Growing up, I was told that we were created in God’s image. But no one really explained the concept to me. I assumed that God was static, unchanging, and altogether perfect. To the best of my knowledge, it had always been this way. Was my behavior to resemble this as well? Any number of theological loose ends was never tied up, either from ignorance or theological neglect. Sometimes it is easier to say nothing than to risk the potential offense provided by the truth. Fast asleep is a comfortable place for many, particularly in houses of worship and everyday communities which are deathly afraid of change.
Jun 13 2011
Dec 27 2010
The impetus for this post was a most unlikely subject. I’ve been recently deconstructing my own uneasy feelings towards disgraced NFL Quarterback Michael Vick. My partner, a native of Philadelphia, is a huge fan of the Eagles professional football team and is thrilled at the its recent success with Vick at the helm. When the dog fighting revelations surfaced, I admit that I wanted to see him banned from the league for life. Instead, Vick served nearly two years in jail, filed for bankruptcy, missed two full seasons, and was blackballed from his original team. His stunning return to form was highly unexpected. And as much I try to be a forgiving person, I simply cannot extend it to a player who is nonetheless a strong candidate to be eventually awarded the National Football League’s Most Valuable Player for a most impressive season.
Sep 12 2010
Negative feelings certainly has a victim. That victim is he or she who holds them in an unreasonable manner. This is not a “9/11” post, but any similarities might well be noted.
I have written on the Big Orange for a very long time, sometimes with better and sometimes with poorer results. Those of you who have read my posts will know that, several years ago, I was accused of a heinous crime, and was innocent of it.
Here is what happened Tuesday past. I thing that it might be of interest to people.
Feb 06 2010
It is a truism that leaders are few and followers are numerous. This is itself an inequality that we don’t often contemplate, nor feel any compulsion to amend by direct action. No flurry of blog postings or activist group with a message statement to convey has ever proposed that we ought to consider revising this important discrepancy. This may be because the gap itself is likely a construct of biology, for whatever reason. One wishes perhaps the numbers would be a bit more balanced, certainly not flip-flopped, since if most of us were leaders, we’d never get anything accomplished. In that regard, herding cats might be putting it lightly. Still, as it stands, for whatever reason, those who lead hold minority status and as such they often easily manage to attract followers to their causes and private bandwagon. It is another paradox of human behavior that while most minorities find reduced numbers much to their detriment, those who lead find the fact that they are relatively few in number much to their benefit.
We always seem to return to the example of the Great Man or Great Woman, the almost superhuman being who through his or her personal skill fixes all outstanding problems and provides mass unity. We should really know better than to expect that one single person could save us from ourselves, but to some extent, it isn’t surprising why can so easily opt for this belief. Two thousand plus years of a Christ-centered framework leads us to expect that a Messiah will rescue us, whether we acknowledge it consciously or not. This is true whether we’re Christian, Jewish, or not a person of faith at all. I myself recognize that I’m still waiting for Jesus to return, and would gladly fall at his feet to offer my assistance if I knew for certain he had returned. If the Second Coming arrived, some would doubt to the very end, some would desire proof, and some would resist altogether purely for their own reasons. Many, however, would breathe a sigh of relief, and quickly fall in line behind him.
Recent developments with political leaders have showed what happens when power corrupts, temptation leads to bad decisions, or disappointment sets in when high hopes are not realized. There is certainly enough fault to spread around if we seek to assign blame. However, that is not exactly my intent with this post. Nor am I seeking to absolve those who let their own shortcomings destroy the good will and good stead they formerly held. With power, charisma, and charm comes temptation of all kinds–monetary gain and sexual gratification only but two of them. I seek to bring light, in part, to the fact that those in leadership roles who court the adoration of the crowds, instantly reap all the benefits and all of the drawbacks in the process. If I, for example, stand up before an attentive audience and impress them with the cogency of my arguments, the eloquence of my rhetoric, or otherwise strike a nerve, I can expect to receive compliments, flirtatious glances or conversation, and an instant kind of immediate attention and personal favor with those who until a moment before were complete strangers. Everyone wants to be my friend, at least for that moment.
