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Showing posts from 2021

On Anger and Outrage

It is not people’s actions that disturb our peace of mind, but our opinions of their actions. We suffer more from getting angry and upset about such things than we do from the things themselves that are making us angry and upset. When you are too angry or impatient, remember that human life is fleeting and before long all of us will have been laid to rest. — Excerpted from Meditations 11:18. Righteous indignation seems to be the general timbre of the current American social landscape. Many people wholeheartedly believe that privileged groups are intent on disabusing and marginalizing everyone else. Meanwhile, many others are sure that nefarious political agendas are leading to the destruction of historic democratic values. Depending on the person's perspective, elected officials, the financially secure, white-skinned people, welfare recipients and illegal aliens are just a few of the supposedly deserving targets of so-called "justifiable" outrage. I was recently t

On Social Isolation

During the U.S. government handling of the 2020-2021 Covid19 social distancing experiment, I discovered how emotionally unaffected I am by wholescale cancellations of social events, widespread travel restrictions, various venue closers and all the rest of the people-separating mandates. In fact, my natural response to the changes confirmed that I am not only introverted; I am also very comfortable in social isolation. What upsets people is not things themselves, but their judgements about these things. — Epictetus At no time during the year-long-plus affair was I lonely or bored. I am aware that other people were measurably frustrated and or in some degree of turmoil during the lockdown, but I was emotionally unaffected. In fact, I experienced almost no change to my normal day-to-day life. Many experts claim that living in isolation presents very real health risks. Perhaps for some, but interestingly I am unaware of any deleterious side effects from either forced or chosen is

On Overthinking

When does contemplation become overthinking?  I've been accused of overthinking things for as long as I can remember. Admittedly, this tendency of mine to perhaps hyper-analyze hasn’t won me many friends, but it has helped me successfully navigate some difficult human interactions. I have a habit of trying to pay close attention to a person’s body language, facial expressions, tone of voice, word choices, etc. I call this practice “really listening.” I believe that the bulk of human communication is unspoken, and most people will unconsciously reveal much more of what they are thinking in nonverbals than with the spoken word. Interpreting the nonverbal clues, however, requires some intuitive analysis that is sometimes inaccurate. Not everyone is transparent.  Of course, for those who tend to take everyone at their word, or at strictly face value, what I just described is overthinking things. People just aren’t that complicated, I have been told.  I am a person. I am complicated. I

On Relationships

I sometimes describe myself as relationally crippled. When it comes to enjoying social relationships with my fellow creatures, I see myself as pretty much a failure. I usually choose watching others over closely engaging with them.   Since many people tend to overreact after hearing opinions that challenge theirs, I try to sidestep topics that tempt me to play devil's advocate. I yearn for sincere conversations but loath interactions that might devolve into regretful deprecations. I have even less interest in casual chit-chat.  Introverts crave meaning so party chitchat feels like sandpaper to our psyche. ~ Diane Cameron It seems that most of the world is trying to avoid solitude by stimulating every waking moment with noise, crowds and activity. I spend most days alone, but I never feel lonely. I quite like being alone. I enjoy solitude. While in a rare social mood I openly shared some of my introspections. The person I was attempting to engage quickly let me know that "think

On Wasting Time

It is not that we have a short time to live, but that we waste a lot of it. Life is long enough, and a sufficiently generous amount has been given to us for the highest achievements if it were all well invested...  ― Seneca, On the Shortness of Life I retired a couple years ago and people are still asking me what I do with all my time. Responding I am working on personal improvement seems to assuage most curiosity. What I am tempted to tell them is I spend my time the same as everyone: living life.  Until recently, my mindset resembled that of my inquisitors. I believed that a person who spends the day playing video games or watching television is wasting time. Further, I believed that if a person isn’t actively pursuing a goal such as career advancement, acquiring a degree, travelling the world, etc., then they are also just wasting time. In fact, spending time doing anything not measurably productive could be labeled a waste of time. Someone I know, when she is off work for a couple

On "My Anti-Testimonial"

