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31 May 2008

The Bozone

The Washington Post's Style Invitational asked readers to take any word from the dictionary, alter it by adding, subtracting, or changing one letter, and supply a new definition. Here are some winners.

1. Intaxication: euphoria at getting a tax refund, which lasts until you realize it was your money to start with.

2. Reintarnation: coming back to life as a hillbilly.

3. Bozone (n.): the substance surrounding stupid people that stops bright
ideas from penetrating. The bozone layer, unfortunately, shows little sign
of breaking down in the near future.

4. Cashtration (n.): the act of buying a house, which renders the subject
financially impotent for an indefinite period.

5. Giraffiti: vandalism spray-painted very, very high.

6. Sarchasm: the gulf between the author of sarcastic wit and the person
who doesn't get it.

7. Inoculatte: to take coffee intravenously when you are running late.

8. Hipatitis: terminal coolness.

9. Osteopornosis: a degenerate disease. (This one got extra credit.)

10. Karmageddon: it's like, when everybody is sending off all these really
bad vibes, right? And then, like, the Earth explodes and it's, like, a
serious bummer.

11. Decafalon (n.): the grueling event of getting through the day consuming
only things that are good for you.

12. Glibido: all talk and no action.

13. Dopeler effect: the tendency of stupid ideas to seem smarter when they
come at you rapidly.

14. Arachnoleptic fit (n.): the frantic dance performed just after you've
accidentally walked through a spider web.

15. Beelzebug (n.): Satan in the form of a mosquito, that gets into your
bedroom at three in the morning and cannot be cast out.

16. Caterpallor (n.): the color you turn after finding half a worm in the
fruit you're eating.

And The #1 Pick:

17. Ignoranus: a person who's both stupid and an ass hole.

29 May 2008

Bond of Valor


In the above photo, taken by the AP in 2004, Pearl Harbor survivor Houston James embraces Marine Staff Sergeant Mark Graunke Jr. during a Veteran's Day ceremony in Dallas, Texas. Graunke was assigned to an EOD Team (Explosives Ordinance Disposal) when an improvised device exploded while he was trying to disarm it while in Iraq in 2003. Graunke lost an eye, a leg and an arm. However, because of his efforts, countless troops were not killed or injured from encountering this cowardly device.

So, what did you do at work today?

Most
of us have unique fellowships with people that have endured similar trials as us. Breast cancer survivors, crime victims, survivors of a disaster, responders to a mass casualty event, war time combatants, those responsible to restore people and things after the aforementioned catastrophes, etc. It is those ties that bind, regardless how far apart we are on other issues.

If you fall
into one of these similar categories, then you will surely look at the above AP photograph and be overcome with emotion.

I had
an acquaintance many years ago sign a book for me that he recently had published. The book was based on a topic that few people knew much about. The back story to some of the events discussed therein were known to only a limited number of folks, which included me. His signature still haunts me:

"To Michael: A new friend...one who knows and understands..."

It haunts me because "knowing" and "understanding" some things at great depths sometimes can be burdensome. If you've held a security clearance, been a government witness, or seen sausage being made, then you know of what I speak.

Another
example that comes to mind is new D3 reader, Talisman. She is a chemist by trade and while I know next to nothing about chemistry, I learned the hard way that I am safer with the HAZMAT people I work with walking in front of me with their monitors, rather than walking behind me with me as the guinea pig . Thankfully, I think, chemist types don't look at chemical agents like we do...they know what combinations can cause lethal clouds, peel paint and melt eye balls. For the rest of us, being blissfully ignorant has its advantages.

Being privy
to items related to national security, crime trends and even economic variances is another double edged sword. I'm not talking about reading the Huffington Post or watching the smut on TMZ either. I'm talking about real, honest to goodness inside intelligence...and the experiences that sear your soul as a result as mentioned above.

So for the injured Marine and his surviving predecessor
, they - like so many - have a bond that extends well beyond the generations, beyond the wars that have changed their very being and beyond the physical scars that mar their bodies. They have looked at death. Death has looked at them. And despite it all they were able to live to see another day.

***

So an epilogue of sorts to a couple of my recent articles. Both updates are from the news and both I found to be disturbing.

