so what’s the issue?

Last week we asked the following:

Naming no specific persons or parties, why do you believe America is headed on the wrong track?

Your responses — publicly and privately — were fascinating and insightful. I always appreciate even the most private conversation. I admire the one who asks more questions. And I sincerely respect the one who knows they don’t know it all. 

Duly noted, this topic is huge. So let’s dive deeper. Let’s be a little more particular. Let’s get to what’s maybe more tangible and wise to wrestle with.

Let me first again state the added ground rule of omitting references to a specific person or party. Note that the reason for said ground rule is to minimize the tension and emotion often sparked in the specifics, so that we can actually dialogue. When we dialogue, we make progress. When we make progress, solution becomes possible. 

I want to wrestle with specific issues. No judgment. No blame. Just the issue itself.

Without naming a specific person, party, or a political position, what is the greatest issue facing our country today?

It’s a slight tweak on our most recent question in regard to right track/wrong track; that’s a little broader. My desire is to become more distinct.

What one issue, from your perspective, currently plagues our country most?

Climate change?

Government size?

Gun control?

Mental health?

Religious freedom?

Don’t allow me to suggest one issue or another. We each hail from varied perspectives; hence, our perception of what plagues us most will undoubtedly be different. There are so many possible answers.

Please feel free then to suggest any issue. If possible, try to avoid simply stating a political position. For example, believing that foreign threats or terrorism currently plagues our country, I might identify the specific issue as: “Too many terrorists are currently plotting to destroy us.” 

Then, if possible to answer, here’s a tempting sub-question:

Concisely as possible, what needs to be done to solve the issue?

Again, resist the urge to blame another. The goal is progress — not continued finger pointing.

The means, my friends, is respectful dialogue.

Since so often respect is absent and dialogue shuts down — and since so often even the intelligent justify insult — and since so often so much impedes actual solution — let’s focus on the “it” and not the “who.” Let’s focus on the actual issue. When we target the “who,” we often impede progress.

So what’s the issue? What’s the greatest issue facing our country today?



pausing for Decoration Day

Prior to our next post following up on soliciting right track/wrong track/tough topic feedback, allow us to pause for a moment for Memorial Day. I’ll be honest; sometimes our federal holidays don’t prompt in me the reflection and forethought they deserve. For example… 

On the 4th of July, I don’t always find myself pondering and giving thanks for our nation’s Declaration of Independence from British rule…

Labor Day signifies more to me the official end to summer than any thought of the working people who have added to the strength and well-being of our country…

And Columbus Day? Yes, I’ve seen the appeal by some to change its name to “Indigenous Peoples’ Day.” And while I wish for all heritage to be honored, with truly all due respect, I’m pretty sure that floating Monday in October will remain a day where my primary awareness is having an extra day off in an otherwise busy week.

Not so, no less, with today. Well, tomorrow actually…

Observed every year on the last Monday of May is Memorial Day, a day in which we honor and remember those who have died serving in the United States Armed Forces. The day is less commonly called “Decoration Day,” denoting the practice of adorning the grave of a fallen soldier.

151 years ago — a wild thought to even imagine — then Ohio congressman, former general, and future President James Garfield addressed a crowd of 5,000 at Arlington National Cemetery for the first Decoration Day exercises. I love how he starts with how any actual speech on this day far pales in comparison to who we honor on the day…

“I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion. If silence is ever golden, it must be here beside the graves of fifteen thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung. With words we make promises, plight faith, praise virtue. Promises may not be kept; plighted faith may be broken; and vaunted virtue be only the cunning mask of vice. We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke; but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue. For the noblest man that lives, there still remains a conflict. He must still withstand the assaults of time and fortune, must still be assailed with temptations, before which lofty natures have fallen; but with these the conflict ended, the victory was won, when death stamped on them the great seal of heroic character, and closed a record which years can never blot…

I love to believe that no heroic sacrifice is ever lost; that the characters of men are molded and inspired by what their fathers have done… Each for himself gathered up the cherished purposes of life — its aims and ambitions, its dearest affections — and flung all, with life itself, into the scale of battle.

