Thursday, October 18, 2018
I recently realized that there were two great thrills in doing Reddit's, Ask Me Anything! Over 1000 questioners seemed sincerely interested in what my answer would be and made no judgment of whether it was right or wrong. Equally exciting were the scores of responders who suggested that I write a book. What a high for this junior high school principal who had difficulty writing a weekly staff memo for his teachers!
Well there will be no book! I'm not up to that and one who writes a book is usually perceived as an authority. Working in the field of education with primary interests in family, religion, and sports, I have lived in a world where authorities are a dime a dozen. And being retired from the field of education for over 32 years, I make no claims to being an expert in education any more. Yet one thing I know for certain and that is that I have been privileged to have lived an extremely satisfying life through a fascinating period of our nation's history.
It's been extremely gratifying to have an opportunity to share my views with young people through the mystique of the Internet. Yet all good things must come to an end and my 15 minutes of fame as a "Reddit Guru" has been exhilarating. But with energy diminishing and new adventures before me in my retirement Valhalla, it's time for change. But inevitably I have a few "Final Thoughts" I feel driven to share.
1. The fact that the American electorate resorted to choosing our present leader is one of the greatest disappointment of my life. No need for me to enlarge on that, but it causes me to ponder the nature of humans worldwide in the democratic process. Specifically I recall another seminal event in my life experience: those "desperate" people who elected a Hitler: a man who also used fear and hatred in their quest for economic security. Yet I see in my own country an entertainer using those same techniques catering to the fears and base interests of society. Was it a failure of my chosen profession, education, to provide an enlightened electorate? While that's a problem demanding a long-term solution, my hope/plea is that the long ignored voices of our country – women, the economically deprived, minorities and young people will in a few days come to the polls in record number to provide a corrective course for our nation's future.
2. While I can recall previous periods of rancor and divisiveness in our country. I have never seen it reach such levels of vitriol and hate. It seems to be the new "Spirit of America." That "American Spirit" first chronicled by Alexis de Tocqueville not so many years ago - in the eye of history - has been replaced by a myopic view of life incorporating isolation, selfishness, divisiveness, contempt and suspicion. While studies and books have documented this, we seem to be in a period of isolationist "know nothingism" in our fitful and frantic rush to protect our personal welfare, status and interests. Facts and knowledge and science itself have been ridiculed. Yet it is knowledge and science that have been most valuable in fulfilling the American dream. For me, one publication stands out in chronicling our current dilemma, Robert Putnam's publication "Bowling Alone," Putnam laments the decline and loss of institutions and agencies that have been paramount in fostering a unity of purpose for our nation. These groupings were essential in providing a commonality for all people and ranged from churches to bowling leagues to civic clubs. The mass media followed by most of people were essential in creating community unity and providing a commonality of information through just a few newspapers and radio/TV channels. Knowledgeable journalists were respected for their thoughtful analysis expressing a variety of viewpoints
With scholars highlighting such a problem, one wonders why this is not been given greater national attention. My next three points briefly focus on areas where this has been particularly prevalent. Unfortunately, because of my desire to "go to press" quickly. I'll only be able to give them cursory attention.
3. There is little question that America has prided itself on being a "religious (yea Christian) nation." Yet it's a topic that is shunned by many as being "too personal or divisive" for polite discussion. And while lip service is given to religion with extremely high percentages of the citizenry avowing divine belief and religious affiliation, national statistics show a diminishing interest in participation in religious institutions. Putnam's, "Bowling Alone" was followed up by another book "American Grace: How Religion Divides and Unites Us" forcefully documenting this decline. Yet there are many signs that there is a growing "hunger" or something.to give meaning to life.
It is my contention that Religion has been given a bad rap as modern society, seeking meaning for life, has found new words and labels such as spirituality and "a search for meaning." “Can Religion Survive Worship" is a book that cause me to appreciate anew my lifelong interest in this topic. Making no bones about it, the book clearly describes that ALL RELIGIONS are created by humans in their search for giving meaning to life (spirituality) and structuring a moral code for the enhancement of communities of people living together. Worship has become idolatry. Could there be a greater American Heritage than providing space for all religions espousing love to find freedom and expression?
