You can be civil…

March 31, 2021

Pastor Freed lamented the use of ad hominem attacks as the stock in trade in politics recently in his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, today and used this quote – “When you cannot answer your opponent’s logic, you can still call him vile names.”  (Elbert Hubbard) 

I have commented in prior posts about the lack of civility that has crept into our way of life in America. Politics and politicians have certainly contributed greatly to that transition and in the process have denigrated their position in our view and embarrassed themselves (if there is any shred of decency or embarrassment left for them to use).

A major contributor to the loss of civility in our society, at least in my mind, are the robo-callers who inundate us with annoying calls pitching things we don’t need and didn’t ask for. Since they are robots, they can’t hear our polite answer that we are not interested, so we just get angry and either shout at the robot or just angrily hang up. Unfortunately, that same reaction pops into our head when we receive what could have been a polite call from some worthy organization asking for our help. I wouldn’t want to be a phone solicitor these days, even for a worthy cause.

But, back to the original thought. We certainly have seen the use of ad hominem attacks in our state as the Republican legislators have resorted to name calling (and witch is probably the least offensive one that they use) in their battle with the governor over her COVID restrictions. Since they have no logical way to refute the science driving her decisions, they use personal attacks instead. They claim to be fighting for the freedom of people to make their own decisions on things like masks and vaccinations. While they don’t officially have a name for this movement, I’d suggest that they use “The right to die” as their tagline, because that is what the result will be if they are successful. It might be easier to grant them that right if it weren’t for the fact that those same people could infect hundreds of innocent people in their careless disregard for themselves and others.

We have also seen the rise of extremist groups that have been engaged in plotting actions that go well beyond name calling as remedies to what they see as government intervention in their lives.  Some of them took buses to the nation’s capital for the inauguration of our new president and participated in the insurrection that ensued. They could not answer or accept the will of the voters and resorted to much more than ad hominem name calling.

Those are a lot of questions, especially in the midst of what might be a heated exchange, but those also form the bedrock of civility. The key it stopping to think, before responding. I have noticed over time that the few politicians for whom I had respect were those who always stopped to consider things before they responded to questions or challenges. Usually they paused long enough that you noticed it and then they responded with well thought out answers and careful use of the language. Former President Barrack Obama is masterful at that and there have been politicians from both parties who displayed that kind of carefully thought out civility (although far fewer of late).

All of these things point to a society that has been conditioned over time to be much less civil to each other and towards the institutions of government. Even though the current administration has called for a cooling off and a reduction in the level of the rhetoric, just saying that we are all in this together is not enough. We may be in the same boat, but we are on opposite sides of that boat. Rather than trying to get those on the opposite end to rush to our side of the boat  (which isn’t likely to happen, but which would probably capsize the boat if it did), it is important to understand the opposite views well enough to be able to create a position in the middle of the boat for all to seek. That middle ground of compromise has been lost in Washington and in too many other places in America.

Where can we start in an effort to restore civility to American culture? Like all things, the changes that are required start within each individual. It is incumbent upon each of us to stop giving in to the knee-jerk reactions that we have been conditioned to respond with in situations and instead stop and think for ourselves.

Ask yourself, before you blurt out a response, why something that someone just said to you is causing such a reaction. You must first control yourself long enough to think about the situation. Is there some basis in fact for that reaction or have you just reached for some canned response that has been planted in your mind, perhaps an ad hominem attack against the speaker? What is the logic of this disagreement and not the emotions of it? How can you explain your position on the mater without attacking the person with whom you are disagreeing? Is there a compromise position somewhere between your current position and that of the other person? Why can you not agree with that person to go to the more neutral place? What can you do to keep this a civil exchange of competing ideas or views?

So, resolve as you start each day to stop and think before you react to anyone. The Biblical admonishment to do unto others as we would have them do unto us is a good starting point. If you wouldn’t want to be called a name, why label others with a name of your choice. Let’s get civil, again. It starts with each of us.

