Monthly Archives: February 2015

Why people don’t want to hear it — Chris’s religion edition

Our message today at church was about getting a new attitude. In light of yesterday’s “I was an ass” story, it’s a good message at a good time. It’s also a key to why people might not what to hear it about my religion. (Maybe yours, too.)

I used to wear a WWJD bracelet. I didn’t wear it as a reminder to everyone that I was holier than them. I wore it because I wasn’t what I thought I needed to be. I wore it to remind myself of what I should be. And I stopped wearing it because I was an ass too often. In short, other people were better examples than I and they shouldn’t be judged because of my uncanny ability to resemble Eddie Murphy’s character in Shrek.

Yeah, missing the point. I can identify.

Stop for a second. Look at the previous paragraph. There are twelve instances of the word I, and one instance each of myself, my and a self. More than a sixth of the words are self-oriented. And thus is captured a primary reason why people might not want to hear about my religion.

This isn’t an I suck post. The statement I suck is amazingly self-aggrandizing. I suck so much that I’m like the black hole of goodness. Love grows where my Rosemary goes and nobody kills it like me. (It’s a song lyric from the immortal group The Edison Lighthouse.)

Today on Old-people Music 101, Edison Lighthouse.

Wow, dude. Did you notice, you know…other people?!!?!

If your religion is about God and how freaking unbelievably fantastic God is, it’s about God and how freaking unbelievably fantastic God is. It’s not about you.

God is awesome. And he has an awesome tailor, too.

When when some putz cuts you off in traffic, that pales next to the freaking unbelievableness. When that guy at work shows how immense his pain-in-the-butt super powers really are, that pales next to the freaking unbelievableness. When you’re in the express lane and the person in front of you spends five minutes protesting because the can of soup should be thirty cents less, that pales next to the freaking unbelievableness. (Even when you’re in a hurry to get back home before your one o’clock call–not that this exact thing has happened to me.)

This Putz doesn’t cut you off in traffic; he just gives up base hits at inopportune times. Or did when he wore the blue and orange.

This isn’t an I suck post because it’s not about me. It’s about the thing that I should be pointing to, the thing that allows me to look past the accumulation of I sucks in my life.

In short, if I (there’s that word again) were to point to God and say “this is the basis for my life,” you might look at my life and say, “You’re not a happy guy. Why do I want to follow the basis of your life?”

How cool would it be to swap Pharrell Williams’ name for yours?

I’m better than I used to be at not making it all about me. But I still don’t get the alignment-to-God thing. I’m still pre-Galileo earth where the sun and everything else revolves around me. And I don’t want to be that guy.

I’ll be a fitter, happier, more productive, comfortable, not drinking too much guy by not making it about me. And by not making it about me, I have room for you. (And thirty cents to pay the difference on your can of soup.)

Master Yoda says there is no try. But all I can do is try. And relax and concentrate on the trying, not the failing. It’s amazing how you sometimes see what you concentrate on.

Advertisements

Why people don’t want to hear it — religion edition

Once, a long time ago, I had a really crappy day at work. I hadn’t been feeling great for a while, but kept on working because crap had to get done. And it felt like all the crap was getting done to me. And it was getting progressively worse.

Quite frankly, I was reacting by turning into an ass, because that always makes it better. Because I had become the center point of existence, only my self-control prevented me from becoming a machete-wielding crazy man.

Could have been me. And not even a Snickers bar would have helped.

In general, I deserved a sound thrashing.

But I didn’t get one.

When a colleague sat down with me, we talked about the things I did that were trending outside the lines. But there was no shouting. No damnation. There was no threat of impending personal doom that I most certainly deserved.

Instead, there was a small amount of anger–I had been an ass after all–dwarfed by a much larger amount of concern for me as a colleague and a person.

A lovely self-portrait that can apply to nearly everyone at some point.

I deserved an ass-kicking and came away knowing that while I had screwed up, I wasn’t alone and I had an ally and it was important for me that I do what this person knew I could do. There was no distancing, no making me feel apart, no making me the dreaded them.

I walked away from that discussion motivated and feeling better, able to put aside what I had done so I could do better. I walked away feeling cared-about and included.

