Moral Fidget Spinners…

There was once a word, morality, that meant a doctrine or system of moral conduct, or conformity to ideals of right human conduct. It was a good word, a strong word. It meant “This is what I believe is right; therefore, this is what I will do”. It really was a good word.

Unfortunately there came a time when someone (male, female, black, white, brown, plaid, purple, gay, straight, or all of the above (it really doesn’t matter!)) decided that morality should be defined as: a commodity. For those not familiar a commodity is an economic good, or something subject to ready exchange or exploitation within a market. Someone decided they could sell ‘morality’, or at least the idea that some editions of morality are valid (while others are not…) for money. That someone managed to make fairly good money at it…

Unfortunately someone else (still doesn’t matter who…) noticed the individual making money and decided to get in on the act.  Now, the first ‘flavor’ of ‘morality’ was already for sale and that meant a new ‘flavor’ of ‘morality’ was needed for the new peddler to get into the market. And this second person sold the newly invented ‘morality’ for a tremendous profit!

But, with that new flavor, and the attached profits, came an open door for other vendors of ‘morality’, each wanting their share. And so, morality fell victim to niche marketing.

And so it is dear reader that we (or I at least) find ourselves (myself) in a world where ‘morality’ changes based almost entirely on what online polls say the consumer is buying…

Within the past weeks I’ve watched people waffle back and forth on guns, ‘liberties, ‘taking a knee’, and a host of other issues. It honestly feels like ‘morality’ can be found in online auctions or as a prize won in arcade ‘skill’ games right along with stuffed animals, team jerseys, and fidget spinners (remember those?).

Unfortunately ‘moralities’ and moral positions seem to be abandoned as fast as those fidget spinners. This is part of a cycle dear reader, a long painful cycle that can and has caused the deaths of nations (along with a few hundred million people at least…). It is a cycle that needs to be broken.

Morality is not a fidget spinner dear reader. It is not something that can be bought, sold, packed, given away, or won in an arcade game. Morality is a personal code. Morality is the way we choose to act toward one another. It is something to be carefully considered and then lived. Yes dear reader, there are many flavors of ‘morality’ out there, and it can be hard to sort through them all. But it is necessary. It is a part of life, a part of growing up, a part of the reason we are here on this earth.

So that is my challenge to you dear reader. Find your morality (or if you have it, evaluate how well you live it…). Draw closer to a way of life that makes life better for you and those around you. Draw closer to things that are good and true dear reader. Don’t be bought, played with and forgotten like last spring’s fidget spinner…

That’s it for this one dear reader. Next week I will present a few thoughts about NANOWRIMO, and admit that I goofed…

P.S. thank you to www.merriam-webster.com for help with the definitions portion of the post!

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Larger than life

The first place I ran into the term ‘larger than life’ was in the movie Top Gun (and I am not admitting to when or where that was…). I wanted to know what ‘larger than life’ meant…

The first definition I found was someone or something literally larger than normal; the eight foot tall guy, the double sized model or blown up picture that helped you see small details, that sort of thing. The problem was that this obviously wasn’t what was meant in the movie…

Not literal…? So, what is it?

The term larger than life couldn’t mean what I thought it meant. Neither Maverick nor Tom Cruise was that tall, or wide. So, maybe the term was one of those simile or metaphor things that were all the rage in my English class at the time. So, what was Mav’ doing that would fit the descriptor…?

I found other people that were described as ‘larger than life’. Most of them were stars (the media type) or fictional characters (the super hero type). So, for a time, ‘larger than life’ meant someone who did, or could do, things regular people couldn’t (this turns out to be sort of true in my own definition, but it’s not the definition I believe in).

This definition is false. If you operate on the TV star and superhero definition of larger than life, then ‘larger than life’ starts to mean the same thing as ‘made for TV’.  Under this definition whatever you choose to call ‘larger than life’ is fake. It’s something that doesn’t happen in real life. So, how could a character be described as larger than life in the context of his or her own reality?

The search continued.

Years went on.

I found the answer.

The truth is you can be larger than life.

But it isn’t easy.

The answer (at least as I have found it)

You can be larger than life, but it isn’t easy.

Over time pieces fell into place for me. I came to understand. I’m still trying to actually do and become…

Larger than life doesn’t just mean physically bigger, or something that normal folks can’t do (they can if they work at it). Being Larger than life is a real achievable thing that appears as a feature of heroes, those whose names and stories are written large in the world.

