Can’t figure something out? Try looking at it from a new perspective.

May 10, 2017

From a recent post at  Jack’s Winning Words blog – “I stand upon my desk to remind myself that we must continually look at things in a different way.”  (Tom Schulman)  A professor surprised his class by hopping up on a desk to give his lecture.  The students remembered what he said, because they saw him differently.

We all look at life and the situations that we confront from our own perspective. We seldom take the time to hop up upon a desk to “see” things from another perspective. That is particularly true of our encounters and interactions with other people. If we are honest with ourselves, the perspective lens that we look at others through is called judgement. We judge others from our own frame of reference, rather than just see and girl with nose chainaccept them for who they are without prejudice. As a test, imagine that two girls walk into a room where you are. One looks “normal” and the other is sporting a nose ring and purple lips. What is your immediate reaction to them? Did you jump to a conclusion (a judgement) right away about the girl with the nose ring? I wonder what she thought about me if she saw an old dude standing there gawking at her.

We seldom stop to think about or take the time to attempt to see things from another perspective, especially the perspective of someone else. Rather we judge them from our own perspective and cannot fathom why they have made the choices that they have made. It may be the choice of their appearance or it may be the choice of an action that they have taken. On the surface an action may just appear to be a criminal act that needs to be punished; however, below that surface may be a set of circumstances that depression4precipitated the poor decision that led to that act. Was it caused by desperate hunger or maybe even overwhelming fear? Was it caused by the need to feed and addiction and what was the root cause of that addition? Is the behavior driven by a condition or illness that we just don’t understand? After all, how does one put oneself into the shoes of a person on the autism spectrum and see things as they see them?

You can read about things, like the post that I had here some time back that referenced a blog by a person on the autism spectrum who tried to describe her perspective on the world – how it feels to be autistic. That was a post about “trying to understand others without a frame of reference”. There was a later one about how it feels to be depressed. In both cases there was someone who lives those perspectives trying to share their point of view with others, so that they might be better understood themselves. There was a recent article in the Detroit Free Press about a recent MSU grad who overcame bi-polar disorder to pursue his dreams. I read it, but I still can’t get to the perspective that he must have had battling with that disorder.

I have also posted here many times about valuing diversity and about accepting people who embrace different lifestyles, like the GLBTQI community, yet I am still susceptible tolbgtqi-symbol making those snap judgments that many do, just based upon appearance or mannerisms. It takes a discipline that I have yet to master to prevent that from happening and to be able to think and accept, before rushing to judgement. I’m still working on that.

The recent seismic political changes in Washington are forcing many of us to try to gain some perspective on the point-of-view of the conservatives who now rule the land. There are lots of terms used to describe what they are apparently trying to accomplish – smaller government, less intrusion in our personal lives by government, reduced taxes, reduced regulation of day-to-day life, the sanctity of life, and on and on. On the surface, many of these ideas or ideologies don’t sound bad. The devil is in the details of how they are being implemented. There is a supreme irony in saying that you are providing better health care for everyone while at the same time causing millions of people to lose what little health care that they had. I still can’t get my head around that perspective. At the arrogantsame time, I read week after week about doctors and other health care “professionals” being prosecuted for fraud that saps millions from the healthcare system and about drug costs that have gone through the roof due to a broken healthcare payments system.

It is hard in the face of all that is happening not to become cynical about government and about a life that seems to be stacked against the average person. That is where one’s faith can provide the perspective that is needed to cope with the situation at hand. I posted recently about trusting God’s will and plan for our lives. Perhaps we need to extend that trust to life in general and our currently political situation specifically. Rather than praying that God find a way to “throw the bums out”; perhaps we should pray that God open their eye to the needs of all and guide them in their political actions. I’ll save the “throw the bums out” prayer if that doesn’t work.

Trying to see things from a different perspective or from someone else’s point-of-view at least forces us to try to imagine something different – a different way of looking at things and a different set of values for making decisions. That can be especially hard when both of the parties claim to be basing their value systems on the same thing. Both the conservative and the liberal sides of the political spectrum claim to be basing their core values on a belief in God and their own interpretation of the guidance to be found in thereading-bible Bible and the teachings of Jesus; yet they arrive at dramatically different perspectives on life and in the decisions that they make. It seems to me that at its core the two points of view can be expressed as “leave me alone” and “let me help you”. At the one extreme is anarchy and at the other socialism. Of course, neither will ever be achieved, but those end goals seem to drive the participants’ behavior.

