I hear a lot of people talking about this horrible narcissistic world we now live in. I’m not so sure. People have always been selfish, self centered, hedonistic. There’s nothing new under the sun. Yes, ways of communicating are quickly changing. We can now present ourselves to more people, with the click of a mouse.
But people are no more narcissistic today than they were in ancient times.
Lots of frustrated Protestants today are splitting hairs today about names. Some are calling themselves “followers of Jesus” but not “Christian.” Some are calling themselves “disciples” but not “Christian.” And some (like me) are happy calling themselves, well, “Christian.” (Romans Catholics don’t have this problem. They call themselves, “Catholic.”)
Paul (not me) warned about this kind of sloganeering in 1st Corinthians. There was a bunch of division back then, too. Some believers said they followed Paul; others said they followed Peter; other that they followed Apollos.
Some really clever ones claimed to follow “Christ.” (Those first century elitists remind me of people today that protest using the name “Christian,” so have to use other names to point-out to everyone how radical or real or early church or more organic they are than everybody else.)
This oneupmanship has been around for 2,000 years. C.S. Lewis understood the temptation all of have to want to stand out. Different. Better. More radical. Elitist.
So Lewis used the name and idea of being “Merely Christian” to basically point out the undeniable fact that most of us are about the same: self centered, broken, hypocritical. Very few us are saintly like Jesus or Mother Teresa or St. Francis of Assisi.
In any given moment of time, every one of is either acting Christlike, or we’re not. So I’ll go with the name “Christian” for now, unless I come to the conclusion that I’m better than you.
I’m sure that won’t be happening though.
There’s something wrong with any parent who doesn’t love family vacations. If I had the time and money, I’d vacation all summer long. Getting out of town clears our heads from the ordinary. Vacations have the ability to etch fond memories into the minds of the young.
Just take your kids out of town and they’re bound to remember stuff.
Those of us who love summer travels should consider ourselves lucky. We’d all be staying home had it not been for man named Edward Jarvis.
Jarvis was the US commissioner of education in the mid 1800’s. He published a report called the “Relation of Education to Insanity.” In the report he concludes, “Education lays the foundation of a large portion of the causes of mental disorder.” His work produced a startling “finding” — mentally ill people had had too much school. Their minds were over stimulated. Their brains needed a vacation.
So in order to reduce insanity, kids across America were given the summer off.
But very few families traveled in the 1800’s. Traveling was costly. Public transportation was for the elite. Credit cards hadn’t been invented. So kids stayed home. By the mid-1900’s, however, most families owned cars. You could now drive to your desired destination. You could travel. And most families did. The golden age of the family vacation had begun.
I remember one summer when my parents rented a mobile home and took my sisters and me to a private trailer park, about 30 miles south of Tijuana. It was the late 1970’s. A few years later they purchased that mobile home. Summer after summer we all came back, usually for a weekend, but sometimes week or two.
I remember always visiting a fishing village called Puerto Nuevo (we all called it “Newport”). Everybody fussed over the fresh lobster. I resisted. The more I resisted, the more they’d all bug me to try some. So one day I threw a few chunks into the freshly made tortilla. An hour later I broke out in a rash, head to toe. My eyes were swollen shut and my mom (who always opted for home remedies) rubbed warm salt water all over me. I wouldn’t try lobster again for very long time.
I remember the dusty curio shops dotted along the roads in Rosarito beach, and the firecrackers and skyrockets and switchblades that my dad would never let me buy. I remember the self-serve Mexican bread shop where you use tongs and a stainless steel platter. Each of us kids were allowed to have our own platter and pick out whatever we wanted. I remember going to Mass, which, of course, was done in Spanish. I never understood why my parents made us go, since we understood almost nothing the priest said.
I remember always wondering why it was so much easier getting into Mexico than it was getting out.
When I became a parent and started taking my own children on vacation I remembered something else. I remembered how I never realized how much work my parents went through to take my sisters and me on vacation.
The whole business of vacationing requires big investment. Half of Americans in a recent poll said they were more exhausted after going on vacation than they were before they went. Choices must be made. Lists must be made. We have to reserve things with our credit cards. We have to stuff suitcases, and squish everything into the car. You have to wait in lines. Kids end up getting bored and cranky. So do the parents. There’s usually bickering. Getting there takes a longer than you planned. And if you’re like most people, you’re always thinking about what everything costs.
In French the act of moving from one place to another is travaille. It’s also the French word used for “work.” When the French talk about traveling, they are expressly talking about work.
The greatest paradox of family vacations? We all love them, but getting back home can sometimes be the most relaxing part.
The case against George Zimmerman is over. The jury has decided. As President Obama said yesterday, “we are a nation of laws, and a jury has spoken.”
It’s bizarre to me how much blaming and whining there is going on. Right wingers blaming the president for stupid remarks he made. Liberals whining about the system.
Can’t the liberals not accept that government (which includes the president) is imperfect? Can they not see that the judicial axiom “innocent until proven guilty” is the best system in the world? And can’t the conservatives shut about about how Obama “handled” this sad story?
In the end, Zimmerman was deemed innocent by a group of citizens that were selectively chosen by both the defense and the prosecution.. That jury heard the entire story. They heard Martin’s lawyers present every shred of evidence they had, for as long as they wanted.
In the end those six women didn’t even convict Martin of the lesser crime of manslaughter. There was reasonable doubt.
