thankful

As perhaps you have by now surmised, the Intramuralist believes thanks can be given in all scenarios and circumstance.  Don’t let me suggest that it’s always easy nor that we always feel like being intentional with our gratitude.  I would never diminish the days that are hard for each of us.  Nonetheless, I do believe reasons for thanksgiving are always plentiful.

 

Today, I am thankful for…

 

Life.  Liberty.  The pursuit of far more than happiness.  Democracy.  Elections.  Voting.  The absence of dictatorship.  The freedom to agree or disagree.  The right to free speech — even when we actually disagree.  The Constitution.  The Bill of Rights.  Freedoms endowed by our Creator.  The wisdom foreseen by our founders.

 

Communication.  Listening.  The encouragement to listen.  Authentic dialogue.  The art of dialogue.  Respectful dialogue.  Dialogue where opinions aren’t all pre-determined (see again, listening).  Community.  Other people.  People to remind us that self is not as important as we think it is.  Humility.  Being grounded.  Accountability.  Wise persons bold enough and compassionate enough to help us in the grounding.

 

Faith.  Freedom within faith.  Freedom of faith — not freedom from it.  Free will.  The opportunity to see God and love him back.  His creation and the challenge and responsibility to love his children well.  Forgiveness — especially when we’ve needed it most but had somehow had no idea.

 

Ice cream.  Sundaes.  Coffee.  Playing cards.  More coffee.  Jokers wild.  Walking on sunshine, water, or just plain walking.  Game shows.  Knowing the Daily Double.  The Oak Ridge Boys.  Computers.  Christmas.  iPods, Pads, etc.  Diet Coke.  Mountain Dew.  Caffeine-free Mountain Dew.  Garland.  (Not tinsel, though… too messy on Dec. 26th.)

 

Chocolate.  Hot chocolate.  Whipped cream.  Starbucks.  Lattes.  Nonfat.  Foam.  (Did I mention coffee?)  More foam.  Sunrise.  Sunset.  “Fiddler on the Roof.”  Old musicals.  Old books.  Classics.  Julie Andrews.  New movies.  Star Wars.  Han Solo.  The princess.  That Darth is not my father.

 

Music.  More music.  Mariah Carey.  Martina McBride.  Miranda Lambert.  Bruno Mars.  The Beatles.  London.  Those big Beefeater hats.  Prince William and Princess Kate.  Monarchies.  Monarchies not here.  Broadway.  Elphaba.  Empathy.  Compassion.  Selflessness.  Teachability.  Tenderness.  Truth.  Growth.  More growth.  Recognizing both the need for growth and progress.

 

Respect.  Submission.  Honor.  The elderly.  Youth.  The privilege of learning.  The responsibility of teaching.  Taking them seriously.  Being intentional.  Sometimes being silly, too.

 

Old dogs.  New tricks.  Recognizing none of us have life all figured out.  College football.  College basketball.  Good games.  The NFL.  Positive attitudes.  Knowledgeable fans.  Cheering for a good play by the other team.  The other team.  Cool uniforms.  Nike.  Adidas.  Sweats on a Saturday morn.  Swag.  (Sometimes no swag.)

 

Falling leaves.  Brilliant colors.  No more to pick up.  Winter snows.  The beach.  Dreaming of the beach as winter arrives.  The mountains.  Water by the beach and the water by the mountains.  Friends there.  Friends here.  Friends who love you no matter what.  Thick or thin.

 

Foreign countries.  Home.  Coming home.  Clean laundry.  Sheets just out of the dryer.  Picked up toys.  Puzzles.  Getting the toys out.  Throwing them everywhere.  Children.  Babies.  Special kids.  Mature adults.  Even teenagers… well, most of the time.

Sitcoms.  Sundays.  “Cheers.”  A good toast.  Baking.  Alma maters.  Work.  Days off.  Vacation.  Christmas music.  Creativity.  Brainstorming.  Donuts.  (P.S. brainstorming while eating donuts is extra good.)  Wine.  The first miracle.  All miracles.  Being aware of them.  Vision.  Seeing rightly.  Acting wisely.  Loving those around us.  The opportunity.  The challenge.  The joy…

 

Yes, these things make me thankful…  today…

 

Respectfully,

AR

what’s it about?

