Thursday, August 11, 2011

Pathetically Apathetic

I considered several different titles for this post before I settled on “Pathetically Apathetic”.

My original (and still favorite) was “Passionately Apathetic”. I like the oxymoron-ism of it. But one of my recent posts had “Passionate” in the title, and I didn’t want to appear to be stuck in a groove.

Then I thought of “Militantly Apathetic”, but, really, I’m not “militantly” anything. I am, however, apathetic.

There were a few more that I entertained before succumbing to the ironic play on the root word “pathos”.

Now, to the point. What was I going to write about? Oh well, it probably doesn’t matter, anyway.

Oh yeah, I remember now...

What is it, you may ask, about which I’m apathetic?

Well, I’m not “generally” apathetic - at least not usually. Sure, there are times when I really don’t care about much of anything. I think we all have those dark moods occasionally. But most of the time, I have an appropriate level of sympathy or empathy, as the case may be.

No. For me, it’s mainly politics about which I’m usually utterly apathetic. I say usually because that’s the emotional state I strive toward, as regards politics, because, that failing, I sink directly into antipathy. (Hey, I like this “pathos” concept.)

To be perfectly honest, antipathy is my natural emotional state with politics. Stated simply, I hate politics! So, in order to stay even-keeled, and not come across as a belligerently blathering idiot, I strive for apathy.

That’s what makes the whole thing pathetic.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Social Groupings: Tribe/Team or Clan/Family

The other day I was driving and saw a car covered (I would say littered) with bumper stickers promoting sports teams. There were probably 3 or 4 dedicated to the Red Sox, and just as many for the Patriots. This made me think that I really don’t understand the manic fanaticism that some put into their beloved sports. Do you know the derivation of the word “fan”? It comes from fanatic! I’m not kidding.

As a child, I played on baseball teams, and I enjoyed it. But I was never passionate about it. It’s the same with watching sports on TV - sure, I’ll watch it if there’s nothing else on, or if I’m with people who want to watch it - but, ultimately, it’s a game. I really don’t get much out of it.

On the other hand, I really enjoy watching individual sports, like swimming, diving, gymnastics, skating, etc. Yes, I take some ribbing that I’m a guy and I like skating better than football. Despite any insults to the contrary, it has nothing to do with a lack of masculinity, and everything to do with a respect for individualism and individual achievement. (I also enjoy boxing and watching martial arts matches)

So, I find it unfathomable how someone can expend so much energy on whether a team wins or loses. Speaking for myself, I really couldn’t care less. Like I said, it’s just a game.

And yet, people DO get all wrapped up in it. It finally occurred to me that there’s something about it that, for whatever reason, these people identify very strongly with. It’s the ever-popular us-versus-them mentality. When I think about it, it’s so simple that I can’t believe I never got it before. But, even knowing it, cerebrally, I STILL don’t get it! What’s the attraction? In my opinion, it is precisely this mentality that has caused ALL the problems in our world.

Us-versus-them. It’s kind of the definition of what it means to be tribal. One tribe want to grow and expand, but that necessitates the putting down of another tribe. And what is a tribe, anyway? It’s nothing but an artificially extended family. (Racism is, at its core, tribalism at its worst.) But then tribes grow into nations - and still that desire to grow at the expense of other nations is there.

It goes deeper than just sports, though. Sports is just the most obvious manifestation of the phenomenon. When I looked around more, I found bumper stickers for political parties, for religious points of view, for colleges, for fraternal organizations, etc. For some reason, a lot of people have an over-riding need to be identified with a particular group.

I’m a Christian, and I want to be identified as such, but only in the broadest possible sense. You will probably never see an ichthus fish on my car. You will probably never see a bumper sticker on the issue of abortion. Even though I generally vote for one party, you will probably never see a political sticker on my car (Actually, I had one ONCE, but I won’t again). Why? Because once people see anything that identifies you as being in any kind of group, you have effectively destroyed any chance of open communication.

