Love With A Capital L

A journey towards living an inspired life of love in the modern world

Thriller — November 22, 2021

Thriller

If you missed it, the new Adele album, 30, came out last week.

I sometimes lament the over-categorization of pop music. I remember everyone on earth (or at least everyone in my small town in Pennsylvania) gathering for the world premiere of Michael Jackson’s Thriller long-form music video. We all sat transfixed, losing our minds, by one guy in zombie makeup. Everyone I knew and their parents loved Michael Jackson. A bazillion hearts skipped a beat when he glided across the stage during that iconic performance of Billie Jean when he unveiled the moonwalk that etched itself in our collective consciousness. The Thriller album sold all the copies – you know we all remember our own with the inset of a tiny tiger cub and Michael in a full ‘80’s Playgirl pose.

I imagine now that we would never agree because Michael Jackson would only be played on R&B radio stations, while the country fans remained truly oblivious and the indie snobs pretended not to know while talking about obscure garage bands on vinyl. It’s pretty much an either/or situation, instead of a both/and. We don’t like Asia AND Kool & the Gang anymore. We like Asia OR Kool & the Gang. And I don’t think that’s too awesome.

This lack of communal experiences hasn’t yet wrecked films, although the streaming “Same Day As Theaters” premiere is threatening. TV has already been lost – water cooler moments where we gaped at cliff-hangers and huge surprises are antiques. SO much of the beauty of art is its ability to connect us, and the connection is lost when we’ve nothing in common.

I guess it’s cool that we can watch what we want (choosing from infinite possibilities) when we want, further individualizing our lives. But maybe isolating ourselves isn’t what any of us need right now. Or ever.

Anyway. I was kidding when I said “If you missed it,” because Adele sort of transcends genre lines of division. Every radio station and entertainment forum knew and waited breathlessly in anticipation for this record from this ridiculous talent to drop.

And it did and we all listened together, no matter where we lived or who we voted for or what we thought about masks and vaccines. And it was simply beautiful, to do this with you, with everyone.

It hardly mattered that the album itself was largely underwhelming (with a few glorious exceptions). What mattered was that we were there together. Finally. Again.

What Is The Truth? — November 8, 2021

What Is The Truth?

I’m thinking about the well-known saying, “There are 3 sides to every story; his, hers, and the truth,” and am discovering that I don’t agree at all. In the Bible, the Roman Governor Pilate asks Jesus, “What is truth?” And I’ll ask that now. When we say “his, hers, and the truth,” what are we talking about? Simple facts? Can something be true without being strictly factual? Is truth only what can be objectively stated? Can something be real, genuine, authentic and not be true? Or are real and true interchangeable synonyms?

Maybe.

Maybe there are different kinds of truth. Sometimes truth changes with more research or information, changes with years and generations, changes with circumstance. And there is the Truth that stays exactly the same forever.

I’m talking about the 1st kind, and in that case the cliche should read, “There are 2 sides to every story; his & hers, AND they’re both true.”

This idea began to take shape for me when I got married. A general maxim is that “perception is reality.” If one believes/feels that the other works too much, there is no amount of data that can change that one’s mind. 99 out of 100 can think he/she does NOT work too much and 99 out of 100 don’t matter at all. What does matter is the one who lives in that house who is empty and disconnecting because their spouse works too much. There aren’t enough PowerPoint presentations that can convince him/her otherwise.

When my wife felt neglected or in second (or 10th) place, I had work to do and changes to make. I couldn’t reason my way out of it by invalidating her experience, even if I wanted to (which I really really did, then). Her neglect was completely true.

This tiny shift has allowed me to hear with new ears. I don’t have to, in fact I can’t, decide if someone is right or wrong, I just have to accept the existing paradigm. I just have to be present without judgment or taking a side. Actually, maybe they’re not new ears, maybe they’re just ears. If we could be free of the natural tendency to pass judgement and declare winners and losers, we could simply listen and truly practice empathy. What happens if we don’t have to know who is right and who is wrong? What happens if we are able to just be where our brothers and sisters (and selves) are, compassionately, totally engaged?

I don’t so much care what happened anymore. Sometimes I do. Maybe that makes sense. Life and relationship require us to not only know the right thing, but the right thing at the right time. And harder still, when the right thing at the wrong time is no longer the right thing. Unless it is.