The headlines are messy.  Actually, it’s more than the headlines that are so messy.

 

David Petraeus, who up until 2 weeks ago, was considered perhaps one of the nation’s few, contemporary, national “heroes,” unfortunately instantly had his heroic status removed.  Petraeus, the then current head of the Central Intelligence Agency — and former 4 star general — resigned his directorship of the CIA, citing an extramarital affair that was reportedly discovered via an FBI investigation.

 

Yes, the headlines are messy.  The details are murky.  There are questions and more questions as to the timeline of Petraeus’s infidelity, additional military personnel involved, potential breach of classified information, disclosure to the White House and Congress, timing surrounding the election, and any impact on Petraeus’s testimony regarding the 9/11 terrorist attacks in Benghazi, Libya.  Friends, this blog will address none of the above.  The reality is that none of the ‘questions and more questions’ are issues that at this time we can affirm or deny with certainty; hence, we will resist any temptation.  Today I wish to instead focus on one reaction… actually a common reaction… a reaction we especially employ when we’re fairly fond of the hero…

 

… such as Bill Clinton.  Julia Roberts.  Jerry Seinfeld.

 

All people at the “top of their game,” so-to-speak.  People who were at pinnacle points in their careers, and yet…

 

… they engaged in extramarital affairs.

 

The common reaction when we’re fond of our “hero”?

 

“It’s just about sex.”

 

The reality is it’s not “just about” sex; that’s what we tend to say in order to minimize the extent of what it’s actually all about.  It’s about a complete lapse of judgment.  It’s about emotion trumping commitment.  It’s about an ethical standard that is lesser or potentially nonexistent.  It’s often also about self.

 

Now please hear no piling of shame upon any person.  The truth is that each of us are capable of lapses of judgment and emotion trumping all; in fact, dare I suggest that I am not climbing out on any limb by disclosing that each of us have most likely fallen prey to some poor decision-making.  I also suggest — wholeheartedly — that each of us, also, is not fully defined by that poor decision-making; each of us is capable of redemption and forgiveness…

 

… which is equally available to Bill Clinton, Julia Roberts, and Jerry Seinfeld.  It is available to David Petraeus.

 

True, it still makes no sense.

 

How could a person so admired and decorated stoop so seemingly, unscrupulously low?  Petraeus has a Ph.D.  He was an assistant professor.  He was confirmed unanimously at the CIA.  In 2007, Time magazine named him as one of their 4 runners up for “Person of the Year.”  He was named the second most influential American conservative by The Daily Telegraph as well as their Man of the Year.  In 2005, Petraeus was identified as one of America’s top leaders by U.S. News & World Report.  In 2008, Foreign Policy and Prospect magazines selected Petraeus as one of the world’s top 100 public intellectuals.  The Static Line Association named him its 2008 Airborne Man of the Year.  Der Spiegel named him “America’s most respected soldier.”  Newsweek named him the 16th most powerful person in the world.  He was also named as one of the “75 Best People in the World” in the October 2009 issue of Esquire.

 

Why would one man risk so much?  … put so much on the line?

 

Because it’s not about sex.  It’s about a lapse in judgment.  If we compromise our ethical standards in one area, where else are we willing to compromise?

 

Recognizing that we are each in need of redemption and forgiveness…

 

Respectfully,

AR

the petraeus’s & sandusky’s

I had a tough evening with my youngest son the other night.  He’s 11.  He disobeyed.  And the reality is that he disobeyed disrespectfully and defiantly.  He announced that he would not do what he was asked — and he would not do what he knew was right.

 

“I don’t care!  You can’t make me!!”

 

And since I’ve been slightly maturing in my parenting (thank God!), I employed what has arguably evolved into one of my more effective techniques.  With disappointment in my eyes and thus no affirming glance, I closed the door and quietly walked away.

 

My son began to sob.

 

Actually, he sobbed for quite some time that night.  Those tears were hard to hear, always seemingly piercing my own heart and soul.  Yet I knew at least for an initial while, I needed to allow his tears to flow.

