Interesting quote about church going

Sometimes quotes come at you from surprising sources. The following quote comes from a good movie called “Burning Bodhi” about old friends grieving the sudden death of one of their own from an aneurysm. The character was from a God-fearing community in West Virginia with a number of churches. When asked if she went to church, her reply was priceless.

“Going to church does not make you a Christian any more than hopping into a garage makes you a car.”

The profound simplicity of that statement floored me. It also reveals the act of going to church is not as altruistic for everyone as it is for a group of truly devout people. Having grown up going to not only church, but Sunday school as well, I saw all kinds of people there. Just like in general society it was a collection of imperfect people with biases, faults, and sins.

There were good lessons to be learned as well as some that were not so good. This church had an excellent youth program called “Tell it like it is,” where young people could get excited about their faith. Yet, on the flip side the church eventually split in half over an argument regarding the overt nepotism of the pastor in hiring practices. I have seen churches and synagogues have active outreach programs even starting charities to help people in need, while I have also seen churches led by ministers whose ego and greed got the best them.

Having worked with church and synagogue leaders on outreach programs to help those in need, I have witnessed both sides of the coin as well. I have met the most wonderful and kindest people who want to help, but I have also witnessed some who were there for themselves, not the people in need. The charity has to be about helping people help themselves, not doing something that makes you feel good about yourself.

I am no longer a church going Christian, so many would not even call me such. I am imperfect just like everyone else, but I do feel we should walk the talk. I do feel it is more important to help people climb a ladder out of the hole they find themselves in. I do feel we should treat people like we want to be treated with no caveats. And, if a church leader does not espouse those things, I would suggest finding a different place to worship.

Wednesday wanderings on a spring day

It is certainly a great day to wander about, but I think I will mow the grass first. Mowing has always been a chore I don’t mind, as you can see your progress as you go. Plus, freshly cut grass has a fresh smell. Since I have a battery powered mower, I don’t have to worry about inhaling gas fumes.

As I mow or wander, I can do some good thinking. I find myself thinking about past events and friends, since some of the current day issues are puzzling at best. I read a post (it may have been Jill or Joy’s) that some celebrity said “act like a grown up” used to be an admonition to misbehaving children. Now, we have too many grown-ups that act like spoiled toddlers. Of course, when some stand firmly behind one of the biggest acting toddlers as a former and possible future presidential candidate, it truly shows how low we have fallen.

We have too many that forget there is a responsibility that comes with our liberties. When my freedom to do things could be harmful to your freedoms, then we must cease or reconsider those actions. The opposite should be true. It reminds me of the caution to the newly launched Spiderman, when his grandfather said “with great power comes great responsibility.” Our freedoms to do things that are not permissible in some countries is a great power. Yet, we must honor it, nurture it, protect it for all.

Some have taken reaction to actual or perceived offenses to an awful degree. Just because someone disagrees with you, does not entitle you to hurt, threaten or kill the other person. Full stop. Just because you cannot tolerate failure, does not entitle you to turn over the chess board, throw a tantrum, claim cheating or instigate an attack on a branch of government. Full stop. Just because you are in a position of authority does not entitle you to ignore the people you represent. A good leader listens to others. A foolish one does not. Full stop.

There are many old lessons that are getting ignored these days. A key one is if someone has to tell you how great he or she is, then maybe we should look a little deeper as to why he or she is having to tell us such. When a colleague was complaining about being removed from marketing to a prospective client, unsuccessfully over several years, he said “I have known John for twenty years.” The thought running through my head was “And, he has known you.”

Whether you are religious or not, in many religious texts is some variation of Jesus’ golden rule. Treat others like you want to be treated. Let’s be responsible to each other. Let’s be civil in our discourse. Let’s protect their freedoms like they were our own. Let’s try not to be blowhards and listen to each other. Spiderman’s grandpa has a good lesson for us all.

Alignment

One thing that impresses me about good writers who have complex series of novels or shows is their ability to keep track of the various histories and relationships of all of their characters and story lines. My guess is the better ones take the time to document the biographies and relationships, so as not to betray the trust of the reader or watcher. I am certain mistakes happen, but it is good to see the effort.

The writers for a TV series called “Young Sheldon” have done their utmost to make sure the show is in alignment with its predecessor, “The Big Bang Theory.” For those who do not watch either show, “The Big Bang Theory” is about four highly intelligent university professors who befriend a beautiful and sarcastic neighbor who lives across the hall from two of them. Other stars are added as the men start getting more serious girlfriends and wives. But, the show is about relationships.

