Saturday, July 26, 2014

Carpe Diem

 Greetings, fellow castaways.

Lately, doesn't it seem as though the world in general is becoming more miserable? Doesn't it look like Politics, News and  Social Media has devolved into a mire of agendas and bashing, of strife and turmoil? Just look at the kinds of posts you see on a daily basis. It's enough to make Marvin the Paranoid Android look downright peppy, in spite of the diodes down his left side.

In looking at the situation, (and touching on last week's post), I think many have lost track of their own story. Remember, Jesus told Peter to quit focusing on John's story and to just focus on his own

("What business is he of yours? You do what I'm telling you to do, and don't worry about John. So what if I make him live forever? It's not what I want you to concern yourself with.").

So now we have people who worry about how much money someone else is making and not about simply making their own ends meet, about how other governments treat their citizens and subjects while they themselves heap derision and insult on anyone who disagrees with their opinion or worldview, about what decisions parents make for their own children, and about how or wheteher a man may defend his home and family.

Of course, these folks know more than everyone else how much a man or woman shoudl be allowed to make for salary, and they're happy to share it with everyone else. They know how foreign governments (and our own) should be run, they know how to parent our children, and they of course know whether we deserve or need to own the means of defense for our homes. They know more about what other people in their neighborhood (or town/city) than they do about what happens in their own household. Doesn't that seem a little out of touch?

Rather than allow anyone to excel (and make someone else look/feel bad), they would rather take what the successful earn and give it to those they deem worthy or needing, "from each according to his ability to each according to his need"--Karl Marx. "No one gets a Cadillac until everyone owns a Prius."

I swear, some people just aren't happy unless they are offended at someone else. And we just let them drone on and on, and we all become less happy, more stressed, and more miserable because of it.

How about we all just back off and take a breath? I can see what you're all offended at. But may I ask what you've done about it other than spread some hateful Facebook Meme? Can you say that you've minded your own story at least once today? "What is 'my own story?' you may ask? What about the Greatest Commandment? "Love your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul and will, and love your neighbor like you love yourself." What about the Golden rule? "Treat others as you would have them treat you." What about what God requires of each of us? "Live justly, love mercy, and walk humbly with your God." Have you visited anyone in jail? Fed the homeless? Been a Big Brother to an orphan? I'd suggest that before you tell me how much I'm allowed to earn before you confiscate my wages, that you spend some time doing those things first.

Am I saying then that we should ignore injustice? That we should be passionate about nothing? God forbid! But we need to temper our passion with action, channel it to a constructive, not a destructive purpose. No man has ever been lifted up by tearing another man down. He only spreads misery. Lift up your friends, and even your enemies, and you lift yourself up as well. Honor every man more than yourself (by "man" I mean "mankind," not just the male of the species), and together we lift up and honor the whole, and become more honorable as a race. Can we do that?

One of the main themes of my series The NADIA Project is how we live our lives worrying about all the wrong things, failing to see what's right in front of us. What follows is an excerpt from Becoming NADIA that lays open the heart of the book (and you thought it was all about bullets and bodies, cases and conspiracies, didn't you? ;-) ).

I'll let you read it, and let that be my final statement on the matter. Let's all be about the business of our own stories, and let others work out their own.

Anyway, feel free to click the cover if you want to know more.

And enjoy the freebie.

Nadia walked north out of town on Hank's Lumber Road, skirting the upper lake on a
narrow, winding road that led up into the mountains around Klamath Falls. She breathed
deeply of the mountain air, refreshing her lungs as she stepped out, hands jammed in her
pockets. The aroma was clean, the air rich with life. She heard birds in the trees all around.
A bear snorted and shuffled across the road ahead, hardly giving her a second glance. A
gentle rain began to fall, and it wasn't long before Nadia began to feel the chill in her bones.

As she walked along, she wondered if the people who lived here appreciated the beauty
that surrounded them. She wondered if they woke up and simply went on with their lives,
not living each day to its fullest. How many people never heard the birdsongs in the trees,
never saw the sky painted with so many beautifully sad shades of watercolor gray? They
would call this dismal. They would write today off as dreary and depressing, and never
bother to look out their windows to see the beautiful, clear raindrops gathering like a million
tiny, silver-gilt diamonds on the leaves of the trees all around them. They wouldn't bother to
smell the clean scent of the air, feel the coolness in their lungs. How many never really
tasted the food they ate, or smelled the scent of the morning air in the mountains? How
many people never really felt the other people in their lives, never appreciated the love that
could be theirs? Deaf, numb, and blind, they existed only to exist. She took an extra deep
breath of cool, moist air and felt it cleanse her being. Breathing. They could start by being
thankful they could breathe, and enjoy every breath because it meant one more that they
could take.
How many more breaths would she be able to call hers?

