On Living

Mass Shootings : We are Responsible.

 Photo by @davideragusa

Photo by @davideragusa

It happened again. This time, in Thousand Oaks, California. You and I both know how the days and weeks to come will play go.

“Our thoughts and prayers go out to . . .” we will hear whispered from podiums, while “Enough is enough” banners are posted on websites, blogs, and social media. And for a brief, brief moment, the country will be unified in grief, shock, and horror of what our country has become. Then someone will point the finger of blame. Then another. Then another. Until everyone is pointing, shouting, and condemning, calling for reform, calling for justice, and demanding someone does something to stop this madness.

All the while, someone somewhere will have made a plan, written a note, or posted a video. Right under our tear-stained cheeks and upturned noses. Just like they did in Columbine, almost 20 years ago.

“Eric Harris was a psychopath,” David Cullen concludes in his New York Times bestseller, Columbine, “he was a narcissist, he was a sadists. He wasn’t out to bully bullies, he was out to hurt the people he looked down upon . . . humans.” He wanted to destroy everyone, all of us. Yet fortunately, he only made it to thirteen. He had planned for many more.

According to the investigation that followed Columbine, Eric Harris wanted to go down as a legend. He wanted to make a mark bigger than the Oklahoma City bombings and he wanted to be remembered forever. So he planted bombs in the park on the other side of town, set to go off as a diversion for the cops. Luckily, they didn’t. Neither did the propane tanks in the cafeteria (which would have killed hundreds) nor the bombs in his and Dylan’s cars (which were set to detonate after the police and paramedics arrived, killing them too). In fact, Eric and Dylan never intended to enter the school. Their plan was to wait outside and pick off the surviving few as they fled the carnage of Columbine.

But things didn’t go according to Eric’s plan, hardly anything in fact, except for one seemingly minor detail: the media was there, and they granted Eric Harris his deepest dying wish. He became famous.

Dave Cullen, an author and elite journalist, was “one of the first reporters on the scene” at Columbine. He then spent the next ten years writing Columbine, which is “widely recognized as the definitive account” of the school’s massacre, and for many of the 300-plus pages of his heart-wrenching book, Cullen spends a great deal of time talking about who Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold were, what happened in the days prior, during, and after the infamous shooting, and how people from across the country responded.

But that’s not why he wrote the book. He wrote it because he was trying to figure out why Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold did it. Once answered, he concludes his book with the most important takeaway of his journey: how to prevent this from ever happening again, and who is responsible.

His findings are not extenuating.

Dave Cullen’s conclusion of who is responsible for Columbine and every shooting and massacre is not a familiar one, nor is it a popular, but it is the most accurate and reliable one.

The answer of who is responsible, according to Cullen, is us. We are responsible. Malcolm Gladwell says the same, but where Gladwell fails to provide a solution, Cullen does. It is us. We are the solution.

Let me explain. Or rather, let Cullen explain.

Almost 100% of the time, the perpetrator of mass killings is male, and “{f}or his glorious week,” Cullen explains, “the spectacle killer is the hottest star on earth. He dwarfs any sports champ, movie star, president, or pope . . . They spill a little blood, {and} the whole world knows who they are . . . His face splashed across every screen, his name across the lips of every person on the planet, all in the course of one day. Seems the more people you kill, the more you’re in the limelight.”

So, “If you’re planning a spectacle murder,” Dave Cullen once told a CNN anchor, “here’s what you do:

{There are} two routs to the elite club with the star treatment: body count, or creativity. Choose body count, and you’ve got to break the top ten. The media loves scorekeeping and will herald your achievements with a banner beneath the victims as they grieve. For creatives, go for originality and horror . . . Maximize the savage nature. Make us fear movies theaters, or churches or {school} - and a Joker costume at a Batman movie takes theatrics literally. Live TV was a great twist - only took two victims in Roanoke to get the big-star treatment. Surprise us.

The anchor was justifiably horrified, but that was the point. “These are the tactics the killers have turned on us so callously,” Cullen writes, “They cracked the media code. Easily.” And if the media care about ending this, “we in the media need to see our role as clearly as the perps have. We did not start this, nor have we pulled any triggers. But the killers have made us reliable partners. We supply the audience, they provide the show” (pg 380).

