Every Day is Saturday

Finding Joy in the Here and Now

Need to Know

need to know meme

If you watch the news at all it’s easy to believe that the world we live in is a senselessly violent place where no one is safe. You aren’t safe walking down the street. You aren’t safe in your schools or your places of worship. You aren’t even safe sleeping in your bed. Danger is everywhere; the stories of death and destruction come at us non-stop on the television, in the newspaper, over the radio, down our Twitter feeds, through our friends’ Facebook posts. The unrelenting barrage of bad news often leaves me feeling hopeless and thinking that the world is spiraling out of control.

I hate feeling this way so I’ve thought a lot about how not to. I’ve tried finding my peace through faith and prayer, and while that helps, it doesn’t stop me from getting drawn back into the maelstrom of madness that is the “news”. So, as the above cartoon suggests, I’ve tried to limit my exposure to it. When I am successful I find that my mood improves significantly. But – and this is a big “but” – I often, so often, find myself seeking it out so I’ll know what’s happening, even though I know it will make me feel like crap.

So what is it that I think I NEED to know?

This is an extremely confronting question, and worth exploring. What, exactly, do I need to know about events in my own country and the wider world in order to live my life? What information is necessary for me to have to be a productive member of society?

Do I need to know about every natural disaster, devastating fire, missing person, or horrible murder that happens every day somewhere in the world? Do I NEED to know the details of these awful events, or is it enough to know that they happen every day?

Do I need to know every excruciating detail of every dumb ass thing our elected representatives say and do? Do I NEED to know all the latest scandals and outrages, or is it enough to know that these things will continue to happen as long as human beings are in charge?

Do I need to know every time some heinous act of terror is perpetrated somewhere on the planet? Do I NEED to know who these people are, where they came from, and why they did it, or is it enough to condemn all acts of violence carried out by people who want to hurt others and make all of us afraid?

When you put it that way, it’s pretty obvious that I don’t actually NEED to know any of this stuff. I’m not saying I shouldn’t be aware of world events, particularly if they will have a direct impact on my life, but maybe, just maybe, I don’t have to be quite so thoroughly consumed by it all.

Of course that’s easier said than done. Following current events as they happen is an addiction, and I don’t think I’m the only one hooked. I have tried to wean myself off of the minute-by-minute news cycle but in spite of my best intentions I keep going back to my dealer, the internet, for more of the drug I crave – and hating myself for it. Why can’t I go through life being blissfully uninformed? Would that be so bad?

I think back longingly on the years when we all got our information from a trusted anchorperson on the 30-minute nightly news. We all went about our daily lives, and then, after dinner, we’d sit down and have Peter Jennings or Tom Brokaw or Dan Rather tell us what we needed to know that day. And that was plenty. We knew what was going in the world, but we weren’t overwhelmed by it like we seem to be now. Sure, the coverage wasn’t nearly as comprehensive as it is today – thanks to the miracle of the internet, we can know what some despot on the other side of the world had for breakfast – but dear God, do we really NEED to know all that just because we CAN?

I know that unless I move to some remote island or mountaintop retreat it’s unlikely that I will cut myself off from everything and everyone I would have to in order to achieve that level of disconnectedness. So I have to find another way to stay sane.

Here’s a radical thought, so bear with me. I think that the key to keeping  in touch with the world around me while at the same time keeping my sanity is entirely dependent on my own perception. What I mean is, I can either see the latest catastrophe – whether man-made or not – as a reason to panic, or not. I think we’ve gotten so short-sighted that we confuse what’s happening now with what will happen tomorrow, and the next day. We have lost our ability to look at the long term, to see down the road. We’re so focused on the information coming at us from those little screens in our hands that we’ve forgotten how to look up and really see the world around us. Beloved, the stars in the sky could give a fuck who’s president. We need to keep that in mind. Focusing on what’s eternal is a huge help in processing what’s temporary. This too shall pass.