I suppose that a Utopian view might be that everyone is cared for and all needs met without anyone having to pay for anything and everyone being free to do whatever they want. Not even God has figured out how to do that yet, unless you include heaven in the equation. Until such time as we get to heaven, the best that we might be able to do is to visualizingtry to stop and think before we react. Some and try to see, and perhaps understand a little, that the other person has a different perspective on the situation than we do. It’s not right or wrong, it’s just different from our view of things and we need to acknowledge that difference and factor that different point-of-view into our reaction to things. You may never be able to figure it out, but you can factor it in. That is a step in the right direction and may even give you a different perspective on things.

Here’s looking at you (from a different perspective).


Is ignorance the new norm in government?

February 25, 2017

One cannot watch the nightly news without coming away with the thought that we are trapped somehow in some perverse nightmare where the inmates have indeed taken over the asylum and ignorance and insanity have become the order of the day.

At our state level in Michigan we have leaders with no background or experience making ignorant decisions about the state’s future and tax policies. As one recent editorial put it they appear to have arrived at the capital in a clown car.

At the national level we now have both a Congress and the Presidency ruled by ignorance, arrogance, “alternative facts, and conscientious stupidity who are seemingly intent on destroying the foundation upon which this great country was built – the immigration of people who yearn to be free.

I have collected some quotes that seem appropriate for our current situation…

“Fear the ignorant man more than the lion.” – Turkish proverb

“Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”  (Confucius)

“War is peace.

Freedom is slavery.

Ignorance is strength.”

― George Orwell, 1984

“Whatever the cost of our libraries, the price is cheap compared to that of an ignorant nation.”

― Walter Cronkite

“Nothing in the world is more dangerous than sincere ignorance and conscientious stupidity.”

― Martin Luther King Jr.

You are not entitled to your opinion. You are entitled to your informed opinion. No one is entitled to be ignorant.”  ― Harlan Ellison

There is a cult of ignorance in the United States, and there has always been. The strain of anti-intellectualism has been a constant thread winding its way through our political and cultural life, nurtured by the false notion that democracy means that ‘my ignorance is just as good as your knowledge.” ― Isaac Asimov

“There is nothing more frightful than ignorance in action.”  ― Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, Collected Works

“He knows nothing; and he thinks he knows everything. That points clearly to a political career.”

― George Bernard Shaw, Major Barbara

It can be rather depressing to read through those quotes and consider them in light of our current situation; however, one can lean on one’s faith to get through the day and this time of turmoil. A recent post on the Jack’s Winning Words blog offered this advice –

“It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”  (Charles Dickens)  Dicken’s, A Tale of Two Cities, describes a situation much like the present in which there are two views of the same world, living side by side.  I have friends who believe we’re now living in the best of times and others who wake up daily to see things getting worse.  The divide between rich and poor widens.  Dickens’ hope is in the death of inequality and a resurrection to a better age, built on the ashes of the old.  There is a God!  Hold on to that hope.  The best is yet to come.  😉  Jack

We may well be witnessing the flames of ignorance creating the ashes of our old world; but the best is yet to come, if we hold on to hope and a belief that there is a God (and maybe get out and vote next time).

Here’s hoping that the best is yet to come.


Maybe the recent election has started something else…

February 14, 2017

“Often when you think you’re at the end of something, you’re at the beginning of something else.”  (Fred Rogers) – as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

The recent Presidential election may have been the end of both the Republican and Democratic parties as we have known them; and maybe that’s not a bad thing. There was an article in the Detroit Free Press about the new movement which has sprung out of the election of #Tweeter-In-Chief. The paper dubbed this emerging organization of people objecting to and resisting the changes that #POTUS is trying to decree as the Liberal Tea Party. I seriously doubt that this handle will stick since neither the original Tea Party people or the nascent resistance “movement” really want a liberal group to be associated with that term.

Certainly, Trump laid waste to the old guard in the Republican party and shows little intention of working very hard to rebuild bridges to the very leaders that he criticized during his campaign. They are, after all inhabitants of the “Swamp” that he promised to drain; although, thus far he just seems to be exchanging one set of old alligators for a new set of crocodiles. So far only two elected members of the Republican party in Congress have shown any real backbone by voting against one of the questionable nominees for important government jobs that #POTUS has put forth. Both, it might be noted are women.