 

Why was he crying?

Because I walked away?  Because I was disappointed?  Because of no affirming glance?

 

While each of the above certainly had both impact and merit, none served as the cause of the cry.  My 11 year old bawled because he chose wrongly.

 

Josh was so grieved by his defiant-but-intentional choice of wrongful behavior, that he grieved his own iniquity.

 

“Why?!  Why did I do this?” he cried uncontrollably.  I kid you not; it was uncontrollably for quite some time.  Josh was bothered by his lack of virtue; he was dismayed by his willful wrongdoing.

 

After allowing the tears to flow for several minutes, I re-entered his room and held him tight.  At first I said very little, as the tears continued, but so did the outwardly, now cavernous contrition.  He was unnerved by the obvious fact that his wrongful choice came so intentionally and easily.  Part of me of wondered if he was shocked that he was actually capable.

 

As I finally tucked him that night, watching my budding adolescent fall asleep with swollen eyes and still with tears, I sat and wondered what I could learn… what each of us could learn…  When we make wrongful choices — so intentionally and easily — are we shocked that we, too, are actually capable?  Do we wrestle with our own wrongdoing?  Are we bothered by our own, manifest lack of virtue?  And are we dismayed?

 

Too often I think we miss that — we miss the growth that comes from individual, reflective wrestling because we instead surround ourselves with people who simply “amen” our experience and thus numb our negatives — as opposed to hold us accountable for both the wise and poor choices of our lives.  We are quick to shame the Petraeus’s and Sandusky’s, but far slower in examining any wrongful actions, motives, or thinking that takes root in our own hearts.

 

We live for the moment, allow emotion to trump truth, and often allow moral behavior to be relative with each evolving circumstance.  The challenge is that circumstances will always change; such is a perilous pattern.

 

As is no secret amidst these pages, my young son has Down syndrome.  Please — no sympathy necessary.  Josh has taught me more in life than I ever could have known without him.  He has taught me and stretched me in ways previously impossible.  There is nothing lesser about his life; there is only more blessing in mine and in so many others’ lives because of the joy and wisdom he so freely brings.

 

One of Josh’s many marvelous traits is that he doesn’t allow all the “crud of life” to get in the way — circumstances and emotions never interfere nor trump reality.  And the other night, when it was obvious he had made a wrongful choice, there were no excuses or exaggerations.  There was only the honest grief that he failed to choose wisely.

 

We continue to learn, as it is often the child that leads the adult well.

 

Respectfully,

AR

dirtbags

We are such smart people.

 

Honest to goodness, I had conversations over the past 10 days in which someone actually shared exactly the following:

 

Obama is a narcissist.

 

Romney is a dirtbag liar.

 

Friends, you are each welcome to your own opinion.  I’m sure various factions of blog readers will affirm one of the above or the other; perhaps there exist some who adhere to both.  This post, however, has zero to do with narcissism nor the ability to articulate truth.  My questions this day instead center around us being such smart people.  How is it that so incredibly frequently, we claim to know with certainty the heart of another?

 

… narcissist…

 

… dirtbag…

 

Perhaps a large majority of you will disagree with me this day (and I’m ok with that), but I do not believe that any one man can fully discern the heart of another.  Leave the politicians out of it — because the reality is, being the smart people we are, we make these character judgments in regard to far more than the Obamas and Romneys of the world.  Yes, we may perceive a glimpse of the heart of another — via a leaning or lacking of integrity — but a glimpse implies an obstructed view.  We are not as smart as we think we are.

 

If we are authentically attempting to discern the character of another, my sense is we need to look for evidence of the following in the person’s actual behavior:

 

  • love
  • joy
  • peace
  • patience
  • kindness
  • goodness
  • faithfulness
  • gentleness
  • and self-control

 

And that’s pretty much it.

 

Again, feel free to disagree with me.  I’m ok with it.

 

Feel free to claim you do know with certainty the character of another that you have only witnessed from afar… the Obamas, Romneys, and people in your world… maybe even your neighbors.  And then I have to ask what those far away from you and me also may see…

 

… do they discern all that we are?

