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.

Friday foibles and follies

On yet another Friday the 13th, be safe and be smart. And, watch out for black cats crossing in front of you. In the spirit of the day, let me offer a few foibles and follies for your contemplation.

Per our friend Scottie’s post, it always makes sense do your homework and be prepared for whatever comes your way. Please take about two minutes to watch the video of White House secretary’s Jen Psaki’s response to a reporter question on the claim of GOP support for Senator Rick Scott’s economic plan. Trust me, it is worth the watch. See below for the link to Scottie’s post.

I apologize for a little bit of morbid humor, but it is Friday the 13th. I once read the true story of man who is about my age now being diagnosed with prostate cancer. Being married for many years, he objected to the doctor’s insistent recommendation of a more invasive surgery that would leave him impotent. He said making love with his wife was the greatest joy in his life and he pursued other procedures. After being cured for twelve years and enjoying his love life, he read the doctor passed away. The man saw the obit and smiled that he had outlived his doctor, noting to his bride, the doctor makes whoopie no more.

There is another true story I read about an older New Jersey woman who refused to sell her coastal property to a famous developer who would later become a notorious former US president. The developer wanted her property as it was next the casino he wanted to build. To his chagrin, she denied every advance to buy her property, even the threat of lawsuit and he exhibited his famous temper. A few years later, as the casino went bankrupt, her property was still standing. And, she smiled that she had outlasted the investment.

In a news report following the housing crisis in 2007-08, one of the investment banks that went under was Bear Stearns. About a year before this occurred, a financial analyst got a meeting with the CFO of the organization as he wanted to forewarn them. The analyst saw the banks and finance companies selling mortgages to people who could “fog a mirror” as their only review. These mortgages were packaged together (called Collateralized Debt Obligations) and stamped as good risk and sold to investors by folks like Bear Stearns. The analyst told the CFO he had a model which showed Bear Stearns would go under as a result. The CFO thanked him and asked him to leave. The first fallacy was the CDOs being stamped as good risk as a lot of bad risk together does not make it good. The second fallacy is the Bear Stearns folks assumed the market would always go up, which is not a realistic assumption.

These stories may seem unrelated, but at the heart of them is to two underlying themes

– do your homework and be prepared

-if you know what you want and know the options, stand firm in your mission.

The Bear Stearns story is not an outlier as several entities either went under or had to merge during the Housing crisis. The movie called “The Big Short” based on Michael Lewis’ book and starring Christian Bale, Ryan Gosling, Brad Pitt, Steve Carell, et al, defines what happens when supposedly smart people don’t know what they are investing in. See link below to a summary of the movie.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Big_Short_(film)

Comedians and Congress

The very astute and funny comedian Sarah Silverman said yesterday on a segment of The View, “Why is it we hold our comedians to a higher standard than our Congressional representatives?” She was responding to the trend for comedians to come under physical attack on stage and verbal abuse online. I want you to re-read the emboldened sentence of hers and let it sink in. Why, indeed?

If that is not enough to stew on, I want you to think of recent and not so recent comments by several members of Congress with names like Taylor-Greene, Cawthorn, Jordan, Gosar, Breitbart, Gohmer, Brooks, Gaetz et al. If that were not enough, fold in comments from folks like Senators Cruz, Paul. etc. Then we have the former president’s comments which take it to an even lower level.

These comedians make their living making fun of uncomfortable topics. Do they cross the line on occasion? Absolutely. Yet, we seem to vilify them more than we do for people who are supposed to represent our better angels as elected officials. I can disagree with a policy position of an elected official and that is OK. Yet, I want them to be respectful of the office they hold.

I disagree with Democrats and Republicans on various issues. I think some Democrats tend to forget we need to pay for things, e.g. But, the names I mention above are all Republican for a reason. They have a strident manner in dealing with opposing arguments. Name calling is not an argument. Parroting conspiracy theories is not an argument. Saying truly inane things does not make you more credible.

It is not ironic that the most touted leader in the world is a former comedian. President Zelenskyy of Ukraine has stood up against the invasion of Russian troops and rallied his country against the onslaught. To be frank, Vladimir Putin did not count on that stance thinking he could steam roll Ukraine in three days. He could not have been more wrong.