… If each grave had a voice to tell us what its silent tenant last saw and heard on earth, we might stand, with uncovered heads, and hear the whole story of the war. We should hear that one perished when the first great drops of the crimson shower began to fall, when the darkness of that first disaster at Manassas fell like an eclipse on the Nation; that another died of disease while wearily waiting for winter to end; that this one fell on the field… The voices of these dead will forever fill the land like holy benedictions…”

As with other national holidays, it is easy to transform the meaning of a holiday into something seemingly lesser. In fact, I love the thought that Memorial Day is simultaneous with the start of summer — the fun, frolic, rest and relaxation that comes with the season.

But let us not forget those who “flung all, with life itself, into the scale of battle.” Let us not forget the silent tenants of those graves.

Let us first pause and give thanks before any summer festivity, ensuring those heroic sacrifices are never lost. Those men and women, who died while serving, did what they did then so you and I could do what we do now. 

That is worth always remembering.



wrong track?

So on the heels of our most recent discussion, allow me first a brief shout out…

On Sunday we talked about America’s abortion debate. That’s not a subject in which our country consistently dialogues respectfully, and yet, hearing from many of you publicly and privately, I witnessed numerous dialogues laced with significant diversity, courteous communication, with varied conviction. Yes, there is hope (and need) for respectful dialogue.

With such a backdrop, allow me another challenging, but worthwhile subject to ponder. However, for participation in this conversation, I’d like to humbly request one additional ground rule…

One ground rule. Two questions. 

Question #1 comes today. Question #2 comes Sunday. Allow me first to set the backdrop…

For years pollsters have asked respondents where they think we’re heading. Are we going in the “right direction” or are we on the “wrong track”?

Currently (merging the data of the Economist, Harvard-Harris, Investor’s Business Daily, Politico, Rasmussen, and Reuters), only 39% of us believe the country is going in the right direction. 56.3% of us believe we are on the wrong track.

Prior to any “told-you-so’s” or fist bumps in the current, volatile, socio-political climate, let me add some relevant historical data…

At the beginning of January 2016, the differential was somewhat greater. 24% of us believed the country was going in the right direction; 65.7% perceived us on the wrong track.

At the beginning of January 2014, those numbers were 30.1% in the right direction and 63.3% on the wrong track.

At the beginning of January of 2012, the numbers were 24.5% in the right direction — 70% on the wrong track.

And at the beginning of January of 2010, 35.9% of the country believed we were going in the right direction — 56.7% in the wrong. Note: those numbers are almost identical to today.

So here’s my observation…

Noting that the numbers 9 years ago are almost identical to today, the perception that our country is going in the wrong direction is not based on any singular party or personality. In fact, data shows a solid wrong direction perception for well over two decades. Americans get that something is deeply wrong. We know this isn’t working.

Hence, first the ground rule — in addition to being respectful, of course: 

Please name no names and no parties. Make no references to specific people.

Then, the first of two questions…

Why do you believe America is headed on the wrong track? In other words, what’s wrong?

(Or if you don’t believe such, why do you not?)

Be respectful. Be semi-brief. But be sincere; what do you think? Feel free to reach out to me publicly or privately — private message, email, comment or text. Let’s see what one another thinks. 

Next post will pose Question #2. It’s a little more targeted, asking for feedback on specific issues, utilizing similar ground rules.

But this process makes me ponder…

If we adhere to the ground rules, could we actually ease the tension? And if we could actually ease the tension, could we make more progress on the issues?

Ah, more great questions…



America’s abortion debate

So how do we navigate through an issue that’s laced with passion, emotion and conviction? How do we talk about a topic that is nothing short of a rhetorical, ticking time bomb?

The so-called “sides” aren’t talking; they don’t seem to know how to any more. Hence, they only insult and scream. 

