Tag Archives: connected

Step Back, Be Reasonable

Sometimes it’s entertaining to be a little extreme. I find myself doing it all the time when I blog. Sometimes it helps me vet myself for the real world. I can work out ideas, write stuff down, and then look back on it and decide with a clear mind whether I agree with everything I wrote. Sometime I look back on something I wrote and think “Genius!”, but other times I look back over the words that came out of my mind in confusion or embarrassment.

That’s what this little blog is for – its a research and development portal for ideas. In real life I think I’m much more agreeable. I would never take on an issue such as healthcare, atheism, or the economy with an casual friend. People (including myself) sometimes get too emotional about certain issues.

I think sometimes we people get too caught up in an idea. An idea like “I support Romney” or “I support Obama” and forget the essential issue of taking care of you neighbor and doing the right thing. It’s ultimately not about Republican or Democrat. Realistically, those guys and gals running things (most of them) care little or nothing about our neighborhoods, our lives, or what we do from day to day. What we can control is how we treat each other.

Reasonable Requests

I want people to have easy access to healthcare. I don’t want to watch Americans (or anyone else) kill each other in war. I want every child in America to have the opportunity for an outstanding education. I want every adult to be able to marry whoever they want, engage in any activity they want, live anywhere they want, and act any way they please – as long as they aren’t hurting anyone else in the process.

I want people to be able to believe as they please and practice those beliefs, but respect those who believe differently. I want people to be able to spread those ideas, say what’s on their mind, and criticize those they think are wrong – as long as it’s peacefully. I want privacy in my own home, I want my tax dollars spent on projects that promote the longevity of this country, and I don’t want to burden the future of America with a debt that cannot be repaid.

There may be different ideas about how to get there, but I think all of these ideas are reasonable. We are all Americans – above that and more importantly we are all People. Let’s take care of each other.

Different Ideas – Same Goal

There have been many a time I have witnesses two intelligent, good people become enemies because of different ideologies. At our core most of us want the same things. We don’t think its fair when a kid goes hungry and another kid gets an iPad. We want every sick person to get better. We want everyone who has to live in project housing in bad neighborhoods to rise above it.

I was that kid, I know first hand it’s not fair! I’m thankful everyday for the teachers, people, and even Government that helped me get through it. I can testify to the fact that any one of those things on their own could NOT have saved me. I needed all of them. I think it’s important to remember that.

Maybe you disagree who or how we can get past these obstacles, but when you meet a person who cares enough about these ideas to do something about it – don’t discount them because you disagree about the politics of an issue – embrace them because you both care enough about humanity to do something to fix it.

Over dependence on the Government

Listen carefully to what this young man has to say about his homelessness. Not just his words, but his way of thinking.

Did you catch it at 7 minutes?

“Money comes from the Governement.”

“There needs to be programs.”

“There is nothing you or me can do about it.”

Are we breeding a culture where we expect the Government to take care of us? Where we can’t do it ourselves? Where we take unreasonble risks expecting the Government to catch us when we fall?

What’s worse is that no one helps. Why?

“If you analyze it. The amount of cars that come by and the amount that give, it’s really horrible…It gets tiring seeing people who are really well off and just don’t give.”

No one gives because almost everyone is under the impression that the Government should take care of it. What are you thinking right now? Is this close:

“There are government programs, there are homeless shelters, I pay taxes for programs to help the homeless…”

We live in a society that is heavily taxed by the Government. Our people expect the Government to take care of us in times of need. Our people do not take care of eachother because they believe Government is supposed to do it. Passing the buck has become natural and guilt free.

The truth is – the Government doesn’t do it. It can’t do it and those in charge care more about themselves than this guy.

The Fallacy of Marriage

*See Updates section below

Marriage is an interesting institution in my opinion. Interesting in the fact that society places such a value on a ceremony that may not be necessary at all. Outside of the legal implication of marriage – is there really anything marriage provides to a relationship that cannot be had without it? In a modern society is marriage even worth it?

I’ve been happily married for two years now. I wouldn’t change that, but honestly our relationship didn’t change from one day to the next when it comes to marriage. We lived together before marriage, we shared incomes, we supported eachother, and we were monogamous. An expensive ceremony later, a few forms to change her last name, and WALA voilà - marriage.