There are 2 verses in the Bible – Proverbs 26:4 and 26:5 – that are direct opposites. 4: “Do not answer a fool according to his folly, or you yourself will be just like him.” And 5: “Answer a fool according to his folly, or he will be wise in his own eyes.”

They didn’t make sense to me before, now they do. They make perfect sense and are both absolutely true.

Zealots — November 5, 2021

Zealots

My friend was wondering what zeal is and if it’s actually a positive or negative characteristic. I thought it was positive, but…

Yesterday, I was dying. (I’m saying that in the way you say that when you’re sick and miserable, not actually dying. I’m perfectly healthy today. Anyway.) I had gotten vaccinated the day before. Now. I usually keep things like this pretty close to the vest, only disclosing to my closest friends. The vision for my life is to build bridges and make relationships and that requires me to refrain from taking many firm “political” stands, which this has unfortunately become. I do from time to time, but I do not do it lightly. This is not a “political” statement for me, in fact, it fits into that life vision category. Being unvaccinated (I had actually gotten COVID earlier in the pandemic, so it wasn’t exactly a safety issue as much as a designation issue) was keeping me from certain people/relationships/spaces and, like I said, I can’t have that.

But we’re close friends, right? So I had a rough reaction to the shots, and yesterday I was sore and hurting from head to toe and while I laid on my couch trying not to move any part of me, I watched tv. A documentary I watched was called City Of Joel, and it was about a religious/political conflict in New York between a growing group of Orthodox Hasidic Jews and the rest of the town. The Jewish people were zealous about their religion and their families and the rest were zealous about their families and their community. Both were operating, on some level at least, like so many, from fear. Fear of persecution, fear of difference, fear of losing. And I thought of how many times the zealous have crossed very damaging lines into violence.

My son is studying the Salem witch trials in school – just wait until he gets to the crusades. We are zealous about our politicians, vaccination status, mask stances, positions on abortion & homosexuality, sports teams, religion, anything. Our deeply held beliefs create wildly different responses. Sometimes that zeal causes us to take a meal to our neighbor, sometimes it causes us to riot or pull triggers on our weapons of evangelism.

My friend put it this way – “How zealous must we be…Do we cut off ears? Or love like Jesus?” What a great question. He was referring to the moment where Peter pulled a sword and cut off a Roman soldier’s ear in defense of Jesus, who rebuked him and put it right back on his head. Obviously, we would say zeal in loving the way Jesus did is the right answer, but how quickly does that get misguided? Peter thought he was not only loving like Jesus, he was loving the real, flesh and blood Jesus. He was wrong.

I know physical violence isn’t the answer ever, and that’s easy to tell, but there are many other different kinds of violence. We manipulate each other through judgment, though withholding, through condescension, through gift-giving, through affection and on and on. That’s violence, too.

I wonder how many of the worst atrocities in human history were planted (at least originally, in the seed stage) by what we could consider positive motivations. Someone I know is so angry that I’ve been vaccinated that I have been effectively excised from his/her life. This anger started (hopefully) from a deep concern for my well being and became emotional violence.

I think so much of what we are feeling now in the culture is very similar. I desperately want you to vote my way, believe what I believe, listen to/read what I listen to/read because I think it’s the best thing for you. I think it will bring you enlightenment or happiness, because I think that’s what it has brought me. I know that is also a little condescending, but it stems from the simple fact that we want the best for those we care about. (Now, sometimes that’s not from where it stems – sometimes it’s to be right or powerful or to win. I’m not talking about that, that’s just insecurity and inadequacy.) I get off the path when I take offense to the fact that you don’t do/want what I offer and respond out of that offense.

So my friend asked this question. 1. I think we’re supposed to be completely overcome by love (for God and each other) that it has to come out. And 2. It sure takes a lot of careful wisdom to figure out how it comes out. This is the tricky part, isn’t it? I’m not certain about too much but I am positive it doesn’t happen with our hands in fists, grasping tightly to our scared, arrogant, fragile egos. It only happens with my hand holding yours, walking each other home.

A Million Bucks — October 26, 2021

A Million Bucks

Earlier this week I was standing on a chair (long story), got too close to the edge and fell. After sitting for a second to do a quick “is anything broken?” conversation with myself, I walked around for a minute reflecting on how old I am and just how much that fall from a kitchen chair hurt. Then, in the middle of the night, I got up to walk to the bathroom and discovered that the room was spinning with the earth. That’s nothing cool to discover anytime, much less the middle of the night. In the morning it became apparent that the world was not spinning, I was.

