Give & Receive Grace – Love Unfettered

Our first gift is life, our mothers “giving birth.”  Then, as helpless, tiny people, we do nothing but receive every day.  We do not even know what giving is, for years.

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Then a glimmer of sharing, (food with the dog, or toys with another baby), gives us the first clue that we are not the only person in the world.

How scary, we might lose what we have.  The idea of “yours,” and “mine,” “have,” and “not have” dawns on us.  Then we learn to hold and withhold from others for our own sake.  It is all about “me, myself, & I.”

Greed is natural, inborn, survival, fear instinct.  Most of us rise above these automatic emotions once we find abundance.  Some people find balance between “thee & me” based on what we really need and the gifts we can give.  Some people never get over it.  Those are grim misers without love, because they see everything, material, emotional, and spiritual as limited “possessions,” to own or lose; to hoard.

Love opens our hearts, and forgets about hoarding in exchange for fervent mutual giving of ourselves to others, with receiving, a byproduct.  The purest form of love is grace.  Grace is not an exchange, it is not earned, or deserved; it is generous, unreserved, unconditional, unlimited openness, acceptance, forgiveness, caring, and affection.  Grace is what we received as babies.  Can we generate grace as adults?  Not without a way to experience it.  Where can we do this?

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The road from cherished baby to self-sufficient adult is fraught with naïve mistakes, unfortunate accidents, painful losses, unrequited love, disappointing lessons, potholes of betrayal, detours of deceit, and dead-end dreams.  How to navigate life’s path, with courage, endure the hardships, withstand the evil, grow strong, prosper, and still be able to love and receive love, to be gracious and receive grace, is the challenge.

Christians have a perfect example.

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A Hybrid Name for Your Baby – Practical and Inventive

 

“A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is a popular reference to William Shakespeare’s play Romeo and Juliet.  The truth is, names matter, a lot.  That is why so many books scour the values and meanings of various names and relate their historical background.  Tradition says, choose an established, powerful name so your child will grow up powerful, “living up to his name.”  Lately, many mothers ignore tradition and create unconventional, unique names for their babies.

Contradictory articles abound on the effect baby-naming has on children as they grow and become adults.  In America, simple, familiar European names are easy to like.  Difficult, unusual names are harder to like.  That is the situation, no matter how much one resents the bias.  Immigrants from Asia, Scandinavia, the Balkans, and Eastern Europe understand this and choose names that do not get in the way of social or vocational success.

The current controversy seems to orbit “African-sounding” names.  Cries of racism go up when anyone struggles with the unfamiliar, unusual, multi-syllabic names they create. The juxtaposition of these special names to common surnames confuses people.  Nonetheless, baby names that are unique in spoken configuration and spelling are a modern trend among American mothers.  The truth is, such names can encumber a child growing up, and an adult seeking acceptance and equal opportunities in American society.

Rather than cover the same ground as countless authors, let us “cut to the chase” with an idea that may satisfy both society and community – Hybrid names.  By hybrid, I mean a first and a middle name that can make things work for children and adults in both worlds.  One name for American society, (Tom, Rob, Dale, Doug, and Wayne, for example), pronounced and spelled in the conventional way.  Another name for the community, whatever the ethnic or racial background dictates or allows.

The order of names is not important; the presentation of names is vital.  Suppose you name your child Theodore Vladimir Trotsky.  At home, you call him Vlad, on a job interview he uses Ted.  T. Vladimir Trotsky and Theodore V. Trotsky are both valid names without handicap in either sphere.

Parents should think about their child’s future when they assign names.  Consider making your child’s life easier in American society.

(BTW: If your name hinders you, a legal name change is a few hundred dollars away.)

 

 

Kim Jong-Un – China’s Tiger to Tame

Forgive, is the message of Christmas.  But do not forget.  The person who betrayed trust is still in that body.  Trust is a gift best reserved for those who deserve it. We reserve the word “disgrace” for a serious reason – it is the permanent loss of credibility and assumed morality; it is a revocation of the gift of grace.

In 2005 Doug Bandow resigned from the Cato Institute because he accepted bribes from Jack Abramoff.  He published articles in the Copley News Service, favoring Abramoff’s clients.  He served almost four years of a six-year, plea-agreement sentence.

