Archives For About Life

Things I have learned through my sixty odd years of life..

A Life Half Lived….

July 28, 2014 — 2 Comments

2014-05-08_08-01-53You want to be free. And as you start to feel that you are being corralled into a certain life, you kind of push against it. It may come out very strange, it may be interpreted wrong, but you’re trying to find out who you are.”….she lived with a deep fear of leading a “life half-lived.”

“I realized that very young — that a life where you don’t live to your full potential, or you don’t experiment, or you’re afraid, or you hesitate, or there are things you know you should do but you just don’t get around to them, is a life that I’d be miserable living, and the only way to feel that I’m on the right path is just to be true to myself, whatever that may be, and that tends to come with stepping out of something that’s maybe safe or traditional.”

SOURCE: Angelina Jolie Didn’t Think She’d Have Kids, Says Her 20s Were ‘Misinterpreted’ | Yahoo Celebrity – Yahoo Celebrity.

Angelina Jolie has always fascinated me. She is such an assertive person and a contrarian to boot. I like that combination. She knows what she wants and she goes after it.  It takes a very strong person to “want it all” but she among few others seems to be almost able to accomplish that feat. Like everyone that I admire to any degree I’m sure there are things about her that if I knew them I would not like but that’s OK. None of us are perfect.

Do any of us lead a life more than half lived? With the wisdom I have gained from almost seven decades on this earth I seriously doubt that I have.  There were so many opportunities that I had that I passed up due to not wanting to get out of my box. Fear, or maybe just trepidation, held me back. I think I am pretty usual in that regard.

I fear that we are stifling those who have a full potential at a very young age now. I fear that we are denying ourselves the next Einstein, Madam Curie, Steve Jobs, or a myriad of other examples. From my study of Yin/Yang and American culture I have learned that one of the things that makes us stand out as a nation is our “can do” spirit.  We simply are not willing to accept our limits.  It seems that anyone of our kids who now steps out of the normal accepted bounds is quickly pushed back via drugs or verbal assault.

I wished I had had a deep fear of leading a life half-lived as Ms. Jolie has. It would have forced me to make other choices in my life. There are many things that I seem to be passionate about but few that I am actually willing to take the risk to achieve at any higher level. I haven’t given up in that regard but time is running out for me. Let’s make sure that those who are beginning their lives have the fear that Angelina has. It will make the world a better place if at least a few of us don’t accept a life half lived…

 

2014-07-17_09-23-14We’re okay with accepting Jesus as our Savior, but we’re not so sure we want to follow him as our Lord because that might make things a little uncomfortable for us. Perhaps like many things in life it may not be what we want, but it’s exactly what we need. What I find heartbreaking is when pastors, priests and ministers don’t want to talk to their congregations about what Jesus actually taught because it might offend people who have relatives in the military. They’re often afraid to say anything that will result in a decrease in attendance or offering and maybe even cost them their jobs but is worrying about numbers, and what people think, really what Jesus had in mind for his church?

SOURCE:  American Jesus | Stephen Jarnick | Red Letter Christians.

Its pretty easy to latch onto a message that proclaims “I am going to give you this wonderful and very expensive gift and I don’t expect anything in return”. However some of us follow-up those words with “What’s the catch?”  We realize that “something for nothing” is most often just nothing. Yes, Jesus gave us a gift but he does expect something in return.

For us Christians it is easy to proclaim that Jesus as our savior. He didn’t put any immediate conditions on that other than just believing it. But he made it clear there are two sides to the Christian coin. The other side is to accept him as our Lord and to do what he told us to do.  The two top commands by far are to love God and to love each other and that means even our enemies. He also made it very clear that he wants us to be our brother’s keeper and by his definition our brothers are everyone else.

If you really read the words of Jesus in your bible it should be very clear that he was a pacifist who celebrated peace makers and not warriors. Too many people seem to ignore that basic fact. The American Jesus is sometimes morphed into something much different from the Jesus of history.

“God wants us to prosper financially, to have plenty of money, to fulfill the destiny he has laid out for us.” – Joel Osteen

“In Revelation, Jesus is a pride fighter with a tattoo down his leg, a sword in his hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is the guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.” – Mark Driscoll

From the above words also taken from the source article it is obvious that some religious leaders of our day have invented a Jesus to meet their personal agendas. Some others are just too afraid that if they give us the real Jesus that we will leave in droves. In reality the opposite is likely true and is actually happening in some circles, predominately the Emergent church movement.  Christianity is a two-sided coin and we should never forget for that fact. Faith without works is a dead faith as  James the brother of Jesus said twenty centuries ago.