Being larger than life isn’t necessarily a physical thing. It isn’t entirely a symbolic thing. Being larger than life is a philosophical thing, it is a way of living. One might even call it a spiritual thing.

I don’t remember the precise moment I realized it. I think it’s something that develops in you over time. To be larger than life means to be aware of, and focused on, something larger than the day to day details of life. It doesn’t mean you don’t do the day to day details, but it means your purpose, the thing you focus on, is something larger, something more meaningful. You are larger than life when you get through the challenges of daily life and don’t get trapped or consumed by them. You become larger than life when you will endure the day to day frustrations to achieve a greater purpose.

The artist who skips meals to buy brushes and paint; the person who runs into harm’s way to save a life; the parent/spouse/brother/sister who puts aside his or her own fear, sadness, or frustration to comfort a family member; these are the real larger than life people. Being larger than life means looking past the now to something greater, something more important, and then actually doing something to get there.

Being larger than life means living for things that you know are good and right; living for goals and ideals rather than praise and paychecks. That is what makes it so difficult to achieve.

I can’t say I’m perfect at it. I am not yet entirely larger than life, but I am trying dear reader. I am trying. I know that I can be larger than life, and so can you.

Being larger than life takes a lot of effort. It means putting aside vanity and foolishness in order to strive for something greater. Sometimes it means you stop worrying about ‘optics’, appearances, and ‘dignity’; but when you choose to rise above and strive for something greater who and what you are rises above the day to day as well. When you choose to rise above the day to day concerns and do something greater you become larger than life. Real dignity, satisfaction, all of the literal and spiritual things you need await and will come to you when you need them and you are ready for them.

It is scary dear reader, but it is worth it.

That’s it for this one. Until next time…

Try being a bit bigger, standing a bit taller. Trust me, it’s worth it.

Families, Choices and Bravery

One of the biggest ‘secrets’ that nobody was supposed to talk about at my wife’s family’s reunion was the fact that one of our nephews was making some big life choices, and not doing what the family expected. It was supposed to be a secret, so naturally it was one of the most discussed things at the reunion.

My nephew was looking for something, something he really wanted. The majority of the adults in the family were sure he would ‘find it’ the same way they did (whether they actually found what they were looking for is a subject for another day…). The majority of the family assumed he would spend a couple of years doing church service and then get a bachelor’s degree and enter the work force in some engineering or construction related field. Instead my nephew is joining the United States Marine Corps…

Choosing between honorable paths

Regular readers of this blog already know that I am a person of faith and I have absolutely nothing against worthy service to God. What less of you may know it that I am also a military brat (as well as being a professor’s kid…). I see honor in joining the military as well. So, this leaves us with a question… How do you choose between two good paths?

Well, you have to choose the path that is right for you. And, that might not mean the path that ‘they’ say is the right one!

There are lots of tools to use: talking to family, internet research, introspection… you might even want to throw a little prayer and fasting on that list if it helps you. But the bottom line is that if you are going to commit your life to something it needs to be worth it and it needs to be the right thing for you. It’s a decision that only you can make. Others can help, but they can’t make it for you.

And that’s it for this one dear reader. Today I think I’ll end with a joke…

One day not so very long ago a meeting was held for top leaders in the United States military. The meeting was held at Fort Benning Georgia where the army trains paratroopers, some of their bravest soldiers. Naturally the discussion quickly turned to bravery.

“I’ll show you what bravery is,” an Army general said. He called over one of his soldiers and issued an order. “Soldier, go off that jump tower with no repelling line and no parachute.”

The soldier climbed the tower. He looked down. You could tell he was scared but he stepped off the edge. Seconds later he splattered on the ground at the base of the tower.

An Airforce general shook his head. “No, that’s not bravery. Watch this. Airmen! Go off that tower with no repelling line and no parachute. Do it with style!”

Like the soldier the airman climbed the tower. Unwilling to look scared in front of the general the airman started at the back of the tower. He raised his arms like the majestic wings of one of the big bombers and ran off the platform. A few seconds later he splattered on the ground at the base of the tower.

“No,” a Marine Corps general said, “As usual we’ll be the ones to get it done.” He spotted one of his marines nearby and shouted “Marine! Off that tower! No repelling rig! No parachute!”

The generals laughed briefly when the marine ran the opposite direction, but soon he was back and scurried up the tower loaded down with several grenades and machine gun.

