Category Archives: Culture

Observations on life in America, the environment, politics, and more.

If You’re Not Like Me, You Suck

He gave me that classic “deer in the headlights” look.

Photo courtesy of Fabrice Florin (IMG_4419.JPG) and Creative Commons

My comment had been unpretentious, or so I thought: “What a sad and boring world it would be if we all looked the same, talked the same, dressed the same,  thought the same; shared the same opinions and likes and dislikes.” He didn’t say a word, but the look on his face spoke clearly –

“I think the world would be a whole lot better if everyone was just like me.”

This is Inauguration Week. On Friday, Trump becomes the president of the United States of America. And the United States of America have never been so ununited. Those on the left are especially unhappy. The tolerant left is no longer so tolerant. Apparently their tolerance only extends toward those who look the same, talk the same, think the same, and share the same opinions as them.

But wait: it’s not just those on the left who are intolerant.  Some on the right are just as critical and judgmental toward those who are different than them.

I was listening to a conservative talk radio program last week. The guest host was busy castigating an American couple for spending thousands of dollars on vet bills to nurse their pup back to health when they could have, in his opinion, better spent their money on helping rescue dogs find homes. The host was really big into rescue dogs, and in his view the world would be a whole lot better if everyone was like him.

About a year ago a relative gave me a book and asked my opinion. What he really wanted was an endorsement of his opinion. But when I gave him my opinion, which differed from his, his head exploded.

There is the division even in our Christian churches. I once attended a church where they worshipped with upraised hands. I wasn’t comfortable raising my hands, so I didn’t. The hand-raisers looked at me like I had a big ugly growth in the center of my forehead. I then tried a church where only a few people raised their hands. Those who didn’t raise their hands looked at those who did like they had cholera.

I dare you: reach out and become a friend to someone who is different than you. Risk engagement with others who may be different than you socially, politically, culturally, or economically. Why should you take my dare? Because this world would not be a better place if everyone was just like you.

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can post a comment right here online, send me an email and more –  

 

Got Hope?

So we had this election… And ever since, I’ve been struggling to understand the actions and attitudes of my progressive friends. The light finally went on as I listened to Michelle Obama being interviewed by Oprah earlier this month.

"'The Scream" by Edward Munch, 1893. Courtesy Creative Commons.
“‘The Scream” by Edward Munch, 1893. Courtesy Creative Commons.

Oprah asked Ms. Obama how she was feeling about the Trump election. Michelle responded, “…see, now, we are feeling what not having hope feels like.”

And there it is. Despair is in the air. Some of my progressive friends, especially those those who are dependent on the government fear that their entitlements will go away, particularly such things as Social Security and Medicare. Other progressives are afraid that their pet agendas will be a negatively impacted.

Some have said, “C’mon, it was only an election !” But to those on the left, it was much more than an election. It was an assault on their hope. As Michelle said later in the same interview, “Hope is a necessary concept.” True dat. And when people lose hope, they’re flooded by despair.

As the Bible says in the first half of Proverbs 29:18, “Where there is no vision [hope], the people perish…” (KJV). Or as Peterson’s paraphrase has it, “If people can’t see what God is doing, they stumble all over themselves…”*

I don’t know if Trump will be a good president or not. But I’m not too concerned about this as I don’t place my hope in government; my hope is in Jesus Christ. I know God is at work, and that He’s got this.

This isn’t the time to gloat, especially if we’re Christians. This is the time to reach out to those who are in despair and seek to understand the situation from their perspective. To do this, we must first be willing to listen. As David Bohm observed, “…communication can lead to the creation of something new only if people are able freely to listen to each other, without prejudice, and without trying to influence each other. Each has to be interested primarily in truth and coherence, so that he is ready to drop his old ideas and intentions, and be ready to go on to something different, when this is called for.”

Once others see that you’re sincerely interested in what interests them, you may find that others are interested in what interests you. And they might even give you an opportunity to tell them of the great hope that is in you: Jesus Christ the way, the truth and the life (John 14:6).

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –  

Election Muck and Mud

As of today, the election of the next president of United States is 11 days away. But you knew that, didn’t you? Don’t you wish it was over? What a choice we have for president!

