fighting climate change

[Note: due to illness, the Intramuralist is offering one weekend column which I believed raised significant, valid, respectful questions. I’m not sure I agree or disagree, but remember that agreeing or disagreeing is not necessarily most important. This editorial did make me think. I like to think. It was written by Glenn Harlan Reynolds, a University of Tennessee law professor and member of USA TODAY’s Board of Contributors.]

So last week President Trump pulled out of the Paris climate agreement — to the extent that one can pull out of an agreement that’s not actually legally binding, anyway. This left some people upset.

But if climate change is really such a crisis, and if sacrifice on our part is needed to stop it, then why aren’t we seeing more sacrifice from people who think it’s a problem?
That’s what one person asked on Twitter: “What if climate scientists decided, as a group, to make their conferences all virtual? No more air travel. What a statement!” And what if academics in general — most of whom think climate change is a big deal — started doing the same thing to make an even bigger statement?

It would be big. And what if politicians and celebrities stopped jetting around the world — often on wasteful private jets instead of flying commercial with the hoi polloi — as a statement of the importance of fighting climate change?
And what if politicians and celebrities lived in average-sized houses, to reduce their carbon footprints?  What if John Kerry, who was much put out by Trump’s action, gave up his yacht-and-mansions lifestyle?
What if, indeed? One reason why so many people don’t take climate change seriously is that the people who are constantly telling us it’s a crisis never actually act like it’s a crisis. They’re all-in for sacrifices by other people, but never seem to make much in the way of sacrifices themselves.
Well, some might say, that’s why we need laws. Even people who are deeply concerned about climate change lack the self-discipline to change their behavior. So we need discipline to be imposed, by the force of government.

Well, okay. Since some states and cities are promising to live by the Paris agreement anyway, and since Trump’s rejection of that agreement doesn’t mean that Congress is forbidden to act, I have some proposals for legislation that will take climate change seriously indeed.

First, we need to tax the “blue zones.” That is, we need to impose steep taxes on property in coastal areas that will be flooded by the sea-level increases that global warming is supposed to bring. By discouraging people from living or building there now, we’ll save ourselves from big problems in the future. Sure it’ll drive down property values, but those values should go down — they’re values for property that’s going to be flooded anyway, remember?

Second, we need to ban taxpayer-funded air travel to conferences. State legislatures could ban reimbursement for travel outside their states; Congress could require that no federal grant money be spent on air travel to conferences and similar events. A lot of academic conferences would fail, but that’s a small price to pay for saving the planet.  And besides, it will encourage the development of Internet-based conference alternatives. A whole new industry might result: Green jobs!

Third, we need to ban private jet travel. At first I thought about just taxing it heavily, but with the planet at stake, that might not be enough. It’s nice that John Travolta can have his own Boeing 707, or that Leonardo DiCaprio can jet around the world speaking against climate change, but the carbon emissions involved set a bad example that outweighs anything he might say. So no more private jets. Bigshots will just have to fly commercial like everyone else, the way they did in the 1950s. (And sorry, Leo, but massive yachts have to go, too). Politicians, too, should have to fly commercial. No more government-funded “executive jets” for them.

Fourth, we need a luxury tax on mansions. Any home more than twice the size of the average American home should be taxed at 25% of its value per year. Celebrities and the rich enjoy great powers of persuasion — but with great power comes great responsibility, and they have a great responsibility to set a good example for the rest of us on climate change!

These proposals are just the beginning, and I’m sure that enterprising members of Congress and various state legislatures can come up with more. But the important thing is to set a good example: Treat climate change like the crisis you say it is, and maybe more people will believe that it really is a crisis.

Respectfully…
AR

dear graduate

Two years ago, when my oldest son graduated from high school, I penned most of this post. As son #2 experienced the pomp and circumstance so sweetly yesterday, I sat down to craft something new. Yet as I reread the below, I was pretty sure this still needed to be said. Hence…

Dear Graduate,

For everything there is a season, a time for every activity under heaven.
A time to be born and a time to die. A time to plant and a time to harvest.
A time to kill and a time to heal. A time to tear down and a time to build up.
A time to cry and a time to laugh. A time to grieve and a time to dance.
A time to scatter stones and a time to gather stones. A time to embrace and a time to turn away.
A time to search and a time to quit searching. A time to keep and a time to throw away.
A time to tear and a time to mend. A time to be quiet and a time to speak.
A time to love and a time to hate. A time for war and a time for peace.