And I did better after that. My respect and appreciation for my colleague–already substantial–grew. And I was better able to be a stronger team player and add to the collective experience rather than being a giant emotional black hole.

Emotional black hole, where good feelings go to die. It’s probably where all those missing socks go, too.

Right now, we’re not experiencing a Great Depression, a Black Plague, or a War to End All Wars. But we are constantly driven to do more with less, increase production, and never offend anyone. And we could fall off the cliff into oblivion at any time; just watch the news or listen to any political campaign.

If I’m looking for something that transcends all that crap, I’m not attracted to an almighty deity who would have kicked my ass all up and down the hall that afternoon, then thrown me into a lake of fire that burns and never consumes. I’m not looking for someone whose followers angrily quote Leviticus at me. I’m not looking for shame or disgust.

I’m looking for a God who can overcome his anger, even though it’s probably righteous in my case. I’m looking for someone whose righteous anger is swallowed in a tidal wave of concern and love and warmth.

I’m down with the whole God thing. In many ways, I’m not what a model person of the faith should be, but that’s between me and the Big Guy.

Not Arthur Carlson of WKRP in Cincinnati. The other big guy.

But as a believer, I’m turned off by the judgement. I know my faults and I don’t need you to beat me with them. But if I’m turned off by that, imagine how people who don’t believe respond to it.


New is often better

My Facebook feed is littered with nostalgic posts about how this, that, or the other used to be better than it is now. I get it. I’m from the 80s, when the 49ers and Giants were always good, the Mets were relevant, Cheers and Magnum, PI, were on every week, and shirt were worn properly, tucked in.

Thomas Magnum. In his tucked-in shirt.

I say these things, sitting at my laptop, which I’m using because I like to write on it more than on my iPad. Though, in a pinch, I could get by on my iPhone. I’m wearing a bamboo shirt, which is a new big thing–easy to care for, attractive, and cool in the hot Florida summers. As I look at my arm in my lovely shirt, I notice it’s not shaped like a strand of dry spaghetti any more because I pop a P90X3 or T25 DVD in to my computer and work out in half an hour each morning before work starts.

 

Of course, most days I have this killer commute from my bed to desk. I can work at home because of high-speed Internet and technologythat helps me be productive without leaving home. Sometimes, my commute takes longer because I work in the kitchen because it’s much brighter in there and recent research has proven that bright places reduce the possibility of depression.

None of this between my bed and desk.

I use this service called Spotify, which lets me stream pretty much any music I want from free, as long as I listen to three or four minutes of commercials each hour. I pick the music, and if a song comes up I don’t feel like listening to, I just fast forward to the next song. The music these days is pretty good, too. I’m kind of partial to Fitz and the Tantrums just now. I like the video for The Walker, which I can watch whenever I want, rather than waiting for MTV to play it.

After work, I don’t watch much TV–it’s a big-screen by the way–because I can stream what I want from Netflix or Amazon, or watch it on YouTube. And if I felt like dropping $100, I could watch any baseball game I want from my laptop, iPad, or phone.

MLB.TV lets you take the game with you, even if it’s not the local team

But if I did want to watch TV, I can’t watch new episodes of Magnum or Cheers, but I can watch Mad MenThe Good WifeThe Walking Dead, or any number of outstanding dramas. And if I’m in the mood for a laugh, there’s always The Big Bang Theory or the Mets outfield.

I wish we had Netflix back in the 60s.

I don’t eat as well as I should, but I do like quinoa, use a meal replacement shake called Shakeology, which comes in a bunch of flavors. I like chocolate and vanilla. And I get this all-natural peanut butter from Trader Joe’s that’s pretty fresh so it’s easy to stir. I eat it sometimes on sprouted grain bread, which is one of a number of healthy products I’ve found a Publix.

On the weekends, I like to go to a microbrew nearby, unless I’m down in Tampa, then I go to the tasting room for Cigar City Brewery, both of which have awesome, awesome beer.

I’m sorry, I got off on a tangent. As I was saying, back in the 80s, where I’m from, things were great. The music was outstanding and ESPN let you watch sports any time, if you liked what was on…


In which St. Bono hits a home run about America

Most people aren’t ambivalent about Bono, the big-egod, big-hearted led singer of U2. But he recently said something at Georgetown University that has a lot of validity, regardless of your political viewpoint, or your stance on Bono.