The Democrats didn’t really fare any better in the latest election, having the dark underside of their party leadership exposed by WikiLeaks. One of the better postmortem analyses that I saw correctly laid the blame not just on Hillary’s campaigning decisions but on the overall sense of entitlement that the Democrats have developed over time. They seem to sound a bit like a broken record from the 20th Century which when played just repeats the phrase “we’re the party of the working people” over and over, as if that is sufficient reason to vote for their candidate. I’m not sure that they even understand who “the working people” are anymore; although Bernie Sanders tapped into the a big group with a message that seemed to resonate with some of “the working people.”. I still think that it would have been a hell of a race between Trump and Sanders, or at least more fun to watch.

Enough Monday morning quarterbacking. Where do the parties go from here? I fear that the Republican Party has sealed its own doom by swinging way right and embracing a populist message. As I’ve written here before, I still recall the moderates within the Republican Party, which kept it somewhat balanced. There seems to be no room anymore for anyone who won’t swear allegiance to the dictates of some obscure far right economist or to the restrictive social issues of the far right religious groups. And heaven forbid that any Republican ever have the backbone to stand up to the NRA. There is little hope for moderation, bipartisanship or even intelligent decision making for those beholding to the Republican Party and their financial backers.

Unfortunately, the Democrats have themselves fallen victim to this trend, albeit in the opposite philosophical and political direction. One seems to have to prove their liberal credentials to the extreme to be accepted by the Democratic party and its current leadership. The complaints that the Democrats have become a bi-coastal party and a party of elitists does have a ring of truth to it. The other complaints that surfaced during the last election that the party has been taking minority voters and union voters for granted also holds some water. Those issues deserve to be addressed and need to be addressed before the Democrats can reclaim any leadership in Washington.

I have heard from a number of people that they held their nose and voted for one candidate or the other, which indicates a serious degree of dissatisfaction with both parties. The idea of it perhaps being time for a third party has gained a little traction in the post-election angst of those who feel left behind by both parties. I’ve opined here before about the need for that new party, a centrist party unencumbered by the pull of either extreme right or left and more concerned about running the country right than trying to force a set of moral standards on everyone. In the mid-20th Century these politicians were called moderates, which is now a dirty word in both parties. The last semi-successful third party effort was mounted by Ross Perot and was a populist effort. Many might say that Bernie Sanders effort was also populist, but he chose to stay within the confines of the Democratic Party; which, in retrospect, was probably the wrong decision.

It is somewhat sad to think that in order to be successful today one must be a Billionaire or at least have a few of them in your corner (that is, if you are not peeking out from their pockets). I’m thinking of sending a message to Michael Bloomberg to challenge him to jump in and get active at the Presidential level. He seems content right now to sit on the sidelines and take pot-shots at #POTUS through the vehicle of his Bloomberg Business Week. Perhaps at 75 he is considered to be too old, but at least he could put his billions to work either revitalizing the Democratic Party or starting a new third party. I’ll bet he could get Warren Buffet to jump into that effort with him.

So, anyway, maybe it took a shock like the election of #Tweeter-In-Chief to awaken the giant; that huge majority that is not really comfortable way off on the Left or Right of the political spectrum.  We shouldn’t have to hold our noses to vote for someone to be President of the United States. Let’s get people back in Congress and eventually back in the White House who can work for all of the people of this great country. Maybe this started something new. Join the new movement and take back our country.


America held hostage day 21…

February 10, 2017

Maybe #POTUS needs to do this…

From a recent post to the  Jack’s Winning Words blog –

“Before you speak, T-H-I-N-K!”  (Mentors Channel)

Here’s an acrostic worth saving.

T – Is it True?

H – Is it Helpful?

I – Is it Inspiring?

N – Is it Necessary?

K – Is it Kind?

Maybe #POTUS, #Tweeter-in-Chief, needs to run down through that list before he speaks or tweets or signs random and hateful Executive Orders. So far little of what he has done or tried to do would have passed all or any of those criteria.