But geesh… we can’t even agree on who the “sides” are…

Pro-Life vs. Pro-Choice

Pro-Choice vs. Anti-Choice

Pro-Abortion vs. Pro-Life

Pro-Women vs. Pro-Birth

We even fight about what to call each other. We then judge the other side, exonerating self in our decision to stop listening to, learn from, and sadly, respect.

Friends, walk with me here for a minute, through the ticking time bomb. I pray my gentleness and respect will be evident to all.

Throughout my life I’ve been in different places on this issue. I have grieved with those who have made the choice — and grieved with those who did not. I have grieved the stoppage of a beating heart — and I have grieved the lack of compassion offered to one who has stopped it.

I am troubled, too, by the extremes. As with most issues, there are extensive middle perspectives. Adherers of these convictions are typically more silent than the rest, as the extremes are always louder. But on abortion, especially, that middle is incredibly messy. 

According to Pew Research, about 20% of America believes abortion should be illegal in every and all circumstances and about 30% of America believes it should be legal in every and all circumstances. That means the 20% would not allow abortion in cases of rape and incest, and the 30% would allow abortion any time in those nine months. That leaves 50% of us somewhere in the messy in-between.

I mentioned that throughout my life I’ve been in different places on this issue. The primary reason I have had trouble discerning what I believe and having peace with my own conviction is because I have been deeply disturbed by the behavior of those 20 and 30 percent.

There are all sorts of angles to consider here… the angle of the mother… the father… the baby, fetus (or whatever name one considers most expedient to support their perspective)… not only those three, but also the angle of the great big God of the universe. What does he require of us?

My sense is the reason for the screaming is the tendency to accentuate solely one of the above angles. So let me humbly ask the obvious: aren’t all angles in play?

What would happen if each of us learned to consider the other three angles?

Would we learn more? Would we grow? Would we come to a solution?

We don’t have to necessarily change our conviction or opinion, but wouldn’t it be wiser if we actually had compassion for all?

I get it. It’s a tough issue; it’s hard to talk about. It’d be far easier to ignore and insult instead of wade through the ticking time bombs.

But I believe in respect and compassion for all. That’s not the same as compromise, as it remains true; we can’t “split the baby in half,” so-to-speak.

But we can learn to listen better.

We can learn to have more compassion.

And we can learn in making our gentleness and respect evident to all.



Harvard. Smart?

So let’s start today with the end in mind. Let’s “reverse engineer” — noting the solid engineering schools across the country — including Harvard — as we start where we typically end… with ten questions already in mind…

  • What are we doing?
  • Can we no longer tolerate moral difference?
  • If one person engages in a legal activity that is perceived as “trauma-inducing” to another, must the first person be stopped?
  • Is what’s trauma-inducing for one therefore trauma-inducing for all?
  • Can you or I decide what’s right for everyone else?
  • Is everyone deserving of due process?
  • Does the “unpopular defendant” deserve legal representation?
  • Are collegiate administrations exuding wisdom on the college campus?
  • Are we teaching twenty-somethings how to grow up?
  • And what’s the right response to a protest?

On Saturday Harvard College Dean Rakesh Khurana removed spouses Ron Sullivan and Stephanie Robinson from their respective dean positions on campus. They were co-faculty dean of Winthrop House. They were also the first African-Americans to serve in this position.

Sullivan has an extensive, admirable, professional resume — including roles as an advisor to then Sen. Barack Obama on criminal justice issues and representation of Michael Brown’s family in their suit against the city of Ferguson, Missouri. Sullivan’s past clients have included accused murderers and terrorists, consistent with the constitutional right that any accused of a crime deserves legal representation.

In the past year, no less, Sullivan also signed on to serve as part of the legal team representing Harvey Weinstein, the disgraced Hollywood producer who now stands accused of multiple rape and sexual assault charges. Note that for many, Weinstein is the face behind the commencement of the #MeToo movement. What he is accused of doing is vicious and vile.