In these few short paragraphs, Cullen models the role we all need to take after events such as these occur: point the finger at ourselves, find where we are responsible, and take ownership of it. Just like Andy Dufresne.

Like everyone else, my favorite scene in Shawshank Redemption is the one where Andy Dufresne emerges from the septic tanking, raises his hands to the air, and is finally free from the deathly Shawshank prison. But it wasn’t until I read those lines from Cullen that I understood why I love that scene, and how Andy Dufresne was able to get there.

Throughout the first half of the movie, the audience is left in the dark as to Andy’s involvement with his wife’s murder. There’s that scene in the beginning, of him stumbling from his car, drunk, and carrying a gun, but nothing more. He adamantly denies killing his wife, but we are never fully convinced of his innocence. Till we hear the story of Elmo Blatch, an old cellmate of Tommy’s, and then our suspicions are confirmed, Andy Dufresne is completely innocent and absolved from the murder of his wife. Somehow, though, that isn’t enough. The movie isn’t entitled Shawshank Absolvement, it is Shawshank Redemption, and Andy is not yet redeemed. That comes later, after Tommy has been killed and Andy beaten, placed into solitude for calling the warden “obtuse”, and at the brink of ruin. And like Cullen, as he comes to grip with the harsh reality of what has happened and who is to blame, his hammer of judgement falls to no one else but himself.

“I killed her Red,” Andy he says with a dull sincerity to Morgan Freeman as they sit in the yard, leaning against the giant stone wall, locked in Shawshank Redemption. “I didn’t pull the trigger but I drove her away. And that’s why she died, because of me.”

Red leans down and sits on his heals, “That doesn’t make you a murderer,” he counters, and he’s right. But so is Andy. He didn’t pull the trigger, but he did play a part. A small part perhaps, or at the very least a forgivable part (no on goes to prison for being a bad husband), but a part none the less. And once Andy is finally able to see that, he is able to admit it. And once he admits it, Shawshank could no longer contain him. He is free.

A few scenes later, he climbs into a sewage pipe and crawls to redemption.

“We did not start this, nor have we pulled any triggers”, Cullen admits, echoing Red’s “That doesn’t make you a murderer.” But Cullen, like Andy, isn’t content with being absolved. He wants freedom. Freedom from a grey and deathly prison, freedom from guilt and shame, and freedom from fear that this will indeed happen again. So he accepts his portion of the blame, “we supply the audience, they provide the show.” He acknowledges his responsibility and admits his complicit role. Then, like Andy Dufresne, he climbs into the sewage pipe and beckons us to do the same.

We, on the other hand, continue to sit in horror and amazement, waiting for someone to unlock the cell.

“For the past few years,” Jason Kottke writes, “whenever a mass shooting occurs in the US that gets wide press coverage, the satirical news site The Onion runs an article with this headline written by Jason Roeder: ‘“No Way To Prevent This,”’ Says Only Nation Where This Regularly Happens’.”

After each mass shooting, our nation raises it’s hands in grief and disbelief, “How does this keep happening?” Then, because there is never a clear answer, we quickly defend ourselves, our beliefs, and our rights, leaving many people absolved, very few freed, and even fewer redeemed.

There are two definitions offered for redeemed:

  1. the action of saving or being saved from sin, error, or evil.

  2. the action of regaining or gaining possession of something in exchange for payment, or clearing a debt.

Both require an admittance. Both require action. Neither point to someone or something else.

I, like the rest of our country, desperately long for these headlines to be eradicated from our headlines. I’ve also been convicted by Cullen and Andy and believe that casting the blame onto others will only perpetuate the acts. But because I’m not a journalist, I cannot rest with Cullen’s admittance. I must find my own, as an educator.

So far, I’ve come up with three.

Purpose:

“Education is inherently selfish” I found myself saying to a room full of educators, “we spend so much time and effort convincing kids to pursue school and grades so they can better themselves and their future” I said, “we encourage them to follow their dreams and be whatever they want to be, but for what purpose?” I found myself trying not to look at a particular school that has geared their entire program around personalized learning and a system that focuses on each kid as an individual, that teaches each kid to learn at their own pace, in their own way, completely isolated from their peers.