Your life does not depend upon it…

March 29, 2021

In today’s post to his blog, Jack’s Winning Words, Pastor Freed used this quote – “I don’t  know how to be on Facebook if my life depended on it.”  (Sarah Jessica Parker) 

Freed went on to admit to not being very knowledgeable about Facebook and how to post there  and lamented that he feels somewhat like he and Sarah Jessica Parker are on a sinking ship because of that.

I do post to Facebook. In fact this blog forwards to Facebook as a post. I also have a business page there for my real estate business; however, I don’t consider myself to be a Facebook expert user. I belong to several groups, follow a few people on Facebook and I’m followed by some. I have learned just what I need to know to get things posted there and nothing else. I do check on Facebook a couple of times a day to see what might have been posted by the groups or people that I follow.

Certainly, my life doesn’t depend on Facebook and being active there, but I know some people who seem to live through their Facebook posts and readings. I am more wont to say that my life depends upon what’s on my phone than anything, since my calendar. emails and contacts list lives there. Others that I know are very active on Instagram, Twitter or maybe TicTok and other social media platforms.

 There are even people who make their living on these platforms. They are called influencers, and lest you scoff at that, many of these people make six-figure incomes by posting opinions about things on various social media platforms. In a way, their lives do depend upon Facebook or whatever platform that are a star on.

For most of us though, being on Facebook is just a diversion. It may become an obsession for some and for some it can become ruinous, if they descend into Facebook stalking or malicious posting. Pastor Freed commented on the uncivil posts that are often on these sites and he is correct. The anonymity that they afford the posters encourages poor judgement and behavior in many. One should think Biblically when posting to these sites – “Post about others as you would have them post about you.”

There is a popular saying, “I saw it on the Internet, so it must be true.” Unfortunately many of these social media platforms, especially Facebook and Twitter, have become the primary way that some groups spread false information and conspiracy theories. It is wise to read posts on social media sites with a large grain of salt and skepticism.

While the posts to these site will be there forever (unless they are taken down by the site owners) the good news is that all otf them use some form of push-down scrolling, so any post has a relatively short life-span on the initial page that you encounter. Your casual and maybe hurtful remark will only enjoy a short time in the limelight before it is pushed down and off the screen.

So, how about you? Are you a big Facebook user? Does your life revolve around it or some other social media platform? Are you what is called a “lurker”, just hanging around those sites to see what others are doing or do you actively post about yourself and your day? Why? Do you really think others want or need to know about your breakfast or your trip to the gym this morning?  Do you maybe get paid as an “influencer”?

Life does not depend upon what we read or post to social media platforms. In fact, taking the time to post all of the things that you may have done just takes that much time away from actually living your life. Use that time to do good things that people take note of because you did them and not because you posted about them. Treat your life like it is on Facebook Live, because it actually is live and the “followers” who  are watching you are those all around you. See if you can get a “Like” from those you encounter today. Your life is more dependent on those likes than on Facebook likes.

Have a great “live” day, today.

Seek and you will find…

March 28, 2021

A quote from the Jack’s Winning Words blog that has been hanging around my saved quotes list for a few days just seemed to jump out this morning – “Take heed: you do not find what you do not seek.”  (English Proverb)

The title for this post comes from Matthew 7:7 – “Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”

The point of both is that you must take some action to find your faith. Just like the opposite of love is not hate, but rather indifference, the opposite of having faith is being complacent or indifferent. If one has no faith they likely also have no hope, since they have nothing to base that hope upon. Having faith and hope drives one into actions, in order to fulfill those hopes. Having neither faith or hope can immobilize one and lead to the spiral of depression.

Faith is often kindled by seeking to understand the meaning to life and to find a purpose in life. It does not take too long in the search for answers to those questions for one to arrive at the doorstep of faith. While man’s search for more and more knowledge about the world around him has created a huge pool of understanding of nature and the universe in which we exist, it always ends up with those unanswered questions. Even the worlds greatest scientists eventually arrive at the doorstep of faith and most choose to enter, as the answer to their search for understanding.