It appears that the Federal Courts will be as busy as the news fact checkers for the next few years; both sorting through the “alternative facts” that seem to be driving the decisions in the White House these days. Perhaps the White House Press Secretary will announce that there is an “Alternative Reality” in which our #POTUS is the star and from which he will be issuing decrees and taking revenge against those who disagree.

Meanwhile the bulk of the Republicans in Congress who failed to show any backbone at all when confronted with obviously unqualified nominees for important roles in this Alternative Reality government have earned the hash tag #Toadies. It was heartening to see that at least two Republican Senators had enough courage in their convictions about #WatchOutForBears to vote against her nomination to head up the Education Department.  It’s sad that not a single male Republican Senator had the same courage, earning them the hash tag #NoRocks.

We are indeed lucky to have “so-called” judges in place who can evaluate and take actions to stop the madness when it goes too far. It might be amusing to watch from the sidelines were it not so potentially dangerous and injurious to the country. Perhaps we have already seen the answer to a question that won’t be asked for almost 4 years. Maybe the solution to what to do about #Tweeter-in-Chief has already earned her own label #ShePersisted. I’m sure that she will also continue to earn the tag – #SheResisted.

In the meantime, we all have the ability and the duty to aid the courts in the fight to hold on to the values that made this great country what it is. The upcoming “off-year” elections for Congressional seats can turn the tide and provide a bulwark against the rampages of #POTUS and his minions. The time to start is now to get rid of as many #Toadies as possible in that election cycle and take back control of at least one arm of Congress. Get in the game and support an opposition candidate. Get a T-shirt that says #RestoreSanity and start campaigning for that change. When your candidate wins you can wear the T-shirt that says #WeThe PeoplePersisted.


Living with ambiguity…

January 30, 2017

“What’s important is to keep learning, to enjoy challenge, and to tolerate ambiguity.  In the end there are no certain answers.”  (Martina Horner) – as seen in a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Ways blog. Jack went on to write – Neuroscientists say that the brain does not like ambiguity… People, in general, want “yes or no” answers.  No equivocation.  But life’s not like that.

worriesIn my real estate world there many cases where the answer to a question starts with “it depends…” Lawyers tend to answer questions like that, too, because they know that so much in the law is open to interpretation. Much what has been said lately by #POTUS, #Tweeter-in-Chief seems initially to be straightforward, until one starts to think about how the simplistic answers that fit into 140 characters will actually be implemented. The devil is in the ambiguity of the details.

One consequence of the brain not liking ambiguity is that we waste a lot of time trying to solve problems for which there are no real, unambiguous answers. It is possible to answer a child’s question, ‘Why is the sky blue?” with an unambiguous and scientifically verifiable answer. But let that same child ask, “What is love?” and see if you can come up with a complete answer to that. We also tend to wrestle with things that we pose to ourselves as questions, when in fact they are conundrums with ambiguous answers.

A very important word in today’s quote is “tolerate”. It is saying that while we are not insightgiving in to ambiguity, we have come to the conclusion that we will not let it ruin our lives, that we will acknowledge it and choose to live with the fact that some things are unresolved and unresolvable.  The catch phrase “it is what it is”, was probably invented by someone who had just accepted some ambiguity in their life.

Once you accept that there are no certain answers to some things, you can let go of them and focus instead on the things that you are sure of or the things in your life that can be solved or resolved. You can spend more time focused upon those who love you and accept your and less time trying to figure out why some people reject you or hate you (or so you think).

At the end of today’s quote is also an important little phrase – “In the end there are no certain answers.” I made the point earlier that certain things were scientifically provable and thus not ambiguities; but are they? A huge majority of the world’s best scientists have signed on in support of the theories surrounding man’s impact as the primary cause of Global Warming, yet our #Tweeter-in-Chief and his appointee to the critical post of EPA Chief don’t believe the evidence that these scientists have collected and the case that they make. So, in the end, there are no certain answers in the minds of those men.

Perhaps Anton Chekhov was right when he said – “Man is what he believes.” 

disagreement2Since we live in a world that surrounds us with many ambiguous situations and we are now under a leadership that now supplies us with “alternative facts” to almost any situation, I suppose Chekhov’s insight is now more important than ever – we are what we believe. Perhaps #POTUS has discovered a new way to deal with ambiguity – just believe something and it becomes true, it becomes an alternative fact upon which we can build the rest of our lives.