It seems that
since the onset of the global war on terror (a media term no doubt) that 580 soldiers have taken their own lives (not including reservists who have returned to their civilian jobs) including a record high of 115 in 2007. In fact, suicide is the fourth leading cause of death for someone in the Army behind hostile fire, accidents and illness. As we spoke about on Memorial Day, the suicide rate threatens to surpass all other types of troop fatalities without greater mental health intervention.

For a bit of balance and perspective though, the Army is trying
to catch up with what is surely an unexpected influx of mental health claims. They are hiring hundreds more clinicians to assist returning soldiers and are trying to adjust to the modified deployment terms and accumulated stress from combat weary veterans. It serves little purpose to lambaste them for what has occurred in the past, but with 18 veterans a day - from all US wars - reportedly taking their lives, the Army needs all the support and continued pressure they can get to insure that these returning troops are receiving adequate care.

We've also
learned that some troops are planting a garden to restore a bit of balance to their deployment life and to perhaps soften the sharp edges of their very pointed military mission. But come to find out that a handful of Marines have taken to proselytizing the local Muslim Iraqi's while stationed there, much to the disappointment, disgust and outright protest of the local Iraqi's. At a checkpoint required for Iraqi's to pass in Fallujah, some Marines are reportedly requiring Iraqi's to take coins which bear evangelical messages encouraging the Iraqi's to convert to Christianity.

"Iraq is investigating a report that U.S. military personnel in Fallujah handed-out material that is religious and evangelical in nature."
"Passing Christianity this way is disrespectful."
"...the occupier is planting seeds of strife between the Muslims and Christians."

Now, I spewed
about this very thing at great length in Part 3 of my Save Thee or Sell Thee Series. The war between Muslims and Christians probably transcends a few Marines passing out Convert-to-Christianity propaganda, but these clue challenged zealots sure aren't doing anything to reduce tensions over there either. And the news space that was taken up to write about those dolts could have been spent documenting good works from more deserving soldiers...which I know are plentiful (good troops and good stories).

***

Val·or (vāl'ər) - Courage and Boldness; Bravery. From the Latin word Valere, to be strong, be of value.


No matter who we are, where we are, what we do or where we do it....we can all be of value. And that, dear reader, is valiant.




28 May 2008

The Grass is Always Greener ....

...on the other side of the world.


The above soldier (Warrant Officer 1 Brook Turner) misses HOME.

So while stationed in Iraq in 2004 he asked his wife to send some grass seed, determined to replicate a slice of his home state of Oregon in the 3' x 7' plot of desert behind his 'hooch' (trailer). In the 125 degree Iraqi heat, he tended to his grass 3 times per day with water from his bathroom and a hand rake sent from his wife. As we can see, he carefully maintained his lawn with a pair of scissors.

A few hundred clicks away, at the Al Udeid Air Base in Doha, Qatar, soldiers there prepared their own garden too. One that each new rotation of Airmen inherited from the last.

So, how does your lawn look?

The connective element to home is critical to our deployed troops. The stressors many of these young soldiers and Marines are being asked to endure are tremendous. Most will be stronger in character, taller in the saddle and keener in their perspective when they return. Some will not.

Army Sergeant Carl Quam Jr. stationed outside of Tikrit, Iraq grew plentiful crops of food including corn, cauliflower, cucumbers and peas for his fellow soldiers. Gardening was more than just food...it was a way to connect to his home in North Dakota: "It helped me cope with missing them."


Even in World War I, Allied Troops cultivated what became known as War Gardens. Not in the "victory garden" nomenclature referring to growing gardens stateside to feed our deployed troops, but something far more organic, more grounded.

"Gardens in the war exemplified the struggle to create something normal in the most abnormal conditions," writes Kenneth Helphand in his book, Defiant Gardens.

Being deployed can be an arduous affair. And being deployed with little or no connective tissue between where you are and where you've been can be
distracting, depressing or fatal. Yet it has been well documented that we would rather buy a weed whacker on sale at Sears than honor our fallen soldiers.

Back in
January we spoke about Gratitude. Perhaps it is time we all revisit the topic since our grass doesn't seem to be as green as it once was...

23 May 2008

Spread it Like Butter....

Dateline 1869....