The worst part about the institution of marriage is the legal implications. The worst of those – ending the marriage. Sometimes I wonder if the parting ways of two individuals should be left to the legal system at all. Shouldn’t it be a personal decision and a family matter? Even when kids are involved I imagine that most times (with the exception of violent relationships, which would require legal action since assault is a crime anyways) the entire situation would be better handled out of court than in it anyways.

You pay a thousands to get married then half of us pay a few more to get un-married. Seems like a brilliant Ponzi scheme played on us by society. Like I heard one guy say “It seems like a relationship based on love and wanting to be with each other is a lot more valuable than one based on staying together because it’s too expensive to separate.”

Legal Issues

Okay – legally speaking marriage is at times advantageous. It is helpful to, legally, be family. There are tax incentives, financial incentives, and the like. However, these are incentives to marriage that are built in to society. Legal incentives are not a natural advantage to the concept of marriage. Society could just as easily catered to a the recognition of the relationship status of each individual – without the complexities and legal ramifications of joining and separating from one another.

Marriage in Society

I can only imagine a few people cringing at this post. Some people probably feel that this is a direct attack on “traditional family values” and the very fabric of society. That’s not what I’m doing here though. I too believe that strong monogamous relationships are valuable.

I think that even the idea of marriage in religion is a far cry from what we have today. In the times of antiquity marriage was very personal. It involved the church, two committed people, and the family. There was no judge involved, often no legal ramifications, yet somehow it worked out.

Take Native American tribes. Couples were monogamous, helped each other live, and for all intensive purposes for all intents and purposes - married. The legal system had nothing to do with their commitment. Yet, somehow the very idea of marriage has become a legal one. Why?

Marriage vs. Marriage

The concept of marriage in it’s bastard form today serves to strengthen the state – not the two individuals engaging in such an act. When is the last time you heard of a couple that was happier BECAUSE they were married. I’m betting their love existed long before the exchange of vows and signing of legal documentation. If anything couples today exist IN SPITE OF marriage.

So for the couples out there who resist the traditional marriage yet live happy committed lives together – I say good for you. Maybe you are doing more for liberty than you even realized.

Updates:(7/18/2012)

After a few great comments/discussions I decided to somewhat reverse my opinion of the institution of marriage.  From a contract perspective it makes sense – especially when it comes to protecting the interest of the non-money earning party.  Here are a couple of comments that made me change my mind.

Via reconcileme:

That’s something I’ve often thought about. Even as a Christian I don’t really see the point in spending tons of money, likely putting people in debt, to make a commitment that can be made between 2 people and God. It really is simply about commitment and not tradition or ceremony. 2 people can decide to support and love each other without the state getting involved.

Now, even with that being said, there are definitely benefits to having a state recognized marriage when it comes to some of the things you mentioned, but also in divorce. There are a great many women who have literally given their life to a marriage. They have sacrificed careers, relationships, and the means to adequately support themselves for the sake of a husband and children. If not for the established legal system quite a few of these would be left with absolutely nothing after a divorce. If a man decides to leave a woman who has given her life to a marriage because he suddenly decides he wants someone else then she has a right to at least half of a family’s finances and continued support. How else is she supposed to achieve this if not for some kind of big binding legal agreement. The same type of scenario exists for men who see their marriage dissolve despite attempts to keep it together. Without some safeguards a woman could just up and move out taking the kids and leave a man with nothing to show for years of hard work and sacrifice.

While I certainly don’t think a legal document makes any 2 people more committed I do think the same legal document protects one party from the other’s bad choices.

Via Holden:

I think marriage provides a certain amount of security to the female in the relationship. Its natural that women be home keepers once they have a child in many cases and once a couple has kids, the woman usually takes primary custody with the kids in a divorce. Its not chauvinistic or sexist, its just a reality of life.

This leads to a limitation in a woman’s ability to earn for themselves and support themselves. Marriage acts as a bit of an assurance that they won’t get fucked over quite as bad if their husband decides to skip town.

Another thing. In my marriage, I “buy” the home. My name is on the loan, I pay for it. But my wife co-owns it with me. And she stays home and raises our children. If there were no legal/state involvement in contract of marriage, I could walk away and kick her ass out on the street. Is this fair?

