Wednesday, August 23, 2017

The Thing About Dreams

Ever so often I will read a thing that stirs up my longing to share my peculiar perspective hoping it might inspire someone else. With history as my go-by, I know it’s a risk, particularly for me, because I have never been in step with conventional wisdom so there’s a high probability that the reaction to my contribution to the topic will produce either the sound of crickets, a rebuke, or a gracious pass. I know I’m the only one who gets me, that’s why I talk to myself. 

This has worked for me, but, as usual, my way is rarely right for others. 

The recent topic was about dreams and how long one has to wait sometimes for them to be realized. I shared that I conditioned myself early on to keep expectations on the down side even as I continued to allow myself to day dream, preferring to be pleasantly surprised over being disappointed. I do attribute this, in large part, to my personality type. I’m nothing if not severely practical. But also I believe I had to devise my own coping skills so that I could live here happily, preferring to be happy over being in a constant state of moony dysfunction. 

For me, the glass is not just half full - it’s refillable. It comes down to attitude and definitions of what dream fulfillment actually is.

As a child, I dreamed of  being a ballerina. I spent most of my preteen years on my toes, swirling, pirouetting all over the place but the tough truth was that my parents could not afford ballet lessons. So, by default, that dream simply was not going to happen. At least not in the way the world might define ballerina.

When I entered high school I found my niche in the drama department. One year I played Essie in You Can’t Take it With You. I was on my toes for six weeks through rehearsals and three night performances and one matinee. 

By absolute definition, I was never going to be a ballerina but I did get to experience what it would be like on a real stage in front of a packed house thus I got a taste. My kind of dream fulfillment - good enough! Better than nothing! Move on to the next dream - be an artist, a builder, a designer, a writer. Are those not subjective titles?  

All humans have hopes and dreams, a bucket list. As well they should because this is the stuff of human innovation. It’s also where the color flushes into an often black and white world. 

But too often I meet people who are still clinging to a dream that they hold in a sealed box. It has rigid boundaries, no variation allowed. It has to be a certain way or it can’t be at all. I’ve had this discussion with quite a few dreamers of seeing their names on a printed book. This is why I started my own publishing company more than a decade ago. I wanted that too - to be acknowledged as a legitimate writer but it wasn’t going to happen so rather than allowing the dream to languish I hacked out a path of my own and helped a few others along the way so they could hold that book/dream in their hands. Defining what being a published writer truly means is rarely what dreamers believe it to be anyway, you’ll just have to take my word for that.

In the end all this means is that I do a thing even if no one else knows about it, thinks it’s good or worth sharing. I just do it and by doing it, my way, I have been able to say that my dreams fulfilled have never been what I initially hoped would happen but what I do in the waiting, even it it means going to plan B. Sometimes Plan C.

For Him,


Saturday, August 19, 2017

All Kinds of Bullies

“Feelings, opinions and thoughts cannot be legislated. Laws can be established to provide that behaviors and actions can be held accountable but not thoughts, beliefs and ideas. Once a society decides that all minds must be in sync, that a conscious standard is established for what all must accept as the only way to think, they become enslaved to a far more sinister master.” - Theba Glady

I just watched a video that was, in essence, yet another heart rally call against bullying. Apparently bullying in schools is a human condition that cannot be stopped, no matter how much awareness is raised attempting to eliminate it. Who doesn’t know that bullying in school children has been around since the first one room school house was built but in this modern age of social media access it seems that bullying has risen to a new level of cruelty that often concludes in suicide. 

Hard to understand why it continues. I have my theory.

Apparently in humans, even in the very young, there is an uncontrollable primal survival drive to suppress others in order to elevate ourselves. To impose will, to overrule, is a natural instinct inborn in human nature. Since human nature is a petulant child that cannot grow up, only by slow and careful conditioning, both gentle and stern, to embrace a greater desire to be included/accepted into a tribe or community can we begin to tame our base instincts to force others down. 

Even so it is commonly understood that there are personality types that would rather tower above than integrate and thus choose to be overlords instead of merely one of the tribe. They prefer to rule over others and will use whatever power it takes, muscle or money, to accomplish their determination. Thus we have tyrants in all walks of life.

