Thursday, August 31, 2006

Dealing with Violence When It Becomes Personal

We tend to read about violence in all parts of our community, nation and the world and shake our heads, wondering what to make of it. What about when it becomes personal? A friend told me of his recent visit to his log cabin two and a half miles up a mountain from the nearest highway. When he arrived, he found the cabin trashed and some beer cans strewn about. It took him the whole day to clean it up. It left him shaken, with no obvious explanation other than the antics of a drunking group of ne'er do wells. It left him feeling shaken, without recourse and with little ability to prevent such incidents in the future. Although not the end of the world, maybe incidents such as this give us a little insight into what it is like being the object of much greater violence.

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Expecting Everything to Make Sense

Last week I bought some soft drinks on sale which qualified for a full rebate. I had to buy four packs to qualify. The store had only two in stock. The clerk helpfully suggested that I pay for two and receive a rain check for the other two, marked as already paid. It sounded sensible. I have been back twice to find that they were still out of stock. I happened to be near another store in the chain and stopped in to see if they had any. I was in luck! The clerk at that store told me they could not honor my rain check since I had already paid the other store. I pointed out that the rain check clearly stated it was good at any store in the chain. After some ado, I left without the soft drinks and was back to square one. I was frustrated in my assumption that everything would work out as I expected it to. Next time I will seek more clarification of the necessary procedures.

Tuesday, August 29, 2006

What I Saw On My Walk

I have driven down Route 5 many times over the past few years and barely notice the houses that whiz by. Yesterday I walked a mile or so to the car dealer. On my way I found a house with a lonely sign, "We support wind power." It was almost lost in a sea of "No wind turbines" signs in the area. Another house had a pantheon of religious statues, formerly found only in old style Catholic churches. A third had a demure sign, "Grandma and Grandpa's House." You certainly get a different perspective on foot!

Saturday, August 26, 2006

The Power of Speech

I ran across this quote from Thomas Mann this morning, "Speech is civilization itself. The word, even the most contradictory word, preserves contact. It is silence that isolates." I used to ignore people if I had no business with them. Now I greet everyone I can and try to make at least fleeting contact. I know it brightens my day when someone says hello when I least expect it.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Challenging our Hatreds

It's easy to hate people we don't know. We can expand one idea, factual or not, which challenges our cherished beliefs and come to see people as our enemy. In fact they may want very much the same things we do. It is only by going beyond our prejudices and getting to know individual people, rather than "them," that we can see that our differences are not quite as large as we may think.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Ostrich and the Rainbow Boys

I've never seen an ostrich hide its head in the sand, but I certainly have been aware of people doing so figuratively. In this morning's paper, I read about parents complaining about the book, "The Rainbow Boys," about gay teens coming of age. The school district removed the book from their reading list in response. In my mind ignorance is one of the chief factors in prejudice. Does it hurt for teens to learn about their friends' struggles with sexual identity, or their own for that matter? Awareness is a key to understanding. Make your choice.

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Marriage, Gays and Commitment

I was talking with a friend yesterday about the concerns some people have about gay marriage undermining the family. We concluded that commitment is more important than what is on paper. Plenty of heterosexual people come and go in marriages without concerns being raised about undermining the family. It seems to me that gay marriage is a public commitment of two people to each other. Now we just need to find a way to strengthen and make lasting the commitment of everyone making marriage vows, gay and straight.

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

What You Can Control

I have been thinking lately that our level of self respect depends somewhat on the degree to which we feel we are in control of our lives. But I think we tend to take for granted the many things over which we have no control. I woke up early this morning and realized that I did not have the power to make my heart beat even once. I plan to take more time to be thankful to God for the things I take for granted.

Monday, August 21, 2006

The Meaning of Respect

Lately I have been thinking about the relationship between respect and violence. Today I was considering what respect means. To me it means being taken seriously. People who respect you don't think you are stupid, clueless or irrelevant. It doesn't mean everyone agrees with you but they accept your actions as as your way of doing the best you can with your life.

