Lucky to be right here, right now
Never forget how lucky you are to be right here, right now.
That seems like an odd sentiment for the year we're sharing, or even for this particular week, but your thinking shifts just a bit when there's a gun to your head.
Yom Kippur begins at sundown tonight, bringing to a close the Ten Days of Awe that began with Rosh Hashanah. Among the many traditions surrounding the Jewish High Holidays, we are instructed to consider ourselves as being written in the Book of Life for the coming year. Or not.
In the Jewish liturgy, our period of introspection and atonement ends at sundown on Monday, with our fates sealed for the coming year. When Rosh Hashanah begins, we know that we made the cut a year ago, but when the sun sets at the close of Yom Kippur, the information’s unavailable to the mortal man.
I’m not quite sure I believe in a divine Book of Life, but I know absolutely that turning inward is a remarkably powerful process. Isolated within a congregation or, this year, alone in front of a live stream, the mundane becomes less and less relevant and my perspective changes dramatically.
Never forget how lucky you are to be right here, right now.
In the midst of a pandemic, a recession, and quite possibly the first sparks of a civil war, right here and right now looks pretty dreary. The western United States is burning, we've had so many tropical storms that they've run out of letters to name them, and cold weather will only increase our isolation.
On the surface, in the daily slog, none of this feels lucky. In the context of a lifetime, though, the picture looks quite different. Like so many millions of people, I’ve come close to the end at one time or another, either through illness or error. I’ve had financial reversals and physical challenges and more than a few disappointments on the relationship front. Each setback has been painful, but somehow I have been sustained to reach this day.
And I am grateful for it. I feel very fortunate to be facing today’s challenges, because it means I survived the disasters of last year and the year before and the year before that. It means I ended up in the right column in the Book of Life, at least so far. I’m hoping for another reprieve this year, another opportunity to share in the journey with friends and family and to help a few strangers along the way.
I know I'm not alone in this. Each of us deals with the daily heartaches of life and each of us can lose track of the sparks that redeem our sense of wonder, or should. Each of us has the incentive to reclaim our gratitude, even we're not facing a potentially literal deadline when the sun departs.
Never forget how lucky you are to be right here, right now.
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I'll Take Mine Unfiltered
What if we saw the world through some filter other than politics? What if we were just as smart as a rat in a maze and we looked for an escape from this dead end?
Really, what have we gained from our political infighting?
I can tell you what the politicians have gained and what our global foes have gained. I can list the wins for the lobbyists, the polluters, Wall Street and trial lawyers. What about us, though? How, exactly, have we benefited from the continual focus on left and right, red and blue, us and them?
I have a ton of friends who are so caught up in the filter of politics that they cannot have a conversation without linking pretty much anything to their perceived foes, or saviors. We can’t be two minutes into a conversation before they’ll be telling me how Pelosi is to blame. Or Trump. Or Antifa. Or McConnell.
If the weather is warm, I get a comment about global warming. If it’s cold, I get a comment about, well, global warming. They rattle off political talking points like trained parrots, using the exact words and inflections AS SEEN ON TV!!!
If we want to form a more perfect union, we need to have a grown-up discussion or two about our challenges. There is a legitimate debate to be had about…
Well, we could have a grown-up discussion about these issues, but we don’t. All these issues hang interminably in limbo, because we refuse to have an adult conversation about anything today. The first rule of politics is that nobody talks about anything but politics.
There are no issues, only talking points.
There are no solutions, only sides.
Worst of all, we supposedly normal people buy into this nonsense. We divide the world between us and them, even though the “us” in question is a political tribe that might or might not really be our natural home.
Maybe it’s time for one of those paradigm shifts that the scientists like to promote. What if we considered new developments through the filter of morality or compassion, empathy or enlightened self-interest? What if we asked how we could make something work, rather than how to stop it at all costs?
We could make a ton of progress if we stopped accepting the “either/or” arguments that form the basis of political debate today. “Either/or” choices tend to be extreme, punitive, and pretty much unworkable in the real world. While we all retreat to our corners to wait for the next round of memes, our problems metastasize into crises.
These false dichotomies offer great benefits to politicians who raise funds and win votes by promising to fight for one or another option at all costs. Perversely, solving any of these problems would cost them money and support, which might be one reason that there is no sense of urgency about problem solving on Capitol Hill. If the issue is resolved, it's harder to raise money for the battle.
Could we protect the environment while also creating new jobs? Sure. Could we encourage entrepreneurship while restraining corporate abuses? Yup. Could we defend good cops and punish bad ones? Absolutely.
It’s not going to happen, though, until we can escape the political filter that drives our thinking and our conversations. As long as we echo their talking points and support their intransigence, we will end up serving their needs at the expense of our own.
When the residents of Jonestown “drank the Kool-Aid,” it’s likely that many of them didn’t realize it was poisoned. What’s our excuse?
We don’t take political positions at Dad Writes, which lowers the temperature, and the blood pressure, for our staff and readers. Doesn’t that make you want join the apolitical conversation by clicking here to subscribe?
Constitution Day is right around the corner, but don’t be embarrassed if this major holiday slipped your mind this year. The U.S. Constitution is like a software Terms of Service agreement; we all click ‘yes,’ but almost nobody actually reads it.
That lack of familiarity leads to some hilarious consequences. For instance, many people believe they have a Constitutional Right to shop at Costco, while others think Freedom of Speech only applies to them. Amazingly, both of these beliefs are incorrect, although you’d never know it from reading internet posts.
