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Aug 27, 2010

That Sounds Logical

I find how the human brain works, or perhaps doesn't work, fascinating. Today I heard the Chinese proverb about getting knocked down seven times and standing up eight. Then I realized that this is mathematically incorrect. If someone were knocked down only once, they couldn't stand back up twice; there is no one-extra time to stand up. Then I read about the rope breaking nine times and mending it ten. Same problem.
I suppose it is the Gestalt process of the brain which tries to understand intent rather than meaning. Also, unexaggerated truth doesn't have the same emphasis. After all, "knocked down seven times, stand up seven" just doesn't mean as much.
Also, our brains often try to apply logic in problem-solving but comes to an incorrect conclusion. A classic story problem demonstrates this: You must take three pills, one every thirty minutes; how much time will be required to take all the pills? Our first impulse is to say 90 minutes because 3 x 30 = 90. However, you take the first pill immediately, the second 30 minutes later, and finally only an hour passes when you take the third pill. But our brains don't go there naturally; it takes pause, ponder and reason to find the answer.
All of that aside, it makes me wonder how often we assimilate information that sounds reasonable but is in fact factually or logically flawed. How often do we see the "obvious logic" which is actually incorrect, but still hold it true. This could range from the products we buy, to the people we befriend, to the decisions of our personal life philosophy.
I suppose we must stop and take inventory of our thoughts and beliefs from time to time. It is not only acceptable, but important, to take time out to question our own beliefs, to test them again, to remember why we hold things true. This mental analysis is not blasphemy, not weakness. Instead, it is an assurance that we haven't lost our way. Perhaps this is why Socrates said the unexamined life is not worth living.
Ok, deep enough for today. Take this for what it is. I just found it curious and thought I'd share. That explanation sounds reasonable; right?

Aug 21, 2010

Licensing Religion

The other day I had a discussion with a fellow who proposed an interesting idea. Now, I don’t think it would ever be accepted, and I am certainly not going to try to push any new public policy. Moreover, it suffers from the “genie is out of the bottle” problem, but nonetheless, I thought it was interesting enough to share.
He said that no government, not Federal nor State, should issue marriage licenses or make laws that address or recognize marital status. His argument is that marriage is a religious ceremony and the State governing it is as ludicrous as administering secular baptisms.
Wow – this is a pretty radical thought. Well, let’s slow down. Is it really that crazy?
After 3000 years of marital tradition, the first real secular ruling about marriage came from a King in England who defied the authority of the Pope. He justified his decision on fairly selfish reasoning, not because he wanted to improve the institution of marriage. That established, despite some pretty upsetting changes in Church organization, it didn’t really impact the practice of marriages being sanctioned religious covenants. However, it did set a precedent, but one that would not be acted upon for nearly another 350 years.
There were virtually no legal statutes addressing marriage in Europe and early America. There were no tax breaks, no secular registers, no blood tests. Marriage was a religious function, something to be kept separate from the State …until the Civil War. After the Fourteenth Amendment, the secular, governmental, legal processing of marriage came to be in full force. Why? Mainly to prevent blacks from marrying whites now that the former slaves were legal citizens.
Governmental authority over marriage continued into a fight between State and Federal control. A hundred years later, Civil Rights and the supremacy clause would overtake these Jim Crow laws. However, all this did was to give more control over marriage to the State and basically strip away the church tradition, making it meaningless and unnecessary. Marriage is now a legal status and function – and no longer a religious one.
My friend’s argument stated the removal of the Jim Crow laws about marriage was correct but methodically flawed. Rather than over-ruling them with more secular law, they should have been struck down under separation of Church and State. The justification for their removal should not have been based on Civil Rights, but rather marriage was a religious area where government has virtually no authority.
He further explained that this approach of letting religious groups control and sanction marriage would solve most of the social issues surrounding it today. If gays wanted to marry and found a religious group to sanction it, then so be it. If atheists wanted to “live in sin” without marrying, then fine; they don’t believe in sin anyway. The church leaders would be accountable to God, their tenants or whatever, but not to the State.
This is quite different than how we currently think. I further admit that this would radically change how divorce, child support, alimony and inheritance would be handled; however, without knowing what solutions would manifest for these issues in a governmentless marriage scenario, I can’t say whether that would be better or worse. I would imagine they would be more private and personally-tailored, though.
So as I close down this post, I want to remind everyone this is merely a hypothetical proposal of how it should be, not a political push to change the system. I don’t believe this model will happen, but it is an interesting and unusual way of looking at our modern issues of marriage. While I doubt it could solve every social problem revolving around marriage, I must consider that this seemingly radical idea is not only reasonable but it also preserves the original meaning and tradition of marriage.