Now that you are formally entering adulthood, allow us to address a few more brief truths as you take these next few, albeit humongous steps…

First, there is that time for everything — every activity under heaven, every season under the sun. The reality is you will not enjoy nor desire each of these times. But one of the quiet truths in life is that how you respond to circumstance is typically more important than the circumstance itself. Such is a key to wisdom. Seek after wisdom. Always.

Remember that you have a choice in how to react; too many forget that. Instead of intentionally weighing the wisdom, it’s tempting to become self-focused or demanding. Resist that. Learn the difference between enjoy and embrace. When the time comes to tear down or turn away, embrace the time; when the time comes to grieve, grieve… dance, dance. Maybe even dance a lot. But remember that learning from the experience is most important. The wise one learns and grows from each season, even embracing that which is hard.

Second — and don’t let me shock you — but contrary to perhaps your long-held belief (or some fictional, parenting mantra) — you cannot be whatever you want to be. I’m sorry; remember: we are wrestling with reality. Similar to the Tooth Fairy, Easter Bunny, and jolly old St. Nick, there are a few things we’ve told you for some reason, that aren’t actually true.

You cannot be whatever or whoever you want. Also true is that you are not entitled to any of those desired positions. However, you can be something better. You can be all that God created you to be. Embrace your gifts. Utilize the individual, unique wiring within you — the wiring that makes you distinctly and beautifully, uniquely you! Don’t compare yourself to another, falling prey to society’s hollow teaching that another person’s wiring or set up is somehow better or worse than your own. Simply embrace your strengths and grow from your weaknesses. Quit attempting to cover them up. Seek God first; seek his intention for your life. Then be who he created you to be.

And third, our brief rapid fire of encouragement…

Love deeply. Offer grace generously. Never view grace and truth as opposites, as each can be applied in full measure. Always. Wash your sheets — at least before you have company. Don’t be selfish. Be slow to anger. Be fast to forgive. Be humble. Forgive again. And again and again. See the wisdom in forgiveness. Recognize that sometimes intelligence gets in the way. Don’t be bitter; you will be the only one harmed in the long run. Eat healthy. Know when to not. Don’t look out only for your own interests, but take an interest in others, as well. Separate the reds from the whites. Be charitable. Be noble. Save some; spend some; give some away. Don’t be afraid of sorrow. Recognize that you can feel sorrow and joy both at the same time. Turn off the XBOX. Sometimes. A lot of time. Value other people. Be sharpened by their differences. Chew with your mouth closed. Don’t ever think of equality with God as something to be grasped. Listen to the elderly; invest in the young. Bow and curtsy when appropriate. Open the door. Show respect — in what you say and how you think. Remember that respect does not mean accepting all as equally good and true. Know that all things are not equally good and true. Know when to be loud — when to be silent. Look another in the eye. Use your napkin. Watch what you put on Snapchat. Be discerning. Be aware that just because something feels good, it still may not be wise. Be prayerful. Figure the faith thing out; know that another can’t do it for you. And embrace each and every season shared above… the time to laugh… the time to cry… the time to grieve… and yes, that time to dance.

There is a time for everything. God has made everything beautiful for its own time.

Graduates, without a doubt, now is your time…

Sweetly, With a Special Salute to Our Grads…
AR

listen up, grads…

On Sunday, the Intramuralist will publish our annual wish to this year’s grads. Today, no less, let us borrow from the wise and witty words of others, beginning with that high school English teacher who spoke so poignantly years ago…

“The great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself.” — David McCullough, Jr.

“There is a good reason they call these ceremonies ‘commencement exercises.’ Graduation is not the end; it’s the beginning.” — Orrin Hatch

“Start where you are. Use what you have. Do what you can.” — Arthur Ashe

“It doesn’t matter that your dream came true if you spent your whole life sleeping.” — Jerry Zucker

“Keep in mind that neither success nor failure is ever final.” — Roger Babson

“There are no shortcuts to any place worth going.” — Beverly Sills

“You’ll find out that nothing that comes easy is worth a dime. As a matter of fact, I never saw a football player make a tackle with a smile on his face. Never.” — Woody Hayes

“Even if you are on the right track, you will get run over if you just sit there.” — Will Rogers

“If you can’t do the little things right, you will never do the big things right.” — Adm. William McRaven

“The best helping hand that you will ever receive is the one at the end of your own arm.” — Fred Dehner

“Things turn out best for the people who make the best out of the way things turn out.” — Art Linkletter