Never fear, though, as your humble servant has read the document in the original Aramaic and will share all the insights you need to know to become a Constitutional Scholar of the first order. For example…
The Constitution was not really all that popular among the people who framed it, several of whom were nearly mortal enemies who disagreed strongly about almost everything. The only reason we ended up with the current version is that The Articles of Confederation (the world’s first Beta 1.0 release) sucked beyond belief.
The only way the Constitution got ratified was with the promise to add amendments to it immediately. (Back in 1789, everyone was still using dial-up, so “immediately” meant a couple of years. Still, Jimmy Madison made good on the promise to write up a Bill of Rights for the states to approve.)
Speaking of the Bill of Rights, Congress sent 12 amendments to the states, but the first two were rejected. That’s why freedom of speech is in the First Amendment and not the Third. It’s also why people who love the Second Amendment aren’t obsessed with Congressional pay stubs.
The Constitution was remarkably advanced for its time, but pretty backwards by current standards. Women didn’t vote, slavery was codified, and the Electoral College gave rural states an advantage that has only grown over time. (Yes, a few people still think the Electoral College is a great idea, but they are the same dopes who put mayonnaise on their pastrami.)
The framers of the Constitution were smart, but they weren’t supreme beings. They came up with a pretty good division of powers within government and between government and citizens, but they also failed to invent indoor plumbing or I-Phones or pizza delivery. Maybe it’s time we took some of them down off their pedestals and…oh, wait, that’s actually happening, isn’t it?
The concept of judicial review, which makes the U.S. Supreme Court the final arbiter of Constitutional meaning, is not granted by the Constitution. Instead, it resulted from a brilliant political maneuver by Johnny Marshall, who handed Tom Jefferson a tiny win while grabbing a big hunk of power for the court. Smooth.
We all should be grateful for that “judicial review” thing, because it’s our primary method of legislation these days. After Congress passes 12,000-page laws that nobody has read before the vote, SCOTUS clerks are the only people who actually read the laws and figure out what they mean. And when Congress fails to take any action at all, it’s up to the courts to dig up some old laws or rulings that they can twist painfully to apply to the pending case.
Yeah, I know, lots of people think SCOTUS goes too far in legislating from the bench, but that’s only when an activist* judge rules against them. When the Supreme Court rules in their favor, those esteemed jurists are merely upholding the Constitution. (*Activist = disagrees with me.)
As we look forward to this great holiday, it’s wonderful to consider how far we have come in the 23 decades since we adopted the Constitution. Hard to believe, but back then people were actually arguing about how powerful the president should be, separation of church and state, freedom of the press, what and whom to tax, federal power versus states’ rights, and the national debt. Thankfully, we have resolved all of these issues and marched forward in unison since then.
Finally, if 34 states approve, everything is up for grabs in a new Constitutional Convention. Depending on how you count “approvals,” we might already be just 6-8 states short of that benchmark, giving today’s politicians the opportunity to reframe our most important document. Fearless forecast: The sequel will not be as good as the original.
Before you get all caught up in your Constitution Day celebrations on September 17, do your patriotic duty and subscribe to Dad Writes, as required in Article LVIII.
The first thing to understand is that nobody dies from CV-19. Nobody dies from cancer or diabetes or having a piano fall on our heads, either. We die from something putting such a substantial burden on our hearts that they stop beating, so essentially 100% of us die “from” cardiac arrest.
Still, there is always something that puts the strain on our hearts, whether it is cancer or diabetes or having CV-19 taking over our lungs. In many cases, CV-19 tips the scales fatally for someone who is already battling the effects of some other malady. And when that happens, people have a disturbing habit of blaming the victims for their own mortality.
“Well, she was only 37, but she had asthma, so that’s really what killed her.”
“After three years of dialysis, the virus was just the final nail. By that time, I suspect he really wanted to die.”
“If only he’d become a vegan, he never would have gotten cancer in the first place. If you think about it, he essentially committed suicide.”
“Remember how she kept saying it was all a hoax? Hah! Karma’s a bitch, baby.”
Yes, of course, it’s a TRUE FACT!!! All of these people were asking for it and they were ultimately happy to decrease the surplus population. Coronavirus is the real victim here, falsely blamed for killing nearly a million people who wanted/deserved to die. Kinda makes you want to take the virus into your home and give it a warm snuggle and…never mind.
It’s a deflection, of course. Whenever something goes wrong and we cannot control or prevent it, we try to find a reason that it only happens to other people. Even if we have some underlying condition—a status that applies to about 80% of people over the age of 55 and a disturbingly large percentage of people under that age—we try to convince ourselves that THEY were much more vulnerable than WE are.
That kind of deflection makes it very easy to be nonchalant about THEIR deaths, especially since most of us don’t know a person who has died from the disease. Yet. On average, if each of us was going to know one person who died of the virus at this point, we would need to have a social circle of about 2,000 people.
We’re more likely to know someone who contracted the disease and recovered, of course, but that reinforces our tendency to ascribe blame to the people who succumb. The people who survived were strong, maybe blessed, much as we are, while the people who died were weaker, less deserving, even a bit guilty.
Denial is a useful coping mechanism in times like these, but it does have its limits. When we start blaming the victims of a pandemic, we just might have gone over the line.
We never went to med school, so this review of medicine and psychology might sound just a bit too simple, but that's okay. We like to keep things as simple as possible, which is why it's so easy to subscribe by just clicking here.
Who writes this stuff?
Dadwrites oozes from the warped mind of Michael Rosenbaum, an award-winning author who spends most of his time these days as a start-up business mentor, book coach, photographer and, mostly, a grandfather. All views are his alone, largely due to the fact that he can’t find anyone who agrees with him.