I still have trouble with that concept, perhaps because I bring some beliefs about right and wrong into the mix along with some historical perspective of the facts. I struggle to understand that way of thinking, the same way that Chuck Todd (#chucktodd) did in his TV interview with Kellyanne Conway, when she introduced the term “alternative facts” in response to a question about something that the White House Press Secretary had said. Todd was nonplussed by that term and how to differentiate an “alternative fact’ from a lie. Maybe Chuck and I just don’t see the ambiguity that is hidden in the term fact.jpg“fact”. Obviously, for some, it is not a fact if you don’t believe it is a fact; and, even less so if you choose to believe an “alternative fact”.

So maybe we don’t have to worry about accepting ambiguity, but just get used to tolerating alternative facts for the next four years. I for one am having a hard time with that. How about you?

 


What good can come out of all this?

January 22, 2017

As I was thinking about something to say about the recent inauguration of our new President, I came across this quote that I saved from an earlier post on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.   “Everybody has difficult years, but a lot of times the difficult years end up being the greatest years.”  (Brittany Murphy)

One can take refuge in the hope that the difficult four years ahead will be looked back upon as a time when the best that is in America was energized into resistance against the anger, hate and bitterness that led to this state of affairs. Perhaps it will come to be reright-and-wronggarded as America’s finest hour when the goodness that is in people found a common cause in the fight for what is right and just and compassionate in the battle against the insensitivity and the self-serving, closed-mindedness of the current political regime in our nation’s capital. Have no doubt about it, this is not a one-man problem, but a systemic assault being waged on the very values that the country was founded upon by a group of frightened politicians who are fighting the inevitable tide of change and diversity that the country is undergoing.

So, what good can come out of these four years of potential darkness? Perhaps the best thing that can happen is the awakening, revitalization and commitment of opposition to that darkness. Such an awakening was demonstrated around the country the day after the inauguration.  The awakening may occur within the existing two party structure of our political environment or perhaps result in the birth of a third party that doesn’t carry with it the baggage of both of the existing parties. Perhaps it will result in the emergence of a new charismatic leader who can serve as the voice of reason and compassion and lead the waitingnation out of the morass that is now finds itself in. I don’t know who that will be, but I would not be surprised if it another strong woman. It is well past time for that to happen and perhaps the country has never needed the difference in approach to governing that a woman could bring to bear than now (or four years from now).

It will take a little while for the current emotions of shock, anger and disappointment to settle down enough in the country for rational and organized efforts to get underway to resist the dismantling of the rights, privileges and protections that were put in place over the last 8 years (and before) and to begin planning for the 2018 and 2020 opportunities to take back the country. It would be a shame if the 65,844,954 million voters who did not vote for this president didn’t get better organized to make sure that the same thing doesn’t happen again next time. The demographics have always been on the side of that majority, but the techtake actionnical mechanics of the last election were such that they allowed the minority to win. That can and will be overcome with the proper effort and commitment on the part of the majority. There is absolutely no need for this to be anything more than a short–term anomaly for our country and perhaps a one-term Presidency.

The good that come out of this is taking a serious look at the failures of both parties that allowed this to happen. The Republican Party did not imagine this outcome when thewinner-loser campaigning for their candidate started. They had several much better choices at the beginning, but those candidates allowed themselves to be bullied out of the way. The Democratic Party seemed to believe that it was entitled to win and chose a candidate that allowed herself to believe that, too. After all, how could she lose to that Republican candidate? The Democrats discarded the only candidate that might have defeated that Republican’s choice when they conspired to block the one candidate who was not beholding to the party elite. What a hoot that Presidential campaign would have been to witness.

So, who will rise to the challenge for 2020 to lead the nation back to sanity? I doubt that it will be Senator Elizabeth Warren, as many have predicted. She certainly has the intellectual capacity to be President; however, she has become as identified with the extreme left as any Tea Party member of Congress is identified with the extreme right. What will bring America back to an effective and productive middle ground of bi-partisan cooperation will be either a Democrat or Republican who is charismatic enough to ignorediversity the right and left litmus tests that the parties try to apply to their candidates. Perhaps it will be another populist, but one this time who espouses diversity, inclusiveness, compassion and a more centrist approach to things. I’m old enough to remember when moderate Republicans were allowed in that party and when there were fiscally conservative Democrats. Both have joined the Dodo bird in the Smithsonian display of extinct species.