Sorry, But the state most definitely needs to be involved in the institution of marriage to provide for a level playing field for both parties involved.

Alright, alright. I can admit when I’m wrong and I think both of these commenters made great points.

Lessons learned in hard times

So I mentioned a couple of days ago that my mother attempted suicide. That was an interesting experience; however, the thing I learned most about the entire event wasn’t how awful the situation is, but instead how these episodes of  life have ultimately shaped me into the person I am today.

On some level the bad days really make you appreciate the good ones.  They humble you and make you appreciative of everything you have.  The good friends, a good wife, all successes, all securities, and even a great group of blog followers who are supporting you the whole way.

Conquering Adversity

I’ve been thinking about my life a lot lately – especially since the incident that happened earlier this week with my mom.  What a duality my life has been.  I remember wrestling for the state championship in high school, being accepted into college, graduating college, getting married, landing my dream job, and a gigantic list of awesome and incredible highs in my life – wow I’m a lucky guy.

On the other hand I remember all of the completely insane things I’ve had to deal with too.  I remember when I was about 9 and my parents would go out and ask for “donations” at local grocery and retail stores for our “youth group” – but pocket the money instead.  I remember seeing all the drugs and alcohol.  I remember my parents arguing and going to my room and praying to God that it would be better one day.  I remember saying to myself when I was a kid “I wonder where I’ll be in five years” and pretending I would be in some awesome place achieving great things – that was my mental hiding spot.

Yeah – I had all of those trials, but what if I hadn’t?  Would I have the drive and will to succeed and conquer adversity today?  Would I be unphased by adversity like I am now?  Would I be as strong or as mature?  I doubt it – and THAT I am thankful for.

Who I am Today

Make no mistake.  We are who we are as a result of each and every experience in our life.  If you frame it appropriately even the worst experience can be an amazing opportunity for self improvement.

When I was driving home Tuesday, thinking about my Mom, a women almost ran me off the road.  She was honking, obviously cussing me out.  Normally, I imagine I would have became angry myself – but not that day.  I took a breathe and told myself “look at what I’m going through right now.  I can only imagine what’s going on in her life too.”  I couldn’t get angry because I realized an ounce of understanding goes a long way.

Maybe that’s the lesson I needed.  To feel a little empathy – something I have admitted in the past that I had very little of at times.  I will never make an excuse for a person’s poor behavior, but at a minimum I can learn to show a little understanding.  Every person’s life is effected by so many variables that it is nearly impossible for us to understand why a person is they way they are.  So instead of getting angry maybe we can just learn to understand that we can’t understand – and accept it.

Thank you

Before I end I just wanted to say thanks to anyone who gave their support to me the other day and those who continue to give me their support.  It means  a lot that a few people that you barely know out there on the internet were nice enough to share a few kind words, prayers, and thoughts.  It is much appreciated.

The Irony of Death

My Mom called me about six times last night before I finally answered.  I wasn’t screening her calls I just left my cell phone on vibrate.  I didn’t notice she had been calling until she finally called my wife and left a voice message.

“Your Mom sounds really upset, you should call her.”

Normally I would wait until morning to call my Mom back, but if she is sounding really upset I call back immediately.  I’m just never sure if its an emergency or not.  I call my Mom back and she doesn’t sound that upset so I’m a little relieved.  I was dreading the thought of possibly having to drive an hour at midnight to handle a situation.

“Mom has breast cancer.” Mom in this case is Grandma.  She’s in her early 60′s and found out yesterday that she has early stages of malignant breast cancer.  Her sister, my great aunt, just passed away within the year from the same disease so I gather everyone is concerned.

What struck me wasn’t a feeling of dread about my Grandmother’s potential death, but a lack of empathy and a strong concern and realization about my own death.  That is horribly selfish I know, but I have always had a difficult time feeling well, what you are supposed to feel.  I was more concerned about my lack of raw emotion than concern for my Grandmother having breast cancer – that seems potentially narcissistic.

The other thing that bothered me was my own death.  I don’t dwell it, but occasionally I think how strange it is that one day I will have to face my own death.  I’m not sure how it will come and that is just as weird.

