Thursday, October 4, 2018

Neither Hope nor Depression nor Outrage

A reflection...

Neither hope nor depression nor outrage is a strategy. What is required is a plan, a good design containing downstream alternatives so that it survives contact with the enemy. In a society where depression and outrage are only faintly counterbalanced by impotent hope, the only plans finding success are those whose chief aim is the destruction of that society.

If we reject that outcome then we must determine how to reason together and fight for the survival of our society instead of only fighting each other. An important first step is getting our emotions under control.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018

It looks just like THAT Tuesday.

Tuesday, September 11, 2018. 
Out the window, it looks just like THAT Tuesday, seventeen years ago, a beautiful late summer day in northeastern Illinois, 728 miles from Ground Zero. 
Some say the world changed forever that day. For thousands of families, it did. By broader measures, I think it is about the same. Yes, many of us became suddenly more aware of the power of hatred combined with wealth, focused on an unprepared target. But the evil we saw that day remains at work in the world. It is still out there and it is still in here, right here, fighting for our souls every day.
On September 11, 2001 we experienced a massive and extreme example of "us and them" thinking. I doubt that anyone reading this identifies with the depth of hatred and anger that led to the events of that day, but we are ALL subject to "us and them" thinking. Read what people post here. It won't take long to find who is their "us". It's natural and convenient to identify ourselves by our groups. But when we identify any other person by their group, we start to devalue them as people. We become more able to make them a target.
I am a member of many groups. You and I are in some of the same groups - gender, race, religion, nationality, first language, family history, education level, political philosophy, and so on. We have some of those groups in common. In some groups however, you are in and I am out. In others, I am in and you are out.
We can focus on our groups - the ways that we are in and others are out. But there is a better way. Not forgetting who we are or what makes us unique, let us see each other first as individuals, as neighbors, as members of the greatest "in group" to which we all belong - the group of all souls in which all are valuable beyond measure and lovable. If we orient our hearts this way, and make our first impulse to love each other, our neighbors, and even our enemies, then the world will have changed forever.

An earlier version of this post first appeared on Facebook on September 11, 2018.

Monday, June 6, 2016

D-Day. June 6, 1944 + 72 years

The knowledge of history changes.



My parents' generation understood it first hand. My uncle was wounded when his ship was sunk by German fire in the English Channel. My generation knows of it because our parents and grandparents knew of it and spoke of it. Our children's generation may have some of this second-hand awareness if their grandparents had spoken of it. Subsequent generations know of it mostly from history books, museums, documentaries, and Hollywood storytelling.

The knowledge of history changes. History does not change. It only tends to repeat itself for those whose knowledge of it is incomplete. 

D-Day. June 6, 1944 + 72 years 

Image courtesy of US Army. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

World's 7th Largest Economy Going Dry?

According to many estimates, the State of California, if it were a country, is close to becoming the world's 7th largest economy, passing Brazil this year, and the Russian Federation and Italy about a year ago.

Some key facts:

  • California's GDP in 2013: $2.20 trillion, trend: expanding
  • Brazil's GDP in 2013: $2.25 trillion, trend: steady or slight decline
  • Investments in publicly traded California-based companies returned investors 119% in the three years ended 12/31/2014. The average company in the S&P 500 returned 96% in the same period.

But there's a big problem in the Golden State. California may be in serious danger of running out of water sometime in 2016 or not long thereafter. Much of the California economy depends on the famous names like Apple, Inc. and The Walt Disney Company, but much of it also depends on agriculture. Farming requires water. Did you know that it takes five gallons of water to produce one walnut?  It takes about one gallon to produce a single almond. You know, those "California Almonds."

The California dairy industry has been aggressively advertising California cheese in a battle of titans with my neighbors to the north, the folks across the Cheddar Curtain. (That's Wisconsin, if you didn't know.) Dairy cattle and other livestock require water, if you didn't know. And... for the record, the average Californian requires water every day, if you didn't know. A California gone dry would be a huge problem. Now you know.

Who says California is running out of water? Crackpot doomsdayers, conspiracy theorists, or other alarmist nut jobs? Hardly. A NASA study released in December, 2014 says California was 11 trillion gallons short as a result of the prolonged drought.