We also need to see our neighbors with compassionate eyes. We need to recognize that we all want the same basic things – to feel safe, to be warm and dry and fed. To be loved. We sometimes have extreme differences about how to achieve these goals (and what is preventing us from achieving them), and we have a hard time understanding how someone who disagrees with us could possibly believe the things they do. It’s hard, I know. But we have to try. We have to try, with all our might, to love the people we believe are actively trying to do us harm. I believe with all my heart that it’s the only way through this current crisis.

So, when I call my elected representatives to share my concerns about something of real importance to me and my family I will not do so in a state of fear and panic, but in a state of love. I will approach the conversation with an open mind and heart, and I will see the “other” as someone who is capable of compassion. I know this approach doesn’t fit in with the concept of “fighting” the good fight, but I’m hear to tell you, it is the most powerful thing you can do. Look at Gandhi. Look at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Those men achieved real change, and they did it not meeting force with force, but by overwhelming the resistance with kindness, and gentleness, and with love. We have to do this differently, and it starts with you and me, right now.

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Politics

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As my friends know, I don’t have a whole lot to say about politics.  Not because I don’t have opinions – I do.  I vote every time I get a chance, and I’m proud to participate in the democratic process.  I believe strongly that the government of the United States of America affords the greatest protections to all of its citizens under our system of federal, state and local laws.  It is far from perfect, but for the most part, we as Americans still can count on our inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, without undue interference from our neighbors or our government.  If you don’t believe that’s the case, go travel around.  Get accused of a crime in India or Singapore or Russia and then see what you think about our laws.  And don’t talk to me about the NSA.  They aren’t reading your email.  They aren’t interested in you.

I don’t talk about politics or religion on Facebook or on this blog because I don’t see that there’s any point to it.  I think it’s almost impossible in this medium to a) persuade someone that your opinion is the correct one, or b) have a truly meaningful conversation.  If I’m going to have a discussion with you about politics or religion (and believe me, I really don’t want to), then I’ll do it when we’re sitting down, face to face, with either a cup of coffee or a glass of wine in our hands.

So, I’m not actually going to talk about politics.  I am certainly not going to join the finger-pointing parade.   I don’t have anything to say about it that hasn’t been said, is being said, or will be said.

This is what I think about politics:

It’s not important.

Before you go getting all upset, hear me out.  I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t care about who gets elected or what we believe about life – we should.  What I am saying is that we’ve become addicted to arguing about it, and blinded by our anger.

I want you to ask yourself, to ask your heart, why you are so angry with people whose outlook on the issues of the day are different from yours?  Why do you get so mad it makes you want to scream at them?  What makes you feel such hatred towards them?  Why do you go looking for “evidence” of their “lies” on the internet (which is hardly a bastion of unbiased truth)?  I ask you these questions because they are the questions I ask myself.  I’m no saint – I struggle daily with my anger towards those who support programs that I believe are actively harmful to our society and to people I know and love.  It bewilders me, and my emotions respond with impotent rage.

But raging against the forces at work doesn’t change anything.  It also has the negative effect of changing my focus from what’s truly important in life to the argument itself, allowing my emotions to dictate my actions.  One way I use to avoid this cycle of overreaction is to judge the relative importance of any divisive issue by this simple yardstick:  will this thing, whatever it is (gay marriage, special local option sales tax, Obamacare) separate me from my loved ones?  Will it keep me from showing compassion to my fellow man?  If the answer is “No”, then it isn’t important.  You may be thinking “Well, by that measure, you’re saying that none of these issues is important!”

You would be right.  That’s exactly what I’m saying.

I believe that the only thing that we should be concerned about is how we treat each other.  If we aren’t treating our fellow man with kindness and compassion, we are doing wrong.  I’m so tired of the hatefulness that we have come to accept as “the way things are”, the greed and lust for power that leads our elected officials to behave like spoiled children, and the intractableness of opinions that divide friends and families. I’m tired of it, but none that stuff actually prevents me from loving my fellow man.  It’s just noise.

