‘nutty’ unity

Tomorrow everything changes.

 

Some may believe that everything changes after the November election, but dare I suggest:  tomorrow everything changes more.  And perhaps even more noticeable, the change will last for quite some time… for days, weeks, months… at least until winter is well upon us.

 

Tomorrow, no less, is the day, when many reasonably intelligent people begin to justifiably act a little, incredibly nutty…

 

Beginning with a little town in northeast Wisconsin, folks will care less about the zillions of dollars spent on the recent divisiveness of state politics.  They will instead quickly unite behind a powerful meat-Packing team, riding on the arm of Aaron Rodgers and his beloved, Green Bay football cohorts.

 

Out will also come the Lions and Tigers and Bears…  oh, wait, Tigers play baseball… but out will come the Lions and Bears… and while my keen sense is the teams don’t like each other all that much, within their people group, they are united indeed.

 

I notice the unity elsewhere…

 

… in the Patriotic type, for example, a people group that always seems so solid and sound regardless of the partisans in Washington; their massive defense budget never seems up for debate.

 

… and let’s not forget those united, yellow towel-wavers from the Steel City.  Some call them “terrible.”  I doubt that.  After all, the Steelers seem to win more than most.  The rest of the sporting world just isn’t quite as polite when their opponents are doing most of the winning.

 

Yes, tomorrow everything changes…

 

With the Dallas Cowboys at the New York Giants, the NFL begins their 2012-13 season.

 

It’s a little odd; I mean, there’s a newfound fascination with the backup quarterback in Jet land, and Peyton Manning is wearing orange.  (Not sure it looks good on him.)

 

Also, like the recent divisiveness in Wisconsin, there is a labor dispute within the nation.  No, not with the players or teachers of the game; this dispute is with the union referees.

 

(…some days, don’t you just wish people could get along?)

 

All this change and nutty enthusiasm that accompanies the NFL season reminds me of both the unity and divisiveness that currently marks our land.

 

The divisiveness is obvious.  Too often, too much, we focus on what divides us; instead of accepting self circumstances and celebrating others’ blessedness and success, we too often compare ourselves with those around us, thinking, “That should have been me.”  There is simply too much me.

 

The beauty, therefore, of the NFL season is that the teams that are most successful and arrive at Super Bowl XLVII in New Orleans in February of 2013, will be the teams that are most united in purpose and performance.  They are unlikely to have a coach who operates from a perspective of “too much me.”  They are also unlikely to be led by a quarterback who thinks he is God’s gift to his team, state, or country.  No, the teams in the Super Bowl will be marked by an excellence that comes only via unity and hard work — knowing their purpose, accepting and embracing the need to work together…

 

… and of course, accepting and appreciating those nutty fans.

 

Watch for the unity in Pittsburgh and Green Bay.  It can be nutty…  but attractive and kind of contagious, too.

 

Respectfully,

AR

16 trillion dollars

$16,000,000,000,000.

Sixteen trillion dollars.  16 trillion dollars, friends.

 

Let me be clear:  this is not a partisan post.  This post will be factual and objective.  It will also be sobering.  The outstanding public debt of the United States of America is now almost the 14 digit $16,000,000,000,000.

 

Now for those of you who equate any accounting with an obscure foreign language, allow me to first simply explain the difference between our deficit and our debt.  The deficit is the fiscal year difference between how much the government takes in verses how much it spends.  The debt is the accumulation of these deficits.  In other words, to amass a debt of sixteen trillion dollars, the United States government has been spending beyond its means for years.  It is our pattern.  (Warning:  this next sentence will be opinion…)  This pattern of spending beyond our means for years is incredibly foolish.

 

(Now back to facts.)

 

When we objectively ask what has contributed to this massive, almost unfathomable number (and avoid analysis via any partisan filter), we must evaluate the annual deficits under each administration.  In order to compare apples to apples, so-to-speak, the deficit is expressed as a percentage of our country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP).  Again for my foreign language avoidant friends, GDP is the total value of all the goods and services produced in a country in a given year.