“The man who will use his skill and constructive imagination to see how much he can give for a dollar, instead of how little he can give for a dollar, is bound to succeed.” — Henry Ford

“You can’t live a perfect day without doing something for someone who will never be able to repay you.” — John Wooden

“Love the poor. Do you know the poor of your place, of your city? Find them. Maybe they are right in your own family.” — Mother Teresa

“You will never see a U-haul behind a hearse. You can’t take it with you.” — Denzel Washington

“I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” — Maya Angelou

“I have never let my schooling interfere with my education.” — Mark Twain

“Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm.” — Winston Churchill

“Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.” — Mahatma Ghandi

“The trouble with learning from experience is that you never graduate.” — Doug Larson

“Always have a purpose in life that is beyond position and money.” — Colin Powell

“To those of you who received honors, awards and distinctions, I say well done. And to the C students, I say you too may one day be president of the United States.” — George W. Bush

“Don’t ever confuse the two, your life and your work. The second is only part of the first.” — Anna Quindlen

“What we are is God’s gift to us. What we become is our gift to God.” — Eleanor Powell

“From my point of view, which is that of a storyteller, I see your life as already artful, waiting, just waiting and ready for you to make it art.” — Toni Morrison

“Your life is your story, and the adventure ahead of you is the journey to fulfill your own purpose and potential.” —Kerry Washington

“When you leave here, don’t forget why you came.” — Adlai Stevenson

So much behind… even more ahead…

Respectfully…
AR

the cummerbund

So many of the wisest people I know are also some of the most well-read. I’ve been thankful for their influence — and their consistent sharing that books are a great teacher. One of those books that contained some eye-opening concepts to me years ago is John Ortberg’s “The Life You’ve Always Wanted.” In it he coins a term oft repeated here: “impression management.” It’s the whole idea of: “what will people think?”

The pondering of that thought then influences what we do, what we wear, what we drive, who we engage with, what we say, and what we say on social media.

Imagine being freed from all that external influence…

Last week it was the end-of-year concert for my high school sons — my senior, in his final performance with his faithful friends, who have sang and danced and done life together these past several years — and my freshman, for whom every performance is a lesson in gratitude for us both, being always aware of how his so-called special needs never deter him from the stage; it just makes me thankful (… usually makes me cry a little, too…).

Let me be profoundly transparent…

School concerts are a wonderful, wonderful thing. I love seeing my children — and your children — up on that center stage. But school concerts, for years, have been a quiet, incredibly major source of stress for me. You see, concerts require a very specific attire: dress pants, dress shirts, dress shoes, etc. I get it; those boys and girls should look the part. But let me share that finding dress pants for a shorter, heavier adolescent is not easy. In fact, many of our past concert evenings found this simply-attempting-to-survive parent quietly crying in the afternoon. It was hard to find the clothes… it was hard to look right… it’s sometimes very difficult to fit in.

When he got to high school, they provided the individually-measured attire (yes, sheeewwwww…). And while maybe his tux was a tad out of proportion, the uniform relieved much of my previous stress. Josh put the pants and the shirt on at home; he put on the coat, bow tie, and cummerbund at school.

Let’s just say, cummerbunds aren’t typical wear for our family. Such was, shall we say, rather noticeable at the March concert, when Josh’s cummerbund showed up in the middle of his chest, a good 6-8” above his belt line. Understand that the tuxedo is a very handsome black; the cummerbund and bow tie are a very visible orange.

So for last week’s last concert, we had a bit of an intentional discussion beforehand. “Remember that the cummerbund goes here (motion to the belt line). It does not go here (horizontal motion to the center of his chest).”

Sure enough. Up comes the curtain, final concert of the year, Josh is his typical joyful self, proudly standing there, second row, right in the center, visible to all, and here is his bright orange cummerbund, smack dab in the middle of his chest once again. [Insert audible sigh here.]

What can I do? Nothing. But after song #1 of a three song set, the director promptly left his podium, walked up to the students, right toward Josh, and corrected the misplaced cummerbund. All eyes were on him. Even with a sweet, strong, beautiful relationship between director and student, it had every potential for embarrassment.

But not for Josh.

Josh gently raised his arms, allowed the director to adjust the necessary apparel, and then noticing that he was the center of attention for an unplanned moment, as Mr. Miller started walking away, Josh gave a quick shrug, an immediate smile, and then a fast, contagious dab. Yes, Josh dabbed. The crowd clapped and chuckled, embracing the joy young master Josh genuinely felt.

