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.


R.E.S.P.E.C.T.

December 13, 2016

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this post – “We don’t need to have the same opinions as others, but we need to be respectful.”  (Taylor Swift)

Jack went on to also write – “Is anyone teaching manners these days?  I’ve read that how people treat others reveals how they feel about themselves.  How are you feeling today?  I like Taylor’s comment on the importance of being respectful.    😉  Jack

Aretha Franklin had a hit song about RESPECT and the Staple Singers had a hit called Respect Yourself. I suspect that what Jack was saying starts with the second song and then deals with the first one. You can’t respect others if you don’t respect yourself. Showing disrespect and contempt for the opinions of others is just inviting them to return the favor about your position on things.

debatersIn the current loud and fractious political environment in the United States, respect and good behavior seemed to have been trampled under the heavy boots of partisan politics. As the gulf has widened between the major political groups, they have lost the ability to even hear the other’s side of the story, much less respect the differences. Both sides seem to have reached the “my way or the highway” position on their opinions and disdain has replaced disrespect in the conversations. In fact the conversations themselves have devolved into shouting matches.

One doesn’t have to look far below the surface of the shouting and apparent anger to see that the root cause – fear. The hints are actually in the phrases that are used on both sides, like “take back our country” on one side and “continue the fight forwinner-loser social, racial and economic justice” on the other. One side fears that “those people” are taking things away from us; while the other side fears that “those people” are preventing us from having equal opportunity. Both sides fear the other and see the other side’s success as taking something away from their side. Both sides view the world as a zero-sum game in which the outcome must be a winner and a loser. The position taken by both sides is “I’m right and you’re wrong”. There is no respect in this game.

There has always been a difference of opinion and approach to matters between the so-hands-across-the-gapcalled conservative and liberal factions within government. In days long gone the crack that divided the two groups was just that – a crack. It was a gap in thinking and approach to government that could be easily bridged or crossed. There were many politicians on both sides who crossed back and forth on issues, based on what they perceived to be for the good of the county. Due in many ways to the recent (relatively speaking) focus on social issues by our politicians, that crack or gap has now widened into a chasm which politicians on either side find to be too politically dangerous to cross. So they stand on bridging-the-chasmeach side of the divide hurling insults at each other across the chasm. No attempt is even made to build bridges between the opposing ideologies. They totally lack respect for each other.

There is little hope that the strident politicians that occupy the banks of the current political chasm will find a way to bridge that gap. In fact, they do not see any political advantage to trying to build that bridge. They find comfort in joining in on the shouting from their side of the chasm and encouraging even more strident views. They have become “US” and they have no respect for “THEM”.

What is the solution? Perhaps it is not to try to bridge the chasm, but rather to jump into it and build a new, third party from the bottom of that pit that can represent a way of governing without such rancor. There are many historic precedents in international politics for the creation of more moderate and centrist political parties. Instead of standing on the sides of the chasm and yelling that “government is too big” or “government is not doing enough”; perhaps this new party could focus more on what government can do to better serve the people that it governs. Instead of being focused upon the “haves” and the “have-nots”, this new party could focus on the needs. Maybe we do need to spend more time and money fixing what needs fixing here at home, but we must always be concerned about the wrongs that are occurring elsewhere in the world and new-way-forwardhelping where we can to make them right. This new party could start by showing respect to the people and the real problems at hand.

Rather than fighting a rear-guard battle against change to the world as we knew it; maybe we need to embrace a new world and a new political party that is more diverse in every way than has been the case in the past. We can’t go back; but, we can do better going forward. Let’s show some respect for the real issues and the solutions. It’s just a thought.

In the meantime, maybe we can all go back to kindergarten and re-learn what they tried to teach us there about RESPECT.


And then the sun came up…

November 9, 2016

“Don’t worry about the world coming to an end today.  It’s already tomorrow in Australia.”  (Charles Schulz) – from the post on Jack’s Winning Words on the day after the recent Presidential election.