 

A lot of people cringe at the idea of American exceptionalism. They shouldn’t. What’s exceptional is the idea of America. Like all ideas, the execution falls short of the idea. Ideas are like that. They’re pure and unpolluted by reality, compromise, and human frailty.

Either Bono needs a new razor or Oprah wears lots of lipstick.

In fairness, we’ve done some bad things as a country. Slavery sucked. Our approach to American Indians was wrong. Vietnam, Watergate, leisure suits, New Coke… And we could probably do better in protecting our people from financial shenanigans.

But the idea that captivates the world is one of freedom. Freedom isn’t why they hate us, freedom is part of the reason they buy are jeans and watch our movies.

When this country broke free of the old world, it started a new approach to government. And our frontier experience doubled down on it. Freedom runs deep in our heritage.

Oh, freedom. Freedom. Freedom. Yeah, freedom.

The idea of that freedom runs deep in our collective DNA. Our legal baseline, the Constitution, limits government, not the people. And our system was flexible enough to grow away from slavery, allow for organized labor, and extend freedom beyond its initial limits.

Freedom is at the base of this country as an idea. It’s the freedom that captures imaginations. It’s the reputation for freedom that makes this country an idea when other countries, like Ireland, aren’t.

It’s that freedom we have to protect. No political party of philosophy has a corner protecting or crushing our freedoms. While it’s a Republican who introduced legislation to ban yoga pants, it’s Democrats using the government to get the Washington Redskins to change their name.

In a free society, you get to wear whatever pants you want without the government dictating. In a free society, you can name your football team what you want without government pressure. And you can quote the Bible verse that says homosexuality’s an abomination, but you shouldn’t be able to prevent a class of people from entering into the same legal agreement that everyone else can.

Those freedoms are the American idea and they cut across both Democrats and Republicans. And they also capture the imagination of multi-billionaires like Bono, as well as millions of people whose names we’ll never know.

We forget about the American idea at our own risk.


About ‘No Excuses’

In the last post on this august high-quality Internet product, I included a graphic that said ‘No Excuses.’

Why, there it is right there! Memes about excuses have been controversial lately. Maria Kang, pictured below with her three kids and her abs, was briefly disciplined by Facebook for her offensive meme.

All this having been said, I’m finding no excuses to be a useful life strategy. There are a million reasons why I can’t do something. No sane person gets up at 4:30 in the morning to exercise. Plus, you’re woefully out of shape and this program is extreme. That’s what the X stands for, dummy. And you’ve never been good at any of this stuff and you’re middle-aged. The page has turned, dude. Accept it.

It would have been easy to do that.

When I signed up for Tough Mudder, I’d never run more than six miles before. The Tough Mudder course that year was thirteen miles long. My group wound up walking most of it, but that wasn’t because of me. I made damn sure of that.

It would’ve been easier to say I hurt my leg and then make my own pace.

I’m currently in the best shape of my life. If I owned a flux capacitor, I’d go back in time and kick my 20-year-old self’s ass, just because I can. I’m glad I didn’t make those excuses for myself.

You’re damn lucky this is fiction, 20-year-old Chris.

But I also let myself off the hook too often and too easily. I haven’t written much of anything yet this year and it’s mid-February. I still go straight for the sugar when I’m stressed (one of the primary reasons I struggle with pull-ups, I think). I still make too many excuses in too many areas of my life.

(An aside–there’s a difference between excuses and reasons. I haven’t jumped from a plane yet because I still have a dependent child. I have refrained from working out because I’ve been sick or injured. These are not excuses. They’re reasons, and valid ones. Not working out because it’s too early and I don’t really want to get up, for me, is an excuse.)

It’s coming and it’s going to be glorious.

I only get to do this life thing once. I can lay on my death bed and let my last thoughts be dominated by regrets. Or I can push aside the excuses and take a shot at everything. There’s nothing wrong with doing your best and coming up short (note that I didn’t say failing). There’s a lot wrong with not trying because it’s stupid or too hard or you aren’t good enough.