Napoleon III, nephew to the diminutive Napoleon Bonaparte, and President of the French Republic had a contest. A sack race? No. Carry an egg on a spoon? Try again. Pin the tail on the Emperor? Nope.

He offered a grant to obtain a patent in Britain, France and the United States for the first caballero, er, monsieur to invent a substitute for.....butter.

During his re-do of of the French Republic, Nappy the 3rd wanted something that didn't cost as much as butter to feed to his military and to the poor.

Real butter it seems, was to be reserved for the aristocracy.

****

Speaking of authentic, I want to draw your attention to a couple of authentic sites. I try to make my rounds regularly to see what the 'haps' are in the blogosphere. Among those on my route, the following three (3) have really got me captivated lately. Their writing is authentic, eloquent and/or thought provoking.

Dana at Amid Life's Crises (and loyal D3 reader) is mid stream in a series about her own trials involving drugs and her spouse's suicide. I am amazed at the willingness to bare so much, but then again, she is a favorite among her HNT friends. I could not possibly do it justice by trying to summarize it here. While I know her only through her writings, her openness to share her journey online is refreshing, impressive and captivatingly honest.

Brian at The Brian Cuban Revolution - I only came across his site recently, but his writing typically sparks a flurry of passionate responses. I liken his topics to putting a stick in a bee hive for fun. As perhaps a bit of a departure from his self appointed antagonist role, he recently penned a couple of stories about his own trials involving bulimia and addiction. Again, I found it engaging to read someone who is willing to be so open.

If you read their stories, I assure you that you won't soon complain about burning dinner or missing a movie or getting stuck in traffic.

Kat Wilder - Kat is a heck of a writer, yo. Truly, her topics are varied, her research thorough and her personal disclosures proportional. She lives and work in tony Marin County California and her blog appears in their local paper. I am surprised at the seeming lack of response some of her articles get because she is an excellent writer and has real literary talent.

I'm unlikely to bare my tush, however boring it may be, to the online world anytime soon. So for those that desire a bit more depth, I think you will be pleasantly surprised by the above sites.

****

And for those that can't tolerate not knowing who won Napoleon's contest. The winner was none other than Margarine, by chemist Hippolyte Mege-Mouries. So now you know. Impress your friends while you slather your margarine (or butter) on your corn-on-the-cob this Memorial Day weekend.

19 May 2008

Fronte di Verdure!


Ethan's now a 7 month old,
And he's growing like a weed;
So we started him on solid grub,
So he has something else on which to feed.

He has taken to life so willingly,
We figured this would be the same;
But Ethan had his own plan we learned,
Anything but VBM just tasted too plain!

So we gussied up his foodstuffs,
And the methods we delivered it to his mouth;
And had marginal success with him liking it,
But still, his smile often headed south.

Maybe it was the spoon?
Perhaps even the type of bowl?
What if we filled up his tub with smashed bananas,
And just let him tumble, play and roll?

Well that idea didn't last too long,
But giving him freedom to explore made sense;
So we gave him free run of his food tray,
And our inner clean freak began to wince:

(click the control bar below the picture to play the video)

video

15 May 2008

Girl Scouts & NY Yankees!

Let's see, what do Girl Scouts and Yankees have in common? Uniforms, household name, chemical additives to make them better....

Yes, but below are two stories that strike another parallel. Read on dear reader, read on:

"Michigan Girl Scout sells 17,328 boxes of cookies" - Yep, I read the headline and with typical skepticism, I assumed that out of the 17,328 boxes sold, that at least 17,300 were sold by some helicopter mom and dad who fixed it for their little Scout. I pictured the parents taking the cookies to their work to brow beat their co-workers, relentlessly pimping out their relatives and mortgaging their own home to buy the rest. But then I kept reading.

It seems that the 15 year old Girl Scout was a bit of a wall flower before the cookie campaign. Her mom did push her out the door each day at first - and sat with her - on a street corner every day to offer their cookies to the passersby. Every day. The mom described to the news how her little girl blossomed before her eyes from being very "quiet, shy and afraid to talk to customers" to being "really confident and right out there, first to the door." As a dad who pines away for my kids to be achievers - at anything they choose to pursue - I absolutely love the story behind the story.