Some students then proceeded to launch a protest, demanding Sullivan’s removal from Harvard’s Winthrop House. One called his presence “deeply trauma-inducing.” As the New York Times wrote, “Many students expressed dismay, saying that his decision to represent a person accused of abusing women disqualified Mr. Sullivan from serving in a role of support and mentorship to students.” The point was that Sullivan’s credibility was not only damaged, but he was now deemed incapable of supporting or serving. He should thus not be allowed to oversee the Harvard house since he chose to represent the accused.

Note the following two, editorial responses. First, from Reason, which leans moderately right: 

“… This is a disaster. The administration has endorsed the ridiculous notion that serving as legal counsel for a person accused of sexual misconduct is itself a form of sexual misconduct, or at the very least contributes to sexual harassment on campus. It is no exaggeration to say that Khurana has undermined one of the most important principles of modern, enlightened justice. He should be ashamed of himself.

By caving to the mob, Harvard has shown student-activists that it takes seriously their demands for a kind of broadly-defined safety that includes protection from ideas they don’t like. This outcome will undoubtedly embolden them.”

And second from The Atlantic, which leans moderately left: 

“… Harvard administrators were warned about the unavoidable conflict between upholding an important civic normthat legal representation for even the most reviled is a service to the community, not a transgression against it — and giving in to the demands of the undergraduates most aggrieved by their faculty dean’s choice of clients. And rather than infer a responsibility of the extremely privileged to uphold civic norms for the benefit of those in society who most need them, this institution, which purports to educate future leaders, chose to prioritize transient discomfort felt by its most aggrieved students…

… Protecting the norms around the right to counsel is orders of magnitude more important than the ‘unenlightened or misplaced’ discomfort of some Harvard undergraduatesdiscomfort rooted in difficulty tolerating moral difference…”

The moderate right and left seem to agree. So let’s revisit the question…

What are we doing?



do you really value all people?

No doubt navigating through current cultural conversations is often like tiptoeing through terrains liberally laced with landmines. Use the word “Trump” at any time, and chances are ears will perk up and emotions will be immediately heightened.

Bring up McConnell, Pelosi, and/or Schumer; the odds of respectful dialogue will most likely go downhill quickly. It gets worse; watch for the utilization of words such as “bigot,” “extremist,” or “Socialist.” Maybe even “Hitler.” There has to be a reason the other person is entirely wrong.

Yes, current cultural conversations are really, really difficult. But if we are going to truly value all people — which people on both the left and right say they want to do or claim to do — then that means we have to quit dismissing another as entirely wrong. When we dismiss another as entirely wrong, we are not valuing all people.

Hence, conversation is vital… even when it’s hard.

Let’s return once more to the wise words of Stephen Covey. How can we utilize his seven proclaimed habits in order to have more effective, respectful conversation? And yes… even when it’s hard.

[Utilizing the quoted insights here of Dr. Tammy Lenski, who teaches individuals and groups how to untangle disagreements and build dynamic partnerships by engaging conflict effectively. Note her written words are italicized below. All emphasis is mine.]

Habit 1: Be Proactive

… In conflict, too many people mistakenly assume that they have no real hope of changing the relationship they have with the other person… When you make that assumption, you postpone or avoid the important conversation that could change matters. When you act proactively in a conflict situation, you step up to the difficult conversation rather than avoiding it. Avoidance of important conversation usually allows frustration to fester and the divide to widen…

Habit 2: Begin with the End in Mind

… In difficult conversations, you want to have a “big picture” image of success before you start the conversation. It’s worth advance thought before simply plunging in. The end you want to visualize shouldn’t be one in which the other person “sees the light,” changes their opinion, or does things your way. Worthwhile ends include preserving the relationship, minimizing the debris of ongoing conflict…

Habit 3: Put First Things First

Putting first things first means attending to your priorities before you attend to lesser matters. In difficult conversations, you want to focus on the most important topics and avoid getting side-tracked by less important matters, pet peeves, and minor annoyances…

Habit 4: Think Win/Win

This is basic conflict management 101. If you enter your most important conversations with the intent to win at the other person’s expense, then you risk prolonged and entrenched conflict and greater harm to the relationship. The win/win approach invites you to consider the conversation as a joint exploration into what could work for both of you. While this kind of conversation takes longer to accomplish, you’ll usually save emotional energy and time in the long run.