 

… have they witnessed the totality of our behavior that allows them to assert such a definitive opinion?

 

… is there any way possible one or two or even seven events could create a distorted opinion — an obstructed view — or hence, a limited perspective?

 

Yes, we are such a smart people…

 

… or at least we think we are.

 

Respectfully,

AR

healing – part 2

As we recently marked the 4 year anniversary of the Intramuralist, I was reflecting on the diversity of our interaction.

 

Over our tenure, it’s been suggested this blog is too conservative, too liberal, too Christian, and too anti-Christian.  One person even once suggested that I wasn’t bright enough to run a lemonade stand (but he misspelled “lemonade,” so that made me feel a little better).  But it’s been fascinating to me that now that we average approximately 250 hits daily, different people can read the same thing, see the same thing, and/or hear the same thing, and yet walk away with completely contrasting perspectives.

 

In dialogue this past week, no less, I witnessed that same dichotomous response… to the blog… to the President’s acceptance… to the Governor’s concession.

 

And here’s what struck me…

 

It was not that I heard persons praise and pan each; it was that I heard Republicans and Democrats both praise and pan the President… both praise and pan the Governor… and well, somewhat praise and pan the objectivity of the Intramuralist’s posts.

 

The resulting take away was not simply echoing our initial post on how and when the healing begins, as we feel differently about the election’s outcome.  I gleaned instead this week that even all those who proudly identify themselves as “conservative” or “liberal” don’t necessarily feel or react the same within those identifications.  They can read the same thing, see the same thing, and/or hear the same thing, and yes, still walk away with completely contrasting perspectives.

 

While perhaps this is no news flash, what prompts me to hone in my focus is that the depth of our division and difference has the potential to serve as an added obstruction within our nation’s need to heal.  How can we move forward as one, indivisible nation under God when the differences are so deep?  … when even within our people groups our perspectives are different?

 

This is tough question.  And the reality is, I’m not sure I have all that great of an answer.  I can go back to one of our initial steps to listen — to both hear and consider — but I’m not convinced that’s enough.  After all, I had Rep. and Dem. friends who thought Pres. Obama’s acceptance speech was very good; I equally, also, had Rep. and Dem. friends who thought Obama’s speech was fairly awful.  People who seem likeminded often still differ in their perspective.

 

And so perhaps, if we truly wish to heal the deep divisions in this country, we need to do a little more than (1) start now, (2) be empathetic, (3) eliminate the words “mandate” and “compromise,” (4) listen, and (5) be humble.

 

Perhaps in this nation of free men, as Lincoln once quipped, we need to be a little more intentional in seeking to understand the perspective of another.

 

Now allow me to initially add a rather significant caveat…  I once heard a seemingly wise man say that he always learns the argument of another so that he can argue against it better and then magnify the illogical loopholes.  Something about that approach seems dishonest — perhaps impure.  My sense is we need to better understand the perspective of another not so that we can poke holes in their perspective, but rather, so that we can actually understand them… so that we can hear and “get” what’s most important to them, as opposed to allowing a wrong impression to take root in our own hearts and minds.

 

Yes, I believe that’s it.

 

In order to embrace our ‘one nation under God status,’ we don’t need to all agree on all things; we don’t even need to always compromise.  But we do need to care where each other is coming from.  For example, on the issue of caring for the least of these, some of my more liberal friends believe their conservative counterparts are heartless; simultaneously, some of my more conservative friends believe their liberal counterparts are ignorant of the lazy.  Instead of attempting to understand the depth of those perspectives on this issue and others, we far too easily sit back, make judgments, and then “humbly” consider ourselves so much wiser.

 

Part 2 of the healing process is simple to state:  we need to work to understand each other better.  We must be intentional.

 

Simple to state… pretty tough to actually accomplish…

 

Respectfully,

AR

hail to the victor… oops… wrong approach

The people have spoken in different ways.  Some this day are jubilant.  Others are deeply disappointed.  Friends, we don’t all feel the same way.  In fact, as previously posted amidst this setting, the candidates have spent much of the past year actually encouraging us to not feel the same.  In order to propel their individual candidacy — arguably advocating the end justifies the means — the candidates have intentionally divided the country in order to drum up increased passion for their agenda.  Here’s the problem:  the election is done, but the people remain divided.

