Archives For About Life

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

Cobwebs_on_fenceI used to think that the phrase “leaving well enough alone” was a wise one but I am just not too sure of that anymore. It could mean that I just don’t want to change or maybe I don’t want to chance losing something for the benefit of others. Leaving well enough alone was often the phrase used to continue with segregation in the 1960s. The logic went that the Negroes were happy as they were and would never be able to compete with the whites if they were not kept separate. So the logic went, segregation was as much for them as it was for the white population.

Christian dogma seems to be another one of those areas that some demand to leave well enough alone. Many are stuck with very outdated and disproven logic as the basis for their beliefs.  They have latched on to a particular belief and let that dominate over everything else. They see any change as a threat to their existence.

Another similar phrase is “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. Being that I spent a thirty year career with AT&T and its various forms I am very aware that this phrase was used as a reason to not break up that monopoly in 1983. With hindsight I am now convinced that while it wasn’t broke by the knowledge of the times, breaking it up was for the overall good. I can’t imagine the advances that we have had in this area were even possible in the old hierarchical structure.

I’m not saying that there are never times when we should just maintain the status quo but to just leave things as they are for the sake of not changing is definitely not the answer. We should always be striving to do things better than we are. This applies to almost all aspects of our lives including our spiritual lives.

So, in the end leaving well enough alone just does that, it keeps some just “well enough” but never better.

2014-04-03_13-58-04Here’s one person’s attempt to summarize the Gospel in a single sentence. It’s by Bruxy Cavey, the teaching pastor at The Meeting House. He says “The Gospel is the good news that God comes to us through Jesus to show us his love, save us from sin, set up his kingdom and shut down religion.” Just thirty words, but I think he does a great job of getting to the heart of what Jesus’ message is all about.

SOURCE:  The Gospel According To Who? | Stephen Jarnick | Red Letter Christians.

If you are interesting the the things behind these words check out his book entitled: The End of Religion

About Our Heroes…

April 4, 2014

2014-04-03_13-47-55Early biographers, informed by Lincoln’s former Springfield law partner William Herndon, wrote first takes of the president that would be unrecognizable to the heroic image that Americans know today from books like Doris Kearns Goodwin’s Team of Rivals and Daniel Day-Lewis’ Oscar-winning performance.

And the public made Josiah Holland’s Life of Lincoln, which erroneously portrayed the president who was gunned down on Good Friday as “an eminently Christian president,” an instant best seller. Other early depictions portray Lincoln as bumbling and deeply flawed.

With his new dual biography, Lincoln’s Boys: John Hay, John Nicolay, and the War for Lincoln’s Image, Joshua Zeitz explains how the two men who served as Lincoln’s secretaries shaped the perception Americans have of the 16th president.

SOURCE: Men behind Lincoln made the legend we know today.

Being a lifelong U.S. History reader I am very aware of how our heroes are portrayed.

I have read William Herndon’s Lincoln and it is indeed very different from many that came after. It painted Lincoln as a somewhat ordinary man with his own likes and jealousies. I look forward to reading this latest account in Lincoln’s Boys.

I can see similarities between this constant revision of our heroes even in our bibles. It is kind of like the Gospel accounts of Jesus. The first account was Mark and he didn’t mention much about Jesus’ miracles or had any insight into his early life. He just stayed on what he knew or was told to him (whoever Mark was). When the other gospels came out years later they were flooded with miracles and such. The authors seemed to want to make sure that everyone would know that Jesus was the Messiah so they added, factually or not, a myriad of miracles and new quotes.

People tend to remake their idols into what they want to believe about them. I greatly admired the person of George Washington. He was exactly what was needed as our first president. We all know of the story of chopping down the cherry tree which is now widely acknowledged at a total myth. We do this sort of thing to all our heroes. We invent things to highlight their best sides and tend to bury as deeply as possible their darker sides.

Of course we all now know that most if not all our heroes have a darker side, but don’t we all?

Henry Ford, who basically created the middle class in the U.S. was one of the most important men of the 20th century. He was also an avowed anti-Semite and to some degree a racist.

Thomas Jefferson created our most valuable national document. He was a slave owner and frequently bedded his  slaves while at the same time declared all men equal.

Mark Twain was considered America’s first great author and humorist. He also became an extreme pessimist in his later years. He could see not good or humor in life. Many of his words from that period were very spiteful, depressing and uncivil.

Everyone has skeletons in their closets, even our heroes. As long as we recognize that fact there is nothing wrong with looking up to and even trying to emulate some of the qualities our personal heroes. But, don’t be totally disappointed with you find a skeleton along the way.

Spring Break Cruises…

March 25, 2014

2014-03-21_08-37-50I was in college in the 1960s and can say I never took a spring break cruise or anything so lavish. There were a few kids I knew who did go to Ft. Lauderdale for the week but that was about it. But then again I lived my college life in a dormitory. I suspect that the frats and sororities whose kids usually came from much richer families did do extravagant things like this on the spring break. I just had no exposure to that side of life.