Why school? Why do kids have to go? And why do they have to take the classes that they do? A school I once taught for attempted to answer that question with a giant poster that hung in the hallway for each student and teacher to read. “Do it for you,” and it bothered me every single day.

Is that why kids need to be in school? So that they can go to college, get a nice job, and buy nice things? Or is it so that they can collect experiences and enjoy life? So they can learn how to “Follow their heart”? If so, no wonder they’re miserable.

After they’ve pursued every relationship, dating the hottest boy or girl they can find, after they’ve driven the coolest car, bought the the newest technology, and worn the nicest clothes, what next? After sex, popularity, success, and whatever else their hearts desire. what happens when they’re still miserable, empty, and without direction?

Daniel Pink, author of Drive: The Surprising Truth About What Motivates Us, says, “When the product motive becomes unmoored from the purpose motive, bad things happen” (via). The purpose of education, as is written and expressed today, has become unmoored from the deeper more existential purpose: to discover our gifts and talents, to hone them, and then figure out ways to give them away. To serve others.

And for that, I am responsible.

Humanity:

Teachers and coaches (perhaps even parents), my friend Glen Walenda once theorized on one of my recent blog posts, “often treat {children} as future people instead of people. We are so blinded by their potential we don't see them in the present.” In doing so, we concentrate on the superficial, the tangible, and the quantifiable measurements that will help them succeed (whatever that means) later on in life, when they’re future people.

Because that’s what how we know we are doing a “good job,” when our students are scoring well and paying attention in class. It’s also how we’re failing.

The best comedy, according to George Carlin, is a process of digging through the layers of humanity. Instead of simple jokes, the best comedians spend their time talking about feelings and who we are, our loves and likes, our fears and nightmares, and the stuff that makes us, us. That makes them, them. The human being stuff. The stuff that no standardized test or classroom assessment can ever measure.

Curriculum, teaching strategies, and assessments are important and necessary to gauge learning, but how to live life, how to work through struggles and celebrate victories, how to engage humanity and find our purpose in life, these are what we stay alive for. These are why we learn. But because we cannot measure them, no funding is attached to them, and because it is easier to grade knowledge rather than character, education focuses on GPAs rather than character, compliance rather than curiosity; it focuses on the future people rather than the now people.

For that, I am responsible.

Humility:

 The most “influential and inspiring people,” according to John Dickson, “are often marked by humility” which is “the noble choice to forgo your status, deploy your resources or use your influence for the good of others before yourself” (pg 24). Fred Rogers would agree. “The real issue in life,” Fred Rogers believed, “is not how many blessings we have, but what we do with our blessings. Some people have many blessings and hoard them. Some have few and give everything away” (via).

Schools, however, don’t often teach students to give their resources and blessings away. Instead, we focus on individualized learning, valedictorians, and high GPA’s. We focus on counting our blessings and building resumes.

We buy letterman jackets, award honor rolls, and crown kings and queens.

People of character, however, focus on how they can best give away their gifts and resources rather than hoarding them. They care more about their classmates, their community, and whoever else might be in need. They rarely focus on their own.

They care more about living in harmony than they do standing in the spotlight.

“Harmony,” the poet, theologian, and philosopher John O’Donohue states, is everything uniquely itself, “and by being uniquely itself, part of a greater community” (via). Sadly, I have not taught that enough in my classes.

I have focused on the uniqueness of each individual, but not on how their uniqueness fits into the great whole. I have focused on their gifts, their talents, and dreams they want fulfilled, but I have not taught them well enough the responsibility of those gifts, and the joys of giving them to others. I have focused to much time on developing their resume virtues, not their eulogy virtues.

I didn’t pull the trigger on any mass shootings, but that doesn’t mean I don’t play a part or that I’m unable to prevent the next one. Because I’m an educator, I’m responsible for building and guiding a culture. And so far, I haven’t done the best of job.

For that, I am responsible.

Andy Dufresne crawled through “five hundred yards of shit smelling foulness, {we} can’t even imagine.” Dave Cullen did the same. For ten years. Then, like Andy, he emerged, clean and redeemed on the other side.

Like Andy and Cullen, we didn’t pull the trigger. But we have pushed each other away for the sake of ourselves. And that’s why we die.