I’m so tired of the hatred coming not only from the mouths of the

Courtesy Creative Commons/Flikr, by KAZVorpal
Courtesy Creative Commons/Flikr, by KAZVorpal

candidates, but from the people who have chosen one candidate over the other. I saw a Facebook post a few days ago from a left-leaning person who said something about getting rid of the “F-tards” and working towards removing hate from the word. I couldn’t resist. I posted back, “Isn’t it hateful to call people names? Maybe getting rid of the hatred should start with you. He who is not guilty should get to throw the first stone.”

I’m tired of the spin coming from the left-leaning media. I’m also tired of the spin coming from the right-leaning media. Our country is so divided: “I’m a progressive” or, “I’m a conservative” or, “I’m a Democrat” or, “I’m a Republican.” I understand people are different and they have differing opinions. I get that. But if my opinion differs from your opinion, if my choice for president differs from your choice, can’t we just accept each other’s differences, even if we disagree? Why not?

I have an answer for this. It’s because something within us wants to feel superior to others. I call that something “pride.” For example, pride whispers that I’m better than you because my political opinions are, of course, right, and yours are wrong, or because I caught more fish than you, or shot a bigger buck than you. Or as Mick Jagger sung so many years ago, “He can’t be a man because he doesn’t smoke the same kind of cigarettes as me” (from the Rolling Stones song, “I Can’t No Satisfaction”).

Here in Montana some have looked down on me or even thought there’s something wrong with me because instead of owning a horse and a Labrador retriever, I own a pack goat and a poodle (which, by the way, I was once told sounded like a country western song: “A Pack Goat and a Poodle.” But of course, I hate country western and I feel superior because of it. Who listens to such tripe?).

The solution is to imitate God, who is “kind to those who are unthankful and wicked.” ( Luke 6:35 in part, Holy Bible, New Living Translation).

“Love is patient, love is kind and  is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”  (1 Corinthians 13:4-7, New American Updated Standard Bible translation).

But wait, there’s more! I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –  

Are You an “Innie” or an “Outie”?

First off, to be clear, we’re not talking about belly buttons here. My title refers to whether you’re an introvert or an extrovert.

I happen to be an introvert. I love reading, privacy, and thinking.

The Extrovert's View: "Nice place to visit, but I wouldn't want to live here!"
The Extrovert’s View: “Nice place to visit, but I wouldn’t want to live here!”

I spend a lot of time in my head. I don’t like crowds and you may never see me at a party, because people drain me. I do not like chit-chat, but prefer a deeper interaction with others. I have a handful of close friends with whom I do life, but otherwise I recharge in silence and solitude. On the negative side, I can be viewed as shy or even antisocial.

Extroverts are at home in crowds. In fact, they are usually recharged by interaction with people. For example, I have a extrovert friend who has to have a regular “people fix” or he gets depressed. Accordingly, extroverts tend to have many friends but develop few deep relationships. Extroverts enjoy small talk, and often engage in chit chat just for the sake of communication. While extroverts can be thinkers and planners, they tend more to “thinking on their feet,” or going with their gut instincts.

One personality type is not better than another; they are just different. In a marriage, introverts and extroverts can balance each other. Unfortunately, our culture is oriented towards extroverts. We admire the quick-on-his-feet talker, the one who makes quick decisions, the guy or gal who is bold and outward-focused. We don’t want to wait for the introvert’s advice, even though his advice is usually more thought-out and therefore often avoids the risks of off-the-cuff, knee-jerk decisions.

In her fine book, Quiet: The Power of Introverts in a World that Can’t Stop Talking, author Susan Cain has a lots to say about introverts and extroverts. If you are curious, you can take a free online personality test that you might find helpful.

So which are you, an “innie” or an “outie”? And what are your thoughts about the two personality types?

 

 

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Ah, yes, the good, the bad and the ugly about living in rural Montana.

The good: You can do just about whatever you want.

The bad: People do just about whatever they want.

The ugly: There are a bunch of very ugly people living here who do just about whatever they want. The Old Turkey Hunter

The good: The bugs here are just about big enough to eat.

The bad: the bugs here are just about big enough to eat you.

The ugly: There are a bunch of big, ugly bugs living here who eat just about anyone they want.

Good, bad or ugly, there’s a lot to be liked about living in rural Montana.

  • My bank doesn’t have a lobby, but they know my name when I pull up to the drive up window.
  • Within minutes of leaving home, I can park my truck at a trailhead and know it won’t be vandalized when I return. However, I can find peace, quiet and solitude on my porch without ever leaving home.