You know that natural lack of awareness that we have where we can see clearly in others what we are completely blind to in ourselves? Well, I’ve been through some training and am a reasonably bright person, so I know the symptoms of concussion. However, I am made of steel so I simply can’t be concussed.

Anyway. I shouldn’t have been driving a car so much and ended up on the couch, Netflix and chilling alone. Generation Wealth was the doc, not onNetflix, but on Amazon video. This Generation Wealth is the feel good hit of the summer, displaying our drive for excess, love of money, and rampant consumerism at any & all costs.

The filmmaker made an interesting observation I hadn’t previously considered. In the old days we coveted our neighbor’s things (cars, donkeys, picket fences, wives, etc) but now we look to celebrities, athletes and CEOs with whom to compare ourselves.

Most everybody has an addiction in the modern world, whether it’s money, fame, plastic surgery, work, OxyContin, or sex. If a little is good, more and more and MORE is better. Maybe that’s true, but it really depends on what it is we’re getting more of. If it’s peace or love or peanut butter cups, that’s true. If it’s sports cars or infidelities, probably not as much.

When the world shut down because of COVID, I had dreams that there would actually be a “new normal.” I dreamt that we’d find the time at home is awesome, that we like our families, that our priorities would be rearranged. I dreamt we’d miss each other more than our cars and wheels & ladders to success.

Of course I was wrong. There’s no new normal, just more of the same. But the people in the documentary (and I suppose all of the people ever, even us, now) all learned something. I’ll tell you what it is in about 3 paragraphs.

Today I went to the funeral of a man whom I never met. By all accounts, he was a beautiful, caring, loving man. Many of his family spoke, telling stories and reminiscing. They had the blessing of feeling only loss. What I mean is that we often get more than 1. We get loss, but we also get regret, anger, fear, right? It is a fortunate person who can only grieve, and the only regret in that packed room was that they didn’t get to spend more time with him.

So, the chorus of the voices speaking at the memorial was how much and how well he loved them. I saw this quote from Mother Teresa the other day: “If you want to change the world, go home and love your family.” Too many times we get this all mixed up, and we leave home to change the world, leaving our families as casualties of our ambition, no matter how well intentioned it might be.

This man, Paul, loved his family, and as in most people like him, family was far more than blood relation. It was anyone and everyone in his sphere, anyone and everyone the universe brought into his path. And they were all better for it. But here’s the thing, he loved that family, stuffed them to the gills with significance and worth, and now I get to know them and I’m all the better for that.

That’s how it works with beautiful people and the pyramid scheme of love. We love those in our orbits, then because they have been loved, they love those in theirs, then they do the same.

I cried at the service. I listened to this shining tribute – of course, there were flaws, but just like all of us, the flaws lose power in the light of connection, presence, and love. Maya Angelou said people will never forget how you made them feel, and he made everyone feel like a million bucks. I would love to be just like him when I grow up.

In the film, a guy in Iceland who had lost everything, said, “That’s the good thing about collapse.” What a strange thing to say. But what everyone had in common was they got all they wanted and it wasn’t anywhere close to filling the hole. It was just more. More more more.

Sometimes it takes catastrophe, or collapse, to figure out what is truly meaningful. And as it turns out, what matters in our lives isn’t money or stuff at all, it’s the people we share them with. It’s the broken-hearted families, full of tears and overwhelming gratitude. It’s the people who run when you fall off a chair. It’s the hands to hold and the arms that squeeze so tightly, they keep us from losing any pieces when we fall apart.

Hotels — October 22, 2021

Hotels

This morning I woke with a physical exhaustion that has thankfully become quite rare. So when I came home from an unenthusiastic workout, I opened Netflix and crawled under a blanket.

In one of my searches, I discovered 2 documentaries that interested me and were listed to be streaming on Netflix, but were not! I scrolled and scrolled, past so many until I landed on The Vanishing At The Cecil Hotel. A young woman named Elisa Lam left Vancouver in a familiar quest for answers to the question we all ask at some point; Who am I? This quest took her to California, first San Diego through Los Angeles ending in San Francisco. She would get no further than LA, no further than the Cecil Hotel.

It was an eerie story of conspiracy and perhaps the supernatural as she simply disappeared. There was a surveillance video of her in an elevator and then no more. It was also a story of homelessness, hopelessness, mental illness, depression, bipolar disorder, the police, a hotel’s history of evil/tragedy and a musician in Mexico.