When I watch shows that are news centered comedy discussions, the more astute guests tend to be comedians. To be able to make fun of something, you tend to have to know what it is and why it could be funny. In this same vein, one of the best news shows on TV is actually a comedy show – John Oliver’s “Last Week Tonight.” Invariably, his writers will have an in-depth discussion on issues that do not get air time elsewhere such as predatory tele-evangelists, predatory lending, predatory court fees, et al. Other new sources have actually complimented their efforts.

Since comedians seem to be more knowledgeable, maybe we should do like sports teams do. When an elected official is obviously not up to the challenge, like in a sporting event, let’s just replace him or her with a comedian. In my view, we will be far better off.

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.

Tuesday’s gone

The tragic southern rock band Lynyrd Skynyrd sang a mournful ballad penned by Allen Collins and Ronnie Van Zant called “Tuesdays’ gone.” Here are the first two stanzas and chorus about love lost.

“Train roll on
On down the line, won’t you
Please take me far away

Now I feel the wind blow
Outside my door, means I’m
I’m leaving my woman at home, Lordy

Tuesday’s gone with the wind
Oh, my baby’s gone, with the wind

The tragic part is the band suffered a plane crash which killed their lead singer and co-writer of this song, Ronnie Van Zant and two others band members. Here is quick summary from Rolling Stone. “The legacy began some 41 (now fifty) years ago in Jacksonville, Florida, and halted for a decade by the 1977 plane crash that killed three band members, including Ronnie Van Zant and Steve Gaines. Since then, the band tragically lost Allen Collins, Billy Powell, Leon Wilkeson and Hughie Thomasson, yet Lynyrd Skynyrd rocks on with original member Gary Rossington…”

Lynryd Skynyrd was a talented group of musicians who brought a blues feel to rock and roll. They chose a tailored name of a coach at their high school who tormented them named Leonard Skinner. They covered other songs such as “T for Texas” by Jimmie Rodgers and “Call me the breeze” by J.J. Cale and blended their own music into the mix, most notably “Freebird,” “Sweet home Alabama,” and my favorite, “Simple man.” They were one of the few bands to open for the Rolling Stones that got as many cheers as the main band.

Unfortunately, their megahits – “Freebird” and “Sweet home Alabama” get overplayed at the expense of a large volume of great work. If I picked one song to highlight the band, it would be “Call me the breeze.” Cale has written many great songs covered by artists like Eric Clapton. If you prefer ballads, listen to “Tuesday’s gone” and “Simple man.”

So, if you are unfamiliar with them, give Lynyrd Skynyrd a listen. If you are, please enjoy.

Standing – what does that mean in a legal sense

I am not an attorney, but I got a good sense of what “standing” means in legal terms when the Supreme Court decided that same sex marriages were OK. They ruled that other people did not have “standing” on the issue. In other words, if two gay men get married, others are not impacted by their decision to marry.

The same holds true about issues around contraception, interracial marriages and abortions.

“What does standing mean legally?

There are three constitutional requirements to prove standing:

  • Injury: The plaintiff must have suffered or imminently will suffer injury. …
  • Causation: The injury must be reasonably connected to the defendant’s conduct.
  • Redressability: A favorable court decision must be likely to redress the injury.”

The same holds true about issues around contraception, interracial marriages and abortions, which seem to be in the news the past two days. I was sharing with our friend Jill, if certain groups want to try to make contraception illegal, they truly have no standing on the issue. But, good luck with that. Not only do the significant majority of women and men want contraception to be available there is a correlation between using contraception and fewer abortions. The last data point I saw said a very significant majority of US Catholic women want contraception in spite of the Pope’s position.

I saw one Senator back track off a stance on interracial marriages. He realized quickly his position was in quick sand. When Loving v Virginia was upheld by a vote of 9 to 0 by the Supreme Court, interracial marriage was legally permitted and could not be outlawed by a state. The last data point I saw was over ten years ago noting 13% of all marriages in the US are interracial. That statistic is likely higher today. And, just watch any TV commercial. The couples in the commercial are quite often interracial. That is a sure indication that train has left the station.