Sheldon, played by Jim Parsons, is the brightest yet most eccentric of an eccentric bunch. Parsons played him so well, he won several Emmy’s for the role. Due to his eccentricities, the show “Young Sheldon” was crafted to tell his story. With Parsons narrating the prequel which stars Iain Armitage as the younger version, we learn how Sheldon developed some of his habits, both endearing and frustrating. Since in the first show, we see guest appearances from the adult siblings and older mother, the prequel is good about remembering each character’s development and what the older Sheldon shared about them.

Sheldon has a twin sister, who is every bit as sarcastic as his future neighbor. He has an older brother who his jealous of the attention Sheldon gets yet is the typical teenage male. And, the scientific genius even as a boy has a mother who not only is a church goer, she works at the church. His father is a football coach, but we know already he will not be around much longer due to a storyline from “The Big Bang Theory” told of Sheldon losing his father as a young teen. The one character we did not hear much about in the first show is his grandma, who came in the second season of “Young Sheldon.”

The small things, though, are what make the alignment live. The older Sheldon loved trains, so we see the young Sheldon out in the garage with his trains. We learn why Sheldon uses terms like “bazinga” when playing a practical joke or why he uses the word “coitus” instead of sex, as it is less offensive. Don’t ask. The older Sheldon loves contractual agreements, so we see how that developed. And, of course, we see his mother singing “Soft Kitty, warm kitty” when Sheldon does not feel well and why he offers a hot beverage to anyone who is down in the dumps.

My wife and I enjoyed the first show immensely. I am a sucker for shows about relationships, especially the quirky ones. No one is more quirky than Sheldon, but what endears him is he has a good heart that is revealed from time to time. And, we adore the prequel as well, with the young Sheldon every bit as funny as the older one. Yet, what makes it live in alignment is the narration by the older Sheldon, with the occasional guest commentary by one of the other actors on the first show.

Do you like the shows? What are some others you care for?

A few more vignettes for Hugh Curtler from his memorial service

As a few of us have written in tribute (Lisa and Jill), our friend Hugh Curtler passed away last summer. With the pandemic upon us, his wife Linda and family delayed the memorial service to yesterday, which included an online viewing. Several friends, relatives and students spoke in tribute. Here are a few of the poignant and funny stories about our friend:

Hugh was a teacher, coach and friend. Several of his former university students and friends spoke of his impact on their lives. A few said Hugh taught them how to think in his philosophy class. Other classes were more lecture and rote, so Professor Curtler’s stood out. A few talked of changing majors or minoring in philosophy. One spoke of his mentoring.

He also started the Honors program at the university, Southwest Minnesota State, and the women’s tennis team. One of his early tennis players spoke of how it all got started and the influence Coach Curtler had on their lives. On Lisa’s blog she has a video of Hugh speaking of the tennis program start-up and rise to prominence.

But, a few funny stories were thrown in that made us smile or laugh. One former student spoke of Hugh and him walking along the campus having discussions in a Yoda-like fashion, as if Master Yoda was one of the students there. A co-ed student said she and several of her friends saw them laughing and wondered what it was all about.

A long-time friend spoke of Hugh and Linda’s bird-watching hobby. He called them both one day when an unusual bird was in his front yard and left a humorous message. He said he saw this bird and called them, but since neither were there, he just shot it and threw it in the freezer to be identified later. They knew he was joking, but were not entirely sure.

One student spoke of several students dressing in formal attire for one of his classes to celebrate a milestone. The good professor walked in and was stunned, but continued the class to the elegantly dressed students. Apparently, he still had some of the champagne left when he passed.

His sister wrote a note to be read at the service. She spoke lovingly of her brother and mentioned their common love for watching the comedienne Carol Burnett’s show on Saturday night. That was one of their touchstones. Mine too, as I grew up doing the same.

Finally, the bird-killing storyteller spoke of a recurring joke he had with Hugh knowing his feelings about politics. He would pretend to be a campaign person from a candidate Hugh did not care for and call him to thank him for his donation. He used the name Sarah Palin as an example, since she is back in the news running for Congress. He knew he could always get Hugh going with such a ploy.

Hugh will be remembered well. I miss his comments as much as I miss his blog. His voice was a lot like our British friend Roger’s, who offers context and history. Please take a look at my previous blog which has links to Jill and Lisa’s more detailed ones.

Nowhere Boy

Being a huge Beatles’ fan, I stumbled on to a movie released in 2009 called “Nowhere Boy” after the John Lennon penned song “Nowhere Man.” The movie takes us through the troubled life of the teenage John just as he is about to launch a musical career. It should be noted this career seemed very unlikely at the start of the movie.