So, it is OK to ask the questions and to seek to understand the meaning of life. In fact, it is necessary because you will not find the answer unless you seek it. “It’s the questions we can’t answer that teach us the most.” ― Patrick Rothfuss

So, do not be indifferent to the question of the meaning of life, but also do not be afraid of the answer. Knock on the door of faith and it shall be opened to you, for Matthew 7:8 tells us – “For everyone who asks receives; the one who seeks finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened.”

You might object that faith is not the only possible answer to that question.  I would submit that man has been seeking that answer for thousands of years and no matter how far afield he ranges for answers and no matter how much knowledge he has accumulated about other things, the road always leads back to the door of faith. Without faith, there is no answer and that is a very unsatisfactory ending to the search indeed.

Knock on faith’s door today. It shall be opened to you.

You need one…

March 27, 2021

A quote that I saved from the Jack’s Winning Words blog some time ago seemed worthy of comment this morning – “Call it a clan; call it a network; call it a tribe; call it a family.  Whatever you call it, you need one.”  (Jane Howard)

Very few people are true loners, independent of the need to be around others. I suppose that some whom we might call hermits fit into that small group. There are a few individuals, whom we call mountain men, who seem to relish being out in the wilderness alone, but if you ask them, they never feel alone because they commune with nature so closely that they feel “nature’s family” all around them.

For most of us, however, Howard’s quote rings true. We need to be with other people and not just be around them but interact with them – to give and to receive attention and love in return. It is important to acknowledge others and be acknowledged in return. If one goes for some time without seeing and interacting with others a panicky sense of loneliness can set in. Have you ever had that temporary feeling like you were the last person left on earth?

I have a hard time even imagining what it must be like for those in nursing homes who have endured a year of being cut off physically from anyone other than the staff – no visits from loved ones or friends. Things like Facetime calls can provide a little relief, but I’m sure they would tell you it’s not the same as an in person hug or smile and conversation.

Back in my college days I spent a few the summers living in the frat house as sort of a summer caretaker. It was a big, old house that usually has 30-40 people in it; l however, in those summer months I was alone in the house. I would, on occasion, experience that strong feeling of being alone in the house and the town (college towns can get quite empty during the summer months, too). At those times I would walk to the nearby drug store and just spend some time “shopping”, just so that I could see other people. Have you ever had similar experiences?

One of the negative side effects of the COVID-19 pandemic for many has been the increased sense of isolation that they feel because their “work families” have been taken away. The relationships that we have and the roles that we play at work provide a big part of our identities and support our sense of not being alone. We need that and the pandemic has taken that away for most. We still get work done from home, but for most the “water cooler” social time is gone, replaced (if at all) by Zoom time.

I recall a Zoom call that I was on not too ling ago where the question of what the impact has been of the need to stay home instead of going to work came up. My answer that was quickly agreed to by most on the call was that I had a sense of disconnect. Disconnect from the job and the people. That feeling of disconnect was and is disturbing. Certainly, I still had my home life and, in fact, the pandemic probably caused that part of my identity to take on even more meaning. What I didn’t have was “my place” in the work environment and the day-to-day relationships which that used to entail. Those things had been disconnected by the pandemic.

All of this is leading up to saying that it is very important for us as humans to be around and interact with other humans – to have the families, tribes, groups, whatever we call them. Even going to the grocery store can help us feel engaged with others – we are all part of the “mask wearers” tribe (or at least most are). Perhaps you joined the tribe in the early days who were the “seekers of toilet paper”. There has been for some time now the “survivors” group among those who had COVID, and among them the “long haulers” subgroup. Now we have the “vaccinated” and those still awaiting their shots as groups that we can identify with. And, as much as it “wastes” time on Zoom calls, the social interactions that are a part of every call are important opportunities for us to re-establish relationships with fellow “Zoomies”.

So, keep reaching out in any way that you can to others and establishing little networks, tribes and groups, because you need them. We keep hearing that “we will get through this together”. Yes, we will, in the many little tribes and groups that make up the “We” these days.

Have a great weekend and say “Hi” to the lady in aisle 8 at the grocery store – a fellow member of the mask wearers tribe.