Saturday, August 19, 2006

The Limits of Self Control

I was writing about violence yesterday and thinking about what it takes to push each of us beyond our endurance of frustration and whatever else draws us to violence. How is it that some people can endure the horrors of torture and maintain control while others explode at athe smallest provocation? I think it is something we learn by the example of our parents, how others around us react to violence and how secure we are about ourselves. Maybe there are more factors as well.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Why We Get Violent

I have been thinking lately about violence and where it comes from. I had been considering the feeling of impotence as its main cause leading people to lash out in frustration. Last night at a baseball game, I noticed the crowd grow noticibly testy after the umpires made a series of questionable calls. I guess I will have to add a feeling of unfairness to my list of motivations.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Cherishing Friends

Last night I visited a friend who was extremely depressed and had even considered suicide. I tend to take my friendships for granted and always expect my friends to be there for me for support or just good times. It is occasions like this which make me realize just how special my friendships are. There are times friends have nothing to offer and just need me to be there. I am glwd I could be there.

Monday, August 14, 2006

New Beginnings

I am almost over my disappointment of last week's publishing dead end. I discovered that there are no real dead ends. If you go as far as you can along one path, it just means it is time for another path. Starting over can be tiresome and a little scary at times. I have found that once I get my feet moving, it can also be exciting.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Life's Perfect Storms

Two days ago I was bummed out by a publishing deal which fell through. I felt sorry for myself for a while and then stopped to consider what happened. I had different goals and ideas from the publisher. It did not mean anything bad about him or me. We just had different ideas about how to pursue my project. He made some helpful suggestions and yesterday I was off in a new direction with his blessing and support. I again feel righted and back on course. I still don't know quite where my voyage will lead but have a better idea what is important to me.

Monday, August 07, 2006

Dealing with Family Drama

I attended a family reunion yesterday. There were undercurrents of past family conflicts. Some wanted to bypass the old conflicts and go on as if nothing had happened. Some were able to do this, while others had a harder time and still felt hurt. Sometimes a relative might not know what the family issue is or why there are still hurt feelings. Sometimes you have to be very clear, stating your feelings from your point of view without being accusatory. It's not easy. But then, it's not easy to carry the burden of feeling wronged fior years. Every once in a while it will arise to trip you up when you least expect it.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Teach Your Children Well

Last night I was watching a community concert by the Over the Hill Musical Society at Jackson Square in Batavia. In front of me were two families each with two young children. In one family, the children ran wildly, spending their time antagonizing each other, and freequently ending in tears as their parents watched ineffectively. In the family left left early, all in rather poor spirits. The other family had two equally active children. The took turns dancing and laughing with their children, often kissing and hugging them. They left obviously glad to be with each other. What kind of adults do you think these four children will make?

Friday, August 04, 2006

Life With No Respect

Rodney Dangerfield made a career of complaining that he got no respect. Arguments, gang fights and road rage all stem from people's feelings that they are not respected by others. People who don't feel respected sometimes choose to make others fear them instead. I have been wondering what it would take for us to start respecting each other more and whether it might make a difference in how the world operates.

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Dancing Cheek to Cheek

I started yesterday reading about bombing, raids and death. I again wondered what the world is coming to. I ended the day watching the band 78RPM playing at Tom Wahl Restaurant in Avon, NY and seeing couples and individuals swaying and swinging to the music despite the intense heat. How do we get people to dance with each other rather than kill each other. I wish I knew. Maybe it starts with getting to know each other and finding more about how we are the same rather than emphasizing the differences.

Tuesday, August 01, 2006

Old Friends

Yesterday I planned lunch with an old friend I had not seen for years. We ended up spending several hours together catching up on all that had happened in the intervening years. We met as professionals years ago. We got to talking about our adolescences and I realized we had been at the same seminary boarding school in high school for a brief time. Since we last talked, I have published a book largely about this seminary and never knew (or had forgotten) that he had been there. It made me realize that there are people with whom I have connections that I don't even remember. What would our lives be like if we remembered all those threads and took them with us on our journey through life?