It used to be that families would do anything to hide the people and events that embarrassed them. But now we live a culture of exposure in America and it is much more acceptable for the world to know about these things. In some cases it’s become ok because we’ve come to realize it isn’t wrong or bad. Homosexuality is seen like that now much more than just 20+ years ago. In my mind that is a good thing. In other areas we realize that biology and chemistry plays a much bigger part than we used to believe. Diseases, mental and physical, are understood to not be an indication of a moral failure.
My Family Skeleton
Sometimes we know something; a criminal past, an addiction, an affair, or an abusive relationship for example, is bad. My parent’s generation would have done anything to keep those things quiet. For example, I didn’t know my father had been married to someone else before he was married to my mother until I was 40 years old. Why? Because it was shameful in the Catholic church in which he was raised and it was a spot on the family reputation in my mother’s mind. The fact that he kept it secret all those years was astounding to me and my sisters. We couldn’t figure out what the big deal was about it. But that is because we weren’t raised in his world, we were raised in a world he worked to created for us instead of that older world. He just wasn’t able to completely free himself from it.
Entertainment vs Education
In the quote above it can be seen as a family putting a skeleton in the closet on display, as if they are proud of it when they really shouldn’t be. And in the Social Media age some do exploit them for money or fame, a sort of perverse pride that says ‘Hey, look at how screwed up we are!’. But I don’t think most people take it like that. I think most just want to accept that this is them. Then they are saying, if we are going to have these skeletons we might as well make them have some value. but I think most of us just want to accept that they are there and find a way to learn from them, to have the skeletons help us and others become better people.
I came up with the idea of the drawing at the top first. But then I thought more about it and realized that it needed a second illustration so I drew the two men on a separate napkin. Then I thought of another version and drew it. Then I thought of another one, and another one. Then I realized there are infinite versions of the coward hating someone who intimidates them. In America alone you can see a hatred of Muslims (or more accurately, pretty much everyone from the Middle East, Muslim or not), LGBTs, women, African-Americans, gun owners, gun regulators, Democrats, Republicans, Chinese, Mexicans (or anyone speaking Spanish), Jews. rich people, poor people, celebrities, disabled, Atheists, Christians, Goths, Pageant Queens, fat people, thin people and more. The list is indeed infinite.
The Box marked X
The simple truth is, the coward can’t handle figuring out a way to live with one or more of these groups. They don’t want to struggle with the difficult emotional and psychological work of opening their mind to try to understand these other people. That takes courage. It’s much easier to simply categorize whatever group is intimidating you into being unworthy of your attention and contemplation. Just put them in the box marked X and hate the box. It’s so much easier.
It’s also so much more dangerous. Of course the obvious danger is what happened in Orlando and South Carolina and on back at different locations for decades now, and that is violence that kills and maims. It is what we most want to avoid. But there is another danger, not as immediately disastrous, but perhaps equally terrible in the long view, and that is a life wasted by hate. Many hateful people aren’t going to go out in a blaze of shame by killing themselves and others. But they are going to live a life of hate and end up on their deathbed having only that hate to show. What a tragedy that is.
So, what do you do about it if this is you or someone you love? It’s to admit your intimidation. Admit your fear. Start with what is at the root of it all. That requires courage. But the benefit of summoning that courage instead of hiding in the cave of cowardice is that you get to be in the light. You get to escape the hate and move towards love. And once you escape it in one area of your life, it gets to be infectious. Loving becomes easier, it becomes something you want, something you look forward to, something you can give away with pride. And, it’s something that then starts to transform others around you.
My wife, Linda, and I sometimes have a bit of a tiff because one of us was sure we told the other something but the other person insists they were never told. She might say she was sure she told me to pay a bill by a certain day. Oh, no you DI’INT! Or maybe I will say I remember distinctly telling her that so and so called. Oh, no you DI’INT!
In most cases what was said actually was said. She told me, I told her. The problem isn’t what was said, it’s what was heard. I know I am guilty plenty of times of not registering what someone has said to me. I am going to go out on a limb and say my wife has been guilty of it a time or two as well. We thought we were communicating but if no one hears it, were we really?
