Archives For culture

On Friday, people went nuts again.

I heard about people camping out for two weeks for some Black Friday deals. I don’t know what kind of math you have to do for that to make sense. But it seems more sensible to me to go to work. If you have to camp out for two weeks to buy a television, you probably have bigger problems than not having a television.

I wonder if Black Friday is even fun anymore. It does not look like it. It looks awful. I said that as I stayed at home in my pajamas, drinking coffee and enjoying the beautiful morning.

The thing is I do not even know what I missed. I don’t know about any of the deals I passed up. I don’t know about all of the fabulous stuff I could have had and unbelievable prices.

But I also know something else.

No matter how much time I spent or money I saved. No matter how hard I fought to get a great deal, I would still probably forget everything I bought by next Christmas. There are so very few gifts that I have received in my life that I remember. Does anyone else realize this?

Gift-giving has long lost its luster for me. In some ways, I actually dread it. The thing that used to excite me most as a child has all but lost its meaning for me. I am glad my family does a fun little “gift auction.” We get play money and bid on items that any of us would enjoy. The other option is that we all just buy gift cards for each other, which is a thinly veiled way to just swap cash.

I have long since learned that the excitement that Santa promised was very temporary, very fleeting. Stuff always loses its appeal, sometimes very quickly. IMG_7885

If everyone realized that, it would probably be a disaster for the economy.

Trigger Warning: This post references topics such as sexual abuse.not_that_kind_of_girl_by_lena_dunham_WEB

Well, we are not exactly Lena Dunham. That would be weird.

A lot has been made of the revelations from Girls star Lena Dunham’s memoir. What may have been intended as a collection of awkward stories from her formative years has now cranked the internet controversy up to eleven. If you have not read the excerpts in question, just google them. The long and short of it is that Dunham, in her own words, compares herself to a child predator as she retells incidents of…erm…close contact with her little sister.

Dozens of writers and commentators have quoted Dunham’s words verbatim, letting her own stories speak for themselves. Thousands of people have tweeted and blogged, often their disgust to Dunham. Dunham has fired back by “rage spiraling” on Twitter and siccing her lawyers on people, threatening defamation lawsuits.

The whole time I took this in, I realized something.

There are a lot of people who consider Dunham’s stories icky at best and predatory at worst. There are some who cannot understand why she would share such things.

But if any of us were in Lena Dunham’s shoes, I think we would have done the same thing. We are not so different from her.

Here’s what I mean.

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What makes a role model?

Being great at what you do is awesome, even if this is your job. But does this job make you an automatic "role model?"

Being great at what you do is awesome, even if this is your job. But does this job make you an automatic “role model?”

There has been a lot of discussion lately about role models, especially when we talk about the disaster that is the NFL today. We see a man who makes millions of dollars beating a woman. We see another man who whips a child. We see these things and we shake our heads and say things like:

“Doesn’t he know he’s a role model?”

“People look up to him.”

But you know what? I look at millionaires who don’t know how to not beat women and children and ask why are these me “role models?” Who made them role models? Are these really the best role models we can come up with? There is nothing that inherently prevents a ball player from being a role model (I don’t even buy the argument that “football is a violent game, therefore players can’t be role models”). But are players role models just because they put on a jersey?

If any good can come out of these situations, I think it is that maybe, just maybe we as a sports obsessed society will stop and think and maybe even reevaluate who we are elevating to the level of role model in the first place.

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Last week was a pretty notable week, to say the least.600x570

A well-loved celebrity passed away tragically. A heretofore unknown Midwest city exploded in unrest.

Let’s just be honest. Last week was many a blogger’s dream week. No shortage of news to comment on! A constant flood of images to post on social media! If you did not have anything to say about one story, you could surely find something to say about the other. And for those bloggers who were bored with both, we even got a Christian worship singer coming out as a lesbian. The whole blogosphere just had an epileptic seizure.

I watched the goings-on. I read story after story and blog after blog. But I wrote nothing. I read blogs that told me I was not ashamed enough of my country. Others said that by my silence, I was tacitly endorsing oppression in Ferguson. The storm of angry words tried to suck me in, tried to make me say something.

But I held my tongue, er, fingers as it were. And that was a very purposeful decision. I decided I would not write any opinions about Ferguson, about racism, about suicide, or any other topic du jour last week.

Why? Because for perhaps the first time, the events of last week proved to me one thing:

My opinions don’t count for much.

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It’s a new day, a new week, a new school year for many of us including myself.

But in many ways, I don’t know how to begin, even to begin writing this new paragraph.

My classroom, for all of the chaos that it might contain, is actually something of a retreat from the outside world. And in many ways, I needed a retreat last week more than usual. You may have felt the same way. There are times when the world just does not make a whole lot of sense.

I’m not a sociologist. But what I think I saw on display last week was a whole lot of hate being exposed. It takes a lot of hate to create a system that oppresses people. The hate that oppresses also brings out hate and anger in the oppressed. I saw a lot of people rush to judgment, to judge people they do not even know. Passing easy judgment on people feels good, and it is another kind of hate, a disdain for others, a refusal to understand them.

Sometimes, hate is so casual, so quiet, so acceptable that it doesn’t even look like hate to most of us. It happens in increments of neglect. Maybe it is layer upon layer of lazy, purposeless hate that has built up like a blanket of dust on our culture.

Here is what I do know:

I know that Jesus had to command us to love one another. He had to make that command because love is hard. It is unintuitive. As much as we want to wax poetic about our common decency, I know that if my most honest moments, I have to work to love my neighbor as myself. I love myself far more than I love my neighbor. I accept my own sins, while I hate the sins of my neighbor (something Jesus did not command.) In fact, it is easy for me to love myself and hate my neighbor, simply by not caring about my neighbor.

Worse, it is our mutual disdain for each other that keeps us in the tragic place we find ourselves. It is hate that keeps us simmering, distracted from our larger problems. Hate keeps us socially and spiritually poor and weak. And no matter how much hate and judgment we indulge ourselves in, we always have more. It doesn’t run out the more we engage in it. It only increases.

If it was Jesus’ will that we all hate each other, judge each other, neglect each other, he would never have had to say anything at all. It is almost our default mode. People have recognized this for thousands of years. Take Euripides, the Athenian playwright.

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Here is what I know. This week, it is going to take a lot of work to love our neighbors as ourselves. It is going to take work to put down our judgment, our incessant opinions of others, to love, rather than to hate.

Who is up for the challenge?

What did you want to be when you grew up?sandlot-01

When I was in school, I was fascinated with outer space. I thought I wanted to be a scientist and work for NASA. Over time, I discovered more about my natural gifts and inclinations, not to mention limitations and so I quietly gave up this ambition without any real fanfare.

I was unusual in my boyhood ambitions. Many boys do not dream about going to work for NASA. On the contrary, it is no secret that many boys, a majority, harbor hopes and dreams of being professional athletes. I know this because I am a teacher and talk regularly to children about what they want to be when they grow up.

A teacher.

A veterinarian.

A doctor.

Those youthful ambitions are almost exclusively held by the female students. The boys on the other hand, by a wide margin, tell me that they want to play for a living. They want to be soccer players, baseball or basketball players. They want to be stars. They don’t dream of being writers or artists (though there are plenty of males in both of those fields.) The one widely acceptable career goal for boys is to throw, catch and hit a ball for a living.

I did not always think this was a big deal. Who cares, they are just silly childhood dreams, right? But the more I think about it, especially now that I’m going to be a dad, I have to wonder why so many boys dream of lives of athletic conquest, if we as adults are encouraging this fantasy, and if it is even a healthy dream to begin with.

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