I have long thought that Josh does many things better than me. In fact, I would argue that sometimes, intelligence gets in the way for the rest of us. It causes us to miss some of the finer moments, be willing to sacrifice relationship, be embarrassed, and makes us far too conscious of impression management.

Josh simply doesn’t care. So often, he is wiser than me. He is a great teacher.

Respectfully…
AR

special

As promised, the Intramuralist will soon have some words for the graduate. Until then, let’s remember a few who’ve come before us, with wise and sometimes profound words, today from English teacher David McCullough Jr., delivered to the graduates of Wellesley (Mass.) High School in June of 2012…

… So here we are… commencement… life’s great forward-looking ceremony. (And don’t say, “What about weddings?” Weddings are one-sided and insufficiently effective. Weddings are bride-centric pageantry. Other than conceding to a list of unreasonable demands, the groom just stands there. No stately, hey-everybody-look-at-me procession. No being given away. No identity-changing pronouncement. And can you imagine a television show dedicated to watching guys try on tuxedos? Their fathers sitting there misty-eyed with joy and disbelief, their brothers lurking in the corner muttering with envy. Left to men, weddings would be… after limits-testing procrastination… spontaneous, almost inadvertent… during halftime… on the way to the refrigerator. And then there’s the frequency of failure: statistics tell us half of you will get divorced. A winning percentage like that’ll get you last place in the American League East. The Baltimore Orioles do better than weddings.)
But this ceremony… commencement… a commencement works every time. From this day forward… truly… in sickness and in health, through financial fiascos, through midlife crises and passably attractive sales reps at trade shows in Cincinnati, through diminishing tolerance for annoyingness, through every difference, irreconcilable and otherwise, you will stay forever graduated from high school… you and your diploma as one, ’til death do you part.
No, commencement is life’s great ceremonial beginning, with its own attendant and highly appropriate symbolism. Fitting, for example, for this auspicious rite of passage, is where we find ourselves this afternoon, the venue. Normally, I avoid clichés like the plague, wouldn’t touch them with a ten-foot pole, but here we are on a literal level playing field. That matters. That says something. And your ceremonial costume… shapeless, uniform, one-size-fits-all. Whether male or female, tall or short, scholar or slacker, spray-tanned prom queen or intergalactic X-Box assassin, each of you is dressed, you’ll notice, exactly the same. And your diploma… but for your name, exactly the same.
All of this is as it should be… because none of you is special.
You are not special. You are not exceptional.

Contrary to what your u9 soccer trophy suggests, your glowing seventh grade report card, despite every assurance of a certain corpulent purple dinosaur, that nice Mister Rogers and your batty Aunt Sylvia, no matter how often your maternal caped crusader has swooped in to save you… you’re nothing special.
Yes, you’ve been pampered, cosseted, doted upon, helmeted, bubble-wrapped. Yes, capable adults with other things to do have held you, kissed you, fed you, wiped your mouth, wiped your bottom, trained you, taught you, tutored you, coached you, listened to you, counseled you, encouraged you, consoled you and encouraged you again. You’ve been nudged, cajoled, wheedled and implored. You’ve been feted and fawned over and called sweetie pie. Yes, you have. And, certainly, we’ve been to your games, your plays, your recitals, your science fairs. Absolutely, smiles ignite when you walk into a room, and hundreds gasp with delight at your every tweet. Why, maybe you’ve even had your picture in the Townsman! And now you’ve conquered high school… and, indisputably, here we all have gathered for you, the pride and joy of this fine community, the first to emerge from that magnificent new building…