Oh yeah, the girl's whole scout troop is going to Europe with the troop's share of the money raised. Individual accomplishment that is paid to the whole team that supported her. Awesome.

"Yankees respond to pressure with win over Rays" - That's the New York Yankees of Major League Baseball. The storied franchise with the league leading $208,684,129 payroll. Wow, that is almost as much as I make! The team's owner Hank Steinbrenner told his players to start "earning their bloated salaries" during team meeting before the game. Seems the boss was not happy that he was not getting a dollars worth of work for a dollars worth of pay.

The team apparently agreed. They performed at a high level and won the game. "Our intensity was up a little bit," said their captain Derek Jeter.

***

Long time readers know I endorse the ol' carrot & stick approach to behavior reinforcement. I suppose that is what caught my attention with these stories. Some would tend to go easy and not push too hard, not expect too much and not hold people accountable to an acceptable standard.

In these stories somebody cared enough to expect more...and they got more.

How about you? Are you a pushover, or are you a drill sergeant? Or something in between?

14 May 2008

Deal's Organizational Principle


"A fall guy is built into every venture. If the venture is successful, he will never know it; if it is not, he will be trotted out for the show trial."
Deal's Organizational Principle

When I was in college I worked for a chain of health clubs. It was a great job; small enough to be familial but large enough to give me a taste of actual business, not the theoretical business I was learning in college.

One of my early mentors was a fellow named Tom. Tom was a helluva guy. The rumor was that Tom played "the body" wearing the Spiderman suit in the original Spiderman TV series. Tom was very ambitious, a very effective leader and was very eager to please. However, Tom was not very business savvy (as I would learn much later), not very confrontational and was not a very good racquetball player.

"Success in sales is proportional to the number of 2 foot putts you miss when playing golf with your prospective customer" - World's Greatest Salesperson

Although I was born at night (not really, but I need the joke to work), thankfully, it wasn't last night. I figured if I let ol' Tom beat me in racquetball occasionally, I could get him to share some of his business acumen.

So began my mentorship. As Tom rose through the ranks of our company's leadership, so did I. I was his minion and I learned a lot. Later, when Tom was the head duck of operations of our outfit, some swashbucklers from Canada came to town and bought our health club chain from our aged owner. Then they made ol' Tom an offer he couldn't refuse: Tom would be the head duck over an even wider area of newly acquired clubs and would be given a fancy title along with the head swelling authority to sign everyone's payroll checks. Tom was large and in charge! Every payday everyone would know who the boss was.

Tom was happy. And we were happy with Tom and for Tom. The canucks were never around except to 'monitor' the books once a month so it was a great scenario.

Until the money started disappearing. And paychecks started bouncing. Seems that the scrote bags from the north were pillaging our little company for all it was worth. When they had enough, they disappeared, leaving ol' Tom holding the bag, the empty bag that is. Before Tom was sued out of existence, he imparted a final salvo of advice, including: don't agree to sign any payroll checks unless you are also certain that the payroll taxes are being paid. Yikes. Withholding - but not reporting/paying - payroll taxes is severely punished it turns out.

I saw Tom a few years after that. Still smiling, but pockets bare. He was on his way to the courthouse for more lingering issues and then on his way back to his job cleaning tanning beds at a tanning salon.

Not sure why it is called Deal's Organizational Principle, because if you are on the receiving end, it is not a good deal at all.

08 May 2008

Save Thee? Or Sell Thee? Part 5



For those just joining us, you can find Part 1 in this series by clicking here.



Real sign, fake words. Kind of like that church themselves.

The bigots over at Westboro Baptist church in Topeka Kansas have made a living off of their hatred. They are officially classified as a Hate Group and if we asked them were we were headed, they would assumedly take the position that we are all going to hell for our evil ways.

This from the pin heads that picket soldiers funerals, victims of hate crimes, called the Amish girls who were raped and killed a few years back "whores" and even protested in front of a vacuum cleaner store because they sold a Swedish vacuum cleaner.

Why you ask? Because Sweden jailed a hate mongering preacher like Westboro's preacher Fred Phelps. Oh, of course. Amazing, huh?

They get their money the old fashioned way too, by suing people with their very own law firm. A hate mongering church and a law firm under the same roof? Hell, they are a walking punch line.