The series was 4 episodes and in the 4th, we learned what actually happened. I’ll ruin the suspense here, this is the 4th paragraph and there wasn’t a conspiracy or governmental coverup, there was a lovely young woman who had serious mental issues that caused her, ostensibly, to climb into a water tank on the roof of a hotel and drown.

I intended to make this a post about easy characterizations and a need to understand that lead us down all sorts of paths we don’t want to go, and which have been adding to our disconnect and division. Maybe I will, but it’s so much more in my head now, I just can’t let this one go.

Elisa Lam was a very prolific blogger, posting every thought and idea on Tumblr. I imagine anyone who read her work felt as if they knew her, that’s probably why the story was so captivating for so many. She was our sister, daughter, friend, co-worker, wide open about every thing in her life. We wanted the best for her, wanted her to find meaning and love. If you’re reading this, do you feel like you know who I am? Do you think we’d be friends? I hope so. In all likelihood, we would. It’s sure a new, interesting world, where we can become close to people we’ve never met, and in Elisa Lam’s case, never even had a conversation.

I like that. I think it’s one of the most beautiful side effects of social media. We are closer than ever before, nothing separates us (except physical space, I suppose.) And we are farther apart than ever before, falling prey to the delusion that online relationships can take the place of relationships IRL. She traveled to California and slowly fell apart in public and no one asked the smallest question, if she was ok. Maybe she would’ve lied, pretended like we do, that yes, she was fine. But maybe she would’ve told the truth, that no, she wasn’t.

I wonder how many times I pass by a person in distress, too busy or distracted or too minding my own business to look or listen. I wonder if a human connection – even a tiny, superficial one – would’ve saved Elisa Lam’s life.

You already know I think we’re here to walk together. We’re made for just this sort of human connection, and we’ve wandered so far off that path that when we are asked, it’s jarring and we feel a sense of intrusion. When did that happen? And I wonder if we felt it slipping away.

In this film, one of the main characters was Los Angeles and a part of LA called Skid Row. Apparently, the idea was to take the homeless and other “undesirables” and imprison them in a square of the city where they could be ignored and forgotten. Human beings were “undesirable” and systematically, purposely ignored and forgotten? It seems like we all have to ask the question that drove Elisa Lam to California in the first place: Who are we????

Her death obviously wasn’t the Cecil Hotel’s fault, but it sure feels like a metaphor. The Cecil was crafted with great care and beauty and over time, seems to have forgotten it’s original creation. Great care and beauty were poured into this structure so that it could take creat care of others. But without a clear vision or purpose, it fell into disrepair and became just another flop house where the people who interacted with it were seen and treated as disposable, which in turn made this once grand hotel disposable, rotting from the inside.

It was a super sad documentary, but as Black Widow says to Bruce Banner in the 1st Avengers movie, “No, we need a little worse.” Not paying attention, whistling through graveyards and hiding behind masks of the images we desperately try to keep, has gotten us here. Maybe we need a little worse, too, a few more cameras shining the light of truth on our increasing dysfunction, to force a course correction. And if we do that, if we start to care or listen or love, maybe Elisa Lam’s death would’ve been for something. Now, it’s just a senseless casualty of modern life.

But it doesn’t have to be. We get to choose what it is, and we get to choose here, now, today.

Blurry — October 19, 2021

Blurry

If you look at my search history, you’ll find “lists of cool weird streaming documentaries.” It’s difficult and awesome at the same time because there is such a bottomless well of possibilities. When there is so much, how do you find anything? I know the algorithm decides what I’ll like (and he/she is often spot on) but I still like to pretend I have some choice in the matter.

Of course, choice and free will online is sort of relative, too. When I type into that ubiquitous bar, Google decides what I’ll see and when I’ll see it. But manipulation isn’t why I’m writing today. My search was for the “best streaming cult documentaries,” and after finding that I didn’t have the services for my first 2 choices, (I had seen many on the list), I ended up with something called Children Of God.

Children Of God was (AND, I would find out in the last 5 minutes, STILL IS!!!!!) a sect of Christianity that revolves around a recluse named David Berg. It’s called the Family now, probably to escape mountains of bad press. Like so many cults, what may have began as faith and community turned into a garden-variety patriarchal altar of sexual abuse. There isn’t really anything new here, there is plenty of history of the worship of sexuality going back as far as you want to go. Anytime there is something beautiful (and the divine gift of sexuality is certainly that), there will be the temptation to twist it into pretzels of violence and pain. Maybe it wasn’t intended to be that way, but it’s easy to see where this Children of God/Family road leads. Women are essentially slaves to the men rationalizing the structures as faithful obedience.