And so it has been since time began. Tyrants and bullies so driven to rule over others they strive with concerted effort to find their niche and rise to their positions of power. Who hasn’t known at least one of these kind in some capacity - job, school, committee, home owners association, et al, - their intent to impose their will on others. 

Unfortunately, it must be concluded that bullying is a fact of life. 

Some say, when they see an injustice that there ought to be a law. A rule that demands that anyone pressing their will on another should be punished. 

Sounds good, noble even. Who doesn’t want to see justice done for anyone oppressed by another? 

But we do have laws. More than enough. Laws that exist to delineate all kinds of rights, even the right not to be harassed or unduly oppressed. But laws are nothing more than lines in the sand. Demarcation. Delineation. Deterrent. Do this, and this will happen. Those who step up to the line but do not cross over may desire to act on what they believe or think or want, but the law, the line established as a barrier stops them. Those who simply cannot stop themselves, will find trouble waiting on the other side.

That’s the best that can be done though, in spite of enormous good will and hope for all to be civil members of one conhesive tribe. Those who are determined to take enforcement to the next level to demand what, in effect, would be the thought police, to demand that no one even be allowed to think anything that is not deemed acceptable to the ones who have decided what can and cannot be thought, are merely taking bullying to the next level. 

Be warned that to step over this line is to take civilization from the brink over the edge to the downward descent into anarchy. Those who loudly demand that everyone think as they do are the worst kind of bullies themselves convinced that they are right and everyone else needs to bow to their will.

Nothing new under the sun. 

For Him,

Tuesday, August 15, 2017

Human Touch

One day last week I thought I’d get checked out faster at the grocery store by using the self-checkout lane. 


Half way in the process the female computer voice demanded I put the scanned item in the bagging area. But since I had already done that I could not proceed without help from the human assistant. The human assistant was helping someone else at that moment - a lot - so I had to wait. And wait. 

A few days later, I popped into my local home improvement store to make one purchase. It was early so no check out lanes were manned. Forced to use the self-check automated system I groaned, stepped up and pulled my item across the scanner. No go. The human assistant, a pleasant woman I’d guess to be in her mid to late fifties, came to my rescue. She discovered the bar code was obstructed by a plastic packaging band. She moved it over the scanner again, the screen went back to the beginning. She pressed the screen several times, then held the band away as she tried another pass. Success! As we waited for the machine to process my credit card I turned to her and said, 

“You know, if you had been over there (pointing to the old-fashioned check out counter) we would be done by now and I would be on my way to my car. Instead, this new and improved system, that still needs a human to make it work, is actually slower and less efficient.”

She laughed and said, “Well these young managers come in and think it’s better.”

Standing so close I was compelled to put my hands on hers, folded at her waist. I looked her straight in the eyes and replied,

“They can’t replace humans, no matter how they try.” 

She nodded in agreement and said, “Some things just don’t need to be improved.”

We connected as only humans can do in that tiny measurement of time. 

A day later, in the afternoon, I was whizzing through the fast food lane for some salads at Wendy’s. At the first window the young man, taking my money, asked,

“Would you happen to be Parker’s grandmother?” 

I beamed a surprised yes. He said he had been part of the fifth grade team at Parker’s elementary school that built the Chicken City parade float that I had directed. Then I sort of recognized him but, that was five years ago. Not wanting to slow up the fast food lane, he quickly remarked that he was graduating next year, I said wow-and-good-to-see-you as he handed me my change and I moved forward.

On the short drive home I admit I was a sudden mess of emotion. How many times have I been there done that? I recalled the tall young man who approached me years ago and introduced himself as one of my cub scouts from my son’s den. 

Awash with all sorts of disconnected bits of memory that caused a strange welling up of fluid that threatened to make it difficult for me to see, I could not help but consider the odds of having met, at that place and time, that almost grown boy who remembered me and what a joyful nano second it had been. 

I had already been mulling my next blog post about the downside to the growing love of AI and all things robotic based on my two experiences with self check out stations and somehow that encounter put it into a perspective I had not considered and it all clicked because it’s no secret that fast food companies are looking at replacing humans with computers.