The reactions to the U.S. election around the world ranged from the pollsters’ and pundits’ shock and disbelief to a general sense worry and fear. The stock markets of the world swooned and nervous governments everywhere when back to the drawing boards to try to figure outme what this will mean to them. Many went to bed not knowing the outcome; some did not go to bed at all. And then the sun came up.
The world did not end and will not end because of the election of Donald Trump to be President of the United States. The awesome power and responsibilities of that office seemed to sink-in to the President Elect a bit as he delivered his winning speech to supporters, pledging to be a President for all of the people and trying to reassure allies and adversaries around the world that he will act prudently and with restraint. He had been through a dark and brutal campaign for almost two years; and then the sun came up.

President Elect Trump’s campaign tapped into and aligned itself with the frustration and anger of the American electorate – a frustration with the gridlock and self-dealing of Washington politicians and the anger of feeling helpless as the world-wide economy shifted and took jobs with it to other countries. That anger and frustration sometimes turned very dark, but it also fueled a movement bent on change, no matter what the cost. Perhaps there will be real good come out of some of that change. Whatever the immediate future holds, there will always be a tomorrow and another opportunity to change again. A old saying tells us that it is always darkest before the dawn.  And then the sun came up.

For those with tears in their eyes and fears in their hearts who supported Secretary
Clinton, it is hard to see anything positive from the outcome; however, they must not lose faith in the basic goodness and principals upon which our country was founded. Whether
it veers slightly to the right or slightly to the left it continues to move forward as the greatest example of a free people ruling jesus-as-lightthemselves for their common good and the good of the world. We print the foundation of our beliefs as a people on our money – In God we Trust.

And then the Son comes up.

God bless America!


Where did compromise go?

July 18, 2014

“Lasting change is a series of compromises.  And compromise is all right, as long as your values don’t change.”  (Jane Goodall) as seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I suppose you could restate the second half of this quote a bit as “And compromise is all right, as long as you don’t compromise your values.”  Unfortunately in what passes for our political process lately the politicians both locally and at the national level have lost the ability to compromise and have become rigid in the mistaken belief that the only way to prevent compromising their values is to just say “no” to everything.

I observed the supporters of one local candidate marching in our recent Independence Day Parade, with signs and handouts that basically said no to just about everything – no to providing access to health thumbs downcare, no to any form of birth control, no to any taxes, no to most laws no, No NO. The only thing they seemed to be for was the right to have guns. Their message boiled down to “give us our guns, get out of our way and we’ll take care of ourselves.” There seemed to be little room for any compromise on anything in their message. It seemed to me to point to a desire for armed anarchy.

I am old enough to recall a time when politicians were able to find a way to govern by finding a way to compromise on big, important issues. Neither side was forced to change their values; so, as a result the laws that they passed often reflected the compromises that were required. There were always protests from the extreme fringe groups of both parties; but, logic and a sense of duty to get things done on behalf of the people prevailed. These days the fringe groups seem to rule the parties arguingand quite often nothing gets done. That appears to be the strategy of many – to them doing nothing or preventing everything is preferable to any compromise.

I suppose it’s our own fault as a constituency that we have allowed the political process to be taken over by minority extremist groups. The ambivalence of the great majority of citizens has allowed the only people who have passion (however misplaced it may be) for their views to gain control. The result at primary or election time is often a choice between the lesser of two or more evils, with most candidates trying to “out extreme” each other in their positions on issues. A by-product is often nasty, negative campaigning even within the two parties.

I’ve espoused this before, but it’s time to say it again – we need a viable third party alternative. We need a party in the center, a party that is not dedicated to the extremes of either conservatism or liberalism – a party willing to compromise to get things done. Maybe they could call it the Common Sense Party (CSP), since that is a political space that is currently not being occupied by the two existing parties. There seems to be a role for government somewhere between the “let me do it all for you” and the “let’s do nothing” extreme poles. Somewhere between “rules for everything” and “no rules at all” is a happy medium ground where the needs of the individual and the needs of the society are both served well.

Will the CSP ever come to be? Maybe not, but perhaps the voting public will tire of having to choosedumb and dumber between Dumb and Dumber and having to put up with the misinformation and attack ads that are used to try to influence our votes. There is hope on the horizon in the form of the changing demographics of the U.S. population. As the population grows and becomes more and more diverse the minorities at both ends of the political spectrum will become smaller and smaller. Maybe, just maybe, there will be enough honest people with common sense who will be willing to crawl through the slime of our political process to get elected and bring some sense of compromise back into the process of governing. One can only hope.