Here, even so close to the end, she was thankful. Thankful for the few real friends with
whom she'd shared time and laughs, thankful for this short time that she'd been given. At
least she'd known friendship; she'd known love.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

If John Lives Forever

Greetings, fellow Castaways of Starship Earth.

Before reading on, I might recommend a glass of your favorite relaxant.

This world is full of grief, pain, and misery. Evil men in some places are going around hacking people to death in the streets. Others are killing their way across the country, killing woman, children and men alike for no other reason than that they desired to be free, to live in a place where they could determine their own destiny apart from a despotic tyranny set on ruling every aspect their lives. Children starve. People kill people. People kill animals. Did you know in India it's a common practice when a girl is born, to take her into the street and shove an unhusked rice kernel into her throat so she chokes to death?

My first point is, that anyone who wants to be offended by something only has to log in to Yahoo and read the headlines. And it seems that these days everyone is just begging to be offended. A company makes a corporate decision, and the world goes bonkers with rage, calling it "A War on Women." A cheerleader hunts, and people are screaming for her blood. Good people are enraged over injustices all over the world.

 Now, is it wrong to be offended by these horrible things going on? I might suggest not. "He has shown you, O man, what is good and what The Lord requires of you: To do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your god." (Micah 6:8). But let me ask you if the responses flying around the internet are seriously warranted, or if the rage and vitriol everyone seems to be aiming around is a general over-reaction of a mob flogged up by a minority of trolls who are leaning back in their office chairs, laughing like fiends for all the trouble they are starting.

One thing I might suggest is that we all step back and take a breath before responding to what we may perceive as apparent injustice. One story that comes to mind is one where, after the Resurrection, Jesus was seen by the disciples as they went out one morning to fish.

Jesus took Peter off to the side and asked him, "Simon, Son of John, do you love me?" See, for the last three and a half years, he had called Simon by the name of Peter. But here, Jesus calls him by his given name. That was his way of getting Peter's attention: "Dude, stuff's gonna get real here."

After telling Peter what he expected of him from here on, Jesus gets up to leave. Peter notices John, "The disciple whom Jesus loved" hanging out and eavesdropping. So he asks, "Lord, what about him?" and here, Jesus says something  that stands out to me as key in today's world: "If I want John to live forever, what's it to you?"

In another passage, Paul tells us that each person needs to work out his salvation with God on a one-on-one basis. So your story is your story. What isn't your story, isn't your story.

Now I know it's easy to get worked up when we see news stories about the latest beheadings in Iraq, or when Congress can't get their stuff in one place. But look at this: What's your story, is your story. What's not your story, you need to drop and let go. You have enough stress as it is without worrying about something that's simply none of your business.

In other words, what you can do something about, do it. Give to humanitarian causes. Vote for the candidates you want in office without leveling accusations against men and women you don't know, based on information you're getting from paid trolls who just want to pour gasoline on a little coal to start a huge fire.

Honestly stop to pay attention to both sides of an issue. We used to do this when I was a kid. it's called listening to the other side, and giving them credit for having a stand as well, even if you don't agree. Usually, we found a good medium ground to stand together on, and we didn't forget our manners. It's all of our responsibility to get along with others in our culture.

Even if it means clamping our mouths shut for the time it takes to give the other guy the benefit of the doubt.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Internet Civilization?

Greetings and salutations, fellow castaways, and thank you for your patience. I have now  graduated three out of the four offspring from our illustrious and tradition-rich high school, and all the shockwaves are settling down to a steady, rolling sea instead of rogue wave city. And now, it's about time I got back to work.

Chapter Thirteen of Tempus Fugitive has now succumbed to my fingers and aching brow, and I am now only one year and six months past my (self-imposed) deadline for preparing the manuscript for the submission process.

But that's not what I want to talk about this week.