And yet they are but one example of a church who has abused the privilege of being a church and who make other churches look bad. Like our commentary on Stepdads, the churches that share goodness, common sense and humility are probably out there, they just don't make the news, rent bill boards, print bumper stickers or deputize their followers to recruit the rest of us.


I Just Want to Be Wanted


Every parent, manager, coach, leader (and gardener!) knows this to be an inherent part of our existence.


From being cuddled after a eating as an infant, to Red Rover Can Sally Come Over on the playground, to acceptance into a fraternity, to being invited to after-work-hoops, humans respond to inclusionary overtures. We want to be included. Hell, our need to be included contributes to our feeling of self worth. Maslow even told us this. And just as powerful as being wanted lies our ever present fear of being cast out. Fire and brimstone leaders prey on this human condition to get their needs - not our needs, their needs - met. As a brief aside, there is a book on my recommend list (see right panel) called the Gift of Fear and it's sequel, Protecting the Gift. Fear has its place, but in the context of this article, fear is created out of utter malarkey, then shamelessly abused.


Truth, Revisited

Here is a common dialogue between the doubter and the devout.


Claim: "I don't believe in God"

Reply: "Well, you may not believe in Judges either, but they can still sentence you to jail."


I will assume - regardless where you are the faith continuum - that you can see that even the simplest application of logic makes this common refrain absurd.


Further, there is an assumption among these religious-ites that we all - and I do mean all - live under the shadow of the 10 Commandments. No, not the spirit of the commandments, not the common sense application of the commandments, but the actual, biblical, burning bush commandments. So that candy you stole from the Brach's candy display as a 4 year old? You're going to Hell. That busty gal or handsome buckaroo that caught your eye? Your lustful soul will burn for that too. The time you fibbed when you told your English teacher that your homework is in your desk at home? Hell awaits you heathen! Unless of course your pre-pay your fine by giving your soul over to Jesus as your savior. That, they will tell us, is the only way to avoid the eternal flame of hell. Never mind that there is no actual truth - by any measure - to support that claim. Fear is a powerful message to those people that want to be safe. And we all want to be safe, right?



Like the smarmy car salesman selling the insurance policy that pays off the car in the event of your untimely death: "You DO love your family don't you?" "You DON'T want them to become homeless after being straddled with your debt do you??" Yes, disproportionate fear without reason is a powerful tool for salespeople.

Collectively, we are afraid of being afraid. That is why we tune in by the millions to the news every night as the fear inducing teasers instruct us to hear about the man eating shark (in another state), the deadly fires (in another state), the child abductor (in another country) and the food poisoning cases (in another country). The media and their mirror image organizations - the churches - need us to be afraid otherwise we will tend to go blissfully on our merry way without them. Gasp! The culture of creating
disproportionate fear in the citizenry runs deep, as we talked about here.

Again, regardless where one stands on the position of faith, it is helpful to point out that the biggest enemy of faith based arguments is the simple introduction of logic and truth. What's left is merely a believer's Objective Reality and the more they try to pass that off as Truth, the more ridiculous and transparent their position becomes. And the less viable their faith becomes to an increasingly information driven society.

Is there anything wrong with faith? Of course not. In the working dog world we see new handlers tell their dog to sit, and wring their hands in hopes that they will actually sit (faith). In reality, they will only sit reliably when they have been taught to sit reliably and have a history of sitting reliably. That handler wastes everyone's time because they spend too much time hoping the dog will perform reliably instead of paying the price by actually, physically building the behavior. So is there anything wrong with a) passing off faith as a worldwide edict of fact and gospel? Simply put, yes.


The Band Marches On

My daughter Emily is starting Junior High School Band in the fall at a new school, among a much larger - and older - school population. During instrument tryouts, she selected the French Horn. The instructor was quick to point out that among the uncertainty of a new school, new culture and new expectations, that her fellow French Horn players would be instant friends. A kindred spirit bound by the one thing they had in common, not in the hundreds of things that they may not have in common. And the instructor is probably right.

In
Part 4, we spoke about the connective element of religion. Publicly and privately I have heard from some of you that it is the community aspect of church that gets you out of bed on Sunday morning and not the doctrine itself. Encountering and being immediately accepted by "people like me" was a common description.