Once someone sees the fish, for example, they ASSUME they know where you stand on every issue. If they see a political identifier, they ASSUME they know where you stand on every issue. Et cetera. So, the only communication that can ensue is either preaching to the choir, because they (presumably) agree with you on everything, or, in the event that your audience holds a contrary view, you instantly have a mountain of assumptions (some of which might be wrong) to overcome and their minds have already been closed to anything you have to say. Being identified with a group, any group, has an instantly polarizing effect on others.

On the other hand, I would say that I am very clannish. The funny thing is, I used to equate clans and tribes, but they actually are quite different. For one thing, a tribe usually has a leader or a small group of leaders. For another thing, a tribe may consist of several families, or perhaps even villages. Conversely, a clan is TRULY a family - yes, an extended family (cousins, etc.), but a naturally extended family, not an imposed one.

I have a deep love of my family. Not just my immediate family, but also the past generations of my family. In a sense, I am the family record keeper. I have all the information of my family tree going back to 1620, when we first came here from England. There is, in the record, circumstantial evidence that goes back to 1066. Unfortunately, this is unproven and, being this far removed, both in time and geographically, it will be quite a challenge getting confirmation that better equipped people than I have been unable to get. Be that as it may, I have a strong desire to learn as much about my family as I’m able to learn.

I understand there’s a danger, from a Christian perspective, with being too overly concerned with genealogy, but I love history, and what better than one’s own personal family’s history? I honestly believe that it’s impossible to divorce ourselves from the past, and we attempt to do so at our potential peril. It is the past that has created the present. To deny the past, or to have no knowledge of it, is to have no understanding of the present. Who I am, and what I am, is in large part due to what my ancestors did and who they were. I know some will disagree, and that’s okay, but it’s what I believe.

So, I don’t understand the tribal mentality, but I do understand the clan mentality. The main difference, to my mind, is that the tribe want to grow even to the detriment of other tribes, while the clan/family want to grow, but only in the natural order. As we have children, we grow, but we don’t go out to conquer in order to grow. In fact, it’s quite the opposite. Clans generally just want to be left to their own. That’s how I feel - leave me and my family alone to flourish as we see fit, and we’ll extend the same courtesy to you and your family.

Saturday, April 30, 2011

(Appropriately) Passionate Motivation

I’m involved in a business that I intend to transition into, gradually getting out of my current occupation. So far, I haven’t done very much to propel myself toward what I say I want and, being a reflective person, I examine myself fairly constantly to try and figure out why that is.

I suppose any time one endeavors to make a significant and substantive change in ones life, one needs to overcome the inertia imposed by the comfort of complacency. Be that as it may, I find it troubling how long I’ve remained effectively motionless.

It could be caused by one or more of any number of things. Faith in the business I’m transitioning into, for example. I’m certain this isn’t the main problem. There is one particular aspect of the business that has me curious about it’s effectiveness in the current economy, and the direction I fear it’s going, but it’s not a serious concern that would prevent me from moving forward.

It could be fear preventing me from moving forward. I don’t deny periods of fear - mostly due to the unknown, of course - but I really don’t think that’s had a paralyzing effect. It’s reared it’s ugly head from time to time, but I can get past fear. I’m not afraid of fear.

Laziness is another suspect in this mystery. I absolutely have times when I’m lazy. More times than I wish to admit. But laziness just means you don’t feel like doing something, and, for whatever reason, you allow your feelings to dictate your actions. It’s simply a matter of discipline. Just steel your resolve and the laziness goes away. that’s not what I’m experiencing.

The next two possibilities are somewhat related, but also somewhat distinct. Motivation and passion. My motivation is the thing I’ve mentally attacked the most in this search. But motivation has two components. We all think of the internal component - do we feel motivated, and thus, act on that? But there’s a definite external aspect to motivation. There are external reasons that should “motivate” us to action. Just because we don’t move, doesn’t mean the external motivation is not there. We only act when we’ve internalized the external!

Viewed in that light, I have plenty of motivation. There’s a lot about my life (and that of my family) that I would love to improve.