If we, as a country, truly do believe enough is enough, that “No one should ever have to go through this. Period”, and that, names of victims on the back of shirts just isn’t enough, than we too must be willing to endure the worst we can imagine and take whatever responsibility we can upon ourselves and change. We must choose another rather than ourselves, our freedoms, and our rights.

If we can do that. Then, maybe, just maybe we too can emerge from this shit-smelling foulness that isn’t hard to imagine. And when we do, like Andy and Cullen, we too can be free, and clean on the other side.

We can find redemption.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Education  :  Chapters to my book

Without Fear: What Adults Can Learn From Young Explorers

 Image by @storyanthology

Image by @storyanthology

“Almost nothing was known about how children even explored the world,” Roger Hart explains in interview with Alix Spiegel, “and then I came across a book on baboons. And I realized that we knew more about baboons' everyday behavior than we did about children's behavior outside of school.”

So, in the 1970’s, Roger Hart set out to learn more about children’s behavior by filming them in their natural habitats and away from their parents. “There were 86 children between 3 and 12 years of age,” Hart explains, “and I worked with all of them, all of the waking hours for two and a half years, I was with them. They were my life, these kids,” and they took him everywhere.

He mapped their exploration, adding descriptions such as, “frequent paths, not used by adults.”

“They had more than the run of the town,” he explained, “Some of them would go to the lake, which would be on the edge of town, and the lake, you'd think, would be a place that would be out of bounds” because the parents weren’t motivated by fear. There was no talk of abductions, stranger danger, nothing. So the kids wondered and played all over town.

Not so today.

“{S}everal years ago, Roger went back to the exact same town to document the children of the children that he had originally tracked in the '70s, and when he asked the new generation of kids to show him where they played alone, what he found floored him . . . The huge circle of freedom on the maps had grown tiny.”

Even though the town was exactly the same physically and demographically, even though “the town is not more dangerous than it was before” and that there is “literally no more crime today than there was 40 years ago” parents are operating according to fear, and kids are staying closer to home.

The modern life, according to Ralph Adolphs, a professor at Caltech who spent decades studying fear in the human brain “is constantly triggering our fear in all kinds of ways that our natural world didn't.”

News reports that depict violent scenes and soundbites of murders, of men and women describing atrocious moments of violence and fear, and the many other images and ideas of horror throughout the world constantly surrounds us. “And Adolphs argues that because of our wiring, we are just not set up to ignore it,” which distorts our experience of the world and activates “our fear when we don't need it.”

We’ve become overly fearful and extremely protective, even as adults, with our maps of exploration growing smaller and smaller. Geographically, and intellectually.

“Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness,” Mark Twain writes, “and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one little corner of the earth all one’s lifetime.”

Luckily, the youngest of us have not learned to be fearful or bigoted yet. May we all learn a lesson from these young explorers and their adventurous spirit.

Kids do not want to be contained.
They are built for adventure.

You can watch more young explorer videos here or listen to the full podcast from above, here.

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Short FilmsOn Parenting : Favorite Podcasts

Gandhi's Seven Deadly Sins

The following are excerpts from Stephen R. Covey’s Principle-Centered Leadership. He begins the chapter with, “Mahatma Gandhi said that seven things will destroy us. Notice that all of them have to do with social and political conditions. Note also that the antidote of each of these “deadly sins” is an explicit external standard or something that is based on natural principals and laws, not on social values.”

Gandhi’s Seven Deadly Sins

Wealth without work :

“This refers to the practice of getting something for nothing” and get rich quick. These ideas are dangerous because, “Justice and judgement are inevitably inseparable, suggesting that to the degree you move away from the laws of nature, your judgement will be adversely affected” (pg. 88).

Pleasure without conscience :

“The chief query of the immature, greedy, selfish, and sensuous has always been, ‘What’s in it for me? Will this please me? Will it ease me?’ Lately many people seem to want these pleasures without conscience or sense of responsibility, even abandoning or utterly neglecting spouses and children in the name of doing their thing. But independence is not the most mature state of being - it’s only a middle position on the way to interdependence, the most advanced and mature state. To learn to give and take, to live selflessly, to be sensitive, to be considerate, is our challenge” (pg. 88).