There will be a time where things happen on this earth and I will not be here to witness them.  I will be no more.  I will one day lay in a  hospital bed and count down my own passing.  Or I’ll die instantly in an accident – who knows.  It might be painful or it might be quick – but I will face death.  Strangely, there is some comfort in knowing that every single person on earth and every person who has ever been has and will experience the same thing.  That is one thing we all have in common in the human experience.

Thinking about my own death I thought about the things I would want.  I think I would want to know that people cared for me, that people were rooting for me, and to be prepared.  So I think its only right that I give my Grandmother that same respect.  To let her know I’m rooting for her, that I care for her, and to help her in any way possible to be prepared if it comes to the point where she does have to face death.

I will lie to her if needed.  I will pretend I care more than I do if I have to when the time comes.  I’ll even give in to her religious comforts when inevitably I find myself in a room full of people praying over her sick body.  I’ll even nod my head and put up no fight when people tell her she’s going to a better place, a magical place.  Why?  Because if religion makes her passing easier, provides her comfort, who am I to take that away in her last moments?

I’m being morbid.  They caught this early.  She’ll probably come out fine, but the rules about death still apply – or at least they will someday.  Death, I think it’s just a part of life.  You recognize it’s there, ignore it, prepare for it, hate it, but it’s a gift.  Death is the one thing holding you accountable for life – it’s your term limit – in a way it’s what makes you enjoy life the most. Maybe that’s the irony of death.

Evil by Omission

Mankind is flawed.  We have the tendency to exploit the less-powerful for our own gain, we tend to rule the weak, we tend to abuse those less powerful than us, and we tend to make mistakes even when we know it’s a mistake.  That’s us – crooked and flawed.

I know what you’re saying: “Not everyone is that way!” I agree and disagree.  Not everyone is that way all of the time (or maybe even most of the time); however we have all fallen short when it comes to perfection/morality.  I’m not religious, but one thing that I have always found true about Christianity is what the preacher at the church I used to attend would say every Sunday “We have all fallen short of the perfection demanded of us by God.”  If there is a truth in religion that is it.

The good news is we have a lot of good in us too.  I can only examine myself, but I know internally I have a strong urge to do what’s right and to make the world a better place.  I’m not sure why – either.  Perhaps it’s out of my own need for self preservation or some instinct for the preservation of the species – maybe something else.  I have to believe that we all have that in us; though some have become more adapt in ignoring that feeling than others.

But maybe that is the first step for all of us.  Realizing that we all have this duality of good and evil in us.  That we all live and walk a different path with factors affecting our personalities and decisions that another person probably couldn’t even imagine or come close to understanding.  That shapes who we are.  Those facts can also help us understand and deal with everyone else.

Maybe armed with new information and new understanding we can set new rules for ourselves and society.  One where we understand and empathize with those who aren’t there yet.  A society where we can do the right thing even when it’s hard because ultimately we understand that it’s the right thing to do.  Maybe this is just the beginning of social responsibility and recovery of a flawed species capable of so much creation and destruction.

Maybe we can reconcile our needs for self preservation and perpetuity of the species until those two influences come in perfect harmony.  The problems of war and famine from yesterday will become lessons we teach our children in the future.  Maybe borders will seem silly in the future.  Why we value an American, Canadian, African, Muslim, or Christian life more or less than any other will seem absurd - maybe it already does.

I see a younger generation, some of us, already headed there.  Others I see as devout as ever toward a cause no more just or moral as the very “enemies” they so passionately hate.  Maybe its a man living in a mansion while somewhere else a child dies or maybe its an art student trying to make the “big time” in music while forgetting, even for a moment, there are people out there starving.  We’ve all been guilty of ignoring our fellow humans, especially me, so how do we get past that?  I do not know.

What I do know is that until we can get the little things right – we aren’t even close.  Until we can get involved in our own back yards, all of us, and do what’s right – that hopeful light of helping those somewhere else seems very dim.  Do I expect a Utopian society?  Of course not.  I’m not that foolish.

I do know that we can all do better though.  Maybe that means helping out your Mom who has been trapped in the house for years wasting away.  Maybe that means donating a little time to charity.  Maybe that means cleaning up your neighborhood when no one else will.  Maybe it even means doing something big, because you can, and change everything.