CHildrenDue to these blurred role expectations for adults and children, grown-ups have become a dying breed in America. According to writer and speaker Robert Bly, one-third of adult Americans are actually half-adults. “We have become a nation of squabbling siblings. We have abandoned our children to day-care centers and our elders to old folks homes, while we, like Peter Pan, simply ‘won’t grow up.’” Bly describes a culture in which Americans tolerate no one above them and show no concern for anyone below them.

John Powers of the Boston Globe has also bemoaned the fact that there are a lot of older people, but not so many mature adults. A father of three children wears a tank top and mesh shorts on a plane trip, and women in their sixties wear sports bras as tops. In fact, I saw a father wearing a T-shirt proclaiming, “I’ll never grow up.” According to Powers, adults used to know what to wear and how to behave; they knew not only what to do but also what not to do. Now, however, marketers direct their pitches to these half-adults.

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 1482-1490). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

I have been posting on this Yin/Yang of American culture for ten posts now. These first ten posts have been on the positive aspects of our culture. We will now start a discussion on areas where we could show improvements, where we could learn from the rest of the world. I am pretty much a pragmatist, I look for good ideas wherever I can find them. The “Not Invented Here” syndrome which is so prevalent in much of this country’s population seems to have passed me by.

In the 1970s I was in my “searching” years and I read deeply in the area of psychology. One of my favorite authors was Eric Berne who invented transactional analysis. It is a theory that all our transactions originate in one of three states; Parent, Adult, Child. I won’t go into more details here than to say that many communications between two people occur in the child mode. Even among people no longer in that physical state. What Berne discovered is pretty much the same as Professor Eun states here.

Americans just don’t like to have to answer to other people. Many of us like to think that we are free from any responsibilities except to ourselves.  The above quote states that one-third of grown ups are not really grown up. As a result they no longer feel much of a responsibility toward their parents or in some degree even to their children. An extreme case of this self-absorption is called narcissism. I have some very direct and personal experiences in dealing with a narcissist parent. To boil it down I think the author is just saying we Americans are too full of ourselves.

Another aspect of not growing up is in our relationships to our children. We tend to let our kids do pretty much what they want. They have learned that if they don’t get what they want all they have to do is to throw a fit. We let them talk back to us. That would be a very serious thing in most other countries in the world. In other words parental authority is grossly lacking for many American parents. Along with this comes parental responsibility. One of the basic problems with America is that too many parents just don’t want to be parents anymore.

This is the last post of my blog series around Stephen Mattson’s post about the misconceptions about Christianity.

 Christianity is Illogical and Anti-Science

Christianity is often stereotyped as being anti-science, anti-academic and anti-intellectual. The reality is that many Christians embrace science and the exciting discoveries that it includes.

Additionally, many believers aren’t opposed to doctrines that heavily involve scientific data and research: evolution, global warming, healthcare research and environmentalism.

To be a Christian is to embrace knowledge, critical thinking, innovation, new ideas and the truths they reveal.

There is a segment of today’s Christianity called fundamentalism that the above label typifies. They stubbornly insist that the Bible is absolutely literal in all regards and is 100% the final and absolute word of God. Many of these folks are very anti-science. They seem to insist that you check your intelligence at the door when you come into their churches. I could go into a long and nuanced response to these beliefs but this particular post is not an appropriate place to do that. If you are interested in the detail browse through my blog over at RedLetterLiving.

A majority, I hope a large one, of us Christians see the Bible as containing God’s words and directions for how to live our lives. To us the Bible itself tells us that Jesus said he would give us more knowledge of life as we are able to understand it.  We think that our continuing scientific discovery is one way that God is making that happen.  I suppose it would have been possible for Jesus to talk about DNA to his first century followers but they certainly would have thought he was insane.  It was not until twenty centuries later that we were ready to receive this type of message.

Francis Collins, who was the leader of the Gnome Project that did the first mapping of human DNA wrote a book entitled The Language of God: A Scientist Presents Evidence for Belief about scientific discovery and Christian beliefs. It is well worth the read if you need any convincing that God continues to give us knowledge of the universe.