At the top of the tower the marine hurled grenades down before him. When he ran out of grenades he grabbed his machine gun and went off the tower firing the whole way down. In a few seconds he splattered at the base of the tower amid the smoke of his grenades and the casings of his bullets.

The proud generals looked at the one Navy admiral in the group, daring him to do better.

The admiral called over one of his sailors and said. “The order is to go off that tower with no repelling rig and no parachute.”

The sailor looked at the admiral and the generals.

He looked at the tower and the brave men splattered at its base.

He looked back at the admiral and said “No Sir.”

The generals were taken aback, but the admiral smiled. He raised one finger and said, “Now that was brave.”

Have a good one dear reader. See you next week.

For better or making it worse?

I spent most of this week at my wife’s family’s family reunion. For the most part things went well, so far as I can tell everyone is still alive and had a pretty good time. There were biffs and goofs here and there, but that’s what you expect for a family reunion (especially when you’re hitting four generations of family present, and enough people for you very own baseball tournament…). And of course, as always when riding through the desert, I found a few things to think about…

My wife’s parents and siblings went in to rent a large house and that lead to the title and subject of this post…

A house disinterested in itself?

The problems we faced with the rental had a lot to do with how the couple that owned the place treated it and each other.

When we arrived the electronic lock on the door didn’t function. An hour after we arrived we managed to contact the woman who owned the place. An hour after that her husband arrived and skillfully concluded that the lock wasn’t functioning…

The problem fairly quickly came into focus as I observed the man and how he dealt with us and the property. I’m sorry, if you and your spouse/partner/whatever are going to run a rental property together (or go in on any significant project) your response should never be “I don’t know this is my wife’s thing”… You made a commitment to your spouse/partner/whatever and then you made another commitment together. That means if you are treating part of the project like a chore assigned by an annoying school teacher you are failing to keep two commitments.

Not keeping the commitment to the project might be one thing, but blaming your spouse/partner/whatever and setting him/her up to be ‘the bad guy’, that’s a real problem. We are talking about the person that you presumably love, care about, and have committed yourself to. If you’re going to go into a commitment with her/him, and then not holding up your end what are you doing to the relationship (and you honor as a person)?

Rings in the pond

Between the two issues I think not supporting (or worse being in active conflict with) your spouse/partner/whatever is the biggest problem. Relationship issues can quickly poison other deals, projects, or endeavors.  When that happens it creates problems in the deal/project/endeavor and the things around it. And those problems feed back into the relationship causing more problems…

When you are in that situation it will be painful to address the relationship issues. But, it’s the only way to fix anything.

Remember dear reader, in ever so many ways our lives are about people and relationships. And no amount of success elsewhere can make up for failure in that department.

Take care dear reader. Take care of yourself and yours. I’ll see you next post.

Taking life as it comes…

In my recent adventures I’ve found myself thinking about where I’ve been and where I’m going.

It’s been several years since my “little vacation” to the hospital and my diabetes diagnosis. It that time I’ve grown and become more the person I want to be.

Becoming who you want to be isn’t an easy process. But, it is worth doing. Becoming is a process that involves effort and pain.

It isn’t necessarily a linear process. In fact it usually isn’t a linear process. There are a lot of things that go into a human life dear reader. We don’t’ all deal with them in the same order. We rarely have complete choice in what we have to deal with. And, we never get all the way through life without adversity.

We’re actually lucky in that way. Adversity helps us to grow and change. If we had no unmet desires and no challenges to face we would never become more than we are; we would never reach our potential. It would be stupid and we wouldn’t do it.

Often it’s not the fact that we face a challenge that makes things better or worse: it’s how we react that mattes. It’s how we choose to act that matters.

We can learn, grow, and overcome, or we can let things eat at us; let them wear us down. We can choose to be positive (at least as positive as we can in the moment)), or we can choose to be negative, whiny, and mean. One of those choices is surprisingly effective at making things better, and the other isn’t…

Sometimes it’s not the challenge, but how we deal with other people while we deal with the challenge that matters. (I know…I know… I’m not perfect at this myself. But, I’m trying!)

I can’t make a blanket statement about how to act in all situations, or in dealing with all people (there are several billion people out there which adds up to several trillion interactions or situations (at least!)). But, more often than not calm and measured out performs “losing it”.