NASA satellite data reveal the severity of California’s drought on water resources across the state. This map shows the trend in water storage between September 2011 and September 2014. Image Credit: NASA JPL

In an Op-Ed piece for the LA Times on March 13, 2015, Jay Famiglietti, Hydrologist, UC Irvine Professor and JPL Senior Water Scientist, wrote:
"Right now the state has only about one year of water supply left in its reservoirs, and our strategic backup supply, groundwater, is rapidly disappearing. California has no contingency plan for a persistent drought like this one (let alone a 20-plus-year mega-drought), except, apparently, staying in emergency mode and praying for rain."
This drought is a natural event, perhaps exacerbated by global warming, perhaps a result of human activity. Can human activity fix it? Unlikely. There are no potential human activities known that could dramatically improve this situation in less than a few decades time, if at all. Maybe praying for rain isn't such a bad idea.

"For as the heavens are higher than the earth,
    so are my ways higher than your ways
    and my thoughts than your thoughts.
For as the rain and the snow come down from heaven
    and do not return there but water the earth,
    making it bring forth and sprout,
    giving seed to the sower and bread to the eater,
    so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth;
    it shall not return to me empty,
   but it shall accomplish that which I purpose,
    and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it."
- Isaiah 55:9-11 

Brown’s California Overtakes Brazil With Companies Leading World. Bloomberg News, January 15, 2015
California Ranks As World’s 8th Largest Economy, Overtaking Russia And Italy KPBS, July 8, 2014
Needed: 11 Trillion Gallons to Replenish California Drought NASA, December 16, 2014
Op-Ed California has about one year of water stored. Will you ration now? LA Times,

Thursday, March 5, 2015

There Is No Vaccine Against Addiction

No one is immune from addiction; it afflicts people of all ages, races, classes, and professions. - Patrick J. Kennedy

Last night I was kindly invited to attend "family night" at a a substance abuse rehab center. One Wednesday during a 28-day stay, the clients attend a one-hour lecture, along with family members who are able to join them. Last night, five sets of parents spoke to the group, to the clients, encouraging --- imploring them to persevere in their rehab programs, to get a sponsor, to go to a halfway house, to attend meetings --- whatever it takes to stay "clean."

These parents know well what's at stake. Every one had lost a son or daughter to an overdose. Two of the five sets of parents are about my age and raising a young grandson because mommy or daddy died from their disease of addiction. My friends, Bob​ and Sherry invited me. Sherry was one of the speakers, with her grandson at her side and her son's picture on an easel nearby.

It was a lot to take in. I'm still processing what it means to me. I've never been directly involved in these situations. There are however a few things I can say with certainty. Substance abuse is nothing to joke about. It can involve anybody. It can kill anybody. Know the signs. Get expert help. Support those affected, the parents, the children, as well as those trying to get help, and those who don't yet see how much they need it.

More on this another day as I continue to think and pray about it.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Memory, Habits, and Adaptability - A Personal Experiment

Lately, I've been experimenting on myself and testing my adaptability in routine activities. It all started when American Airlines​ changed my AAdvantage number after 30+ years because of a data privacy concern. It took longer than I would have hoped to memorize it. So, I started making other innocuous changes. For example, several days ago, I switched my socks drawer with my underwear drawer. They had been in the same order for about 30 years. I'm fine if I think about it, but if I walk up to my dresser in the morning, half asleep, I'm still likely to open the wrong one. My theory is this. If I keep this up, I should be able to more quickly internalize each change. I'll let you know.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The Burden Of Hate

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. said, "I have decided to stick with love. Hate is too great a burden to bear."

What is hate? 

What is love? 

Paul the Apostle wrote to the Corinthians,
Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
Love never ends. As for prophecies, they will pass away; as for tongues, they will cease; as for knowledge, it will pass away.
 So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. 
1 Corinthians 13:4-8, 13 (ESV) 
What then, is hate? Perhaps this,
Hate is impatient and unkind; hate is envious and boastful; it is arrogant and rude. It insists on its own way; it is irritable and resentful; hate rejoices at wrongdoing, and flees from the truth. Hate stands only for itself, believes in nothing, hopes for nothing, endures nothing. It is unfaithful. It is hopeless.

Impatient, envious, arrogant, insisting on its own way? Irritable and resentful? Unfaithful? Hopeless? Clearly, a burden too great to bear.