Habit 5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood  {Yeah, we aren’t too collectively good at this…}

In difficult conversations, you may be tempted to spend your energy telling. Telling the other person what they did wrong, what the impact was on you, what you’d like them to do differently. While some of this may be important for them to hear in order to understand the impact of the situation on you, it is a mistake to begin there. And it’s a costly mistake if both of you try to begin there, since the resulting “telling tug of war” will make the conversation messier than it need be. Instead, try entering your difficult conversations with genuine curiosity.Make it your first priority to understand the other person’s perspective, even if you don’t agree to it. Real attention to understanding is likely to yield new information that can help you resolve the problem.

Habit 6: Synergize

Synergy is the interaction of individuals for greater combined effect than any one person would have on their own. Truly effective conflict management is all about synergy. Different values, opinions, and perspectives, when viewed as opportunity instead of a problem, allow families and organizations to build on their joint strengths and minimize the individual weaknesses…

Habit 7: Sharpen the Saw

… Sharpening the saw is the act of self-renewal, learning, and personal growth. In dialogue terms, sharpening the saw means practicing your habits in low-stakes situations so that they’re more accessible to you when you need them most. It means learning how to manage yourself well in difficult moments… When you stretch yourself and practice when the stakes are low, you help your mind respond better in those trying moments.

Do we really value all people? 

My sense is how we converse will give some indication.



Note: Please see Dr. Lenski’s full comments at . Many thanks to you, Dr. Lenski, for your wisdom and insight!

my generation believes… (part 2)

Reading “The Generational Imperative,” many moments, I stood still… lots to ponder…

“What is this ‘Generations’ Thing?…

The good news about this stuff? It’s really easy to get.

The premise of generational dynamics is simple. It is based upon three well-researched, universally accepted, and easy-to-understand truths:

Truth #1: Between the time we’re born and the time we leave the full-time classroom for adulthood and our career years, usually in our early twenties, we will form most of the core values and beliefs we’ll embrace our entire lives… by sharing the same core values, we will become a generation, or what the intellectuals like to call an ‘age cohort’… 

Truth #2: In the past century, life in America has changed frequently, and often in sharply new directions… for the first time in history, American life expectancy now permits five living generations, each of whose formative years were notably different from the other generations and whose core values, as a result, are also very different.

Truth #3: Our generational core values and attitudes are going to exert astonishing influence over our consumer decisions, career choices, and lifestyle preferences for life. So if marketers want to influence those decisions, and if employers want to maximize their human resources in the workplace, and if Americans want to understand themselves and their families and their fellow Americans, then they must understand each generation’s unique core values.”

Some initial, immediate, key takeaways…

Each generation is unique.

Their core values are unique.

What happened to each generation in their formative years is also unique; it shaped what they believe and how they behave.

Note — and an important one at that — no generation is better nor worse than another; instead, it is unique. Hence, if we are going to be engagers of respectful dialogue, we must learn to communicate with, listen and learn from the unique. 

So let’s highlight that uniqueness…

First, those Silents (born between 1927-1945)… “as consumers, they are richer, freer spending, less brand loyal, and more receptive to advertising and new products than the generations that previously occupied their current age bracket.” As employees, “many Silents are working beyond the traditional recruitment age, at least part-time…”

Next, those Boomers (born between 1946-1964)… “First-Wave Boomer kids (1946-1954) are raised by stay-at-home mothers who consider themselves democratic and tolerant. Their fathers become the rock-solid provider figures in their lives… and… after spending their early childhood in the carefree and innocent Happy Days of the 50’s, that cocktail — that recipe of idealism and a strong sense of right and wrong — goes a long way in explaining one the most tumultuous periods, but also one of the most socially enlightening periods, in our nation’s history…”