But do not get the idea you’re anything special. Because you’re not.
The empirical evidence is everywhere, numbers even an English teacher can’t ignore. Newton, Natick, Nee… I am allowed to say Needham, yes? …that has to be two thousand high school graduates right there, give or take, and that’s just the neighborhood Ns. Across the country no fewer than 3.2 million seniors are graduating about now from more than 37,000 high schools. That’s 37,000 valedictorians… 37,000 class presidents… 92,000 harmonizing altos… 340,000 swaggering jocks… 2,185,967 pairs of Uggs. But why limit ourselves to high school? After all, you’re leaving it. So think about this: even if you’re one in a million… on a planet of 6.8 billion that means there are nearly 7,000 people just like you. Imagine standing somewhere over there on Washington Street on Marathon Monday and watching sixty-eight hundred yous go running by. And consider for a moment the bigger picture… Your planet, I’ll remind you, is not the center of its solar system, your solar system is not the center of its galaxy, your galaxy is not the center of the universe. In fact, astrophysicists assure us the universe has no center; therefore, you cannot be it. Neither can Donald Trump… which someone should tell him… although the hair is quite a phenomenon.
“But, Dave,” you cry, “Walt Whitman tells me there is perfection in me also. Epictetus tells me I have the spark of Zeus!” And I don’t disagree. So that makes 6.8 billion examples of perfection, 6.8 billion sparks of Zeus. You see, if everyone is special, then no one is. If everyone gets a trophy, trophies become meaningless. In our unspoken but not so subtle Darwinian competition with one another–which springs, I think, from our fear of our own insignificance, a subset of our dread of mortality–we have of late, we Americans, to our detriment, come to love accolades more than genuine achievement. We have come to see them as the point–and we’re happy to compromise standards, or ignore reality, if we suspect that’s the quickest way, or only way, to have something to put on the mantelpiece, something to pose with, crow about, something with which to leverage ourselves into a better spot on the social totem pole. No longer is it how you play the game, no longer is it even whether you win or lose, or learn or grow, or enjoy yourself doing it… Now it’s “So what does this get me?” As a consequence, we cheapen worthy endeavors… and building a Guatemalan medical clinic becomes more about the application to Bowdoin than the well-being of Guatemalans. It’s an epidemic–and in its way, not even dear old Wellesley High is immune… one of the best of the 37,000 nationwide, Wellesley High School… where good is no longer good enough, where a B is the new C, and the midlevel curriculum is called Advanced College Placement. And I hope you caught me when I said “one of the best.” I said “one of the best” so we can feel better about ourselves, so we can bask in a little easy distinction, however vague and unverifiable, and count ourselves among the elite, whoever they might be, and enjoy a perceived leg up on the perceived competition. But the phrase defies logic. By definition there can be only one best. You’re it or you’re not.
If you’ve learned anything in your years here I hope it’s that education should be for… rather than material advantage… the exhilaration of learning. You’ve learned, too, I hope, as Sophocles assured us, that wisdom is the chief element of happiness. (Second is ice cream… just an fyi) I also hope you’ve learned enough to recognize how little you know… how little you know now… at the moment… for today is just the beginning. It’s where you go from here that matters.
As you commence, then, and before you scatter to the winds, I urge you to do whatever you do for no reason other than you love it and believe in its importance. Don’t bother with work you don’t believe in any more than you would a spouse you’re not crazy about, lest you too find yourself on the wrong side of a Baltimore Orioles comparison. Resist the easy comforts of complacency, the specious glitter of materialism, the narcotic paralysis of self-satisfaction. Be worthy of your advantages. And read… read all the time… read as a matter of principle, as a matter of self-respect. Read as a nourishing staple of life. Develop and protect a moral sensibility and demonstrate the character to apply it. Dream big. Work hard. Think for yourself. Love everything you love, everyone you love, with all your might. And do so, please, with a sense of urgency, for every tick of the clock subtracts from fewer and fewer; and as surely as there are commencements there are cessations… and you’ll be in no condition to enjoy the ceremony attendant to that eventuality no matter how delightful the afternoon.
The fulfilling life, the distinctive life, the relevant life, is an achievement, not something that will fall into your lap because you’re a nice person or mommy ordered it from the caterer. You’ll note the founding fathers took pains to secure your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness–quite an active verb, pursuit–which leaves, I should think, little time for lying around watching parrots rollerskate on Youtube. The first President Roosevelt, the old rough rider, advocated the strenuous life. Mr. Thoreau wanted to drive life into a corner, to live deep and suck out all the marrow. The poet Mary Oliver tells us to row, row into the swirl and roil. Locally, someone… I forget who… from time to time encourages young scholars to carpe the heck out of the diem. The point is the same: get busy, have at it. Don’t wait for inspiration or passion to find you. Get up, get out, explore, find it yourself, and grab hold with both hands. (Now, before you dash off and get your YOLO tattoo, let me point out the illogic of that trendy little expression–because you can and should live not merely once, but every day of your life. Rather than You Only Live Once, it should be You Live Only Once… but because YLOO doesn’t have the same ring, we shrug and decide it doesn’t matter.)
None of this day-seizing, though, this YLOOing, should be interpreted as license for self-indulgence. Like accolades ought to be, the fulfilled life is a consequence, a gratifying byproduct. It’s what happens when you’re thinking about more important things. Climb the mountain not to plant your flag, but to embrace the challenge, enjoy the air and behold the view. Climb it so you can see the world, not so the world can see you. Go to Paris to be in Paris, not to cross it off your list and congratulate yourself for being worldly. Exercise free will and creative, independent thought not for the satisfactions they will bring you, but for the good they will do others, the rest of the 6.8 billion–and those who will follow them. And then you too will discover the great and curious truth of the human experience is that selflessness is the best thing you can do for yourself. The sweetest joys of life, then, come only with the recognition that you’re not special.
Because everyone is.
Congratulations. Good luck. Make for yourselves, please, for your sake and for ours, extraordinary lives.