Lately, I have heard a record level of vicious howling and screaming on the Web over two particular issues: Big Game Hunting, and Hobby Lobby.

I don't need to weigh in on my opinions of either here, as Facebook has heard about all I need to say on these two points. What I want to call everyone's attention to is the way the Internet seems to encourage rage-baiting. And let's face it, it's about time we all sat down and took a personal inventory.

Because most of us, if not all, see ourselves as perfectly reasonable people.We honestly can't see wen we've crossed the line into hysteria, even when those around us cringe and run away.

Let's all agree before I go on that a society must be civil within itself in order to survive. I didn't say we all had to agree on all the same points, I said we all need to be civil with each other. Without civility, there is no discourse. Without discourse, there can be no agreement. Without agreement, there is no peace.

Now, let's look at "agreement" as a word, because to some it may mean something different. The World Book Encyclopaedia Dictionary says this: "1. To have the same opinion or similar opinions. 2.  To be in harmony; to be consistent; correspond. 3. to get along well together. 4. to say that one is willing; assent; consent. 5.  to make a bargain; come to an understanding. 6. (In inflected languages) to have the same gender, number, case, person, etc."

Look at all those different definitions. No wonder everyone is spending so much time screaming and threatening each other. To have the same opinion is not necessarily to be in harmony, nor does it mean we have to share the same opinions in order to get along. Definition 5 says it means to come to an understanding. I like that one, so let's use that from here in in my house (to be meant "here on my blog") from here on. I don't have to share the same opinion as you in order for us both to understand each other.

What we need to do is stop accusing each other. A cheerleader goes to Africa and legally hunts big game, and she's called a murderer. The Supreme Court decides a law violates another law (previously signed by a president of the party who's doing the most screaming about it), and all of a sudden the entire country is a theocracy. Parents teach their children from the Bible, and are being accused of child abuse.

People everywhere are crying, "what's gone wrong with our country?" I might suggest that the relative anonymity of the internet is at least partly to blame. We can now hide behind the comfort of our computer screens and usernames, and we no longer have to be accountable for what we say. I'll tell you what, some of the things that have been said to me in the last six months would have bought someone a quick punch to the mouth if they'd been said in person. I can only turn my cheek so many times until I run out of cheeks, folks.

So what I'd like to do here is introduce (or re-introduce) a concept known as the Personal Inventory. A personal inventory is something that should be taken every time we're engaged in a discussion. What it does is help us to see when we (meaning "I") need to steer the discussion back to more civil ground. If you find yourself doing any of these, you are probably too angry to have a reasonable discussion, and you need to take immediate measures.

  1. ARE YOU TYPING IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS TO GET YOUR POINT ACROSS? You're screaming at the other person. Stop it. The same goes for speaking in a raised voice. If your voice is raised above the level you would use to order a steak from your favorite server at your favorite restaurant, you need to back off and take a deep breath.
  2. Are you calling anyone else a name you wouldn't want to be called? Whether they are there to defend themselves or not, you are in the wrong on this.
  3. Did your last statement include a personal threat? "She ought to have that gun shoved up her *** and the trigger pulled" is a threat. You have no business saying that to anyone else, or about anyone else. If so, you have forfeited the right to call yourself "civilized." They make the DELETE key for sentences like that. Feel free to use it. If you feel you MUST write it out, write it on a Word Document and save it in your hard drive only until you shut down for the night, and then send it to your recycle bin.
  4. Did you just try to "mind read?" Here's my example: "Republicans hate women." Dude, get real. You aren't psychic enough to read every single Republican's mind and tell me with all honesty that all Republicans "hate" anything. The very statement in itself is idiotic and inflammatory. Did you seriously bother to ask any Republican if he or she hates women? I doubt it. "Democrats just want big government." That's another one too stupid to answer in one sitting. I don't know what every Democrat wants; I haven't asked them all. So don't tell me what I want, or who I hate, or what I'm for or against; I can tell you all of that myself.
  5. Did you just exaggerate to make your point? Really, did you just stretch the facts just a wee bit? Stop it.
Now, after your personal inventory, which you should be doing with every post you make, if you find yourself stepping over the Civil Line, then erase your comment, take a moment, and try again, only this time show your counterpart in the conversation who the better person is by the respect you give them and their point of view.

Who knows, maybe we can all start getting along again?