So until the next time I get to vote for people who support my values, I’ve decided to try something else.  I’ve decided that I will focus on what I can do, today and every day, to make the world a better place.  I can’t yell and jump up and down and change peoples’ hearts and minds, but what I can do is choose not to engage in the hate fest.  I can decide to continue to love my friends with whom I emphatically disagree.  I can choose to be kind.  Getting angry only perpetuates the problem, and keeps us on this downward path.

And one of the results of taking this path is now right in front of us.  The fact that the federal government has mostly ceased to function is terrible.  However, it isn’t the fault of the President or of Congress.

It’s our fault.  We put those politicians there.  Right now you may be thinking that YOU didn’t vote for the people who are causing all the trouble, so you’re not responsible, but I’m telling you that it doesn’t matter if you did or not.  Something about how we’ve gone about doing things in the past forty years or so has created the climate we now find ourselves in, so yes, all of us, me included, is responsible for the gigantic pile of crap currently located in our nation’s capital.

So it’s up to us to fix it.  What we want for ourselves and for our country will be manifested by how we treat each other.  You must be willing to forgive someone who you think doesn’t deserve it, to try to understand someone who you believe with your whole heart to be wrong, and to love the people you believe are destroying the country.  These are the choices we all must make; not between Republican and Democrat, but between Judgment and Grace.

It is only when we change our focus from our need to be right to our desire to understand can we move beyond this place in our history.  We all need to stop worrying about politics and start looking for things we can do, right now, to break the cycle.  If we stopped fueling the engine of hatred and divisiveness, it will slow down, and eventually, it will come to a halt.  Ignore the idiots in Washington.  They’re like children throwing a temper tantrum – if you stop engaging, they’ll shut up and get on with it.

The hardest part?  You have to do it whether the “other side” does it or not.  This is how it works.  Jesus knew it.  Gandhi knew it.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew it.  The road will be hard, there will be setbacks, and people will take advantage of your seeming “passivity”.  But it is the only way to heal the divisions in our relationships and in our country.  We must choose love over hate and compassion over power.

What will you choose?

*************************************************

Thanks for reading my blog!  If you want to know more about me and my journey, check out my book “Everyday is Saturday” on Kindle.  The book is part diary, part memoir, about the first year after I was laid off from my dream job.  I think it has something to say to anyone who is struggling with change.

photo credit: Micky** via photopin cc

Leave a comment »

Politics

Flag

As my friends know, I don’t have a whole lot to say about politics.  Not because I don’t have opinions – I do.  I vote every time I get a chance, and I’m proud to participate in the democratic process.  I believe strongly that the government of the United States of America affords the greatest protections to all of its citizens under our system of federal, state and local laws.  It is far from perfect, but for the most part, we as Americans still can count on our inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, without undue interference from our neighbors or our government.  If you don’t believe that’s the case, go travel around.  Get accused of a crime in India or Singapore or Russia and then see what you think about our laws.  And don’t talk to me about the NSA.  They aren’t reading your email.  They aren’t interested in you.

I don’t talk about politics or religion on Facebook or on this blog because I don’t see that there’s any point to it.  I think it’s almost impossible in this medium to a) persuade someone that your opinion is the correct one, or b) have a truly meaningful conversation.  If I’m going to have a discussion with you about politics or religion (and believe me, I really don’t want to), then I’ll do it when we’re sitting down, face to face, with either a cup of coffee or a glass of wine in our hands.

So, I’m not actually going to talk about politics.  I am certainly not going to join the finger-pointing parade.   I don’t have anything to say about it that hasn’t been said, is being said, or will be said.

This is what I think about politics:

It’s not important.

Before you go getting all upset, hear me out.  I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t care about who gets elected or what we believe about life – we should.  What I am saying is that we’ve become addicted to arguing about it, and blinded by our anger.

