Floating into Eternity

So here’s the thing. People float.  They finish high school, or maybe they don’t. They get through college, or never try. They get married. They get divorced. They have babies. Babies grow up and learn to float. All the time; they float. Most of them. Almost all of them. Us, too. We float, right?

You can’t afford a new car, or that trip to Europe, or to buy a house. You can’t save enough money because you don’t earn enough. And you don’t earn enough because your job sucks. It really sucks.

Some people have jobs they love.  Sometimes those jobs pay well.

Yeah, but they just got lucky, like winning the lottery. Right place at the right time. Lightning strikes, but it doesn’t strike me.

Horse hockey. You make your own lightning. But not if you’re happy just floating.

You have to know the right people, you say.

So go out and meet those people. There’s nothing wrong with networking.

I did everything I could, you say. It just isn’t the right time.

That’s a crock. You applied for one job. Or you dropped out of the community college after one semester. It got hard. You quit.

I had a child, I had to quit, you say.

You have a child; you have to show them how to swim in this life. You have to get yourself a better boat. Quitters don’t get boats.

Naw, you say, because only the rich have boats.

So go get rich, quick or slow, but do it if that’s what you want. Get some better tools, or learn some better lines, because these are getting old.

I can’t afford college, or starting my own business, or moving to a better town, or anything else, you say.

You can’t afford to work for minimum wage, or live in a drug-infested neighborhood, or spend your time with all of those people who just want to float. Some of them are drowning and you just watch.

I can’t swim, you say.

You never tried, I say.

I’m drowning, too, you say.

Swimming is about moving your arms and legs. It’s like walking, only wetter.

I don’t like the water, you say.

You’re freaking soaked with it, I say.

Traditional versus Moral

A friend is getting married this weekend; a glorious life together awaits them. Only it’s not really waiting. They’ve known each other for several years, dated, co-habitated, learned each other’s foibles. In fact, they probably know everything about each other; how the other spends, saves, eats, cleans up, what their favorite TV shows are, buzz words that piss them off. Living together for a few years will do that. So now there won’t be any surprises when they are married.

This is a good thing.

Decades and centuries ago, when the modern traditions of marriage were formed, girls were often underage (by today’s standards) when they became married, so of course they were unaccustomed to living with a man, and knew nothing about adult stuff. Boys were typically older when they got married, maybe several years older than their new wives. I’m sure someone could get more specific than I am being, but the point is that the tradition of “waiting until you’re married” comes from a very different time.

Those times are gone. Girls don’t get hitched at 13 anymore (for the most part, I hope).  Men aren’t typically 12 years older than their new wives (but it does happen sometimes).  And with so much emphasis on me me me these days, a person never knows what a prospective spouse will act like until they are co-habitating. So it seems wiser, more moral, in our culture today to try things out for a period before getting married.

Maybe if more people tried that, the divorce rate would be lower. And maybe fewer children would be born into broken or soon to be broken homes.

Who is in Charge

I was listening to Fresh Air on National Public Radio again last night, as I am wont to do on my long commutes home. And they were interviewing a Roman Catholic bishop who was investigating a group of nuns regarding their national organization and yada yada yada. The politics of it was beyond me, as I am not a member of a church. But this bishop repeated over and over (in different terms each time, because he had a very nice vocabulary), that the Church does what it does because that’s what it has always done.

So I started thinking, do you have a right to believe what you want to believe? The bishop said you can leave and join another religion. He was trying really hard not to bash any other religions. But what if they are all kind of pig-headed? What if they are all stuck in their first century?

I do believe religions are strongly influenced by the culture of the time when they were created. But should they be flexible as times change?

In the time of Abraham, of Pilate, of Martin Luther (even Joseph Smith), women didn’t have the right to vote. Most religions were completely male-dominated. Now women can vote. They can be Prime Minister of England, US Secretary of State, maybe President of the US one day. Should old school religions continue keeping women out of the highest leadership roles?

Maybe women should start their own religion.

I’m curious to read your comments on this.