It’s a tragedy that a young man was killed. It’s horrible. Crime is horrible. But I think it’s time for liberals and conservatives to stop whining and blaming, and move on with life.
What’s harder, doing stuff, or doing nothing? I’m convinced that it’s way harder to do nothing. Here’s an example of why. I practice yoga. In my practice there are 26 active postures, postures where you have to do certain things to you body (see photo). In between each posture, there’s a “do nothing” posture. It’s called “savasana.” During the 90 minute session, the instructor will give direction. For example, “keep your spine straight” or “keep your heels together.” But during savasana, you’ll hear “relax your entire body and breathe.” I find that during savasana the instructor will keep having to say things over and over: “relax,” “don’t move a muscle,” “just stay still,” “no movement of any kind except breathing.” And you’ll also be encouraged to keep your mind “still.” You’ll hear, “let go of all your thoughts and anxieties…just let go.”
I hate it. It’s for more excruciating to stay still, than it is to move. Physically, I want to scratch or squirm or wiggle. Mentally, I need to think about stuff that is bugging me. If I can’t think of something that’s bugging me, I’ll get bugged at the instructor who trying to get me to stop thinking of things that are bugging me.
In the yoga studio, doing nothing is way harder than doing something.
And what’s hard in the yoga studio is also hard in life.
It seems far easier to do stuff, to go from here to there — from the computer to the yard to the kitchen to the laundry pile to the phone to the phone to the phone to the magazine to the car to the store to the thing I need to clean — than it is to stay still. Mentally, it’s the same. I go from money worries to kid worries to friend worries to health worries to scheduling worries to reputation worries — it’s hard to do nothing with your mind.
I really have to go now.
“I know there’s a balance, I see it when I swing past.”
(John Mellencamp, Between a Laugh and a Tear)
I like my girlfriend, I hate Caltrans. I like fresh blueberries and Chardonnay and anything Mediterranean, I loathe Caltrans. I like the writings of Aristotle and Bertrand Russell and Joan Diddion. I despise Caltrans.
Two nights ago I was driving home. It was around eleven-thirty. And there they were. Along the 91 freeway, brake lights. For a moment I thought, “major accident, God help them.” But I knew better. I’ve been here before. So have you
It started with an inconspicuous orange cone on the right lane. Then two, three, four, five. By 20, I observed a very shiny and large construction truck on the side shoulder — a Caltrans truck. Intense lights beamed from it. A man sat inside the truck. But that was it. Nobody else to help him. Nobody else to improve our roads. Just the man in the shiny big truck with the blinding lights.
The arrangement of the cones suggested we merge out of the right lane. Then they suggested we merge out of the second to the right lane. Then out of the third. Eventually we were all forced into the two left lanes — crammed into the two left lanes.
Half an hour (and about three miles) later stood three men. Caltrans men. They huddled around what appeared to be small hole. A hole about the size of a Hula Hoop. Having ample time, I watched. “What in the hell are they doing?” There they stood. Statuesque. Three sets of eyes fixated on the hole. We moved on. But the cones remained.
Then it suddenly ended. The cones disappeared. We drove on.
The road improvements cost me about an hour of my night. I saw hundreds of cones. I saw two Caltrans vehicles. And three Caltrans employees.
I pay for Caltrans to improve my driving experience. If you live in California, so do you. I like a lot of things. But not Caltrans.
Are you successful? I thought more about yesterday’s post on success. I left something out. What’s more important? Making money, or education?
I ask this question for a very specific reason. Over the years, I’ve heard some rich people bash education. These anti-intellectuals think “what’s the use if you don’t know how to put your education ‘to use.’” They especially like to bash people who study “impractical” things like history or literature or art or theology or philosophy or classical languages (like Latin or Greek). You’ve heard them before: “what the hell are you going to do with THAT?” A while ago, an acquaintance (who lives in a house worth tens of millions of dollars) made a dig at me, telling me that my daughter shouldn’t study anything in college, except business. “Everything else is a waste of time, it won’t help her succeed, it’s hard to make real money as a scientist.”
But I’ve also heard some pretty dang educated folks bash rich and uneducated people. These elitist snobs look down on anyone without a bunch of letters after their names (BA, MA, PHD). For the elitists, it’s downright crude to have made a ton of money in sales or marketing or by starting a business.
Here’s what I’ve learned. Anti-intellectuals bash anyone with a good education. And snobs bash anyone without one.
So what do you think? What is success?
Are you successful? If so, why? What is success? How is one to measure success? By the amount of one’s possessions and money? By one’s education and public honors? By one’s intelligence and knowledge? Is success about how “well” your children are doing in life, by their academic, or athletic, or artistic achievements? Who doesn’t struggle with wanting to flout their success for people to see?
I don’t have all the answers, but this I know. Rich people, and rich wannabes — those are people in the middle class that have to drive certain cars and wear certain brands to impress strangers — are always going on and on about how success isn’t about possessions and money. But most of these people devote all their energies to keeping their possessions and money. I recently heard the term “positional goods” to describe things that “position” you in society. People obsessed with their positional goods go to great lengths to impress and please everyone.
I like what Bill Cosby said: “I don’t know the key to success, but the key to failure is trying to please everybody.”
What do you think about success? I’d feel successful if told me.
I’m all for inspirational quotes and stories. And photos of sunsets and flowers with Bible verses. But I think sometimes it might be helpful to stay in a bad mood. At least for a very short while.