Even though it’s not new, it’s always striking how subtle the slide is into this warped ideology that no one would’ve agreed to when they signed on. It’s like most things. There’s a story in the Bible about David & Bathsheba and he gets into trouble after a long series of bad decisions. If he had been asked to go from 0 to 100, he would’ve aggressively refused. But 1 to 2 and then 10 to 11, then 99 to 100, those steps are small, sometimes quite insignificant and very easy to take.

I think that’s why judgment is such a dangerous position. It’s possible the only difference between us and them or you and me is time, and if we were spoon fed in tiny increments, we’d end up exactly there. Dark, thick lines we draw between us and them can be quite blurry, in the right circumstances, in the right light.

And most of these members of a cult ended up wrapped up in this mess is because they were longing for some kind of human connection. They were lonely & isolated and found a community that accepted & loved them. And that is what they found… mostly. The leaders didn’t love them, they loved power and status and gratification, (in this particular cult, none of the men loved them either, they just loved their bodies and what they could get from them), but usually the other followers found kindness, understanding, camaraderie, and friendship in a world that has too little of those.

That’s why it’s so sad that they were taken advantage of, lied to, told sex was love and domination was leadership. Gifts from the Divine were dragged through the mud, getting everyone dirty and leaving only shame.

And the Children of God/Family continues. The spokesman who agreed to be interviewed denied all of the allegations and accounts, including the video evidence. David Berg is, at the time of the film, still alive. And the scars from the abuse are still very fresh.

Chickens — October 14, 2021

Chickens

Every week in this space, at some point there is a reference to the differences that make us so cool and fascinating. It’s the worst part of this quarantine isolation: we’ve forgotten how much we like each other and instead, believed the silly lie that there exist divisions too wide to cross.

I mentioned last night in a truly exceptional book group that it’s people who provide me with the greatest evidence for God. It’s people who consistently give reasons to remain hopeful. (Of course, it’s also people who give the reasons to lose hope, too. But if we’re honest, that’s much less often and a far less interesting way to spend much time.)

I just finished an article in Smithsonian magazine about a man named Val in Philadelphia, PA who has a record store with millions of records. He’s surly, elitist, Christian, and characterizes his collection as a disease. As you are well aware, I am a record, song, & artist man, have absolutely no desire to go to this store, but I love that we live in a world where it exists, where he exists. Why would someone do this? Why would he give his life, as he did/does, to doo-wop music? Who knows, baby, who knows???

The last documentary I watched was called Chicken People. If you are searching for something to watch, I have no idea how you continue to scroll past Chicken People. This 80 minute gem is about human beings who show chickens. (If you’ve ever seen Best In Show, it’s like that, but with chickens. And it’s not a Christopher Guest vehicle, it’s real.) Who knew you showed chickens? Chickens are ugly and disgusting, right? Wrong. I really only knew about the mass-produced food chickens, but there are an unbelievable variety of chickens that are beautiful and anything but gross. The owners bathe, hold and pet them (and love them) like puppies. Who decides to show chickens? A talented entertainer in Branson, MO who sings show tunes, and a lovely southern recovering alcoholic who has a 2nd husband and 5 kids, 5 dogs, 3 cats, a llama, 400 rabbits and a thousand chickens, that’s who.

I wouldn’t show a chicken, but that’s not really the point, is it? (I would totally go to a chicken show, though.) The point is you are very different from me and Val is very different from both of us and that show tune guy is different from almost everybody. My neighbor can sing opera like an angel and my son is a Dungeon Master (in D&D, not a real life dungeon thankfully). My best friend in high school built and raced fast cars, I knew every lineup and the batting averages of every major league team. Hello Kitty is wildly popular. So is big-time professional wrestling.

These are the things that are important. Sure, so is who we voted for or if we’re pro-fax mandates, but we’re made up of lots and lots of facets and to think just one is enough to tear the world apart is pure fallacy. We’re all different, strange, and awesome. And we’d know this if/when we get to see each other in person, see that we’re not monsters at all – just weirdos who may or may not show chickens with families and kids and jobs and fears and loves and passions just like ours. And that’s wonderful.