Respectfully…
AR

broken

At 9:00 p.m., London time, as part of her “Dangerous Woman” world tour, singer Ariana Grande began her concert at the 21,000-seat Manchester Arena.

At 10:28 p.m., with the concert complete, a man detonated an explosive device near one of the exits.

Seconds later, fans raced out of the arena, hearing the blast, with most unaware of exactly what had happened.

At least 22 have died, and 59 were injured Monday night. Of the victims named thus far, some are teens. One is only eight.

ISIS was quick to take credit, stating that this iniquitous act was carried out “with Allah’s grace and support.” For the record, I couldn’t disagree more. Lest we digress, however, with the ongoing investigation and the identification of the killer, the incident is believed to be a result of Islamic terrorism.

At this point, it’s challenging to know what to say. With a heavy heart and a sober mind, I find myself mostly pausing at the keyboard, wondering how in the world we make sense of a group that finds it sickeningly valiant to intentionally take the life of an eight year old girl. The reality is that terrorists don’t care about who they kill; they don’t care about other people. The radicals have taken a religious creed and utilized it as a license for murder. Let’s be poignantly clear: they are not motivated by God; they are motivated by evil.

What magnifies the inherent challenge, unfortunately, is that our country currently stinks at talking about things well.

I have no desire to be disrespectful to a single soul. But I do desire to find a way through this, talking honestly, bluntly, and respectfully about terrorism. Consistent with most topics, I’d like to find a way to discuss the truth and the solemn ramifications without any of the “downs” — that is, either (A) watering down the truth — or (B) shoving the truth down the throat of one who approaches the topic from a different angle.

Too many play politics. Too many dismiss a potentially relevant aspect. Too many dismiss who leads and directs the conversation. Again, we have a hard time simply talking about it. It thus doesn’t seem like too much of a stretch to wonder why solution remains distant. If we fumble the mere conversation, we are also likely to forgo any solution.

Perhaps the most poignant response I witnessed this week was from Ariana Grande herself. She made me think. In the immediate hours after the attack, she simply tweeted the following:

“broken.
from the bottom of my heart, i am so so sorry. i don’t have words.”

I thought about her words for a long time… broken.

What does it mean to be “broken”?

With many stated definitions, this one seemed consistent with Grande’s emotion: “made weak or infirm; subdued completely.”

There is an inherent humility in that definition — a recognition of weakness that we need help in this; we need far more than self. We need a grace and truth that is bigger and better and more effective and lasting than any human brilliance or bravado.

It dawned on me, therefore, how beautiful brokenness is… the calling out for help, the submission, the acknowledgement of weakness and transparency of emotion, and the resistance to any choosing of sides or exalting of self.

Maybe then, the way through discussing and eliminating the evil of terrorism is for everyone to humble themselves long enough to pray, recognizing our need for divine help and quit any exaltation of party, policy, or self. Maybe. I’m just thinking out loud.

Primarily, my heart and mind just feel we need to be a little more broken.

Respectfully…
AR

lasts

Today is my middle son’s last day of high school. No words, no less, will be shared this day in regard to any graduate encouragement, praise or proclamation; such is an approximate week away. I wish to instead speak of something different yet relevant. I wish to speak about all these “lasts.”

For JT, it was his last day…

His last day in Biotech…
His last Nerf Wars…
His last time pulling into 1 Tiger Trail no more than half awake…
His last mad dash out of the parking lot at the end of the day…
His last avoidance of the school lunch…
His last late night scarfing through the pantry for what to put in his sack lunch…
His last show choir competition…
His last show choir “grand champions” award…
His last class field trip…
His last concert…
His last egg drop invention…
His last game…
His last time to put on the uniform…
His last morning searching for clean socks…
His last GPA/class rank announcement…
His last day in the stands…
His last time cheering on his buddies…
His last prom…
(His last time his madre pays for prom…)
His last ACT attempt…
His last undergrad application…
His last high school essay…
His last morning scrambling for some festive spirit wear…
His last early-morning-not-talking-to-his-brother, simultaneously getting ready…
His last late night, thankful moment, talking with his parents…
His last show choir guys sleepover…
His last “grab-some-food-at-B-Dubs” after school…
His last time to take the mound…
His last daily banter with the guidance department…
His last morn not really eating the minimal breakfast I made for him before school…
His last political debate in AP Gov…
And his last day doing life with his current best friends…

While “lasts” often make us grimace — as much of what we love, does come to an end — I’ve learned that “lasts” give life meaning. It’s why wrestling with the reality of heaven and hell is vital; they’re the only things said to forever last.