 

Many will take to the oratorical airwaves to proclaim that there exists no division; in fact, one of the many things I appreciated about Pres. Obama’s acceptance speech Tuesday night was his recognition of our differences, but his added comments that “we are not as divided as our politics suggests” nor “as cynical as the pundits believe.”  Perhaps not as divided or as cynical, but the Intramuralist suggests that we will only not be that segregated if we are intentional in addressing this issue.  There is no way around it; we are a nation in which millions of boys and girls weekly stand up in their classrooms, affirming our existence as one indivisible nation under God, and yet, we haven’t acted like it for years.

 

So how do we become less divided or cynical?  How does the healing begin?

 

Perhaps if I had all of life’s answers I wouldn’t be as busy with this blog nor my self-amusing caricature habit (all right, I’d still be doodling those pronounced facial features).  But I have a sense of a few steps essential in our healing…

 

Step 1:  Start now.

 

Healing can’t wait until next month or next year or the next election cycle.  If we want to keep the division from assuming permanent root, we must begin the healing today.  Looking it in the eye.  Calling it what it is.  And making a commitment to seriously and soberly address the divisiveness.

 

Step 2:  Be empathetic.

 

If you’re like me, you found the initial 24 hours on Facebook and Twitter a bit overwhelming.  Some gloated.  Some complained.  Some announced their readiness to exit the country.  Others responded with ‘good riddance.’  The bottom line with each response — from those who both loved and loathed the results:  neither worked to understand the emotions of those who felt differently.  Instead of empathy, they chose arrogance.  Arrogance is never attractive.

 

Step 3:  Eliminate the following words:  “mandate” and “compromise.”

 

Many will claim a mandate…  “We voted.  We won!”  And quite true is that such is often the winner’s bold assertion and the loser’s rueful admonition.  Please remember the context of this post.  We are acknowledging a “divisible” state of America.  With an estimated popular vote margin of 50% to 48%, almost as many people voted for the victor as against.  Thus, to profess a mandate is not a process that builds unity; it will encourage further division.

 

Let the record also show that many others will claim the need for compromise.  While I was never fond of the President’s 2009 quip that “Elections have consequences, and at the end of the day, I won,” the reality is that Obama was victorious.  More voters supported him than Gov. Romney.  Hence, Obama should not be expected to always meet in the middle.

 

Step 4:  Listen.

 

Remember (as does my 15 year old) that to listen means to both hear and consider.  To only hear does not qualify.  To only hear and consider the likeminded also does not qualify.  To listen reveals an interactive, respectful process with those on all sides of any aisle.

 

And Step 5:  Be humble.

 

Earlier I mentioned that arrogance is never attractive.  I can’t say that enough.  Confidence is contagious, but arrogance is polarizing.  When career Major League Baseball stolen base leader, Rickey Henderson, declared he was “the greatest of all time — thank you,” did that make any feel better about his accomplishment?  My point is that humility is always more unifying than arrogance.  Allow me to be clear:  humility doesn’t mean silence nor submissiveness; it doesn’t equate to weakness.  Humility means joyfully being of one spirit, doing nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit… considering others… and looking to their interests.  It is not an abandoning of one’s own interests, but rather, it is a respecting of those who are different.

 

We do feel differently this day.  We are in need of leadership.  We have some tough issues to tackle in this democratic, debt-ridden, capitalistic, and freedom-driven society.  We are also in need of healing.  If we begin now, we can be that one Nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.  It’s time to be intentional.

 

Respectfully,

AR

this is the day

This is the day!  While surely many will thank God that such denotes the end of the inundation of political advertising, today also marks the anniversary of the Intramuralist.  Four years ago on election day, this blog began.  My reason for writing that day was because my strong sense was the wisdom shared would be the same regardless of the election’s outcome.