Sadly there will likely always be a population of Christianity who stick to very illogical and anti-science beliefs. They simply fear the consequences  and perceived uncertainty of believing otherwise. But most Christians do embrace knowledge, critical thinking, and innovation. We take the messages of God seriously both those found in the Bible and those given to us through scientific and other discovery.

This is a continuation of my Friday posts about the book “Yin/Yang and American Culture” by Kim Eun. It is a book well worth reading about the differences between America and much of the rest of the world. This post is about remaining active in our senior years.

Old PeopleAlthough America is criticized for its youth-oriented culture, American elders enjoy more productive lives than their Asian counterparts do. From working as independent consultants to serving as volunteers, American elders can retain their zest for life….

In contrast, many Asian elderly expect to stop learning at a certain age. It is rare to see an elderly person visiting a library unless he or she was a scholar. The typical mentality for Asians over fifty-five is, “I’m old, so what is learning for?” Opportunities for elders to lead productive lives or use their energy in positive ways are limited in Asia.

Unlike in America, it is difficult in Asia for senior citizens to get jobs at restaurants, grocery stores, or elsewhere. In Asia, even the volunteer organizations do not appreciate the services of elders. In the United States, an eighty-year-old man who opens the door for patients at a hospital is one of almost 445,000 retired seniors who do volunteer work. They serve their community as public park guides, library storytellers, and literacy mentors, among many other roles….

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 1062-1094). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

This topic rather surprised me in that I always thought that the elderly in Asia were treated with greater respect than in this country. The author did go on to say that if the elder “earned” respect then it is generally given. I don’t know how that works though. How much is enough for earned respect?

I am very thankful that in America elders can and generally lead very productive lives. I have been retired/semi-retired for going on to fifteen years now and I can honestly say that I think as far as my contributions to society go I have been much more productive during these years than I ever was during my “working” years. Of course it also follows that, despite all my growing aches and pains, these years have been the happiest of my life.

The quote above says that about half a million seniors do volunteer. But remember that this book was written in 2001 and that number has increased substantially since then.  Ms. Eun says further in her book that many Asian elders don’t bother to take care of themselves during their senior years. It seems that all they do is wait to die so to speak. How sad is that? Almost as sad as a woman having to cover her entire body when she goes out in public so that men won’t see her.  :(

I certainly appreciate that things in America are better for us seniors than they are in Asia….

The Community is Morally Superior

Christians are sinners just like everybody else. If you’re expecting a perfect utopian environment of honesty, generosity, kindness, respect and inclusive love within Christianity—prepare yourselves for heartbreak.

Churches, Christian organizations, spiritual leaders and the people representing Christianity will eventually fail you.

Christian communities are far from ideal. Many enter churches assuming that everyone is going to be supportive, wonderful and your new best friend—but the reality is harsh.

This is the seventh post on the misconceptions about Christianity as reported by Stephen Mattson. It should be obvious to any of you who have been following this blog series here at RJ’s Corner that Stephen lets us know that as far as he is concerned Christianity is a messy business. Given my life’s experiences I totally agree. The way we humans have put Christ’s church together I’m sure is full of errors and misconceptions. Given that none of us are without sin and that most of us seem to stubbornly cling to a small fragment of Jesus’ words and somehow treat it as the total truth nothing else could have happened. We just can’t seem to get our minds around the total concept of Jesus. Does that mean you should give up on all this Christian stuff because it is so tainted? Absolutely not..

Here are some final words from Stephen to wrap up this post.

Churches, Christian organizations, spiritual leaders and the people—and things—representing Christianity will eventually fail you. It’s going to happen, so prepare yourself for the inevitable letdown.

Becoming a Christian doesn’t make you any better or more valuable than anyone else. Many falsely believe that identifying as a Christian elevates them above the rest of humanity—self-righteously judging, alienating and condemning others.

Ironically, Jesus says being one of His followers requires extreme humility and meekness—not necessarily attractive qualities within today’s society.

Overall, Christianity is filled with many wonderful blessings, and there will be times of happiness, peace and encouragement. But we need to be careful not to stereotype our faith and turn it into something it’s not and was never meant to be. Christianity is complex and doesn’t fit into a neat compartmentalized formula—it’s time we stop treating it like one.

A few months after I came to America, one of my American friends showed me a picture of her sister. “Isn’t she precious?” she said. I was taken aback ; her sister had Down’s syndrome. On another occasion, when I first met my new neighbor, she revealed that she had a mentally retarded son who was sixteen but had the mental capacity of a five-year-old. I admire Americans’ openness about disability….