What We Have Here
In the movie ‘Cool Hand Luke’ Luke, the character played by Paul Newman, is subjected to a boat load of punishment because he will not obey his jailers. In the most famous scene of the movie (and #11 in the all time greatest Hollywood movie quotes) his jailer, after beating him says to the onlooking prisoners, “What we have here is failure to communicate.” But when you actually watch the scene and hear the next line, “Some men you just can’t reach”, what the jailer seems to really be saying is there is a failure to listen. That is different than communicating. He is blaming Luke for not listening, not himself for not communicating properly.
But in our daily life it behooves us to ask questions from both sides. First, am I actually communicating well? Is what I am saying accurate and making sense? And second, is the person listening? And if they are, are they actually comprehending what it is I am saying?
If we can do those things we are closer to making sure communication actually has taken place, right?
Periscope on Katch.me
Here is the ‘Guess the Quote’ broadcast I did on Periscope as I drew the napkin. If you would like to find out more about Periscope click the periscope link at the top of the page.
There are good reasons to not change your mind and good reasons to change it. Solid reliable evidence is a good reason to change your mind. Faux news stories on the internet that claim someone said something about something and is written by someone to get you to click on a headline and is obviously biased is not.
The Blind Spot
I came across a Facebook post yesterday from an old friend. He was promoting a conspiracy theory about 9/11. I argued a bit about it with him and others. Another friend then private messaged me gently giving me the advice that I should let it go. The reason? This was a blind spot the conspiratorial friend had. He was blind to something he was fully aware of in other areas of his life; namely logic, reason, critical thinking. Me arguing using any of those tools wasn’t going to convince him because he had, for whatever reason, purposely blinded himself to them in this area.
The Mystery Spot
There is a funny little tourist attraction in the Santa Cruz mountains of California, not far from where he lives. It’s called ‘The Mystery Spot’ and it promotes the idea that the laws of space, time and gravity don’t apply in that locale. It has funny shaped rooms that make you think someone is small when you know they aren’t. It has other spaces that make you feel like you are defying gravity in some way.
Now a little kid might think this Mystery Spot really does defy those laws, that is the fun of it for parents and adults, to see their kids wonder about these tricks without understanding them. It’s a way to teach them actually. But it would be very disturbing if a full grown rational adult went to the Mystery Spot and actually believed those laws were suspended. We would think they had something go wrong in their brain because it would be obvious to all that it was just an amusing slight of hand trick and it would not be believable that a grown adult would fall for it.
The Emotional Spot
But that is what happens in life all the time. We have blind spots where we don’t change our mind in the face of evidence. It might be emotional, a person just has to believe their dog is coming back after being lost 25 years ago. We all know the dog is dead by now, but that person emotionally needs to keep hope and so suspends rationality for their emotional need.
The Mind Spot
But emotional, intellectual and physical health actually are better served in the long run by our ability to face truths, to face reality. That sometimes means changing our minds about something. If we can’t do that, we can’t change ourselves and we can’t change anything else.
What are some examples of this from your life and the life of the world around you?
Let’s start at the very beginning…of Creation vs Evolution Week at the NDD!
Would you enjoy life without the knowledge of good and evil? Not just evil mind you, but GOOD and evil. What would life be like with out EITHER of those things?
When the story of Adam and Eve was written, approximately 3,500 years ago, it was explained that the desire to have knowledge of good and evil was a bad thing, a heresy so to speak. It was then a fatal misconduct on the part of Adam and Eve to act on that desire. It was an explanation for why humans are the way they are.
Now we know there are many other reasons as well for why we are the way we are. The sciences of zoology, biology, chemistry, physics and cosmology all have contributed to our more advanced (though not yet complete) understanding of these things.
And guess what? Each one of those sciences and their early (and in some cases later) discoveries were first seen as heretical and those who practiced them were seen as guilty of misconduct. Many were thrown in jail and killed as a result of their investigations. Many who weren’t treated so harshly were still sidelined and dismissed for their ideas. Our evolution doesn’t come easily it seems. A question: Do you know why, in the biblical story of Genesis, Adam and Eve were kicked out of the Garden of Eden? I bet the reason is not what you think. The answer tomorrow.
I was raised in a somewhat loud, somewhat opinionated, somewhat verbose family. With an Irish heritage we blamed it on the Irish ‘gift of gab’. My mother was loud, funny and quick to throw a barb if she saw something pretentious. My father was argumentative and assertive in his voice and style while still being a charmer.
I married into a family in 1979 that was the exact opposite. They were instilled with a quiet and respectful way of talking to each other. Calm, cool, minimal in outward expression. They believed in saying nice things, well mannered things and not raising your voice.