The good: birds flitting everywhere.

The bad: bird poo everywhere.

The ugly: bird poo in my eye.

So tell me: what’s the good, the bad, and the ugly about where you live? 

The Disconnection Connection

Ward Creek Trail
Ward Creek Trail – Time to Think

 

 

“How do you stand it?”

The question was posed by our youngest son. After being on his own for a while, he’d stopped by for a visit. The TV was off, the radio was silenced and the stereo was resting. The only sound was the methodic ticking of a clock. 

•Again the question came: “It’s so quiet here. How do you stand it?”

I remembered this incident recently when I read about a study done by the University of Virginia and reported in the July 4, 2014 edition of Science magazine. Study subjects consisting of a broad span of ages ages were asked to spend six to 15 minutes by themselves without any external stimuli – no computer, cell phone, music, TV, magazines or books to entertain them; nothing to write with or on. Instead, they were told to occupy themselves with their thoughts – in other words, disconnect from the external world and connect with the internal world.

Most of the people who participated in the study didn’t like the experience. The researchers are not yet sure why, although they have some theories. One of their theories is that the human mind is designed to focus on the external world and when those external stimuli are removed the mind becomes uncomfortable.

•I have my own theory.

As a culture, I think we’re overstimulated. So much so that being alone with our thoughts is almost torture.

I find this hard to understand. I love to get away by myself to a quiet place and have time just to think. In fact, I deliberately create such times. I find them restful and refreshing. Life make sense again as take time to sort things out. As Victor Hugo wrote in Les Misérables, “there are many mouths that speak, and but few heads that think.”

Consider my dog. The pasture grass behind my house is taller than she is. As she romps around in the tall grass, I can only tell where she is by the rusting movements. After a few moments of this, she realizes she’s lost track of me. She leaps above the grass, looks around and finds me. Satisfied, she drops back down in the grass and resumes finding bugs are whatever it was she was doing.

I believe we must do the same. As we rustle through the tall grass of life, we need to take some time out to stick our heads above the mess and get our bearings. In other words, take time to think. Disconnect in order to connect.

What about you? Do you like being alone? Are you comfortable with disconnecting? Why or why not? What refreshes you? We’re all different. What recharges your batteries? I have a friend who recharges by being around lots of people. That works for him. Let us know what you think!

But wait, there’s more! (I’m being facetious of course, but there really is more). I’m interested in your thoughts. You can reply, send me an email, and/or help design the new monthly newsletter –

Real Men Own Poodles

Overheard recently by my wife at her place of employment –

“You ought to meet Katherine’s husband. He’s this big, 6’3” macho outdoorsman and his dog is a POODLE!”

Ahem. That’s STANDARD Poodle, if you please. Not one of those yappy little car wash mitts.

So why a poodle for a macho man?

Me and Sophie
Me and Sophie

I’m glad you asked that question, because there’s a backstory. Not that I owe you an explanation. But seeing as how you’ve read this far, let’s continue.

When we moved to North Central Montana years ago (The Land of the Upland Bird) I wanted a bird dog. So I got a yellow Lab pup. Named him “Nugget” as I expected him to be pure gold. And he was.

Trained him myself, and in spite of my many mistakes Nugget became a retriever’s retriever. But the inevitable happened. Nugget turned 13 last January, and went the way of all the earth shortly after.

I began thinking about another dog, but after Nugget I couldn’t bear to get another Lab. So I started doing some research, and discovered that Standard Poodles were originally bred as hunting retrievers. Some of them still have it in their blood.

Bonus: Unlike Labs, poodles don’t shed. Labs shed like a Montana blizzard, and my wife was tired of vacuuming up enough hair each week to make a new dog.

Enter the Standard Poodle.

The short story: I contacted Dreamscapes Standard Poodles in Trout Creek, Montana. Dreamscapes breeds their Standards for bird hunting, retrieving, backpacking and carting. We now share our home with a very nice female Standard pup of just under four months of age. Her call name is Sophie – alias Sweet Pea, alias Snuggle Bunny, alias Daddy’s Girlie-Girl and sometimes alias Monster Baby.

After church last Sunday a friend gave me a ride home. I asked him if he’d like to see my new dog.

He said, “Does she have bows in her hair and painted toenails?”

I smiled. “Of course. Bright red.”

He laughed and said, “I’ll pass.”