Aug 9, 2010

Karaoke Lessons

The other day I sang a duet with someone. It was Picture by Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock. Of course, we did a fabulous job; thank you for asking.
However, as I sang the line, “I wish I had a good girl to miss me,” I was reminded of a past conversation. An acquaintance of mine once tried to convince me that if he could just find a good woman, then he’d have a reason to change his ways and straighten his life around.
I remember thinking about his argument and even debating with him that he should do these things for himself, not rely on the existence of another person to make them manifest. I held the position that if he wouldn’t do this for himself, then his effort would be good at first but eventually, after the novelty and chivalry had worn off, he would revert back to who he wanted to be for himself – and if that wasn’t “the straightened out person” then he would go back to his old bad habits.
I thought about myself after singing the song – clearly with the memory of the above-stated conversation fresh on my mind. How often do I hope for another person or a particular event to occur to excuse fixing things I know I should? And while using an excuse to start isn’t necessarily bad, the action and desire must be for me to improve who I am – not to provide an appearance nor to be for a temporary duration.
As most nutritionist tell us: It is not a diet but rather a life-style change. If we diet, then we shed the unwanted weight for a while, but it comes back. If we change how we eat routinely, then the weight is more likely to stay off.
So it must be the same in our personal lives, work habits, moral practice and emotional decisions; otherwise, the weight and burdens return. We must satisfy that one person we are guaranteed to live with for our entire lives: our own self. Any other reason is denial.
Ironically, the next song for me to sing was I Can't Get No Satisfaction by the Rolling Stones.

Aug 4, 2010

A Tear In My Beer

Perhaps a bit intoxified, but these words must be written now before I forget the impression that was made upon me tonight.
Yes, I went to a bar on a Tuesday night. Yes, I had a few beers. I met a small group of interesting people and had a very fine time. However, two heart-breaking stories sat before me tonight and for very different reasons.
One woman was there drinking her sorrows because she had suspected her fiancé of over a year to be cheating on her. Tonight she confirmed that. She was a mature and beautiful woman, who had much going for her. It was unbelievable that any man could not find this amazing graceful splendor enough to satisfy him. She dealt with the situation with unbelievable grace despite masking the serious pain she felt deep within her soul.
The other story was an angst-ridden young woman who thought her world was horrid. She too was quite striking in appearance, and on the surface she was to be desired by many in the establishment. However, within just seconds of conversation, the scene from Shallow Hal where the nurse comes to berate the helpers came to mind. She was so angry and ugly, and with little cause. Obviously there was much hidden to her story, but what she revealed for the purpose of gaining sympathy did not merit any excuses for her retched behavior.
At one point, I violated the trust of the first woman – because everyone who had been paying attention knew. I told the younger that the woman next to her was suffering worse than she. What I witnessed next was both pathetic and appalling. The younger started to lecture the graceful woman about how “he” wasn’t worth it, blah, blah, blah – but instantly, it turned to her own examples and her own pain – and without any compassion, the consoling became a personal pity party for the younger woman. It was both sickening and difficult to watch.
I watched the mature woman handle the conversation with dignity and never retaliated. I saw the annoyance and sorrow paint itself across her face. The younger woman’s help was causing much damage, and youth didn’t even know it.
Then, an epiphany struck me. I questioned – how often am I that younger woman, pretending to console another person when really I am just expressing my own pain. I act like I can draw on some great well of wisdom from my personal experiences, while in reality I am simply turning the conference into what matters to me!
I hope to never forget this. I hope to remember it when I am called to be the listening ear to someone in pain. I hope to recall that I am there to listen – not preach, teach or leech.