 

So comparing our past presidents’ deficits (since dollar amounts would be an inaccurate comparison), going back to 1968, U.S. presidents have amassed the following annual deficits as a percentage of GDP:  (the more negative the percentage, the larger the deficit)

 

Richard Nixon -1.6%

Gerald Ford -3.5%

Jimmy Carter -2.4%

Ronald Reagan -4.3%

George H.W. Bush -4.3%

Bill Clinton -0.1%

George W. Bush -3.2%

Barack Obama -8.3%

 

(Source:  Office of Management and Budget)

 

Now each president gives us their justification for why the deficit has to be so large; some presidents like to give us that justification over and over… and over.  For Pres. Bush 43, it was the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  For Pres. Obama, it is the “worst recession since the Great Depression.”

 

The Intramuralist has 3 concluding opinions:  One, I’m tired of the justifications.  Two, many fairly loud critics should be much more thankful for one William Jefferson Clinton.

 

And three…

 

For the last 3 years, we have not made any progress in lessening the deficit and lowering our debt.  I remember VP Biden’s public address where he said we have to “spend more money to keep from going bankrupt.”  With all due respect to Joe Biden, we have spent more money for far too long, and if we continue this pattern, we will go bankrupt.

 

This is not a partisan question; it is a serious, sobering, nonpartisan question.  Who has a plan to pay down the debt?  Who will do so aggressively?  Who will not get caught in partisan politics and political power plays?  Who will recognize that this is most important?

 

As Condoleezza Rice exhorted last Wednesday night, “When the world looks at us today, they see an American government that cannot live within its means. They see a government that continues to borrow money, mortgaging the future of generations to come. The world knows that when a nation loses control of its finances, it eventually loses control of its destiny. That is not the America that has inspired others to follow our lead.”

 

Amen, Condi.

 

Let me add one more opinion:  if we cannot solve this fiscal crisis, cliff, or whatever any pundit desires to call it — just like any financial entity or household — we will cease to exist.  No entitlement will matter.  No social issue will matter.  If we don’t exist, no issue matters.  Pick your passion…  abortion, gay marriage, gun control, this rhetorical war on women, healthcare, defense spending, social security, you-name-it.  With all due respect — regardless of the position of your passion — none of these will matter if  we don’t get our fiscal house in order first.

 

Respectfully,

AR

definitions

Tonight all eyes will be on Gov. Mitt Romney.  Ok, perhaps not all eyes… I read rumors and rants from people who say something along the lines of “I just can’t stand the sight of him” — a reaction many politicians elicit regardless of affiliation.  Truthfully, that reaction bothers me a bit.  How can we know who someone is, what they believe, what they stand for, if we only listen to critical analysis via partisan filters?

 

But lest we digress…

 

Just as then Sen. Barack Obama did 4 years ago, tonight Mitt Romney will attempt to “define” himself to the American people.  As the incumbent, Pres. Obama is already “defined” in regard to what kind of president he would be.

 

And so sometime shortly after 10 p.m. EST, the former Governor of Massachusetts will share with the viewing public who he is and how he intends to govern.

 

Friends, this post is not about Mitt Romney.  It’s not about Barack Obama.  It’s not an endorsement nor favoring of either candidate; in fact, next week at the Democrats’ convention at Bank of America Stadium in Charlotte, NC, we could reprint much of this post’s same points, simply by changing the order of the names.  Today’s main point, no less, speaks directly to the attempt by the candidates to “define” themselves…  and the game that is played to obstruct the truthfulness of the process…

 

“Oh, the games people play now 

Every night and every day now 

Never meaning what they say now 

Never saying what they mean…”

 

Note the impurity of the American political process, acknowledged by Democrat strategist, Joe Trippi, yesterday morn, saying, “We’re fighting over the definition of Mitt Romney right now.”  The fight?