Aaron Taylor-Johnson does an admirable job as the troubled Lennon who was not the best of students, while he dealt with his Uncle George’s death and the reemergence of his mother Julia into his life. Two women, though, play a vital role in his life – his aunt Mimi (played by Kristin Scott Thomas) who raised him with George (played by David Threlfall) in her sister’s absence and his mother played by Anne-Marie Duff.

The story focuses mainly on these two sisters and John. Whether the movie tells the story 100% correctly, it does impart the needed theme his mother was not around for long stretches and his father was nowhere to be seen. When Julia got back together with him, it was more like she was a big sister than a mother aiding his truancy and rebellious tendencies. But, she also taught him about Rock-n-Roll and how to play the banjo, which he jumped at. Apparently, she was gifted and could pick up playing pretty quickly, a trait he seemed to have as well.

Mimi was the sober mother figure doing her best. She came across as not endearing, but John realized eventually how important she was in his life seeing his mother being less responsible. Mimi would buy him his first (and second) guitars, but she also sold the first one when he had failing grades. That made him none too happy, especially when his group The Quarrymen” had a gig that night. And, while Julia loved Rock-n-Roll, Mimi would prefer Tchaikovsky as listening music.

A young Paul McCartney is played by Thomas Brodie-Sangster. George Harrison (played by Sam Bell) makes a brief entrance, but for this movie he is put in the background. Josh Bolt plays a band member and friend Pete and Olivia Lovibond plays Marie, an earlier love interest. David Morrissey plays a key role as Julia’s boyfriend and father to John’s stepsisters. The movie is directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson and was written by Julia Baird and Matt Greenhaight. It should be noted Julia Baird is John’s youngest half-sister.

The movie is worth the watch whether you are Beatles’ fan or not. Rotten Tomatoes gives in an 80, e.g. It is easy to see why Lennon had a constant chip on his shoulder as a youth and how he had to become a better person to harness his talent. And, per the movie his observation to Mimi that you and Julia are still sisters, is a key point in his and their relationship.

The response to an inane remark

Having been in consulting for over thirty years before I retired, clients would on occasion say things that were not the most vetted of ideas. Sometimes the ideas would be too costly, sometimes too administratively burdensome, sometimes too hard to communicate and sometimes the idea may be stretching or breaking the law.

I had a colleague who had a disarming way of digging deeper, putting the onus on himself. This would prevent the client from being too offended by questioning. They may not be right, but they are still the client. My colleague would say “Help me understand….” as he asked why the client thought this was a good idea.

I mention this today as people have been writing about how to push back on people who are parroting untruthful information or conspiracy stories. Depending on the audience, one action is to simply vote with your feet and walk away. Or some version of “I do not believe that to be true” might suffice. Yet, those do not qualify as good rebuttal.

If you choose to rebut, you must get into a dialogue. This is the reason for my recent post on the Chicago song of that name. You do not want a shouting match, if you want to get heard. So, take my friend’s suggestion as a lead in – “Help me understand.” This will allow further conversation to delve further without being too offensive. Remember, people just want to be heard. So, hear them out and maybe they will do the same. This is how Daryl Davis talked over 200 members of the KKK into quitting.

Our blogging friend Clay used as an example yesterday about the North Carolina man who went to jail for four years for believing the conspiracy story that Hillary Clinton was running a child pornography ring from a pizza parlor in Washington, DC and acting on it, by storming the place armed with a weapon. Clinton is not perfect and has been made out to be a bogeyman, but really, a child pornography ring?

If he told a friend this plan in advance, the friend might have said, “help me understand…” and saved this person from himself. After hearing the story, a few simple questions may have diffused the situation. The friend could have said something like “I don’t like her either, but c’mon, a child pornography ring? There is no way that can be true.”

I am not naive to think that this will solve our problems and it may be less effective with the most strident. Yet, if Davis can get KKK members to shed their robes, then it must have some validity. One thing is for certain, returning fire with fire by yelling and name calling, will not get you heard. Just watch any talk show with people of divergent opinions. Those folks are not listening to each other, because you cannot listen when shouting.

Let me leave one final thought. As a father of three adult children now, if you really want your children to listen to you, do one key thing. Lower your voice, even to a whisper. That will get their attention.

More and more movies

Since the weekend is upon us, I thought I would share a few more movies for your consideration. We have seen a few excellent ones and a few that are worth a look. I won’t mention a couple I exited before the end.

“Solomon and Gaenor” is a British award-winning movie set in Wales in 1911. It stars Ioan Gruffudd and Nia Roberts in the title roles about a young Jewish man and young Christian woman who fall in love. Due to the times and tensions, they cannot be together, nor can they stay apart. This is Roberts’ first picture when released in 1999 and she is charming. Paul Morrison wrote and directed the movie and did a marvelous job of making the audience pull for these two lovers.