My question:  why does anyone listen to him or publish his opinions?  Well, the Huffington Post raised their hand.

His recent HuffPost opinion article is about Korea.  After visiting Pyongyang in June, he says, “Washington sees North Korea as a security challenge. Yet the North threatens America only because the U.S. intervened in the conflict between the two Koreas. The case for defending now populous and prosperous South Korea expired long ago.”

What did they do to him while he was there?  Did they bribe him too?  Does he know Dennis Rodman?  Is he still an American?

He proposes more-of-the-same diplomacy.  From 1953 until today,  North Korean’s persistent, winning tactic has been to extract financial aid and other concessions from the West by making promises to be good or do better.  Once they have what they need, they break all the promises, ratchet up the oppression of their people, and take food out of the mouths of their children for money to develop rockets and nuclear weapons.  (I wonder if they would be willing to sell such things to terrorists?)

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The whole mindset of engaging North Korea in diplomacy is ludicrous.  How many times will we settle for the same false promises to liberalize their iron-fisted culture, or scale back their military?  After six decades of this soft-headed, “gentle” approach, what do we have to show?  Rocket Man.  Doing more of what has not worked is insanity.

What do we have now?  Change.  China knows North Korea intimately.  They buy most of their exports.  They have people living and working there.  They are North Korea’s lifeblood.  As long the N. Koreans stay “in bounds” and do not unsettle the region, China sees them as proxy insulation between themselves & Western encroachment.  But the “buffer” has begun to attract rather than distract Western attention, and not in a good way.

China has finally broken ranks with the North Korean government.  They have more to lose than gain from world condemnation or another Korean War.  China knows that the U.S. cannot, and will not allow any kind of attack on itself or its allies.

Kim Jong-Un is no fool.  We Americans imagine a vast divide between North and South Korea.  Not so much.  Families still span both regions of the same peninsula.  The desire to reunite is strong and frustrated in a culture that reveres family to the point of sublimating the individual.

In a recent speech, Kim played on this underlying theme in a “we/us” versus “they/them” appeal, saying that, at last, with the nuclear shield he has created, Koreans are no longer under the thumbs of other cultures; that Koreans can stand on their own and join hands.  I know that sounds strange to us, but the connections are powerful and subtle.  The overture to discuss the Olympic Games is another tactic to get us back in the old game of you give, we take, while they crash forward with nukes and missiles.  Is this fooling anyone?  The South Koreans are all smiles.

The biggest challenge Kim faces is China.  Kim and his predecessors have skillfully played the Chinese desire for stable unity in Asian and the threat that millions of North Koreans would flood across the extended border with China.  Pressure at the borders is building.  The number of attempted defections/escapes across the DMZ is amplified, while similar attempts to get into China and Russia are not reported at all.

Almost all North Korean defectors head to China before making their way to South Korea to avoid the heavily militarized border separating the two Koreas.  The Chinese accept this conduit role, as long as the escapees do not stay in China. (Like Mexico, giving Central American migrants and refugees a free pass through Mexico to the U.S.)

China has quietly added military resources along the most likely escape routes from North Korea.  Russia has a small, but similar border vulnerability, and has built up its military presence across the border.

The US current stance is likely to spur the Chinese to tone down or neutralize Kim Jong-Un to achieve their ultimate goal: stability.  Appearances are key.  No one wants their fingerprints on this effort.  Deniability is the standard by which all will be judged.

I am confident that China, South Korea, the U.S., and Japan are engaged in every type of discussions and plans they can imagine.  The main obstacle to resolution is “face.”  All parties need to preserve and improve their “face” at home and in the world.  How to tame or replace Kim Jong-un is a top priority for some of the world’s most powerful governments.  I have faith that Chinese ingenuity and American courage will combine to defuse threats to peace in the region.

(Discussion of Face: https://wp.me/p1qZOe-C7)

Transgender Quandary – Trading Stereotypes

How does a person define and demonstrate their gender identity?  What does a “man” or “woman” think and feel?  Aside from media precepts and sexual preferences, what defines man and woman in our society?