In Asia, the disabled are treated as less than fully human… Mental retardation or physical disability is a stigma to a family, partly because of the influence of Buddhism. According to Buddhism, life is a series of causes and consequences, and a person’s disability may be punishment for having behaved badly in a former life or for having a cruel ancestor. Thus, family members with mentally retarded children are often ashamed and rarely tell others about them. An elementary school classmate of mine in Korea had a handicapped brother. Whenever I visited her house, her mother put him in a bathroom or somewhere else where visitors couldn’t see him. Thirty years later, public perception of disabilities in Asia has not improved much. Even in Japan, the most industrially advanced and urbanized society in Asia, disabled people face discrimination, humiliation, and inconvenience every day.

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 810-820). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

This post of course is going to get rather personal with me. Being deaf I have experienced prejudices in my life even in the U.S. but it has probably been very minor compared to those in Asia.  America was not exempt from the description above, it is just that we for the most part conquered that phobia years ago whereas Asia has yet to approach it.

Almost anyone who doesn’t know me and approached me as a deaf person automatically assumes several things. The one that gets to me the most is that I am less intelligent than most. Even though the saying “deaf and dumb” is pretty much a thing of the past the thought still flourishes among many. The second thing is that since I am deaf I am not worth the effort to get to know me. Many simply write me off as a possible future friend.  I must admit that these feeling are not limited to just those of us who are deaf. They also apply to many who are handicapped in other ways. A person in a wheelchair is for the most part ignored by most.  I personally make a diligent effort to make eye contact and greet everyone I come across who is handicapped.

I can’t imagine the obstacles put in front of people with handicaps in Asia. To be put into a virtual closet away from family and friends is shameful to me. Asians need to get over the idea that mental and physical handicaps are God’s punishment for past actions. At least for Christianity Jesus tells us very directly that that is not the case.  Stigma is hard to break in any culture. I am at least grateful that we have done a better job in this area than our Asian brothers and sisters. But haven’t we found that to be true in so many areas in this yin/yang study?

This is part of the continuing series about the misconceptions of Christianity by Stephen Mattson.

Christianity Causes Prosperity

Some treat Christianity as a cash cow, a way to become “blessed,” “rich” and “successful.” But this was never Jesus’ intention.

Becoming a Christian doesn’t guarantee financial, relational, physical, intellectual, emotional or professional gain.

Many have used the allure of “being blessed” and “getting rich” as a way to manipulate and motivate people into following Christ, but in reality faithfully loving God demands giving of yourself—and your possessions.

If you’re looking for peace, prosperity, success, fame, fortune and personal glory—Christianity isn’t for you.

I must admit that the “Prosperity Gospel” totally turns me off.  It is a gross misrepresentation of what it means to be a Christian. Joel Osteen just has it wrong as far as I am concerned. But of course in some ways he is right in that his version of being a Christian has made him exceedingly wealthy at least in monetary term.

We must look at the early Christians to see the purest forms of being a follower of Jesus meant. Whether we Americans want to admit it or not the early Christians, that is those before Constantine hijacked Christianity in order to shore up his kingdom, were much more communistic than capitalistic. When they joined a group of followers of Jesus they typically gave all their wealth to the leaders of the group to be used for everyone.

Now I am not denying that being a follower of Jesus has its rewards, but they are more emotional and spiritual than anything to do with monetary gain. I kind of disagree with Stephan’s last sentence in that I have found great peace in being a follower; that is a big reward to me. But I do agree with the rest of the items on his list. Personal glory is a very entrancing thing for all of us. We want others to know what we do, at least the good parts, and to give us our share of glory. Christ tells us that seeking glory is not a Christian trait.

Being a follower of Jesus means to love God and to love each other. He made it very clear that those are the primary structures for our faith. Everything else is very secondary at best and much of what we seem to deem important in Christianity today did not even show up on Jesus’ radar.  Joel Osteen’s wealth is certainly toward the top of that very unimportant list.