“C’mon, c’mon” is a more recent movie starring Joaquin Phoenix, Gaby Hoffman, and Woody Norman. Phoenix plays a free-lance reporter who is traveling the country to interview kids about the future. His sister, played by Hoffman asks him to look after her son, as she helps her separated husband with a bad bipolar meltdown. The movie is how the boy Jesse played by Norman teaches and learns from Phoenix and his colleagues. Jesse has anxiety and other issues but has learned coping skills. The other key is how Phoenix and Hoffman rebuild a sibling relationship that was tested when their mother died.

“Short Term 12” starring Brie Larson, John Gallagher, Jr, Rami Malek, Kaitlyn Dever, LaKeith Stanfied and Kevin Hernandez takes you through the up and downs and challenges of helping at-risk youth in a non-lock down facility. Larson and Gallagher are in a relationship, but both have obvious experience in talking down kids who are in need of help. Dever plays a pivotal role as she arrives with a host of problems and attitude, which reminds Larson of herself when she got help. It is a powerful movie, but tough to watch at times.

“Jack Goes Boating” is the only movie directed by Philip Seymour Hoffman, where he stars as Jack. Jack is a limo driver and is smitten with a shy woman named Connie played by Amy Ryan. It also stars Daphne Ruben-Vega and John Ortiz. The two were set-up by their friends, whose own marriage has some challenges that reveal themselves later as Hoffman and Ryan hit it off. To be more interesting to Connie, Jack learns how to cook, swim and boat, as Connie has this fantasy date of being on the water in the summer. The movie is charming in its own right but knowing this is one of Hoffman’s final films makes it even more endearing. You pull for the two of them, especially Connie who Ryan plays so well.

A few other movies worth a look include “Mona Lisa Smile” with Julia Roberts, Dominic West, Kirsten Dunst, Julia Stiles and a host of other young stars, “Eavesdropping” which is filmed without break in a restaurant as we listen in on various conversations, “The Squid and the Whale” with Jeff Daniels, Laura Linney, Anna Paquin and Jesse Eisenberg which has a cool title that has symbolic meaning about who was really there for you and “A conversation with other women” with Helen Bonham Carter and Aaron Eckhart about two people who hook up at a wedding as we learn there is more to their past.

“Mona Lisa Smile” is likely the only one of the movies that people may have heard of. It was for me. But, the four I highlighted surprised me at how good they were. Phoenix has done some excellent movies, especially playing Johnny Cash in “Walk the Line,” but “C’mon, c’mon” may be one of his best. Let me know some of yours that struck a chord of late.

Thursday throwdown – a trip to Asheville

My wife and I just got back from a couple of days in the mountains in the very eclectic town of Asheville. I am not sure if the people watching or the mountain viewing was more enjoyable. We did walk in the North Carolina Arboretum which is a lovely spot, so the views of the flora, statues and mountains did take the prize. What is nice is we met folks from Kansas, Minnesota, Michigan, South Carolina, Iowa, etc. who were visiting or had moved.

We went to see the wonderful performer and actor Cindy Williams, of “Laverne and Shirley” and “American Graffiti” fame tell stories about her career and explain behind the scenes stuff with various footage she cared to show. With the help of a “stage-hand” actor, she regaled us for ninety minutes. The stage-hand offered comic relief and helped punctuate the story telling. Williams’ self-deprecating humor charmed us, but when she got too full of herself, the stage-hand would help bring her back to earth. It was funny how they planned that.

We watched some of “Laverne and Shirley” growing up, but it was amazing to see the physical comedy they brought to the table. Penny Marshall, who has passed away, would rival Lucille Ball in that arena, but she was ably supported by Williams. One of the crowd asked in the Q&A if either of them ever got hurt, and she shared that Marshall did suffer a severe sprained ankle. She said the rehearsal prepared them for the acts. I did like that she said if something did not make them laugh in rehearsal, they improved or scrapped it.

It was truly nice to get away on one of our small trips. We love taking day trips and over-night trips reasonably close by. We stayed in a marvelous bed and breakfast, which is our wont, and enjoyed speaking with the guests and staff, who suggested a couple of restaurants. If you do go to Asheville, the Biltmore House (and gardens) is its most famous tourist attraction, but there a number of other places – spas, waterfalls, hiking, golfing, canoeing, antiquing, etc. that might peak your interest along with the eclectic downtown.

What are some places that you like to visit nearby? Are the places in the Carolinas that you frequent?