In my perception, unfortunately, organized religion has an extremely negative connotation. And as a long time adherent, I can understand why. Yet in my lifetime I have seen tremendous change led by progressive religious leaders in changing our society. I would contend that the progress made in civil rights for every minority and disadvantaged cultural group would not have occurred without the leadership of progressive, religious communities.
Yet I am most concerned with the dying church: there is an understandably urge for change. young people particularly have discarded religious traditions that still reflect a pre-scientific mindset. The last time the foundations of Christianity were challenged was 500 years ago when Martin Luther posted his 95 thesis. The concerns of that era, including words such as indulgences, justification by faith and bondage of the will mean nothing to young people today. I contend that the hypocrisy of blindly affirming dogmas is no longer acceptable to young people as they leave the church in droves. Yet is the spirituality, community and search for meaning in life that churches have and can provide that can give a much-needed moral tone to our society. Particularly as we discover the pride of giving all religions equal stature and status.
On a very personal level, I feel compelled to offer the following observation about religion. (Given my early heritage, I might say "testimony") I am tremendously grateful that my parents sought a neighborhood church to attend. I am confident that the teachings and moral values we were taught established the foundation for my life. I believe they were also instrumental in helping my wife and me provide a home that attempted to install the same values in our children. Yet I vehemently denounce the claim of any religion based on love and welfare of all to proclaim superiority over another religion. From my personal experience in attending them I must state that whatever it is called: synagogue, mosque, church or meetinghouse, it is there that I have found direction and peace.
4. I am extremely concerned with the public support of the public schools of America. Once the innovative pride of the world, Horace Mann's creation suffers from that neglect which was once a source of national unity. Raised In southern segregated schools, I can personally attest to the harmful effects of that divisiveness. But I know full well that there was community unity and doors open for all of my neighborhood rubbing elbows together. My cross-sectional enclave in my large southern city had rich and poor (admittedly segregated) people of all faiths, nationalities and abilities together. The proliferation of both private schools and Charter Schools inevitably has undercut the spirit of unity within our country.
5. In my day we played sports for fun and to fill our idle hours. From this outsiders view of the current scene, it appears that the emphasize is on winning teams, excellence, possible college scholarships and creating a harried home life. In my day we dabbled in a variety of sports according to the weather and the "professional season." There were even quasi legal prohibitions on participation in sports outside the season. We had no trophies telling us we were winners or participants. We found plenty of good competition nearby rather than feeling the need to travel great distances that require family contributions or community fundraiser. While lamenting the erosion of family time. I also question the effect on a child's outlook as we glorify winning and excellence. I discuss this with some reluctance as one who had many doors opened for me because of my involvement on teams. Certainly the basketball hoop my father put in the backyard that gave me an initial skill would not suffice today in competition with those participating year-round at professional camps.
That's about all the energy a 92-year-oldster has in relating experiences from a good life. But I feel compelled to once again recall one of my continued concerns regarding a failure of our current affluent society. There's no question that the health of the world is endangered by human lifestyles. While young people have been in the forefront of citing this problem, I contend that current lifestyles increasingly contribute to the problem. Lip service is given, but a variety of practices in the name of comfort and convenience only exacerbate the problem. Where is the protest and demand that would lead to strict laws that would force national and recognized practices ameliorateing the problems?How can it be that we remain one of the only developed countries that has only 10 of the 50 states having a bottle deposit law that has been universally recognized as important, but lobbied against effectively by the beverage industries.
So that's it! It's time for me to move on to my next endeavors. Thanks for reading my rants to the end.
Sunday, September 30, 2018
I've always been intrigued by the concept of "American Exceptionalism!" And so I just had to check the meaning of the word, "exceptional" in an old-fashioned thesaurus. I learned that synonyms include
"unusual, rare, far above others in quality or excellence
or beyond the normal or customary"
Consequently, it's easy for me to apply the term to America:
both historically and in this "exceptional" era in which we find ourselves.
Historically has any country been able to create a new society and culture where none had existed before? Except that we exceptionally destroyed a pre-existing culture and enslaved another race in order to build our own concept of excellence!
But that's all in the past, isn't it? Let's look at current events and recent history for other behaviors "beyond the normal or customary."
- Remember how unusual it was to see a single, rare individual here in Washington at the corner of Massachusetts Avenue and 34th St., year in and year out, good weather or bad? Stationing himself in front of the Vatican Embassy, this male individual carried signs stating that the Pope was shielding pedophiles. I wonder if anyone has recommended him for Sainthood now that we have “true facts”?