So it prompts one to wonder....if these 'people like you' were not in church and were instead in a park gathered under a tree, would the same feelings of community exists? And if not, then what else in church is attracting 80% of the population to associate with one?



In this series we have explored the origins of religion, the use and misuse of religion and the current state of religion. But what happens next? Where do we go from here?

The Cookie Crumbles

From everything we have come to know, this seems to be the future of organized religion:


An empire crumbling under the weight of its own pressure.

Statistically, fudge factor included, most of you go to one of these churches (or temples, or whatever your religious gatherings are termed). And not surprisingly most of you consider yourselves to be religious. I'm not being flip or dissociative, I just don't currently fall into that category.

Through thoughtful comments, research and yes, common sense, we have also learned that religion to many is not much more than a form of institutional companionship. Perhaps like chumming around with other French Horn players?


A quick check of recreational activities available reveals nearly 100 advertised community events in a large city near me.

If one likes to juggle, there are juggling chapters nearby. If one likes to knit, play video games, garden, race cars, Frisbee golf, take pictures, storm chase, even Blog...there is likely a chapter or an event consisting of like minded people nearby.

One reader even compared the benefits of going to church to the benefits of going to a whorehouse. Not sure I am ready to make that case, but if I was, I bet I could.


Should I be perplexed that some of the most annoying, selfish and arrogant pricks I know are avid church goers, while some of the most solid, trustworthy and kind people I know have never stepped foot in a church? Does church make us as the scriptures instruct? Or do we make the church? And if we make the church, why are all of the rules written by people in ancient times that dictate our behavior?


What role should the church play in building communities? If the communities they build reflect who they are, what will that community look like? What kind of citizen will it produce?


I See Dead People


The reasons leading to religious wars have been discussed earlier in this series. Wars that were fought with lions, swords, dungeons, gallows and poison. Unfortunately, yet predictably, those same reasons still exist, we just fight those wars with airplanes, bombs, IED's, pickets ... and ballots.

By some accounts, over 11,000 terrorist attacks have occurred worldwide since September 11th, 2001 by Islamic Extremists. And by most accounts, those attacks are increasing against non-Muslims with the same proportion as the increase in the number of Islamic practitioners. Regardless who is in the White House.


Similarly (yes, the comparisons are intended) the Christian-fed Religious Right, named for their political leanings (clue!), has built their existence on biblically based positions including among other things: divine creation (God snapped his fingers and we came into being on the 7th day, God created Man). The problem is, if one supports 100% of the political platform of the GOP, which is made up of a substantial amount of those religiously conservative, divine creation believing folks, then one can not also support the utilization of stem cells to cure disease and defect. Hmmm. That is why card carrying Republicans won't entertain stem cell research. Hmmm, again. By merely acknowledging these medically and scientifically proven human building blocks, they would in the same breath negate the existence of divine creation. A conundrum whose tie should go the health and welfare of the millions of people who would and should benefit from stem cells. But the bible banger's knuckles are white while clinging to the non-scientific faith-based belief in divine creation. And their gargantuan influence at the polls dictates an increasing amount of public policy. And people keep dying and suffering needlessly. Where's my Amen?

There are churches that openly preach what can not be described as anything other than intolerance and bigotry (which frankly takes little more than opening the bible). Intolerance and bigotry against heretics, as defined by Christians anyway. Intolerance and bigotry against gays, other religions and whatever else doesn't fit into that church's view of the world. These institutions exist and will continue to exist, will continue have an audience to influence and will continue to have a medium to influence that audience as long as people fill the pews. (Just like when BETA video tapes were no longer being manufactured after people quit buying them, by the way).

Go to church for the friendship and not the message? Filling the pew because one likes their pew mate but doesn't like the message is still a filled pew. I am challenged to see that as anything other than a tacit endorsement of the sponsoring organization.


Blah, Blah, Blah


It is difficult at best to author this many words and not show my own predilection like a case of head lice after my first summer camp. I did however try to relay my findings on religion in a factual manner so that you - the reader - could decide how much objective reality you wanted or needed to apply in order to swallow (or spit out!) what I am offering.