“Generation X. It is not a derogatory label… The premise is this: This generation is so individualistic in its thinking and so diverse in its ethnicities and lifestyles that it tends to resist any single label, and it resents attempts by marketers and advertisers to pigeonhole it… GenXers also experience the most psychologically difficult childhood in American history, as one adult institution after another fails to deliver on its promises to them”…

And the Millennials (again, don’t call them “Gen Z”!) — noting that we don’t have enough distinct, decision-making info on the upcoming Gen Y yet — the Millennials are a “dramatic departure from the core values and attitudes of Gen X, because Millennials are experiencing dramatically different formative years. Where Gen X children had been the least adult-supervised generation, Millennials are the most adult-supervised”…

I will say what I said on Sunday: “Generational differences are not about right vs. wrong or better vs. worse. Once more, it’s about learning how to respect and communicate with those who are different than we.” Friends, we need to learn to communicate with those who are different than we. Generations mark a significant difference.

Will you join in the conversation? Will you be intentional in listening and learning from those who are different than we?



my generation believes… (part 1)

From this week’s reading…

“At ‘Cooker Bar & Grille’ in Columbus, Ohio, one evening in the mid-1980’s, ten of us filled a big long booth for dinner. We had all become new acquaintances at a recent party thrown by a bunch of unattached, high-achieving career women who worked obsessively at the corporate headquarters of ‘The Limited.’ For a decade, these workaholic ladies had seldom taken time to socialize but finally declared enough! They threw a Wednesday evening poolside party at a condo complex, telling each other to invite any guy friends they knew on the theory that ‘one woman’s trash might be another woman’s treasure.’ A buddy of mine overheard their party-planning discussion at a T.G.I. Friday’s restaurant and phoned me on their behalf to invite me, adding, ‘They’ll probably even welcome a guy like you.’ Hmmm. I went to the party and promptly befriended a gaggle of dynamic women, as well as a couple of the guys who had come.

Soon after the party came that night at ‘Cooker’ with the ten of us. The restaurant booth seemed too long for a group conversation, so we splintered into mini-chats. I found myself sitting across the booth from one of the guys who had attended the party, a local architect who is about fifteen years my senior. I don’t even remember what we were discussing, but at one point I said to him, ‘You know, Pat, I’ll bet you and I feel differently about this topic because you and I came of age during different times.

As he and I explored that thought, the other talk around the booth gradually came to a halt, as the other members of the group first listened and then wanted to weigh in on our discussion. When they did, the conversation ignited.

What followed were several hours of explosive and riveting discussion, all of it coming from a point of view none of us had ever considered and knew a thing about.

MY generation! YOUR generation! 

My generation believes THIS!  Well, mine believes THAT! 

Well, I think your generation is wrong! Well, I think we’re right!

At the end of the evening, I left the restaurant scratching my head and asking myself, ‘What the heck just happened in there?’”

Friends, it is no secret that the Intramuralist deeply desires to promote and encourage interactive, respectful dialogue. We wish to be a humble part of the solution, encouraging the consideration of those points of view we don’t know a thing about.

That said, I find myself pondering the plethora of communication obstacles that impede respectful dialogue… surely it’s more than Democrats vs. Republicans… Jews vs. anti-Semites… chickens vs. chicken-eaters on Capitol Hill… more than just those perceived cultural pittings which garner the most (and often, too-much) attention.

This past week I finished a great book recommended by a wise friend which offered increased insight in that area: “The Generational Imperative” by Chuck Underwood. Truthfully, it’s an area I have never pondered quite so thoughtfully.

Underwood is an author, speaker, teacher, trainer, and former ESPN college play-by-play announcer. He is also considered an eminent authority in generational study. Sharing nuggets such as… 

The Silent Generation — those born between 1927-1945 — is described as “the generation born too late to be World War II heroes and too soon to immerse themselves in the social activism of the 1960s.”

