A Life Half Lived….

July 28, 2014

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…

 

A One Sided Coin….

July 27, 2014

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.

NYC – Central Park…

July 26, 2014

Central Park in New York City has a strangle hold on my wife. It is the primary reason for adding NYC to her bucket list and therefore our recent visit.  The first one here is one I snagged off the Internet, the rest are mine. The pictures were taken on a Sunday afternoon, perhaps the busiest time.

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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.

Waiting For Wife….

July 24, 2014

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I had to clip this from a post of a friend on Facebook. One of the duties I didn’t know a husband had before I got married almost three decades ago was waiting for your wife. Shopping is just one of those areas where waiting is called for. When I go to a store I usually have a list of what I want. I find those particular things and then am ready to check out. My wife has a different strategy. She can spend 20 minutes looking at purses even though she has no need for a new one and doesn’t intend to buy one.  She could easily spend two or more hours in the store and leave with nothing. For that reason my wife and I seldom go shopping together anymore.

Another thing is that when dinner is ready she disappears for several minutes. I do most of the cooking for us and announce “dinner is on the table”. She usually comes in within a couple of minutes and then promptly disappears. Where she goes I don’t really know but I end up waiting for her while the food gets cold.

Waiting should be in some husband’s book of instructions to forewarn us naive suitors. They say patience is a virtue and you will need a lot of it waiting for your wife….

 

 

2014-06-17_07-21-14

The U.S. spends the most of any country on its health care system, and yet it ranked the lowest out of 11 industrialized nations in overall healthcare quality, according to a report published Monday by the Commonwealth Fund.The report, which covered the years 2011-2013, compared more than 80 indicators of U.S. health care spending, quality and performance to the likes of Australia, the United Kingdom, France, Canada, Germany, New Zealand, and Sweden, among other developed nations. The UK, which was ranked highest, blew the U.S. out of the water, despite the fact that the country spends less than half as much on health care per capita $3,406 on average, compared to $8,508 in the U.S.. The U.S. also spends the most on health care as a percentage of GDP 17% than any other nation.

SOURCE: US continues its losing streak in health care quality comparison – Yahoo Finance.

I am about to finish one of the six or so  books I read at the same time; this one about the culture of the United States. It shows numerous places where we are the most creative people on earth. But then comes our ideas of healthcare. We just can’t seem to understand that our current system of taking care of our citizens is a loser and a big waste of money by almost all standards. We spend twice as much as anyone but get so little for our dollars.

It seems idiotic but it seems we are opposed to doing what has proven to work. Why,  because much of the rest of the world already has it figured out and therefore the solution would not be an “American idea”? We need to get over the idea of shunning anything not invented here and simply go with what works. We need to be as much pragmatists as we at least used to be inventive.

We need to get over the idea that somehow anything socialist is un-American.  We presently allow our government to handle our healthcare needs for about half of us but going all the way seems to be a big problem. Perhaps the most socialist healthcare system in the world is from Britain and of course from the above graphic we learn that they also provide the best care by most standards.

A person working sixty hours a week at a minimum wage job will earn about $21,000.  But according to the above they would likely spend about half that amount just for their family’s health insurance! I know I seem to harp on this topic often and that is because it is an obvious solution that is for some reason vastly ignored by so many of us. We need to take a big bite out of the humility apple and learn what the rest of the world can teach us.

 

 

 

Americans tend to score poorly on financial literacy tests, but it’s not entirely their fault: School systems don’t generally require personal finance classes, and many parents feel ill-equipped to pass on big lessons about spending, saving and investing to their kids. Here are ten basic tenants you should know in order to navigate today’s financial world:

You have to earn more than you spend.

SOURCE: 10 Things Everyone Should Know About Money – Yahoo News.

When I was in high school many decades ago we had various life skills courses that we were expected to take.  I don’t specifically remember a course on home finance but I do remembers some lessons about that subject. Credit cards were not very available to the masses back then so if you didn’t have the money you didn’t buy the item.

But I do remember that when I graduated college at least a half-dozen credit cards were automatically sent to me in the mail. They didn’t need permission to give you a credit card as they do today. I have always been a pretty frugal guy so I didn’t see a need for them. They usually ended up in a drawer someplace.

Now days it seems that every institution has its own credit card and who can blame them.  Most of the items that we buy today have a low profit margin, while credit cards charge an outrageous interest rate. The money you might manage to save gets you less than 1% interest and  credit cards are at 10- 20% interest!  That was called usury in my day and it was illegal. I don’t know when that changed.

Getting back to the subject of this post I can understand how kids today are ill-equipped when it comes to credit card debt.  Our capitalist system depends on consumer spending so it is drilled into us that we can have it all now and pay for it later. Of course for too many that means huge debt that will inevitably come back to destroy many people.

Without some parental guidance, either from parents or teachers, that teach you that you have to earn more than you spend, kids can too easily get into financial trouble. Why isn’t this topic covered in our school system?

SCOTUS Said So…

July 21, 2014

2014-07-07_08-52-54My religious belief strongly oppose war. I think our military budgets are totally outrageous! We, 5% of the world’s population, spend more on our war machine than the rest of the world combined.  With the latest ruling SCOTUS (Supreme Court Of The United States) tells us that religious groups can pick and choose which laws they choose to obey. Thanks to you my tax bill just got smaller. Thanks Mr Scalia and your co-conspirators for making it happen.

You guys never fail to amaze me as to how far you are willing to go to reshape this country to your views. You say you are against “activist judges” but you end up being the epitome of that category by your very rulings. First you upend our voting practices and now you are giving religions power they were never intended to have.

As Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wondered aloud in her dissent, “Would the exemption … extend to employers with religiously grounded objections to blood transfusions Jehovah’s Witnesses; antidepressants Scientologists; medications derived from pigs, including anesthesia, intravenous fluids, and pills coated with gelatin certain Muslims, Jews, and Hindus?”

SOURCE:  8 Other Laws That Could Be Ignored Now That Christians Get To Pick And Choose.

I certainly align with Justice Ginsburg’s comments. If a corporation says we are aligned with a religion that believes that God will take care of all our medical needs does that give them the right to ignore ACA? The whole argument just reeks of possibilities.

For any IRS  or NSA folks who might read this blog I am only kidding about not paying taxes so don’t come after me. ;)

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.

NYC…. The Vendors…

July 19, 2014

This a continuing pictorial post on our visit to New York City recently.  One of the things that got my attention was the number of vendors on the streets selling almost everything. Here are some pictures. Click on any picture to bring up a larger gallery view.