Expanding/Contracting — October 7, 2021

Expanding/Contracting

This week on the People’s Court, there was yet another dog bite case. If it wasn’t for dog bites and security deposits, there wouldn’t be enough material for a 10 minute short, much less 25+ years of daily episodes. Anyway, in this one, a Rottweiler got out of the house and chewed up a cut little mixed breed. The owner of the Rottweiler was caught on video days later with another of her dogs on a walk off leash, and when questioned, she responded with the ridiculous, “It’s my personal choice.” So, the judge reprimanded her, explaining that it wasn’t, that there are leash laws in almost every town & city in America, and that in a society, your personal choice has limits. After every case, the litigants speak with Doug in the hallway, where she again said that her personal choice would still be to not leash her dogs.

We’re starting there, but I don’t want to talk about leash laws or this woman’s boundless arrogance. What I do want to talk about is – we’ll get there in a second.

This morning, I watched another documentary on the Google/Facebook illuminati. It’s funny, I don’t watch any horror programming, giving exactly none of my time to anything scary. (The new Dr Strange movie is being called Marvel’s 1st horror-ish offering, and that will be an interesting conundrum for me when it is released. Which immovable object will be rolled aside?) Yet I continue to gobble up these documentaries, terrified at the level of control humongous tech companies have.

They watch and listen and know everything; our waist size, our favorite food, eye color, who we voted for, and when the last time was that we flossed. When her family begins to talk about tracking devices in vaccines and conspiracy theories, the Angel always correctly points out that nobody needs conspiracies or chips, they already know us better than we know ourselves.

Each of the documentaries ends with an appeal to get us to delete our accounts, which we, of course, never do. Facebook was down for several dark, hopeless hours this week and we wandered aimlessly through abandoned streets in withdrawal without seeing filtered pictures of food and the photoshopped perfect lives of people we haven’t seen in 20 years. They want us to not “Google” anything, not use our Gmail or Chrome, or scroll TikTok. Ha!!!

Now, here’s what I want to talk about, and why Zuckerberg reminds me of that unlikable woman on the People’s Court. There’s a concept in ancient wisdom traditions called Zimzum where God contracts Himself (or Herself, if you prefer) to make room for creation, for trees and oranges and you and me. We do that, too, anytime we enter into a relationship. We make space in our lives, schedules, hearts for another’s lives, schedules, hearts. We stop being only me and become us. Ideally we’re not so selfish and allow for the cares of somebody else.

We contract. We put limits on our freedom or “personal choice” or what we want. We put a leash on our dog. We don’t so that they can. We give and receive. I don’t date other women, as is my right or choice or whatever, because I have made space for the Angel in my life. I don’t delete my accounts because these products add value to my life. I like to email, I like that Amazon Music knows just what new songs I’ll like, I like that when I search for watch bands, I’ll get 1,000 ads for watch bands on Instagram. We make these choices everyday.

But this woman is only concerned with expanding, only concerned with herself and her “personal choice.” I don’t like that I can’t mow my grass at 6am, I don’t like that she can’t leave her dog off leash if she wants, I don’t like that Google most of the time gives me what it wants to give me or that it knows where I am and why 24 hours a day.

Contract or expand? It’s different and dynamic for each of us. What we choose today might not be our choice tomorrow.

I think my point is that we choose with intention. After watching these films, the real problem seems to me that we are unaware of this expanding/contracting decision. It’s vital we know there’s a choice to be made. We can give & receive OR we can leave our dogs off leash, so what about you, your dog or what either of you think. But if we can’t see the paths in front of us, then we’re simply being herded into the nearest enclosure based on algorithms and apathy.

We just get this 1 life and it’s way too short to not pay attention. It’s also way too precious to spend it selfishly. So, let’s make room for each other, love someone, and put a leash on our dogs.

What It Sounds Like — October 4, 2021

What It Sounds Like

I am now 46, safely passing Wednesday without much disruption. I’ve been waiting for a mid-life crisis that never seems to come. Maybe next year.

This morning, as I walked on the treadmill, I half-watched the news on one of the overhead screens. (Is there really nowhere I can be free from media??) The first story was a guy in the highest position of leadership in this country passionately detailing coming vaccination mandates and the importance of such a mandate. And the second story I saw was that same guy, with exactly the same passion, commenting on last weekend’s gatherings in support of a woman’s right to her own body. He was quite indignant that, yes, of course we should have the right to do what we want with our bodies without any government involvement. After all, why would those people have the power to dictate what happens in each citizen’s own body? Why, indeed.