The issue of abortion is one that is in the forefront. Some would argue the deceased never was able to have standing, but Roe v Wade created a pattern a governance that provides guardrails on what women can and cannot do. While I personally would not suggest an abortion, I am a man and it is not my body. I certainly have no standing over another person’s body. So, I support a woman having governance over her own body. Plus, there is a correlation between greater poverty and increased family size.

Let’s take this one step more. People who tend to argue against Roe v Wade the most tend to be folks who would also argue for the government to leave us alone and let us live. The hypocrisy of this contradiction resounds. So, if government can rule a woman’s body, then we should fine or jail people who put themselves and others in jeopardy. Gun ownership – no more. Drinking and driving – more severe punishment. Obesity and taking up our healthcare spend as a result – fines for the extra cost of care. Passing along STDs or HIV, jail time. And, so on.

The majority of Americans want Roe v Wade to continue. Those who want it overturned may be like the dog that has caught the bus. Now what are you going to do? My fervent request is for women and men to tell these folks what they think by voting.

Wednesday wanderings in early May

What a great day for a walk about. So, as I walk today my mind will wander on various and sundry topics. In no particular order.

A draft Supreme Court ruling has been leaked which appears Roe v Wade may get overturned. The fact it was leaked may be due to the justices wanting to gauge reaction, which politicians do often. If the justices did this it would be highly disappointing as they need to be above politics. Or, it may be a leak by someone who is troubled by the ruling.

If this draft turns out to be the eventual ruling, some Republicans who voted for the recent judges are feeling betrayed – notably two females in Senators Susan Collins and Lisa Murkowski. Yet, my first reaction was the Republicans who went along with this to garner the vote of evangelicals are now like the dog who caught the bus. My guess is women may rise up and squash them. While I personally would not advocate an abortion, I also support the right for a woman to determine what happens to her body and the limitations that exist provide sufficient governance.

What also frustrates me is measures that reduce abortions are also frowned on by the evangelical crowd. Holistic sex education (which includes abstinence and self-esteem discussions) with birth control approaches and tools being taught and made available, are proven to reduce unwanted pregnancies, reduce poverty and save healthcare costs. What also frustrates me is some people who are so against abortions also are in not in favor of helping people in time of need, not in favor of better gun laws and not in favor of doing something about climate change, water shortages or environmental degradation.

I realize this draft is not official, but I am curious how the justices may react to a groundswell of women who do not like this.

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.

Pieces of April – an encore from a great group

A long time favorite band of mine is Three Dog Night. The three singers who took turn as lead and harmonized so well are Danny Hutton, Cory Wells and Chuck Negron. They had a huge number of hits singing songs written by great songwriters like Randy Newman, Paul Williams and Leo Sayer, to name a few.

A favorite and timely song comes to mind as we head into Spring. “Pieces of April” was written by David Loggin.

April gave us springtime and the promise of the flowers
And the feeling that we both shared and the love that we called ours
We knew no time for sadness, that’s a road we each had crossed
We were living a time meant for us, and even when it would rain
we would laugh it off.

I’ve got pieces of April, I keep them in a memory bouquet
I’ve got pieces of April, it’s a morning in May

We stood on the crest of summer, beneath an oak that blossomed green
Feeling as I did in April, not really knowing what it means
But it must be then that you stand beside me now to make me feel this way
Just as I did in April, but it’s a morning in May.

I’ve got pieces of April, I keep them in a memory bouquet
I’ve got pieces of April, but it’s a morning in May

I’ve got pieces of April, I keep them in a memory bouquet
I’ve got pieces of April, but it’s a morning in May

This song is one of melancholy and love lost. I love the reference to the wonderful time together in April, but it is now May. This is a metaphor that simplifies a longer break-up to just two months, but even if it were that short, it is impactful.

If you want great traveling music with your family, download or access a greatest hits CD and just sing along. Just a few of the many hits include “One,” “Mama told me not to come,” “Eli’s coming,” “Easy to be hard (from Hair),” “Black and white,” “Just an old fashioned love song,” and “Shambala.” Our kids would ask for this one.

For those interested in how they got their name, a girlfriend of Danny Hutton’s described that the indigenous Australians would sleep with three dingos on a very cold night. Three Dog Night gives us all great comfort.

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.