Going through, not going to…

March 25, 2021

A couple of quotes, the first from the blog Jack’s Winning Words and the other something that I saw on-line recently seemed to go together

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.”    (Winston Churchill)

“My small personal hell has an expiration date.” (Michelle Goldberg)

Jack wrote that Churchill had a very rough early life – he basically went though hell and that prepared him for resolve and perseverance that he needed later in life as the leader of a nation at war. If I remember correctly Michelle’s personal hell had to do with depression, which she overcame.

We often refer to the trials or tribulations of life as being like hell for us and I think it is important to keep both of these saying is mind. One must keep on going with the thought that “this too shall pass”.  It is all too easy to quit when going through a though time and to sit there wallowing in self-pity. Yet self-pity never provides an answer to, or a way out of, the situation.

Sometimes the problem that you are facing comes with a built-in expiration date – a specific time when something will either happen or not happen. Of course, you may be envisioning the worst possible outcome of it happening (or not happening). You have imagined your own personal hell, which almost never happens. Other times you must take the initiative to set the expiration date, meaning that you decide when to move on and out of this personal hell – to keep going.

It is important to keep Churchill’s advice in the forefront of your mind and to keep reminding yourself that you are only passing through hell and that you are not imprisoned there. It is also comforting to know that you are not alone on this journey. God is always with you, offering you the strength and comfort of your faith to help you through the crisis. There is no expiration date on God’s love for you. Though there may be temporary pain or shame or loss, God will not abandon you and his love for you is steadfast.

So, no matter what person hell you may be going through, reach out to God for help. It is on that day that you set the expiration date for your personal hell and continue your journey out of that hell. You were just passing through and God will show you the way out.

Have a great day and keep on going. You’re just passing through.

Searching for the truth…

March 24, 2021

Today, Pastor Freed used this Albert Einstein quote in his blog Jack’s Winning Words – “Sometimes people don’t want to hear the truth, because they don’t want their illusions destroyed.” 

I immediately thought, maybe it is their delusions that they don’t want destroyed. In the new world of “Fake News” and “sometimes facts aren’t facts”, we have moved easily from illusions to delusions, and it has sometimes become hard to decern the “truth”.

I also read this morning about a recent study published by the National Bureau of Economic Research of the news coverage of the COVID-19 virus that shows a decided negative bias in stories from the national media in the U.S. Basically the study finds that the national news media feed us what they think we want to see and hear. They create a delusion, based upon their biased coverage.

“I’ll know the truth when I hear it”, used to be a saying that was often used. But, not any more, because the truth is often impossible to discern amidst the bias and deception that various groups employ to control what we see and hear. We may still believe that we can see the truth, but we are seeing what someone else has decided to show us as the truth.

That is not to say that we cannot still make judgement calls about what we see and hear on the news; however, moving onto the slippery slope of judging what is true or not true is exactly where the manipulators of the news want us to be. Do I believe what Lester Holt – “the most trusted news anchor in America” – tells me every night? Or, maybe, I switch to CNN or the BBC because I think they are less biased in their coverage. Those are judgement calls and once we start making those judgement calls the “truth” fades into the background and is lost.

A major contributing factor to the storming the nations Capitol building was the belief of the perpetrators that they were doing their patriotic duty and answering the call of their Commander-in-Chief to “take back the country”. They saw and heard that call to action night after night on the news, especially the news shows that took that bias as their guide to what was presented. They lived in a delusional world created by the “news”.

The fact is that all of the so-called “news” shows are just a special subset of the entertainment industry and to be the most entertaining they give us what they think we want to see. The American public seems to sop up bad news with more enthusiasm than feel-good stories, so we are fed a daily dose of the bad news that we crave. Perhaps we get a perverse pleasure in seeing someone else in misery – sort of a modern equivalent to the reaction to a Vaudeville prat-fall – or we sit there thinking “thank God that wasn’t me”. For whatever reason we can’t take our eyes off scenes of disaster or misery.