Happy birthday to my hard headed woman (I am truly blessed)

This post was written about eight years ago and reposted a year ago. I thought of it to honor my wife’s birthday, as this and two other songs are good introductions into her character.

One of my favorite Cat Stevens (Yusuf) songs is “I’m Looking for a Hard Headed Woman.” I tease my wife (and she returns the favor) about being hard headed. But, if you look at the lyrics of this song, you will note that Stevens is singing about looking for someone who is real and not contrived. He wants someone who is hard headed about being true to herself and seeking the same in her partner.

I’m looking for a hard headed woman,
One who will take me for myself,
And if I find my hard headed woman,
I won’t need nobody else, no, no, no.

I’m looking for a hard headed woman,
One who will make me do my best,
And if I find my hard headed woman
I know the rest of my life will be blessed — yes, yes, yes.

I know a lot of fancy dancers,
People who can glide you on a floor,
They move so smooth but have no answers.
When you ask “Why’d you come here for?”
“I don’t know” “Why?”

I know many fine feathered friends
But their friendliness depends on how you do.
They know many sure fired ways
To find out the one who pays
And how you do.

I’m looking for a hard headed woman,
One who will make me feel so good,
And if I find my hard headed woman,
I know my life will be as it should — yes, yes, yes.

I’m looking for a hard headed woman,
One who will make me do my best,
And if I find my hard headed woman…

Two lines jump out at me in the song, one in the beginning and one in the end. First, he says “one who will take me for myself.” He does not want someone trying to make him into something he is not. Yet, in the final stanza, he sings “one who will make me do my best.”  He wants a partner that will help bring out the best in him. He wants his lover to believe in him and help him do the best he can. To me, that is what having the right life partner is all about.

I have used two other songs to describe my wife of now about thirty-seven years. In Loggins and Messina’s “Danny’s Song,” also made famous by Anne Murray, they sing in the last stanza “Love a girl who holds the world in a paper cup, drink it up, love her and she’ll bring you luck. And, if you find she helps your mind, you better take her home, don’t you live alone, try to earn what lover’s own.” Holding the world in a paper cup is a terrific metaphor for someone who is genuine, such as my wife.

The other is from Gordon Lightfoot, “Rainy Day People.” He sings “Rainy day people, always seem to know when it’s time to call. Rainy day people don’t talk, they just listen until they’ve heard it all.” My wife is the best of listeners. In fact, she would rather hear you talk about yourself, than the other way around. And, it is raining right now and she is out helping a friend, which is not unusual.

Like Stevens sings about, once he finds the hard headed woman, his life will be blessed. My wife is one who holds the world in a paper cup and knows when it is time to call. Thank goodness she is also hard headed, as well. For I am blessed…and equally hard headed. Happy birthday.

Collaboration does not mean you have to be best friends

Like relationships, collaboration is hard work. If it wasn’t, it would happen more often. One of the push backs I sometimes receive when I say we need more collaboration is why should we when the other side does not do it? There is a short-sighted belief that one has to collaborate with only their best friends. The short answer is very little gets done when you do not involve all needed parties in the discussion.

Let me mention just three examples, two from America and one from Denmark.

After World War II, President Harry Truman appointed former first lady Eleanor Roosevelt to lead a team to help establish the United Nations. She was joined by some Republican elected officials, who were not huge fans of Ms. Roosevelt. After seeing her in action insisting that human rights had to be a key part of the mission of the new global group swaying opinion to her point of view, these Republicans said something interesting. They said we take back every bad thing we ever said about Eleanor Roosevelt.

After the Revolutionary War, Benjamin Franklin wanted to return home from Paris where he was quite successful in raising funding for the war effort from France. Instead, he was asked to lead a delegation of three to forge a peace agreement with England along with John Jay and John Adams. Per the Ken Burns documentary on Franklin, Adams did not care for Franklin especially his extracurricular activities, yet the men put their feelings aside and worked on what turned out to be the most one-sided peace agreement achieved to-date in favor of the former British colonies.

With Denmark largely below sea level, climate change has been considered with serious intent. Rising sea levels have always been a concern to this small country, but now the prognosis was alarming. The elected leaders knew they needed a long-term plan that would survive no matter which party was in power. They could ill-afford the flip-flopping of strategy every election cycle. So, collaboration across party lines was critical. And, they forged such a plan.

The Denmark example is illuminating. They responded to a “burning platform” issue. Yet, elected officials should not wait for the platform to burn. They should care less about binary win/ lose issues and work on solving problems. We need them to work together to get something done. And, we need to focus on issues of import not contrived ones that make the other side look bad. To be frank, I am extremely tired of this we/ they tribalism.