Silly redneck. Everybody knows poodles make the best hunting dogs.

What do you think? Are you with me or agin me? Would love to hear your thoughts!

But wait, there’s more! I’m interested in your thoughts. You can send me an email, post a comment right here online and more –  

Dropped by the Helping Hand of Obamacare – An Update

I gotta be me, and me is have to be fair.

So I was complaining to my tax consultant about the denial of a subsidy to help with my health care coverage. I had been informed by a heath care advocate I was too poor to qualify. My tax pro interrupted me and said, “This doesn’t sound right. I know the local health care advocate. I’ll call her for you and see what the deal is.”

As it turned out, the deal is (or was, or whatever) that a mistake had been made. I contacted the advocate who apologized for the error and recalculated my eligibility. The Happy Ending is that I now have health care thanks to a healthy subsidy.

Well, maybe it’s not quite such a happy ending for the taxpayers who have to pick up the cost of my subsidy. I still don’t think it’s right for the government to force me to either buy health care or pay a fine. Of course, they don’t call it a fine; they call it a “shared responsibility payment.” But a fine by any other name is still a fine.

My local daily newspaper The Missoulian ran an interesting opinion piece today by George Will. Within the article, Mr. Will asserted that the ACA may be unconstitutional as it violates the Origin Clause. Mmm. It’s worth checking out here.

 

Dropped by the Helping Hand of Obamacare

Help! I’ve fallen through the cracks and I can’t get up!

Recently I decided I’d better sign up for Obamacare, so I telephoned my local application counselor for help. She suggested I make an appointment with her, but I had some questions first.

I started with, “Is the Website secure?”

I could hear some fancy dancing in the background. “Well, personally I’ve never had a problem.” She continued, “No Website is totally secure.”

True dat, I thought.

She added, “You can’t believe everything you hear in the media.”

True dat, too. So I continued.

“What about income requirements for a subsidy? My wife has Medicare, but I’m not yet old enough for Medicare so I’m the only one who needs health insurance. Right now I don’t have any health insurance at all.”

She said, “To qualify for a subsidy you must have an adjusted gross income above $15,210.”

I responded, “Our adjusted gross income was $4,856 last year. Does this mean I can’t get Obamacare?”

“No, you can still buy health insurance on the Marketplace. You just don’t qualify for a subsidy.”

I paused. “Without a subsidy, what will health insurance cost me per month?”

“Oh, $400-500.”

“You mean I  don’t qualify for any help?”

“Well,” she said, “You could have qualified for Medicaid, except the Montana legislature voted against an expansion of Medicaid last year. Unless they vote to expand Medicaid, I’m afraid nothing can be done.”

This brought up my last question: “I can’t afford $400-500 per month. Does this mean I’ll have to pay the fine?”

“Oh, no, sir; you won’t have to pay the fine. You’re eligible for a Hardship Exemption.”

I’m feeling a little dizzy. I think I’ll go the Emergency Room.

Numbed Down

Aaron Alexis of Texas was a whack job. That’s all I can conclude, although as of today law enforcement officials still have no inkling as to why Alexis sprayed bullets into a crowd of innocent people at the Washington Navy Yard in our nation’s capitol yesterday. Before police took him out, Alexis had killed 12 people and wounded three.

When I read the article yesterday in my local newspaper I thought, Yet another mass shooting. Ho-hum. But then I caught myself. Ho-hum? HO-HUM??? Where was my outrage? Where was my indignation? Where was my fury? Have I now heard of so many mass shootings that I have become heartless? Insensitive? Even numb?

And where was God? Could He not have prevented this? Could He not have prevented Newtown? And if He could have prevented these things, why didn’t He?

It’s these last four questions indie film maker Albert Salaz Jr. of Diego Productions considers in his latest film short Moretti, which competed last week at the Los Angeles International Short Film Festival. I was privileged to screen a prerelease version of Moretti just a few days ago.

Moretti is powerful. Moretti is thought-provoking. Moretti is outrageous. And if you’re sensitive to the F-bomb being dropped a couple of times, you’ll want to plug your ears when the bombs fall from the sky. But to me, the assault on my sensitivities was worth it. The trailer is available online (minus the F-bombs).

A fifth question occurred me as the full film concluded. If you decide to view the full version of Moretti when it’s pubically available, this question may also occur to you –

How far does the grace of God extend?