So, take your daily dose of news with at least a grain of skepticism. Whichever outlet you use; be aware that you are seeing the “news” through the filter of the biases of that news crew.  Maybe that fits into the illusion (or delusion) that you have of the world, but it may or may not have anything to do with the truth. Maybe Jack Nicholson’s  line from the movie A Few Good Men is the answer – “You can’t handle the truth.”

Can you handle the truth? Can you discern the truth? Do you live in a world of illusion or maybe delusion? Where can you look to find the truth? Christians start by looking in the Bible. The truths that are to be found there are not judgement calls, but they may destroy a few of life’s delusions. Do you want the truth? Now you know where to look for it.

A good daily reminder…

March 23, 2021

“I remind myself every morning…Nothing I say this day will teach me anything, so if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening.”  (Larry King) 

That was Jack’s quote today in the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

Have you ever met someone who just can’t stop talking? I have and it’s really annoying after a very short period of time. It’s not even that you can’t get a word in edgewise, it’s that you just get tired of listening to them prattle on.

However, the advice in today’s quote is certainly valid. If you are talking, you are spouting off about things that you already know or opinions that you’ve already reached. Instead, if you listen, you may hear things that you didn’t know or get some insight into a different point of view that may influence or change your decision.

Another piece of advice is not to be a passive listener, but, rather to actively be listening to and analyzing what you are hearing. The minds of most passive listeners aren’t really just idling along; rather, they are usually busy formulating the next thing that the person wants to say.

In addition to the potential for learning, being a good listener is a way to show some respect for the person that you are talking with. It shows that you are paying attention to what they have to say. Admit it, that you an tell if someone is paying attention to what you are saying; so, why would you not think that they can tell the same about you.

Jack mentioned that Larry King used to lean in towards those he was interviewing so that he could listen better to what they were saying and in doing so let them know that he was listening. That’s not a bad habit to adopt either. Body language experts might tell you that taking the opposite approach and leaning back is a show of disrespect and/or indifference for what the person is saying.

Most of us will never be interviewers like Larry King; however, we can apply the lessons that he learned about listening to be better conversationalists or fiends. Others are trying to talk to us, not just at us, and they deserve the courtesy of us listening to them. Who knows, we might even learn something.

Be a good listener today.

Talk to yourself…

March 22, 2021

Every now and then I stumble across quotes on the Internet that somehow click for me or seem worthy of saving for later. A couple that I saw recently just seemed to go together –

“Talk to yourself at least once in a Day, otherwise you may miss a meeting with an EXCELLENT person in this World.” ― Swami Vivekananda

And one that I will paraphrase that I saw in a  sweatshirt ad – “I talk to myself all the time. Once in a while I say something funny, and WE have a good laugh.”

A corollary to talking with yourself is talking for your pet. How many of us have had both sides of a conversation with our dogs or cats? Sometimes they say funny things, too. Then you have to imagine your dog or cat chuckling along with you.

Unless it is the mental illness of schizophrenia, there is really nothing wrong with talking to yourself. It is often a technique for examining all sides of an argument, so that you can make a decision – just don’t argue with yourself.

Sometimes the mentally ill say that they hear voices giving them instructions to do bad things. That is a sign that they need professional help.

For the most part the words of Swami Vivekananda probably apply. I’ve posted here a few times about loving yourself before you can love others. A big part of getting comfortable with who you are and loving yourself involves talking things out with yourself. You must come to the conclusion of “I’m OK” before you can move to the next step of “You’re OK”. (See I’m OK, You’re OK  a 1967 self-help book by Thomas Anthony Harris.)

Some may say that prayer is a form of talking to yourself, especially if you tend to imagine what God is saying in your mind during the prayer. Fortunately, the messages that should come out of that conversation are based upon goodness and not evil. Just don’t argue with God, either.

So, start your day with a conversation with God and then talk to yourself. Hash things out in your mind and view all of the options and choose wisely. In the end, say something funny to yourself and have a good laugh together.

Have a great day, you and God have already met someone excellent today.