 

We then posted the following:

 

TOP 10 THINGS I LEARNED FROM THIS ELECTION CYCLE:

 

  1. People will do anything to win.

9.  Tina Fey is a comedic genius.

8.  Limericks using “Obama” can be fun (“Homearama”… yo momma…).

7.  Jesus would not be a Democrat OR a Republican.

6.  Objectivity in the media cannot be assumed.

5.  No party has a true grasp of all that encompasses social justice.

4.  “Feminism” does not mean “in support of all women.”

3.  People need to pray for our nation more than once every 4 years.

2.  Most people don’t know how to respect those with whom they disagree.

 

And for this playful artist…

 

1.  Both Presidential and ‘Veep’ candidates will be fun to caricature over the next 4 years!

 

As for this current election cycle, many of the above observations were again made manifest, although I would also add the following:

 

10 MORE THINGS I LEARNED FROM THIS ELECTION CYCLE:

 

10.  A combined campaign costing approx. $2 billion cannot be a process that’s pure.

9.  Hope and change mean different things to different people.

8.  Racial and religious discrimination is still alive on planet Earth — and often in more places than vocal victims claim it to be.

7.  Vice Presidents don’t require polished speaking skills.

6.  Budgets make politicians financially accountable.

5.  Government mandated health care is divisive.

4.  First ladies always have a cool side.

3.  Debates matter.

2.  Spending is far easier than saving.

 

And…

1. A President Romney wouldn’t be as much fun to caricature — although Paul Ryan, that’s a different story!  (Sorry, friends… it’s all about the facial features…)

 

The reality is that on Wednesday, our country has a lot of work to do.  First, we have to recognize that many candidates (on the federal, state, and local level) intentionally divided the country in order to spur on their own election.  Perhaps it’s not as self-serving as we’re oft inclined to conclude, as many candidates believe so deeply in both their articulated and unarticulated agendas, that the end justifies their divisive means.  Allow me to simply say that if I ever ran for office, I would hope to not fall prey to such alienating activity.

 

Also, after intentionally investing in the sewing up our nation’s political scars, we must then tackle a run-away economic situation and get control of our nation’s debt.  We must return to and embrace our (responsible) fiscal and (thus also moral) roots.  Regardless of how passionate any of us is about any budget category or entitlement, our spending patterns over the past 12 years cannot be sustained; our fiscal fragility must be aggressively addressed.

 

Enough of that.  Happy Anniversary, friends!  Thanks for modeling respectful dialogue with me and one another.  You have done your job well!

 

And here’s to 2016!  Maybe I’ll be running.  More likely, I suspect, I’ll be busy with new caricatures.

 

Respectfully,

AR

pro-woman

Tuesday marks the 4 year anniversary of the Intramuralist… fire up!

 

I am excited not only about the election and our post that day, but I am also excited and honored and humbled and a little, truly blown away to acknowledge this coming week how far we have come — and yes, what the Intramuralist is still called to do.  It is a joy and a privilege to share these postings together — modeling respectful dialogue.  Thanks for being part of something bigger than you and me.

 

While Tuesday awaits, no less, I must initially acknowledge some of the many things that strike me; in fact, there is one development that continually makes me pause and ask, “What?  Really?  People said that?”

 

Over the past few months especially, I’ve noticed the evolution of a very specific rhetoric, a rhetoric that’s evident of something bigger — albeit a rhetoric that may well be the manifestation of foolishness.

 

Over the course of these campaigns, many times we have witnessed the promotion of a candidate being “pro-woman” or “all about women” or “the woman’s candidate.”  The identification suggests that one candidate is solely empathetic of how women feel, while the other candidate has zero in common with the feminine gender.

 

Here’s the zillion dollar, semi-subtle sanctimoniousness within that gender specification:

 

All women don’t feel the same.

 

Let’s be clear…

 

Do all men feel the same?

Do all children?  … teens?  … youth?

Does each demographic category feel the same about all issues?

Are all individuals equally passionate?

Do demographics extinguish individuality?

How about all Hispanics?

Or African-Americans?

Would it ever be appropriate to conclude that all African-Americans, Puerto Rican Americans, or caucasian Americans feel exactly the same way?