Knowledge without character :

“As dangerous as a little knowledge is, even more dangerous is much knowledge without a strong principle character. Purely intellectual development without commensurate internal character development makes as much sense as putting a high-powered sports car in the hands of a teenager who is high on drugs. Yet all too often in the academic world, that’s exactly what we do by not focusing on the character development of young people” (pg 89).

Commerce (business) without morality (ethics) :

To Adam Smith, author of Moral Sentiments and Wealth of Nations, “every business transaction is a moral challenge to see that both parties come out fairly. Fairness and benevolence in business are the underpinnings of the free enterprise system called capitalism.” “If we ignore the moral foundation and allow economic systems to operate without moral foundation . . . we will soon create an amoral, if not immoral, society and business” (pg 90).

Science without humanity :

“If science becomes all technique and technology, it quickly degenerates into man against humanity. Technologies come from the paradigms of science. And if there’s very little understanding of the higher human purpose that the technology is strive to serve, we become victims of our own technocracy” (pg 91).

Religion without sacrifice :

“Without sacrifice we become active in a church but remain inactive in its gospel. In other words, we go for the social facade of religion and the piety of religious practices. There is not real walking with people or going the second mile or trying to deal with our social problems that may eventually undo our economic system. It takes sacrifice to serve the needs of other people - the sacrifice of our own pride and prejudice, among other things.”

“If our church or religion is seen as just another hierarchical system, its members won’t have a sense of service or inner worship. Instead they will be into outward observances and all the visible accoutrements of religion. But they are neither God-centered nor principle-centered” (pg. 91-92).

Politics without principle :

“If there is no principal, there is no true north, nothing you can depend upon. The focus on the personality ethic is the instant creation of an image that sells well in the social and economic marketplace.”

. . .

“If you get a sick social will behind the political will that is independent of principle, you could have a very sick organization or society with distorted values” (pg. 93).

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  On LivingDo Orchestras Really Need Conductors?

Scales of Justice : When Pigs Were held Accountable

In January 1457, a domestic sow and her six pigs were charged with murdering and partly devouring an infant. “The sow was found guilty and sentenced to death by hanging”, but her offspring were pardoned, “partly because of their youth . . . and the fact that their mother had set them a bad example,” (via).

The mother, for her part, was “hanged and strangled on a gibbet of wood, near the gallows” (via), as an example to the other pigs and livestock on how they were expected to behave.

Because in the mid 1400’s, animals were running amuck, and they needed to be held accountable.

In his 1906 book, The Criminal Prosecution and Capital Punishment of Animals, historian E.P. Evans recounts dozens upon dozens of instances where animals were put on trial and convicted for their crime: sparrows were prosecuted for chattering in Church, a cock burnt at the stake for laying an egg, and sheep, according to Criminal, “a true podcast that understands crime,” were being tried, sentenced, and executed “for seducing men into more than friendly relationships” (via).

It was a very scary time young sheep in America.

At any given time, a man could see a sheep, misinterpret it’s bleating and body language for sexual advances, and be unable to control himself. He would have to have that sheep.

And the sheep - not the man - would be held accountable.

“Eventually,” the podcast continues “people decided that criminal intent wasn’t something you could ascribe to animals” and a sort of paradise was restored. For the sheep, at least.

According to RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), an American is sexually assaulted every 98 seconds. “Every 8 minutes, that victim is a child,” with” only six out of every 1,000 perpetrators” ending up in prison.

Six out of 1,000! That number is abhorring. So too is the fact that “{n}o more than 20 percent of rapes are reported to the police” (via), a number that many find unbelievable. “If it was as bad as you say,” the argument goes, “if he was doing something you didn’t want, why didn’t they scream or fight back? Why didn’t they fight for their life?”

And the answer, unfathomable to many, is that by staying silent and allowing it to happen is exactly what they were doing, fighting for their lives.

“One of the things that is difficult for most of us {to understand} about a rape,” Dr. Lisak states, “is that there doesn’t have to be a gun to the head, there doesn’t have to be a knife present, there doesn’t have to be a verbalized threat for the act itself to be enormously terrifying and threatening.

There is a difference between sexual violence and other forms of assault. Sexual violence is so intimate.” When your body is penetrated by another person against your will. It often induces a uniquely powerful kind of terror. According to many peer-reviewed studies, a large percentage of the victims of non-stranger rapes “actually feared they were going to be killed,” even when “there was no weapon and no overt violence.”