That leaves passion. I’ve often commented about myself that I have myriad interests, but no passions. I’ve said that there’s really nothing that I feel passionately that I must do. I’m actually not sure that’s true, the more I think about it.

I feel passionately that I need to help people, in general, and families, in particular - and this business I mentioned does just that.

I feel passionately that I’m supposed to learn what it is that God wants from my life, and then to do it - and that may also be this business.

I feel passionately that I’m supposed to provide for my own family - again, this business has the potential of meeting that goal, as well.

I feel passionately that I need to be involved in my son’s life as much as possible. This business, done correctly, could free up much time to that end.

So, what’s the problem? Why am I standing still despite having both motivation and passion?

As an exercise, I was given the task of creating a “Dream Board” or “Dream Book” - basically a collage of things that are important to me for both a direction in life, and what I’d like to attain in life. If wealth were to be my lot, what would I want to do with it?

Some people are very motivated by money, and in my opinion, this exercise is largely based on that reality. If you know what you want, materially, out of life, the idea is that having a reminder ever-present to which you can refer, will keep your efforts on track and help you attain your goals.

Well, this project was quite difficult for me. Firstly, because, as I said earlier, I have very diverse interests, which results in “wanting” much. I began by gathering images of most of my interests, and proceeded by carving away the more trivial items to get to a core group of things that I’d really like to have or achieve.

Another reason this was difficult for me is because my nature is truly a dichotomy - and it always has been. It’s always been very difficult for me to reconcile my disparate desires, and this was certainly no exception.

What I mean by that is that I absolutely have material desires, but I also have a very strong desire to discover and obey God’s plan for me. I don’t necessarily think that the two are at odds with each other. I think God wants us to prosper. When we prosper, we are better positioned to give back and help those that need help. I have no problem with Christians being wealthy. I don’t even have a particular problem with wealthy people living like they’re wealthy. There’s a certain propriety to that. But I don’t know if that’s meant to be the destiny God has in mind for me.

If I were wealthy, there are a lot of charities and causes that I can readily think of that I would contribute to and advance the causes of. I would do what I thought God wanted me to do with the resources He gives to me to manage. I would also enjoy the wealth and have no problem doing so.

The problem I have is with the wanting first and attaining second. I have a problem putting material things on my wish list. I just feel that it promotes getting to your goal for the wrong reason. I know others don’t have an issue with this, and that’s fine, but I do, and I’m finding it difficult to get past.

How I’ve proceeded thus far is that I’ve created my “Dream Book” beginning with how I will improve myself and my family relations, then how I would help others. The end of the book is where I’ve put my material desires. At least, in this way, I can mentally say, “And if I ever get rich, this is what I would buy for myself, after these other areas are addressed”. But I still struggle with it.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

A Police State in the Making?

I wrote the following letter to the State Police here in my home state of New Hampshire. Information for the reader: I never received a response or any kind of acknowledgement. So, I submit this to you so that you may make your own decision as to the official stance of the New Hampshire State Police in regard to this type of conduct. I've edited any identifiers regarding myself or the officer in question.

To Whom It May Concern,

On January 21, 2011 I was pulled over on Route 89 by Officer 4**, and the experience was so unsettling that I feel compelled to formally and strenuously complain.

Like most people, I’m not perfect - I’ve been ticketed for speeding, for example. But I’ve NEVER issued a complaint. In fact, quite the contrary. I have, on numerous occasions, praised New Hampshire law enforcement for their professionalism and courtesy. This is high praise from me, because I have witnessed brutish behavior from police in other places (like Massachusetts) on a regular basis which has instilled in me a certain level of disgust at the abuse of power.

New Hampshire police, whether local or state, have always been an exception to this pattern, and I, being a fair minded person, would recognize that to others in praise of NH police. This incident has tarnished that reputation in my mind.

Here’s what happened: I had entered Route 89 at the end (Bow Junction) and proceeded to travel in the left hand lane - passing other vehicles, but not speeding (as evidenced by the lack of a ticket being issued). Officer 4** entered Route 89 from the onramp from Route 93 south and had on his directional indicating he wanted to get into the left lane. Unfortunately, the positioning of our vehicles somewhat precluded me letting him in safely and, as I had the right-of-way anyway, I, frankly, wasn’t overly concerned about it.