- I thought it quite "unusual" that Supreme Court nominee Kavanaugh would cite “regular church attendance” as a hallmark of his high character. This same statement must have been uttered by the thousands of priests who used their power and strength to take sexual advantage of children and destroy lives.
- What a lost opportunity for exceptionalism was lost by the millions and millions of Germans who have always proclaimed Germany to be Christian nation. All they had to do in the 1930s was ask themselves, "What would Jesus do " in response to the evil of Adolph Hitler?
- I admit to being among the many who were skeptical of President W. Bush when he admitted to changing his behavioral pattern from carousing and drinking after finding religion. Yet the tenor of his life gives credence to such a conversion. While I may still question some of his leadership, I do not question his veracity and motivation. Perhaps the time is ripe to have less hypocrisy in religion and all phases of life. Five hundred years ago there was an extremely exceptional event known as the Protestant Reformation. Then and now
- exceptional times call for rare or unusual behavior. Certainly we saw at the recent hearings the usual example of male domination, blustering, and venomous divisiveness. How crass that Republican senators would not even speak to one of their "invited guests. How courageous for an "ordinary" citizen to speak to a "power personage” in an elevator, and that courageous act provided the stimulus for change.
After 92 years of life. I've had revealed to me some extremely exceptional events and occurrences – the #Me-too by women is one of the most dramatic.
the bravery of these millions of women is awaiting an answer from the millions of men who still hide behind anonymity.
The male counter movement might well be entitled
#Iconfess (to my brute-like behavior)
ARE YOU LISTENING
Don Trump (and your locker room co-hearts?
PS. And while I earlier committed to having my next rant about "the sporting scene and its effect on American family life" I MUST place in higher priority. The topic that continues to intrigued me,
The rationale for a religious reformation - 500 years after Martin Luther!
Wednesday, September 19, 2018
The responses to my recent Rant regarding the three formative factors shaping my life have been extremely gratifying, yet they put me in a bind! There are so many observations I want to make yet so many of them might seem old-fashioned and counter to political correctness. And – heaven forbid – they may even cause me to lose friends and, even family members. Still the thought that my ramblings might find a responsive ear is something I can't resist.
For example, one issue that immediately comes to mind, and I feel very strongly about is the havoc wrought on families and our culture because of competitive sports. In my day games (sports) were something we did for fun and to fill idle hours. Now the press is for highly competitive teams demanding practice year round and development of skilled athletes at too early an age.
But before getting into something so controversial, I feel it necessary to share further details about my perspective on life as MY clock winds down. I do this because the views I express reflect my lifelong philosophy that is rooted in a few beliefs which include:
- I believe that the life of every human being has worth and dignity and is entitled to equal liberty, freedom, and justice.
- I believe in the motive force of love. This human relationships must consider the welfare of others, and that true love never seeks to hurt or destroy.
- I believe in the authority of reason and conscience and that humans are endowed with a never ending search for truth.
- I believe that humans have ever sought to find the source and meaning of life. From prescientific days of superstition. humans have created various dogmas and religions to explain and enhance "the human condition."
- Thus, all "love based" religious expressions must be encouraged as a way of seeking and providing ethical behavior.
- The individual finds succor, support and encouragement from various groups beginning with the family to the state. The democratic process provides means for members to share ideas, improve life conditions and equality under the law. Cooperative efforts recognize mutual dependence of people throughout the world.
- The human experience is enhanced through cooperative endeavors. Life for the individual is enhanced when there is a confirmation by one's peers, providing a critical platform for expression and mutual support.
- The work of all employees should be valued and that respect must be tangibly recognized by payment of a living wage.
This statement is my personal adaptation of a 10 point statement of policy developed by Dr. David Rankin, senior minister of the fountain Street Church Grand Rapids, Michigan 1982 – 1998 ordained is a Unitarian minister, David statement has been modified somewhat by the national Unitarian/Universalist church is a statement of their beliefs.
As you can see, there is no mention of God. As a congregant of his Grand Rapids church I participated in a class in which the encouraged us to develop our own Definition of the Word, God.
So that's a further background to my story. I think you will see it reflected in the way I look at life. Next week or asap, I'll share my thoughts on the impact of “the sporting life” on children, the family structure and society.