There are and will be those that will cling to their religious traditions because that is what they do. Then there are those that will take the good parts of religion and discover a healthier way to include it in their lives; and at the end of the day, there will assumedly still be two encampments of believers: Faith / Objective Reality based and Fact / Reality Based based. The discussion will continue adinfinitum and we will all be exhausted from advocating our position so tirelessly.


Perhaps we should meet and de-stress at the Y.M.C.A.?




So, what say thee??


The floor is open...

***


So this series finally comes to a lingering end. (I can hear a collective Amen! from some distant lands). Perhaps too soon for some and perhaps not soon enough for others.

To my readers (active and you lurkers out there): We'll visit a few lighter topics for a bit and then I will roll out my next series about the national catastrophe some call Immigration. It is aptly called "Root Rot" and will be coming to newsreaders everyone soon. Grab you RSS Feed or email notification, tell your enlightened friends and don't miss a moment.

And thanks again for your readership.

Michael M.

05 May 2008

Save Thee? Or Sell Thee? Part 4

For those just joining us, you can find Part 1 in this series by clicking here.


"I'm not religious, I'm spiritual"

Spirituality

And what about spirituality? How many times do we hear someone say that they are spiritual, but not so religious? What is the basis of this statement? Why the lack of ownership of being religious...and what is so great about being spiritual?

Often, we hear these terms used interchangeably, as if being spiritual is the same as being religious.

Examples:

Just last past month, officials in Texas discovered that a compound full of pre-pubescent girls were being "spiritually" married to men many times their age. In this sense, marriage as a legal doctrine couldn't apply because children can't marry in Texas. So to re-create the sanctity of marriage for the purposes of making babies with young girls without the messy details of following the law - a spiritual wedding ensued.

Another common precept of spirituality we hear often is that "there is an innate goodness in everybody". To that I say....well, you obviously haven't met everybody.

This belief is likened to the teacher or the coach that says that "Johnny has the potential to do great things". The problem - and the inherent danger - with this argument is that innate goodness, potential, etc. all take some type of action or forward motion on the part of the actor for that potential to become a reality. Without their action and forward motion, they are just another bad seed with potential.

Why is it our job to search for someone elses redeeming qualities? Why can't they just openly demonstrate them in the first place?

Calloused perhaps, but to find some people's redeeming qualities takes both hands, a flash light and a month of Sundays. Sorry but they gotta at least meet me half way.

In other comparisons, spirituality is more closely linked to metaphysical studies, like meditating. Ultimately though, it seems that spirituality is more of a concept that transcends, or at the very least escapes, the conventions of traditional religions. And for many, that may be the point.

Ties That Un-Bind

Much has been mentioned about the connective element of religion. In our first article, we acknowledged the origins of religion of being exactly that. And many folks it seems report participating in religion because of that connective, comfort seeking element, with little or no mention to the actual belief system being advocated under that religion's roof. While I am hard pressed to understand what connects people in a church besides that church's tenets, I can only assume that whatever skepticism or disgust Mrs. Smith may have about her church or its leaders, the benefits of sitting next to Mrs. Jones are substantial enough to overcome them.

For many of the most outspoken Spirituality advocates, the cost v. benefit analysis seems to have tilted the other direction. Poll after poll of PTCTSBNR's (you know, people that call themselves spiritual but not religious) claim the number 1 reason for being spiritual and not religious is to "pursue their own Truth". Most also imply how their current belief system is a result of their departure from their previous belief system: doctrinal, church based religion.


Therefore, people that wish to be out from under the commonly accepted label of a religion, but feel a connection to something greater than themselves are often the ones who also find solace in calling themselves spiritual. Agnostics, Atheists, Humanists, Unitarian Universialists, Wiccans, Pagans, Scientologists, Objectivists, New Age, Native American spirituality, ad nausem can therefore all be categorized as Spiritual, and non Christian.

A recent spiritual radio show host shared a story of how his 'finely tuned spirituality' allowed him to detect a "sign" that his favorite grandmother was present at his son's birth and was watching over them to keep them safe. Alas, it seems that that a nurse on the elevator leading to the C-Section recovery room had the same first name as his grandmother. Callers were enthralled with this "sign", yet none asked why his grandmother's protection didn't include an earlier intervention to prevent the emergency C-section in the first place. Hmm. Therein lies one in an endless string of examples of how people tend to
confuse Reality based Truth and Objective Reality based Truth.