You can influence other people just through what you say and do. You can change what you do and how you do it. That means you can become better and become a better influence on society, and so can everyone else…

That’s it for this one dear reader. At this point the book is in press, and the graduation’s done. The diabetes is in check, and the in-laws have gone home. So, more sure than I’ve been for a while… See you next post!

My sidekick’s a doctor!

Friday I missed posting here, but it was for a good reason.

And before I go any further, those of you who know me know that I generally describe (and see) my wife as my partner and not my sidekick… I’ve just been watching a few too many ERB videos lately…

Friday morning my wife defended her doctoral dissertation at the university here and passed with flying colors. This really is a good thing and I’m proud of her. It also means we’re one of those lucky couples to have survived a major graduate school program with our marriage intact.

In some ways my wife finishing her dissertation and getting her PHD has brought us closer together! It’s helped us to understand the trials and processes that go on in both of our lives and careers and strengthened us.

Is there more to say?

Yes, of course… But some of it is for her to say and some of it should wait until the edits on the dissertation are done. (Um… That means we’ve both got books going to the printers at the same time… Ack! Red alert! Red alert!)

Thank you for being with us through the process dear reader and see you next post!

Strange bedfellows?

There are a lot of people out there who (whether they admit it or not…) operate under the principle that because I am in group A and you are in group B we can’t associate with each other. Not only is this false but it is dangerously false!

We’re not all the same. It’s a given, just accept it. But, the fact that we’re not all the same doesn’t mean that we can’t share values and beliefs.

Here are a couple of examples:

First example

Last Sunday the church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints announced that they were going to build a temple here in the town I live in. Naturally the LDS community here was thrilled. And, sadly, some of their neighbors were angry…

Several people have made comments that the building will be an eyesore. Others claimed that the Mormons were going to invade and take over…

But then there was the reaction from some prominent individuals in the Muslim community…

The Muslims welcomed the announcement of the LDS temple!

Now the LDS church is not the same thing as Islam, but these influential Muslim leaders were able to recognize the announcement as proof of a continuing, and growing, faith in God in the community. Both groups have some intolerant and outspoken members (to say the least), but both groups also value faith in God and family values.

The prominent Muslims in our community were able to recognize the event as one that built on common values and goals. (And for the ‘take over’ people: I believe the LDS community is already over 50% of the community, so it ain’t exactly an ‘invasion’… For the eyesore crowd: I’ve heard it before… And every time it’s been said (in my presence at least) the new temple sent property values UP

Second example

Down in Florida there was a guy who shot up a nightclub…

The clientele of the nightclub happened to be largely homosexual. The shooter claimed he did it because they offended his religious beliefs…

Most of us who’ve seen the news remember something about the event…

Do you remember what those ‘rednecks’ down at a local gun shop said?

The owner of the shop, and the community around it welcomed the local homosexual community in…

Now, this event was painted by some as a marketing stunt by a notoriously conservative and intolerant community, but…

Knowing the community around my own local gun shop, knowing enthusiasts of a variety of colors, creeds and political loyalties, I can also see the level where it was an honest offer.

At least at the gun shop I go to community would rather see people have the freedom to choose and live their lives than see the reign of intolerant idiots who would kill you for disagreeing with them. They are willing to stand with and defend those who they might not wholly agree with because they do believe in the freedom to choose, they do believe in people and the rights that they are given under the U.S. constitution including the right to believe as they wish and seek happiness as they understand it. (Again: at least where I go…) They do not and will not support those who would seek to oppress others by force of arms.

The point of it all…

The point is, just because I happen to be part of group A and you are part of group B, that doesn’t mean that we can’t work together when our goals values are the same. True, I might not agree with the Muslim down the street about the precise book of scripture, but in terms of valuing family and having faith in God, we kind of agree. That is something to build on, not something to run from.

True, I may be heterosexual and the neighbor may be homosexual, but that doesn’t preclude us from having the same concerns about a wave of break-ins in the neighborhood, or not wanting a meth lab across the street, or wanting good paying jobs in our community, or…

When we build on common bonds and values we grow. We also hold out the possibility that those we disagree with may eventually come to agree with us on other things (or we may come to agree with them as we learn…). If we let differences that don’t matter overshadow the things that do, we’re really cutting ourselves off from the good that we could share.

That’s it for this one dear reader. Until next time…

Find some points of agreement!