I haven’t looked up the statistics lately about who goes to college now but I imagine that it has moved very significantly toward the upper income families since my days. My spring breaks consisted of working in the cafeteria stockroom doing inventory and such. I needed those hours in order to pay the bills.  I usually didn’t have the money to even go home except on Christmas. Everything went toward housing and tuition payments. I am not lamenting those days as much as celebrating them. They gave me character and empathy for those who face such times now in their lives. They helped make me the person that I am.

Since I question everything I really wonder how those kids who go on cruises for spring break will grow up. What will be their life’s priorities? When everything is given to you does that change the type of person you will become? I was changed because I struggled for every penny. Are they changed because they don’t have to worry at all about finances? I just don’t know. There are examples of affluent people who have great compassion for others. There is the Kennedy clan, FDR,  and Bill Gates. I wonder how common they are among that crowd?

I suspect that the ivy league colleges which demand almost six figure tuition have quite a few representative on those spring break cruise ships. Many of those folks will likely end up on Wall Street or in a big time law firm. Some will be politicians of course. Will they even think about those who like I did have to struggle for what they take for granted? I need to investigate this some more. I know that Jesus said it is almost impossible for a rich man to get into the kingdom of God. Does that say something about this topic?

Questions, questions, questions…..

Revolution….

March 23, 2014

Young and old, rich and poor, and people from every social, economic, political and cultural background are starting to rethink their faith. A fresh movement is happening, and in its purest form is about one thing: following Christ. This transformation is reshaping the Christian landscape. Believers are starting to simplify their faith in order to exemplify Christ—a simple yet profound way to live out the gospel. This has become a revolutionary concept.

This “new” Christianity is sick of culture wars, political agendas, hypocrisy and legalistic doctrines. They prefer inclusion over restriction, dialogue over debate, practice over preaching, and love over judgment. Authentic communities are preferred over institutionalized organizations, and grassroots groups gain wisdom and knowledge from relational interaction, social media, the web, and an array of other sources—there is no monopoly controlling leadership or sources of information.

SOURCE: When Revolutions Become Religions – Stephen Mattson – Red Letter Christians.

If you are interested see a further discussion of this topic over at RedLetterLiving.

StewWhen I was a kid I often heard that the USA was the great American melting pot. That implied that when people came to this country they gave up all their traditions and heritage and merged seamlessly into the American ethic. I was a pretty naive farm boy in my youth so it was years before I realized that the melting pot was not as homogeneous as I thought.

Those who grew up in large metropolitan areas very much realize that American is more of a stew than a melting pot. Take any major city and you will find “Little Italy”, “Chinatown”, and many other ethnic neighborhoods. I even recently learned that there is a “Little Ukraine” in NYC. Being deaf I have even come to understand that there are deaf enclaves in many cities where Deaf culture people congregate. They have their own groceries, and other type stores who all know ASL.

Originally these communities started as a way to hang out with people who spoke our language and understood the world as we do. They were ways to hold on to old world customs in the strange new world of the United States.  But since mass immigration is now several generations ago they have now morphed into centers to celebrate their uniqueness and there is nothing wrong with that.

I think that the U.S. has always been a stew rather than a melting pot. A stew is made up of many different components each contributing to the unique overall taste. If there was nothing but potatoes in a stew it would not be anything close to what it is.  By the same account if we just threw all the vegetables into a pot of cold water they would never come to be a stew but instead just a pot of veggies.  It takes time on the stove, or crockpot, for the parts to come together to be a stew.

On this blog I call the American Stew by the name of diversity. We are made up of many different parts with many different views. Our diversity is what makes us the great nation that we are. When we fail to recognize that fact we are damaging ourselves.  Slavery damaged us for hundreds of years as has bigotry among some of our population. Today the anti-diversity campaigns such as Left/Right, conservative/progressive, white/color, are still threatening the stew.

We have to all understand that being made up of a population of differences is what makes us unique in this world. It is what gives us our strength. For that reason we should all take up arms when bigotry and prejudices are used to attack any of us. We are a stew, not a melting pot.

We all know the story of Jesus as recorded in the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – four remarkably similar accounts about his life. What we don’t agree on is our interpretation of what he taught. I’m talking about the Gospel message that Jesus intended to be a guide for how we should live our lives, and to be passed on to others to help them understand what it means to be a Christ follower. Jesus shifted us from the law-based religion of the Old Testament to his radically new principle-based way of living, and it just makes sense that he’d choose to use a different style of teaching to do that. Parables and metaphors replaced rules and regulations but the downside is that it leaves the door wide open for a myriad of interpretations that make us wonder if we’re all reading the same Bible. I have to admit that sometimes I wish God would have just replaced the Ten Commandments with another set of stone tablets with a whole new set of rules carved into them. Things like “Don’t even think about being violent…ever.” and “Take care of the poor, even if it means reducing your standard of living.”

SOURCE:  The Gospel According To Who? | Stephen Jarnick | Red Letter Christians.

2014-03-08_08-01-44

Half of American adults ages 18 to 33 are self-described political independents, according to a survey out Friday, but at the same time half of these so-called millennials are Democrats or lean toward the Democratic Party, the highest share for any age group over the last decade.