(I noticed the previous night that my driver’s side headlight was out and had, twenty minutes before the stop, purchased a new one which I planned on installing when I got home.)

As soon as I passed him, he bolted into the left lane in a very aggressive manner and put on his blues, to which I thought “headlight”. I immediately pulled into the right lane and he, of course, got behind me. That wasn’t surprising. What was surprising was that, after I’d demonstrated that I saw him, and complied with his tacit directive for me to pull over, at THAT point he decided to put on his siren. Now, he didn’t just give the siren a chirp to get my attention and then shut it off. He put on the siren and left it on for the duration of the time it took me to pull completely over, and didn’t turn it off until I came to a complete stop! In addition, he turned on his high beams AND the side mounted spot light throughout this entire maneuver.

Normally, a) the siren isn’t used in this type of stop, unless the driver makes no indication that he saw the blue lights - and then they’re usually turned off fairly quickly. They’re an attention getter in this type of situation. And b) the side mounted spot light is usually turned on once the stop is complete - not while the vehicle is still moving and trying to see where it’s safe to pull over - which is difficult at best when there’s bright light shining back into your eyes from all mirrors. At this point, I was wondering what I could have possibly done wrong that warranted this response. But this was just the beginning.

When he approached my car, he vaguely identified himself as “State Police” - not Officer so-and-so, from the State Police - just “State Police” - then he asked for my license and registration - “And turn on your dome light, too.” This was getting stranger by the minute and I was frightened that maybe he had me confused with a criminal that he was looking for. Then I noticed that he was having trouble keeping his flashlight lit. When I look back on it, I marvel at the irony of it. He was pulling me over for defective equipment (as I would eventually learn) when he, himself, was using defective equipment.

After I turned on the dome light, and as I was finding my license and registration, I asked, “May I ask if I did something wrong?” To which he replied, “I’ll tell you after I see your documents.” Now, maybe I’m incorrect about the legal latitude that the officer has, but it seems logical to me that, if you have just cause to pull me over, and I ask if I did something wrong, that you should tell me what the just cause is, regardless of documentation.

The argument that he needs to know who he pulled over for safety reasons doesn’t hold water, because he, allegedly, pulled me over for a reason and I simply wanted to be informed of the reason. Also, let’s remain cognizant of a few facts: I was strapped into my car; he had a gun on his hip, and a flashlight that’s specifically designed to double as a truncheon in his hand, pointed at my head. How unsafe could he be? I would argue that if you need to continually point out that you’re in control, then you aren’t. But I digress. The point is, being informed of my offense was, apparently, too much to ask. It was reminiscent of any number of police states that one may think of - they all conjure up the same image - “Papers please!”

When I handed him the documents, he then asked, “Are you aware that you have a headlight out?” I responded that I was, and showed him the headlight that I had purchased twenty minutes prior and told him that I was going to replace it when I got home. He replied, “Then you should know why I pulled you over.”, and began walking away as I was about to respond.

Firstly, why would I have any reason to believe, based on his conduct thus far, that what I was being pulled over for was a simple defective headlight. Secondly, I didn’t ask why I was being pulled over - I asked if I did something wrong. At this point, I was afraid and I wanted to know what I did that prompted this aggressive, incredibly rude, and intimidating behavior.

As an aside, when he returned my documents, I didn’t quite have a complete hold on them when he let go and the registration fell on the ground. Now what do I do? If I open the door to retrieve it, will he interpret that as a threat and club me with the flashlight? Will he bend down and pick it up? Since he didn’t, I took the chance and opened the door to get it. Thankfully, it wasn’t too windy and the ground was wet, but what if it had blown away? What then?

(Another irony, when I looked at the defective equipment warning that I was given, I noticed that the address could not fully be read. Now, I’m sure the postal service knows where it goes, and it would, no doubt, get there. It’s just ironic because it demonstrates another instance of defective equipment used by the State Police {the address stamp}).