“Lasts” help us not take whatever-the-last-describes for granted.

In fact, it’s one of the main reasons, this semi-humble current events observer advocates for term limits; if our representatives knew they had only a limited time to serve us well, perhaps they would listen more closely to the totality of their constituents, work better with the persons across the aisle, and be more prudent in their decision-making and spending. They only have so much time to serve. They need to serve us well.

Just a simple thought today, recognizing that most things exist only for a season, and yes, seasons change. Seasons give life value. Life has some necessary endings, allowing us to get to what’s next.

While I pondered this post yesterday afternoon, my son had 20, maybe 25 of his friends out in the backyard playing a rousing game of football. While a regular routine of theirs, no doubt it was the last after school game of his high school tenure.

Wisely, he enjoyed it so.

Respectfully…
AR

serious

He was described by one LA Times pop music critic as follows: Chris Cornell “was one of the great rock ’n’ roll singers — an octave-jumping belter who rose to fame as part of the 1990s’ scruffy grunge scene but whose powerful instrument put him in league with the grandstanding rock icons of an earlier era, including the Who’s Roger Daltrey and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin… Almost as impressive as Cornell’s voice was his musical curiosity, an open-minded spirit that set him apart…”

Cornell, talented as he was, reportedly took his own life last Wednesday at the age of 52.

Closer to home, multiple teens in my town, also reportedly took their own lives last week… one on the last day of his last year in high school… another at the end of only year one.

My heart grieves when one intentionally ends a life… another’s or their own.

Let me clearly state that the Intramuralist is no expert. I am thankful to have peers and professionals who actually are experts in dealing with suicide prevention and mental illness, some who have advised me regarding the contents of this post. This post is not enough; it won’t come anywhere close to doing the topic of suicide prevention justice. But one of those peers boldly encourages us to “speak 2 save” (see www.speak2save.org for more info), empowering people to speak up in order to prevent suicide. With a sobered heart, for at least now, this is a humble attempt to speak up…

First, this is serious. On average, there are 121 suicides each day in this country. For every death, 25 more attempt it. Suicide is now the tenth leading cause of death in the U.S. With something this prominent and this serious, we need to be talking about it. We need to share the God-honest, sobering truth. And we need to especially be talking to the young people around us.

Second, there is no place here for shame. For those who struggle with mental illness — or for friends and families who have numbingly walked through this gut-wrenching heartache, they do not need nor merit any shame. What they need are our fervent prayers, our generous grace, and a willingness to walk alongside them, whatever that may look like.

And third, so many say they “had no idea” intentionally ending one’s life was even an option for their loved one. According to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, we need to watch another’s talk, behavior, and mood…

If they talk about…

  • Being a burden to others
  • Feeling trapped
  • Experiencing unbearable pain
  • Having no reason to live
  • Killing themselves

If they behave like…

  • Increased use of alcohol or drugs
  • Looking for a way to kill themselves, such as searching online for materials or means
  • Acting recklessly
  • Withdrawing from activities
  • Isolating from family and friends
  • Sleeping too much or too little
  • Visiting or calling people to say goodbye
  • Giving away prized possessions
  • Aggression

And if they display moods such as…

  • Depression
  • Loss of interest
  • Rage
  • Irritability
  • Humiliation
  • Anxiety

We need to be aware of various, significant suicidal risk factors — health, environmental, and historical factors. These include mental health conditions, stressful life events, and exposure to the suicide attempt(s) of another.

This is hard. Time to speak up.

Respectfully…
AR

contempt

Many have valid, current concerns, but the Intramuralist’s primary concern is not with any singular person.

Let me say more; there are significant reasons to be concerned in today’s socio-political climate, but my chief concern rests with no one person or one party. It rests with something bigger. It rests with us.

Said by American Enterprise Institute President Arthur Brooks at Harvard Kennedy School this week, sharing a a lesson from the Dalai Lama in overcoming political polarization…

“We don’t have an anger problem in American politics. We have a contempt problem in American politics.