In addition, young adults tend to be single and churchless — turning away from their predecessors’ proclivity for religion and marriage, according the Pew Research Center survey. Almost two-thirds don’t classify themselves as “a religious person.” And when it comes to tying the knot: Only about 1 in 4 millennials is married. Almost half of baby boomers were married at that age….

Only 36 percent of the millennials said the phrase “a religious person” described them very well, compared with 52 percent of the Gen Xers, 55 percent of the baby boomers and 61 percent of the Silent Generation. And they’re significantly less religious than their immediately predecessors, the Gen Xers. When they were the same age, almost half of the Gen Xers — 47 percent — identified themselves as religious.

SOURCE: Many millennials are skipping church, marriage and political affiliations, study finds | The Rundown | PBS NewsHour | PBS.

Let’s face it, America is changing. As the title of the graphic above says people are becoming unmoored from entrenched institutions.  In many cases I think that is a good thing. Those between 18 -33 years old are more independent thinkers than any generation in the past. They are for the most part pragmatists. I kind of think much of that is due to the proliferation of information available because of the Internet.

I can remember in my youth having to spend hours in the library card stack trying to find information for a school essay. I took my writing as seriously then as I do today so research was the name of the game. Now just about any question you can ask has answers almost immediately via an Internet search. If it is a political question you don’t just get a party line Republican/Democrat answer anymore but also a myriad of other possible explanations including even this blog. The information age will radically change our nation in the coming years.

This dramatic season of change requires that many our current social institutions must change or go the way of the dinosaur.  The “truths” of yesterday are no longer the truths of today. This change creates opportunities for some and death for others. It should not be a surprise that conservative politics of anti-this and anti-that is quickly losing favor.  The political party that presents answers instead of grid-lock will find favor. It is heartening to see that the demise of the radical right-wing of politics is on the horizon.

By the same token religious institutions that focus on God’s love rather than his Old Testament wrath will flourish. Those that successfully meld science and spirituality will be those who continue to exist in the coming years. In my mind the movement known as the emergent church is just such an institution. It focuses on core beliefs and  action rather than ancient beliefs and outdated customs.

When the younger generations eventually drag the power away from those entrenched in the “old ways”, there will be some exciting times in our country. For those who are getting ready to jump on the comments wagon, no this is not a black/white thing. Many of the truths that we call morality will not be overthrown. But those based on fear, intimidation, and outdated traditions will get their due demise and that is as it should be.

During Doctor Visits….

March 10, 2014

NotepadThat second set of ears belongs to Sharon Wolozin, who takes notes the old-fashioned way – with pen and paper – and then reads some of the main points aloud to confirm them with the doctor. If the patient forgets a question she told Wolozin she planned to ask, Wolozin will remind her. But she is not an advocate and has no medical training.

“We don’t get between the doctor and the patient,” said Wolozin. Her role is only to create an accurate record of what happened at the appointment that she gives to Couturier, who can then share it with her children or others.

SOURCE: Note-takers volunteer to help the elderly during doctor visits | Updates | PBS NewsHour | PBS.

One of the many times I thank God for a hearing wife is when I have a doctor’s appointment. To say it very bluntly at the start of this post, I haven’t come across many doctors who have the patience or understanding to effectively communicate with someone who is deaf. So, my wife goes to 95% of my doctor’s visits with me to tell me everything the doctor says. The other 5% are what this post is about.

On the occasions where I must go to a doctor on my own I struggle to get the doctor to understand that I am not a hearing person.  If I ask him to write things down what comes out is usually just a few words. Something like “you need surgery”. Almost never a reason given until I emphatically press it. Now don’t get me wrong here, I am not saying that doctors are without empathy for their patients. What I am saying is that they just don’t seem to have an understanding of it from the patient’s end, especially a deaf patient.

I have been going to the same primary care physician for almost fourteen years now and when I go without my wife the same thing used to occur.  Like most doctors he only very reluctantly wrote limited things down for me to read. Fortunately we finally worked out a method of communications. Jessie, who is one of the more friendly nurses in the office, now is in the room taking thorough notes for me to read.  When the doctor is talking too fast she slows him down so she can get it just right. Problem solved, that is at least for one of my many doctors.

Doctors and other medical personnel, like many others who deal with the general public, just don’t have the training to be sensitive to  a hearing impaired persons needs. Some do much better than most.  When someone gets obviously upset because I am apparently not following an order to lay this way or that. I now have a speech worked out. I tell them.

What if you were were in a hospital in Germany where no one spoke English. Would you be able to understand their instructions? If not you can imagine what I am going through right now.

This often times get them to finally realize that just repeating the same thing again doesn’t do any good.

Critizing The Church…..

February 16, 2014

Communities like RLC (Red Letter Christians) are so important because the Church, those of us who claim to follow Jesus Christ have more responsibility to be constantly examining our actions and behavior than anyone. This isn’t about being “self-hating Christians” or “criticizing the Church” it is about growing up. In the end, the wisdom and understanding needed to change the world and do real good will not come from the past, but from working together in the present

SOURCE: What If God is Pragmatic? | Yaholo Hoyt | Red Letter Christians.