So, it’s time to put this election behind us and get geared up to do a better job next time. There will undoubtedly be many fights about, and much anguish over, what happens in those four years. The good news is that we really only have to wait two years until the opportunity to put in place a new set of people in Congress who can slow or stop any destruction that the new President can effect. The Republican Party certainly sstart-with-mehowed us how effective having a majority in Congress can be to blocking everything that the President wants to do. It’s the game that both parties would rather play than focusing on getting the people’s work done. You have two years to be ready to effect change. Don’t waste that time lamenting what went wrong this year, focus on what you can help go right the next time and the time after that. It all starts with me. That’s what good can come out of this.

 


It all starts with me…

December 14, 2016

“The Buck Stops Here” (President Harry S. Truman) Truman had a sign that had that little saying on his desk in the White House and he used that phrase in speeches. There is anbuck-stops-here interesting story about the sign on Truman’s office and the origin of that phrase at the Truman Library web site. Truman, and many who have followed since, used that phrase to indicate that rather than “pass the buck” the buck would stop with them and they would make a decision. It is useful for making personal decisions in many facets of life, such as dealing with bullying or dealing with prejudice or continuing to look the other way and allow any number of injustices to continue. It is all too easy to pass the buck, rather than have the buck stop here- with you.

I wrote a post here yesterday about the lack of respect (and from that a lack of civility) in our modern political system and our society in general. A reader commented on that post, “Norm, you are so very right. Where has it gone and when can we get it back?” That sparked the Respect2thought that it really isn’t just about the buck stopping here, with me (or you); but, also the fact that the different behavior that is needed to combat that lack of respect and civility must start with me, too. It starts with me showing respect for the opinions of others, even if I don’t agree with their option or point of view on things. There are ways to respectfully disagree without resorting to screaming or name calling. Rather than waste my time and yours trying to denigrate you and your position, I need to focus upon doing a better job trying to understand your position and searching for some common ground upon which we might be able to find compromise.

So the answer to that question from my reader about how to recover the lost respect and civility in life is that we get it back when we start giving it back. We resist the reflex to jab back at the person taunting us or belittling our position or beliefs. We turn the otherdisagreement2 cheek. (Where have we heard that before?) Maybe, instead of just blurting back, “You’re wrong”, we could say instead, “I see that we have different opinions on this; is there anything about it that we can agree upon?” There may not initially be any apparent common ground; but, just changing the situation from a confrontation into a conversation may defuse what otherwise might escalate into something that you both regret later. We can start by respecting that we have differences and being civil about it. See how that works..

I also wrote recently about dealing with people who are looking at life through completely different lens that we can even imagine. (See – Trying to understand others without a frame of reference…) While the example used in that post and the follow-on post about Depression are examples of frames of personal reference (lens if you will) that are a little further out of the norm, they are examples of how things can be seen and opinions formed based upon different perspectives on life. The differences in the frames of reference discussed in those posts may have been extreme; however, something similar seems to looking-through-glasses-lenshave happened in our everyday lives, especially in the aspects that deal with politics.

The lens that we “see” things through in order to formulate those political opinions are often not internal, but those that are held up for us to look through by the politicians of our times. Sometimes they are charismatic charmers who can convince us to walk through fire with them in order to do the “right thing”. Sometimes they tap into our darker side and encourage us to let out the anger and frustration that we may have bottled up. We have the choice of forming ourWWJD own opinions by looking through the lenses that are held up by others or by choosing our own lens and view of things. If we really need an external lens to look through, we might do better by looking through the lens of the Bible and the “truths” that we will find there, rather than the “truths” that we see in a political ad or a tweet.

So, where does it start? How do we get back from the lack of civility and respect that we find ourselves in today? The simple truth is that it starts with me. I postulate that if I, and every other “I” out there, decided to be more respectful of differences and more civil in my interactions with others; eventually there start-with-mewould be enough “I’s” being respectful; and civil to others that it would turn us into “we” and then everything would be better. “We” would be living in a more respectful and civil world. I like that; and it starts with me.

How about you? Would you like to make your “I” a part of “We”? It starts with you, too.