When the young man handed me my change, for one millisecond, we connected, hand to hand, fingers to fingers. I once read that when humans touch as in a hand shake, there is a chemical response in the body - endorphins release. Humans touching humans, even if just eye contact, or voice to ear, enforces what computers or artificial intelligence can never reproduce. That spark of a living, breathing human being, so wonderfully made by the Great Creator, nothing can or will ever replace. Serendipity in human contact adds to us in ways no computer can ever do.

There is a great evil working overtime now, seeking to destroy God’s great creation in every way possible. Imitation is not perfection though. Nothing can replace the small everyday experiences of human touch. Nothing. And even if by a miracle that could happen someday, what would be the point? Perfection by whose definition? 

Is it not ironic that we are in a constant quest of improving, redesigning, perfecting in ways that are determined to replace us instead of just putting a bit more effort in ourselves, the original perfect design? 

For Him,

(Philippians 3:12) Not that I have already obtained, or am already made perfect: but I press on, if so be that I may lay hold on that for which also I was laid hold on by Christ Jesus.  (3:13) Brethren, I could not myself yet to have laid hold: but one thing [I do], forgetting the things which are behind, and stretching forward to the things which are before,  (3:14) I press on toward the goal unto the prize of the high calling of God in Christ Jesus.  

Wednesday, August 9, 2017

Out of Context

While reading hot topics in The Facebook followed by comments from people who have their fixed opinions, I’ve noticed, in particular, those who proudly consider themselves the highest of intelligent thinkers seem to be the most practiced at making specious arguments - drawing conclusions based on comparing apples to oranges. 

The Facebook is a stirred pot for sure. Gather folks together and there will be disagreement. I can’t help but recognize and count the various classic debate techniques almost as though they are following a printed guideline. 

The most common tactic for attempting to shut down one who takes a different view is the adroit combining of a concept presented as ‘fact’ as though it is foregone conclusion with a snarky final jab implying that anyone with half a brain ought to understand. This usually signals the downward spiral into ugly name calling. I give this sort of interaction wide berth because, frankly, I don’t care to debate anything with anyone anyway. 

Live and let live, right? Thus far we still reside in a country that supports the right of all to have opposing views, though I see disturbing signs that this is a dying construct. It seems the loudest voices are those who tout freedom of speech even as they condemn other views being expressed. But that’s another topic for another day.

I will admit to secretly admiring those who have the gift of effective argument though. I am talking about those who have truly done their homework, know the irrefutable facts and are gifted with the art of clear communication. I also freely admit I am not one of those. I think this is because I must have been elsewhere when the power of persuasion was being issued. Thus any tactic of rebuttal will effectively shut me down but not in the way an opponent is likely to assume. 

I don’t give up because I am bested, I bail when it is clear nothing I can say or do will coax someone else, if not to my side, at least to agree to disagree. 

I console myself with the Scriptures about not casting pearls among swine and when you find you are not welcome, turn and leave, shaking the dust off your sandals as you depart. Stoic that I am.

We live our lives, form our opinions, and dig our heels into our fixed perceptions based on what we want to be true, not necessarily what is true. And this perception is woven from a million little threads of individual experience, good and bad that we collect along the way. Sentient beings that we are, we still are mostly shaped from personal sensory experience and thus our take-away is often myopically out of context. From all the things thrown at us we pull only those familiar threads that we recognize and then artfully reweave these into our own tapestry of assumption. 

Perhaps this is the rationale for Christ admonishing us not to judge others, lest we wish to be judged ourselves. God knows us from the beginning to the end. He knows that we see that which we want to see when it better fits our perception of how things ought to be, as well as how we prefer to justify our POV rather than ask a few pointed questions the answers of which might threaten to unravel our context.

Since I know for sure that it is not possible for me to know everything and furthermore it’s not even close to possible for me to be right all the time, I refuse to be frustrated at being silenced by those who think they are. I respond with a smile and let them think they won. 

Proof is in the pudding, everything comes out in the wash, time will tell - as the old-timers used to say. 

For Him,

Prove all things: hold fast that which is good.  (1 Thessalonians 5:21)