Wednesday, September 12, 2018
Life continues to present dilemmas: Certainly they don't diminish with age. I've enjoyed ranting and raving and felt I might still have something to say. Yet the Social Internet is filled with trivia like mine. I well remember having been thrilled as a young man in the Marine Corps during WWII and being mesmerized by the preaching of famed Hollywood Presbyterian minister Louie B. Evans. How exciting to discover 25 years later that he was preaching at National Presbyterian Church in DC. What a marvelous chance to share his powerful sermons with my children. What a disappointment to discover that he should have rested on his laurels.
But what a thrill recently to discover the following on the Internet following some of my recent musings.
So where am I? Should I hang it up? Or perhaps it's time to become more succinct and share a few most heartfelt thoughts and see where they go.
As I approach 93 and continue this marvelous voyage, I continue to wonder:how it is possible that a lower middle-class kid (certainly in the 30's and 40;s most of us with white skin pigment felt most of America was part of a broad middle-class) could experience such a happy, satisfying and fulfilling lifetime experience. Given time to ponder this question, I have identified three underlying pillars or givens that made it possible.
1. A loving family. Yet how contrasted with the present was my nuclear families expression of love. I can remember no kisses or conversations expressing emotions as are so prevalent today. How gratifying, however it was to change and have this in my maturing years.
2. A supportive community. From neighbors on our block, to a neighborhood school, to a local community church (regardless of denomination), my world was slowly expanding,. And it was this latter institution – religious institutions – that I feel is in greatest need for immediate change, Indeed I'm eager to share how I believe “religion” has been totally misunderstood and vilified today as we have glorified terms such as worship, spirituality and meditation.
3. A supportive government. Beginning with public schools, to a vibrant tenth largest city in the countr , to the G. I. Bill of Rights providing financial support for my three academic degrees, to Social Security providing income for my wife and four children in case of a personal catastrophe to me, to a state retirement system proving liveable income for over 32 years, to Medicare providing health care for me and kidney transplants for three of my family members, I have seen citizens paying their taxes providing aid and succor for me and my family. How tragic that “government” is today ridiculed by so many of our citizens.
Yet how frail are some of these institutions today and how divided we are in nurturing them. Perhaps this is enough for me to say now pending having more to say on each of the 3 factors. OR,as
Douglas MacArthur said to Congress? “??????????????????????????????????????????”
Douglas MacArthur said to Congress? “??????????????????????????????????????????”
Wednesday, August 29, 2018
I hope this headline gets your attention again as I recall the good fortune I've had for the past two years in reaching a rather varied audience with my Ranting and Raving!
This communique will only serve as an introduction to the many thoughts that have been percolating within my soul that are yearning for release and expression. While this Rave may be somewhat frivolous, I can assure you that will not be true of my musings in the days, weeks and months ahead.
But here's the thrill I experienced today for the first time in 92 years. A rash on both my size 13 feet finally convinced me that I had to see a podiatrist. This depression era born child considered it frivolous and a waste of money to have someone else clip his nails & polish his bunion. While others may have seen my feet as gnarled and my toenails gruesome, I honored and respected these two parts of my body that have propelled me over thousands of miles.
How soothing and simple was the work of Dr. Tiffany K. Hoh, DPM in prescribing medication and clipping chunks of granite! How relaxing a massage by her assistant! You can rest assured that I've already scheduled a revisit in three months.
I hope this simple tale has gotten your attention and commitment to find the meaning and messages in my future musings. I promise there will be no more medical stories from one nearing the century mark. Yet I hope that the sharing of my observations about the lessons of life from another generation will stimulate meaningful discussion - particularly between the generations.
There is so much we can learn by making sure our noses (and eyes) are not continually concerned with the far-flung social media. In this frenzied time of immigrant bashing, I was delighted to be treated by Dr. Hoh from China. I was referred to her by my general practitioner. Dr. Singh with Indian roots. Dr. Song was my dermatologist. Dr. Desai from India and Dr. Picone from Italy take care of both my back and my lungs. And I am comforted and checked by a countless array of dedicated technicians, most often from nations and continents demeaned vile and unfit by our present national leader.
I hope you realize I'm just getting warmed up in expressing my feelings. I'll be back in a week or so.