Staying silent means staying alive, so too is remaining silent. “Around 90% of rapes are committed by known men, and often by someone who the survivor has previously trusted or even loved. People are raped in their homes, their workplaces and other settings where they have previously felt safe” (via). Rapists can be friends, colleagues, clients, neighbors, family members, partners or exes”, not some stranger hiding in the bushes. It’s someone they see consistently, that they know by name, and that will probably see in their house, at work, or at the next family reunion.

Which makes the allegations all the more difficult, because the victim will be asking family and friends to face each other rather than stand united. And that, according to Judith Lewis Herman in Trauma and Recovery, is extremely difficult. “It is morally impossible,” she writes, “to remain neutral in {cases of sexual assault}”, because “{t}he bystander is forced to take sides.”

It is very tempting to take the side of the perpetrator. All the perpetrator asks is that the bystander do nothing. He appeals to the universal desire to see, hear, and speak no evil. The victim, on the contrary, asks the bystander to share the burden of pain. The victim demands action, engagement, and remembering . . .

Victims of sexual assault demand empathy. Sadly, however, what they often receive is apathy. “Boys will be boys,” they hear echoing from police officers, school administrators, lawyers, friends, and the many others who are meant to serve and protect them. “You shouldn’t have been drinking,” victims are told, or “Look at what you’re wearing” and “why did you put yourself in that position?”

Instead of empathy, victims are often attacked and maligned for speaking out. Instead, they are held accountable for the perpetrators actions, or mocked on live television.

“Drunk guys,” Krakauer writes in his terrifying book, Missoula: Rape and the Justice System in a College Town, “who may have ‘made mistakes’ nearly always get the benefit of the doubt. Drunk girls, however, do not” (via).

Why is that?

The answer - or problem, rather - seems to be that we, as a country, lack empathy. At least for those unlike ourselves.

In the classic novel, “To Kill a Mockingbird,” Atticus finds himself defending Tom Robinson, a black man, before a white jury. Tom Robinson has been accused of raping a white woman, but the evidence against the claim is as clear and as simple as “black and white.” Atticus, the judge, and every person in the courtroom knows Tom Robinson is innocent, but because black men were considered little more than cattle, it wasn’t shocking to expect a black man to pay the price for a white man’s (or woman’s) sins.

Atticus understood this. He understood that in order to win and save Tom Robinson, he needed the jury to empathize with the victim; he needed them to see and understand Tom Robinson like they saw and understood themselves - as human. A task as murky and complicated as black and white.

“You know the truth,” Atticus states, “and the truth is this: some Negroes lie, some Negroes are immoral, some Negro men are not to be trusted around women - black and white.” And you can almost see the jury, nodding their heads in approval, perhaps even whispering, “them Negros” under their breath or quietly in their minds. But then, Atticus asks them to reach towards empathy.

But this is a truth that applies to the human race and to no particular race of men. There is not a person in this courtroom who has never told a lie, who has never done an immoral thing, and there is no man living who has never looked upon a woman without desire.”

Atticus paused and took out his handkerchief. Then he took off his glasses and wiped them” (pg 205).

It is here, perhaps, that Atticus lost the jury, and the point were Tom Robinson was sentenced to death for a crime he didn’t commit. In order for the jury to acquit Tom Robinson, they would have to empathize with him. And in order to empathize with him, they would have to admit that they, white men, were similar to a black man. And if they were similar to a black man, that would mean black men weren’t property or cattle, they were human. And if they were human, then the white population would have a lot of explaining and reconciling to do.

Instead, they convicted him of a crime he didn’t commit, as an example of how they were expected to behave.

It was also an example and reminder to themselves and their fellow white Americans, because if they sided with Tom Robinson, if they took his word over the white man’s - if they empathized with him - they would reduce the gap of power. And if they lost the gap of power, they might lose control. If they lost control, the African American community would have a voice and the ability to defend themselves against the white power. They could also accuse it. And that would be extremely dangerous for the young white men of the coming generation.

So they chose to avoid empathy and embrace power. They decided to keep things as they were: divided, and imbalanced.