It  is invariably a shock to Evangelical Christians to come across someone who has turned his or her back on the “faith was once delivered unto the saints.” Most believers will quickly dismiss an ex-Christian by piously pointing out that anyone who turns away from Christ was never a real believer. Or, as an insider might say it, “They were never born again.” There is Biblical support for the assertion. 1 John 2:19, which addressed the problem of First Century apostates, states that: “They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.” (KJV) (I’d like to point out here that the previous verse, verse 18, suggests that the writer also believed it was the end of history and that the Antichrist was about to appear. It seems that whoever penned 1 John was premature in announcing it to be the “last time.” He may have been mistaken in his quick

On Suicide

Suicide is painless It brings on many changes And I can take or leave it if I please — Chorus from the theme song for the movie and TV series M*A*S*H Contemplating taking one’s own life appears somewhat common, at least in my experience. I had an uncle and a coworker who went beyond the contemplation phase, both hanging themselves. I also had three associates who ended their days with self-inflicted gunshots.  I think, however, that the occasional  contemplation of suicide is widespread and not merely confined to those few who actually carry it out.  The Stoics believed that depending on the situation, choosing the time and place of one’s death was ethically acceptable, and in some cases, prudent. Always remember – the door is open.  – Epictetus (Discourses I.25.18) The Stoics dealt with this subject in depth, yet they remained primarily focused on living with resilience and tranquility. Life should never be thoughtlessly thrown away during difficult circumstances, but there are situat

On Christmas, 1966
one kid's happy memory

"Hey Tom, do you hear that?” The music of sleigh bells was unmistakable. “Come on Tom, come over here.” Tom jumped up on my bed and the two of us scanned the scene outside our window desperately trying to focus on what was making that marvelous sound. It was Christmas Eve and those rhythmic bells could be credited to nothing else but Saint Nick’s mythical reindeer. My brother was still a believer and though I was enlightened, I was not about to blow his Christmas. When I was in Kindergarten, one of the kids told me there was no such thing as Santa Claus. He claimed it was only your Dad and Mom who bought you presents and then hid them until you went to sleep on Christmas Eve. With a superior air, I tried to explain to my sneering peer that the night before Christmas my mom always set out cookies and milk for Santa, and in the morning, the plate was always clean except for some telltale crumbs and the glass was always empty. In my mind, this alone was irrefutable proof Santa had r

On Having a Paunch

I’d never worn glasses, having always enjoyed wonderful 20/20 vision. While others wore sunglasses during the summer months, my face went naked. Glasses had just never been part of my experience. Uncountable numbers of people wear glasses and many of those have worn them all their lives. It is obvious to anyone that a huge industry revolves around the simple expedient of improving an individual’s ability to see clearly. In the 21st Century there is by no means anything strange or unique about wearing magnifiers on the face. However, not me – no, never me - my eyes are perfect. Or rather, my eyes were perfect. Over the course of about three years it became increasingly impossible for me to enjoy reading without squinting, or outright guessing at the words on the page. I began to appreciate and understand why those large print editions at the library existed. Some of those microscopic disclaimers on various products, as well as ingredient labels on food, which I used to read without th

On Love
(on the tarmac)

My wife and I first met in the military in October 1983. I was 24 and a trombonist in the Air Force Band stationed at Maxwell Air Force Base in Montgomery Alabama. My rank was Tech Sergeant (E6) and I was the NCO in charge of the Jazz Ensemble, an 18-piece group consisting of keyboards, guitar, bass guitar, drums, trumpets, trombones, saxophones and a lead singer. Aside from the myriad of military performances we were tasked with, our primary emphasis was actually public affairs concerts in the civilian community. Every month we traveled throughout the southeast part of the U.S. anywhere from New Orleans to Orlando to Knoxville for seven to fourteen days at a time putting on free highly promoted concerts. Once a year we flew north to Canada to perform at the International Air Show in Toronto. It was my job to choose and rehearse the music for our concerts, be the Master of Ceremonies for the group, promote the performances by appearing on television and radio, provide leadership and