I recognize that there are probably many many reasons why these 2 topics are wildly different and to push a mandate on my body while arguing against a mandate on my body is totally consistent. But there are two things about that.

First, it’d be supercool if there was some sort of admission that, on the surface, it does at least sound like the positions might be in conflict with the other. Instead of ignoring the superficial similarities, pretending that we haven’t simply changed the words like political musical chairs. It’s interesting that one party can say my body, my choice AND forced vaccines for everybody while the other can fight just as strongly to keep your needles away from my body AND the ability to control what goes on with another’s pregnancy. Both borrow the main argument of protecting the vulnerable when it suits.

Second, and faaaar more important, is the very clear illustration that these issues are deeper and more complex than can accurately be conveyed in sound bites, sandwich boards, and shouted cliches. The fact that both sides of the aisle can argue the very same point about where & when the rights to our own bodies begin & end should give us a level of understanding & compassion that would allow authentic human discussion. You would think that “protecting the vulnerable” could/would translate into common ground, giving the impression that we might not be as far apart as we previously believed.

Again, I know I’m not the brightest man on earth and you might have a thousand ways to condescend to my elementary analogy here. (But you don’t have to.) I don’t want us to argue anymore, to shout our certainly valid points (whichever ones we are tightly holding) at each other anymore, but I do want to start talking. I do want us to sit down at tables and listen instead of continuing this silly propensity of ours to feed our insatiable need to win at all costs. I do want to find some consistency in a shared humanity. I do want to acknowledge that the divisions we’ve been sold might not be quite so wide.

After all, we can all agree on Tiger King and that’s something.

46 — September 27, 2021

46

This Wednesday is my 46th birthday.

As birthdays so often do, that new number brings with it a certain amount of conflicting emotions. I am no longer 20, can no longer be considered a young man. In fact, even with what has always been a bit of a baby face, I am no longer mistaken for being significantly younger than I am. That’s not too awesome. I have so many lines on my face and gray hairs in the growth on my face (but not on my head…I have been shaving that since before I started to lose it).

I’ve learned quite a lot and have become a very different person than I was yesterday, much less 20 years ago. That is pretty awesome.

Here’s a cool example from last week that illustrates the distance traveled. I re-connected with an old friend, after 10ish years. We spent a bagel together catching up and she had so thoroughly figured me and all of my many sins/inadequacies/fears/broken parts out that she felt an offer to extend her perhaps considerable psychological talents to help me was in order.

Now, I happen to believe relationship is a pre-requisite for unsolicited diagnosis, trust a foundation for mentorship, but that’s sort of besides the point here.

The point is that for most of my life, I would have immediately defended myself and my character, giving detailed examples to prove my position. My stomach would churn for days, maybe weeks, and I would drag this ridiculously meaningless dance out for at least that long. I would neeeed the other to see my side.

But when I got her offer Saturday, I thanked her and will not respond again. AND I slept like a baby Saturday night, after thanking God for bringing me along slowly until I could walk away without a second thought of if I had “won” or, more importantly, if I was liked. I would have given this person the keys to my peace & happiness, but at 46, I simply don’t care. It doesn’t matter if she ever knows the truth about me and who I am here, now, today. Some people won’t, and that is ok.

At 46, I have many trusted people in my life who love me and exercise an unreasonable concern for my heart. Maybe that’s why every year is better and better, my circle is expanding. The Angel, these boys, this family, this faith community, these neighbors, you. You know, if you asked me when I was 18 to dream of a wonderful life, I could not have come anywhere close to the beauty of this one and the absolutely overwhelming blessing of it all. Of course, it hasn’t been easy or without heartbreak, floods of tears, or tragedy. I haven’t erased the depression or the issues in my head. But it has been real and it has been full. I have loved and I have been loved.

I’ve learned to release my grip on how you see me, what you think of me, what I should do, who I should be, and instead jump from the top of that hell into the wildly loving arms of a Savior and an endless sea of others who will not only catch me, but walk with me every step. I’ve learned to believe what is true about me rather than the nasty destructive lying voices that have always been in my head (more or less;). I can give the keys to me back where they belong.

46 is a lot of years full of days, moments, and all I can really say is that I’m grateful. So if today is my last day or if I get 46 more years, it will have been, as it is right now, a very, very good life.