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This is a continuation of my Friday posts about the book “Yin/Yang and American Culture” by Kim Eun. It is a book well worth reading about the differences between American and much of the rest of the world. This post is about American Women…

“There are two kinds of women in the world: American women and women.” This is a joke among Asian men doing business internationally. American women have been liberated and empowered to such a degree that they belong in a category all their own among the women of the world. Compared with their counterparts in other countries, American women have accomplished a great deal in career advancement. Even European nations that maintain progressive, family oriented programs lag far behind the United States in providing equal employment opportunities to women. In Japan, Germany, and other European and Asian countries, women face serious obstacles to achieving workplace equality. They are expected to assist men and are given lower wages, less stable employment, and fewer opportunities for advancement.

Furthermore, in Confucian tradition, women could not interrupt men’s conversations or speak loudly or be aggressive. Women were told, “If a hen cries, the family will disintegrate.” Many Asian women still do not assert their rights at home or at work. Asian men tend to resent assertive women, and Asian women are afraid of offending their men. Many Japanese women still speak in a higher-than-natural pitch (for social acceptance), especially in formal settings, on the phone, or when dealing with customers. Supposedly, Japanese men are attracted to high-pitched voices ; they perceive women with lower voices as too aggressive or unfeminine.

Kim, Eun Y. (2001-07-05). Yin and Yang of American Culture: A Paradox (Kindle Locations 751-754). Intercultural Press Inc. Kindle Edition.

I consider equality of condition and opportunity to be by far the greatest American tradition and am proud that women have come so far in our society during my lifetime. Those of us who are over sixty remember when American women’s place was generally in the home. She had little opportunities outside of that environment. The shortage of men to do factory work during World War II showed women that they could do almost anything they desired. Once they discovered that they didn’t look back.

The subservient attitudes of and toward women in much the rest of the world saddens me. Asian cultures are beginning to break down barriers but not fast enough.  And then there are the Muslim countries who treat women worse than slaves. Burkas should go the way of slave chains in this world. To treat such a significant portion of any population that way is shameful to me. I know traditions are hard to break in some cultures but break they eventually must. I hope that the American model will eventually incite changes in the rest of the world. We definitely have something to teach so many others in that regard.

It makes me proud to see that the rest of the world sees our accomplishments in this area.

 

This is a continuing post based on the Stephen Mattson’s post over at Red Letter Christians on the misconceptions of Christianity.

5. It Solves All Your Problems

Christianity isn’t a magic cure for sickness, broken relationships, abuse and injustice. It’s not meant to be a quick-fix solution to everything that’s wrong in your life or the lives of others.

Unfortunately, many interpret Christianity as a form of escapism, a way to avoid the harsh realities of life. Christ’s message isn’t about avoiding difficulties or preventing them from happening, but confronting them.

Following Jesus means embracing the hardships of humanity and struggling, empathizing, supporting and helping those who are sick, weak, poor, diseased, abandoned and forsaken. In many ways being a Christian causes more problems than it solves—but the hope and promises of Jesus strengthen us for the journey.

When the disciples decided to follow Jesus, instead of making their lives easier and more comfortable, most were persecuted and eventually killed because of their beliefs. Are we prepared for the commitment and burdens that Christianity requires?

Let’s face it, most of us Christians live a pretty good life. At least compared to the original followers of Jesus who for the most part were killed for their beliefs. We got it easy, all we think we have to do is to go to church on an occasional Sunday and to “believe” the right things.  There are more than a few Christian leaders who claim that if you give your life to Jesus then you will prosper beyond even your imagination.  They preach the prosperity gospel. Give a little to God and get much more in return. While that basic concept is true in the spiritual sense they say it is about money and wealthy living.

Others treat Christianity as an escape mechanism. It is a way to get away from their present lives and the ensuing realities. They think that be a Christian is about hunkering down with others who believe as you do and to wait out the inequities of life for a better one in the next.

To me, and I’m sure to Stephen, being a Christian means you love God and you love your brothers. Jesus taught us that our brothers are everyone else who was created by God. We are to love that homeless person sleeping in the park just as much as we love our parents or children, He told us that we are to do what we can to create heaven on earth. Doing that, even in the slightest regard, is not easy and is fraught with problems.

  • It means taking on those who are persecuting others for political or monetary gain.
  • It means seeking justice for the oppressed.
  • It means feeding those who are hungry.
  • It means treating everyone with respect and love as we want them to treat us.
  • It means following the words and commands of Jesus

None of that is easy and no, it doesn’t solve all our problems. In fact if we do it right it will probably add more troubles than we already have. Being a follower of Jesus Christ is not easy but it certainly is VERY rewarding…..