The more I read about 50 kinds of Gender Dysphoria, the less I see how people are so sure they are a specific type of person.  What does it mean to “feel like a woman trapped in a man’s body?”  Sounds dissatisfied to me.  What about a woman’s body and lifestyle do they miss and want?  What about a man’s body and way of life are in the way and undesirable?  How do they want other people to treat or not treat them?

The latest descriptions of transgender include completely internal “identification.”  That means, no physical change to the body one is born with, but just feeling and acting like the gender you are/want.  Images of what is a man and what is a woman are stereotypes.  Trading and asserting stereotypes is a mental, emotional exercise that some people feel driven to do to prove who they are.  If a male wants to love another male, we have come to accept that; likewise, if a woman wants to love another woman.  Why not see this “trans” mindset for what it is: changing costumes and characters.  Hormones and surgery are the costume change; name changes and voice training are the new role.  Why are they so important?

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When I was a child, I loved to pretend I was a pirate, a cowboy, a soldier, a fireman by changing hats and voices.  I used to make an admiral’s hat by folding a newspaper.  When I put on this hat, and picked up the stick that was my sword, I was that admiral; ordering my men to fight off the pirates.  I did not insist on a real costume or a real sword; I was what I wanted to be.  After I grew up, I dubbed this the “paper hat syndrome.”  People believe they are what they portray, even when the obvious says otherwise. I still see people using this same mental trick to “be” what they want to be at work or with friends.

“Transitioning” is expensive; tens of thousands of dollars and physical trauma for surgery, lawyers, hormones, and therapy.  After all that, some men do not make attractive women; and some women do not become convincing men.  But as long they are satisfied, I am glad for them.  I hope they are not disappointed when they do not feel as different as they expected; that could be very depressing.  It might be worth some therapy to support living the way you want with the body you already have; leave the paper hat at home.

 

 

 

 

American Graffiti – The Old Model of Sex

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The rules of sex are both formal and informal for men and women, in America.

Boys and girls learn about love and sex in the climate of their youth.  They learn and practice the rules and taboos of their “tribe.”  When I was a boy, men were macho.  My dad was strong, facile, and strict.  Movies were John Wayne, Micky Spillane, and Gone with the Wind.  Just after World War II, society’s standards for men were macho, and aggressive; standards for women were demure, cosmetic, social accessories, fiercely-devout housewives, ardent lovers, and stalwart, protectors of children.

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Men pursued sexual contact, despite protests from a woman (e.g. Gone with the Wind).  “Wolf Whistles” were some crude men’s idea of how to get women’s attention.  Boys had a mandate to “get girls” (e.g. American Graffiti).  We had no idea how, but we could not let it be known we were kiss-less virgins.  Dates were events with timorous, sexual fumbles.  Men “scored” with women.  They used baseball as a metaphor.  First base was kissing; second base was touching breasts; you can guess third base and home run – and strike out.  Virginity was for boys to lose, and girls to keep; that was the battle of the sexes.

Boys’ bathrooms or gym locker rooms were the venues for lame boasts of conquest, and face-saving lies.  Every boy had a story to tell that would lift his score on the invisible scoreboard of manliness.  The desperate would name local, popular boy-legends; girls with “reputations.”

Anyone who watches the series “Mad Men,” sees the power structure, and vulnerability men and women accepted and took for granted.  Everyone tacitly agreed that powerful men can press themselves on women.  Today, we call them “predators.”

Women did not want these advances then, either.  They just learned to ignore or deal with it, and moved on.  It was job survival for a woman in the workplace to tactfully divert the advances of the men she worked with.

Then came the late 60’s,70’s, and 80’s; confusing and defining times for both sexes.  Young, unmarried women were “liberated.”  We had a mix of traditional and uninhibited values.  It was a second “suffrage.”  Some men and women connected in “adulterous” liaisons.  Others lived dual lives, with a traditional family, and a sexual second.  Some had “open” marriages that allowed sex with non-spouses.

This historic, buffet of choices causes conflict today.  The recent pillory and massacre of powerful men based on accusations of sexual harassment and unwanted sexual advances is a cultural sea change.  The information age is giving women a platform, permission, and encouragement to revolt against the subjugating, sexual power men have held over subordinate women forever.

This is a confusing time for men who like women.  Men are on notice to be “appropriate” with all women.  Are platonic friendships between men and women possible now?  What is “appropriate?”