It is often said that history is written by those who win, by those who have the power. But so too is the present.

Those in power decide what is real and what is fake. They determine who is right and who is wrong, and perhaps most importantly, they decide who is responsible. Be it sheep, black America, or woman.

But the thing is, “Women don’t get raped because they were drinking or took drugs,” writes Jessica Valenti, a Guardian US columnist, “Women do not get raped because they weren’t careful enough. Women get raped because someone raped them” (via).

Sure, woman can become better educated on how to defend themselves, where they should or shouldn’t go, on how much is too much to drink, and on how to recognize the warning signs of a possible sexual assault.

Or, men can just stop sexually assaulting women.

It is a scary time for young men. It is a scary because if they are consistently allowed to behave like animals, if they are not be held accountable for their actions, and if we as a country do not collectively begin to expect more from them, it is indeed scary to think of the men they will become.

And the offices they will hold.

Three (plus two) favorite quotes from You Are A Badass

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“If you want to live a life you’ve never lived, you have to do things you’ve never done.”

I just finished this book a few weeks ago and, to be honest, it wasn’t earth shattering. But it was a good reminder - a great reminder even - that I am a badass, and so are you. We just need to get rid of the many obstacles that we set in our way.

To help (inspire and save you time, if you can’t read the book), here are a few write-em-on-a-notecard points of encouragement that you can post on your frig, your dash, your workspace, or anywhere else you find yourself thinking and procrastinating.

In no particular order:

  1. “If you wanna stay stuck in the same place and keep getting spanked with the same lessons over and over, be negative, resentful, and victimized. If you want to get over your issues and rock your life, be grateful, look for the good and learn . . . write your thank-you notes!” (pg 120).

  2. “Sometimes the road to freedom lies in deciding you’d rather be happy than right” (pg 125).

  3. “If you’re serious about changing your life, you’ll find a way. If you’re not, you’ll find an excuse” (pg 153).

Favorite quotes that were quoted:

  1. “Forgiveness means giving up all hope for a better past” - Lily Tomlin

  2. “We tiptoe through life trying to safely make it to death” - unknown

For more favorite quotes click here.

For more on . . .

Reading Log 2017  :  Reading Log 2018

Why We Should Live Like Conductors

The role of a conductor is to organize the music and keep everything calm."

 

You should make the audience want to dance although you shouldn't be a circus act. I think people should focus on the music, and not the conductor.

This role, this pursuit, made me think of Joe Buck and his phisophy of calling games. When asked, "What bothers you in an announcer that you feel isn't measuring up?" Buck responded with,

"Over talking, doing too much, trying to prove to the audience that they did their reading, trying to make the call about themselves . . . I just want to state what happened. I want to do it an exciting way. I haven't always accomplished that, by the way. And I want to get out of the viewer's head. It's not about me. Nobody's tuning in - let's check the TV Guide listings and see what game Joe Buck is calling. Nobody cares. They want to see the Cubs. They want to see the Packers. They want to see the Cowboys. They don't care who's calling the game . . . if I get hit by a bus going into a game, they're still going to play. And the guys that bother me, without naming names, are the guys who sound like if they got hit by that bus, the game would be canceled" (via)

And when it comes to moments of great climactic celebration, moments where announces can make a name for themselves, moments like the Cubs winning the World Series for the first time in 108 years, Joe Buck didn't try to keep everyone calm or insert himself into the moment. Instead, he kept quiet. "I could choose to make that call all about me," he says, "screaming and yelling and, you know, 'groundball to Kris Bryant, going to be a tough play, out at first. And for the first time in 108 years, the Chicago Cubs have finally won it all. They gather on the mound. Players jumping over'", but he didn't. He didn't say any of that stuff, because it wasn't about him. It was about something bigger. 

I wonder how many other professions would do well to adapt a similar philosophy. How many companies, schools, communities, and relationships have crumbled because the man or woman in charge is trying to make it about themselves, forgetting that if they were gone, the game would still go on.

People like: 

- Teachers/Principals
- Parents
- CEO's
- Pastors
- Presidents/world leaders

How many of them, of us, make the moments of life - both big and small - about us, and not the bigger picture? And in so doing, ruin everything?