 

Best this current events observer can discern — noting descriptions actually articulated by Romney and his campaign — Mitt Romney will attempt to “define” himself Thursday night as the following:

 

  • A Cub Scout
  • Family man
  • A husband of “unwavering care and devotion”
  • Not a career politician”
  • Comprehender of the private sector
  • An economic expert
  • “Outstanding public servant”
  • Salvager of the Olympic games
  • Friend of small & new business
  • “A superb manager”
  • “An exceptional man with unique qualifications to lead our country through perilous times”

 

Simultaneously, best this current events observer can discern — noting descriptions actually articulated by Obama and his campaign — Obama will attempt to “define” Romney as the following:

 

  • “Extreme”
  • A candidate who has a “lack of willingness to take responsibility for what this job entails”
  • “Not ready for primetime”
  • A person having a “penchant for secrecy”
  • Possessing a business record that is “not a qualification for president”
  • An “extreme candidate”  (… did I say ‘extreme’ yet?)

 

In other words, Romney will attempt to “define” himself in the best possible light; Obama will attempt to “define” Romney in the worst possible light.  Next week the roles will be reversed, and Obama will remind us of his “definition” as the family man, while Romney’s camp will find some description undoubtedly synonymous with “extreme.”

 

So here’s the zillion dollar question:  what is true?  … what is accurate?  … and wiser yet… does it matter?

 

“… Talkin’ ‘bout you and me 

And the games people play…”

 

Respectfully,

AR

teach your children well

As has become our annual ritual, yesterday once more was the first day of school… the day I bundle up my boys and watch them march off on that big yellow bus.  Actually, my youngest guy’s bus truly isn’t all that big — but he feels like it’s huge; sometimes feelings make all the difference in the world.

 

I was thinking about sending them off, what they will learn this year, how they will grow.  I was thinking of the friends they would make that would last throughout the years, just like those dear to me who have been close for seemingly forever.  I was thinking of who would teach them…  and then I realized… we are their primary teachers…

 

While teachers make a vital contribution to the maturing of our children, it is we — their families — who are responsible for growing up our kids…

 

It is we…

 

… who must teach them that Facebook rants and Twitter tweets will never usurp the goodness and benefit of authentic conversation.

 

It is we…

 

… who must teach them that authentic conversation is a privilege and opportunity for wisdom and growth.

 

It is we…

 

… who must teach them that intentional attempts to divide us — based on income, race, demographics, and even NFL sports teams — are grounded in foolishness and self-focus.

 

It is we…

 

… who must teach that self-focus is foolish.

 

It is we…

 

… who must teach that pride and humility do not have to cancel out one another; we can be proud of our accomplishments without falling prey to thinking we are bigger or greater than we truly are.

 

It is we…

 

… who must teach our children that no political party is ordained by God.

 

It is we…

 

… who must teach our children about God.

 

It is we…

 

… who must teach our children to be responsible with their gifts, abilities, and finances.

 

It is we…

 

… who must teach our children to be generous with their gifts, finances, and commitment to service.

 

It is we…

 

… who must teach our children how to talk — how to build others up instead of allowing cursing and praise to attempt to come out of the same mouth.

 

It is we…

 

… who must model what a loving, self-sacrificing family looks like.

 

It is we…

 

… who must practice what we preach — perhaps the greatest teacher — in responsibility, accountability, and loving our neighbor as ourselves.

 

It is we.

 

No education — regardless of school format — public school, parochial school, homeschool, or some kind of vouchers — is more important than “we.”

 

We… must teach them well.

 

Respectfully,

AR

big “if’s”

In the words of one famous (for, uh, not necessarily always good reasons) ex-California governor/actor, “I’m back!”  It’s been a special 3 weeks.

 

First and foremost, many thanks to our guest bloggers, who over recent weeks have creatively encouraged, inspired, informed and made us think; they were vocal about the shooting in Colorado, the heartache at Penn State, the partaking of fiction, moving, accountability, abortion, respectful dialogue, faith, fear, and the inability of government to create jobs.  We heard from men and women, liberal and conservative, of various faith and demographic backgrounds.  We even heard from one self-identified “little kid with some big beliefs.”  (Way to go, Becca… way to go…)

 

So question:  why do we do it?