My reason for writing this letter is that I think whoever is in command would want/need to know what happened, and also because I believe that the honor and integrity of the State Police demands that this individual be officially reprimanded - otherwise, one might assume that this is the new, sanctioned behavior of the State Police. If it is, please tell me, and I will make plans to leave the state as soon as it’s financially feasible.

Assuming this is not the case, you may mail me a copy of the reprimand that will go into Officer 4**’s file. If I don’t receive anything, I’ll assume that I know where the State Police stand on this type of behavior.


etc., etc.

The Masculine Directive

For years I’ve wrestled with the Christian concept of male headship of the home and family. I’m sure it’s a combination of the time and the culture in which I was raised, along with the confusion that most people have regarding equality. (Equality is not sameness. We have equal value, but different roles - otherwise, there’d be no reason for different people.)

Until now, I’ve reluctantly “accepted” that it’s the role of the man to be in headship of his household. Frankly, I didn’t like the idea at all, but resolved that if that’s what God directed, then I should accept it.

Then, recently, my 14 year old son asked my wife a question that, at first, might seem to be unrelated, but proved otherwise. It was around Christmas, and he had been thinking about Jesus, in general, and the Christmas story, in particular. He asked, “Do you think Mary knew that Jesus was born without sin?”

When I heard this, my first thought was, “Of course she did. She was a virgin, and yet conceived. The angel Gabriel told her Jesus would be called the Son of the Highest.” Then I realized two things. Gabriel didn’t actually come right out and say that Jesus would be born without sin. In my opinion, it was certainly implied, but maybe not understood. The second thing I realized was that Jesus actually told the disciples things which they nevertheless seemed surprised at when it was borne out. So, maybe she didn’t know. Good question.

This made me ask, “Was Jesus actually born without sin?” I know that Catholic doctrine says that even Mary was born (or even conceived) without sin, so therefore, Jesus was also. I’m not Catholic, and, while I don’t wish to argue the point, I don’t subscribe to this doctrine.

But if the argument is made that Jesus, as well as being fully God, was fully human - and was in fact born from a human mother’s womb - how can it be argued, being as all men are born with original sin, that he was born without sin?

This proved to be a fascinating study for me. I’ve since heard other people talk in similar terms, so I know it’s not original, but it was new to me at the time.

Jesus was born of a woman’s seed - as prophesied in Genesis 3:15. Every other time in the Bible, when it talks about seed, it’s always a man’s seed. That makes sense, as it’s the man who carries the seed. So, why would it speak about a woman’s seed? At first glance, it doesn’t make sense. Until you examine the circumstances of Jesus’ birth.

Jesus was born of a woman’s seed - or stock, if you will - He was born as a baby to a woman. However, He was NOT the result of a man’s seed. There was nothing of Joseph, physically, in Jesus. So, the prophecy makes sense. He was born of a woman’s seed. He was still human, so wasn’t He born with original sin?

No! And this is where it ties in with the subject of male headship. The sin nature resulting from disobedience to God was not carried in Eve (or the woman). It’s was carried in Adam (the man). It was Adam to whom God gave the command to not eat of the tree. Eve wasn’t even created yet, at that point.

Yes, Eve was aware of the command. We know that Adam passed along the command, because she repeats it to the serpent. But if you read Genesis, you’ll see that it was Adam - and only Adam - that God commanded. He was the responsible party. From the beginning, God intended the man to be in headship over his wife - and in SUBMISSION to God! He disobeyed god and bore the punishment by having a sin nature. The reason all humans have a sin nature is because all humans are descendants of Adam. All except Jesus. Jesus has no connection to Adam other than through Mary’s ancestors - but, while the mother may carry the sin nature, she does not pass it along. The father passes it along. Which is why it’s so critical to understand that Jesus was not born of an earthly father.

So, it’s actually for the same reason that we know that Jesus did not have a sin nature, that we also know that God has designed male headship. Adam was the responsible party, not Eve.

To be completely honest, I’m still not sure I LIKE the idea, but now, as well as accepting it, I also understand it.