Really, for me, it comes down to humilitas and the belief that we should be using (or withholding) our gifts and talents for the benefit of others, not just ourselves. Just like a conductor. 

Keep everything calm, inspire dance, help people focus on the music. 

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  On Living Music  :  Joe Buck  : Do Orchestras Really Need Conductors?

Rewind Forward : When today becomes the past

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I often return to the moment before the accident. One moment, I see a young beautiful lady laughing into the camera . . . CUT . . . three months later, she woke up from her coma. When I saw her for the first time, I asked my father, "Who is this woman?"

This video truly shook me a bit, and not just because of the death of so many family members (actual and relational), but I'll admit, the thoughts and memories of older days, when we were camping and living and struggling together, came rushing in. I easily resonated with,  

Do you miss him sometimes?

Not just sometimes . . . always!  Always!

And I don't think I'll ever stop. But also, 

I'm ready - to stop looking back, and to look forward. For a long time, I dreamed of standing here together again. But life took another turn.

Some of my family have said the brokenness we're experiencing is "God's will" and until He decides it's time for us to reconcile all we can do is pray. I think that's bullshit. I think we are a product of the decisions we've made, of the truths we hold so dear. Life didn't take the turn, we did. And now, we're miles and miles apart, still heading in opposite directions, waiting for and dreaming of the days when someone else will turn around. 

As I write, my family (wife and kiddos) are traveling the country. We're nearing the end of our fifth week on the road (from Wyoming to Pennsylvania with stops in Virginia, New Jersey, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, and North Dakota). On our way to Virginia, I wrote in my journal,

We’re nearing 4 weeks of road tripping, and some days, I just want to be home, sitting on a couch, doing very little. Because traveling is expensive, because traveling breaks habits and somehow convinces kids it’s okay to push and break rules, and because one-year olds don’t sleep well on the road. And we are tired. 
But then we stand and look over the valley and I get to see the country with my son, my wife, my kids - my family -and then, through the perspective of young eyes, the miles and millions of cups of coffee are worth it. Because someday, I’m going to wish they all fit in the van again.

I don't know what sort of turns life has down the road, I just know that for now, we're all in the van together. I also know that however I travel now, the way I love my kids, the conversations we have or don't have, the stories we share the memories we create will most definitely and directly impact how we, a family, travers the road ahead. 

You can't outrun the past. With that I agree. But I can choose to sit in the present, to live and love and pursue with the tenacious truth that I'm not guaranteed tomorrow, and that someday memories might be all that I have left. 

Although hopes and dreams will forever be before me, I do have a say in how this thing plays out. These days are about these days and right now. The ripples will take care of themselves. 

Remembering Nelson Mandela

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He believed more in the power of the Springbok than he did in the guns.

And so helped change the world.

Nelson Mandela was born 100 years ago today. To honor his life and impact upon our world, Business Insider Australia published 24 Timeless Quotes to help guide and ensure life is well lived.

Quotes such as:

  • “A nation should not be judged by how it treats its highest citizens, but its lowest ones.”
     
  • “People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
     
  • “What counts in life is not the mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the life we lead.”
     
  • “I like friends who have independent minds because they tend to make you see problems from all angles.”

May we all live in such a way.

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  :  Nelson Mandela  :  One Team - One Country : When a President embraced a controversial sport

The clouds are singing, and we need to chase them.

"Mark, a 60 year old fledgling storm chaser recently diagnosed with lung cancer, sets out across the Midwest with his friend's nephew in search of a tornado before the two month season comes to an end.

The film was in competition at Tribeca Film Festival 2018" (via). 

My demons are smoking, depression, alcohol, cancer. There's a few. That's the way it is. Sometimes you get away in life and you don't have anything. Some people have a lot. That's just the way it is. 

There's something deeply intriguing about this video, about the parallel of a man dying, a man who loves and chases the destructive beauty of storms, tornados, and life. And then, when he catches it, he hugs a friend and smokes a victory cigar.

At times, our fear and pain may seem unbearable. Our instinct may be to run, to retreat to avoid the fear and the pain. We need a vision, that begins within us. A vision feeds the soul.

That's the way I like to live.

Me too. 

 

For more on . . .

-N- Stuff  : A Peace with the Storm :  Storm Chasers in the Wild