Let us not forget that it is the application of logic that is religion's greatest impediment. Logic trumps faith every time. As we have chronicled, the more independent the follower, the greater the need to institutionalize from the top down Teachings instead of from the bottom up Learnings.

Faith v. Family

The fictional white picket fence family probably all went to church together. And their toast never burned and their dog never tracked mud into the house. In real life though, our children and our spouses are individuals and certainly in our children's case, need to be equipped to stand on their own two feet some day. So here's a pop quiz:


  • If your child wants to learn about growing up to be a Democrat, or a Republican or an Independent...what would you say?
  • If your child wants to learn about growing up to be a teacher, a sports star, an astronaut or the President of the United States...what would you say?
  • If your child wants to learn about growing up to be a carnivore, a vegetarian or a vegan....what would you say?
  • And finally, if your child wants to learn about growing up to be a Christian, an Atheist, a Jew, a Hindu or a Muslim...what would you say?
I assume if you are still reading, that you are the type who would encourage your child to explore their world and would provide influence and input as needed to keep them safe; but would otherwise not restrict their freedom of choice. So what lesson is there in the below message about letting your children choose from the family tradition that they prefer?


Gregory K. Popcak, PhD, Founder and Executive Director of the Pastoral Solutions Institute is a nationally known and syndicated writer, lecturer and spokesperson for Catholic theological principles. He says:

"Letting children choose for themselves among the parents
traditions is not a healthy option as it gives too much responsibility to the
children for sorting out their own place in the universe, their sense of values,
and their understanding of what constitutes truth. Research studies show
that parents who offload these tasks onto the children themselves will find that
their children simply avoid the entire issue of spirituality and values and
will
tend to struggle
with feelings of spiritual isolation and aimlessness in their
lives and relationships." (emphasis added)

Wow. Kind of a 'my way or the highway' tone, huh? As if kids didn't need another reason to rebel.


Holy Kids


Researchers at the University of North Carolina interviewed 3000 American teens about religion and coined the following $12 dollar term to describe where kid's heads and hearts are: "Moralistic Therapeutic Deism", or MTD. Say What??? (Hey, when you are trying to justify your work you have to invent new words and concepts, dontchaknow?) The highlights of their belief system are:

  1. A god exists who created and ordered the world and watches over human life on earth.
  2. God wants people to be good, nice, and fair to each other, as taught in the Bible and by most world religions.
  3. The central goal of life is to be happy and to feel good about oneself.
  4. God does not need to be particularly involved in one's life except when God is needed to resolve a problem.
  5. Good people go to heaven when they die.


Okay, here's my humanized version:



Somebody's always watching, we're expected to be good and decent, aim to be happy, get help from someone else when needed and oh yeah, die happy.



And we need to be told this? Reminds me of the old Chris Rock bit of the man prancing around bragging "hey, I raise my kids!, I've never been to jail!". Duh. You're supposed to raise your kids...you're not supposed to go to jail!



So beyond what we are essentially supposed to do for our kids as parents anyway (!), this list sounds like the description of Spiritual described earlier huh? And additionally unfortunately for the brick and mortar churches of their father and mothers, MTD doesn't require a pew. And so again, the churches must find more and new ways to attract followers.

130,000+ web pages on the Internet dedicated to Church Marketing can't be wrong...

Sell Thee....at a Discount?


It bears repeating, the fastest growing religious/spiritual segment in the US is not an organized religion; it consists of non-believers like Atheists and Agnostics. So if church-free spirituality is the future for many current Christians, then I can't help but imagine the similarities to the Recording Industry hopelessly struggling to keep CD's alive in the face of decentralized online music, newspapers trying to raise subscriptions when more and more people are getting their news online or the Postal Service raising postal rates to absorb their losses from more and more people and companies sending correspondence electronically.


Sounds like perhaps people are finding other ways to get their bread buttered??


In our next and possibly final installment of this series, Save Thee? Or Sell Thee? we will discuss the future of religion in America. Do join us, won't you?



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