Somebody ought to do something about that…

March 20, 2021

How many times have you heard someone say that (today’s post title) or maybe even said it yourself? When we encounter things that we think are wrong, what is our reaction? When we do something that is wrong, how do we react? Do we look for somebody else to blame or to take action to correct the problem? I saw today’s quote on-line somewhere and it resonated with me – “If it is to be, it is up to me.” ― William H. Johnsen

I often look up the authors of the quotes that I use to see what else they might have been quoted as saying. Interestingly this is the only quote ever attributed to William H. Johnson. According to Wikipedia – William Henry Johnson (1901 – 1970) was an American painter. Born in Florence, South Carolina, he became a student at the National Academy of Design in New York City, working with Charles Webster Hawthorne. He later lived and worked in France, where he was exposed to modernism. I was initially amused by the fact that this was his only quote; but then I realized that he has one more quote that is used all over the world than I do or that most of us will ever have.

Looking at Johnsen’s one quote in depth, it has much more meaning that it initially appears to contain. On its surface, it is a simple and straightforward call to action, sort of like Nike’s Just do it. In reality, it begs the issue of one’s view of the world and events that are happening all around us. It is very easy to become hardened and almost impervious to the news of the day – the injustices to, and on-gong hardships of, those faces that we see on the nightly newscasts. There is also that tendency to look for someone else to take up the responsibility to do something to right those wrongs – the somebody ought to do something reaction.  “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

We know that we cannot solve all of the problems of the world and we can see that some of the issues that need to be addressed require action from those who are well above our pay-grade; however, that should not detour us from taking some action. If we cannot make the big decisions ourselves, we can at least let those who can know how we feel about it. We can call or write our representatives in Congress and express our support for actions to correct the problems. We might be able to donate money or time to organizations that are working on the solutions to hunger or homelessness or other ills. We can take Johnsen’s quote to heart and do something. “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

It is important (and Johnsen’s quote rally points to this) that you not allow yourself to become numb or complacent about things that are wrong or injustices that you see every day. Prejudices – racism, homophobia and misogyny – continue to exist only because we allow them to exist. If they are to stop, where do you think that begins? Johnsen had the answer. “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

For Christians, Johnsen’s quote is particularly true. Jesus said that we must take up the cross to follow him. Taking up that cross is not just about bearing the pains of life, but about taking an active role in making things better for all. Taking up the cross is the ultimate expression of Johnsen’s s quote, because you are saying it that moment – “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

Yes, somebody ought to do something about that and that somebody is you. Take up your cross and repeat after me – “If it is to be, it is up to me.”

Be a Hoosier, it just makes sense…

March 19, 2021

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Ways blog started with this bit of lifestyle advice – “The Hoosier way is quite simple.  We work hard, and we live within our means.”  (Dan Coats)

It seems to me that too many of us live a different lifestyle by “buying stuff we don’t need with money we don’t have”.

wood worker

I lived in Indianapolis, Indiana (the Hoosier state) for a few years in the early to mid-1970’s. I never really considered myself to be a Hoosier, but I will admit that most of the people that I met there and lived with back then did seem to be honest, hard-working people and less pretentious than those I’ve encountered elsewhere. Of course, times and people change; but, Hoosiers, I suspect, are still much the same way that Coats described them.

There are probably lots of additional characteristics that come to mind when one starts thinking about people who may live like Hoosiers – God fearing, quiet, keep to themselves, family-oriented and other images and words flood into the mind for these idealized people. Unfortunately, there are also words and images that are not flattering that come to mind when one remembers the staunchly conservative nature of the Hoosier state. The word “conservative” has been burdened with way too much political baggage of late.

Yet, taking Coats at his word, the Hoosier way seems to be a good model upon which to base one’s life. If you overlay on top of those principles the basic Christian tenants to love the Lord and to do unto others as you would have them do to you, one would have a great foundation for a successful life.

You don’t have to live in Indiana to live a Hoosier life or to live a Christian life. Choosing to work hard and make good decisions with your money and your life just make good sense. Choosing to love the Lord and treat others as you wish to be treated are also easy decisions to make. Putting the two together is a formula for success and happiness in life.  

Be a Christian Hoosier today!