Morality is About What You Do, Not Where You Sit

Recently, a person I respect, who professes a certain religious perspective, said they were tired of welfare moms and others who seemed to believe that they were entitled to certain government benefits. Ok, a lot of religious people I respect have said pretty much the same thing. And I agreed that, to some degree, government handouts, whether to individuals or to corporations, foster a sense of dependency. Look how upset business-types get when legislatures advise they are going to cut corporate tax breaks. How dare they?

Individuals on government benefits also get pretty upset when said benefits are reduced or eliminated.

I’m not advocating that we try our best to get more people on welfare (or more corporations). But I am troubled when any religious people advocate turning our community backs on people in need. I seem to recall a Jewish gentleman from  Galilee who advocated helping everyone you can, including giving them the shirt off your back. I actually do see some religious people acting and thinking that way, and I hope they know they are appreciated.

But there seems to be a sense of moral entitlement among many religious people, that says basically this: I am the moral elite because I practice this religion. My practice of said religion actually makes my choices morally elite. Therefore, whatever I choose to do, because I am a religious person, is the will of God.

No, it isn’t.

The will of God, whatever your religious proclivities, is for you to live a good life, be a positive influence to your family, your neighbors and your community, and show some appreciation and humility for your life and all the great things in it.

Maybe political parties could benefit from this thinking, too.

I bring all of this up for two reasons. One, it annoys me when people say they know their religion, but act antithetically to it. And two, this is one of the themes in my novel, Virtual Silence, which is available at amazon.com in paperback and on Kindle.

Do something good today!

Independence Day

As I will be out tomorrow, watching my wife run a half-marathon at 6am, picking up my step-son from town, going out for breakfast, or maybe brunch, and probably collapsing in a fit of exhaustion around 2 or 3pm; I will probably not have time or energy to post anything tomorrow.

That being said, I will say it today: to my father Richard, and step-father George, my son Koessler, his uncle Keith and other grandfather Larry, to my best friend Adam, my high school buddies Tony, Dave and Rob, to my (step) Grandpa Larry (different Larry), may he rest peacefully, and his son, the Admiral I never met, all my students, co-workers current and former, my former classmates and all the people serving in the US Armed Forces currently and formerly . . . Thanks for this Day.

Gotta watch that Bill Pullman speech.

Oaks Park

Today we are taking the kids to Oaks Park. It’s a small amusement park on the Willamette River in Portland. They have a small roller coaster, kid rides, a roller rink, old school arcade games on the midway, a small train that takes people around the park, and the Screaming Eagle, which turns you in a big circle as it swings you back and forth.

I don’t understand the need to have your guts turned inside out, but the kids love it, so we’re going. I just watch.

At one point in the 1920’s, little Portland had 4 amusement parks going simultaneously. That must have been something to see.

How to Get Educated

There was a day when people used to pull themselves up by their bootstraps, make their own way in life, create empires starting with a rock, a stick, and three buttons (they had no duct tape, you see).

While most people who tried this kind of thing failed miserably and died penniless, the ones who succeeded have chapters written about them in our history books.

Even 100 years ago, pretty much the only people in America who got a college education were the children of the very wealthy. No one else could afford to pay for tuition.

But today we have a great equalizer. While it sucks to have $50,000 in student loans to pay back after school, it sucks much more to work in fast food, retail, or hot and noisy factories for 50 years, then die on the job and be replaced before they even drag your carcass away.

Education pays, simply put.  Not everyone with a degree has the self-motivation (or luck) to get a great job. But almost all professional jobs require degrees now. And they tend to pay a lot better than factory jobs.

If you can graduate high school in the United States, you can succeed at your local community college. But you have to have a plan. Don’t party or goof off. And don’t take a bunch of goofy classes. Take the general education classes you can transfer to the big state university or private college. In fact, call the admissions people at the state school or private school and try to get a list of gen ed classes to take at the community college. Get your freshman and sophomore classes cheap this way, then transfer to the school you really want to attend.

If you want someone else to pay for your education, talk to a military recruiter and give your country four years of your life. Make sure you understand all the rules with the GI Bill and other education benefits before you sign up.

Research career fields that pay. And find out where certain jobs are great, and where they aren’t. The US Department of Labor tracks that stuff. You pay for their services whether you want to or not. So use their website to research careers.