 

Why on the Intramuralist do we even entertain the concept of a Guest Blogger Series?

 

Great question.  Granted, the series always provides this semi-humble blogger an opportunity to refresh, renew, and “recharge my batteries,” so-to-speak, thinking of what next we should discuss.  I am thankful for the time to intentionally reflect, attempting to discern whether or not the Intramuralist is staying consistent with our purpose in both content and expression.

 

What is our purpose?

To model respectful dialogue.  We do not have to each possess the same opinions; in fact, as a society, we are fairly incapable of that.  But if we are to be a mature, wise people group, we must grow.  I believe we grow through respectful dialogue.

 

Respectful dialogue, however, is not something to be assumed.  Some may argue, no less, that it is even rare…

 

While away, for example, as several of you noticed, a bit of a societal stir took place when one congressman suggested there existed a difference between “legitimate” and “illegitimate” rape.  Last this current events observer knew, rape is rape, as articulated by both current presidential candidates.  However, in one discussion I witnessed, a gentleman used the controversy to verbally attack VP candidate, Paul Ryan; the gentleman (although the “gentle” is debatable) referred to Ryan and his Republican colleagues as persons who “keep trying to make it legal for husbands to rape their wives.”

 

Excuse me, friends, but that is not respectful dialogue.  That does nothing to advance healthy conversation.  It is also not a helpful articulation that encourages us to discern truth, develop solution, and individually grow.

 

The primary reason we host our annual Guest Blogger Series is because it gives you, the reader, an opportunity to hear from someone different than me.  While I appreciate your sincere interest and commitment to the Intramuralist, I also wish to uphold our blog’s primary principles:

 

1.  We value humility.

2.  None of us have life all figured out.  And,

3.  We each need to listen better, often, and more.

 

The Guest Blogger Series allows us to model each of the above.  Agree or disagree with the perspectives expressed, the varied opinions by others have the potential to prompt growth…

 

if we listen…  if we intentionally humble ourselves.

 

True, those can be big “if’s,” but they are necessary indeed.

 

And so I return to you, refreshed, recharged, and ready to go.  Friends, we have things to discuss!  So join with me in the dialogue.  Contemplate.  Consider.  Comment.  Agree or disagree.  Add perspective.  Add an ‘amen.’  You may even add a ‘what-were-you-thinking?’  But most of all, let us humble ourselves and listen to one another.  Let’s discuss.  Let’s grow.

 

A special thanks to our special bloggers… can’t wait until next year!  You spur us on.

 

Respectfully… always…

AR

winning the words battle, but losing the idea war

[Note:  Today is the final post of our annual Guest Blogger Series.  Please remember:  the Intramuralist may or may not agree with the opinion(s) expressed.  The goal is respectful articulation.]

 

 

In 1858, Abraham Lincoln and Stephen Douglas engaged in a series of seven debates, each of which lasted three hours.  Today candidates running for office state their case via 30-second commercials and 140-character tweets.

Whether it’s because of technology or because we just live busier lives today, there is a perception that voters have shorter attention spans than they did 150 years ago.  So just like marketing for other items, political advertising has become more concise and summarized.  That approach may have positive short-term effects in terms of winning elections, but there can be negative long-term impacts.  Over-simplified campaign slogans can foster misperceptions on broader policy issues.

Even though I am an active member of the Republican Party, initially I was not a fan of George W. Bush.  The reason was because as a candidate he referred to himself as a “compassionate conservative.”  I suspect that phrase was the brainchild of Karl Rove meant to maximize electoral success.  From that perspective, the motto was effective.  It appealed to independent voters who wanted fiscal responsibility but believed Democrat claims that Republicans were cold and heartless.

