls that will reassure me that the course I wish to take is the right one and will not faulter. I check my beliefs and my unshakable bedrock of principles against the issue that needs addressing. It is in those things, those places and recesses of my mind I find solace. I find comfort and reassurance. Yet, the issue remains unresolved.

People change.

Needs change.

Wants change.

Situations change.

Seasons change.

The weather changes.

Minds change.

With changes, questions change and answers change. As much as we would like to believe that the world is black and white and is set in stone; it surely is not. Rather the world is fluid. It is always changing and shifting, both figuratively and literally, and perhaps in the most minute ways. Those that wish to survive in it must learn to grow and adapt to the changes that are coming and that will come.

With the immense challenge that comes with keeping up with a changing world, there is a need to come to grips with the uncertainty that is sure to accompany those changes that will arise. More gray will be thrown into a world that is already muddled with many shades of gray between the already indistinguishable black and white. Undoubtedly, panic will ensue with some of the changes that perceivably threaten the status quo. People will not know what happens next, as much as we pride ourselves in believing we do know. Tempers will rise. Defensive mindsets will take over. Comfort will be sought within groups of like-minded people. Instead of built, bridges will be burned.

We see it all the time in politics and government, but this happens in the everyday as well. Bridges must be built and maintained between contesting ideas in order to promote meaningful solutions that each holder of a given idea believes to be correct. It is here, in these bridges, that the real work of problem solving is done. It takes hard work, a lot of communicating, and a little humility to find satisfying and agreeable solutions that will alleviate the problems that accompany a change that requires action or an obstacle to overcome.

However, we allow individual egos to get in the way (See the opening paragraph). Egos and the individual’s perception of need taints the process and clouds the issue that needs to be addressed. It is easy to see this everywhere. Just turn on the television. There are an endless number of voices and views which pander to individual wants, needs, and egos. They provide us a zone of comfort and an area of certainty within a truly uncertain world. Within them, we know our point of view is safe and right. It is easier to stay within those walls than it is to come out and experience another point of view, or at the very least, entertain one. Yet, in order to see the whole picture and find a solution to it, it is necessary to put egos on hold and allow “the better angels of our nature” to shine forth and show the way to meaningful solutions to issues that come with the changing world. Add to that time and patience and reflection, and we can accomplish anything.

I will be the first to admit that I am not the most patient person. I find it difficult to maintain a patient attitude, especially when there is a problem. Often, I will make my point of view known with little regard toward those who disagree with my position. Eventually, I will listen to an opposing idea, and after immediately dismissing it, I will take time to contemplate or even consider the prospect. It may not be right, but there is planted the seed of a possibility, the chance that an idea can be built which incorporates the better parts of competing views; and then, that idea, or multiple ideas, may be better on the whole than the original competing propositions.

It seems to me that this is the only way to bring about any meaningful change that has a chance of lasting. What most people are afraid of, I think, is the idea that they may come to empathize or sympathize with an idea or principle that is opposite to what they believe. They do not want to consider that, though their idea is right, there may be a better idea wandering in the fray. For many, to empathize, sympathize, or otherwise identify with a diametrically opposed position means to cast doubt on one’s own position or principles. If such is the case, then perhaps that position  or those principles require change, and there is nothing wrong with that.

It takes a strong character to be willing to look at one’s self, and what one believes, and see that a change is necessary. It happens to the best of us, even me, and will continue to happen. We learn new things through experience, and life is just that…a series of experiences. What we do with what we learn speaks volumes about the people we are and that which we want to be.

And maybe, just maybe, through learning by way of experience, we can adopt better principles upon which to lay stronger, more worthwhile, and sturdy foundations.

Guilty Pleasure

Since about Saturday night I have been feeling a little guilty, here’s the story…

I don’t remember what year it was, but when I went back to school to finally get my undergraduate degree, I got a laptop computer, an HP to be specific. I had a desktop, but the laptop seemed a more useful tool to use for writing papers and doing research and what have you. I carried that sucker everywhere and if I could find a table on which to work, I would stake my claim and get to work. It processed more than its fair share of papers and presentations, and downloaded a lot more than its fair share of research articles. It was a beast.

Sadly, after I graduated, my technological companion only made it about a year and a half before the motherboard crapped out on it. It was going to cost more to repair the motherboard than was originally paid for the computer. It was a sad, sad, sad day. I still have it. It still works…sort of. I can plug a monitor into it, but its laptoppiness is gone. Its portability is no more. I should probably get rid of it, but we are friends and I don’t like casting friends aside.

At the time I was working a job that paid peanuts, so the funds were not readily available to purchase a new techno-friend. I began doing some thinking and research on the next computer I would buy. After a lot of looking around, I settled on an ipad. This is one of the best purchases I have ever made. Like all purchases, there are some things that I wish were different, but my ipad and I have been together since 2011 and neither of us have looked back. It is super duper portable and it does not get much more user friendly, especially when it comes to the technologically inept, like me.

I type on it quite a bit even though the virtual keyboard and I are mortal enemies. I surf the web, check email, read articles, blog posts, and columns on it. I write blog posts and emails on it. I watch videos, listen to music, play games, and look at pictures on it. It is a useful machine, and has been a faithful friend for going on three years now.

However, the decision has been made by my wife and I that it is time for me to get it in gear and go back to school for even higher education. Now, even though I have my faithful friend of three years, I have used my trusty ipad to do more research on a new, more powerful friend.

Actually, I have known since before I bought my ipad what computer I wanted to buy next, but the expense was just too much so I felt it necessary to just wait and the time would eventually come when I could afford it. Patience. There was a lot of reading and a lot of thinking done during that time. I don’t do any gaming, so I don’t need a super fast PC. I read and write and take pictures and look at pictures. I watch videos. I do like storage space because I prefer to save everything. I wanted something that was going to be user friendly and would not crap out, because I am horrible with technology and not afraid to admit it.

After three long, arduous, computerless years, the time finally arrived. My wife sent me a text on Friday telling me that we would go after we got off of work and buy my computer. I knew exactly what I wanted, so we went into the store and went straight to a salesperson and I told him why I was there.  He went and got someone that would be better at helping me out, so I told her what I wanted. She  did not try to talk me into a different machine. She did try and upsell some coverage plans…warranties and what have you. One of which I bought. She also saved me $200, because, yes, I still carry my student ID in my wallet.

After swiping the magic debit card and signing for the charges, I received my computer, and went straight away to get it set up which was a breeze. I mean…a breeze. We got home and I played with it some, checking out some of the ins and outs…did a little typing on the keyboard, and it was heaven.

That was Friday.

The next day, Saturday, went along much like a well needed lazy day does. I had my delicious weekend coffee. I piddled with my new friend for a while off and on all day. Did a little housework and piddled some more. Then I laid down in the bed.

That is when it hit me. As I laid in the bed looking up at the ceiling in the dark, the thought crossed my mind that my new friend cost more than what was paid for my first car. It cost more than what some people pay for a car. It may not be a great car, but it’s a CAR.

So, the guilt hit me a little…not enough to take my new friend back, but a little, and it’s still there…not enough for me to take it back, but a little.

It is a wonderful machine and I hope that my Macbook Pro and I enjoy many years of typing, processing, researching, and net searching ahead.

Happy Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day.  Earlier this week, I posted about being grateful and taking things for granted. This is a big one for me.

There is a lot I could say about my mom, but I won’t here, other than to say that I don’t know many people that are as strong, or stronger, thoughtful, or caring as she is.

Sorry, dad, but this one is about mom.  It’s her day…

I’ll just say this…

When I grow up, I want to be at least a little bit like my mom.

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