A close associate is fond of advancing a particular theory concerning this phenomenon. His example concerns the immediacy of live music, but it works well in this context, too. As he puts it, the reason we find it so easy to be attracted to to musicians, in particular, is that we see our own best qualities reflected in whomever is singing or playing. A powerful emotional intimacy is present in that moment that perhaps speaks more to us and our condition than to those on stage. This concept may wash over political leaders as well, particularly when on the stump, particularly when their personal charisma renders them something close to celebrity. They inspire so much in us: adoration, trust, envy, hope, desire, and so on. That we would entrust them so willingly with all of these in the blink of an eye makes me wonder how anyone who stands out in front can survive for long, with or without the benefit of handlers. It takes a tremendously strong person to not succumb to distraction, properly handle the stress, stay on message, and not get waylaid by a thousand wild goose chases. It is precisely our demands upon which they must conform and though they never are allowed to forget, this doesn’t mean that they’re always in the easiest position to respond. We expect much in return for our trust and our affections and the conditions of the transaction are both numerous and exacting.
So long as we expect perfection from our leaders, we can never see them for their gloriously flawed humanity and never forgive them for their frailties. We sometimes treat these figures as though they were our lover, one which always must say the right thing at the right time and halfway read our minds. Assuming they were the keeper of our heart, we would then need to concede that we would need to love them not just for their best qualities, but also for their worst. We can easily be dismayed, demoralized, and distressed at the behavior and conduct of those we idolize, certainly, but forgiveness is a concept ultimately foreign to us far too often. If it arrives, it arrives late, if ever at all, and it is yielded grudgingly. How often have I “forgiven” someone by mentioning, “Well, I’ll forgive you this once, but you better not do it again, or I’ll never speak to you again”.
This ought not excuse mediocrity, philandering, or a distressing turn towards hypocrisy, but it might better explain a bit better some of the hypocrisies buried within our minds. We often say we’d never want to be a celebrity, a politician, or anyone with the same degree of constant media exposure and with it a fishbowl work environment, but many of us would also jump at the chance if it were available to us someday. I’m not so much advancing a notion that we ought to Leave People in the Public Eye Alone™ but that we need to look within ourselves and examine why we thrust so much of our entire selves, dreams, and aspirations towards whomever might have ability, courage, or God-given talents of oratory and authenticity. They certainly use our faith in them for their own benefit, as is part of the beast, and hopefully never forget the potency of the dreams of thousands upon thousands. If this truly were a relationship rather than a social contract, there would be disturbingly equal proportions of sadism and masochism present.
As it stands now, this compact is a curious kind of two-step, whereby we give all of ourselves to whomever represents us formally, with the requisite number of strings attached that we put in place in an effort that ensure that our personal wish list is followed without in order and without flaw. As for those who would lead or stand out from the pack, raising the bar high, be it in music, entertainment, or politics sets a huge precedent in place and some can rise to the challenge by hitting another home run out of the park, though many fall short. It would seem, then, that the responsibility to keep things in proper proportion is everyone’s. We may not be able to close the gap regarding the number of those who lead versus those who follow, but we can make strides toward adopting a much more feasible strategy, one that would lead to fewer headaches and fewer feelings of betrayal. To me, forgiveness could be a solution. And by this I don’t mean forgiveness for selfish reasons like the ability to successfully cross off another item on a voluminous to-do list, but forgiveness out of a realization that doing so would encourage true healing. True healing leads to group health. If Jesus does return someday, he would expect nothing less.
Oct 09 2009
President Obama’s awarding of the Noble Peace Prize may be more about making a strong statement condemning what came before than it is a desire to reward the man who will benefit from the news. At a time when Obama is facing the sharpest criticism of his still-nascent Presidency, the Noble win temporarily distracts from Afghanistan, Health Care Reform, Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell, banking regulation, Guantanamo Bay, and a variety of other items on the agenda. It will dominate the news cycle at least for today and likely into the weekend, with all the usual suspects chiming in to comment. Obama’s resume towards world reconciliation and peace activism around the globe, up until now, has been on the thin side, though he has certainly taken much care to begin to undo the damage of the Bush presidency. I welcome the announcement, though I wonder if perhaps those with a lower profile might have been more deserving.