To me, though, conservatism is compassionate.  To put the two words together implied a paradox and reinforced the Democrat talking point.  Two generations of the welfare state has institutionalized dependency for a large segment of our society, something I don’t find to be very compassionate.  It’s too bad that important point got pushed aside in an alliterative pursuit for votes.

This year, given the fact that many Americans are out of work or underemployed, the topic on many voters’ minds is jobs.  Rightfully so, most politicians are emphasizing their intent to improve the employment situation.  Unfortunately, many candidates (Republicans and Democrats alike) are saying that they are going to “create jobs.”

Voters may react positively to such a pledge.  Yet, there’s one problem as I see it:  government can’t create jobs.  It’s a significant difference of opinion, and when Republicans say they will create jobs, they are ceding to the Democrat viewpoint about where jobs come from.

A job will only exist when the time put in by an employee enables value to be added to a product or service.  That’s the true source of jobs (and wealth, by the way)… individuals acting freely to develop things that other people want or need.  All revenue that the government has comes from the private sector, not the other way around.

Government does have the power to prevent jobs from being created, through excessive regulation and high taxes which discourage entrepreneurs from taking risks.  Unfortunately, “I will destroy fewer jobs” doesn’t go well on a bumper sticker.

Political consultants should give voters more credit that they can absorb more information than a sound bite.  They should provide candidates more opportunity to fully explain the ideas behind their positions.

To get elected, candidates need to obtain a majority of votes, so there is a natural tendency to react to public opinion.   However, sometimes what we need instead is changing public opinion.  What we need is leadership.

 

Respectfully,

Pete

 

[Intramuralist Note:  My “little brother” — although he towers approximately a foot overhead — now shares with us as the State Senator from Indiana’s District 24.  Way to go, wise bro… well done.] 



the trail

[Note:  Today is day 9 of 10 in our annual Guest Blogger Series.  Please remember:  the Intramuralist may or may not agree with the opinion(s) expressed.  The goal is respectful articulation.]

 

 

I’ve started hiking a nearby trail, running some with my daughter (the things we’ll do for our offspring like no one else!) increasing distance & endurance daily, decreasing our time per mile.  The trail we use has become familiar ~ the same stones to traverse the creek, the same logs across the trail to hurdle… but inevitably, daily there are the fallen sticks that somehow newly appear in my path.  As I speed along the route, I kick some aside.  For others I must slow and bend to grab and toss them aside.  Once in awhile they’re large enough that two of us have to work together to move, and occasionally there’s something new fallen, big enough that we just decide to climb over or step around, creating an alternate route in the trail.  I think of the significance of these as I hike… when do we choose to clear the existing trail… and when we create an alternate route, while clearing the path for the younger ones behind… letting them see that process, while enlisting my child’s help.  Eventually they may go before me and make my path level, as I have begun with parents having a less steady gait, now into their eighties, as well as for the generation to come.

 

At the same time, I’ve been reading philosophy.  Plato envisioned all we see as shadows of some real patterns being cast by a fire outside a cave where we are bound.  I see some truth in what he imagined.  There must be a plan, a pattern, an ideal intended for us to recognize and rise to embrace something higher, more solid, more eternal, and real yet than this world.

 

As I kick branches from the trail, gaining agility and grace, making it almost like a dance step while trying to keep up my speed, I maintain the path worn here by others before me, sometimes making detours, trying my best to secure it for those that will follow.  I ponder the bigger picture:  who cleared this trail in the beginning?  Who is it that I trust, who decided this route best?  Am I sure this turn is the best choice…?

 

I’ve made missteps.  I’ve slipped on wet ground and prayed a thankful landing without injury.  I’ve lost my balance trying not to slow while hurdling a series of fallen logs and tumbled brush, losing some skin and blood (and having to return for gear that flew off unnoticed while I focused on examining my injury.)  In all, I trust an unseen (but real) presence there to thank and call out for help, to one who knows and sees and cares and has a plan that works it all for my good.  Without that, continuing this trail would be rather pointless.