Those are excuses and they do you no favors.


Awww, crap. Now I’m scared.

I’ve got a nice little fitness routine. Pop in the DVD, do some work. Start running at some point. Complain about running in the heat. Do Tough Mudder. Later. Rinse. Repeat. I don’t master everything there is, but I am a master of this routine. I know what to expect and when to expect it.

Enter my friend Cathy.

“Hey,” she said. “I’m doing this Go Ruck thing where you haul around a ruck sack full of bricks all night long and I need someone to come with me. I’ll pay.”

They don’t even give you a free beer at the end of this thing.

Dammit.

I have no excuse. I can’t plead poverty. I’m supposed to be into these types of things. So, I expect that the first Friday in April, I’ll be hauling a ruck sack full of bricks around all night, having some guy yell at me while I do God-knows-what.

Nobody better bring a jelly donut to this thing.

This morning’s workout was P90X3 Eccentric Upper–pull-ups, push ups, curls, and the like. And with this event in the future, I paid more attention than usual to form. I worked harder. I tried not to sneak in a break where I normally sneak one in.

Hey, I caught you taking a mid-set break. We’re only doing ten plyometric pushups. What the hell?

So that’s good.

But P90X3 is half an hour. Even when I run long, that’s no more than two and a half hours. It’s not ten-twelve hours. The thing that scares me about this event isn’t the physical part. I’ve been yelled at before. I’ve worked hard before. I’ve been sore and wet and miserable before.

I haven’t done it for half a calendar day. Even in my first Tough Mudder, there was never a doubt that I would make it. Now, I doubt.

Now, my workouts aren’t just about the physical. After all, the hardest muscle to change is the one between your ears. It’s not about just working hard now. This Go Ruck event is about how much you really want it. And really wanting it–going all out to make a goal–that’s never been a particular strength.

That’s why I’m scared. And that’s why my workout was different this morning.

Certainty can be good. I think it will be in this case.


No time for revisions; it’s time for the next thing

It’s been almost a week now since the Super Bowl and the world has moved on. But maybe that’s the point. (And the point really isn’t about football.)

When Seattle inexplicably threw the ball when Marshawn Lynch was in the backfield, almost everyone who pays attention to football said something like, “You have Marshawn Freaking Lynch in your backfield. The entire Patriots roster can’t tackle him. Why are you throwing?” I was one of those people.

Now, thanks to Bill Simmons on ESPN, I can clearly see why Seattle threw.

That’s what Russell Wilson, Seattle’s quarterback, saw before he threw the ball. Number 83 is the wide receiver. That big expanse of Patriot-free field is where he’s headed.

I attempt that pass 100 out of 100 times. It’s just that Malcolm Butler, number 21 in the white jersey, knew the play was coming and stepped up and made the interception.

And one thing that hasn’t been said since the end of the Super Bowl. Russell Wilson can run. And he’s hard to tackle. Cris Collinsworth, the NBC color guy, gushed about how dangerous Wilson was with the game on the line, simply because he could run and was hard to tackle.

So there you have it. An open receiver. A quarterback who can get out of trouble with his legs. If you throw this pass, you complete it or not, Wilson runs and either gains nothing or scores, he throws an incomplete pass, he gets sacked, or he throws an interception. If I’m Seattle head coach Peter Carroll, I like those odds. I like them a lot.

But this isn’t really about Russell Wilson and the Super Bowl. No one cares about that any more. They’ve moved onto the next thing. No one is expected to care about what happened five days ago. Even if they’re missing what really happened five days ago.

The correction is rarely the story that the mistake was. Sure, NBC’s Brian Williams is the exception to that rule, but in general, the big story is on the front page, at the top of the website, and the correction is someplace in the fine print.

The speed of our lives conditions us to take in a lot of information quickly and then move on to the next thing. And if the last thing was wrong, that’s yesterday’s news. But yesterday’s news sets the context for what we think today. A year from now, Pete Carroll will still be the idiot who didn’t call Marshawn Lynch’s number, the guy who blew the Super Bowl for Seattle.

There’s no time to revise that thinking because the next thing is here and is already starting to age.

Speed kills. Just in more ways than we think.