Contempt is defined by social psychologists as ‘the utter conviction of the worthlessness of another human being.’

If you listen to people talk to each other in political life today, they talk to each other with pure contempt. When somebody around you treats you with contempt, you never quite forget it.

So if we want to solve the problem of polarization today, we have to solve the contempt problem.

I sometimes write with the Dalai Lama. I was thinking about this contempt problem, and I said, ‘Your Holiness, what do I do when I feel contempt?’

And he said, ‘Practice warm heartedness.’

And I started thinking about it, and it’s true. When I do that, when we do that, when we have leaders who can do that, it’s utterly world-changing.

Catch yourself. You can show true strength, if next time you hear contempt, you answer with warm heartedness. Every single one of us is going to have an opportunity on social media, or in-person to answer somebody’s contempt. Are you going to do the right thing? And make the world a little bit better, and show your strength, and make your enemies your friends?

Or are you going to make the problem worse?

That’s a question each of us gets to answer, probably in the next 24 hours.”

That is sobering…

… incredibly sobering. Are we going to make this problem worse?

Truth is, right now way too many are justifying contempt. Way too many are justifying — consciously or not — to conclude that another is utterly worthless. And way too many are insulated by listening only to the likeminded. The truth also is, that most of the rest of us are weary of hearing the contempt holders scream. In fact, it’s often very hard to actually hear them.

It is totally reasonable to be concerned, but when in our concern, we justify concluding that another human being is worthless, I soberly state we are missing what is wisest.

Heed the wisdom of Arthur Brooks and the Dalai Lama.

Want to solve the polarization problem? Want to quit feeding the foolishness? Then start with self. Start with no one else. Catch yourself. Attempt to catch no one else. Quit pointing fingers. Practice warm heartedness instead of contempt.

Such is a true, contagious showing of strength.

Respectfully…
AR

we’ve got something — how ’bout you?

There was a great cheer when I was in high school (and no, we will not discuss today how actual long ago that was). But I remember being somewhat enthralled with the “we’ve got spirit — yes, we do” line, to which the perceived opposing side took their turn chanting the same…

“We’ve got spirit — yes, we do! We’ve got spirit; how ‘bout you?!”

The chants would continue for a seemingly prolonged amount of time — loudly, in unison, joined by a plethora of finger pointing at the other team. As the pointing and shouting lost a bit of their vocal luster, one side would alter their intonation by instead shouting simply, “We’ve got more! We’ve got more!”

To which the adolescents — not wanting the other to have the last word — would immediately retort, “That’s what they all say! That’s what they all say!”

Many days I wonder how much we’ve actually grown; let me say it another way… Many days I wonder how many patterns repeat themselves and how adolescent/teen behavior is contemporarily made manifest, although the adults involved now use bigger words, a few more syllables, have a little more money, and dress maybe more maturely.

True, we don’t seem to hear chants of one societal group having far more spirit than another, but we do hear less rhythmic refrains, such as…

“We’ve got compassion, yes, we do! We’ve got compassion; how ‘bout you?”

And we then certainly hear the…

“We’ve got more! We’ve got more!”

And…

“That’s what they all say!”

Maybe it’s verbalized; maybe it’s not. Yet one could easily argue the compassion self-assessment is generously implied… and the rest of the onlookers, watching at the so-called game, get lured into believing that only one side is motivated by compassion.

Think about the current refugee resettlement situation, for example…

I so admire those who desire to love the refugee well, exemplifying the message of “The New Colossus,” the words engraved inside the pedestal’s lower level on the Statue of Liberty. “… Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free…” I see such compassion, in wanting to care for the person who has less than we, wanting to share what we have and give them what they need.

I also so admire those who desire to care for our citizens well, exemplifying the message of the Constitution, the words articulated in the introductory Preamble… wanting to “… insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare” of the American people. I see such compassion, in wanting to care for the people with whom we live, wanting to be more scrutinizing of those who come from terrorist-harboring countries.

Here’s the unpopular reality. Both of those above two motives are full of compassion. They simply prioritize which group of people to show the most perceived compassion to.

Hence, it’s inaccurate to chant “we’ve got compassion — yes, we do” while assuming another side has none. Yet sometimes we’re so busy shouting and pointing fingers, that we make such careless assumptions.

There is simply no logical place for the “we’ve got more” chants…

… even if that’s what they all say.

Respectfully…
AR