 

I meditate on the choices and conflicts in the world today.  The differing paths that have woven through history and now shape our current perspectives, traditions, and decision-making — personal and political.  As I heard Eric Metaxas, at the National Prayer Breakfast in February, “Thank God that we now argue over how to help the poor, not whether to.”  Progress over the centuries?  Yes!  Now what?  Among all the questions for our world and nation, how do we cease the arguing and progress in peace?

 

I consider the pledge of allegiance to the flag of the USA, as it relates to my belief in God who loves all nations, tribes and tongues of people equally, and exists in holiness beyond what can be attained by a human nation, whether or not we claim or agree to be “one nation under God”.  As much as we may want to offer “liberty & justice for all,” we know that only God will ever be able to fully do it.  I feel compelled to maintain my allegiance alone for him, and thus, to serve the world he’s put me in out of that undivided allegiance.

 

I am grieved by the political/spiritual battle around the issue of marriage.  As I heard one admit recently, haven’t we already allowed the biblical definition of marriage in our country to go by the wayside years ago? … by legalizing “no fault divorce,” among other impurities?  When we talk of the parameters of biblical marriage, I fear most of us have missed what it is — and could yet be a most beautiful reflection of the faithful, relational nature of God.  Am I — are we — willing to confront the “plank in our own eye” before humbly reaching out to others with the authority of God’s love?

 

Only one thing I know for sure.  There is one who said, “I am the way…”  What authority did he have to claim that?  How can we know he is trustworthy to believe?  Big questions, for sure.  Brief answers?  His life claims were recorded hundreds of years before he appeared.  He lived a life of complete integrity.  Instead of dying off quietly, his followers were themselves willing to die while continuing to proclaim his truth, assured there was more beyond their death here.  They said this was the Creator of the world and that he had come to exhibit the very definition of love.

 

How do I know what words to speak that will last?  …what decisions to make in the myriad of choices in life?  …which route to take and who to call when I see I’ve mis-stepped?  How do I come to peace in my relationships and in the world at large?  I have to believe that the one who made me, beginning with the mathematically amazing, statistically unbelievable universe we live in, knows.  The one who was willing to die for me, I believe I can trust to work all things for my good.

 

The trail starts and ends with him. And in between, He continues to be the way…
… If my people will humble themselves and pray… and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways… then will I hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

 

Respectfully,

REH

 

 

[Intramuralist Note:  REH and I became friends as kids at camp a couple decades ago; she has since earned an MA in counseling… and continues to spur me — and many — on.]


fear itself

[Note:  Today is day 8 of 10 in our annual Guest Blogger Series.  Please remember:  the Intramuralist may or may not agree with the opinion(s) expressed.  The goal is respectful articulation.]

 

“Solar storm barreling towards Earth”

The headline made me stop and click on the link to read the July 14, 2012 AP article by Alicia Chang.

Solar storm. Barreling. Barreling towards Earth.  That can’t be good.

“A solar storm is due to arrive on Saturday morning and last through to Sunday, slamming into Earth’s magnetic field.”  (Emphasis mine).

Instinctively my heart races a little faster after reading the first sentence in the article.  Barreling and slamming definitely have me a little worried.  I just know this solar storm is big and dangerous.

Fear. Invisible, but potent fear enters my body with the air I breathe.

The fact is, reasons to be frightened are everywhere we turn. The radio, TV, and the Internet literally scream fear into our lives: shootings, climate change, social change, you name it. Our political pundits are especially skilled at pushing our panic buttons.

In his first inaugural address, Franklin D. Roosevelt proclaimed that “the only thing we have to fear is fear itself.”  Why is that? What are the ramifications of being fearful?

  1. Chaos instead of clarity: When panicking we tend not to think clearly or rationally.
  2. Cowardliness instead of courage: Self preservation trumps caring for others. Our survival instinct kicks in when we are faced with the imminent demise of our existence, livelihood, or even our way of life.
  3. Division instead of unity: Fear makes us trust less, and when we trust people less we are more apprehensive about engaging with them, which in turn, fosters unwarranted prejudice instead of true discernment.
  4. Pointing fingers instead proposing a solution: When busy playing the blame game, we often find ourselves too preoccupied with discovering who’s at fault instead of uncovering answers.