 

Of course not.

 

Unfortunately, I thus conclude that any messaging campaign suggesting that one candidate is “the candidate for all women” is inaccurate and arguably inappropriate, as the message doesn’t resonate with a significant portion of the female population.  Most of us have multiple female friends.  Believe me… they don’t all think the same way.

 

Wait… there is one additional, tangent, seemingly highly sensitive aspect of this argument… that is, that the pro-woman’s candidate is also often identified as someone fully supportive of abortion or perhaps more politically correctly (and extensively) stated, women’s reproductive rights.  In other words, because the stance implies the allowance for an individual woman to make all decisions regarding her own body, this is thus more empathetic of women.  The inherent inaccuracy, however, is that factually via the process of abortion, lives of women are also terminated.  Friends, this post proclaims no opinion on the wisdom of abortion; that is tough topic and one which we would never treat arrogantly nor insensitively.  What this post does suggest, though, is that to proclaim either above opinion is more “pro-woman” than the other is illogical.

Therein lies another attempt at persuasive rhetoric.  All women do not feel the same way.

 

As this election season winds down (finally, thank God), I am beginning to quietly resent this notion that all demographic categories are likeminded…

 

We feel different ways and believe different things…

 

… about abortion… about economics… about debt, unemployment, and entitlements.   We feel differently about the campaigns and their candidates.

 

My concluding sense is that the idea that one candidate could possibly be the candidate for all women is merely a rhetorical re-election ploy — just as if someone asserted themselves as the candidate for all men, all African-Americans, all college students or Californians.  So when we don’t all feel the same way, what do we do?  How is the candidate to handle himself?  … to arrogantly assume he knows best for an entire gender, race, or people group?  … or to tenderly and correctly handle words of truth?

 

We’ll see beginning Tuesday.  I wish I was certain the rhetoric would go away.

 

Respectfully,

AR

stormy

The pictures are heartbreaking — almost unbelievable.  As New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie remarked, “The level of devastation at the Jersey Shore is unthinkable.”

 

There have been multiple deaths, major destruction, and now massive need for clean up.  Extending along the coast and even branching eastward into Michigan, Pennsylvania, West Virginia, etc., the impact has been environmentally and economically huge.  Gov. Christie is right; the devastation is unthinkable.

 

So what do we do when unthinkable storms happen? … the seemingly unprecedented, natural disasters?

 

I suggest there exist two starkly different responses:  one rooted in arrogance — one, however, rooted in humility… two ways we respond when the unimaginable storms come our unfortunate way.

 

Allow me to suggest that the arrogance is often veiled; it’s an imperious approach that typically manifests itself within some form of blame — blame of another person or circumstance — but blame on something so concrete that potential disagreement is muted.  How can we disagree with a blame spoken with certainty?  How can we oppose a reasoning seemingly so concrete?  Yes, the arrogance guised as blame allows us to have an answer for the storm, even though reality often means the answer is at best ambiguous.

 

Almost simultaneously as Sandy destroyed our nation’s shores, multiple persons proclaimed that the concrete reason for the storm was climate change (also known as global warming or insertion-of-currently-most-politically-correct-and-or-convenient-noun here).  Former VP Al Gore, for example, wasted little time in labeling Sandy “a disturbing sign of things to come,” adding, “We must heed this warning and act quickly to solve the climate crisis.”

 

Now before proceeding with this posting, allow me to add a small but significant disclaimer:  the Intramuralist does not know whether or not climate change is fact.  I do not know.  I don’t know if it’s true or if it’s false.  Reasonable people disagree on this issue, and many of those most passionate on one side or the other are either agenda-driven or stand to personally benefit by the enactment of the argument.  Hence, I’ll say again:  I don’t know if climate change is true or false.  No one knows for certain.

 

What I do believe, no less, is that when we assume that climate change is the reason for a weather event, we are acting arrogantly.  Please… I mean no disrespect.  My point lies within the basis of the theory.  The basis for climate change is that dangerous weather events are happening due to changes in the Earth’s climate that have materialized due to man’s irresponsible behavior.