Just do what’s right.  Not with words, but by example.

Oneness Without Religion

I work in an environment where almost everyone has at least a Masters degree.  I say that to point out that I work with fairly educated and one may even go as far as to say “smart” people.  That’s why I find the variety of opinions and beliefs among this tiny cross section of accountants and business consultants so interesting.  It seems, for a variety of subjects, education has made us no less intelligent nor any more in-step on a variety of topics. 

For example, one woman I work with is Hindu.  She is very intelligent and thoughtful; however, she is also deeply religious.  We have on several occasions had discussions about religion (more an academic inquiry than anyone trying to convince each other who’s right or wrong) and I find Hinduism as illogical and fascinating as almost any other religion. 

I think that’s why I find it ironic that a logical women (she’s a tax accountant) with a higher level degree from a prestigious University has never found it illogical to have any spiritual belief.  Upon our conversation I was also surprised just how little she knew about Christianity, Islam, and Judaism. 

Sometimes I forget that not everyone carries with them a fascination of religion like I do. (I was a business major in college I nearly double majored in religion.  I have also written about and studied religion independently.)  In any case, Hinduism is a polytheistic religion – and each “sect” of Hinduism carries a certain and differing amount of praise for each God.  We both found the difference in monotheistic versus polytheistic religions fascinating – she even pointed out that the belief in one God seemed very strange.  In a mostly Christian society I found that thought interesting and unique. 

I have had conversations with people of all backgrounds and education levels from a variety of religions and it never ceases to amaze me how people can be perfectly happy with their beliefs while ignoring or rejecting the plethora of differing ideologies all simultaneously claiming with certainty their religious validity and accuracy.  For me, it bothers me deeply that two perfectly rational, educated, and presumably smart people can come to two different and often opposing views on religious truths.  Almost always determined by geography and what your family taught you as “truth”.  Maybe this is the largest and most compelling reason I find atheism so easy to accept. 

Once you start seeing religion as a big picture rather than how you “feel” about a belief all of the contradictions begin to surface.  Maybe that’s why there is a patter that emerges: often the more “educated” a person becomes regarding religion – the less “religious” they usually become.  Some say that the academic study of religion is evil – I think it’s more likely that academia simply draws a logical conclusion from the evidence. 

Religion is Beautiful, Natural, and Dangerous

No one can deny that what you believe is largely determined by what you are taught to believe.  Yet people will often fight and die for a God or Prophet that someone else doesn’t even understand to exist.  I’ve always found this tragically interesting. 

On the other hand – most “great” religious teachers (Jesus, Gandhi, Buddha, etc.) practiced and taught absolute peace, moderation, and understanding.  Almost everyone can agree that those are very admirable traits.  So I can not say that religion itself is evil, it’s not.  Rather the interpretation (or misinterpretation) of a religious belief to make it fit someone’s personal agenda is where the problems begin.  Belief and religion are certainly powerful tools – which can also be dangerous.

I can sympathize with believers.  I used to be one.  There is some sense of belonging when you are a member of a religious organization that is hard to find elsewhere.  When you are surrounded by a room full of people who are literally ready to weep for a common belief in an unseen entity there is a feeling of “oneness” that is truly special. 

This feeling isn’t unique to religion though.  I’ve felt the same way other times too.  When the wrestling team I was on in high school made it to the state tourmament – we all felt almost transcendent – we felt oneness with each other.   Sometimes when I am having a discussion with my best friend and we come to identical conclusions we feel a deep connection.  I think that is the key.  Religion provides a deep and needed natural desire to become one with other people.  That is beautiful.

Oneness without Religion – with Humanity

The biggest disadvantage of religion that I see is that the same force that brings us together also serves to divide us.  That same understanding that causes some people to weep and feel the deepest emotion of love and togetherness causes others to murder each other. 

I wonder if we can find that in simple humanity.  The desire to help and love our neighbor because they are a member of the human race and because we can empathize with their human experience.  I think this is possible. 

The more I learn and understand that everyone has such a variety of human experience I begin to realize that, that very variety is what makes our experience so similar.  Which makes me feel a part of it all – connected, but without the need for a religious doctrine.