Men want women to like them, but many are clumsy and clueless; women are different, subjective, fickle, ephemeral “mysteries” men cannot figure out; therefore, attractive curiosities.  Who will teach men how to be around women?  Where is the manual?  What parts of the way they grew up do they discard?  Straight men are in peril if they describe, notice, appreciate, comment, or have facial expressions in response to a woman’s appearance or attractiveness.  That surely limits the range of single men’s overtures to a potential mate. (e.g. “Hi, I noticed you from across the library, in the non- fiction section, I do not know anything about non-fiction, could you help me?  Could I bribe you with a coffee?”  Or, “Aren’t you the lady from my bank?  I always wondered what being a teller is like.  Would you have time to help me understand?   I’ll buy the coffee. What do you like?”)  Still pretty lame, but completely appropriate.

Women spend hours each day to prepare and present themselves to “others.”  Cosmetics, hair style, nail polish, clothes, whitened teeth, shoes, and body-shape are endemic elements of fashion and style in our culture.  Women often compliment or disparage other women for their presentation; that is not harassment, but it can be “shaming.”  Women take compliments from gay men as, well, compliments, because they figure sex is not their motivation.

When straight men compliment women, without sexual intentions, women might still accuse them of sexual aggression.  Absent comments, some women might feel ignored, or unattractive, but what are men to do?  Confused and threatened men can retreat into a “man’s world,” which is a safe, sane, and familiar cave.

 

Future World – What Might We Expect?

Predictions are always wrong, because we cannot shed the context and assumptions of now.

World population is about 7 billion now.  Half (3.5 billion) can work.  Two hundred million are unemployed.  Thirty percent of workers live in poverty.  Workers in precarious jobs number 1.4 billion.  Worldwide, 65.3 million refugees.

Suppose we succeed in breaking the connection of labor to living for everyone.  What will we do?

Those who watch Star Trek have seen people with no need of money.  Gene Roddenberry ’s model of the future is one in which each person chooses what they want to do with their time, talents, and capabilities.

“Replicators” provide food, clothing, anything they want; they “disassemble” waste at the atomic level and recycle it.  “Transporters” take us where we want to go.  We will have things we have not yet imagined.   Every critical human need could be met, except purpose, love, caring for children, and worship.  What could anyone gain by military force?

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The challenge will be having a purposeful life. The competition for some vocations might be intense, but no one starves or languishes in rags.  The best of the best will gain the prized positions; meritocracy must rule.  People will seek learning, practice skills, and achieve mastery because they want to.

Imagine managing your life and relationships in this environment.  Most people want to have purpose, meaning, value, and love.  How would you operate with no mandates to work?  Unless you choose what you want to do, you could become a complete, passive consumer.  Sadly, some part of the population will choose nothing, spending their days with virtual reality or whatever passive entertainment suits them.  If anyone is bored, it would be their mindset, not the lack of opportunity or shortage of possibilities.

Picture the “landscape” this produces.  Everyone who has an interest, talent, or skill is doing what they love best.  They might split their lives among various pastimes, adventures, travel, and learning.

The world will still have certain needs for real expertise, but they might be limited to high technical or medical skills, education, psychiatry, management, art, sports, and entertainment.

People will still have medical and mental problems, even when they have no pressures, because we are physical, emotional animals.  Advanced medical knowledge, technology, pharmacology, and treatments should allow doctors, nurses, and aids to handle the physical needs.

Feelings drive us.  Coaching and emotional problem management would be a need.  We might still have people born with mental or physical limitations, needing caregivers.

Manufacturing, food, transportation, and housing would all be produced by the technology.  With no scarce commodities or resources, the only conflicts would be intra-personal: love, sex, sports, politics, and religion.  These can be resolved peacefully.

Billions of people would compete for and share the remaining tasks.  Sharing makes sense, especially for the multi-talented.  Doing three or four different activities a few hours each day might be satisfying, and fun.  They might have hourly shifts around the clock to accommodate all the masters of that task or activity.  There would be standbys for every hour making “on call” the rule versus the exception.  People could choose tasks we now assign as impractical, or worthless, like the artistry and craftsmanship we admire from the past.  How long something takes to do will no longer be a factor.  The world would be art.