I want you to ask yourself, to ask your heart, why you are so angry with people whose outlook on the issues of the day are different from yours?  Why do you get so mad it makes you want to scream at them?  What makes you feel such hatred towards them?  Why do you go looking for “evidence” of their “lies” on the internet (which is hardly a bastion of unbiased truth)?  I ask you these questions because they are the questions I ask myself.  I’m no saint – I struggle daily with my anger towards those who support programs that I believe are actively harmful to our society and to people I know and love.  It bewilders me, and my emotions respond with impotent rage.

But raging against the forces at work doesn’t change anything.  It also has the negative effect of changing my focus from what’s truly important in life to the argument itself, allowing my emotions to dictate my actions.  One way I use to avoid this cycle of overreaction is to judge the relative importance of any divisive issue by this simple yardstick:  will this thing, whatever it is (gay marriage, special local option sales tax, Obamacare) separate me from my loved ones?  Will it keep me from showing compassion to my fellow man?  If the answer is “No”, then it isn’t important.  You may be thinking “Well, by that measure, you’re saying that none of these issues is important!”

You would be right.  That’s exactly what I’m saying.

I believe that the only thing that we should be concerned about is how we treat each other.  If we aren’t treating our fellow man with kindness and compassion, we are doing wrong.  I’m so tired of the hatefulness that we have come to accept as “the way things are”, the greed and lust for power that leads our elected officials to behave like spoiled children, and the intractableness of opinions that divide friends and families. I’m tired of it, but none that stuff actually prevents me from loving my fellow man.  It’s just noise.

So until the next time I get to vote for people who support my values, I’ve decided to try something else.  I’ve decided that I will focus on what I can do, today and every day, to make the world a better place.  I can’t yell and jump up and down and change peoples’ hearts and minds, but what I can do is choose not to engage in the hate fest.  I can decide to continue to love my friends with whom I emphatically disagree.  I can choose to be kind.  Getting angry only perpetuates the problem, and keeps us on this downward path.

And one of the results of taking this path is now right in front of us.  The fact that the federal government has mostly ceased to function is terrible.  However, it isn’t the fault of the President or of Congress.

It’s our fault.  We put those politicians there.  Right now you may be thinking that YOU didn’t vote for the people who are causing all the trouble, so you’re not responsible, but I’m telling you that it doesn’t matter if you did or not.  Something about how we’ve gone about doing things in the past forty years or so has created the climate we now find ourselves in, so yes, all of us, me included, is responsible for the gigantic pile of crap currently located in our nation’s capital.

So it’s up to us to fix it.  What we want for ourselves and for our country will be manifested by how we treat each other.  You must be willing to forgive someone who you think doesn’t deserve it, to try to understand someone who you believe with your whole heart to be wrong, and to love the people you believe are destroying the country.  These are the choices we all must make; not between Republican and Democrat, but between Judgment and Grace.

It is only when we change our focus from our need to be right to our desire to understand can we move beyond this place in our history.  We all need to stop worrying about politics and start looking for things we can do, right now, to break the cycle.  If we stopped fueling the engine of hatred and divisiveness, it will slow down, and eventually, it will come to a halt.  Ignore the idiots in Washington.  They’re like children throwing a temper tantrum – if you stop engaging, they’ll shut up and get on with it.

The hardest part?  You have to do it whether the “other side” does it or not.  This is how it works.  Jesus knew it.  Gandhi knew it.  Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. knew it.  The road will be hard, there will be setbacks, and people will take advantage of your seeming “passivity”.  But it is the only way to heal the divisions in our relationships and in our country.  We must choose love over hate and compassion over power.

What will you choose?

*************************************************

Thanks for reading my blog!  If you want to know more about me and my journey, check out my book “Everyday is Saturday” on Kindle.  The book is part diary, part memoir, about the first year after I was laid off from my dream job.  I think it has something to say to anyone who is struggling with change.

photo credit: Micky** via photopin cc

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