“Recognize that the very molecules that make up your body, the atoms that construct the molecules, are traceable to the crucibles that were once the centers of high mass stars that exploded their chemically rich guts into the galaxy, enriching pristine gas clouds with the chemistry of life. So that we are all connected to each other biologically, to the earth chemically and to the rest of the universe atomically. That’s kinda cool! That makes me smile and I actually feel quite large at the end of that. It’s not that we are better than the universe, we are part of the universe. We are in the universe and the universe is in us.  ― Neil deGrasse Tyson”

Phil Ebersole’s Blog

I read several blogs – I think in many ways it’s the best way to check the pulse of the nation – without being told what to believe by the established media. Some blogs are better than other’s, but Phil Ebersole’s blog is a real gem. His style is moderate, thoughtful, and journalistic. He always provides statistics and graphs to back up his assertions – I like that.

As a blogger – I like to spread the word about the good ones when I can. Especially those that are better than my own.

From the post “Are Democrats a top-and-bottom coalition?

What you would have is, on the one hand, a party in which the Haves advance the interests of the Have-Nots at the expense of the Have-a-Littles, and, on the other, a party in which the Haves advance the interests of the Have-a-Littles at the expense of the Have-Nots. Such a political lineup would be poisonous to American democracy. It would mean the power of the elites would never be challenged.

Patriotism Kills

Isn’t patriotism just another form of selfishness and ego?  That is when patriotism takes on the form I believe it has in America.  Patriotism isn’t the same as say – I’m a huge fan or XYZ sports team – because usually people aren’t willing to kill for their sports team.  Rather patriotism in America has taken on a particular and perhaps evil form of elitism. 

In this country our fellow human beings can die of starvation, be murdered by rogue drone missiles, and tortured – but that’s all okay as long as it’s not happening to an American.  We worry about the 8.5% of American’s without jobs, but find no issue with the millions in 3rd world countries that can barely afford shoes or find fresh water.  It’s not American’s so it doesn’t really matter, I guess.

The conversation about the “global economy” becomes increasingly more popular, but our attitudes toward the rest of the world are anything but global.  Any candidate that doesn’t support the war effort is labeled a liberal, an isolationist, or someone who doesn’t support the troops.  Mob rule wins over logic, it seems.  Even conservative candidates like Ron Paul are labeled “crazy” when they suggest that we engage in good will tactics towards those countries that are “evil”.  Meanwhile the establishment is supported with more war, more tyranny, and more “safety” for Americans – and all that’s okay as long as there are not attacks on American soil.

One day this is all going to change though – we have to see it coming. America will not always be the wealthiest nation on earth.  We won’t always be separatist.  There one day will be a global economy.  It’s inevitable.  Those who are frightened by such a thing will die off and the youth who embrace such an idea will slowly – generation by generation – grow to see little or not difference between an American and anyone else.  What will be most important is humanism.

Fear-mongrels chalk all this talk up to the conspiracy by those in power for a “one world order” or a “world government”, but as technology becomes increasingly more sophisticated and distance, language, and culture continue to become more similar the border lines will slowly blur and fade. 

For now Americans and other wealthy nations will continue to chant their country’s name and wave their country’s flag on the battlefield of some mineral rich country’s soil – at the price of life for some and an easier way of life for others.  We’ll keep supporting these actions until another plane lands in our own back yard – in which time we will call for more war and less liberty.  We will keep sending our bottom 10% to war – to fight for an idea encouraged by the best movies cable TV has to offer.  The news will keep telling us to encourage those fighting for “us” and people will keep buying veterans beers in bars across America for fighting for “our country.” 

The irony that we are all human beings killing each other will surely be lost on all the Christian’s that preach “turn the other cheek” – and what Jesus taught will surely be ignored for the time being.  Grandpa will call me a liberal for finding it more and more difficult to kill a fellow human who’s favorite song is the same as mine – who likes pizza just as much as I do – and who thinks Justin Beiber is a joke too.  As the decades and centuries go on our enemy will become less and less different from ourselves until eventually – there will be no difference from your enemy and yourself. 

Until that day – try to be a little more of a sports fan and a little less of a patriot.