If being fearful causes us to toss out reason, can we choose to overcome our apprehension with something more constructive? Is it time for us to collectively take a giant step back and breathe some non-anxious air into our lungs? Is time for us to be courageous, confident, and informed?

Instead of reacting instantly to problem with deep dismay, ask questions, gather knowledge and find solutions.  And have a little faith; faith in each other, and perhaps faith in something bigger than us.

Oh, and the solar storm…

The next sentence in the article read:

“Scientists say it will be a minor event… We don’t see any ill effects to any systems…”

And so I click on the next article, “Are Farmers Markets Safe?”

Respectfully,

Sharon

 

[Intramuralist Note:  As one who has long been impressed and inspired by friend Sharon’s musings, see more at www.sharonsiepel.com.]



fifty shades of ‘gray’

[Note:  Today is day 7 of 10 in our annual Guest Blogger Series.  Please remember:  the Intramuralist may or may not agree with the opinion(s) expressed.  The goal is respectful articulation.]

 

 

Catchy title – right?

 

With all the hoopla surrounding this book, a taboo to some, a guilty pleasure for others, to find a discussion of it here on this seemingly wholesome, cerebral blog, how controversial!  To some this might be an opportunity to learn about something that normally they wouldn’t give the time of day. Others will simply turn away and deem it beneath them. Still others might welcome it as a chance to learn what all the fuss is about.

 

Well, sorry to disappoint, but this is not about the erotica sweeping the land via lonely housewives. This is about another brand of Gray. The one that dwells between the black and white of our current society, the one that, unfortunately, is also taboo, and the one we really need to be talking about.

 

 

I am, for one, all for having a belief system that a person is invested in – that you care enough about to defend, or at the very least one that carves out a way to live your life that is positive and beneficial to others. Grown out of your own up-bringing, faith and life experiences, however, what I fail to understand in our current society is the need by most to pass judgment on those whose beliefs are not in line with their own. The need to convince those with opposing opinions that they are wrong, for the simple reason that they are not the same as their own; note that I said “not the same” and not different.

 

Different is good; we have been taught to believe this phrase.

Not the same as me; well that’s another story.

 

Different is an obvious thing – it is geographical or educational or color. Different is the homeless man asking for a dollar on the corner, or the special needs teenager who bags groceries, or the girl from the south who says “y’all”. These are all excusable differences born out of circumstance beyond control.

 

Not the same as me is the man who doesn’t believe Global Warming to be the truth, or the mom who believes in spanking her children. Or the homosexual couple who desire to celebrate their relationship and legally commit themselves to one another. Those are choices, and if they are not the same as mine, then quite frankly, they are wrong. Or so goes the current party line on all sides.

 

They are the people who are as educated as I am, come from the same part of the country, might even have the same skin color and who, until they voice an opinion, or post something on their Facebook wall, I think are exactly like me. They should be – from the outside at least we are alike. How is it possible that they don’t believe as I do?

 

They have to be – we are the same. But somehow, we aren’t.

 

In our current society, it seems, that makes them wrong, or bad. If someone doesn’t line up 100% with our beliefs, then I oppose them. Period, end of story. No room for compromise, or discussion or debate. My side is right, yours is wrong. We can talk about it, but not in a way that is going to enlighten the opposition. There is no give and take, no understanding of why a person believes differently than I do. No “live and let live”.

 

There is my way, or the wrong way.

There is black and white.

There is no Gray.

 

What a tragedy.  I really mean that and am not trying to be overly dramatic. That word is thrown around for remarkable events like war, and un-timely death, or the collapse of the Reds in the post season (that one’s for you, AR). But really, even at its smallest level, judgment of others is a tragedy, too.