 

At first, such sounds fairly selfless — man’s irresponsible behavior.  Does that not sound selfless?  Where is the arrogance?

 

The arrogance lies within the focus; the focus is completely on man.

 

Within the climate change theory, there is zero acknowledgement of a potential divine being who may or may not have a purpose of which we are unaware.  There is no intentional corporate nor individual reflection that asks, “If there is a God of the universe — if he has allowed this — what could be the reasoning?  How, possibly, could this be part of any intentional plan?  Is there a reason?  A plan?  A consequence?”  The arrogance of the climate change theory is the assumption with certainty that we are the ones in control.  There is no submission to any God of the universe nor to anyone wiser or more omniscient than we.  Hence, true or untrue, I find the absolute blaming on climate change a veiled, arrogant approach.

 

But wait… where’s the second response to these storms?  … the one rooted in humility?  … the one that makes us feel a little better?

 

Watch how people now bond together… to clean up… support one another… and to love one another well.  To sort through the ruins… building each other’s houses… putting their houses back up on the rock… and encouraging those whose loss is yes, by all means unthinkable.  At times of crisis, the humbly beautiful approach is where we work side by side regardless of color or creed, income or demographics, or any potential disparity.

 

A wise approach to life’s storms means focusing on what binds us as opposed to what rips us apart.

 

Thank God… until Tuesday, at least.

 

In search of wisdom… always…

 

Respectfully,

AR

the extreme games

Last week I had a fairly tense discussion with my oldest son.  Yes, even in healthy families, heated discussions can and do occur.  “Heated,” however, does not equate to “unhealthy.”  Granted, it was not derogatory nor profane, but it was hard.  Neither one of us enjoyed it.

 

Nearing the end of now the definite argument — with disagreement fully, emotionally apparent — my son proclaimed (in the seemingly unending wisdom of adolescence), “You’re unreasonable!  You’re ridiculous!  You’re extreme!”

 

With that then perceived, concluding assertion, my son got out of the car, slammed the door, and walked up the drive to the house of his friend.  He never looked back.

 

I sat there cold… in the temp and the mood… frustrated that our dialogue had ended so sorely and sourly.

 

What was I to do?

 

For a moment I simply sat there.  Still.  A quick prayer.  Then I called him — but with no more need to argue in my voice nor heart.  “Come back to the car.  Two people who respect one another don’t end a conversation like that.”

 

He wasn’t pleased, yet he returned.  I then explained the following…

 

It’s ok for us to disagree.  In fact, throughout our relationship we will disagree more often; this will happen again.

 

None of us are exactly alike, and thus, none of us think exactly alike.  Two people who love each other tons still will think differently; they will at times disagree.

 

But how we behave when we disagree makes all the difference in the world.

 

Let me be clear:  Son, you are free to disagree with me.  I want you to grow.  I want your convictions to be your own.

 

But when we disagree, you are not free to call me ‘unreasonable,’ ‘ridiculous,’ or ‘extreme.’  Disagreement does not equate to any of those adjectives.

 

The rationale for utilizing those words is because if you can label me as something so negative or wrong or unworthy, then you never have to wrestle with what I say.  You never have to acknowledge that someone you love thinks differently.  And you never have to exert the humility it takes to acknowledge you might not have life all figured out.

 

I realize we think differently, but I am not unreasonable.  I am not ridiculous.  And I am by no means extreme.

 

My tone was gentle but firm.  It was not critical nor judgmental.  My bottom line was that just because we disagree does not give my growing teenage son the freedom to call me something I am not.  Yet then we both had a bit of an “a-ha”…

 

Calling people something that they are not is a practice far too many adults regularly employ.

 

This is not a tactic solely utilized by the American teen.

 

Good people will disagree…

 

… on politics…

… college football loyalties…

… even on the value of quilting, conservation, or “Connect Four.”

 

But when we disagree, we also do not possess the freedom to dismiss the other person as unreasonable, ridiculous, or extreme.  When we do so, we are the ones who look foolish; we are the ones who are stubbornly stuck; and we are the ones who refuse to grow.

 

Respectfully,

AR