St Patrick’s Day

Well, it’s Saint Patrick’s Day and I’m in a college town…

I’m not overly worried this year, but there was that one time…

Earlier this week I overheard someone asking what Saint Patrick’s Day really is. For a lot of folks it’s a day to eat corned beef and cabbage and spend money on green stuff. For others it’s a day to drink green beer and get rowdy…

If you happen to be Catholic it’s one of the many saints days declared by the church centuries ago…

Now let me tell you what Saint Patrick’s Day is to me…

St Patrick, before he was a saint, was a man. He was a man who learned something very important to him. He learned about God the Father and Jesus Christ.  And, after he learned about them traveled his homeland sharing what he learned with his people.

So, St Patrick is really that person, that one person, who learned something important to him and shared it with the people he cared about. Whether you’re Catholic or not (I’m not…); whether you’re Christian or not (I am); being that person, the one who has the strength and bravery to learn something important and then to stand up for it is something worthy of respect.

It doesn’t really matter who you are, or what you are, if you are willing to stand up for what you believe that is honorable and worthwhile. If you are humble enough and willing enough to learn truth, and then brave enough to share that truth. You are one of the great ones, whether those around you can see it or not. To me that is why we celebrate St. Patrick’s Day.

And that is my message for today dear reader. Be humble, teachable, and willing to learn. But, when you find truth, stand for that truth, and the universe itself stands with you!

 

Sometimes you have to keep telling them…

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The thoughts behind today’s post come from two sources, my wife’s adventures in getting her doctorate and my mom’s memorial.

Sometimes people don’t listen. Sometimes people choose to ignore truth. They choose to ignore things that make their lives complicated, or mess with their perceptions. It’s annoying. It’s disheartening. But, what do you do?

Whether it’s a simple miscue, not hearing, inability to believe, or even willful ignoring: people don’t always hear what you’re telling them. Sometimes those people are people you need, they are people you value, and they’re not getting it. What do you do?

Well, first you need to do a little evaluating. You need to look at both ends and the middle.

You have to communicate to people in a way that they understand. That part is on your end (sorry, if your text was a couple of emoji’s and an acronym translated into middle French then written out in Norse runes I didn’t understand it).

Sometimes we need to find different ways to communicate our message. Sometimes there is a better time to communicate our messages (remember saying something really fast while your mom is in the middle of finishing something else so she can run off to an appointment is a way of making sure you told her without her understanding…).

It’s a simple process. Send your message. Figure out if it was received. And, if it wasn’t, find a way to send it better. Then, tell them again.

Sometimes the fault isn’t on our end. The people you’re trying to communicate with have lives; they have things on their minds; they have other things to hear and learn. You don’t have to nag or harass anyone, but be aware and when the time is right, tell them again.

Communicating isn’t easy. It takes effort.

Communication is necessary. You can’t live life completely alone.

Communication can be frustrating, but if you think and work at it, eventually they figured out what you’re trying to tell them.

Eventually the doctoral committee figures out that you actually found the right statistic. Eventually you find a time for the memorial that actually works for everyone. Eventually they do understand.

Don’t give up dear reader. Don’t just stubbornly keep trying things that aren’t working. Change your technique, but keep telling them. Eventually you get through.

That’s it for this one dear reader. Until next time…

Recognize your mistakes, but stand up when you’re right.

Another lesson while ‘riding through the desert’

While I was on my last trip to California my wife and I went to her parents ward (congregation) for church.

One of the young men who was at the table to bless the bread and water was interesting. He was short. He had Downs Syndrome facial features. He wore glasses and a hearing aid. I thought,  “How nice, they’re letting him help.” It’s not uncommon for some wards to have a third young man help break the bread.

Then something happened that surprised  me (and it shouldn’t have). He wasn’t there just to help break the bread, he was there to bless the Sacrament. This young man, even with all his problems, was worthy and capable of performing the work of The Lord.

I thought about the people in our own ward back home. We have a man who (by statistics) should never have survived childhood. He faithfully mans the doors to the chapel every week, or helps pass the bread and water, or otherwise helps to serve The Lord and his church family in any way he can. And he’s happy to do it. He also take attendance for my group in one of our other Sunday meetings. When it is time to do our quarterly reports he is the one person that I never have to worry about having his information in on time!

None of us are in any way perfect. None of us is without bump, dent, bruise, defect, or stain.

All of us are capable of doing real good in the world. And, none of us are more powerful, capable, or blessed than when we do what The Lord would ask us to do.

That’s it for today dear reader. Until next time…

God bless!