 

It keeps us from having empathy for others, from understanding a different religion, or point of view. From having compassion for the NRA member who lost a loved one in Aurora, or the Atheist who commits suicide, or the pro-life mother faced with a pregnant teenager.

 

They weren’t the same as me, they got what they deserved. If they had only supported gun control, believed in my God, supported sex education in school, like I DO, if only. 

 

It is a sad state we find ourselves in, my friends. When the only example of debate is shouting matches on cable news networks and belittling arguments on social media outlets. For most of us, our beliefs are so strong, it is hard to understand that anyone could believe as strongly in the opposition. But, they do, we are not all the same, and the things we could learn, about ourselves, our faith, our own morals, if only we’d do a little more listening and a little less shouting. Whether that is verbal shouting or the-oh-so-popular ALL CAPS SHOUTING, we must start listening to each other. Our differences are not as large as our problems in this country.

 

Bring back the compassion and understanding.

Bring back the educated debate and compromise.

Bring back the Gray.

 

Respectfully,

Jules

 

[Intramuralist Note:  3.5 years ago, Jules helped provide the impetus for this blog; she sharpens me still today.  For more on her professional creativity, check out her published, fictional repertoire:  “These Darn Heels”, “Deja Who?” and the newly released “Try, Try Again”.]

the moving process

[Note:  Today is day 6 of 10 in our annual Guest Blogger Series.  Please remember:  the Intramuralist may or may not agree with the opinion(s) expressed.  The goal is respectful articulation.]

 

 

After over 30 years in a home that had seen the rearing of children, the hospitality of neighbors, the hosting of family gatherings, I engaged in the daunting task of MOVING.  Oh, it was time, and I was excited about the new home we had purchased.  Even the term “downsizing” was appealing. Nevertheless, “daunting” was the right word.

 

Closets held too much clothes; shelves held too many books; storage areas contained too many long unopened boxes; furniture was unusable in the new house.  But where to begin?  Sorting, pitching, saving I knew, but what should go into each category?  Goodwill and I became personal acquaintances.  Chin families needed clothes and linens.  Salvation Army picked up furniture.  Records and books went to the Half-priced store (for little in return).  My piano went to grandchildren.  (Notice, no garage sales… that’s not for me.)  High school and college papers and classroom lesson plans I purged… with some reluctance.  At times I did feel as if I were “downsizing” me.

 

But I saved other treasures of sentiment as well… gift books with special notes written in the cover by the giver, my dad’s violin, my mother’s dresser, dishes that were their wedding gifts, the first dress I sewed for a 4-H project at age 12 (white fabric with frisky pink lambs on it), pictures and professional recognitions.  Items likes these are touched with love and memory of events and people dear to me.  I’m not saving just the item, but the warmth therein.

 

However, I have discovered that often a process has many other applications.  I wonder if it would not be wise to evaluate just what intangibles we are hanging on to, that which has no real value and should be  purged as well:

 

— a self-regret based on “woulda-coulda-shoulda”

 

— a resentment that others have achieved what we have not

 

— an ego which prevents us from seeing the good in others

 

— a prejudice that blankets collectively people we don’t even know

 

— an anger that we nurse and rehearse because we won’t admit we might be wrong

 

— an unwillingness to forgive because that might give a gift to one who doesn’t deserve it… when it really is a gift we give ourselves

 

— an excuse to live not as we are called to by serving and loving others

 

Yes, I found the moving process though laborious, yet liberating as well.  Shedding “stuff” simplifies life.  But wouldn’t letting go of negative attitudes and hostilities be even more simplifying?  More freeing?  Wouldn’t each day be more peaceful without carrying around a load of burdensome feelings and inner turmoil?

 

Consider trying it. This is a process that doesn’t require a change of address… only a change of heart.

 

 

P.S. Thanks, Intramuralist… and I don’t miss a thing I left behind.

 

Respectfully,

DL

 

 

[Intramuralist Note:  DL has poured insight into me for decades; most of the time, I listened.  Well done, Madre… well done.]