One also wonders what impact this award will have on the President’s domestic approval rating or the public support for his substantial agenda. The Nobel Peace Prize has a long history of courting controversy, and one expects to see no small degree of backlash from conservatives along the same lines as when Al Gore won in 2007. My initial thought is that this event, notable though it is, really won’t make much difference either way. It will be a short-term matter that Obama will rightly use to bolster what he wishes to accomplish, particularly in a diplomatic context. The Republicans will scream bloody murder and the Democrats will release complimentary press releases which politely reveal nothing more than safe, unsubstantial praise.
Contemplating why the awards themselves were established explains something of their presumptive function. The Swedish chemist Alfred Nobel, the inventor of the explosives dynamite and gelignite, set up a series of separate prize designations in his will. Winners of these prizes would also be rewarded with a substantial cash prize paid out of Nobel’s personal fortune. Upon his death, a committee was instructed to award the most deserving person who had to advanced human improvement in a each of a variety of areas. Ever since their establishment, the committee has often broadly interpreted Nobel’s rather vague directives.
The whole of my remaining realizable estate shall be dealt with in the following way:
The capital shall be invested by my executors in safe securities and shall constitute a fund, the interest on which shall be annually distributed in the form of prizes to those who, during the preceding year, shall have conferred the greatest benefit on mankind. The said interest shall be divided into five equal parts, which shall be apportioned as follows: one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery or invention within the field of physics; one part to the person who shall have made the most important chemical discovery or improvement; one part to the person who shall have made the most important discovery within the domain of physiology or medicine; one part to the person who shall have produced in the field of literature the most outstanding work of an idealistic tendency; and one part to the person who shall have done the most or the best work for fraternity among nations, for the abolition or reduction of standing armies and for the holding and promotion of peace congresses.
It was a premature obituary published in a French newspaper that led Nobel to establish these prizes that bear his name.
The obituary stated Le marchand de la mort est mort (“The merchant of death is dead”) and went on to say, “Dr. Alfred Nobel, who became rich by finding ways to kill more people faster than ever before, died yesterday.” On 27 November 1895, at the Swedish-Norwegian Club in Paris, Nobel signed his last will and testament and set aside the bulk of his estate to establish the Nobel Prizes, to be awarded annually without distinction of nationality.
Nobel himself was the owner of a large factory which designed war munitions and combined with his brilliant discoveries regarding explosive substances, he is a reminder that human progress and innovation can be used to kill millions of people in open combat. Not only that, he is a sobering example that we ourselves might prove to be our own undoing when we selfishly advance our own sordid motives at the expense of our brothers and sisters. Thus, the Nobel Prizes are a lasting testament to one man’s atonement and his desire to seek forgiveness. This is an unselfish gesture I do not believe was made to whitewash over past sins. It would be wise to keep that solemn fact in mind when we contemplate the very intent of the awards themselves. Though we need and must continue to cite instances where the wealthy and powerful destroy human unity on behalf of the pursuit of profit, there are those like Nobel who aim to leave a lasting legacy behind them as more than butchers, or amoral profiteers, or purveyors of anguish. Political footballs aside and back and forth arguments aside, we shouldn’t let petty grievances detract from the power and grave reverence these awards demand.
Feb 06 2009
“The evil of bigotry gives way to the power of redemption!”
Man Asks Entire Town for Forgiveness for Racism
2.06.09: 48 Years Ago, He Attacked Future Rep. John Lewis; Now the Two Hug
Elwin Wilson and John Lewis
Nearly half a century ago, in a very different America, Elwin Wilson and John Lewis met under a veil of violence and race-inspired hate. The men had not seen each other again until Tuesday when, with “Good Morning America’s” help, Wilson approached Lewis again — this time offering an apology and a chance to relieve a burden he’d carried for more than four decades.