The Boomers — born between 1946-1964 — they are the generation that, as Silent Frank Kaiser wrote, “squeezes life for all generations.” They like to think that they are always still young.

Gen Xers — born between 1965-1981 — is a smaller generation, very individualistic, and the first generation that grew up with a distrust of previously trusted, societal institutions.

And the Millenials — born between 1982 and into the mid 2000s — (don’t call them “Gen Y”) — is massive. They are also the most adult-supervised generation, pretty pessimistic about the country’s direction, and feel tons of educational/grade pressure. 

[Info on Gen Z is still being formulated.]

Friends, these are mere snippets of info, but the reality is that there is significant variance between generations in regard to what they value, how they work, and how they communicate, and thus, how best to communicate with them. Generational differences are not about right vs. wrong or better vs. worse. Once more, it’s about learning how to respect and communicate with those who are different than we.

Stay tuned for part 2 on Wednesday.



the most complex thing in the universe

It’s the tallest building in the Western Hemisphere — the sixth tallest in the world… 

I remember seeing One World Trade Center — also known as the Freedom Tower — four months after it opened in November of 2014. So much about its construction and characteristics were so incredibly, intentionally designed [as described by the 9/11 Memorial and Museum,  “Reader’s Digest” and “Just Fun Facts”]:

It has the same name as the North Tower of the original World Trade Center.

The cornerstone was laid on the fourth of July.

The building has a cubic base and its edges form eight isosceles triangles. Near its middle, the tower forms a perfect octagon. 

It stands 1776 feet tall — same as the year the Declaration of Independence was signed.

It occupies a 200-foot square, with an area of 40,000 square feet, nearly identical to the Twin Towers.

It contains 49,000 cubic yards of concrete, enough to pave more than 200 miles of NYC sidewalks. [Note: 200 miles approximates to 4,000 New York City blocks.]

The structure and interior is built from recycled materials, including gypsum boards and ceiling tiles; around 80% of the tower’s waste products are recycled.

It has 103 floors, 71 of which are office space.

There are 71 elevators — with five express elevators having a top speed of more than 23 miles per hour. That means that an elevator can go from the ground floor to the 102nd floor in just 60 seconds!

The observation deck begins at 1,362 feet, and a glass parapet extends to 1,368 feet — the exact height of the South and North Towers.

Adjacent to the building, are two large square pools — each with a waterfall — standing in the exact spots of the twin towers; every one of the victims’ names of 9/11 is inscribed on the sides of the pools.

It took four years to plan and over seven years to actually build. When I think of all the intentionality invested in that design, I stand in awe. It’s impossible not to acknowledge the creativity of those who created it.

And yet… if we’re honest… the Freedom Tower and its constructional peers are not the most intricate nor elaborate creations on the planet. 

Everything has a creator, friends. As a wise friend demonstrated for me recently, you can’t take a box of Legos, shake them together for a while, and have some marvelous creation come out. There is an inherent intentionality that exists.

So why do we believe that the most complex thing in the universe happened by chance?

The most complex thing in the universe is you and me.

I realize that sometimes we have trouble seeing God, his presence, and role. Sometimes we confuse man-made religion with following him. Sometimes people get in the way. Sometimes it’s an emotion or a circumstance that gets in the way for us. Sometimes it’s science — although I love what brilliant, widely-respected NASA scientist Dr. Robert Jastrow once said, “Science doesn’t disprove God; it simply explains how God did what he did”… it explains how he created the most complex thing in the universe.

Friends, let me be sensitive to the struggles each of us have had in our unbelief; no doubt this is a journey. But if we can stand in awe of the creators of a symbolic, beautiful building, let self and individual struggle not keep us from an acknowledgement of the only one actually capable of designing you and me.

Let me say once more, it is a journey. There’s a ton of growth and grace in that journey… intentionality, too.

Respectfully… always…