Can you guess where this is going? My way of communicating, which I had always thought was pretty good, turned out to be so strong and aggressive compared to what my wife was used to, that most anything I said with any outward expression was taken as having much more meaning than I meant it to. She heard anger where I thought I was expressing passion. She heard insistence where I thought I was expressing enthusiasm.
In the meanwhile, my wife’s method of communicating, which I am sure she thought was pretty good, turned out to be so quiet, deferential and subtle that sometimes I didn’t even know that she had communicated at all. The passion she felt came out in such a way that it was easy for me to either not hear it, or dismiss it as not being all that important.
As you can imagine it took a long time before we clued into what the other person was really trying to express. We weren’t ever completely understanding about that and it was an underlying issue among larger issues that led to our divorce in 2000, after 20 years of marriage.
The reason I tell this story is to give you insight and an admonition. The insight might seem obvious to some, but we all have blind spots. Remind yourself that each individual hears uniquely, both sounds and meaning behind the sounds. The admonition follows from that. Do not go into any relationship, casual or serious, with the assumption that your way of communicating is the best way. You might have a good way, but chances are so does the other person. You might have blind spots about how you talk, the words you use, the manner in which you deliver them, that others see and don’t necessarily appreciate or understand.
Evaluating yourself to become better includes evaluating your words and their delivery.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw, 1856-1950, Irish playwright. Just imagine, he was old enough to be aware during the American civil war (1861-1865) and lived to see WWII being fought and resolved (1939-1945). That is an amazing span of life.
Let’s get right to it. Examples of hypocrisy in action on the part of parents that do no favors to their children in the long run.
Telling your child to wait until marriage to have sex but you are having sex with your BF or GF while you are dating.
Telling your child that they shouldn’t drink but you drink like a sailor on leave.
Appearing to always be cheery and perky while hiding blue moments from everyone.
Telling your child to live by the golden rule but you gossip and malign others incessantly.
Telling your child it’s inner beauty that counts but you obsess over your looks.
Telling your child that money isn’t the most important thing in life, but acting as if it is, judging people on their perceived wealth.
So, what is the alternative, to show your kid what a jerk you are? No, the alternative is to work to integrate who you are….who you REALLY are, with what you teach your child. You don’t have to expose every flaw, you simply have to be the same person with the same beliefs in your whole life, not one life for you as an adult alone and another for you in front of your kids.
You may ask, why not be two different people? My kids don’t need to see that side of me. The point is, they WILL see that side of you, no matter what. They may not see it at age 5, but they will by 15. They will see your hypocrisy and it will teach them the lesson you don’t want to teach them, that integrity isn’t real and from within, it is just a charade you play to look acceptable on the outside. That is the lesson a child of hypocrisy learns. Then guess who they teach that lesson to?
This goes against the grain of the way I have thought about virtue in the past. But after I read this quote, and heard the ongoing stories about Tiger Woods and his infidelities, it made me reconsider.
I use to think the man or woman who wanted something bad or unhealthy but stood against the desire and didn’t indulge was being virtuous. I am not saying I completely disagree with that. They are virtuous in many ways.
It also glides into a perfect fit with the ideal of the rugged individualist who battles his or her demons and comes out victorious. It makes a good story in other words because really, what is more boring than a truly virtuous person, right?
But the quote really does bring out the idea that the KEY to being virtuous is not in battling your desire, but to not have the desire. Of course you might be saying, fine but how do you get RID of the desire? Isn’t that the billion dollar question! Think of all the industries that would go belly up if we got rid of the desire instead of spending our lives fighting the desire. The diet industry would lose a lot of financial weight. The tobacco industry would go up in smoke. Alcoholics Anonymous would have some problems keeping their glass full as well.
I do know in my own life I have only won the battles when the desire has left me. I had to reach a crisis point, a bottom, for that to happen with alcohol, which it did in 1993. But once I hit that bottom the desire left. If, however, you don’t have a revelation or event that stops the desire stone cold and it wants to stick around a while, the key to success over a vice is in large part a function of how much you feed it. Find something to replace it and stick with it. If you are an addictive personality, which you likely are if you struggle like that, then find another addiction! Become an exercise whore, or a furniture maker extraordinaire, find something and stick with it. And then let time work it’s magic and sweep the desire into the past.